Book Club

I just finished “Babies are not Pizzas: They’re Born, not Delivered” by Rebecca Dekker RN, PhD. In this book, she shines light on the state of maternity care in our country through the sharing of her journey. She starts by sharing the story of her traumatic first labor and birth that leads her on a mission to understand and then change maternity care in the United States.

In the book, she provides the backdrop of our history around childbirth and deepens the conversation with thoughtful discussion about how we have ended up where we are. For those who don’t know, her explorations led to her blog: “Evidence Based Birth“.

As a midwife of 24 years, and a person who has personally labored and birthed in both hospitals and a birth center, this book captures so much of what I have seen and thought over the years. Her focus on culture change being an area we can impact, resonates with the work I am doing at Little Tree. With that, I am drawn to bring together others interested in impacting our birth culture, or those interested in learning more about the current state of care in metro Denver.

If you work in health care, especially related to birth, if you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant or just interested in conversation about this topic, join us for a book club where will will have engaging conversation about the book. We will meet:

November 4th and 18th from 6-8pm

Tea and snacks will be provided. Feel free to bring food (for yourself or to share).

This event is free and open to all.

Fall Cleanse and Core Connection

Howdy all. I have been quiet lately as I engaged in some contract work as a Labor and Delivery Nurse at Denver Health. It has been an experience full of learning, teaching and affirmation of my work at Little Tree. So much to process and I will share more soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to let you know about upcoming offerings at Little Tree.

First, is the seasonal cleanse I do each Fall and Spring. If you have never done this, or would like to do it again with a supportive group, join me in October for a reset that is healing to the gut, reduces inflammation and is so much fun. You can get more details here.

Second, for you birth workers out there, come to Core Connection, the foundational class for Little Tree’s training program. This is the work that was affirmed during my time at Denver Health. After nearly three decades of engaging in supporting people through pregnancy, labor and birthing, I am teaching birth workers how to connect deeply, access intuition and maintain wellness. More details here.

Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis

Oh how I love this herb. It grows in my garden with little help from me. I have tucked it in beds, here and there and each spring it returns, vibrant green. Beyond providing lovely green foliage and small white flowers that the bees love, this herb has several medicinal uses.

The first way I use the Lemon Balm is in a Lemon Balm Calm tincture. I love the amber color the tincture reaches when it is done. Many in my family and at Little Tree benefit from its calming effect.

The second way I use the herb is to infuse it in a carrier oil. I then use that oil to make lotion, salve and lip balm. Lemon Balm is often recommended to treat the herpes virus (cold sores or genital). With it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties, it is also good for acne. In general skin applications, lemon balm is considered calming, soothing, healing and tightening on the skin.

Finally, the herb is lovely steeped for tea – iced in the summer and when I sip a hot cup in the cold of winter, I get visions of the vibrant, green of spring.

An easy herb for beginner gardeners to grow and make herbal concoctions from.

FDA Disclaimer: These statements and the herb discussed have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult your healthcare provider.

Embodiment

I am working with a Doula in training and after a recent birth, she commented that as she observed the mama and I during the labor process, it seemed like we had rehearsed what we would do. We hadn’t. Rather, what we did was move through position changes and transitions guided by intuition, she was part of a labor experience that unfolded from a place of connection. This is something we can all do. We all have intuition, we just need to clear the obstacles that block our access to it. One way we clear the obstacles, is through embodiment.

For me, when I talk about embodiment, I am describing an approach that takes into account the mind, heart and body connection. In this context, embodiment is the moment to moment awareness of what is arising in these three areas. It leads to a feeling, a sense of knowing, that isn’t held exclusively in our rational minds. Embodiment doesn’t negate the thinking aspects that are part of labor support; like where and when to place a TENS unit, or which positions are helpful for posterior babies, but rather, embodiment provides a clear ground from which this information can be applied. It takes practice, and in my experience, it is key to connected, compassionate care in labor (and life).

What does embodiment look like in the birth space?

First I observe, striving for non- judgement. Non-judgement is critical here because judgement, good or bad, is one of the many ways we can be blocked from embodiment. So, without judgement, I notice her physical body, any speech she has, any places she is in her mind. I notice what is happening in the room; the environment and with other people. I then connect with the rhythm of labor, where is she in the process? I mirror her, subtly.

For example, this mama was standing tall, legs close together and she was slightly swaying. Her husband was standing beside her. I could feel in my body that she was holding and tense; in her pelvic floor and in her breath.

I came up behind her and as I took a wide stance, gently said, “Feet apart,”

And then I paused,

She widened her stance.

I bent my knees softly. Low and quietly I said, “Knees soft,”

I left space, noticing what was happening in me,

Her knees softened.

I held space for her husband and we took a breath together.

I touched her at the sides of her hips and gently guided her pelvis to tilt.

My hips tilted. I synched my breath with hers, slowed my breath audibly, she followed. I began to rock our hips side to side. She dropped into a swaying movement and deep breathing. I could feel an opening of the pelvis, a relaxing of the breath. “You’ve got this.” I whispered to both of them (really all three) and I stepped back a few steps. We continued this process over the course of her labor and birthing. There were several position changes and supportive interventions, and very few words.

This is why it looked rehearsed. To the observer, we moved through the process as though it was a practiced dance. And in fact, my experience of labor support is much like a dance; but it isn’t prescribed by a set list, rather it is orchestrated by whatever this baby and family’s path is. From an embodied place, I notice, and from a nonreactive, nonjudgemental place, I enter the dance.

Continuous Presence

This is the first in a series of posts where I reflect on the work of providing labor support. I am speaking to birth professionals – but all are welcome and might enjoy.

In the birth world, we understand that the continuous presence of a supportive person during labor has a positive impact. For me, this is another example of common sense, but as proof, we have research that shows the use of doulas during labor results in fewer c/sections, shorter labors, and less use of pain medication. When I talk with people prenatally about what continuous presence means in my work, I explain to them that it can look different depending on what is happening in the labor. For example, sometimes it means I am across the room, or even in a different room, where I can still hear and feel what is going on with the labor. At other times, it means we are face to face breathing through the work. Supporting empowered, transformative birth experiences comes from knowing what is needed and when? How do we do that?!

In large part, knowing what is needed, and when, requires my commitment and ability to be present to what is happening in and around me. It’s more than just my presence, it’s my, being present, that is important. When I can be present to the thoughts and emotions that are arising in myself, I can respond from a clear place. When I don’t have that awareness, I shift into prescriptive approaches, that aren’t always helpful. A few examples from a recent birth;

I had been with a couple in their home, supporting them through labor in a connected way, but when we arrived at the hospital, I lost my ground of being present to what was arising in me. A lot was going on through the hospital admission process. A process that can be tricky for the laboring person; labor can slow, or the groove achieved at home can be lost. In retrospect, I see that in this case I had gotten tight with the transition and hence, I lost connection with my intuition. When that happened, I fell to an authoritative stance that blocks empowerment. “I know what to do,” arose in my thoughts and I moved to completing a checklist: keep partner connected, keep mama out of the bed, set the environment….. Midway through this checklist, I directed the partner to a position near the mama and at the same time I came present. I felt his body language, I felt a shift in the room and I felt my feet on the ground; I was fully aware of what was stirring within; and a clarity about what she needed arose.

Much later in the labor, this was a LONG one, we were all tired – the mama most of all – she had been working hard for many hours and was walking through a very demanding part of her labor. I noticed an urge to “fix it” for her, my thoughts were spinning – another checklist: talk to the partner about his thoughts, ask the provider to come in and talk about options, talk to the nurse about other supplies…. talk, talk, talk. This time I was present as the checklist arose. I noticed and slowed it down. I opened to seeing, feeling, hearing the mama and the space. My intuition said, be still, hold the space… so I got out my knitting and didn’t say anything. Thirty minutes later she started pushing. An important point here is that in a different situation, this action would not have been helpful. Connected, intuitive labor support requires us to let go of being prescriptive and instead drop into what is unfolding in the moment.

Throughout this labor, I danced in and out of being present. I have never been continuously present. But I have tasted the experience, and I have been witness to the wisdom that arises when I am in that place. I have learned that through ongoing study and practice of mindfulness, self-care and self-reflection, I can be in that place ever more. I have also learned that “getting it wrong”, as I did during the admission process, is part of the dance. We get caught up, and we react from a place of fear, control or agression. I call that reactivity, a fall. And I believe that if I we are not falling about 20% of the time, we either not leaning into our growing edge, or we are not noticing when we fall. Nonjudgemental self-reflection is the tool that helps us grow when we notice the fall.

Based on my personal experience and the feedback I receive from clients and others in the birth space, this approach is transformative for all involved. What is so powerful about it is that it is something we can all do. I believe that when we aren’t pulled away by our thoughts and emotions, at our core we have wisdom. Wisdom that can guide us as we support people through the incredible, intense journey of birth. I am engaged in sharing these tools and practices with birth professionals – new and experienced. A helpful starting place is with mindfulness practices. I have uploading a guided mindfulness practice here. I have a workshop coming up on May 25th.