It’s official… I am a Hypnobabies ® Hypno-Doula

I am super excited and very proud to announce that, as of September 2020, I am officially certified as a Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula!

The web-based Hypno-Doula training was thorough! I worked through the materials in about a weeks time, taking notes, drawing pictures, and listening to my own Hypnobabies®  tracks along the way. Another week of working through the exam and I was ready to submit my 21 page (oh my gosh!) final. I was thrilled to receive my results a few weeks later, I passed with a 99% and had my Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula certification in my inbox.

Even with 6 years of birth ed classroom and direct support experience, the Hypno-Doula training provided a wonderful opportunity for me to dive deeper into my understanding of the Hypnobabies® approach to birth. Hypnobabies® works to shift the common birth paradigm, teaching it’s students (and support professionals) that birth is not something to fear or step back from but, a miraculous and powerful experience for birthing individuals and families to exult in.

I am so happy to have trained as a Hypno-Doula. I’ve experienced the peace and beauty of Hypnobabies births both personally during my second and third births and professionally as a doula. I look forward to working with more Hypnobabies families and sharing in the joy and effectiveness of the Hypnobabies program.

Feel free to check out my official Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula website listing. And reach out if you are curious about the Hypnobabies® approach to childbirth.

Tips for achieving a natural birth

So, you want to have an unmedicated, natural birth. Here are a few things that I think you should take into consideration in order to help make this important goal a reality.

Who am I, by the way- if you’ve come across this page I’m assuming you know a little bit about me; I’m Alyssa! I am a childbirth educator, a doula, and a fierce advocate for informed, respected, and supported birth. Natural birth, however, is my jam! I was trained originally in The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth and am a mother that has birthed all three of her babies naturally (and with a tremendous amount of joy!). I appreciate all that physiological childbirth can offer birthing individuals and the immense benefits that more respect for this process could offer a maternity care system that is failing birthing folks quite miserably right now.

Anyways, back to the list. How to have a natural birth:

  1. Commit to a natural birth. A natural birth isn’t typically something that a birthing person just happens into. The desire to birth without intervention and with as little interference in the process as possible is one that takes determination and commitment to see to fruition. Take time early on to explore the reasons why it’s important to you to birth naturally; these reasons will serve as motivation, seeing you through the natural birth process, even amidst challenges that might arise prenatally or throughout labor and birth.
  2. Attend a natural birth class. A good natural birth class will be comprehensive in nature, preparing your mind and body for this birth. Birth classes will help you build a foundation of knowledge that elucidates the birth process, offer you (and your partner) practical skills to handle the progression of labor, and arm you with the information necessary to make informed decisions throughout your birth experience. Birth classes will allow you to relax into your natural birth plans, helping you to feel more confident in your knowledge and abilities. I’m partial to Bradley Method natural birthing classes as you get all of this and even more, in a community-building group setting. You are together with your classmates and instructor for a series of weeks, allowing you to get to know each other, learn from one another, and really dig into the birth process and the relaxation techniques. For decades, well over 80% of the birthing folks/families that have taken Bradley classes go on to have unmedicated, low-intervention, vaginal births.
  3. Choose your provider and birth place wisely. Make sure that you are seeking care with a provider or practice that not only supports your desire to birth naturally but, has a practice philosophy and record of care that encourages low-intervention, physiological birth.
    • consider midwifery care as the evidence shows that midwives are the safest providers for low-risk women. They typically, as standard practice, provide the type of care that supports the natural birthing process.
    • if you are healthy and low risk, consider birthing outside of the hospital; are there freestanding birth centers near you or licensed home birth providers? Much like individual providers or practices, birth places can vary in how well they facilitate and support natural birth.
  1. Consider hiring a doula. Did you know that hiring a doula as part of your support team will increase the likelihood of you having a spontaneous, vaginal birth and lessen the chances that you will utilize pain medications, request an epidural, or undergo a cesarean?!
  2. Practice, practice, practice! I’m sure you’ve heard birth compared to a marathon, it certainly requires dedicated preparation, practice, and endurance (of both the mental and physical type). What might this look like? Get out for a daily walk; in the last month or so of pregnancy really hone in on what helps to relax you mentally and emotionally. As you approach birth day it will be beneficial to set aside time each day, even just 10 minutes, to ground yourself and breathe slowly and mindfully. Laying out a yoga mat, practicing some birth prep exercises, and ending with a few moments to rest, breathe, and perhaps sit with some birth affirmations, a guided meditation, or just focus on your rhythmic abdominal breath is a great way to calm your mind and prepare yourself for birth.
  3. Faith over fear! It can be easy to get carried away with “what if…” type of thoughts and, most often, these what ifs are negative and fearful in nature. Prepare as best as you can and then choose faith over fear, surrendering to the beautiful unknowns of birth. Following the tips above and honoring your intuition throughout this process is the best way to ensure that your preferences for this birth experience will be honored. From there you must have faith! Faith in your body to birth this baby without intervention, faith in your baby, who is also an active participant in this experience, and faith in the team that you brought together to support you through this remarkable journey.

Faith and fear both demand that you believe in something that you cannot see. You choose!

Bob Proctor

Birthing our first baby at home, Annabelle’s birth story

We welcomed our first baby in the comfort of our home. This was something that, by about half way through our pregnancy, felt so absolutely right for our family. There’s lots that I can credit for this departure from the norm- time spent with an awesome family that I babysat for who birthed their babies at home, our Bradley Method®  birthing classes; but more than anything a steadfast and peaceful resolve within my own heart that home was where this birth was meant to be. The following is the story of our first homebirth, Annabelle’s birth day.

“… more than anything a steadfast and peaceful resolve within my own heart that home was where this birth was meant to be.”

That Sunday evening my husband, Chad, and I took a long stroll around the neighborhood, as we had throughout my entire pregnancy but, this time, I was a day away from my due date and feeling pretty fab. And as they had throughout the entire second half of my pregnancy, a well-intentioned neighbor commented on how pregnant I was and that I looked ready to pop. So endearing, right? I matter-of-factly told said neighbor that my due date was the next day but that I certainly wasn’t going to have my baby then. Half smiles exchanged and Chad, the dog, and I continued on our walk. 

Well apparently I need to give middle aged men more credit for their birth telepathy because I woke at 3am, on baby’s due date, with contractions. Having no bathroom on the upper level of our home, I had definitely mastered the half-sleep stair climb over the last several months. That early morning, I made about a half a dozen trips up and down our stairs under the pretense that I just had to make a bowel movement. I finally let go of those urges, conceding to just go in the bed if it really came down to it (don’t worry, I didn’t). I finally relaxed in bed next to Chad, and let the contractions do their job while I rested. We planned a homebirth and I was in communication with my midwife from the time that I woke with the contractions. A little after 6am, I felt the urge to get moving again so I woke my sleeping husband, telling him that he was going to get the day off of work. I got out of bed and headed downstairs. Chad followed me down and quietly called the midwife. 

I paced the house and worked through my contractions which were coming about every 3 minutes at that point. As Chad prepped our birth supplies and birthing space I prompted him to get into the shower with me. Together we labored in the shower, Chad holding my entire bodyweight while I surrendered to the contractions. In between contractions he used the removable shower head to massage my back. The hot water felt incredible as it jetted out onto my lower back and bottom. I quickly washed my hair and scrubbed my face, convinced that my mop needed to look nice for the birth of our baby.

Looking back, I assume that my water must have broken while we were in the shower. There was no movie-style scene outside of the tub with amniotic fluid spilling everywhere so, it must have been contained in there at some point during my shower.

I began to feel a little grunty (read pushy!) while we were in the shower so, with the water beginning to get cold anyways, we got out. I quickly found my way onto the toilet. At about the same time our midwife arrived, she calmly and quietly asked if she could check me and swiftly began setting up her supplies just on the other side of the wall, in the spare bedroom. I labored on the toilet for a while, breathing and groaning through the contractions. Chad was directly in front of me, sitting on the edge of our bathtub; he was my anchor, stabilizing me, breathing with me, and gently encouraging me. His calm presence kept me composed and in the moment, allowing me to work through the intensity of the sensations that I was experiencing. 

I labored on the toilet for a while (20-30 minutes in total, I would guess) before relocating to the bedroom. I should add that I was quite reluctant to move but did so at my midwife’s insistence since “we {didn’t} really want to have a baby on the pot.” I sat up in the bed with my husband directly behind me and began actively bearing down with my contractions to help bring our daughter earthside. I took the time between contractions to completely melt into my husband’s lap, my head on his chest and body limp between his legs. 

After about 25 minutes of pushing I was certain that I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt helpless. Chad and our midwife gently encouraged me and within 15 minutes I delivered my daughter’s head. With the next contraction the rest of her body slid out of me. Annabelle was place on my tummy and I pulled her up towards my chest; we sat as a brand new family for the first time, taking in all of her beauty and the utter astonishment that was our birth journey. All I could manage to get out of my mouth, over and over again, was “my sweet baby!” I was absolutely overcome with joy, relief, excitement, and love. 

Annabelle stayed on my chest for about 20 minutes after birth. Chad cut her cord, which was completely white and lifeless at that point, and then she was wrapped up in a blanket and given to her proud, new father. Annabelle was cozy with her papa as I delivered my placenta (which, to my surprise, felt oddly satisfying) and got cleaned up in a quick sitz bath with the help of the midwife. Annabelle was happy and healthy, passing all of her newborn assessments with flying colors and weighing in at 8 pounds and 2 ounces and 19.5” long.

The next few days were absolute bliss. I recovered, breastfed, and bonded with our sweet Annabelle in our family bed in the front room. Chad was home with us and split his time between cuddles, food prep, and laundry. A few family and friends would sneak in occasionally to lay eyes on our new little one, each one offering help around the house and leaving with huge smiles on their faces. Our wonderful midwife came back almost daily for a week to offer her loving guidance and support.

I will forever look back on this experience with immense joy. We were loved, supported, and well-cared for throughout. Annabelle made her entrance into the world in the most peaceful and loving way that I could have ever imagined. For that I could not be more grateful.

Nesting before birth… your doula does too!

Nesting has got to be one of my favorite pre-birth phenomenon! I am always giddy to hear about my clients’ hours of stuff purging, fanatical organizing, and the undeniable urge to deep clean ev-er-y-thing. Better still is a few afternoons devoted to meal prep, packing your pantry, and freezer feeding for easy, homemade eats after baby’s birth. This instinctual urge can be a sign that labor is nearing and it often drives expectant parents to ready their nest for baby’s arrival.

Birds do it, primates do it, and many other mammals nest as well. And guess what?! Your doula nests too!

After attending my first few births as a doula I started catching onto my own, intrinsic pre and post-birth rituals. I found that in the weeks leading up to a client’s estimated due date I am devoting a bit more time to tidying and housework (we don’t live in a pigsty but, I’m definitely not the most domestic of divas). The laundry is under better control than usual; I am sure to not let the pantry get too skimpy and meals are planned, often prepped, and leftovers are packed to grab and go. The bathroom is clean… and, trust me, this is a big one if you’re nesting nesting as the bathroom is a great place to hang during labor!

…and, trust me, this is a big one if you’re nesting nesting as the bathroom is a great place to hang during labor!

At the root of this doula nesting is a desire, much like expectant parents experience, to feel as well prepared as possible. A tangible and functional way to help ready the household and make the coming transitions (be they big ones like welcoming a new member of the family or less transformative, albeit kind of disruptive, ones like mom being away for perhaps 24+ hours) as seamless as possible. Honestly there’s a bit of self-preservation mixed in too- I don’t need our awesome childcare wondering what the heck that smell is.

My nesting before a client’s birth also offers a little added calm, allowing me to be even more present mentally and emotionally for my wonderful clients. I’m not worried about whether baby B has enough clean diapers or if my husband will be able to find something healthy and relatively easy to prepare for the family to eat. I wonder if nesting prior to birth offers this same, sometimes subconscious peace of mind? I think that knowing we’ve prepped a bit might allow us to sink a bit more effortlessly and gracefully into that sacred birthing head space. A space that requires we not be concerned about that which is ultimately not all that important to the miraculous task at hand.

Pelvic steaming for birth prep

Pelvic steaming, often referred to as vaginal steaming, V steaming, or yoni steaming. Are you familiar? Perhaps you even have experience with pelvic steaming; and if that’s the case, high five and hell yeah! At the end of my third pregnancy I stumbled into the opportunity to use pelvic steaming as a way to prepare myself, body and mind, for birth. And I am so glad that I did!

While pelvic steaming wasn’t completely new to me, I was really excited to learn more about it’s deep and dynamic roots before diving in bottom first. Pelvic steaming is a self-health practice thousands of years in the making. Folks all over the world, for generations, have used pelvic steaming to promote health and wellness through menstruation difficulties, after birth, during and after menopause, and much more. The list of potential benefits of pelvic steaming is long but, generally, this intimate practice in self-care can help restore balance, relieve stress, and deepen your connection with yourself.

Just a few weeks before my estimated due date, I came across a post on Facebook looking for folks who were late in their pregnancies and open to exploring pelvic steaming for birth prep. I thought this quite serendipitous as I had been, for weeks, trying to find a good way to connect with my growing babe and prepare myself for this third birth experience. After replying to the Facebook post, I was connected with Laura Durbin of Reviving Fire, a local Pelvic Steaming Practitioner. She proved to be a fantastic guide in this journey!

Steaming herbs

Within a few days my steaming herbs had arrived and, with many thanks to my husband, I was set up with a makeshift steam seat. The set up wasn’t pretty but, it was very functional! That extra toilet seat that was sitting in the basement finally proved useful and to complete the aesthetic, underneath the pretty blanket I draped over was an orange Homer bucket.

Following Laura’s guidance, I started steaming during my 38th week of pregnancy. My routine was to steam in the evening, just before bed for about 15-20 minutes. I was set up in the front bedroom of our home where I birthed my first two babies and where I intended on giving birth to our third. This felt so good. Literally and figuratively. The warmth of the steam and the floral scent of the herbs was immediately relaxing! That front room was again a sacred birthing space and I preparing my body for the journey. The evening routine made for some really great overnight rest as well.

“That front room was again a sacred birthing space and I was preparing my body for the journey.”

I steamed 12 times in the week and a half prior to my third birth. The pelvic steaming sessions were always enjoyable and extremely relaxing. But, a few of them were completely euphoric! Between the comforting heat, the healing herbs, and the pre-birth pregnancy hormones I felt like I was buzzing after a few of those sessions.

Come birth day my experience was quick and seamless (read that entire birth story here). I could feel my body stretching and opening beautifully to make space for our baby as he made his way down. I felt very clearly that crowning sensation but, for the first time I did not feel completely overwhelmed by it. Despite a very precipitous birth, I was left with zero tearing or perineal trauma. I am certain that my pelvic steaming prior to birth only helped in all of this.

I went into the pelvic steaming experience wanting mainly to create time and space to mentally and emotionally prepare for the birth of my third; the steaming helped me achieve exactly that. I was so pleasantly surprised by the physical relaxation and benefits that I felt as well. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have prepared for my son’s birth with pelvic steaming. It deepened my connection with him towards the end of our pregnancy journey and helped keep me in a balanced, calm, and positive emotional space leading up to the birth.

If you’re interested in learning more about pelvic steaming I would encourage you to connect with Laura Durbin. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and at https://www.revivingfiresteaming.com/ Look out for pelvic steaming part 2! I used steaming as a way to help my body heal after the birth as well. More on that in a few weeks.