Posts Tagged ‘doulas’

The Top 15 Blooma Blog Posts: #2 – “13 Reasons Why You REALLY Want a Doula”

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Doulas are birth magic, Blooma Family. Aside from the amazing facts this article by the incredible Alisa Blackwood goes through, there is one reason we want to add (call it the bonus reason): Doulas are trained to hold space for you. They inhale anxiety and anger and pain and exhale peace into your room. They hold your partner’s hand while you cannot. They talk to nurses and midwives and family and provide the space you need to give birth in whatever way works that day, for you. They will stand up for you, support you in your choices, and then afterwards, tell you your birth story and give you a hug, telling you that you did a great job. EVERYONE can use a doula – whether you are birthing in a hospital or in the woods, whether you are waiting until your water breaks at 42 weeks or whether your C-section is already on the calendar. Can you tell we have so much love for doulas? Well, if this short rant hasn’t convinced you yet, please read Alisa’s beautiful words in this, our number 2 in the Top 15 Blooma Blog posts of all time: “13 Reasons You REALLY Want a Doula” Lots of Blooma love, Ann + The Women of Blooma

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Posted in Birth, Pregnancy | 1 Comment »

And Then He Came….

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Thank you so much to the brave, amazing Kelsey, who shared this story with us. Kelsey, we are so proud to know you in our community, and so grateful you found such beautiful words to share your story. A note – this amazing piece comes with a trigger warning.  Thank you again, Kelsey, Ann AndThenHeCame1 {By: Kelsey Starrs} Selah, oh and it means Praise and meditation, and then he came – “Selah,” by Lauryn Hill   I have given birth three times. Once on an operating table under general anesthesia while my baby was delivered out of me by suction and curettage. Once supine on a hospital bed, pushing for four hours while numb from the waist down, delirious from 50 hours of labor and zero sleep. And once lying on my left side, bearing down in irrepressible convulsion while I roared my baby out with unmedicated ferocity. My first birth made me a mother. My second birth made me a mommy. My third birth made me a believer. I cried at each of my births. The first time, the tears were grieving tears. Three days earlier, I had learned at my 19-week ultrasound that my baby had died in utero, a full four weeks prior to us finding out. I begged my body to go into labor so I could feel my baby pass through me, the only experiential evidence I would ever have that he was real, alive, mine. The only way I would ever hold him. But my body, like my heart, wouldn’t let go. So as the IV dripped into my arm and a kind nurse instructed me to count backward from 100, I wept the tears of bereavement, of a mother telling her child goodbye. I cried because he left.   AndThenHeCame14   The second time, the tears were petrified tears. I had only ever known birth as death. I wonder if a lot of mamas who have grieved babies are scared to their very cores as they endeavor the formidably brave task of bringing another life into being. Though the child in me flailed and kicked as if she were at a U2 concert, I just couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe her body would come out of me breathing and screaming and pulsating with life. We rocked in a chair and called her by name, that name that means Life itself. I cried because I was terrified she would leave.   AndThenHeCame13   The year after this birth, I sobbed rivers of tears as the very fabric of who I was came undone and I descended deeper and deeper into perinatal mood disorder. I didn’t stop crying until God and Zoloft saved my life. Then I cried as I worked my ass off arranging and rearranging the pieces until the quilt of myself made sense once again. The third time, the tears were different. They were not only the tears of grief and fear. They were the tears of redemption as well. Tears of worship. Tears of Mama Heart. They came on the ball, in the shower, just me, my husband, and the hot water streaming down and intermingling with the hot water streaming from my eyes. “I found my tears,” I said to our birth priestess* when she met me in the steam. “They are good tears.” *Doula Liz. Don’t give birth – especially unmedicated – without a doula! But, I mean, you know, do what’s right for you.   AndThenHeCame10   “What are you feeling?” She asked me. “I feel my babies. I feel my love for them, my overwhelming love for them. It’s flooding every fiber of me and giving me courage and strength. I feel my love for Samuel. I feel my love for Geneva. And I feel my love for Miriam. They’ve come to me here, and I’m holding them. I want to hold them and cherish them and pour every ounce of myself out in love for them. It hurts so good.”** **Clearly, I didn’t really say any of that. I was birthing! More likely, I uttered some jumbled words and groaned a whole bunch. Had I been in my conscious mind, however, this is what I would have said. These were the tears of love: for the babies, for motherhood, for a life brought back from the brink. These were the tears of gratitude: this birth the culmination of two years of healing and transformation, without which this baby’s life would have never been possible. And these were the tears of visitation: my babies came to me in that shower, every last one of them. This time, as Sammy came to me from Beyond, I got to hold him again in the only way I can now, when I connect emotionally and feel him in my heart. He was the vapor that filled the room, he was the tears that streamed down my face. I cried because he came, and it was glorious. There comes a time in every birth when a woman faces her darkest hour. My first birth, that hour came as a needle pierced my skin and I agreed to surrender to death. My second birth, that hour came as hours stretched into days and I pushed and pushed and pushed some more and agreed to surrender to life. My third birth, that hour came as a ring of fire and I finally agreed to surrender to belief. Belief in life beyond death, belief in life after death, belief that I can embrace both life and death in these lionhearted mama arms of mine. Belief that it is possible for a life to be redeemed and remade, to go through hell and come out transformed for good and for the better. Belief in One who redeems, in Spirit speaking to Gut. Belief that I have been made into a Mother, with a body and a mind and a heart and a soul brave and faithful enough to take off every mask as I make my way to the center of the birth labyrinth and bring this child forth. He came. She came. They surrounded me as I birthed their sister into being. When they placed Miriam on my chest, my entire being came together as the reconstructed quilt that was her receiving blanket. And I wept. On that quilt, there is a Sammy square, an Eva square, a Miri square. Each one stitched with heartbreak and fear. Each one held together also by belief and vulnerability and valor and love. I cried because they came and because I became whole. AndThenHeCame8 A word about words: I use the word “unmedicated” to describe my birth because for 90% of it, including transition and pushing, my body did not have the aid of any medicinal pain management. At hour 10 of 19, my endurance was waning, and I opted for two hours of take-the-edge-off Fentanyl. And toward the end, when I was stuck in transition and nipple stim just wasn’t cutting it (okay, I kept pushing my well-meaning husband away in immense irritation), we opted for Pitocin to help dilate those last precious centimeters. I realize that some would call this a medicated birth based on those two interventions. In my experience, however, there is a landscape of difference between the experience of an epidural and the experience of Pitocin given without pain medication – one numbs sensation, the other intensifies it. When I hear the word “medicated,” the images evoked are vastly different than when I hear “Pitocin, without pain medication,” and the latter more accurately depicts my experience. Thus, I claim the word “unmedicated” not as a medal of honor nor a languaging soapbox, but because it seems to best capture the timbre of this birth. AndThenHeCame2

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Posted in Birth, birth story, You Are Not Alone | 1 Comment »

Postpartum Doulas: Solving a Problem Many New Moms Experience

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

{By: Jill Reiter CPD, CAPPA Postpartum Doula Faculty} I became a mother in a flurry of chaos. Was it the same for you? My husband had been deployed in Iraq for four months. He arrived home less than 24 hours before our daughter was born. Yippee! Together we welcomed our daughter into the world. I blinked and 17 days passed. He had to go back to Iraq to finish his deployment. Saying goodbye and not knowing if he would return to us broke my heart. I was alone and isolated. The isolation wasn’t only because my husband was in Iraq. Many mothers experience this feeling after their baby arrives. I wished for someone to give me permission to share how hard it is to be a new mom. My family and friends tried to be supportive. For all their advice, what I heard was, “You’re doing it wrong.” They knew where my baby should sleep, what she should eat, and how I should do things. Even books on parenting vastly differed on what was “right.” No one asked how I was feeling, or why I made the choices I did. I wished someone would have said…
  • “You are doing a good job!”  
  • “I have answers to your biggest questions.” How do I calm her when she cries? Am I feeding her enough? Is she getting enough rest?
  • “Go take a nap or shower. I’ll watch your baby.”  
  • “I made dinner for you.”   
  • “Why don’t you relax and snuggle your baby while I tidy the kitchen?”
woman in rainy window Fast forward a few years. I was a mother of three and looking for work. I wanted a job with flexible hours. I wanted to do something that was empowering to me and other women. I wanted the time I spent away from my family to be meaningful. I wanted to make a difference. That’s when I learned that I could give other women the kind of support I had wished for. I became a postpartum doula. Baby bathtime You haven’t heard of postpartum doulas? I get that a lot. I also work with a lot of new parents. People search me out to support them. I believe we’ve heard the word “postpartum” so often when discussing Postpartum Mood Disorders like Postpartum Depression, as in, “I have postpartum,” that we’ve forgotten the true meaning of the word. Guess what? “Postpartum” actually means the time after you have a baby. Experts disagree on the exact length of the postpartum period so I describe it as the first few months after you have a baby. After birth, every woman is “postpartum” or in the postpartum period. Postpartum doulas support families who recently had a baby or babies. The more people talk about postpartum doulas, the more families will benefit from our care. What do postpartum doulas do? We “mother” the mother. We answer questions. We listen. We teach. We help make life easier for new parents. We are non-medical. We follow a scope of practice.  My career is now full of snuggle time with newborns, aha moments with new moms, and dads who grin ear to ear while calming their new baby so mom can rest. So many people I talk to about my journey say, “I could have used a postpartum doula after I had my baby.” Are you the kind of person who answers questions for new parents?  Do you bring them a meal?  Do you give them tips and tricks that make life easier for them?  If a friend or family member has a baby do they look to you for answers? Could you see yourself as a postpartum doula? Whether or not you are a mother, you can join me in supporting women. The value you offer as a helper can become your career. This journey begins with a three-day postpartum doula training. Training creates a foundation of knowledge. You’re invited. You matter, and if you are reading this, I bet you are called to make a difference in the lives of parents and their babies. During training, I’ll share all the information you need to help you start this journey as a professional. I’ll be there to mentor you. I will provide you with the support you need to help others and to make a difference. And together… we’ll create a new story of early motherhood. We’ll support new mothers so they don’t feel isolated. We’ll help them understand their babies. We’ll mentor them to find their way. We will change the world, one family at a time. Mixed Race Young Family with Newborn Baby Join Blooma’s upcoming Postpartum Doula Training with Jill Reiter. Learn, laugh, and share space in a training filled with like-minded women who are all seeking to help mamas navigate those first tricky months of motherhood. For more information about Jill Reiter and her work as a postparutm doula, go to www.theafterbabylady.com or find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/theafterbabylady  

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Birth Story: “My Heart Instantly Loved Her”

Friday, April 4th, 2014

{by Katie Dohman} When one of my two doulas, Nicole Stecker, asked me at our prenatal meeting what physical thing I’d done despite my own disbelief—I think she was looking for something here like “running a marathon” or “rock climbing” or maybe even one of those Couch to 5K deals—I didn’t even have to think about it. “I haven’t,” I admitted. “I’ve always quit.” I was in the midst of a huge body journey, on a couple of levels, only I didn’t know it. I started out my pregnancy planning on staying with my very competent OB/Gyn. But I had a twinge in my gut. When I realized there wouldn’t be much choice in my delivery options with her, I thankfully thought to call a doula. Turns out, I got the Two-la: Nicole Stecker and Amber Kay Bastian! Everything changed from that moment. I switched providers relatively late in my pregnancy and I got a midwife. I switched hospitals. I decided I wanted to try for a drug-free labor and delivery. This decision flew in the face of every physical thing I had avoided doing my whole life. My body was just the container for my brain. I was NOT into anything that made me remotely uncomfortable. It’s still on my life list to never run a marathon (I’m succeeding wildly, by the by). Despite a vomitorious first trimester, I had a smashing pregnancy. I loved having my baby with me everywhere I went. I loved my protruding belly, my weight gain, and oh! The hair and nails. They were glorious. I felt beautiful. I know: Gag. But that was after 32 years of never feeling quite enough. My body was doing something it was meant to do. Until week 32. I went to the midwife’s office for my regular checkup. It was my birthday. I had scheduled it on purpose that way, because I wanted to hear the baby’s heartbeat as a gift to myself. The appointment was going as planned until I asked if the baby was still head down. The midwife felt around a beat too long.

katies bump web

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Birth Story: “Roaring — a Tool for My Own Power”

Friday, March 7th, 2014

I was (am) a Blooma mama. Reading the positive birth stories on Blooma’s blog was really important to me when I was preparing for my baby’s birth last year. Anika recently turned a year old and, partly in celebration, I have finally managed to finish her birth story. —Lydia

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The Words We Use (and Why It Matters During Birth)

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

It’s not every day that we get to peek into the minds of birth professionals, to learn how they support birthing women and their babies. This is important stuff though — especially if you’re a pregnant woman assembling your birth team. It’s vitally important to surround yourself with birth workers who are tuned into both your health and your pregnancy and birth experience.

Part of what to consider is the language birth workers (midwives, doctors, nurses, and doulas) use with you. When you sit in a prenatal appointment, which words does your care provider use? Do you feel empowered and listened to, or fearful when you leave that appointment?

If you’ve given birth already, what kinds of phrases or words felt best to you during labor?

On this topic, comes a guest post — a fascinating conversation between Mary Malotky, Certified Nurse Midwife, and Emily Rumsey, a labor & delivery nurse. Both work in a large, busy, urban hospital. Both have experience with all types of births — vaginal, surgical, medicated and unmedicated. Both know that the way you speak to a woman in labor, in all types of birthing scenarios, can dramatically shift her perception and experience of birth.

“At a time when a woman’s body and resolve are profoundly challenged, a laboring mother needs to feel empowered by her caregivers. The language we use around her really is the thread knitting together her labor and birth experience,” Mary says.

If you’re pregnant for the first time, you may not be sure what to expect — or what you deserve — when it comes to something as seemingly simple as the language used during birth. What you deserve, is kindness. Patience. Encouragement. All of this, from your skilled, trained birth attendants. You deserve to feel wrapped in support as you bring new life to this world. Because this day — your birthing day — is one you and your baby will remember forever. -Alisa

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A Conversation About Language in Birth {by Mary Malotky & Emily Rumsey}

Mary:  Growing up, I remember sitting with my mother and siblings in the front pew at church listening to my father offer a sermon to the congregation.  His sermons were well written and well delivered.  I often found them compelling and moving. But the first time I really understood that words were powerful and could affect people for good or ill was when I was in middle school. I come from a large family of six kids, closely spaced. When the two oldest were teenagers, my mother took a community education class on positive communication. (I wonder why she felt she needed that!) Anyway, the class taught specific tools for improving communication, the most important being the use of I-messages where you always start your sentences with “I.”  ie. “I  am concerned that you will break the door when you slam it in my face .” The second most important part of the I-message was framing issues/conflicts/concerns in terms of how any given situation makes you feel. So, “I feel frustrated when you slam the door in my face while I am speaking to you and I am concerned that the door will break.” You get the idea. My mother would come home and practice these communication strategies on us and she expected us to use them as well. It was all so contrived and mechanical! We hated it. We made fun of it. We resisted it. But it worked. A simple change of word order or word choice and the interaction improved dramatically! Without even realizing it, these became the communication tools we ourselves used and the ones we eventually taught our children. Words, and how we use them … birthlanguage Emily: My parents are both staunch advocates of good communication. Writing was a mandatory skill, and one of my toys with which to tinker, when I was young. My mom assigned “creative writing” tasks over summer break so my pencil, notebook, and mind wouldn’t accumulate dust. The most memorable assignment was: “write anything you can about macaroni & cheese.” I was in fourth grade. This seemed impossibly stupid at the time. I wrote an essay about a kid who ate macaroni & cheese at her child-sized picnic table and choked, being saved by her best friend who vigorously performed the Heimlich maneuver.  Perhaps a fast-paced medical future was always in my master plan… My macaroni & cheese wordsmith days were the first time I knew that I had within me the power to generate a story or idea that didn’t exist before. But the first time that I thought about the difference between good writing and great writing was in high school, when my favorite English teacher quoted Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”  Hearing Twain’s words, quoted by a mentor who analyzed word choice with algorithmic precision, I realized this: perhaps there is not just anew way to say things, but also a way to say things with intention.

Mary:  Twain was a genius. The culture in which we grow up, work or play, informs our language and communication style. We learn to say things the way we do. We can also unlearn to say things and learn a better way. A lot of what we do and say in a hospital Labor & Delivery Unit is simply done to fill a vacuum of activity or silence, avoid uncertainty, take control or feel useful. Simply being “quiet” by being “present” doesn’t feel adequate, so we do and say some crazy stuff.  As the 4 year old daughter of one of our nursing assistants says when confronted with an adult’s idea of what is good for her, “It’s all just tricks and silliness.” Second stage (“pushing”) in the hospital is full of tricks and silliness. Arbitrary deadlines, imagined roadblocks, and lots of crazy talk.  Not literally, but we do say all kinds of things to a woman while she is pushing to make ourselves feel useful.  Think of the oft repeated phrase, “push, push, push, push, push, 6,7,8,9,10!,” as if the very DNA of the laboring mother wasn’t issuing the same directive to every cell in her body! Walk into the average Labor & Delivery room where a mom is pushing and this is what you will hear.  Even the family gets into the act, shouting to push HARDER and LONGER. Usually this is completely unnecessary and the shouting simply raises the tension in the room. It also conditions the mother to believe that, without this outside instruction, she cannot be successful. Who’s got the power now? Research in sports motivation reveals that more vocal and vigorous encouragement like, “Two more reps! Push it to the max!,” actually produces poorer results than quiet support. Brandon Irwin, assistant professor, Dept of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, studied workout motivation with and without a partner and with a vocal vs. a silent partner. Irwin’s research suggests that quiet coaches get better results. They improved performance by 33 percent whereas vocal coaches improved it by only 22 percent.  “Our results don’t really suggest that all encouragement is bad. It just doesn’t seem to be as good as leading by quiet example. Until we know more … our advice would be for coaches to be specific — to not only use people’s names but address their needs directly.” This advice might translate to the labor setting, like this:  “Carol, breathe with me.”  

Emily:  But some women, especially those with epidurals, may need more active, vocal coaching. The feedback can be very helpful. That said, I agree with Mary that PUSH PUSH PUSH 1-10 is overkill. We have one midwife on staff who tells women, “find your fierce mama!” Then, after she has said that once or twice, simply says “fierce mama!”

Mary:  They may, indeed, need more coaching early on, but most get the hang of it pretty quickly. You need to be testing that pushing independence frequently so that you can know when and how to hang back and let her take over. The sooner the better in my opinion. If she continues to need to be alerted when the contraction comes, find a subtle way to do this. Even just a brief nod of the head with your eyes locked on the mother. And then, maybe, a quiet, “You know what to do.” When it comes down to it, it’s all about checking your ego at the door. Your expertise can then be used surgically, as needed. I am thinking of the quiet labor room when the fetal heart tones abruptly drop into the 60’s and stay there. Like a knife slicing through the air, the birth attendant states, “I need you to get up on your hands and knees.”  In a quiet room this sounds like an order from the heavens and mothers will move pretty fast.  On the other hand, if it is just another direction in an endless series of directions, it has less potency. Just as in the research referenced earlier, the mother has a sense that you are the expert and with your quiet support, she will work hard to do well in her task.

Emily:  I’m a chatterbox. I learned how to talk early, loud and often. Not much has changed. But when it comes to birth, I’m kind of my alter ego self: the quiet one. I have learned, through observing powerful silence, that less can be so much more. Choosing to fill the air with words in a woman’s birth space, just because quiet is uncomfortable, is like the lightning bug instead of the lightning. It flickers in the night, and maybe gives enough light to see by for a moment, but it isn’t bright enough to illuminate the path. Silence is rare in a hospital setting. But quiet, or even just quiet-er, is possible. Turning off beeping IV pumps and clinical alarm bells. Taking a nurse phone call into the corner of the room. Knocking at the door quietly instead of just barging in. Letting a contraction pass without conversation, waiting out those 60-90 seconds for her to do her work. In addition to being quiet, slimming down big words into tiny slices is another act of linguistic kindness. Learning medical lingo is like learning a new language — the acronyms, the medication names, the hyper/hypo/oligo/poly everything. Once we finally get the hang of it, it’s second nature. While nomenclature creates efficiencies, it can also create power differentials. My doula and childbirth educator friends politely remind me that such jargon means virtually nothing to the average woman or her partner, and, in fact, can sound downright scary when really, “micturition” just means “pee.” Using words that are meaningful to the mother helps her maintain ownership of her experience and avoids compounding anxiety during a vulnerable time.

Mary:  Another tradition we have as birth attendants is to use the words “deliver the baby” as opposed to the more accurate description of our actions, which is “catch the baby.” This is a classic example of taking credit for something we had almost nothing to do with, justifying our presence and by extension, validating our career choice.  Of course, in a small percentage of cases we do, in fact, deliver the baby. Mom does need us. We are essential to the safe passage of baby from womb to mother’s arms. But most of the time, babies come into this world by mother’s efforts, not our own.

Emily: Labor nurses are like a sisterhood of sorts. We have to function together or we won’t survive the shift. We need each other’s hands, IV starts, dual sign-offs, and fresh insight to clinical problem solving. The good thing about this: we’re a functioning team. The bad thing about this: we start to amalgamate a bit. We pick up each other’s wisdom … but also one another’s bad habits, including habits of speech. “I had a baby in room five!” “Her baby’s being naughty on the monitor, he’s misbehaving.” “You’re only two centimeters.” “You don’t have any pain, and you are feeling the baby move normally?” “We’re going to cut her.”  [when discussing a possible C-section] Who had that baby in room five? It certainly wasn’t me, the nulliparous nurse standing at the bedside holding a blood pressure cuff. It was the WOMAN! The baby’s being naughty? Trading that statement for “the baby’s having late decels with periods of minimal variability” doesn’t judge said unborn baby and instead yields useful clinical information during report. Telling a first time mom, “you are only two centimeters” is like saying, “you’re at the bottom of the hill and God only knows when you’ll get to the top.” When we take out the word “just” and use the word “already,” what happens to that mother’s perception of our assessment? Even if we are thinking she’s at the bottom of that tall mountain … don’t tell her that. She needs to hear that she is already 1/5th of the way done with her labor. Awesome! As for the “leading questions,” when we ask a woman if she has pain by saying, “you don’t have pain?” or ask about fetal movement by saying, “you are feeling the baby move?,” then we are telling her what we want to hear. Or what we hope to hear. Or what we expect to hear. Whichever the case, we are not letting her tell us what she actually feels, and we risk sowing insecurity if what she is experiencing doesn’t match our expectations. And as for, “we’re going to cut her….”  I, myself, was born via cesarean, as were my sisters. A midwife friend of mine once said that my mom had three “surgical births.” I loved that little shift of lingo. Although there is cutting involved, a cesarean is still a birth, and deserves reverence too. Small tweak, big change.

Mary:  Perhaps we are making too much of a little thing – deconstructing lingo until there is no style or flare left to it.  Well, ok. But much of our language in the medical setting has become hyper-expedient, a product of the precision and unreasonable time demands that pervade medical practice these days. Just as a text message or email is much more easily misunderstood than face to face conversation, expedient language can dilute experience.  A commitment to meaningful exchange with mothers and co-workers helps avoid dehumanization of the birth experience and our jobs, and fosters meaningful work relationships. Thoughtful communication empowers everyone. There is a reason why language is dynamic.  We no longer say things like, “estimated date of confinement,” because it’s not accurate in this day and age.  In fact, it sounds ridiculous and even a little offensive. There is never a reason to talk about a “bad baby.” The baby is holding on for dear life on a bobsled ride through the birth canal and hasn’t even gotten to take its first breath of fresh air! The more care we take with how we speak to and about one another, the more respectful and safe a team becomes. (My mother would be so proud to hear me say that.) It may feel contrived and mechanical at first.  We may not even buy into the importance of  changing the way we say things. But it works. “Room twelve is stalling and her baby doesn’t know which end is up! She needs a section!” (Cringe) If we change nothing else about the way we communicate our work, let’s at least change the way we identify a mother from a room number to her given name – the name her parents gave her when she was born.

Emily:  Recently, I cared for a Somali woman who, within minutes of arrival, found herself being rushed to the operating room for an unexpected obstetrical emergency. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever stated (or even knew) her name until I was handed a clipboard with her identification. By that time we were already about to start surgery. As we raced her through the OR doors she began to comprehend that she was about to go under general anesthesia and that her husband would not be present. She became visibly anxious and her unanswered questions stacked up like blocks that we knocked over with the bed’s whizzing wheels. As we reached the OR, our chief resident that night, who speaks Somali, extended his hand toward her and simply said, “Walaashay,” (“Sister”), which calmed her remarkably. She replied, “Walaalkaa,” (“brother”). He then spoke to her in Somali until she was under. “Sister.” Such a small word. Such a powerful bolt of lightning!  And the simplest of all, the first human word: a wet and unmelodious cry at birth. What a privilege it is to be present for such a thing.

Mary:  At a time when a woman’s body and resolve are profoundly challenged, a laboring mother needs to feel empowered by her caregivers. The language we use around her really is the thread knitting together her labor and birth experience.

Emily and Mary:  As we think about words and how we use them, we want to abandon the notion that one set of time worn phrases could possibly span the continuum of all labors, of all women.  As humans, we are full of word blunders waiting to happen, frequently falling into little potholes of imperfect phrases. Even intentional speech will have flubs, but effort and awareness matter. In that effort we’ve been reflecting a lot lately on words and phrases we want to erase from our own birth room lexicon. That effort and those successes are not all ours. We have heard some beautiful communication in our time at the hospital. Sometimes, you hear a nurse, doctor, or midwife say something and it almost takes your breath away with it’s tenderness, effectiveness, or beauty: That’s the way. Now one becomes two! [after cutting of the cord] Let yourself rest. [between contractions] Let the bed hold you. Sink into the bed. You know exactly what to do. Yes, mama. Yes. You ARE doing it! Beautiful. You are amazing! One at a time. Follow your breath. That’s it. Everything is normal. You are a mother already. mary-bio1

Mary Malotky is a Certified Nurse Midwife who works in a large, urban, county hospital with a group of dedicated, loving midwives and nurses. She blogs at FindingMidwifery.com.     EmilyRumseyEmily Rumsey is a labor & delivery nurse, photographer and filmmaker in Minneapolis. She combines her love of bellies, babies, and birth with pregnancy knowledge and comfort techniques, helping women feel empowered and supported as they bring their babies into the world.   * Reposted from Finding Midwifery with permission from the authors.

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Patience in Birth Recommended to Decrease Cesarean Section Rates

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

by Alisa Blackwood

While cesarean births can be life-saving for some mothers and babies, it’s no secret that the rate of unnecessary cesareans has skyrocketed. Currently, one in three U.S. mothers give birth by cesarean. The World Health Organization says the cesarean birth rate should not be higher than 10 to 15 percent. Higher than that, and risks of complications for mother and baby increase. How does your state rank?

So here’s the big news: first, there is a cultural shift happening in which U.S. birth professionals are agreeing, “yes, there are too many unnecessary cesarean births!” Second, the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG) issued a statement earlier this week detailing recommendations on how to lower the current cesarean rates. The birth world is buzzing with the news.

What does this mean for you, mamas? We read ACOG’s new guidelines and pulled out a few of the recommendations on how to increase your likelihood of a vaginal birth.

  • Hire a Doula | Access to non-medical interventions during labor — such as continuous labor and delivery support — “is one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes,” says ACOG. The statement even goes on to explain that doulas are “probably underutilized.”
  • A “Too Big Baby” is Rare | Mothers “should be counseled that estimates of fetal weight, particularly late in gestation, are imprecise.” That means late-term ultrasounds are less likely to provide an accurate estimation of how big your baby is. ACOG’s statement goes on to explain that carrying a baby that’s too big for a woman to birth is “rare.”
  • Patience During Longer Labors | “Slow but progressive labor in the first stage of labor should not be an indication for cesarean delivery.” In other words, these (and other) guidelines suggest patience during birth. A long labor on its own is not a cause for concern. New guidelines say it should be considered okay if a first-time mama pushes for at least three hours (or four with an epidural).

There is much more to the story, and for those of you who love research and data, you can check out ACOG’s entire press release or read Science & Sensibility’s take on it. What are your thoughts, mamas?  

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Birth Story: “I Will Forever Be Changed…”

Friday, February 14th, 2014

{by Elizabeth} As I sit here watching our little one asleep in her swing I can’t help but reflect on our birth experience, nothing like I planned but so perfect nonetheless. Days after finding out I was pregnant I reached out to my cousin Brook who is a birth doula and teaches prenatal yoga at Blooma. In that moment I was scared. Scared because I was starting a new job. Scared because I wasn’t sure what I should do next. Scared because I knew this was going to change our lives forever. Brook invited me to attend her prenatal yoga class that weekend. I read about Blooma, but at the time did not know what it would do for my baby and me over the next 10 months. I cried during final savasana as Brook spoke the words “your body has everything it needs right now for this baby.” From then on, I trusted my baby, this incredible journey, and most importantly … myself. READ MORE

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Most Read Birth Stories of 2013: Finding Peace, the Second Time

Friday, December 13th, 2013

This week we’re revisiting the five most read BloomaBlog birth stories of 2013. Thank you to all the mamas and families who shared their incredible stories this past year! We are inspired by each and every one of you! xoxo.

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{By Emerald Gratz} When I became pregnant for the first time, I did what most new expectant mothers do: read books, attended hospital classes, and talked to others about their birth experiences. Being a pragmatic person, I was not overly concerned with driving the birthing process in a specific direction. After all, birthing had been happening since the beginning of time. I assumed that on the day I showed up at the hospital, everything would be handled accordingly.READ MORE

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Birth Story: A Hypnobabies “Bubble of Peace”

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

{By Alayna} Photos by Lindsay McCoy My story starts 4 days past my “guess date.” I decided I needed some fun to distract me from anxiously awaiting my baby’s arrival. I saw Blooma was hosting a Belly Mapping and Belly Painting night with Spinning Babies and thought it would be perfect. During the class we found out our baby was ROT (Right Occiput Transverse), which is considered a posterior position. I was shown a couple of exercises I could do and left feeling a little worried about the position. The next night I headed back to Blooma for my usual Sunday night yoga class with our doula, Lindsay. She gave me the Hypnobabies track “Turn, Posterior Baby, Turn.” That night I gave it a try before going to sleep. Two hours later I got up to go to the bathroom and used my new belly mapping skills to find out that my baby had turned! She was now on the left side of my belly and therefore better able to put pressure on my cervix. I went back to sleep excited that my baby was in an optimal position and astonished at how powerful the mind really is (what a confidence boost for birth!). Only two hours later, at 3 a.m. I awoke to what felt like a very small gush of fluid and what I was pretty sure were waves. They were 7 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. I tried my best to get back to sleep and by 6 a.m. they were five minutes apart. I woke up Lance and told him to keep sleeping but that today would be the day! Then I called Lindsay to let her know. She recommended the Deepening and Fear Clearing tracks. I listened to Fear Clearing and Birthing Day Affirmations while lying in bed. 1802131 That morning was the beginning of what was suppose to be one of the biggest snowstorms of the year. I started getting worried about the roads so at 8 a.m. I called Lindsay and told her she should probably come before the snow got too heavy. She arrived at 10 a.m. Once she arrived I was able to relax more and did some small cleaning around the house and put last minute items in my hospital bag. We ate some lunch and then decided to go for a walk, trudging through almost six inches on the ground already. Lance stayed and shoveled the driveway. It felt good to walk and I was able to walk through the waves. At 2 p.m. Lindsay rebozo sifted my belly and we all listened to Birthing Day Affirmations while sitting around in the living room. As things progressed we gently and calmly eased into more active birthing time. Lindsay started doing Hypnobabies birth prompts as well as massaging my back. We decided to call the clinic and let them know we would be birthing today. By 3 p.m. the waves were becoming stronger so we decided to time a few, they were now regularly 3 minutes apart. We decided we should probably leave soon since we were unsure of the road conditions. Lance packed up the car and I got set up in the passenger seat with pillows and “Visualize Your Birth” playing in my ear buds. 1674381 The drive was about 40 minutes; I closed my eyes and drifted deep into hypnosis, completely “off.” I remember this feeling so good and as the car came to a stop at the hospital I gently came back to. I sat for a minute putting on my “bubble of peace,” envisioning in it myself, Lance, and Lindsay as we walked through the hospital and just as easily as I imagined it we were soon in the triage room. I changed out of my boots and snow gear into my flowing short skirt and flip-flops. The hospital was warm and I felt so safe and cozy knowing I was in the place I was going to meet my daughter. Almost like a mother bear that is tucked away in a cave to give birth to her cubs only to emerge after the storm. I knew we would have a calm and amazing experience no matter what chaos was happening outside. The nurse checked me and I was at 3 cm. She wrote it down and showed Lance and Lindsay. I decided I did not want to know because I didn’t want the number to discourage me, I knew I was progressing just as my body needed too. It was about 5 p.m. when we were shown into our birthing room. I was feeling a bit tired so I laid down and was so peaceful the nurses came in and asked if I was even having waves still. We assured her that yes I was — I was just very calm because of my hypnosis. Things were pretty quiet because of the snowstorm and the nurses mostly left us to ourselves, which was nice. A bit later our nurse told us my family had arrived so we went to say hello and walked around the unit. During waves I would stop and lean on Lance for support. At 7 p.m. my waves were two minutes apart and I said very calmly and matter of factly “These are really strong.” I peacefully listened as Lindsay recited birth prompts. An hour later we decide to fill the Jacuzzi tub. I was checked before going in and the nurse was very surprised to see I was at 8 cm since I was so calm. 8703594_orig

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The tub felt so good. The pressure I had been feeling during my waves disappeared. The only way I knew I was having them was my breathing would change and I began chanting the “Peace” cue on exhales. I started to feel a bit nauseous after an hour and half in the tub so we moved to the bed. I was leaning over the bed as Lindsay encouraged me with birth prompts and massaged my hips which felt amazing. I laid on my side in bed and within a few waves I felt my water release. Around 11 p.m. my body began pushing during the waves, “I’m pushing” I said, it was like it was effortless. Lindsay turned on the “Pushing Baby Out” track. I listened to my body and pushed when I felt I needed too. I remained so calm and relaxed in between and during pushing waves. I was lying comfortably on my side when the doctor came in. My doctor had called in sick at the last minute and I could tell by this doctor’s attitude he was not thrilled to be there. Lindsay reminded me to keep up my bubble of peace even as he was demanding I moved to my back. I was so relaxed and calm I just moved to my back, not saying anything to the doctor but knowing I was close and I could do this! I kept my bubble of peace so strong Lindsay said it was like she could see it. The room was bustling with activity and staff but the only voices I heard were Lance and Lindsay. Only ten minutes after the doctor arrived, I heard my sweet baby’s first cry. Adelyn Elizabeth was born at 2:06 a.m. I had no idea what time it was, I thought maybe 9 p.m. at the latest. The affirmation “Every twenty minutes of your birthing time seems like only five” rang very true for me as I was truly shocked when they told it me it 2 a.m. I listened to what my body needed through the whole process and never got too tired. Thanks to Hypnobabies, Blooma and my amazing support team I had a pain-free natural birth. Immediately after birth I told Lindsay, even through 20 hours of birthing and three hours of pushing, “I didn’t feel any pain at all, only pressure!” My Hypnobabies birth was the most beautiful and amazing experience I have ever had!  

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The Postpartum Period (Part 2): Postpartum Doulas — A Missing Ingredient

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

by Alisa Blackwood

If you’re pregnant or a new mother, you’ve probably heard countless times, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” and other advice about how to take care of yourself postpartum. But living that advice is tough for most mamas. We lead busy lives. We want to be on-the-go and feel productive. Most of us aren’t so great about slowing dowwwwwn … even after such an earth-shifting change as becoming a mother.

Debra Pascali-Bonaro

Debra Pascali-Bonaro

Today we’re running part two of my interview about the postpartum period with Debra Pascali-Bonaro — mother, filmmaker, gentle birth activist, and doula trainer. (See part 1 here.)

In this next part of our interview, Debra talks about postpartum doulas — women trained in helping a mother and her family adjust to life with baby. Even if you have family in town to help, and even if you think you already know what a postpartum doula does, I urge you to read on. Don’t miss the opportunity to gift yourself a smoother postpartum transition that will benefit you and baby for years to come!

BloomaHow can a postpartum doula help? What could a family expect?

Debra: I think postpartum doulas are a missing ingredient in our American healthcare system. She is a woman who has extensive training in understanding the physical and emotional adjustments a mom is going through, caring for a newborn, breastfeeding support, and helping as mom, dad and family partners transition. She helps you find a new rhythm in your home. She can be especially important for women who are far from home and haven’t developed their community quite yet. In other cultures around the world, the family structure or the postpartum traditions are more intact. America is one of the few countries where there has been this social breakdown of community.

Blooma: What if you do have family in town willing to help out?

Debra: If you’re blessed to have extended family and community to support you, a postpartum doula can weave them together. On one hand it can be a blessing, but it can also be hard if everyone is trying to come do something and you’re the one trying to coordinate. The doula can look at everyone’s strengths and help plan what they can do so you’re being served best, rather than those people coming in and being in your way. The doula can coordinate when people are dropping off meals. She can listen when you’re having that day when the tears just flow. And because she’s trained in this, she can often help you find a deeper sense of peace during this time, rather than you having to piece it all together. pullquote Blooma: It’s often tough to convince new mothers to take it easy. How does a postpartum doula help with that? 

Debra: In those first six weeks a mother should be waited on, served, and nurtured. Too many of us are not good at accepting support. Too many women still say “no,” when a friend drops in and asks, “Can I do anything for you?” The doula is there to always flip that around and make sure that all the people coming to visit are nurturing the mother, father, children, the family. Doulas can help set boundaries even on how long visitors stay, so that mom gets the rest she needs.

 

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The Postpartum Period (Part 1): Why It’s Essential to Protect This Time

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

by Alisa Blackwood

I recently had the privilege of speaking to the lovely Debra Pascali-Bonaro — an impassioned activist for mothers, babies, gentle birth, and the importance of honoring the postpartum period. She has traveled the world training thousands of birth and postpartum doulas. As a woman and mother who has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, The NBC Today Show, in The New York Times and numerous parenting and health magazines around the world, I wanted to pick her brain: what is it about the postpartum period that’s so important? How can we make the most of this time?

Debra helps put the postpartum period into perspective. Her heartfelt way of framing this time in a woman’s life — also called the “babymoon” period — is all about allowing yourself to be nurtured and cared for so you can be more fully open to the mother within.

That means accepting help. And sometimes, even asking for it. “This is a time a mother will never get back. When you’re in the middle of it, it can be really overwhelming. It can be our highest highs and our lowest lows all within the same hour,” Debra says. “But when women who have taken that time look back on it, they are much better off than women who didn’t give themselves that opportunity to slow down.”

This may mean shifting your perspective of postpartum during pregnancy. Consider it. Consider spending those first few weeks with baby in bed, snuggling, being gentle with yourself. Napping. Eating well. Limiting visitors. Going within to listen

Imagine the possibilities of emerging from those first sleepy weeks as a new mother feeling more like a woman in tune with herself and her baby, than an exhausted crazy person (though there may still be some of that, too!). Are you ready to embrace this change? Then read on!

Blooma: How important do you think it is to plan in advance for the postpartum period? What should parents be doing? 

Debra:  It’s such a sacred and special time in a woman’s life. Particularly in American culture we’ve lost touch with this time. It’s really up to moms, dads, families and partners to make these six weeks as restful, peaceful and nurturing as possible. The more you have a good support network set up, the more supported you’re going feel. Some of the things people forget to think about are who is going to do the day-to-day things? A mother’s job is take care of herself and feed and bond with her baby. So that means other people — family members, friends and her community — need to take over the day-to-day responsibilities. I really encourage moms to make a list of things like: who will bring food? Who will do the laundry and all the other tasks that need to be done? When friends and family stop by, this is a chance to ask them to do a load of laundry.

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Blooma: What is the best thing a mama can do to help herself and her baby during the first few months?

Debra: Mothers in the early days — ideally they’re resting when their baby is resting and really doing the things that nurture themselves. Sadly, today I still see too many moms feeling obligated to work, to be on Facebook, to text, to tweet. This is a time to disengage from those outside responsibilities. This babymoon time is to really reconnect with yourself and develop an essential bond with your baby. This relies on awakening to your inner wisdom and intuition. In order for that to happen, we need to disengage from those outside distractions.

Blooma: That can be easier said than done though, right?

Debra: When you’re in the middle of it, it can be really overwhelming. It can be our highest highs and our lowest lows all within the same hour. But when women who have taken that time look back on it, they are much better off than women who didn’t give themselves that opportunity to slow down. This babymoon time is a time a mother will never get back. This is the time nature intended for us to awaken and discover a part of ourselves that is beyond words. We must give ourselves that time.

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{Next week I’ll post part 2 of Debra Pascali-Bonaro’s interview, in which she details how postpartum doulas are “the missing ingredient in our American healthcare system,” and how they can help — even if you have family in town!} 

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Ask a Doula {Video}: How Do I Search for a Birth Doula?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Perhaps you’re just considering whether or not you’d like to hire a birth doula, or maybe you’re already gung-ho on the idea and just need to find your perfect fit. Wherever you are in your process, it’s never too early in your pregnancy to start your search. (And it’s never too late, either; if you contact a booked-up doula, always ask for referrals!) I discuss in the below video details of how to find doulas in your community, starting with DONA International and DoulaMatch.net. Then check out my video about how to interview a doula, with suggestions of what types of questions to ask.READ MORE

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Ask a Blooma Educator: “Unmedicated Birth — Can I Really Do It?”

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

This is the first post in a new, ongoing series in which parents ask Blooma childbirth educators the questions they most need answers to. Do you have a question you’d like to submit? We’d love to hear from you! Send it to BloomaBlog@gmail.com. Q: I would really like to have an unmedicated birth, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it. What’s your advice? A: This is a question we get a lot! READ MORE

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Birth Story: Finding Peace, the Second Time Around

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

{By Emerald Gratz} When I became pregnant for the first time, I did what most new expectant mothers do: read books, attended hospital classes, and talked to others about their birth experiences. Being a pragmatic person, I was not overly concerned with driving the birthing process in a specific direction. After all, birthing had been happening since the beginning of time. I assumed that on the day I showed up at the hospital, everything would be handled accordingly.READ MORE

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Birth Story: “I’ll Never Forget the Feeling of Love”

Friday, October 25th, 2013

A special thank you to Lindsay and Tanya, my attending midwives from the Minnesota Birth Center, Angela—my amazing doula, Lisa Venticinque—our dear friend and photographer, and all of our friends and family who supported our birth from near and far.

The Birth Story

{by Carise Rotach-Beards}

I am a psychotherapist. This means two things:

  1. People inevitably ask me about their brother/sister/husband/Rabbi who is having relationship problems and want my opinion and
  2. I psychoanalyze myself … a lot.

Childbirth was the first thing in my life that I could not think my way through. In fact, during our Blooma Educators childbirth class, I remember them saying one thing that stuck with me, “There’s only room for one head in your pelvis: your baby’s.” I latched on (Get it? Breastfeeding joke!) and even used this anecdote during some of my client sessions to try to help others overcome the fear of childbirth. Little did I know that keeping my own head out of my pelvis during birth would be an incredibly challenging and life-changing task.

Dan and I attended a wedding of a dear friend on Saturday night, August 10th. As we were driving, I had a slight intuition that this would be our last date night as a duo, though a big part of me remained confident that we would get to use our gift card at the St. Paul Grill on Sunday morning for their delicious brunch (seriously, it’s good). We did get to stop at Sonic for tots and a malt before the wedding so that made me happy too. We had a good time at the wedding but towards the end of the dinner, I just could not get comfortable in my chair, walking around, or anywhere else for that matter. We decided to call it a night.

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All photographs by Lisa Venticinque.

We got home and got ready to go to sleep. The discomfort continued while I was lying in bed. It seemed that all of my “go to” sleeping positions were failing me. Leg over 12 pillows and lying on my side…rush of pain. Child’s pose with pillows propped under my chest…rush of pain. Sitting up in bed and bingeing on Tums…rush of pain and didn’t touch the heartburn. Refusing to think I was having actual contractions, I decided to “try out” my contraction counter app (you know, for when I was going into actual labor). You will notice a theme of disbelief throughout this story and this was the beginning.

Dan began to notice my discomfort and unusual amount of wiggling, even for a full-term pregnant lady. I told him that I was having some pain rushes but it would probably go away if I could just fall asleep. He popped out of bed like a hot kernel and started doing household chores and packing a birth center bag. I continued to try to get comfortable and was mildly annoyed that Dan was getting his hopes up. I was sure we would both be disappointed and we would chalk this up to one of the many “fake labor” experiences that everyone is supposed to have.

Well, as you may have figured out the “pain rushes” were actual contractions and they did not stop. I sent a text to Angela, our doula, at some point in the wee hours of Saturday night to let her know what I was feeling. I made sure to let her know that I thought this wasn’t anything significant (denial) but within the same text I mentioned that the contractions kept waking me up and that they were consistently 5-6 minutes apart. I tentatively informed our friend Lisa, who would be photographing our birth, that she might want to clear her schedule for Sunday afternoon if this kept up.

It kept up. Sunday was pretty much a blur. I was tired. We were both tired. Our last solid sleep was Friday night and had I known that I would have slept for 16 hours. We did everything people who labor at home are told to do. We walked outside, I got in the bathtub, we watched movies, Dan did house chores. It became very important that he vacuum the dog hair since I was rolling around on the floor during contractions. I was instructed by Angela to try and get some sleep at some point. The problem was, my contractions were as frequent and regular as reggae beat and relentlessly dedicated to keeping me awake.

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By 5pm on Sunday evening we were frustrated and tired and decided it was time for Angela to come over and help us out. In my head, she was going to come tell me how to stop my fake labor (denial) and give Dan a much-needed break from being my only shoulder to hang on. She showed up and began what I like to call “doula boot camp”. I told her I either wanted the contractions to stop or hurry the hell up and get on with life. Before I knew it, I was taking stairs two-at-a-time, squatting next to my baby’s crib, lunging sideways in the stairwell, and pushing my energy to the limit. But this was nowhere near the limit. The limit was still to come.

IMG_0872At about 7pm, Lisa showed up with her camera. Lisa photographed our wedding three years ago, my brother’s wedding, my mom’s 50th birthday celebration, my headshots when I opened my own business, my maternity photos a few weeks earlier…she has seen the most important moments of my life through the camera lens and supported us through it all. When she walked in, the small part of me that believed this was real labor got a little bigger and with it came a rush of emotions. I sobbed on Dan’s shoulder, realizing what I was expected to do and doubting whether I was ready or what it would do to our relationship. After that emotional release, I felt ready and willing to take it to the next level.

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At 9:30 we headed to the Minnesota Birth Center where Tanya and Lindsay, our midwives, would be waiting for us. I had two contractions while driving on Chicago Avenue towards the birth center and Dan yelled at a jaywalker. Who can jay walk at a time like this? In my head, I thought I needed to be much more in labor than I was in order for the midwives to take me seriously so I (shamefully) embellished some of my first contractions at the birth center so they wouldn’t send me home…I really wanted to use their tub.

With the lights dim, candles burning, my playlist playing, I settled into the marvelous birthing tub. I labored for hours and grew more and more exhausted with each contraction. The nagging thoughts began. Will I have the energy to do this? I haven’t slept since Friday night and now I’m expected to birth a child…how the hell am I going to do it? What if my body gives up? Will I end up at the hospital?

At some point into active labor, I was told that I was dilating within the normal curve of progression but on the lower end of normal. I was unaware of how many centimeters I was. I did not want any numbers in my labor experience since numbers are what drove me crazy during my pregnancy…which is a whole ‘nuther story. The midwives asked if I would agree to them breaking my waters. This came as a relief. At least SOMETHING was changing. They warned me that the rhythm of labor would intensify which, although the nagging thoughts were questioning if I could do it, felt like assurance to me that it would be over soon.

IMG_0980Intensify is a mild term for what happened. And I don’t mean intensify just in a physical sense of the word. My emotions, my nagging thoughts, my self-doubt, my fears, my need for my husband, my fear about whether my baby would be healthy…everything was magnified. The height of the physical intensity occurred when we realized baby was hanging out posterior and we needed a solution. Angela and the midwives discussed what would work best and after some healthy debate, the solution would be to lay me on the bed in a spinal twist to endure three contractions. The first attempt at this ended with me springing to my hands and knees and insisting that there was no way I could endure the pain. The midwives firmly informed me that this was necessary and proceeded to hold my legs down. I instructed Dan to kneel on the floor next to the bed and not break eye contact. I let out my animal noises at point blank range next to my husband and he remained steady through the intensity. It wasn’t until after the birth that I was grateful for this moment since many birth teams may have suggested interventions rather than a little “tough love.”

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I got in the tub for what would be the last time before welcoming our baby into the world. I didn’t know this at the time and if I would have known that Cash was coming soon, I may have felt better. I felt utterly hopeless. I still didn’t believe this was real and more importantly, felt powerless against my fatigue. It just didn’t make sense how I was going to get through. I mentioned this over and over. I asked the team how I was going to do this and they said “one contraction at a time”. Coincidentally, during each contraction I would express that I couldn’t do it, only to be reminded that I WAS doing it.

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Right before I started pushing I disappeared to somewhere else. I fixated on a spot on the wall and took mini naps in between contractions. I had no energy to speak or interact with my team and heard myself making noises that I didn’t know could come from a human. I briefly noticed that everyone in the room was sitting and watching me, looking very tired. This was frustrating since I thought I was wasting their time and would not actually be giving birth (SERIOUS denial), but in reality, everyone else in the room trusted my body besides me. They knew I was doing what I needed and all it would take was a little more patience. With wisdom and confidence, Tanya then instructed me to keep from expelling all of my air and to direct it downwards towards my pelvis during each contraction. It was time to push. Angela looked me in the eye and said “Cash is coming, it’s time.”

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Pushing was an amazing experience. I distinctly remember the moment where the team told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head starting to emerge. Dan recalls that my energy shifted from exhaustion to determination at this point. I felt baby’s hair, and lots of it! Lisa recalled that she noticed nurses coming in with different equipment for the baby and got excited along with us. With each pushing contraction my voice got a little more hoarse and my body more and more exhausted but my spirit was alive. I knew I would be crowning soon and after being instructed to not push during crowning (SO difficult!), the next thing I knew I was being told to reach down and pull my baby out of the water.

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Cash Michael Beard was born at 5:25am on August 12th, 30 hours after the first contractions started. As I pulled him onto my chest, he wrapped his arms around my breasts, he knew who mama was! I was elated. Immediately the pain and exhaustion of the past two days of labor were a distant memory. I had my son. I sat in the tub with him on my chest for a number of blissful minutes while the whole room expressed their awe over his hair and his size! He weighed in at a hefty 10.2 lbs and I felt even more like a super human for doing it all naturally.

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Dan got his chance to hold Cash while I was working on getting the placenta out and getting cleaned and sewed up (while it may be TMI, apparently only 2 stitches for a 10-pound baby is pretty good … I guess there WAS some wisdom to not pushing during crowning right away). I didn’t care what was going on down there. I had birthed my son and felt on top of the world.

The next few hours were some of the most sacred of my life. We nestled into the birthing suite with our new little one while the wonderful staff at the birth center cared for us, made me bread, fixed an herbal bath for Cash and myself, and celebrated our new life with us. Though I intend to dedicate an entire separate post to this, I will never stop singing praises of how wonderful the experience at the Minnesota Birth Center was for our family. At no point did they show anything but unwavering confidence in me as I labored. Initially there was some attention being paid to Cash’s glucose levels and heightened respirations because of his size and instead of approaching this from a place of fear, the nurses and staff monitored him with care, instructed me to be peaceful and keep him on my chest, and explained everything to us in a calm, rational manner. I trusted them completely the whole time. When my family came to meet their newest family member, the staff shared in their excitement and made the space safe and joyous for all of us.

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The weeks since have brought equal amounts of joy and challenge. As I am navigating the world as a mama, I find myself daydreaming often about my birth experience and how I had to completely let go of the “rationale” of it all and let my body do what it was made to do. The moment I realized I couldn’t think my way through labor was both the scariest and most rewarding moment of my life. I was dipping into reserves of strength and confidence that I had been unaware of up until this point. The lasting memories of labor are not of the pain or discomfort, but of the moment I pulled Cash out of the water and onto my body and the overwhelming bliss that accompanied. In the middle of the night when my mind and body are weary yet my child demands my energy, I replay the birth and feel the joy once again. While driving in the car with Cash, I play the birth playlist and believe that it brings both of us comfort. Never again will I think I am incapable of something. Never again will I believe that my body is weak and insufficient. And I will never forget the feeling of love I had for my child from the moment I first felt his soft head against my cheek.

This story originally appeared on Carise’s blog, The World Needs More Beards.

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Ask a Doula: Questions for Interviewing a Birth Doula

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

If you’re planning to interview and hire a doula, you’ll want to watch this video for tips to take your interview beyond the usual questions. The main thing you’ll want to find out during your interview: can you and your partner imagine spending hours or even days with this doula? Will she support your vision of birth? I recommended interviewing three doulas to find the right fit for you. Trust your instincts. You and your partner are likely to feel a connection with the right doula by the end of your interview … or not. A few questions I recommend for your interviews:
  • Why do you love being a doula?
  • Why were you drawn to this work?
  • Tell us about your experience at this hospital (or your birthing place)?
  • What makes you different than other doulas?
Check out DONA.org (the main doula certifying organization) for a further list of questions to ask a doula. Happy doula shopping, mamas!

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Inside the Birth Bag #1: What’s in Yours, Doula Emily Shier?

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

We asked Emily Shier, a certified doula trainer and birth & postpartum doula in Madison, Wisc., what’s most essential to carry in her birth bag. Here’s the scoop! “Things I love to have at a birth = things mamas have loved having me bring to their births,” Emily says. emilysbirth1) a sweater  I can’t be my best doula self if I’m cold.  It’s a self-care thing.  🙂READ MORE

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Birth Story: Fireworks To Celebrate Her Arrival!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

{by Kathryn Orr} The Birth Story of Violet Jane :: July 4, 2013. 9:34 p.m. 7lb, 5 oz. 20 in. Several weeks before Violet was born I wrote out my birthing affirmations on cards. During my last weeks of pregnancy, I read them to myself each night before going to sleep. The affirmations are interspersed throughout this story. I loved that during my labor, the cards were read aloud to me by each member of my amazing birth team. IMG_1516I’m glowing and at ease. Throughout my pregnancy, I told myself that the 4th of July would be a good day to have my baby. It was my 39 week mark, and a celebratory sort of day. In the HypnoBirthing method, they have you visualize the things you want to happen for your birth. Some of mine were laboring on the 4th of July and having an 8-10 hour labor. Well, I got one of the two!READ MORE

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Birth Story: “Childbirth Taught Me About Surrender”

Friday, May 31st, 2013

When Michelle sent me her birth story, it left me in tears. Not because of the events themselves, but because of her VERY brave heart. It takes gobs of courage to re-examine the details of a difficult birth, instead of shoving away the tough parts. Michelle processed her birth, wrote about it, and came to a place where she feels able to embrace that which she did not plan for. Because of her birthing experience, she now circles back to the idea of the constant surrender we face daily as mothers. (Note: If you had a difficult or traumatic birthing experience, please seek professional help to process your experience with support.) Michelle writes:

I’m stronger, I’m more informed, I’m wiser, I’m softer with myself, and I no longer feel like a failure… Childbirth taught me about surrender. Now being a mom teaches me the same thing.

Congratulations to Michelle on the arrival of her sweet Xavier, and for all the hard, loving work you did during labor and now, as a mama. To all Blooma blog readers, we love sharing birth stories. Some of the journeys are difficult ones. If you’re an expecting mother, choose wisely about what you consume. If at any point, stories don’t feel supportive to your journey, shut off your computer (or whatever you’re reading), close your eyes and return to the connection you have with your body and baby. Big love to ALL mamas who find unexpected ways to embrace the journey you’re on. Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __ {By Michelle S.} I had the perfect birth. It feels good to see those words on paper. A sigh of relief. It’s taken a long time to get to those words and to feel this way about X’s birth. We were that couple, that all natural couple that I’m sure you all know. I teach yoga, eat organic, exercise daily, and bike to work… yeah, that couple.READ MORE

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Riding the Waves of Labor

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Waves You may have heard the comparison before: contractions are like waves. At first there is stillness, a break between waves. Then a wave builds slowly until it peaks and, ahhhhh … rolls away. Close your eyes, add in deep, audible breathing (like you’re fogging a mirror), and you can mentally transport yourself to a beach where you’re floating atop smooth, rolling waves. This beautiful, calming imagery — so much the way labor can feel — has been helpful to countless birthing mamas. Twin Cities doula, Blooma staffer, and pregnant mama Kathryn Orr recently blogged about her own experience with this wave imagery, experiencing it first-hand during her babymoon in St. Thomas. The lessons she took from swimming in the ocean are so spot-on, we thought we’d share one of them here.READ MORE

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Birth Story: “I Slowly Breathed My Baby Down”

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Many of us overlook in our birth choices and planning how essential it is to assemble a care team that truly supports our needs as birthing women. To be respected in even the smallest of ways makes a huge difference — even talking softly so a mama maintains her focus, feels profoundly soothing and respectful to a birthing mama. Today’s birth story comes from new mama, Nicole, who writes that her chosen birth center “provided an amazingly calm environment with low light, candles, music from my relaxation tracks and only the softest whispers.” And shouldn’t every woman have the opportunity to birth that way, whether at a birth center, hospital or in the operating room? We think so! image-3Congratulations, Nicole, and welcome to the world, baby August! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma ___ {By Nicole} We took and loved the Hypnobirthing course in December, and our instructor recommended that we spend time thinking about the kind of birth we want… visualizing all the details, from the onset of labor through the whole delivery. So for a couple months, we told ourselves the story of the birth, down to the date we wanted ( 2/2). The unbelievable thing was that it happened — almost 100 percent exactly as we planned. On Friday evening, 2/1, we went to a happy hour at Moscow on the Hill, and I felt some mild cramping, which I brushed off as Braxton Hicks. When we got home and into bed around 9 p.m., I felt a small gush of liquid. No way this is my water breaking, I thought. So I didn’t bother my husband, Tony, and tried to put it out of my mind. An hour later, another gush — this time a huge gush. Okay, now maybe this is for real. Almost immediately I started feeling stronger cramping. I called the midwife on-call (at the Minnesota Birth Center) to give her a heads up and talk about the plan — wait until contractions were 3 minutes apart for an hour. At this point, Tony and I were in shock that this was happening as we hoped. After calming down from the initial burst of excitement, I took a Tylenol PM and got some sleep. image-1Around 3 a.m., the intensity of the contractions picked up a little and it became harder to sleep through them. But I was able to rest a lot in between and stay relaxed. We went over the plan for the day — who was going to take care of the dogs, better freeze that ground beef we were going to make for dinner, cancel the acupuncture appointment at 12:30 p.m. Around 8 a.m., we had some eggs and toast for breakfast as we timed the contractions — still a bit erratic at 5-7 minutes and only moderately intense. Since my water broke at 10 p.m. the night before, the midwife wanted me to come in to the Birth Center at 10 a.m. if things hadn’t progressed so she could run a few tests to ensure the baby was tolerating labor okay. We went in and baby was indeed handling it like a champ, but my contractions were still too far apart so they sent me home to get some more rest. If things didn’t progress into active labor by 10 p.m., I would have to be transferred to Abbott to be induced. This was definitely not part of the plan; the MN Birth Center allowed normal healthy births — any complications or risks would have to be managed at the hospital. I grudgingly went home determined to have things pick up so we could birth as planned. When we got home around noon, I was able to rest and doze for about an hour before the contractions started getting too intense. I couldn’t find any position that was comfortable, so we called the doula to come over and help us out. We had only chosen a doula, Stephanie, the week before. She was trained in craniosacral therapy, so I was hopeful she could help relieve some of the hip/back pain coming with the contractions. Stephanie was barely able to do any work on me before I couldn’t stay still. Contractions were coming closer together and I was even feeling an urge to push, so I knew we should probably get going to the Birth Center soon. image Tony called the midwife, who questioned whether we were far enough advanced. Then she heard me moaning in the background and said “come in.” The pain and intensity were so much at this point that it seemed to take an eternity to get out the door. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I was definitely in transition! I prepared myself that the car ride would be excruciating, but I managed it really well thanks to the help of my Hypnobirthing tracks and breathing practice. Tony commented later that he was worried that labor was slowing down and that I was maybe even sleeping! We arrived at the MN Birth Center at about 4 p.m., at which point I immediately flopped onto the bed as the midwife checked me. I was so afraid she would find me only at 5 or 6 cm. “Nicole – you’re complete,” she said, which rang like music to my ears. I believe I told her I loved her at that point! I could hear the sound of the tub filling and wanted so badly to get into the water. They helped me in and told me it was time to go whenever I was ready. image-2 I was determined to follow my body and let it direct me how to birth. Luckily, the Birth Center shared the same philosophies and fully supported me at my own pace. They also provided an amazingly calm environment with low light, candles, music from my relaxation tracks and only the softest whispers. With the help of my amazing husband, my best friend, and the doula, I slowly breathed my baby down, using deep breaths and allowing my body to guide the baby out slowly. It took a while this way, but I was able to stay in control and relax deeply between contractions. The midwife and doula helped me channel my energy effectively so I could be in control yet be productive with each wave. When I felt the baby crowning, I anticipated a few more pushes before he would be out. But with the next push, at 8:03 p.m, baby August shot out like a torpedo surprising us all! I was able to grab him myself and pull him to my chest. My first thought was “ohmygod it’s over!” followed immediately by “ohmygod this is my baby!!” The midwife had to prod Tony to check and announce the sex, as we both somehow completely forgot about that as we gazed into baby’s eyes. It was a boy (just as we had suspected)! Throughout the pregnancy, I prepped myself to approach birth without fear. I wasn’t denying the reality of childbirth, but I certainly didn’t fully anticipate how intense and difficult it would be. Especially as I progressed into the active labor phase, I felt waves of fear and doubt come over me. “I can’t do this,” I thought MANY times. “Just get me drugs; take me to the hospital – I want the drugs!” image-4But somehow I managed to cope, breathing into the intensity and using many of the skills I learned in yoga. I remember hearing someone’s birth story and her comment how savasana was the most useful pose for labor. So true! I thought about that as I went deep into relaxation between each contraction. I fully attribute my successful and calm childbirth experience to the amazing prenatal yoga and Hypnobirthing skills I learned. I specifically thought about Bridget McGreevy’s recent “Fear” class and how we should recognize our fears and let them be with us as we struggle and cope. That was the last prenatal yoga class I attended. I made it a point to say goodbye to Bridget that night and thank her for her wonderful class that I loved attending. I must have known that baby August was coming soon… *{A little note from Blooma: We joyfully share birth stories sent to us by Blooma families, however, Blooma does not claim responsibility for and does not endorse individual choices made by families or their care providers. We seek to share an array of birth stories to showcase a wide range of experiences.}

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VBAC Birth Story: “I Was In Such a Labor Zone”

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Congratulations to second-time mama, Angie, on the arrival of sweet baby Ben! Read on to share in Angie’s prep for her vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) and the healing power of a caring midwife’s hug. Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __
Welcome to the world, baby Ben!

Welcome to the world, baby Ben!

{By Angie R.} As a lot of VBAC birth stories seem to start out, this one also began over two years ago with the birth of my daughter via C-section. While we were so thrilled to be first-time parents and she brings so much joy to everything she does, I knew from that moment on that my next birth would be so very different. After turning into a “birth junkie” and reading so very, very many birth stories and research on birth, that while I read some of it the first time around, I never really digested it on the right level. Every book I read — Birthing from Within, Baby Catcher, Ina May’s books, Spinning Babies, Belly Button Bliss, the list could go on — really helped me realize that it is not possible or very healing to blame one person or event in a birth. BUT there were certain things that I felt needed to be a must at our next birth: respect, evidence-based rather than fear-based maternity care and good communication during labor. I had a quick labor with my daughter for a first-time mom, but Evelyn was not in a good position coming down the birth canal. I have always felt that if I would have just been allowed to get up, move around, push in different positions and also allow for additional time for pushing (we only pushed for two hours), she would have eventually come out just fine as there were never any issues with her heartbeat. I remember feeling so rushed and pressured at that time which is the last thing you want in birth. That combined with an OB that does not do her own postpartum appointments left me feeling like we had a run a marathon, gotten tripped at the end but had no idea exactly why. After researching my own OR records, I put together my own version of why that first birth unfolded the way it did.  I know now how important it is to have the opportunity to fully digest a birth with those who attended it — this to me is just as important as the prenatal appointments! I eventually needed to get to that place of understanding that birth is so complex and the mystery is that we will never know why things unfold the way that they do. But I do know that for some reason I was meant to have the birth that I did with my daughter. Without that birth, I would likely not have had the opportunity to learn so much the last two years and ultimately have the amazing birth experience we did the second time around. The recovery from having a full labor, pushing and C-section was horrendous with my daughter and I knew I never wanted to go through that again if possible thus I was so committed to the fact that the best and only way to do so was to have a birth with no unnecessary interventions, and so begins Ben’s Birth Story: After becoming pregnant this past spring, we visited two midwifery practices at hospitals and a birth center and decided on the midwife practice at Methodist. My gut reaction after we found out we were expecting this time was to stay far away from a hospital birth this time, but each appointment with the midwives at Methodist got better and better. Ultimately I was very happy with our decision. It is amazing how healing a hug from a midwife after a prenatal appointment can be! My labor with Ben begin late, late the evening of Jan. 26th. I just could not fall asleep and was awfully uncomfortable in bed while having what I thought were Braxton-Hicks contractions. My mind was in denial that I was probably going into labor. I got crabby with my husband that he was not going to sleep and instead staying up late watching TV. How silly but I think my intuition knew he was going to need some sleep. At about 1 a.m., my mind started to overcome the denial of going into labor but still was not totally there yet. I thought I could just take a hot bath and that might delay things until the next day. I should point out that I was totally fine at this point with staying pregnant for awhile longer (39 wks and 4 days) — I was not uncomfortable at all and was enjoying this last little bit of time with my daughter, going to prenatal yoga and trying endlessly to prepare my work office for my leave. I really was not ready to be done being pregnant yet! A hot bath with some lavender oil and an hour later, my husband and my mind finally realized that these were real contractions. Nothing painful by any means. Just good steady contractions with a lot of cramping in my lower pelvis area. None of the dull backache that I had with my daughter in early labor had started. IMG_0307After the hot bath and crawling around on the ground on all fours (I absolutely did not want to be in bed), we called Sarah, our doula. She always joked about waiting for that 3 a.m. call from us and sure enough, she got that call at 3 a.m.! When she showed-up a little before 4 a.m., I was definitely appreciating any kind of counter-pressure that could be applied on my lower back during a contraction. After going back and forth between the ground and resting my head on a pillow between contractions, the bathtub — again using a towel to lay my head on when resting — and the toilet, we made a lot of progress. By 5:30 a.m., I thought we better start making our way to the hospital otherwise I didn’t think I was going to be able to get in the car and get there if we waited any longer. The pressure down below by this time was so intense and all I could say was that I just wanted my water to break. I could just feel it sitting there putting so much weight on my bottom and just wanting it so badly to release. After a bumpy car ride with my lying on my side in the backseat (I could not for the life of me get on to all fours — way too much effort at that point), and with my husband and Sarah enjoying the full moon and clear sky, we made it to Methodist. I remember being thankful that we didn’t get stuck behind that awful train on Excelsior Blvd. I wonder if there have been any babies born in that spot before waiting for that endlessly long train to go by?? Leaving the car running in front of the hospital, we started to make our way inside and into the elevators and upstairs to the third level. It was a long journey to say the least with lots of pit stops but we made it. I was in such a labor zone by this point that I honestly think I only opened my eyes a few times between when we got to the hospital and giving birth.  I just wanted to stay inside myself and not take anything else in. The nurse that greeted us coming into the birthing center thankfully just brought us straight into a room and we were able to skip checking in via triage. Sarah and I headed right into the dark bathroom while my husband went back to park the car. After getting grounded in the bathroom, I did need to get a telemetric heartbeat monitor put around my waist and an IV port applied but nothing put in just in case of an emergency — these were the only two requirements for a VBAC mom and otherwise, I was so thankful that I was allowed to labor and birth just as I wanted. The midwife on call did check me just once at that time and I was about 8 cm dilated with a bulging bag of waters. After kneeling on the ground in front of the bed — this became my sweet spot as there was no way in heck I was getting in that bed — I could feel the most intense pressure with a contraction and all of a sudden there was a huge pop and I am afraid a huge mess of water everywhere. Oh but the relief that I had for a minute or two after my water broke was so wonderful! Sarah then gently reminded me that this was where things would take a different direction and that the next few contractions would feel very deep. And boy did they feel different! Ben J. lapensky 1-27-2013I do think this is when my body just started to naturally push everything down as the only relief that I had during the next hour of contractions before the baby came would be to push. It felt like a freight train was moving down through my body. And as Sarah would always say during prenatal yoga class, things are really getting exciting when you feel like the baby is coming out your backside rather than your front and it certainly did! The contractions were definitely doing their job in pushing this little boy downwards. We headed back into the bathtub at that time and spent quite a while with these heavy, pushing contractions. Hot water was being sprayed down on my lower back from the shower and oh how that helped. I do not think I would have made it through this last hour of labor without the hot water on my lower back along with the counter-pressure pushes by my husband, Sarah and the nurses. Both of these things were absolutely essential — with them I was able to stay focused on just getting through each contraction and not feel like I was totally losing control of being in the moment. I did need to be reminded though to try and relax between each contraction at this point. They were so on top of one another that as soon as one ended, I would start preparing myself for the next one. I would compare this last hour of labor similar to being on a roller coster in a dark tunnel — I had no idea where the ride was going and when it was going to end! Laying my head down on a towel or pillow between each contraction helped tremendously. As they preach in prenatal yoga, throughout this pregnancy I really focused on letting my jaw relax and that definitely helped me get through those tight, intense contractions. There was no point in being tight and fighting the contractions as they were going to come whether I liked it or not! At one point, we decided I needed to be out of the tub and we headed back to the floor beside the bed. With the midwife’s suggestion, I managed to bring each leg up into a lunge position for a contraction or two in hopes of bringing the baby down even more. Oh my lord. Talk about ten freight trains moving through your body! That is definitely what those lunges did but they were so productive as not too much later, I could definitely feel his head crowning and proceeded to ask everybody as they were all just being so peaceful and calm that if they knew that hello, the head was coming out??!! My very favorite and so sweet midwife was able to show up just as this was happening. She just had time to put on some gloves and catch the baby! I was so thankful just to have her presence there. While half-squatting and half-kneeling along side the bed on the floor, Ben came out within minutes at that point and he came fast and with a hand up near his perfect little face. The act of him coming out was actually sweet relief in comparison to the contractions the hour prior to his birth. I do remember the burning, stretching sensation when his head first crowned but would take that any day over the prior contractions. The actual emergence of the baby seems to be what so many moms fear, including myself, but that was actually my favorite part of it all! It meant that an end was near and that our grand little prize would arrive. Yes, there really is a grand little prize at the end! It is easy to forget that in the throes of labor. But these babies are just so so precious and perfect in every way. And they are ours to keep! Amazing! After being born at 7:20 a.m., weighing 8 pounds and 21 1/2 inches long, Ben was able to spend almost two hours with us on the bed nursing and snuggling before having anything done to him. He was such an alert little critter since there were no drugs involved. Since I did not have this special after-birth time with my daughter, this sweet ending as well as everything else about this birth was so perfect and so much an out-of-body experience in an incredibly amazing way. The midwife and nurse team (which included two Blooma mamas!) along with my husband and doula made supporting me in this birth seem so effortless — they were all rock stars. Not once did anyone tell me to start pushing or stop pushing or make me feel that I wasn’t doing all of the right things naturally. They were a support team in the literal sense and just let my body do what it already knew what to do. The recovery and the nursing this time around has been like night and day. I feel like a completely different mom than I did with my daughter — both mentally and physically and in a good way! Dearly missing prenatal yoga right now… Angie *{A little note from Blooma: We joyfully share birth stories sent to us by Blooma families, however, Blooma does not claim responsibility for and does not endorse individual choices made by families or their care providers. We seek to share an array of birth stories to showcase a wide range of experiences.}

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Shout Out Your Doula Love Story!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

doulaweek In honor of National Doula Week, we’d love to hear from you about your doula love story. Share below how your doula helped you! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma  

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Birth Story: “Heart-Splitting-Open Wonderfulness Meeting Him”

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We’ve all heard it before, right, mamas? You can’t plan how your birth will unfold. You can, however, educate yourself about your options and when your big day comes, find those deep, loving, soft breaths while deciding how to be with your labor. Staying connected to your breath, intuition and inner strength helps you to ask the right questions and decide what’s best for you and baby in any given moment. That’s how Stephanie, a Blooma St. Paul prenatal yoga mama, approached her labor and baby’s birth. As for how prenatal yoga helped her? “Savasana was one of the most helpful postures – not only for the labor process, but in the days and weeks afterwards. Being able to relax, let everything go, and rest – whether between contractions, pushes, or nursing sessions – has been invaluable,” Stephanie says. Read on for her entire story of delivering baby Graham into the world. Congratulations, Stephanie! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __ {By Stephanie L.} Our dear, sweet little boy – Graham Quentin – was not quite ready to make his way into the world on his due date. And so, at our 42 week midwife appointment, Tuesday, September 11th, Jess (the midwife we saw at that appointment) and Emily (a midwife student from Yale, working with Jess) told my husband Sam and I to prepare to go to the hospital the next evening to begin the induction process. Though we knew this would happen at some point if he did not arrive on his own, we were surprised that things would finally begin the next day! After waiting for so long, it was strange – wonderful and relieving and bizarre to have a plan of action and an official timeline. We had tried everything to induce labor – from faithfully doing yoga and going for walks, to eating spicy foods, to sex, to acupressure, and then that Wednesday the 12th, to acupuncture. (Both our midwives and our doula recommended this course of action.) Though they were all fun, none were successful. Our little guy was determined to do this on his own schedule, and perhaps to teach his mom and dad that we were no longer calling the shots. So, on Wednesday night we arrived at St. Joe’s Hospital in St. Paul and they placed the Cervadil at 9 p.m. We stayed overnight in the hospital, and in the morning they checked me, only to find that I was still at 1cm. The Cervadil had done its job of effacing me, but it didn’t start contractions as it does for some mamas. As such, they started me on Pitocin at 11:30 a.m. At first, the contractions began low and slow, and I could take them fairly easily between bites of lunch, using the breathing and concentration techniques I learned in yoga and our childbirth prep classes. Around 1 p.m., however, the contractions intensified in the way I had heard they could with Pitocin. Suddenly there was no gradual build – they went from 0 to 60 (i.e. maximum intensity) almost instantly, and then, as one would start to abate they would “couple,” and another contraction would begin. After each couple, I would only get about a minute until the next set of contractions. At this point, frustratingly, all of my careful training went out the window – there was only pain and breath and moaning as my husband and doula took turns rubbing my back, putting cold washcloths on my forehead, and coaching my breath and sound as I leaned on a birth ball that was stacked on a chair. When they checked me 4 hours later and I was still at a 3, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way through without some pain relief. Technically I was still in early labor, and this was what I imagined transition would feel like! I had given it my all, and I knew I was strong, but the contractions were just too intense to imagine enduring them for hours more. At that point I asked for an epidural, and luckily it didn’t take long for the anesthesiologist to arrive. Though his bedside manner left something to be desired, his work was amazing – I barely felt anything as he placed the epidural, and it took effect almost immediately. The difference was night and day – suddenly I went from not being able to speak or focus on anything but the immediate sensation, to being able to laugh and joke with the midwives and nurses. I felt like myself again, and the best part was that I could still feel my feet and legs, which allowed me to continue to move around and try different positions, and I could feel the pressure of the contractions, just not the pain. Ultimately, it allowed me to feel like an active participant in the birth process, which I was thrilled about. I don’t know if “enjoyable” is the right word, but I was so positive and present from that point forward! After the epidural, my family members came to say hello, and then our doula kindly but firmly asked them to leave so I could get some rest while I continued to dilate. Because it was going to be a while, my hubby went to grab a bite to eat, and by the time he returned they had checked me and I was at an 8.5. Just an hour or so later, at 8:30 p.m., I was fully dilated and it was time to push. Because I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, I knew when to push, and I could try positions from being on hands and knees, to the squat bar, to side lying. I was so excited to give it all I had, and was full of happy disbelief that there would finally be a little being after this long wait! After an hour of pushing the team could see his head, but after another hour he still hadn’t fully emerged. They suspected that he may be sunny side up, and my midwife suggested we try the vacuum to help him out that final bit. An OB arrived shortly thereafter, and just two sets of contractions with the little suction cup on his head and he was finally, finally born, just before 11 p.m. (As it turned out, he was face down, but his hand was next to his head – in what I’d like to think was a defiant “power to the people” gesture – which is what made his emergence a bit more difficult.) As we had hoped for, we got immediate skin to skin contact with our new little love, amidst smiles, laughter, and tears, and when I nursed him just 15 minutes later he latched on immediately. What an amazing, heart-splitting-open wonderfulness meeting him felt like! My father was surprised when I sent an email to friends and family a few days later saying that it was a relatively short and smooth labor. But I felt that an active labor process of less than 12 hours, with only 4 of them being really grueling was pretty fantastic for my first baby. Especially when the team kept telling us that even with the Cervadil and Pitocin it could take a day or more. In fact, the day after Graham was born I said to my husband “Oh yeah. I could definitely do that again!” I must say that all of my yoga training served me so well – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Interestingly, Savasana was one of the most helpful postures – not only for the labor process, but in the days and weeks afterwards. Being able to relax, let everything go, and rest – whether between contractions, pushes, or nursing sessions – has been invaluable. I also think our approach of keeping open minds throughout the process was absolutely necessary. I had wanted to try and take a natural approach as long as possible, and thought a water birth would be amazing if all of the factors aligned. But in the moment, in my body, and with the way this particular birth process unfolded, getting the epidural was the absolute best decision for me, and I didn’t have any guilt or regret, then or now. That I could be an engaged and active participant made the experience simply incredible. I had heard so many stories of women and their partners feeling worried, scared, or cheated because of the cascade of medical interventions, but I’d love for the mamas to know that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience. Technically I had a number of interventions – Cervadil, Pitocin, an epidural, and the vacuum. But they felt necessary in the moment, and they all did their jobs, and allowed the process to move forward safely. Most of all, the midwives and nurses were so fantastic, and I felt that I could trust their care and never worried that things were being done without my input and approval. They respected my wishes and we made a fabulous team. We are so in love with our little guy, and despite being tired, we are loving getting to know him and figuring out how to navigate the terrain of parenthood. Much love to all of you, and I can’t wait to get back to yoga with my sweet little boy and to see you all again soon! —Stephanie *{A little note from Blooma: We joyfully share birth stories sent to us by Blooma families, however, Blooma does not claim responsibility for and does not endorse individual choices made by families or their care providers. We seek to share an array of birth stories to showcase a wide range of experiences.}

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A Must-Watch for Any Expecting Family

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Considering doula care for your birth? Still wondering what they do and if hiring one is right for you? Once you check out the 2-minute trailer, you’ll want to see the rest of this 20-minute film! Stream Doulas: A Documentary from Amazon for just $1.99. Doulas — you’ll want to buy your own copy to show families you work with. Doulas: A Documentary is a must-see for anyone about to give birth, anyone who’s given birth, or who simply wants to be moved! Made by Minneapolis filmmaker, photographer and labor and delivery nurse, Emily Rumsey, this film includes interviews with not only doulas, but also with families, OBs, midwives and nurses. Did you have a doula? What did you love about your doula? Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma

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Birth Story: “Wow! Amazing! WE DID IT!”

Friday, May 18th, 2012

This sweet birth story was full of all kinds of lessons for new mama, Maggie — from working through frustration, to learning to be in the present moment. Amazing (and difficult) lessons for all of us! Congratulations, Maggie, and welcome to the world, baby Kit! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __ My maternity leave began on a Monday, one week before my due date, due to sporadic contractions that continually tricked me into thinking “this is it!” This wouldn’t have been bad, but day after day, we had no baby! Luckily, that week provided me with inner crisis, struggle, preparation time, a bit of rest, and good advice from great people around me about letting go of control and taking this time to rest and relax. This was a challenge for me! … A foreshadowing of the challenge ahead?? Finally, on Thursday, I attended Sarah’s prenatal yoga class and took her advice about being in the present moment. Wow! Yoga has really centered me over the years and especially at that moment! Just be. I was having a great pregnancy, and I just needed to let go of trying to be in control and let my body and the baby work. What a lesson! Friday evening, while out with some friends, I started to feel contractions…these are different, more intense. I didn’t get much sleep that night because I lost my mucus plug and my water broke around 2 a.m. Saturday. Saturday morning, we called Dawn, our doula, and told her about the progress. HOWEVER… now the contractions had stopped. Ugh! We talked with Dawn about the decision we had to make… when do we go to the hospital if contractions don’t start on their own? This was not what I had envisioned! My labor was supposed to start. I was supposed to labor at home with Brent and Dawn as long as I could, then go to the hospital and push this baby out without interventions or drugs. We decided to give my body 24 hours to start contractions on its own, and get one more night of sleep in our own bed. If nothing started, we would go into the hospital bright and early Sunday morning. So, we got all packed and ready to go, hoping things would start on their own! Nothing started on its own. So, we packed up our car at 6 a.m. Sunday morning and off we went to the hospital. Knowing that our OB would have wanted us to come in within 6 hours of my water breaking, we told a little fib. We said my water broke at 2 a.m. Sunday morning instead of Saturday morning. As we expected, they wanted to start me on pitocin to get my contractions started. So, here we go! An intervention. Our plan had already taken a turn, but I was determined to do my best to have the birth we planned. After making a couple of special requests, we finally got on the same page as our nurse to make this birth happen our way! We started pitocin at 10:30 a.m. Dawn joined us at about noon and became my “personal trainer.” We started working the room and trying to get contractions to form a regular pattern. They started their regular, hard pattern around 1:30 p.m. Dawn and Brent helped me work through my contractions, as we changed positions every 20 minutes or so. Dawn was excellent and amazingly helpful, but the best part about Dawn was how helpful she made Brent. She was able to give him cues and guide him in helping me. It was extra special having my husband right by my side giving me exactly what I needed! It really made the birth ours. When the nurse checked my cervix at 4 p.m., and asked if I wanted to know the number, I asked her to just tell Dawn. I had been working so hard; I didn’t want to be disappointed by a number. Dawn announced, “Yes! You want to know that you’re already dilated to 7 ½ or 8!” I didn’t know how much longer I could take this hard work, but Dawn gave me a short pep talk about how I had made it through some of the hardest labor and was now transitioning to push. Okay, things were changing… I can do this! Yes, they were changing, but that didn’t mean they were getting easier. It was a different kind of challenge! After a couple more cervix checks (and a little help from the nurse to get rid of the last part—push it over the baby’s head), I got to start pushing. I started pushing around 5:15 p.m. and our sweet baby girl Kathryn (“Kit”) was born at 5:46 p.m., Sunday, March 4th. Wow! Amazing! WE DID IT! …even with the Pitocin change of plan right off the bat! We were a great team—all 4 of us! Baby Kit cooperated throughout the whole process. And, I couldn’t have done it without Brent and Dawn! Our beautiful, alert, 7lb, 8oz Kit arrived and started nursing right away! I want to thank Sarah and Blooma and all they provide to mamas, not only the yoga but also the inspiration and education! I would have never been so empowered to have the birth my husband and I wanted for our baby without Blooma and the Childbirth Collective. You gave us the knowledge and the confidence to go into the hospital and make it our birth, not just another birth that needed to follow their checklist and protocol. Thank you so much! I look forward to bringing Kit to BYOB yoga very soon!! — Maggie *{A little note from Blooma: We joyfully share birth stories sent to us by Blooma families, however, Blooma does not claim responsibility for and does not endorse individual choices made by families or their care providers. We seek to share any array of birth stories to showcase a wide range of experiences.}

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Yep, There’s an App for That

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Amber Kay, a birth doula and Shiatsu and prenatal massage therapist, recently sent me some info about an app called iBirth, available for iPhones and Androids. Here’s what she had to say about it:
What I like is that it shows all the great positions to get in depending on the stage of labor — like, squats, birth ball, hands & knees, etc. It’s like a doula in an app.
That’s probably because the app was written by a doula! While this app may be fabulous (it has received 24 five-star ratings so far), there are a few things fancy technology can’t do. For example, it will take an in-person doula to massage you, apply a cool cloth to your forehead when you need it most, and to anticipate your wants and needs during labor. 🙂 Still, this app may offer some decent birth prep and tips for birth. We’re curious: has anyone out there downloaded iBirth, do you plan to use it, or have you used it? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma

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Birth Story: Laughter, Fear, Highs, Lows — The Whole Shebang

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

You saw this mama’s birth announcement last week, now read her whole story. Through the intensity of labor and all her very, VERY hard work, Allison still enjoyed some laughs along the way: “My family used a lot of humor to keep things light. This is easy to do when a very pregnant woman is doing figure eights in paper underwear.”  What’s more, when fear creeped into this mama’s mind, she verbalized it, then “cried and released it.” Ahhh. THIS is birth, mamas: laughter, fear, highs, lows, perseverance — the whole shebang. (And little Aiden was an 11/11/11 baby!) Thank you Allison for sharing your story of stamina and strength with us! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __ {By Allison} Although we were hoping for a shorter labor this time Aiden took his sweet time. My daughter’s labor was 27 1/2 hours from water breaking to delivery. She was delivered without pain medication vaginally but I had needed some Pitocin to move things along. My water broke with Aiden on 11.10.11 at 3 p.m. Although, I had been 4 cm dilated since Thursday, Nov. 3. I had actually starting having contractions or “surges” on Friday, Nov. 4 that continued throughout the weekend and progressed to about 5 minutes apart by Sunday. Both Matt and I thought that Aiden would be joining us soon but the surges stopped around dinner time on Sunday to my great frustration and exhaustion. Our doula, Summer and midwives at Park Nicollet in Shakopee were such a wonderful support. We decided to go to the hospital for an evaluation and it was suggested that Aiden wasn’t engaged enough to keep labor going. So the midwife and nurse did robozo, Gail Tully’s stretching and recommended lunges, yoga and a Webster adjustment. I spent Monday through Thursday doing all of that. I felt like my body had tricked me and that I couldn’t trust it. But Sarah and the other women at Blooma along with Summer offered so much love and support I was able to move forward. Following a class with Jesse on Thursday I felt things start again and then my water broke. I was very worried that I would be on a time line like I was with our daughter and end up on Pitocin. But Matt and I rested and listened to the Hypnobirthing CDs while our daughter napped. We played with her, fed her dinner and took a walk outside in the evening. Summer, my sister Brett and my mother joined us after we put our daughter down to bed. By this time the surges were regular and I was showing signs of my cervix changing. We rested and kept on playing the CDs until 3 a.m. when I was feeling that I would be more comfortable in the tub at St. Francis. My mother stayed home with our daughter and the rest of us were on our way. When we got there, the midwife, Dawn, and the nurses were so welcoming and respectful. They were all very excited, as we were going to be the first water birth at their hospital. They had reviewed our birth preferences and were supportive of them. I was 5 cm when we arrived and Aiden had finally engaged! We decided to do some walking and lunges to keep things moving. Then I got in the tub and everyone else slept! I was able to use the breathing techniques and meditate while floating in the water. After a few hours Matt and I showered and used nipple stimulation. I knew I was approaching transition as the sensations intensified and I started to feel nauseous. The nurse checked me and I was 7 cm but my cervix was thicker on the left side, so Summer had Matt and my sister help me to lunge and squat. All I could think of was the red wall at Blooma and the image of bowls of water in my hands. My family used a lot of humor to keep things light. This was easy to do when a very pregnant woman is doing figure eights in paper underwear. Matt and I did some walking and I did pelvic tilts during surges to engage him further while they adjusted the temperature of the tub. Matt and I got in the tub together around 11 a.m. He gave me prompts to relax and let my body to do what it was suppose to. When the midwife checked me she told me that I was nearly complete, I squatted in the tub with Matt’s support to finish the dilatation. Although I had been in labor for 20 hours, I remember being surprised how much energy I had and feeling how manageable it had been. I knew it was time for the birthing phase, and so my fears crept in. I had pushed for 3 ½ hours with my daughter and she had been stuck on my pubic bone. I struggled with a fear that this would happen again and I wouldn’t be able to push my son out. I tried to use the J-breathing from Hypnobirthing but I knew it wasn’t working. When I was able to verbalize my fear, I cried and released it. My sister held my hands; Summer reminded me that my body knew what to do and Matt told me remember my birth mantra. “She believed she could so she did.” (The phrase that I stared at through countless yoga sessions). The midwife (who was familiar with my daughter’s birth) was firm but calm. She encouraged me to try the position that I birthed my daughter in. Matt helped me float onto my back and supported my entire body; holding my “knee pits” and I pushed but still I could tell he wasn’t moving. When I told the midwife she checked and reported that he was stuck, as my daughter had been. She told me she would have to move my pubic bone and that it would hurt, but that it would help him to come out faster than my daughter. All I could think of was meeting my son and I didn’t even feel it. Summer and my sister held my hands. Matt gripped me tighter and pushed me forward. All of them supporting me as I faced my fear and pushed my baby out. A few pushes and he crowned. A few more and his head came out. I would love to say that it didn’t hurt and that I kept my focus inward but at this point I started to yell. Everyone reminded me to keep my chin down and voice low but it was hard. I kept thinking he should be out by now. The midwife was real serious and told me “you’re going to have to push really hard.” And I did. As I moaned, pulled on Summer and my sister’s hands and pushed into my husband. The midwife with her arms up to her armpits in the water — I thought I was going to bring my whole birthing team in the tub with me! Finally, Aiden came out with both shoulders forward (he never turned!). The midwife caught him and I pulled him out of the water onto my chest. The feeling of relief and awe washed over me. However he didn’t start breathing right away and so they had to take him to the warmer and give him some oxygen. Matt hurried to him and in what felt like an eternity but really was only moments. Aiden was screaming. I said “oh he’s pissed, its okay honey I’m pissed too!” Matt and I welcomed Aiden Robert on 11.11.11 at 12:49 p.m. He weighed 8lbs, 13 oz and was 20 1/4 in. after 22 hours labor. Initially I was frustrated because I hadn’t been able to do it myself. To be quiet and calm while birthing my baby. To stay inward and focused. I had done it with my daughter, why couldn’t I this time? But after processing Aiden’s birth with those who attended it and writing this story I realized that it is okay that I couldn’t do it all by myself. If anything having my daughter and becoming a mother has taught me that I cannot control everything. I need to ask for and accept help. Throughout this process Blooma and Hypnobirthing taught me to trust my body, and when I couldn’t, or fear crept in, those around me believing in me centered me and brought me back to believing in myself. In the end I was able to let go of my expectations about what I had envisioned for my labor and to recognize what a beautiful birth story he gave us. He was born without medical intervention into a watery and loving welcome. We were surrounded by support and respect. And most importantly we had a beautiful, healthy son.

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Blooma Blossom: Arriving from a yogi squat!

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Congratulations to new mama, Maija, who recently birthed a little girl. We look forward to seeing you and your little at Blooma when you’re ready! Love, Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma __

Baby Eila

Hello Sarah & Team, I am really happy to announce the birth of Eila. She was born at 2:47 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 at a healthy 7 lbs, 1 oz.  She measured 20.34 in. All in all, a healthy baby girl. I went home (the night before) from Sarah’s yoga class and woke up at 2:45 a.m. to the first real contraction. They started coming close together surprisingly quickly, and by 8 a.m. Mark, (my doula) Sondra Doty, and I were at HCMC and 6 cm dilated. Baby Eila was born after 12 intense hours, making her way into the world with mom in full yogi squat in the tub with the help of an amazing team at HCMC, led by midwife Kathryn Leggitt. Thanks for all the support during the pregnancy, and I look forward to returning for some Bring Your Own Baby yoga classes when we are ready. Maija

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