The Power of Song

Ever thought about singing to your baby while they’re in utero? According to Penny Simkin, goddess doula and founder of DONA, it adds comfort and a sense of security and connection for the baby to the parents, especially the moments right after birth.

How?

Starting at 32 weeks, Penny suggests picking one song that you really love and dedicate it to your baby. Sing it to him/her everyday. Once they are born, sing the song again, especially as tests are underway, the placenta is being delivered, at a c-section or if the baby needs immediate medical attention. 

At the 2011 DONA conference, Penny spoke about the power of song and even told us a story of a couple who sang to their baby everyday. At the time of the birth, the baby needed medical care on the warming table and was crying. The parents started singing their special song and the baby turned its head to its parents and stopped crying.  

I’m sure there are many skeptics out there about this suggestion/phenomenon but I tend to think even if there is a slight chance of comfort, its worth it!

The beautiful longtime sunshine song is often sung at the end of a kundalini yoga class and can easily be the song you sing to your baby. I personally like this version: click here

Herbal Sitz Bath

Here’s a post-partum herbal remedy to help heal those tears and repair vaginal tissue. Its good to wait a couple of days post partum before using these herbs. There are two ways to aid healing - you can either create a sitz bath (shallow bath for your perineum/vagina and soak) or add the herbal infusion to your peri bottle (that squeeze bottle the hospital sends you home with to spray on your vagina and perineum after peeing). 

First things first, brew the herbal infusion. Mix dry herbs in large mason jar. Boil water and pour over the herbs up to the tippy top of the jar. Make sure all of the herbs are covered with hot water. Pour some more hot water to the top. Seal with the lid. Use a towel - the jar/lid can get hot. Let the infusion steep at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready, strain the herbs and the herbal infusion remains. Either add the infusion to your sitz bath or to the peri bottle.

Here are some suggested herbs: Calendula, rosemary, yarrow, comfrey, lavender, rose petals and I add a pinch of sea salt. 

These herbs relieve pain, help tissues heal, and disinfect. 

You might have some of these herbs in your garden or spice rack or you can source them locally or order them from Mountain Rose or Frontier

Happy healing and congrats on becoming a mama!

Oh, sweet, sweet Summertown, Tennessee

In April 2010, I had the privilege of visiting The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, which is located about an hour and a half south of Nashville. This farm was not the typical farm with the silo, barn or fields upon fields of vegetables. This farm was home to an ecovillage, a printing press, a few horses, cabins, a swimming hole, a frisbee golf course, hippies young and old and of course, the farm midwives. It was a magical visit from the moment I was picked up from the Nashville airport.

The farm was settled back in the 1970s by Ina May and Stephen Gaskin and their friends when they drove across the country in school buses wearing tie dye and believing in spiritual energy and living life in community. They lived in the school buses, later in army tents and developed the land to grow sorghum and built a soy dairy. They were vegans, lovers and depended on one another for everything including childbirth. Ina May became the first lay midwife as they traveled across the country relying on her experience as a child on her aunt’s farm watching animals give birth peacefully and naturally. Surely, she believed it had to be the same for women. “Just be nice to the woman,” she would say and nature would take its course. After a few births on the road, she was given some pointers from a local doctor and the rest came from instinct, belief in birth and experience. 

Today, Ina May is a world renown birth advocate, midwife, winner of the 2011 Right Livelihood award, writer and speaker. She has been featured in numerous documentaries and articles on her work and views on birth and maternal mortality. There is also a maneuver named after Ina May called the Gaskin Maneuver used in Shoulder Dystocia. When a baby’s shoulder gets stuck coming through the pelvis, the mom is positioned on her hands and knees to allow for more space in the pelvis, allowing the baby’s shoulder to come through. 

I first saw Ina May in The Business of Being Born and was inspired to read Spiritual Midwifery, which was Ina May’s first book. It starts off with beautiful birth stories documenting sacred and spiritual experiences and goes into the science of pregnancy, labor and birth. For once it all made sense to me, birth is a combination of the spiritual and physical bodies. It is something bigger than all of us and each experience is unique. Just because it is unknown, it doesn’t have to be scary.

Feeling inspired and drawn towards hippie culture, I was determined to meet Ina May and visit the farm so I enrolled myself in the Assistant Midwife workshop. There were no prerequisites nor certification acquired after attending but a chance to explore if this really was something for me.  

I did all my reading, took a week off of work (I was working as a producer at Mother New York, an advertising agency appropriately named for my interests!), and I flew to Nashville, Tennessee, a magical place in its own right. I was picked up by the farm’s ecovillage manager and husband to a midwife. On the hour and a half drive, we spoke about where we were from, what the farm was like and then the majority of the conversation was about the spirituality of plants and their ability to communicate with humans. I knew this was going to be an amazing week. And that conversation later got me interested in herbal medicine!

There were about 14 women attending the workshop and most of us stayed in a small cabin across from the clinic. We came from all over, California, Washington, Oregon, Canada, Georgia and I was the only one from New York City.

We attended class in the morning, ate the most delicious lunch from the farm store, often vegetarian chili and salad and then attended another class in the afternoon. The weather was sunny and perfect.  There would be a short break before walking up to Louise’s house for an amazing homemade vegan dinner. Before bed we’d watch movies, or Ina May would read us stories. One night in particular, Ina May spoke to us about the history of witchcraft on the back porch of Pamela Hunt’s house.

During the workshop we learned about what is expected of a midwife assistant, how to chart, what is a birth kit, breastfeeding, fetal positioning, how to take blood pressure and use an oxygen tank. We practiced cutting the cord using dolls and red fabric pinned on the doll’s belly to mimic the umbilical cord. We learned how to sterilize instruments using a pressure cooker, post-partum and newborn care. It was a basic 101 on everything pregnancy, labor and birth taught by women that had first hand experience by seeing and doing. There were no text books. They taught from the heart, personal experience, and by telling stories. Their information was true and their techniques were tested.

After a week of learning, living and bonding with my classmates and teachers, I was excited to get home but sad to leave at the same time. At closing circle we sang a song called, “Bold Woman” and I will never forget the way Pamela Hunt sang it as she swayed her hips and snapped her fingers. It goes something like this:

I am bold woman

I am such a brave, bold woman

walking right into the dragon’s mouth alone

I am a brave woman

I am such a brave bold woman

Seeking love and beauty

I go on my own

I go on my own

Seeking love and beauty

On my quest I go

No matter what may happen

I know I will grow

Yes I will grow

I still didn’t know if becoming an assistant midwife, midwife or even a doula was right for me but I was hooked and have admittedly become a birth junkie ever since.

Check out my pics:

Delayed Cord Clamping - yes but what does it mean?!

We are used to seeing images of dad or doc cutting the cord after its been clamped to signify the completion of birth. ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynocologists) now says it is beneficial to wait 30-60 seconds before cutting it on all healthy infants. Click here for full press release. 

Here is a simple video of Penny Simkin (founder of DONA, Doulas of North America) demonstrating the importance of letting the blood transfer from the placenta to the baby before cutting the cord. 

Gram's secret to a quick labor

My Gram used to tell me her secret to a quick labor when I would talk to her about my adventures as a doula. It all started with the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in the 1940s and 1950s.

The story goes something like this:

My gram was pregnant with her first child (my uncle) in 1944. At that time she lived with her parents because her husband was overseas in the Air Force. Every night my gram and her parents would read the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Once everyone was through, her mother and father would rip up the newspaper in tiny little pieces and throw them all over the floor. It was then my pregnant gram’s responsibility to pick up every single piece! Beyond walking, this was her prenatal exercise… hundreds of squats, every night. 

Her first labor was 2 hours and her second labor was 30 minutes. Now, I can’t promise you by doing squats your labor will be short but you sure will have strong legs, pelvic floor, and a tight bum! 

Check out this site for instructions on how to do proper squats: Click HERE.

Here’s a photo of me and gram:

The five days of feeding song!

Here are lyrics to a song that Ina May sang to us down on the Farm as a way to monitor a newborn’s feedings! Its goes something like this…

The Five Days of Feeding (tune: The Twelve Days of Christmas)

On the first day of feeding, your babe will give to you

A wee and a sticky black poo.

On the second day of feeding, your babe will give to you

Two little wees and a less sticky, thinner dark poo.

On the third day of feeding, your babe will give to you

Three little wees, two little burps and a big greeny-browny soft poo.

On the fourth day of feeding, your babe will give to you

Four little wees, three little farts, two little burps and a nice runny toffee-brown poo.

On the fifth day of feeding, your babe will give to you

Five bi-ig wees;

Four little farts,

Three big burps,

Two overflows,

And a large golden mustard-seed poo!

Homemade Granola Recipe

Jeez - could I be any crunchier!?! But I swear this is a great recipe... 

Homemade Granola with Coconut Oil

{makes about 10 cups}

4 C rolled oats {I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free}

1 C chopped raw almonds or walnuts or pecans (or a combo of all)

½ C chopped dried fruit (figs or dates or raisins)

½ C coconut oil

¼ C honey

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon + salt. Since the coconut oil is usually in a solid state, heat up the coconut oil and the honey in a pan on a very low flame until both have liquified. It makes blending much easier! Add coconut oil/honey mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients (oats, nuts, spices) and stir until evenly coated. Spread the granola mixture on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes flip and bake for another 2 minutes. Once out of the oven and cooled, return to the large bowl and combine with the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container or mason jars. It should hold for about 2-3 weeks. Enjoy!

Babywearing

Babywearing is a great way to bond with your baby! You can breastfeed easily, transport them around town rather than lugging that huge stroller around, allows you to do things that otherwise might be limiting and babies love it! They cry less, are more content, feel safe and loved which promotes further brain development. 

These are the different types of carriers:

  • Buckle Carriers
  • Mei Tais
  • Ring Slings
  • Woven Wraps (my personal preference and recommendation for newborns)

Check out Wild Was Mama for more info: https://www.wildwasmama.com/collections/babywearing

Its best to go there and try them on to see what feels the best for you and your baby if you're in the NYC area. And if your baby is still in your belly, they have weighted dolls for demonstration purposes!

PLEASE NOTE: Its very important the baby's legs are shaped in a M shape and not straight down both when babywearing and swaddling. See image for more info: 

 

The Slow Dance

This is one of my favorite laboring positions. Mom and dad are embraced in a swaying hug and it gives me access to massage the lower back or do a hip squeeze. Not only does it feel good for the mom to hang her arms up high, gravity also helps bring the baby down!

Past your due date, try writing!

Your due date is 40 weeks from the first day of your last period. Since most women’s cycles are irregular or more than 28 days, this date is just an estimate. While the date is a good indicator for around when you will go into labor, it is rare that women actually go into labor on their due date. 

As a doula, I’m on call two weeks before your due date until two weeks after your due date because really you could go into labor any time during that period. 

Ah… but what about the due date and talks of getting induced? Sometimes medical inductions are necessary for various reasons and sometimes they aren’t. How do we deal with the pressure and anxiety around this date and the threat of inductions?

Beyond physical readiness, what about your mind? Is there something you have been holding back? A fear? secret? concern? Sometimes those inhibit a mom from going to labor too!

Try writing.

You can do this alone, with your partner or in a small group. You will need several sheets of paper and a fast-writing pen. For ten minutes write as fast as you can about anything and everything you assume to be true about pregnancy, labor, birth and being a mother. Write your birth legacy: family/religious/cultural beliefs, images, fears, traditions, unforgettable birth stories, and old wives’ tales. Go! Go! Go!

Read aloud what you wrote. Consider having someone else read it aloud so you can listen with your whole body-mind to the words and imagery you wrote.

What is the overall feeling in what you wrote? What beliefs and assumptions are contained in it?

Where did these assumptions come from in the first place? a family tradition? your own experience or fears? a movie? or friend?

How does keeping this idea, fear or belief work for you? If this idea evaporated, who would you be? What would you do differently? Interestingly, you don’t have to find an answer. Continually asking your questions brings deeper understanding and opens the mind to greater possibilities.

Exercise taken from Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, pg. 5.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” -Mike Tyson

Birth plans are in a sense like doing your homework. You know all of the options and you’ve listed your preferences but birth is unpredictable and your plan can go out the window if something comes up. Speak to your doctor/midwife ahead of time about inductions and their other preferences/protocols, hire a doula, take childbirth ed classes, and during labor take your time making decisions, if its not an emergency. 

Rebozo Workshop

The rebozo has been used for various reasons by mexican women for centuries and more recently has been used in labor as part of relaxation techniques. Amethyst Hertsens hosted a workshop a few weeks ago at Carriage House Birth on Gena Kirby’s techniques. I'm excited to use these new skills to help with pain and baby positioning!

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