Monday, March 17, 2014

Waiting for Baby

One  of  the  most  important  characteristics  of  motherhood  is patience.  So  easy  to say, so  obvious  that mothers need patience,  and  yet  it's  such  a  difficult  trait  to  master.  I  believe  that  pregnancy  is  designed  to ensure  that  mamas  have  every  opportunity  to  learn  the  patience  that  will be  required  to  mother  this  coming  child.

As  a  midwife, there  are  certain  subjects  that  come  up  over  and  over  again  while  caring  for  pregnant  women. It's  pretty  predictable  that  most  women  will be  anxious  for  pregnancy  to  end, and  to  finally  be  holding  that  beautiful  baby  in  their  arms. This  sense  of  excitement  is  also  part  of  Mother  Nature's plan -  it  prepares  us  to take  on  the  experiences  of  labor  and  motherhood.

On  the  other  hand,  I  think  women  in  general  don't  know  the  damage  they  do  by  indulging  in  the  impatience that  can  arise  as  you  wait  for  birth.  This  impatience  is more  than  ever before reinforced  by  a  culture  used  to  "instant  gratification". And  we  also  have  a  medicalized  culture  that  is  all too happy to contribute  heavily  to  the  over-all sense of  impatience  that  accompanies  an  up-coming  birth. Oh,  you're  tired  of  being  pregnant?  Your  ankles are  swollen?  We  can  rescue  you! How  about  a pitocin IV  or a little  dose  of protaglandins,or cytotech? That  will take  care  of your problem! And, if  it  doesn't, well, aww heck ma'am, we'll just  cut  a little  incision  in your uterus and  get that  baby  out  before  dinner  time. That  way,  you'll be ready  for  your  pedicure  on  Monday!

I often see postings on Face Book walls from friends  wondering  "if  there  is  a  problem"  because  the  baby  hasn't  been  born  yet. This sometimes  starts  as  early  as  38  weeks!  It's  no  surprise  that  these  are  usually  the  babies  that  stay  in  there  for  a while.  Hey,  with  friends  like  that,  who  needs  enemies? It  seems  as  if  carrying  a  pregnancy  to  term  has  become  unusual.

So,  my  advice  for  a  more  pleasant  ending  to  your  pregnancy  --  don't  set  yourself  up  for all  of  this  impatience. Remember  that  this  is  the  closest  you  will ever  be  to  another  human being.  And  this  is  your  precious  child  that  you  love  so  dearly  -- why  are  you  so  anxious  to  kick  him  out?

Starting  early  in  the  pregnancy, if  there  has  been  any  discrepancy  in  your  due  dates,  chances  are  that  the  later  one  is  most accurate.  Unless there  is  a  really  good  reason to  up  your  due  date, go  with  the  second, or  later,  date. ( remember  that  conversation  we  had  6  months  ago?  Yep, your  midwife  hasn't  changed  her  mind.  You  might  want  to  take  another  look  at  the  chart  and see what  due  date  we  decided  on  together  at  that  time) Especially  if  your  earlier  due  date  was  based on  your OBs  office  ultrasound,  and  then  moved  forward  based  on  another  ultrasound. 

And  what  exactly  is  a  due  date? Basically  it's  a  pain; that's  what  it  is.  Your  baby  could come weeks  before  or  after  your  "due  date". It's  best  to think of it in terms  of  a   month  rather  than  a  day. I would  love  it  if  we  could  just  release  the  idea  of  a  due  date.

So,  okay,  back  to  my  earlier  statement  that  often  moms don't  know  the  damage  they  can  do  with  the  big hurry  to "get  this  baby  out!"

First  of  all,  I  believe  that  babies  are  aware.  Very  aware. Even  if  you  don't  care what  the  baby  feels,  as  moms we  know,  the  more  anxious  we  are  for  a  child  to  move  to  the  next  level,  the  more  hesitant  and  even  clingy  the  child  one likes  pressure  or  feeling  unwelcome. Sometimes  my  heart  kind  of  breaks  for  these  babies.

Secondly,  have  we  not  heard  of  "Fight, Flight or Freeze"?  If  your  brain  is  receiving  messages  of  anxiousness  and  pressure,  the signal  tells  your  body  that  it  may  not  be  a  safe  time  to  be  born. Strenuous  hiking  and  riding  up  and  down  bumpy  roads,  and  jumping  on  trampolines  do  not  convey  peaceful  and  calming   messages  to  your  body.  Neither  does  that  relative  who  keeps  telling  you  to  just  get  on  with  it. So  sit down,  relax.  Maybe  crochet  a  baby  hat  or  something. And  either don't  talk  to  that  pushy  relative  or  friend, or  tell them not  to  talk  about hurrying  things  along. 

So,  really,  relax. Most  importantly, relax  your  mind.
Here  are  some  of  my  suggestions  for  really  enjoying  those  last  days  in  your  pregnancy.

Treat these  last  days  like  a  honeymoon  with  your  partner. You  will  never  again  enjoy  the  level  of  uninterrupted  togetherness that  you  can  enjoy  now. Spontaneity  will be  a  bit  of  a  challenge. You  might  want  to  go  out  to  a  quiet  restaurant  that   you  probably  wouldn't  take  a  baby  to.  Or  a  picnic.  Or  give each  other  a  massage.  And  while  you're  at  it, remember  that  those "same  loving  vibes  that  got  the  baby  in  can  get  the  baby  out"  . Acts  of  love  can  trigger  the  release  of  oxytocin -  even  looking  into  each  others  eyes,  laughing  together, telling  him  what  you  love  about  him , will release  more  oxytocin.  What  a  great  way  to  spend  your  last  days  together.

And  if  you  have  an  older  child,  do  the  same  kind  of  thing  for  her/him. Love on  your  child- go to  the park,  or  picnic  or  movie. Give  some  extra  undivided  attention  -  that  will be  difficult  in  the  coming  days.

Getting  your  mind  off  of  the pressure  for  a  few  days  can  help.  Sometimes  I  recommend  going a  couple  of  days  without  talking  about  the  birth, when, etc.

Some  fun  distractions  might  include watching  funny  movies.  Laugh  as  much  as  you  can.

Do  something  special  for  yourself -  get  a  massage, or  if  you  are  into  it,  get  an  easy  new  hair do.

Go  to  lunch  with  friends  who  don't  have  kids. Friends  who  can  talk  about  their  lives and  don't  need  too focus  on  your  pregnancy.

Go  out  somewhere  you  love  in  nature  and  have  a  friend  or  your lover  take  some  pictures  of  your  beautiful  belly.

Take  a  day  trip.  Around  here,  I  like  to  suggest  Jerome.  There's  plenty  to  see  as  you slowly  walk  through  the  shops. At  the  kaleidoscope  store you  can  just  enjoy  that  image  of  the  opening  kaleidoscope. I  suggest  you  spend  some  time  in  there. Stroll up  and  down  the  sidewalks and  window shop or check  out  the  history of  the  place.  Eat  lunch. And  the  windy  road  home  can  help  reposition  the  baby  while  you  enjoy  the sights  and  scents  of  the  forest.

Those  are  just  my  suggestions.  As  long  as  you  are  enjoying your  life, exactly  like  it  is  at  this  moment  in  time,  you'll be  fine.

One  thing  I  often  notice is  that  when  serving  women  with  several  children,  the  first  one  came  a little "late", next  one a little  earlier, and  from  then  on  before  the  due  dates. I  think  it's  easy  to  see  why.  These  experienced  moms  know  that  there  is  a  lot  to  do  after  the  baby  comes.  They  want  all the  time  they  can  get  with  husband  and  older  siblings.  And  they  like  nurturing  a  baby  on  the  inside. Because  they  aren't  sending  signals  of  pressure  and  anxiety,  the  body  is  free to  go into labor  whenever  mom  and  baby  are  ready.

So, enjoy  your  final  days, Mamas!  You won't  be able  to  get them  back. And  your  baby will  come  out, they  always  do.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ramblings on Mothers' Intuitive knowingness, and medical science and birth in the Good Ole Days

Lately there have been times when I'm talking to a young client about her experience with prenatal care, and I find myself telling her what is was like "In My Day". Yikes! I've turned into my grandmother!! But I wonder if that is really so bad. I am so grateful for the wisdom that was passed on to me from my mother and my grandmother. I have such lovely images of my grandmother's experiences with pregnancy and birth in a time that must have been so different. I know that life was not necessarily easy then, but it sounded so uncomplicated, and birth just seemed to be surrounded with clarity, faith and acceptance. I would love to think that I am passing on some of that same wisdom.

When a woman became pregnant, she knew it (the beginnings of maternal intuition). Or she would figure it out soon enough. She wasn't made to feel that she wasn't really pregnant if she didn't have a pregnancy test or an ultrasound to give the exact number of weeks plus days she was in her "gestation". Her knowledge of her body was honored and she didn't need the approval of tests or medical personnel to constantly assess what was going on within her body.

I feel blessed that when I had my babies, information was passed on from mothers, grandmothers and friends. There were a few good books to read. I don't know that having the ability to search out every pregnancy symptom on the internet or utilize every test for various complications, would have contributed to a peaceful pregnancy.

It isn't that I'm entirely against genetic testing, ultrasound, and all that medical science has to offer. There is definitely a place for all of that, and in certain cases it can be of great benefit. But it's worth considering what we lose when we rely so heavily on these things, even for the most normal pregnancies.

The fact of the matter is, that in my own personal experience as a midwife, I have found maternal intuition to be every bit as helpful, in some of those complicated cases, as genetic testing and ultrasound.  I have had as many women tell me their baby had a birth defect, and accurately tell me what that birth defect was, as I have had abnormalities revealed by testing. There is definitely a skill to recognizing the difference between intuition and normal worrying. But you also need to understand that testing  isn't always as accurate as it is presented to be . Certain tests will miss a percentage of problems, and almost equally as disturbing - the same tests can have a high percentage of false positives. It's horrible to see an expectant mama put through the trauma of being told unnecessarily that her baby is not okay. Mom suffers, sometimes her relationship suffers when each parent is sorting through the options, and it will probably take that mother a very long time before she can reconnect to her faith in her baby's perfect health.

Our culture values science, data, things that can be measured. And that can be a good thing. It's great to have both tools. I do believe that we can benefit from a peaceful co-existence between hard cold facts and internal knowing-ness.  But I do feel a little bit concerned that the more we depend upon measurable "evidence"  in our lives, intuitive knowledge suffers a bit of disrespect. Women are less likely to claim it.

So what do we do? It is all about balance. When you just "have a feeling," listen to your feelings - pay attention to your body.  First, take a moment and get relaxed, try to clear your mind. What do you feel in your gut? Is it tight and tense? What do you feel in your chest area - your heart? Tightness and anxiety, or a feeling of expansion and opening?

A recent study done at the University of Arizona found that 70% of moms accurately predicted the gender of their babies without ultrasound or other tests for gender. And guess what? The accuracy was much higher for mothers who had no preference for one gender over another.

And in other recent research, it was found that people had areas of expertise when it came to intuition - you can be intuitive in some areas of your life, but not in others. In the same study, it was found that intuition improves the more you use it. I would say that as mothers, we are the experts in the area of our children and our families. Use it, don't lose it!

Judith Orloff, a medical  doctor and intuitive psychiatrist calls intuition "primal genetic wiring, a survival mechanism."

Recently I sat in my office with one of the pregnant mothers that I work for. All of a sudden in mid conversation, she gasped and jumped up and headed toward the door. She had taken about four steps when I heard a little bump and, "whaaah!!" the cry of her child playing in the next room. She walked back in, cuddling her daughter, smiling at me she asked, "How is it that a mother always knows just a couple of seconds before her child gets hurt?"

I guess we may never know how a mother always knows. I believe there is a lot about motherhood that is meant to remain a mystery, and intuition is one of those mysteries. I hope you will learn to trust your intuition.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Recently I've seen discussions arising in the midwife communities, maybe more like debates, actually. Between the "Trust Birth" camps,and midwives that have taken an approach that is looked upon as more medical. It isn't a new conflict. These issues have divided midwives for many years. I've observed, and been involved in, these discussions since very early in my career, and I know it's been going on since well before I became involved in the birthing culture.

I think discussions like this can be healthy. I hope that as midwives, they inspire us to look at ourselves, question ourselves. Sometimes they inspire change. For many of us we'll come back to the belief that what we're doing is right.

But the conflicts can be frustrating to see, because I believe that as midwives, we have so much more in common than in opposition. For the most part, we pretty much all trust birth. I wouldn't be attending home births, and I'm sure the rest of the midwives wouldn't be attending home births if we didn't believe in the essential nature of birth as a safe process.

But if we believed nothing ever went wrong we wouldn't obtain training to deal with the rare complication.

Because birth is a natural process, it is mysterious. You can count on that. It can be unpredictable. In the same way that we don't know when we'll get our first freeze or what to expect of the summer monsoons, we don't know when labor will happen, how long it will be, what it will look like for each individual mama and baby. That's nature. But we can have clues.And we know that it's good. Almost always. And I think we agree that we should be prepared for any times when assistance is needed.

So, here is what I have to say about Trust Birth vs the so called "medwife" conflict.I think we're missing the point.

Maybe what we're forgetting is that it isn't up to the midwife to decide what's right for each mom and baby. The midwife's approach should be somewhat insignificant. A midwife should be able to a chameleon, changing in different situations,ready to rise to the needs of each individual mamatoto (mother-baby unit), each family. I think what I love most about midwifery is the opportunity to meet each woman where she is at, and to see the growth and empowerment that happens, no matter what her needs are.

I love it when a couple comes in, already well prepared and knowing what they want. All they really want is a guardian. When I'm working with them, I believe that my favorite births are the hands off births, where I listen to the baby's heart beat and otherwise mostly serve as a witness, as mom follows her birthing instincts, she and dad recieve the baby into their own hands. That's awesome. So peaceful, so beautiful, and they could have done this without me. yes! It's perfect.

But maybe they really are not my favorites. Maybe my favorite births are the ones where the young mama comes in to interview me.Home birth is not what she really wanted. She can't afford a doctor and a hospital birth, so she's going with a midwife because she has to. Or she just wanted a doula. And as she sees me for care over the next few months, I see some lights come on. She starts trusting me, and then,she starts believing more and more in herself.The idea that birth is safe slowly begins to sink in, but still with reservations. This woman will need a lot of reassurance, and much of it in the form of things that are offered by modern medicine. She needs a couple of ultrasounds in order to believe her baby is okay. She needs a little additional lab work to trust that her body is healthy. She wants a pap, not because she knows what it tests for, but because her friends all had paps when they were pregnant.She'll schedule her doctor visit because she needs to hear a doctor say that she's healthy enough for a home birth.

And in labor she needs a lot a emotional support, checking the baby,and Lots of hands on. She wants vag exams. She needs to know she's progressing. So I'm going to do a lot of vag exams. Go ahead and call me a medwife. This woman has hired me to be that for her. For her, having a baby at home is a big step - a huge step. She does not want someone standing in the background knowing that everything is okay. She wants her baby suctioned, so, yes, I will do that if it will help mom to relax and bond with her baby. And it's all good. It's better than good! It's perfect.

This is actually the mom that will probably be most empowered by her birth experience. This is the mom who will learn the most, grow the most and experience healing on deep levels. And she may or may not know that, but she knows she did it and she's thrilled with that. Often we develop a connection for the rest of our lives.

I love trust birth births. They're validating and healing for Me. They feed my spirit in a way the others don't, but hey, it works both ways, really. Witnessing and being involved in such an amazing process always feeds my spirit, no matter the approach to birth.

When it comes to these conflicts between which approach to midwifery is best, I think it's a moot point. I'm reminded that many of us believe that the right midwife exists for each woman. So it seems like midwives often attract women whose philosophies match their own. That's wonderful. But as for me, I think maybe I'd get a little bored serving only one group or another. I just thrive on seeing the women that I serve chosing their own paths, doing things their way and learning that their way is always the right way.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Birth Story as told by the midwife

I had just dozed off when I got the call from Tracy. "It's time, the contractions are pretty regular, six or so minutes apart" It wasn't a surprise - I had received the warning call an hour or two earlier and I already had packed my little survival bag - extra socks and a long sleeved shirt ( laboring moms can get hot, so they often like to have the room temp pretty cool) snacks to stabilize my blood sugar, and gum, since we'll be in close contact. My midwife bag was always in the car, ready to go.

Tracy told me she wanted things low key and she wondered if I could come alone. I told her that since the closest medical help was an hour away, I would feel better if my both Deborah and Belle were there. I told her that we would only come into the room when she wanted us, or when necessary. I told her that she'd appreciate their help when it came time to birth the placenta and move from the pool to the bed with her new baby. And she was good with that.She just wasn't ready for the troupes right now. As we ended the call, I told her I was glad that her baby would come tonight.

I got dressed and went into the kitchen. The kitchen always seems extra cozy when just about all of the world is asleep. Even the horses next door were quiet. I called Deborah and Belle- they would be on their way.I made a cup of tea, and my husband came in and packed a few extras for me, as is his usual routine. He gave me a sleepy kiss and I was on my way.

I drove down the lane and under the cottonwoods, and onto the little 2 lane highway. Tracy lived in a nearby ranching community, and as I drove ,it felt like just me and the Arizona landscape that I love so well, all lit up by a big moon. I never really mind working at night.I reflected on the fact that Tracy had reported contractions six minutes apart, but during our 5 minute conversation she'd had 2. That would be just like Tracy to under play. No drama for her.

It was easy to find Tracy and Kenny's house in the dark. I passed only a couple of houses on my way, and their's was the first house with a light on.

I was greeted by the family's hound dogs- Kenny came out to hold Miss Sunshine back. He showed me into the kitchen where 3 cups had been set out on the counter. He didn't have to show me the coffee percolating in a blue enamel pot on the stove- the aroma led the way. But as I entered the kitchen, that scent mingled with the heavenly fragrance of warm ripe peaches. The kitchen island was covered with them , and with produce from the family garden - chiles, tomatoes, squash, mmm. It smelled wonderful.

I turned to take my bag into the bedroom, and only when I heard her voice softly say, "Hi, Paula" did I realize that Tracy was there, laboring quietly in the low light cast from the kitchen into the living room. I was happy that Kenny had quickly dropped the host courtesies to kneel beside Tracy as a contraction came on. She made no sound, but indicated the contraction by looking at Kenny, then looking down.He was rubbing her lower back with a ball, and it was easy to see that they didn't need to exchange words. They were completely tuned in to each other as they worked quietly together.

After a couple of contractions we went into the bedroom, and checked on Tracy's progress. She was 6 to 7 centimeters open - well on her way. And the baby's heart tones were strong and regular. "Can I get into the pool now?" Tracy asked. Kenny told me it was all set up, I only needed to turn on the water at the water heater. So I did that. She got into the pool, and I settled at the kitchen table with my paper work and a cup of coffee. I looked around at the country style surroundings and the animal skins over the curtain rod, the deer antler hat rack. It felt very comfortable and warm there-- unless you're a fox!

Tracy and Kenny had intended to send the older 3 children, Lena-May, Tucker, and Samuel, to her sister's home but had decided that they could stay in the tent that they had set up in the yard outside. Kenny was keeping a small walkie-talkie handy and periodically one of the children would report in, "Samuel is still awake." "Sister is awake." They were trying to be calm and doing a very good job, but that's hard to do when your baby brother is about to arrive!

All was quiet in the little house. After a while a car drove up. Kenny came to the door to hold onto Miss Sunshine, and then he went quickly back to Tracy's side. Deborah and Belle came in. I showed them how I had set the intruments and equipment up on the kithcen table, not wanting to disturb Tracy and Kenny. They peeked through the door to say "hi" to Tracy, and then we three settled around the kitchen table, quietly talking about our day. Every 15 minutes or so, one of us would go in and listen to heart tones. Although Tracy made no sound, even from the kitchen it was clear that what they were doing was working and that she was progressing well. At one point I heard a slight sound of a mom ready to be sick. I started into the large bathroom where the pool was set up, to help. As I opened the door, I saw that Kenney was on it. Tracy looked up and I read her eyes to tell me she needed her privacy more than she needed my help- Kenny had it covered for her.

After a few minutes I went in to check heart tones. Tracy said to me, "Paula I realize that I'm scared" I asked her what it was that she was most afraid of. She said, " I really don't like to push. I don't want to push" And I responded, "Well ,then, don't push." I told her that she didn't have to. That at home we don't need to do a lot of forceful pushing. The baby would come out by just the natural forces of labor, if that was what she preferred. Tracy looked at me like she wasn't sure if she bought it, but, okay.

I went back into the kitchen and a few minutes later I heard the first very slight hint of a labor moan. I felt that Tracy might be nearing full dilation. I waited until the next and when I heard another gentle moan I went in to listen again. Another moan and I walked around the tub. I thought I might see one of the external signs of complete dilation, such as a red line to the base of her spine, or a bit of blood in the water. I looked and uttered a very surprised, "Oh!" as I saw a large bubble of amniotic bag, which on closer look had a sweet little baby's head inside. I asked Kenny, "Did you want to catch the baby?" He said, "No I think I should stay here where she needs me." I believe he was surprised, too when I bent down and told Tracy she needed to birth the baby's body now. I said "One push, Tracy" And as she said, "I don't want to", her baby slid gently into my hands. At that very moment, Deborah and Belle quietly entered the room. The baby was still in the veil, covered to his navel. I lifted it off him and over his back- it was a strong bag! Belle and Deborah helped Tracy to turn her body over the umbilical cord and to sit, as she recieved her baby into her own hands. She smiled, and Kenney gave a little chuckle as Deborah and Belle and I backed a few steps away to give them some space. There were a couple of photos taken. This looked to be nice sized little guy with such a perfect round head and face! Beautiful Boy! Quiet, and taking it all in.

After Tracy stood to deliver her placenta, we tucked them in to bed with a snack. With mama all cleaned up, the rest of the kidlets were invited to meet their new little brother. Samuel, the next youngest, hid his head on Daddy's shoulder, looking pretty unimpressed. He was overwhelmed at the sight of 3 women in mom and dad's bedroom at 1:00 am. But he warmed up a little as we did the baby exam. The siblings enjoyed that part, and new Baby Kenney happily sucked his thumb.

Deborah and Belle and I gave our congratulation hugs to the new family and gave Baby Kenney our welcome to the world. It was a good night. We left feeling job satisfaction that I am sure is rare in this world. Coming home in the quiet of the wee morning hours, slipping into our warm beds, we each gave thanks for the gift of meeting new life.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Grandparents

Becoming a grandparent is such an exciting event. And whether this is your first grandchild, or a new one of many, it's a big change in the life of a family. We are expecting our 10th grandchild in January, and I really couldn't be happier. Ginger Lily .. I can't wait to see her, to hold her. My husband and I have already bought her a couple of tiny outfits. Something "Gingery"

I have heard that the swahili word for grandchild means "mine of mine". I don't know if that's true, but I love it. My grandchildren all feel like "mine of mine".

But, as grandparents,it's not about us! We acknowledge that our experience is certainly secondary to the experience of the expectant mom and dad. This is definitely another one of those times as a parent that we must adjust and get used to a new role!

I often wonder whether expectant grandparents are aware of just how they impact the experiences of their adult children. It might surprise them to know that as a midwife, much of the discussion about how the pregnancy is going and how the couple is feeling about the pregnancy and upcoming birth, is actually spent talking about influence of the grandparents .I'm absolutely certain that what the expectant grandparents intend,is to contribute to the experience in a positive way. And quite often, that's exactly what they are doing. But too often, and without negative intentions, the grandparents can inadvertently contribute to stress in the lives of their expectant daughters and sons.

So, from the perspective of your daughter's midwife, here are some thoughts about how to use this time to create a stronger and more pleasant bond.

First, let's just think about it. What, really, do our adult children want? I think they want the same things that we wanted from our parents. Respect for our own wisdom and independence. Acceptance. And maybe a little space to create our own lives the way we want to live them :-) right? And if, as parents, we have done our jobs well, we can step aside with confidence that our adult children will make good choices. And they have the right to learn, just as we did when we first became parents.

My first words of advice are to be positive. For generations a large part of our identity as women has been based on our birth stories. So , if your birth stories are positive and empowering - share. That's good. That's powerful! If your birth stories are negative and might introduce fear, why not find a way to turn that around? There are so many ways to instill positive images- tell her that her body is strong and beautiful. That she was made to give birth. That today's women are so fortunate to have choices. And how about this one -- that you support her decisions. That this is her baby and you believe in her ability to birth the baby in the way that's best for her and her family. That you believe in her ability to make appropriate decisions as she raises her children.

If she's planning a homebirth or a waterbirth, and you have doubts about that- do some research before you share opinions or judgement. would be a good starting point. And know that you may remain a bit uncomfortable with the idea until the baby is safe in it's mother's arms. That's normal and it's okay. In our generation we were raised to put our faith in the medical community, and those feelings don't change over night. But in the end, you will feel better about your relationship when you have supported your daughter.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, for many expectant grandmothers, seeing our daughters claim their power can be extremely healing. I have had grandmothers and great grandmothers come in to appointments with their daughters and talk to me about their births. I have had many older women say that this is the first time they have ever talked about their own birth experiences. Often times the pregnant mama enjoys this intimate sharing of the feminine experience. And she finds that a lot can be learned from her elders. But it's Very important to remember that this is about Her. She is the one we are focused on. What a wonderful thing, to be able to remember our stories and have a time to process the similarities and the differences in our lives compared to our daughters lives! If you find yourself triggered to relive your experiences during these incredible rites of passage, you might wish to do journaling, art work maybe even get a womens group together and talk. Let your daughter lead the way in regards to how much she really wants to focus on what your pregnancies and births were like. As I said earlier, this can form a more powerful bond if she is interested in and excited to hear about your birth experiences. But if she feels that the energy is shifting and it's becoming more about you, that can be annoying to her.

In this day and age of career women, and easy travel, often times families are far removed from one another in regards to distance. A young pregnant woman might find that her suport group is shifting, as much of her social network has probably been around work or school, and maybe she doesn't have a lot of close friends with babies. Becoming a mother can be isolating. It's a time when a new mom might need extra support from her mother.

If you are planning to travel some distance to be available for the new family, it will be great, but can pose challenges. You may need to arrange to take time off work; you may want to purchase plane tickets in advance. These things are hard to plan! Keep in mind that the typical first time mother gives birth a few days after the designated "due date". And remember when you were pregnant? If an expectant mom is given more than one due date, they typically like to focus the earlier one. That can prove to increase stress and put a twist in your travel plans. There is a 6 week window during which time the baby could arrive! If your time is limited, keep an open mind. If you want to be there for the birth a good attitude and good luck will help! Know that you might be there to visit your daughter in the full bloom of pregnancy, or see the baby after the birth. Letting go of expectations will decrease stress for all involved, and that will increase the probability that her body will function normally in the the time that's best for the baby.

If you are visiting toward the end of the pregnancy, here are some tips to facilitate an easy care free visit and a timely birth:
Plan some fun activities together- Don't just sit and wait for labor! Some good ideas include short day trips, take in a movie- but get her an isle seat. You might want to do something like give her a gift certificate for a nice massage then go to lunch together. The idea is to do things together that will keep her comfortable and relaxed. Enjoy time together. She should not feel like a ticking time bomb. If your visit will be more than a few days, you might also consider a night ot two in a motel. That will support her normal rhythyms and her body's receptivity to the hormones that get labor started.

And during your visit, remember the power of your words. Make sure that you avoid statements that put pressure on her - even if you think you are joking around or teasing. With the whole family anxiously anticipating the arrival of the baby,you'll definitely be talking about the blessed event. But make that just a part of your discussions.

After the baby comes you can sit down and release a big sigh of satisfaction. For a minute! :-) Try to get some rest during the course of her labor so that you can be better able to help when she's exhausted after giving birth. You'll want your priority to be taking care of your own "baby" so that she can take care of hers. If that means a little baby rocking while she rests or takes a shower or bath, I'll bet that can be arranged. Otherwise just supporting her bonding is the best thing you can do for her. Most grandparents are more than happy to do a little cooking ( or picking up take out!) and taking care of some basic household duties so that she can recover. I know I don't even need to mention that. Also, tired new parents might need some reminders to take care of mom's recovery needs. It won't hurt if you familiarize yourself with postpartum care instructions.

Most importantly, enjoy your bond with your new little family member. Babies are very aware and the memory of that love early on will set the stage for a fun relationship in the years to come!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings on Childbirth Education

Sometimes when I think about it, just the idea of chilbirth education classes is kind of interesting. It says a great deal about the culture we live in. We so value knowledge. But yet, what happens to the wisdom?

When I was a young woman expecting my first baby in 1973-74 childbirth classes weren't even available in my community. Everythinmg I really needed to know had come from my mother, my grandmother and my aunts. They all had their birth stories, and whenever they shared, there was kind of a glow in their voices and in their eyes. Even the more difficult births were discussed with smiles of great satisfaction. Each discussion ended with a statement that giving birth was the most amazing, or beautiful, or satisfying thing a woman would ever experience.

I have always enjoyed reading, and during my pregnancies I read everything pertaining to natural childbirth that I could get my hands on. While the goal was to learn, in retrospect I think that the reading was more about the energy. The energy of connecting with my baby. The energy of doing this for and with my baby. The energy of love for being pregnant.

The over-all message was that birth is normal. If you just relax and have a positive attitude it's very do-able.

And until the 1940s - 1950s the way women learned about birth was from their community of women, especially women relatives. It was seen as a normal part of life. Advice was shared, little mysteries were shared. But really, the concept was that babies come out. How much did you really need to know about the nuts and bolts, the science, the engineering side of it?

As childbirth moved into hospitals and became a medicalized ptocedure, it became surrounded with more fear. The prevailing attitude was that women needed drugs so that they could be rescued from the pain and shame of childbirth. And that women were too frail to withstand the rigors of birth. With birth now taking place in medical institutions, infection rates increased and the message of fear took a very strong hold on American women.

So, soon we had a few pioneers in the field who recognized that fear was our enemy when it comes to birthing our babies. It's ofen said that knowledge is power. And it's clearly true that women have the right to understand how our bodies work. And so, mostly due to the work of Fernand Lamaze, Marjorie Karmel and Henci Goer,( who formalized The Lamaze Method)we now have Childbirth Education Classes.

For most of my career as a midwife, I have had objections to the mainstream childbirth education methods. First of all, the idea that there is one actual "method" that could work for all birthing women kind of offends me. Each woman will find her unique strengths and her way to birth her baby.You can't put that in a box. I also found it interesting that none of the early methods were devoloped by women who had given birth. Lamaze, Dick-Read, Bradley, Laboyer are all very caring individuals that have done much for furthering positive beliefs about childbirth. But as far as convincing me to buy into any of these methods as the way in which all women should give birth- these guys share a particular disadvantage - they're all men, none of which has ever given birth to a baby.

Thankfully, there are now many choices for women wanting childbirth classes. There are several educational programs available today developed by women who are mothers and some by midwives. Interestingly, it seems that many of these programs designed by women offer a variety of tools to ease your birthing experience and are less dependent on a set "method" of birthing. They tend to offer more in the way of guidance to your own empowerment.

Lately I've been teaching HypnoBirthing, and I love it. While it's promoted as a method, it's a method of connecting with your own birthing instincts, your own individual power, and connecting with your baby. It's based upon eliminating fear and through postive messaging to your body and mind,enhancing a peaceful normal birth experience. I believe that I've seen amazing things with Hypnobirthing- shorter labors, easier labors. I think I love it as much as I love waterbirth.

At the midwifery office, Belle also teaches a class on basic comfort measures, and tools for facilitating an easier birth. Part of this class is recognizing your own strengths and personal challenges and how you can use these parts of yourself to have a better birth. Thank you, Belle!

Recent research shows that the number of women who attend childbirth preparation classes is diminishing. The study showed that CBE has in recent past,been prevalent among white women with higher education. But the numbers of women who express an interest in CBE is declining among all socio-economic groups. I wonder why? I doubt that it's because women no longer have fear of giving birth. It's probably about the combination of wide-spread availabilty of information on the internet, and the fact that the majority of American women just want an epidural and don't want to be bothered with it. Sorry that sounds harsh. It's just the way it's been going.

So now, back to the original thoughts... hmm.. the knowledge is available. How available is the wisdom? I think it's very available, but how does the mainstream American woman, who has been inundated with negative messaging find her wisdom and gain peace in her birthing process?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Calling

Sometimes I find myself in a position to write a profile on myself and my midwifery. This is Soooo challenging . How can I say what midwifery really means to me in a profile?
Midwifery is the rhythm of my life , the beating of my heart; it runs through my deepest veins. Sometimes it runs through my veins as naturally as smoothly as our unconscious sleeping breaths. Other times, as naturally, it pounds with passion, coloring my feelings in a way I cannot contain.

The mystery of the feminine, of birth, is more engaging than any author you will ever read, any movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Who will this child be? How will he change his world. How will this mama be affected - will it be as a gentle breeze over grass, or as a storm can forge a new river through the face of the earth?
What can I bring to these families?
And will I actually know, be aware of, the ways in which each woman has changed my life?
All I really know is that each woman, mother, and midwife that I get to work with will leave her lovely marks on me. I am So very grateful that midwifery is my calling.