Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Becoming a Childbirth Educator

Birth of a baby, a mother, a father, and a family is a big deal. The biggest deal. So few want to admit this to themselves or others because socially, what happens in your birth is expected to bear out in your life only to the extent that it applies to the health of your baby. Women want to talk about birth. We need to talk about it. But most of the talk we are able to do, in most social circles, is dumbed down and sugar-coated, hiding the glimmering shards of deep meaning, emotional upheaval, and spirituality.  We find a certain comfort in, as Sue Monk Kidd said, “trivializing our experiences," because it is "a very old and shrewd way of controlling ourselves.” When we belay deep feeling and say or believe that most things that happen to us are no big deal, it convinces us we are coping and keeps the people around us comfortable. There is no bigger deal than birth. There are only two things that match the enormity of the importance of birth. Death, and love. These three are all wrapped up together, but above all we must remember that birth is about love.

Having a baby is an act of love. It’s a culmination of your love for your partner, yourself, your baby, your family, the world. Are babies conceived and born without love? Of course. But to have a birth devoid of love is truly rare. Part of being human is being susceptible to love, however it comes.

Birth is about trust, and trust is a symptom of love. Trust is also a symptom of respect, and the ideal birth is a reflection of both. Women who give birth today can choose between giving our trust (control) to doctors and machines--because we don’t trust our bodies, our selves, mother nature, or God, or giving control (trusting) our bodies, ourselves, mother nature, and God--because we don’t trust our doctors. It sucks, it’s not safe, and it’s why we need birth education.

Because doctors have the technology and skills to help when there is a real problem, they think they must always control the power. They believe that you are safest if you give them full control. The most poignant thing I've read  so far in preparing to teach is the importance of learning that control is an illusion. Birth and motherhood are much easier after that lesson is learned. I learned this very slowly over the last 4 years since my first birth. It was a hard lesson to learn, and, ironically, one that makes me almost giddy for my next birth. I wish I had learned it before my first; it likely would have saved me a lot of turmoil and a nasty case of postpartum OCD. Unfortunately, and in some ways fortunately, control-as-an-illusion is the last thing an obstetrician will ever learn. So the majority of our births are heavily controlled by doctors. I believe our mothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors would tell us about birth and how to do it if they felt they handled it themselves. But most of them just feel lucky to be alive and have no idea how they did it or don’t believe that they did do it.

Birth education shows people what they are capable of, gives them the knowledge they need to participate in their own decisions, and allows them to take back their birth. It shows them how to be involved, to allow birth to teach them and change them. To love their birth, however it happens.

Normal childbirth is a natural body process, but it is not supposed to be like blowing your nose. Birth changes you, no matter what kind of birth you have. Birth education helps ensure that it changes you for the better. It’s a guidebook and a steady hand for the quivering leap we all take when we bring a child into the world. Birth is the ultimate teachable moment. The enormity of the experience leads parents to redefine themselves, to redefine love.

Women love to talk about their births. They need to talk about their births. Let’s give them something to talk about. How about love?

I've decided to teach Birth Boot Camp classes. I love the the down-to-earth, modern approach, the accessible student workbook packed with charts and guiding information, and the focus on finding your own best birth. I hope to start teaching fall 2013.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pregnancy Posture

This is part of a series of posts on Breech as a Symptom of Exposure. Those of us with breech babies know the nagging feeling that we did something to cause the malposition of our babies. Clinically, we're told that breech babies are an enigma, that there's precious little we can do to influence the baby to turn and virtually nothing we can do to prevent it from sitting breech in the first place. In the vast encyclopedic manual of the internet, however, we are exposed to every imaginable possibility. Among the theories and discussions on the causality of breech exists the possibility that some breech is a symptom of exposure to some malignant force in our modern world.

How you sit makes a difference for your body mechanics as well as your baby's. 
You can sit in such a way that cramps the baby's space or torques your body into 
unusual positions and probably makes malposition more likely. 

The Car
Car seats are particularly poorly made for good alignment, which is extra important in pregnancy to give the baby plenty of room. Avoid lengthy car rides as much as possible. For best body mechanics, posture, and core strength, whether pregnant or not, follow these steps to a better car seat.

Step 1. Adjust the back to be straight up. You are trying to create an L shape to sit on, like a church pew. Alignment experts recommend the back be all the way up. Big hair? I keep my hair in a bun or ponytail a lot, so the seat back straight up as recommended makes my head tilt forward uncomfortably. I tilt it back just enough to make room for my hair.

Step 2. If it's a feature on your car, adjust the front of the seat (where your thighs are) so that it is parallel to the floor, or as parallel as you can get it. When sitting in the seat, you want your knees on level with your hips or below your hips, not above so that your butt is wedged in a little nest. While taking pictures for this post, I discovered that there are, incredibly, five different ways the driver's seat of my mini-van can be adjusted. You can help your alignment a lot by adjusting these.

Step 3. Undo the butt-in-bucket effect of the car's bucket seat. Place a folded towel in the space to make the seat more even and parallel to the floor. Even when you have adjusted in steps one and two, you will see a little butt crevice that is supposed to be comfy. It is comfy, but it's not good. The seat looks somewhat like a check mark. Sitting for long periods in a check mark is a good way to get a breech or posterior baby. It's also a good way to mess up your natural body alignment, weaken your core, and cause yourself chronic discomfort.

How to fold a towel wedge for the butt crevice in the car or elsewhere.

1. Fold the towel in half.
 2. Then in thirds, overlapping
slighting in the center.

3. Fold one edge in about
1/4 the length

4. Finally, fold the opposite side
 all the way over top the last 1/4 length fold. 

You can also use a slo-mo or other kid's ball that has all but a small amount of air removed. Place this mostly deflated ball between your butt bones to help raise you up and tilt your pelvis. I think this feels good when sitting on a bench or kitchen chair as well.
Looks sexy, huh?
The 'gooier' the ball material, the better!

Step 4. Use the fake pedal on the left to brace yourself and perfect your alignment. Shoulders square, both hands on the wheel. Ten and Two like your dad always told you. Symmetry and balance. When you lean back and put that one long arm at Twelve o'clock, nothing but torque in your spine and breech in your belly.

Now, Test your alignment.
1. Knees at or below level of hips?
2. Pelvis tilted down slightly, into the seat?
3. Small of back curved in, not rounded out?
4. Shoulders back, two hands on wheel for symmetry and balance?
5. Rib cage down? Core engaged?

A good test for #2 and #3 is as follows: Rock side to side a bit to feel the butt bones you're sitting on. Feel 'em? Now tilt your pelvis forward slightly-- the small of your back will curve in nicely, sticking your belly out. Great for your body and your baby.

Sitting in chairs

Midwives who work among the Amish have noted a significant increase in the incidence of breech since the Amish community switched from traditional wooden chairs to sofas and recliners. As you can imagine, they generally don't spend much time in cars. When you can, avoid sofas, recliners, and other lounge chairs. Pretend you are in a Jane Austen novel.

When sitting, make sure:

1. Knees at a 45 degree angle.
2. Knees at or below level of hips.
You see why a habitually cramped baby might stay breech
to give his head a bit more room up top.
3. Pelvis tilted down slightly, into the seat?
4. Small of back curved in, not rounded out?
5. Rib cage down? Core engaged?

Alternative sitting ideas:

Use a kitchen chair, but sit on it backwards, leaning on the back. This is excellent for creating a nice belly hammock for your baby, which helps her get into the best position for birth.

Use a Swedish chair.

Sit on a well-inflated exercise ball. Keep your feet apart and make sure your knees are apart, belly between your legs.

Tailor sitting on the floor. Use blankets or towels under butt and ankles as necessary.


When you can, instead of sitting on the couch or recliner, when you want to relax, just lay down. There are a number of good pillow and cushion arrangements to support your back and belly as you lay on your side.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breastfeeding and Big Brother

Als das Freibad aufkam. Zeichnung von Heinrich Zille{{PD-1923}}
Recently a friend with 4 school-aged children and a baby on the way mentioned that she was struggling with how to approach breastfeeding this time, what with sons approaching puberty. She said she was leaning toward not doing it around them in order to avoid awkward encounters. "I think it's better if they just don't know too much about it," she said.

As I said to her in that moment, I strongly disagree.

I really can't imagine a more perfect time for them to be exposed (pun definitely intended) to the mother-baby feeding relationship. And no better person or situation to expose them.

Breasts are sexual. You don't want your sons all up in your areola trying to see what's going on there. I get it. But that is not the whole story. There is a whole history and culture and way of knowing involved here. And a lot of the story isn't so great. My friend has an opportunity to re-write the story.

We already have an insidious problem with the objectification and sexualization of women up in here. Boobs rank quite high when it comes to objectification and sexualization among us. Boobs are a huge turn on. Admit it, even the most hetero of you ladies out there can't help but sneak a peak at a prominently displayed rack. But it's not about sex. It's about some primeval force inside us that beckons---milk and honey, kids, milk and honey.

For men of course, slightly different.  But I believe that deep down, their natural reaction is more milk and honey than it is nipple clamps and handfuls. It is only our cultural imprinting and experience concerning the nature of women's bodies and what it means to be a woman that makes boobs sell beer.

If you want your son to think for himself, talk to him about breastfeeding. If you want your son to think of women they are attracted to as people, not sexualizing your own breasts will help. If you don't want your sons to buy beer or cars, toothbrushes, insurance, coffee, or sex because of some woman's cleavage, breastfeed in front of your sons no matter what their age. If you could prevent your 14 year old son from buying just one bottle of axe body spray through early exposure to a suckling babe, you know you'd do it.

Boobs are things most of the world has. Women have boobs. Your mama has 'em, your sister has 'em, your grandma has 'em, your teachers have 'em, the cop who pulled you over has 'em. And what is the point of them? It is not to attract men. It is to feed babies. That is why they are attractive to men. (Men have never understood that the milk making parts are the same on all of us and it's only the amount of fat that differs. Ah-ha!, look at that! She could probably breastfeed triplets! Let's see what she thinks of my manliness...)

But somewhere along the way we lost sight of this seemingly obvious and important connection. Maybe it was when we stopped breastfeeding. They became solely a man's pleasure and many men became possessive, withdrawing support for breastfeeding their own children. After all, look at those Jane Austen dresses. Those girls were about to spill right over the top while dancing the allamande. But boobs were sweet and womanly back then, not explicit. (It was ankles you didn't dare show.) Despite the utopian nature of the chubby, gleeful people in the unusual picture above, you needn't parade around topless or be purposefully revealing. Just feed your baby as you would if it was just your partner there. Answer their questions. Explain it simply, as if it was totally normal. Because it is. Boobs are only as sexually explicit as we make them. And breastfeeding is only as embarrassing as we say it is. You can't change the whole world, but you can help one man grow up better. And that's a better future for all of us.

By C├ęsar Aguado via Wikimedia Commons

What are you really saying when you hide your breastfeeding from your sons? What messages does it send about your body, your baby, and your boys? How will your embarrassment affect how they feel about their wives breastfeeding? Where else and from whom are they going to learn what to think about the primary function of boobs and the nature of breastfeeding?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3 Reasons to Write Your Birth Story

I am a big believer in writing as thinking. The mental process involved with putting thoughts into coherent sentences makes your thoughts coherent, allows you to find connections you hadn't seen before, and helps you to release the meaning in what happens to you. I have learned a lot about myself from writing.

Writing serves to heighten and stabilize your experiences. And there is no more important experience than birth. You can get more from the memories of the joyous moments, strengthen your gratitude for what went right, and benefit from sharing with those you choose. Writing will also help you come to terms with the hurt that happened, learn from mistakes (yours and others'), and see the changing power of trouble. In writing about a difficult experience, you create yourself over again: stronger, wiser, more compassionate. Whole.

And every birth is difficult. Birth is not supposed to be like blowing your nose. Birth is supposed to change you. It's when you don't let it change you that you have trouble.  Writing about your birth is cathartic. Your birth is not only what happened, what's in the charts, and how long each phase lasted. It's about the evolution of your motherhood and of your self. I've yet to meet anyone who birth has not changed. Writing about your experience helps you to see more clearly where it is that you are, where you came from, and what you're doing here. Yes, writing  reveals the meaning of life. Your life.

A birth story is not static. Its meaning changes as how you feels about it changes. And it especially changes as you tell it and write it. We tell our stories over and over to look for the spiritual piece of our story. To extract learning and enlightenment from what we experienced. We are our stories. We create ourselves by the stories we tell about ourselves and about the world.

Your birth story changes as how you feel about it changes. Whatever troubles you about your birth, give it some time. Getting it all out in writing puts salve on the sting. It helps you begin to accept what happened and ultimately change how you see and tell your birth story. The power of trouble to change you is very strong, but you get to choose how you are changed. Tell your story. Tell it repeatedly to find the meaning in it. And write it down when you are ready. The magic is in the writing.

Change your story, change your life. Write your story, write your life.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Breech & Colic

Since nobody really knows what colic is and how to help these hurting babies who come to us, I am wondering if being breech is a risk factor. I understand that breech presentation makes spinal subluxation more likely. Breech babies have a higher likelihood of other minor (and some major) problems. Most of them are declared perfectly normal at birth. But I do wonder if there is a higher percentage of breech babies who have trouble acclimating to the world in the first few months.

 There's an awful lot out there about chiropractic and other manipulative therapies helping babies who suffer from colic. Many individual case studies indicate the baby was breech.

My current thinking is that if there is a correlation between babies who are found in the breech position at term and those who suffer in their first few months in your family, it has more to do with their births. Most breech babies in the western world experience cesarean or instrument assisted (forceps, typically) birth. Even a gentle hands-off vaginal breech birth is likely more traumatic for the baby than it would be head-down.

So does it follow that a difficult, surprise, or forced birth leads to an increase in colicky behavior? If you know anything about this, have experience, or any insights, please let me know!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turn A Breech At Home

There are so many ways you can help a breech baby turn without paying anyone money or seeing any professionals. If you have a little breech you would like to flip, please check out this extensive list of ways to turn a breech baby that I have compiled. You can use essential oils, frozen peas, the stairs, the pool, homeopathy, and...your mind! Some require professional assistance, but many are DIY or things you can approximate at home. Feel free to contact me with any questions!


Why I Don't Clean House

One of my friends recently said that cleaning house with young children around is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. I really think this only tells half the story. Most of the time I try to accomplish something with young children around, I am bombarded and interrupted and constantly distracted. If I got down on the floor to scrub it, I guarantee there would be a child on my back or in my lap or on my head before the first gleaming tile was revealed. Cleaning a house with children still in it is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos on horseback.