Tag Archives: childbirth

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!

Why Kate Middleton’s Natural Childbirth Should Inspire Us All

grid-cell-11924-1373657822-26Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

I’m not sure how reliable the reporting on Access Hollywood is, but I flipped on the TV last night to get the latest royal baby update and heard that Kate had natural childbirth.

After a Google search I quickly learned that Princess Kate was taking steps to prepare herself for a drug-free experience; and if Mario Lopez’s man on the scene is correct, doulas, midwives, and natural childbirth advocates around the United States are jumping for joy.

The US ranks among the countries with the highest rates of epidural use and Cesarian section. It’s hard to decipher exact numbers as some hospitals report childbirth stats and some don’t, but on average well over 60% of vaginal births in America employ an epidural. Some hospitals report 95% epidural use for vaginal births. 32% of births overall are Cesarian, many of which are scheduled and elective.

We Americans tend to learn lessons the hard way. We think we can create answers to life’s problems and pains by outdoing Mother Nature. (Ahem, GMOs, ahem.) And then we spend generations trying to figure out how to dig ourselves out of the holes we’ve trenched. I place childbirth in this category.

We’ve created a “new normal” in America. Over the past several decades, there’s been a shift from using chemical pain relief only when labor is not progressing to using chemical pain relief before active labor has even started. This is not the case in the rest of the world. This the numbing of America. How deep will we get before having to dig out from this one?

I’m a mom of three naturally born babies. I get it completely. Birth is painful, it’s challenging, it pushes us to our limits – the perfect introduction to motherhood. From a spiritual perspective natural childbirth is an incredible opportunity to awaken. From a confidence perspective, it’s downright empowering.

After I had my first baby, there was a procession of nurses stopping by my recovery room to congratulate me on nixing the epi. I was like a celebrity that evening. One nurse even stopped in and told me she heard me growling and screaming down the hall and felt a thrill.

Really? Just for having a baby like billions of women have before me? Really really?

I can’t count how many birth stories I’ve heard over the past 10 years. The number of natural stories are far and few, but a surprisingly high number of friends have opted for the epidural and not benefited from its effects, still feeling the intensity of labor and the pain of delivery. The epidural is not always a ticket out of the torment.

That said, I encourage OBs to encourage patients to at least try a drug-free experience. The anesthesiologist will be lingering nearby in case she needs to needle up. What I always suggest to pregnant ladies who ask for advice is this – Keep the pain in perspective. It won’t last forever. Focus on the breaks between the contractions. And just when you think you can’t take another minute of pain, have the nurse check you. You’re probably fully dilated and ready to push. Pushing will hurt, but it will be way faster without the epi.

But don’t take my word for it. There are a gazillion moms out there who have forgone that big fat needle in the spine and lived to tell about it. We need more high profile examples like Kate Middleton to let women know that natural is the norm worldwide and to inspire American women to look at the anesthesiologist and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

In the end, the most important part of childbirth is healthy baby, healthy Momma.  Modern medicine is a blessing. And we are doubly blessed here in America to have top notch services to provide new mothers and infants with excellent care.

A woman needs to do what is best for her and her baby and take advantage of the resources available to her during this intense time.

That might include chemical pain relief, emergency C-section, or it might include a drug-free-screaming-banshee-spiritually-uplifting-celebrity-in-the-maternity-wing delivery. No matter how that baby comes out, he’s a miracle nonetheless. As is his Momma.


Image via Buzzfeed

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

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

Meditation for New Mothers

During a recent meditation retreat, I was asked about how motherhood affected my meditation  Images-1
practice.  My friend Megan was worried that unless she had an established meditation practice prior to childbirth, she would never find the time or energy to do so as a new mother. 

Her question forced me to reflect on my life as a new parent nearly three years ago.  Back then my daughter was tiny and prone to wail if she was not sucking on my breast or being carried in a sling.  So I spent the first six months of her life either nursing her on a rocker-glider, or walking at a snail’s pace with her curled up in a sling. 

Prior to Ayla’s birth, I was an avid yogini with a spotty meditation practice.  I meditated only in times of crisis, and found that I wasn’t able to concentrate for long periods of time while my world fell apart.  But yet another miracle of childbirth is that you are forced to learn to meditate—you have no choice in the matter. 

As a newborn, my daughter would fall asleep on my lap and refuse to move an inch for hours at a time.  The conditions were absolutely perfect for meditation.  The house was empty, the phone didn’t ring much (as I had taken a leave of absence from work) and I was physically trapped in a chair.   I had nothing to do but breathe in and out, while gazing at my daughter.

Mommy meditation was a tremendous gift to me.  I had spent the better part of my life racing around trying to achieve success and social change, and when I gave birth in my mid-thirties, I was very stuck in my ways.  Slowing down was going to be hard for me.  As would the transition from thinking solely about myself to thinking mostly about my child. 

But learning to meditate with my daughter eased the transition.  Meditating while feeling the warm weight of a newborn child on your lap is pure bliss.  After tasting Mommy Meditation, I would turn off the phone for long stretches and revel in the quiet perfectness of my new life.  Whenever I felt restless, I would gaze into my daughter’s eyes and return to a place of inner calm. 

I assumed that raising a newborn was mindless work—but becoming a mother was my first real taste of mindfulness.  The gift of new motherhood is that there is no place you would rather be than in the present moment—with the doors of your heart blown open by the love you feel for your child. 

After we finished talking, Megan was no longer worried about whether she would be capable of cultivating a meditation practice after giving birth.  Instead, she was worried that she wouldn’t want to end the mommy meditation to return to the outside world.


[To read more of Taz’s posts, visit Labor of Love.]

The Joy of Shimmying

A month ago, I switched from years of yoga and tai chi to belly dance. A friend suggested it would help me to connect with the divine feminine. I thought she was crazy, but after a month of classes – sometimes three times a week, I can’t get enough of it. Though it has been associated with entertainment for men, it’s deeply and truly for and about women, and it’s one of the most womanly ways to celebrate us. If you love to dress up in soft swirling, vibrantly colored costumes without worrying about a flat belly and six-pack abs, it will make you feel like a beautiful, curvy princess.

This art form and exercise came to America in the 1860’s through immigrants. But long before this, the history of this joyous and exuberant dance dates back to ancient Middle Eastern times. Priestesses in Egyptian temples instructed the art of this dance to women to help them connect with their body temples, raise their energies and aide them with childbirth. My teacher, Iona Wilson, says that this folkloric dance was also done by a woman’s mother and friends around her bed while she was in labor to remind her of the moves that could help. Belly dancing has been a god send for Wilson, she says. She danced in a recital even when she was eight months pregnant and returned to dancing about a month after she gave birth. “It helps to strengthen the pelvic floor and all those abdominal muscles,” she adds.

She and many of her students dance when they’re tired, frustrated, angry, depressed and even when they’re grieving the loss of a loved one. It’s like magic in some ways. The movement literally moves depression out of the body. Part of what allows emotions and states of being to stick within us is that they remain blocked in one area of our being or another. But when you get up and move, especially with moves that are accompanied by shoulder shimmies that loosen up the energies in the solar plexus, and hip shimmies that literally shake and swirl the energy around – it’s virtually impossible to stay stuck in any lower emotion. This dance is elevating, rapturous and it embraces female curves. If you were dubious about having hips and real, womanly curves, this dance loves them – and helps you to love them too. In our society where media and magazines hold up coat hanger sized models to hang clothes on as examples of feminine beauty, this dance says, “No! I celebrate round, curvy, voluptuousness and this is what’s beautiful.”

 “It helps women to gain self-esteem and improves their confidence,” says one dancer who performers at renaissance fairs and festivals. “And we have a wonderful community of women who join together. They’ve become like sisters.”  If you look around, you may find secret belly dancers all around you. There’s a large movement of women who get together for “haflas” or belly dance meet ups to share the spirit of the dance, but you’d never know if you met them on the street. They’re mothers, women who work in high tech and want a feminine environment to feed their soul; they’re psychotherapists, business directors and law students. I’ve found the women in my dance class have a sense of camaraderie and we laugh together. Granted, it’s hard not to laugh when you’re wearing a coin hip scarf that jingles and your belly is hanging out. This is a wonderful way to play! So find a teacher, a hip scarf and some zils (finger cymbals) and enjoy. Here you don’t need to play any other roles. This is a place where my teacher says, “You get to be you.”

Bio: Debra Moffitt

Debra Moffitt’s book, "Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life” will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in May 2011 (www.awakeintheworld.com).  Read more at www.debramoffitt.com  Her essays and articles appear in publications around the world and focus on drawing attention to the spiritual in a mostly material-minded world.  She presents workshops in the U.S. and Europe.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / VelvetJAM

Music for a Spiritual Birth

Music, like birth, is an enigma. Neuroscientists can’t pin down a specific part of the brain that is dedicated to music. Music moves like an apparition through our brain, lighting up neural circuits here, disappearing, then reappearing elsewhere to work its magic. Similarly, we can’t seem to come up with a scientific way to predict how a birth will unfold. Part of the miracle of childbirth is that it is always a surprise. Like childbirth, music’s impact is far-reaching. Music touches our physical bodies, stirs our emotions, and awakens our spirits. Birth and music are deeply connected by their ability to transform us long after their tunes have been played.

I’ve been a student of music for most of my life, and when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was to create a playlist for my iPod. It was the only way I could express the enormous joy, fear, and anticipation I felt. Words fell short, but music offered a means to express the complex brew of emotions stirring within. The songs I chose were jubilant (“To Zion,” by Lauryn Hill), contemplative (“Swirling Beyond Belief,” by Dean Evenson), and profound (“Landslide,” as performed by Fleetwood Mac).

About midway through the pregnancy, I began working on my labor playlist, as I was sure that music would play an important role in Ayla’s home birth. I worked at it for months, listening to my old favorites as well as following others’ recommendations into undiscovered musical territory, and eventually settled on a soundscape befitting an experience as profound as childbirth. I chose otherworldly instruments—singing bowls, harmonium, flutes—and female singers with ethereal voices: Snatam Kaur, Morgan Doctor, Hayley Westenra. During labor, each song on the playlist helped me release my grasp on the outside world so I could listen to my body and tune in to my daughter’s spirit. Music led me within, to the place where I had the strength and courage to birth my daughter, and myself as a new mother. (See sidebar: “Taz’s Labor Playlist.”)

Scientific research is divided on the topic of music and childbirth. The introduction of music into childbirth education is believed to prepare mothers and fathers for childbirth, but so far the effects are considered not quantitative but qualitative—that is, unmeasurable. (See “References” for studies by Caryl Ann Browning and M. E. Clark et al.) Similarly, researchers who have studied the use of music during childbirth overwhelmingly agree that music offers effective relief of pain and stress, but the devices used to record changes in a woman’s heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs have produced statistically insignificant data. Do we need better science and more precise measurement tools? Or are we to conclude that music, like childbirth, can’t be precisely measured by science?

As a childbirth educator, I’ve coached women before, during, and after childbirth. I have a wealth of anecdotal evidence demonstrating that music can have a powerful and positive effect on childbirth. One of my clients, Sarah, who had chosen to birth in a hospital but wanted a natural childbirth, had, on the advice of her doula, packed in her hospital bag an iPod filled with calming music. She was “overdue” and was therefore advised to stay at the hospital and receive prostaglandin treatments to ripen her cervix. During the first two treatments, she nervously chatted on the phone with friends, paced the hospital corridors, and took short walks with her husband. Feeling frustrated that the drugs weren’t working, she turned to her iPod for help. After Sarah had listened to violin concertos for several hours, she spontaneously dilated to four centimeters. While the prostaglandins certainly played a role in advancing labor, Sarah felt that they worked better when she was more relaxed and psychologically open to going into labor. In this regard, music was as important to Sarah as the drugs.

Another of my clients, Willa, explained that listening to the guttural chanting of Tibetan monks during childbirth gave her permission to make her own primal sounds. Nancy, who gave birth last month, found that music helped her to quickly establish a rhythm for managing each surge or contraction. Even after a distracting cab ride, hearing music helped Nancy reestablish her laboring rhythm in the new environment of a hospital labor room.

Most childbirth practitioners have had similar experiences with their clients. Music can calm a woman’s nerves during an uneasy pregnancy. It can help soothe her fears when the first contractions hit. It can coax her into labor at moments when drugs and words fail. Even during the transition phase, when the outside world has largely dissolved and she is exclusively focused on birthing, music can slip through the cracks in her consciousness and quietly allay her deepest fears.

My own experience with laboring women echoes the findings of a small body of research that I find fascinating: the use of music during the postpartum phase. I, too, have discovered countless ways in which music can help ease the transition to motherhood. In my own life, music helped me manage physical pain, calm my child and myself, and establish my own rhythm of parenting.

There were several scenarios in which music helped me cross a difficult threshold. The first occurred in the first weeks of my daughter’s life. There were countless moments when she was unsoothable: Diaper changes, nursing, bouncing or walking in a sling—nothing offered comfort. Each time one of my calming techniques failed, I grew more impatient. Finally, in tears, I put aside my checklist of baby-soothing techniques. I breathed deeply, then spontaneously began to sing. I chanted “Om.” I sang “Kum Ba Yah.” I hummed Vivaldi’s Spring concerto. I felt myself relax. And just as in the in-flight oxygen-mask scenario—first you put on your own mask, then you put a mask on your child—I sang myself into a state of calm in which I was capable of soothing my newborn.

Another personal experience with music therapy unfolded as I suffered through a prolonged period of blocked milk ducts. Listening to music while nursing helped me transcend the physical pain and focus instead on the life-giving exchange taking place. When I nursed without music, I found myself oscillating between crying from the pain and worrying that I couldn’t breastfeed. Music helped me rise above my pain and my fears to a place where I could envision my ducts slowly opening. For the first 12 weeks of Ayla’s life, I used one hand to cup her head in nursing position and the other to hold the remote control for the stereo. When the music flowed, so did my milk.

A third experiment began once Ayla had begun to settle as a baby and I had emerged from the bliss bubble of new motherhood. The calls of the outside world were urgent—friends wanting to catch up, unanswered e-mails, grant proposals waiting to be written—and distracted me from mothering Ayla. On some days, instead of mothering Ayla, I felt as if I were merely managing her with the aid of such devices as her bouncy chair. When I felt myself drift away from her, music helped bring me back. African folk songs, Celtic lullabies, and the gentle sounds of Zen flutes and waterfalls became the soundtrack to our playtime. Music helped me tune in to my daughter rather than being distracted by the noise of everyday life.

Oliver Sacks has published scientific papers and popular articles and books about music and the brain. In his book Musicophilia, he writes of music’s capacity to unlock our creativity and intuition. Although I aspire to parent intuitively, as a thinking person, I’m susceptible to the seductive “answers” offered by parenting books. Here again, I’ve found that music is an important enabler. When Ayla’s behavior baffles me and I’m not sure what to do, music helps set the tone for intuitive exploration. With a soothing tune playing in the background, I try this, then that, without succumbing to anger or frustration. Eventually, I do something that works. My daughter ceases to make dissonant sounds. She laughs. My heart sings with joy. And in this way, we make music together.


Snatam Kaur: “Ek Ong Kaar,” from Shanti
Morgan Doctor: “Drolma-La,” from Is This Home
Dean Evenson: “Swirling Beyond Belief,” from Healing Waters
Krishna Das: “Om Namah Shivaya,” from Heart Full of Soul
Caitlin: “Om Mani Padme Hum,” from Sacred Mantras
Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté: In the Heart of the Moon
Various Artists: Dream Therapy
SoundScapes: River


Michael Maxwell: The Elegance of Pachelbel
Kikujiro: Original Soundtrack (Various Artists)
Putumayo Presents: French Café
Ry Cooder & V. M. Bhatt: A Meeting by the River
Everything But the Girl: Amplified Heart
Ismael Lo: Iso

Putumayo Presents: Dreamland: World Lullabies & Soothing Songs
Louis Armstrong: The Best of the Decca Years
Les Nubians: Princesses Nubiennes
Dean Evenson: Healing Waters
Van Morrison: Days Like This
Gotan Project: La Revancha del Tango


    Caryl Ann Browning, BEd, BMusTh, MTA, CD (DONA), “Using Music During Childbirth,” Birth 27, no. 4 (December 2000): 272–276.
    M. E. Clark, R. R. McCorkle, and S. B. Williams, “Music Therapy-assisted Labor and Delivery,” Journal of Music Therapy 18, no. 2 (Summer 1981): 88–100.
    Lynn Durham, RN, and Mike Collins, EHD, “The Effect of Music as a Conditioning Aid in Prepared Childbirth Education,” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing 15, no. 3 (May 1986): 203–274.
    Sharon L. Olson, RN, PhD, “Bedside Musical Care: Applications in Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Neonatal Care,” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing 27, no. 5 (September 1998): 569–575.
    Elizabeth A. Geden, PhD, RN et al., “Effects of Music and Imagery on Physiologic and Self-Report of Analogued Labor Pain,” Nursing Research 38, no. 1 (January–February 1989): 37–41.
    Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia (New York: Vintage, 2008).

Taz Tagore is a mother to Ayla (17 months); the founder of the Reciprocity Foundation, an award-winning nonprofit; and author of a music and mothering blog, “Labor of Love”.  This article was originally published in Mothering magazine.

Image by LeePhotos

Bad Mommy: The Sexism Embedded in Women

This summer one of my clients and one of my girlfriends gave birth. As they approached their due dates they described the same familiar upset other girlfriends and women in my practice had reported at the end of their pregnancies.

Well meaning women – family members, girlfriends, colleagues or strangers – would freely inform them of the right way to deliver and the right way to feed the baby.
Here are some of the things women actually say to each other:
·        You cannot have a Caesarean!
·        It’s not a true birth experience if you don’t deliver vaginally
·        Don’t have a vaginal delivery; it’ll be a nightmare
·        You should demand a C-Section and make it fit your schedule
·        If you want what’s best for your baby you’ll breastfeed
·        Bottle feeding is wrong, I don’t understand why anyone would do it
·        Breastfeeding in public is disgusting
·        You’ll never sleep and get saggy breasts if you breastfeed
 Over the years mothers-to-be have confided in me their reaction to these words, ranging from, “What she said really bothered me.” or “Where does she get off?” to “I wanted to punch her in the fucking face!”
Even confident, well-informed, headstrong women are affected by these comments. If a man were to make statements like this women might brush them off as sexist, thinking he has no right. But women often listen to other women with a different ear, curious to hear their perspectives on things they have in common.
Sometimes even if a woman defends herself against the offending comment in the moment, she still finds it lurks in her mind afterward, because she’s about to become a new mother and she too feels pressure to do it right. She may secretly feel guilty or question herself and her judgment…because she has been judged.
Sexism plays a major part in this pressure to fit all mothering into a box labeled “The Right Way.” Since our history is rife with rules designed by men to keep women in line under male authority there’s a psychological reasoning that if women do it the right way they’ll be safe and above reproach. 
When women unintentionally carry on this tradition of restriction it eliminates the variable of uniqueness in every childbirth and mother/infant relationship. And in those cases in which a woman is unable to deliver vaginally when she desperately wanted to, or can’t breastfeed when she desperately wanted to, these comments from other women can contribute to her feeling faulty and broken.
There are women out there who have wonderful easy birth stories; there are women who feel breastfeeding is blissful; and there are women who love bottle feeding. But there are many stories of frightening and bumpy beginnings. 
To go through a planned Caesarean based on safety and well-being, or to end up having one at the end of labor for the same reason aren’t issues of mothering to be judged. The same is true for bonding around feeding. If a woman knows she’ll be incredibly uncomfortable nursing, the tension it would create for her and the baby makes bottle feeding right for them. And if a woman tries to breastfeed and finds either she or the baby cannot due to issues of pain, milk production, latching or sleep deprivation, then the peace a bottle will bring is right for them.
Women shouldn’t impose strictures on other women’s individuality and choice when we wouldn’t want that from men. Making room for mothers and babies to go through the beginning of their lives together in whatever way they feel is best is the right way for them.
So be generous with each other and reduce the risk of getting clocked.
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