Saturday, December 20, 2014

The 5 Steps to Birth Happiness

We all get emails promising the 5 steps to financial wellbeing or life's little happiness habits.
Let's try finding 5 steps to birth happiness and see how we do.

The house is quiet; the rhythm of your baby's sucking lulls you into a reflective mood.  (Finally, after 8 weeks you can feed your first baby without focusing on every detail of the feeding.)  With your baby in your arms, your thoughts return to the birth...

1. Choose Experience Over Technology or Degree.
You've given birth with the most prestigious doctor or hospital in your area. Or, you've chosen the most popular midwife.
   How was your experience as a birthing woman?
I'm not talking about the "Consumer Experience" of having chosen the "Right Brand" of doctor or midwife or unassisted birth philosophy.
   Was your transformation into motherhood celebrated and supported well?
   Were you heard and your questions and desires taken into account?
   Were you able to focus on internal or external sources of strength?
   Was there a comforting voice and, if wanted, a guiding touch of someone who respected you?
   Do the people you are seeking support from hold you in high regard?

Tip: 9 months and 8 weeks ago, when you first met with a provider for your pregnancy and birth care, there were some instincts to heed. Make your choices on what will make you satisfied when you look back at your birth:
   Whether you used their services for gynecology or not, feel your body's reaction when you ask them,
   How do you support women with my birth plan, women who want _____?
   How do you support my first moments with my child?
   How does your birth team (nurses, partners, apprentices, etc.) fit in with decision making when you aren't there? Have they experienced births with women who have my desires or situations?
   Would you give birth yourself this way? What would you feel is the best way to give birth?
   Do you allow my baby to have their blood back after birth or do you clamp the cord in less than two minutes?
There are more questions than these, of course. Make up your own questions according to your values. Be realistic. Don't assume that all nice birth providers share your values. You can share a smile and even a laugh without them knowing how to support your birth choices. They can have the best credentials and know a lot, but if they aren't interested in knowing you, you might not have a particularly personal experience. You can choose someone with a good credential, but pick a good person with a good credential. :D

Which brings us to #2.
2.) The second step to birth happiness is to match your expectations with reality.
You left your first, second, third, or ninth prenatal with a confidence and glow. You really felt supported and heard. How did this feeling play out in your birth experience?

Sure, there are going to be some challenges in birth. Birth is a demanding physical activity.

I just went on a Boonie Stomp in Guam with a group of island hiking enthusiasts. I only had thin canvas shoes, $17.00 at K-mart on the island.
   Fortunately, the thin shoes were perfect because they let my feet mold to the rocks and had a good tread for our path.
   Unfortunately, they didn't have levitation powers to keep my left foot from going right through the false floor of dried palm leaves down a break in the heavily foliaged cliffside above the waterfall.  
   Fortunately, I happened to be holding a young and sturdy tree trunk at the moment.
   Unfortunately, the walk my son's neighbor's remembered as easy wasn't so easy as we climbed down rocky (not quite slippery) and steep hillsides (not quite cliffsides).
   Fortunately, the noble young men on the tour held my hand for dangerous crossings (Should I say embarrassing? Oh, no, I graciously accepted their nobility they offered the elder and, ahem, most inexperienced in the group! Stepping off the cliff wouldn't be a point against competency, would it??)

Cooling off in the falls was delicious.  The sights and sounds of rainforest all around us with only our shoe prints to reveal the date from any date in history.

And though the hike back up the rocky slope (with ropes) and then further up through the high, grass covered hills was gorgeous but hotter than the ocean breeze would make it seem. The nausea of tropical heat almost ruined the memory of the walk. I peed behind a knoll, drank more water, and rested in the speckled shade under a single tree. What more could I do but walk? So I turned my face to the breeze and felt the joy. I choose to ignore a small physical discomfort I could do no more about. I felt instead, the satisfaction of having the hike completed well, even though I wasn't done walking yet. I felt the state of mind I desired and let it come on early. Suddenly the rest of the walk was easier.

-- Point? There will be unexpected happenings when your body interacts with nature and when your nature interacts with other people.
   Fortunately, a bit of graciousness and communication can bring many diversions back on track for a positive memory. A bit of acceptance for the heat and humor for the hole in the trail keeps the beauty of the island and the joy of fulfilling a task by physical exertion. The dream of seeing a waterfall didn't fade under the realities of the hike to get there because I kept fluid and open to the immediate situations and didn't judge them or try to exert my ego about whether my dignity or even my life was endanger.
   I was grateful for serendipity (or divine protection!) as I was for the first offer of unsolicited help that I have received for being an elder in the eyes of a young man. By staying in a gentle state of bliss even while facing the realities of the climb, the memory emerges as a positive experience treasured far into the future.

Which brings us to Birth Happiness #3.

3.) The third step to happiness in birth is to bring a nurturing, third party person with you when you talk to your midwife/doctor about your birth ideas/plan/choices. This is useful because nurturing hormones are already in action in the pregnant body. A pregnant woman can easily skip her own needs to keep her provider comfortable (read: and not having to face change or her personal request). In such a protective natural state, a woman sometimes (not all lionesses do) translates making the doctor or midwife's experience with them easy as equal to keeping their baby's birth safe. If only this were true.

  A respectful third party person who is there for you and your wishes can observe the conversation, the question and answer session, with an objective perspective.
   A mature, objective person can find and work with the positives and help both parties understand the words, needs, and intentions of the other. A few questions, like, "When you say you only do episiotomies when necessary, in what percentage of your patients do you find cutting the vaginal opening necessary?" There is a vast difference between 1% and 20% that reveals an underlying view of how a woman's body works (or doesn't) when she is too busy to advocate for herself.
  A mature, objective person is not out to "catch the provider at mischief." But rather will help you get a realistic idea of how a birth will be managed or be supported with this person or practice and in this birth place.

You may not be able, for some reason or another, to find or choose the best provider for your plan, but you can become aware of who you are working with and then choose the words and approach to bring in the support, tools, and information you need to navigate the course you are on.

Birth Satisfaction is greater with a doula (doo-la).

A doula is a person who is not a provider, student provider, apprentice, nurse, or family member, or even a girlfriend. A doula is objective and doesn't offer medical advice. The doula listens to you and helps you communicate your needs in a respectful way to the providers of your care. The trained doula is skilled in comfort measures for labor and knows about options without pushing a personal agenda on you or your birth. The doula respects your partner and loved-ones.

While I don't know of a study on happiness and having had a doula, I do know there are several studies showing that doula care reduces
  • postpartum depression
  • negative rations of/negative feelings about the birth experience

Statistics on many variable are remarkable for births supported by a doula. No harm was recorded by having a doula. Of course, pick a doula who fits Happiness step #1, an instinctually good match. Here is an excerpt from the website on doula benefits:

DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

Tip: Find a doula group where you can meet several doulas at a monthly or weekly public meeting. Or meet with 3 or more doulas personally if time allows and public gatherings aren't available or available yet, in your area. Doula organizations like DONA or any number of local or national groups can help you find a doula to match your personality, needs, and location.
You may pay for a doula. Quality is not measured by expense. Follow your instincts.

4.) Breathe into Happiness.
The door to happiness is in your chest. You open it by breathing fully and stretching the muscles around the lungs and ribs. You open it by replacing old stale blood. Breath in deeply and fully so all your organs, including your brain, get a blast of fresh air.

Side thought:  Why do room fresheners sell? Perhaps because we want to breath fully. Artificial gel inside a plastic mushroom discourages me from deep breathing as I typically try to hold my breath and leave the room or car as fast as I can. For that matter, I notice smokers light up to take a deep breath through the cigarette. What's around their neck?

The amazing discovering of transferring an oxytocin high through the sense of smell, or the organ of smell, tells us that bliss is contagious and brought in on the breath.

Tip: Let's get some happy scents in the room with an open window or with flowers, herb sachets, essential oils or cooking healthy foods)  Or, go smell a happy person...

And 5.) The fifth step towards Happiness in Birth is to be grateful to others.

By moving the expression of your heart in the direction of others, you transcend the loneliness of a "me-centered" experience. The grateful one is filled with the grace of many. It's not just appreciation for what another person has given you, its even gratitude to all the people in the roles they played in while serving you in your birthing.

Each person has two points of giving, the contribution, imbued with the mood they were in while they did their action, and the point between you two as the combined energy of both your states, moods, and beliefs about your relationship and the task at hand (birthing, in this case).

Now multiply that with as many people as were with you, and then give each combination of pairs, trios, quads, and all groups a point of expression with its own personality, it would seem. That point of expression might be felt as how people calm down when a particular person enters the room, or how the room tenses up, in the case of a chronically stressed person entering.

By opening sending gratitude (a smile, a thank you, and especially an acknowledgement of the individual worth of the individual spoken aloud) the expression of emotion for the group, not to mention an individual within that group) is lifted and oxytocin flows in.

To sum up our 5 steps to Birth Happiness
1. Trust your instinct when choosing a provider.
2. Be present with real life and let go of expectations.
3. Hire a doula (then they may help with #1 and #2) for your birth.
4. Breathe fully. Now and while in labor.
5. Be the love you want to feel in your birth.

The most important thing is love.

Monday, December 15, 2014

My friend Willma's third homebirth

Thanks for sharing, Willma!

I loved being a moment of celebration early in your journey. Your baby

is strong and as gorgeous as your other children! The following pictures are of our Belly Painting in England last June (2014).  I wish you great love and every prosperity in family, joy, and service!

Gail adding Willma's eyes adoring her developing babe.

Who is this little one?

Ken Johnson taking photos of Willma's announcement!

Snuggled in the womb under the light of the moon.

Back to Birth Activism!

Willma with Jan Tritten at the Bury St. Edmunds' Midwifery Today conference in June 2014. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Fantastic Four

There are four mutually supportive "Body Balance" techniques that a pregnant woman and her trusted support person or provider can do to prepare for a gentler birth. In the new Spinning Babies' Parent Class each technique is thoroughly demonstrated with a pregnant woman and her support person.

Here is the Fantastic Four:

Very gentle but rapid jiggling of the abdominal and pelvic muscles helps to relax the smooth muscles of the ligaments and connective tissues supporting the womb.

Rebozo "sifting" helps make room for a good starting position for baby to begin labor. This vibration like jiggle also helps the receiver of this gift get into a relaxed state that is conducive to peace and spontaneous onset of labor. Read more about how to lift and sift at the same time.

 A daily forward leaning inversion helps make room in the lower uterus to welcome the crown of baby's head.

Get help to get into position the first few times so not to lose balance.

Hold the position for only 30 seconds. Or, simply take three relaxing breaths to fill the belly and sigh out.

Gently stretch the pelvis and spine to release tension as your body guides you.

Add the Sidelying release to "balance" the length and "strength" of the pelvic floor. The sidelying release is much more than simply laying on one's side with the leg hanging off the bed, couch, or table! Be precise, see the instructions! 

The helper holds the top hip directly over the bottom hip. The helper presses the top hip straight down into the bottom hip (not too strongly) so that pelvic muscles relax. Leg muscles stretch. Comfort is achieved and the pelvic floor becomes more navigable to the baby's head. Repeat a few times a week and do every 6-10 hours, as needed, in labor for comfort or to support labor progress.

The Standing Release is also helpful for sacral mobility and so, labor start and progress in harmony with nature.

Standing Sacral Release, the proper name, comes from Dr. Carol Phillips, DC, and is a variation of the diaphragmatic release common in myofascial therapy.

Benefits which may be experienced:

  • Very nice after a long car ride. 
  • May reduce premature contractions that are due to pelvic instability (Is this happening to you? See a midwife or doctor immediately upon 5 contractions in one hour before 37 weeks gestation. Drink a gallon of water while you get to the hospital to be seen for premature labor!)
  • Reduces chance of breech presentation
  • Reduces chance of posterior presentation. 
  • Supports comfort in the pelvic girdle (the joints of the pelvis) especially when used with pelvic stabilizing exercises. 

These four activities are so fantastic and support the benefits of one another.
The Fantastic Four will support your comfort in pregnancy. The Fantastic Four will also help an induction go better and easier, since a good head position helps all birth, not just spontaneous birth.

Walking with a full stride is crucial and will help control blood sugars while helping to lengthen the psoas muscles to balance the pelvis. Let's  emphasize the power of a daily, brisk and free-strided walk!

Another powerful preparation for birth is to squat. Two types flex the sacrum well.

  • Squatting with the back flat against the wall (posterior pelvic tilt), and 
  • Squatting with the bottom flared out while pulling on door handles (the door is open, in an anterior pelvic tilt). 

Find the way to peace in the heart. To do this, breathe deeply in and out in a way that expands the belly and fills the full lungs. Release fear and worry and replace with love and a surety that your love to your baby is more important than events will help you navigate the conversations to bring about your best support possible.  This helps you let go of the outcomes and be one with your intent.

Daily exercise is essential!
See the downloadable video of gentle but specific exercise activities on my site. The Daily Essentials Video is excellent for those who dislike exercise as well as those who love it!

Prepare for spontaneous birth and yet, be able to identify a labor that needs help to release tight muscles to return to the spontaneous progress you desire for the birth of your beautiful intent.
The Spinning Babies: Parent Class shows the Fantastic Four in detail. The segment on labor is geared to help avoid a section in labor incase of labor stalls.

Changing the Earth by supporting Birth

Mothers bring forth life; medical corporations do not. Birth can be simple, powerful and loving. Fetal positioning, natural birthing and practical help for normal birth.