Pregnancy Prep

by redblossom on September 13, 2009

DSC_0575_3_2You are pregnant, and deeply long for a natural birth that will leave you feeling empowered in your feminine body.  You are worried about the pain, and whether you can do this.  You are worried that you may have a really long labour that exhausts you.  You are anxious about having to have a c-section, despite all your efforts.  You want to give birth the way nature intended.

You have read a dozen books about childbirth, have enrolled in birth education classes and maybe even printed out your birth plan.  You have chosen a midwife or doctor, and loved ones, who share this vision of your rite of passage. Even with all the best plans, the soft-spoken anxiety is still present because you don’t know how your body will respond to the process of giving birth.

While education is crucial for being an active participant in your American birth, over-building the mind is not what pregnancy and labour is about. You must leave your thinking brain behind when labour begins, in order to keep blood flowing through the ancient mind, hidden deep inside.  If you use your educated brain to remember all that you learned about childbirth, labour becomes derailed and more painful!  Choosing the best birth team (midwives, doctors, doulas, family or friends) is also crucial in setting yourself up for success.  But none of these essential factors address the physical.  Would Michael Phelps get very far if he just read, took classes, visualized winning and got the best team?  No! Childbirth is your own personal Olympics. Physical preparation is actually quite important.  And in case you didn’t know, birth plans in the hospital are almost always totally ignored.

The best way to experience your true vitality in childbirth is to prepare in the following ways:

  • Providers – choose a midwife or doctor who is enthusiastic about your vision of a natural birth!  Remember that an OB/GYN is a surgeon and really think about what that means.  Don’t just do what is easy, as in, “I like my OB/GYN, I already know her.”  Do your research on your provider’s attitudes.  Be sure your provider is positive, and resourceful.  You should leave her office feeling secure and confident.  When it is your time to dilate and push, you will know you have a trustworthy guide to help you through the ring of fire.
  • Site – Giving birth at home gives you direct contact to your sources of support, and nature.  The rain was my most valuable labour coach.  In the hospital, women usually become tethered to the bed with tubes and wires.  Does this fit your vision of empowered natural birth? But what is most important is that you birth where you feel safest.  For some women that is at home, and for others it is the hospital or birthing clinic.  You can absolutely have an amazing birth in the hospital! Just don’t let your insurance plan or loved ones dictate this decision!
  • Diet and Exercise – I really mean this… Childbirth is an athletic event! You have 6 months after the nausea abates to train! Feed yourself and your child with organic meals, mostly prepared at home.  Virtually eliminate sugars because they cause babies to grow more than necessary.  Pushing out a 6-pound baby is actually easier than a 10-pounder!  Just ask your friends who have kids.

Be sure you are capable of walking 4 miles, at 40 weeks… or even 41½ weeks! No jogging, jumping jacks or skipping rope because those activities will damage your body in pregnancy.  Being fit will give you the energy you need to complete the task, with improved recovery time and energy for newborn care.

  • PreNatal Yoga – Learn how to stop the chatter in your mind, breathe deeply and keep your muscles limber.  Capacity to stretch, your mind and body, is an essential component of natural childbirth.  Many techniques learned in yoga will align you with the tools you need to birth your child.
  • The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal MassageÔ – This is a simple and wildly effective massage originating from traditional Central American midwives, brought to us by Dr. Rosita Arvigo.  The massage tonifies the uterine muscles, causing them to coordinate well during labour, and after the birth to prevent hemorrhage. The massage may also increase the number of receptors to accept the powerful contracting hormones delivered from that ancient part of your brain. During the massage, the uterus is aligned within the pelvic bowl, helping the baby pick a good position for the birth, and also virtually eliminates mysterious pains some women experience as their uterus grows.  The lower back and pelvic bones are also aligned so that the nervous system can communicate well with the uterus.  The massage changes as you advance through the pregnancy, to meet the changing needs of the childbearing woman.  With amazing frequency, women in my practice who receive the course of massages pass through active dilation phase in less than 2 hours, and push more effectively!  With a labour so efficient, there is less strain on the baby, thus a reduced risk for cesarean.  You meet your baby triumphant, with energy in the bank.  And while childbirth may still be painful, it is only one short moment out of your life.  The benefits to being fully connected to the experience include a renewal of faith in yourself and to life, and your capacity to live it well. 

Since 1998, I have been studying herbal medicine and midwifery.  My first spark came at an herbal conference in NY called “Green Nations Gathering”. I entered an auditorium with Dr. Rosita Arvigo standing in the front.  I watched her perform a Maya Abdominal Massage, and was captivated by the intensity of this simple technique.  I saw colour fill the face of a woman who previously looked ashen. I knew that I needed that treatment myself! But it also activated within me my calling to provide hands-on healthcare for women. I wanted to become the doctor-healer-midwife I needed, but couldn’t find, when I had advanced cervical dysplasia.  My herbalists couldn’t understand the labs, and the nurse-practitioners and medical doctors couldn’t offer anything but surgery.  I shuffled between the two, lost and bewildered.  In the end I had the surgery.

The second spark came when I discovered the bridge called naturopathic medicine.  Naturopathic doctors who attend a 4-yr post-graduate program study the same basic sciences as medical doctors, diverging when it comes to how to treat a person.  I would be able to order and read lab reports, and understand old-fashioned remedies! Best of all, some naturopathic doctors practiced midwifery. I could have a really diverse set of skills, with training rooted in our ancestors’ wisdom, rather than the conventional paradigm of fear and control. After completing an apprenticeship in herbalism and spending 18 months with a nurse-midwife in a rural hospital, I set off to become a naturopathic doctor, to become a licensed “Jack-of-All-Trades”…A natural doctor who attends births, and provides pediatric care.

Since graduating in 2006, and having my own experience of childbirth (the 3rd spark!), I have been able to devote my practice to Maya Abdominal Massage.  And slowly, I am becoming a “Master of One”.

The fourth spark has been in the merging of Midwifery and Maya Abdominal Massage.  This has so radically changed my belief about what constitutes a normal birth. I feel compelled to share it so that more mothers and infants can walk away from their childbearing experience with joy, love for life and their physical capacity on this earth.


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