Category Archives: Birth

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Rally for AZ Midwives

It is time to stand up with our Arizona Midwives again. A law revision by the Arizona Department of Health Services (“ADHS”) that became effective in July of 2013 opened up the possibility for some Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) clients to access homebirths legally in Arizona. Along with the access to homebirth care for some families, some other unwelcome mandates were added into the Midwifery Rules and Regulations.

HERE is a link to the current regulations. Under these regulations, I would have been placing our midwife in direct conflict with her beliefs and the expectations of the state.  Here is why:

Midwives believe in watchful waiting: watch the mother, monitor the baby, and only “do” when the situation warrants more of whatever needs to be done to ensure a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome.

As a patient, it is my right to decline someone’s hand penetrating my body when I am in the throes of labor. In the hospital setting, it is virtually impossible to assert this right. After discussing past sexual abuse with my midwife, and how I experienced vaginal exams as the most painful part of labor, she agreed that we didn’t need to do any during my birth if everything remained healthy and low-risk.

I did not need vaginal exams to tell me that my labor was progressing. I could tell that things were moving along by the way contractions got steadily stronger, longer, and more frequent. I could tell as my left-brain turned off and I entered “laborland”, a place of intuition and sensation.

Our midwife and her team of students watched, waited, and monitored throughout the labor. All my vitals remained steady throughout the entire time.  Our Sweet Pea was amazing every time she was monitored. So they kept watching, waiting, and monitoring.

For once, I had a birth with no hands in my vagina!! It was amazing!! And the baby came out!!!   Under today’s regulations, that birth would be asking my midwife to choose between her conscience and the state.

It seems like such a simple request: birth without vaginal exams. Birth without the invasion of my body. Yet the state of Arizona has decided it knows better and it is denying my right to a peaceful, non-violent birth.

The craziest part of the story? The ADHS has been aware that their rules and the enforcement of said rules place midwives between their clients and the law *for years*. And they still haven’t done anything about it.  You can read the court proceedings HERE (see Page 4, Section 12) where an ADHS representative admits this in court. In spite of the judge recommending that the ADHS address these conflicts, they still haven’t done anything about it.  Read the midwife’s account of these proceedings HERE.

Now it’s time.  I am standing up with our midwives and saying NO THANK YOU to the Arizona Department of Health Services.  Will you join us?  The information for the rally can be found at this social media event RSVP HERE

(IF you cannot attend in person, join the virtual rally group here. Social media links for elected officials and ADHS will be posted + hashtags at 9:00 am on 11/05/15.  Check back into the virtual event page from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm for more updates and posting requests from the organizers. Thank you in advance for joining the virtual rally!)

Information from the AAM event page:
“Arizona Association of Midwives (AAM), with the support of community members and everyday families of Arizona will rally in front of the Arizona Department of Health Services, at 11am Thursday, November 5, 2015 to demand that the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), along with the State of Arizona elected officials, including Governor Ducey, stop the bureaucratic persecution of, and instead, publicly support the Midwives of Arizona in providing safe preconception, prenatal, labor and birth, and postpartum care to the families of Arizona. The rally will coincide with a special announcement by AAM.

“Arizona midwives want to provide safe and ethical, evidence-based care to the growing families in our state. ADHS has said they just want compliance with their rules. ADHS relies on said rules to coerce and force people into mandatory medical care, mandatory testing, and mandatory vaginal exams, mandatory hospital transports for non-emergent or contained emergency situations.

“IF a midwifery client declines any of these, they are no longer legally allowed to be cared for by an Arizona Licensed Midwife. Not in that moment and not for the rest of their pregnancy or postpartum. Midwives have protecting their clients from these mandates and the response from ADHS has been to threaten, harass and persecute.

“Midwives are being persecuted and harassed for providing safe, evidenced-based and consensual care to their clients. Since the new rules and regulations for Licensed Midwives came into effect in 2013, 22 midwives of the 74 currently licensed in AZ have been sanctioned by the ADHS for any number of “offenses.” These offenses include respecting their client’s ability to opt out of testing, procedures, hospital transfers or for continuing to see their clients after resolved complications.

“ADHS current interpretation and enforcement of midwifery rules is in direct conflict with the midwifery model of respecting clients rights to low intervention practices and informed choice.

“This is shameful and illegal!

“AZDHS and the State of Arizona need to stop persecuting midwives and need to start embracing them as a means to reduce infant and maternal mortality in the state by way of providing thorough and professional maternity care at home and outside of the hospital.

“The Arizona Association of Midwives is taking action on behalf of all growing families in the state to ensure that their healing hands are not tied with red tape when it comes time to welcome new life into this world.

Please join us at the rally, come hear the announcement, stay informed!”

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Tale of a Chiro Convert

We invite our chiropractor to come speak to all of our childbirth prep class students.  If you had told me 7 years ago that this was going to be true, I would have laughed you out of the room.  Here is my story – maybe it will help you understand why people choose chiropractic care if you are on the fence about going to go see one for care.

I was terrified of chiropractors.  In my mind, they were back-crackers.  I have a vivid memory of my childhood dance instructor, who I revered, going ballistic when she saw some of my classmates walking on each other’s backs.  She admonished us to NEVER risk injury to our back, or we would live to regret it when an injury prevented us from dancing, or doing anything else we wanted to do. There was no way a back-cracker, or “chiroquacker” as I called them, was ever going to touch me!!

As an adult, I became a student of yoga.  This study also emphasized the sacred spine, the lifeline of all health. Except, our instructors had a working relationship with a chiropractor and there was a reciprocal discount between the studio and his office. I chalked it up to a crazy idea and I wanted nothing to do with chiropractic care.

Fast-forward to July 2009.  I was pregnant with Charger, and at my 32-week check with our one of our OBs, he informed the student nurse that the baby was breech. No thought to mention to me that I might want to do something to change that.

Before our 36-week appointment, I had growth ultrasound to see how big Charger was. I consented to this because my primary OB wanted to know if she would need extra hands during the birth “just in case” – Night Owl was an easy 11 pound, 1 ounce delivery – surprise! She didn’t want any surprises this time. The ultrasound showed that Charger was still breech!!  The ultrasound tech mentioned that if he was a persistent breech, my doctor would want to schedule a cesearan.

Cue FREAK OUT!!! I was speechless at the idea of a surgical birth and recovery with two toddlers running around. I looked for everything I could on the Internet to see what I could do to get this baby head-down.

At our next appointment, I took the list I had compiled and went through it with our primary OB.  She checked off the ideas she was comfortable with, and I set all my intention on having a vaginal birth with a head-down baby. (Read more about that HERE.)

The combination of things we tried got Charger into a transverse position. That position was still most definitely a cesarean birth – there is no other way to birth a baby who is lying sideways in the uterus. Last on the list of things to try was to have a chiropractor do “The Webster Protocol”.

As things worked out, all three people I asked for a recommendation gave me the same name: Dr. Kevin Ross. So with a wish and a prayer I went to see him.  To my surprise, he was very kind and took the time to explain to me what chirpractic care is, what it isn’t, and what I might expect from The Webster Protocol (click HERE for an explanation of what it is from Dr. Ross).

It wasn’t as scary as I had imagined – my back was still in one piece and I actually walked better after my first adjustment. And, The Webster Protocol worked for us!! I think I had a total of three visits before Charger turned head-down on his own, and then I kept going 2 times a week to make sure things stayed balanced.  He was borh eight days after turning head-down.

What really sold me on continuing care with our chiropractor was the new baby check that we did around 10 days postpartum.  I had a huge and painful learning curve when I was breastfeeding with Puma, and another painful initiation of breastfeeding with Night Owl.  It took 6-8 weeks with both of them for nursing to be less painful. Before that, it made me cry every time I nursed on the left side.  It’s a miracle that we breastfed at all: if it wasn’t for the fact that I had seen it as a child and an amazing support system, we would have quit after the first week.

Charger and I started out the same way – it was excruciating to nurse on the left side.  Dr. Ross did one little tiny adjustment on Charger.  The next time I put Charger to the breast to nurse – flowers bloomed and angels sang. It was a miracle!! Pain-free!! And it never hurt again.

After that, I was hooked.  We continued care all through Otter’s pregnancy.  Being pregnant with my fourth, and having a 6, 4, and 2 year olds to care for was a little daunting given the demands of pregnancy in my body.  There had been days with all three previous pregnancies where I literally crawled around the house in the evenings because walking was too painful.  When I could “walk” in late pregnancy, I waddled. I believed my body did not like being pregnant.

That pregnancy taught me the benefits of chiropractic care as the body changes through pregnancy. It was my best pregnancy ever!! I had more energy, I was virtually pain-free, and I was able to walk from day one until the day of her birth *without* waddling. It turns out my body needed some pubic bone adjustments along the way to resolve that excruciating pain that made me crawl or waddle in late pregnancy. Dr. Ross also did “Webster checks” every session to make sure that my body would encourage a head-down baby. By that time, he had also started using KST in his office, and that allowed me to connect with our Sweet Pea in a whole new way.

Our whole family has been going to see Dr. Ross for 6+ years. Daddy Bruss and I are in the best health – we rarely get sick, and when we do, it doesn’t last very long.  We have also learned much more about natural living with Dr. Ross’s guidance – his wisdom has forever changed the course of our family’s health.

The biggest beneficiaries are our children. From an early age, they are learning that their body is a wonderful machine with the ability to heal itself.  As soon as something is misalinged, Dr. Ross does a child-appropriate adjustment and they are off and running. The same holds true for them: they are rarely sick. For the most part, rest and hydration kick any illnesses in less time than is typical. They are also learning that their body is capable of healing itself. Medication is rarely necessary, so they are not learning that drugs are a panacea for every ache and pain.  First we ask Dr. Ross, and then we usually follow whatever course of action he recommends based on their needs.

In fact, one of our pediatricians thinks we had left the practice since it was so long between visist with them. I chalk it up to saying our prayers, taking our Juice Plus, drinking lots of water and getting adjusted :)

So that’s our story. Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about our experiences.

Find out more about Dr. Ross and his practice HERE

 

Sibling Preparation Part II: Post Birth

This is part two of my (Cassandra’s) sibling preparation journey, what we did after the birth of our daughter in January to help my son (2.5 yo) with the transition. You can read what we did during pregnancy in part one here.

It has only been four months since we welcomed sweet baby P into the world (see photos of her birth here) and although we still have moments here and there we have established a pretty good routine as a family of four, our son is honestly thrilled to have a baby sister 99% of the time… Our son, T, is definitely a rise-to-the-occassion kind of guy. He really never does anything until he absolutely *has* to, case in point, he slept through the entire night without waking for the FIRST TIME EVER the night after his sister was born, he was almost three. He has also since decided he would start talking. That being said, he really took to his role as big brother and embraced our changing family, it could have absolutely nothing to do with what we did before or after. BUT these things did help everyone feel more at ease and help us get into a nice, new rhythm that now included a baby.

1. Help for our son

We asked my mom in advance to visit after the baby was born for additional help, mostly for our son. Her trip coincidentally was planned for the very evening our baby P was born, we had a great day resting as a family of four post birth and the next day my son was SO excited to see his Granny. She stayed for more than a week and I think it was one of the best things we could have done immediately for our son. He was so busy having fun with her, out and about all day he didn’t even notice that I was at all restricted. Another lap, another set of hands and undivided attention for him.

2. Mama Milk Access

My son hadn’t nursed in many long months but was still used to his share of milk cuddles, I knew shutting him out when baby was nursing would trigger him emotionally, causing him to act out. I always welcomed him to snuggle me while simultaneously nursing the baby, we talked about how the baby didn’t eat food and needed lots of milk to grow bigger and stronger so she could play with him and he got into a routine of coming to “kiss baby P milk” each time we nursed, he would give a quick kiss to her head or my breast and then usually run off. It’s not always easy when he climbs all over us or I am feeling touched out or the baby was fussy at the breast but over the long haul I think it was really important to welcome him into our nursing time in order to combat jealousy.

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3. Only Positive Reinforcement 

This was actually a tip from one of my midwives, to only focus on and model the positive aspects of his interactions with the baby and not the negative. So very basically, instead of “don’t be rough with the baby” say and show him “we are very gentle with the baby, we touch her gently and kiss her gently” We did this with EVERYTHING and we also refrained from making things “because of the baby.” If the baby was sleeping and we needed to be quiet we didn’t say we need to be quiet because the baby is sleeping we would say we need to be quiet because we are having quiet, restful time and we can be loud and crazy as soon as we get outside or something a long those lines. I tried to ONLY mention ANYTHING about the baby in a positive manner to him. I felt like it was really important at the very beginning, that although fantastical, he did not feel the baby was affecting him. Obviously everything was going to change but if the change was gradual and organic for him rather than abrupt I knew we would all fair better.

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5. Keeping it Low Key 

I was on my own with both kids for the first time when my daughter was two days away from turning 3 weeks old. I was feeling fantastic so that was a MAJOR plus, but things were obviously still very new and scary and taking a tiny almost three week old baby out of the house is not comfortable for me. My son and I rarely ever stayed home the entire day though and I knew keeping things similar to his normal routine would have the best results. For the first couple of weeks I did some of our same activities, just toned down a bit. I invited one of his friends over to play, instead of the usual 3 we have play dates with. I walked to the closest coffee shop (instead of our usual spot that is farther from home) and then the park across the street. I went to a nearby science class as our outing for the day, instead of planning anything before or after as we usually would. This helped me from feeling entirely overwhelmed and it was really nice for all of us to gradually transition back into “normal” life.

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6. “Pretend Me Baby” & Snuggles

Pretty soon after the baby was born my son started asking to “tend (pretend) me baby” and would want to fake cry while I rocked him or make sucking sounds over my shirt or pretend we were driving and he was crying in his car seat. I embraced this and it gave us a good time afterwards to talk about him being a “big guy” and how he differs from the baby, etc. At four months postpartum he still likes to play this game and we always get lots of laughs out of it. Whenever he would start getting frustrated about diaper changes or wanting mama I would ask if he wanted to PRETEND he was a baby and have a pretend diaper for a moment or have a good cry, etc. it almost always works! I also try to give him as many extra snuggles and physical contact as possible, even if it doesn’t seem like he needs it. As soon as baby is sleeping in her swing I check in with him for snuggle time or cuddle and read books and we play lots of tackle and wrestling games when possible. I know that once he is depleted it is much harder to fill his cup back up so I try to be mindful of frequent mood lifting activities.

 

At four months postpartum there are already new challenges on our journey as a larger family (toy possession, baby’s increased need to being “put” to sleep and quiet, etc.)  but these above were all extremely helpful for surviving the fourth trimester and setting the stage for our new normal. What else have you done before or after the birth of a sibling that have helped the transition, emotionally and physically?

 

 

 

Sibling Preparation: During Pregnancy

Krystyna has wrote various pieces on preparing siblings for the arrival of a newborn brother or sister and even specifically preparing them for a home birth of that sibling over on Sweet Pea Births blog, but today I am going to share what exactly we did with our 2.5 year old son during pregnancy and birth in anticipation of his sister’s arrival.

We talked about the pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding, what he could expect, etc. every day in all different contexts and situations, it was a regular topic of conversation and everything was always positive. In addition to that ongoing dialouge the following was all extremely helpful in easing the transition.

1.  Big Brother Books.

We picked up all sorts of different books: I’m Going to be a Big Brother , Daniel Tiger’s The Baby is Here and Big Brother, Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee and were gifted Berenstains Bears’ New Baby and The New Baby. We read them throughout the pregnancy and he still likes reading them today (3 months post birth).

2. Watching Birth Videos.

We were planning a home birth so towards the end of the pregnancy we watched home birth videos online quite often. I searched for ones with siblings present and we talked about how this is what it would be like when baby sister arrived. We talked specifically about what labor was like and how she would come out and join us.

3. Breastfeeding: Remind, Remind & Remind Again.

We were in the process of weaning when I found out I was pregnant. My son was completely weaned very early in the pregnancy but still was interested in and asked about “milk” ALOT. I knew that breastfeeding might be a point of frustration / anger / sadness for him when the baby arrived so we talked about it early and often. We talked about how babies have mama’s milk when they arrive (and watched newborns nurse in the above mentioned birth videos), we watched animals nursing online, we talked about how little babies need mamas milk but he is big and has things like yogurt and ice cream that babies can’t have. I asked him over and over again what the baby was going to do when she got here so he could respond with “mama milk!” and over and over and over just kept the conversation going and always kept it very upbeat.

4. Big Brother, Little Sister Gift.

We talked a lot about how when little sister got here she would bring a gift for him (my parents and grandparents so generously purchased him an iPad mini! We wanted it to be something notable) and we took him around my due date to a local children’s store and let him pick out a gift for her. He picked out a little plush giraffe and a couple hours after the birth he started asking about his gift and was extremely excited to give baby her gift too! This really worked like a charm for us and definitely promoted his interest in her when she arrived I believe.

5. Recognizing & Pointing out Siblings.

As soon as we started talking about a baby joining our family we started emphasizing siblings wherever we went. We talked ALOT about his friends that had babies and what it was like for them and how exciting it was that *he* was going to get a baby too, just like them. When we would see babies at the park I would always point them out and say “a baby like your baby sister that is coming”, etc.

These are all extremely simple and were not hard to implement but for our family they really did make an impact. Our son knew exactly what to expect during and after the birth and I could not have been more pleased with the immediate transition. I feel like a large portion of the work actually came *after* she was born in order to preemptively mitigate tension and maintain peace within our day to day though. Stay tuned for those in part two, Sibling Preparation: Post Birth, coming on Thursday!

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What else did you do to prepare your older children during pregnancy? We would love to hear in the comments, cheers to siblings without rivalry!

the number of days until my due date - AHHH!

Monday Musings: do I actually know what I need?

I felt fiercely private and protective of all aspects of my first birth, leading up to and then beyond my due date. I didn’t want anyone to know I was in labor, I didn’t want anyone to be there except my husband and my doula and later my midwife, I didn’t want anyone even talking out loud about their predictions or how they envisioned it unfolding for me: day/time/outcome/etc. And… it worked out well. I spent most of the day going about regularly scheduled activities and during my 5 hours of active labor and then 1 hour of pushing it was just me, my husband and my doula (and later my midwife) with nobody else being any the wiser. I had no idea what to expect and I needed to experience it by myself with no outside disturbances or distractions, I very much felt like I *knew* exactly what I needed and it seemed to be perfectly true. I wanted to focus entirely and completely on the task at hand, nothing to break my concentration. I barely talked and there was no conversation between contractions, it was all very intense the entire time – but worked well, the entire labor & birth were very efficient.

the number of days until my due date - AHHH!

the number of days until my due date – AHHH!

This time I seem to be behaving exactly the opposite. Part of it has to do with the fact that now it is not just my husband and I but our son too and he requires more, a friend will be coming over to play with him and take him in and out of the house as he wishes. This friend may have another child with her so it could not just be him running around but one of his little best friends too.

Part of it is that our living situation has changed, our location and the fact that I know longer work for a paycheck full time, my full time is now spent looking after our son. Because of this a doula was not a viable option this time, *but* my midwives have a couple of women they work with that love to come to births to lend a hand, just because they love to. I haven’t actually met them yet but told my midwife I would adore and appreciate any extra help, emotionally, physically, even just help around the house as things are much more chaotic than last time.

And then there is birth photography. Photography was not even a consideration with my first birth and the farthest thing from my mind. My doula said she would snap a few shots for me and thank goodness for her because her three or so pictures are all that I have of that day and night and I actually LOVE looking at them. A few weeks ago I saw these photos of a girl I know that lives near us and I fell completely in love. I couldn’t stop looking at them for days (she is totally going to think I am a creep the next time I see her) and when I found out the photographer is actual a home birth mama herself any reservations I had about the process were gone and I just wanted her there too.

So now the count for my birth is: my husband, my son, possibly one of his toddler friends, one of my friends, two midwives, a possible free doula I have not met and a photographer – and my house is less than 1,000 square feet. It feels completely insane yet entirely right to me all at the same time.

The other day my son & I watched this birth video and I felt even another huge shift in how I envisioned my birth.

I didn’t want it to be me in an intense, unbreakable, focused place tuning out all of the people and probably inevitable pseudo craziness around me, I want to be a part of it. I want to talk and laugh with the women around me like in the video, and I see the entire environment much more light hearted in general.

I re-read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth this pregnancy and something in it really stuck with me. I can’t remember exactly what Ina May said but it was something to the extent of not being a crazy, dramatic, shrieking woman towards your partner during labor, that they (your partner) deserve positivity and for you to be nice, not slinging insults their way, etc. She talks a lot about “relaxation of the cervical sphincter that correlated with positive and loving words spoken during the most intense phase of labor” and “how the words [you speak] affect [your] labor” and then goes on to tell stories of mothers that would tell husband, baby, midwives and the friends helping how much she loved/appreciated them and Ina May added that “[she had] never noticed anyone’s cervix remain tight and unyielding while speaking loving and positive words”

I felt that during my first birth a lot of my rest between contractions was spent anticipating and bracing myself for the next one – and I would really like to have a go at some laughter and breaks in the tension and intensity this time around.


But then I think… am I crazy? Why fix something that isn’t broken? My labor with my son was swift, straightforward and effective. Can I really get the job done in a completely different environment? Is what I see for this birth actually right for me (and subsequently baby)?

I am a very changed person since the birth of my son, I feel like a lifetime of joy, tears, love, growth and sleep deprivation have taken place in the three short years since he joined us earth side. And I am also a vessel for an entirely different human being this time. Her wants and needs may not align with her brother’s in the slightest.

And so… I am just going to trust. Trust that everything has come together exactly as it should. Trust that when I say or do something without thinking about it first it comes from a place of inner wisdom. And trust that everything is fluid, no matter how the birth environment is it can always change if I or baby need it to.

How have your births differed from child to child? Has becoming a mother once changed the way in which you give birth again?

Do you *know* what birth holds for you and your baby while pregnant? Has envisioning the kind of birth you want come true for you? I would LOVE to hear other people’s experiences <3

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A Blessingway for Baby #2

Blessingways or Mother Blessings come in all different variations these days. Traditionally, the “blessing way” is a Navajo Ritual “created to spiritually support and empower the new mother for her journey of birthing and motherhood.”  They have since been adapted to honor the pregnant mother, honor the baby waiting to be born, or as a more family centered version of a baby shower.

The Sacred Pregnancy book I have been reading describes the blessingway as “a ceremony in which people bless the way of the baby and the mother as she readies herself to birth her baby into existence.”

I worked together with a great mama friend of mine to come up with what my baby and I saw our blessingway as: women close to us gathering for a relaxed afternoon tea, beading a bracelet  for me to wear before/during labor, sharing affirmations/hopes/prayers and participating in cord binding where each woman wraps a string around her wrist one or more times and then gives it to the person next to her, at once making everyone connected. Each women then cuts their cord to create a bracelet they wear until my labor is over. Prior to the birth, when they see their bracelet, they can think of me and send good thoughts. :)

It was such a nice afternoon with friends that traveled from all over the state to be there. They left me with a renewed perspective towards birth and shifted a lot of my tension and anxiety to excitement and joy. I thought I would recap some of the awesome affirmations and prayers that were given to me… for any other mamas to be or women with friends that will be birthing soon, let us share and pass on the wonderful feelings of empowerment and love they provided.

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This one actually came from my husband before we left for the gathering, it is so beautiful and simple, I imagine easy to recite in moments of intense labor and or doubtfulness.

We are the boat, we are the sea. I sail in you, you sail in me.” 

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This Advice From A Tree is applicable in so many different facets of life but I am finding it so cheerful for the rest of my pregnancy, reading through it just makes me smile.

Advice From A Tree

Stand Tall and Proud
Go Out On a Limb
Remember Your Roots
Drink Plenty of Water
Be Content with Your Natural Beauty
Enjoy the View

 

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This provides such a great visualization for me that I can use in moments of weakness and doubt and I know will be useful during particularly difficult moments in labor and “transition.”

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This is especially useful for second or subsequent babies and something that helps focus my perspective that this birth and baby bring with it an entirely new experience that I know nothing about yet. I hope to honor the process with no expectations.

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“My courage is stronger than my fear”

“A women in birth is at once her most powerful, and her most vulnerable. But any woman who has birthed unhindered, understands that we are stronger than we know.”
-Marci Macari

“Breathing in relaxation. Breathing out tension” 

“she believed she could, so she did”

and my favorite of all of them…
“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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“I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says The Lord.” Isaiah 66:9

“I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” Joan of Arc

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Isaiah 43:1-3

“There is no force equal to that of a Determined Woman.”

 

In addition to sharing the affirmations, each woman brought a bead to string together on a bracelet or necklace for me, they all had different meanings and sentiments and all represent the love these six other women have for me and my baby girl awaiting birth. It is a bracelet now, but I plan on turning into a long necklace I can easily stare down at.

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Another special gift I received was this Unakite bracelet. I did not know the power and uses of Unakite for pregnancy and childbirth before that day and I have not taken it off since!

IMG_4129You can also see my brown hemp cord in the photo above from the cord binding ceremony.

Overall it was an extremely special day with an energy that I plan to draw on the remaining 7-ish weeks of my pregnancy. The affirmations are all going to be placed on a wall in the room we plan to birth in next to a shelf that will contain an essential oil diffuser, sage, quartz and pearls that were also gifted to us.

I hope any or all of these can be used/shared/appreciated and passed on to other mamas to be,  alone or paired with a blessingway they have been very uplifting to my soul.

Has anyone attended or had a blessing way themselves? What kind of ceremonies took place? If you have any other affirmations or prayers to share we would love to read them!

Love and birth,

Cassandra

Second Pregnancy: Fears & Affirmations

First pregnancies are known to bring about many fears: fear of an expanding body, fear of giving birth, fear of becoming a mother, fear of the unknown, for me personally it was mostly the fear of the pregnancy itself. I was in a constant state of fear that something was or could go wrong while growing my baby. It just seems so delicate, so mind blowing that an entire human was growing inside my belly while I barely felt anything at all. I worked through those and was blessed with the experience of a very successful full term pregnancy and birth at the end so I  have not had many of those concerns the second time around. We sought out confirmation via doppler and ultrasound in early pregnancy and now as the third trimester begins a very active baby in my tummy keeps my mind at ease everyday. I am full of other kinds of fears this time though – surrounding birth, the postpartum period, and my responsibilities within a family of four. They are pretty overwhelming and all consuming sometimes, coupled with the fact that we have done absolutely zero to prepare for this upcoming birth or baby’s arrival I feel like I am often carrying a weight of anxiety too heavy to bear lately.

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the weeks & baby’s growth are both happening so rapidly this time around!

I have employed the help of some visualization techniques and affirmations that I thought I would share here in case any other mamas may find them helpful too. The visualizations can be used to get rid of fears, worries, or negative thoughts we just don’t want around and the affirmations, while some of them are specific to birth, postpartum or new babies, the others can be used anytime during the crazy ride of motherhood.

Visualization #1: Drifting Clouds
This was taught to me during a meditation in a yoga class recently, I really loved it and have found myself using it a lot at night before going to sleep.

Picture a serene, beautiful place with yourself seated or laying down comfortably gazing up at the sky. It is a brilliant, clear blue and there are big, white, fluffy clouds passing by. See your fear, negative thought, emotion, source of tension appear in one of the clouds and watch it drift away out of view. Repeat with each thought or feeling you would like to get rid of until the clouds are floating by empty. Notice how your body or mind feels differently after releasing these into the atmosphere and continue to relax and take in the beauty around and above you.

Visualization #2: Stones in the Ocean
This came from the Sacred Pregnancy book, it was described as an actual physical activity to go do, which I have been intending to and will, but also works great for a visualization in the moment and/or if you do not have access to an ocean or lake.

Visualize yourself at the edge of the ocean. Gather many large stones and place them by your feet. On each stone write in bold black letters a worry, fear, negative thought, problem or the like that you have been holding onto. Walk to the water and throw the stone into the ocean, watching as Mother Earth literally absorbs and carries off this fear or unwanted thought for you.

affirmations

I know the postpartum period is not a friendly time for myself, physically or emotionally. I plan on writing these down and placing them somewhere I can see from my resting place in bed.

“There’s value in showing my kids my vulnerability.”

“I am healthy and I will heal.”

“A new baby is like the beginning of all things – Wonder, Hope, a dream of possibilities.”
– Edna J. Le Shan

These below also are applicable to the postpartum period for me but have been helpful at times during this pregnancy and I anticipate will be very useful as we transition to a family of four.

“Now all you can do is wait. It must be hard for you, but there is a right time for everything. Like the ebb and flow of tides. No one can do anything to change them. When it is time to wait, you must wait.”  
-Haruki Murakami

“Not loving every moment of motherhood doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mom.”

“The decisions made by other moms do not need to dictate mine.”

“I am enough.”

“I am present. My presence is enough.”

I find these are especially helpful when I repeat them over and over to myself while walking or at the playground with T or in some other situation where my thoughts can get away with me. It really does help redirect my energy and like I mentioned before is a great tool to use before I go to sleep.

Are there any other affirmations or visualizations or even other types of activities that have been particularly helpful for you during a time of fear or tension? Anything that stood out as especially helpful during the healing and adjustment phases after birth, I would love to hear anything and everything!

 

 

 

Tuesday Tips: Bare Bones Newborn Essentials

Now that I am approaching past the halfway mark of my second pregnancy we I have started thinking about the “things” we will need.

hi baby!

hi baby!

I tried to keep the stuff to a minimum with our first, even with our attempt people still bring things, certain things seemed appealing to us when our son reached x,y,z milestones and eventually I ended up giving away a TON of “baby” things when we moved (my son was 10 months old). This time around the attempt to keep things to a minimum is even greater as we know what lasts and what doesn’t and considering that home birth costs roughly 3x more here in central California as ours in Arizona did, we are on a strict budget to save up for birth and newborn care. I also feel that money is better spent during pregnancy on prenatal herbs and supplements, chiropractic adjustments, massages, a birth tub, birth and postpartum supplies/luxuries and the like to give our babe the best start at life even if it means having to sacrifice a few conveniences for ourselves during the first year.

This is what I have narrowed my personal list down to, it isn’t as bare as diapers, wipes, clothes and boobs but it was as darn close as I could come while still considering my sanity of having to take care of two children on my own most days past two weeks postpartum.

collage

 Sling
I used a ring sling with my son and I loved the ease of use and versatility it provided. I especially loved the cradle carry position during infancy, the option to forward face once the baby gained head control and the ease of breastfeeding while in the sling. I will definitely be getting a Sakura Bloom Pure Linen Sling as everyone I know raves about them and they are made locally in the US in Massachusetts.  I do have an Ergo Organic that I used from about 10 days until now still with my son that I am sure I will use quite a bit too but having the sling for different situations and especially the younger months is a must in my book!

Clothes
Much more of a must this time around in our cooler weather and considering that baby should arrive sometime in January. I am going to keep it very simple and pick up a few organic pieces, onesies, tees, leggings and sweaters. I love American Apparel Baby and Kate Quinn Organics, both organic cotton and made in USA. We will be reusing all of our Aden + Anais organic swaddle blankets we still have from when my son was born.

Diapers
I cloth diapered with my son and absolutely loved it, until we moved to the central coast. We live less than a mile from the ocean in a town notorious for its fog and lack of sunny days. It is always damp here and line drying is completely out of the question. After a few months of drying the diapers in a dryer and coming up with no options for a diaper service I called it quits :( We have been using Seventh Generation pull-ups which I love, but considering the transition from a one child to two child family as well as the trip that is required to frequently purchase these I am excited to try out The Honest Company for diapers + wipes with this little babe (knock on wood, all fingers crossed that in January our then 2 year 10 month old will be completely potty learned!!) The delivery aspect is something I am extremely excited about, I have heard nothing but good reviews regarding the quality of product and delivery service and think we will give it a go for a bit and see how we like it.

Double Jogging Stroller
A jogging stroller is a must for our family as I walk numerous places in a 2-3 mile vicinity of our home, which includes tons of uneven surfaces and hills. I don’t plan on using any type of infant seat attachment with a stroller as we are putting baby straight into a convertible car seat that we already own, so this won’t be entirely necessary until I am comfortable placing baby directly in the seat. I see me using my single stroller for my toddler and wearing the baby for the first couple/few months, which gives us plenty of time to save up for the stroller I want, the BOB Revolution SE Duallie. I use my stroller every single day without fail and have been making due with a decade old completely bare jogger we picked up on Craig’s List for ~$40 for the past 2.5 years. This is a splurge I have been looking forward to for some time! That being said, I will definitely not be buying this guy new and have already seen quite a few in great condition on Craig’s List in my area!

Portable Swing
We borrowed a full size swing from a friend with my son and he used it non stop for months. He liked the motion, had a hard time sleeping, had reflux and liked to be upright and it was a lifesaver. I know all babies are different, but I would like to be prepared. It is also nice to have a safe place to set baby down away from a crazy toddler or if I need to attend to the toddler for whatever reason. I am pretty set that the swing is going to be a must. I have my eye on a 4moms, their products are all breathtaking to me! I haven’t decided between a rockaRoo or mamaRoo yet but love the compact, portable nature of both – a definite necessity for our small living space.

Ergo Infant Insert
I mentioned we used the Ergo from about Day 10 with my son but we never actually had an infant insert. He was born in March in AZ and it just seemed to hot and sweaty and I had quite a few moms show me how they used swaddle blankets to secure baby instead. This time around because of the time of year and weather the snuggly coziness of the infant insert seems very appealing, especially because I am much more “on the go” chasing a toddler these days. I will probably try to borrow or buy one off of a friend!

I haven’t quite decided if I absolutely need a nursing pillow or baby lounger pillow or if they are something we can do without this round. I already have a breast pump and I am not really sure if we will even bother with bottles, so that is about it! Baby will sleep in bed with us or next to our bed on a crib mattress on the floor, I mentioned we already have a convertible car seat for him/her, we have tons of flat cloth diapers to use as burp rags, etc. and although I would love a new diaper bag, I am sure my old one will do just fine :)

Anything bare bones, absolutely necessary that I am missing? What newborn “essentials” did you have on your list??

Copyright 2011 A Bunch of Smiles Photography - please do not copy image - thank you

Monday Musings: Births off the “plan”

As childbirth educators in The Bradley Method®, we attract students who want to have an unmedicated vaginal birth.  It is our goal to prepare them for Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcomes by starting with a foundation of a  healthy, low-risk pregnancy.  We stress the importance of abdominal breathing, relaxation, exercise and a healthy diet.  We share information so that they are confident in the process, have the education to ask good questions and get complete answers.  It is all with the goal for them to be able to evaluate decisions in their birth and make empowered decisions that they feel good about when they look back on their Sweet Pea’s Birth-Day.

In our evolution as instructors, we don’t teach The Birth Plan anymore.  We teach The Wish List, and encourage them to embrace the process of communication between themselves and their birth team.  We ask them to prioritize the different possibilities, variations and complications and decide how they would want to choose while they are calm and have the whole scope of the internet as a research tool without time constraints or pressure to decide *right* now.  We spend 12 weeks informing, encouraging and hopefully, empowering them, for a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome.

Sounds nice, right?

It’s crap sometimes.  I have watched students and/or been in contact with them throughout their births and they end up with interventions, up to and including cesarean births.  The overwhelming majority of them are for appropriate reasons – the true complications when interventions and/or surgery are unquestionably the right choice for both mother and baby to still be “healthy”.

We invite and encourage them all to come back and share their birth stories when it comes time to have their class reunion. Thankfully, those that do come back and share, still feel that the time spent preparing was well worth it, because they used the tools they learned in class throughout the birth experience.

I can’t help but wonder if they are ever “okay”.  As a regular at ICAN meetings for almost three years now, it has made me painfully aware of how powerful our words are – those we say to ourselves and those we hear from others.

I have a new goal for my classes.  Just like we switched from “the plan” to “the wish”, my intention is to focus less on the birth and more on the process.  I cannot fix the mamas who are going to have postpartum depression. I can however change the message of our classes so that there is one less pressure to have a “perfect birth”.

The lightbulb went off when I looked at my face in the picture at the top of this post.  This is our fourth child – my fourth time going through this process of labor and birth.  And I still look surprised!! And I was – after our longest labor, I was still thrilled and awed to be holding a new life in my hands – a life that up to the moment it was born, had been inside.  Now it was outside, living, breathing, beating it’s heart all by it’s lonesome without any influence from me.

My new focus is going to be on the miracle of pregnancy and the work we do to have a baby on the other side of labor.  In that, we are all equal.  We have all endured the anticipation of a pregnancy test, come to terms with the answer, and grown these little miracles for however long they reside within us.  To borrow words from the affirmation post I wrote for the SPB blog today:

“Never cease to be amazed by the miracle of life that you grew within you…no matter how you birth, take heart from the fact that the new human being you are holding in your arms was grown within you and by you with loving intention.”

The thought that our bodies have failed us can be devastating.  If we can find joy in the miracle of the life that we grew and take some of the pressure off of the way they entered the world, maybe one mama can start her journey towards healing with a positive thought about something she did do well.  Her body did succeed at growing a baby, and that is something that can be celebrated in the midst of the questions about why the wish list went completely out the window.

I encourage mamas who feel like they have healing to do in regards to their birth to reach out for help.  There is the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), Birthing From Within is training Birth Listeners (I am on the waiting list!! I hope to take the training this year), or you can speak to a counselor, therapist or psychologist who is qualified to work with women who want to work through and process their birth(s).

If I am speaking to you, please know that my heart is breaking with yours.  I know that you have a healthy baby.  I grieve with you about the birth you did not have.  I want you to know that you are a hero in my eyes.  You allowed your body to be invaded by instruments (needles or otherwise) to give your baby the birth that they needed because you have so much love for them that you were willing to be *that* vulnerable for them.  I hope you come to a place where you will believe in your heart of hearts that you are not broken.  You may need mending, and you are not broken.  You are loved.

Puvirnituq

Monday Musings: Midwives

Today is International Day of the Midwife – wishing all these amazing birthworkers a very blessed day!

Our midwives made a huge difference in the way we labored and birthed Otter – HERE is Part 1 of her birth story and HERE is Part 2 – it’s long so I split it up.  (I was impressed I was able to compress 3 days into two blog posts – lol.)

As we fought for homebirth rights again this legislative session in Arizona, one thing became crystal clear for me.  We cannot change our abysmal birth outcomes until we change the paradigms around birth in our country.

Doctors putting down midwives…hospital midwives touting their credentials and college degrees…homebirth midwives asking to be recognized for their skill set and knowledge that has been handed down through the ages.

And I mean that literally: there is no way the human species would have survived if these women didn’t know a thing or two about birth.  How many species have we seen become extinct in our lifetime?  It happens! If birth was as dangerous and mysterious and frightening as the scare-tactic practitioners would have you believe, we would have been gone AGES ago.

While there are fabulous and atrocious providers in all three categories of pregnancy care providers, it is time we demand better.  I would be thrilled if by the time our children are having children, midwives are caring for the majority of the population that is low-risk with the “watchful waiting” model of midwifery care. And, obstetricians are still in practice to care for the high-risk pregnancies that truly need a different skill set and level of care.  It is possible to rewrite our birth paradigm and have everyone (well, almost everyone!) respect each other and get along.

There is no doubt that modern medicine has improved outcomes for women with true complications of pregnancy and childbirth – here are a few cases where we can definitely be grateful: Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, NICU care that allows preemies to survive and thrive, cesarean births for mothers with transverse babies, placenta abruptia, placenta accreta – these are all situations where modern medicine has had a positive impact.

However, we have to ask ourselves – how have we gotten to the point where almost 33% of all births end with surgery? Why have we dropped (AGAIN!) in maternal mortality rates – we are now ranked 50 in the world.  Why are we ranked at 56th in the world for infant mortality rate?? Something is seriously and desperately wrong with maternity care.  Birth is not a pathogen; it’s not an illness that needs to be managed and controlled.

I ask families to research the possibility of midwifery care.  HERE is a look at a recent study that demonstrated that midwifery-led care dramatically improved outcomes.

From the Midwives Alliance of North American (MANA) website, here are some of the benefits you might expect from midwifery care:

    • monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
    • providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
    • minimizing technological interventions and
    • identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.

Also from MANA:

What women love is that there is more to maternity care with a midwife than checking blood pressure, fundal height, weight and urine checks.

  • You will see a familiar face at each of your appointments, and you will be given adequate time to ask questions and address your concerns.
  • Your midwife is a specialist in pregnancy, birth and postpartum care who has designed a complete program of care to nurture healthy pregnancy, joyful birth and confident parenting.
  • You will receive individualized, culturally appropriate, family-centered full-scope prenatal services, and continuous care and support during labor and birth.
  • Your midwife will incorporate shared decision-making into your care so that you will feel informed and empowered to make good health decisions for you, your infant and your family.
  • Your midwife has the skills and knowledge to facilitate healthy normal childbirth, to assure comfort and safety for you and your baby, and to accommodate your family’s needs.
  • You midwife has a plan for collaboration with obstetricians, pediatricians, and other specialists in the rare case where medical care for mother or your baby is needed.
  • You will receive nurturing postpartum care and support in your home and the midwife’s office in the weeks and months after birth as you adjust to your new baby and the changes in your family.

Source: http://www.mana.org/about-midwives/midwifery-model

Midwives have long served the underprivileged and the marginalized by society. Making them available in community health care centers would address the needs of the communities ravaged by the disparity in health care based on the ability to pay for care.  I am ashamed to read that the difference in birth outcomes would be drastically improved along color lines – we are living in 2014!! This should not even be a discussion about racial barriers and access to care, but it is. IT IS.

Not all families are comfortable with the idea of homebirth.  Those families who want to birth in a hospital setting have the options of midwifery care from hospital-based Certified Nurse-Midwives.  They have the training to use medical interventions plus they are taught about birth as a normal function of the female body, not a pathogen that needs to be managed and controlled as dictated by the obstetrical model of care.  Our experience as we hear our student’s birth stories is that they tend to use them judiciously within the “watchful waiting” model of midwifery care.

The bottom line is this: families are seeking respectful, personalized, humanized care in droves. Midwives and the midwifery model of care are definitely staying and growing in the USA.  It’s time to rewrite our birth paradigm and find ways for all care providers to forge new pathways to mutual respect and understanding so that mothers and babies have a chance for a future.