Five Points Yoga

Barrett's Blog

Liz’s Birth Story

 

Liz wrote her story addressed to her little son Sebastian, born back in December.  This was Liz’s second birth.  It’s detailed, so I highlighted some of the parts that remind me of our yoga practice.  I don’t have a picture of them, but I put in some pictures to correspond to the visualizations she used in her birth, which is such an important part of getting into the primal birth mind.

—-

It was a Tuesday. Your dad and I both went to pick Leo up from school together. This was a special treat that we had never done before – we went straight to get a Christmas tree afterwards! We came home and set up the tree and were about to put lights on it. Leo was being goofy and physical – it was around 6:30 and his dinner was almost ready on the stove. We were having a tickle fight on the living room couch when all of a sudden I felt a strong POP! inside me. It felt like you had punched me in the bladder! I got up and said “WHOAH” and immediately thought “is this what the next three weeks are going to be like?” (I had about 2 weeks and 3 days until your due date.) I got my answer as I felt a gush between my legs the next moment. I ran to the bathroom to check, but I knew that my water had broken. I texted our doula and she suggested that I go take a shower, assess how I was feeling, and call her back.

All of a sudden, things shifted into “Game time” mode. Your dad started feeding Leo dinner and I began to pack up what remained of the hospital bag. I started to have very low grade contractions while I was doing this. I called the hospital and my midwife called me back about 10 minutes later. I wanted to come in because I was afraid my contractions would escalate quickly as they say they do for a second baby. She told us to take our time coming in, but to make our way in in the next few hours.

I made sure to have something to eat before we left. Your dad had made a huge pot of chili for dinner (which we planning on freezing most of in prep for your arrival), but I didn’t want to eat that. I had a pb and j sandwich instead. We packed up Leo’s bedtime stuff and brought him over to Auntie Sarah’s.

We got to the hospital and passed my midwife in the lobby. She was just finishing her shift. She said “Well, you don’t look like you’re in active labor,” which told me that I was a long way off. But we went up to labor and delivery anyway. The doula arrived and sat with us while they monitored me. The nurse asked me lots of questions, but the funniest one was “What is your plan for managing labor pain?” I didn’t really know how to answer her – she started throwing out techniques like hypnobirthing, etc. I said “Well, I’m going to breathe through it.” She seemed skeptical. I also asked if the big birthing tub was available and she said I needed to have tests done for that. I told her I was good to go with those, and she informed me that the tub room was indeed free!

The midwife who was on call that night said I shouldn’t be admitted yet, because I had a while to go. She suggested either going home or going for a walk. I was nervous about losing the room with the birthing tub if we left. The doula suggested we go for a walk. We walked along the river on Memorial Drive. It was beautiful and quiet except for the cars driving by. We walked all the way to Harvard Square. When I had a contraction, I would stop, lean on your dad, and the doula would put her hand up the back of my coat and massage my lower back. We must have looked like quite a trio! We walked for about an hour and eventually turned back to the hospital.

We headed to the lobby to sit. I got out my knitting. The doula suggested your dad take a nap in the car for a bit.  Every time a contraction came, I put down my knitting, got on my knees and leaned on the nearby side table. The doula came over and wordlessly rubbed my back. When the contraction ended, our conversation resumed. This went on for about 2 hours!   The doula suggested we go for another walk (it was about 1 am at this point), and we left the hospital again. This time, I only got a little ways down the block when I had a more painful contraction. It made me want to be in the hospital room, so we turned around.

The room had a big room with a hospital bed in it and then a smaller anteroom with the birthing tub in the center. I had to lie in the bed for a while while they got a read on the baby (you!) again.  The doula suggested I use the birthing tub for pain relief. I got on all fours and they sank some towels for my knees. The contractions were getting more painful, and the doula reminded me to stay low in my moaning, not to get too high pitched. Both your dad and the doula moaned with me, which was really helpful. At some point, I asked the midwife to check me and see how far along I was.  I was 7 cm and 95% effaced! That was encouraging news to me.

I got back in the bed for a while and they wrapped me up in these big warm blankets, which made me feel held and taken care of.  The mood of the room was one of quiet calm.

Later on, in the tub again, I got back on all fours.  During the contractions, I pictured the beautiful beach at Tulum and I pictured the sound of your name kind of rolling over the wave, like you were slowly coming towards me.

waveThe midwife checked me again and said I was 10 cm, but that there was still a “forebag” of water in front of your head. That explained why you were so slow in coming! I had more contractions in the tub, and I almost fell asleep on the circus peanut in between them. Suddenly, I felt a POP! like the one when I was wrestling Leo and I knew that the forebag had popped. Immediately I felt you start to move down.

I had explained to the doula previously that I hated pushing with your brother Leo. My sense was that that was because they had me do directed pushing, where they counted and told me to bear down and hold my breath. This time I was allowed to “breathe him down,” as the midwife kept saying. I didn’t bear down at all. I continued to ride the wave of contraction, but it was much more intense as my body pushed you towards the birth canal. I started to get scared. It felt like the intensity was definitely going to be too much and I started to doubt my ability to do it without someone telling me what to do and how to make it happen. I had lots of contractions where I just rode it out and hardly bore down at all. The few times I did try pushing terrified me. It started to be a long time (in my opinion; I have no idea how long it really was), but the midwives kept saying that the baby was almost here. I expressed my concern about how slow you were, and the midwife just kept saying “he’s perfect,” and looking me directly in the eyes. It was so reassuring and gentle.

mt-everest-peakI was so concerned with everyone else in the room, the doula said to me “give me your mind,” meaning stop worrying about everyone else and just be in your body. It was hard to do that – to trust that my body could do it and knew what to do on its own. I expressed my doubts about being able to push you out, and the said that it was like climbing Mount Everest – that I was so close to the top but I had the hardest stretch (pardon the pun!) ahead of me. I immediately switched to visualizing a mountain during each contraction, with a ridge of ice separating me from the top. It was beautiful but cold and barren and challenging. There was nothing glamorous about the noises I was making now – they more closely resembled screams than moans.

I had a contraction that pushed you down into the birth canal. It was an overwhelming physical feeling to have you halfway in there, and I could feel myself resist it and kind of pull you back inside of me as the contraction waned. Then, the next time a contraction came, the same feeling happened again. It was like I was going to stretch so far I might break my pelvic bones. I pushed through the contraction and the midwife told me to reach down and touch your head! As the contraction waned, I made up my mind that I was going to keep pushing you out. I said “FUCK!” and pushed as hard as I could. Immediately I heard lots of words of encouragement from everyone. What stood out was midwife’s gentle voice saying “there he is,” and then “reach down and grab him.” And you were in this world, just like that. You were BORN and I did it by listening to my body and letting it take its time. It was 7:39 am and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley was playing. You were covered in vernix so you looked kind of ghostly. But you cried right away and I held you in my arms. I looked up to my right shoulder where your dad was, and gave him a big kiss.

I was free to hold you and look at you in wonderment. You were just perfect – you had these long, thin fingers with long fingernails on them. You barely had any lashes at all – they were short and blond. You had very little hair on your head too – it was quite blond as well, with sideburns!    You weighed 8 pounds, 2.5 ounces – I am so glad you decided to come when you did!

So those are the facts about your birth. The thing is, all of the details don’t even begin to capture the feelings I was having while I was in labor. I felt a sense of intense calm when we were in the dark room, waiting for active labor to start. I felt held and cared for by everyone in the room. In a way, I felt like a baby myself, especially when they wrapped me up in the warm blankets and I lay down on the bed in the middle of labor. When I started to push, it was a primal feeling to have my body take over like that. My mind struggled to maintain control, but I had to let go and shriek and let my body do what it needed to do to push you out. Then there was this feeling in the final push where I knew I was going to do it, even after doubting prior to that. I am left with a feeling of intense confidence and pride in myself and in my body – in what it can do and what it can make. It made you – in all of your tiny perfection. It grew you big and strong in just 37 weeks. You came out crying and you knew how to suck and nurse right away. So I am also intensely proud of you. From the moment your dad cut the cord, you became your own separate little being, starting on the path of growing more independent and separating yourself from me. Right now I am just so glad to have you on the outside, and to enjoy all of the snuggles I’ve had so far and those that are yet to come. I love you more than you can imagine already. And I’ll love you more and more each day.

Amy’s Birth Story

Amy has been a wonderful yoga student to practice with since well before her first baby.   Towards the beginning of her second pregnancy, she came to me after class and said, “Thanks to your resource guide, I’m on a whole new path!”   Her confidence then was so helpful, because as her due time approached, memories of her first pre-term birth surfaced.  She needed to trust in all the work she’d done leading up to then to navigate being further along in pregnancy than she’d ever been before.   Here’s her story, in her own words.   (Text in bold is my emphasis).  

—-

At the beginning of my second pregnancy I decided I would focus my yoga practice on breath work and listening to my body.  I knew from my first pregnancy that as my body grew and changed I would no longer be able to work my body in the same way as I normally do in my yoga practice. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on Pranayama, which is something I’ve always known is important but it’s never been my main focus. Throughout my pregnancy, I was amazed that any time I felt discomfort from sitting or my day-to-day activities it was never anything that 10-20 minutes of pre-natal yoga couldn’t fix. Even at 39+ weeks I felt great.

From the beginning of my pregnancy I felt pretty sure I didn’t want an epidural this time.  In my first pregnancy I considered natural childbirth but had not made a decision on the matter when I went into pre-term labor.   For this second pregnancy, knowing that Barrett had successfully had a natural childbirth experience, I asked her if she had any book recommendations on the subject.  She sent me her prenatal resource list and the book I read (and loved) was “Birthing from Within” by Pam England. The philosophy of this book fit very well with my own.  It states “labor is hard, it hurts, and you can do it.” Two of the key pain coping techniques in the book are breathwork and inward focus, both of which I was already practicing in my daily yoga training. 

I went into labor at 3 am on June 27th, 2013.  My contractions began as strong menstrual cramps about 8-10 minutes apart.  At this point I called our doula, Maria Dolorico.  She said to wait until they were 5 minutes apart then call her and head to the hospital.  Ryan and I decided to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast. By 4 am we called Maria and our OB and headed to Brigham and Women’s hospital.  I had my husband Ryan park at the parking deck because I wanted the short walk outside.  It was slow because I had to stop for each contraction, but we finally made it to OB admitting. Maria met us there and we all walked up together to Labor and Delivery.

In triage I told the nurse I wanted natural childbirth and she was very supportive of me and my decision and encouraged me to keep moving and rocking my hips. She checked my cervix, found I was 5 cm dilated, and took a 20 minute read on the baby’s heart rate and my contractions.  Those were the only medical things they did the whole time. Ryan and Maria met me in triage and about 5 minutes later I realized breakfast was a bad idea.  It all came right back up and Maria told me the grosser the labor the faster it goes.

From triage we walked to my delivery room. The handrails on all hospital walls were my friends during the walk.  With every contraction I stopped and held the rail swaying my hips until it passed.  Ryan and Maria would press on the sides of my hips during each one, which eased the pain.  Once we made it to the room Maria asked if I wanted to get in the shower and said I was probably at transition.  The warm water flowing down my back felt wonderful and helped ease the pain.  The handrail again was my friend and I held it throughout each contraction and rested on it in between.   They came in waves at about 2 minutes apart then 1-1.5 minutes apart.  Ryan was behind me the whole time pressing my hips together through each contraction.

Throughout my labor I had been most comfortable standing but by this point I was getting very tired. Maria noticed this and asked if I wanted a stool to sit on which was the perfect suggestion.  I sat, still holding the handrail, resting my head on it between contractions.  By the end what I really wanted was to sleep between the contractions but the time was too short.

The next thing that happened was an involuntary push during the contraction.  At this point Maria suggested I get out of the shower, she and Ryan dried me off and put on my gown.  Once dressed all I could think about was getting to the bed and laying down on my side.  It’s amazing how my body knew how I should deliver; there was no decision-making happening.  When the next contraction came I was in the bed on my side.  Again the involuntary pushing ensued and I felt my water break.  I also heard the nurse say “Don’t push Amy, don’t push.”  I turned to him and said, “I can’t not push.” I later found out the doctor wasn’t yet in the room.

The delivery was quick.  1-2 contractions and the baby’s head was out.  At that point the doctor said “Amy, keep pushing”.  It was very odd trying to push without a contraction behind it.  I felt I had to look very deep into my body to find the muscles and push the baby out, but I was successful. Later my husband said the cord was around his neck and that’s why the doctor wanted me to keep pushing. Alex Edward White was born at 6:51 am weighting 7 lbs. 10 oz and 20 inches long.

Once he was out they placed him on my chest and checked his vitals from there.  It was a very different experience from my first delivery where they whisked Anderson off to the NICU.  After they stitched me up, which felt worse than the delivery itself, they left us alone. Alex was alert and nursing within 20 minutes of the delivery and the first moments Ryan and I had with him were peaceful and precious. It was a wonderful experience.

Amy introduces her older son Anderson to new baby Alex

Amy, her older son Anderson, and new baby Alex

How To Pick A Doula

 

I wrote this advice about a year ago for friends in California who were having their first baby. It seems kind of perfect for a blog post! My friends had a lovely baby girl by the way :)

So, if you’ve already decided you want a doula, here’s my tips for finding a great one and having a positive experience with her.

 

1) You really like her and think you can trust her.
This is my #1 tip! She’s not your shrink or your doctor, but she helps you make decisions, stay strong, she gives you information etc. So sometimes a doula sort of feels like those things. Plus, you’re going to be hanging out naked in front of her, so you really need to like her and feel comfortable around her. The doula you have the best rapport with isn’t necessarily the one who’s the most expensive/done the most births. Sometimes a newer, less expensive doula is the person you feel most secure with.

2) She does a lot of prenatal education.
I think this is one of the most important things, because your average dr/midwife appointment is short! There’s a lot to talk about in pregnancy, and you want to feel like you get to see her at least 2 times after you hire her, and feel like you can call her/email her anytime. If this part goes well, then the actual birth support is usually a lot better.

3) Experience.
Experience counts! A doula who has experience with the hospital you’re birthing at, with many different kinds of births, and with many different kinds of people. That’s a doula who has a lot of knowledge and tricks up her sleeve. Sometimes the best thing about a doula is that they know how to navigate the hospital system! This is where a new doula just isn’t always as good as an experienced doula, but note that my #1 answer is still my #1! Liking her trumps experience.

4) Her philosophy is yours.
If you’re open to having an epidural, and you bring it up and your doula tells you, “oh, You don’t need one!”, then you might want to consider finding a doula who is a little more moderate! You don’t want to feel like your doula is disappointed in you during the birth. However, if you really really want to avoid all interventions if at all possible, then you want to hear from your doula that she has successfully helped many clients do that, and that she can help you during pregnancy and labor to set up that scenario. Some people are really adamant in their desire to have an intervention-free birth, and that’s great, and your doula should give you lots of homework in that case, because it takes preparation these days!

5) Read her contract and review it with her.
Doulas don’t make a lot of money, and usually they are worth every penny they are charging. The nature of on call work is very demanding, and a lot of planning goes into her being on call for you. Most of them have written contracts for a reason. When you enter into an agreement with anyone, it’s really important to be clear on the business end of things. Then you can get on to the important business of letting go so that you can give birth!

Maybe my next post should be about all the reasons you SHOULD consider a doula! But for now, I hope this helps you navigate through and find the doula who is right for you!

 

doulapic

Abby’s Birth Story

 

My friend Abby had a great birth experience back in February that I wanted to share here.   To me, the most powerful part of Abby’s story are the visualizations she uses during her birth.  I love how she reframes contractions as waves.  The word contraction can sometimes bring us into a state of tension –after all, that’s what you do when you contract a muscle, right?   Instead, many women choose to reframe the sensation and call it something else:  surge, rush, wave, etc.   

Read on to hear her story in her own words (emphasis is mine).

——-

 

I had practiced yoga during my pregnancy, tried to walk every day, and had hired a doula to help me labor at home as long as possible to try to have a natural childbirth. I knew that in labor, things often do not often go according to the plan, but I didn’t know how I might have a birth where nothing went according to plan, but where everything turned out to be perfect in the end.

Two weeks before my due date my doctor recommended that my labor be induced because of high-blood pressure and mild preeclampsia. I knew this was a possibility, because I have chronic high blood pressure, and though my blood pressure dropped during the pregnancy, it started to climb in the very last weeks. However, I was very upset because I thought that if I was medically induced, I would end up with a highly medicalized birth. I worried that I would be placed on a Pitocin drip and given an epidural, or worse, end up with a C-section.

In a bizarre twist, our doula got very sick the same day I was supposed to be induced, and was herself admitted to the hospital! So with no doula, and not yet labor we headed to the labor and delivery ward. It was 8 pm on Valentine’s Day.

The staff settled us into a delivery room, placed a pill in my cervix to “ripen” it, and gave me Ambien to help me sleep. I fell asleep immediately, and have no memory of receiving the second induction pill four hours later. At 5 am I awoke to the gush of my water breaking. I woke my husband Jason, and when the nurse checked me, she said that I was now 1 cm dilated and that my doctor would come in a few hours to check on me and start a Pitocin drip to begin labor.

Fortunately my body had other plans. Within the hour I began to have steady and strong contractions every 2-3 minutes. I was so happy that my body had begun to labor, and I hoped that I would be able to continue on this path, now that things had begun, without additional medicine. My husband and I kissed each other with joy during a break, and then I got to work. He helped me into the bath, and I labored in the bath for a while, pouring water over my belly during the waves of the contractions. The clock seemed to be crawling forward in time as I tried to relax through the contractions. I began to chant to myself during the waves, saying: “Relax the baby down.” I also tried to focus on breathing through the sensations, and relaxing as each wave passed through me. It felt like I had been laboring for days when really it had only been a few hours.

At 8:30 am, as I was laboring on my hands and knees on the bed, my doctor came to check me. She found that I was 4-5 centimeters dilated. I should have been elated with my progress, but instead I was disappointed. I felt as if I had been working so hard for so long, I should have been at least 8 cm dilated! Being a bit more experienced with labor, she was very reassuring, and let me know that I had made very good progress.

During the labor, I moved through a number of different positions, back to the bath, sitting on the toilet, on my knees on the bed, resting the top half of my body over the back of the raised hospital bed, and finally, found my most comfortable position in bed, in a side-lying position. Once I found the side-lying position, I spent most of the rest of the labor on my side. In this position, I was able to go deep into myself, and began use visualizations during the contractions.

As the contractions continued, the main image I focused on was an image of myself swimming up the surface of a tsunami-sized wave. The contraction was the wave, and when I felt it coming I struck out swimming backstroke or freestyle up the surface. The swimming helped my breathing become regular and even as I ascended, then at the peak of the wave, I would relax, and slide down the back of the wave. Between the large contractions, there were also smaller less intense contractions, and I found that by watching a dial in my mind’s eye, I could easily judge the small contractions from the large ones. As I felt the intensity mount, I watched the dial, and if the hand passed 3, I would begin swimming up the wave. If it didn’t pass three, I would relax, and fall asleep. Using these two visualizations, I progressed through transition and was 9 cm dilated by 2 pm. However, during this period, when I was in this trance-like state, I had no notion of time passing, and was only very vaguely aware of my surroundings. I occasionally noticed my doctor come in and out of the room, and I was sometimes aware of my husband beside the bed. During this time, my contractions also slowed down – the large contractions came every 7-10 minutes which gave me time to rest and sleep between waves.

Finally at around 3 pm I was 10 cm dilated and I started pushing… the baby was low, and my cervix was open, but unfortunately, there was an unanticipated wrinkle in what was a very normal labor. Somehow the baby had gone from being in a anterior position – face down- the appropriate way to exit, to being in a face-up position, which is much more difficult to push out. I struggled to push him out in this position, and somehow, neither the nurse nor the doctor recognized that he had flipped into the wrong position. His poor little nose got hung up first on a lip of my cervix for an hour, and then under my pelvis for an extended period. The nurse unhelpfully told us that his head was really lumpy, and that somehow he had a point on the back of his head! I was in no state to worry about having an oddly formed child, but poor Jason got pretty worried about this “point” on the back of his head.

Another issue is that I was struggling to know how to push, my pushes seemed not to be making the progress that everyone thought I should. At some point the attending nurse left the room, and another nurse came in to cover for her… this nurse, saw that I was struggling, and crouched down next to the bed bringing her face close to mine. She whispered to me, and stroked my hand, explaining how to push, how to breathe, how to move my body into a position to help the baby out, and then, as quietly as she had come in, she was gone. Later we called her the labor fairy. She had flitted in at exactly the right time to help me focus my strength on pushing, because I would need it to continue pushing for the next few hours.

In the end it took 4 hours to push our baby into the world. I had no idea that it was such a long time… my contractions were 10 minutes apart, so I was resting on my side between efforts. But apparently everyone else in the room was getting worried as more and more time passed.

Finally, Stephanie – my doctor – scrubbed up. The pediatric team came in, and in a large last push, the babe flew out – face up! For a moment, my husband feared that the baby was deformed, because he was expecting to see the back of a head, and not a face, but in a few minutes it was clear that our child was healthy, and normal, if a bit stressed from the hours of pushing. The “point” on the back of the head, which has caused so much trouble, was just a poor bruised little nose.

Jason cut the cord, and then the baby was weighed and warmed for a few minutes. Everyone went to the other side of the room to see the baby, and I was waiting to hear if we had had a son or a daughter… finally I called out, “ What did we have?” The doctor showed Jason the baby, and he said “ We have a son!” I was so surprised! But I was also so glad that our little son was healthy and well.

He was brought to my chest, and after a few nuzzles at my breast, he fell asleep. He was small and perfect, and we called him Caleb Henry Mitchell. He is our beloved son.

CalebAbby!

Chill Out! How to Get Through the Summer While Pregnant

 

Here in Boston, we had a heatwave in the last days of May – 90+ degrees for several days! I could just hear the hundreds of pregnant women in the city who aren’t due until August or later breaking out in a sweat not just because of the heat, but because they were wondering how to make it through THE ENTIRE SUMMER while pregnant.

In case you haven’t been pregnant before in the summer, let me tell you – it ain’t pretty! That little baby inside is like an inferno, and raises your body temperature so that hot weather is a lot more uncomfortable. Red face, itchy skin, swollen legs and fingers, sweat pooling in places you can’t even reach anymore…

So here’s some tips to stay cool this summer!

1. Water is your friend.

Not only do you need to drink lots of water, but getting in the water will take care of so many of the discomforts of pregnancy. From relief for tired legs, to cooling your overall body temperature down, it’s great to float in a pool or lake in the summertime. Throw in some laps and get your exercise in too, without the aches and pains that come with being upright late in pregnancy.

2. Eat watermelon and cucumber.

You can eat your water too, not just drink it. Any fruits and vegetables are great, and full of water, but watermelon and cucumber are my two magic foods to reduce swelling and keep a pregnant body in balance.

3. Cool your legs.

Most mamas get puffy at the end of pregnancy, and in the heat waves, that’s what I hear most in class. There are some great leg gels out there, made for tired pregnant feet and legs. I used a Burt’s Bees leg lotion during my pregnancy. After a long day standing (or sitting), relieve swelling and soreness with a gentle foot bath. Just put a few drops of lavender, or anything else that smells relaxing and soothing, and let your feet soak in whatever temperature is ideal for you.

4. Elevate.

Put your legs up the wall! Or on a chair. If you haven’t been practicing yoga, and you’re in your 3rd trimester, now is not the time to start with legs up the wall. That’s where elevating your legs on a chair will be great.

5. Sitali breathing.

We have a cooling breath in the yoga tradition that really works! Yoga came from India, where it can get HOT, so I think the yogis knew what they were talking about. Here’s a brief description of Sitali.

Of course, come to yoga when it’s hot outside. All the studios I teach at are air-conditioned, and I love to watch pregnant students take a deep sigh as they settle onto their mats and literally *chill out*  :)

 

Angela’s Birth Story

 

I’m starting a new blog series of more in-depth birth stories from some of my yoga students.    I think there needs to be more positive stories out there in the world about birth, so that’s the aim here.   

We’re starting 2013 off with a birth story that happened this fall from a strong yogini Angela, and her partner Nathan.  Angela and Nathan are amazing – check out Angela on her website.  Here’s their birth story in their own words (emphasis is mine).

——

As a longtime yogini, I wanted to approach birth by being open and inquisitive about my changing body.  Some fears and doubts crept up along the way, but I wanted to feel strong and empowered throughout the process.  Early in my pregnancy, I recall looking through, “Preparing for Birth with Yoga” by Janet Balaskas.  The illustrations of a woman giving birth seemed surreal to me and I mused that I couldn’t imagine ever getting to that point.

Over many months of pregnancy and taking prenatal yoga I became more and more ready and actually excited for the birth experience!  Throughout my entire pregnancy I can honestly say yoga was my stronghold.  In fact, my husband Nathan and I found out we were pregnant in the midst of our yoga teacher training!  I continued to practice yoga every single day and remained active throughout—right up through early labor.

Yoga and pranayama (breathwork) helped me to stay grounded when I would feel anxious and worried, and brought me back to my center when I felt out of control.  I remember three very key times during pregnancy when I had A-HA yoga moments.   One was during savasana when I was very early pregnant and not feeling well.  I remember feeling scared about being pregnant and worried that I might unintentionally hurt the baby by practicing yoga and being too active.  The teacher mentioned setting an intention and I remember setting the intention that I was safe in my body, which really helped me relax and acknowledge that my body would know what to do.   The other times were late in pregnancy.  During a centering the teacher said to trust our bodies and that all the knowledge we needed to birth our babies was inside of us.  That really resonated with me and helped me to feel so empowered!  The third time was while squatting on a brick and practicing shifting between complete engagement (lion’s breath) and total release (softening completely between each breath) just as I’d need to do during each contraction during labor.

An aside from Nathan: Throughout pregnancy, Angela certainly had moments of anxiety and strong emotions, which were fully expected and respected. Also being a yogi, I knew of the powerful aspects of yoga that could help in times of anxiety and stress, and regardless of situation.  A very useful technique which many yogis use is mantras or affirmations.  So, very early on in pregnancy, I encouraged Angela to develop a mantra that she spoke nearly every night before bed, when emotions tended to be highest.: “Nathan loves me, He’s going to take care of me, I’m going to do great!” She repeated the phrase several times until she was fully convinced of her affirmation even in the hardest times.  Though I can never really know what was going on inside Angela’s body and mind on the day she gave birth, I can guess that the mantra had a positive effect.

At 38 weeks along, I walked into my weekly prenatal yoga class feeling like I was really ready to be done with being pregnant.  Barrett encouraged me by saying feeling this way was good and would help my body prepare to birth my baby.  However, I was in that birth window where it could happen anytime over the next 4 weeks. It was so hard to be patient after waiting so long!

I took this time for myself to have a pedicure, get a prenatal massage and just nap as much as I could.  I knew I’d be nurturing my baby soon enough, so I am grateful I took that time for self-care.  In the two weeks before giving birth, I was noticing more and more contractions and my cervix was dilating, which was exciting, but still there was no way to know when it would happen!  On Aug 31, there was a surprise baby shower for my friend that I was really looking forward to attending.  There’s an old wives tale that spicy foods bring on labor, so the hostess insisted I try her chocolate chipotle cake.  I figured it was worth a try and the cake was delicious!  Nathan and I called it an early night and it was a good thing because sure enough at 5:45 am the following morning things started to really change significantly with my contractions!

I cancelled all of my plans that day and stayed home.  I knew it could be a long road ahead so I ate nourishing foods and switched between passive and active activities as the day went on.  Actual napping was difficult because the cramping would wake me up with every contraction, but I managed about an hour of sleep during the day.   I walked around the house, did gentle yoga, breathing and stretching and made sure all of our hospital bags were packed and ready.  I started to really tune in internally and tune out everything else.  Surprisingly, social me had no desire to call family or friends– I simply wanted to focus on myself and the process of childbirth.

I found the yoga ball really helpful and spent a lot of time sitting on it and rocking my pelvis.  I never stayed in any one position longer than 10 min.  As the evening went on I called the midwives a few times for reassurances and to ask questions that arose, which was really helpful and helped me feel confident that I was on the right track.  I knew when I was supposed to go to the hospital (contractions that were 5 min apart, 1 min long and lasting an 1 hour) but my contractions weren’t ever quite that consistent.  They were definitely intense but fluctuated between 2 min and 7 min apart.  Nearly 12 hours later, I got in the bath and poured warm water over my belly and back during contractions. The water felt great and actually slowed labor a bit, but as soon as I got out of the tub things really kicked up.  Nathan was amazing at giving me lots of hip squeezes, low back massages and taking care of everything around the house so I could just focus on giving birth.  I spent a lot of time on hands and knees and doing positions that allowed my lower back to relax and found sounding techniques to be really helpful in terms of diffusing the strong sensations.

Finally, a little before 11 pm we were on our way to the hospital!  We forgot the main entrance was locked after hours and had to drive around to the ER entrance.  By this time I was having contractions 2-3 minutes apart while Nathan had to run in to make sure where we parked would be OK for the time being.  It felt like forever as I waited in the car repeating my mantra, “I’m OK, I am safe, I’m OK, I am safe.”

Once we made it up to labor and delivery we happily learned I was already 6 cm dilated!  Things were progressing at a rapid pace.  We went right to the room to have the fetal monitor connected to check the baby’s heart rate.  My contractions were very fast and intense and I had to keep moving and walking and shifting my pelvis for any relief.  The baby’s heart was really strong and the nurse said I could get in the tub.  No sooner did I get in the tub, I felt a very strong urge to push and bear down.  The midwife wasn’t sure I could be ready so quickly, but said it could be possible.  Sure enough she said with amazement I was at 10 cm already and it was time to push!

It took awhile to get the hang of this sensation.  I tried the birthing stool for a while and found it really tiring.   Nathan supported me by breathing with me and staying right by my side.  My midwife and nurse were a wonderful blend of calming presence and coach.  My body felt like an inferno and cold washcloths on my face and neck really helped.  I then switched to kneeling on the bed with my arms supported, but found this terribly exhausting too.  Sidelying on the bed was suggested so I tried that position and really liked it, which surprised me because I thought I’d like squatting or hands and knees better.  Also what surprised me was that I had to actually hold my breath (rather than exhale) to push through the sensation of pushing out my baby.  All along they kept saying they could see the amniotic sac starting to come out with each push.  Suddenly, the sac burst like a water balloon with a loud pop!  I remember wondering briefly how long I’d have to push but I quickly pushed that thought aside and turned my attention back to my body and the moment and staying focused on the sensations happening right now because that was all that mattered.  I noticed the midwife and nurse gowning up and figured it must be close!

With a very intense burning sensation and one final strong push, our son’s head of dark hair emerged.  With the next push his body came out and I exclaimed, “My baby!” as they put him on my chest and he let out a huge wail!  Surya Alexander Gabor was born at 1:47 am on Sunday, September 2.  He weighed 7 lb 9.7 oz and was 20 ½ inches long.  Nathan noticed that he and Surya shared the same exact foot shape, and if you know Nathan from yoga, you’ll notice he has very distinct feet.  We jokingly call it the monkey-claw because of the unusually large space between his big toe and first toe.

Surya’s Yoga Toes!

I truly felt like a super hero after giving birth!  A very, very tired and euphoric super hero that just ran a marathon. I believe yoga helped me to stay in tune with my body and ride every wave of sensation recognizing it as energy and aliveness rather than something to fear.   Being strong, prepared and confident in my innate ability to give birth created a very positive and empowering experience.

November Yoga Babies!

 

Here’s the next cute installment of new yoga babies in the world!

 

Liz G., from Healthworks, had baby girl Alice on 11/1.  She weighed 8lbs, 4oz.

 

Alison R., from Healthworks, had baby boy Nathan on 11/3.   He weighed 8lbs, 13oz and arrived after Alison was just past 42 weeks!  After a long induction and labor, Nathan was born and Alison writes: “I am sure that I never could have done it without my dedication to fitness and yoga/mindfulness throughout my pregnancy.

 

Lora B., from Black Lotus and Karma, had baby boy Gabriel, on 11/5.   She writes:  “We certainly used every pose from the partners prenatal yoga we could remember, and it helped not just our baby but also our connection to each other.”

 

Alison D., from O2, had baby girl Violet on 11/7.    I cried a little when I read what she wrote:  “I will miss the prenatal yoga classes, as much for the focus and energy as for the wonder of being joined by so many pregnant women and all of their beautiful bellies.  I would often look around during class and marvel at what a sight we all were.”

 

Ruth R., from O2 and Karma, had baby boy Robin on 11/14.   Ruth wrote: “I went into labor at 2:30 am the day after Monday night’s yoga practice. Yoga classes certainly helped me labor at home – doing squatting, hip openers, and breathing techniques.”

 

Radka S., from O2, had baby girl Maire on 11/19.   She weighed 8lbs, 7oz.

‘Tis the Season to Take Care of Yourself!

 

I sent this out to my business class yogis recently, and thought you’d all benefit from it too.   Scroll all the way down for a cute picture!

In case you need some motivation to attend class as the days are getting shorter and the holidays are bearing down, I thought I’d give you 4 good reasons that ’tis the season’ for yoga!

1) Stress-relief!

Holidays are great, but tiring.   The end of the year often finds each of us pushing our own personal envelope in terms of commitments.   1 or 2 classes of yoga a week will help you let go of the stress that accompanies a busy schedule.

2) Physical detox.

Even if you’re not one for celebrating, everyone else around you is baking cookies and bringing them into work to share!   Yoga will help you process the sugar overload, and better yet, resist the second helping :)

3) Extra energy. 

During the winter months, when we all could use a bit more sleep, yoga gives you that extra hour of better-than-sleep movement and breathing.

4) Immunity booster.  

Regular practice has been shown to help us fight off common colds and flu.  Add to that some Vitamin D, probiotics, and Omega 3’s and you may sail through this winter without a single sniffle. Can’t beat that!  (Check with your doc about above supplements) J

 

Make yoga a priority in this last month of 2012, and everything else will fall into place.   The only public vinyasa class I teach is on Monday nights at 7:15pm at Karma Yoga in Cambridge – here’s my full class schedule.

Cheers!

Barrett

 

October Yoga Babies!

Oh, wow, time has flown!  I was hoping to post this *weeks* ago, and now all of these babies probably look totally different!   But you know, they’re cute all the time, so it’s fine.   Here are the October yoga babies, to be followed *soon* by the November yoga babies!

 

Heema S., of O2 Yoga, had baby girl Reya on October 1.  Heema says that “the yoga breathing and linking to movement helped during labor”.

Ashley W., of Healthworks, had baby boy William on October 15.

Joana E., of Healthworks, had baby girl Noa on October 15.   Same birthday as William, above!

Beau M., of O2 Yoga, had twins Adam and Cassandra on October 17.   Even though the babies came a few weeks early, they were both able to come home with Beau – yay!

 

Amy M., of O2 Yoga,  had baby boy Evander on October 20.  Amy wrote: “I was induced at 36 weeks after placental abruption. I was still able to make use of some techniques from class, especially practicing relaxing the muscles that aren’t actively working. It helped to relax my shoulders, head and face during contractions.”

Helen H., of O2 Yoga, had baby boy Leeland October 27.  I’ve already seen Helen in my postnatal class – wow!

Wrist Sensitivity in Pregnancy

 

The wrist is a fragile joint for anyone, but it comes under particular stress in the childbearing year.

A lot of people tend to call any wrist sensitivity “Carpal Tunnel”, but that’s not always accurate.   There are over 20 kinds of soft tissue overuse injuries that can affect the shoulders down to the fingers, many of which are felt in the wrist.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome refers to the specific instance when the median nerve is pinched as it runs through the wrist (ie carpal) tunnel.   Someone can have wrist pain but not have a pinched median nerve.  In pregnant women, the ‘bracelet’ of the wrist bones feels especially sensitive because: the joint becomes unstable due to relaxin hormone; the increased blood flow from pregnancy is difficult to pass through a narrow joint; fluids pool in extremities, which causes swelling, causes even more narrowing of the passage.  Wrist sensitivity in pregnancy tends to resolve itself when you take these issues away.   In general, the main “cure” for it is finishing up pregnancy!   However, there are many things you can do to lessen the discomfort.

In my prenatal practice, we spend a lot of time on all fours, bearing weight on the hands with the wrists flexed.   In every class, I offer ways to modify the practice so that a woman doesn’t have to spend any time weight bearing on a sensitive wrist.   Options include: making fists and putting knuckles down on the floor with straight wrists; splaying the fingers out like tent poles to bear weight ; or coming down on the forearms.   Most women with sensitive wrists will cycle through all of those options in a class.  It’s so important to keep practicing yoga, because even though you may have to modify in the above ways, the benefits of yoga outweigh that inconvenience.

The basic hands and knees position

 

Modifying down on the forearms

As I mentioned above, swelling is one of the causes of wrist pain.  Minimizing swelling everywhere in the body will help the wrists.  Putting your legs up will help your wrists, as will any mild inversion (we do several in prenatal yoga).  Drinking lots of water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and veggies), which helps reduce swelling, will also help the wrists.

Legs up the wall is safe for most pregnant women and a great help for the circulatory system.

Finally, keeping your circulatory system going will help improve the wrists’ sensitivity.   Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your circulation.  The asanas we practice in prenatal yoga stretch tight chests and shoulders.  As our breasts change size in pregnancy, we tend to hunch and compress our thoracic outlet.  Often, general discomfort in the forearms or wrists is greatly improved once we work out some of the knots in the shoulders and chest, because restriction of blood flow was starting all the way up there. Getting blood and prana (life force) to flow through the whole body, but especially the upper body, is the best healer for injury.

Opening the chest keeps the prana flowing!

And don’t forget about the postpartum period!  Though the causes of the wrist sensitivity in pregnancy might subside, now we have a whole new set of circumstances that can cause wrist pain.   Women are operating on less sleep, are feeding babies in hunched positions for long periods of time, and are picking up babies often with really bent wrists (think baby sleeping in a bassinet next to mom and reaching over to pick up baby by contorting wrists).   All these things put the wrists at continued risk for injury.

There are several non-yoga treatments possible to help sore wrists.   Wearing a splint at night for sleeping or during the day when you’re resting (not when working)  will keep your wrist in a neutral position.  Acupuncture and massage are great.   Vitamin B6 might be good for keeping the nerves healthy.   Ask your practitioner about what they recommend!