Drumming with Doulas = My New Favorite Thing.

Doulas are pretty amazing people – they have a vast knowledge of how to help people feel comfortable, cared for, and supported.  They aren’t afraid of touch and don’t even flinch at blood, sweat or tears. And when a bunch of doulas get together in a mountain cabin for a weekend of rest, relaxation, connection, sisterhood, creativity and fun, it’s pretty much the best.  That was my experience at this year’s Utah Doula Association fall retreat.
I am new-ish to the area, so this was a really great chance for me to meet more doulas and chat with some that I’d met before.  The weekend was full of awesome rituals like a salt bowl, silk empowerment painting, creation of our own personal “power sticks,” and dancing.  But my favorite part of the weekend was the incredible drum circle that I had the pleasure of leading.

I have lead a big handful of drum circles in the past, but this was by far my favorite. Everyone put aside their fears and hesitations about drumming in a group and just dove right in.  The energy was absolutely electric and people even shared that they could hear our ancestors singing in the overtones created by the drums.  We danced, sang, and let our inner goddesses out to play. 

I got some pretty wonderful feedback from people about their experience with the drum circle, but I think my favorite came from Wendy Rush. She said:

“I recently attended a drum circle lead by the lovely and powerful Beth Hardy. She instantly and expertly began leading the group in cooperative beats that bound us together and bound us all to her. We would have done anything for her. After each guided set, she'd bring our awareness to ourselves and our connection with the group. The circle validated a lot that I feel about myself as a person. During the circle, I remembered that I don't like to follow the group, that I like to change things up, and I love I dance! But no matter what I did, I still had a place, and my place was accepted and harmonious within the group. There were others that steadily held their beat and never faltered. They were essential to the circle, and even though I don't choose that path, I rejoiced in their steady unwavering hands. I have rarely felt so genuinely connected to a group of humans. And through it all, Beth stood guiding us and giving us courage. It was a transformative and healing experience. Thank you for being a goddess and sharing your gifts with us, Beth!"
The lovely Wendy Rush at the drum circle.

The lovely Wendy Rush at the drum circle.

I was honored to be able to lead this circle, and hope to do more drumming with doulas soon.

All of these amazing photos were taken by Megan Phillips Capps of Gentle Journey Doula Services.

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

Affirmations for Pregnancy, Labor & Birth


Hey there, mamas-to-be.  I wanted to share with you a few affirmations that you can use to get your mind, body and spirit prepared for birth.  There is no wrong way to use these - you can say them to yourself in the mirror, set a reminder on your phone that pops one up at a random time in the day, or write them on a sticky note and put it on your car steering wheel.  

In my experience, affirmations really work, but I have to be willing to try them and give them some time.  Usually when I start using an affirmation, it doesn't really feel true for me, or "real" at first.  For instance, let's say I'm using the affirmation "my body is amazing and perfect exactly as it is right now."  At first I feel like I'm just reciting a line that isn't really hitting home in my heart.  My inner critic chimes in with, "this is silly....your body isn't THAT amazing....you know you could stand to change a few things..." and on and on. 

But the funny thing is, the more I say the affirmation, write it, sing it, whatever, the more true it begins to feel for me.  And then suddenly it really hits, and a lightbulb goes on.  I think to myself, "Wow, yes! My body IS amazing and perfect exactly as it is right now!"  and my inner critic slinks away to hang out in the dark corner where it lives. 

                                                                                                                                                                                   Stuart Smalley, the OG of affirmations. 

                                                                                                                                                                                   Stuart Smalley, the OG of affirmations. 

So I invite you to give these a try.  Just pick one at first and use that one until it hits home and feels true for you.  Then move on to the next one.

And if you don't love these particular affirmations, guess what? You can MAKE UP YOUR OWN! Just listen to that inner critic for 15 seconds and see what it's telling you right now.  Is it saying that you're not doing enough to prepare for labor? Is it saying that you ate too much at brunch? Is it saying that you're going to be a crappy mom?  Well, just turn those statements around and create an affirmation around it.  For instance: Change "I'm not doing enough to prepare for labor" to "Every day I become more ready to welcome my baby into my life."  Change "I ate too much at brunch" to "I nourish my body with healthy foods, and enjoy every bite that I eat."  Change "I'm going to be a crappy mom" to "I am ready to learn and grow into the mother I am meant to be."  See?  You can totally create affirmations around anything you want! 

Here are some affirmations to get you started! 

1. There is no better time for me to be having my baby.
2. My body is perfect exactly as it is.
3. Every day I become more ready to be a mother. 
4. I trust my body. I trust my instincts. I ride the waves of change, knowing that I will be brought safely to shore.

5. I can't wait to meet my baby.
6. I breathe in peace, and exhale any stress in my body. 
7. My baby is coming at exactly the right time. 

I trust my body.I trust my instincts. I-2.jpg

8. There is nothing important enough to stress me. 
9. My pregnancy is progressing exactly as it should.
10. I can do this! 

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.