Saturday, August 21, 2010

Renewing Our Minds and Emotions for A Better Birth Experience

One of the first things many people think about when the word birth is mentioned is the word pain
Pain is a word that, for many people, is synonymous with the word suffering. I think we can all agree that suffering is to be avoided at all costs in birth. Suffering crosses the threshold of what is acceptable in childbirth. But pain does not have to equal suffering. In an earlier Birthwhisperer post, Penny Simkin does a beautiful job describing the differences. 

But pain is a unique experience for each of us. Women in labor express pain in different ways and have unique needs. Some like to be touched and talked to, others close themselves down, going inward to cope in their own ways, and both are normal. 

How we perceive pain depends largely upon out attitudes about it. Do we see the work that our bodies are doing as a normal physiological process or do we see it as something to be feared and numbed from? 
Birth, and the laborious process that brings forth a baby is an opportunity to gain insight into our strengths, and our faith in God. I am a Christian and I believe that God's marvelous and miraculous design is designed for our good and not our ruin. 

Ask almost any woman about her birth and you will find that it can be one of the most empowering, wonderful events of a woman's life or one of the most devastating and disappointing. But rarely is it just another day. 
Education, support and preparation are keys to a positive experience. Trusting God's design for our bodies and instincts will start us on the path to healthy and safe birth. 

Pain is magnified by fear. When we feel fear, our bodies produce chemicals and hormones that work against the processes that help us birth safely. It can cause our muscles to tense up and it can cause our labors to slow down or stop. This is a vicious cycle that occurs when women enter a birth environment that feels threatening or unfamiliar. Anything that causes the mother's stress level to rise should be avoided in order to reduce the amount of suffering she experiences in birth. It is very important for her to be able to feel uninhibited, relaxed and at peace with what is happening and also who is present. 

Pain can be greatly lessened by psychologically and spiritually preparing for the birth. For the woman who doesn't realize her options and that she has the right to be informed and make her own choices, birth can be a horrific ordeal. On the other hand, by asking questions and discussing her options and concerns a woman will feel like she is in control. In one study, this was the most important thing that women said made their birth experience more satisfactory. Interestingly, this was more important to women than the amount of pain they experienced, which may illustrate that women who feel in control are also less focused on pain. 

Childbirth classes with a Lamaze certified childbirth educator can also help women avoid suffering by showing them how to work with the sensations of labor by using comfort measures that facilitate the birth rather than work against it, as some medical interventions do. Learning how to move, breathe and help your baby descend and move through your her pelvis can be a way that women work with their bodies, not against them. Many times, in hospitals, women are asked to assume positions and restrict their movement so that labor can become very painful. For example, when a woman is hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor, especially if it is an internal one, she may not be able to sit upright or walk around because the monitor might become displaced. If she is having "back labor" this could hamper her ability to get relief by getting on her hands and knees and rocking her pelvis. 

The way that birth has become so technologically and medically managed may be why so many American women view pregnancy as a nuisance and birth as a painfully frightening ordeal. In addition, our attitudes about birth may reflect our unspoken feelings about our bodies and our sexuality. Think about the negative messages American society sends women about our bodies, pregnancy and birth. 
Think about the ways that pregnancy and birth are often portrayed in the media. 
What values have been passed down from our mothers and grandmothers about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding? 

Many of our mothers and grandmothers were victims of a terrifying ordeal in which they were not adequately prepared, were made to endure alone, were completely anesthetized, were without the loving support of husbands or doulas, and then were told that artificial baby milk was superior to their own. They were robbed, just like many women are today. 
Think about the many lies that women have been, and are still being told. 
"Once a cesarean, always a cesarean."
"Your baby is too big for you to push it out."
"You can't make enough milk."
"You must not gain more than 20lbs."
How can this legacy of fear and suffering be reversed?

Expectant mothers can take the time to explore their values and ask themselves "What do I need to happen in order to feel safe and cared for?" "How do I best deal with stress and how will I cope when things become challenging?" 

The truth is that every birth, whether at home or in the hospital poses it's own set of risks. A woman should weight them all carefully and decide which environment is best suited to meet her unique needs. Many complications f pregnancy and birth can be prevented by good nutrition and a model of care that focuses on the woman's physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Midwives are the gold standard for this type of care. 

Gen 49:25
Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee…..blessing of the breasts and of the womb.

Duet. 7:13 And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb…

Psalms 22:9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mothers breasts.

Psalms 22:10 I was cast upon thee form the womb: thou art my God from my mothers belly.

Psalms 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thin heart: wait I say, on the LORD

Psalms 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Psalms 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me.
55:22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

Psalms 27:3 Lo children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Psalms 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mothers womb.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Isaiah 44:2 Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee;…

Isaiah 66:9 Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,

Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that worketh in us,

Isa 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Psa 22:19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

Psa 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

Psa 29:11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

Psa 118:14 The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.

Romans 12 :2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thank You For Inviting Me To Your Birth !

Welcome to my world. A world of wonder and inspiration. A world that has forever stamped upon my heart the virtues of tenderness, compassion, courage and patience, like sealing wax. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the many experiences I have had. To be invited into the sacred space of birth by a woman is a very special thing. And every woman with whom I have allowed to be "with woman" has taught me something of immense value about the power of maternal love.

I just wanted to say "Thank-You" to all of you who have invited me to support you in birth or postpartum. What a gift you have given me !

Monday, August 16, 2010

Birth Shack BABY !

In honor of my dear friend Jane who gave birth to her beautiful breech baby boy at the Farm "birth shack" pictured above.  I was her doula, Ina May was her midwife. And it was magical !

If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says
15 miles to the... Birth Shack! Birth Shack yeah
I'm headin' down the Tennesse highway,
lookin' for the birth getaway
Heading for the birth getaway, birth getaway,
I got me a bump, it's as big as a whale
and we're headin' on down
To the Birth Shack
I got me a 'Burban, it seats about 20
So hurry up and bring your midwife money

The Birth Shack is a little old place
where we can go to labor
Birth Shack baby, Birth Shack bay-bee.
Birth baby, that's where it's at,
Ooo birth baby, that's where it's at

Sign says.. Woo... stay away fools,
'cause birth rules at the Birth Shack!
Well it's set way back in the middle of a field,
Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back

Glitter on the mattress
Glitter on the highway
Glitter on the front porch
Glitter on the hallway

The Birth Shack is a little old place
where we can go to labor
Birth Shack bay-bee! Birth Shack baby!
Birth Shack, that's where it's at!
Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin',
wearin' next to nothing
Cause it's hot as an oven
The whole shack shimmies!
The whole shack shimmies when everybody's
Movin' around and around and around and around!
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby!
Baby linin' up inside just to get down
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby
Funky little shack! Funk-y little shack!

Hop in my 'Burban,
it's as big as a whale
and it's about to set sail!
I got me a car, it seats about twenty
So c'mon and bring your midwife money.

The Birth Shack is a little old place
where we can get together
Birth Shack baby! Birth Shack bay-bee!
(Birth Shack...Birth Shack...)
Birth Shack, that's where it's at!

Bang bang bang on the door baby!
Knock a little louder baby!
Bang bang bang on the door baby!
I can't hear you
Bang bang on the door baby
Bang bang on the door
Bang bang on the door baby
Bang bang
You're what?... Ten C's ready !

Birth Shack, baby Birth Shack!
Birth Shack, baby birth Shack!
Love baby, that's where it's at
Birth Shack, baby birth Shack!
Love baby, that's where it's at
Huggin' and a kissin',
dancin' and a lovin' at the birth shack

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Researchers Make Amazing Discovery
Birthwisperer's Note : This is a summary of an article that I was given several years ago and I recently ran across it. I think it is fascinating, and wanted to share the highlights.

 (Source : Researchers have discovered that expectant mothers undergo permanent changes during pregnancy, in which they "inherit" some of the characteristics of the child they are carrying and, through the child, also receive some characteristics of the baby's father.

The researchers found that the unborn child inherits half of his genetic patrimony from the mother. He also "hears" the outside world while yet in the womb, through the mother's body,  which substantially conditions the unborn child's life. The research also indicated that the mother undergoes long-term changes caused by the "person" of the child and, indirectly, also from the baby's father.

Professor Salvatore Mancuso, head of the gynecology institute, said: "We have proof that beginning in the fifth week of gestation, an infinite number of messages pass from the embryo to the mother, through chemical substances like hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. This information serves to adapt the mother's body to the presence of the new being.

"Moreover, it has been discovered that the embryo sends stem cells that, thanks to the mother's immune system tolerance, colonize the maternal medulla, and adhere to it. What is more, lymphocytes are born from here and remain with the woman for the rest of her life."

Mancuso continued: "From the fifth week there is clearly a passing of cells, but messages begin at conception. Even during the first phase of cellular subdivision, when the embryo is moving in the fallopian tubes, there are transmissions through contact with tissues touched by the moving embryo.

"Later, after implantation in the uterus, the dialogue is more intense through the blood and cells, and chemical substances enter the mother's bloodstream.

"Finally, the child's stem cells pass to the mother in great quantity, both at the moment of birth, whether spontaneous or Caesarean, as well as at the time of abortion, whether spontaneous or voluntary. These cells are implanted in the mother's medulla and produce lymphocytes, which have a common origin with the cells of the central nervous system; they have receptors for the neurotransmitters and can make messages pass that the maternal nervous system understands."

He added, "An astonishing area of research is opening up. This is information of enormous importance on the first phases of life."

When asked how long the fetus' influence on the mother lasts, the professor answered: "Stem cells have been found in the mother even 30 years after the birth. It could be said, therefore, the pregnancy does not last the 40 canonical weeks, but the woman's entire life.

Regarding the transfer of the father's characteristics to the mother via the unborn child, Mancuso said, "These are areas that are yet to be explored. Of course it calls for reflection on a new way of understanding pregnancy. Also, a very close tie is undoubtedly created between man and woman, because the child has 50% of the father's genetic characteristics. Moreover, the hematopoietic [blood-producing] stem cells go to the medulla and produce offspring cells, lymphocytes and neurotransmitters with the capacity to dialogue with the maternal central nervous system. It is somewhat as though the 'thoughts' of the child pass to the mother, even many years after his birth."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reducing Infant Mortality : This Video Contains Life Saving Information

Reducing Infant Mortality from Debby Takikawa on Vimeo.

If you are an expectant mother or work with them, this very compelling film is an essential resource for you and your clients. How many babies and mothers do we have to loose before we demand lifesaving changes in maternity care?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Penny Simkin's Pregnancy, Childbirth, And The Newborn Is An Updated Classic With Special Bonus, A FREE Online Guide Chock Full Of Essential Resources

It doesn't get much better than this ! Penny Simkin's updated classic text gets a makeover with an online companion guide with free worksheets to help you navigate your birth journey and arrive at your destination, fully informed and equipped for early motherhood.
Check out the free resources here and pick up your copy today !
PCN Guide

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Benefits of being Skin to Skin With Your Baby

This video about the many benefits of being skin to skin with your baby.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Doulas Make a Difference for Dads

 As a doula, I am often asked " How does a doula impact the role of my baby's father at the birth?"
 This is an important question. Other doulas may answer it differently, but here are my thoughts.
One of my goals, as a doula, is to facilitate and protect the special bond between mom and dad during labor and birth, and not to interfere with their intimacy. Most couples do not understand that working through labor and birth together offers them one of the most golden opportunities to bond emotionally that they will ever have in their lives. I hope that the mother will see the father of her baby as her "hero" when all is said and done.  And, I hope the father will be in complete awe at the strength and beauty of the mother of his baby as she gives birth.

Men should know that many women are comforted simply by their man's presence in the room and don't expect them to know everything about how to meet their needs. I have had many clients tell me, "I just need for him to be there, but not feel like he has to fix it for me, and I am worried that he will feel confused and anxious about what I need.  That, in turn, will make me feel anxious!"

Many men do feel helpless when they see the mother of their baby in what seems like anguish. Because their nature is to be "the protector," men are often ready to give in to medical interventions in order to relieve the pain, even when those interventions may not be in the best interest of the mom or baby. They really have the best intentions, but this is often because of a lack of understanding about the process of labor and birth and the very real risks as well as benefits of certain various procedures.

Enter the doula. A doula can show a dad ways to touch and massage his partner that may relieve common discomforts of labor so that potentially harmful interventions can be minimized or eliminated altogether. A doula can reassure a dad when he hears or sees something he has never encountered before by saying "she's doing just fine, she's just vocalizing" or " It's OK, babies' heads are sometimes a little misshapen for the first few hours after birth." A doula can relieve the dad so he can use the restroom or get something to eat, or she can go get him a snack so he can stay with Mom.

When things get challenging, a doula can make suggestions to the dad about helping the mother with positioning and movement. But sometimes, the mom and dad are working together and what they are doing it is enhancing their progress. These are the times that I just hang back, sit on my hands, let my words be few and just "hold the space" for them. At some births I am very "hands on" and at others I have simply been a comforting presence, because that was all that was needed. I find that when couples feel safe and secure, they will be more able to listen to their hearts and do what comes instinctively. They will be able to ask for what they need, be it more attention, or more privacy.
Then birth just blossoms in the way that it should. I believe this builds strong, confident parents as they begin their journey together as a family.

I feel very blessed to be a doula, and have heard from many appreciative Dads who said that having me at present at the birth of their children made them feel more confident and equipped to minister to the needs of their wives and babies. This is the highest compliment I could receive.

For more information on dads and doulas, please see the following articles.