Author Archive: Beaon Kozley

Fear of Childbirth Pain: Advice from Real Moms

What do you tell a friend when she is so afraid of pain during childbirth that there is no doubt in her mind she will get an epidural? …Or what if this person is you?

We asked our facebook Mama Goddesses what they would say to a woman who has fear for pain in childbirth.  Please feel free to forward this to a friend who needs it – these are powerful, empowering statements from real moms who have had natural births, coming straight from their hearts and experience.

“The pain will never be more than her because it is her.  Ina May says that, if she feels herself tightening up, blow horse lips, it will automatically make her loosen up, don’t think of it as pain but thing of it as energy or waves or something that isn’t a negative.  Outside of transition, the rest is easy and can be helped with counter pressure, water, changing positions. Hire a doula!” – Sarah J.

Get in water, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I felt the best with someone pressing hard on my tailbone, it relieved so much of the pressure. It will hurt but it will be over, and you will forget very quickly!” – Michelle B.

“Yes, it may be painful, but it is CONSTRUCTIVE pain.” – Kaitlin R. P.

“That’s a challenge! With so much fear, that will be a definite hindrance to an easy labor. I would concentrate on emphasizing that the pain comes and goes, so you get breaks, and that there are things to do beside drugs (all the stuff mentioned above) to help alleviate it. Also, I’d try to help my friend learn ways to cope with the fear. That will make it so much easier to cope with the pain.” – Kerry P. H.

The pain isnt like typical pain… it can be empowering. Take control of it & keep thinking about what it is your body is doing. the more you keep yourself in control, the better you can focus on what you have to do. With an epidural, the intensity isn’t there & sometimes, you need that to get the baby out safely. When I had my daughter, the cord was around her neck.. I needed to get her out. With the next contraction, i pushed with everything I had & she was born. I don’t know if i could have done it if i didn’t have the intensity of the contraction to actually help me get “in the zone” :)” – Carolyn M.

“READ THE HYPNOBIRTHING BOOK! 🙂 xxx” – Maeve M.

“I would encourage her to talk with LOTS of us who have birthed naturally…and with some who have had epidurals. The former group can help create a healthier vision of what labor is like…the latter (such as my daughter who had an epidural for a surgery) can talk about the down side of epidurals. My daughter swore she would NEVER have another epidural and she birthed 2 babies at home without interventions. She is my hero– Sarah Reddin, a BBH member. Her labors were long and intense, but she never ever wanted the side effects of an epidural.” – Kate N.

“…free yourself of the notion of pain..use different language cos it’s self perpetuating otherwise. And it’s really important to look at the whole birthing experience as this most incredible journey and at the end of it you get to meet one of the most important, inspiring and amazing people of your whole life..the love is incredible.. that’s what she will hopefully focus on…” – Maeve M.

“I think in our culture we have been engrained to fear birth pain. Husband coached childbirth changed my idea of this. Yes, it’s intense and it can be painful, but there is a reward for all of it. It’s best to re-think the pain in childbirth as work “labor”. True hard work always pays off in the end and in this case, you get the best gift of all. The pain is momentary. When it gets as bad as you think, it’s already going away. We are just brainwashed by media and people who don’t know real normal birth to be afraid. Fear creates revenue!” – Kristina S.

“I would tell her that it isn’t the kind of pain you know. Not like a sprain or broken bone. It’s more like the pain of hard work, like running a marathon. It’s doable. I had back labour with the first one, and it was 24hrs long. the contractions are like tightening muscles, your body bringing out baby. It’s like the biggest and hardest workout! You know like Jillian MIchaels workouts! Educate yourself, find positions that help labour, like the ball or squatting. Having a Doula or Midwife will help! The worst thing you can do is tense up, you gotta let it all hang out!! 🙂 When you tense up you are fighting the contrations, and that hurts!!! You gotta relax let your body do it’s thing, then it’s not painful, just a marathon:) BREATHE!” – Lauralee D.

The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it IS YOU. ~ Unknown” – Beth P.

“I found the hypnobabies material very good to reduce fear, encourage deep relaxation, and remove sensations heightened by fear.” – Wild Plum Wellness

“There is more time spent in labour between contractions than in them.” – Ainsley T.

“The labor pains rushes bring one step closer to your beautiful baby. Labor prepares you for obstacles of parenthood a reflection of the new life to come. The contractions are do able give in surrender yourself to them don’t resist. The pain is what you make it. The pain can be orgasmic.” – Barbara-ann H.

A giant heartfelt thanks to the mamas above who shared with us their wisdom.  And remember, this wisdom is inherent in all of us.  Birth is a powerful re-birthing process for us, and it will bring out all the baggage we’ve carried throughout our lives.  Pregnancy and birth are times to release all of that and honor our abilities to be free of societal conditioning, past trauma and hurt.  We do this so that we can offer the best to our beautiful children who are doing the most challenging and amazing work of all: leaving our wombs to come out into this physical existence!

Fear can be a catalyst to re-birth.  Releasing that is a powerful process, and if we can do that – no matter how the birth turns out, it will be an empowering opportunity to bring two brand new lives into the world: your baby’s, and yours.

Keywords and further reading:

  • Epidurals: Medical Risks
  • Hypnobirthing
  • Orgasmic Birth

(Please feel free to add more resources!)

A Home Birth Story: The Birth of Alaina Diana Remer

January 19, 2011
11:15 a.m.
7lbs, 8oz; 20 inches

By Molly Remer

©Portraits & Paws Photography

It was a full moon, and I spent a restless, up and down night, getting up at 3:00 a.m. and even checking in with the college class I teach online. My husband Mark got up with me and we talked and speculated. Waves were four minutes apart and then kind of dissipated unenthusiastically away. He went back to bed at 4:00 and I listened to Hypnobabies. At 6:00, I was feeling trapped lying down and got up. Mark got up then too and worked in the kitchen on the dishes and things like that, while I walked around and leaned on the half wall during contractions (it was the perfect height). Sitting down in a chair caused horribleness, leaning forward on the half wall was good. I called my mom and told her to be on standby and to notify my blessingway mamas and also called Summer (doula/friend) to be on alert. I was having back involvement with each wave. I felt like I would have a real contraction and then a closely following, but milder, back-only contraction (no tightness in uterus really during these, but definitely a wave-like progression and then ease of sensation).

I was very quiet during most waves until the end of labor. I think because I was using Hypnobabies and was concentrating on that. Then, I would talk and analyze and be very normal in between. This pattern seemed to lead to a decreased perception of seriousness from others of my need for attention—Mark washed dishes, went outside to take care of chickens, work on fire, feed cats and so forth. My two boys woke up at 7:00 a.m. and as soon as they came out and started talking to me, I knew they needed to go elsewhere. We called my mom at 7:30 and she came to get them. I did not want to feel watched or observed at all, so asked her to wait to come back.

I kept waiting for the “action” to increase and feeling distressed that it was taking such a “long” time. I suggested to the baby that she come out by 10:00. I continued to stand in the kitchen and lean on the half wall, sometimes the table or the bathroom counter. I was dismayed to see no blood or mucous, nothing indicating any “progress.” Significant feelings of pressure and pain in lower back continued and at the time felt normal to me, but looking back seems like an extra dose of back involvement. In another intensity-increasing experience, the baby moved during contractions for the entire labor until the contraction before I pushed her out. She moved, wiggled and pushed out with her bottom and body during each contraction, which really added a new layer of intensity that was difficult. I was, however, glad she was moving because then I knew she was okay, without doing any heart checks.

I went into the living room, very tired from bad sleep during the night. We set up the birth ball in the living room so I could sit on it and drape over pillows piled onto the couch. I spent a long time like this. Mark sat close and would lightly and perfectly stroke my back. Continued to use Hypnobabies—finger-drop, peace and release, with most waves.

Mark fixed me chlorophyll to drink and I threw it up immediately. Called Mom to come back at 9:00 or so, at which point I finally had a little bloody show. Kept up my ball by the couch routine and moved into humming with each wave. I also worked with some contractions on the floor leaning over the ball.

On the ball, I began to feel some rectal pressure with each wave. However, I felt like the waves were erratic still, with some very long and intense and then smaller ones. Hums began to become oooohs and aaaaahs and I began to feel like there was a bit of an umph at the end of the oooooh. Went back to the bathroom and there was quite a bit more bloody mucous and I started to fret about placental abruptions and so forth. Left the bathroom analyzing how much blood is too much blood and began to critique myself for being too “in my head” and analytical and not letting my “monkey do it.” Said I still didn’t feel like I was in “birth brain” and wondered if that meant I still had a long time to go. I started to feel concerned that I was still early on. This is a common feature of all of my births and is how the self-doubt signpost manifests for me. Rather than thinking I can’t do it, I start thinking I’m two centimeters dilated.

I almost immediately returned to the bathroom feeling like I needed to use the toilet. Serious contractions on toilet produced more pressure with associated umphs at the end. At some point in the bathroom, I said, “I think this is pushing.” I was feeling desperate for my water to break. It felt like it was in the way and holding things up. I reached my hand down and thought I felt squooshy sac-ish feeling, but Mom and Mark looked and could not see anything. And, it still didn’t break. Mom mentioned that I should probably go to my birth nest in order to avoid having the baby on the toilet. My birth nest was a futon stack near the bathroom door. I got down on hands and knees after feeling like I might not make it all the way to the futons. I felt like I wanted to kneel on hard floor before reaching the nest.

At this point, I suddenly became obsessed with checking her heartbeat. I knew you’re supposed to do so during pushing and I had stopped feeling her moving painfully with each contraction. I couldn’t find her heartbeat and started to feel a little panicky about that as well as really uncomfortable and then threw the Doppler to the side saying, “forget it!” because big pushing was coming. I was down on hands and knees and then moved partially up on one hand in order to put my other hand down to feel what was happening. Could feel squishiness and water finally broke (not much, just a small trickle before her head). I could feel her head with my fingers and began to feel familiar sensation of front-burning. I said, “stretchy, stretchy, stretchy, stretchy,” the phone rang, her head pushed and pushed itself down as I continued to support myself with my hand and I moved up onto my knees, with them spread apart so I was almost sitting on my heels and her whole body and a whole bunch of fluid bloodshed out into my hands. She was pink and warm and slippery and crying instantly—quite a lot of crying, actually. I said, “you’re alive, you’re alive! I did it! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and I kissed her and cried and laughed and was amazed. I felt an intense feeling of relief. Of survival. I didn’t realize until some moments later that both Mark and Mom missed the actual moment of her birth. Mark because he was coming around from behind me to the front of me when I moved up to kneeling. My mom because she went to stop the phone from ringing. I had felt like the pushing went on for a “long” time, but Mark said that from hands and knees to kneeling with baby in my hands was about 12 seconds. I don’t know. With birth, the inner experience is different than outer observation. What I do know is that the moment of catching my own daughter in my hands and bringing her warm, fresh body up into my arms was the most powerful and potent moment of my life.

©Sincerely Yours Photography

I feel the moment of her birth was an authentic “fetal ejection reflex” including the forward movement of my hips. The immediate postpartum went exactly as I had planned. Summer arrived approximately 20 minutes after Alaina was born. She brought me snacks, wiped blood off of me, and served me a tiny bit of placenta (which I swallowed with no problem!). My midwife arrived approximately 40 minutes post-birth and assessed blood loss and helped with placenta. She said I lost about 3 cups of blood, but I think all of the fluid that came out with the baby, plus the blood from the tears, may have bumped the estimate up too high. I did not feel weak or tired like I’d lost too much blood, I felt energetic and really good, actually. I didn’t get faint in the bathroom either and my color stayed good throughout that day and into the next days postpartum.

My post-birth feelings were different this time. I feel more baby-centered in my feelings about it rather than self-empowerment centered. I also feel more critical in my own self assessment this time—like I didn’t “perform” well or handle myself well. I hypothesize that this may be related to using a hypnosis for birth program, because I didn’t feel “calm and comfortable” on the inside. On the outside I think I looked it, but my internal experience involved more “should” than I like. The hypnosis philosophy wasn’t really a match with my own lived experience of birth. Birth isn’t calm, quiet, and comfortable and I don’t actually think it should be or that I want it to be. However, I was trying to make it so and thus not using some of my own internal resources. I felt more mind/body disconnect than I have before also, perhaps because I was trying to use a mind (“control”) based method on such an embodied process.

When she was three days old, I wrote this in my journal:
She is so wonderful and amazing and beautiful and perfect and I just want to etch these days into my mind forever and never forget a single, precious, beautiful, irreplaceable moment. I want to write everything down to try to preserve each second of these first few days with baby Alaina—my treasure, my BABY! The one I hoped for and feared for and worked SO HARD to bring to this world (in pregnancy more so than in birth).
What do I want to remember?

  • The scrunchy feel of a newborn’s body.
  • The little mewing squeaks and sighs
  • How she is comforted by my voice and turns to me with a smacky, nursie face…
  • The soft, soft skin
  • The soft, soft hair
  • The fuzzy ears and arms
  • The little legs that pull up into reflexive, fetal position.
  • The utter, utter, MARVEL that I grew her and that she’s here. That she came from me. That sense of magic and wonder and disbelief when I look over and see her lying next to me—how did YOU get here?!
  • The miraculous transition from belly to baby. From pregnant woman to motherbaby unit. How does it happen? It is indescribably awesome.
  • The sleeping profile
  • The scrunchy face
  • The “wheeling” half coordinated movements of arms and legs—sort of “swimming” in air.
  • The peace of snuggling her against my chest and neck.
  • The tiny, skinny feet.
  • Putting my hand on her back and feeling her breathe, just like in utero

I was still scared she was going to die until the moment I held her.
Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE is a certified birth educator, writer, and activist. She is a professor of human services, an LLL Leader, and editor of the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter. She has two living sons and an infant daughter and blogs about birth at http://talkbirth.wordpress.com

Supporting Midwives & Homebirths

One of the main missions of Mama Goddess Birth Shop is to support professionals who are dedicating their lives to helping women get ready for and give birth, as well as support them postpartum.

Being a store that sells birth supplies, the best way we can do so is by providing them with the essential items needed during birth.  We set up a whole product page for a midwife/midwifery clinic, so that all a client has to do is visit that page and buy the kit.  As a token of our appreciation to both the clients and the midwives, we have recently set a 5% discount on the kit plus a 5% thank-you commission for the midwives.  The customers save, and the midwives get something out of using our services, too 🙂

Providing custom birth kits is such a wonderful way for us to stay in touch with the beautiful advocates for natural birth, the mothers of all mothers, who are our midwives, doulas and childbirth/postpartum professionals.

Until my sister was pregnant and preparing to give birth at home, I had no idea that home births required so many little items!

My first exposure to home birth was watching the beautiful DVD, Birth Day, in my Child Psychology class during my university training as a music therapist (yes, I had a professor so awesome that he showed us that DVD in class on the topic of child birth. More on this another time!).  But that DVD doesn’t show all the little items that is necessary during birth – especially because being a midwife herself, her birth is not assisted by people other than her family, and she gets to give birth in her own deep tub at her beautiful country home in Mexico.

Anyway, when my sister’s midwives gave her the list of items she needed to purchase, I remember it being quite overwhelming and also exciting, like a first-time camper with her shopping list of camping items.

For those of you who haven’t had the experience yet to know what is in a home birth kit, here’s just an example of what might be included:

  • 24 blue under pads
  • 12 maternity pads
  • 3 mesh panties
  • 2 waterproof sheets
  • 6 4×4 Gauze
  • 1 peri bottle
  • 4 paper covered straws
  • 4 Emergen-C
  • 2 1-lb packages of epsom salts
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 bottle witch hazel
  • 3 alcohol swabs
  • 1 paper tape measure
  • 1 large ziploc bag
  • 2 large garbage bags
  • 1 newborn baby hat
  • 1 umbilical cord clamp
  • 1 bulb syringe

On top of this, if you’re having a water birth, then you would want to prepare the hose, a floating thermometer, debris net, tarps, etc. and of course, the pool itself, whether you’re renting or buying, or your midwives are bringing them.  (For more information on water birth supplies, check out our article here.)  Contact us if you want to know what specific items are used for, or if you have general questions about birthing.

Each midwife has her own specific needs and styles, so that’s why a custom birth kit is an essential part of a midwifery practice.  If you are with a midwife, it would be wonderful if you could let them know that we are here and willing to support them as fellow advocates of homebirth.

We are happy to announce that the newest addition to our Custom Birth Kits is the Freedom and the Seed Birth Kit!  Freedom and the Seed is a midwifery clinic in Tempe, Arizona.  To find out more about their wonderful practice, please click here.  We look forward to serving them and their clients, as well as all of our midwives.

We believe midwifery is one of the most important jobs in the world – and would like to take this opportunity to send our deepest gratitude and love to all midwives out there, many of whom are probably assisting a woman in labor as we speak.

At Mama Goddess Birth Shop, we create custom birth kits for qualifying birth care providers, including midwives, doulas, naturopathic doctors, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, physicians, nurses, clinics, wellness centers, and more.  We value the availability of access to all birthing choices for all women, by providing a one-stop place with high professional quality birthing and postpartum items for families and birth professionals. The custom kits provide a 5% discount off the retail pricing, for your clients’ convenience. For every birth kit purchased, you will be receiving a 5% commission.  We will also promote your services on our website, free of charge.  We strive to create a positive environment for the valuable work that childbirth professionals do, and we hope to be a nurturing place for everyone involved.  For care providers interested in creating a custom birth kit with us, please e-mail us or call us at 1-888-588-7417 x 2 with your name or business name, and we will send you a detailed order form.  Please let us know if we can answer any questions.  Thank you!

The Pros and… Pros… of Mesh Panties!

by Mayu, Mama Goddess USA

Okay, okay, a whole blog post about mesh panties, I know.  But if we were to choose a single item out of our entire store inventory to give a VIP award to –  it would be none other than these wonderfully stretchy, seamless, comfy pairs of disposable wonder.

For those of you who don’t know what disposable mesh panties are, they are exactly what they say they are.  They are mesh, and they are panties.  Disposable, yes, but also reusable (until they rip or lose their elasticity.  Just wash with mild soap and air dry).  They are mainly used for postpartum mamas and post-op patients.  The customers who buy them from our store include both, and often times they are in both categories, having had a cesarean birth, which is a birth and a surgery at the same time.

They hold maternity pads in and create no pressure anywhere so really, these are the only comfortable things you can wear after giving birth, vaginally or not.

And then there’s me.  Never had a child nor a surgery.  This has been a long time secret, and I wasn’t sure if I should publicly announce on our blog that I LOVE to wear mesh panties during my moon time – but once I tried them on (just curious how they felt – testing our products ya know), I couldn’t go back to my pre-MP life.  Now, I don’t rock them during the day (…yet) but they are so comfortable to sleep in, also during pre-moon time (I love using this phrase now instead of PMS – thanks to the authors of Moon Mysteries), when I’m feeling bloated and just want to be comfortable.  For those of you who may take offense to the fact that I’m enjoying these things when you may be in a situation where you have no other choice… I do apologize.  When I do use them for their real purpose, I’m sure my love for them will grow even deeper.

To honor these star athletes of the Mama Goddess team, we’ve created a new kit: The Perineal Healing Kit.  This kit has all the items for recovering perineum care, and includes mesh panties, peri bottles, a sitz bath, maternity pads and our Perineal Healing Wash.  As with any of our kits, you get a slight discount by purchasing the items together instead of individually.

To find the Perineal Healing Kit in Canada, click here.  The US/all other countries, click here.

Thanks for reading 😉

Naming Our Children

When a woman is expecting, often, one of the first questions that she gets asked is this:  “So have you thought about any names?”

Choosing a name is an important part of the initiation into parenthood.

In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (part of the Wrinkle in Time quintet), the theme of naming and un-naming determines the course of the story.  The evil powers, with all their might, attempt to un-name everything in the universe, in their grand plan of trying to erase it.  The protagonist, Meg, finds out that she is a “Namer,” who does the opposite of what the evil “Echthroi” do – she names things with love and care, giving them life and creative power.

This science-fantasy novel is pointing at something remarkable – that a name is not just a word to identify someone, but it is the identity of that person.  It is the thing that blows life into the spirit.  And what is more powerful and beautiful than a parent giving a name to their child, with all their love, hopes and dreams for their future?

There are as many ways to choose names as there are individual parents who are naming their children.  Some may find comfort in a simple name or a popular name, and others may want something unique or different, or be named after someone, a place, or something else that is significant to them.

And for some, the names just come to them.

One of my best friends back home in Tokyo had an amazing experience with the name of her daughter, her second child.  She wanted to choose a name that would work in both English and Japanese, and although her and her husband thought of a few different ones, she was secretly set on the name “Lila” (lee-lah).  She also thought of what characters to use for the name (in Japanese, you can choose from hundreds of different characters that all have different meanings for each syllable).  What she came up with for the characters were not very common (in fact, she’s probably the only one with this name, which is unusual in Japan in the first place, with these characters).   At this point, neither her nor her husband had told anybody else about the name, let alone about what characters to use.

Out of the blue, her mother-in-law called to say that she had written them a letter about something important, and asked if she could send it to them.  They thought this was very strange, but of course they told her that it was okay to send the letter.  When the letter arrived and they read it, they were in such shock and awe that they really couldn’t comprehend what was happening, and at the same time, understood immediately that this unborn child had a powerful spirit already.

In the letter, her mother-in-law told them about a dream that she had had recently, a dream in which there was a strong message from some greater power.  For this lady who is not very spiritual to write a letter about a message that came to her in a dream was very out of the ordinary.

In the dream, she was told that the baby’s name must be “Lila,” with the exact same characters that my friend had thought about!  Her mother-in-law saw the characters in the dream, and because it was such an intense and different dream, she felt like she had to write it down and tell them in a letter.

I still remember the day she called me about this.  “I guess the baby made the final decision for you!”  My friend was just amazed at the connection that she already had with the little life growing inside of her.

I cried when she told me.  I cried not only because it’s an amazing, unbelievable story, but because it just affirmed to me that birth is magical and miraculous.  Because it proved to me that our babies are messengers, angels who come into our lives, full of creative and loving energy.

How are you naming your children? Whether they come to us in a dream or you search the internet for ideas, if we do it with our utmost care and love, your children will own their names, and they will have it as a guide to move through life and fulfill their life’s purpose.

Bringing Babies Gently into the World

In Indonesia, there is an incredible organization called Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth) Foundation.  Led by midwife, author, mother of 8 and grandmother, Ibu (“Mother”) Robin Lim, who is one of the nominees for CNN Hero of 2011, the organization serves 17,000 clients and helps deliver 600 babies per year.

The numbers are extraordinary, but what’s more extraordinary is how they have succeeded to build an organization fully funded through private donations to provide birthing services and other health care services for women and families who can’t afford to give birth.  And this is all because one woman had the dedication, the passion, the love and absolute commitment to change the world.

Giving birth is no ordinary task anywhere, but in the communities around Bumi Sehat, it is an incredible challenge, because people who don’t have the money can’t afford to give birth in a hospital.  In fact, the hospitals won’t let the mothers take their babies until they’ve paid – this situation sometimes resulting in the baby being taken away from the mother to adoption.

Ibu Robin moved to Bali with her husband in 1994, after she lost her best friend, one of her midwives and also her sister and her sister’s baby, one after another.  Her sister died in childbirth, along with the baby.   Instead of being stuck in her deep sorrow, she sold her house in Hawaii and moved to Bali with her husband to start anew, to “reinvent” their lives, and there she saw a rampant need for pregnancy and infant care.   She began to provide free services to pregnant women and children out of her home.  She dedicated herself, her life, to serve families.  Over the next decade, as the demand grew, others joined her efforts to establish their first clinic in Ubud, Bali.

After the Sumatra tsunami in 2004, Robin’s organization was among the first to respond, with medical supplies and health services for the most devastated region of Aceh.

“With or without electricity, with or without running water, we midwives can deliver babies,” Robin convincingly says.

Centered around post-disaster healing, they established their second clinic in Aceh, where they provide maternity care and general health care services to people in need.  With 9,000 consultations and 75 births per year at this location, it is clear that Bumi Sehat was a much-needed sanctuary and it has clearly been making a tremendous difference in saving lives.

One of the leading causes of death for women in Bali is hemorrhaging after childbirth.  Not only is maternal and infant mortality at birth is among the highest in all of Asia, but “a child in Indonesia is 300 times more likely to die if they are on infant formula,” explains Robin.  The fight for survival is not just malnutrition during pregnancy and not getting care during childbirth because they can’t afford childbirth – it extends to the postpartum period as well.   This is why they educate women and families on breastfeeding at their clinics as part of postpartum care.

Robin and her team have a goal, that every woman, women of all economic backgrounds, can give birth gently, and of course, midwifery is an essential part of this.

What does this have to do with the rest of us in the birthing world – both mothers and professionals alike?

This isn’t just a remote cause in a remote location.   Ibu Robin is creating a massive shift in consciousness, bringing the power of birth back to the woman, one birth at a time.  She is the voice for all women, who have a right to safe, gentle, and natural birth practices.

Would you like to help for the sake of safe birthing?

Robin has been nominated for CNN Heroes of the year, 2011.  If she is chosen out of the Top 10, she will be able to receive $250,000 to help more women and children in need.  All you have to do is visit the CNN Heroes page, click on Robin Lim’s photo, put your email address in there and vote!  Thousands of her supporters do not have access to computers, so it’s essential that those of us who do take a minute out of our day to support this amazing woman and her dedicated team of midwives, staff and volunteers.

You can vote for Robin 10 times a day until December 7th.  All of our staff members have been doing this everyday, and we urge you to do the same so we can all be a part of the collective effort in making midwifery and safe birthing a normal aspect of women and babies everywhere in the world.

With peace and love,

Everyone at Mama Goddess

For more information about Ibu Robin’s work, visit http://www.bumisehatbali.org/

For videos and more stories: http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/archive11/robin.lim.html

How to minimize your stress level during the holidays

The holiday season can be wonderful.  A time to celebrate, get together, do joyful things (mainly eat)…  A stranger said “Happy Holidays” to me on the street and that was enough to keep me cheerful for the rest of the day.

But it is also true that the holidays create such a stressful time for a lot of us.   With something like 80% of North American families considered “dysfunctional,” most of us have had a fair share of family drama and trauma.  Therapists say that November – January is the most lucrative time for their businesses because of people being anxious and stressed out during this season.

So what do we do?  How can we cope with things that seem so out of our control?

As a holistic practitioner and therapist, here are my recommendations for minimizing your stress levels during the holiday season, and really, anytime at all:

1) Make a priority list.

Everyday, in the morning, start your day out with a few minutes of writing everything down in order of importance.  This is not just a to-do list, but a guide to maximize your productivity and minimize your inefficiency.

Write out everything that needs to get done that day, then get another piece of paper and order them.  Number one should be the one that is the most important item to get done, and on goes the list.  Be realistic about what you can get done.  I would say, start with 5-10 items on the list, depending on your needs and lifestyle, and then once you run out of things to do (wouldn’t that be awesome!?), make a new one.

For example, my list today looked like this:

1. Take Pacifica (our chihuahua mix) on a long walk

2. Stretch for 5 minutes

3. Ship out orders

4. Call vendors

5. Design work for client A – send out email

6. Update mamagoddess.ca and mamagoddess.com resources section

7. Meeting with doula client

8. Meeting with potential business partner

9. Send out holiday cards

10. Write blog post about how to have a stress-free holiday season

11. Update discount codes

12. Beef, broccoli and rice noodles for dinner

13. Phone consultation with client B

Now, I shouldn’t have to write that I need to take my dog on a walk, but sometimes if I’m not conscious and orders and phone calls are coming in and I have to do this and that, I end up not taking her out because she’s a tiny apartment dog.  She actually goes everywhere with me when I’m running around so she definitely doesn’t have to deal with being left alone at the house all day, but it should be my priority, just like if I were a mother, it would be my priority to feed and play with my baby.  So today, I felt the need to write it down, especially because I had some long meetings during which I wouldn’t be able to get the other stuff done.

I also shouldn’t have had to write that I need to stretch for 5 minutes – I should be able to find 5 minutes to stretch without a reminder, right?  But again, it’s something that I am trying to make a habit, so I wanted to write it down until it’s effortlessly embedded into my daily routine.  By the way, it’s an excellent 5-minute sequence called Makkoho (a Japanese meridian exercise method), so I recommend it to anyone who wants more flexibility and energy to give this a try.  It takes no time and it’s fun to do with your little ones, too 🙂 (Oh, if only we could be as flexible as our babies!!)  Don’t overdo it, because that would actually be counterproductive and make you more tense.  I couldn’t find a lot of good sites in English, so I’ll put a link to this one from the Zen Center of Denver.   I’m going to start teaching this method combined with other exercises, so maybe I’ll make a video sometime!

Once you have your list, use it as a guide – again, don’t overextend yourself, make it realistic, so that you don’t feel like you’ve failed at the end of the day.

2) Don’t check your email throughout the day.

This is hard to do especially in this age of smartphones – but seriously, set specific times during the day to check and respond to email.  Do this for phone calls, too.  Think about how inefficient we all are when we have to “take a break” from whatever we’re doing because we’re incessantly checking our email and answering phone calls.  Again, this is where knowing what your priorities are helps.

Focus on one thing at a time.

3) Collaborate and cooperate.

Don’t try and do everything on your own.  Involve everyone: your children, your partner, your family members and friends to help.  This is a great challenge for us motherly people, who are so accustomed to taking things on, even if we’re already overloaded.  Don’t do an activity or cook a dish that’s time-consuming just because you did it last year, if thinking about it makes you stressed out.

4) Don’t take anything personally.

This is a hard one!  We are so used to it.  We are so used to internalizing external expectations, criticisms, judgments and comments that come to us.  It’s hard to not take it personally when an in-law or a mean relative makes a negative remark about you or your actions.  But whatever they say is completely their problem.  Even if they call you names directly to your face, that is their problem.  Because if a person is truly happy and healthy inside, they wouldn’t have to act that way and project their negative feelings to you.  This can be a lifelong challenge for a lot of us, but it really helps lessen the burden on our hearts.  A book that has helped me personally is The Four Agreements (and the entire series) by Don Miguel Ruiz, a Toltec spiritual teacher.  Highly recommended.

5) Make sure you are physically strong and healthy.

Listen to your body.  If you are really tired, that means your body is telling you to rest.  If you feel like you’re coming down with something, don’t push it.  Take time for yourself.  Laugh and do breathing exercises with your children.  Involving them in relaxation activities can be a great way to relax yourself at the same time.  Maybe creating a time for family yoga or stretching time can turn into an activity your children can look forward to during the day.

Make sure you’re hydrated.  Dehydration is one of the often overlooked causes of many diseases, especially over a long period of time.  We don’t even notice that we’re dehydrated sometimes.  And don’t forget to breathe deeply – even when you’re rushing through an aisle at the grocery store with your toddler picking out random products and baby nursing in the cart and a million people are bumping into you, take a moment to breathe deeply and exhale everything out.  Seriously, it takes a second, and it energizes your whole body and brain.

This is all easier said than done, but once we can make the conscious choice to take care of ourselves a habit, it becomes that much easier to take care of all of our loved ones.  Family relationships can get very intense because it’s hard to establish boundaries between family members, but it is also a strong belief of mine that whether a family member brings in positive or negative energy into our lives, it’s still a blessing: either way, you can be grateful that they’ve taught you a lesson to be truly stronger at your core.  With that said, give yourself permission to release and let go when you need to.

I wish everyone a peaceful holiday season, no matter what your situation is.  You are a beautiful individual and you don’t have to blame yourself for anything.  You don’t have to feel guilty for anything.  You don’t have to sacrifice yourself for anybody.

You are you, and that’s a job nobody else can do, and you’re doing (being) it with perfection!

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share your personal experiences and wisdom here.  We always love hearing from you.

Journeying Through Pregnancy and Birth

Recently featured on our newsletter for the Mama Health section, “Journeying through Pregnancy and Birth” is a powerful, gentle, and beautifully prepared birth & pregnancy CD that will help you relax deeply and create space for a sacred and peaceful pregnancy and birth.

Jennifer Houston has been a midwife for over twenty years, and is a mother and grandmother. She’s a certified Hypnotherapist and an experienced Neuro-Linguistic Programmer. She is aware of the interaction between body and mind, and the power of language. The desire to support natural birth and her witnessing to thousands of births, inspired her to create this new CD that we recently added to our collection of must-haves for pregnancy and birth.

“I want to undo negative cultural messages, help women reconceptualize their experience, gain strength, wisdom and peace of mind.”

Relaxation Advice from Jenna  (some excerpts & messages from the CD)
1) You are your best caretaker.  One of the greatest gifts pregnancy can offer is connecting and nurturing yourself through relaxation.
2) Lie down or sit in any way that is best for your body to relax.
3) Focus on your breath.  Place a hand below your ribcage and notice your belly rising and falling.  Watch your breath deepen with each inhalation and exhalation.  Exhale tension and all unnecessary things, letting go of anything you don’t need.  Inhale oxygen, relaxation, everything you need.
4) Scan your body.  Start from your face and head and work all the way down through all the parts of your body, releasing tension.
5) Connect with Mother Earth.  The way your body and your baby is created is exactly like how Earth is made.  Trust in the natural process.
6) Connect with your baby alive and moving within you.  Feel your baby feeling you – your beating heart, your breath, your love and care.  Imagine what it must feel like to be carried in the safe and cradling womb.

7) Connect with your partner if you have one, connect with your female allies and ancestors, visualizing and feeling their presence around you and their connection to you.
8) Reconnect with your body and your presence in the room by noticing your body touching your bed or couch, starting to move slowly.

—–

1000’s of women have used this CD in the past 11 years since Jenna first made this CD, with glowing reviews:

“With my busy schedule, this tape enabled me to spend time relaxing and nurturing my intention for a natural birth.” K.H., Mother

“This tape is an invaluable tool to help create the change in consciousness that supports a healthy pregnancy and birth.  I recommend it to all of the pregnant women I work with, especially useful for women with hypertension and postdates.” Larry Perl, MD OB/GYN
“In our homebirth practice, we gift every client with the ‘Journeying Through Pregnancy’ tape.” – Connie Coker & Martha Roth, Midwives

“After 25 years of attending births, and the growing fear in dominant culture around birth….I wanted to reframe fear and help women reclaim their power in birth through trust in nature and their bodies.”

I Honor You: Celebrating International Women’s Day.

Today, the world is celebrating women, as International Women’s Day enters its second centennial cycle.

At Mama Goddess, we celebrate women every single day.  It is not a difficult task, as we connect with our birthing mamas, doulas, and midwives, make our tea and products with prayers for safe and peaceful births, ship out birth kits that are essential to the welcoming of a new life… Everyday is a celebration of women, of mothers, of the Goddesses within.

However, on a day like today, when women everywhere are gathering, focused intention and energy is created, and that can be felt with increased intensity in the air, even if you are not directly involved in any particular event.  This is a wonderful opportunity to create a ritual honoring yourself as a woman, and honoring all of the women (as well as the men who love and support the women if you like), around you.

We have a mind-mapping exercise that we recommend for doing this. Please use the sample as a guide.

On a giant piece of paper, draw a big circle in the middle and write your name in the center of the circle.  Around this circle, write down all the things that make you a phenomenal woman (the orange bubbles).  These can be adjectives, all the amazing things you can do, your accomplishments, etc.

Next, draw a second layer of bubbles (connect them from your circle) to write down all the names of the women who inspire you in your life (the purple bubbles).  From family members to friends and inspiring figures, write all of them down in individual circles.

Then write down a description of each of them in the most positive light (the outer orange bubbles), and what makes them important to you.  If any description of them overlap with your own, you can connect their names to the first layer as well.  This makes you understand what aspects of yourself you share with these other women.

Decorate this and color code as you desire ~ it’s such a beautiful way to remind yourself of your own amazing characteristics, as well as those of other women, and the connection you have with them.

Knowing that you deserve the best in all aspects of life is the first step in changing your world.  Knowing that all the other women in the world do too is as important.  Change happens from within, so with each of us recognizing our virtues and letting go of what no longer serves us, we are paving the way to elevate the consciousness of all women and men around the world.

We are all here right now for a reason.  What is your reason?  What is worth preserving for the next generation?  Because honoring yourself is honoring all women, and honoring all women is honoring humankind (even though our patriarchal language has eliminated the feminine out of this word…!), and the survival of this planet.

We urge you to look within, because everything is already within you.  Look within, then connect to others.  If all of our inner wisdom can come out and shine onto the world – that’s when we’ll see real change.  Because women are physically, emotionally and spiritually capable of giving birth, we are some of the most powerful catalysts for change, especially positive change, for Mother Earth.  To honor ourselves, and to honor the femininity in all beings -male or female – is the act of honoring life itself.

So tell yourself and the women you love today these three simple words: “I honor you.”

We Go Together Like… Breastfeeding and Co-Sleeping

“100 years of rapidly changing infant-care fashions cannot alter several million years of evolutionarily derived infant physiology”

̴ Dr. Helen Ball

Sleep and feeding have become some of the most discussed and disseminated topics in parenting today.  How much sleep are you getting?  Do you use formula or just the breast?  When should a child sleep through the night?  Do you pump?  Does dad feed the little one at all?  Do you room-share, bedshare, or put the little one alone in his room?  What about sex?   There is an endless array of questions and judgments and ‘should’s associated with both infant sleep and feeding.  But this hasn’t always been the case.  It used to be a simple matter of mother breastfeeding and mother and infant sleeping together with no judgment and no questions about quality or quantity of sleep.  For this reason, breastfeeding and co-sleeping are huge parts of evolutionary parenting; they facilitate the bond between mother and infant via skin-to-skin contact[1], co-sleeping works to keep baby’s temperature and breathing regulated[2][3] and it seems to provide parents and baby with better sleep[4], while breastfeeding offers vital immune protection to infants necessary for survival[5].

For most mothers in contemporary Western societies, breastfeeding and infant sleeping arrangements are two distinct parenting practices with little or no relation to one another.  To talk about one is not to talk about the other.  Biologically, however, the two are inextricably intertwined.  For much of human history, hunter-gatherer societies dominated and in this domain, women were as central to the survival of the clan as men.  There were no maternity leaves, but the work done by women was of the less-dangerous gatherer type, meaning they were able to do their work with children and infants in tow.  But with this came the necessity for women to sleep well as a woman who is sleep-deprived does not serve anyone well in any capacity (it is truly strange that we have adopted the modern view that sleep deprivation is a “normal” state of affairs with a newborn).  As for the infant, without any alternatives, they required their mother’s breastmilk to survive, much less thrive.  And thus we reach the point at which breastfeeding and co-sleeping collide – in order to breastfeed continuously without immense sleep interruption mothers must co-sleep; and on the flipside, co-sleeping allows mothers to breastfeed more often providing more nutrition for a developing infant.  Biologically, our bodies have evolved to both breastfeed and co-sleep and each seems to have helped facilitate the other.  So how did this separation occur and what does it mean for infant well-being and parenting practices in Western societies?

There seem to be distinct reasons for the reduction in breastfeeding and co-sleeping in Western societies, yet they obviously affect each other.  With respect to breastfeeding, we see the rise of the industrial society, which sent women to work, and science with all its might creating formula which was believed to be superior to breastmilk by doctors for quite some time (for a full summary of this, see Why Is Saving Babies’ Lives Not Enough?).  These two factors alone had a huge impact on reducing breastfeeding rates in Western societies.  This reduction of breastfeeding meant that sleeping arrangements were also free to change, but in addition there was an even greater impetus for change –the belief in fostering independence.

The juxtaposition of a baby’s dependence/interconnectedness and independence/autonomy has dictated parenting practices around the world, though not always in the same manner.  For example, in America the newborn is viewed as entirely dependent upon its mother, yet the desired end-goal is for that baby to be an independent and autonomous individual.  Thus our practices are geared towards that end-goal; we put babies alone in their own room, we don’t touch them very often, and we’ve even removed the dependence on mom for breastfeeding through the use of formula.  In contrast, the Japanese view the newborn as an autonomous, independent being who must be held, breastfed, and touched regularly (co-sleeping is the norm there) in order to build the feelings of interconnectedness they value[6].  Similarly, research from New Zealand has found that cultural groups that share the Western independence view rarely sleep with their infants, while Pacific cultural groups demonstrate lots of sleep contact because they believe that interconnectedness is the way to foster a child’s development[7].  So while there are myriad factors why any one individual would choose to co-sleep or not, or breastfeed or not, culturally this notion of independence has played a very large role in shaping our collective views on the issue.

The problem for Western cultures is that the Western assumptions of what fosters independence seem to be, well, wrong.  Research has demonstrated that the Eastern interconnectedness model fosters independence and well-being to a much greater degree than simply forcing children to try and be independent.  One such example is the case of the Sami and Norwegian children.  Sami individuals are more likely to co-sleep with their children and their children were found to be more independent and demand less attention from their parents than Norwegian children who typically sleep alone[8].  (For a full summary of the link between independence and co-sleeping, see Co-Sleeping: Fostering Independence.)  Interestingly, thanks to a push to increase breastfeeding rates in Norway, co-sleeping has also become a more common sleeping arrangement[9] and children are reaping the benefits.  Similar relationships have also been found in Sweden where breastfed infants were much more likely to sleep with their parents than formula-fed infants[10].

I have mentioned some of the logistical reasons for breastfeeding and co-sleeping to go together, but is there more than that?  After all, if it’s a matter of pure logistics, wouldn’t it simply be a matter of whatever works to separate the two?  Turns out there are a couple of rather important effects that each practice has on the other and we’ll start with the effects of co-sleeping on breastfeeding.  As previously mentioned, co-sleeping is greater amongst breastfeeding mothers[11], and while increasing breastfeeding has increased co-sleeping rates[9][10], the fact it that co-sleeping actually facilitatesmore breastfeeding.  If you compare mothers who breastfeed, those who co-sleep breastfeed up to twice as much at night over those who do not co-sleep[12].

Why is this important?  Dr. Helen Ball has done research on the effects of sleep location on breastfeeding and come to some rather interesting (though expected) conclusions.  Namely, co-sleeping right from the start reduces the chances of having breastfeeding problems.  Specifically, Dr. Ball looked at sleep locations for new mothers and their infants and randomly assigned women to one of three location types – either those that facilitated mother-infant access (i.e., bed-sharing or putting the infant in a three-sided crib that was attached the parent bed, much like an official Co-Sleeper) or those that did not (i.e., a standalone bassinette next to the mother’s bed).  Mother-infant dyads who had sleeping arrangements that facilitated mother-infant access showed greater successful suckling than those who were in the standalone bassinette group[13].  Upon follow-up with these same mothers, it was found that these effects of early co-sleeping continued at 16 weeks, with twice as many mothers in the unhindered access groups both breastfeeding and exclusively breastfeeding[14].  Note that this doesn’t even cover women who may have their newborns in a separate room from themselves as all three groups were at the very least room-sharing, but it was the bed-sharing (or three-sided crib) that facilitated breastfeeding.  Why does this happen?  As previously mentioned, infants who co-sleep tend to feed (or at least suckle) for twice the amount of time as non-co-sleeping infants[11].  Stimulation of the nipple is necessary for the production of prolactin, the hormone that allows for milk secretion, and thus the reduction in suckling or nursing can lead to deleterious effects on milk production or the maintenance of a mother’s milk supply[15].  In short, by getting your baby into bed with you right away, you reduce the chances of having supply issues when breastfeeding.

Now, what of the effects of breastfeeding on co-sleeping?  First you must remember that the biggest argument against co-sleeping is to do with infant deaths.  Many people argue that co-sleeping increases the risk of death via suffocation or SIDS.  While there is no direct evidence that breastfeeding causes a reduction in SIDS for co-sleeping babies, there is ample circumstantial evidence to suggest this is the case.  Most prominently, cross-cultural data shows that cultures in which co-sleeping and breastfeeding are the norm have substantially lower SIDS rates than cultures in which they are not the norm[16][17][18].  For example, Japan has long been considered the pinnacle of success with respect to SIDS deaths as their rates are generally half of other industrialized nations and co-sleeping is also the norm there (see Bedsharing and SIDS: The Whole Truth for a full review of their practices and SIDS rates).  It is possible that breastfeeding has nothing to do with their lower SIDS rates, except that we know breastfed babies are at a much lower risk for SIDS more generally[19][20][21][22][23].  Breastfeeding in and of itself reduces the risk of SIDS; in a meta-analysis on the relationship between breastfeeding and SIDS, it was found that while any breastfeeding more than halves the risk of SIDS, exclusive breastfeeding has an ever greater effect[24].  Furthermore, duration and intensity of breastfeeding have also been found to relate to SIDS levels, with greater duration and intensity leading to a lower risk of SIDS[3].  If you recall, it has also been found that co-sleeping babies breastfeed up to twice as long as non-co-sleeping babies.  It is therefore reasonable to assume that the extra breastfeeding during co-sleeping serves as added protection against SIDS.

An additional hypothesis for how breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS for co-sleeping infants comes from Dr. James McKenna who has posited that the arousals from breastfeeding keep the infant from falling into a deeper sleep which may lead to a “failure to rouse” [25].  This “failure to rouse” has been discussed as a potential mechanism behind SIDS – infants reach too deep a level of sleep and they are simply incapable of coming out of it, kind of like entering a coma.  Breastfeeding thus increases the number of infant arousals (though not full wakings) and this is greater during co-sleeping and is especially true for breastfeeding dyads not only because of mom’s movements, but because of the frequency of feedings.

Another way in which breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of SIDS (and did for many years) is by the position in which the infant sleeps.  Breastfeeding infants are less likely to sleep prone because it doesn’t facilitate breastfeeding as easily; in order for an infant to breastfeed, he or she needs to be on his or her back or side.  An infant in the prone position simply cannot reach or latch onto the breast (unless the prone position is on mom).  This also helps reduce the chances of infants suffocating, as a baby in the prone position who cannot roll over is at greater risk for suffocation.

Indeed, breastfeeding also seems to be related to practices that reduce the risk for suffocation.  Research has found that maternal-infant behaviour in bed is different amongst breastfeeding mothers than formula-fed infants[26] with certain behaviours, like facing the infant and having the infant lie at chest level, being much more prominent in breastfeeding dyads.  Dr. Helen Ball has done this work and while some of these behaviours may seem trivial, they can be imperative for keeping an infant safe.  For example, a child who lies at chest level (as opposed to head level, which is what Dr. Ball found to be more common in formula-fed infants who co-slept) is less likely to be surrounded by pillows which are considered dangers for suffocation.  They are also less likely to be too close to a headboard which is a known hazard as babies have fallen between the headboard and mattress and suffocated.

I would also like to add my own hypothesis here.  There is evidence that bonding is generally greater for breastfeeding dyads – the reason being that there seems to be more eye contact between mom and baby during a breastfeeding session than a bottle-feeding session[27].  I believe that the bonding that occurs during daytime feedings serve to heighten mom’s awareness of and about her baby, leading her to be intuitively safer at night.  That is, a mother who has bonded with her child is more aware of her child’s presence at any given point and I believe this extends to when we are sleeping (barring the use of any illicit substances).  Of course, research needs to be done to test this – it’s just educated speculation at this point, but I struggle with the idea that all this bonding doesn’t extend its effects into the evening hours.

Hopefully the link between breastfeeding and co-sleeping is now clear.  The benefits they offer each other are neither superfluous nor easily available by other means.  In changing our parenting practices, we have developed other problems.  Western countries have alarmingly high rates of breastfeeding problems and much higher rates of infant mortality(notably SIDS) than other countries who have similar medical advancements but also breastfeed and co-sleep on a regular basis.  Interestingly, we also have a high rate of sleeplessness by new mothers– so much so that we joke about never sleeping again when people have a new baby – and our children have unusually strong attachments to objects for sleep (e.g., security blankets, stuffed animals).  Neither of these are universal.  In fact, research has shown that breastfeeding mothers who co-sleep get more sleep than both bottle-feeding mothers and mothers who breastfeed, but do not co-sleep[28].  Additionally, children who are solitary sleepers show a greater need and use for security objects and sleep aids[29].  So not only do our sleep and feeding practices have significant consequences (i.e., breastfeeding troubles and infant death), we see smaller consequences in the majority of new moms and their children.  Isn’t it time we recognized not only the benefits of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, but the symbiotic nature of the two?

Did you co-sleep?  Breastfeed?  Did you experience any of the deficits/benefits associated with your particular feeding and sleeping style?

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Tracy Cassels is a loving mother and wife, PhD candidate of Developmental Psychology at UBC, and the creator and writer of Evolutionary Parenting, a highly informative, research-based website on parenting: “parenting that focuses on using the tools evolution has provided for us to raise happy, healthy, moral, empathic, and intelligent children.” 

Article used by permission from http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/?p=280