Monday, September 14, 2015

5 Ways Giving Birth is Like Playing the Flute

Last week was my first week back at teaching flute lessons, and I always spend that first week helping students "get the cobwebs out." Most of my students came to me feeling very tense. I don't blame them! They have a lot going on. I chuckled to myself as I realized I was telling them some of the same things that I say to women as they are giving birth. I marveled at how similar giving birth was to playing the flute. You may be wondering, "How in the world are the two similar?" Let me tell you.

1. You need to relax your jaw.

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Playing the flute requires a lot of open space inside of your mouth. I often tell students to imagine putting a hot boiled egg in their mouth. I also tell them to imagine a stack of Spree candies or sliced carrots between their back teeth. That helps them to get a feel for how apart their teeth need to be in order to produce a beautiful and resonant sound.

When giving birth, your mouth and jaw are a reflection your cervix. If you want your cervix to open, you need to allow your jaw to relax open. It helps to vocalize with a nice, deep, OOOOOHHHH sound. Not only will vocalizing release endorphins to help with pain, the shape your mouth makes when you are making the OOOOOOHHHHH sound is exactly the kind of relaxation your jaw needs.

I don't say this to my flute students, but open mouth equals open bottom.

2. You need to breathe.

It may be obvious that playing the flute requires air. We work on taking in deep breaths and blowing out for as long as we can. I am always working on ways to improve my breath support. I like to use the phrase, "Breathe like a person," for both flute lessons and when explaining to Birth Boot Camp students and doula clients on how to breathe during labor. There are no special tricks for how to breathe during labor. Some people like to breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth for as long as they can. There is no magic number to reach. Just do it for as long as is comfortable. But do remember to breathe! I know when I am in an uncomfortable situation, I sometimes forget to breathe. Once I realize it, that first deep breath in is so relaxing.

3. You need to relax your neck and shoulders.

Many people hold tension in their neck and shoulders, and sometimes they do it without realizing it. I had to ask every single student last week, "Where are your shoulders? Are they up by your ears?" And every single one laughed and said, "Yes!" I spend a lot of time teaching my middle school students how to relax. We also spend time in each Birth Boot Camp class learning how to relax. Imagine, if my middle school students need to work on relaxation, adults preparing for one of the most important experiences of their lives can stand to spend some time working on relaxation.

4. You need to relax your eyebrows.

I can tell when my flute students are having a hard time with something when they start furrowing their brow. Holding tension in your eyebrows, or anywhere in your face, wastes energy that you'll need later. As I mentioned earlier, clenching muscles in your face is a reflection of what your cervix is doing.

5. You need to find your rhythm.

Penny Simkin wrote about the Three R's in her book The Birth Partner. I highly recommend this book for anyone preparing to give birth. Simkin writes that those women who cope the best during labor are doing three things:

1. They find a rhythm.
2. They find a ritual.
3. They relax as much as possible.

Playing the flute well definitely requires a good sense of rhythm.

I used to wonder how in the world my background in music would help me be an effective doula until I started to notice that I say some of the same things to everyone! And now my doula works helps me be a more effective flute teacher. How fun!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Grab Your Balls for a Better Birth

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In case you haven't heard, doulas love balls.

Really BIG balls.

Most people call them exercise balls, but in the birth world, we like to refer to them as birth balls. These inflatable wonders are incredibly helpful during pregnancy, labor, and even in the postpartum period. Even babies love them!

How can you use these balls to help you have a better birth?

1. Sexy circles

While sitting on the birth ball, make nice, wide circles with your hips. To get an idea of how wide these circles need to be, imagine becoming friends with benefits with this ball. Those same moves that got the baby in will get the baby out. Moving your hips around can help your baby navigate your pelvis to find his way out. Using the birth ball at the end of pregnancy can help your baby find an ideal starting position, which can facilitate an easier labor.

2. A resting place

If you become tired during labor but do not feel like staying in the bed, a birth ball can provide a comfortable resting place. Try setting the ball next to your bed and lean over to rest your head on the bed. Try stacking pillows on the bed to make a more comfortable resting place for your head. Another idea is to have your partner sit on the bed facing you. Rest your head in your partner's lap for a more intimate experience. This is a great position for your partner to provide a scalp massage.

3. Extra support

A birth ball can provide extra support in certain positions, such as hands and knees. Instead of supporting yourself using your arms, you can rest your torso over the birth ball to conserve energy in your arms. Your doula can help you use the birth ball in so many ways to help provide extra support during labor.

4. Bouncing

Babies love birth balls! I've spent lots of time bouncing with my babies on the birth ball to help comfort them. Just be sure to have someone help you keep the ball stable as you lower yourself onto the ball with your baby.

Find out if your birthing facility has a birth ball that you can use during labor. If you have a doula, your doula will have one you can use. Even if you know that you will have access to a birth ball during labor, I still recommend buying one of your own to use during pregnancy and postpartum. Birth balls are just an all around good investment for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.