Category: Labor & birth

By: Simona Fino

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Most everyone acknowledges the importance of a village, yet our American culture places more value on the individual or nuclear family, which makes it difficult for many to truly believe our village is available. Women especially are encouraged to “do it all.” But can we do it all? Can we be expected to succeed as parents with such limited support? What would life be like if we had true village support?

The first step to building a strong community is to acknowledge that our villages are an essential component of a happy life. For many, this isn’t easy. In a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” society, asking for help is a sign of weakness, being indebted to others is a negative thing, and asking family and friends for support is encroaching on their personal freedom.

However, quite the opposite is true in many cultures around the world. Asking for help is a sign of strength and knowing your limits and being indebted to others is a positive thing creating a symbiotic relationship with people you love. Asking for support gives your family and friends the opportunity to feel useful and experience the joy of helping others.

Maintain Connections and Offer Support

A village is important for all phases of life but especially as families are created, because that is often when community is needed most. The next step is to build strong community, maintain connections and offer support. Below are some practical ways to maintain positive and supportive connections with friends and family:

  • Call friends and family and make plans to spend quality, one-on-one time together such as sharing a meal or enjoying a walk or hike in nature. One hour of quality time is far better than several hours of Facebook check-ins.
  • Offer direct support to those in your community when you see a need or even ‘just because’. Don’t wait for others to ask for help but instead make the first move. Offer to take their children for a couple of hours; call those going through rough times and ask them what they need; offer to grocery shop or bring a meal over to an elder or parents with a new baby; offer to weed someone’s garden or help them with a project (always more fun with help!). Should you receive an offer for help say “Yes, please!” and “Thank you!”
  • Already have a baby or child? Encourage childcare trades with several nearby families and start by making the first offer. This is a great way to connect with other parents and get to know each others’ children.
  • Ask Aunties and Uncles (aka friends you really love) to watch your baby from those very first newborn days. Nearly everyone loves to spend an hour holding a newborn and if they are spending time with your little ones consistently they will develop a sweet and special bond that is wonderful to watch grow. These friends will learn how to care for your little one, you will learn to let go and trust, and your little one will learn they have many loving adults in their world whom they can count on to take care of their needs.
  • Maintain connections with friends who don’t have kids. Spend one-on-one time with them, letting them know their friendship is appreciated. Ask them to get involved with your family by spending time with your little ones – encourage them to be aunties & uncles!
  • Demonstrate that you are taking care of yourself and then offer to support others in taking care of themselves. “Would you mind watching our daughter for a few hours over the weekend so we can go out on a date? We’d be happy to reciprocate so you can also get out!”
  • Express gratitude! Everyone likes to feel appreciated and useful so let your friends and family know how much you appreciate them by telling them.
  • Friends and family live far away? Send snail mail cards offering emotional support and love. A short but thoughtful card is usually more appreciated and meaningful than an electronic message.

Ask for Help

The third step to building strong community is learning to ask for help. This is a big challenge for most of us.  But we can change our beliefs and come to understand that asking for help is a positive thing. Start by asking for small things from close friends and family and then, become brave, and ask for more. The more you practice, the easier it will become. An ask can also include an offer: “Might you be available to take my baby for a few hours so I can get some things done around the house? I’m free Saturday next week to take your little one if you’d like.”

Let Go

The final step to building strong community is learning to let go.  Allowing someone else to care for you and your child is important. Trust your friends and family can take good care of your little ones and they will. Hover over them and they will lose faith in their own abilities. They may not do things exactly the way you do and that is okay. Let go and appreciate all the wonderful things they bring to your child’s world. Personally, I like to keep in mind the simple fact I cannot teach my daughter everything. My friends and family have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom and I’m ever so grateful they are sharing it with her.

As you build your strong community and become part of giving and receiving support you will find parenting, and life in general, becomes simpler and more joyful. Remember, it really does take a village!

  • Acknowledge the need for your village
  • Build your community by maintaining connections and offering support
  • Ask for help and express gratitude
  • Let go and enjoy your village support!

If you’ve found these tips helpful, let me know! And I would certainly love to hear what has worked for you. Please share your tips by replying at http://wp.me/p5gqHr-4Q.  To learn more about caring for your family naturally and simplifying your life, sign up to receive my newsletter and blog posts at http://www.simonafino.com


 

Simona is a certified Postpartum and Birth Doula offering families support through pregnancy and beyond. She brings simplicity into family life by offering organizational and de-cluttering assistance as well as help in creating family rhythms around food, sleep and play.

By: Lila Ann Frechette

Loving our bodies can help us love our lives. We can support this love with a daily practice that is as much an exercise in cultivating compassion, as it is of nurturing physical and physiological wellness. By lightly oiling your body for five to fifteen minutes, you can revitalize your nervous system and dispel stress—perfect to do right before getting in the shower.

The Practice
Massaging oil on your body can be done as a quick covering starting at your head and working your way down to your toes, or it can be done as a mindful meditation, massaging oil on the individual parts of your body and appreciating how each part serves you as a whole. A thin coating of oil is all it takes. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your joints.
Hint: Warming the oil adds to the delight. Heat the oil by immersing the bottle in a bowl of warmed water, enjoy.

Dry skin is vulnerable to outside elements and irritation. This burden of irritation strains the nervous system and adds to an overall sense of distress. Fortunately, these body-oiling practices are beneficial to your skin, keeping it supple and maintaining its integrity as a source of protection. With longer practices, you will likely also experience a deepened sense of self-compassion and mindfulness.

By tending to your body in this way with oil and massage, you acknowledge and reinforce the boundary of what is yours and what is not yours. This is the ideal opportunity to choose what best supports and nourishes you.

Be selective in what you let in. Olive, sesame, and coconut oil are all good oil options. Sesame is warming and especially nice during the cool winter months. Coconut oil is a good ally for those with heat conditions, like eczema, showing up in their skin. Keep in mind that what you put on your skin is assimilated and becomes a part of you, if only temporarily.

Think of this daily dose of self-care as a blessing of compassion, wellness, and protection. In Sanskrit the word sneha means both “oil” and “love”. As you massage the oil on your body, consider the significance of this action and the effects of enveloping yourself in love.


Lila Ann Frechette works as an ally to women’s wellness. Providing hands-on healing, compassionate support, and effective self-care suggestions. It is her desire to assist you to find ease in your body, move thru challenges supported, and ultimately open up to your full potential. Lila Ann is a massage therapist, a Maya abdominal therapies practitioner and a holistic lifestyle consultant. Lila can be reached at: Lunabeebody.com or (510) 861-2572.

By: Dr. Ariel Provasoli

As you may know, during pregnancy many women experience discomfort from all the changes their bodies are going through. It’s not unusual to hear soon-to-be moms sharing about back pain as the baby grows into new places and their center of gravity shifts. These drastic changes can cause an imbalance in the spine and also aggravate imbalances that previously went unnoticed as the hormone relaxin increases and the body’s joints loosen.

Here are nine tips you can use to help prevent mild achiness.

  1. Move Your Body: If you are working at a desk or sitting still, get up and take a break several times an hour. You can go on a short walk, get a glass of water or stand up and do some shoulder rolls. When you sit, use a small wedge or a hand towel folded into thirds and placed under your sit bones. Using this support will tilt your pelvis forward, slightly lifting and lengthening the muscles that flex your hips and tighten as your baby grows.
  2. Lift Properly: Chances are you have a little one who wants to be picked up or if this is your first pregnancy you aren’t experienced in what your physical limits may be quite yet. When you lift, be sure to keep your spine straight and hinge at your hips, drop your behind low so your chest is close to what you are picking up and hold it close to you. The further away the object is from you, the more strain it will put on your spine. Avoid twisting to reach for something in the car or while doing laundry or loading a dishwasher.
  3. Stand Well: Your abdominal muscles are changing and the loss of their engagement can cause low back pain as well as pubic bone pain. While you’re standing you can still engage those lower tummy muscles and relieve discomfort by softening the backs of your knees and tucking your tailbone down toward the floor. This shift will create some relief by removing the curve from your lower back, which is being exaggerated by the weight of your baby.
  4. Exercise: Regular exercise during your pregnancy will help get your body’s natural endorphins going and it will also help keep your endurance up to prepare you for labor. Walking, swimming, prenatal yoga or pilates, and some bodyweight exercises and cardio are all great. Getting regular adjustments will help keep your joints moving and properly aligned so you can do these activities pain free.
  5. Rest Well:Living in the beautiful Bay Area it’s easy to do, do, do. NOW is the time to get good rest. Rest can be taking a nap, getting a massage, having a day with nothing planned, or reading a book (not being on a computer reading). Rest is equally as important as sleep.
  6. Meditation: By taking time to calm your mind or disengage from all the new information you may be getting from every angle about your pregnancy and what to expect, you are creating space to check in with your breath, yourself and your baby. Using visualization and breath can be the most self supportive things you can bring to your birth and clearly visioning what you desire will help you to create a calm, confident space for yourself before you embark on your birth journey.
  7. Sleep Right: Sleep is a common issue for pregnant women and to make it more comfortable start with your mattress: it should be supportive and not too soft. Side sleeping with a fort of pillows will best support your body. Place a pillow between your knees and arms so you have something to hug. A thin pillow placed under your ribs where your waist is, and maybe something under your growing belly will help support those areas too.
  8. Under Do It: You’ve heard people say, “I just over did it today.” A goal I like to suggest is to Under Do It. This is an opportunity for you to check in with yourself throughout each day and ask yourself where you’re at: physically, mentally and emotionally. If there’s too much going on, you are on the brink of being overwhelmed or you’re starting to feel physical discomfort ask for help or delegate a chore to someone else. And if a friend, family member or doula offers their help, accept it. Getting assistance won’t push you beyond your limit and your body and baby will thank you.
  9. Ask Me: Pain, whether in your back, pelvis, neck, or hands and feet is never normal, especially during pregnancy. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, please consult with a chiropractor who specializes in prenatal care. This specific work is largely focused on assisting women feel more comfortable throughout their entire pregnancy by removing imbalances in the body. Chiropractic adjustments are gentle, safe and naturally remove interference which may be in the way of your body’s own self healing capabilities. Regular chiropractic care during pregnancy assists with reducing pain and discomfort. I would be happy to answer questions you may have or find the right person to work with you through my extensive network of perinatal practitioners.

Implementing these tips can help prevent injury and lead to a more comfortable pregnancy while creating a calm environment for you and your baby. Remember the most important way you can take care of your baby while pregnant is to take care of yourself.


Dr. Ariel Provasoli, Family Chiropractor, provides gentle, holistic chiropractic care for the whole family, specializing in pediatrics, pregnancy and postpartum care. Please contact us via our website: www.berkeleyflow.com to schedule your complimentary 60 minute phone consultation on Creating Your Ideal Pregnancy or an appointment at Flow Chiropractic and Family Wellness Center.

by Gingi Allen

What if you could just smile and dance your baby out, even through the most difficult parts of labor? How powerful would it be to focus on the tools you inherently possess as a birthing mother to move your baby out, instead of relying on drugs or outside interventions? How can pregnant mothers be set up and supported to give birth in ways that were proven optimal for healthy mother-baby outcomes as well as improve the mother’s birthing experience?

There are specific posture and movements in pregnancy that prepare the mother’s body and encourage the baby’s positioning for a positive birth experience. Dance and maternal movement are powerful tools to use in pregnancy and birth, because labor is a dance. The baby’s and mother’s body “combine to create unique circumstances that influence the way baby will actually move during descent”(1). Simple movements enable the birthing mother to move her baby into an optimal position in her birth canal so the baby can move out through her vagina. In labor, movement is vital just like in pregnancy.

The main movements of the baby are:

1. Descent, when the baby moves downward onto the cervix,

2. Flexion of the head (degree of the baby’s chin tucked against her chest to pass through the pelvis),

2. Engagement of the head into the pelvis,

3. Internal rotation of the baby’s head & body occurring in a downward spiral motion through the pelvis and birth canal.

Mothers’ bodies are designed to create, grow, and sustain a life, just as they are designed intricately, yet so simple to give birth. The hormones of oxytocin, endorphins, and adrenaline are released through dance and movement in birth and pregnancy, giving the birthing mother the energy for the physical experience as well as giving her a euphoric emotional feeling. As the laboring mother moves her body, the blood flows and circulates to the uterus and placenta, allowing the baby to receive more oxygen-rich blood and the muscles to relax. This optimal uterine function is connecting the movement of breath pattern with the rhythmic pattern of the uterus.

In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the mother’s posture affects the habitual positioning of the baby. As the baby grows and settles in the mother’s body, it takes physical cues from how the mother uses her body. During labor, the uterus is moving the baby down with each rhythmic contraction, where the baby is moving in a spiral down the woman’s body.

In Labor

The birthing mama in labor wants to open the pelvic area and put pressure on the cervix, to ensure dilation. As the uterus is moving the baby down with each rhythmic contraction, the baby is moving in a spiral down the woman’s body. When a baby is in an optimal fetal position, there is greatest ease of descent for both mother and baby. Most problems in labor can be easily mitigated through maternal movement. In many cases, the “problem” is the angle of the baby’s head, not the cervix. A stalled labor or “failure to progress” is when the baby is jammed in a position. It’s the fetus’s positioning that can determine the progress of the labor.

Hospital Protocol

Instead of fear of back labor and fear of failure to progress, mothers can feel full of confidence as they move their baby into an optimal position for an easier labor for both mother and baby. Mothers want and need to feel more as an active participant in their labor experience. Because the medical system sets up birthing mothers with fear, along with the hospital’s diagnosis of “failure of progress”, mothers are turning to interventions as the way to birth their baby and giving away so much of their power. “Failure to progress is estimated to account for approximately 60 percent of American C-sections. While it is known that upright positions, dim lights, eating, and drinking, and fewer vaginal exams speed women’s labor, none are encouraged in a hospital….women are defacto coerced into surgery or other interventions they don’t need” (2). It appears that hospital procedure leaves women with little choice for a natural birth. While technology and outside interventions have become the focus of birth, it hasn’t produced better outcomes or better birthing experiences. Instead of birthing mothers coming into the birth with fear of failure, it is possible can set up a framework of celebration and belief, where we bring power back into the birthing mother’s hands.

When so many women suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) years and decades after their birth, even when their children appear healthy, we must see how the way a woman feels about her birth affects her for the rest of her life and answer the question of how women can stand in their power with internal tools for birth.

We can reframe birth as a dance, where they mother and baby are working together as they figure out how their process will unfold. Optimal fetal positioning is connecting the mother and baby as a unit of movement in which the baby is positioning in the mother’s body in a way that is most optimal to the mother’s unique body. It is this dance that aligns the physical and emotional systems of the mother-baby unit that imprints the couple for life.

Birth is this memory, a framework and visionary inquiry into the depths of our birthing selves to innovate and participate with the process of life. Movement is a basic human right and is vital in the birth process. We must look at the current protocols in hospitals and reframe them so mothers are really able to use the tools they possess to birth their babies in a peaceful and connected way. Having a satisfying experience to a birthing mother is being an active participant in your own experience, and not giving away your power. Having access to this internal knowingness (knowledge), allows birthing mothers to have the tools for a healthy and empowering pregnancy and birthing experience, where mothers can awaken to the intelligence inherent in their own bodies. This is accessing female inherent power.

 

Caroline’s victory story

While laboring at Alta Bates the doctor talked about cesarean because the baby was not positioned properly and she was taking a while to progress, but Caroline was determined to have a natural vaginal birth. Her doula reminded her of what Caroline practiced in the movement class she had taken during pregnancy. They immediately began pelvic spirals and Caroline began to move her baby into a more optimal position and was able to have a vaginal birth!

 

Essential Movement Tools for Birth:

  • Rocking the hips- helps settle baby’s head into the pelvic area
  • Leaning- helps to move the baby’s back to another direction
  • Straddling, Squatting- opens pelvic area, gives legs and muscles some rest, puts pressure on the cervix
  • Sitting on all fours rotates the baby back forward, relieving pressure of quick moving labor, and relieves strain of back labor.
  • Spirals- balances the pressure on all sides of the cervix during dilation

 

–Gingi Allen

www.theartofmothering.com


 

Gingi Allen is a mother, Doula, Student Midwife, Pregnancy Movement Dance Teacher, Womb Wellness Educator and founder of The Art of Mothering. Gingi has full trust in women’s ability to birth their babies, as they use intuition to guide them. She envisions a world where birth and family wellness is the highest priority for every mother, father, community member, politician, and society at large – when women are healed, the world reflects this healing. Her role as a Goodbirth Keeper is to educate mothers about procedures, their choices, and support them in having the birth they desire no matter their external environment.

 

Sources:

1.  Holistic Midwifery Vol II Care during Labor and Birth, by Anne Fry, p.76.

2.  Baskin and the Battle for at-Home Births -NYTimes.com,www.nytime.com/2012/05/27/magaine/ina-may-gaskin-andthebab.

By Gillian Gillette

Before both my children were born, I wondered who they were and who they would be. In retrospect, my first physical experiences of them in utero and during birth gave me more of a connection with the individuals soon to come into my life than I could have guessed. Their birth was the first step in the dance of knowing and love.

I.

I could not escape or writhe away from the intense and non-relenting pain. It was my first time birthing and I kept waiting for that little break of contractions where I could catch a resting breath. I looked up in a moment of panic and asked Susan, my midwife,”Isn’t there supposed to be a break between these things?” She was leaning against the wall, quietly watching and hanging back; she shrugged, “apparently not.”

My midwife was not one to sugarcoat and I was surprised how much I loved her for it. The most support I could get from my husband, mother and midwife was as witnesses to the labor I was doing. Even in my fairly frantic state of wishing the whole thing was over, I found Susan’s dry tone somehow funny and perfect; She was right, there would be no breaks, there was no escaping this labor as this labor was meant to be: back labor.

Sofia, my first baby, was in a great fetal position until her eighth month when I made the ambitious decision to tile my kitchen floor. The bustle of activity right before her birth had to do with buying a very old and rundown house two months before she was conceived and then realizing that if we didn’t finish fixing things up before she was born, it was likely we wouldn’t ever have time to fix it up because we would be too busy with a baby. Somewhere between laying down the hardy-backer and smoothing out the mortar, something changed and I couldn’t put my finger on the sensation. From a quiet first eight months to the last month of bustle before birth, it seems Sofia got curious about what was going on out there. During my next examination, the midwife looked puzzled and then explained why I was feeling a difference: Sofia was still head down, but she was facing out. I did some shifting of my pelvis, some gentle stretching and wiggling of my hips, trying to move her around, but she persistently stayed facing outward. Without a true understanding of the importance of fetal position and how it could affect outcomes in labor and birth, I didn’t think much more about it.  I felt ready and hung curtains, nesting and practicing breathing and relaxation with pre-labor contractions.

My water broke at five in the morning, and after a day of waiting and hoping things progressed so I could have a homebirth, labor really began when everyone had finally gone to bed. I awoke and everything was different and intense as active labor can be. Seven hours later, Sofia was born. No one really told me or could tell me what back labor was going to be like: being my first labor I wasn’t able to distinguish how intense back labor is until my second birth. For my back labor, there was intense pressure and pain in my back where the baby’s skull was trying to move past my back bone while simultaneously working with the contractions of the uterus in the front of my body. There was a sensation of being squeezed from the front and the back and the back pain didn’t cease until Sofia had moved down and twisted to face my back as she entered my vagina. After seven hours of serious work, I gave birth to Sofia squatting over a birth stool with a favorite piece of sarong clutched like a rope between my hands, my husband pulling the rope as a counter pressure and the midwife down on the floor ready to catch Sofia as she came. As soon as she was out, I held her while still in a crouched position. The relief of holding her was an instant balm against the pain and exhaustion and I melted into bliss.

From birth on, Sofia was calm and observant, opening one eye like a pirate as she peered at us. Almost immediately, her favorite positions were looking over our shoulders, being held up outwards against our chest by our forearms and once I got a little help figuring out the Maya sling at three months, she was happy for hours in a cross-legged, outward sitting style where she could see everything and get plenty of interaction from the safety and height of my arms. Her birth position and the positions she was most comfortable with for the first two years were very similar.

I draw a connection between observing the eight year old Sofia as she joins different activities and her time in utero and babyhood: I see her circling the group, then finding a spot where she can observe before she joins in. Time passes before she looks comfortable, but then she works to master the skills with intense concentration. She inspires me. Part of me wishes she could just jump into a situation and not hang back as long as she does and maybe have more fun, but recognizing the essence of her and seeing her as a unique person is the part of me that I try to honor more. My wishes to change her for my own comfort level began our dance together and accepting how she would come into this world and be in it will continue to be the acceptance that is part of a mother’s lifelong work.

II.

The one stretch mark I have from birth is exactly where Oli tended to push his head down slightly to the left of my lower belly and do a lot of stretching against my ribs. He didn’t like to be curled up at all and his stretches were a big part of his expression before birth. Oli’s birth position was great throughout pregnancy and labor was typical of a second birth: fast and at night as the midwives had cautioned me might happen, while the first child is still sleeping. Sofia had drawn many pictures of a baby in my tummy. Early on I had requested them all to be upside down babies, preferably with just a little face showing: after all, why take chances on another back labor? She used face paints and painted a picture of him on my 38 week belly, a smiling baby, looking ready to play.

The birth records say there was a four hour labor, but really there was only about an hour and a half where I was lost in the work of labor. As soon as everything was more or less set, I had stripped off my clothes, put my glasses on a shelf and let the labor really begin. Instead of trying to avoid the pain and intensity of the contractions of my lower body, I backed and lay myself into them, willing myself to open and accept it. Thus, I opened and was ready for transition fairly quickly, but without back labor, the sensations of uterine movement were more intense sensation rather than pain and I did get those little breathing spaces I had been looking for in my first labor. When it was time, I pushed Oli out while standing, knee deep in a hot tub, one leg slung up on the rim. Once out, I took him in my arms and sunk down into the hot water relieving the muscles in my legs. It was fast and fairly furious and the way that he was meant to be born. The image I had as he was born was a giraffe that births her young to the ground and gets him moving right away. It is Oli’s essence: a moving, strong creature ready to begin right away. The midwives said he was hearty enough at the first Apgar check that if there was an Apgar score above ten, they could have given him an eleven or twelve, he surely deserved it.

Oli’s birth position has also translated to a picture of who he is in the world. After birth, he really didn’t like being rolled up into a sling and did all the familiar pushes to get out of it that he had done inside me. His strong neck and head pushes in utero are a mirror of all the movements he makes today: he tends to be a headstrong personality, he pushes with his head when he’s upset and he has given me more bumped lips, noses and head bruises than I can count as he plays like a wild animal.

He is delightful in this physicality though it can be painful to play with him as he learns physical control and responsibility for his actions. That is the work set out for me: helping him harness his innate strength and physical determination for his greater good and to make the world a better place because he can help push and pull it together. I continue to accept him and his physicality easier when I reflect on that strong, rosy baby already wildly sucking at his first nursing, his fists trying to make it into his mouth as he worked to take in life as much as possible.

Labor with both my children was my first experience of their physical expressions and the first step of the parenting dance to which I am constantly learning the next steps, just so I can keep up. I continue to create a connection with who they are and how to parent them through my memory of their births.


Gillian Gillette is a writer and mother who lives in the Bay Area.