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Posts Tagged ‘Consciousness’

Ever get the feeling you should (or shouldn’t) do something? It might not seem to fit; it might mean making others unhappy or disappointed; it may mean going back on a commitment because you’ve changed your mind; it may mean doing something you’ve never done- maybe something a little scary.

It might not be convenient in the moment, but usually the feeling (or little voice) inside proves right in the long run.

It’s difficult to justify decisions that come from your inner voice, especially living in a world that is defined by comparing yourself to others on the outside. Your sense of defined logic and reason don’t always match this inner voice. Sometimes it may even seem a little crazy!

But when you learn to pay attention to what your inner wisdom shows you, and to trust and follow that guidance, you’ll find a limitless source of information available to you (at your mental fingertips) that you can access at any time, for any situation or circumstance.

This means that with practice you will intuitively know what to do. The practice then becomes learning to follow this guidance and learning to trust yourself.

Learning to access your inner guidance can change how you approach pregnancy, birth, parenting and life.

So where do you find this voice?

Begin by tuning in to Monday’s show at 1pm ET here: A Labor of Love

The topic is Body Wisdom 101, where I’ll share some basic information about connecting with your inner guidance that you can begin to use right now. Even if you’re not a parent (and have no plans to be one) this information can help you connect with your inner guidance system.

(Don’t worry if you can’t catch the live show. The podcast is generally available for download within 24 hours after the show airs.)

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When I was pregnant the first time, I didn’t even know women still had babies at home anywhere hospitals existed. It just didn’t occur to me. I’m not sure if knowing other women made that choice would have had any impact on my decision to go to a hospital. Maybe. But probably not.

I followed the rules. I was an inside the box kind of woman. I thought going to a hospital was the safest thing to do. I didn’t spend much time selecting my OB. It didn’t occur to me that I could interview and select for myself, not just get whoever was available. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t automatically an OB patient at my GYN’s office. No one ever expressed it any other way, so I went along.

I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I wanted a natural birth in a hospital setting. I wanted to move around. I asked in advance about using the hospital’s “special” squat bar during the pushing phase. I got “ok’s” for almost everything I asked for. I didn’t think what I was asking was too big a deal: no IV, limited fetal monitoring, freedom to move within the room, choice of pushing position, my husband and doula present. But apparently that’s not the standard at the hospital I chose.

So even though most things were “ok” no one was comfortable with my choices. The nurses got angry when I removed the EFM belt to get comfortable. I refused the IV 4 separate times before they decided I needed antibiotics- intravenously. I was offered an epidural at least 4 times. Finally the nurse had had enough and stopped coming into the room.

When I reached transition (and was vomiting into a small bedpan) she poked her head in, saw me vomit- and left my husband holding the plastic pan! (He still talks about this.)

And when I began to push before the doctor arrived, I was admonished. Then, I was criticized for not pushing right, for not pushing to a count, for not trying hard enough. At one point, the nurse said “Do you want to have this baby or not?” as I was not pushing, while waiting for a contraction.

At that moment, I angrily thought “No! If I could choose, I’d stop right now, walk out of here and never come back!”

It wasn’t until later that I realized the staff was unprepared for someone like me. They had procedures and protocols in place to do their daily work and I didn’t fit into the mold of their day. They had little or no experience with childbirth with no Pitocin and no epidural. They didn’t know what to do when I got out of bed and used the toilet, because the other women in labor couldn’t walk around because they didn’t feel their legs!

So I think, looking back, that I frightened them. Maybe I made them wonder why, when I pushed back against their idea of normal. (It probably didn’t help that my baby crowned at 3pm, just at the shift change for nursing staff.) I was different, unusual for this hospital. Even though the hospital tour touted the advances in equipment- like the squat bar, no one actually used this stuff. The doctors didn’t like it, so it was there mainly as part of the sales pitch.

When I look back, I realize that the staff wasn’t able to support me- not because they didn’t want to, because they didn’t know how. These were not evil hospital workers, intent on intervention at every turn. These were people, doing their jobs to standard, the way they were taught. They believed the IV was important, and that’s why they insisted on it. They were not trying to step on my rights as a patient, but they didn’t really understand why I was asserting myself. It was foreign to them.

They probably didn’t know (and maybe still don’t) that you can’t push when it doesn’t feel like pushing. And you can’t not-push during a pushing contraction. It might have been the very first time they saw a woman in labor without drugs. So how could they know what I really needed, when they had never seen this before?

I knew I had to try something new for my next time. I needed to find a care provider who would understand and respect my choices, and I needed to find a care provider that trusted my body as much as I did. That was the beginning of my transition out of hospital birth.

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I love books about babies and pregnancy and childbirth. I love reading what others have to say. I love it when my mind opens to new information and I stand back and think to myself- Well, that’s a new way to look at it.

I spent so much of my first pregnancy devouring as much as I could and still feeling like I was missing out on something important. I felt talked down to at times. I felt pressured to “do the right thing” which amounted to whatever that author thought was best for me- for everyone, I guess.

I was already a stressed out, type-A personality, perfectionist, trying to do everything right. So why didn’t it feel right to be told what to do? I didn’t even like it much when it was my doctor. And it wasn’t the authority thing- I was a rule follower. Totally inside the box, I thought…

I recently came across a new book on homebirth. I had a hospital birth and a homebirth, so I like books that talk about differences, that give different sides to the whole birth story. I definitely preferred homebirth- but it turns out I’m a bit more “outside the box” than I thought 5 years ago.

When I went to Amazon to read some more and check the reviews, I was surprised by the number of negative comments about this particular book. The readers talked about the level of judgment in the author’s tone: that instead of being a positive “why homebirth is great” it was a judgmental “why hospitals stink” kind of book. I was disappointed and moved on to something else.

Then a bit later in the day, I saw a comment on Facebook where a woman said “there’s no such thing as a natural hospital birth.” Her opinion was that hospitals don’t do anything naturally, so there’s nothing natural about hospital birth- period. And it sounded like she might think there is a “right way” to birth, too.

Does it do any good to bash women over the head with opinions and judgment, when they make different choices?

I consider myself a homebirth advocate. I think it’s great. But it might not be for everyone. For example, if you want an epidural, you generally can’t get one of those at your house. To me, birthing naturally means going with the flow of your heart and soul and body. And if you feel safest in a hospital, you probably won’t find homebirth peaceful, because you’ll be all worried about the “what if’s.”

And if being in a hospital doesn’t bring you comfort, it’s time to consider alternatives like homebirth or an independent birth center. And just like the judgment of “hospitals are not natural” it doesn’t do any good to hear judgments like “you’re putting your baby’s life at stake” by choosing homebirth if that is what fits you best.

Truly, the most recent data shows homebirth to be as safe as hospital birth for low-risk mothers and babies under midwifery care. So I’m going to say that the other way too- hospital birth is as safe as homebirth for low-risk mothers and babies, especially under midwifery care.

And although the same study shows hospitals are likely to perform various interventions more frequently, I don’t think that was really ever questioned. It’s one of the criteria women use to make the choice of where to birth. Some women may actually want an intervention (like epidurals).

Here is my point: women who advocate choice in birth ought to applaud all women who consciously choose their birth place. Yes, it is often a default- not choosing, but for some women, hospital is their actual choice.

This whole argument about the “right way” got me thinking about how women are consistently told what to think when they’re pregnant. Like somehow people think that our brains are no longer capable of choosing for ourselves; we somehow lack the capacity for sound decision-making because of what? Hormones?

And educating women about fully informed consent, informed refusal, and consciously choosing options for birth can only happen when women can hear it. Judgment closes minds, creates defensive posture internally and shuts us down.

But helping a woman open to her own voice, validating the truth inside her- no matter what that looks like, respecting her as a wise and powerful woman, empowers her to be everything she is here to be; to choose the best way for her as an individual.

Most simply, I think of it like this: Although my experience giving birth at a hospital was a very negative experience, it gave me so much strength later on. I learned so much about myself because of that one choice. Who am I to assume that the opportunity for your personal growth in pregnancy and childbirth lies only in one specific direction?

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When I was 17 (and she was 46) my mother died suddenly. (My father died the next day.) It was one of the most difficult times of my life. I still choke up, just thinking about it. And I still cry and mourn my loss.

When I got married, it was really tough. I had friends who loved me like family and helped fill the gap for me.

But when I got pregnant, nothing prepared me for how sharp the pain would be. I had done my best to grieve over the years and I was surprised by how raw it still felt. I was angry too, that my joyful pregnancy was somewhat dulled with this nagging ache. I thought I had worked through all this before! I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to feel it.

Partly it was my surprise- the grief sneaked up on me. I thought it was behind me. It had been almost 13 years and I had become very independent. I learned how to rely on myself. And I couldn’t rely on myself to hold it together now. Now I just wanted my mom.

I wanted to ask all the questions I had never thought to ask: about her pregnancy with me, her labor, parenting. (A typical teen, I thought I knew everything then- I’d never asked.) I wonder now what it might be like to call my mother and talk about my wonderful children.

Being a motherless daughter (and finding Hope Edelman’s book) shaped much of my adult life. And being a motherless mother shapes who I am as a mother. In some ways I am more present, because I value every moment like it might be the last. But living on that edge (and doubting the future) is precarious and I’ve chosen to consciously move from there to more solid ground.

As a motherless mother, I’ve learned to adapt. I learned so much about opening to love through mothering. I didn’t know how much of my self I had closed off until my daughters began to open me up. It doesn’t hurt to love. It hurts to resist love.

I’m no longer aching, but I will continue to grieve- probably for the rest of my life. And when I get choked up I allow the tears, and I allow myself to love.

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I’ve mentioned before my own ignorance about transformation and c-section. So having come out of that tunnel vision still leaves me with the feeling that the basic system of maternity care doesn’t really support women to healthy birth.

Next week, I’m interviewing an OBGYN on my radio show. He’s very receptive to different ideas, although it’s clear he is a conventional doctor, with beliefs common to the medical profession. I contacted him after reading his blog where he was writing about the causes of escalating rates of cesarean section. He thinks this is a problem (that’s a good start) and he names his opinions for the cause of the 31.8% rate. I think he’s wrong about some of it. But I’m listening because he is looking- and so many doctors aren’t.

(Here is why I am impressed with him: He is open-minded. Although he stated that he believes hospital birth is safer than homebirth, he was willing to consider his opinion might not be fact, but just perception, based on his only experience with homebirth: hospital transfer when it doesn’t work out. When we talked about that, he admitted that this might affect his perception of the safety of homebirth despite statistics- that it is tough to wrap your mind around something that doesn’t reflect what YOU SEE firsthand. He doesn’t see the successful homebirth stories. It takes more effort to be open when what you see doesn’t match the studies.)

So, I’ve been brushing up on my own research and reading what the data shows are the main culprits. We’re going to hash some of it out on the show. But it’s only an hour long show. I know we won’t cover everything because this could be month-long conversation if we had the time. So I want to list on the blog what you can do to lower your risk of surgical birth if you are pregnant.

1. Carefully choose your care provider. Make sure you feel like a partner in your care, that you feel comfortable asking questions, and that your care provider listens to and respects your values, needs and goals.

2. Ask questions about cesarean section well in advance of your labor. Ask for examples/reasons your provider might suggest surgery. Ask what happens if a situation came up where you disagree and refuse surgery or want a second opinion. Ask for examples of non-urgent situations/health concerns that might increase your risk of cesarean. The more prepared you are, the less likely you will feel pushed into something/out of control/dis-empowered if you really do need a c-section.

3. If a c-section is recommended, ask questions: specifically why it is recommended; what benefits it is expected to offer; whether the expected benefit is greater than the risks associated with major abdominal surgery; and what other options exist for your situation. You have the right to this information as part of your right to informed consent. If you are not in labor when surgery is recommended, consider a second opinion, and definitely do some research about the condition or issue cited as the reason.

4. If you’ve already had a c-section, ask for a VBAC. If your doctor/provider does not provide this service, it is important they understand the demand is still there. Consider contacting another care provider if VBAC is important to you. I also recently discovered a doc who was willing to travel to provide VBAC to women in areas it is not available in hospitals.

5. Educate yourself about common reasons given for c-section.

a. Failure to progress– ways to overcome/avoid:

  • Ask your provider in advance: how long is too long? so you can see if this idea/perception fits your individual needs.
  • Move around during labor. Ask in advance about your freedom of movement during labor at your chosen birth location.
  • Avoid interventions (like epidurals) that prevent you from standing/walking around to keep labor moving.
  • Wait to go to the hospital/birth center until you are in active labor (having trouble concentrating or focusing during contractions).
  • Eat during labor- keep up your energy during this “endurance challenge” so you can get to the end. You don’t run a marathon without eating and labor is like a marathon. Ask in advance about the “rules” and about informed refusal of any “rules” that prevent you from eating when you are hungry. (Then be sure to bring your own food with you!!)
  • Hire a doula for personal support and help trusting your body.

b. Changes/concern about fetal heart rate.

  • Ask for intermittent (rather than constant) fetal heart rate monitoring. Shown to be just as effective when used by diligent care providers, it also allows you more freedom to move. (Care providers can listen with a Doppler Device from anywhere in the room.)
  • Attempt to avoid synthetic oxytocin (like Pitocin) which causes more intense uterine contractions and may affect the baby’s heart rate.
  • Ask in advance about options for additional testing to check on the baby if there is concern about heart rates.
  • Ask about moving to a different position and checking the heart tones again if there is concern.

c. Breech position

  • Ask about options for turning a breech baby, including acupuncture, acupressure, breech tilt, external cephalic version (with an experienced provider- ask your provider about their experience. You may consider consulting someone with more experience for this aspect of your care if your provider is not familiar or has limited experience).
  • In my opinion, the safety of vaginal breech birth is largely dependent on the skill and experience of your care provider- so ask at the beginning of your relationship about their experience with this and willingness to offer vaginal birth as an option for a breech presentation.

6. Avoid Elective Induction of Labor

  • Except in the case of maternal health conditions (i.e. diabetes, preeclampsia, unterine infection) or when baby is not growing normally, reasons for induction of labor are generally not medical. Ask your provider why induction is suggested; ask about the risks/benefits of waiting for labor to begin naturally; research on your own the risks/benefits mentioned by your provider.
  • Know that if your cervix is “unripe” (long and closed) you are at increased risk of a failed induction, followed by c-section.
  • Know that medications to “ripen” your cervix (like misoprostol/prostaglandin E1/Cytotec) used during an induction are not FDA approved and may seriously harm you or your baby. There has been no safety testing and there is reason to be concerned. Ask your provider about the medications he/she plans to use and do your own research before you consent.
  • Risk of a “big” baby: Only 30% of pregnant women believed to be carrying a big (over 8lbs13oz) baby actually give birth to a big baby. Ask your provider about risks/benefits. (I was told “they don’t grow more bones in the last 2 weeks, just more fat” and fat is squishy.)
  • Post-term pregnancy (past 42 weeks): When calculating due dates, there is a 2 week margin of error (Lamaze International), so talk to your provider about options to delay/prevent induction, such as monitoring baby 2x per week, amniotic fluid level checks, etc.
  • When water breaks but no contractions (PROM): Ask about waiting for labor to begin spontaniously, discussing/watching for symptoms of infection.

7. Choose a midwife for your care. Women who choose midwifery care have lower rates of cesarean section and higher rates of satisfaction. I’m not saying doctors are “bad.” In fact most are fabulous people. But outcomes are better for mothers and babies when women choose care from a midwife (Coalition for Improving Maternity Services http://www.motherfriendly.org). Reasons women under midwifery care have lower c-section rates seems to relate to the care choices- less use of induction, intermittent monitoring of fetal heart rate, encouraged freedom of movement, women encouraged to eat during labor, less need/use of pain medication. So the methods that get the best results could certainly be employed by doctors too.

I’m NOT anti-doctor. Doctors are needed for women with high risk pregnancies and for emergencies- definitely. Having a care provider who understands you are an individual, that one size doesn’t fit all (or if it does, it is a hand-off approach), who is receptive to questions & takes time to answer them- ALL of THEM, is more important than the title of the professional you choose.

If you want to lower your risk for cesarean surgery, you have to educate yourself and be prepared to ask a lot of questions. If you made it to the end, congrats. Please comment and add your thoughts to the equation.

Great resources:

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So I’ve been thinking about the big to-do on Twitter about breastfeeding in public. If you don’t tweet, you may or may not have heard about tweeted comments made by a radio host out of LA. He was at a baseball game, saw a woman breastfeed her baby and commented about it using twitter.

Basically, he said she was rude and shameless for doing it out in the open where everyone could see and she should cover up or go somewhere else. (I’m not going to name him, because I don’t want to introduce more traffic to his website because of his comments.)

There were blogs & tweets galore. Many comments were directed to people who said they were pro-breastfeeding, but think women should be modest when doing it in public, or shouldn’t feed in public at all. Then the debate became a discussion about modesty and who gets to decide what can be considered modesty vs. exhibitionism. And at that point, many people lost interest or gave up after being appalled and insulted by the comparison of feeding a baby and exhibitionism. I’m not sure anyone felt good in the end. Feelings were hurt, tempers flared, letters sent, and in the end, the overall discussion, in topic and in tone, didn’t necessarily promote understanding and acceptance of feeding a baby based on the way the mother decides is best, and being free to comfortably feed whenever and wherever the baby is hungry from bottle or breast.

My take: I don’t think Mr. Radio Guy has the right to have an opinion.

Of course, many people believe anyone present to witness breastfeeding should get to have an opinion about it. Many people also believe witnessing bottle-feeding permits them to have an opinion about that. And people may also have opinions about the opinions. People become expert at opinion-wielding.

I think we live in a culture that allows us to express ourselves about subjects which are none of our business. And that gives many the feeling that their thoughts should be shared simply because they have permission to express them. That isn’t the case.

Using these 3 questions: Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? it is possible to filter what might not be helpful to the discussion, no matter which side of the equation/debate your thoughts may hold.

It’s not just about what you think. It’s about the impact of your comment. Does it help? Does it bring comfort and support? Does it bring peace? Does it promote love? Are you bringing forward a part of you- authentically sharing with another with no expectation, just to be helpful?

Or are you being critical? Skeptical? Are you expecting others to conform to your standards? Is the comment divisive? Does it purposely breed controversy? Is it ignorant or hurtful?

It matters.

On consideration of the events as I witnessed them, between blogs, blog comments, tweets, etc., I made a comparison.

Perhaps having an opinion about a woman’s choice to breastfeed in public (and sharing it publicly) could be compared to having an opinion about what someone has in their cart at the grocery store.

They are shopping in public. Their food is in plain sight. They’re not attempting to hide the food in the cart with a cover. Perhaps their physical appearance can be noticed despite their clothes, because they are not trying to hide it- or not doing a very god job of being discreet. Maybe they are feeding children with those food choices. Come on, if everyone can see their figure and the items in their cart, and with children present!, and see how scandalous their choices are… Shouldn’t we comment? Or tweet about it?

I do have an opinion on how I choose to feed my children. And I want the freedom to make that choice myself, and be free to exercise that choice wherever I am. I want other women to be free to make their own choices and be supported in those choices, to be really free to do what fits each woman as an individual. Because I really don’t know why women make the choices they do, and I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes.

There is no right way to breastfeed- or more correctly there is NO WRONG way. Covered, uncovered, naked in the woods. Each woman gets to choose what fits her best. And if a woman is not breastfeeding and you support breastfeeding, please remember 1.) it might be breastmilk in that bottle, 2.) she gets to choose her own way to feed her kids, and 3.) her choice may have had nothing to do with what she really wanted to do– there are many barriers to breastfeeding success that individual women should not be persecuted for.

And while individuals may have the right to publicly share their opinion about everything they see, it isn’t usually necessary or kind. Nor is it supportive of others’ right to choose what fits their life.

So if you want the freedom to make your own choices, in your grocery cart and the rest of your life, consider being quiet for a moment (or longer) and reflect on your motive for sharing your opinion. If you insist on making a comment for whatever reason, consider how best to comment so that you might be helpful and heard so you might have a positive impact.

I choose to feed my children (and grocery shop) in peace. If I can be helpful, I act. And I continue to make the choices that fit me and my family. And I’m not silent about them. So if someone asks me about the items in my cart or about breastfeeding, I’m ready to be truthful and kind. And hopefully that will have the impact I desire.

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Today I remember again a truth of parenting consciously.

Before you became a parent, before you were pregnant, even before you were born, you chose the lessons you wanted to experience in this lifetime, just as your children did. As you selected the lessons, you chose the parents that would best suit the experience you were trying to create, just like your children did. Your parents were perfect: because they taught you through experience of what to do, and what not to do, and more, exactly what you needed to learn and experience to be just where you are today.

And your children chose you in the same way, for the same purpose. Your job is to be perfectbut not the way you think of perfect.

You are perfect when you are exactly who you really are. Your children chose you because of your unique imperfections, so now is not the time to pretend they are not there. Certainly, you still need to “be all you can be” but not if it isn’t real. Your kids know when you’re lying. They can still feel the difference between truth and a lie, and your job is to be truthful in expressing yourself in a way your child can understand.

I cried yesterday. A friend died recently and I’m hurting. I don’t have to pretend everything is ok, because my kids will know it’s not true. I can help them feel secure with their feelings by honoring mine. I also create security by avoiding incongruity in my feelings, words and actions.

They don’t have to wonder what I’m feeling and thinking if I can find words to express it to them gently. And by sharing with them, I offer an opportunity for them to act with compassion, giving love, as I openly receive what they freely offer. It is so beautiful to be part of this.

So go out there and be perfect- the perfect, authentic you that your children signed up for. Just remember they signed up for the you “in progress” so don’t forget to progress, too.

Happy journey to you.

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