Uniting mind-body-spirit in birth

Standard

by Rabbi/Doula Denise Handlarski

Birth workers know the power of the mind-body connection. When I was in labour, I used the skills I’ve learned in years of meditation to be able to zone in, work with my breath, and let my body do its thing. But the mind-body connection is incomplete without the spiritual dimension.

Some people use prayer in labour. Some tap into a belief in something they might call “source-energy.” Some do not pray but rather mediate, listen to music that grounds them, engage in cultural practices they learned from their own families and communities. Indigenous women may use a smudge. Some African cultures have an animal slaughtered on the day of the birth to symbolize abundance for the child and help nourish the mother. Whatever your spirituality, it’s worth considering how you might use it in labour or if you are supporting someone in labour.

There are a couple of practices that I find really beautiful that come from Judaism, but could be adapted for anyone, to help connect the mind-body-spirit. One is using the tradition of a prayer for healing. In Hebrew this is called the misheberach blessing. You name a person who is in need of healing (if they are sick or suffering) and you also name their mother. So it goes: ________ son/daughter of ____________. Traditional Jews say a special prayer for them but you could pray for them in your own way, or wish them healing and wellness, or you simply hold them in your thoughts. Some Jewish people will recite the misheberach while labouring. I love this idea because at the moment of your own struggle, the intensity of the experience of birth, rather than dwell on your own pain or pressure you focus outwards. This is a reminder that we are all part of a broader family of humanity and we all share in pain and pleasure, illness and wellness. It allows the person who is in labour to feel both connection and empathy for their broader community. This is so useful because often in labour people find it useful to remember that many others have been through this experience too. I’ve said and I know others have said to a woman in labour: “Women have done this throughout the ages. You can do this too.” I had a Jewish midwife who said she was in a birthing room with five generations of Jewish women. She said to the woman in labour: “all of these women are a reminder that your family and your Jewish community would not exist without the strength of Jewish women in childbirth.” Feeling ourselves to be part of a community is so useful because we can feel the support of that community in our time of need.

Another Jewish spiritual practice that I find immensely powerful for preparing for birth is similar to a blessingway found in other cultures. “Blessingways” is a term created by Navajo (Diné) women for their own pre-birth ritual. I use it in reference to, and incorporate some practices from, the book “Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-centered Baby Showers – Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherood” by Shari Maser. Maser notes: “To me, Blessingway most aptly expresses the essence of these ceremonies. “Blessing” connotes spirituality and community connections and “Way” reminds us that every change is a process, an ongoing journey along the path of life…. When using the term Blessingway to describe this evolving ceremonial concept, let us remember to respectfully acknowledge and appreciate its sacred Diné heritage as our source of inspiration” (2). I find this practice of creating a ceremony for the prenatal mother to be a terrific way to incorporate spirituality in the pregnancy process, as a step towards incorporating spirituality in the labour and birth as well. Of course, my spin on it is Jewish. I respectfully and with gratitude adopt the cultural and spiritual practice of Navajo women for a Jewish context.

What is a Blessingway? Women get together and provide physical acts of care for the pregnant person, surround her with love and well wishing. Perhaps they create affirmations, or some kind of birth anchor. The women in my life each added a bead with a special intention (in Hebrew we might call it a kavanah – a powerful spiritual word). These beads were strung onto a bracelet I used as a focal point in birth.

For my clients, I have created a version of the blessingway that can happen at a mikvah, which is a ritual bath. The mikvah is to be used for cleansing, sometimes after menstruation. I find this to be a practice that has sexist origins, but powerful possibilities. After suffering a pregnancy loss, I attended a mikvah, and created a ceremony to help me release my sadness and grief and allow me to move on. The idea of the waters being cleansing, like a baptism or other religious/cultural cleansing rituals, really helped me forge the mind-body-spirit connection. I had a water birth with my second child, and the connection to the waters was made spiritual for me because of that experience. I also have a mikvah ceremony to prepare for birth and/or for after birth to mark the transition and make it spiritually significant and recognized.

These are a few examples of how I bring spirituality into pregnancy and birth. I’d love to know other examples of spiritual practices that you find useful or meaningful. Feel free to leave me a comment to share yours. Whatever your experience as a person in labour or as a birth worker, I encourage you to find ways to bring the spiritual dimension of life into this very significant journey. We are whole beings and holistic birth needs to account for the mind, the body, and the spirit.

IMG_0320.JPG

This is what a mikvah can look like. You can also use any natural freshwater source that is running, like a stream. If you are not observant and are flexible on the rules, you can use a bathtub or swimming pool.

 

This article first appeared on the website of Rabbi/Doula Denise Handlarski, Jewish Doula: Labor and Birth Services.

Advertisements

Informed Decision Making

Standard

by Sarah Abigail Ejigu

abby logoAre you pregnant?  Chances are your OB or Midwife will have forms for you to fill out and papers to sign.  Imagine you are in labor, arriving at your hospital triage and you still have papers to sign, even if you preregistered!  What are you putting your name on? What are you agreeing to?  Did anyone go over this with you in a way you can actually understand?

It is the responsibility of our care providers to afford their patients what is call Informed Consent. In the medical field, Doctors, Midwives, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, and various Clinicians are familiar with Informed Consent and can be held accountable to include this in their practices. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Ethics/Informed-Consent

In pregnancy, we mothers are most open and sensitive to receiving information.  Even the usage of the term Informed Consent implies that we will *agree* to move forward with whatever proposed measure that may be mentioned by our trusted care provider.  Some may not necessarily be so trusting and would rather approach this process with the mindset of Informed Refusal.  Both are valid, and to be neutral, nonjudgmental and unbiased, this Doula prefers the term Informed Decision Making.

When navigating our way through choices regarding our health, it helps to gather our thoughts in an organized way so that we clearly understand our priorities.  As your Doula, I use a simple acronym to guide this thought process.  BRAIN

Benefits: what are the benefits of any proposed measure or intervention?

Risks: tell me the drawbacks and potential risks also.

Alternatives: what other options do we have in this situation?

Intuition: given the above information, my gut is telling me…

Need more time? or do Nothing: take your time!  it may not be necessary to decide now.

We are definitely conditioned to sign consent forms and liability waivers when interacting with care providers, and we often do this without question… but inquiring minds want to know what exactly is expected of us when we put our signature on those papers, and how we and our babies may be affected by our decisions.  Using our BRAIN gives us power in this decision making.  And it’s no inconvenience to engage with your OB or Midwife in this way.  By exercising Informed Decision Making, you’re taking control of your choices and building a trusting relationship with your birth team.  Tell me more!  NO guessing, NO assumptions, YES please and NO thank you.  It’s YOUR birth & YOUR baby, the power is YOURS.

Learn more from Doula Abby at her website Abyssinia Birth Services.

Midwifery and Postpartum Care From Generation to Generation – From Mexico to the United States

Standard

Sarah and Her Mother Martha: The Cuarantena – From Mexico to the United States, by Imeinu doula and midwife in training Cristina Urista, was published by Squat Journal in the Winter 2012 edition. Please find the article here: Cuarantena Squat Journal Urista Postpartum Mexican

My mother Esperanza (right), a former Mexican partera, her mother Eufracia (pic) who taught my mother the importance of the Cuarentena care was also a Mexican partera, and me (left), currently training as a nurse-midwife at UCSF. -- Cristina Urista

My mother Esperanza (right), a former Mexican partera, her mother Eufracia (pic) who taught my mother the importance of the Cuarentena care was also a Mexican partera, and me (left), currently training as a nurse-midwife at UCSF. — Cristina Urista

Sarah Miranda had discussed the special postpartum care she received from her mother with her Imeinu doula Wendy Kenin after her third pregnancy. They had hoped to document it, to share the important traditions in supporting maternal health. Cristina Urista encountered Wendy the next year.

Cristina herself was beginning her journey into birth work at the time she interviewed the Miranda – Moreno family about the Cuarantena. Doing this research gave her an opportunity to begin to approach her own mother for a deeper understanding of her background as a midwife (partera) in Mexico.

“I am grateful that Imeinu encouraged me to further connect with my mother’s past as a Mexican partera, allowing me to discover that my maternal grandmother was also a partera,” Cristina says. “Imeinu opened a space where I could explore and reclaim my traditional and intergenerational Mexican birthing customs.”

Sarah Miranda (left) and her mother Martha (right.) Martha cared for Sarah according to the traditional cuarantena customs of their heritage after the birth of Sarah's third child, as was documented by Cristina Urista.

Sarah Miranda (left) and her mother Martha Moreno (right.) Martha cared for Sarah according to the traditional cuarantena customs of their heritage after the birth of Sarah’s third child, as was documented by Cristina Urista.

Cristina did an awesome job applying her ethnic studies background to document the postpartum care that Sarah’s mother Martha Moreno provided beginning immediately after delivery of her third child. We were thrilled that Squat Journal published Cristina’s concise and rich article to help share the wisdom of these special traditions for women’s and babies’ health.

After, Cristina joined Imeinu at a home birth and several hospital births. She wrote the story of her own birth, published by instructor Samsarah Morgan, founder of Bay Area Birthkeeper, where Cristina dove deeper into birth work, and you can read it here.

“Imeinu opened a space where I could explore and reclaim my traditional and intergenerational Mexican birthing customs.”

Cristina has been accepted this year into the nurse-midwifery program at UCSF after working for three years as a doula, which followed after the publication of this article in 2011.

It was very special to have Cristina document this practice that a grandmother brought with her from Mexico to Napa Valley in caring for her daughter, our beloved Imeinu client. Imeinu thanks Cristina for her tremendous contributions and looks forward to continued collaboration as she embarks on her midwifery studies.

Mazel tov!

What is Naturopathic Medicine, how can it help with infertility, and is it really different from acupuncture?

Standard

by Dr. Aumatma Naturopathic

Medicine has a few basic tenets that seem almost common sense. Use of natural substances (such as herbal medicine, nutrition, and homeopathy) to help rebalance the body and allow for the healing force to heal itself, is the ideal. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are trained in 4-6 year medical programs that integrate eastern and western medicine. While Western Medicine is primarily focused on diagnosis, followed by “fixing” the problem, Naturopathic Medicine is focused on discovering the root cause. Many people consider Western Medicine to be a proficient band-aid. Western Medicine does have many advantages such as the advance of technology that allows doctors to help with things that even a hundred years ago may have appeared miraculous.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, have gotten good results for helping women rebalance their bodies from stress, reverse the damage to ovaries and eggs, as well as tonify the body overall to be able to conceive. I know lots of women get great results withAcupuncture.

Naturopathic Doctors fulfill a very different need, however. NDs consider it fundamentally important to understand the functions and pathways of the body and intimately understand hormones that can affect health and wellness. In addition to this foundation, however, Naturopathic Medicine also includes training in natural modalities for supporting the vital force of the body to heal. These therapies vary from Naturopathic doctor to doctor, as different practitioners may focus on different therapies. A majority of NDs do practice herbal medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, energy healing, and more.

Infertility is a complex diagnosis with many potential underlying causes. Naturopathic Doctors are particularly proficient in helping uncover a deep underlying cause that may not be obvious. Because Naturopathic Medicine views the body in a holistic way with a myriad of connections (that could be deemed otherwise unrelated), it is easy for NDs to recognize the deeper issues that may be contributing to a couple’s inability to conceive.

In my experience, Acupuncture is a great adjunct to Naturopathic Medicine & IVF/IUI. My recommendation is to go all out, with multiple approaches, because the complexity of infertility needs to be addressed on many levels. All of the different approaches fill very unique needs for the client, but there’s no one right answer. When we, as practitioners, collaborate fully, our clients get results faster. And, that’s what I am all about! When couples are ready to start a family and they are getting older and don’t have a lot of time, I think it’s ideal to use a multi-disciplinary approach. It breaks my heart when clients come to me after having tried acupuncture for 5 years… I wonder why they waited 5 years before trying something else or adding something else? Often, they come from referrals from their acupuncturist, but it’s only after they have fully exhausted their time with the acupuncturist. And, I have been able to help most of these couples– however, I just wonder if they wouldn’t have been saved anguish and disappointment if their work with me was started sooner, in collaboration with acupuncture.

So, overall, what I can offer clients is very different from acupuncture. Acupuncture can strengthen the body, help with stress, and re-balance the energetic body. I really like to work on the physical-mental-emotional from a different perspective. On the physical level, we want to detoxify and clear the channels of the body. Then, we are testing and rebalancing hormones (often undiagnosed abnormalities that Western Medicine missed). And lastly, we work on the mental – energetic layers. In short, using a mind-body approach to conceiving and birthing a healthy child is essential — and can happen easily when you have a team of practitioners caring for you and your partner’s health and well-being.

Remember they say, “it takes a village to raise a child?”…. these days, I say, it takes a village to conceive and birth a child.

Find more from Dr. Aumatma on her website at  www.draumatma.com.

(Yes, that’s CHOCOLATE!) When #Pregnant, We’re Just Different: How To Maintain Sanity

Standard

Pregnancy brain? Hormonal, x35,000? Feel like a complete MENTAL CASE?

All things pretty common when we’re pregnant.

Thoughts like:

“If I JUST had a big hunk of extra sharp cheddar cheese RIGHT NOW, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, would be fine!” (And add to that, a few (?) pieces of chocolate, and we’re set!)

“If anyone else calls me on the phone,  I WILL HUNT THEM DOWN, STEAL THEIR PHONE, BREAK IT, AND THROW THE PIECES IN THEIR FACE!”

“I AM NO LONGER HAPPY THAT YOU WILL BE THE FATHER OF THIS CHILD!”

Woh, Nelly.   What happened? I was fine (well, most of the month, anyway) a month ago, six months ago, nine months ago.

What happened, is, for sure, hormonal changes. What exactly, and why exactly? Not clear. But we need to give ourselves a break.

The whole truth is this: When we are pregnant, we are, in many ways, simply a DIFFERENT PERSON. We have a different makeup.

We could theorize that we are in need of more protection ourselves, as we’re protecting a most fragile being, increasingly growing inside of US.

And modern day culture, which does not encourage a woman to rest for anything,  fuels us an uphill battle.

We feel like we should do it all. Be pregnant, and run a marathon, while keeping a full time job, fully managing the house, and of course, taking care of any children we already have. Not to mention keeping up a good marriage. It’s a lot. Guess what? It’s too much.

Ladies, our priority is to take it easy, however we need to, in our own pregnancies. For some women, this means energy levels aren’t much different (at least perhaps until the end of pregnancy;), and others feel a huge energy drop just after conception.

The most practical tips are simple:

1. EAT.

Eat well. (Whole grains, fruits, veggies, PROTEIN. Did I mention that extra sharp cheddar cheese? I seem to have needed that for weeks one pregnancy.)

EAT FREQUENTLY – you might prefer smaller meals, 6-7 x/s day, including middle of the night. (My husband LOVES to joke about my 3am escapades. Where’d those last two, three, four pieces of gourmet pizza go?)

2. DRINK.

DRINK WELL. (Tea, whole fruit juices, not sugary ones, and water.)

DRINK FREQUENTLY.

3. If you feel up to it, EXERCISE.

Break a sweat, work the muscles. Doesn’t have to be what you did pre-pregnancy, not even close – depends on how you feel. Just follow your body, and you’ll know what feels good during, and afterward. YOU, AND ONLY YOU, KNOW.

4. BLOOD TESTS.

Your prenatal care provider should be sending you for regular blood tests to monitor you. Iron levels, for example, can affect energy levels.

5. HOMEOPATHY/HERBALIST/DOCTOR.

If you feel like you’re drinking & eating well, exercising to your beat, and you still feel depressed, or overly low on energy, consider a good homeopath and/or herbalist. They will screen you well and determine some good supplements for you, which often do the trick. If you have a history of needing antidepressants, and/or feel that none of the above solutions are working for you, consider speaking with a doctor about medication suitable for pregnancy.

Overall, know that you know yourself. Give yourself your time to yourself. Baths, reading, napping all over the place, hire a maid (the money will come back to you), whatever you need.  (Wanna laugh? Read “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” by Vicki Iovine. A must.)

Relax. Drop your shoulders.

And above all, there’s no need to explain nor apologize. Just do your thing, and those around you will get it. And they’ll ultimately be happier for you, and with you. And hey, you can always remind yourself it’s for your baby.

Feel great, feel healthy,

Chaya

This article first appeared on Easier Birth.

chaya doula

Chaya Valier – Israel

Chaya is a doula with 9 years experience as well as over a year of informal midwifery studies with local homebirth mentors; considering going to nursing school and then midwifery school in Israel. Specialize in assisting women who prefer to birth without drugs, and at the same time happily support whatever the situation might be. Main focus is on relaxing the body in order to facilitate the easiest, quickest births, all the while trusting in the mother’s instincts as the central, pivotal, and overall best guiding force. www.easierbirth.com @valierbirth

The Placenta: Alive & Golden

Standard

The placenta is an organ designed to leave the body. Fully, and in tact. Can you imagine if your kidneys, on their own, just left the body? Once given the signals, the placenta, or after-birth, releases itself from the woman’s uterus, literally to be born. If someone gives birth to her child, she also gives birth to her placenta.

Besides camels, we are the only land mammals that do not regularly eat our placenta. In a mainstream culture where the sanitized is favored over the raw, and where 98% of women birth within a system that considers it medical waste, our re-membering of who we are is really at hand.

Placenta is gold! This recipe is jam-packed with nutrients: iron, vitamins including B-12, minerals, and various hormones such as oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’. Ingesting placenta also supports milk supply and breastfeeding.

Mystically, the veins on the baby side are shaped as a tree. Many spiritual traditions reference a tree, or the Tree of Life, as part of their cosmology. Placenta can be read, like tea leaves, or Tarot. That which is most wild, most “out there”, is actually what is innate to us, common, and natural: most “in here”. None of us could be here without it. Without placenta, we would not grow in the mother’s womb. In Hebrew, one of our ancient languages, the word for placenta is שִׁלְיָה, shilya, which is spelled the same as shelya, meaning Of God.

There are many traditions around the placenta. Some cultures historically have made ceremony with placenta, or medicine. Others have eaten it raw, or made a stew. Some have included a burial ceremony. Other options American women currently use are smoothies, tincture, homeopathic, or requesting encapsulation. Women have reported that eating placenta has supported them immensely with post-partum in terms of energy level, mood, and internal support for an extremely transitional time.

I have great reverence for this organ that continues to pulse and live even after it is released from the body. My experience with her is that she is alive. By beginning to see the power and potency in placenta, we can begin to feel the power and potency in ourselves.

Batya Friedland, MA, is an ordained chaplain, Jewish ritual artist, doula, and midwifery student. She offers placenta preparation, as well as workshops and retreats on Jewish Meditation, Direct Torah study, and Hebrew prayer.

Batya lives in Oakland, and can be reached at batyamidwifery@gmail.com.

MICROBIRTH Film Screening in SF 11/3/14

Standard
Microbirth Film Screening
 Please join Imeinu and
“New Mother” author Allie Chee for a
SF screening of the documentary MICROBIRTH.

November 3, 2014
6 – 9 pm
2500 18th Street SF
Microbirth
The film will be preceded by a presentation from Imeinu and followed by an open discussion.

Door Prize! Drawing for 10 free copies of the book New Mother, by Allie Chee.

This year the yartzeit (anniversary of one’s death) of Rachel Imeinu, Cheshvan 11, falls on November 3, 2014. Sometimes celebrated as Jewish Mother’s Day, people gather at Rachel Imeinu’s tomb in Bethlehem and hold smaller Torah learning circles around the world to honor and remember Mama Rachel, the biblical matriarch. Imeinu Doulas & Collective is pleased to present the screening on Rachel’s Yartzeit, the Jewish Mother’s Day, to open up discussion on the ways we birth in the world today.

Imeinu Doulas & Collective is a group of birth and postpartum doulas that provides physical, emotional, informational and spiritual care to the laboring mother, her baby and her family to encourage the most positive childbirth experience. Imeinu serves persons of all cultural and religious backgrounds.

Click Here
To follow the MICROBIRTH event on facebook!