Tag Archives: midwife

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.

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!

A Year and $100,000 for Positive Birthing

One year. One hundred thousand dollars.

It sounds like a dream, or a twisted prank. But this is no joke. Gold Peak Tea is offering $100,000 and a year off to one deserving candidate. It is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, or to pursue some ambition, or realize some goal. This is a once in a lifetime offer, and I have a BIG imagination. So here goes the wildest, most exciting and ambitious $100,000 Year:

The Birth Connection

As a trained birth doula and aspiring midwife, I am passionate about reproductive health and positive birthing. I believe in a woman’s power and innate ability to bear her babies (at least without, though sometimes in spite of, pre-existing conditions); I believe in the sacredness of menstruation and all aspects of fertility; I believe in sex-positive education; I believe in the wisdom of our bodies.

The first two months of my year would focus on creating a comprehensive database and online social network of doulas, midwives, parents, politicians, anthropologists, social workers, yogis, professors, students, artists, media experts, and writers. We would develop a virtual forum and an unprecedented platform on which to discuss sex, birthing, bodies, gender politics, and reproductive rights. The network’s mission would outline clear, actionable goals to foster ongoing, international dialogue on the above topics. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google + would be employed to maximize connectedness.

Stage 1 Costs: $0

The Birth Conference

With a comprehensive network well underway, I would spend the next four months planning an international conference. The conference would focus on maternal and infant mortality and the power of positive birthing. Sierra Leone and Afghanistan have the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.) Ideally we would host the conference in one of these countries, which would require tireless strategic planning and cooperation on the part of politicians, diplomats, NGOs, anthropologists, and local grassroots organizations.

The three-day conference would feature speakers, panels, and breakout workshops aimed at addressing the global crisis of maternal and infant mortality through education, women’s rights, and medical anthropology. That means: how to train local midwives and doulas in communities that suffer from particularly high MMR rates and restricted medical access, the need to encourage local governments and schools (worldwide!) to support sex-positive and women-positive values, and how to work with doctors, midwives and local healers to envision a new medical model that is as wise as it is effective.

Stage 2 Costs: $10,000 Airfare for our team, $10,000 Food and Paraphernalia, $10,000 Other Stuff I Would Know About If I Regularly Planned Conferences

The Birth Center

After a successful conference, my team of positive birthing strategists would begin work to open a birth center wherever there is the greatest need (in Sierra Leone or Afghanistan). The aim: to create a space in which to train local midwives and doulas, accommodate expecting mothers for their births, and welcome teenagers and young adults for classes on reproductive health, self-care, and parenting. Anthropologists and grassroots organizations would be critical at this stage to ensure our project be executed with utmost respect, intelligence, and efficacy.

The greatest expenses in this stage would be land and building costs for the physical center, labor and travel costs for our contributing doctors and midwives who would help train the first round of birth workers, and medical supplies. We would enlist the support of local organizations and community members to create, decorate, and promote the space. And hopefully, with time, money, love, and cooperation, we would find ourselves six months later with a building, a group of soon-to-be-fully-trained midwives, and the promise of a thriving birth and community center.

Stage 3 Costs: $60,000 Land, Building, Training, Etc. – Yes, I’m an optimist.

Misc. Costs: $10,000 Antonia’s Coffee, Cat Food and Bus Fare

This is my passion and my sketch of a challenging, ambitious, and potentially rewarding year. What’s your passion? What would you do with $100,000 and a year off? Dream big, and ask not what is probable, but what is possible.

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photo by: aturkus