birth

The BirthRoot Classroom: An Online Childbirth Prep Class For the Rest of Us

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“We’re looking for a childbirth class that is inclusive of trans people. We don’t want to walk in and have to educate the instructor all about trans stuff. We want them to already know about us and feel comfortable teaching us.” 

This is what a recent couple told me during our first meeting together. They are trying to get pregnant, and wanted to meet with me to discuss the process and get support from a LGBTQ+ friendly doula. They identify as a gay couple, and Jamie*, the parent who will be carrying the baby, identifies as a transgender man. They are in the beginning stages of the pregnancy journey, and are looking into all their options when it comes to providers, birthing locations, and childbirth prep classes. As a transgender man, Jamie already knows that his pregnancy will be filled with challenges that cisgender people just don’t have to deal with, like educating pretty much every provider about what it means to be trans, how trans men can still get pregnant, and on and on. They are going into this with their eyes wide open, and want to find the providers who will help them along the journey with as much understanding, support, advocacy, and open-mindedness as possible. 

I replied to their comment about wanting an inclusive childbirth prep class with some hesitation, “well, I know of some excellent childbirth educators, but you may still have to do some advocating and educating. I don’t know of any local childbirth prep classes that specifically cater to LGBTQ people.” I suggested they may want to do private classes, but those are usually more expensive, and money is a factor for this couple. I left the meeting feeling a bit discouraged, and wishing there were more birth-related services that specifically focus on trans and gender-nonconforming people.

A Childbirth Preparation Course for the Rest of Us

A few months ago I received an email from Sandra Londino, a certified nurse midwife in Ithaca, New York. She had seen my blog post about how to make your birth business more LGBTQ+ inclusive, and asked if I’d be willing to check out her new online childbirth prep course, The BirthRoot Classroom, and write a blog post about my thoughts. I immediately went to the course website and dug into the content, and watched the free preview of the Introduction Module of the course. My first reaction to the Introduction Module video was how clear, understandable and accessible all the information was. Sandra’s teaching style is thoughtful, friendly, and never feels rushed. The course is inclusive of LGBTQIA people, people of color, and single parents. Anyone and everyone can take this course and see themselves reflected in the content, which can’t be said for most of the childbirth prep classes out there. 

Anyone and everyone can take this course and see themselves reflected in the content, which can’t be said for most of the childbirth prep classes out there. 

 

What This Course Offers

First of all, The BirthRoot Classroom is JUST $75. Most childbirth prep classes are a couple hundred dollars, and many of them don’t offer all the perks you get with this class:

  • 24/7 Members Only access for six months (including all future updates to the program at no extra charge)
  • Eight evidence-based modules with downloads, worksheets, resources, audio recordings, and links
  • Over 15 hours of video walking you through every step of preparing for childbirth and parenting
  • 24/7 lifetime access to the private Facebook discussion forum moderated by Sandra
  • Monthly LIVE Q&A calls with Sandra (these are recorded for future reference if you are unable to attend live)
  • Email support for questions or problems
  • Content, images, and terminology that are inclusive of people of color, single people, and LGBTQIA people

For people who have busy lives, it can be hard to commit to an in-person childbirth prep class. This class is all online, so you can take it at your convenience, and re-watch any modules that you want to brush up on later. 

 

A Gap in the Birth World

I’m so excited that Sandra has created a course like this. There is a huge gap in the birth world for people who identify as trans or gender-nonconforming. There needs to be more content out there for ALL people, so that all birthing parents can feel the support and respect that they deserve. I can’t wait to share The BirthRoot Classroom course with all my clients! 

Check out the course HERE! 

 

*names have been changed to protect client privacy.

Shea's Birth Story

Photos and video by the amazing 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 (Adrienne Brown of Wasatch Midwifery + Wellness)

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 much-needed support.

My dad showed up just in time to give me a hug and some much-needed support.

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 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. 

 

 

 

I Am Here, I Am Willing: How Attending a Curtis Method Hypnodoula Training Sold Me On Hypnobirthing

Photo by Liybie Cerar

Photo by Liybie Cerar

I am kind of a doula training junkie.  If there is a training within 50 miles of me, I’m probably gonna take it.  I’ll take webinars, live trainings, seminars, workshops – if it’s out there, I’m throwing my money in it’s direction and spending my time at it.

When I think about it, being hooked on birth education is actually a pretty great habit to have.  Giving in to my education fix has led me to learn a ton, from how to build a successful doula business, to how to use music before, during and after birth, to how to properly massage a laboring woman. 

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to attend a Curtis Method Hypnodoula training.  The minute I met Lauralyn Curtis, the creator and teacher of this training method, I knew I’d take any training she would offer.  Her energy, knowledge, and personality are magnetic, and I knew that I would learn a ton from her. 

Lauralyn Curtis teaching the Hypnodoula class

Lauralyn Curtis teaching the Hypnodoula class

The training was spread over four days of watching birth videos, reading, listening, and doing hands-on practice.  The 18 or so women in the training were educated about how to use deep relaxation, hypnosis, touch, and affirmations to help laboring moms remain in a relaxed, calm, confident state throughout labor.  The Curtis Method is a little different from other hypnodoula trainings, which I really liked.

5 things that make the Curtis Method Hypnodoula program unique:

1.     The Curtis Method focuses on Active Birth.  To quote Lauralyn’s description in her workbook The Curtis Method of Childbirth Education, “Active Birth is a philosophy in which a woman follows her birthing instincts and intuition, while being actively involved in all choices regarding her birth experience.”  
What I love about this is that it doesn’t matter what type of birth a mom has, whether it’s unmedicated, medicated, or surgical – if she is actively involved in all the choices and decisions regarding her birth, she is having an active, empowered birth. 
During an active birth a mom may choose to move, walk, vocalize, sleep, ask for help, and bear down when she feels the urge.  She is in charge of her birth, and she follows her intuition regarding what needs to happen next. 

Lauralyn Curtis explaining how the pelvic bones shift during childbirth. 

Lauralyn Curtis explaining how the pelvic bones shift during childbirth. 

2.     The Curtis Method focuses on Birth Instinct Anchoring. This is a technique in which the laboring mother’s own birthing instincts are used as hypnotic anchors.  For instance, opening and closing her eyes, moving around, changing positions, resting, vocalizing, etc. can all be used as anchors to encourage her to go deeper and deeper into relaxation.  This way, she feels able to do whatever she needs to do, knowing that her movements and actions won’t bring her out of her relaxed state. 

3.     The Curtis Method focuses on Evidence Based Maternity Care. This means using labor practices that have been shown through research to lead to the best outcomes for mom and baby.  To quote Lauralyn, “the goal of evidence-based care is to reduce the incidence of injury and complications, while using the least amount of medical intervention possible.”
An example of evidence-based maternity care is the Lamaze Institute’s compilation of six Healthy Birth Practices.  These practices have been clinically shown to lead to the safest, healthiest outcomes for moms and babies.
The six Healthy Birth Practices are:

  • Allow labor to begin on its own
  • Walk and stay active in labor
  • Bring a doula for continuous labor support
  • Avoid medically unnecessary interventions
  • Avoid laying on your back in labor, and follow your body's urges to push
  • Keep your baby with you as much as possible after birth
Practicing light touch with the rebozo to increase endorphins and promote relaxation. 

Practicing light touch with the rebozo to increase endorphins and promote relaxation. 

4.     The Curtis Method offers Daddy (Partner) Doula Training. In this training, dads/partners learn many of the doula tips and tricks to help labor progress comfortably.  They learn about positions, counter-pressure, acupressure, and more.  This helps them to feel empowered to be an active participant in the birth.

5.     The Curtis Method uses a unique approach to Birth Hypnosis. In the Curtis Method, hypnosis is taught to be used as a tool before and during labor.  But if the laboring mom decides not to use the hypnosis during her labor, it still works!  As Lauralyn puts it, “using hypnosis to prepare for childbirth is like practicing yoga to prepare for a marathon or other physical feat of endurance: the yoga will thoroughly prepare your mind and muscles for the work you are about to do, but you won’t necessarily be doing yoga as your cross the finish line! Similarly, we use the hypnosis to train, prepare, and re-program your mind and body for a healthy, positive birth.” 
I love this! To me, it takes the pressure off of the laboring woman so she doesn’t feel like she has to use hypnosis during labor.   Instead, she knows that she has prepared, and she has hypnosis as a tool in her toolbox if she chooses to use it.

The amazing group of women who took the Curtis Method Hypnodoula training with me. 

The amazing group of women who took the Curtis Method Hypnodoula training with me. 

All in all, I found this training to be super educational, fun, emotional (18 birth-loving women watching a beautiful birth video = pass the tissues), and inspiring.  I left the training with a new outlook on how hypnosis and deep relaxation can be used during labor.  I also left with the drive to continue on the path to becoming a certified hypnodoula!  This training was the start of what I hope will be a long and winding road into the world of hypnobirthing.


The title of this post references a mantra - "I am here. I am willing." This mantra was shared in the training by Kylie Flinston Power, a doula in Salt Lake City.  Kylie makes amazing gemstone necklaces, check out her work here.

To learn more about Curtis Method Hypnobirthing, visit www.hypnobirthingutah.com

Seven ways music can help during your birth

I think it's safe to say that everyone has experienced the amazing power of music at one point or another, whether it is listening to your favorite relaxing tune to unwind from a hard day, putting on loud, uptempo music to get pumped for a workout, or dancing around the kitchen to your favorite salsa music while you make dinner (oh, is that just me?). 

But how exactly does music help during labor and birth? Mary DiCamillo, the founder and creator of the Sound Birthing program, has outlined the seven foundational processes of music during labor and birth, and I would like to share them with you today.

1. Biological: Music is used during birth to help the laboring mother regulate her breathing, lower blood pressure and respiration, and decrease discomfort.  

2. Psychological: Music can enhance the mother's ability to tap into her coping mechanisms that she learned in childbirth prep class. Having music on can even make time seem to pass faster than it is. 

3. Sociological: Music can evoke social support from others and holds the birthing team together, including midwives, nurses, doctors, doulas, family members, and the music therapist. 

4. Emotional: Music can be used to match or affirm moods and feelings the laboring mother is experiencing (technically this is called the iso principle), or may be used to help the mother shift or change her mood if she is feeling stuck.

5. Developmental: Music can support the process of becoming a mother and can help the new mom work through her fears and let go. 

6. Spiritual: Music can enhance and support spiritual processes of the laboring mother and may even evoke a peak or transpersonal experience. 

7. Environmental: Music can be very important in blocking out extraneous sounds in the birth environment that may interfere with the laboring woman's entrainment process.  Music also provides a "sound blanket" which fills the space and wraps the birthing mother in sounds of comfort and safety.  

The amazing thing is, some or all of these processes may be experienced by the entire support team at the birth, making the birth experience calmer, more comfortable, and more meaningful for everyone present. 

"...But what do you DO?"

That is a question I get asked pretty often when I tell people that I am a music therapist and doula, and that I specialize in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth.  “Wow! That sounds awesome! But what is that?  And what exactly do you do?” Well, allow me to explain.

The short version: I educate and empower expecting parents to use music to support them physically and emotionally throughout labor and delivery.  I introduce them to a wide variety of different recorded music that has been specially chosen and compiled to promote comfort, calm, and decrease anxiety.  I attend their birth as their doula, and fill two roles.  First, as their birth doula: providing unconditional support, help with relaxation techniques, massage, position suggestions, and continuous encouragement. Second, as a music therapist trained in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth: continuously assessing the environment and their progress in labor, and playing music that will encourage relaxation, connection, and deep inner calm. 

To go a little more in-depth, here is the full definition of Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth written by Mary DiCamillo, a board-certified music therapist and founder of the Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth program:

“A Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth program is conducted by a board-certified music therapist, and consists of a series of sessions usually offered in the last trimester of pregnancy.  Some music therapists also provide labor and delivery support for the couple during the birth and postnatal visits. Couples are taught how to use music to support their physical and emotional needs throughout the stages of labor and delivery. The music therapist assists the couple in selecting and applying a special chosen music program to calm, comfort, block discomfort, and focus breathing for each mother. The music therapist may also provide instruction in imagery and relaxation techniques, movement training, singing lullabies and womb songs, and other creative arts experiences (a womb song is a special song that is written for the baby while in utero). Familiar music can help comfort the mother during the birth experience and practice with the music before the birth is essential. This therapy has been found to significantly decrease the mother’s anxiety and discomfort responses, decrease the need for analgesic medications during birth, and has contributed to overall positive feelings about the birth process.”

I hope this is helpful in giving you a feel for what I do as a Sound Birthing Doula.  If you think you might be interested in having me as your doula, please get in touch and let's chat! 

To learn even more about Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth, check out www.soundbirthingmusic.com.