I’ve been creating some content that I’m beyond proud of and I’m so excited that the beta launch of The Mind Body Birth will be announced in the next few weeks! As a quick sneak peak, I’ve decided to offer a free download on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As a birth advocate I thought I knew a lot about advocacy. I was completely unaware that I had only skimmed the surface, which is something I’ve found to be true in nearly ever aspect of this work.
Moving through the hospital system with my husband many times over the past eight months (and I am extremely grateful we are past it and he is healing) has not only brought me to an entirely new level of education on the subject, it has lit me up to share what I’ve learned with everyone I can — because understanding how to navigate the hospital system is crucial in any medical situation. I’ve pulled a page from my class workbook to share with my following. Learn this information, and remember, you can absolutely set a boundary and self-advocate while keeping your peace.
My heart has been heavy about the turmoil created by the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, and I’ve been talking with several of my most trusted colleagues over this subject for a few days now, while pouring over the court documents in hopes of better understanding it. First and foremost, I am a woman, a mother, and an advocate. I don’t resonate with cornering myself into one side or the other. Things are never that black and white. Dobbs v. Jackson has created a headwind of collective emotions, and I’ve felt every single one of them over the past days.
When something as universal as bodily autonomy comes into the conversation, everyone has a strong and very emotional opinion. When emotions are high, it’s so easy to get stuck in the weeds of political leanings. I am for MEDICAL CHOICE. My beliefs on this subject have no standing on what someone else chooses for themselves. Regardless of our stance, it’s imperative that we all keep a level head and focus logically as we move through the unforeseen repercussions of this historic moment, so that we can rebuild in the right direction.
According to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Roe was faulty from the moment it was decided:
When we have poor foundations, they are bound to crumble eventually. Fifty years later we are at a crossroads. As clearly disruptive as this has been for so many of us, this is also a unique opportunity to bring advancement in the areas of informed consent and bodily sovereignty. The truth is that within our country’s medical system, those rights have been slowly diminished, which is why I am in the work of advocacy to begin with…
Whatever our beliefs are on this subject, we must continue to educate ourselves, and pay attention. Think critically. When feeling triggered about new information, we need to dig a little deeper into the details and educate ourselves on the facts. We must also remember that so many of us are feeling our own trauma bubble up from this outcome. Every single word spoken or written on this subject has potential to cause harm, and it’s important that we remain mindful in how we choose to approach it.
I’m saddened and infuriated. This decision directly affects nearly every aspect of reproductive-centered work, and we no longer have the luxury of sliding under the radar on something so heavy and uncomfortable. I resent those who are causing more harm to others by mocking the opposing viewpoint. This only creates further division. If you have not been affected by the trauma of difficult decision and loss surrounding pregnancy, you need to sit down and practice holding space. Be kind. If you are feeling this decision deeply, it is absolutely ok to listen to your body and rest.
Today we have a massive opportunity to bring our focus back to what we intended it to be from the very beginning: bodily sovereignty. Those of you who are discouraged, I want to encourage you. This moment is only temporary and we will grow from it. Now more than ever, it is important that we make logical, educated decisions about every aspect of our healthcare.
I don’t have answers. This is a very grey area and not one person is right or wrong here (because we are all individuals with unique perspectives and needs). We must look at the broader picture and understand that we can’t cherry pick what applies to bodily sovereignty…If Roe v Wade was physician-centered, we need to bring the focus back to patient-centered advocacy.
It’s been a while, and I want to say hi and share a little. We had a family crisis last month. I was forced to drop everything and put on my emergency hat. I do well moving through emergencies, probably for the same reasons I do well supporting people through birth. I can easily separate myself from a situation and feel out everyone’s needs and support them thoroughly. I communicate clearly, advocate when necessary, and save my own processing for later. It’s more about presence than anything. And then, after my clients meet their babies and are settled in their postpartum beds, I process. I take some time to rest my body and my mind so that I can be present with them in their postpartum transitions. I learned through this experience that supporting others well in almost any situation is synonymous with the core values of doula support. I’m so grateful for this work because it permeates every aspect of my life. It makes me a better human. Regular attendance at births keeps me in a flow state. It’s like growing an invisible muscle that helps me keep my present peace when navigating stressful situations. The correlations between my work and my life are seemingly never-ending — and it fascinates me. By noticing this pattern as I processed this experience, I recognized that there was one aspect of this sequence that I wasn’t always applying to my personal life. Rest. I love this work. It drives me. And work life, home life, social life, current events, LIFE — keeping up with it all can be a whirlwind. It took a family emergency for me to realize that I needed to stop. Rest. And more than anything, give myself grace and accept love from others. After all, we were never meant to walk this life alone. And then I realized that I was moving through the postpartum phase of a transformation of sorts, and I was shedding old, deeply seeded (generational) behavioral patterns that I hadn’t realized had caused so much struggle for me during my own postpartum shift with my daughter. I was fighting the flow of transformation by avoiding an integral component of the process: Rest.
As parents in this fast-paced western culture, I think most of us would laugh at the thought of rest. But it is so important to prioritize rest and reflection for our minds and bodies in our self-care regimens. Especially during postpartum. It’s part of the ebb and flow. I tell my clients to follow the 5-5-5 rule at minimum. We learn about postpartum healing and support, how that looks in other cultures, and what that looks like for each individual family. And although I was applying these practices to my professional life, itwas missing from my personal life. So I recognized this, prioritized taking the time to rest and process, accepted love from those in my family and community — and guess what? Just as I tell my clients, I bounced back faster, I felt supported, rejuvenated, and when I moved out of that state of rest I was grounded.And I was able to move into a state of productivity and growth I haven’t known. I find it fascinating that this lesson, this immense growth, came as I began to professionally prioritize postpartum and work to certify in this focused area. It all works together for good. We just have to give ourselves the space to see it. As we move into the holidays I want to encourage you to prioritize rest, self-reflection, and love on yourselves a little each day. I promise you will find something beautiful in it. I also want to thank all of the beautiful people in my community who offered thoughts, prayers, and physical support. I appreciate every one of you. And I want to share my excitement about the upcoming launch of my childbirth education program —I’ve put my heart and soul into this work, and I’m over the moon to be able to say that I will have some big announcements coming out in the next week or so! Stay tuned, I promise you’ll be just as excited as I am!
Pardon me while I step on my soap box for a minute…
Let’s talk about scope of practice and the importance of trauma informed support. As doulas and educators, it is our job to support clients with INFORMATION.
As in, we should have our hands in our pockets as much as possible.
Why, you ask?
Because too much hands on support can send the wrong psychological signals and unintentionally disempower clients – or worse, disrupt sensitive processes and create trauma for our clients and their babies.
Yes, you heard me right: your good intentions can still cause harm. Anyone who has been properly educated on the most basic level of this work understands that more often than not, the best thing we can do is get out of the way and trust the physiological processes of birth and early bonding.
If you are in this work and are teaching classes on any subject surrounding birth or offering educational support without appropriate education on the subject, please tell me how you know whether you’re causing harm or doing good? You have no business offering clinical support unless you’ve had the years of education and clinical training it takes to become an IBCLC or Midwife — it doesn’t matter if you are a student in these fields.
I heard Dr. David Hayes, who is an expert in the field of breech birth, explain in a podcast interview once that if you’re a provider who has no experience in delivering vaginal breech and you run into a scenario where your patient is unexpectedly rumping, the best thing you can do is put the patient on all fours and go have a cup of tea. That concept works for anyone in this field. If you aren’t well educated on the subject (and no, I don’t mean “I have some hands on experience from being around birth) you have no business offering education. One of the best phrases I learned in my early years of service applies here: “I’m not sure but I’ll find out.” It is not only out of scope to do anything otherwise, it is our ethical duty to do no harm.
How can we call ourselves protectors of the sacred spaces and processes of birth if we are unwilling to understand or learn about those processes on the deepest level? It is ironic at best and ignorant at worst if we who attempt to hold those sacred spaces refuse to understand the importance of understanding and trusting the process — that makes us no better than the medical establishment we ridicule. And if you’re unwilling to properly educate yourself in all aspects of your field, please consider who you are serving in this work: your clients or your ego?
As someone who has spent a lot of time and money studying the psychological processes of birth and early bonding (and I’ve barely skimmed the surface), I implore you — educate yourself before you ever physically involve yourself in these processes. ANY support we ever offer should be gentle and mother-led. Period.
TO BE CLEAR: I understand that we are all on different paths on this journey in birth work, and we can only learn by doing our best and holding ourselves to the highest standards. My issue is with those of us who believe that hands on learning ALONE is better than putting in the time and work to study and understand the intricacies of birth and postpartum. It is imperative that we protect these spaces from our own trauma cycles as well. If you aren’t aware of your own traumas, you need to do some work before stepping into this work.
Aren’t sure where to begin? I’ve got a huge list of books on these subjects, and I’m sure others in your community do as well. Do what I did, dig a little until you find the answers you’re looking for — it all begins with self-exploration.
“Squat 300 times a day, you’re going to give birth quickly.”
Ina May Gaskin
My clients hear this quote and look at me like their doula has LOST HER MIND…
The reality about movement in pregnancy is that we want our body to be comfortable with the movements we use in labor and birth BEFORE we are moving through the process.
It’s kind of like downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)… if you’ve ever done yoga you probably remember the first time you attempted this pose. For me, the thoughts that moved through my head were…
“am I doing it right?”
“everything is soooooo tight,”
“oh boy, I just realized I’m holding my breath,”
“I don’t think I can do this much longer”
… I don’t want you to have to move through these same concerns while in labor! It is so important that we move our bodies NOW in ways that prepare us for labor. And if we plan to stretch and move our babies down and out, we should be stretching and moving our bodies in similar ways now.
I love using this example because we need to understand that exercise and movement in pregnancy is all relative. There is no magical exercise that makes us have a fast labor — there are so many factors involved with how our labors play out. If you’ve spent your entire pregnancy sitting behind a desk for 50 hours a week, you probably shouldn’t be starting a 300-squat-per-day regimen in your third trimester. If you’ve been doing CrossFit every day, you should probably focus on learning to relax your pelvic floor. It’s all relative to your lifestyle.
At the very least, we can familiarize our bodies with movements we might use in labor and learn exercises we can do now to encourage optimal positioning. I always suggest my clients check out the Spinning Babies Daily Activities:
(1) Take a brisk walk every day
(2) Forward Leaning Inversion
(3) Be mindful of your maternal positioning — are you sitting and moving in ways that encourages optimal positioning?
(4) Stretch your body
(5) Psoas Release
(6) Hip Openers
(7) Pelvic Tilts
(8) Rest Smart — use pillows when resting to encourage your baby to “hang in your hammock”
(9) Relax what is tight in general
You can read more on the Spinning Babies website about contraindications and detailed instructions. Don’t forget, it never hurts to talk with your care provider before trying new exercises or inversions!
How many times in your life have you heard the phrase “mind over matter”? That’s a frustrating phrase for many of us because it’s just not that simple. So many of us spend years of our lives trying to control our bodies with our minds through fad diets, rigid programs and self-help books, but for most of us they never work long-term. Why? Because that is not the way are were meant to exist. The mind and the body are not separate, and when we treat the body like it is nothing more than a meat bag that we can manipulate from the outside, we are misunderstanding its processes on a fundamental level. Not to mention, when does one-size-fits-all really actually work? Our mental state is directly related to our physical state. They are intertwined. I know you’re wondering how this has anything to do with birth, and I want to shout from the rooftops that this has everything to do with birth — so walk with me as I explore the mind-body connection.
Try something with me!
Let’s begin with a little experiment. I want you to choose an object in the room you’re in. Any object. I want you to focus on that object for as long as you can without your mind wandering to anything else. Justbewith that object. Take in its essence — the depth of color, the smell — enjoy every part of that object for as long as you can without your mind wandering (and don’t forget to breathe in the process). Every time your mind moves to where the object came from, where you should move it, why you chose that object — any thoughts other than the essence of that object — redirect your attention back to the object.
Finished? How much time passed before your mind wandered the first time? A seasoned meditator might go for 10 seconds or so before they have to redirect their attention, but most of us can barely hang on for a few milliseconds before we have to adjust. Which brings me to this point: how much control over our minds do we actually have?
Consider how we respond to stress. Those moments of reactivity when stressful stimuli cause use to explode in a fight-or-flight frenzy or shut down completely. We feel silly and embarrassed afterward because we didn’t intend to have that response, but we were unable to stop in that moment, be aware of our autonomic response and consciously choose whether we should respond with reaction or with curiosity/understanding.
When we’re out for coffee with a friend who we haven’t seen in a while and we really want to be present with them in that experience; but we find ourselves interrupting their words with our responses in our own excitement, or thinking about what we are going to make for dinner, or that work project we are stressing about. What about those days where we are thinking about work on the way home and suddenly we are home and unsure how we made it from point A to point B? Wewantto be present, but even when we are focused on being present we are still unable to be here, now.
Most of us live our lives under the illusion that we are in control.
The truth is that on average we spend only about 5% of our lives in a conscious state. That means 95% of our lives are spent in a subconscious state of mind. During the first seven years of our lives our brains are in what we can call a download mode. From conception, every part of our development is based on reactive responses to outside stimuli. Even before birth we are downloading everything we come in contact with — our parents’ and loved ones’ behaviors and interactions, everything. The second major influence on our subconscious state is trauma. Our bodies like to hold on to traumatic experiences so that we can protect ourselves from experiencing those things in the future.
So wait, I’m telling you that 95% of the time we are functioning in a state of reality that is shaped by the perceptions of behaviors we learned in childhood and through our traumatic experiences. That’s some heavy stuff. But I wouldn’t be sharing it if there was nothing we could do to change it. And this is why mind-body connection is so important during birth… if we do everything we can to prepare our bodies for birth, but neglect our minds, what happens when we move through our first unexpected moment during our labor experience? Subconscious reaction. Depending on what we’ve downloaded through our previous experiences that means fight-or-flight mode or shutdown — and both of those reactions are what begins that fear-tension-pain cycle.
Birth is about surrendering our illusion of control and creating space for our body to do what it knows how to do instinctively — it’s about getting our subconscious reactions out of the way so that we can move through the passage of birth intuitively. Any childbirth education program will talk about the fear-tension-pain cycle and how education reduces fear, which minimizes the likelihood of being stuck in this cycle during labor, and this is so true. But that is only part of it. I have seen the most educated people overthink birth. I have seen people have the most straight-forward births and be traumatized, and I have seen people have the most physically traumatic births and walk away transformed. Yes, exploring our fears is part of this, but understanding how our minds respond to stress and learning how to bring awareness into the milliseconds before reaction occurs — THAT is a conscious, connected state that helps us flow through this rite of passage we call birth.
So how do we get to that point?
Well, like Pavlov and his bell, we train our brains. We teach ourselves to be mindful or aware of our bodies and our surroundings through repetition, just like we did in the above exercise — redirecting our attention to a focal point, also called Meditation. Now I know meditation can seem intimidating, but that is a huge misconception — anything unknown can seem intimidating. Meditation is only as complicated as we make it, and we must let go of our expectations and explore this topic in curiosity. Just as with anything else, there is no magical one-size-fits-all program or task that can save us from the work. The work is part of the process — it is what brings transformation. Exploring our bodies and minds in curiosity and awareness, learning what tools and techniques work for us in our day-to-day lives so that we can be aware and present — that is how we learn to navigate the 95% of birth that is in our heads.
Meditation is a tool that came to me nearly a decade ago while I was moving through processing trauma from a pregnancy loss. The benefit was earth-shattering for me. It turned my world right-side-up, and the beautiful things I learned about myself during the process of finding the right tools and techniques for me were so empowering. I never stuck with a solid practice, and only used this tool when I thought I needed it, but it worked for me when I did. Years passed and I found myself pregnant and prepared. I took an intensive childbirth education course, did ALL of my homework, made informed decisions, had all the support in the world through my birth experience, and I was still shocked that my trauma (the trauma that I thought I had already moved past) followed me through my birth. My sub-conscious (or reactive) state of mind responded accordingly and there was very little awareness as I slid down that slope and right into the fear-tension-pain cycle.
My daughter’s birth was the most transformative and healing moment of my life. I walked away from that experience needing to learn everything I could find on the psychology of birth. Why didn’t we talk about this intense paradigm shift more than through vague encouragement? Why did we focus more on the one-size-fits-all parts of birth than learning to personalize the most intense part of the experience (the psychological response to the physiological process)? I wanted to learn everything I could and shout it from the roof-tops. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be transformed through birth, because what we take from that experience is what will carry us through the paradigm shift that is postpartum.
After a beautiful, transformative birth I struggled, well wallowed, through early postpartum. I had supply issues and my daughter had tummy problems, and it took months and lots of tears before we worked everything out. One day while moving through that experience, I had a moment of epiphany. I could continue to wallow in this discomfort or I could lean into it, learn how to move through it and figure out what worked for us in this new life. And that was the beginning of my journey in self-care.
You see, before having a child I never prioritized true self-care. I didn’t have to. Bubble baths, glasses of wine, those were prioritized and documented with cutesy hashtags. Even with the amazing tools I had learned, that I knew worked well, I never used them proactively. I only used them when I had already surpassed my limits. The most valuable information I learned in the first two years postpartum was how to prioritize my self-care; how to create rituals and routines and how beneficial that sacred time is… and it has transformed my life. So-much-so that in the middle of my Pre-/Perinatal Educator certification I decided to train to become a meditation teacher as well. I wanted to be able to articulate and share the beautiful process of getting to know yourself on a mind-body level.
I’ve learned how to navigate so many tools of meditation and help others not only prepare for both the physical and psychological aspects of birth, but how to navigate the mind and truly transform the postpartum experience, for both parents. Because the entire family unit is affected by birth — physically and psychologically, and parents who walk out of birth aware and transformed are more equipped to help their child through their own seven-year download. Birth and postpartum may be the most difficult rites of passage we experience in our lives, but what if I told you we have the choice to walk through these experiences fully aware and conscious, transformed and equipped with the right tools and mindset to be present in early parenthood?
I’m so excited to announce that I will be launching my childbirth education course, Birthing Consciously, later this summer. I can’t wait to share all the knowledge I’ve been building over the past three years, and I’m over the moon with excitement to share a variety of personalized tools and techniques that will not only prepare both parents for birth, but equip you to walk into early parenthood empowered and aware.
If you’d like to follow this process and hear all about exclusive opportunities, giveaways and discounts I’ll be offering as we approach the launch of my Birthing Consciously program, join my email list here and follow me on social media. I’m so excited to share and learn together as I move through this process!