Sign up for our newsletter!

Natural Remedies and Resources for Stress in Pregnancy and Beyond

beautiful-cheeks-close-up-3084762.jpg

Pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster, a time of increased sensitivity, and life circumstances often feel heightened. However, there is a wide variety of natural remedies and resources to help steady moods and enjoy the beautiful experience of pregnancy. The below recommendations will not only assist with stress relief during pregnancy, but during many stages of life. Also, do check out a recent related blog where I talk about 40 wonderful ways you can manage the powerful waves of emotions in pregnancy and beyond.

SUPPLEMENTS

For general health and physical and emotional well-being during pregnancy, make sure to eat healthy foods, stay well hydrated, and take supplements to make sure you supply yourself with needed nourishment not supplied by diet alone. Take:

  • A whole food prenatal multivitamin with minerals

  • Fish oil tested free of pollutants, for omega three essential fatty acids, 1000-2000 mg 1-2 times daily 

  • Calcium, 250-500mg 2-3 times daily

  • Magnesium, 200-500mg 2-3 times daily

  • Vitamin B complex, 20-50 mg daily

  • Vitamin D, 1000 -2000 units per day, more if low blood levels

  • An excellent mega probiotic once daily

Get screened for iron deficiency anemia, which is common in later pregnancy, as it can exacerbate your emotional symptoms and is easy to treat. If you are prone to low iron levels, since it is almost impossible to get the necessary amount of iron in pregnancy from diet alone, you may want to prevent anemia early on by taking an herbal iron supplement like Floradix Iron tablets or in liquid.

MINDFULNESS

A wonderful life-changing approach to internal stress, feelings of depression and anxiety is learning about present moment awareness and mindfulness, and incorporating it into your daily life.

Try to make a conscious effort to increase feelings of forgiveness, appreciation, love, joy, optimism and healing, while letting go of anger, resentment, envy, fear, sadness and negativity. Most importantly, increase your awareness of anxiety provoking, tension causing, or depressive thought patterns that are not serving you. Try to shift your attention to something more positive and ultimately change your mental state. You can actually transform them at their deeper subconscious roots with Clarity breathwork

Know that you are in charge of your feelings and how you react to stressful or painful situations, and that you have the ability to change your attitude and reaction to life experiences to more health enhancing responses. For example, you can surrender to and totally accept unpleasant life events over which you have no power. You can also view them as potential gifts, powerful stimulus to change, a wake-up call, an opportunity for personal growth, redirection and spiritual practice. 

You can always try to focus as much attention as possible on the now, literally without letting your thoughts wander and dwell into the past or imagined future. Mastery over your thoughts, attitudes and reactions can have a dramatic impact on your brain chemistry, balancing the hormones responsible for affecting moods and emotions, and preventing and even treating clinical depression and anxiety.

Reduce feelings of tension and increase feelings of calm centeredness and balanced grounding by taking a “healing interval” to meditate for 10-20 minutes 2-3 times per day. Sit comfortably and quietly. Keep your eyes closed and internally focused between your eyebrows or softly gazing at a low, still object or place (like where the floor meets the wall). Turn off the mental noise and think and do absolutely nothing. Simply be aware of your breathing in all its details, the present moment and everything that you notice within it. If you get lost in thought, simply bring your attention back to watch your breath.

Tap into your spiritual self and practice slow deep abdominal breathing, yoga (especially Yin, prenatal, gentle and restorative), QiGong, Tai Chi, progressive muscle relaxation techniques (yoga nidra), visualization and guided imagery, or cutting edge stress reduction audio programs and courses. For example, imagine you are in a place where you feel whole, inner joy and peace, and spiritually connected. Or think of a healing or rejuvenating spiritual energy or light flowing through and around you. This is an essential, yet easy to learn, tool with endless benefits and rewards to your physical and emotional health. Locate your nearest Zen Center (Zen is NOT a religion and does not conflict with any religion) or read any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, or Shunryu Suzuki to learn the basics of meditation and Zen practice.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep at night, and rest during the day. Listen closely to your body’s messages. You may need to either slow down or become more busy with things that bring you deeper satisfaction and enrichment. You may need more time for yourself, or you may need to focus more on giving or helping others. It is extremely beneficial to find a small way to help someone in need each day, by giving your time, energy and presence to ease the burden and increase the happiness of even one person. Focus on connections with family and friends, healing relationships, making peace and giving love.

Minimize or avoid watching and reading the news, or take periodic news fasts. Unplug from the computer and smart phone as much as possible, especially reduce time spent on addictive programs and apps (including computer games, social media, and even email) as they increase inner stress, anxious feelings, impair well-being, and cause a variety of health issues. Empower yourself to listen to your body and choose limited times and online activities you enjoy or absolutely need to do. For additional information and guidance, read “How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life,” by Catherine Price.

BREATHWORK

Start with being breath awareness - being more conscious about your breath, and simply focusing all of your attention on your breathing. Get curious about all the details of your sensations as you inhale and exhale, without trying to change anything. Notice what you are currently seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting. Just watch without judgment. This brings you to the present and is deliciously relaxing. 

Before going to bed at night, as well as before rising in the morning, periodically throughout the day, and whenever you feel stressed, triggered, down or upset, practice the following 3-part breathing exercise: 

  1. Exhale slowly through your mouth with an audible sigh while consciously releasing any and all muscle tension.

  2. Imaging a pump expanding your abdomen and lower back as you breathe down deep into your belly.

  3. Allow ribs to expand with air, then inhale air into your upper chest towards your collar bone and shoulders 

  4. Inhale in this way for a count of 4.

  5. Hold for a count of 4 while staying relaxed.

  6. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 4, releasing in the same order as the inhale, collapsing/returning to baseline, your abdomen, ribs, then upper chest. This is the ideal form of breathing, as opposed to rapid shallow breathing. With each exhale, let go and relax more. 

  7. Repeat this cycle a total of 8 times or at least a few minutes. 

Once you get the hang of it, play with various types of breathing. Try  several minutes of inhaling and exhaling, each to a count of 3, 4, 5 or 6 without the hold, keeping it smooth and even. Then double the length of exhalation. For example, so if you inhale to a count of 3, then exhale to a count of 6. 

See how it feels to triangle breathe for a few minutes. Inhale for a count of 3 or 4, exhale to the same count of 3 or 4, then pause for the same count of 3 or 4, while consciously and deeply relaxing your diaphragm muscle of respiration, as well as all other muscles. Repeat for several cycles.

Then see how it feels to box breathe. To do this, inhale to a count of 3, hold for a count of 6, exhale for a count of 6, hold for a count of 3. Repeat for several minutes. Many love this type of breathing so much they do it as often as they can, such as while waiting, in transit, before rising in the morning and going to sleep at night. 

These are wonderful natural tranquilizers, especially if you do it often. While breathing, be mindful and just observe and release any muscle tension working your way slowly from head to toe, and then be mindful of what you are currently seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting (just watch without judgment …this brings you to the present and is wonderfully relaxing). You do this and you are getting the benefits of both slow deep breathing and meditation.

Another great breathwork technique that disengages your conscious attention from thought and relaxes the nervous system, and can be done any time (like when traveling, waiting in line, resting, bathing, or on the toilet) is forced exhalation. After a normal breath, try squeezing as much air out as possible using your intercostal muscles, then allow breath to come in naturally and deeply, but automatically. Repeat the cycle for several minutes.

These breathwork techniques are simple to do, health enhancing, totally safe, and without side effects. If you need more personal guidance, schedule a session with me

LEARNING MATERIALS

For more information about thought and emotional mastery, and other great ways to improve your overall well-being, read more from the variety of resources below. Make a commitment to practice and transform your life for the better. It is beyond worth it to feel your absolute best. There are amazing books about miraculous tools to remedy wounds from the past, relieve internal stress, tap into your inner power and basically heal almost all stress-related problems of the heart, mind and body to live a vibrant, joyful life.

Some great books include: 

Just Breathe by Dan Brule  

Breath Love  by Lauren Chelec Cafritz

Breathe Deep Laugh Loudly by Judith Kravitz

Conversations with the Goddesses by Agapi Stassinopoulos

Pussy: A Reclamation by Regina Thomashauer

Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett

Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

Full Catastrophe Living by John Kabat-Zinn

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach 

True Refuge by Tara Brach

Accomplishing More by Doing Less by Marc Lesser Book

The Journey: A Practical Guide to Healing Your Life and Setting Yourself Free by Brandon Bays

Natural Health, Natural Medicine by Dr Andrew Weil

A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Dr. Kelly Brogan

Own Your Self: The Surprising Path beyond Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue to Reclaiming Your Authenticity, Vitality, and Freedom by Dr. Kelly Brogan 

Websites

drwaynedyer.com for more resources from Dr Wayne Dyer.

thework.com for more from Byron Katie, about loving what is.

stresscenter.com to learn about Attacking Anxiety and Depression, a Self-Help, Self-Awareness Program.

behavioraltech.org to locate a cognitive behavioral therapist closest to you.

mbct.com for resources and info on a proven mindfulness-based cognitive approach to feelings of chronic unhappiness and depression.

mindfullivingprograms.com offers courses using the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR).

drweil.com to learn more from one of the founding fathers of integrative medicine - merging complimentary alternative health care with science addressing the mind, body, heart and spirit.

avivaromm.com is an excellent resource for herbs and natural remedies for common aliments facing women and children, including depression and anxiety, by renowned midwife, physician and herbalist, who bridges traditional wisdom with modern medicine.

neuroassist.com provides information regarding amino acid support for emotional health.

thejourney.com offers retreats and local practitioners teaching deeply awesome and extremely effective mindbody approaches to health.

kellybroganmd.com for wonderfully effective holistic and integrative psychiatric approaches to mental wellness without medication.

mamagenas.com the official site for Mama Gena’s School of the Womanly Arts, leader of a global movement to reclaim the feminine, helping countless women to reclaim their power, feel exquisitely comfortable within their bodies and souls, and live with radiant pleasure.

Ibfbreathwork.org the international organization for conscious breathing and breathwork for optimal health and well-being. This site also lists local practitioners and retreat workshops that are extremely transformational and profoundly healing for thousands and thousands of people around the world.

HERBAL STRESS RELIEF

Most of the supplements and herbal remedies I recommend are available on my customized online holistic apothecary. Find the best supplements that have gone through my thorough screening process there. Look in the category for mental/emotional well-being or search them individually. My online dispensary is a convenient way for you to purchase my hand-picked, professional-grade, whole food supplements and other natural health products. Ordering is simple, and the products will be shipped directly to your home or work within a few days.

Herbs are mentioned last, as they can be used as supportive to your personal growth and self mastery efforts and, except for nourishing tonics, are for short term use only. For best results, they should not be relied upon alone, used without the above mentioned techniques. Inner peace and happiness are an inside job. 

Drink Red Raspberry leaf, Skullcap, Motherwort, Chamomile, Lemon balm and/or Lavender tea to relax you. Peppermint or Spearmint tea will lift your spirits.  You can make a lovely calming infusion, which is more effective than the ready made teas, by mixing a pinch of each dried herb: chamomile, lavender and lemon balm. Add to 1 cup boiling water, steep covered in a glass mason jar for 15-20 minutes, strain, add lemon, fresh mint or honey to taste, and drink. 

Nettle and Dandelion are common herbs recommended in pregnancy to take as a nourishing tonic, but they are also wonderful for regulating blood sugar, supporting the adrenals, improving nutrient intake and building iron levels. In turn, this can balance your emotions, lessen mood swings and irritability.

To make an infusion:

  1. Soak a handful of each dried herb in 1 quart of boiling water for 3-4 hours.

  2. Strain in a mason glass canning jar.

  3. Add lemon or lime juice, fresh mint or honey to taste.

  4. Drink 1-3 cups per day. 

Nettle and Dandelion can also be taken as a tincture, 1 dropperful each 3-4 times daily.

Oatstraw works best to nourish and calm the nervous system when taken over time. You can add a generous pinch of the dried herb to the infusion above. Or, take 1 dropperful of the tincture of fresh creamy milky oat tops in its most potent form 1-2 times daily.

Motherwort is great for occasional use after the first trimester, to help restore emotional balance when feeling stressed, restless, irritable, or overwhelmed. Take 1/2 -1  dropperful of the tincture. Repeated if needed every 15-30 minutes for 3 hours or up to 2-3 times daily for 2-3 days.

Skullcap has a similar effect as Motherwort, but more helpful to calm, and can be used regularly. Take ½ - 1 dropperful of tincture a few times per day. Both Skullcap and Motherwort are helpful to have on hand in labor as well as postpartum.

Passionflower is a great herb to take when feeling cranky, short tempered, anxious or experiencing frequent changes of mood. Try ½-1 dropperful of the tincture or 2 capsules of standardized extract up to 3 times per day as needed.

Reishi Mushroom is an excellent natural remedy for stress and anxiety. It is calming and also helps with sleep. Take 1-2 capsules up to three times daily. 

Valerian can be taken on occasion, especially if you can not fall asleep at night because of feeling stressed or anxious. Take 2 capsules of standardized extract or one dropperful of the tincture in juice to help with taste.

CBD from hemp oil. This is the new rage, as it is gently calming, relieves anxiety and helps with sleep without the potential risks of the THC component of cannabis on the developing fetus. Results from anecdotal evidence and preliminary research, although sparse (as is common with most natural remedies in pregnancy), are promising. Make sure it is absolutely pure, and from a reputable source who can recommend proper dosing or from pharmacies licensed to dispense it. It is usually taken as several drops under the tongue.

Bach Flower Rescue Remedy can be used in temporary stressful situations, 4-6 drops every 10-15 minutes for a few hours.  Repeat as needed. There are many flower essences effective and safe for specific transient emotional symptoms on an energetic level, developed by physician Dr. Bach. If you are interested in exploring this modality, get yourself a wonderful reference and a a starter kit for you to use now and beyond for your growing family.

Homeopathic remedies are wonderfully safe and effective for relieving emotional stresses and imbalances. You can consult a classical homeopath, or refer to books like Homeopathy For Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby’s First Year by Miranda Castro.

Dr. Aviva Romm advises in “The Natural Pregnancy Book” taking a small dose of American Ginseng, Schisandra Berries and Eleuthero, 1/2 tsp each alone or total in combination 2 times per day to nourish your adrenals especially if you are overtired, burned out, overworked or overstressed. I would say it is best to avoid them in the first trimester. See her recent more comprehensive blog on remedies to support your adrenals in stressed modern times.

St. John’s Wort can help relieve mild to moderate depression. Take it if you are not pregnant (although if you are expecting, it may be a safer alternative than the common antidepressant prescription medications, to take in consultation with your provider).  Dr. Andrew Weil advises 300 mg three times per day of an extract standardized to 0.3 % hypericin. Allow at least 2 months for the full effect, and minimize sun exposure if you develop a photosensitivity reaction. 

SAMe is another natural remedy for mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends the butanedisulfonate form, in enteric coated capsules or tablets, 400–1600 mg. per day on an empty stomach. 

If not pregnant, lavender Oil can be taken one capsule before sleep for the occasional bout of insomnia or anxiety. You can try Blue Vervain, 1/2 to one dropperful 1-3 x daily. Also take Rhodiola - as a tonic herb for mild depression, anxiety and stress, 100-200 mg twice daily. Choose an extract standardized to 2-3% rosavins and 0.8-1% salidrosides. This usually improves anxiety and sleep, but needs to be taken more regularly. Obviously stop it if it is too stimulating and worsens insomnia. You can also try Ashwagandha, if you feel overstressed and burned out. Dissolve 1-2 tsp of the powder in your smoothie, tea or warm milk for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per day. Or, take 2-3 dropperfuls of the tincture twice daily and before sleep, or 2-5 grams of the capsules daily in divided doses.  One of my favorite remedies for calming anxiety and inner stress related insomnia is Kava Kava. You can take a few drops up to a dropperfuls of the tincture or 150 -450 mg of the encapsulated liquid capsules before bed for occasional short term use only. Do not use if you are taking any substance including alcohol or medications that affect the liver, or you have any liver issues. This is one of my favorite herbs for anxiety and/or insomnia from inner stress and is usually well tolerated and very effective.

Dr. Aviva Romm is an excellent resource for herbs and natural remedies for depression and anxiety, and if you are struggling with psychological symptoms, integrative holistic psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan’s online course and associated resources are a must.

Contact your provider if these suggestions do not help and your negative emotions are persistent and becoming too frequent or strong to cope with, especially if you:

  • Have a history of depression or anxiety needing prescription medication

  • Are having trouble functioning

  • Are eating or sleeping too much or too little

  • Have frightening thoughts

  • Experience severe oscillation of moods between wild elation and despair

  • Feel at risk for harming yourself or others

Such severe symptoms require psychiatric evaluation and often medication to prevent or treat a more serious illness. However, try to avoid mind-altering drugs and medications (such as sedatives, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antihistamines and steroids) unless absolutely and medically necessary.


Do not take any herb or medication before discussing it with your provider, as many are not safe for use in pregnancy. Do not take any prescription anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drug unless you are really suffering and none of these suggestions help, and you are closely supervised by your psychiatrist.

Check out my number one international best selling book Natural Birth Secrets second edition, and in adjunct, my Love Your Birth course, an online version of how I have helped thousands in my local practice. Both resources are unique, but each provide an in depth, one-of-a-kind holistic approach created by me, a seasoned nurse midwife of over two decades, who has seen everything! In both you will learn how to master your inner calm for pregnancy, labor, birth and life beyond.

For more information on having the pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience of your dreams, check out my  Love Your Birth Online Course .

For more information on having the pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience of your dreams, check out my Love Your Birth Online Course.

Screening for Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is rare in the healthy population. Occurring in about 6% of pregnancies, it’s incidence is increasing largely due to the growing obesity, insulin resistance and adult onset diabetes, poor diet and lifestyle habits in the United States. There is much controversy around gestational diabetes, how it is screened for and diagnosed, and whether universal screening improves outcomes as opposed to testing when there are risk factors. If you do have it, however, treatment that includes appropriate actions like maintaining ideal weight, enhancing nutrition and exercise habits does make a significant difference in reducing the serious health consequences for both you and your baby.

In the US, it is standard of care that all women are screened for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, although in some other European countries, only women with risk factors are screened. Screening that is most common involves giving pregnant women a “Glucola” drink that has 50 grams of sugar in the form of dextrose, and then testing blood sugar an hour later. Many holistic providers and the families they serve are concerned about this potentially toxic drink laden with chemicals that may make them feel sick, harm them and their babies, and can be associated with false positives that label them unnecessarily as high risk. This increases stress and angst, leads to more testing, monitoring and potentially other risky interventions. They want alternatives.

While it is within your right to refuse the test, you may want to consider screening for gestational diabetes in another way and discuss your concerns and options with your provider. If your provider is unwilling to work with you on this, consider switching providers to one who will. Although we do not have enough evidence that alternative screens are as accurate as using the more extensively studied Glucola drink to screen for diabetes of pregnancy, alternatives are not to be easily discounted, and may be a viable option in the low-risk healthy population. 

There is an option for screening for gestational diabetes by home testing. This involves checking your fasting blood sugar at home when you wake up in the morning, and then again 1 hour after eating your usual breakfast, lunch and dinner. While approved for monitoring blood sugar once diagnosed with diabetes, this method of screening is less studied and without clear standards. It is also more cumbersome and costly, as you need to get the supplies to do it, then take the time to get it right and keep records to discuss with your provider at your next prenatal visit. 

Alternative Gestational Diabetes Screening Options

Do note that not all sugars are the same and they each have various effects on blood sugar. The Glucola drink is the most studied to screen for diabetes of pregnancy, and the blood test results are based on its ingestion. We are aiming to get as close to it as possible. Follow the instructions below to properly prepare for the test and increase the accuracy, avoid false positives and negatives, as well as improve your tolerance of it.

Starting three days before your appointment, increase complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, sweet potatoes and winter squash.

The meal before the test should only contain protein, vegetables, and unsweetened dairy. A veggie cheese omelet is a great choice! Avoid sweetened foods, fruit, and carbs. If this last meal before the test is lunch or dinner, you can eat a normal breakfast, but avoid carbs or sweets for the rest of the day.

woman-drinking-water-from-glass-bottle-3124674.jpg

To make a drink that is most equivalent to Glucola without the chemical additives, dissolve 50 grams of organic dextrose in 8 ounces of water. You will need to do some math. If there are 20 grams of dextrose in 2 Tbsp for example, then you need 5 Tbsp of the powder. You ideally want dextrose, as it is the sugar made from corn that makes up the Glucola drink, and it is most bioidentical to the sugar in your blood called glucose. Therefore, it is the best alternative to screen for gestational diabetes as the standard Glucola drink does, according to the laboratory parameters designed and tested for this purpose.

Another alternative is to drink an equivalent amount of pure corn syrup dissolved in your tea, since the sugar in corn syrup is dextrose. You can find organic non GMO varieties in the health food store, but you still need to do some math, to get 50 grams of sugar total. 

Reputable research indicates that you can instead, eat 28 all natural organic jelly beans or enough that equals 50 grams of sugar, which is studied to be a reliable alternative to the 50 gram glucose beverage. It is not standardized as is the Glucola drink, amounts and types of sugars vary with each product, so you need to do the math and make sure you are eating 50 grams of sugar. The study was relatively small but results can certainly be considered.

Other less ideal options are iced tea, organic Gatorade or a cola drink that has 50 grams of sugar added in the form of added table sugar or dehydrated cane juice (sucrose) - similar to the kind of sugar in jelly beans. They are not a first choice because they are not as extensively researched, the form of sugar is different than dextrose, and thus may have a different effect on your blood sugar levels and test results, designed to screen for diabetes based on your response to dextrose. 

The blood test to screen for gestational diabetes was studied and formulated to test your reaction to ingesting 50 grams of dextrose. Sucrose is made up of 50 % glucose and 50 % fructose. You will need to read ingredients and nutrition labels to use an alternative, an important skill to develop anyway. And you still need to do some math, as the nutrition label might say something like 23 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. 

When going for sugars that are not dextrose extracted from corn, you can choose any sugar sweetened drink without added fruit juice. Fruit contains a different type of sugar called fructose that makes the test less accurate as it has a different effect on your blood glucose levels than does dextrose and sucrose. If you can not find or have no time to figure it out and have low risk of gestational diabetes, Snapple 16 oz raspberry peach drink is second choice. Although it is mainly sweetened with sugar (sucrose), it does have a little fruit juice, which again is mostly fructose.

Coconut water is another, but less than ideal option, as it contains sugar in the form of mostly sucrose and glucose, and it does have some fructose as in fruit. ZICO coconut water 16.9 ounces has 20 grams of sugar, so you would need to drink 2 ½ bottles. Honey is another alternative, but it is also not made up of an equivalent sugar - it is sucrose and fructose. Again, you need to read the label. Different honeys have different amounts of sugar per serving size. 

Hopefully there will be more studies on these alternatives, but for now, are listed here to consider with your provider, if for some reason you can not take the dextrose or corn syrup equivalent and you are healthy, with healthy weight and lifestyle, with low risk for diabetes. 

45 minutes before your appointment, eat the jelly beans or drink an amount that equals 50 grams total of sugar, then nothing until the blood test, which will be drawn 1 hour after you consumed the drink or candy.

If you have time, do some form of exercise like taking a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes after drinking, but before the test.

Bring a high protein, whole carbohydrate and healthy fat snack to eat after the test if needed, to keep blood sugar stable. This will help you avoid unpleasant symptoms once your blood sugar drops, like shakiness, lightheadedness, fatigue, anxiety and irritability.

Rest assured, most healthy pregnant women (about 94%) do not have gestational diabetes. A positive screen simply means you need more testing to confirm it or rule it out. And if you do have it, you can learn how to keep your blood sugar normal throughout the rest of your pregnancy and life. 

If you need more guidance,  schedule a consultation with me.


Check out my number one international best selling book Natural Birth Secrets now out in second edition, and in adjunct, my Love Your Birth course, an online version of how I have helped thousands in my local practice. Both resources are unique, but each provide an in depth, one-of-a-kind holistic approach created by me, a seasoned nurse midwife of over two decades, who has seen everything!

 

Suffering with low back or pelvic discomfort? Having common pregnancy aches and pains and need some additional support? Try Bellefit’s prenatal support wear. I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here. They also sell excellent postpartum support garments.

I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. 

I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby.

For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)!

For those with blood sugar issues, and diabetes, there are things you can do from making changes in your diet and exercise habits, as well as natural remedies to help!!



Postpartum Bleeding: Holistic Prevention Strategies

 

It is normal to have light bleeding in labor as your cervix dilates and breaks its tiny blood vessels. And as baby emerges from the birth canal there can some local tearing that can cause bleeding. Expect to experience the most bleeding at delivery and postpartum. Most of this bleeding is from where the placenta was located in your uterus. 

IMG_9788.jpg

At normal vaginal birth and immediate postpartum, it is common to lose up to a half liter of blood. After cesarean birth, one liter of blood loss is the average. After birth, your uterus needs to contract around the major blood vessels that supplied the placenta to close them off and prevent excessive bleeding. 

The first few days, bleeding can be like a heavy period. Then, it tapers to a moderate period, after which it becomes lighter and changes color over several weeks from shades of red, then pink to brown. The body is healing the former placental site, shedding the internal scab there, and extra tissue and blood that was lining your uterus during pregnancy. 

Postpartum hemorrhage usually occurs immediately, or up to the first 24 hours post birth, and remains a major cause of maternal death in the US and around the world. It must be taken seriously. Currently, there is substantial evidence in support of what is termed ‘active management of the third stage of labor,’ to reduce the risk of severe excess postpartum bleeding. It includes the use of:

  •  The synthetic hormone oxytocin (referred to as Pitocin in the US) via intravenous or intramuscular injection

  • Early cord clamping with waiting 1-3 minutes until baby gets at least most of the cord blood

  • Controlled traction on the cord along with counter pressure on the uterus to effect placenta delivery within the first 5-30 minutes after birth

  • Uterine massage to make sure it is firmly contracted

  • Assessments every 15 minutes for the first two hours. 

209549_10150231155347419_612727418_9241251_6454087_o.jpg

The above process, or a similar version, is done routinely in most hospitals, and can certainly be done in out of hospital birth settings. However, the studies that determined these procedures, were based on hospital births in mostly resource poor but also well developed countries. Like all studies, they have their limitations and flaws, some were even considered to be of poor quality according to the esteemed Cochrane Review. Also these interventions are not without side effects and concerns. The American College of Nurse-Midwives support the use of active management of third stage of labor in low resource settings, according to their position statement, although they do admit its benefits are not as clear in the low risk healthy population, and encourage the provider to have a risk benefit discussion with each pregnant family so they can make an informed decision about it. 

Most homebirth and birth center moms and providers are passionate about physiologic birthing, minimal interventions and holistic modalities, do not routinely want an injection of medication, and are more interested in natural alternatives. They trust the incredible wisdom of the normal birthing process, which has worked for thousands of years or we would not have survived as a species. They share a common belief that if it is not broken, don’t fix it, wary of medication and interventions unless absolutely necessary and benefits outweigh risks. They tend to like the alternative, ‘expectant management’ approach, which also entails close observation by the provider, but tends to take longer, allowing for the normal physiologic process to take its course, and for interventions only if needed in select cases. 

Photo by Julia Swyers

After birth, mom and baby are of course carefully assessed, but encouraged to bond skin to skin. There is no rush. Cord clamping is delayed until pulsation has ceased, or after placenta is birthed. Mom and baby are assisted to breastfeed which helps release mama’s own natural oxytocin.

The provider waits and watches for signs that the placenta is naturally separating and then assists mom into an optimal position usually using gravity, and encourages her to use her own bearing down efforts to birth her placenta. The provider may sometimes guide the birthing placenta with gentle traction on the cord, while supporting the uterus, then massages the uterus to make sure it is firm, assesses the bleeding until stable, and assesses and repairs tearing as needed. 

IMG_9529.jpg

Certainly, if there are certain concerns or risk factors, you may truly benefit from medical prevention and active management.

If there is an actual hemorrhage, make sure your provider is skilled, experienced, and fully equipped to deal with it with at least the commonly used effective medications, IV fluids, suturing material for lacerations needing repair, and hands on care that are usually sufficient to control it successfully. 

However, you can build up a strong blood supply and reduce excess bleeding and its risks with the following suggestions for natural support both in your pregnancy and postpartum.

Prenatal Support

Make sure you get checked and treated for anemia common in pregnancy, that your iron stores (ferritin) are sufficient. 

swiss-chard-2858689_1920.jpg

Eat 3 large servings of wild greens or dark green leafy vegetables every day. They can be made into a salad, lightly sautéed or steamed. Good options are parsley, dandelion, alfalfa, kale, collard greens, comfrey and turnip greens.  For additional support, you can try the following:

NETTLE AND RASPBERRY TEA

Starting in the third trimester, drink 1 cup of this nourishing herbal infusion several times per day. 

  1. Combine a handful each of the dried herbs Nettles and Red raspberry leaf with 1 quart boiling water.

  2. Steep for at least 4 hours.

  3. Strain to a glass mason canning jar.

  4. You can add fresh mint leaves, lemon juice, or honey to taste.

GREEN DRINKS

Drink 1 ounce fresh, frozen, or powdered  wheatgrass juice 1-2 times daily to enrich and build your blood.

Or, try 1 scoop daily of powdered greens in your smoothie, 1-3 Tbsp bottled chlorophyll, or tablets or powders of spirulina and chlorella.

Postpartum

You need to rest in bed, on the couch or an outdoor lounge chair as much as possible for the first 2 weeks to recover.  Make sure you arrange for help in the home during this special time. Limiting activity and increasing rest help the area of open uterine blood vessels where the placenta detached to heal. 

Check the top of your uterus regularly for firmness, and massage it if it feels soft, until it hardens. Postpartum bleeding can be minimized when mothers are taught regular postpartum self massage of the uterus so that it stays firm and contracted around the blood vessels that supplied the placenta. 

IMG_0315.jpg

Start breastfeeding right away, and every 1 ½ - 3 hours thereafter, especially taking advantage of the times when your baby is awake and alert and eager to suck.  Nursing frequently causes the body to secrete its own natural hormone oxytocin to keep the uterus firm and decrease bleeding.

Urinate frequently to keep the bladder empty so the uterus can contract easier.

You can also take homeopathic caulophyllum 30 or 200 C immediately after delivery, then 3-4 pellets arnica 30C under your tongue every 2-3 hours. Or, try herbal shepherd's purse, 1 dropperful of the tincture three times daily for the first 3-5 days after birth. If you need additional herbal support for heavier or persistent bleeding, you can try a dropperful of Angelica tincture a few times daily. 

Most of the supplements and herbal remedies I recommend are available on my customized online holistic apothecary. Find the best supplements that have gone through my thorough screening process there. Look in the category for postpartum bleeding prevention or search them individually. My online dispensary is a convenient way for you to purchase my hand-picked, professional-grade, whole food supplements and other natural health products. Ordering is simple, and the products will be shipped directly to your home or work within a few days.

As always, if you need more personal guidance, schedule a consultation with me. 

If bleeding becomes heavier than a heavy period, and you are soaking through two maxi pads an hour for 2 hours, empty your bladder, make sure the top of your uterus is firm and massage it if soft until it becomes hard. If no relief, take 1 tsp shepherd’s purse herbal tincture under your tongue. You can repeat the dose a few times, but if the bleeding becomes heavier, contact your practitioner. 

Do read my Natural Birth Secrets book, to prepare yourself for a healthy, joyful and calm pregnancy and childbirth - NOW OUT IN SECOND EDITION!

For further inspiration, empowerment, and optimal health in pregnancy, birthing and postpartum, please make sure to take my online Love Your Birth course, so you can ROCK your journey wherever and however you plan to give birth.

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

 

Letting Go: Dying To Birthing - The Key To A Very Real First Time Mama's Homebirth Story

 

My birth story is currently gathering a lot of attention, specifically around my thoughts on home birth, and the rawness of what I learned about myself.

img-5376.jpg

Disclaimer 1: This was my first pregnancy and birth experience. I say this because I know my feelings around my journey are so much a reflection of it being my first time.

Disclaimer 2: All birth is birth, and all people who birth babies are badasses. I chose a home-birth experience because it most reflected the journey that *I* wanted to have, based on my personal value system. Please don’t let my passion for home-birth make you feel that any other path is not as powerful.

Disclaimer 3: Don’t let my story shape your narrative of birth. Every birth is different, and pleasurable births are possible. In fact, here’s an interview I did about Orgasmic Birth just days before I went into labor. I believe that some mothers manifest the birth experience they need for whatever lesson they are walking at that time. I believe God is reflecting back to her in those moments the things her heart most needs to look at. For those that could use healing in regard to their birth stories, I highly recommend a Birth-Processing session with my midwife, Tiffany Hoffman, through Alchemist Movement's healing sanctuary. 

Disclaimer 4: I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy, and privileged with access to healthcare and a steady income, and this is what made me successful in my home-birth dream. Even though home-births cost about $10,000 less than hospital births (and that's without a C-section), they are rarely covered by insurance. I hope my story helps spread the gospel of birthing at home.

Act I: The Mind Fuck (36-40 Weeks Pregnant)

36 Weeks: You feel like an expert in pregnancy but a complete novice in labor/birth (for first time moms, at least). At this point in my journey, because the impending labor just didn’t seem real, the whole thing felt like an exam I was studying for but that there was a chance I might get out of. Like, you’re nervous for the test, but also the Professor has shared he might just cancel the finals and base your final grade on your most recent paper, or something.

39 weeks: The reality of your birth, which absolutely no one knows how it will unfold, is definitely just around the corner. Because I was planning a natural birth and natural induction, the whole thing just felt like a surprise party that I accidentally found out about; I knew a party was happening, but I didn’t know when or where. So every corner I turned (every strange feeling), every time I walked in the door (every new pain), I’m like, “Is this it? Is it happening now?” And then it’s not, and the mind fuck just continues. You know you’re at the end, but also you’re still going...

40 weeks: “The Surprise Party” is now all the time. Basically everyday I was sending group texts like, “IT’S HAPPENING.”... ”No wait sorry no it’s not, my bad everyone.”...  “OK NOW FOR REAL!”... “oh shoot sorry no it went away sorry.”

img-5364.jpg

Act II: It’s Really Happening (Labor begins)

On Monday of my 40th week, I kept thinking my water broke because I was constantly leaking fluid due to incontinence (#LoveRealLife). There are these swabs that test for amniotic fluid, and my midwife gave me a handful of them to take home because it just kept happening. (Did you know that only 8-10% of women’s waters actually break in early labor? Most don’t break until right before the baby comes out. The idea that water breaks early is just an overused Hollywood trope!) The reason it was important for me to know whether or not my water was still in tact was because I had tested positive for GBS (1 in 4 women do), and, in the case of my water breaking, I had 18 hours (or something like that) to get the baby out in order to keep his risk of infection low.

I went through several false swabs throughout the week, then...Friday morning, February 9th, at 8:30am I went to pee and felt a little rush of fluid. At this point I had every expectation of another false result, when suddenly, the tip of the swab turned a vivid blue/black. My heart did flip-flops. I texted a picture of the swab to my midwife, and within seconds she wrote back, “Yep. That’s a positive swab. Your water has broken.”

A strange mixture of both calmness and adrenaline washed over me. It’s really happening, I thought.

I walked out and told my husband that my water broke. We both felt grateful that our baby decided to begin his journey on a Friday, giving us a 3-day weekend to capture the experience (it seriously could NOT have been better timed).

Typically, labor starts naturally within 12-24 hours after your water ruptures. My birth team and I decided that if my labor hadn’t started by 6pm that night, I was going to drink a “castor oil smoothie” (a natural way to induce labor at home). I texted all my friends and we decided to have a “castor oil smoothie party”. I was nervous because I really wanted to let my body progress naturally without the smoothie, but I was also ready to get the show on the fucking road.

I went about my day as normal. I even got a text from a producer I work with a lot, and she needed me to record a voiceover for the film we had been working on. I wrote back, “No problem. My water just broke, so send me the script within the next couple hours and I can knock it out.” She replied, “Can I please screenshot this text and send it to our client? You’re fucking insane.” To which I replied, “No, I’m dedicated.” But also, early labor can be mentally brutal, so having normal things to do was always a part of my plan, anyway.'

I did the voiceover. I went for a walk with my husband. We kept having these mini existential crises like, “Babe. This is our LAST walk as a family of two. Next walk we take there will be a BABY.”

At 6pm, all my friends had gathered for our castor oil smoothie party. We had pizza and donuts and were ready to rock out in my living room. Then...the midwives showed up. Another mama had gone into labor, and they asked me to NOT drink the smoothie, because it can speed up labor REALLY fast, and they can’t be in two places at once. So, they ran a few tests on me (checked heart rate of baby, took my blood pressure, and gave me an IV of antibiotics as a guard against any infection from the GBS).  

The new plan was that they were going to rush off to the mom currently in labor, and then text me at midnight; if my labor hadn’t progressed by then, I was to drink the smoothie at midnight, giving them enough time to take care of that mama, and then get back to me.

I felt bad, like I had ruined my friends’ plans (this is a theme that would come up majorly throughout the next 22 hours). BACKSTORY: My midwife had been emotionally preparing me for 6 months, “You labor as you live,” she would tell me. What does that mean? It means that whatever emotional battles you fight in your life, THEY WILL ARISE TO THE SURFACE DURING A NATURAL LABOR! This is why having a natural labor was so important to me -- because it presents one of the most powerful opportunities to heal yourself of old patterns and wounds. It sets the space for absolute, total self-awareness and alchemy to occur. For me, that meant people-pleasing and trying to control everything, and then feeling really bad when I couldn’t. More on that later, though.

My friends, being the amazing humans they are, obviously didn’t care. We hung out and ate junk food, and my doula taught us some belly dancing moves. So, there we were, a bunch of girls, gays, and a pregnant chick, belly dancing in early labor on a Friday night. Around 10ish, it was clear that a baby wasn’t coming any time soon (contractions hadn’t even started yet), and so my friends went home, and I watched the clock, waiting for midnight and preparing my smoothie.

IMG_3935 2.jpg

At midnight, my midwife texted me, “Almost done here. Go ahead and drink the smoothie, if it feels right.”

IF IT FEELS RIGHT -- those words seemed to stick out in bold on my text screen. Why did she text “if it feels right??” I wondered.

So I asked, “Why did you say, ‘If it feels right’?”

“Because you don’t have to drink it if it doesn’t. Does it?” She asked.

NO. It didn’t. It didn’t feel right. And I’ve never in my life, even as a professionally trained psychic (whatever that means, right?), *heard* something as clear as the “no” I got when I read her text. And this is why I am and will always be so in love with Tiffany Hoffman, my midwife, because she also listens to the Universe, and she knew to text me that.

I wrote back, “It doesn’t feel right.”

She said, “Great. Don’t drink it. Try to get some sleep. See you soon.”

The house was quiet. My friends were all gone. My husband was sleeping. I felt depressed because I JUST wanted to GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD. But I couldn’t deny that “no” I felt/heard. It was just so...loud and clear. I went and laid in bed. There was no way I was going to fall asleep. What’s going on in there, I wondered to my baby.

At 12:30am my bff, whom I lovingly call “Wifey”, texted, “What’s going on?”

“Nothing, really,” I answered. “All the sudden I just got these really bad period-like cramps. I’m just laying in bed in the fetal position.”

“Be there in 10,” she shot back. She showed up a few minutes later with a heating pad. We went to my living room and I laid on the floor as the period cramps got worse. I was in the fetal position and she was cuddling me. Just typing this part of the story is making me super emotional. I’ll never forget that hour, just her and I on my floor. I texted my doula who showed up around 1:30am. My bff went to lay down in my bed to sleep, and my doula took over cuddling me on the floor, rubbing my head, talking to me about what was happening. The pain was gnarly, so my doula texted the midwives and said things seems to be progressing rapidly.

img-3940_2.jpg

The midwives arrived around 3:30am, I think. They had spent all night at that other birth. I texted my friends and told them to come back around 6:30am. My plan (which is laughable now) was to have all of my tribe present when the little King made his entrance. I had also made a private facebook group from which I was going to broadcast my labor live. Over the course of my final month of pregnancy, that group had grown to about 60+ people, all friends and family near and far. Again, my intuition screamed at me, “Don’t do it. Don’t broadcast this to that many people.”

I had been watching live births on a Facebook group called “BirthTube” for weeks, and felt really attached to the idea of letting all my favorite people be a part of this experience in such a modern way. But no, my insides were telling me not to. So, in the middle of a contraction, I created a new group with only a few people in it (parents, my husband’s family, and a couple of important friends that I really just wanted there). I also insisted on no one even knowing I was in labor, and flipped out when I found out my husband had posted in a small, private theatre group that my water had broken. For whatever reason, I could suddenly *feel* the energy of people thinking about us, and I then understood why mammals seek privacy when giving birth. I went from wanting all of my loved ones to know things had started, to not wanting anyone to know until it was over.

My mom, who was 3 hours ahead of us in Ohio, called me and said Azlan had come to her in a dream. That it was super real and that she had even seen his face. She said in the dream she was showing him off to our family, including my great-grandmother Orpha, who I’ve had an extreme psychic connection to since I was a baby (including talking to her in my dreams as a very little kid, and knowing things I couldn’t have otherwise known). My mom said in the dream I was walking around looking for donuts to eat, which was hilarious and validating because I was absolutely walking around eating the donuts my Wifey had brought over the night before.

5am: I got into the birth tub in my living room for the first time. You’re supposed to wait until the last minute to get into the tub, when you can’t handle any more pain,  because it provides so much relief. If you get in too early, it can make it less effective later. I was so convinced that I was so close to the end at this point and wanted to be in the tub. (More backstory: in 2009, when I met the man who would become my husband, I had a vision of a waterbirth in a living room, with him sitting behind me. This was before we were even together. This psychic vision was so intense that it actually made me go, “Hmmm...well, he IS kind of cute. I could see him being my babydaddy.” That vision then created the crush that then made me pursue him.) So, needless to say, I was convinced this is how my baby would be born, and I wanted in that tub.

While I was in the tub, my friends had the MOST INCREDIBLE jam session. They were playing worship music, and my favorite singer in the whole wide world was belting out my most favorite worship songs while my husband played piano. Then they had a drum circle, which was amazing to hear while in labor, and really helped me to tap into Earth energy. This whole part is so fuzzy to me, and I remember not being able to look at my friends because I felt so self-conscious. Turns out I only like the spotlight when I’m in absolute control of everything happening under it.

7am: I was antsy and annoyed that “nothing was happening”. I felt like I was disappointing people, that I was “taking too long”, that I wasn’t performing, that my friends were bored, that my birth team was annoyed. I was more worried about being a good host and was absolutely incapable of tapping into my own needs and focusing on myself. (Are you seeing now how all of my personal issues were arising in my birth, full frontal, completely raw. It was impossible to not be aware of them). My midwife 10000% warned me this would happen, and so I knew in my heart what was going on inside me. 

My birth team suggested that I get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a while. By this point some back labor had started and I was miserable. It fucking hurt to sit on the toilet, but also I could see how SO many women give birth on toilets because of the muscle memory that comes as soon as you sit down. Like, I had so much trouble relaxing my pelvic floor and “letting go”, even in the tub, but the second I would be on the toilet, I felt comfortable relaxing “down there”. But also it fucking hurt to sit on a hard seat.

IMG_3965.JPG

I want to take a moment to talk about my doula, Allison, who was the most amazing thing to happen to my birth. I would never have another baby without a doula. I called her my shepherd, since that’s exactly what she was for me throughout my journey. While my midwives were busy charting and executing their medical role, and my friends were just trying to hold space, my doula never left my side (unless I asked her to). Every time I peed, every time I changed rooms, every time I cried..she was right there, affirming me, telling me stories of  other births, promising me over and over again that the pain would stop the very moment the baby came out.

At this point, I hadn’t been measured yet, and didn’t know how far along I was. Part of going the midwife/homebirth route is that they are very hands off. It’s all about trusting your body, trusting the mother, and trusting the baby. The medical reasons for not checking for dilation are because it GREATLY increases chances of infection (especially in cases where the water has already ruptured). It’s actually kind of crazy that this practice has become normal in hospitals because the research is all there of how much more risk it creates. The psychological reasons for not checking is because it can really put the mother in her head if she’s not “as far along” as she thinks she “should” be.

IMG_3971.JPG
IMG_5570.JPG

But by this point I was going a little crazy and needed to be checked...for my own sanity. Again, the midwife journey is about honoring WHAT THE MOTHER WANTS, and guiding her to have autonomy in her choices. So, though many midwives discourage checking the cervix, when I was clear about wanting it, I got it. I decided that if I was anything less than 8cm dilated, I was going to send my friends home. So, my midwife checked me, and the result was 6cm. I started crying and finally admitted that I needed my friends to leave because I just couldn’t surrender. I am a people-pleaser, and a control freak, and there was zero chance I was going to be able to tap into my primal nature with anyone watching. I asked my doula to go tell all of my friends (except the one who feels like my big sister) to leave while I cried in that bathroom, grieving the loss of the birth I had so carefully “planned” in my head.

9:30am: They suggested I try getting into bed. Again, I had a ton of emotions around this not being a part of my “plan”. My beautiful, wonderful midwife took it upon herself to move all the “affirmations” I had taped up in my living room to my bedroom. I hated those affirmations at that moment. “Fuck the affirmations,” I kept thinking. The only thing good about this part are how beautiful and raw the pictures are from my husband and my doula in bed with me.

img-5384.jpg

10am: I made Tiffany check me again, I was 8-ish cm.

11am: I tried to overcompensate for the guilt I was feeling about how long this was taking by showcasing a suddenly fresh and invigorated attitude. It became clear that the baby’s position was not great. He was head down, but the awful back labor and slow-ish progress also indicated that he may be mal-positioned. Luckily for me, my doula happened to be familiar with something called Spinning Babies, which is ALL about creating better births by creating better positioned babies. My doula had told me I should be doing these exercises throughout my whole pregnancy, ESPECIALLY third trimester. Here I was, with probably the only doula in town with this knowledge, and I didn’t do it. I assumed that because he was head down that I was totally good to go. I regret that so much, and if I ever had another baby, I would spend my entire pregnancy focusing on this aspect. But it was too late now, so all I could do was try to do some moves in the moment, including deep lunges up my basement stairs, and a weird upside thing that hurt so bad I only achieved one.

12pm: The back labor was so bad at this point, I was so miserable. The ONLY thing that provided relief was sitting slouched on my couch. But here was the kicker: every time I sat like that, I undid all of the progress from the lunges. I literally had to CHOOSE to stop doing the one thing that was bringing me any relief. And here’s why midwives are the heroes of our planet: they never told me that I had to stop slouching. They only suggested it. I remember Tiffany actually saying, “You can keep doing it, we’re not going anywhere, but it is slowing your labor down. We support you no matter what.” Can you fucking believe that?? A doctor in a hospital would probably be like, “I’ve got a golf game at 4, so you need to hurry up.” But here was my birth team, letting me have my journey. I just don’t have words to capture how incredible, humbling, and boundary-pushing that was.

img-3969_1_orig.jpeg

1pm: My contractions stopped. WHY. GOD. WHY. Emotionally, I knew God was challenging me again and bringing up my people-pleasingness. It was KILLING me knowing that my midwives had come from an overnight birth. I knew they hadn’t slept yet. I knew that I had called them too early. I felt like I failed them, that I should have known I wasn’t as far along as I thought, and that they could have gone home to sleep after the birth from late Friday night. I kept begging them to go take naps in our guest room. And I kept apologizing that I was “taking too long”. I seriously was so triggered by this aspect. It was almost as unbearable as the physical pain. And no amount of loving affirmation from them that everything was fine would help.

Anyway, midwives can’t administer pitocin to stimulate contractions (outside of the hospital), so they used herbal tinctures and nipple stimulation via a breast pump, which are known natural stimulants.

It wasn’t working.

4pm: No urge to push yet and really pissed off about it. I was crying and begging Tiffany to “tell me when it would be over.” I felt like I could handle the rest of the journey if someone could just FUCKING TELL ME how much longer it would be! Even if someone was like, “You’ve still got 8 more hours of this shit,” I would have been like, “Awesome. Someone start the clock.” But not knowing how much longer I had was existential torture like no other. Was it 2 more hours? 5 more hours? 2 more days?!?! The physical pain mixed with the emotional distress of not knowing made me want to die. It was sometime around here that I asked for a gun so I could shoot myself. (Dramatic, I know. But I was NOT planning on this back labor, and I was NOT planning on it taking this long.)

At this point my lovely brother stopped by to take our senior dog for a walk. I remember that he walked in, and so casually and genuinely said, "You're still in labor?"

I. almost. murdered him. He will never live that down.

5pm: More lunges, more stairs, more resisting the urge to recline on the couch, more crying, more begging, more praying and pleading and bargaining with God. One thing that I swear worked is that I kept bargaining with my baby and making deals with him that if he wanted to be born at home, things needed to progress.

6pm: My husband took his third nap. I remember telling myself that I would be very supportive of him napping because he would need his rest and should seize it when he could, but oh my god I was SO FUCKING ANNOYED by this time and resented him for even being able to sleep at all. I’m only noting this because it’s funny and true.

Also, at the time, we decided to discontinue my IV. This was another moment of intuition where I could simply FEEL that I didn’t need it, and that my baby and I would be okay without it. Also, there was something about that contraption being lodged in my hand that was seriously holding me back. I can’t quite describe it but I felt so free when they finally took it out.

Asynclitic

asynclitism-oa-3.png

6:30pm: Midwife noted that the baby felt asynclitic, which refers to the position of a baby in the uterus, such that the head of the baby is presenting first and is tilted to the shoulder, causing the fetal head to no longer be in line with the birth canal. This would explain the excruciating back labor and slow progression.

7pm: I asked to go to the hospital. All the passion I had for having my baby at home was gone, and I just wanted it out of me. Despite there being absolutely no medical concern for me to transfer (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), I had so much fear that I just wasn’t going to be able to do it. My contractions had stopped. In my head I felt like I wasn’t progressing. And though the pain was insane, it was more that no one could tell me when it would be over, and I just wanted to give up.

Of course my midwives supported whatever I wanted to do, but they also knew I was fine, so they encouraged me to understand what transferring would mean, and I realized that it wouldn’t really solve any of my problems (as it was probably too late for an epidural, plus I would have to deal with checking in, etc). The idea of leaving the energy of my home and dealing with the energy of a hospital seemed absolutely impossible. My midwife actually bargained with me, which was a BRILLIANT move on her part. She said, “Let’s check you again, and see if you’ve progressed in dilation. If you have, we should stay.”

I loved that idea and started bargaining again with my baby. I prayed to God and to my baby, “If you want to be born at home, mommy needs you to have progressed past 8cm.”

I laid down to let her check me. I was almost 9cm. We were staying home.

img-3996_orig.jpeg

8pm: I started pushing, laying down in my bed, even though I didn’t really feel the urge to. Pushing laying down is literally the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life and I cannot believe anyone has babies this way.

9pm: My contractions felt really inconsistent but I wanted to keep pushing. Pushing for that long and feeling like no progress is being made is absolute hell. At one point my midwife gave me a "focal point" of "where" to push by pressing down on my perineum. Not only did it actually feel really good, but also it helped IMMENSELY with the pushing. Highly recommend. I remember begging her, "DO THE FINGER THING AGAIN!!"

9:30pm: My husband and my friend are standing at the side of my bed, watching me push. I would push with all of my might, and nothing would happen, and it was so depressing. Then, one time I pushed, and while I personally didn’t notice anything different, my husband and my friend both GASPED at the exact same moment. They had just seen the head emerge at the very back of the canal. Watching them react was exactly what I needed. The only tragic thing was that I thought it meant I was so close to being done! Little did I know I still had an hour left of pushing.

Somewhere around this time, while pushing with all my might, my midwife reached inside and executed a “manual rotation” to try to get his head unstuck and in line with the birth canal. It was quick, and though the moment in general was chaotic, I 100% remember thinking it was the most badass thing I had ever witnessed. It was also what changed the game, and made the rest of my journey possible. I reflect on this moment a lot when thinking about how expert my birth team was, and how heartbreaking it is when “the establishment” does not take these women seriously. The brains, skills, and spirit it takes to be a midwife is very super-human, while at the same time is the essence of humanness. (If you haven’t seen my performance called “The Passion of the Midwife”, you can watch it here)

img-4018 2.jpg

10pm: I started squatting at the foot of my bed. This also hurt like a bitch, but it was so much easier to let go. I realized how much I hadn’t been letting go fully because I was afraid of peeing and pooping. Of course I was squatting over chuck pads, but there was still so much self-consciousness around this aspect. If you want to have a natural birth, I recommend practicing this somehow. 

Anyway, I somehow stopped caring, finally. Like, seriously stopped caring. I would grab the edge of my heavy oak-framed bed and PULL it toward me while simultaneously squatting and yelling, and fluids just starting flowing. There was blood and poop coming out, and my birth team would switch out those pads quick as lighting, and I never saw anything. But damn did it feel good! All the poop and blood meant we were close and it was the most motivating thing ever. It turns out the thing I was most scared of was actually the thing I most needed. Birth is so, so strange and beautiful.

Again, my contractions had stopped, and my team was constantly doing everything they could to get them going. My midwife said, “Your contractions stopping are a sign that you are tired,” (which made sense because I had been up for two days at that point without sleep). That scared the shit out of me. There was absolutely NO FUCKING WAY I WAS TAKING A BREAK. So, I lied, and said that they had started again. And every minute or so I said I could feel one coming out, and I’d bear down, squat, pull on the frame of my bed, and push, stand up, and repeat. It seemed like the baby wasn’t really making it any further down the canal.

10:28pm: I had just come up from squatting and bearing down. I remember my midwife said, “Ok, let’s take a little break,” or something like that. Whatever it was exactly, all I remember was yelling, “NO!!!!!!”, and with that I squatted down, and pulled on the frame of my insanely heavy bed. I remember thinking, I don’t care if I explode. I don’t care if I die, I’m not stopping pushing until this is fucking over. 

IMG_4004 2.jpg

Suddenly, I felt this burning. It’s called “The Ring of Fire”, and it’s the burning sensation felt as the mother's tissues stretch around the baby's head. (It’s very similar to sticking your fingers in your mouth to stretch your lips and pulling as wide as you can.) I yelled, “I FEEL THE BURNING THING!” To be honest, it felt really good in a really weird way, and for a SPLIT second I had a glimpse of what orgasmic birth must feel like. 

Tiffany said, “KEEP GOING!!” She was in her infamous squatting position, twisted, looking up inside of me from below. My husband was also laying on the floor on the other side, looking up, best seat in the house. (He was so cute, not afraid of absolutely anything the entire journey. The midwives even commented on how grounded and calm he was the whole time.)

The poetic thing about birth is that you have to die. Like, you get to this moment where you are SO over the pain, that you legitimately no longer care if you die pushing the baby out. You just want the pain to stop, so you push until you die. You split open, you let go of everything (literally) and you pray for death. And then BAM. In a single MOMENT the excruciating pain just...stops. It’s not gradual; it’s sudden. The pain is just over...and there...is your baby. The death becomes life.

The moment that my death turned into birth was accompanied by a *splat* that I’ll never forget. Mr. Azlan Rey Taglieber did not come out gradually, as I had seen in so many birth videos, where the baby crowns slowly, and gently just fallllllls out. Nope. Not Azzy Rey. He came out in what can only be described as a quantum moment. And just as my doula had been promising, with that splat came instantaneous relief. I remember my midwife catching him like the true professional she is and handing him up to me, bent over at the side of my bed. The next thing I remember is her yelling, “SHORT CORD, DON’T STAND UP!” So there I hunched, holding this THING in my arms, and mumbling, “It’s over. It’s fucking over. I did it. I can’t believe I fucking did it. I did it. I did it. I did it myself.”

When the cord situation was handled, they laid me on my bed and covered Azlan and I in blankets. He never cried. Not once. I remember he was lying belly down on my chest and at one point he lifted his head up and scanned the entire room, looking everyone in the eye like the freakin’ Terminator or something. It was psychedelic and wild.

The moment he was handed to me.

The moment he was handed to me.

This is me looking up at my bff and whispering, "It's over. I did it." You can STRAIGHT UP SEE those #OxytocinVibes in my eyes.

This is me looking up at my bff and whispering, "It's over. I did it." You can STRAIGHT UP SEE those #OxytocinVibes in my eyes.

The most beautiful, candid picture of my husband the moment he became a father.

The most beautiful, candid picture of my husband the moment he became a father.

Everything from there was a blur. The oxytocin rushed in, and while the midwives did their thing (which was beyond fascinating to see) I remember staring at my bff Heather at the foot of my bed, and she was crying (and snapping these amazing photos), and I kept whispering to her, “Mama, I did it. I did it. He’s here. It’s finally over. I did it.”

img-4060_orig.jpeg

They had me “birth” my placenta, which I never remember learning ANYWHERE in all my education. It’s the most wild, sensational feeling. Like birthing jello. They properly cared for it so that it could be made into placenta capsules by this amazing local doula.

Everything was so calm, and we know we were blessed to not have required any further medical procedures. The home-birth experience, when as healthy and smooth as mine, is very hands-off. There was no rush. There was no unnecessary separation. They allowed his cord to stay connected until it turned white. My midwife stitched my one, small tear in the comfort of my bedroom. We were laughing, joking, crying.

My doula fed me an ice cold cherry coke she found in the fridge (sorry, Amanda), and it was THE MOST GLORIOUS THING I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE. I freakin’ chugged that thing. I’ll never forget that cherry coke.

The midwives told me that they couldn’t leave until I peed at least once, and that sometimes it can take a really long time and multiple tries. I remember thinking, I’m gonna rock this for you ladies. I’m going to pee quicker than anyone has ever peed as a small token for having had a 22.5 hour labor. 

AND I DID. I peed right away, and shouted, “I PEED!” And they cheered from the other room.

The next thing I know, it was probably 3 am, and Tiffany was tucking the 3 of us into bed. She kissed my head and turned out my light as she let herself out of my house. The last thing she said was, “This is your last chance to get a really long stretch of sleep.”

And that was it. I was a mother. 

img-5625.jpg

I listened to the stillness of my mostly-empty house for what felt like a really long time. Writing this now, almost a year later, I don’t actually remember if I ever slept. But I do know I didn’t leave my bed, my favorite place on Earth, and now the holy site where I gave birth, for almost 2 weeks. It was more glorious than anything I could have designed myself.

Looking back and examining the motifs that showed up in my journey, I realize that this birth for me was about letting go of what other people thought of me, and, recognizing that I can do things myself. Where many people struggle with asking for help, I think I struggle to believe I can do things on my own. I have a tendency toward codependency, often believing that I need other people to accomplish my goals (more so professionally than personally). The light side of this trait is that I have a talent for bringing teams together, and my matriarchal role is often the glue holding things together, as well as the air stoking the fire in the passions of other people’s heart. The shadow side of this trait is that I forget I’m enough on my own-- that I, too, am worthy of being produced, not just being the one who is producing. Like all codependents, I avoid looking at myself by focusing on others. Now I know that when I focus on myself, I’m capable of producing life.

Amen.”

Jessica @reverend.levity

img-5408.jpeg
img-5529.jpeg

This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth and the unexpected challenges that can arise, is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years.

img-5415.jpg

It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  

Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want - so you can ROCK your birth, however it unfolds!

It’s wonderful alone, a great refresher or adjunct to any other course!

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.45.29 PM.png

“Forget your childbirth class, and take steps to your most empowering experience. If you are thinking about conception, pregnant, or love someone who is, take it from me that her wisdom is life-changing.
Yours in the truth

— Kelly Brogan, MD

 

Birth Story of Redemption

 

“Redemption: Koen James

Stalking your Instagram and drooling over all things Birth!

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.37.03 PM.png

I wanted to share my story:

After experiencing a hospital birth and an at home intervention free birth I have such a deeper connection with my body and the things it is capable of. I find myself being in complete awe over what the woman’s body can accomplish by watching, scrolling, and reading stories into the wee hours into the early morning. An indescribable feeling.

Those who attended the birth of my first born would tell you it was unforgettable in the worst of ways. Two years ago, I was riding passenger on the way to the hospital to be induced. My husband and I discussed during our drive how delighted we were for our lives to change to a family of three to avoid the anxiety we felt. After a short ride we arrived to small talk and routine work: readying IV's, retrieving a catheter, sterilizing the area, the whole nine. Luckily I was contracting on my own the use of pitocin was unnecessary and went directly to breaking my water. Before leaving my room my doctor quickly questioned me about the need of an epidural. Although my pain was fear driven, I was young and naive, I insisted.

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.37.15 PM.png

Seconds after receiving the epidural I was reaping it's effects. I became so nauseated I couldn't bare to speak. I was begging for relief as they injected a dose of phenergan into my IV. Little did anyone know I was severely allergic to the medicine. I couldn't see. I couldn't talk. I began to black out. I woke up for a split second patting my chest in hopes to convey something was wrong. My nurse was frustrated unaware of the situation she got two inches from my face yelling "USE YOUR WORDS" repeatedly. All I could do was grab her arm with a frail grip before passing out again. My condition was worsening when I awoke for a second time. I remember looking up to my husband holding my hand, telling me it would be okay, as he began to tear. Everyone was being rushed out of the room as a team of doctors scrambled through the door. I didn't know it but my heart rate was dropping.

 Awake for a third and final time, it was over but now it was time to push. I was exhausted and still confused, I thought the oxygen they had me on was their attempt to put me to sleep. In between surges, with what little energy I had left, I was fighting to remove the mask. Two hours of nodding in and out, I remember asking if it was almost over. Anything that could have gone wrong, did. I was ready to be holding our baby boy. A tiny six pounds and twelve ounces, he was finally here. Relieved we're both okay, I still look back and break a little inside unable to recall the birth of my first child. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.37.32 PM.png

Once we became pregnant for the second time we knew, wherever we delivered, we would not opt for any interventions. It wasn't until the third trimester we started weighing out our options of where we would welcome our newest addition. I knew I didn't want to be in the same environment I was with my first, scarred from the experience we lived previously. It wasn't until then we discussed a home birth. No pokes and pricks, being in the comfort of home, I wouldn't have to find a sitter for our son, it appeared to be a dream. This is what I wanted. 

It was a day after my due date when my water broke as I was laying our son down for a nap. I immediately alerted my midwife, Rebekah, who was attending a birth of another mother. I then called out to my husband and informed him we would have a baby soon. We went about the rest of our day normally, trying to do the odds and ends in order to prep our house for birth. I continuously encouraged my husband to get as much rest as possible before going to bed myself.  

I was filled with mixed emotions as I attempted to close my eyes. Although this was my second birth it was very much my first. I didn't know what to expect as I had no previous experience other than reading what I could online. I woke up early Sunday morning with consistent contractions. I began timing them before I carefully crept out of bed trying not disrupt our son to go wake my husband on the couch. I could tell he had gotten little to no sleep. As I started to explain I needed his help timing my contractions he told me he didn't go to bed until five that morning.. it was three. Nodding in and out we averaged my contractions two minutes apart while lasting thirty five seconds. 

Keeping my midwife updated she decided it was time to head my way. They arrived just as the sun was making an appearance through the trees. She had brought along some back up, Paige a student midwife, as the rest of her team was still with laboring mother before me. As we got aquatinted my contractions stayed two minutes apart while lengthing in time. I was checked at five centimeters when Rebekah asked if I felt comfortable with her leaving to attend her previous engagement. I gave her the thumbs up as I tried to get comfortable for the labor ahead. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.37.47 PM.png

I was stretched across the couch when Paige encouraged me to get into a more baby friendly position to help descend him further into the birth canal. I put a pillow under each knee and squatted down while leaning over the seat cushions. I could feel my contractions intensifying as I was overcome by intolerable back pain. My husband would try massage me while Paige squeezed my hips, but it was doing more harm than good. I couldn't be touched. All I wanted to do was lay down. 

I crawled back up on the couch surrounding myself with pillows in every direction to give my body some ease. With each wave I would reach out to my husband and pull on his shirt until it passed. I had been laboring in the living room for a short couple of hours, since my midwives arrived, when I decided I wanted to try a new method of comfort and relax in a hot bath. Before stepping into the water, Paige checked me in between six and seven centimeters. She called Rebekah to inform her of my progression. Minutes away from reaching her destination she asked if she needed to turn around. Since my dilation appeared slow Rebekah continued on her drive.

My son was still asleep in the room next to me when I got into the bath. I immediately turned on the cold water. I was refreshed with the cooling sensation through the marathon my body was running. At this time my contractions were now a minute or more long. The pain I felt in my back had me paralyzed. I could do nothing but scream. I managed to wake our son from the howls I released through each surge. As much as I wanted him there I knew I couldn't comfort him like he wanted me to, so we quickly called for reinforcements. My husband attended to his side while Paige poured water over my forty week belly and reminded me that I could do this. I wasn't in the tub for ten minutes when I told her I needed to push. No one was expecting me progress the way I had. She asked me slightly confused "You need to push or feel like you want to push?" I shouted "HES HERE". 

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.38.17 PM.png

Before getting up to notify Rebekah, she wanted me to promise I wouldn't push. I knew it was no promise I could keep. Our son's ride arrived relieving my husband back to his former duty of being by my side. I had one more contraction in the tub when I demanded we make a run for it. I was caught in the hallway by another surge before reaching the couch. Rebekah was too far away. She would never make it back in time. It was just the three of us. With Rebekah absent, my husband and Paige rushed to get everything ready for the arrival of our newest baby boy.

I was already pushing as I watched them grab the rest of the necessities. I beared down against Paige who was positioned at my feet. Through all the pain I had felt that morning I was at such peace while pushing. With two more thrusts he was here. I lifted him up to my chest and rubbed my fingers across his face. He had the most perfectly round head and that beautiful burgundy after birth color. My husband cut the cord while I took everything in that I had missed the first time. I finally got the birth I had been longing for. I thanked my body for overcoming my mind and showing me what I was truly capable of.

I questioned myself on if I should write my story when I was reminded, I gave birth at home, after a traumatizing first experience, without any interventions, and that itself is a success. I could and I did and this time I remembered. 

@shelbylclowers’’ 

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.38.41 PM.png
 
Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 5.38.54 PM.png
 

Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically got you, that can also include this revolutionary and last natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork.  Helping women heal from birth trauma is one of my passions and areas of expertise. So is preventing it in the first place.

This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want - so you can ROCK your birth! It is a course that is recommended by doctors, midwives, and other professionals around the globe!

You can get a free nugget from my course - all about creating your ideal birth plan here. A huge part of preventing birth trauma is getting clear your birth preferences, knowing the pros and cons about all the tests and procedures, all the interventions your may be faced with, so you can make informed decisions - rather than simply give over your body, your choice and voice to your health care providers and institution you choose.