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Rebozo

The Art of Rebozo

What is ‘rebozo’?

Also known as ‘rebozo manteada’ and ‘rebozando’, it is a traditional technique originating from Mexican midwives, that utilizes a special handwoven shawl called a ‘rebozo’ to gently massage, rock, cradle, maneuver and support someone’s body in different ways to achieve relaxation and balance; stretching and loosening of the muscles and joints; or a specific desired physiological result (such as foetal positioning/descent, pelvic opening, tension release, etc.)

Why choose rebozo?

Rebozo technique is a gentle, non-invasive option that can offer a woman a wide range of benefits during her pregnancy, labour, birth, postpartum and parenting journey such as:

  • Helping to relieve many pregnancy and labour related discomforts
  • Releasing tension by loosening and stretching stiff muscles and joints
  • Providing coverage for general comfort, modesty and privacy
  • Promoting physical and mental relaxation and balance
  • Preparing for labour and encouraging optimal foetal positioning
  • Opening the pelvis, stimulating the uterus and assisting with pushing
  • Supporting breastfeeding, bonding and the infant microbiome

Basic history of the rebozo

The rebozo is a traditional and sacred handwoven garment originating in Mexico during the Spanish conquest around approximately 400 years ago. It is a highly respected piece amongst the meso-American cultures as a symbol of the nation’s rich history and heritage, and is the iconic symbol of traditional Mexican midwives and their sacrifice, service and love for their community.

What was once an item of civil, religious and cultural oppression, the rebozo became an item that aided in Mexico’s liberation from their bondage. Used extensively by the women, the rebozo is also treasured as a woman’s personal companion through her life, acting as a practical help and aid to support her through her journey of womanhood, motherhood, her elderly years, and often even extending to the grave.

The rebozo is also a highly valued tool to traditional midwives where they have learnt and discovered how to use this garment as an effective item of pregnancy, labour and birth support to improve birth outcomes in their community where, very often, standard healthcare is not available. Through the years, these midwives have been so generous and have passed their wisdom onto the world where other midwives and birth workers can use the rebozo to help support maternal woman and improve birth outcomes all around the world.

Safe and Ethical Rebozo Practice

With over 150 different techniques for pregnancy, labour and postpartum support, most with a specific purpose and consideration for safety, it is important to be adequately and ethically trained in this practice through the guidance or knowledge of a traditional midwife. This route of training not only ensures proper wisdom and practice but it goes a long way in supporting and honouring the roots of this ancient practice. It also serves in giving credit and honour to the traditional teachers who gifted us with this profound wisdom while supporting the artisanal community to prevent appropriation and possible extinction of this delicate art/craft.

Why Choose Authentic

When it comes to authenticity, we must consider the roots of the rebozo as a garment, a practice and as an artistic craft. As the rebozo is fundamentally Mexican (or meso-American to others) in its origin, we need to consider the issue of cultural appropriation and how to avoid it. Due to the rich history behind the rebozo and the growth of its practice, primarily in the field of maternity, the rebozo is held as deeply special, symbolic and sacred to the Mexican people. By choosing authentic when purchasing a rebozo or practicing its techniques, you are showing respect to the history and nation; giving credit where it is rightfully due; and acknowledging the deep personal sacrifice of the

Mexican midwives, their profound knowledge on the practice and their positive influence on birth, while ethically promoting it with the potential to positively change birth on earth in the future for all women.

Cotton Berry Rebozos

Cotton Berry rebozos are authentic and made from 100% cotton yarn. Each rebozo is handwoven using a traditional loom method in Mexico. Purchasing an authentic Cotton Berry rebozo helps to protect the ancient craft of rebozo weaving while supporting the Mexican artisanal community to help minimize cultural appropriation against the garment, ancient art/craft and practice.

You can follow Cotton Berry on Facebook or Instagram or view available rebozos for purchase in my shop.

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Bond with Your Belly

Bond With Your Belly

The third trimester is both an exciting and challenging time in a pregnancy; there’s knowing that the time to meet your baby is getting closer and the prospect of finally implementing your wishes for your long anticipated birth story is feeling so much more real now that you can’t wait for it to begin.
And then there’s also all the niggles, cramps, pressure, and insomnia; there’s exhaustion, swelling, kicks that mean real business, and oh, just the general discomfort of carrying the enormous weight around…

“Would this baby just come already!?” Be honest, have you said something similar yet?

It’s completely normal to feel fed up, exhausted, uncomfortable, irritated or “so-over this pregnancy” as you go through the last few weeks, but there’s some good news too: you can still make the last stretch beautiful and enjoyable despite the niggles.

When my client’s are struggling with motivation and enjoyment through the last few weeks of pregnancy, I like to encourage them to try and change their perspective; while it’s so easy to focus on all the negative aspects of the last stretch (especially the discomfort), it can also be a distraction from the opportunity to find a sense of peace, love and bonding with your soon-to-be-gone baby bump.

It may sound like nonsense right now but there will come a time, after your birth, when you will look back and miss your belly. You’ll miss the funny, little, protruding belly button; you’ll miss feeling your baby move inside and seeing their little bumps and wondering what part of their tiny body it is; and you’ll miss being able to rub your hands over the roundness of your belly as you wonder what your baby looks like. It’s the little things that you overlook during the last few weeks, that will come back to memory one day and you’ll kind of miss them in some weird, personal way.

When lack of motivation and discouragement begins to show its face, I like to recommend what I call “intimate time” with your belly; think of it as a kind of a date with just you, your baby and your belly. This is a vital time for helping to shift the mind from the ‘negative’ while focusing on the beauty of the miracle that is pregnancy and encouraging a special early bond with your body and baby before the birth. This time promotes relaxation, deeper self-discovery and self-confidence, and it helps you to get more “in-tune” with your body which enables a better ability to listen to your body during the labour process and the postpartum period.

So, what is “intimate time” and how is it done?

Intimate time is a special time of privacy, intimacy and bonding with your body and your baby for about an hour or so to enhance the flow of oxytocin and other bonding/calming hormones.
Here’s how it’s done:

1) Be Alone

Go into a room where you can be alone and undisturbed; a room where you feel safe and comfortable (so maybe not your office or kitchen). Being alone helps to keep you focused in the present and encourages the flow of oxytocin by allowing you to feel safe in your own space to be yourself without distraction.

2) Create Darkness

Close the curtains, turn down the lights, and light some candles if you want. Oxytocin THRIVES in the dark and it helps you to feel less vulnerable and exposed.

3) Encourage Relaxation and Comfort

Play some music you find calming and relaxing; get into a comfortable position on your birth ball or your bed; take your clothes off; and perhaps diffuse some Lavender into the air. You can even start the process off with a candle lit bubble bath or shower if you want.
Whichever comfort and relaxation measures work best for you, use them now to your full advantage.

4) Bond

Get some baby/body oil/butter and gently massage your body, breasts, belly and thighs, soaking up every detail with love and affection; yes, even the stretchmarks and cellulite, this time is about self-discovery and self–appreciation.

Here are some examples that you could try:

  • Follow the patterns of your stretchmarks with your finger like they’re little roads leading you to your baby.
  • Bounce your fingers gently over your thigh dimples like little valleys of evidence of the nourishment your baby has received.
  • Rub slow circles across your round belly visualizing your baby’s hair, fingernails, lips and toes.
  • Tickle your belly button while you appreciate how your own baby’s belly button is connected to you.
  • Cup and stroke your breasts while you envision your cervix as a flower that’s slowly coming to bloom; soon to open and bring fourth the beauty that it’s hiding beneath it’s closed petals – your precious baby.
    Appreciate them for the life-giving nourishment they’ll soon provide.
  • Sway your hips to the gentle motion of the music while you feel your pelvis rock your baby the way you would in your arms.
  • Relax your muscles and be completely present in the moment, allowing yourself to savor every touch, every sound, every scent, every motion and emotion.
    Get lost in your own safe space like a private, gentle, romantic adventure.
  • Close your eyes, breathe deeply and totally immerse and enchant yourself into the quiet moment of gentle intimacy with just you, your body and your baby.

This time not only encourages the flow of oxytocin to establish a strong early bond with your baby and encourage the uterus to prepare for labour, but it also helps to establish a personal sense of respect, love and awe for your body (something most women struggle with) which will help you to appreciate yourself more (especially postpartum), and find a sense of peace and comfort in your last stretch as well. Most women find this useful for getting “in-tune” with their personal self which they find helps with listening to their bodies during labour; it can also bring a sense of self-confidence which can enable you to get through labour more easily.

The plus side; being heavily pregnant means that you have the liberty to take advantage of the ability to request being alone to relax during the last stages of your third trimester; you have every excuse under the sun to sneak away and have some “intimate time” to unwind, relax and bond.
I encourage you try it. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful difference it makes to your last stretch of pregnancy.
It may feel awkward and unfamiliar at first (especially if you’re conservative), but the more you practice this, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.

Note: This is perfect to practice during early labour to help you relax and mentally prepare for the more vigorous labour ahead, and to progress the labour process while using it as a method of gently and intimately welcoming the soon arrival of your baby.

♥   ♥   ♥

Visit my shop! I have an assortment of handwoven rebozos and unique, gentle aromatherapy products for your baby; all handmade with love and care.

Find Your Doula on Facebook and Instagram

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Perineal Tearing During Birth

Avoid Perineal Tearing

One of the biggest fears that majority of women express about birth (apart from the pain) is the prospect of tearing, and although it’s a valid concern, it can also be easily prevented.

Where Can You Tear?

Tearing during birth can occur anywhere; the perineum or labia minora (most common tears) and even the clitoris, anus and rectum.

Degrees of Tearing

1ST DEGREE TEAR: Normally a superficial laceration; the surface of the skin splits slightly which may cause some bleeding. No muscle or deep tissue is damaged with a 1st degree tear and is often too small to stitch (sometimes requires minimal stitching). These normally heal in a week with minimal discomfort.

2ND DEGREE TEARS: A deeper tear that proceeds into the vaginal lining and submucosal tissues. Always requires stitching. Takes 1-2 weeks to heal with mild discomfort for about a month.

3RD DEGREE TEARS: These tears proceed past submucosal tissues and into muscle tissues that support the anal sphincter. Each layer needs to be stitched individually. These tears take 2-4 weeks to heal and discomfort can proceed for a few months.

4TH DEGREE TEARS: This tear proceeds past muscle, directly into the rectal lining/rectum. This is the least common tear and is most common with vacuum/forceps assisted deliveries and infant shoulder dystocia. Multiple layers will need to be stitched individually. These tears take the longest to heal, are the most traumatic to endure and can even lead to prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction.

Tearing vs Episiotomy

Studies have shown that natural tearing is preferred over episiotomies for many factors:
• Lowered risk of 3rd and 4th degree tears
• Lowered risk of infection
• Faster/more effective healing
• Less invasive
• Lowered risk of excess blood loss
• Less risk of long term perineal pain, trauma and incontinence

How To Prevent Tearing During Birth

BREATHING: This is imperative to the birth process for so many reasons, including the prevention of tearing. This relaxation technique has a direct effect on the perineal area; less force and tension is exerted on the perineum during crowning and the skin around the vagina gets a rush of oxygen-rich blood which causes the perineal area to relax, allowing it to stretch with ease, at a more relaxed pace to accommodate your baby better with less trauma.

PERINEAL MOISTURE: As labour progresses, the vagina naturally produces more mucous to prepare the birth canal and perineum for a smooth birth; a moist perineum stretches more effectively than a perineum that is dry. Options include a water birth or applying water based lubricant or a warmed wet compress (like a facecloth) to the perineum during crowning to help support the delicate skin.

UPRIGHT POSITIONS: Birthing in a more upright position (especially forward leaning positions) helps to minimize tension from hard pushing as gravity helps to draw the baby down, which allows you to relax more during the pushing stage of labour. It also takes the weight of the baby’s head and body off the perineum during crowning and birth, reducing stress on the perineal tissues during this stage.

RELAX FOR THE RING OF FIRE: As the baby crowns and the perineal skin stretches it creates a stinging sensation around the vaginal opening; this sensation is a reminder for you to slow down. Your care provider may be able to see the ring of fire and remind you to slow down, although some women find it difficult to slow down and relax, especially if the urge to push is apparent, but quick, short breaths (like blowing out candles) helps to control that urge and relax the birth canal. This pause allows the perineal skin to slowly adjust to it’s new stretched state before the next push. Simply waiting for a few short seconds for the ring of fire to slowly ease up before the next push can dramatically reduce tearing instead of pushing through the ring of fire, which forces the perineum to stretch too quickly and tear.

BODY-LED PUSHING: Body led pushing allows you to listen to your body, so you can push with contractions and with the foetal ejection reflex and also to slow down through the ring of fire. All of these factors help to reduce tearing.

These points can often become difficult to remember during the hormonal/mental “rush” and loss of focus you may experience during the transition and pushing stage. Hiring a doula who can help guide you through this process can be a huge help.

Effectively Caring For Your Tear

• Lean forward during urination (also known as “hugging your knees”) to prevent the urine coming into contact with the wound which can cause it to sting.

• Salt water: Spraying the area often with a water/spray bottle, dabbing gently with soaked cotton wool and/or shallow salt baths are ideal methods for cleaning the area.

• A high fibre diet and plenty of water to prevent constipation can ease the pressure exerted on the injury during bowel movements.

• Change your maternity pad often to keep the area as clean and dry as possible.

• A small, soft cushion to sit on can help ease pressure and discomfort on the injury.

• Sitting down, standing up, crouching, and walking up/down stairs slowly can help ease pressure.

• A good, safe painkiller can help with the discomfort and pain.

• Initiating sex slowly and with a generous amount of lubrication can help prevent irritation and further injury to the site. Remember to try and avoid intercourse during the first six weeks after the birth to avoid possible infection or injury. Exploring other forms of foreplay and intimacy is highly encouraged instead.

♥   ♥   ♥

Visit my shop! I have an assortment of handwoven rebozos and unique, gentle aromatherapy products for your baby; all handmade with love and care.

Find Your Doula on Facebook and Instagram

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12 Rules for Labour - An Antidote to Intervention

12 Rules For Labour – An Antidote To Intervention

Labour is an incredibly powerful process and event! It is a challenge not only of one's body, but mind as well. It is the process of a baby being born into the world and a woman being born into motherhood! Birth is the journey of a woman deeply discovering her inner most strength while learning the art of surrendering to her very self.

Below, are 12 beautiful and useful labour rules that are designed to guide a mother through her labour with confidence and ease. "The 12 Rules For Labour" are vital for the progression of labour, the comfort of the mother and the safety of the baby in utero.

Labour Rule #1 - Just Breathe

Breathing is absolutely everything during labour and it can be rather underestimated. In fact, breathing during the birth process is powerful and it makes an extraordinary difference; breathing matters.

You may be familiar with the term "Breathe baby down" and in fact, this term holds a lot of truth behind it. Breathing maintains focus and creates a state of calm within the mother. In a calmer, more relaxed state, the muscles soften (specifically in the birth canal) allowing a baby to gently ease itself down and eventually out, exerting less pressure and energy on the mother during the pushing stage.

Breathing also helps to send oxygen to the muscles, optimizing their performance. The muscle doing the most work that could really benefit from some oxygen is the uterus. The uterus exerts huge amounts of energy during contractions and it is oxygen that really helps to give the uterus that extra kick it needs for effective, strong, continuous contractions.
A mother who fights against labour often tends to hold her breathe, this deprives her of oxygen, and this deprivation of oxygen can slow down or even stall labour.

I like to tell my mother's that "when you breathe, your baby breathes" but what does that mean? When a woman deprives her own body of oxygen, she also deprives her baby. When the foetus doesn't receive enough oxygen in utero, it starts to go into distress and it's heart rate slows; this is why a doctor will immediately give the mother oxygen to breathe during foetal resuscitation.

Lastly, breathing is INCREDIBLE for managing pain and keeping a mother calm and focused. When a mother breathes with focus and purpose, it breaks her tension-pain-fear cycle. Tension increases pain, and the increase of pain creates greater fear, and the increase of fear that a mother feels causes more tension within her (and so the cycle continues). When this cycle is left to go out of control, the foetus gets distressed, the mother feels greater discomfort and her labour can become more complicated.

So remember, before all else... Just breathe!

Labour Rule 2 - Get Upright

Upright positions during labour are essential for labour progression. When a labouring woman gets into an upright position, it helps to utilize the force of gravity with her contractions to help the baby's descent. As the uterine contractions 'push' the baby and gravity 'pulls' the baby, it exerts greater pressure onto the cervix, assisting with better dilation and effacement. Once the cervix has dilated and effaced effectively, remaining in an upright position helps to move the baby out of the pelvis and into the birth canal with greater ease, allowing the mother to 'breathe baby down' through each contraction.

During the 'pushing' stage of labour, an upright position helps with the ability to push the baby out with less energy and force exerted on the mother. 'Gentle pushing' or 'breathing baby out' is better accomplished in an upright position, when the pelvis isn't restricted and gravity has become the mother's aid.
With less energy exerted on the mother, it allows her more opportunity to 'rest' and remain calm through the birthing process, saving a large amount of her energy for after the birth by not exhausting herself from 'doing all of the work' while pushing.

Lastly, being upright encourages an active birth. It is all too tempting for the woman to want to be lazy during labour when she is laying down, but this won't help with labour progression. An upright position keeps the mother motivated, encouraged and proactive throughout her labour.

So remember, for a more gentle and progressive birthing experience... Get upright!

Labour Rule #3 - Drink Water

Hydration is so important for sustaining a mother's energy and labour.

Labour is a time that demands a lot of energy from a woman, especially physically; muscles are working at their top performance, the mother is moving around, she's sweating, probably crying, maybe even vomiting and definitely breathing heavily. All of these factors can lead to dehydration and dehydration is a nightmare for both labour progression and the mother's general comfort.

Water helps to replenish what is lost during labour, mostly for the muscles. It refuels the muscles, restoring their energy and kick starting their ability to work at their optimal performance again. When the muscles are not able to function properly due to dehydration, it can slow down and even stall labour. Strong, effective, continuous contractions are vital for the positive and progressive outcome of labour, but dehydration leads to weakened muscles which results in weaker, less effective, irregular contractions.

A dehydrated woman is a weak woman and a woman who is weak is unable to get through the high demands of labour and birth which can greatly discourage and demotivate her, and a woman's healthy mental state during labour is just as important as a healthy physical state. A poor mental or physical state can hinder labour and interfere with it's progression.

Lastly, maintaining hydration helps with a mother's general comfort. Sips of water in between contractions, revives her from the exhaustive demands of each contraction, restores her strength, renews her energy, refreshes her body and mind, and helps to clean and soothe an uncomfortably dry mouth.

To maintain your levels of strength and comfort during the high demands of labour... Drink water!

Labour Rule #4 - Get Active

We all know the benefits of exercise while not pregnant, but did you know that exercise during pregnancy has benefits too, especially for labour? In fact, light and relaxing exercise during labour is vital to the birth process.

Exercise has so many beneficial factors in general like increasing blood flow and releasing endorphins. So how does this benefit labour?

By increasing blood flow, a woman increases her oxygen intake. The more her heart pumps, the more she needs to breathe and with this, the more oxygen she takes in. Breathing keeps a woman focused during contractions and the increase in oxygen assists the uterus with proper function, minimizes distress on the foetus, and calms a mother's anxiety and fear.

Endorphins, on the other hand, are truly magical! These natural chemicals are released by the brain and nervous system during times of stress, pain and over-exertion (sounds like labour right?) and they are responsible for activating the opiate receptors in the brain. What this does, is create a similar sensation to that of morphine; altering one's perception of time and place, blocking one's awareness of pain, creating a general sense of well being and stimulating oxytocin, PERFECT for labour; natures ideal pain killer!

One last benefit of an active labour is the utilization of gravity and the opening of the pelvis; this is perfectly achieved with walking, light squats and rolling/bouncing on an exercise ball. This helps with getting the baby's head pressing firm against the cervix (assisting with dilation and effacement) while opening the pelvis to help the baby's descent.

So, to maintain a healthy state of mind and a stable progress of labour... Get active!

Labour Rule #5 - Lean Forward

In an age where laying on your back is the normal position for birth, I would like to challenge you to break this mould and lean forward as leaning forward during labour accelerates labour progress phenomenally!

Leaning forward (in an upright position), takes the pressure off the sacrum and opens up the pelvic cavity by almost 25% more! This opening of the pelvis allows more space for the baby's head to descend into the birth canal with greater ease. Pushing a baby out in a forward leaning position is also less painful and much easier. It also promotes 'gentle pushing' which lowers the risk of tearing.

Backward leaning/laying on one's back places pressure on the sacrum which constricts the birth canal and causes the pelvic cavity to become a lot smaller, making labour more difficult, prolonged and more painful. It also makes the "pushing" stage of labour a lot more difficult and strenuous as the woman has to work against gravity by pushing the baby "up" the Curve of Carus instead of "down".
Laying on your back also places immense pressure on the major blood vessels that send oxygen to the baby, this deprives the foetus of oxygen in utero and leads to foetal distress during labour.

Backward leaning and "back-laying" labour is difficult, painful and exhausting for the mother and can bring distress to a foetus, leading to interventions being necessary or worse, a cesarean.

Another reason to lean forward is back labour. Back labour is a sensation of extreme discomfort and pain in a mother's lower back during labour (most common with posterior baby's and mother's with abnormally curved spines). Leaning forward, allows gravity to pull the weight of the uterus away from the back, allowing the back muscles to do less work during labour while the uterus compensates. This brings dramatic relief to the lower back and allows for more effective uterine contractions and a less tense mother (helping to break the "tension-pain-fear" cycle).

So, to protect your baby, open up your pelvis, create a less strenuous labour experience and increase your level of comfort... Lean forward!

Labour Rule #6 - Snack Lightly

Snacking on small, frequent, nutritious meals is so important during labour.

Labour is extremely strenuous on the body and can deplete a mother's energy rapidly, causing her to feel weak, demotivated, fatigued and uncomfortable. When a labouring woman's body becomes depleted of energy (namely glucose and carbohydrates), her liver will kick into her fat reserves as a source of energy; a result of 'starvation' on the body. When this happens, the liver releases ketones into the blood. High levels of ketones can alter the pH levels of the blood, cause dehydration, and in sever cases can lead to coma or death.

Another reason to snack lightly during labour is to maintain muscular strength. Labour is exhausting and the continuous pain can cause a labouring mother to feel weak. With longer labours, weakness and fatigue is more common (but of course, no one can predict the length of their labour). When a mother has run out of strength and energy, her muscles can't function effectively and the muscle doing the most work during labour is the uterus and you definitely want this functioning at 100% to give good, hard, continuous contractions to progress labour.

So, to prevent exhaustion, weakness and possible ketosis... Snack lightly!

Labour Rule #7 - Empty Bladder

During labour, you should be drinking enough water to stay hydrated, but with that comes one problem; a full bladder. There are 2 main problems with keeping a full bladder during labour; discomfort and hindering labour.

Pelvic discomfort is caused from a full bladder accompanied by the pain of contractions and a baby's head competing with the bladder for "who gets enough room and who needs it the most". When the baby's head begins to engage further and descend, it presses hard against the bladder, causing pain and discomfort (in severe cases, even mild trauma to the bladder) if the bladder is full.

Now, when the pain and discomfort of the bladder is presenting alongside painful contractions, this creates excess tension in the body and the result of tension is more pain and then fear, kick-starting the tension-pain-fear cycle, which can disrupt the progress of labour. Also, it's rather difficult to relax the pelvic floor muscles to allow the body to open and the baby to descend with ease when you're too busy tensing the pelvic floor to hold a full bladder.
So look at it this way... you're doing subconscious kegals to hold your urine when you're supposed to be doing the opposite in order for the pelvic floor to release your baby... Labour won't progress that way. Another amazing secret to emptying your bladder is the direct influence it has on the cervix; when the sphincter in the urethra is relaxed (to pass urine) it directly affects the cervix by causing the cervix to relax as well, which helps with faster and more effective cervical dilation.

Making a habit to empty the bladder every 30 minutes to 1 hour, will not only help with feeling a lot more comfortable but will also relax the pelvic floor muscles enough to get the baby moving down the birth canal quickly, gently and easily.

So, to prevent discomfort, possible bladder trauma, to help yourself relax and open, and get your baby down and out with ease, make sure you have an... Empty bladder!

Labour Rule #8 - Don't Rush

It's quite normal to feel uncomfortable, fed-up and desperate for labour to start during those last few weeks of pregnancy, and so often women will "try everything" just to get labour started. In some cases, labour has already started and then there's the desperation for it to progress within some made up mental time frame.

Women also often get frightened by doctors because "labour isn't coming quick enough" or "labour isn't progressing quick enough" and will start considering methods of intervention to either start or progress labour. This is all good and well if either mother or baby is in danger, but if not, we need to learn to put this 'clock' away that seems so normal to follow and let the body do what it does, how it does it, and in the time frame that is right for the body and the baby, not what is right for the preferences of the mother or the care provider.

41 weeks gestation is not a reason for induction of any kind, especially if the mother and child are doing well. 24 hours of labour is also not a reason for induction of any kind, neither is 5 days, especially if the baby shows no signs of distress. I would know, I laboured for 6 days without complication; give that a go!
The baby 'prepares' at it's own time and the body 'ripens' at it's own time, and when we begin to accept this and let the two work in harmony with each other, without interference (physical or emotional) we create a birthing process and experience that is unhindered and perfectly able.

Let's look at the emotional side of this now. A mother who is desperate for labour to start and is eagerly walking, bouncing on a birthing ball, doing squats, drinking all the fancy teas, trying all the essential oils, having a lot of sex, even relying on interventions such as 'stretch and sweeps' and even mild inductions, is interfering with the natural process of her body and could actually disrupt her labour. But how?

Think of it as natures instinct! When a woman focuses so hard on her labour and gets too eager or frustrated for it to start, she creates this subconscious anxiety within herself. This anxiety releases stress hormones and these hormones tell the body that she's not in a safe space to birth, and so her labour will delay. This is the body's way of protecting the baby from being born in 'unsafe' territory.

Now on the other hand, labour has started and is slow or hindered, and again, this mom will try everything in the book to try keep it going... the same 'natural instinct' rule applies here. This is why a woman can go from 7 c.m. dilated to only 2 c.m. in a matter of minutes (also known as 'cervical dilation reversal' which can be rectified when a mother feels calm, safe and relaxed)... This subconscious anxiety or 'feeling unsafe' actually has a direct effect on labour, it's even worse when a doctor is laying down time rules (that actually don't exist) to meet a made up time frame, and this often leads to complications and interventions.

The best thing to do is to learn to accept the body's time frame and revel in each moment instead. If labour starts, be glad, if it stops, that's okay too, relax. And if it hasn't started yet... then that's okay too, just relax and enjoy your last moments with your belly... I promise, no one has ever been pregnant for a year.

So, put away the 'clock' on gestation and labour, accept the timing of your body and your baby, focus on each moment instead and please... Don't rush!

Labour Rule #9 - Stay Focused

It is quite easy to lose focus during labour when you're dealing with exhaustion, pain and physical discomfort and quite often this can lead to disorientation, panic and a feeling of helplessness.

However, remaining focused during contractions is vital for effectively applying yourself through the process. A point of focus during contractions can be anything:

It can be a visual focus such as a visualization of waves rising and breaking as the contractions rise and break; or a flower slowly opening while imagining the cervix opening; thinking of your baby; focusing on a specific object in front of you, or paying attention to a specific detail. Focus could be vocal or auditory such as making a specific sound to accommodate the intensity of each contraction; following a rhythm of breathing, or drowning yourself out on an external sound around you. Focus can even be physical by using pressure/pain/pleasure techniques to focus your attention away from the pain, physically, or even focusing on the intensity and pain of the contraction itself.
It does not matter which specific form of focus you choose, it can even be a combination, what is important is that you do focus and remain focused.

Creating a sense of focus helps to centre oneself through the physical and mental demands of labour while helping to tap into the natural, instinctive language of the body to create a harmony of communication between one's body, behavior and instinct during the birth process. This communication helps to obtain an unspoken understanding of the birth process and it helps to instinctively figure out which position is most comfortable/ideal, how and when to breathe, and how and when to push.

Focus also helps with remaining calm. When focused, the mind remains in one spot, which creates a sense of stability, control and safety; and the body follows this example. Yes, the mind is powerful and with labour, the mind has a direct influence on almost everything. When the mind is stable, the emotions are stable and with this, the body is grounded; this creates a sense of calm and well being. When calm, tension is broken and with that, pain is reduced. This helps with pain management and finding a sense of trust and comfort through the process as well.

So, to stabilize your mind and emotions; centre yourself through the birth process; keep your body grounded; and get in touch with your body's hidden, instinctive language... Stay focused!

Labour Rule #10 - Accept Pain

Labour is no walk in the park and it comes with its own challenges, one of those being pain. Contractions are painful but the pain is also very important to the birth process as it plays a vital role; it's the positive feedback between the brain and the body.

Pain is the body's unspoken way of telling someone how the labour is progressing, this is a good thing. When a woman can focus on the level and intensity of the pain of each contraction, it can help bring a clear indication to her and her care providers of where she is at in her labour; early labour, active labour, transitional labour, or ready to push. With the ability to tap into this form of communication from the body, it can greatly minimize the amount of physical examinations on a labouring woman's body as a means of obtaining such information.

Constant and excessive physical examinations from care providers are invasive and are also physically uncomfortable to endure, sometimes even painful, not to mention the increased risk of infection it can bring to the baby and uterus. When a woman is feeling personally invaded and is experiencing extra discomfort, especially too often, it can strip away her ability to feel calm, safe, respected and relaxed. This is particularly worse for a woman who has some past experience of sexual abuse, or even for your very conservative types who hold their bodies as private and sacred.

Now, when a woman in labour is made to feel anxious, uncomfortable, unsafe or disrespected, she immediately creates tension, releases stress hormones in her body, and subconsciously fights against the birth process, ultimately leading to fear and an inability to focus and cooperate through her labour, all of which can disrupt or hinder the progress of her labour and make it more uncomfortable.

Then there is also the labouring woman accepting her own pain. Our brains have been wired in a special way to interpret pain as a cause for concern and something that needs to be avoided. Labour however, is the one area where this rule does not apply. Pain during labour is a sign of progress, not harm and it helps if a woman can understand this and rather interpret her pain as power instead.

When we feel pain our fight and flight responses are activated, but labour is not a pain that a woman can run away from, so instinctively, the 'fight' response becomes the brain's choice of a 'solution' to the 'problem'. But labour is not a problem, and the pain of labour is indicating the opposite of a problem.

When a woman fights against the pain, she immediately becomes fearful, tenses up her muscles and releases stress hormones, and this actually creates greater pain... and so the 'tension-pain-fear' cycle starts. This cycle slows, complicates and even worsens labour.

Surrendering to the pain is the only option of getting through it. When you accept the purpose of the pain and surrender to it as necessary and positive, you are better able to relax your body and focus and breathe through each contraction, allowing your body to slowly respond and open, progressing your labour faster while at the same time minimizing distress on the foetus. You simply must... Accept pain!

Labour Rule #11 - Be Noisy

The process of labour is accompanied by a rainbow of weird and wonderful sounds and it's no wonder; labour is hard, demanding, and at times overwhelming. The beauty of this though, is that labour sounds are actually physiological and come with a variety of huge benefits.

Some women are perfectly able to be rather verbally composed during labour, while other women sound like they're in the middle of an animalistic war, and both versions are completely normal.

Labour is one of the most physically intense moments in a woman's life, and just as a sportsman releases sounds during extreme physical demands, so does a woman in labour. In fact, the physiological factors involved in a noisy labour is the releasing of tension and endorphins.

During times of extreme physical exertion or pain, the body releases pain-managing hormones to help the person cope with the physical demands. This process is the same during labour. The body physiologically responds to the sounds of a woman during labour by releasing endorphins into her system which not only helps her to cope with her labour but helps the baby cope with the labour as well, making the labour process safer for both.

Being noisy during labour also helps to release built up tension in the body, which breaks the tension-pain-fear cycle during labour, making it easier for a woman to remain focused, relax her muscles, and surrender to her labour for a more effective and gentle birthing experience.

Sounds can vary from humming, moaning, groaning, singing, grunting, repetition of specific words, screaming, panting, whining, whimpering, etc. all of these sounds are completely normal during labour and should be encouraged. In fact, the only time that being noisy is discouraged during labour is during pushing as making a noise removes the required energy needed to push effectively.

So, to raise your coping mechanisms; release tension and pain-relieving hormones; encourage a more effective, gentle and safer labour for mother and baby... Be noisy.

Labour Rule #12 - Re Tune

The process of labour is not a "logical" or predictable process; it is a natural, physiological, primal process that can't actually be reasoned with.
Sometimes we expect labour to start in a certain way or at a specific time and sometimes we expect it to progress in a certain way and expect specific signs or symptoms during the process, when in reality we can't really place any expectations on labour and birth since it is totally unpredictable and different for every woman.

Then there's the other side; not expecting anything and then when things happen, it causes a loss of focus by trying to "figure it out" and reason through it. This is why it is important to tune out of the logic brain of trying to "figure it out" and tune into the primal brain instead. This comes with throwing any expectations out the door and following the natural cues and instructions of your body instead.

The saying "your body and baby know what to do" actually holds a lot of truth and this means choosing to trust your body (despite all the weird things it might or might not do) and trust your baby (despite the notion of "babies don't really know anything").

Re-tuning means listening to your body and your baby and trusting them. Instead of listening to what your brain is saying, listen to what your body is saying. Tap in to the natural urges that come upon you during the process and follow them. When you re-tune your mind from the conscious-logical to the subconscious-primal you allow your body to lead and a body led birth is safer, more gentle and more effective.

So, for a gentle, safe, and effective body-led labour and birth; a process that comes more naturally to you; and a greater ability of listening to your body's natural urges and responses... Re tune.

♥   ♥   ♥

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