Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Doula's Birth Experience

I am frequently asked how my own baby's birth changed the ways that I support women and their families as a doula and childbirth mentor. It is not a simple question to answer and is relative to where I started from, my unique journey from the time I began working in birth, or became interested in women's issues, or the time that I was a little girl even. And for each person that asks that question, what they are really want to know, is influenced by their own unique journey as well.

Most of what I learned was deeply personal. How am I in relationship with others, myself... When do I reach out for help... How do I cope with pain or intensity...   What resources can I really call upon... What does surrender mean, faith, letting go... How much can I open... Without going through the initiation of labor, I could only speculate the answers - not live them.

My evolution as a human being was greatly accelerated by becoming a mother and it is ever-humbling. I am sure it changed how I am present in my life, in the moment, be that at a birth, with clients, or at home with my family.

For some people, having a doula or childbirth instructor who has given birth might be a priority for their sense of comfort, trust and confidence. I attended births for several years without having given birth. In fact, I found an advantage to not having ideas of how it should be. I did not have my own wonderful birth that I needed to recreate or a bad experience to save others from. And some of the best midwives and doulas that I know are not mothers. 

Interestingly, I found that I was attracted to birth companions who had birthed. Perhaps it was a motherly quality as opposed to the actual experience they had, or that I wanted people who "knew" more than me. 

In my return to birthwork as a mother, I continue to practice from that place of knowing and not knowing. Every birth has a taste of the universal and a uniqueness all its own. Every mother brings her story to it. And a mystery unfolds anew at each entry of a new human being. I am still in awe, wonder and amazement, grateful to be witness and guide on this great river, that I've travelled many times never exactly the same.

My own birth experience underscored many of the beliefs that I already held, such as that while preparation is important, you can't think your way through birth and the importance of quality support. The unfolding of labor was a teacher and what I needed in order to open and grow, to become more compassionate, wise and resourceful. It strengthened the calling to birthwork, my desire to support expectant moms, babies and their families. And I have even greater confidence in the value of what I offer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Le Premier Cri (The First Cry)

Le Premier Cri-I heard about this french documentary from a Japanese friend. It is yet to be released in the United States. I may end up ordering a copy from FNAC (France's version of Barnes & Noble). The clip itself extremely beautiful. As is the soundtrack. It may change the way you view birth.

Monday, October 27, 2008

81 and midwiving

At age 81, Ruth Lubic is an inspiration. What I love most in this
piece is her response when asked about retirement: "I'm not tired the
first time! Much less Retired." Let insurance companies and gov't
officals pay attention: The midwifery model is improving lives, saving
lives and money. And you are never too old (or young, or late) to make
a difference.

See the CBS News broadcast: Beating the Odds. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4428535n

And a favorite quote: Anybody who thinks they are too small to make a
difference, has not spent a night alone in a room with a mosquito.

Opening and Letting Go

Essentially, the act of giving birth is one of opening and letting go.
The most obvious level where this takes place is the physical: the
cervix (mouth or opening of the uterus where the developing baby
resides) dilates so the baby can move down and out through the vagina.
More needs to open, though. The heart, so that unconditional love can
provide the faith, motivation and commitment to continue even when it
is very difficult. The mind, to even consider that it is possible that
something the size of a grapefruit can come out of something we
perceive as the size of walnut and also to imagine ourselves in the
role of parents, completely responsible for another human being whom
we have not even met before. One of my clients called this Opening the
Three H's: Head, Heart, Hoo-Hoo. Opening also takes place in the home,
family, to new activities such as changing diapers, information about
things you never knew existed, relationships and other changes.

Letting go is the first act of parenting when the baby enters the
world as a separate entity from his or her mother. Before that, it is
neccessary to let go of control and expectations to allow the powers
of labor do their work. In its strong effort to let go, the body
releases all manner of fluids: tears, sweat, amniotic fluid, blood,
urine, breast milk or colostrum and sometimes vomit. In labor, women
will often let go of politeness, held emotions, self-consciousness,
old hurts...Birth asks that women let go of who they were before, and
open to the person they are becoming. By letting go of how one thinks
things should be, it becomes possible to open to what is.

If we look to nature, as yoga suggests, we will witness just what to
do. When it's fruit is ripe, a tree releases it. It is simple. It is
no wonder the Buddha achieved instant enlightenment under the bodhi
tree and that the tree is a prominant symbol in many cultures.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rest for the rest of us

Restorative yoga is not just for injuries, illness and beginners. It is for everyone and especially for people with active lives and advanced yoga practices. It is the antidote to living in today's increasingly complex world.

Yoga's popularity came through the fitness door and these essential practices and teachings fell by the wayside. Often overlooked, the yin or restful aspect of yoga seals in the benefits. It is the yin that balances yang. Ha-tha is the traditional name for yoga as a physical practice. We become flexible by putting our bodies in different positions so that life doesn't bend us out of shape. We go upside down to gain new perspectives. Ha and Tha mean sun and moon; Ha-tha is yoga's representation of yin and yang. The more active, forceful, busy our lives, the greater the need for balance with receptivity, rest, letting go.

Restorative yoga creates the conditions for relaxation, rest, and renewal. It allows the body and mind to reset, heal and rejuvenate.  Numerous studies have demonstrated the concrete benefits of relaxation. Relaxation is different from sleep. It is possible to tense the muscles and move fitfully in sleep. When we relax, we remain awake enough to enjoy resting. Stress hormones, which cause harm to the body over the long-term, dissipate.

In Restorative yoga, the body is completely supported by pillows, blankets, blocks and bolsters to aid in letting go. The props shoulder the burden for the practitioner. Poses are held long enough for deep relaxation to unfurl. Many people report having transformative and healing experiences through these practices. 

Many studios now offer restorative yoga. I am excited to be leading these classes at The Mindful Body.

Meaty nation

On NPR today, they announced that while China, with the world's largest population, consumes the most meat, the Unites States still consumes the most meat per capita, that is 3 times the world average. Meat production is one of the biggest contributers to green house emissions. 

Want to make a difference: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Go Vegetarian.

My favorite Vegetarian Cookbooks:
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
The Angelica Home Kitchen Recipes and Rable-rousings
Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
The Complete Vegetarian Kitchen by Lorna Sass

A lot of taxi rides

I take a lot of taxis, mostly going to and from births at the wee hours of morning. Anyone out at those times usually has a good reason. The taxi drivers, usually men, tend to be curious about where a girl like me is coming from or going. If the location I am going to/coming from is a hospital, they ask if I am a doctor or nurse. Explaining that I am independent but work in hospitals and what a doula does to the non-initiate is always a challenge. Generally, the drivers at this time of night/morning--interesting people themselves--have never heard of doulas; if they have heard of doulas, they ask if it is like a midwife, although they may even believe a midwife is something from the middle ages. 

I often reply that a doula is different from a midwife because we don't catch babies. We are present for the entire labor and birth providing emotional support, physical comfort, perspective, information, suggestions and encouragement to women and their partners. I choose not to talk about the important but intangible holding of the space. And yet, it is that and also so much more.

Even when I am exhausted, I don't want to shrug it off and let an opportunity to share the nature of this work pass by. By talking about it with everyone and anyone, we validate the need for it. We are creating a movement that does not stop with moms and babies. This is the entry point. Birth is the only time when healthy people go into the hospital as 'patients'. If we can make a difference here, think where we can go next.