A Blog Post by Judy Thompson, Director Mind-Body Services:
As my husband and I are enjoying the mystery and awe of our newborn son, we can’t help but be embraced and enchanted by the creation process of life and the flow and formulation of a little miracle. As this is our third child together, and the fifth within our blended family, we had an idea of how we wanted to welcome our son into the world. Our primary priority was to welcome our baby into the world as healthy and as naturally as possible. (This was important to us, but it is in no way disdainfully reflective of other mamas or parents who use other methods for birthing and pain management.) I utilized natural techniques for my other three births, and was hopeful that I’d be able to deliver naturally with this birth as well.
Following are the modalities, tools, and techniques I used for my natural childbirth in welcoming in our 9 lb, 2 oz bundle of baby love. I hope they can help serve as support, motivation or curiosity to other parents in their path to a healthy, natural childbirth.
- Aromatherapy: With this birth I opted for only two essential oils, Lavender and Clary Sage. This was reflective of what I felt this baby needed more so than what I needed or wanted. In past pregnancies, peppermint oil and a combination oil of cloves, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary were essential in supporting me. I felt this baby did not have a tolerance for these oils, and so I limited my oils to lavender, frankincense and bergamot throughout pregnancy and lavender and clary sage during childbirth. We put drops of lavender on tissues throughout the birth room and around my neck and temples. The lavender was a constant welcoming and calming to us, the baby, and the hospital staff. Clary Sage can be utilized once the birthing process and contractions have begun. It helps encourage and strengthen contractions and the opening of the uterus. Application was at the base of my back, along the ankles, and the soles of my feet. My husband also applied lavender oil to his temples and neckline to help decrease his stress response and induce deeper relaxation. You could also use a diffuser unit within the hospital room to have a continuous mist circulating within the air.
- Tens Unit: A tens unit provides transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation in the form of pulsations through pads placed on the mid and lower torso. The stimulation is a constant pulsing that signals the release of endorphins from the brain receptors. When a contraction is mounting, you depress the boost button to provide a deeper surge of stimulation. I used this unit as soon as we got to the hospital. It is painless stimulation, and was welcome relief (as well as distraction) from the pain of the contractions. The device I used is called ELLE tens by Babycare tens.
- Self-Guided Imagery/Visualization: I read and reread many books during my pregnancy to remind me of the steps involved as the body progresses through the stages of labor. What spoke to me this time was an understanding of how my body was opening and expanding, and utilizing this understanding and imagery as a connection to the pain of the contractions. With the pain of each contraction I visualized my body (my cervix) internally opening and expanding, as well as my baby moving further down the birth canal on his path to being born. Without the contractions, the baby wouldn’t be able to descend and the birth process would stall. Each contraction brought me one step closer to being more fully dilated, and each contraction was a building point from the one prior. This visualization and imagery was extremely helpful to me, as it gave my brain something to focus on as labor progressed.
- Crystal Singing Bowls: We brought into our birth room, three crystal singing bowls that my husband chimed intermittently throughout the labor. We used a root chakra bowl for grounding and welcoming, a sacral chakra bowl for encouraging opening of the sacral area and uterus, and a soul chakra bowl to invite in the natural presence of our son. The bowls have a divine sound, are incredibly peaceful, and create a sense of awe. As the human body is composed of 70% water, and the womb encloses the baby in water, the physics of sound state that sound is a vibration, and as such the vibration is felt as a deeper resonance within the body and within the womb. The body feels the sound vibrations as tonal healing. If you don’t have access to crystal bowls, there are many musical recordings that you can download and play that could serve to inspire a similar feeling and sensation.
- Background Music through Ipod/Speaker: It’s important to choose music or sounds to help motivate and encourage you throughout your labor. Have a vast selection uploaded so you have options that can be motivating and encouraging, as well as soothing and relaxing. Two options I used for my labor this time were Divine Birth (meditations and songs for child and birth) and The Soul Star Initiations (which was reminiscent of a very indigenous, ethnic tribal chant). Both were very different and served different purposes of intention for me.
- Golden Thread Breath: As contractions increase in intensity, the body can shift into a state of almost freezing. It’s the fight, flight, freeze response, but in this situation, the freeze response (holding your breath through the pain) makes your body progress slower through contractions, exerts extra stress on the uterus (as you are resisting the opening and dilation of the cervix), and it discourages your baby from continuing to descend through the birth canal. Breathing is of utmost importance, the exhalation more so than the inhalation. Also, the sensation of freezing or holding your breath creates a tense jaw. There is a connection between the jaw and the pelvis. As you tense one, you tense the other. As you soften one, you soften the other. You want your pelvis to be at ease, not in a state of tension. As I noticed myself tensing, I invited into my awareness the imagery of a breathing technique called “Golden Thread Breath.” As contractions came on, and I noticed myself freezing up and tensing, I redirected my focus towards my mouth, my jaw, and my breath.
- Try it like this: Take an inhale through the nose, breathing in strength, courage, focus (or any motivation or incentive that comes to mind), allow your lips to part ever so slightly, exhale out through this narrow passage between the lips, and envision this exhale as a golden, glowing thread of light and energy, flowing long and steady. It is streaming out in one continuous luminous thread through your gently parted lips. Try to focus the exhale as a stream of energy flowing from your abdomen and belly, rather than your chest and throat. As you exhale, really allow the visualization to manifest, so the exhale (and breath) is long and extended. Really visualize and see this golden thread of light as energy streaming from you, to your baby. Utilizing visualization can help you in extending the exhalation through the wave of the contraction. Be gentle. If you can’t focus and direct it in one contraction, try again during the next.
- Nada Yoga (Sound with Breath) & Mantra: Nada Yoga is union through sound or the transformation of your inner environment through sound. Sounding can be primal or more focused. I incorporated sound with the mantra “So Hum.” This particular mantra gave me concrete focus, rather than indirect, indistinct, guttural sounding and cries (although there are plenty of those too). “So Hum” is a simple mantra meditation that translates to “I am that.” Inhale, hear the sound “So,” exhale, hear the sound “Hum”….inhale, “So,” exhale, “Hum”…. Find a mantra or sound that resonates with you, and allow that to be your guide in extending your breath and exhale.
- Yoga Postures-particularly sitting & standing Cat and Cow: I invited my body to be more active through the ripples of contractions, rather than continuously lying supine and flat on my back, although both positions have a place and time. I knelt on the bed and stood by the side of the bed using it as my support. Leaning over the bed, I arched my back, allowed my gaze to follow the slant of my torso, towards the ceiling, then reversed, pulled my chest and belly inward, rounded my back, allowed my gaze to follow the slant of my torso, this time towards the floor. As I repeated, I added in my inhale as I arched my back, and exhale, as I rounded my back down. I also eventually closed my eyes, and again visualized the motion as a propellant encouraging my baby to move through the birth canal.
- Birthing Ball: In between the yoga postures of cat and cow, I remained in squat position on a birthing ball. The up and down bouncing, coupled with the squatting, was extremely helpful in encouraging my body to continue to open and dilate completely. With this birth as well as the last, it was within one hour after using the birthing ball that I fully gave birth.
- Somatic Release through Shaking: It is a completely natural response for the body to shake and tremor at times of fight, flight, freeze, or with super charged emotions like fear. When the stress response is triggered, it is an intrinsic response in all mammals to experience some level of shaking. The shaking is a release from the central nervous system as a way of discharging the tension/stress/trauma through involuntary rapid muscle contraction & relaxation (that we experience as shaking). As soon as my water broke, my body began to shake and tremor, rather than chide myself, I felt a sense of relief and deeper calm as I recognized that my body was intuitively discharging this tension. This pattern continued through the duration of my labor, as well as after, when the afterpains of the uterus and cervix contracting back to size were felt and experienced. It is so important to let your body naturally discharge in this manner if it innately begins to do so.
- Spouse Motivation and Encouragement: The support and encouragement of my husband was essential. Going into birth is a somewhat out-of-body experience. I was not consciously aware of everything happening around me. When I heard my husband encouraging me to breathe, to push, or telling me the contraction was almost over, that the baby was almost out, or when he chimed the singing bowls, pulsed the tens unit, or helped me on the birthing ball and move through yoga postures, I knew his voice was guiding me towards the birth of our son. Accept and allow for whatever support, motivation and encouragement comes your way.
- Baby on Chest/Using Your Senses: The skin to skin contact of your newborn baby placed upon your chest, and the realization that the end has finally arrived (after ten long months)…..allow yourself to stop time and dwell in the pureness of the moment. Touch, from skin to skin contact, triggers the release of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter hormone which intensifies bonding and connection to both the mother and the baby (as well as the father). Take the time and opportunity to truly relish in the innocence and pure awe of that which you have created. Use all of your senses so that this moment and memory is yours to cherish:
- Allow your eyes to gaze upon your baby’s skin, hair, eyes, feet, toes, fingers, nails, this entire little body of pure perfection.
- Smell your baby, that newborn smell is distinct and unique. It lasts about six weeks and has been shown to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that elicits the sensation of reward-motivating behavior and actions. It’s the pleasure center.
- Hear your newborn breathe, cry, grunt and groan. Sounds that before your child emerged, didn’t exist. The mother actually becomes hardwired (when hearing her baby cry) through the release of oxytocin into the auditory cortex, to become responsive to and understanding of her baby’s unique sounds and cries.
- Touch your baby, stroke their skin, massage their little bodies. Your touch is not only, calming, grounding and a de-stressor to your baby, but also counteracts stress and levels of depression to mother and father. Every touch and stroke strengthens your attachment to your baby and spikes an increase of oxytocin, affirming your bond and feelings of love, as well as being loved.
Below is a special iRest yoga nidra meditation recording with crystal singing bowls. It has languaging meant for both the mother and the father during pregnancy and offers the body and mind 62 minutes of guided meditation focused on awareness, breath, expansion, growth, intention setting, cultivating an inner resource, body awareness, progressive relaxation, nourishment of self, the pureness of joy and bonding with your baby in womb.
With Love ~