Friday, January 09, 2015

A Tear

Under the cover of night,
enfolded in the arms of my love,
My spirit feels young as ever,
though our bodies show signs of the years,
that we have traveled together,
from work and births and time,
that never stands still,
a breath,
as my heart swells,
thinking of the children we have conceived,
with gratitude,
a single tear swells,
then rolls down my cheek,
dropping onto my pillow,
followed by a stream,
from the ache for the loved ones that I cannot hold,
that I cannot touch,
separated by land or by the heavens,
until time,
ever pushing forward,
will bring us together once again.

~ Susan Fierro-Baig

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Labor Aide: Calcium and Magnesium Benefits During Pregnancy and Birth

 Dr. Christiane Northrop, board-certified OB/GYN, is the world's leading authority in the field of women's health and wellness. She published an article(2010) in the Huffington Post entitled, "The Magic of Magnesium: A Mighty Mineral Essential to Health."

 I have longed considered antacids as undesirable, though many OB's recommend them as a calcium supplement and to combat heartburn during pregnancy. Northrop cited the National Academy of Sciences as stating in 1997, that most Americans are magnesium deficient for several reasons, including taking antacids- which disrupts magnesium absorption. This is important because magnesium helps the body absorb calcium. Northrop stated:

For the majority of human history, the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet was 1:1, a ratio that's considered optimal. A ratio that's between 1:1 and 2:1 is adequate (for example, 800 mg of calcium to 400 mg of magnesium). Unfortunately, today's diets contain an average of 10 times more calcium than magnesium.

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists published the results of a study that found that magnesium supplements benefited babies of poorly nourished mothers during labor - they experienced "fewer fetal heart rate irregularities, meconium-stained liquor, and partogram abnormalities,... fewer late still births either before or during labor."
The study also found that calcium lowers the incidence of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Researchers strongly cautioned that women without calcium and magnesium deficiencies should be careful "about taking extra supplements if they don't need it.”

...(S)upplementation cannot be recommended but poorly nourished women should be encouraged to eat a diet that contains adequate magnesium, in particular brown - rather than white - bread.

Northrop, however, recommends supplementation of calcium and magnesium. See this article for specifics. She also recommends bathing with Epsom salt, which contains magnesium and helps with aches, pains and cramps. Magnesium is powerful and has been used to stop premature labor.

Because magnesium helps with the functioning of all nerves and muscles, it makes sense that it would help reduce the sensations of labor. Midwife, Angela Burwick, considers cal/mag supplements beneficial during pregnancy and labor.  Because of magnesium's, "involvement with muscle impulse transmission"  among other properties, she encourages cal/mag supplementing to pregnant women complaining of leg cramps. On her website she recommends the following dose:

From the research I’ve done, the recommendation for easing labor is to take 2,000 milligrams at the onset of labor — I would combine this with 1,000 milligrams of magnesium, following the 2:1 ratio suggested when these minerals are taken together.

Like the researchers in the study cited above, Burwick also cautions against excessive supplementation. She states that a moderate increase in the minerals are not harmful to healthy women but those, "with kidney malfunction should not take more than 3,000 mg of magnesium per day." She further warns:

Just because a little may be a good thing, however, doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Too much magnesium could have the effect of slowing down labor by over-relaxing the muscles of your uterus, and excessively high doses of calcium taken for several days or weeks before labor could even result in hypocalecmia of the newborn.

The author of the Keeper of the Home website published the following labor aid drink recipe that her midwife shared with her.

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/3 cup honey (or to taste) 
1/4 tsp sea salt 
2 calcium/magnesium tablets, crushed 
water to make 4 cups

As a doula, I have always recommended the labor aid recipe published on Mommy Potamus. Not only do I like the recipe, but I LOVE the natural childbirth photos that accompany it! Either recipe can be frozen in an ice cube tray for use during labor instead of traditional ice chips for those women who are high-risk or might like to suck on an ice cube.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Visualization, Bonding, Belly Painting and Mandala Art During Pregnancy

 During labor visualizing opening up like a flower is very effective to helping labor progress. As an expectant mother relaxes she can imagine her cervix going from a closed, taught, bud to an open, blossoming, flower!!

Roses can also be used as a visual aid, but water lilies are perfectly suited as a visual aid for birth because they are surrounded by water - which increases the relaxation properties of the image. 

During labor women must resist the natural reaction of recoiling and closing one's self off to the powerful sensations that take place, particularly during transition and crowning. Instead of pulling away from the intensity, women must open wide and release their baby!!

During body relaxation and breathing practice, expectant mamas can also practice visualizing. Some things to visualize are going to a refuge place - even a sacred, spiritual place, where God comforts and nourishes her as he did the birthing woman in the Bible in Revelations 12. A woman can mentally go to a fantasy place - by the shore, a stream, an oasis. She can also envision herself floating in soothing water amongst a bed of lilies, opening slowly, gently as the light of day brightens. She can envision herself as a water lily opening up, expanding her cervix and releasing her baby- just as a lily opens it's petals in order to reproduce.

Dr. John Kapeleris, author, speaker and blogger, writes about the benefits of visualizing in his article The Power of Creative Visualization:

Visualization is a technique used commonly amongst successful athletes and sports people. For example, a successful golfer spends time to visualize the perfect stroke over and over again. As a result of repetition of the visualization process the golfer improves his or her golf scores. There is no reason why we couldn’t apply visualization techniques to our personal and work lives.

In addition to visualizing images of flowers blossoming, women can use art as a means of integrating into their minds the concept of opening, releasing and blossoming during birth. The visual aid is an anchor that helps an expectant woman remember her work of accepting and welcoming the sensations of birth. Dr. Kapeleris stated in his blog post Improving Your Memory

The use of visual landmarks to guide someone to a destination is very common e.g. buildings, intersections, bridges, schools, shopping centres, sports fields, statues, gardens, unique structures or places of business. An extension of this approach is to use visual references as anchors for remembering things. Also called “Method of Loci” this technique was used by ancient orators to remember speeches by associating paragraphs with the mental picture of the different rooms of a familiar building. As the orators visualized a “mental walk” through a building they would recite the paragraphs of their speeches that were associated with each room of the building.

Creating your very own visual image, instead of or in addition to existing images, may further the effect of the visualization. Amy Haderer-Swagman used art to help her "meditate, process emotions, and prepare for the birth of her third daughter."  On her blog, The Mandala Journey, it states that, "Doing these (art) pieces daily during her pregnancy helped Amy to have the beautiful, peaceful home birth she dreamed of."

Creating Mandalas is considered by many as meditative, relaxing and even healing. David Bookbinder wrote this about the many Mandala's he has created:
  My use of the hexagram (the Star of David, "beloved" in Hebrew) as the organizing shape for most of the mandala images was subconscious, but I believe this choice was no accident. In many traditions, the Star of David, composed of two overlapping triangles, represents the reconciliation of opposites — male/female, fire/water, and so on. Their combination symbolizes unity and harmony...

Expectant women creating any kind of art during pregnancy- not just for visual aids- has many benefits. Registered Art Therapist, Emily Boyce, who offered a Pregnancy Art Class at the ZukaBaby Natural Parenting Boutique, stated on the store's website:

Pregnancy Art simply means art made during pregnancy. It can take countless forms, but essentially it is an invitation to stop, self-reflect, express, and connect.

Making pregnancy art allows us to connect with, not just ourselves, but our babies, our spirituality/ higher power(s), and with others who have walked this path before us, or who are walking it alongside us. We can feel supported, relieved, and excited by connecting in this way. Done in a group setting, this process can be even more powerful.
In addition to having expectant moms create art, I believe it would be very meaningful to have the partners of expectant women paint a Mandala or other artwork on the mom-to-be's belly. This would awaken the imagination of the father/partner and the act of painting her belly would release oxytocin- which stimulates bonding.

Though any image can be painted on the expectant woman's belly, painting a Mandala may be as easy as it is beautiful.  The Mandala Journey blog states:

..for many people who want to create art but aren’t feeling particularly inspired or artistic it helps to have a place to start. By creating something inside of a shape (like a mandala) it doesn’t seem as intimidating as a blank piece of paper. The ability to create symmetry within a circle is endless and can lend itself to the new artist.

Especially for birth art the mandala is perfect because it is the shape of pregnancy itself. The circle holds, for me at least, feminine energy and endless perfection. It is soft and curvaceous and represents the continuation and cycle of new life.

Time website published photos of professionally created belly paintings. View the images here. Though there are benefits to having a professional paint a mama's belly, (particularly before a photo session), it would be awesome to have the mother's husband/ partner create a painting on her belly! It wouldn't have to be extremely artistic - flowers, designs, baby's name, words like "Love", symbols, etc. would be very easy to do by an adult or child. The Parenting website published 40 photos of Belly Paintings.

I plan to incorporate Mandala Art and Belly Painting into my Childbirth Classes. If you create any Pregnancy Art that you would like to share with me I would love to see it! You can get ideas for creating Mandala based Pregnancy Art from the Mandala Journey website or purchase Amy's beautiful artwork to display in your home or office.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Steps to Public Health: Preconception & Prenatal Nutrition and Breastfeeding

 April 7-11 is National Public Health Week. To raise breastfeeding awareness Breastfeeding Talk with UCLA created this image.

Breastfeeding is certainly an important step toward increasing Public Health but technically Public Health should start with preconception and early pregnancy nutrition, (as well as physically, emotionally and spiritually nurturing the pregnant mother.) 

 Pregnant women should be treated as special members of society as they do a great work and that special treatment would naturally carry over into the protection and support of the breastfeeding relationship.  I mentioned this to Breastfeeding Talk With UCLA and the response was in concurrence, "Maternal health and educating oneself on infant feeding during pregnancy is also very important."

Yesterday as I studied for my university Physical Education course, I read the nutrition section of my textbook,  Fitness and Wellness, by W and S Hoeger. It contains information important for preconception and early pregnancy nutrition.

First of all, consuming a wide variety of foods is generally better than taking a multivitamin. According to the textbook:

"Vitamins are beneficial to people with nutrient deficiencies, alcoholics, street-drug users, smokers, strict vegans, those on low-calorie diets (less than 1,500 calories) and those with disease related disorders or who are taking medications that interfere with absorption. Most supplements do not provide benefits to healthy people who eat a balanced diet."

The text also states that, "healthy eating implies consuming primarily whole, fresh, or locally grown food items made with few ingredients and minimal processing and packaging."

Although a nutritious diet is paramount to good health, prenatal vitamins are still recommended, particularly as a means of obtaining Iron and Folate. The latter being vital for preventing birth defects like Spina Bifida.Though getting vitamins and minerals from unprocessed foods is generally the best option, according to, folate supplements and fortified foods are the best source for the following reasons.

Folic acid (vitamin B-9) from supplements and fortified foods is absorbed twice as well as from regular food. Consequently, pregnant woman are advised to get folic acid from a supplement (or fortified food) as well as regular foods. Also keep in mind that if you get your iron from plant foods, it is absorbed only half as well as iron from meat -- although eating your spinach (or iron supplement) with a source of vitamin C will boost the absorption of its iron.

In addition to Folate, Iron is also vital for pre-pregnancy and pregnancy nutrition to prevent and treat anemia according to Iron deficiency anemia is common in menstruating and pregnant women.The CDC found that about nine percent of women ages 12 to 49 years are deficient in iron. Pregnancy often triggers anemia due to the new demands on the body- there is an approximately 50% increased need for it. Anemia causes fatigue and shortness of breath but during pregnancy the consequences of anemia are more serious. states:

Pregnant women who are anemic have an increased risk for problems when their baby is born, particularly if they are anemic in the first trimester.... (A)nemic women are more likely to need a blood transfusion following childbirth... and their babies are more likely to be born prematurely, and have lower birth weights.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, "People who have iron-deficiency anemia may have an unusual craving for nonfood items, such as ice, dirt, paint, or starch. This craving is called pica (PI-ka or PE-ka)." Pika can occur during pregnancy.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women take a daily supplement of 30mg of elemental iron as a preventive dose. Most prenatal vitamins contain 30mg of iron. Pregnant women who are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia are usually advised to take a total dose of at least 120mg of iron each day, according to

Prenatal vitamins should be view as supplements to a nutritious diet. There are many foods that are rich in Iron. Here is a link to iron rich foods.
Because meat products contain high amounts of Iron, vegetarianism during pregnancy can be challenging.  However, beans and leafy greens are good sources of the mineral.

This salad consists of green leaf lettuce, spinach, shredded beets, carrots, tomato, broccoli, and sunflower seeds with poppyseed dressing. Quick, easy, yummy. All it needs is an avocado which is rich in essential fatty acids, and according to the World's Healthiest Foods website, avocados are a good source of Folate, Vitamins C, K,E, B6, potassium and fiber!

The vegetables in the salad pictured above and the sunflower seeds provide protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals.
Spinach is high in iron, as is Kale. So are fish and eggs. You can add chicken or beans to a salad to increase protein.

Spinach is high in iron but more easily absorbed when consumed with vitamin C, which tomatoes have. I add spinach to my spaghetti for that reason cause the sauce is hi in vitamin C. Romain lettuce is high in iron and has vitamin C. 

I have struggled with anemia all my life - likely due to absorption issues. I avoid pill supplements and have taken Floradix herbal supplement instead. Herbal or whole food supplements tend to be more easily digested and non-constipating. One of my friends says that she prefers Megafoods Bloodbuilder:

I take Megafoods "Bloodbuilder" for my "iron" supplement... its food-source, rather than "elemental."

You can read about Megafoods Bloodbuilder on their site and read consumer reviews on Amazon. To fully inform you about your choices states the following about whole food supplements:

Using supplements made from whole foods won't necessarily give you more vitamins (in fact, they typically contain more modest amounts of vitamins than other dietary supplements), but you will get other plant compounds which could be of potential benefit (as well as some grams of fiber if you are consuming, for example, spoonfuls of a whole food powder as opposed to a pill). Paying a premium price for this, however, may not be worthwhile and has found lead contamination in some whole food and "greens" products.

Regarding natural vs. synthetic forms of vitamins in dietary supplements, sometimes natural is better, sometimes synthetic is better, and sometimes it doesn't matter. Keep in mind that all can help prevent or treat deficiencies and other conditions, and nearly all are known to be harmful at too high a dose.

For more information on supplements derived from whole foods read the ConsumerLab report.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Incorporate Traditional, Ethnic Diets Into Your Meals

Incorporating traditional, ethnic diets into your meal planning can increase your health. The diet of the Mediterranean has been found to be very healthy, with people in that region having lower diet-linked diseases, such as cardiovascular disease that causes heart attacks and stroke. People from that region also have a longer life expectancy than Americans.
The following is information I gleaned from my college textbook, Principles and Labs for Fitness & Wellness, authored by W. & S.Hoeger.

- Mediterranean foods (consists of olive oil, red wine, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits with limited amounts of meat, fish, milk and cheese.)
-Soul food includes yams, black-eyed peas, okra and peanuts.
-Hispanic foods - corn, beans squash, chili peppers, avocados, papayas, and fish.
-Asian- The diet in Okinawa Japan, where some of the healthiest and oldest people in the world live - fresh (vs. pickled) vegetables, high in fiber, low in fat and salt. Southern China - fish, seafood, and stir-fried veggies.

 I know Indian food is also very healthy so I did a search and found this on Wikipedia:

Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bajra), rice, whole-wheat flour (atta), and a variety of lentils, especially masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon pea), urad (black gram), and moong (mung bean). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. Some pulses, such as channa (chickpea), Rajma or kidney beans, lobiya are very common, especially in the northern regions. Channa and mung are also processed into flour (besan).

Many Indian dishes are cooked in peanut oil in northern and western India,  and coconut oil along the western coast, especially in Kerala. Gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south since it imparts a fragrant nutty aroma.

For more information on the Indian diet check out this IndiaTimes article.

According to my Fitness and Wellness textbook, soy which has been associated with health benefits such as less heart disease and  fewer hormone-related cancers has also been "shown in limited animal testing to increase the risk of breast cancer." Therefore, according to the University of California Berkeley, soy based supplement should be avoided. "They man contain higher levels of isoflavones than those found in soy foods. Individuals with a history of breast cancer and women who are pregnant or lactating should not use such supplements."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Natural Remedies for Swollen Ankles During Pregnancy

Some swelling during pregnancy is normal, though uncomfortable, and frequently occurs in the last trimester. Water retention and pressure on the veins in your legs contribute to the problem of edema.

The babycentre has a great article on using natural remedies for swelling. Check it out here:

Some additional information for preventing or reducing swelling. Swelling can be a sign of a serious condition called pre-eclampsia.  Dr. Tom Brewer found in his 5 year study that a high protein diet prevented pre-eclampsia.  He recommends 80 grams of protein a day and does NOT recommend a low salt diet. You can find his diet recommendations here:

A group of doulas made the following suggestions for reducing swelling:

*Compression socks/stockings. Have her put them on before she swings her legs over the side of the bed in the morning.
*Drinking lemon water
*Stay hydrated - (64oz per day, 32 oz before lunch, 32 oz before dinner)
*Water aerobics or swimming
*Workouts in a pool up to neck and cran juice
*Sleep with  legs elevated on a pillow
*AromaTouch oil and lavender
*Dandelion root
*Compression socks and warm Epsom salt soaks
*More protein in diet
*YouTube lymph drainage massage
*Elevate feet throughout the day

Friday, April 04, 2014

Mullerian Anomalies, Bicornuate Uterus and VBAC

I met  a woman with a bicornuate uterus who wants to attempt a VBAC with her current pregnancy. She asked if I had any information regarding this condition and frankly, I had never heard of Mullerian anomalies before.  I did a Google search and the information stated that those with uterine anomalies have lower success rates of VBACS and higher rates of uterine rupture.

However, driven to find the best evidence to weigh in her decision making this woman kept researching and sent me a reassuring research article entitled, Trial of labor and vaginal birth after cesarean section in patients with uterine Mullerian anomalies- a population study.

The conclusion of the study states:

A trial of vaginal birth after cesarean section in patients with uterine Müllerian malformations and cephalic presentation is not associated with a higher rate of maternal morbidity and uterine rupture. The risk for uterine rupture during a trial of labor after cesarean section (CS) is no greater in women with
uterine Müllerian anomalies than in those with a normal uterus. VBAC appears to be a safe mode of delivery
among patients with MA. 

Apparently, the information that I read must have been based on another study that reported an increase in uterine rupture during VBAC for women with Mullerian anomalies. The trial of labor study counters that reported increase:

VBAC is not associated with an increased risk of uterine rupture vs women with NU. Our finding disputes that of Ravasia et al, who reported an 8% incidence of uterine rupture in women with MA who attempted VBAC. Their report, however, is based on a small cohort, including 25 patients with MA, of which only 2 patients (8%) had a uterine rupture. Our results are based on a larger cohort of 165 patients with MA; of these, 103 (62.4%) had a trial of labor and 61.4% (64/103) delivered vaginally.

As is the case with VBAC's in general, there is increased risk of rupture with induction.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Pregnancy Truths Game on FB

There is a "game" being played on FB called Pregnancy Truths. I was given #7. So here goes.

1. I have been pregnant 7 times, (possibly 8 times.)

2. Our first year in rural MO we were hauling wood and water (cause our well dried up) and I may have had a miscarriage. Usually, I know right away when I am expecting and since I had no signs, I am not certain what I passed was a baby. If not, I have no idea what else it could have been.

3. I love being pregnant. (But not enough to have more than 7!)

4. Seeing an expectant woman excites me - I want to photographer her, teach her, praise her, and care for her!

5. I have always dreamed of opening a center for expectant women where they can receive holistic care, garden, and have classes available in mothering arts.

6. I have never had a belly cast. I should trying doing this for someone!!

7. I had a blessingway during 3 of my pregnancies and consider them to be sacred, uplifting, and heartwarming experiences shared with special friends!! (A blessingway is different than a baby shower. The blessingway focuses on spiritual and emotional support of the pregnant woman. The gifts given are usually freezer meals, mementos, or something to inspire and uplift the woman.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Mother's Worth: Celebrating Motherhood by Susan Fierro-Baig

Released April 30, 2013

A Mother's Worth: Celebrating Motherhood is a 36 page, full-color, picture gift book.

A mother's worth is calculated by the deposits of love exchanged between her and her children: Not by examining her bank account. Mothers do many jobs for their families that they are never paid for. Their reward is in the form of love, not money.

A Mother's Worth: Celebrating Motherhood is a touching book that honors motherhood with engaging, color photos depicting many of the jobs that mothers do for their families and many of the precious ways children reward their mothers.

The book allows for personalization with an inscription page and places for adhering personal photos.

Because breastfeeding is a natural part of mothering one photograph depicts an infant nursing. The book promotes nurturing, attachment-style parenting and ethnic diversity.

Be sure to 'Like' the fb so you can be updated of the release and future discounts, promotions, and special offers!

Two purchasing options:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Christ-Centered/Spirit-Led Natural Childbirth Class Available Via Skype!

Whether you are pregnant or not, and regardless of the location of birth or attendants that you choose, if you would like to skype with me with the father, by yourself, or with a friend, I am available to share with you powerful information that can transform your birth and increase your faith. This class is perfect for doulas and childbirth educators, too!

I am the mother of 7 children that were all born naturally. The first two were born in the hospital with CNM's, the third was born at home with a lay midwife, and the last four born at home unassisted.

My first two births were scary and painful. I was able to give birth peacefully during my remaining 5 births because I studied natural childbirth more deeply and combined the natural childbirth information with biblical truths. I developed a Christ-Centered or Spirit-Led Childbirth philosophy of birth and began teaching couples in their homes. I also offer a secular, or non-spiritually based version if preferred.

I am a trained doula and author of the self- published book,  A Mother's Worth: Celebrating Motherhood.

I am offering a series of 4 1 to 1 1/2 hour sessions.
Cost: $25 per session. Additional sessions available if desired. Payment accepted via paypal. Contact me via email at mamabaig at if interested or FB message Susan  via

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Prepare for Crowning & Prevent an Episiotomy by "Releasing"

With my first two hospital births I experienced serious pain and anguish. I realized after those births that I had been afraid of crowning. I believe this contributed to the pain.

During my four homebirths, one-lay midwife assisted and four medically unassisted, I overcame the fear of crowning by learning to RELEASE! There is a huge difference between Releasing your baby and pushing your baby out!  

I didn’t tear with any of my 7 births. Even though each of the nurse midwives during my two hospital births had their episiotomy trays in reach and were prepared to perform the “epi,” they conscientiously worked to support my perineum with warm towels, and helped prevent the “need” for cutting me.  And I did not feel a physical urge to push aggressively with these births, although mentally I expected to have to bear-down since that is stereotypical..

Fortunately, the midwives did not demand that I push, but rather encouraged me to breathe through the contraction’s and just give a slight push with the delivery of the shoulders. Had I followed my mental preconceptions, and pushed aggressively, or had a practitioner who pressured me into pushing, I may have torn, or received an episiotomy. An “epi” may have been required if I had pushed and caused the skin to stretch unnaturally.

The lay midwife at my homebirth applyied warm towels and oil to prevent tearing, and she also did not demand that I push the baby out.

My largest baby, born weighing about 8lbs 1oz, was born unassisted and hot towels and oil were applied to my bottom to support my perineum. During this birth I didn't bear down at all, despite his size, nor did I end up with even so much as a nick to my perineum.  During the last 3 unassisted births no towels or oil were used as the babies emerged and there were no incidence of tearing at all.

Although I have never tore, nor received an episiotomy, for me there was a huge difference between my two hospital births and my four homebirths when facing crowning. I was so terrified during my first two births and I know that this fear of the pain, and of tearing, at this point causes many problems that can actually lead to tearing or the perceived need for an episiotomy.   So what I would like to share with you is how *I* overcame the fear of crowning and was able to “release” my last four babies with ease, peace and joy.

Being at home during birth is so comfortable and peaceful which facilitates the release of beneficial hormones so that labor is generally very different than when it is over-managed, and even just plain managed, in the hospital. Mine certainly were different, and as I said, one of the most noticeable things was not expecting to have to push, not feeling a physical nor mental need to push, and not being afraid of crowning.  I had spent two years learning and preparing myself emotionally, mentally and spiritually so that I might achieve this.

During my first two homebirths I delivered my babies while sitting on the floor at the foot of a recliner chair, resting back against it During birth #4, with my eight pounder, when his head was ready to be birthed, I just leaned a little to the right and the baby slipped out with just the slightest little bearing down with the shoulders.  As I sat on the floor (on bedding and waterproof materials) I concentrated on my holding back, not being tense, opening up both physically and SPIRITUALLY.  It also helped that my husband applied oil to my bottom and we had a crock-pot with hot water for rotating compresses (thus they were always so warm and soothing.)

With my last three UC’s I did not apply oil nor use compresses.  I was in the tub for a long period of time, however, during labor.  During my fifth birth the baby was born immediately after leaving a tub of water.  I exited the tub, stood leaning onto the sink and the baby slipped out into her daddy’s awaiting hands, without ANY bearing down effort on my part.

During my sixth birth I was on my hands and knees and I did feel an urge to push a little with the contraction as the baby’s head and shoulders emerged in two contractions.

My seventh birth was similar. His head and body came barreling through the birth canal without any pushing on my part. I only pushed a little as his feet were born.

With these latter births I really concentrated on working with the process, listening attentively, inwardly and opening up like a blossoming flower.

The main thing that helped me during my home births was the spiritual element, or applying the gospel.   I have found the most important gospel principle to apply to birth is offered by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Tim. 2:15, which states, “Notwithstanding, she will be saved if they continue in faith, charity and holiness with sobriety.”  A brief summary of what this counsel means to me is as follows:

Faith- In order to release ourselves to the process of birth we must trust God, (and our bodies which He created and designed to give birth.) We must trust all the scriptural promises that attest that we can overcome the distress of Satan through the Lord’s deliverance. Through this trust, we can relax, breathe and allow ourselves to enjoy all of the sensations, even the powerful ones, and know that we will be victorious.  We stay in “control” of the strength of labor, by releasing ourselves to it and not fighting it.

Charity- Christ gave us an example to follow in releasing our will to that of the Father’s and trusting  that we will overcome our trials. He did this when in the Garden of Gethsemene He said, “Father, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

When we allow ourselves to be guided, comforted, and directed by the Holy Ghost,(which can prompt us to know which position, and what to do during birth, and also strengthens and comforts us), we can then let the process run its course and we can go along with it instead of wrestling against it. 

Christ was able to do this out of His great love for us and His love for (and obedience to) Father in Heaven. We must draw on our love too and remember that love is a vital emotion to birthing successfully.  Feelings of anger, fear, inhibition, and powerlessness, are of the adversary, and are his tools for throwing us off the path.  They are signposts that can be recognized as a signal that something different needs to be done.

These signs usually mark the phase of labor known as transition.  During my first unassisted birth, upon hearing the words in my head, “I can’t do this anymore,” and simultaneously feeling cold, I immediately understood that I needed to something different.  After crying out to God for added strength, I jumped up and ran to the bath tub and filled it with piping hot water.  I was immediately soothed and able to release again.  I knew that I was at a fork in the road where I would either tense up and start fighting the labor process, or I would do something to help me stay open as well as receptive to the Spirit.

Holiness- When in the Garden, Christ who obediently released his own will, and remained holy, was comforted by angels.  When we do all we can to stand in faith, and charity and are obedient to God’s commands, our labor is sanctified (set apart for a sacred purpose and made Holy), and we too can be comforted. We are not alone during birth. God is with each of us through the ministrations of HIs Spirit and angels. It is interesting that 1/3 of the host of heaven is on our side! In order to have these blessings we must seek them out and we do so by prayer and obedience.

I would encourage you and your husband to pray together and dedicate this birth to the glorification of the Father and His Son. This dedicatory prayer is symbolic of a life dedicated to following the example of the Savior, and I think, marks your “door” against any evil influences. It is also important to spend time with your husband regularly reading scripture related to God’s promises that can be applied to the birth, such as Isa. 44:3, 24:41:10, 13;

 I believe we need to RELEASE during birth and not push aggressively.  If we need to push hard something may be wrong. Most likely we need to be in a different position, or we are not relaxed or releasing enough. Instead, we may be afraid and not trusting. I think birthing at home allows us to feel more secure, more at peace, more in touch with God, and more love, and we are better able to “let go.” In the hospital this is usually interfered with and we hold back.  How counter productive- to be holding back subconsciously and pushing physically at the same time!

It must be stated that a woman in tune, and relaxed and in all the right circumstances may feel a strong physically and spiritual urge to push aggressively.  It is definitely possible that a woman may feel an urgency for her baby to be born.  I have heard of women in the hospital feeling an urge to push during delivery and being told not to push because the doctor hadn’t arrived yet. I have heard of women at home feeling the urge to push and the baby was born with the cord tightly wrapped around its neck.   There are legitimate reasons for a woman feeling the need to push aggressively.

What I am focusing on is that during birth a woman left to birth according to her own desires and the dictates of her body and soul may not feel an urgency to push hard. 

Forcing a baby to be born via strenuous pushing, or bearing down, when the woman does not feel an urge to do so is called “coached pushing.” This often happens in conjunction with unnatural positions for delivery, which can cause tearing or the perceived “need” for an episiotomy.

I once heard Laura Shanley, author of “Unassisted Childbirth,” state that pushing during birth is kind of like pushing during a bowel movement. If during a bowel movement you have to strain and bear down aggressively then something is wrong.  During both of these eliminative processes we should only have to give a slight push, if any.

The way I see it, we need to prevent ourselves from getting “constipated” during delivery, so that our body can move our baby down and out of our womb and the birth canal, with minimal effort on our part.  Just as there is much that can be done to prevent out digestive system from getting constipated, there is much that can be done to prevent the need to push hard or require assistance during labor. 

I do not deny that many times a woman whose labor has not been interfered with, is able to birth in the position of her own choosing, and who is able to achieve a state of being wherein she is in tune with her body and able to listen to the still small voice (which guides a woman to know what is best for her and her baby), will feel the need to push her baby out aggressively.  When such a circumstance does occur it is often the result of cord wraps or birthing a very large baby. In such cases pushing hard may be necessary and the woman will feel her body urging her to do so.  It is pushing without the urge to do so that is counter productive and even harmful.

The opposite of coached pushing it physiologic pushing. Rixa Freeze, author of the True Face of Birth blog writes this about pushing:

…it's called physiologic pushing, in which the woman follows her bodily cues and pushes only when and how her body tells her to. Physiologic pushing has a fairly characteristic pattern: the woman usually will not hold her breath, but instead will push for shorter intervals while exhaling or grunting; she generally uses open-glottis pushing, as opposed to the closed-glottis pushing of the Valsalva technique.

I have written an article entitled, ”Vocalization: A Powerful Laboring Tool.”  In it, I discuss the spiritual and physical benefits and significance of vocalizing as well as a scriptural reference to it.  Vocalizing helps a woman to manage pain- or raise her threshold of pain. Vocalizing is also a birth “tool” that can assists us in continuing in faith during labor by allowing us to be introspective and open instead of distracted by patterned breathing taught by Lamaze.

“Vocalizing” is not about being quiet or non-offensive to others, it is about effectively making a vocal sound.  It is an effective means of moving the energy out that gets pent up in the uterus.  Of course screaming will alleviate some of the pent up energy, but it is not as effective and tends to be a fear-based reaction, instead of a faith-based reaction.

Screaming during birth is akin to wailing.  It can also be related to anger and excitement/fervor. All three of these feelings would detract from achieving the openness and introspection necessary to be fully in submission- fully released and open.

Let me offer an analogy.  It may be a poor one, but it is all that comes to mind. If you were being attacked, flailing your arms at your attacker would be better than nothing. But if you learned how to make a fist and execute a punch, by standing properly, putting your weight into it and extending your arm correctly (can you tell my husband is a boxer!?!) then you are going to be more effective at defending yourself.  This is how I see vocalizing vs. screaming. I screamed/shouted during my first two births, and I vocalized during my last four. The latter births were hard work and uncomfortable, but not marred by the pain and suffering of the first two. The pain was always under me, never on top of me and I believe that vocalizing and the spiritual preparations are what allowed these births to be so remarkable, by the Grace of God.

The following is a birth story, which attests that vocalizing during labor helps a woman overcome pain and prevent tearing.

“A friend of mine had had a very bad experience having her first baby.  She was induced 15 days past her date and labour went on for 36 painful hours, with all kinds of pain relief, epidurals to no effect and finally forceps that left her torn up and stitched together with innumerous sutures. She had severe incontinence and urgency problems (both number one and number two) for over a year and seriously thought that she wasn’t going to be able to give birth again.  At the very least she was going to opt for a cesarean....

Two years later she became pregnant again.  Somehow she had managed to get over her horrible experience and decided to give birth normally -given that labour would start naturally.  “Things can’t get worse than that, and I survived” was her attitude. 

In case the doctors recommended induction, this time she would have a cesarean. When her time came she and her husband and son were at their summerhouse, 1 hour from the nearest hospital. She had a few contractions in the evening, but remembering the long hours last time, she went to bed.  She was only in slight pain.  Suddenly she felt nauseous and called for her husband to get her a bucket in case she would have to throw up. Shortly afterwards she had a bearing down sensation and realized that the baby was on its way.  Fortunately, the babysitter was with them already.  They got in the car and drove through the desolate forest for maybe 15 minutes.  All the while my friend was on all fours, vocalising in the back seat. Suddenly her husband was sitting upright, wild-eyed and euphoric, holding this tiny creature, born without tearing or anything.....”

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Mother's Worth: Celebrating Motherhood

The "A Mother's Worth" Kickstarter fundraising campaign has been launched.

You can help me publish my first book with a pledge as little as $1. If you can't pledge you can still help by sharing this page and encouraging your friends to check out the campaign.

Please help spread the word about this inspirational picture book.
 A mother's worth is calculated by the deposits of love exchanged between her and her children: Not by examining her bank account.
Feedback I have received from mothers who have read the book:

That was beautiful! R.B.
Beautiful gift Susan - thank you! L.G.
Beautiful! Thank you very much! J. L.
Lovely! S.P.
Awe, Susana! Well done. A. G.
So beautiful!! Absolutely loved it!  C.K.
I loved it, thank you M.O.
This was awesome! B. V.
LOVE it! Thank you for the heartwarming thoughts V.H.
That was beautiful. B. L.
Beautifully said - and guess what! The things you highlighted are the actual "wealth" we get to take with us to our mansions on high!  B. H.
I love it! J.J.
Beautiful concept. J.B.
Susana, it's beautiful, I love it!  M.S.