It's been a tough couple of weeks. And after the tough summer we had in Colorado, these weeks are even harder than they would have been on their own.
After the mind-numbing-jaw-dropping horror that happened last Friday, I went to see my parents sing a concert. I used to love this as a child, because I would snuggle into my big coat, in the dark, and I would sleep. It was the most restful sleep I think I've ever had. The kind of sleep that crashes over you and gently pulls you under.
Between my head-bobbing and my husband's unapologetic snoozing we heard a song that made me think about mamas-to-be in a new way:
"...I am a lighthouse
in the desert and I stand alone
I dream of an ocean that was here a long time ago
and I remember his cool waters and I still glow..."
As we approach the darkest time in what has been a dark year, we turn to you, mamas-to-be, to remind us of what is possible. To be a lighthouse in our desert.
Because even when you feel overwhelmed by nausea, hormones, stress about the changes that are about to happen, you are accomplishing what so many of us struggle to accomplish.
You step forward. You remind passers by of what is possible. I know enough after meeting with students each week, that you're concerned about cribs, in-laws, and things that don't fit. There's nothing wrong with that at all... you're doing what mamas do, which is worry and fret and balance and juggle.
And, without even knowing it, you're affecting everyone with whom you interact.
Because you glow.
Song "Lighthouse" by Antje Duvekot
I'd like to think I know a thing or two about birth. I've attended dozens of births, read hundreds of birth books, and observed a number of birth classes. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on how what "we" say to pregnant women can affect their perception of the outcome of their labor.
So when students ask me what kind of birth class to take, I have a few opinions on the subject.
Consider the benefits of live, in-person childbirth classes:
- In contrast to books and media classes, live classes are interactive which means you get your questions answered, but also those of other students. Questions you didn't even know you had!
- You get to move around. Rather than just looking at pictures or video of birth positions, you can actually move and get feedback from the instructor.
- Accountability to attend each class for you and possibly your partner, too. Even the best-laid plans to read books or finish seminars at an individual pace can quickly be usurped by the parts of birth preparation you think are more fun, like baby registries, showers, and assembling baby furniture.
Five reasons to look beyond the hospital (for class):
Sometimes hospitals offer a very inclusive and tremendous birth class, but often they are short and focus on the hospital procedure rather than the robust variety of topics and perspectives you're likely to get at an independent childbirth class.
1. You learn about birth (which is a normal thing, BTW). Literally everyone walking around out there was born, so this happens.... every day! You will learn about how your body will move through different stages of labor, learn tricks and tips to make yourself as comfortable as possible, and so will your partner.
2. You will meet other couples who you will get to know for many weeks. Most hospital-based classes are a little shorter and much larger in numbers than the other classes, which means you don't get the opportunity to connect with the other couples. This is great for partners who don't get the connection at prenatal yoga, and often don't seek out other parents-to-be. Many times these childbirth classes hold reunions a year later. If you don't yet have a village, this may be a great place to start forming yours.
3. Lending Library. Your hospital may also have a lending library, and certainly your local library has hundreds of books about birth. How will you choose? An out-of-hospital childbirth instructor often has a few go-to books that they know students appreciate and will typically lend them to their current students at no additional cost.
4. Personalization. Hospital classes typically need to cover a list of particular objectives, which may or may not be relevant to you. Independent childbirth classes are more fluid and customizable. Depending on where you live, you can find classes for high-risk mamas, first-time mamas, single mamas, mamas of multiples, lesbian mamas and more. Even if your class isn't specific for a particular group, your instructor will quickly learn about your values and help offer the information you're looking for.
5. They acknowledge that birth can happen outside of the hospital. They will not force an out-of-hospital agenda on you, but if you are the kind of person who is curious about the differences, they will share them with you. I know several mamas who planned their births in the hospital and wound up spontaneously delivering outside of the hospital because they could not transport in time. An independent childbirth class prepares you for the spectrum of birth possibilities.
Questions to ask the teacher:
Do you have any preference about where I choose to birth my baby?
Can I ask you questions outside of class, via email or phone?
Do you have a lending library that I can use?
How many mamas/couples will you accept in a particular class?
What is your birth-background?
Where were you trained as a childbirth educator?
How to tell if the teacher is one of your people:
Do you welcome same-sex couples?
Is there a faith background that you utilize in your teaching?
Will I be uncomfortable in your classes if I do not share your faith?
Will we be using art in this class?
If you are in Colorado Springs and want to know about upcoming childbirth classes, subscribe to my newsletter for monthly announcements.
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
When I was about two years old, I named the chickadee couple that frequented the cherry tree outside of our kitchen window.
The mated pair were quite obviously named Ralph and Hungryeater.
Today, as I was looking out the window of my home studio, I realized that I am a genius. Or rather, that I was a genius at the tiny age of two.
These are the two states of pregnancy appetite:
This is a tricky situation, particularly given the varied (and conflicted) lists of foods you should eat more of, foods you should avoid, and foods nobody should ever eat, but now you want all the time.
If you are seeing a direct-entry midwife (not always a CNM), you're likely going to get lots of expert advice about which foods are best for you given your particulars. Midwives get more mandatory, specialized training about diet than MD's and CNM's (which isn't to say that yours hasn't taken on some additional study or research) and will often ask you to provide an extraordinarily detailed report of what you're eating, if/when you're sick, and how you might support yourself more fully with a few tweaks and changes.
Most women in the US are under the care of an MD, and the typical advice I hear from my clients surrounding diet includes:
1. Take a prenatal multivitamin
2. Don't eat mercury-laden fish, deli meats, or unpasteurized cheeses.
3. Don't drink alcohol.
Based on the questions I get in class sometimes, this information is not sufficient for most mamas-to-be. Here are a few resources that my students have recommended to me. I know a lot about food and nutrition, but I have no fancy letters behind my name that would permit me bestow on you professional advice. Peruse these at your leisure, or consider visiting a nutritionist or nutritional counselor who can answer your specific questions.
For the mama who loves checklists, The Brewer Diet is all about categories and checklists. Recommended by Bradley Method childbirth educators, this one is adapted for vegetarians and vegans as well.
For the mama who likes photographs and wants to learn more about the intricacies of each food, The 100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy is another popular book recommended by my students.
In my opinion, it is worthwhile to listen to and report food cravings to your prenatal care provider or nutritionist. Your body might know a thing or two about what it needs to make the best baby possible. It makes good sense to focus on nutrient-dense foods and avoid empty calories. And it also stands to reason that you should never trust anything you read on the internet.
Photo: Pure Presence Photography
If you're not ready to give up your regular yoga practice, but are not sure how to adapt your practice to accommodate for that bun you're baking, here are my most basic tips.
First, clear your yoga practice with your midwife or doctor AND tell your instructor you're expecting. Basic truths in life: full disclosure yields the most honest relationship and best chance for success.
Do 80%: If you normally practice five days a week, either cut to four or scale back the intensity of your practice. The most important thing you're doing these days is creating another person, so devote some of your time and energy to that, why don't 'cha? If you're relatively new to yoga and attending a non-prenatal class, assume that you will participate at the 80% level. It's ok to get a B- this time.
Don't put an oven in a sauna: My general rule for my own life is to use the past 2,000 generations of humans on Earth to evaluate my own behavior. Have they illustrated great success doing what I'm trying to do? If not, why not? Has this most modern generation demonstrated success? I feel this way about super-heated yoga. Even if YOU have been doing it for a dozen years, it isn't time-tested (the way tofu has been for 5,000 years) nor is it a very popular thing to do (like air travel).
Say Goodbye to Tummy Time: Save it for baby! Do not lie down on your belly. Do not put pressure on your belly. No matter what the instructor tells you to do, if it involves pressure on your belly, just skip it. Substitute neck and shoulder stretches you've learned in a prenatal yoga class. Similarly, if you are instructed to take a forward fold that would put pressure on your belly (either standing or sitting) try bringing your legs wide enough that you can do the pose without hitting your belly.
(Don't) Do the Twist: Twisting your pregnant belly is not a great plan for you later in life. Try not to turn any further than you would if you were backing out of a parking space. Avoid anything that brings the opposite arm to the opposite leg. Often times you can turn the other way, like in the photo listed at the top of this article.
Don't Rock the Boat: A couple of meanings here. First, no core work. None. Any time the rest of the class is doing crunches, sit-ups, or boat pose, get on hands and knees and do spine strengthening exercises from prenatal or take child's pose (no pressure on belly). Additionally, no jumping. You won't want to jump, but you might be in a crazy yoga class where the instructor tells you to jump forwards and backwards or other silliness. No jumping.
Get Off Your Back: There are times when it is appropriate for you to lie on your back during pregnancy and times when it isn't. If you're not sure, stay off of your back. The end of class savasana is a delicious and important time during which your body is focused exclusively on healing. Don't skip this part, but do skip the back-lying variation. You can easily lie on your side and use blankets and blocks to support your knees and head and make you comfortable.
Each woman has the right to make her own decisions about what is best for her body during yoga, and this isn't a comprehensive list of everything a pregnant woman would want to avoid. When in doubt, I recommend choosing something from the vocabulary of prenatal yoga and substituting that for the unknown pose.
Finally, do not allow yourself to compete with others, particularly other pregnant women you see doing something I've recommended avoiding. Yoga is not a competitive sport and each mama is responsible only for her own choices. Don't let others make your choices for you!
I wrote this article for Marmapoints. It has some great suggestions for yoga teachers and students, if I do say so myself!
Image courtesy of Tratog/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you're a breastfeeding mama (or if you're about to be one) you've probably heard lots of commentary about breastfeeding. This commentary probably includes:
- How Long
It probably also includes the word should.
I hate the word should.
Let me be clear, I have some opinions about breastfeeding just like everyone else does. You probably have some as well. But the idea that you should do anything should be a red flag that you're about to get hit by someone else's values. Rather than taking someone else's values as your own, I recommend understanding why they hold those values and how you can best formulate your own.
May I present some facts surrounding the following areas so that you may make an informed decision about feeding your child?
Where: You are legally allowed to breastfeed your child in any place where you have the right to be*. This includes park benches, the zoo, restaurants, places of worship and airplanes. This does not include private property (because anyone can tell you that you no longer have the right to be on their property) and men's bathrooms. That's a short list.
When: Oh the SHOULDS about when! May I suggest whenever baby shows signals that she's hungry? Before she has a melt-down? Whenever you'd like? As you may recall from labor, baby lives in a space beyond time. As convenient as it might sound to schedule her feedings at regular intervals (and there are times when this might be appropriate to make sure she feeds often enough, per the recommendations of an IBCLC), most babies will simply make it clear when they are hungry. They are spending a lot of time growing, developing, learning new skills, and experimenting with new tasks. This means their caloric needs can vary from day to day and hour to hour. Are you hungrier on days when you do the incline? How would you feel about waiting for dinner with no snacks??
How Long: Just like the when, baby knows how long she needs to nurse at each feeding. More often, people comment on how many weeks, months, or years you should nurse each baby. Many factors play into the duration of breastfeeding, like medications mama might need to take, her employment, additional babies, and other factors. Baby expects to breastfeed until she's able to feed herself at the table and beyond. Did you know that the average age of weaning world-wide is more than 4 years old? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding (this means no formula, water, juice, cow's milk, or anything other than prescribed medications) and sustained breastfeeding for at least 12 months.
Does that mean you should breastfeed your baby for 12 months?
No, it does not. But it means that it is worth considering why this recommendation exists and understanding the costs and benefits of sustained breastfeeding. I'll share some of the reasons why in an upcoming blog.
HOMEWORK: What are your values about breastfeeding? What are your goals? And why?
*In Colorado as in most states. There are a few states with slightly more stringent laws.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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