Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret

"The best-kept secret... about childbearing... is that it IS a sexual experience."

- Elizabeth Davis, CPM
Co-Director, National Midwifery Institute, Inc.

"Having a baby has a lot in common with making a baby." 

- Sarah Buckley, MD

Something very interesting and surprising happened to me during my pushing stage with Kimberly, and that was the fact that pushing started to feel really good. When I say really good, I mean in THAT way. You know the way I mean. Yes, that way. I know. Crazy, right?

Ina May Gaskin, world renowned midwife, has said, "If you listen to a woman in labor who is being cared for properly and who has been well-prepared for birth, she sounds like she's having great sex." I was aware that I was vocalizing because I was doing it on purpose, but I wasn't aware of exactly how I sounded. In my mind, I figured my neighbors were probably getting ready to call an ambulance because I probably sounded like I was dying. I really didn't care. A few weeks later at my postpartum visit, my doula told me, though, after I told her about my pleasurable birth feelings, that she had planned to tease me because apparently I sounded like I was in a porno. Oh. Ha ha! I can live with that. I suppose instead of calling 911, they probably started to think my husband was the ultimate stud. I can get on board with that. I'm sure he can too. 

Because I was curious about what I had recently experienced and hoping to learn more, and also because it is "required reading" for Birth Boot Camp certification, I decided to finally watch my Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret DVD that was still wrapped in the cellophane that had been just sitting in my library for months. It is, "a documentary that examines the intimate nature of birth and the powerful role it plays in women's lives when they are permitted to experience it fully." In this DVD, "11 couples share their intimate personal journeys, facing their fears and moving through pain into the ecstasy of birth." (Quoted from DVD jacket)

When I first started to watch this documentary, I had the windows in my living room open to let in the sunshine and cool breeze. Once the DVD started, I had to close my windows for fear that people would think I was watching something naughty. It DOES sound like women are enjoying themselves sometimes when they are giving birth, but I never really noticed it before. Usually when I hear a woman vocalizing during birth I notice her strength, and I recall what it feels like when someone is making those sounds. My heart goes out to her, but I know that she is perfectly capable of doing the work of labor. I feel like if I, little ole me, could bring forth life into this world, anyone can. I feel so much compassion for laboring women because I have been there twice so far. As the great Ina May has said regarding midwifery, birth just doesn't happen the same way around surgeons and medically trained doctors as it does around sympathetic women. I am not a midwife, but I am definitely a sympathetic woman. 

Having an orgasmic or ecstatic birth sounds a little "out there," doesn't it? It sounds like only something those crazy birth junkies can experience. It sounds like more like a stroke of good luck if a woman experiences any part of birth that actually feels pleasurable. Maybe it is just the luck of the draw,  but there is something that you CAN expect and remember, and that you and your body are AMAZING. "To be realistic is to expect your body to be wonderful." -Naoli Vinaver, CPM

Well, Kristi, having an orgasmic birth sounds great and all, but really? How can I have one? 

1. For starters, watch the DVD and consider some of these words from the it.

2. Choose a care provider and birthing location that is supportive of undisturbed birth.

This is not a plug for home birth, though I believe that a woman is more likely to be left alone to labor how she wants if she births at home. For some people this may not be possible to birth at home. It IS possible to have a mostly undisturbed birth in a hospital as well. I have had one. I have witnessed them with supportive care providers. A woman needs to feel safe and cared for to birth well, so wherever and with whomever that happens is the best place for her to give birth and the place where a highly pleasurable birth is most likely to happen.

 "If a woman wants to live through an experience that is ecstatic for birth, she will have to be conscious about choosing where she wants to give birth, with whom." 

- Naoli Vinaver, CPM

3. Set the mood. "Our sphincters are shy." -Ina May Gaskin 

What? Sphincters!?! (Google Sphincter Law for some fun reading material) Women in labor need privacy, a darkened room and a minimum of observation, much like during sex. Well, maybe not the darkened room is not necessary during sex, but I assume most women probably prefer to have sex in a private place with a minimum of observation most of the time. 

4. Understand that "birth is a part of a woman's sexual life." - Billie Wolff, RN and Lamaze Instructor

As a doula who talks with other doulas,  I hear a lot of "the same moves that got the baby in, get the baby out." We encourage mothers to move during pregnancy and birth and a lot of the movements look very sensual. And who hasn't heard that sex is supposed to help bring on labor? And nipple stimulation, kissing, touching and hugging helps to bring on contractions and also helps them to become stronger and more productive during labor. After all, the same hormones present during the big O are also present in higher amounts during birth. According to experts in this DVD, oxytocin, the wonderful ooey-gooey bonding and love hormone present during loving experiences in our life, will never be higher than those moments right after birth when a woman first meets her baby. How fantastically yummy! 

In summary, how can you have an orgasmic birth? When you are "safe and secure and uninterrupted and that is how you will have an orgasmic birth." -Mardsen Wagner

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Now offering placenta encapsulation services

It has been one of my goals to start offering placenta encapsulation services* to my doula clients and other women who may desire to reap the benefits that placenta encapsulation may offer. It has been said that ingesting one's placenta after birth can:

Increase milk supply

Lower the incidence of "baby blues"

Replenish iron

Increase energy

Lessen postpartum bleeding

Balance hormones

Placenta encapsulation is the process whereby one's placenta is dehydrated, powdered and put into capsules for the mother to ingest. It is also possible for the placenta to be processed in such a way to be used in smoothies, salves, tinctures and other recipes (even chocolate placenta truffles!)

I decided to have my placenta encapsulated after the birth of my second baby. My doula also prepared my placenta to be used in smoothies that lasted for about one week postpartum. I have noticed that my hormones have been much more friendly to me this time, and I have not experienced the baby blues to the same extent as I did with Lily. It took me a very long time to feel human again with Lily, and I feel like I have gotten back to normal much more quickly with Kimberly. However, I am hesitant to say for sure that my mood is much better this time because I didn't really start feeling stressed out about motherhood until Lily was about four months old. That was when I was first starting to teach flute lessons again and leave her with sitters that I barely knew. It stressed me out to have to rely on people, and I always felt like I was burdening them. Now that I have gotten used to relying on other people, and it isn't the end of the world to do so after all, I am adjusting much better this go round with Kimberly. One of the biggest benefits that I am experiencing that I do not mind sharing is the increase of milk supply. Holy oversupply!!! Poor little Kimberly went through weeks of sputtering on the milk, usually late at night like clockwork. For the past two weeks, I stopped taking my pills, and we have not had any late night choking and sputtering problems. Then today, because I was feeling a bad mood coming on, I decided to take some. Guess what happened! After two weeks without them, the very day I take placenta pills again, we have choking and sputtering problems. Too much milk! I also can't take them after lunch time because I will be up all night. They give me so much energy.

Although placentaphagy (ingestion of the placenta by the mother) has a rich history of being extremely beneficial during the postpartum period and the benefits can be supported by ongoing research, it has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. I am not a health care provider such as a doctor, midwife, pharmacist or herbalist, so the service I am providing is the encapsulation of the placenta only. I do not offer medical advice or treatment, nor can I guarantee that the ingestion of one's placenta will ensure the purported results. Clients are responsible for doing their own adequate research regarding placenta encapsulation, as the information shared here is for educational purposes only and not meant to treat, diagnose or advise clients in any way.

Here is a list of a few places to get started on your research to decide if placenta encapsulation is right for you.

Placenta: The Gift of Life by Cornelia Enning

Placenta (PBi) Research & Articles

Articles about the UNLV Placentaphagy Survey:

Steamed, Dehydrated or Raw: Placentas May Help Moms' Post-Partum Health

UNLV researchers author first-ever scholarly report on experiences of placenta-eating moms

Las Vegas SUN Highlights UNLV Research (This blog post includes a link to where you can purchase a copy of the original article published in The Journal of Ecology, Food and Nutrition. A copy of the article costs $37 which makes me really miss having access to a university library.)

* Regular price is $175 with discounts given to doula clients. My first few placenta encapsulation clients will receive a huge discount, so contact me ASAP! This opportunity won't last long!

Phone: (225) 229-4130

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birth Energy

Every other year, the orchestra that I play in performs for the finals of an international piano competition. Artists from all over the globe compete in this amazing and inspiring event. I have been truly moved by many a pianist from it.

I believe it was last season that we provided the accompaniment to three talented pianists; two of them performing Rachmoninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. All three were unbelievably talented. They would have to be in order to make it to that stage of the competition after competing with some of the most talented young pianists from all over the world. But there was one who stood out in a major way.

Every time we would rehearse, I mean every single time, he would bring an amazing energy with him. Many musicians "save it" for the concert, but not this guy. He "brought it" every single time. That "it" was simply astounding. There was an energy that emanated from him as he played. It was like an invisible wind that circled through the orchestra. It had bands of energy, like an invisible hurricane had landed on top of the orchestra and enveloped us all. To me, his energy was quite tangible. I have never felt anything like it in my life, and I have performed in many concerts over the past nearly 20 years. I leaned over and asked my neighbor, "Do you feel that?" And he said, "Yes!" I expected him to ask me what I was talking about, but the amazing energy that was whipping around the orchestra wasn't just my imagination! It was apparent to my neighbor as well. It was really an amazing experience. 

That guy won the competition by the way. How could he not? I think I understand now where the phrase "blown away" came from. Because we were all quite literally blown away. 

I have only felt a tangible energy one other time since then, and that was at Kimberly's birth two months ago. Once I settled into my birth groove with the warm water running all over me, I felt this same windy energy circling around me. At the time, I was too overwhelmed to really draw anyone's attention to it, but it was neat for me to have the presence of mind just enough to appreciate this energy. Since then, when anyone would ask me how the birth went, all I could reply was, "It was..... " and then start making this spinning motion with my hand like I was stirring a big pot of gumbo with it. The birthy people in my life would smile and say, "Ah. Gotcha." 

I just couldn't find the words to describe this circling windy energy until I watched my Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret DVD, which is part of the Birth Boot Camp instructor required reading list. In case that title piqued your interest, it is "a documentary that examines the intimate nature of birth and the powerful role it plays in women's lives when they are permitted to experience it fully." In this DVD, "11 couples share their intimate personal journeys, facing their fears and moving through pain into the ecstasy of birth." (Quoted from DVD jacket)

I took notes as I watched and finally heard the perfect words to describe what I felt! The woman's name was Alexandra and she said it felt like, "a huge circle around, that was just spinning in the universe." 

Yes! This is the perfect description. I couldn't have said it better myself. 

I'd love to hear your experiences! Have you ever experienced a time where you felt a powerful energy circling around you? Please share your experiences in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Ideas for talking about circumcision with clients

Back in November I attended a workshop for doulas taught by fellow doula and Intact Houston leader on how to talk about circumcision with clients. I showed up about 20 minutes late because I kept driving around in circles trying to find a place to park. I was so embarrassed. I was also embarrassed because I had to bring Lily with me. I guess it was silly of me to worry so much, because once I sat down in the group, I noticed that I was among friends. We were a small group, but I knew just about everyone there.

It was a more intimate discussion than I thought it would be. Imagine getting together with some of your closest doula friends at someone's house discussing birthy things over hot chocolate. Only without the hot chocolate. It was more like a brainstorming session.

Here are a few ideas we came up with:

1. Use social media to spread our message:

One of the things we decided to do was to back each other up when we see a fellow doula posting anything about circumcision by "liking" or commenting on the posts.

2. Create circumcision packets:

Some doulas shared stories about how they heard other doulas prepared "Circumcision packets" for those clients who knew they were having a boy. "Oh? You're having a boy? Congratulations! This is just a little packet of info I share with my clients who are having boys."

3. Use Prenatal packets:

Some suggested including information in their regular prenatal packets and include it when discussing Routine Newborn Procedures. I think this is the one I would like to do to start.

4. Consultation packets:

Some doulas include a little information in their interview packets. I'd like to try this too. If it drives away a potential client, so be it. That seemed to be the general consensus among the group.

5. Share videos:
Some doulas suggested having couples watch a circumcision procedure or giving DVDs to clients to watch on their own. I'm not sure I could do this as I have not been able to do this myself.

What I learned:

Sometimes you just never know how people will react. As a doula, families hire us because there is a connection and because they trust us to provide honest information to the best of our abilities. My concern was whether or not this is appropriate for a doula to bring up and someone said this might be the only time they hear this information. They'll get PA-LENTY of pro-circumcision information from friends, neighbors, pediatricians and obstetricians. It's possible that they'll get plenty of pro-intact info from those same people, but what if they don't? What if the only person they get another viewpoint from  is their doula? There are even some Childbirth Education programs that don't allow instructors to talk about it. After all, doulas are typically the ones already sharing information that is not mainstream.

But this is a very delicate situation, and a doula needs to be very careful to "know her audience" so to speak. For example, in my opinion, this is just MY OPINION (there were doulas at the meeting that disagreed), if circumcision is very much a religious issue, I don't feel comfortable pursuing the issue. I don't like it when people who are not members of my faith try to tell me what I believe or how members of my faith are supposed to believe or behave, and I definitely don't like it when they try to use my scriptures against me. For that reason, I do not feel comfortable quoting holy writings to anyone when I am not a member of that faith and honestly don't know anything about those holy writings except a small excerpt or quote that I would be using to defend my position. My plan at this time is to plant seeds by including information in the info packs that I hand out, and that's the best I feel I can do at this point.

Because this is such a sensitive topic, you may start talking about it and one or both parents genuinely act traumatized. What do you do in that situation? Again, case by case, the doula will have to follow her instincts. I would probably say something like, "I am so sorry. I can see this is a sensitive subject. This is something I go over with all of my clients, but we can move on to the next topic. I have more information in your packet for you to review on your own."

We all hope that there will be light bulb moments, but sometimes that just won't happen. The families that we serve have to make their own decisions. I know a lot of times I hear, "If she were truly educated she wouldn't choose to xyz." Besides being a huge pet-peeve of mine, statements like that are not very supportive. As doulas we are supposed to check our agendas and opinions at the door. If we have done our jobs right, our clients will be empowered to make their own decisions even if it goes against everything we stand for.

Which leads me to my next question. Can you support someone who you know will choose circumcision? After all the information has been presented, what if they still feel like circumcision is the right choice?

Search your heart. Be honest. The family deserves to know if this is something that would hinder you from serving them to your fullest. And you have the right to change your mind about serving a family. The relationship has to be a good fit for all involved.

For me, I am able to separate the fact that a family may choose circumcision from my ability to serve as their doula. I think babies are wonderful, and I enjoy cuddling with them at the postpartum visit. However, my main concern is the birthing mother with the birth partner being a close second. But you better believe I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I know the baby is a girl!

My story:

I do not have any sons, but if I do, my husband and I have already made the decision as to whether or not we will have our son(s) circumcised.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of reading material on circumcision, but these are a few places to start one's research on the topic.

The WHOLE Network

Peaceful Parenting

Intact Houston

Ask Dr. Sears: Whether or Not to Circumcise

Saving Sons