Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers book review

I am guest blogging today over at the Utah Doula Association blog! Check out my book review of "Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers"

As doulas, it is part of our role to help our clients get started with breastfeeding, and it is important for us to recognize the cultural and societal factors that could present a hurdle for our clients who want to breastfeed. This book gave me, as a doula, a greater understanding of the many factors that play into the breastfeeding relationship for black women. Check out the blog post, and read this book!

The 15 Most Useful Newborn Items

In October we welcomed our first baby into the world, an adorable little guy named Shea with a full head of dark hair and huge eyes who immediately stole our hearts.  In these first weeks and months we’ve been spending every day learning his personality and trying to develop some semblance of a routine and a “new normal.”  Through the sleepless nights, endless dirty diapers, and surprising amounts of spit-up, these are the items that we have found the most useful so far.  They’re in no particular order; each one is great and has been a lifesaver at some point so far in our parenthood journey.

 

1.     Wubbanub

This pacifier with the adorable stuffed animal attached has been so great for several reasons: first, our little Shea has a hard time keeping a pacifier in his mouth, and the animal serves as a sort of anchor to keep the pacifier in.  I lay the stuffed animal on Shea’s chest and tuck it under a blanket, and it stays pretty well.  Also, once Shea is a little older he’ll be able to hold the animal himself and get the pacifier back into his mouth if it falls out.  Last but not least, the animal makes this pacifier easy to find in a pile of baby blankets and other random items, which is great for tired parents holding a crying baby who just…needs…his…BINKIE!

Downside: The pacifier part doesn’t detach from the stuffed animal, so we can’t wash them separately. We happened to get two of these as gifts, so we can just switch them out if one gets spit up or something on it. So far I’ve just spot cleaned the animal but I imagine it could be thrown in the washing machine if it got really dirty.

2.     Pacifier clip

Like I said above, Shea has a hard time keeping his pacifier in his mouth, so this is a great way to keep it attached to him so it doesn’t fall on the dirty floor.

3.     Basic white flat diapers

We actually don’t use these as diapers, but we use them a TON for everything else. They’re awesome as burp cloths and puke wipes, and we also use one to cover Shea’s ‘area’ during diaper changes so it catches pee if he starts to go!

4.     Gripe Water 

This is made with ginger and fennel, and is great for giving a baby with an upset tummy, gas or colic.  We’ve used it with Shea when he seems especially fussy and uncomfortable with gas, and it seems to help. And he loves the taste! I’ve taken it too, and it really is yummy and doesn’t taste like medicine at all.

5.     Seventh Generation wipes

I’m not a fan of baby products that contain a bunch of chemicals and fragrances.  These are unscented, and wet enough to get Shea’s booty nice an clean during diaper changes.

6.     Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter

This lanolin-free formula contains natural plant and herb extracts, and doesn’t have to be washed off before nursing.  I’ve used it to soothe sore nipples, lube up my breast pump, and even as a stand in for chap stick and lotion in a pinch.

7.     Good ol’ Vaseline

Basic, cheap, and useful.  I put a little shmear of this on Shea’s booty during each diaper change to act as a moisture barrier for the next wet diaper. It has kept his butt rash-free so far!

8.     Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Stretch Oil 

I used this during pregnancy to rub all over my belly, hips and breasts.  It smells divine, and is great as a massage oil.  After my c-section, I’ve rubbed it on my incision scar to keep it moisturized and soothed. 

9.     Saline Spray 

Living in the dry climate of UT, Shea’s little nose and sinuses get pretty dry and boogered up. We spritz a little of this in each of Shea’s nostrils before using the Snot Sucker, and it works great to loosen boogers and snot.

10. Nosefrida Snot Sucker

Gross, yet extremely satisfying.  Tip – wait til baby is in a calm, relaxed state to use this.  It’s no fun trying to suck the snot out of a screaming, flailing baby’s tiny nostrils.

11. Probiotic Drops 

Shea was in the NICU for a week and was pumped full of antibiotics because he had an infection.  As recommended by our midwife, we’ve been giving him infant probiotic drops to help his gut get back to normal. We just put a few drops into a bottle of breastmilk, mix it up, and he gulps it right down. 

12. Fisher Price Rock-n-Play Sleeper

A friend recommended this, and said it was a lifesaver for her little guy.  And it’s been a lifesaver for us, too! Infants don’t always like sleeping on a completely flat surface, so this is a great solution.  We have it right next to our bed, and after I’m done nursing Shea and he’s drifting off to sleep, I put him in here, turn on the vibrate switch, and he’s out like a light. 

Downside: It doesn’t actually rock on it’s own, it just vibrates.  If I want to rock it, I have to use my hand or foot to do it manually.  However, it looks like you can buy a little bit more expensive model that rocks on it’s own, here.

13. Plug in heating pad

When we first started putting Shea in the Rock-n-Play sleeper, he would wake up right when we put him down.  We realized it was because it was cold, and he had been in our warm arms.  So, we got one of these plug in heaters from Walgreens, and we pop it in there a few minutes before he’s going to go in.  We then take it out, and put him down on the nice warm surface.  Works like a charm!  Bonus: use it for your sore back now that you’re constantly hunched over holding and nursing a baby!

14. SwaddleMe velcro swaddle wrap 

These are just great for swaddling a squirmy little baby.  We call them the baby straight jacket, because they really keep his upper body nice and snug.  His legs can still move freely in the looser bottom area.  Swaddling a baby can really help them calm down and feel soothed, since they’re used to being crammed in your uterus. 

Downside: You need to undo the whole swaddle when you need to change a diaper in the middle of the night, and there is a big piece of Velcro right in the middle that you need to undo.  “Rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiippppp”…. And now, baby is wide awake!  We have loved the Swaddlesure, which offers a great solution: the bottom can be opened without having to undo the top, so baby’s upper body can remain tightly swaddled while you change his diaper! 

15. Promptly journal 

This journal goes from birth to age 18, and gives you writing prompts so you aren’t just staring at a blank page wondering what to write. It makes it easy to sit down for 5 minutes and jot down your thoughts.  It makes a great baby shower gift!

 

So, there you have it! Those are the 15 most useful items I've found so far in our son's 7 weeks of life.  Enjoy! 

 

Shea's Birth Story

Photos and video by the amazing, fantastic, brilliant Julian Marks of Picture Your Birth Photography.

The Long and Winding Road

My sacred birth space

My sacred birth space

How do I put into words what was the single most transformative, spiritual, intense, difficult, beautiful experience of my life? I don’t think words can do it justice, but I will try my best.

Shea’s birth story starts before I was pregnant with him.  My journey to getting pregnant was a long one, and consisted of lots of steps that many people don’t have to take.  But as part of a queer couple with a trans husband, I knew that getting pregnant would take a little more time and effort.  My husband and I spent two years trying - tracking my cycle, taking lots of medications, injections, and doing 10 rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI).  10 rounds is a lot – most people get pregnant after 2-4 rounds or so.  But we just kept trying, thinking that maybe this next time would be the one.  We tried two different sperm donors, thinking maybe that was the reason I wasn’t getting pregnant.  Finally we switched to a third sperm donor and started the process of doing in vitro fertilization (IVF).  This was my first lesson of many in letting go of expectation, and learning to “never say never.”  I had always thought I would get pregnant with no problem, on the first try.  After that didn’t happen (ahem, ten times), I thought “well, I’ll never do IVF, that is too expensive and we will never get to the point where we need to do that.”  I was wrong. 

This was taken the morning we were going for our first IVF embryo transfer.  We were so excited, and filled with love for each other and for our future baby. 

This was taken the morning we were going for our first IVF embryo transfer.  We were so excited, and filled with love for each other and for our future baby. 

My fertility fish and goddess - good luck charms that we hoped would help me get pregnant this time!

My fertility fish and goddess - good luck charms that we hoped would help me get pregnant this time!

Through the IVF process we got three fertilized embryos, and ended up getting pregnant with the first one that was implanted.  We couldn’t believe it, we were finally pregnant! I surprised Spencer at work to tell him the news, and we just hugged and cried in the hallway, so grateful that our dream had finally come true.

We spent the next several weeks in blissful excitement, telling our closest friends and family the news.  Then at our 7 week ultrasound, on October 28, 2015, the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.  I felt numb, shock, disbelief.  This could never happen to me, right? Again, I was wrong.

Spencer and I got these tattoos to honor and remember our little baby that didn't make it. I feel that it was a girl, and these remind us of her whenever we look at them. 

Spencer and I got these tattoos to honor and remember our little baby that didn't make it. I feel that it was a girl, and these remind us of her whenever we look at them. 

We spent the next couple of months processing and grieving this huge loss, and then in January 2016 we tried again with our second embryo.  I got pregnant again, and this time stayed pregnant.  Our little boy Shea was finally ready to come into the world.

Announcing our pregnancy at about 13 weeks, at our housewarming party for the home we recently bought. 

Announcing our pregnancy at about 13 weeks, at our housewarming party for the home we recently bought. 

Waiting Game

My pregnancy was relatively easy, and I absolutely loved being pregnant.  I had wanted this for so long, that I was grateful for every moment.  Even when I had morning sickness, I thought to myself, “I’m grateful for this, I wanted this, this means I’m still pregnant.”  For the first several months, it still didn’t feel real.  I was so afraid I was going to lose this baby, too, that I didn’t let myself fully believe it.  I felt a little better after our 7 week ultrasound when the doctor heard his heartbeat.  Then at our 20 week ultrasound when we could really see him and learned that he was a boy, I felt even better.  As I began to feel him kick and move inside me, it finally began to feel real.  I was really going to have this baby!

I knew that I wanted an unmedicated home birth, and I saw a midwife throughout my pregnancy (one of the best midwives in Salt Lake City, if I do say so myself: Adrienne Brown). 

Adrienne listening to Shea's heartbeat

Adrienne listening to Shea's heartbeat

I am a pretty crunchy person, and I loved the more natural-minded approach of my midwife. For instance, when I had a headache during pregnancy, instead of telling me take Tylenol, she had me take magnesium, use essential oils, take a bath, and put ice on my neck.  When she came over for prenatal appointments, she would spend a good hour talking to Spencer and me, answering all of our questions, and chatting.  We felt like we were her only clients, and that she had all the time in the world for us.  

Our amazing midwife Adrienne Brown.

Our amazing midwife Adrienne Brown.

As my pregnancy went into week 40, she emphasized that it is very normal for pregnancies to last 40, 41, even 42 weeks.  She never made us feel like we were ‘overdue’ or that we should worry and get induced.  She did give us suggestions for natural induction methods that we tried, such as acupuncture, massage, red raspberry leaf tea, eating dates, walking every day, nipple stimulation, and sex.  When none of that got things going, she did a membrane sweep.  41 weeks came and went. 

Trying anything and everything to get labor going, including lunges and squats on our daily walk in Liberty Park. 

Trying anything and everything to get labor going, including lunges and squats on our daily walk in Liberty Park. 

When I was 41+5, she had me start taking an herbal tincture of cotton root and black cohosh.  That finally got contractions going, and they were strong!  I was finally in labor.  My mom had a short labor with both my brother and me, so I thought maybe I would have a short labor, too.  Again, wrong! I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in for a LONG labor.

36 Hours, 3 Doulas, and Lots of Moaning

The details of labor are pretty blurry, and the timeline in my mind is totally off.  I feel like I was in labor for 8 hours or so, and in reality it was about 36 hours total.

Here are things that I remember, in no particular order:

  • Using the birth ball to move my hips and lean on 
  • Making lots of “aaaaaaaahhhhhhh” and “ooooohhhhhh” noises
  • Focusing on my breath
  • Listening to soothing, quiet, relaxing music
  • Bursting into tears when my doula Mary showed up.  I just felt so relieved to see her, and had a cathartic cry.
  • Again bursting into tears when I stepped into the birth tub.  The warm water was SO EXTREMELY HELPFUL.  It felt so good, and I wanted to just be in the water forever.  Like, really, for the rest of my life.  I did NOT want to get out of that water. Ever. 
  • Feeling nauseous throughout the whole labor. I didn’t eat anything the entire labor, and at one point had a few sips of a smoothie. Other than that, I just drank water.  I just couldn’t imagine eating anything.  Eventually Adrienne gave me an IV with fluids to help me keep my energy up and stay hydrated.
  • I had a little stainless steel vomit bowl that was my “security blanket”.  I wanted it with me at all times, because I felt like I would throw up at any time.  I actually didn’t throw up that much, but I needed that bowl!  I remember saying many times, “Where’s the bowl? Give me the bowl!”
Mary doing "light touch massage" on my shoulders and arms. 

Mary doing "light touch massage" on my shoulders and arms. 

Mary doing the "shoulder press" while Spencer and my mom support me. 

Mary doing the "shoulder press" while Spencer and my mom support me. 

It’s hard to explain how labor FELT to me.  I was surprised by how it didn’t feel painful, per se, it just felt HUGE.  Like, all I could focus on or think about was the contraction I was currently having, and it took every ounce of mental, physical and emotional energy that I had to get through each one. 

At some point during labor, Mary had to leave because she had a work emergency, and another hypnodoula, Melissa, came.  She was there for about 24 hours, and then called in yet another doula, Ashlie.  I didn’t know I would be so lucky to have not one, not two, but THREE doulas at my birth! They were all amazing in different ways, and having them there to support me was everything.  Things I specifically remember:

  • Mary holding me while I cried
  • Mary using the rebozo, which felt so good during cotractions
  • Melissa using light touch massage on my back
  • Melissa using counterpressure on my hips and sacrum during contractions
  • Ashlie gently touching my forehead and running he fingers over my eyebrows to soften and relax my face
  • Ashlie fanning me with a cool washcloth with peppermint essential oil on it, which really helped with my nausea.
So grateful to have my mom at the birth. 

So grateful to have my mom at the birth. 

Crying with relief when I got into the birth tub. "Can I just stay in here for the rest of my life?!"

Crying with relief when I got into the birth tub. "Can I just stay in here for the rest of my life?!"

Spencer rocking the double hip squeeze while Melissa supports me. 

Spencer rocking the double hip squeeze while Melissa supports me. 

After laboring for probably about 30 hours, trying so many different pushing positions, getting in the shower many, many times, using the tub, walking around, and pushing some more (by the way, pushing felt SO GOOD! It was such a relief to be able to push with each contraction), Adrienne finally suggested that we may want to go to the hospital so that I could get some pain relief.  She thought that maybe if I could just get an epidural and rest for a couple of hours, I may be able to push the baby out.  I wanted to try just a little longer, and boy did I try! I used the birth stool, and finally tried sitting backwards on Spencer’s lap and hanging down between his legs, pushing with all of my might.  Still, baby Shea was not coming out.

Getting an IV placed so I could have some fluids, since I didn't eat the entire labor. 

Getting an IV placed so I could have some fluids, since I didn't eat the entire labor. 

Adrienne telling me she thought it may be a good idea to head into the hospital. You can see the disappointment and exhaustion on all our faces. 

Adrienne telling me she thought it may be a good idea to head into the hospital. You can see the disappointment and exhaustion on all our faces. 

Trying my hardest to push Shea down and out.

Trying my hardest to push Shea down and out.

My amazing birth team - my rock/love of my life/husband Spencer, doulas Ashlie and Melissa, midwife Adrienne, and midwife assistant Adrianna. 

My amazing birth team - my rock/love of my life/husband Spencer, doulas Ashlie and Melissa, midwife Adrienne, and midwife assistant Adrianna

Never Say Never

We decided to go to the hospital to get the epidural (another thing I said I would NEVER do.  Have I not learned my lesson yet?!).   The process of getting the epidural was a little gnarly, especially when the anesthesiologist said “ok, you’re going to feel a little ‘zing,’ like an electric shock, in one of your legs.  That means the epidural is in the right place.”  A little ‘zing’?! I squeezed Spencer’s hand so hard, I think I almost broke his fingers!

My dad showed up just in time to give me a hug and some support before I headed into the c-section.

My dad showed up just in time to give me a hug and some support before I headed into the c-section.

Getting the epidural. Spencer later told me that this was the only time during the entire labor when I squeezed his hand so hard! 

Getting the epidural. Spencer later told me that this was the only time during the entire labor when I squeezed his hand so hard! 

Crying and feeling the loss of the "ideal labor" that I thought I would have. 

Crying and feeling the loss of the "ideal labor" that I thought I would have. 

These three women... amazing, strong, brilliant doulas. Oh, and exhausted doulas, too.  Mary Brown, Melissa Nanes and Ashlie Hashimoto.

These three women... amazing, strong, brilliant doulas. Oh, and exhausted doulas, too.  Mary Brown, Melissa Nanes and Ashlie Hashimoto.

But once the epidural kicked in? You guys. Heaven. It was just such a relief to finally be able to relax and sleep after being awake for over 30 hours.  They gave me Pitocin to try and get my contractions stronger, and after I slept for a couple hours, they encouraged me to try to push the baby out.  Well, I tried, but no go. At this point they began to see that Shea was having heart decelerations every time I had a contraction, which worried them.  Eventually, the doctor said the words I never thought I’d hear, “we need to do a c-section.”  Even though this was NOT the path I expected, I knew that it was what needed to happen.  So, off to the OR we went.

The c-section was a weird, surreal experience.  I’m not crazy about hospitals in general with their bright lights, cold surfaces, and people I don’t know all around me (hence planning a home birth with a midwife).  Well, this was all of those things in one.  I was laid on the operating table and my arms were stretched out to the sides. They draped a curtain down so I couldn’t see what they were doing.  The thing that was the hardest and scariest for me was the uncontrollable shaking that was happening in my body, due (I think) to the large amount of epidural anesthesia I was given.  I hated the feeling that I couldn’t control the shaking in my body, no matter how hard I tried.

Eventually I sort of zoned out, and I didn’t hear what the OR team was saying. Spencer later told me that they seemed to be having a hard time getting Shea out because he was engaged in my pelvis and so low in the birth canal.  Eventually one of the nurses actually had to go in and push his head back up the birth canal while the doctor pulled him out of my belly.  Gnarly!  I’m so glad I didn’t know that was happening at the time. 

Once Shea was born, they briefly lowered the curtain and held him up, before quickly handing him through a window to the NICU team.  His cord was wrapped twice around his neck, and he was having trouble breathing.  The NICU team gave him oxygen via a nasal canula, then a C-PAP machine, until he was able to breathe room air on his own.  They would soon find that he also had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics, and he spent the next week in the NICU (a whole nother story, for another day.)

He's here! Shea was born at Intermountain Medical Center on 10/22/16 at 5:39am, weighing 6 lbs, 12 oz and measuring 21.5". 

He's here! Shea was born at Intermountain Medical Center on 10/22/16 at 5:39am, weighing 6 lbs, 12 oz and measuring 21.5". 

Cuddling after the c-section, getting support and love from Spencer. 

Cuddling after the c-section, getting support and love from Spencer. 

The doctor later told me that my placenta looked “kind of torn apart” and had some calcification spots.  He seemed concerned about it and sent it to the pathology team, but in my midwife’s and doula’s opinion, it was just an older plancenta, having done it’s job and being around for 42 weeks.  The bummer was that I was planning to encapsulate my placenta and take placenta pills throughout my postpartum time, but that went out the window (add it to the list of things that totally changed from my birth plan….birth plan?…. Ha!)

Learning, Letting Go, and Love Beyond Measure

This birth taught me so much about letting go.  I had to let go of what I thought my birth would be like, I had to let go of any sense of control, I had to let go of expectations, I had to let go of my “plan.”  I had to embrace the mystery, the vulnerability, the huge unknown that IS birth.  I just had to go along for this wild ride, trusting that I was safe, my baby was safe, and everything would turn out okay in the end. And you know what? It did.  It didn’t turn out how I thought it would, but it turned out okay.  And now I have this baby, this being, this physical manifestation of god in my life.  And he looks at me with those huge, dark eyes, and I can’t imagine things happening any other way.  My heart has grown ten sizes, and it feels like it’s going to explode with love when I look at him. 

SO much love.  

SO much love.  

As a doula, I thought I could plan my way into a perfect birth.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about how to have a natural, unmedicated labor.  What I didn’t realize is that I couldn’t plan for the mystery part.  There is a mystery to birth that can’t be conceptualized with the mind.  Something happens that is beyond any thought or words.  It is the god part.  The spiritual cracking open of the soul, to let this other soul come through into the world.  And that is something that can’t be written on a birth plan.

Three Births For the Price of One

You know what is awesome, though?  I got to have three births in one! I got to have an unmedicated, 30 hour labor at home with a midwife, candles, music, a birth tub, and all that my crunchy little hippie heart desired.  Then I got to have a hospital labor with Pitocin and an epidural.  Then I got to have a c-section.  As a doula, this will help me so much to be able to empathize with future clients.  As a mom, it helps me to see myself as the strong, resilient birth warrior that I am!

Shea at 6 weeks old, healthy and happy!

Shea at 6 weeks old, healthy and happy!

 

 

 

Original womb songs and lullabies now available!

As a songwriter and music therapist, one of the things I feel passionate about is helping new and expecting parents bring music into their lives with their new babies.  Singing to your baby in utero creates a bond, and if you sing the same song over and over to your unborn baby, they will actually recognize the song after they're born, and the song will help soothe them. 

A service that I offer is to help parents write an original womb song or lullaby for their baby - this is a special, unique song that is written using your exact words of hope, love, and care for your baby.  I put your words to music and create a simple, meaningful song that you and your family will treasure forever. 

"We all know the power of music.  Imagine your doula noting what music was playing while you were in transition, and pushing, and as your child was being birthed.  And imagine your playlist then also becoming your empowerment music while learning how to become a parent. Imagine your child knowing, in their soul, all of the songs that you chose to welcome them into the world.  And finally, imagine playing, over and over again, the lullaby that you put to words, as your child ages day-by-day."
- Monica Faux-Kota, massage therapist, Salt Lake City

To learn more about what a womb song is, how it's different from a lullaby, and what the whole process entails, click here

I offer gift certificates, and I can't think of a more original or unique baby shower gift than an original song for the baby!  Click here to purchase a gift certificate for a womb song or lullaby. 

Featured Contributor on Radio New Zealand!

On April 30, 2016 I was a featured contributor to Radio New Zealand's podcast "The Secret Life of Birth Music," featuring doctors, midwives, doulas and moms talking about the power of music during labor and birth.  I got to share what I do as a music therapist, and how I help my clients by using Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth techniques.  I also got to share an original "womb song" that I've written for clients! 

Featured on ABC News Channel 9

I recently got the chance to be featured on Salt Lake City's ABC channel 9 news, and they did a great video about my work at Huntsman Cancer Institute, using music therapy to assist patients with cancer in coping with their symptoms and managing the emotional ups and downs that come with being hospitalized.  Click the photo below or the link to watch the video! 

http://newschannel9.com/sponsored/huntsman/the-beat-goes-on-music-therapy-helps-cancer-patients-cope

Featured on the Dearest Doula Podcast

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Nathalie Saenz of the Dearest Doula podcast recently.  I got to talk all about music therapy, the history of the field, and how one becomes a board-certified music therapist.  I also got to dive into music therapy assisted childbirth, and the many ways music can help during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

A Music Therapist's Thoughts on Spotify's new birth playlist

Over the past day or so, there has been a bunch of media attention on a story about Spotify creating a “birth playlist” with the help of NYC-based OB-GYN Dr. Jacques Moritz.  The story has been picked up by the Huffington Post, Time, and more.  I wanted to weigh in as a board-certified music therapist who has been trained in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth.  Part of the work that I do is to help pregnant moms create personalized playlists, as well as provide them with over 40 hours of specially-compiled music playlists that can be used during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

While I think it’s great that Spotify recognizes the power of using music during birth, a one-playlist-for-all approach just doesn’t make sense.   Every birth is different, every birthing mother is different, and people’s music choices should be just as unique, varied, and ever-changing as their births are.  That is why when I work with a client, we spend several hours together talking about her music preferences, her history with certain songs, and what music she finds the most relaxing, uplifting, and helpful for getting through tough emotions. 

Another aspect of music during birth that I am mindful of is that the music should create an atmosphere of comfort, familiarity, calm and relaxation.  Songs should flow easily from one to the next, and there should not be a lot of variance within a single playlist.  That is one reason why Spotify’s birth playlist may not work for many women – not only is it not personalized to fit each woman’s preferences, but the songs are from a variety of genres and have different tempos.  When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind.   

"When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind."

I work with my clients during the months before their birth, and the music is an integral part of our therapeutic work together.  My clients practice moving and relaxing to the music many, many times before going into labor so that their bodies and minds are familiar with the music and relax easily and quickly when that music is played during labor.   I attend their birth as their doula and music therapist, and am constantly assessing the environment and putting on music that will assist them in focusing, relaxing and feeling at ease.   While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t give them the one-on-one, personalized therapeutic relationship that my clients get with me, and it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor.

"While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor."

As a trained music therapist, one of the most important pieces of knowledge that I bring with me to all my work is that music is very powerful, and it can sometimes have negative effects on people – it can trigger strong emotions, bring back difficult memories, and it’s psychological and physiological effects on the mind and body of a birthing woman can slow or stall the progress of labor. 

I think every birthing mom who wants to have music during her birth should be able to do that, and I encourage all the moms I work with to create playlists that help them feel relaxed and empowered.   While it is a one-size-fits-all approach that I don't think will work for many women, I do applaud Spotify and Dr. Moritz for looking at the benefits of music during labor, and I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth or my Birth Music Consultation services to get in touch with me at Beth@HeartTonesDoula.com. 

 

 

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

 

So much has happened in 2015!  After living in California's Bay Area for the past seven years or so, we packed up and moved to Salt Lake City, UT.  We were ready for a change, a new adventure, and a great job had opened up for Spencer at Primary Children's Hospital.  I saw this as the perfect chance to put in the time and effort it would take to build the doula business I'd been dreaming about for years, and so I dove into the birth world here in UT head-on! 

 

We found a great little duplex to rent near Liberty Park, which I walked around just about every day with our pooch Griffin. 

 

Planting a nice perennial garden made it feel more like home. 

 

We checked out SLC Pride in June, which was great! That was where I met Marina Lloyd, a local doula who's business - The Doula House -  had a booth at Pride, and she helped me so much in connecting with the doula community here.  She told me to join the Utah Doula Association, which I went home and did that day, and she also pointed me in the direction of which Facebook groups would be helpful to join.  She was instrumental in helping me get connected, and I don't think she even realized it until I saw her months later and thanked her! 

 

I was hired as the first-ever music therapist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, which is part of the University of Utah health care system.  I work there 10 hours a week and am building the music therapy program and seeing clients both inpatient and outpatient through the Wellness and Integrative Health Center. 

I also started as a volunteer doula at the University of Utah! On my very first day there was a second-time mom who was at about 8cm who wanted some doula help, so I got to help her have her second baby!  It was a great way to start my volunteer work there! 

 

We saw lots of the famous Utah sites, and wow, what a beautiful state we live in!

 

I joined a band! We're called Rabbit Rabbit and we play folksy music with lots of vocal harmonies. Fun fact, all the members are music therapists by day!  Here's a photo of us at our first gig in SLC, with our good friend and music therapist/amazing photographer Lyndi Benson joining us on fiddle! 

 

I worked with a great designer named April Davis (who also happens to be a birth worker in Southern UT) to design a logo for my  business.  We came up with this design...

 

Which finally turned into this design!

 

I attended a wonderful training on the Curtis Method of Hypnobirthing.  Lauralyn Curtis is a wonderful educator and birth worker, and I learned so much from her.  I also took a great training called "Providing Culturally Sensitive Care to LGBTQ Families," which led me to write this blog post. 

 

I had the pleasure of attending the Utah Doula Association's fall retreat which was full of sisterhood, creativity, rest, relaxation and connection. 

 

And I also got to lead an amazing drum circle at the retreat! It was truly magical.  This led me to start offering drum circle facilitation as part of my services here in SLC. 

 

I presented on Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth at the SLC Positive Birth Group, which was great.  I love sharing information about what I do and how music can help parents during labor and birth.  

I also had the pleasure of providing Birth Music Consultation services to two couples this fall, one in California and one in Texas.  Thanks to the magic of Skype, I met with them multiple times and helped them to understand how to use music during labor and birth.  

 

I joined a great community called 100 Percent Doula that is led by Alice Turner of YourDoulaBag.com and YourDoulaBiz.com.  100 Percent Doula is a community of doulas that want to grow and hone their skills in running a birth business.  Here I am sporting my "100% Doula" t-shirt! 

2015 has been a year of growth, change and movement.  I know that 2016 will be even more so, as my business continues to grow.  Here are a few things I am looking forward to in the coming year...

- I already have one couple that I'll be doula-ing for in August, and hope to continue to grow my clientele until I have 2-4 births per month.  My goal is to attend at least 10 births in 2016, and I have a feeling I won't have too much trouble meeting that goal!
- Sending in all the paperwork in order to get my postpartum doula certification through Doulas of North America (DONA).
- Starting as part of the Hypnobirthing Utah doula team! I'll be seeing clients in Salt Lake City who are using the Curtis Method of Hypnobirthing for their labor and birth. 
- Taking some great trainings - in January I'll be taking a training called "Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss" that is put on by the Institute for Birth, Breath and Death.
- I will be participating in group supervision with other music therapists who provide Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth services all around the country. 
- Continuing to volunteer as a doula at the University of Utah for at least the first several months of 2016. 
- And in my non-work life, Spencer and I are going to be closing on our first house in late January! Woo hoooooooo! It's a single-family home near Liberty Park, with a nice fenced yard for Griffin to enjoy. We can't wait!    

 

My word for the year 2016 is "bloom," because I know that my business and life will be blooming like never before in the coming year!   Cheers to 2016!


New Service Offering - Drum Circle Facilitation!

I'm excited to share that I have added Drum Circle Facilitation to my list of services that I offer! I've received drum circle facilitator training from Arthur Hull, one of the country's leading drum circle facilitators, and I have years of experience leading drum circles for people in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and retreats.  I've even helped veterans make their own buffalo drums that they then used in a drum circle! 

My recent experience leading a drum circle at the Utah Doula Association fall retreat reminded me how powerful drumming can be, and I would love to help more people tap into their inner well of strength through drumming. 

Drum Circle Facilitation.jpg

If you are interested in hosting a drum circle, get in touch