Cesarean Awareness: A Doula’s Humble Reflection

by Erin Stertz-Follett, CLD, LCCE, HBCE

 

My journey into birth began 10 years ago after the birth of my first nephew, Micah. I wouldn’t fully embrace birth as my calling until many years later, after the birth of my own two girls and the ‘birth’ of the passion inside me to bring services of meaning to pregnant women and their families.
I will never forget that moment. After an induction that lasted more than 24 hours, and “arrest of descent” of the baby during pushing, my sister was told that she would need a cesarean section. I watched as her face turned from determination, to disappointment, to resignation, and to sorrow. As my mom and I left the room while they began the surgical prep, I said to Mom, “That’s not what we wanted.” With tears trickling down her cheeks, she shook her head, “No.” The grief for what Sarah so badly wanted – a vaginal birth with minimal interventions – was palpable.

A few years later, as I was pregnant with my first child and wanting to learn as much as I could to avoid my own surgical birth, Sarah invited me to an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) meeting. At that time, the group was small and had just begun reforming here in the Twin Cities. I happened to attend on a night when a wise midwife named Gail Tully was on hand to provide information and practice in ‘optimal fetal positioning’ for birth. I didn’t know anything about birth halls or Rebozos, or the side-lying release. I just knew that it felt so good (and kind of funny!) as I was used as the ‘pregnant model’ for Rebozo belly sifting.

Two babies later, both of which included my sister’s attendance and support, I began the true path to birth work as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educatordoula, and HypnoBirthing Certified Educator. Again, my journey was largely inspired not only by Sarah’s first birth, but also by her successful HBAC (home birth after cesarean) her second time around.

To offer full disclosure, I dreaded as a doula the first time I would need to step into the surgical suite and witness a mama experience a cesarean birth. In some small way, I was traumatized by my sister’s experience. Now with several under my belt, I can say that my perspective has changed. Yes, it is still difficult. But, with my doula hat on, I enter the experience with an open heart and an open mind, with nothing but how I can best support that mama in that moment as my focus. It is at that time that we turn our trust over to the trained surgeon whose job now is to safely bring the baby forth from the mother’s womb. I offer a grounding hand on the forehead, an explanation of what to expect and what is happening, sounds and smells that calm the mother, words of reassurance to the partner, and pictures if mama desires.

I have seen mothers who view their surgical births in many different ways: From full-on acceptance (even requesting one at the end of a long, stalled labor); to complete devastation (offering my doula hands to wipe away tears); to somewhere in the middle (perhaps with resignation and a resolve to process the experience later).  I have seen cesareans that are completely medically necessary, and those that fall in a grey area.

Look, the cesarean rate in this country (32.8%) is too high. There’s no way around that. We can do better. For women, for babies, and for their families. It may feel daunting to tackle this subject on a grander scale and I know many of us birth workers often feel at a loss. But here is what we can do:

  • Approach the subject with mamas (clients, patients, friends, family) with gentleness, understanding, an open heart; and, when needed, the statistics.
  • Remember and value the fact that not all mamas view their cesarean as traumatic or unnecessary. Don’t assume that all mamas do and meet them where they are, especially as they plan a subsequent birth.
  • Educate. Educate. Educate. Knowledge truly is power. Whether it is ways to more optimally position baby for birth, or methods for deep relaxation, or just knowing all options and all places of referral. Education is key. The ability to ask questions and have them honestly answered is tantamount.
  • Refer to birth providers who offer options for mamas in pregnancy and labor; and who understand normal, physiologic birth… Those whose rates of cesarean birth are on the lower end (including out-of-hospital options if the mother desires).
  • Refer mamas who have experienced cesarean birth, especially those that view their births as traumatic, to resources such as ICAN and Homebirth Cesarean groups.
  • When a surgical birth becomes truly medically necessary either before the birth or during the laboring process, we can offer support and guidance for having a more family-centered experience.
  • Put our time, our money, and our voices behind organizations that support mamas in having births with low interventions.

And finally, as doulas and as friends or family, we can hold hands. Wipe tears. Validate fears. Lift them up. Walk down to the lowest lows with them. Remind every mama how strong they are… that they brought their baby into the world; that they can do it again with love.

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Erin Stertz-Follett owns Flutterby Birth Services, located in Burnsville, MN. In addition to doula services, she offers HypnoBirthing, Lamaze, and Breastfeeding classes as well as other workshops and events. She is the mother to two lovely and lively little girls.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the Flutterby Birth blog. Photos credited to Stephanie Ryan Photography.  All birth stories used with the permission of the mothers. 


Eat, Pray, Doula: A Doula’s Journey in Bali

by Karen Bruce, AAHCC

I am writing from a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, awestruck by the experiences of the past 10 days, still overcome with emotion at the intense connections formed among a group of strangers in that time, and brimming with anticipation for my future birth work.  I just attended Eat Pray Doula 2014 in Ubud, Bali Indonesia with 27 of the most beautiful birth keepers you have ever met.

 

What better place to celebrate World Doula Week than in SouthEast Asia with such a diverse group of women?  We represented at least 11 countries and spoke numerous languages.  We included midwives and teachers, translators and nurses, small business owners, and, of course, doulas. Some brought their families on this adventure, some traveled alone.  All of us converged in this beautiful land they call the Island of the Gods for a DONA Birth Doula Workshop taught by Debra Pascali-Bonaro, chair of the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization and creator and director of the film Orgasmic Birth, Ibu Robin Lim of Bumi Sehat International and CNN’s Hero of the Year 2011, and Katherine Bramhall, co-founder of Bumi Sehat and homebirth midwife.
Katherine Bramhall, Karen Bruce, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Ibu Robin Lim

Katherine Bramhall, Karen Bruce, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Ibu Robin Lim

I traveled with my partner from Minneapolis along with two fellow Childbirth Collective members, Angie Posine and Angie Sonrode and their families.  We all knew this was something special and were eager to share and learn with so many experienced doulas and world-famous birth gurus. Our Twin Cities contingent had much to offer by way of practical suggestions for natural pain relief, position changes, communication with families and staff, etc.  I am proud to say that the Childbirth Collective was a shining example to our peers of how birth keepers can work together to support one another and provide best practices with an evidence-based model of doula care.  We loved sharing how Minnesota is at the leading edge of a revolution in well-supported birth thanks to the many legislative efforts of Susan Lane and the Minnesota Better Birth Coalition.  Our community enjoys many options in childbirth that are sadly not widely available.

 

But Eat Pray Doula challenged me in many ways to move beyond the comfort zone I have created in my doula work – I know very well the culture of birth in the Twin Cities and my place in it, and my toolbox is filled with ideas to support the physical and emotional needs of the birthing families I serve.  However, I may not have been fully prepared for the deeply spiritual transformation I experienced at this workshop.  Our facilitators were skilled at creating the conditions that allow true connection with other people, and they lit a spark within me that has inspired me to create sacred space in birth, to preserve and protect the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional.

Karen Bruce, Ari Fatun of Indonesia

My first DONA Birth Doula Workshop with Gail Tully in 2006 prepared me in very practical ways to be a birth doula, and she certainly speaks to the spiritual, but I may not have been ready to hear it.  The 8 years of experience at over 200 births in between have prepared me to receive this new perspective in order to develop that part of my practice which is so critical to the mystery of life and love on this planet.

 

Not to be confused with religious expression, the spiritual aspects of creating life in our womb and birthing our babies into this world are simply related to the human spirit or soul.  Simply by choosing my words or silence more carefully, by being fully open to the MotherBaby mystery as it unfolds, and, when I have my activist hat on, by educating and encouraging gentle birth practices by other doulas and care providers – I know I am making a difference.  I remind myself that it is not necessary to understand this mystery in order to honor it and create space for its expression during this profound transition from pregnant to parent, from MotherBaby to mother and child.

 

Eat Pray Doula workshops are appropriate for new/aspiring birth doulas, but even the most experienced will learn many new ideas to breath new life into their important work.  I would especially encourage nurses, midwives, and obstetricians to consider registering for a future workshop as a gift to yourself and all birthing families you will hold sacred in the future!

Pujiastatuti Sindhu of Indonesia, Karen Bruce, and Ari Fatun

Karen Bruce is a certified Bradley Method(r) Instructor and Birth and Postpartum Doula in the Twin Cities.  She serves as the Vice President of the board of the Childbirth Collective. Her website is karenbrucedoula.com.

Celebrate and Share World Doula Week 2014!

March 22-28 is World Doula Week! Did you know that just recently, ACOG and SMFM (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists & the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine) named doula support as one of the most important and most underutilized tools in preventing cesareans in first-time mothers? This is just one of the amazing, research-based benefits of doula support.

So if you are a doula, used and loved a doula, or just want to shout the doula love from the rooftops, feel free to comment here and share these graphics on social media! We here at The Childbirth Collective are so proud to do what we do. Happy World Doula Week!
Doulas Rock!

I-Love-Doulas

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The Intention + Creation of Sacred Pregnancy

by Brittany Bushaw

Editor’s Note: A version of this post first appeared HERE. 

When I became pregnant with my first baby, I felt a powerful shift begin to happen – not just within my physical body, but also within my heart. I desired to experience my pregnancy with intention, present moment awareness, and trust for my body, baby, and birth. I desired a sacred pregnancy in hopes that it would flow into creating a sacred birth experience.

Already a yoga instructor and massage therapist, I was familiar with the connection between mind, body, and self awareness. I was imperfect and practicing the art of listening to my heart and inner desires, and then choosing to communicate them honestly with family and close friends. Numerous struggles arose because I had to break through the barriers of my own conditioned belief systems in order to recognize and work through insecurities. Pregnancy was a big step forward for me in the process of open and honest communication. I chose to openly share my faith and trust for my entire pregnancy and birth process without allowing other’s fears become my own. You bet this was going to be my first lesson in mothering.
When announcing my pregnancy, I also announced that my husband and I chose to have a home birth. Our announcement was met in a variety of ways: short questions, awkward silence, fear, and support. I was very open about our choice and loved answering questions and engaging in discussion. During each interaction, I reminded myself that each person’s experiences have shaped the lens through which they see the world. Knowing this helped me to stay in my truth and to communicate honestly without taking their responses or reactions personally. This allowed for beautiful dialogue and understandings to take place, and for there to be space for my family and close friends to process our choice. Most importantly, my honest communication reflected confidence, openness, and a meaningful process. I was communicating that this was sacred for me – that my body was an extension of nature – and as much as I trust the process of a seed being planted, growing, and blooming, I trust the process of pregnancy and birth. To me they are all synonymous.

Moving forward into my pregnancy, I expanded my yoga practice, and I wanted to learn more about the pregnant woman’s body. I had a desire to take space for myself and to be engulfed by a community of women and learning. That’s when I discovered Blooma. I enrolled in their prenatal yoga teacher training in October 2011 and loved every moment of my experience there. I dove into myself in every yoga class, experienced the power of being surrounded by other pregnant mamas, and felt the bliss of truly feeling supported without judgment. My confidence in myself, my choices, and my communication was emanating out of me in response to all of the inspiration and abundance. I was actively recognizing my needs and desires and manifesting them!

As I openly shared my inspiration about pregnancy and birth with those around me, naturally, some of my closest friends became inspired to contribute to my journey. My dear friend, Sandie Fish, held a three part circle ceremony:
I. Welcoming a new mother
II. Welcoming for baby
III. Welcoming a new father.

With the greatest of intention and communication, we created a circle with the wiser and older women in my life whom could share their journeys as women and mothers. We created quilt squares and tied the quilt together to wrap the baby in our wisdom and love, they brought me beads to assemble a necklace to surround me in their energy, power, and wisdom during labor and mothering, and they showered me with intentional gifts for my birthing alter. Every time we gathered I experienced a shedding and releasing of old thoughts, beliefs, and stories that were no longer serving me. The circle ceremony allowed all of us space to let go of our egos and to become present with our deeper selves. We felt connected, alive, and valuable in our life journey, struggles and all. I felt (and still feel) from these women and ceremonies an incredible amount support, love, and laughter that will forever stay with me. I was indeed experiencing a sacred pregnancy. Like a flower gently rooted into the earth, I was feeling vulnerable yet strong in my process of growth.

My spirit sister Amy and good friend Steph were inspired not just by pregnancy but by life itself. They planned and created a Celebration of Life gathering for our close group of friends to be intentional in their support for my process. Everyone brought a blessing, poem, song lyrics, or their own writing to share what life means to them. We lit candles and gathered around the table. So much giggling, love, and intentional conversation was happening. Celebrating with delicious, wholesome food along with beautiful energy of acceptance and understanding. It made my heart sing.
We created artful affirmation signs for me to hang on my wall for the labor and birth. Words like flow, breathe, power, trust, exist, now, rest, and focus were created. It was a peaceful, calm time in the evening as everyone allowed for an opening for creativity to flow. Through art, we cultivated our intentions and love.

The affirmations were a powerful addition to the energy of our home as we began to make active preparations in creating the sacred birth that I knew in my heart was possible. These affirmations still exist within my home to remind me in my mothering (and in life) to flow like water, to breathe, exist, and to trust the process of struggle and inner work.

At the end of pregnancy when the baby showers began to take place (I had four of them), it was very apparent that my desires were being heard. The women throwing these baby showers made them bright, fun, and filled with life. My gifts were hand made, bought with intention, or things that I truly needed (cloth diapers). Like the Minnesota River after the snow has melted, I was bursting at the banks and over flowing with abundance and gratitude. Feeling the deepest connection I had ever felt with those closest to me, and to myself, I was ready whenever the BABY was to move into the next phase of sacredness and connection. I was ready to give birth.

After the birth of my daughter Abyl, I spent time reflecting on the power that exists within us, not just as women, but as human beings. Abyl was part of this entire process and was taking my lead the entire time. By inviting beautiful energy, support, and trust into my experience, I also shared it with her in the womb. The sacred pregnancy I set the intention for, sought out, and actively manifested (with the help of my loved ones) flowed beautifully into experiencing a sacred birth. My amazing friend Amy, supportive husband Adam, and attentive midwife Rachel all supported me gracefully while I experienced a labor full of struggle, opening,shedding, letting go, peace, and in the end, pure joy and love.


What Babies Need

Walking into any baby store or paging through one of the numerous magazines aimed at parents, one is bound to find a list of “must haves” for every baby. These are usually things that are meant to help you parent your baby “best”. While no one can tell you what your individual family’s needs are, what we do know is that at its most basic, babies’ needs are quite simple. The most important things your baby needs are things you already have.

Warmth

Babies are born learning how to maintain a normal body temperature, and immediate skin-to-skin contact with mama is ideal. Studies have shown that a mother’s chest is able to lower or raise an entire degree based on her baby’s temperature needs (and on either side independently if she is mothering twins!).

Getting your baby right to your chest immediately following delivery will also help both of you connect after birth. It helps baby to regulate their breathing as they feel your chest rise and fall and you are bathed in your newborn’s intoxicating smell as you establish your bond as mother and child. This shows them where home is as they take in your mama scent.

Comfort

Your baby has spent three seasons growing in an environment where his needs were immediately met. Baby was kept at the right temperature and could hear your heartbeat and voice at all times. Keeping your baby close after birth helps to maintain and strengthen his sense of security and safety while helping you to learn his cues and respond to his needs quickly.

Wearing your baby is a wonderful way for both mom and partner to help baby recreate that environment and provide this comfort for him. It keeps baby close and secure, providing opportunities for attachment and affection at all times. Babies can sleep, eat and play all while staying connected to you, and you are able to get basic tasks accomplished without having to put them down – a win/win situation!

Food

Humans are well-designed down to the last detail. While pregnant, your breasts begin to produce colostrum which is the first food your baby will get in the few days it takes for your milk volume to increase. Colostrum is packed with energy, vitamins, and antibodies, and it lines babies’ intestines with beneficial bacteria and flora that stay with them for life. It also acts as a natural laxative, helping babies to pass their first stool, known as meconium.

Colostrum and breastmilk provide all the nutrition your baby needs – there is no need to supplement with anything else. Breastmilk is tailored to your baby’s needs at every stage of development; as baby grows and changes, so does your milk. As an added bounus, babies whose mothers eat a varied diet while nursing typically grow up to be more adventurous eaters later in life, enjoying more diverse flavors and tastes.

Parenting a newborn is all about following his cues and responding with what he needs. Your instincts as a parent are strong and if you listen to them and to your baby, you will quickly learn that what your baby needs most is you.

About the Author

Angie Sonrode is a DONA-trained Doula and a Lactation Support Provider serving clients in the Twin Cities Metro area.  She  lives in Minneapolis with her supportive husband and 4 amazing kiddos.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2011 print version of Collective Thoughts.


“Incredibly healing and an absolute gift”: An HBA2C birth story

by Joyce Geving

My first of three sons was born December 21st, 2004.  We labored for hours and I was given an epidural followed by Pitocin. His cord was wrapped around his forehead, so with each contraction his heart rate would fall. So I was rushed into the operating room. I remember feeling so scared and helpless.  I am not sure if a cesarean could have been avoided with his birth. Afterward, I really mourned not being pregnant any longer, and I think it was the safe feeling of my pregnancy that I missed. I no longer had my baby safe and warm in me but had this scary birth story. I also left feeling like my body had been violated in some way. All of these feelings I shared with others and my doctor but were dismissed or hardly acknowledged so I thought I just needed to get over it and move on.

My second, July 6th, 2007, was a scheduled repeat cesarean. The hospital had a no VBAC policy in place and my doctor convinced me that a cesarean would be the safest option, and I went along with it.  It wasn’t until a couple years later, after watching the “Business of Being Born” that I began questioning the necessity of my cesareans and how I and my babies missed out on the natural experience and all the benefits that happen with that.

When I became pregnant with my third I knew I wanted to give birth, to do what my body was meant to do, even with a scar. I was so happy to hear the nearby hospital was doing VBACs again but was told it was not for me because I had had two previous cesareans and the risk was too high…so now what? I felt defeated.

I contacted the ICAN Minneapolis chapter and was informed of hospitals in the metro that would do VBA2C. I began making appointments and looking into a couple that were within reasonable driving distance. After each appointment I left feeling like they were setting me up for another cesarean, and more interested in adding my birth to their statistics – good or bad.  I began questioning what my birth was going to look like at the hospital with all their policies and protocols. 

Mean while, we had hired a doula because we had read the statistics supporting reduced risk of cesarean when doulas are present. I also knew I would need someone to help us make informed decisions in a hospital. Right from the start, we had a connection with our doula, Ashley; she gave us so much support and information that we needed. 

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While doing my research online, home births always came up as an option or in success stories, but my husband and I were both really scared of the idea thinking, “what if something goes wrong” and “what would we do with the dogs and my dad during labor, how are we going to come up with the money?”

Our doula encouraged me to just meet with homebirth midwives to rule it out, if nothing else, and at 30 weeks my husband and I made an appointment to do so. After our first meeting, we knew this was our path and had a sigh of relief. We left feeling excited again and validated, instead of stressed about the birth and our plans. We could really enjoy the pregnancy and the preparing for our birth. 

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My prenatal appointments were always at least 45 minutes long, usually longer. We talked about the importance of eating well and drinking water and my tea.  The care I experienced during our appointments was amazing, they always made me feel comfortable and that I could do this.  Nothing like what I experienced in any of my clinic visits.

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On January 21st, my contractions began at 10:40 at night. I was so excited, we were up timing contractions all night and called our doula so excited at 4am. She convinced us to get some rest. I slept a couple hours and my water broke at 7:35the next morning. Then I called everyone, because I felt like now’s the real deal, but contractions were still steady and not increasing or getting stronger. I was in constant contact with our doula and midwives. One of the midwives came to check on our progress and things were moving so slow we were urged to get some rest that evening and labor would hopefully pick up after some sleep. Just as soon as I laid down, contractions really began – and we had just told our doula to take her time and come that night when she wanted. One of the midwives came and hurriedly called the other to come now after she said she could see his head and then reassured me that my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing.

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That night, in our family room, I gave birth to our third son.  He came out and cried “momma” (sounded like that to me) and nursed like champ all while his cord was still attached to me. My husband was so comforting and amazing while supporting me. It was so calm, comfortable, and full of love and encouragement…it was a beautiful setting for our little guy to enter the world. 

My home birth experience was incredibly healing and an absolute gift.
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Why should I bring my baby to a Chiropractor?

by Dr. Kelly Silvi

This is often a question that I get from patients, or just parents in general when they learn that I am a Pediatric Chiropractor. It is a great question! I see it as an opportunity to teach parents about the human body and how that translates to their new baby. 

In order to understand why you should bring your baby to a Chiropractor, you need to have an understanding of what they do. Chiropractors focus on treating the joints in your spine. This is a concept that is generally known, but what people may not know is that the focus is on the spine due to its intimate relationship with the nervous system. Treatments bring increased function and movement to the joints and muscles, which in turn decrease the irritation to the nerves. An optimally functioning nervous system is key to your body sending and receiving the appropriate messages at the appropriate times. 

So why should you bring your baby to a Chiropractor? The simple answer is because babies have spines too! The same concepts apply to babies as they do to adults. A chiropractor will check baby’s spine and remove restrictions in their joints so that the nervous system can function optimally. Their little bodies are growing quickly and it is important that the appropriate messages are being sent at the appropriate times!

New babies go through a lot of transition phases in a short amount of time, starting with birth. Whether it is traveling through the birth canal, or being born through the uterine wall, it is a significant physical stress to their little bodies. I frequently treat babies in their first day of life to assist their bodies in finding balance after the hard work of being born. Babies are developing and adapting at an incredible rate in their first 5 years of life. A chiropractor that is trained in Pediatric care will have great knowledge to treat their little bodies through all stages of their development. Chiropractors can correct restrictions in the cranium (skull) and spine before they manifest as symptoms. 

When a baby is treated or adjusted by a Chiropractor it looks significantly different than an adult adjustment. This is a very important distinction to make for parents. There are no quick movements or firm pressure when working with babies. The treatments are gentle and progress slowly, going at a speed that is dictated by the baby’s comfort. It is common for babies to sleep or nurse during treatments, which is fun for the parents to see.

I mentioned that treatments can often make corrections to the body before symptoms appear. Symptoms in babies often look very different compared to adults. Babies can’t verbalize that they have a headache, are constipated, or have pain when they turn their head to the right. Instead, they might not sleep well, cry and grunt a lot, or have feeding difficulties. As a Chiropractor it is our job to piece together their symptoms and determine what will help them feel better. In addition to balancing their bodies, we are also trained to provide nutritional and lifestyle advice for you and your newborn. 

I believe every baby should be checked by a Chiropractor after birth. If they do have restrictions in their joints, getting them adjusted and balanced will help your baby start off with a good foundation for growth and development. 

For more information, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association is a great resource for families. Their website provides research on Chiropractic care and a variety of other wellness topics. 

www.icpa4kids.org

 

Dr. Kelly Silvi practices in South Minneapolis. Her fascination with health and the human body grew into a passion for supporting and educating her patients, while providing safe and comfortable Chiropractic care. She is certified by the Academy of Chiropractic Family Practice and the Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics in pregnancy and pediatric care. 


Ease the Ride with Thai Yoga Bodywork for Pregnancy

by Cori Levin

 

Along with a yoga practice, eating healthy and sleeping often; it is helpful for pregnant women to incorporate monthly bodywork.  Bodywork can include Thai massage, traditional massage, Reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and many others. With all the shifts happening in a woman’s body while growing her baby, a feeling of imbalance may arise as her style of life changes. Our culture lacks in teaching us how to slow down and take time for self-care: we are do-ers and achievers.  Challenge yourself to be mindful of your breath and teach your baby a calm rhythmic breath by incorporating bodywork sessions in your busy life! 

 

Thai Yoga Bodywork (TYB) is a healing art that combines holding yoga poses, breath work and ancient healing wisdom. The practitioner begins with a breathing exercise and assessing the client’s energy body with a pendulum. It is similar to a massage however a client (pregnant or not) is on the floor with clothes on, lying on a mat with pillows supporting her while being stretched and pressed on.  In this tradition, it is believed that by stimulating the acupressure points, the body aligns itself and heals ailments.  TYB is thought to help balance the body energetically and emotionally. It feels uplifting and calming.

 

Tremendous physical changes happen to the female body during pregnancy, birth and beyond.  The hormonal shifts affect a woman’s state of mind while her nervous system goes for a ride. Thai Yoga bodywork can help minimize pregnancy ailments including nausea, sleep issues, fear of birth, restless legs, and back issues.  It also has many benefits for the postpartum stage and into motherhood assisting in helping women tap into their intuition allowing women to feel strong in making decisions throughout their journey as parents.

 

 

Cori Levin is the mother of two girls; a Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner at Enlightened Mama, Reiki-master trained , creator of “Heal Fast” postpartum bath herbs, Birth Doula and Registered Yoga teacher. She can be reached at levincori@gmail.com and https://www.facebook.com/PachaMamaDoula

Website coming soon www.pachamamacori.com


Childbirth Collective named “Best Prenatal Resource” by Minnesota Monthly Magazine!

We at the Childbirth Collective are THRILLED to have been named “Best Prenatal Resource” in the Twin Cities by Minnesota Monthly Magazine. What an honor, especially in an area so rich with amazing prenatal resources!

 

Here’s what they had to say about us:

BEST PRENATAL RESOURCE

The Childbirth Collective

The non-profit group of midwives, doulas, bodyworkers, and other birth professionals known as the Childbirth Collective is one of the best birthing resources in the Twin Cities. Their free, incredibly informative Parent Topic Nights—which help addled parents-to-be navigate the heretofore uncharted health-care and emotional waters of the childbirth year—separate information from rumor and dispel many pregnancy myths. The collective’s website hosts a wealth of information, including recommended books and DVDs, a comparison of local hospital birthing programs, and profiles of its members. Bonus: the husbands we know enjoyed the classes as much as the expectant mothers. • childbirthcollective.org


Somatic Bodywork for Pregnancy

Editor’s Note: Today we have a post from Collective member Mandy Herrick, who explains how a somatic bodyworker approaches working with a pregnant mama. 

by Mandy Herrick, RSMT, GSP

We all know pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life that is full of new awareness, whether it be aches and pains or breath and bliss. Either way, it’s a time to relish in the self. To nurture, to savor, to behold. And to get some bodywork.

Not many of us remember our own self being born. But here at our very own birth we start a relationship with ourselves that continues through our life. How we relate to our body. How we relate to others and our environment. And through our hectic, adventurous lives we develop patterns – not just lifestyle patterns – but physical movement patterns that can intertwine with energy levels, emotional well-being, and musculoskeletal discomfort. The way we sit, stand, lie down and move around can all impact the balance of our tensegrity, the natural 3-dimensional tension system our bones and fascia create within our body.   There are several ways to approach these symptoms from a Somatic Therapy standpoint. And in the context of pregnancy and postpartum, these approaches can be very helpful in understanding your body – the main tool you will need to birth and nurture your baby.

Hands-on Healing

The body is a marvelous dynamic system full of muscles, bones, organs, fascia, fluids, ligaments, nerves, hormones, and energy that all communicate together in an interwoven network. My goal for clients is to find healing by attuning to the interdependence of all these systems. I combine Craniosacral Therapy, energy healing (Reiki and Vibrational Aspects™), gentle massage, and breath to find relief and restoration from sore and tight areas, stress and anxiety, and just feeling “off.” In pregnancy, the ligaments and fascia in the pelvis and sacrum are stretching and re-adjusting as the bones move to make room for baby. Here, energy work and “embodied massage” can be very relieving. Embodied massage is a term I use for hands-on palpation of a certain area that integrates the bone, the nearby joint, the ligaments and the fascia to allow the muscle to not only restore balance and fluidity, but for the tissue to have an inner awareness, or a mind, that can communicate what it needs. This is where the body/mind connection comes in – that to trust the body is in fact to trust the intelligence of our muscles, bones and organs. For pregnancy, birth and postpartum, it is essential to be reminded of our body’s wisdom and the wisdom of our baby, who swims in utero and spirals out into the world.

Other hands-on modalities I practice include Reiki, Vibrational Aspects and Craniosacral Therapy. Reiki and Vibrational Aspects work together to access the body’s delicate energy system, finding healing by channeling energy or vibration into tissues, organs, or a more global area of the body that calls for equilibrium. Craniosacral Therapy is a modality that uses very light pressure to work with the craniosacral system – brain, spinal cord, dural tube, cerebralspinal fluid, and sacrum. Relief is found by navigating the nervous system and allowing the natural healing process to unfold. Pregnancy is a wonderful time to receive both of these modalities as they seek to support body, mind and spirit.

Alignment Techniques

I recently participated in a webinar called “Finding your Root: Balancing Your Foundational Core and the Pelvic Floor Muscles” by Yoga Practitioner, Leslie Howard who stated that “sitting is the new smoking.” It turns out our bodies are not a bunch of bones stacked atop one another with muscles fixed to them.  The way we align ourselves in basic positions and movements throughout the day can affect our musculoskeletal integrity.  Sitting, for example, is an action that, these days, if practiced for long periods of time in inefficient postures (i.e. slumped over) can impact not only our low back and pelvic floor, but also our energy level, mental clarity, and general well being. And the epic proportion of people that follow the rhythm of Sit Sit Sit Sit all day (sit in the car to work, sit at work, sit in the car back home, sit on the couch) is growing exponentially in our country.

A pregnant woman’s body is in constant counterbalance. As the belly widens and reaches out into the open, the tissues and muscles living on the back of the body are contracting and pulling to regain balance as the mother walks, sits, reaches down, stands up, or even rests upright in meditation. We are subject to gravity, there’s no way around it. As a Somatic Therapist, I am interested in a base level how my clients:

  • Use their Breath

  • Relate to their Spine

  • Relate to their Pelvis

  • Integrate their whole body

Together we find landmarks of the spine or landmarks of the pelvis that help the client find anatomical neutral – where the body is aligned most efficiently. Landmarks such as our ‘sitz bones,’ pubic bone, kidneys (to support the back of the spine), heart (to support the front of the spine and opens the chest) all help in gaining more awareness to our body. And with more awareness, comes self re-aligning and re-patterning and ultimately healing.  

I also integrate the surrounding organs, not only as physiologic systems, but as complementary support structures for the bones. And we notice how the fascia, a weblike system of tissue with innervating nerves, moves and envelops around the bones, organs, and areas of imbalance. With nerves weaving in and around our every structure, there is no way we cannot attribute a ‘mind’ to our tissue. So we trust the body.

Movement Re-patterning

With every motion, there is an attention the body takes with itself and its environment. We learned this in our earliest movement explorations inside our mother’s womb. From playing with our earliest toy, the umbilical cord, to mouthing our tiny hands, to pushing against the strong intrauterine walls (sometimes into our mother’s rib) thereby understanding our boundaries, we have experienced the crucial developmental stages of becoming a human. Post-birth, we enter the world of gravity, and our strong and supple newborn bodies continue to repeat all the movement we learned in our comfy amniotic ocean. We then learn more advanced developmental movements that eventually lead us to crawling, standing, walking.  And although these small movements started early (we were moving even as embryos), they can contribute to the functionality of our brain, our emotional capacity, and the optimal capability of our movement potential.

In a nutshell, if baby is allowed free movement of limbs, these out-of-womb reflexive stages look like this:

  • Breath

  • Yielding with gravity into the earth (aka the floor)

  • Exploring core to extremities relationship

  • Exploring head to tail relationship

  • Exploring upper/lower body connection

  • Exploring body half differentiation (symmetrical)

  • Full integration of all the above

As we grow older, we may learn that some of these reflexes need more integration within our bodies. It may not be obvious because as adults we are operating with our cerebral cortex, our high brain, as we “successfully” live our fast-paced life. Practicing and re-integrating these developmental movement patterns can reawaken the low, reptilian brain and can potentially restore the needed physiologic experience into what is most essential for our complex body/mind connection: consciousness within ourselves tied with a gentle awareness to our outer environment.

I can’t think of a better time to get back into our reptilian brain other than pregnancy. It’s the brain that will lead us in to birth, that will guide us to our instincts.

So as you imagine yourself being born, coming into the world fresh and new, tap into that tiny newborn self. The part of you that might need skin to skin touch, swaddling, holding, or affirmation that you are you. In pregnancy and birth, consciously experiencing your own body can be a transformative endeavor. And you may not like it.  But it’s here where we open ourselves to the unknown.

Mandy Herrick is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist specializing in pregnancy and birth. She is also a Global Somatics™ Practitioner, Prenatal Yoga Practitioner, dance artist and mother. For more information visit www.mandyherrick.com