by Deb Valentin:
I love to support women during pregnancy. There are so many benefits to getting acupuncture treatments during pregnancy and particularly in the later stages, it helps promote labor as well as reduce stress and anxiety before the little one arrives!
Some of the benefits of acupuncture for labor induction:
Acupuncture should be one of the first approaches when helping with labor induction. It helps to naturally stimulate cervical ripening as well as aids in promoting contractions. One to two treatments may be needed in order to help a women go into labor and contractions can start anywhere from 24-48 hours after treatment. The beauty of acupuncture treatments is that not only does it help promote labor; it helps to reduce stress and anxiety. My patients often feel calm and balanced after treatment, which is how I want them to feel before their baby is born.
A small study done at the University of North Carolina showed among the pregnant women who received three acupuncture sessions, 70% went into labor naturally and 39% of those who received acupuncture did not have caesarean sections compared to 17% of women who did not have acupuncture.
Marie’s Labor Story
Marie was 40 weeks pregnant when she came into my office. She was terrified of getting medically induced so she was looking for alternative approaches to help promote labor. She had been 1 cm dilated for a week with no changes in her cervix. She suffered a lot of anxiety and stress during this time. I gave Marie two treatments in three days to help ripen the cervix and promote contractions. Marie began going into labor shortly after the second treatment and had delivered the following day. Not only did the acupuncture work to help her birth her son but she said the treatments made her feel less anxious and calmer.
Acupuncture is a great alternative for helping labor induction. It is safe and effective for both mommy and baby. The journey to having a baby is a wonderful experience and helping support women during this time is such a privilege.
If you have questions regarding how acupuncture can help your specific health concerns during pregnancy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer any of your questions.
I am writing to you, as your proud birth doula, to share your birth story as I saw it. I stood by your mom as she brought you into the world and helped her to make the right choices as it was happening. It was an honor getting to know your mom during her pregnancy. She was so prepared in so many ways, along with your dad. They practiced relaxation and preparation techniques with Hypnobabies, a series of recordings meant to soothe and center the mother-to-be. Your dad was so supportive and even listened and read these to her.
Your mom chose to birth with Lisa Johnson's practice at Mt. Sinai hospital in NYC. She was happy with them, although when it came down to the middle of the 41st week, they wanted to get your labor rolling with a medicated induction. When I talked to your mom on the phone about it that week, she didn't seem so excited about the idea. She didn't agree that she should be induced if you were healthy and she was healthy too. So she postponed it, and was given another evening that worked for the doctor that week. Again, she wasn't comfortable that they weren't giving her as many days as possible to keep you inside of her, growing and playing and enjoying your first home. It just didn't feel right to her, to have you out so soon, when she knew you would come on your own when you were ready.
It was a Wednesday and she was told she would need to go in that night for the induction, but she called the doctor and politely told them she wouldn't be after all. I remember speaking to your mother over the phone various times that day, reminding her to stay nourished, hydrated, calm, and to walk a lot. She had already felt like she was in early labor that day anyway.
By 2pm, her contractions were 15 minutes apart and it was manageable to be on her own, going around town. Actually when I talked to her, she seemed like it was nothing, and just noting them. At 4pm, she went into the doctor for an ultrasound to check on you, as that was the only way the doctors would let her go another day pregnant. All was well and she was so happy. By 5pm, contractions were 5-11 minutes apart. Your mom was home baking cookies to bring to the nurses by then. She was also drinking her iced Red Raspberry tea and walking around, and breaking during each contraction with her breath and focus. By 7:30pm, contractions were 7 minutes apart. By 9:30pm, they were 6 minutes apart. They hadn't quit reached a minute in length yet, so I wasn't sure if it was time for me to come support your mom yet. Besides numbers and such, she also just sounded really okay and I knew I was only a cab ride away. At 10pm, contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting a minute. I recommended at this point that your mom get in the bath to relax and get some relief from the intense sensations she was feeling. She finally ran the tub and it seemed by her reaction that she did feel lots of relief there. It did shorten the length of her contractions to 35-45 seconds, and they did space out a bit during that hour. I waited to hear how she was feeling.
It was a bit before midnight that we agreed that it would be time for me to come over. I heard from your mom that she was ready, and that is what I like to hear! I was so proud of her thus far. I had so much faith in her. I knew she needed the opposite energy than that of the hospital which was to control and to manage. So I was aware of that as I was supporting them throughout the day. I reminded her that labor is normal and to take it as it comes, to not be afraid, to not try to change it. I look back and am so happy for your mom for having the labor that she wanted at home.
I was getting my things together, talking to your mom and dad, and getting down to the street. It was the only night ever that it took me 10 minutes to get a taxi! By 12:45am your mom's water had broke, just moments before I stepped into the apartment. I came him, I heard her in the bathroom, and I told her we were ready to go. She asked if she could stay in there a little longer, but I just opened the door, helped her get up and told her we would be okay in the car ride. She took one look at me and said, 'Do you think I'm going to have my baby?' I basically answered, yes, that's what's happening! We got to the elevator with your dad and a car was waiting outside.
We got in the car, with the cookies, and we told the driver to go fast. He was pretty mellow though. He stopped at every red light but your mom told him that that wouldn't be necessary. She rolled down the window, she breathed in the way you do when you don't want to push, and she just kept saying out loud, 'I'm going to have my baby in the hospital'. It was fabulous. Your dad and I were impressed, in awe, and right there with you two. Who would have wanted to be anywhere else? So we pulled up, and your dad stayed by the car for a moment to pay and get our things, while I walked with your mom to the elevator going straight up to the L&D floor. We went right up to the desk and told them she was having a baby, now. There was no need for triage. She was ready to push you out. I'm glad they believed us. It might have been obvious by the way she was walking. And wanting to push.
Can you even imagine how it must have felt for her? She was in full-on active labor, and just staying so calm, focused on her breath, her power, her intention, the whole time! At home, she was exactly where she wanted to be, and how she wanted to be. Everything was smooth and happened just in time and with just enough faith and trust. At the hospital, he monitor was on for a half hour, the IV was placed just in case, and you were born into the world maybe 30-40 minutes after we arrived. Pushing was quick and smooth. Your mom asked at a certain moment, how she should do it, and I gently reminded her to do what she felt. She had done what she felt and intuited the whole time until then, so it seemed fitting that she continue.
Zoe, you were born at 1:53am on Thursday, March 31, 2011. You weighed 7.8 pounds. You were a perfect little newborn with a perfect birth. And you are so so lucky to have your mom and dad to hold you and raise you in this world. It was an honor to witness your mother that day giving birth to you, and to learn from one more woman, how babies are meant to be born. Thank you all.
All my love,
Giving birth and being a mother has changed my life in so many ways I don't even know where to begin. Going through labor and delivery showed me how much I am capable of and made me realize I can do anything! It was an incredibly empowering experience. Being a mother has been the best lesson in being in the moment. In those first few weeks and months when the days and nights blur and you are in survival mode, you simply cannot exist any way else. I was definitely pushed to my limits with my little guy and there have been (and still are) plenty of maddening, frustrating and scary moments, but the LOVE! Oh my gosh, it is like nothing I could have imagined. Amber
A few nights before going into labor I asked my husband, "If I run, will you chase me?" He knew what I meant and looked at me like I had 15 million heads and just calmly said, "Let's cross that bridge if we should get to it, how does that sound?" I was terrified and just kept over analyzing everything. A couple of days later and a lot of breathing, pushing and a bit of moaning, we were blessed with the birth of our daughter. They immediately put her in my arms and there we sat, skin to skin and she looked up to me as if to say, "I know who you are and I love you so much already." We attempted our first try at breast feeding and I just let the calm of the moment wash over me. There was this overwhelming feeling of love and a need to protect my little girl. It was at that moment that I looked to my husband and said quietly, "If I run, it's WITH her, NOT from her." My life hasn't been the same since. Being a momma is the best thing I've done with my life. Kristin
It's true what they say, that after you have children, you worry less about yourself. Instead of the promotion at work, you worry about whether your child will have nice friends. Instead of the your tan or your wrinkles, you worry about their booboos and their life lessons. So, I still worry a lot. But being a mother also means I get to be surprised by how funny, clever, and brave my kids are. And I can't think of anything more worthwhile than helping them when they're sick or sad, or when we help each other figure out how this crazy world works. Jackie
It has made the miracle of birth so real for me. As I hold my baby and nurse her, I sometimes cannot believe that she is the baby that grew inside my body - and here she is! Wow! Valerie
All of our experiences are life changing and form who we are. Birth and motherhood enable you to learn to endure pain, work hard, care for another life while making room in your heart and soul to love more, protect more, teach more and ultimately let go. You look back at your accomplishments, your children's accomplishments and you then experience feelings of pride, appreciation, and success. Life changing experiences... changing and forming lives. That is powerful. My mom, Gail
All of my mama's births deserve a written account, and this is the first time I'll actually write publicly about one. Most births are emotional, yet this one particularly hit my heart, even while labor was moving. It was my first VBAC client who was actually "allowed" to go into labor. Last Sunday she called me with news that her water had broken at 230am. I listened and realized she hadn't felt labor actually begin so I talked her back to sleep and checked in every few hours. By 9am she was feeling quite nervous and I reminded her of the option of homeopathy to ignite contractions. She checked in with herself and began treatment immediately.
When I arrived to her home at noon to see what was going on, I found her at the table chatting with her sister, timing contractions. I asked if we could go to her bedroom alone and do some massage. She lay down and I began to use pressure points and took her through some deep relaxing breaths to get her focused and calm. Her contractions got regular immediately and were 3-6min apart, 60sec in length for a couple hrs while we spent time there. Her husband joined us occasionally, brought her some chamomile tea, and was in awe of the peace she was in, compared to the first labor where they rushed to the hospital with the first early irregular contraction patterns.
This mama let go with each contraction with her tears, sounds and breath. I reminded her that that was so good, to keep letting go, to continue tapping into her baby and this unique labor. I wasn't sure if stuff was coming up from the past labor or if she was nervous about this one or what. All I knew was that I was her friend, sitting beside her and helping her body open and her labor to move. It was beautiful. It felt good to be there after phone support all night.
We stayed at home laboring until we decided to go the hospital at 3pm. She started touching her lower pelvic area during contractions which made me think the baby could be close; it was her second child and in birth #1 she did labor to 9cm. So we left and all were comfortable with that.
We arrived and parked and she decided she wanted to labor outside for a while, so it was until 5pm that we labored in the sunshine outside Cornell's hospital doors. Her water seriously broke on her exit from the car so it was hard for me to believe her water had broken the night before too! Contractions were already 2-3 min apart and 60-90sec in length while we were laboring outside. She was so strong and willing. She danced. She swayed. We ate lentil soup. She loved being out there and free.
When we arrived upstairs to triage she was surprised to be checked at 2cm. She was feeling so much pelvic pressure and just didn't think it could be right. I've found that telling women where they are cervix-wise or anything numerically-speaking just doesn't work for them most of the time. It puts them in a rut. It takes them out of their center. It makes them believe someone else knows more about their labor than they do. It takes their power away.
It took a bit for her to get over the news and finally she remembered that her real focus was the work ahead of her. She asked for what she wanted: she got her telemetry room and was able to walk around and labor on her feet. Our nurse all night and into the morning was a graduating midwife from SUNY Downstate. All was well. When residents came in who made her feel uncomfortable she simply told them to leave.
She labored for a long while until 1am with very intense contractions, with her husband's love, my supportive words, massage, and all of our affirmations. We thought her baby might be coming. The midwife even brought in the delivery tool cart. At midnight though, she was checked at 3cm and then decided on an epidural. She needed to sleep; she needed to let go. By 8am, she was checked at 4cm, and feeling a lot of pain still. With top off of medication after top off and hitting her epidural button 3x an hour, she still was in pain. I've never seen a woman in that much pain. It was confusing. I've been with women who get relief from epidurals, not the opposite. The anesthesiologists came in to help but the pressure of the baby was just too much. I wasn't sure what was going on. Moments like these make me want to call Ina May.
When checked at 4/5cm still at 11am, the new doctor on the floor really wanted to go ahead with a cesarean birth. The baby's heart rate was dipping quite a bit, and even though it may look normal to some, it wasn't looking good to the doctor who was taking in mind that she had been in labor for already 24hrs with much regularity. With almost 4hrs of no cervical change, he didn't want the baby to go through another whole day of distress. My client had a really hard time with that proposal though, even though she was having a hard time herself going forward with the labor because of her discomfort.
It was so tricky for her to accept his proposal after a cesarean birth 3 years before where she blames drugs completely for her labor stalling and causing fetal distress. During this whole labor, every time they administered a drug she'd ask if it would affect her labor. The doctors gently told her it wouldn't but she knew so deep down what she believed to be true: the opposite. She knew though that during this labor the drugs were her ally because of this intense discomfort. And so she felt so conflicted with the choice to use them and the belief that using them would "cause" a cesarean birth. Yet even so, I know her feelings before entering the OR spoke as: "I did it, I tried, yes, I've been through so much, something is going on here and I don't know what but I'm going to follow my gut, even though I didn't want this".
I don't know the reasons for everything, but I do know she went through a labor like never before, and that is what she wanted. She was amazing, she was determined, she was so strong. She has something to look back on to make her proud, to remind her of her strength and beauty. When she looked at me before heading into the OR, and said directly to me, "Erica, I could not have done this without you. I would not have been able to do this without you, thank you for all you have done, thank you for everything, ", that just means too much to me. It put me into tears right in front of her own. Moments like that open and transform, all of the people involved at the birth.
Blessings onto this beautiful mama. Blessings onto this child. Blessings onto this family. Blessings onto that which moves us and guides us right. Blessings onto that which we don't understand.
Closing ceremony at last year's conference.
I recently blogged about my experience attending Naoli Vinaver’s midwifery training in Mexico. What a life-changing experience it was for me! It has truly motivated me to seek out even more midwifery training experiences, and I am pleased to announce that from the 19th to the 23rd of October I will be in Bad Wildbad, Germany attending a special Midwifery Today conference titled “Preserving Our Traditions, Improving Our Skills.”
I have a feeling this is going to be a very special experience. Several amazing and inspirational leaders from the birth community will be there as presenters. To name just a few:
I look forward to soaking in the brilliant wisdom of these amazing teachers and deepening my knowledge of pregnancy, labor, birth and beyond. What a blessing it will be to my doula practice and my clients!
Want to join me in Germany? Act now! There is an early bird discounted special from now until June 7th!
Pregnancy Awareness Month celebrates empowered birth, plus a link below to my guest blog post on Feminists for Choice!
Did you know that May is Pregnancy Awareness Month?
It is so wonderful that so much attention has been raised around the issue of healthy birth that we now have an entire month dedicated to celebrating and educating women and families!
Anna Getty and Alisa Donner founded pregnancy Awareness Month in 2008 to empower women and build a community of support for expectant families. The event has truly taken off and the advisory board now includes such names as Ricki Lake and Dr. Alan Greene. This year the event is presented by O.N.E. Coconut Water, which I know to be a favorite of many mommies-to-be :)
Events have taken place around over the country all month long, from Los Angeles to Atlanta and New York City. Pregnancy Awareness Month has had a huge presence on Twitter, with “Twitter Parties” held four times in May.
I also had the opportunity to do something to celebrate. I was asked to write my first every guest blog post for the site Feminists for Choice about my role as a doula. I invite you to read!
Because we are nearing the end of Pregnancy Awareness Month I would like to share the film trailer from the upcoming documentary One World Birth. It really sums up how I feel about the sacredness of birth, and why I am so honored to be a part of this movement.
Happy Pregnancy Awareness Month!
I arrived to Naoli's ranch on the morning of April 18th, to find myself with 14 extraordinary women from Europe, Canada, the US and Mexico, who came together to learn The Art and Science of Traditional Birth Practices and Philosophies of Mexico. What a gift to be together as we explored the emotional, physiological, and spiritual aspects of the natural labor process. Most of us are not mothers, yet we are birth workers new and old, with a keen understanding of what it means to help someone "walk the path" that we have walked ourselves. But if we haven't had our own children, how have we walked the path that they are on as pregnant women, you may ask?
When a woman is walking in her pregnancy, she may fear the "unknown" in a general sense and may be anxious as a result. Or she may be fearing something very specific such as not being able to open because her mother didn't open during her own labor. She has carried her mother's story for years and is about to carry it into her own labor if she doesn't return it back to her mother beforehand. A woman may also remember the trauma of abuse or a painful loss in her life- an abortion, a miscarriage, the death of a loved one. No matter what she is carrying, if she has succeeded in keeping it hidden throughout her pregnancy from herself or others, suddenly toward the end of her pregnancy her midwife may notice something, and gently ask her what's going on. This ability of the midwife to intuit and to listen and for the mother to open is key in their relationship and for the process of labor to flow.
The midwife herself knows from her own life experience that transformation happens with an open heart and mind and body. She knows that women open when they feel safe, when they are given the space they need to navigate in their own way. Surely the midwife has walked the road of pain, loss, and healing in her own way. Or she has been through labor herself. However she has experience transformation, she herself has done her work and continues to do her work. And she herself comes from a mother who has come from a mother. We all hold memories and information about birth and how we and or ancestors were born. When you are called as a midwife, you pave the road for women to open, to receive and to let go all at the same time, to take the leap of faith and dive forward into a place of openess and love. It is the only way to give birth.
A wise birth attendant listens closely to what is needed in each moment in pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. When we are "with women" we are midwifing them through the veil and to the other side. This does not mean we hold their hand each time. Sometimes it means we witness, and sometimes we use our tools. But we always listen, and this is how we know and discern. At Naoli's workshop , many stories were shared around the idea of women facing their "stuff" before labor even begins, and if not, they will for sure face them on the big day. Either way, we must face them ourselves. Partnering with a practitioner who is sensitive to the needs and process of the laboring woman makes birth outcomes much more humanized, loving, and joyful. In labor, the opening of the cervix correlates to the opening of the heart, and the gate in which women walk forward into their new life as Mother, with courage, curiosity, and strength.
The territory of birth has grown ten-fold for me since leaving 2 weeks ago. The miracle of life is found in birth and it includes our whole lives and those of our mother and father and grandfathers. Birth brings life and death together and shows us in some way how they share the same bed at night. As we each live our lives and then one day die, there is also a part of us that dies each time we give birth, or witness a birth. Thus with each birth, every person present is reborn, and enters a part of their heart they have not known yet. With each new baby born, the mother goes deeper. And her midwife as well.
One of the activities we shared together was called "vaginal exams without violence." We experienced first hand how to guide the practitioner based on our comfort and how it feels to actually be safe in the hands of another during an exam. It brought up deeply stored memories of abuse for many women by family members and medical practitioners. Their stories included the aggressive touch by practitioners during normal vaginal exams and the unnecessary mistreatment they had lived in their labor and postpartum as mothers themselves. We were healed as we shared and listened. We were healed as we experienced something mysterious and curious in each other. For many of us, it was the first time we had done an exam on anyone. I think one of my favorite parts of the retreat was when one woman's very young daughters came in to listen to the end of our talk each day. They were little women engaging and taking in the art of womanhood. It would be beautiful to see more mothers introducing their daughters at a young age to the beauty and mystery of the female body and spirit.
We spent time in nature learning about the naturalness and joy of pregnancy and birth. We rejuvenated in hot springs next to a river where cows and chickens roamed the hills. Naoli showed us how to massage a woman in postpartum with river stones and wooden bread rollers. We practiced on each other and were asked by the public how much we were charging! Naoli told us the story of when she was a young girl and how she made her friend take a 9hr rafting ride with her down the same river we were on. The next time she went she had a bigger following, which included her father, whose raft got poked somehow and so he had to have his finger holding the hole closed the whole way down the river for hours! Naoli is a breath of fresh air. She says, "The only thing you should expect of your birth, is that it will be wonderful."
We were welcome into her home, into her life; we met her partner, her children, her mother, and lived on the land for 10 days where hundreds of women have come to birth in her presence with love and JOY. We laughed, we cried, we shared our wounds and secrets, and we raised our hands to let each other know that we had been there as well. We sat in a traditional temazcal together and placed that which did not serve us into a stone and said thank you and goodbye and threw it into the fire. We shared a home together on Naoli's ranch and bathed outside separated by walls of bamboo. We ate beautiful meals of flower soup, huitlacoche, and every other kind of exquisite traditional Mexican cuisine known to mankind.
When a woman had birthed on our third day there, we were able to make homeopathic tinctures using a tiny piece of the fresh placenta, drying the rest for placenta encapsulation. We also made a drum with the amnio bag and a beautiful dried heart with the whole umbilical cord. We painted pregnant mama's bellies, as an alternative to ultra sounds, after measuring them through touch and listening to the baby's and the placenta's movement through a fetascope. No matter how big we painted them, we were reminded that no baby is ever too big to come out.
In Naoli's 18 years of practice, she has never transferred because a baby could not fit through the pelvis. We learned how to open the pelvis with our hands and with the use of the rebozo, and how to position the mother in case the baby is not coming down smoothly in case of a dystocia. But even more important, we spoke of her freedom to move on her own in labor so that she may hear loudly from her own inner wisdom where and how and when she shall be in order to bring her baby down as he should. We also practiced rebozo techniques for shifting a posterior baby, and "closing" the mother in postpartum. We made a hot chocolate with medicinal herbs for postpartum, a salve for stretch marks and aloe suppositories for hemorrhoids. We named the 40 day period one of healing and we promised we would help women understand the importance of resting and being with their baby during this delicate time of adjustment and new beginning.
I come back to my home in NYC ready to walk with my Mamas, to honor birth and the love that makes it happen. I come back with much curiosity and a heart wide open with joy to share. I invite you to come with me.
Erica is a Childbirth Doula in NYC. Her present focus is on the postpartum period.