Tag Archives: birthing

Amazing Timelapse Makes Pregnancy Look Like a Breeze

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.49.31 AMNine months of pregnancy condensed into a minute and a half – with a healthy baby at the end!

Anyone who has ever gone through pregnancy, whether as a mom or a partner, knows that the process is a lot more tiring and involved than a timelapse can convey. Then again, sometimes we’re so preoccupied by every ache, pain, and subtle change that we forget the amazing, holistic arc that pregnancy truly is.

Knowing that the process would demand plenty of focus on the micro level, this creative couple decided to document their pregnancy so that in the aftermath they could enjoy the entire journey from start to finish. In their whimsical representation of child-bearing, both the pregnancy and the baby’s birth come about with just a kiss to the belly. Take a look!

If only it were that easy! And what a happy, healthy baby little Amelie Amaya is. Congrats to the happy family!

Did you document your pregnancy (or your partner’s/sister’s/friend’s) in any special way? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

“A Beautiful Body”: Reclaiming Beauty from a Backward Culture that Devalues Mothers’ Bodies

Motherhood brings love, joy, and children into women’s lives. It also brings responsibility, body changes, and considerable sleepless nights – these are parts of the bargain. One thing it should not entail, but often does, is body shame and low self-esteem. In pregnancy and motherhood, women’s bodies become vessels of life. They are the sites of ultimate creativity and abundance, and there is no shame in that.

But then come the stretch marks and scars, the loose skin and soft breasts, and it’s hard not to look at yourself and feel alienated from the image of beauty our culture promotes. This phenomenon has inspired photographer Jade Beall to reclaim women’s natural beauty in her series “A Beautiful Body.” The project began when Beall entered into the world of motherhood and, as way of coping with the changes her body was experiencing, began posting photos of her post-pregnancy body to Facebook. The response was overwhelming, Beall writes on her website. There was clearly a deep longing for and desperate lack of widespread representations of real mom bodies, in all their beauty and life-giving power.

Thus Beall began photographing women in all stages of pregnancy and motherhood, some with big baby bellies, some with newborns, some with grown kids and years-old stretch marks kissing their soft tummies. The degree of enthusiasm for this project led Beall to embark on publishing a book by the same title, now available for pre-order. The book will contain photographs of mothers (like the ones above) along with each woman’s personal story of finding beauty and strength in spite of media-enforced stereotypes.

It speaks to the world we live in to see so many women crippled by feelings of shame and inadequacy. The materialist, superficial culture we live in outlines a narrow box with the label “Beauty,” and anything that doesn’t fit into it gets brushed aside. This leaves us feeling responsible for our own lack. But the reality is that these labels and values are 100% arbitrary, empty, and meaningless. Thus the task for all of us, as Beall’s series demonstrates, is to reframe our lens; to reclaim our bodies, as well as our aesthetic values, which have been co-opted for so many years by a media culture that has no real interest in our well-being.

What do you think? Are you inspired by Beall’s photo series? Please share your own photos and stories in the comments below and on social media!

 

All photographs by Jade Beall.

New Motherhood: 5 Ways to Thrive in the Postpartum Period

Vanessa's Sunshine!!! Emilía.

By Zoe Etkin

In America we desperately need to let go of “super mom” syndrome. The expectation that women should be back to work, back in shape, and somehow managing everything else, in 6 weeks or less is just not a realistic portrait of new motherhood. I propose a new way, well, an old way, really, of viewing the postpartum period. One that honors the mother just as she is in her unique journey. The number one issue is the length of maternity leave in this country—6 weeks doesn’t cut it. But I won’t go down that rabbit hole, as government reform is what is required to make that change possible. There are, however, things we can do, as new mothers, and as those who support new mothers, to make the postpartum period less stressful and more enjoyable.

  1. Enlist family and friends for support, but set clear boundaries. Moms: give your friends (family too) specific hours that they should visit. Make it brief—2 hours tops—enough time for them to throw in some laundry, grab you a snack, and hold the baby while you shower. Friends/family: When you visit a new mom, focus your attention on her. Often people get wrapped up in the excitement of the new baby (totally understandable—babies are amazing), but at the exclusion of the mother. Let her know what a good job she is doing, then moon over the baby when she’s taking a little “me time.”
  2. Part of recovering from your birth, and producing milk to feed your baby, is maintaining good nutrition. Sitting down to eat a full meal is often not possible for new moms, so it’s important to have healthy snacks and water available at all times. Simple snacks I recommend are avocadoes, almonds, eggs, trail mix, fruit, and smoothies. Preparing meals before the baby comes is a great idea too. Prep a few homemade veggie lasagnas, soups, and other easily reheated meals for the first weeks home with baby. You’ll probably be offered meals from friends and family as well. Streamline that process by choosing someone to set up a Meal Train for you. This website allows you to state food preferences, times you’d like food delivered, and if they are to just drop it off (rather than come in). Fresh meals at your doorstep are such a blessing to families with newborns.
  3. Diapering/Nursing Stations: If you have a larger home, particularly multi-level, you don’t want to be trekking up and down the stairs to change baby’s diaper, or feel tethered to one spot for nursing. Purchase a few small baskets and stock them with water, nuts, diapers, nursing pads, burp cloths, a clean onesie, wipes and nipple/butt cream. Place one basket by your bed, one in baby’s room, and one in the living room/where ever else you’ll be nursing. I highly recommend these to women who’ve had surgical births, as stairs can be uncomfortable to navigate during recovery.
  4. Hire a postpartum doula. No really, I’m not just plugging my own work! What we do as postpartum doulas is focus on the mother’s needs, emotional and physical, assist with breastfeeding, give newborn care instruction, watch siblings, perform light household maintenance, and provide resources and referrals, among other things. With many new mothers’ partners away at work, the doula can provide relief, support, and encouragement. Our hearts are so open as doulas, we absolutely love watching our clients grow into confident, amazing parents. We’re there to support the partners as well, and the siblings, making sure the household is running smoothly, but our number one and two priorities are mother and baby.
  5. This is for you, mama: make time to take care of yourself. I know it seems impossible with a newborn, but schedule it into your day. When your friend, relative, postpartum doula comes over, make sure one thing they do is hold baby while you nap, exercise, eat, shower, meditate, or whatever else feels good to you. You’re not super woman, and we need to stop making our mamas feel like they need to be. It’s okay to be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed. It’s also okay to accept help when it’s offered, and ask for it when you need it. We’re a society of hard workers, but we must balance that work with self-care.

Finally, set up your postpartum support system prenatally, making the transition into new motherhood more easeful. Take the journey one day at a time. It will get easier. Your baby is only this small for a short part of her entire life. You are doing an amazing job, right where you are in this moment.

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76773_582146197395_8154608_nZoe Etkin is an LA-based CAPPA trained birth and postpartum doula, poet, and teacher. She earned her MFA in Writing from CalArts, where she earned the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts. She is the editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal, and her own poetry can be found in many print and web publications. She is committed to educating and empowering women, supporting families, and promoting good writing.

 

Photo credit: David Terrazas

Heart Disease and Pregnancy: Mom Dies, Delivers Baby, and Then Comes Back to Life

A miracle if we ever heard one: Erica Nigrelli, a high school English teacher, collapsed inside her classroom at 36 weeks pregnant. A school nurse, assistant, and athletic teacher quickly began CPR and used a defibrillator to restart Nigrelli’s heartbeat. She was rushed to the hospital with her husband – a fellow teacher – at her side, and her baby was delivered by emergency cesarean. But Erica was essentially dead; there was no heartbeat.

Watch this video to hear how both mom and baby ended up surviving this horrible incident, largely thanks to the three heroes who jumped to Erica’s aid:

Erica had an undetected heart defect that caused her to collapse at 36 weeks. Though we don’t know exactly the condition Erica suffered from, there are several things to note about heart conditions during pregnancy.

According to Heart cardiology journal, congenital heart disease is the most common heart defect, with roughly 1% of newborns diagnosed with this condition. Thanks to modern methods in cardiac surgery, more infants than ever  – over 90% – survive to adulthood. There is a population of at least 1 million adults in the United States living with congenital heart disease. Due to the dangers of this disorder, many patients are advised against pregnancy, altogether, though many are able to carry babies to term. Consider, though, that pregnancy already entails increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and increased blood volume – all of which can put strain on the heart and exacerbate existing conditions. The challenge isn’t necessarily insurmountable, but it is definitely something to discuss with doctors and partners.

What can you do to minimize the risk?

  • Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist before conceiving (or early in your pregnancy so that you’ll know what you’re dealing with)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Minimize stress as much as possible
  • Pay attention to any warning signs – shortness of breath, fainting, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, bloody coughing
  • Adequately prepare for labor, which might include planning to deliver at a birth center that specializes high-risk pregnancy, temporarily moving or staying closer to your place of delivery (to minimize labor stress), and hiring a doula for extra support

Do you have any experience with heart defects and pregnancy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Related Articles:

The Truth About Medications during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Pain – The Aspects of Motherhood No One Told Us About

Positive Birthing: 5 Practical Steps to Optimize a Joyful Birth Experience

Baby Stories: A Guide to Pregnancy Journaling

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 4.23.38 PMBy Zoë Colette Etkin

As a Los Angeles-based birth and postpartum doula, my goal is to bridge the gaps in care for mothers, babies, and families through the perinatal period by providing physical and emotional support, education and resources. My other life’s passion is writing, and a year ago I earned my MFA in poetry. However, the main type of writing I’ve done throughout my life is journaling. My first journal dates back to my 5th or 6th year of life! Journaling has always allowed me to explore my thoughts and feelings, or jot down a strange dream, or even complain. Now that I work with mamas, I see how important it is for them navigate the complex waves of emotion that come with pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

Sometimes it’s difficult for new moms to express those feelings out loud. Writing and journaling through our ups and downs can relieve stress, help center and focus the mind, and force us to carve out a little “me time” in our busy lives. Keeping a pregnancy-specific journal is beneficial in several ways: it helps you focus on and connect to the baby growing inside, keeps a log of your emotions and physical sensations, and helps you work through fears and anxieties. Depending on your relationship to writing, you may journal with ease. For women who need prompts, I recommend the following as a guide.

Pregnancy Journal

Today’s Date:

Emotional Landscape: Today I am feeling….

Physical Sensations: (Examples: hunger, morning sickness, kicks or flutters of baby, tiredness, belly is growing, I see the pregnancy glow, etc.)

Today I want to tell the baby….

Today’s affirmation: My body is strong and capable of birthing my baby.

Today’s question: (Here you can talk about things you aren’t sure about. Fears, concerns, questions, etc.)

Today I am planning for you by doing…. (Here you can talk about prenatal check ups, classes you may be taking, buying things for the nursery, hiring a doula, making a list of people who will help out once baby is here, etc.)

Birth Stories

The topic of birth stories is actually one where people have varying schools of thought. Many doulas write birth stories for their clients. Some take a practical approach, chronicling the various times and events that took place, others take a more narrative approach and make it into more of a story. Either way it can be nice to have someone else’s perspective on how the birth went, since time is experienced much differently by the birthing woman. However, it can be important and cathartic for the woman herself to write the experience down as it was to her. If you had a traumatic birth or an ideal birth, writing through the experience can help release feelings you may be having or can affirm and celebrate positive experiences.

Another angle on the birth story is to write it for your child. Some write it as a children’s book for a young child, others write it for when their child is an adult. Either way, it can be a beautiful way to share that experience with your child.

Postpartum Journaling

There will be much less time to write once the baby has arrived, but I still encourage postpartum moms to journal when they can. Just like the pregnancy journal, it’s a nice way to chronicle your emotional landscape, as well as record all the baby milestones. Certainly a baby book makes room for that sort of thing, but it doesn’t give the mother the opportunity to write through her changes and her experiences. I find that postpartum moms can often feel ignored in the bustle of the new baby. Friends and family are constantly visiting and doting on the baby and moms can kind of feel like, “Hey, what about me?” It’s important that the mom have certain support persons who are there to concentrate on her. Postpartum doulas do this job well. Journaling, too, can help moms to take a few minutes to turn inward and focus on themselves and their feelings. It’s so important that postpartum women feel supported and also have an outlet for their feelings. I want to say, though, that if you see a postpartum mom who seems disengaged, or showing extreme emotions, she might need to talk to a professional, as she might be displaying signs of a postpartum mood disorder. Emotions certainly run high for new moms, but it’s important that she have people who are supporting her and have an eye out for behavior that might need further attention.

Allowing some time to journal during the perinatal period can give a woman the opportunity to think through and connect to her experiences in a special way. It also creates a record of her experiences that she may choose to go back to in the future. The process of journaling encourages growth in that it affords the ability to go back and read about yourself at different moments of your life, through different patterns of thought, different approaches to situations. You learn from your past, reflect on your present, and dream about your future all in one space that you can return to when you want, or not when you don’t. Mamas, I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and begin your writing journey today!

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76773_582146197395_8154608_nZoe Etkin is an LA-based CAPPA trained birth and postpartum doula, poet, and teacher. She earned her MFA in Writing from CalArts, where she earned the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts. She is the editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal, and her own poetry can be found in many print and web publications. She is committed to educating and empowering women, supporting families, and promoting good writing.

Photo credit: Gabi Menashe

Positive Birthing: 5 Practical Steps to Optimize a Joyful Birth Experience

GeborgenheitBy Ana Paula Markel

In this day and age of media and busy schedules, first time parents are bombarded with images and articles about childbirth. It becomes very hard for one to prepare for the birth of a baby without images on TV that most of the time portray the birthing process as either medieval torture or ridiculous comedy.

The United States has one of the highest induction rates, in some hospital nearly 50% of women do not go into labor on their own, and with that a very high epidural rate and cesarean rate (approximately 34% in the US); more than double of what the World Health Organization recommends (10-15% in developed countries). And that is not even the worst. Not only are the cesarean rates high but our NICUs (neonatal intensive care units) are full, so whatever we are doing here… it is NOT working.

Luckily, not all media is bad, and women are learning that the childbirth movement is a human rights issue. Women do have the right to:

  1. Be treated with respect
  2. Be informed with evidence about their care in labor and in postpartum

Women are finally understanding that birth belongs to them and their families. Childbirth is not a medical event. A woman is never healthier than when she is pregnant. And yes, of course complications could arise, but that is when appropriate medical or midwifery care becomes important, mostly if the mother and her caregiver have an open, honest, and clear relationship.

Here are some of 5 things a woman can do to optimize her chances of having a joyful experience:

1) Choose your care provider carefully.

A midwife or a doctor are ultimately the ones who will make the medical decisions regarding a woman’s care during labor. They are the ones that sign the birth certificate and are in charge of the well being of the mother and baby. Research the best care provider for you, the one that matches your philosophies about the birth process. Some care providers have a very paternalistic relationship with their patients, and that is not wrong or bad if you want someone who will take charge of the experience and make decisions for you…

I do have to say that as a working doula, that is definitely not where the majority of women are these days. Women want to have a voice and say in their care, so hiring a provider who listens to your needs, respects your views, and explain things in terms you can understand will definitely impact how you feel about your experience.

Ask potential care providers how much time they spend with women in prenatal visits, how they view women’s position in making decisions for their care and birth, and mostly if they enjoy attending births even if in the middle of the night, on weekends and holidays. Share your views on childbirth and note how they respond, not only what they respond. Do they seem excited by your questions? or annoyed? Are they defensive or appreciating the dialogue. Ask your friends, ask women on random pregnancy lists and lastly, ask the doulas in your community. Doulas know all and tell all, which brings us to number 2…

2) Hire a doula.

Evidence is clear that doulas have an immense impact on the woman’s experience of her birth. Studies have shown that the presence of a doula (professional labor support and information) will decrease cesarean rates, induction rates, and medical interventions.

But mostly, doulas help improve birth satisfaction by asking mothers what they want and listening to them. Doulas are also incredible facilitators and mediators of conversations between the woman, her family, and her medical team. They do not make decisions for clients or they speak for the woman, but they certainly inform women of pros and cons and risks and benefits of every possible option, allowing the mother and her partner to make informed and conscious decisions. Doulas are supportive of the woman and her wishes regardless of whether she chooses medications or medical procedures or not. Doulas do not judge. They inform, support and mostly listen.

3) Choose your birth nest wisely.

Humans are cute and fancy mammals because we can think and that is fabulous… until we go into labor. Other mammals seem to have shorter and less complicated birth than ours and mostly because they do not think, but rather act on instincts. In order for a woman to allow this primal self to come out she needs to feel SAFE. Mammalian birth is all about safety. Women birth better where they feel safe – and that is why hospital birth is not for everybody and homebirth is not for everybody.

A woman needs to consider what does she need in order to feel safe? Quietness, prayer, people she trusts around her, equipment, skilled professionals, an OR next door? Regardless of what her answers are, they do not mean anything if the place she is planning to birth does not offer that. Most women these days are somewhere in between – they want freedom to move and cope with labor and reassurance that the baby is coping well with labor. That is common sense. A simple hospital tour may answer your questions, but asking the community is vital for you to be certain your birthing location is just right for you.

4) Create a sense of community.

Find a supportive community that trust birth, that listens to and honors your wishes. Think about our ancestors, regardless of where we come from. Women have always surrounded themselves with a village of support. Aunts, grandmothers, cousins, neighbors. In our modern lives we are focused on tasks, schedules, and work. Pregnancy is a time to reclaim your village, to connect with other women who are going through similar situations and the ones who have gone before us. Birth is a right of passage, and even big city, evolved, accomplished professionals need the support of their community

5) Practice flexibility. There is a lot we can plan about birth, but there is a lot we cannot. One of the most beautiful things about birth is that we do not control it. We can’t control nature, we respect it, protect it and allow it to amuse us. It is the same with birth. Every child comes with a unique story that will ultimately equip parents with tools that they acquire in labor.

And lastly, enjoy yourself. Take time to do research, read evidence based information but do not let this process consume you as if birth was a college course. Childbirth is a very simple process, by hiring a team and place you trust you will find time to enjoy this unique and special time in your life.

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AnaPaulaOriginally from Brazil, Ana Paula Markel is a childbirth educator, a certified doula with DONA (a leading doula organization), a DONA-approved birth doula trainer, and a certified childbirth educator through ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association). She is the founder of Bini Birth, a center in Los Angeles dedicated to childbirth education classes and workshops, doula training workshops, parenting
classes, doula referrals, and green pregnancy retail. Ana Paula created Bini to fulfill her life’s mission to comfort and spread evidence based information and joy about the birth and parenting process. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and four healthy, happy, and vibrant kids.

Permission to be Imperfect: All Parents “Scar” Their Children

A Mothers Touch

By Vanessa Gobes

It was spring and I was walking under the pink magnolia blossoms lining Commonwealth Ave in Boston, on my way to a prenatal yoga class. After a long struggle with morning sickness and lethargy, I was starting to feel energized again and was exploring ways to stay in shape while carrying. Yoga sounded like a safe bet so I trotted off to my first class.

I was five months along, just starting to develop a visible roundness to my belly, finally wearing real maternity clothes and beginning to think of this baby as more than just the impetus for nausea and a stuffy nose.

There was a teensy person in there, growing fast. I’d just found out she was a girl and obsessively tried on baby names. I can’t be sure, but I can imagine myself mentally combing through “The Best 1,000 Baby Names of 2004” when my clog caught a mislaid brick and I face-planted right there on the sidewalk – well, more like belly-planted. I landed tummy first, arms reaching awkwardly forward and legs stretching behind me. I didn’t move.

A man in a business suit hustled over to help me find my feet and I stood there for a few moments, examining my scraped, bloodied palms, brushing sand off my protruding belly. I told the good samaritan I was okay and hobbled off to yoga, sniffling and deflated.

The scene, in general, was nothing overly memorable. The pain was minimal, the spring day was ordinary, the clumsiness was nothing I hadn’t experienced before. But this stumble laid the first foundational stone in what would become a motherhood filled with worry.

During the weeks following my fall, I had convinced myself that I’d caused my baby harm. I would lie in bed at night with my palms splayed out on my belly, begging Baby Girl Gobes for a kick or a hiccup or an arcing elbow to confirm that she was still alive.

I called my OB, “But I fell FLAT on my belly, doc… all of my weight… must have crushed her. Should I come in for an ultrasound or something? Anything?” My doctor assured me the baby was fine.

Pregnancy progressed normally but I still found other things to worry about: smoke rising from manhole covers, cabin pressure on a trans-Atlantic flight, chlorinated pools, bumpy car rides and arguments with my husband. All of these ordinary things seemed to pose a danger to my unborn child and I began to stockpile an armory of “what ifs.”

As I neared week 40, I committed myself to natural childbirth. I worked with a doula, an extraordinary woman who assured me that both the baby and me would be better off for a drug-free experience.

No drugs. No way out. Well, one way out – between my legs. Holy shit.

I liken the feeling to preparing for a date with the firing squad. The sentence has been decided, it’s scary, people are watching, it’s going to hurt like hell and the aftermath is a complete and utter mystery.

As it turned out, all those things were true. But instead of a blindfold and a lit cigarette, I was equipped with an IV and ice chips.

After several hours of contractions and pushing, my baby girl was placed gently on my chest and I briefly bawled my eyes out. I didn’t die after all. Instead heaven came to me. And with heaven, as is expected in motherhood, came even more worry.

Am I doing this right? Am I permanently scarring my child? Am I a crappy Mom? Is my kid going to hate me for all of the mistakes I’m making? We all ask these things, right? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions validate all of our parental concerns.

Because we aren’t doing it right. No one does. We are totally scarring our children. That’s what parents do. Every parent wears the Crap Crown sometimes. And yes, our kids will hate us at some point – we’ll just have to hope it’s short-lived and based in irrational, hormonal, misplaced logic.

But unlike the pain of childbirth, there is a way out of our looming motherly fears – acceptance. When we accept this inevitability, something really amazing happens. That tight grip we have on the worry and concern and anxiety, nestled so conveniently into parenthood, loosens. The worry evaporates.

We accept that there’s only so much we as mothers can do. We can guide them. We can educate them. We can encourage them. But we can’t live life for them. They are who they are.

They’re going to fail classes, get sick, lose games, offend adults, break arms, lose expensive electronics, crash cars, and make fools of themselves, just like we did. That will change when they are adults. Or it won’t.

Some will overachieve early then burn out – or maybe continue to overachieve and stress out. Some will fly below the radar then launch into the stratosphere of success later in life. And some will be total screw-ups for the duration of the ride. And all of that is okay.

There are important lessons to be learned regardless of the path, each as valuable as the other. In fact, the drug-addict / drop-out / derelict probably learns more about life than the magna cum laude MIT grad groomed by his parents for high achievement. Life without life-learning is no life at all.

But enough about them, let’s get back to us. The Mommies. Because we’re the ones connecting here. We’re exploring our own feelings associated with worrying about our kids (who probably aren’t worrying about themselves at all).

Worry is like tumbleweed, picking up all sorts of garbage as the winds of life roll it along. Garbage that doesn’t help us one bit. If we Moms allow the tumbleweed to entangle us, we’ll only end up with deep wrinkles, sleepless nights, and multiple prescriptions for Xanax.

But worry and acceptance cannot exist in the same space. It’s impossible. And there are beautiful side effects of acceptance: liberation, trust, and peace.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from the obsession? From the projection? From the competition? From the fear? From all of those ugly tendencies that we’ve been carrying around since scraping our bellies off the sidewalk in week 20 of pregnancy?

Dragging around a garbage bag of fear will only encourage those same feelings in our children. That black Hefty is only so thick. And our trashy bits end up ripping the liner, leaking out and causing a big stink for the people around us. People like the kids we’re worrying so much about. Sure, we can tell them not to worry. But our kiddos do as we do, right? So let’s do something helpful – model acceptance and collaboration.

Easier said than done, I know. But acknowledging fear and the reasons for fear is a beautiful stimulus for change, creating wide crack for light to shine in and expose fear for what it is: Useless, stinky garbage.

Meditation is a great way to drag those useless habits out to the magnolia-lined curb.

Often when I meditate lately, I hear the words “create space”. (I’d love to know who is saying that to me, by the way.) For me, the creation of space is a deliberate effort to push all of life’s clutter off to the sides and invite an open connection between me and the universe.  In that open space, I can find acceptance. Anyone can do this. You don’t need to take a class or read a book or have a special degree to do it. You just have to know how to breathe.

Solutions don’t have to be complicated or even external. Peace is as close as your breath.

I’m so grateful for this mindfulness practice. Through non-doing, I’m actually doing the best thing I could do for myself and my family. There will be times ahead during which my trust in the universe will be tested, I’m sure. Nights when I’m wearing a trench in my hardwood floors from pacing. Days when my kids are flailing and I’m desperate to carry their pain the way I carried their little bodies so long ago. But the more I practice acceptance, the easier I’ll recover from those angst-ridden moments. Mindfulness is a lifelong practice that deepens with time. And as far as I can tell, time is all we’ve got.

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vanessaheadshot-3Vanessa Gobes is a full time house frau and jane of all trades. She’s currently blogging her way to awakening through a steady diet of kindness, compassion and mindfulness – considering herself not quite Buddhist, but Bu-curious. Her current intent is to work on infusing a daily morning meditation routine into each public school in her town. Vanessa is a community activista, philanthropista and newspaper columnista in Winchester, Massachusetts. Read her stories on her blog, Bringing Up Buddhas.

Breastfeeding Pain – The Aspects of Motherhood No One Told Us About

AlmuerzoBy Jackie Lai

Gift, joy, fun, and of course, love. The words most often mentioned when we think of motherhood. The less spoken, possibly even taboo words: painful, overwhelming, relentless, stressed, anxious, also often describe motherhood. As with any other life experience, the positive and the negative have to coexist. Together, they balance each other and without the negative, it is all too easy to take the positive moments for granted.

When we are pregnant and become new mothers, everyone tells you only about the positive stuff. About how you should enjoy each moment, because time is fleeting and the babies grow up so fast. Because being a mother is such a joy. Because, because, because. But what happens when we start feeling the other stuff that no one talks about? It ends up being an unspoken truth which transforms itself into guilt, disappointment, resentment, and even depression.

It is in this spirit that two friends and I founded Pariday. Pariday is about the parts of motherhood that no one tells you about. One of it, we discovered, is that breastfeeding really hurts! Even after going through two natural childbirths, the first of which took three days, breastfeeding remains the most painful thing I have ever done. While labor and childbirth are painful, it is broken up into minutes at a time, usually with a beautiful prize at the end. The pain experienced during the early days of breastfeeding however, is constant and exacerbated by the fact that after being sucked on a sore nipple, you have to do it over and over again and somehow expect the soreness to heal.

The benefits of breastfeeding have been researched and touted to no end, so much so that now women are almost pressured into doing it for that golden first year. No doubt, breastfeeding is natural, but it is also extremely difficult! The learning curve is steep, and the ladies who have a hard time ultimately end up blaming themselves when it does not go perfectly “the way everyone else says it should.”

To add insult to injury, a common advice for soothing said pain is to use frozen peas on your sore nipples and engorged breasts. Faced with excruciating pain, holding a stiff plastic bag of solidly frozen peas to your body is just another sacrificial thing we mothers do to power through this difficult time for our babies because everyone else says we should. Breastfeeding is painful enough, why does the recommended solution have to be equally painful?

Many women stop breastfeeding just a little too early because of the pain they experience. Without judgment, we created the TendHer Pillows and Pillowcases because we wanted to give women the opportunity to try and overcome the initial hump by providing a more elegant pain relief solution to one of the less elegant parts of being a mother.

Naturally, some women do face other genuine issues like low milk supply, recurring infections, and difficulties with baby which cause them to stop breastfeeding, usually not without some emotional distress and feelings of inadequacy. To me, these women are the ones who truly have it right because they realize that it is about enjoying this precious moment with their baby, and not about stressing out over where their baby’s food is coming from. To be able to give up something that everyone else says you should be doing represents the greatest love and respect for yourself we all need to be good mothers. Without a deep well of self-love to tap from, it would be impossible to take care of yourself enough to fend off the many taboo emotions that arise from motherhood.

For the month of May, we are offering Intent readers $5 off all online Pariday orders! Use promo code: INTENTMOM

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jac head shotJackie Lai is a co-founder and an expert in product design and manufacturing at Pariday. A structural engineer by training, Jackie has broad experience spanning the entire product design process from concept to manufacturing. Jackie’s driving force is to help people. She is a certified yoga instructor specializing in Prenatal Yoga and therapeutics. After having her first baby, she realized there was another way she could serve others – by offering better solutions to the genuine issues faced by new moms. Visit our website and find us on Facebook!

photo by: Daquella manera

The Truth About Medications during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 5.54.14 PMThree years ago, I received a tragic phone call from a friend. Her sister, whom I’ll call Mary — a bright young woman who had struggled with bipolar disorder throughout her life — had recently given birth to her second child. Mary had chosen to go off her psychiatric medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This hadn’t posed a problem during and after the birth of her first child. But this time, it led to disaster.

Lack of sleep, stress from caring for a toddler and a newborn, and problems at work took their toll on Mary. She began to spiral, pacing and panicking. Just as her husband was about to take her to the hospital for treatment, Mary slipped into a psychotic episode. She heard voices telling her to attack her husband and children — which she did, with a knife.

Thankfully, Mary’s husband was able to wrestle the knife away and prevent her from causing any real physical harm. But the damage had been done. The government accused Mary of attempted murder and domestic violence assault. Mary was sent to prison and later a psychiatric hospital. She was forbidden from having any contact with her children. Only last month was Mary permitted her first visit with her now 3-year-old, who has no memory of his mother.

This is obviously an extreme illustration of what can happen when pregnant and breastfeeding women don’t treat their own illnesses out of fear of harming their children. But my closeness to the incident has made me extra sensitive to the issue, which is so important yet rarely discussed in our society or media.

2013-04-25-KateHeadShot-thumbI was so excited to hear that a dear friend of mine, writer/editor Kate Rope, had taken a position as editorial director for a new non-profit called the Seleni Institute. Seleni is dedicated to women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. It offers online resources and support as well as research funding for women’s mental health issues. And, in early May, Seleni will open a clinic in Manhattan to serve women during this critical time in their lives.

Kate, who has been a health journalist for the past 15 years, began focusing on the mental health issues of motherhood after her own difficult pregnancy. Just one week after conceiving her first child, Kate ended up in the emergency room with horrible chest pain. The doctors, worried that she had a blood clot, gave her a CT scan — but found no answers.

For the next five months, Kate suffered from debilitating pain that was misdiagnosed as heartburn. When several different medications brought no relief, she ended up in the hospital again. After three days of tests — including one that involved nuclear radiation — she had a diagnosis: inflammation and fluid around her heart. For the rest of her pregnancy, she had to take ibuprofen and steroids to control it.

And she worried about the health of her baby constantly. “Everyone around me was planning home births and practicing prenatal yoga. Meanwhile, I was doing all the things pregnancy books say are dangerous — taking medications and getting X-rays. I felt very alone and scared.”

Kate’s story has a happy ending: Not only did she eventually get the diagnosis and treatment she needed, but also she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter. Still, the experience traumatized her and led to two outcomes: postpartum anxiety so severe she needed medication to treat it, and a personal commitment to helping other women facing the same choices get good information and peace of mind.

2013-04-25-CarlheadshotKate got help for her postpartum anxiety and went on to co-author The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding with Carl P. Weiner, M.D., a perinatologist and professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Kate explained to me that there is very little well-researched information about the safety or effectiveness of medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most pharmaceutical companies won’t do controlled clinical studies because of concerns about liability. Therefore, much of the information doctors use to make prescribing decisions comes from doctor’s case studies, animal research, and epidemiological evidence.

Dr. Weiner had already combined all of this scattered information into an academic text to help doctors choose appropriate medications for their pregnant and breastfeeding patients. Kate helped him translate that text into an easy-to-understand, A-to-Z directory of over-the-counter and prescription medications for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. It also explains how to find good medical care if you have a chronic condition or develop complications during pregnancy.

“We want pregnant and breastfeeding women to have good information and to know that they are not alone and they don’t have to sacrifice their well-being for their baby’s health. We want to help them make good decisions with their health care providers,” says Kate.

If you are planning to become pregnant and require medication for physical or psychological conditions, Kate and Dr. Weiner recommend getting informed before trying to conceive. “Meet with your doctors — your psychiatrist, OB-GYN, midwife, or specialist — and talk through your concerns,” says Kate. “Ask them what they know about the medications you take, their risks and benefits, and whether or not you should switch to a safer option or discontinue treatment during pregnancy.”

Of course, you may not have the chance to prepare (half of all pregnancies are unplanned). In that case, don’t make any choices about stopping or starting medications on your own. Meet with your health care providers right away to discuss your treatment.

And whether you plan for pregnancy or need to make choices once you learn you are pregnant, Kate and Dr. Weiner both recommend looking for providers who have experience treating your condition during pregnancy.

It’s also wise to be wary of the Internet. A March 2013 study supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 25 websites that published lists of “safe” medication during pregnancy. The researchers found 22 medications deemed safe by one site were labeled unsafe by one or more of the other sites. “That kind of inconsistency online,” says Kate, “not only means you don’t have access to the best information, but that you can become unnecessarily anxious.”

In the end, “the important thing is to remember that you need to be a healthy, happy, high functioning person for yourself and your child,” Kate offered as reassurance. “And that means getting good medical care and making good choices for both of you.”

 

Photo credit: Flickr

Photo credit: Kate Rope

Can Birth Be a Spiritual Experience?

Pain, bloating, and nausea aside, birth can be a truly spiritual experience. For those who have witnessed the phenomenon, or been present in the precious moments after, the experience may rank in the holiest, most magical moments of their lives. Sure, for some it may include fear, anxiety, pain and adrenaline, but the cry of new life can usually dispel even the sharpest of concerns.

In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores the spiritual sides to birthing, from fertility rituals, to belly dancing, to placenta burial. With fertility rites and deities dating back to ancient times, reproduction has likely played a prominent role in religious traditions throughout human history.

Before the wisdom of midwives and modern science became the mainstream, pregnancy and birth were nothing short of miracles, explained only by the mystery of the universe. This same mystery made the sun rise, the rain fall, and the earth bear food to sustain life. But even knowing how the sperm fertilizes the egg, the fetus grows, and eventually the cervix dilates and the baby is born, does it change the magical quality of birth?

Harshitha...my angel..i love you...Many mothers, partners, midwives and other birth workers speak of the sacred atmosphere of the birthing room. For an unmedicated mother, the high levels of oxytocin and endorphins naturally secreted during labor can induce an almost ecstatic high (evolutionarily crafted, of course, to help her withstand the strain of contractions.) And for all in the room, regardless of medical intervention, witnessing a tiny human where previously there was only a big belly…well it’s something you just have to experience.

It is no wonder people have developed such elaborate rituals surrounding birth. Gotham describes some particularly interesting ones in the episode. Did you know belly dancing originated as a method for women to ease the pain of labor? That’s right, it wasn’t intended to be a sexy dance women do in front of men… Kind of puts things into perspective. And cultures around the world find fascinating uses for the placenta, or “afterbirth”, believed by many to hold both spiritual and nutritional properties. Some bury the placenta with a fruit tree, while others grind it up and put it in capsules as post-labor supplements for the mother. Do you know what your parents did with your placenta?

They don’t call it “the miracle of life” for nothing, and clichéd at it may sound, we heartily agree with the sentiment. The human body can do some extraordinary things, and birth and reproduction certainly rank at the top of the list.

Was your child’s birth a holy experience? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well for more “Holy Facts” every Monday!

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