A college friend’s husband, who is a Pilates instructor (among other things) in Hong Kong wrote this beautiful paean to pregnancy and pregnant bodies, as a lead-in to a series about movement and health in pregnancy. I love it.
Over the weekend, I completed my postpartum doula training with Kimberly Bepler of ABC Doulas. The training was a wonderful learning experience. I am looking to complete my certification soon, and thus, I am delighted to announce that I am now accepting clients as a student doula! This means FREE. Drop me a line via the contact page if you and your family would be interested in a postpartum doula.
Recently, news came out about a study that purported to determine whether exercise actually helped the clinically depressed. It’s something people talk about a lot, and some of us have experienced — go for a run, feel less depressed. A friend of mine recently posted about how integral exercise is to her depression management regime. But, it turns out, very little science has been done to study this phenomenon.
Enter: “Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial.”* According to the headlines, this study demonstrated no connection between regular exercise and improvements in depression. The headlines tended to look like Jezebel’s “Exercise Doesn’t Really Help Depressed People.” How…depressing.
But the blogger at The Scientific American’s Scicurious blog took a second look. Upon examining the study further, she determined that, “…this study did not assess whether exercise helps symptoms of depression. What it assessed was whether someone encouraging you to exercise helped your feelings of depression, regardless of whether you exercised or not.” (Emphasis in the original.) Go read her post — it’s short.
Point is, it takes actually examining studies to determine what they’re saying. The news (and me, in this case!) tends to choose the smallest comprehensible pieces of information to release to people. If it’s an issue close to your heart, look more closely.
*Chalder et al. “Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial” British Medical Journal, 2012.
I got a kick out of this 1963 CBC talk show clip showing a woman who has “discovered” all sorts of interesting ways to wear her baby. These will mostly seem familiar to people who wear their babies today — there’s what we call a mei tai, as well as a sling. The women do use some out-of-date terminology to refer to people from other cultures, so be aware of that. I was particularly amused when the interviewee referred to women of Glasgow carrying their babies in shawls; the TV host seems mildly shocked that white women in a Western European country would DO that.
This is so neat. I realize most people heavily involved in trans-friendly healthcare have probably heard about the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference before, but I just learned about it. The woman behind Radical Doula posted about the session she’s involved in, on the midwifery model of care and full-spectrum doula work.
Man, I wonder if we could get something like this going in Portland. I definitely do not have the skills/network to start this kind of thing (at least not now), but it’s so worth thinking about.
One of the things you can do to plan for your birth is to think about those things that make you feel loved and cared for. What puts you in that completely relaxed, glowy, happy state? These are the kinds of things that can help as you move through labor.
Many people use music as they experience deep emotions. Even if you don’t end up using it during your labor, it can be helpful to make a playlist of songs that make you feel really good. Maybe it’s upbeat, cheerful music that gets you moving, or some mellow reggae, or a song you and your partner danced to at your wedding. Regardless, the music should fill you full of good feelings.
Think about setting the stage in your home: What do you want to have around you to help generate positive emotions? Are you someone who likes a fire in the fireplace, or lots of candles? Does your garden make you feel productive and content? Maybe you’re at your happiest in your bedroom, with your favorite pillows and the sun streaming in through the windows. Then, if you’re going to the hospital, take that idea and go one step further: What can you bring to help make your hospital room a more comforting place? By all means, bring some LED candles, or your favorite pillow, or a bouquet from the garden. One person I know had a sarong she’d used as decor at home and a favorite piece of art which she brought along — the sarong was draped over the hospital pillows, and her partner put the art where she could see it and use it to help her focus.
Consider the people you have with you. For most people, their partner will be the most important birth attendant, the one most likely to stimulate feelings of being loved and cared for. But when you think about who to invite, frame it in those terms: does this person help me feel loved? Do I feel cared for when they’re around? If not, perhaps they should wait outside the birthing room. The same goes for any hired attendants. Any professional you bring in that you have control over, whether it’s your doula or your obstetrician, should make you feel safe and confident.
The goal is to stimulate and support the production of oxytocin, the love hormone that will facilitate a smooth labor, delivery and recovery. Oxytocin helps with the postpartum bonding period and adjusting to breastfeeding. If medical interventions are called for in your birth, an oxytocin-filled experience prior to those interventions can help you cope. As you make these plans and contemplate what will help you feel loved and cared for, share the ideas with your partner, with any friends or family who you are hoping to have at the birth, and with your doula and care provider so they can use this information to help you have the best birth possible.
Okay, after that sappy-ish post, some science.
Just wanting to share this New York Times article about the March of Dimes campaign to encourage families to wait to go into labor spontaneously, rather than inducing labor or planning a Cesarean at 37 weeks (the age at which newborns are medically considered “full term”) or whenever. The problems with pre-term induction, largely, are to do with lung and brain development. As the article states, “In a study published last December of babies demonstrated to have mature lungs before birth, those delivered at 36 to 38 weeks had two and a half times the number of complications compared with those delivered at 39 to 40 weeks.”
“But now, having had her, I never say things to people like YOU WILL NEVER EXPERIENCE SUCH LOVE UNLESS YOU HAVE BABIES, because, at least for me, it’s just not true.”
This article from Nicole Cliffe on The Hairpin has been really sticking with me lately. Oz is thirteen months old, and I like him much more than I used to. When he was born, I was in complete awe, but it wasn’t (as much) awe of him specifically. I was in awe of what my partner and I had created. This being, with fingers, was going to turn into a person someday, even though he couldn’t even focus his eyes or lift his head up. I’ve said it multiple times before, but watching Oz grow is like watching flowers bloom. He just gets better and brighter and more open every single day. When I think about how I’ll feel about him when he’s three, nine, twenty-seven, I get so bowled over with WHELM that I have to stop and just hold him. I love this child!
But I don’t love him more than anything ever. Do I have a biological, physical response to him that surprises me? Yes. When he was little, I wanted to put him in my mouth. I’ve had reflexive reactions to him approaching danger that make me aware that I’ll do whatever I can to keep him safe. And he is just amazing. But my love for my partner, deep and abiding, tends to trump my feelings for my child. I have friendships that will always be about ten years older than my child, and they give me that same sense of WHELM on a regular basis as well.
Do I feel like Oz has made a positive difference in my life? On the whole, yes. Enough that I’m considering having more children. Is he the be-all and end-all of my existence? No. I love him, and that love is part of who I am as a person, but it isn’t all of it. And nor, do I think, should it be. The love I feel for my child gets folded in and wrapped around all the other loves in my life, like the olives in a delicious ciabatta.
The Birth Support Network, the planning committee of which I’m on, is hosting Doula Speed Dating on Saturday, March 10, at 1 p.m. at Milagros in NE Portland. I’ll be there! Learn more here. I’m excited about this!
This video, BirthMarkings, made me get all weepy. I think it’s a preview for a documentary about women’s postpartum bodies. While I’ve found Shape of a Mother (NSFW) useful sometimes, it seems to lean towards the young and white. This video, BirthMarkings, includes mothers of all ages and a variety of sizes, shapes and ethnicities talking about the changes in their bodies after having children. It’s made by a woman named Margaret Lazarus, and originally posted on the International Museum of Women website, where she talks about the inspiration behind the documentary.