One of the things I loved most about co-teaching Two Doulas Birth (an LA-based childbirth preparation series) was their curriculum and emphasis on optimal fetal positioning. As once a doula and now a licensed midwife, I have seen many births in these past seven years and believe that a baby in utero intuitively knows the path of how to be born through his or her mother’s body without a lot of intervention. However, there are external factors that can make the path a bit trickier, and a natural labor more difficult.Read More
Second to the fear of the ‘pain’ (although I like to call it intensity) of childbirth, I find that most women are nervous about the idea of vaginal tearing during birth. Or some women have little to no fears about the birth but a heightened anxiety about tearing and the potential of needing stitches ‘down there’. While tearing is somewhat common, there are some ways of preventing it from happening during childbirth.Read More
The majority of the clients who choose to give birth at the birth center do so because they either don’t feel comfortable in a hospital setting or are afraid of medical interventions that could lead to an ‘unnecessarian’ (unnecessary cesarean birth). I find most families are nervous of this possibility of transferring as they think this option is only reserved for emergency situations or a need for a c-section, when that is rarely the case (cesarean rates for planned out-of-hospital births are 5% compared to the national average of 31%). (1) However, in preparation for a healthy, natural birth outside of the hospital, this includes understanding when transfer is indicated, so if it happens the process is that much smoother.Read More
A mother choosing an out-of-hospital birth with a midwife might not consider hiring a doula for labor support. The usual rationale is that she has her midwife and partner for support, so a doula is one extra person who may not be necessary. Plus, it’s an added cost to an already out-of-pocket experience. Most people think of doulas as important roles for women planning a natural birth in the hospital to help navigate the potential ‘cascade of interventions’ that can take a woman far from her birth wishes. So why would one hire a doula for a planned birth center birth? When stacking the odds in your favor of having the birth you want, a doula is one of the top tools to make it happen.Read More
So, what’s the deal with hearing that sleeping or laying on your left side is best while you’re pregnant?Read More
‘I just found out I am pregnant.’
‘Congratulations! We will see you in 5-6 weeks.’
‘What? What do I do until then?’
One of the most common questions we are asked by prospective clients is, “What happens if my baby is breech?”Read More
Finding a pediatrician who’s right for you and your family’s needs is important – your child’s health and wellness will be in their hands.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a pediatrician.Read More
As a midwife, I often am asked the question, “What do you think about placenta encapsulation?” Although, it’s reported that placentas have been used in traditional Chinese medicine since the 1500s, consuming the placenta (aka placentophagy) in the postpartum period has become a recent trend in the last 15-20 years. (1,2)Read More
Chinnamasta is a Hindu tantric goddess who symbolizes both life give and taker as she is depicted without a head. “She helps the devotee to transcend the mind (all the ideas, attachments, habits and preconceived ideas), into the Pure Divine Consciousness.” (‘Birth Mandala: The Power of Visioning For Childbirth”)
Chinnamasta is also the name of the yantra (Sanskrit for “mystical diagram”) of the second chakra (energy point centered in the lower abdomen, pelvis, and sex organs). This is the chakra of progeny and Chinnamasta is the representation of that.
Thus, Chinnamasta is an archetype of the collective unconscious – severing ones own head to mother and tap into the yantra of the second chakra – the womb – and allow her baby to be born. This is fascinating to me as it corresponds with a philosophy of birth, one that I happen to agree with, that so much of the labor process (especially for a first time mother giving birth) is the struggle to move out of the thinking brain and ego and drop into a more primal and ‘id’ state of existing.
When a woman remains in her ‘head’, analyzing her labor and trying to will her labor to go faster or control it because its getting too intense, she is moving away from that deeper place of the collective unconscious where she ‘descends into her labyrinth’ (as discussed in previous post). Instead, she may be prolonging the labor process, making the pain more intense and perhaps the experience more traumatic.
If a woman can find the tools to ‘cut off her head’ so to speak, it will allow her to be unattached to what’s happening and just experience the motions and sensations of labor for what they are versus the story, drama and thoughts her mind wants to tell that are associated with the actions of birth. She can be a vessel through which new life comes through her rather than a closed, tight and complex network of connective tissue and fear getting in the way of her body and baby.
Some of these tools and comfort techniques can include hypnosis, music, nature sounds, massage, visualizations, mantras, affirmations, aromatherapy, movement and most importantly an environment that makes one feel safe, loved and supported. This will help relax the mind and give it something else to focus on – like entering a deep state of meditation – to step out of the way of her body and allow her baby to come through her.
As the Queen of Hearts once famously said, “Off with their heads!”…
While birth can be an unpredictable process and approximately 23% of first-time mothers planning an out-of-hospital birth will transfer to the hospital (with the majority being due to non-emergent issues, i.e.‘failure to progress’ or a desire for pain relief), (2) there are a few things you can do during the pregnancy to stack the odds in your favor of having the birth you want.Read More
“Mexican Labyrinth of Birth” Painting by Pam England (author and founder of “Birthing From Within” a childbirth preparation book and class series)
"This painting was inspired by a story my friend Alberto told me. Two of his tias (aunties) are parteras (midwives) in Oaxaca, Mexico. There, women who give birth are called warriors. 'The midwives tell a pregnant woman that when she is in labor she will have to go to the underworld where spirits hold all the unborn babies … She will have to find her baby, do battle in labor with the spirit to free her baby and bring him or her home—bring her baby back and into to the world, to the family who is waiting. Only she can do this.'
As a midwife, I have the distinct pleasure and honor of supporting women to safely traverse their ‘labyrinths’, reminding them they are safe, their babies are safe and to keep going while watching them go deeper inside themselves, battle, struggle, surrender, transform and come back as mothers with her new babies.
Giving birth is probably the hardest thing a woman will do in her life. I have even heard women say that at some point in labor they thought they were going to die. But the difficulty and the battle to cope with the intensity that is natural childbirth rests not in the body trying to figure out how to birth a child but in the mind.
I believe the feeling of dying while giving birth has less to do with the actual pain experienced (as many women later report that the pain was manageable) and more to do with the fact that what those women thought they understood or could wrap their head around about birth went beyond its limit and that part of their identity, and sense of control was dying.
This moment is essentially the surrender to the fight of the mind. When this happens, the last layers of the old identity are shed and the mother self (in addition to the baby) is beginning to be born. A laboring mother also moves out of her analytical brain and more into the primal, instinctual part of her brain where there are no thoughts, words, only sounds, colors, feelings – a dream like state – the part of her brain that traverses the labyrinth and progress is made and she is that much closer to birthing her baby.
Where there is light in bringing new life into the world, there is also darkness. It is this rite of passage of traveling to the ‘underworld’ and through the labyrinth – the death before birth – that is necessary and not to be feared. Each woman has their own labyrinth that is meant for her to travel through, as it will show her in the deepest depths of her soul the strength, courage and love she has to safely birth her baby and be born as a new family.