Pregnant in 2017? ACOG Recommends…

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As a doula, getting the latest recommendations on birth updated is almost like Christmas morning. And if you are pregnant in 2017, you probably want to be aware of the latest recommendations by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Whether you are attempting a natural birth in the hospital, or maybe you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do, there are some important points that would be good for you to know. And as we all know, knowledge is power. And what pregnant woman couldn’t use an extra boost of power?

You can read the entire position paper they put out here, or simply read on to get an overview of some of the key points.

These new recommendations consist of a more hands-off approach when it comes to some things (like fetal monitoring and pushing approaches), and they include and reaffirm their past position on things such as eating and drinking during labor (Yes, of course it’s good for you!)

And you know what else is good for you? Continuous support. Although this is not “new” news. This document specifically mentions doulas several times and numerous citations are used to note the mounting evidence that continuous labor support is associated with a myriad of positive outcomes such as:

  • Fewer operative assisted birth such as forceps or vacuum extractions
  • Less need for epidurals and analgesia
  • Fewer cesarean births
  • Shorter labors
  • Higher 5 minutes Apgar scores
  • Fewer reports of dissatisfaction with the experience of labor

So what else might be important for you to know now?

Laboring at home until active labor is encouraged and beneficial

In recent years the definition of active labor has changed to mean until 5- 6 cm of dilation. But that means little to moms who are laboring at home without being checked by a care provider. So the bottom line is, be prepared to labor at home…for quite awhile. It is perfectly normal for a first time mom to be in early labor for 24 hours, or more. Early labor (the latent phase) is a very important part of the labor process that should not be downplayed, in my opinion. A lot is still going on for a laboring woman, both physically and mentally. Research shows that for low-risk, healthy women, interventions are more likely to be avoided if they are admitted once they reach active labor. So it’s important to understand a lot of labor will be happening outside the hospital, and it’s important to have a good plan. I always educate my clients on the process of early labor, what to look for, help them come up with some ideas as to how to spend it, and I help their partners understand they will have a very important role during this time period.

Intermittent monitoring is appropriate for low-risk labors

Woohoo! ACOG finally affirms that for low-risk labors, intermittent monitoring (as opposed to being tethered to a machine by 2 elastic straps the entire time) is appropriate, and sometimes even more beneficial. The opinion clearly states that studies have shown that continuous monitoring has not reduced perinatal death or cerebral palsy for low-risk pregnancies, and has in fact increased cesarean and instrument assisted births. So couple that with the desire to want to move about freely and change positions at will, which naturally will aid in the descent of the baby and the progress of labor, and it becomes quite logical that for low-risk labors, intermittent monitoring is way more beneficial. But you will need to discuss this before “labor day” with your provider, and make sure the hospital you will be attending has this as a true option. Then on labor day, you will need to remind them that this is important for you.

Water breaks before labor starts? You have choices, and equally good options

When a woman experiences PROM (premature rupture of membranes), this means the water breaks and labor doesn’t begin immediately. When this happens, according to the newest findings, “approximately 77–79% of women will go into labor spontaneously within 12 hours, and 95% will start labor spontaneously within 24–28 hours” (ACOG, Feburary 2017). There are 2 types of management in this case. Expectant management is a “hand’s off” approach where conditions are monitored but treatment is withheld until symptoms appear or parameters change. Active management is where induction is started shortly after the rupture of the membranes “to move things along”.

“For informed women, if concordant with their individual preferences and if there are no other maternal or fetal reasons to expedite delivery, the choice of expectant management for a period of time may be appropriately offered and supported”

-Committee Opinion: Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth, ACOG, February 2017

Current best practices shows outcomes are the same, whether active or expectant management is used in low-risk pregnancies. So this is another good talk to have ahead of time with your provider. Make sure if you think you might want to wait it out at home, they are comfortable with assessing you, and then letting you do your thing until somethings changes, or you change your mind.

And speaking of water breaking…

Your water will break, at some point before or during, or even after labor (for babies born in the caul). This is a hard fact. ACOG is now recognizing what research has shown for years- that AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) has little benefit to the labor as a whole, and may actually do more harm than good in terms of increasing the risk of infection, causing a malpositioned baby, or in extreme cases it can cause cord prolapse or placental abruption, both which will lead to an emergency cesarean. Expectant mothers should know it’s perfectly normal for waters to release when they are ready, and that there is no need to rush the process.Unless, of course, there is an obvious medical necessity.

Keep Calm and Drink On

The reasoning behind the “no eating or drinking during labor” (at a hospital) rule is primarily to avoid aspiration should an emergency ensue later.  Current findings show current anesthesia techniques (meaning epidurals) are associated with a low incidence of aspiration, and ACOG has stated now that hydrating yourself with fluids is preferable to IV hydration. So bring lots of coconut water, herbal teas, bone broth, juices, whatever appeals to you! They have alluded to the fact that since aspiration risks are so low, eating would in effect help keep a laboring mom’s strength up for the marathon of labor, but they have yet to officially change their stance regarding food and are continuing their “ongoing review” on it. We’ll have to give them more time to catch up on this one.

Push it Real Good

The “purple pushing” or Valsalva (closed glottis) pushing technique is being compared to an instinctual, open glottis pushing which is often accompanied with vocalizations of many varieties (and wow, have I heard it all!) in this recent finding. Studies show that there is minimal difference when it comes to the duration of the second stage, no difference in overall outcomes (meaning cesarean, instrument assisted, APGAR scores, etc.). There is a slight shortening of the pushing phase (depending on the study), between 5 and 10 minutes, when using the Valsalva technique, but there is also increased incidence of “abnormal urodynamics” (hello, pelvic floor, how I miss you so). Also, women are now (finally!) being encouraged to “labor down”, meaning give baby some time to move further down on his own and to following their own instincts as to when to start to push. This is a good thing because you are working WITH your body, when it’s ready. Just because you hit 10 cm. does not necessarily mean baby is down low enough to make pushing warranted or very effective…and no one wants an exhausted mama by the time baby is low enough.

Regardless of what you choose for YOUR birth, having evidence based information can help you make better choices. And it’s important is that these are your choices, what you feel is best for you and your family. Documents such as the one just put out by ACOG make wonderful talking points with your care provider. They tend to like that kind of evidence based stuff, they’re funny like that. And believe it or not some of them who have been practicing for a long time may or may not be up to speed with the latest recommendations. So here’s your chance to share with them.

Share on mamas, share on!

What This Doula Wants You to Know

 

 

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Doulas are for everyone. At least, this one is. Doulas are not only for the earthy-crunchy, squat-in-a-field-by-the-river, no-medication-whatsoever Moms.  I believe everyone could benefit from some intensive support, no matter what your preference, plan, or non-plan is.

After all, birth is a monumental, incredible, life-changing experience, whether you think of it that way or not. And who wouldn’t want some degree of support while going through a monumental, life-changing experience?  But – believe it or not – some people don’t hire a doula. Which is absolutely okay. There are many mothers, sisters, friends, even partners out in the world who are up for the challenge and make incredible birth companions.

But pregnancy and birth is not always a straight line. It (sometimes) has it’s twists and turns, and  (sometimes) that’s when having a trained professional- someone who has been down this well worn path many, many times before, and has seen an endless number of variations of this dance- is invaluable.

But whether you hire a doula or not, my nervous, excited, ever-so-hopeful and determined mama…..there are a few things I really want to share with you.

  • Please, take a great deal of care and time when choosing your birth provider. Your provider is one of the most important decisions you will make in this process. He or she has a significant impact on the outcome of your birth. Please, talk to them open and honestly early on. Listen to what they say, and how they say it. Listen to the tone of voice they use, look at their facial expressions. Then listen for what they don’t say. Don’t be afraid to share everything you are concerned or curious about, or to ask anything, even the hard questions. Then notice how you feel when you are talking with them. Do you feel calm and at ease? Supported? Dismissed? Like they are truly listening? If you don’t get a good feeling and it doesn’t feel like a good match look into meeting another provider. You have the ability and the power to do so! It needs to be a good fit for you both! You need to feel completely comfortable in this relationship. There are all types out there. Just because this person was incredible with your good friend, or cousin, or cousin’s sister, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you!!! Go with your gut.
  • Providers are human beings too. They have similar clinical training across the board, but all have their unique personalities. They bring to the table (and to your birth) with them their own “baggage”. They have opinions and history and past experiences that are going to impact they way they practice today. That doesn’t make them good or bad, only human! Again, find one that makes you feel comfortable! For example, if you are seeking a  VBAC and they seem on the fence about it early on, they are not going to suddenly change their mind halfway through YOUR pregnancy and become a huge advocate and push for it! You might wish that, but it’s not going to happen. So again, find the right fit, early on, or move on and keep looking. It’s a lot easier to find a compatible provider at week 15 than it is at week 36. Or, be prepared to constantly advocate for yourself every step of the way.
  • Remember to think outside the box. There are other places to give birth. Such as at home, with a skilled midwife, or at a Birth Center. Look into these options if you are low risk and seeking a natural birth. They are not so outside the box anymore. More and more women are seeking out these locations for their births because the return of a more a natural birth experience is becoming more and more mainstream. Many women are realizing that most hospitals treat birth as a medical event, a business, not a natural, normal process.
  • If you choose to use an OB as a provider, and there are many supportive, attentive, empathetic OB’s out there, find out how many other OB’s (and Certified Nurse Midwives who also may deliver there) are in the practice. It is not uncommon for a practice to have easily anywhere from 2 to 4 other providers, not counting CNM’s in the practice. So if you painstakingly do all your research and find YOUR PERFECT PROVIDER….please remember the chances of them being the actual person on call the day you go into labor are…well, you do the math. They rotate. So the chances are slim it will happen that way. So it’s best to wrap your head around that concept early on, and make sure all the providers are like-minded. Or find a smaller practice with a different doctor.
  • Education goes a long way. The more educated you are about pregnancy and birth, the more comfortable you will be when and if a deviation from your original plan happens. Take a childbirth class, a breastfeeding class, a newborn care class or all 3. Knowledge is power!
  • I can’t take the pain away…as a Doula I wish I could. But then I’d rob you of the experience of knowing you can and will do this. This experience will push you to the brink of your capabilities. It’s a rite of passage, no matter which way it happens. And the experience belongs to you. As a doula, I can be there by your side, helping you navigate the twists and turns, helping you stay as comfortable as possible, reminding you that you can do this, you’ve got what it takes to get through. Unwavering in my faith in you, and in the process.

You can do this….you will do this.

Remember you have so many choices along the way….

You can choose where to give birth.

You can choose to do it all natural.

You can choose a scheduled c-section.

You can choose an epidural.

You can choose to change your mind midway and go from all natural to an epidural.

You can choose to decline any or all medications for you or your baby.

You can choose not to consent to a procedure that is being recommended if you’ve carefully weighed the pros and cons and don’t believe it’s in your and your baby’s best interest.

But the beauty of this whole experience is you have a lot of power, and you have choices.

Don’t forget that!

 

 

 

The Magic Formula

The universe is ALWAYS speaking to us, sometimes in subtle ways, other times, more like a bonk on the head. That is a given, there is nothing we have to “do” to have it speak to us. We do, however, have to take the time to LISTEN. Which often means being more aware, creating space for that awareness by being still, pausing, listening, and being open to what is being said.

The week before last for me was a doozy. I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened. I was diligently and with painstaking detail putting together a new PowerPoint presentation for a Peaceful Parenting Workshop I was giving on that upcoming Saturday. I had previously given this workshop a few times using my own notes, but it was time to kick it up a notch and make it pretty and use visuals to get the points across.

In the midst of working on that, beside my usual responsibilities, I somehow crazily (over)scheduled myself to see 4 doula clients in 1 day. No problem, I can handle that! There are plenty of hours in 1 day! Besides, that was on Wednesday, and left me 2 more whole days to put together everything I needed for the workshop. Plenty of time!

Then the Universe bonked.

But let me back up. About that formula. One of the tools I teach in the Peaceful Parenting world, which is easily applied to any relationship, and actually to every single thing in our lives, is how important it is that WE be at peace and as present as possible in every moment. How real/inner peace can be attained no matter what our circumstances, no matter what storms are raging around us. We have a huge say in what our world really looks like to us, we have immense power. We often fear that power and therefore prefer to play the role of victim to our circumstances. But the truth is we do have the power, to a great extent.

So what’s the formula, you ask?

EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME

It seems very simplistic. But it really finally made sense to me and hit home with me about a year and a half ago. I guess I was finally truly ready to hear it and grasp it. It’s a game changer. But you have to be ready for it. Because it means taking responsibility. You really need to be in a good mental space to have it work it’s magic, otherwise, it will have the opposite effect & you will fall flat on your face. Because you see, no matter WHAT event is taking place, be it not getting that raise you were hoping for & counting on, a tantrum your child is having, a cup of spilled milk, a serious illness, no matter WHAT the “it” is, it is YOUR REACTION/RESPONSE to it that will greatly impact the outcome. It can literally change the course of history in that moment.

Take milk, for example. Let’s say you are in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning to drop your kids off at school and make it to work on time for a meeting. So everyone is a teeny bit on edge because just maybe you’re a little stressed about the time. Then, let’s say your highly sensitive 5 year old son, in his haste to finish up quickly, accidentally spills his cup of milk all over the table and the floor. He then looks up at you in horror, with huge round eyes…..waiting…….an eternity…..for your reaction. Because he knows you’re already stressed, and this could put you over the edge. You could yell, scream, say all sorts of choice words to him and about him, or instead perhaps start slamming things  about and possibly then hurt yourself, which could lead to tears (both you and him possibly), him yelling back because he feels hurt (not to mention guilty), a struggle to get in the car, more fighting in the car, a longer than usual wait at car line, an accident causing extra traffic on the way to work….etc. Catch my drift? Because the universe is so in tune to you, it will provide you more of whatever you are putting out there energetically.

But what about the flip side? What if, instead of getting upset and going down that road, you CHOOSE instead to take a moment, pause, then take it as a cue to slow down and not take things so seriously.  Instead of getting mad, you take a deep breath and then say to your son “Hey, no biggie, let’s each grab a rag and work together to clean it up. We can pretend we are robots and make our best robot noises!”. Chances are, that will be met with a lot more joy, cooperation, and a more peaceful exit out of the house as well as a more peaceful commute. Most likely, that energy will continue to permeate your day and smooth things out for you in all aspects of your day.

Because really we are 50% of the equation, and the outcome. We can choose to see everything in a positive or a negative light. Its not always easy, I know, I get that. But it’s like a muscle. The more you work it, the easier it gets.

So back to the Universe bonking me.

The night of my 4-clients-in-one-day-while-preparing-my-upcoming-workshop, when I finally got home at 9:30pm…I got a phone call that my 83 year old father, my “Papi” (who has a myriad of serious health issues to say the least) is being admitted to the hospital and needs immediate gall-bladder surgery the next morning. 1 hour away from where I live. This wasn’t a complete surprise as we had been dealing with his delicate gall-bladder issue for 6 weeks now, but careful measures had been taken to delay having the surgery as long as possible, to make it as smooth as possible since he has so many other issues that impact him undergoing surgery with general anesthesia.

So off I went the next morning….after dropping off my son at school, the 1 hour commute to the hospital in Miami rush hour traffic….to meet him to prep for surgery. I was nervous of course, he’s elderly, sick, and he’s my Papi. But from the moment I got the news I made a choice I was going to be positive about this and trust that all was happening as it should, and all would be well. I tapped into the peace inside me and let it ride. It was a smooth sail to the hospital. Things that morning sort of just clicked. I got there in time to meet the orderly who was wheeling him to the OR prep/triage room (who happened to also be Cuban, as are we. My Dad takes great pride in it). My aunt/his sister was also with him. The kind orderly asked my aunt & I to wait outside in the OR waiting room and promised someone would give us updates along the way. So my aunt and I prepared to hunker  down and wait.

Not 4 minutes later, a nurse came out (Russian, gotta love living in an International melting pot!) calling my name, and told us we could come on back. She let us in to the prep/triage room to wait with my Dad while they started on all the prep necessary for surgery. Papi was in good spirits, cracking jokes. I was also trying to keep the mood light and positive for us all. We could hear everything going on in the adjacent “bays” in the room (each separated by paper thin curtains) as others were also getting prepped (and prodded, and poked). And it was taking a really long time. Like for real, not like just because it’s happening to you  it just feels like a  long time. Other patients were coming in and then moving on. More nurses (Cuban) came to prepare him, kindly flirt with him, and ask more of the same questions we’d already answered at least twice previously. Anesthesia (American, maybe?) came and talked to him, then the surgeon (Cuban). He explained there was a need to possibly transfuse blood/plasma as well as this possibly turning into more than just a  quick laproscopic surgery. So prep would take a little while longer than usual.

I’m still choosing to remain calm and at peace, even while reading between the lines of everything he was saying.  I will say that I did have a moment just then of a little panic and doubt. I took a moment and tried to go within, to ground and center myself, to ground the staff, everyone present, the room. I breathed. I felt the need to stand up and stroll a few steps away from my Dad and towards the exit leading to the OR. And there it was, my message. My reminder. Clear as day, big and bright, on a bulletin board (Really? In an OR triage room?) no less:

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EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME!

What are the freaking chances??? I literally laughed out loud, am I’m sure sounded momentarily psychotic to the nurses around. Then I snapped a picture on my phone and almost got kicked out of there. I had to explain to the nurse in charge that the message on the bulletin board was EXACTLY the message of my upcoming workshop, how that same equation was literally the last slide in my PowerPoint and how meaningful it was. Luckily, she smiled and got it and it sparked a conversation between us and then we were good.

I (silently) thanked the Universe for the message, and I was all good again. I knew then no matter what transpired with my Dad, all would be alright. That no matter what happened in life, period, it would all be alright. I had faith. I felt supported. And I was reminded by that not so subtle detail on the bulletin board. My perception makes the difference.

I then took a moment to take in the bigger picture, to look for more signs (why not?). Then it hit me, we were the only family members in this triage room for the last 3 hours. Not 1 other family member. All the other patient’s family members were all outside in the waiting room. Why had the nurse come and gotten us to come and stay with my Dad when no one else was allowed/invited back there? Why only us? There was absolutely no logical reason.

Funny what we realize when we take that moment of pause. Everything becomes illuminated.

In the end, the operation was way more complicated, they had to do a lot more than anticipated. It took twice as long as they had said, they had to call in an additional surgeon, make quite a large incision, transfuse plasma, rewire some internal connections in my Dad, but he got through it all with flying colors. He even came out of the general anesthesia and was breathing on his own way quicker than normal, despite all his other medical issues and concerns that had delayed this surgery so long in the first place.

So yes, I was bonked. I spent the next 2 days driving back and forth, 1 hour each way, to spend the day with my recovering super-hero of a father. I did NOT have any time at all to further prepare for my workshop as I had originally planned on. But in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Turns out, I had everything I needed all along. And luckily, and most importantly, I still have my Papi.

 

“You’re a Do-what?”

It seems like even with the current evolution of the birth world- with documentaries like “The Business of Being Born” and “Born in the USA” becoming quite well known, and more women choosing home births or seeking out birth centers, you hear more and more about “alternative” birth practices and birth-related terms. Home births, water births, unassisted births, midwives, doulas, placenta encapsulation, placenta smoothies….these are all terms that are now quite common. Well, at least you’ve probably heard the terms before, even if you don’t know exactly what they all mean. And quite possibly, if you’re not pregnant (or planning to become pregnant….or if you’re a male) you might not want to know what some of these terms mean.

But…..for me, if I had a dollar for every time I still heard “You’re a doo- whaaaat?” when I say I’m  a doula…..well, let’s just say I’d be typing this blog post from aboard my yacht as I sip on a tropical cocktail by the pool, while the cabana boy who bears a striking resemblance to Chris Hemsworth rubs sunscreen on my body (please note, I’m not on-call in this fantasy). Because, well, let’s face it, the reality is many people don’t really know what exactly a doula is (although they might think they do, or they don’t want to admit that they don’t). Heck, I work closely with two home-birth midwives that have had clients who have already hired them and aren’t sure what the difference between a doula and a midwife is. Not to mention the misconception that if you hire a doula, it must mean you are planning to birth at home in flower-petal filled water, singing “Kumbaya” wearing nothing but a wreath on  your head, while burning sage and chanting mantras in ancient dialects. And while I think that sounds AMAZING and I’d love to attend that birth, that’s just not the case. Most of the time, the women who most benefit from having a doula are those birthing in a hospital setting, with a traditional OB as their care provider. Because birth can be “complicated” within that setting, with many opposing forces coming into play along the way.

The word doula is of Greek origin and means “woman who serves”. But please, allow me to break it down for you further. Here it is, in language everyone can understand- what a doula is and what a doula is not. Or rather, what a doula does and doesn’t /shouldn’t do.

A doula…

…provides physical, informational, and emotional support.

That means we help you identify what comfort measures work best for you to alleviate the physical discomforts associated with pregnancy and birth. That could mean massage, hot/cold packs, different positions for laboring women to move into to get the baby in the best position for birth,  music, affirmations, visualizations, meditations, etc. We are there to help you navigate throughout your birth using all of these and more, silently recognizing when something that was working great is no longer effective, and we gracefully guide you to a new suggestion.

It means we help you get whatever evidence-based information you need in order to help you make the best decisions for your family and your birth. Whether it is helping you to communicate effectively with your care provider what your wishes & hopes are; helping you to listen to their responses and to determine if you feel heard, understood and respected; giving you links to information on a procedure or intervention that is being recommended; giving you community resources for other types of practitioners throughout your pregnancy , birth and postpartum that may be helpful; taking your phone calls at 2 am when you are wondering “Is this normal?” when you are wide awake at night because you are worried, and tired, and haven’t been able to find a comfortable sleeping position in MONTHS, and just want to ask that question but you don’t want to call your care provider and seem silly or overcautious.

It means emotionally, we are present and there for you at all times, without judgement or an agenda. When your family members are questioning your decisions and your choices. When your fears leading up to birth become overwhelming. When the time FINALLY comes and you are in the thick of it and you get to the point where you don’t think you can do it anymore. We are there to hold your hand, wipe your brow, look you in the eye and remind you that you CAN do this, you will do this, you are doing this.

A doula does not:

  • perform ANY clinical tasks such as taking your blood pressure, performing vaginal exams, checking fetal heart tones, etc.
  • make any decisions for you. We help you to get the information necessary to make informed decisions, both during pregnancy as well as during your labor and delivery. We also remind you if there is a departure from your original birth preferences.
  • speak to the staff or care providers on your behalf. We will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, and tactfully help you & your partner speak to the staff directly and feel empowered to make decisions regarding your birth.

As doulas, we are simply there for you. We hold space. We are your ally, your partner, your sister, your mother, your coach and your friend all rolled up into one during that magical time of pregnancy and birth. And we are grateful and honored to be able to serve you and be a witness to your miracle.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit from better understanding what a doula is. If you would like any more information specifically about the services I provide, please contact me at martha@zenmamalove, or visit my webpage, www.zenmamalove.com.

Birth Meme

 

Loss is Loss

Yesterday, we had a bit of a trying day with my family. Nothing major, just everyone being in a funk at the same time.

It seems the more people I talk to lately, it’s kind of like a cosmic epidemic of funkiness at the moment. Seems like realities are shifting, systems are getting upgraded, our world is changing and at times it feels like “forward progress is STOPPED” intermingled with “EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART” and a dash of “WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING”. I like to call these “growth periods” because truly that is what they are- an unraveling of the old, outdated systems that no longer serve us making way for a beautiful new, better reality. But the growing pains that come with them are no joke. So it’s safe to say due to this, as a highly sensitive person, my energy lately has been…..far from ideal. It’s kind of like a whirling dervish that just can’t settle down. I try really hard to use all the tools in my toolkit for keeping my own energy body protected, not allowing other energy that doesn’t belong to me negatively affect my own…..I always try. I don’t always succeed.

So back to yesterday. As we returned home from a quick dinner out, we noticed that a pair of turtledoves had built a nest right above our driveway/garage in the rain gutter, and a bunch of debris had fallen down onto the driveway (which is how we realized there was a nest). There was a mama bird proudly sitting on her nest, unfazed by our movement close to her as we made our way in the house. We were excitedly talking about the nest, wondering how many eggs were in it, when they would hatch, etc.  To me it’s a kind of blessing when an animal decides to set up birth shop in my vicinity, like it’s good mojo or something (that could be the doula in me, or the woman in me, or the mom in me….). Anyway it’s safe to say it was a much needed bright spot in my day.

Then this morning, as I walked outside to take my 5 year old to preschool after a not-so-smooth morning routine that left us both rattled and grumpy, I found this:

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My heart at that moment was a shattered as the egg. No mama or papa bird to be found anywhere. The nest had been abandoned. It was done. Over.

And for whatever reason, a deep sense of loss came over me. I felt it in my soul. As if I was connected to the bird, the egg, everyone on the planet at that moment that was hurting. I don’t know if my son saw it (actually I’m pretty sure he didn’t because he would have been in tears after realizing what had happened), but suddenly his mood shifted and he apologized for the crappy morning we’d had and his part of it, and asked if I was okay, if he could see my big smile. I was honest. I told him I couldn’t show him that smile at the moment, I wasn’t feeling it. But I would work on finding it. He responded “Okay mommy. Let me know when you’re ready and then you can show me”. Thank goodness.

I needed a moment to grieve, to explore what I was feeling, what it was bringing up in me. I didn’t want to fake a smile and pretend it was all fine. I also wanted to teach him that it’s okay to have bad/sad feelings and acknowledge them. And he got it, and accepted it, and let me have quiet time the whole ride to school.

That shattered egg  brought up all sorts of stuff. Of personal losses I had felt, big and small. Some that I have finally cleared and move on from, finally feeling healed and whole in that aspect (my mother’s death). Others that apparently I had not.

Such as my miscarriage 6 years ago. It  was my first pregnancy ever, and brought my husband and I so much joy initially. It was unexpected, but more than welcome. I had always wanted a large family……but since life loves to throw us curveballs and provides plenty of opportunities for growth & patience & accepting that things don’t always go as we might want them to, I got started late in the baby-making game. I was “almost 40” when we got pregnant that first time. We had imagined so many possibilities with that baby, so many hopes and dreams and visions. But that egg, just like this egg, shattered early on as well. I had an early miscarriage at about 8 weeks. My world was rocked. Our world was rocked. I allowed myself time to grieve, and processed somewhat. Hearing how “common” it was for women, how “nature has a way of weeding out what isn’t developing correctly”, of how the statistics say that 1 in every 4 pregnancies results in miscarriage did nothing to comfort me. I do truly believe everything happens for a reason in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t make going through the process any less painful at the moment.

I have learned that loss is loss, no matter how big or how small. That what may cause insurmountable grief for me might cause you nothing but a brief sad thought. That doesn’t make my grief any less valid, nor make you a monster for not feeling it the same way. Because loss represents a dream we had that will no longer be allowed to live. We have to accept that particular dream is not possible, and somehow be okay and be able to move on from there. Even beyond that, to understand that we are not in control, and that ultimately life unfolds itself just as it should, whether we like it or not.

So I understand and accept that need to grieve, to honor that feeling of loss.  To look at it head on, in the eyes, and feel it and move through it even though our society tends to belittle certain losses and make them seem common place and therefore lesser deserving of grief.

But loss is loss. And it hurts. And it’s okay to accept and feel it. It’s more than okay, it is necessary in the healing process to do whatever you have to do to feel it and get past it.  The key is not to stay in that dark place for too long, otherwise it becomes harder and harder to climb back out to the other side of happiness, acceptance, joy and inner peace.

Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

 

 

The Undoing

Imagine the possibilities...

Imagine the possibilities…

It’s funny to me that it has been 8 months since I “left my day job” as a public school teacher, yet I still feel the passing of time in terms of the school year.  For instance, my husband and I were talking about probably not being able to make plans this year “for Spring Break”….when I realized that no longer applies to me! I  am no longer limited to that ONE WEEK IN THE SPRING when we have the freedom of a whole week of hanging out, taking a day trip, camping, whatever we want to do. But the mind holds fast to what it is used to. 15 years of teaching in public schools and all that comes with it will take awhile to undo…there is a lot of “undoing” taking place over here….

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t have responsibilities or a job anymore….I do. I am working. A lot! I am building my dream business….fusing my passions and my purpose in life into my business,  doing what I was meant to do by serving humanity as a doula, a Peaceful Parenting Coach, a Spiritual Coach, an Intuitive Healer…..so many things I cannot even put a label on.

I’m here to help women transition into mothers…..to find their inner power and inner voice, to push through their fears (sometimes literally).

I’m here to help people find their own personal power, to embrace that there is a whole world under the surface that has everything to do with using your intention and intuition to create your best, most authentic self.

I’m “here” to help. Period. In my own way.

There was no room for this version of me when I was too busy “doing” the full-time-job-plus stuff.

I am still “doing” a lot. But the difference now is: I am happy. I am at peace. I have also become “undone”.

I’ve come to realize, living this way, honoring my authentic true self and my true needs is finally bringing me full circle back into a sense of true joy, true inner peace, something I had been searching for for so long and could grasp the corners of at times, but as soon as I would try and tug it closer to me it, it would then slip out of my hands.

You see for so, so, so many years I wasn’t truly, honestly happy (more often than not anyway). Especially as an adult, I truly struggled with working full time, trying to be a thoughtful, caring partner to my husband, trying to be a loving, nurturing Mom to my son, “bringing in the bacon” as a full time public educator, keeping the house clean(ish), laundry done, cooking healthy foods (well, cooking ANY foods at that point was a struggle), helping care for my elderly/ailing father, and my unique, “special needs” dog, and then trying to find time for self-care, for exercise, for anything that fed my soul. I was drained. I was done.

I felt like a total failure. A big one. Often.  And that didn’t sit well with me because I knew deep down inside I wasn’t a failure…..it just took me 43 years to figure out I was just living an ill-fitted life for me.  That MY NEEDS are different. That I am “different”, and march to a tune of a different drummer than most, and it’s okay to admit that, hell to embrace that! That many, many women (because, let’s face it, I am a woman) go out and work full time and come home and do all those things, and function, and are grateful, and somehow fit it all in, and are happy………..but that’s not me. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean I am a failure! Or inadequate! It just means I was trying to stuff myself in a box that I didn’t fit in for too long until the seams all bust open. I think it took having my son, seeing how he “doesn’t fit in a box”, hearing myself explain that over and over to his teachers, his doctors, his caregivers, his family, to realize “oh my gosh, that’s me!” .

I had to undo A LOT to get to that realization. Peel back many, many layers, only to reveal more layers that needed peeling.

That chapter of my life is done now, and I’m extremely grateful for what I learned:

I’m grateful that I had the courage to realize living that way was no longer serving me.

I’m grateful that I have an incredibly supportive husband that not only believes in me and encourages me, but knows me well enough to say “I will never let you go back to teaching public school again”.

I am grateful that I get to serve my fellow women/sisters, to help them find their inner strength during pregnancy birth, and beyond.

I am grateful that I get to help families learn how to communicate better with one another, to help bring them closer to finding a sense of peace.

I am grateful I don’t have to wake up in the morning to a super-duper early alarm clock and feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as my day begins.

I am grateful that I now have time to go to the gym, prepare healthy foods, and truly take care of my body.

I’m grateful that now I have more quality time to spend with my family, where I’m actually in a good mood, happy and positive, so I can better enjoy them.

I am grateful that I also have time to study what I want to study, to further my own personal growth in every aspect.

I am grateful that I am aware enough to be grateful.

So if you feel like you are stuck inside a similar box, you are cramped and cramping and busting at the seams and it’s bringing you down……..there is hope. It just takes the courage to take that one small step in the direction of your dreams. The universe will provide the rest.

So take that step, the step into freedom, peace, love, joy, your wildest dreams.

I’ll hold your hand while you push through, if you want 🙂

 

 

 

Dads & Doulas & Stuff….by Jeffrey Lerner

peanut birth

The following is a guest post from my incredibly insightful, loving husband, who is my best friend, ally, and a BIG believer in the power of Doulas. It came up as we were speaking the other day about Dads and their ideas (usually) when Moms say they need to hire a Doula to be there for the birth….I hope you enjoy!

There are all kinds of fathers out there in the world today. Big ones, small ones, skinny ones and fat ones.
Smart ones, dumb ones, short ones and tall ones.
Fathers that want to be in the room for their baby’s first breath, and fathers that want to be in the waiting room with a whiskey and a cigar. (Ok….maybe that was just in the old days.) Fathers that are tricked by their wives into hiring a doula, and fathers that don’t know that a doula has nothing to do with the medulla oblongata. (Which for your information is located in the hindbrain, anterior to the cerebellum…Duh!)
I find it incomprehensible as to why the father would not want to be present for such a momentous occasion. In fact some 92% of fathers do take part in the birthing process. What the hell are the other 8% of men doing while their beautiful wives are trying to give birth to a something the size of a watermelon? I for one am so thankful that I was present and accounted for during my son’s birth. It truly was the highlight of my life so far.

Because my wife was planning on giving birth naturally, she decided early on to hire a doula. I must admit that at the time I was completely ignorant about what a doula does. But what I quickly learned at the hospital was that I was out-gunned and needed some serious backup.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves” and that is a good way to put it. Our doula not only supplied emotional support to my wife and I, but she helped us navigate through all of the pressures of having our baby in a modern hospital. Let’s face it, the nurses and doctors at a hospital dont always support the plan that you have in place. Our doula helped us through the entire birthing process. Not to mention she gave excellent backrubs………to my wife too 🙂 .

Sometimes a birth can feel more like a battle. Would you go into battle without a good, experienced soldier to help you through it? Why would you go to a birth without a doula? Giving birth is an emotional rollercoaster where things can change in an instant and most likely will. Why wouldn’t you want someone there with you who has been there before?

So if you are a father on the fence about hiring a doula or not, take it from me and do like Nike says…just do it. In fact, if we ever have another child, I would hire my own private doula just for me. No seriously……lattes…..chocolate…..backrubs……more lattes….oh and maybe some doula type stuff too.

The “Back to School” that wasn’t

Empty class 2

This past week was tax-free saving week a.k.a. back to school shopping week here in Florida. So I did what any respectable parent and teacher would do, go shopping for back to school clothes and supplies. But what you don’t know is for teachers, it is about that same  time where we start to feel the “Oh my God, is the summer really over? Do I really have to go back so soon? What’s my schedule going to be like? How many students will I have this year? How many desks will have this year?”. This is usually accompanied by a big ol’ knot in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by a need to start drinking a nightly glass of wine…..or two…..in order to mentally prepare for another year of “being a teacher”.

Empty class 4

Empty class 3

But this year, want to know what I added to my back to school wardrobe during tax-free shopping week?

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Ni una cosa.

Because this year, I will not be going back to school. For the first time in forevvvvveeeeer…..sorry, Disney song took hold of me there. For the first time in 15 years, I will not be going back. I chose not to go back. I chose to follow my heart and my soul and my calling.  I listened (finally!) to what my soul was saying, and I prepared, and I have been working hard to create my new reality, which for me includes my new business. I have slowly but surely been building bridges, making connections, starting a client base, educating myself….all that stuff it takes to help me build my dream. Most importantly, I have been doing what brings me the most joy, which is helping people find their peace and their inner power, while still having time to spend with my family. I am helping new parents welcome their children into the world in the way they choose, feeling empowered and supported. I am working with individuals to help them discover who they really are and had forgotten along the way. I am teaching (yes, I know, I can’t escape teaching) parents that there is another way to relate to and connect with their children, one that involves mutual respect, connection, and patience.

Is it easy? Nope.

Is it scary? Sometimes.

Risky? You bet, you could see it that way at times.

But I don’t have that knot in the bottom of my stomach that I used to have every year. I don’t have the dread of “D-day” looming over me (which this year, would have been today).

And what I do have instead is worth all the gold in the world. Freedom. And hope.

Freedom

A Page in Herstory

They gathered under a full moon. It was 3 a.m., but no one seemed to care. There was a buzz of nervous energy in the air. They all breathed a collective breath, ready to tackle the enormous task at hand, whatever it may bring. The 3 women traveled slowly, but with a purpose. Each would rely and lean upon the other at various times throughout this journey, starting now.
It is a journey that is always transformational, not just for the mother to be, but for all involved. To even be a witness to this event is to see the face of God in its many shapes and forms.
As they made their way to the next destination, which was far from the ideal location, but nevertheless would serve it’s purpose, the 3 women barely spoke. There was no need to. Each already understood what the other was feeling, saying without words.
When they arrived, ready to dig in to the task at hand, they were told there was no room for them. How ironic, they chuckled. No matter, we will find a way, they thought. We have since the beginning of time.
The tribe was separated for a brief time, and the earth tilted a little off its axis temporarily. But the women held strong to their vision, to the desired outcome, and overcame the obstacles that temporarily seemed to stop their progress together.   As soon as they were together again, the earth righted once again, and the magic returned. The dance began.
The lights were dim, the sounds were hushed, the people around them who became unknowing spectators to this great journey stared in awe and wonder at the power of the 3. The power ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned, transferred from one woman to the other, electrical and powerful and full of collective strength and wisdom. When one faltered, the others rose up to remind her “You are strong, you are powerful, you are loved, you are surrounded by everything you need “.
The one with child came in and out of her power. This was a most difficult journey for her in so many ways. This was not exactly the way she had hoped her daughter would enter this realm. She had hoped to be at home, surrounded by her familiar space, familiar sights, smells, sounds. This was far from that.

But in birth, as in death, one doesn’t always get to choose these details.
She rocks her hips back and forth, slowly in circles. This dance, which creates its own choreography, never has to be taught. It just is. It emanates from her inner Goddess wisdom. It is accompanied by sounds, low and deep. Resonating with Mother Earth herself, connecting her to her source. The transformation was happening, and it wasn’t easy. It would shake her to her core. It would drive her to the brink of madness and then return her back…But upon return, she was always greeted by her fellow sisters with a smile, a wipe of the brow, a reminder that this too shall pass and that the miracle of life was waiting to be born, struggling as hard as she was, waiting for her chance to come earthbound meet her tribe.
Time sped up, stood still, went backwards, and then stopped.
It was time.
The tribe slowly, wearily but steadfastly traveled the last leg of their journey. They arrived at their final destination and set themselves up for the final feat. They were ready, the time was here. They all took a collective deep breath. They connected to each other, to each one’s inner wisdom and collective strength, to the collective strength of the earth, of the cosmos, of all that is. And then the mother began the last part of the job of bringing forth the baby earth side.
It would not be easy.
It would not be painless.
But it would happen, as it always had.
And then suddenly, finally, the three women became four.
And the air was thick with the presence of a myriad of women…..the ones who had come before them…..those who had given birth or supported in the birth. Those who had raised children, those who had lost children, those who had loved children, who had taught children. They were all there, smiling, arms around each other, watching this newest miracle unfold in all its glory.
Watching the journey complete itself once again, as it always had, and as it always will.
womangoddessduringlabor