Class Theme for the Week: BURPEE

During each of my classes last week I started with the question: What is a tool you plan to bring into your birth?

I had some incredible answers.  Including ‘Focusing on Myself’, ‘Not having any expectations’, and ‘Living in the Moment’.  Each were encouraging for myself and all the other mamas in the room!

The inspiration for this question and overall theme came about while I was going over my old prenatal yoga teacher training notes.  I was thankful to come across this acronym that we learned to provide us with tools and tips during birth.  I decided to craft my classes last week around sharing this acronym and all it’s wisdom.

The acronym is BURPEE and it stands for:

B – Breathe. To bring your body into a parasympathetic nervous system response (where birth happens), we can work to make our exhales longer relative to our inhales.  This will keep us relaxed and able to mentally focus on the work of labour.  Breath is also our anchor.  No matter what happens as our families, bodies, and homes change during birth, our breath remains the same.

U – Urinate.  Creating space for baby by clearing the bladder often is useful in labour.  This also tells us that we should be drinking water during labour to keep ourselves hydrated.  Also, the ‘birth cave’ or bathroom can feel like a safe, contained place to labour.  Sitting on the toilet can be a helpful position to encourage the hips to open!

R – Rest/Relax.  Remaining in the ‘Rest and Digest’ response of the nervous system (parasympathetic) will make it easier for us to effectively rest and relax between surges.  Living in the moment and enjoying this natural break in work instead of worrying about the next surge will help us to labour effectively.  Between surges you may find it helpful to be in child’s pose (or some variation), a forward fold, sitting, or draped over a birthing ball.

P – Positions. Knowing that you can vary your positions throughout birth (and varying them as needed) is important.  Although we don’t know what position(s) our bodies will crave until the moment comes, we can be prepared with various positions in mind ahead of time.  Squatting, All Fours, Child’s Pose, the Birthing Stool, Sitting or Hugging a Birthing Ball are just a few.  Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner has a huge spread of useful positions you can use.

E – Environment.  There is a lot we can do to control our birthing environment.  Whether you birth at home, the Birth Centre, or the hospital, it is wise to do what you can to make your space comfortable, relaxing, and peaceful.  Make sure you are surrounded by people you can be vulnerable with – you can invite/uninvite whoever you want to your birth!  It is your choice alone as to who is there.  Also, having supportive things around you such as your favourite tea, music, essential oils for smell, or even your favourite foods.  Comfort is key to keeping yourself in that parasympathetic, safe birthing state.

E – Encouragement.  Make your birth team a team of cheerleaders!  Your partner, best friend, sister, mother, father, doula – if they’re not on your team and rooting for your best interests, perhaps they don’t need to be there.  Don’t be afraid to speak to your team about your desires for an encouraging, supportive environment – if you’re up front about this ahead of time you will thank yourself.

Wishing you all the best in your birth preparations.  May you take any of these tools that can be useful for you and leave the rest aside.  And remember, truly, the only thing you need to birth is right on  your yoga mat.  You.

Love and Peace,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Your Pelvic Floor

This past week, I was so very thrilled to bring the theme ‘Your Pelvic Floor’ into each of my prenatal yoga classes.  I learned quite a lot in the process and hopefully inspired some awareness amoung my students.  I even had a few come to me later in the week saying they booked in for a prenatal appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist!  Woot!

In a couple of my classes the intro question was: Have you heard of, or are you seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

The range of answers was rather astounding.  In one class, out of 11 people, 10 were seeing a PFP.  In my next class, out of 7 people, every single person was not!  That’s quite a difference if you ask me.

I started off each class sharing a little from this blog post from the Blooma Blog.  I then took a solid 15 minutes to do a few incredibly powerful pelvic floor/abdominal exercises, adding in layers of depth after each grouping of breath.  I think it’s incredibly important to include these exercises (to some degree) into a prenatal yoga class!

A few of my students asked the following questions about seeing a Pelvic Floor Physio:

Do I need to go before baby is born?

My suggestion on this is yes!  It can’t hurt!  I wish I went before my first son was born to learn more about my own pelvic floor, what my strength level was, details about birth and how the baby descends, and to get exercises to strengthen and relax the muscles beforehand.  Mostly though, I wish I went in order to learn about/talk about how to ‘push’ ahead of time.

What does the physiotherapist do in a session?

Most PFPs go in and do an internal, manual exam to check out your pelvic floor and determine if you need to work on relaxing or strengthening the muscles.  In my case, we had to practice ‘awakening’ my pelvic floor and figuring out the cues to get this mind-body connection to turn on.  After figuring out the right cues for me, I could go home and have a better idea of how to do the exercises and how it was supposed to ‘feel’.  It all was incredibly eye-opening and encouraging to get to know this part of the body on a different level.  I feel like after the experience of birth, with my core and pelvic floor ‘falling apart’ in a way, building it all back together has taught me in unthinkable ways about how my body works.  This knowledge has changed who I am.

Doing this special and important core work will also help you with incontinence after birth.  It’s true mamas, you needn’t suffer in silence when coughing or sneezing – there is much you can do to avoid these issues and any pelvic pain you may have!

The PFP also will check your diastasis (the degree of separation of your abdominal muscles) and help you to do your best to minimize this separation and rebuild your core in a safe and healthy way.  There are many common exercises that are done in yoga (or even throughout our daily lives) which should be avoided for potentially up to a year postpartum in order to properly rebuild the core.  For this reason alone, I recommend seeing a PFP!  A PFP is like a personal coach in rebuilding your core and body after birth, now who can say no to that!

Thank-you to all the people out there who are practicing pelvic floor physiotherapy.  Your work is inspiring to me and I will do all I can to spread the word of pelvic health.

If you have any questions or live in the GTA and would like a referral to a GOOD PFP, please leave me a message.

Love and Life,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Doulas!

This week, each of my prenatal classes surrounded the theme ‘Doulas!’  The goal was to increase awareness of the role of the doula in birth, and also for me to get a feel for how often my students are using/considering including a doula in their birth team.

Since becoming a prenatal yoga instructor, I have met and worked with MANY doulas, and as I get to know them, they and their work continue to inspire me.  I am also blessed to have a neighbour who is currently getting her doula practice off the ground, she is just a wealth of knowledge!

In preparation for this series of classes, I emailed a prenatal yoga teacher colleague who also has a full-time doula business.  It is Taylor of Tayomi Births. She was incredibly helpful in providing suggestions as to how I approach this task of raising awareness around doulas and their work.

She gave me a number of testimonies from her practice which all speak for themselves (some can be found on her website and Facebook page), a few of which I was blessed to share in class.

As far as resources that are incredibly useful surrounding learning about doulas and what they do, check out The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin (now in it’s 4th edition).  Simkin is known as the grandmother of doulas, and her book helped me understand the role of the doula vs. midwife/doctor amoungst other things.

As I asked each of the students in my classes the question: “Will you be having a doula at your birth?”, I got some fairly interesting responses – all from which I continue to learn. I would say probably 10% of my students have actually hired a doula for their upcoming birth, and 20% have considered having a doula on their birthing team.  I am glad and hopeful to have increased awareness and clarified some questions about the doula role amidst those I teach.

Please leave me any questions you may have about this topic.

Happy birth prep!

Megan

7 Natural Remedies for Hemorrhoids

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

May my struggles and learnings from my lovely hemorrhoids only help others!

This is why I’m posting about hemorrhoids. I never would have dreamed of talking about this publicly in the past, but these little buggers have been such a part of my life and I’ve learned so much from having them, that I’m here to say: “You’re not alone in having hemorrhoids! And here’s what might help!”

Of course the pregnant, birthing, and post-partum body can be largely susceptible to hemorrhoids. Hence why I’m posting about this now.  I’m using many of these remedies everyday to keep my hemmies at bay.  Mamas, listen up!

1. A cool shower, or even better – alternating between hot and cold in the shower. This stimulates your lymphatic system and can help with ‘closing’ things (veins, sphincters, etc.) up, the opposite of solely heating and thereby opening up the body. Do you see what I mean?

2. Topical Treatments: Venoforce, Geranium Essential Oil & Witch Hazel – A. Vogel makes a product called ‘Venoforce’ which can help.  I have the gel as opposed to the tablets in this link.  Geranium Essential Oil has been known to help as well. I use both everyday. Both products are also good to improve venous return in the case of varicose veins which can also be common in pregnancy.

Also of course, you can buy witch hazel. Please do not go to Shoppers Drug Mart for this! Their products are watered down and not effective. You can get Thayers Witch Hazel from your local health food store. Don’t get one of the scented ones, rather the original or aloe vera.

Alternatively, you can buy the witch hazel herb and steep it like you do tea.  Cool it and use that topically.  Post-partum mamas often like this sprayed onto a cotton reusable pad and then frozen before putting on their lady parts.  So refreshing right after birth!

3. Eating healthy, whole foods – I often find that when I eat something unhealthy, or when I have a lot of wheat my hemmies act up.  For example two nights ago we went out to a pub and I had a poutine.  There was very little nutrition in it and the next day I could tell because of my bottom!  Wheat also tends to ‘clog’ you up, back up your bowels, etc, so I find if I minimize my wheat intake I feel a lot better overall.

4. Pelvic floor physio/exercises – I wouldn’t have believed this in my first pregnancy, but it’s definitely true!  Your pelvic floor extends all the way back to incorporate your anal sphincter, so if these muscles are toned, you may gain great help in the hemorrhoid department.

5. Hydration – The key to life.  A healthy body is a hydrated body!  Check out the app WaterMinder for a daily reading on your water intake and what you should be drinking.  I have not used it much but my husband claims it has changed his life (and he is my inspiration!).  Water keeps our bowels hydrated.  Did you know if you’re dehydrated, your body will take it from your bowels?  We want those bowels nice and hydrated so they will be eliminated from our bodies easily.

6. Breathing down bowel movements instead of straining – I learned about ‘breathing it down’ from my Hypnobirthing class!  They have you practice before your birth by ‘breathing down’ your bowel movements.  The key is to wait until you definitely have to go (you can’t do anything else) and then just sit down on the toilet.  As you exhale, imagine you’re breathing down your bowels.  It’s incredible!

7. Elevating your feet on the toilet – The Squatty Potty is revolutionary, but you can also just use a simple stool for $12.99 from Canadian Tire.  Ours doubles for our son to get up to the toilet/wash his hands.  Your body was made to eliminate while your spine is in flexion (like cat pose, chin to chest and tailbone drawing down).  Our standard Western toilets do not support our bodies in this shape while we’re eliminating!  It brought new meaning to when I went to China and literally had to squat most of the time – the way it was meant to be!

That’s all for now!  All the best in your hemorrhoid prevention/elimination.  Do not believe what people say – you don’t have to suffer forever, and your only option isn’t just surgery!

Much hemmie love,

Megan

**Please note that this post in no way replaces medical advice.  Please consult your naturopathic doctor before taking on any of these suggestions, and of course for dosing. These remedies have worked for my body and this post is merely a summary of my suggestions.

Claire’s Birth Story – July 9, 2012

6am Sunday morning – in our usual spot on the couch, Maelle and I, soother and Bunny Bear snuggled under a blanket.  A feeling that my brain calls a contraction is very slight and not painful in the least.  I had had these for the last couple days and paid them no real attention.  We sit for about an hour.  A sweet, warm, quiet hour broken up by three contractions.  “That’s not nothing I suppose”.

10am – church.  “You look great!”  “So, no baby yet?”  “Still hangin’ in there?”  “How are you coping with this heat?”  Trying to be kind, smiling, shrugging and sighing when required.  I feel fine.  A message from the hospital chaplain, about healing.  Searching for clarity rather than certainty.  Looking back, how meaningful – we didn’t know that our own Clairity was about to arrive! The so-called contractions haven’t gone away, and are about ten minutes apart, but no stronger, and not regular.  I mention it to no one, of course.  I imagine, with horror, what it would be like if my water broke at church.  I have visions of hysteria and excitement and panic. TONS of advice, and 50 people watching me give birth…I shudder and push the thought from my head.

On the way home I mention to Nathan that I’ve been having contractions all morning.  “What!?”  I told him they weren’t painful, but they were there.  “Ignore, ignore, ignore”.  “I know!  I know!  I know!  It’s a little hard when it’s your body,” I say.  We know, we agree.

1:30pm – naps.  Slept for a good two hours and woke up with the contractions still there.  Still not painful though.  Still in denial.

We had plans to go to Luke and Rachel’s for supper – “one last visit before the baby comes”.  We debate.  What will Luke say when he finds out I’m in labour at his house?  Oh well.  It will do me no good to sit at home and wait.  All of this discussion with a flutter in my heart – could this be it?  Ignore, ignore, ignore.

5pm – Contractions five or ten minutes apart on the drive over.  Should we say I’m really “in labour”?  We don’t want to freak anyone out, and what if it’s nothing?  But what if it’s something?  Better to be upfront.  Better call Kaley too.  Something is happening, whether it turns into real labour or not.

Throughout dinner it’s easy to act normal when the contractions are happening, and no one seems to notice them.  It’s my secret, though ignoring them is now out of the question for me.

8pm – kids are in bed, we’re playing games.  Remembering Kaley’s labour, playing Ticket to Ride between contractions.  We play Outbreak.  “Can you tell when I’m having a contraction?” I ask, almost mischievously.  No, everyone agrees that I’m doing a good job of hiding it, though I’m sure my grimaces are becoming obvious.  My excitement is growing and I’m actually enjoying this.  The anticipation is building.

10pm –  better head home.  “I should try to sleep, in case this is really something”.  Still really believing it might possibly be a false alarm.  Quick trip to the bathroom before we pack up Maelle.  The toilet often seems to have this effect on labouring women – “this is real, this is serious, and this isn’t going away”.  Rachel insists we leave Maelle.  “If nothing happens, I can bring her back home in the morning.”  After some protesting we gratefully agree.  What good friends we have.

The car is not a fun place to labour.  “Yup, this is it!  For sure.”  A quick call to Kaley to confirm that we are on our way to pick her up and the wheels are set in motion.  I run in to Kaley’s to use the bathroom. Aaron is all smiles and his excitement is contagious.  I have two contractions in the time it takes me to pee.  Okay, they are getting close together and acting normal isn’t an option.  Stop and breath through them.  “We’d better call the midwives”, I say, but we decide we can wait until we get home.  Still talking and joking between contractions no problem, but they’re about three minutes apart by now.  This gradual progression is so different than the first time so I still believe the birth is hours away.

11pm – At home, upstairs and the real work begins.  Nathan calls and speaks to the student midwife, Rebecca, who asks to talk to me.  Not a chance!  The time between contractions is too short and I am really in the thick of it.  Questions about how it feels, how long this had been going, how long the contractions last and on and on.  They eventually agree that she’ll aim to be there in an hour.  “No, no, no”  I respond, “please tell her to come now!”.  Though I don’t think the baby is coming soon, I know it’s a bad idea to wait – I can’t get through this without her, I needed some support.  I insist she come right away.  Alright, she is on her way.  While we wait, I work, leaning on the bed and on the ball, though the pain was so much more than I was expecting.  How can it hurt this much already?  I worry.

When they arrive, Pilar, the midwife, and a student, Rebecca, they assure me that I’m doing fine – great in fact. “You’re going to have this baby very soon” Pilar says.  I’m on my hands and knees on the yoga ball and I can tell she is serious when she starts setting up all of her equipment in high speed, giving quiet instructions to Rebecca.  Rebecca is going to have to step up, because Pilar seems to think the baby is going to be born before the second midwife arrives.  Without even checking me she says, “Rosilee, your baby is going to be here in minutes“.  She can sense my panic and is trying to reassure me, but I simply don’t believe her. I know there are still hours of work ahead of me.  But if the pain is this bad right now, there is no way I am going to make it.  I am afraid and losing control.

Pilar asks me if that last contraction felt different, but I’m not totally sure. When the next one comes I agree that it is time to push.  The urge to push is not clear, the way it had been with Maelle, but I can think about little other than how badly I am coping with the pain.  I am starting to scream.  I’m overwhelmed with the thought that I won’t be able to handle it for much longer. I am scared.

Someone says they can feel the head “right there”.  I ask to move onto the birthing stool so that I can feel where I’m supposed to push.  They hesitantly agree, rushing me into position before the next contraction.  They are starting to explain how I’m going to pant through the next contraction, undoubtedly in the hopes of slowing things down a bit. The talking continues but time suddenly stops.  For that first pushing contraction I was holding back – not pushing well, not really letting go and opening upLet go, I thought, don’t be afraid of the pain, just open up and let the baby come out.  The world came back into focus and … the baby was out. The baby seems to actually fall out and I am sure no one was there to catch this lightening fast baby.  I was not in position and no one was ready.  But here we are.  There is a baby.  12:05am, July 9th, 2012.  They promise me the baby did not hit the ground.

The baby is being passed to me, but I can’t hold on.  The process is not over.  I am in total shock, I am terrified, overwhelmed and shaking.  There is no satisfaction, no relaxation or overwhelming joy and love.  There is only shock – shaking, weakness, fear and so much pain.  I ask Nathan to take the baby. I’m glad he gets to hold the baby right away.  I move to the bed and it slowly starts to hit me – the baby! The baby is here!  I am shaking and shaking and shaking and still scared.  I don’t understand what just happened.  Where was the anticipation?  The pushing, the waiting, the longing, the hard work with glorious breaks and then more hard work?  Where was the pushing through the pain, the determination with a wonderful prize at the end?  I am confused while everyone else is amazed and overjoyed.  And why is there still so much pain?  The contractions seem to continue and so does the confusion and disappointment.  All while holding my brand new baby.

Nathan and the midwives help to calm me down and someone checks if the baby is a girl or a boy.  It’s a girl.  A girl!

I start to look at her, to embrace her as real.  She is really here, with us, in my arms.  I take off my shirt so I can hold her skin-to-skin, trying to give her the very best.  I feel that I, my feelings, my body, my reaction, have already betrayed her.  There seems to be so much blood and so much pain but I try to focus on the baby.  Her name, her weight (she’s tiny!), her length.  Kaley taking pictures, the baby’s amazing apgar scores, all the vernix, no stitches!  All of these moments come and go. Medication, instructions, questions, cleaning up, calling friends and family.  The slow realization that it is done.  And finally, sleep.

Here you are baby girl.  Baby two, in the world, brand new, shining and real.  Claire Elaine.  Bright light, coming out of the dark.  Lighting, coming out of the storm. A message, a miracle.  

The strength of motherhood takes many different forms, and finding it is not always easy.  Claire Elaine, bring your light, bring your clarity, bring your life to our family.  We need you.

Questions About Birth You May Want to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

I am reading “Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful”, a book by Gurmukh, an American pioneer in prenatal yoga and the mind-body connection.

I am surprised to read that she: “Does not advocate a home birth, but I (Gurmukh) do encourage healthy women to look into a home birth.”

Here is a list of brilliant questions to consider asking your birth healthcare provider:

1. Will you welcome my labour assistant in the birthing room?

2. Are eating, drinking, and walking encouraged during labour if I choose?

3. Do you require an IV hook-up as soon as I arrive?

4. What is the circumstance under which an IV will be needed?

5. What are your views on Pitocin and epidurals?

6. What’s your cesarean rate?

7. How do you define “overdue”?

8. How long do you let a woman be overdue before you advocate interventions?

9. Who covers for you if you go on vacation or need to be away during my due date, and are you close enough to your substitute to know if they share your views on childbirth?

10. Can I give birth in a squatting or vertical position if I want to?

11. How do you define a “slow” labour and do you set time limits before you suggest inducing?

12. Under what conditions would the baby’s father and I be separated from the baby?

13. What do you do if my water breaks at home?

Gurmukh advises pregnant moms to trust their intuition. If health professionals become defensive when questioned, do not have the time to answer you, or if you do not agree with what you’re told, ask yourself: “Do I want to put myself in this person’s care?”

May you be empowered to make your own birth decisions!

Megan