Birth is a private thing. It's been eighteen months so I've decided no editing, just writing directly on my blog for you all to see and love, along with me so I'm not alone anymore in it. My birth story is the whole story. Condensed, so you'll stay with me.
It started with some love making with someone I knew for eight years. Someone who didn't want a child. I became pregnant and knew in that moment it was okay to move forward. With or without him. So I did. I've been a single mother from conception. He doesn't talk to me. He can't deal. I send him love everyday.
Do you know PUPPPS sucks? I got it all over my arm pit area during the second trimester and had a dermatologist tell me firmly after me crying all over him, "Look lady, you take care of your baby, and let me take care of you" I needed that tone and his energy. He told me his mom was a midwife so of course I was sold and I took his prescription cream home and used three tubes of it till I had no more itching and could sleep better. I needed sleep. I was overnight PP doula-ing for most of the rest of my pregnancy.
I had even more folks on my team. I hired Eleni Petraki who had never attended a birth before mine. I was sold on her astrology background and her yogic body and mind (hey I mean if she was to spend a full day with me, I did want to admire more than her mind ;) I also hired Tania Zirulnik as my home birth midwife. I liked that she was from and trained in another country; I like that she came to my home for all prenatal visits. I liked a lot of things. And of course I let my friend Morgan, recently certified as a midwife in CA, hire herself as my 'just text me when in labor and I'll fly to NY' girl. And oh did she fly over, on her birthday! And, I can't forget, Amy Silber as my nighttime PP doula, and Rosie Hernandez as my day time PP doula. And Andrea Syms Brown was my savior IBCLC. Now that's a team.
So what about the birth?!
You really want to know? I mean, it's so private, right? And who is going to read a person's whole birth story?
It's more interesting told backwards and in bullets (and I'll have your attention that way anyhow). So here we go. Here's my birth.
I had FULL DILATION for 17 hrs total before my baby was born and was pushy and just could not do it at home, perhaps didn't like the way I was being coached, or whatever, it doesn't matter, I just needed help and a fresh space, and maybe, Dr. Sai!
The people at Bellevue were AMAZING.
I look back on my BIRTH as a TRIUMPH.
My midwife, Tania, said that before she left the hospital after Akiva as born. She said "Your birth was triumphant". If there's anything empowering, encouraging, loving, memorable, heart opening about my birth story, it's her saying those words to me as I held my baby for the first time.
I moved, with my 17mo son, to Lancaster PA 2mo ago, from Brooklyn. It was easy. My mom ordered a mover; they came, we left in my mom’s car, and arrived one night to our sweet new love shack and went to bed. My mom lives across the street. We went there for coffee in our pajamas the following morning. We also went there this morning. Cause life with a toddler (single) can be chaos.
I feel in a lot of ways here like I’m getting back what I needed and missed out on in the immediate postpartum back in BK: presence of my mom ( a grandma for my son), nature & the simple life, affordable food, my brother (an uncle for my son), a fire place, a house that’s nice but that I also don’t worry I’m going to “mess up”, and Love and Healing in all the places and spaces that need it most.
I’m still in my Postpartum. I’m breastfeeding all the time, I’m processing my pregnancy and new life as a mom, I’m figuring this all out.
I’ve started to experiment with homeopathy again. That’s a sign for me that I’m traveling into inner terrain. It’s a relief to feel deeply again and to have courage to do so. Healing isn’t cake. I tried Sepia; at first it was because I had another hemmorhoid flare up and needed help more than words can explain. But what I found was it worked on my postpartum depression. Not words we easily take out of the back pocket. But I said them. I’m saying it for all of us. All of us who didn’t (don’t) feel all the time energized or supported or held or loved or heard or nurtured the way we want or need. Taking care of myself is a big job. On good days, I can do it all. On bad days, I need a nanny.
I’m going more easy on myself. How are you?
I got a few for you: You did the best you could. You didn’t intend to cause harm. You are love. You are loved. You love people unconditionally. You love yourself unconditionally. You are not the only one responsible in any situation. Be lighter, gentler on yourself, with life. With all of it, not just the happy birthy things, but also the dying and rebirthing of things.
I remembered something important the other day. I remembered my training and interest in end-of-life doula care. I’ve started to look at Hospice and other nursing programs online (I’m full time with Akiva so no “going” to school right now). I feel more hopeful these days that life will continue to remind me who I am, and what I’m meant to do (at different stages in our lives aren’t we meant to delve into different things?) and I can be less anxious about making myself into something or rushing my path, or my life. Some say Go with the Flow. I say Go Baby Go. But breathe and sing and live in between.
It’s true that life is short and I get that more as a 38yr old mother, to a baby. Lots to do. I like taking walks with Akiva hand in hand down our alley road. He’s so short compared to me, 6ft tall. Those walks remind me he’s so new and fragile and baby. I forget it a lot because his personally is so strong, he’s like a raging lion mixed with guru vibes.
I will always be this baby midwife at heart. It’s printed in my heart; it’s what I’ve done since I was 21; it’s my nature, my heart, my soul path. For those of you who have known me a while, thank you for seeing me then, all those young,
hungry for connection, moments. I love you. I’m still the same.
This TMI post is to bring myself back to you (and if you are a new friend, to intro my deep self). I’ll be posting regularly and I want you to share, comment, connect, and travel with me to the depths of what it means to be a parent, a person, a compassionate, loving person. A person with open, welcoming, loving arms, a real person. Please share what has occurred to you, share what’s hard and what’s good.
I first met Erica in 2007 when we were both at The Farm in Summerville, Tennessee studying midwifery skills with Ina May Gaskin and the midwives there. At the time we were both living in relatively the same part of the country; she was living in Mexico and I in Colorado…Fast forward to 2010 and we both found ourselves living in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, so cool! I had the pleasure of collaborating with Erica as a doula while we both lived in New York City and truly enjoyed it.
Erika’s passion and care for mothers everywhere is always evident. She is continuously expanding her knowledge and wisdom, learning as much as she can to best support the mothers she works with, even after all these years of practicing as a professional.
I’m so excited to catch up with Erica as she is now living in Bangkok, Thailand supporting the ex-pat community there. In addition to her birth support she is also supporting New and Blossoming Doulas as a mentor and teacher. If there are any new doulas our there looking for a mentor from a seasoned birth professional, I highly recommend checking out Erica’s offerings. And with that, let’s jump to it!
Me: Hi Erica! Can you tell us a bit about your work and where you are located?
ES: I am currently in Bangkok, Thailand, serving the English speaking community as a birth and postpartum doula. Since 2009, I ran my full-time Doula business, Erica Shane Childbirth, in New York City. I worked with over 100 families within 4 years time.
Last year, I decided to apply to volunteer my services in Bali at a free standing birthing center with Indonesian midwives. I arrived to the clinic this past summer and met kind and well-educated Indonesian midwives eager to open their hearts to my presence and the gifts I brought with me. The women I served were grateful and so was I to attend their births. I then landed in Thailand two months ago, as I was eager to stay in Asia to find a new community of doulas and to explore a new birth culture. I consider my work heart-centered as I passionately serve my clients no matter who they are or what their wishes end up being. Also because I care for them deeply, and take the time to hear what it is they need before, during, and after the birth.
Me: What is your role with mothers and babies? How did you become involved with your work?
ES: When hired as a birth doula, I am able to provide information to clients relative to what is missing in their childbirth education class, or the plethora of books by their bed stand. I ask many questions and spend lots of time listening during our prenatal time together. Every birth is different and I never have used the same set of tools twice. As a doula, I gather information on many levels to understand what moms need, and if I don’t know, I just ask. When in labor, I support the father too, making sure he is comfortable in his role, or comfortable taking a rest.
It’s been a long journey in owning my passion for my work. I became a doula when I was 21, fresh out of college. I majored in Women Studies and did a Google search in Florida at my parent’s house, and found Penny Simkin’s course the following weekend in Clearwater. I told my parent’s I’d be driving back and forth for 3 days as I was going to learn how to support women in childbirth. I needed an avenue to share my gifts. It felt right.
Me: What is your go-to self care activity?
ES: Self-care is a big subject for me. In NYC, my go-to activity, was well, taking a bath. Here in Thailand I don’t go anywhere near hot water as it’s already Summer all day every day. So I’ve found a pool nearby to swim about 3 times a week. It’s the water that’s healing for me, and I need to exercise. I’m 34 now, I don’t shrink like I used to just by eating veggies for a week. I also cook, which is healing on many levels because I can eat healthy, and share love with my roommates. Everyday I choose something to surround myself with that makes me feel good. In Thailand it’s an offering made of fresh flowers, or my favorite soup, a visit to a quiet temple, my time alone. The list goes on.
Me: If you had a magic wand, how would you transform maternity care?
ES: If I had a magic wand, I would lift every maternity ward out of every hospital and give it it’s own building on it’s own property, perhaps 10 or more birth centers in each city. With the magic wand, the buildings world-wide would be completed overnight, and on day 2 the gardens and pool structures would appear. On day 3, every OB would become educated in the art of breech birth, wear a smile to work, and would think Pitocin was the chemical leaking into the waters after Japan’s nuclear explosion. People in these facilities would appreciate and embody the normalcy of birth and also be aware of the true uses of medicine and surgery. There are many things that need to change frankly, but my main point here is that we could start by taking birth out of sick houses, leaving women alone so that they can labor, and spending quality time sitting with OBs who are lacking a true education on normalcy of birth. They could use some love too.
Me: Do you want to share some advice for new or aspiring doulas?
ES: I am really excited about my newest program, Mentor Support for the New and Blooming Doula. It’s a 12-week program which includes 7 Skype calls and steady email contact throughout the week. I absolutely find joy in helping my clients unearth their confidence and worth as they start their own businesses. We hugely work on networking so that they can be seen in their community, we build on juicy resources for clients, and make their website a reflection of who they are. I support them with their own current birth clients, and provide guidance with contracts & prenatal forms. It doesn’t end there. I help them with everything I’ve succeeded in, plus more. My clients blow me away with their ideas each week, and their progress. It is my honor to hold their hands as they realize the passionate, brilliant, and successful doula that they are. We have a private FB page that any new doula is welcome to join too: New Doula Mentor Support. I’ll tell you, it’s an exciting time to help women and humanity. If you are called to this work, do not go back. These families need you.
Erica Shane is Childbirth Doula currently living her dream abroad. She is also a Mentor for new doulas and offers a 12-week New Doula Mentor Program to help women kick start their heart-centered doula businesses. Recently, Erica has shared new products with her birth community, including Spanish for Birth Caregivers, and Recipes for the New Mother and Family. A graduate of the Matrona’s Holistic Midwife program, Erica shares a compassionate and nurturing perspective surrounding pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood. An advocate for gentle birthing practices, Erica is honored to be serving women in this pivotal time.
My work consists of so much more than attending births. I find myself mediating so that my couples can hear and understand one another with open minds and hearts. I share with them the sweet awareness of what it can look like to truly honor the needs of ALL through their postpartum window. I share self-care practices to take them through their lives. I mirror their own intuition around important decisions, for only they have the answers. And I provide expertise, yet this "expertise" is drawn from all the knowledge that my past clients have ever passed on to me. And it is taken from all the whispers their babies have ever sung in my ear. Yes, these babies get born, and I am there, and she may be gifted with a presence that stands by her side, by her wishes, by her spirit as she flies through her labor to places I can't see. What I do see though is the appreciation, the acknowledgment I receive after this angel enters the world into their arms, and when all settles down, I get a surprise letter of gratitude, it always gets me, it always moves me, shifts my perspective and throws me forward even deeper into this work. I am a passenger on their ship where love and knowledge and wisdom multiplies, again and again and again. My work takes me into a deep blue wavy sea where all I can do is trust that I will come back to shore, just as she returns from the edge, during her labor. We walk the line, we reach the edge, we look down, and we trust with our hands intertwined.
Ah August. Some new gals are here from Midwife International. It's interesting to see their process with their own program and it's delightful to be around folks who are excited for a baby to enter the world! That fresh new midwife feeling where passion and curiosity live. They have brought sweetness and youth to the experience and I love that place!
I remember to let go on a daily basis, to know I am getting here what God chooses, and that every single woman that I serve here is lucky to have all the energy and knowledge that I bring, when the time is right. I keep sayin, we get what we need! It's the mama's birth when the day is done, and we are blessed more than we can imagine that we are even invited in in the first place. This is of central importance. So hello August. Midwifery is more than having babies. Let's get into it.
Things have been slow here at BS. Hardly compared to my doula life in NY though! No babies the last four days, but 7 babies were born in three days right before that. And before that a whole week without a birth! OMG. What's a girl to do? Breathe, eat well, journal, and sink into tripped out beautiful Bali.
I got to be at one of the births a week ago; a sweet Russian woman with minimal English but enough to totally connect, support, and nurture her the whole way through. I got to practice homeopathy and MOXA which I never get to do in a NY hospital. No flames aloud there! I am so glad I was on shift when she birthed. And I look forward to a visit to her home soon. I love that I can connect with some of the mamas in this way and see them in their postpartum window at home! Not typical of the BS experience. It inspires me to work on a new postpartum program which I've been wanting to do forever!
This week I was also able to support a postpartum mama in her home right after she left BS. I slept at her house her first night home and helped her with positioning, feeding, soothing techniques, and heard her every concern. It was incredible to go deep with her and move with her around new motherhood fears and doubts, and to step into a more confident and 'in the moment' perspective. Well done!
Next? Don't ask. For now I'm here and workin on breathing, nourishing, and opening. Like my mamas.
Walkin my talk. Doin the best I can.
In three weeks I have attended eight labors. Beautiful, fierce mothers working hard to bring their babies into the world. Three this week. And I loved supporting them. I don't even have words for what it feels like to be in a room with a couple awaiting their child. In my deepest presence and gratitude, I am no were else but with them. My Indonesian is improving; I can ask couples questions and communicate with them. I can't imagine not having this. I am so glad I am taking a daily language course in Ubud. It makes using the vocab and phrases they already gave me so much easier to use.
Similar lessons keep coming up around not taking things personally, and remembering WHO I AM. I know who I am, and what I can offer, and how good I am! The Indo midwives are glorious; I love them and really enjoy their comfort with birth. Imagine being comfortable with birth. Checking heart tones and blood pressure often, then giving mom space, taking rests themselves. I love them. My favorite room is the Midwife room, where you may find people sleeping, chatting, weaving small baskets for daily offerings. I don't mind chatting it up and making mistakes. I came here to be with them. They are so skilled and I love the trust they have in me when I am on shift.
We have a new doula from NY so I have a lot of free time this week so she can catch up. Tomorrow I visit the mother temple and as Andrea calls it, we are going temple hopping. Fun! Can't wait to take photos.
If you have specific questions about my experience, please write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am happy to be inspired by your inquiries. For now, sending you love, and hoping to get some in return.
I arrived to my little house behind BS about a week ago. It is lovely to hear birds all day today in the communal compound shared with Eka's family, during my day off. It smells of incense and I have made my morning ginger tea. I don't mind waking at 6am from the sounds of roosters and dogs, because I fall to sleep usually around 8pm when not working at the clinic. So far, it has been a pleasure to get to know the midwives, rub their backs, see how everything works around the clinic. I observed one woman's labor and another woman's birth on my first weekend here. And this past week I assisted another woman in labor for a full day. It was a beautiful connection and I felt so at home supporting her with massage, and including her partner in my care and attention. Whapio, my holistic midwifery teacher, calls it TEA- time, energy and attention. This is the work I provide, and this is what I love.
The Indonesian midwives ask me if I am here to train like the other midwife students here getting their "numbers" for midwifery school back in the states. I say, no not really, although I am here to learn and grow, and provide what I know, and experience this new way and culture. I did learn yesterday from my new American midwife friend Andrea, how to moxa a woman's feet in labor. That was rad. And I do get excited about taking blood pressure and heart tones at some point, when the time feels right. In general though, I am the doula, and it feels explosively right. I feel like a life doula, all the time.
It is a gift to be here, to watch the rhythm of the Indonesian midwives, to be accepted by them, taken in, welcomed, and in return I honor their ways and truths daily. To be with woman, does not equal, to be with midwife. It is to be with woman. So to be with anyone, is to hear them, see them, feel them. Not to expect them to be with you. In this way, I sit with these midwives just as I sit with my clients in NY. Seeing them unique, beautiful, in their own way, and worthy of respect.
I am a midwife in my own heart, but to begin to speak with labels just doesn't sit right with me. I am a woman, who works with woman, and women, and men too, and I embody this work as LOVE, love in its fullest meaning and potential. Where love's origin lives, I sit with woman, and there only.
My friend Jessica was asked to share her perspective in an article that is presently being written in Turkey, about the benefits of water birth. The intention of this article is to arouse interest in Turkey about water birth, as people are just becoming aware of this option in birth. The Turkish woman interviewing Jessica, asks, Why do we choose water birth? What is the superiority of it?
Here is what Jessica has to say:
The reason people usually choose waterbirth has nothing to do with them knowing of the superiority of it. It IS a safer, more comfortable way to give birth, with numerous benefits to both the baby and the mother!!! Mostly, people choose it because humans have an innate, primal connection to water. We love to be in water. So, to give birth in water, intuitively, instinctively sounds like a better idea. Most women, though, do not choose the place to give birth by instinct, or intuition. The media, and the modern world have brought fear to the forefront of their minds, so out of such fear, and false information, they choose a hospital thinking it is the 'safest' option. The hospital is the place to go to give birth if you are looking for trouble, not if you are looking for safety. It is important that articles such as this are published so that awareness of the benefits of waterbirth become known. To give birth in water reduces the stress of the mother, easing the birth for both mother and baby. It also, done correctly (not staying in the water for more than an hour and a half at a time), creates a better flow of the labor, which allows the baby and mother to be birthing with only the pleasurable hormones controlling the birth, as opposed to stress hormones induced by pain, or a fearful environment. When a baby is born from the water of the amniotic sac, into water, and is allowed to emerge of their own accord, certain synapses occur in their brain that would not occur in a land birth. These synapses effect everything from their immune systems, to their physical coordination and musical or mathematical capabilities. There are also the emotional benefits of being born gently. Birth is our first impression of life on earth. If this first impression is one of grace, welcoming, love, comfort, autonomy - the person is imprinted with more trust, kindness, and emotional stability.
The Mei Tai
I love this newborn carrier. Why?
This carrier evenly distributes the baby’s weight between your shoulders and hips. This is one of the best things about the mei tai, because many other carriers strain the parent’s shoulders a LOT. The mei tai carrier promotes healthy hip development for babies, keeping them comfortably in the C-position against your chest. The mei tai is also totally versatile, because you are able to position your baby on your front, back or hip and use different methods of tying the straps, according to preference. And, the mei tai can be used from birth to toddlerhood! Amazing. Click here to view the different ways you can use your new mei tai. I highly recommend!
The Sakura Bloom Ring Sling
This is just wonderful for your newbie baby. They are very simple to use, easily adjustable, conform comfortably to babies’ bodies, and can be used from the newborn stage all the way through the toddler years. If your baby falls asleep in a ring sling, you can either let them snuggle with you for a nap or gently put them down without awaking them. You can also nurse in a ring sling, sit down without bothering the baby if napping or nursing, and be hands free to do almost anything!
Here are some great videos for instruction on positioning and nursing in your Sakura sling. http://tiny.cc/yh8jhw
Also another video that is helpful (with maya wrap and sakura explained with newborn's feet out)
And here's the Sakura site itself:
All is well here at the Holistic Matrona program, in Asheville, North Carolina. We're almost at the halfway mark and I'm amazed at the material covered and the depth of our work so far.
One of the biggest things I've gained is the notion: Midwife=with Woman, not Woman=with Midwife. For me, this means really getting where my client is coming from. Throwing my agenda and my opinions out the car window before I pull up. Hearing her story, knowing why she wants what she wants, and helping her to achieve it. Whapio once said, "I care about you. I'll bend over backwards to give you what you want" For me this is the epitome of the midwife's role...to be WITH WOMAN.
More and more these days, women are choosing midwives who do not hear them out and who interfere with their labor process. I keep wondering, Why?
We think we have to give our pregnancy and birth experience over to another person; we think they know better than we do; we think we don't know how to find our way.
I promise you- You know the way, and if you don't, you will surely find it in labor....if given the chance.
In short, make sure you're care provider is not going to tell YOU how to have YOUR baby. Get it? Our role as 'doula' is to ensure that your experience is yours, and your decisions are yours, and that your care providers are hearing you, and standing by you in the most sacred and life-changing day of your life. This birth belongs to you, and your family.
Erica is a Childbirth Doula in NYC. Her present focus is on the postpartum period.