Journey From Hospital To Home, Victim to Empowered, Fear To Confidence & Loving Birth

Newborn exam on parent's bed, so they can be close to baby, watch and learn.

Newborn exam on parent's bed, so they can be close to baby, watch and learn.

The truth is that there are things one can do to prepare both physically and emotionally. And there are things one can do to ensure the best possible outcome for mother and baby. Pregnant women are not passive victims to their bodies. I learned these things from women like Pauline Nardella, Childbirth Educator, Anne Margolis, Certified Nurse Midwife and the filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein who made “The Business of Being Born”.

The Business of Being Born
Starring Mary Helen Ayres, Julia Barnett Tracy, Sylvie Blaustein

For every woman there are specifics that stand out in their prenatal care. I did not have to be subjected to constant pelvic exams, since most of the time, there was no medical need for it. When my midwife had to determine if the baby was head down she respectfully offered me options; an exam or sonogram. Until that point, I had always been told to undress from the waist down. Never asked. Never aware I had choices. I also learned that women are suggestive when pregnant. This is not because we are suffering from “pregnancy brain” or any other one of those derogatory descriptions of a woman expecting. We are suggestive in this condition by nature because it assists in the birthing process. A pregnant woman can be told she can bond with her unborn baby and therefore she can. A pregnant woman can be told that the contractions are surges, or simply a tight feeling and therefore they are endurable or even pain free. 

Being suggestive is critical to the birthing process and being exposed to fear in a suggestive state puts women on a dangerous path toward labor. This is why numbing drugs are so critical in an optionless system, not just to medicate the pain, but to numb a women’s fear and even the fear of fear. My homebirth midwife asked me questions about my pregnancy. She asked questions about my life situation and my concerns. She let me speak and she listened. I was an active participant in the prenatal check-ups to determine the well-being of my baby. She did not overwhelm me, and with each visit she provided simple handouts of things to do or assist me in my pregnancy. I did not feel pressure to do everything (like walk a mile a day, drink a gallon of raspberry leaf tea and do 1000 kegel muscle exercises while sitting in traffic) but to do what I could and even without doing anything at all, my body knows what to do. Women do not “fail” to give birth. This truth was reaffirmed in my Hypnobirthing class. My body and my baby know what to do. We follow nature. Despite this, the moment my water broke, I felt fear. “I am not ready”, I thought. At nearly 42 weeks I should have felt ready. But I still could not let my thoughts go. Did I practice enough with the tapes? Do I have the stamina? Am I going to fail to progress like I did in the hospital with my daughter? Can I take the pain without meds? 

The first contraction was powerful. It took me by surprise. This is where my prenatal care began to demonstrate its effect on me. Instead of thinking “OW!” I thought “WOW! My body is strong.” Holding on to that thought, I went from contractions every 10 minutes to every 5 in less than an hour. Apparently positive thinking and relaxation does have an effect on the cervix. The “proof” was now in action. I actually did not plan in advance the positive affirmations I would use, but once in labor, I no longer referred to them as contractions but as waves because they were not isolated to my uterus. I felt them from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I called my midwife to let her know the contractions were coming strong and quickly.

My husband ran around preparing the bath and trying to figure out why the heat wasn’t working that cold February night. My 2-year-old woke up looking for me. “The baby is coming?” If someone told me she was going to wake up and pine for me before our babysitter arrived, mid-transition it would have scared me. I cuddled with her and tried to put her back to bed as my husband stopped between errands to hold my hand. My midwife had the wisdom that I should prepare and inform my daughter with videos and a homebirth children’s book. She was a little afraid but more excited mostly because I was not afraid. I did not know I had the strength to care for my daughter and my labor at the same time. At my first birth my husband could not be out of my reach for two seconds. I needed his strength to get through the 20 hours of pain.

Without any rubs this time, I made it one wave at a time. I realized that the waves only lasted for about one minute or so and at this point the endorphins kicked in and the calm between lasted for three or more. It felt utterly divine so I focused on this. Since I was so suggestive, all I had to do from my practice was say the word “relax” and I was completely weightless, and floating. I did not mind the contractions as much simply because the strength of them and my thoughts were instigating this blissful relaxation. My midwife had not yet arrived as my cervix reached 10 cm, and my husband and neighbor had just completed filling the tub. I went back into my head since I did not expect to be in the bath alone and I got scared. 

My Midwife and Doula arrived just before I felt the need to push. I let her know I was scared and she asked me of what. And I said of being alone. My husband was with me, the babysitter arrived and so did my caretakers. She only needed to say “You are not alone” and I was not alone. In the warmth of the tub, my husband was holding me, sharing our strength to birth our son. In the timelessness of following nature, I remember my midwife’s words as I fell into what seemed like a trance. She said, “Go with your body”, after I announced the urge to push. And I did. She said, “Open your pelvis and let the baby through.” And I did. She said, “Push past the burning ring.” And I did! My son was nearly 10 pounds. We brought him into this world without fear, and after only three hours of labor and 15 minutes of pushing, he arrived into our arms with a feeling of love that cannot be described. Perhaps it was the Oxytocin I heard so much about. Still, the experience was life changing. It gave me strength through the turbulent changes of the first weeks of post-partum and a feeling of empowerment that I can carry with me through life. This story of trust, birth and love has bonded us immediately as a family and I have no doubt this birth story will continue to shape our lives.

Love, Ruthie

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Let Me Help You Create The Happiest Birth Experience Of Your Life...

Whether you're a first time or experienced momma,

Or a midwife, doula, or birth professional guiding mommas..

Regardless if you are planning a birth at home, a hospital, a birth center or need a cesarean section, or if you are taking another childbirth education class…

You Really Can Create The Delivery Of Your Dreams.

And have a blissful birth wherever you are.

More Precious Than A Wedding...A Birth Should Be A Celebration!

Let me show you how to…

  • Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
  • Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself,letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
  • Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
  • Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom and communicate with baby in belly
  • Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
  • Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth

Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!

To learn more, visit:  LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!

It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy. 

It’s wonderful alone, a great refresher or adjunct to any other course!

Forget your childbirth class, and take steps to your most empowering experience. If you are thinking about conception, pregnant, or love someone who is, take it from me that her wisdom is life-changing.
Yours in the truth
— Kelly Brogan, MD

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Click here to enter my dispensary at Fullscript.

I have listed my recommended prenatal and postpartum supplements in the PRENATAL SUPPORT and POSTPARTUM/BREASTFEEDING section, but you can search their catalog for other supplements and natural remedies as well.

You can also access your personalized prescriptions and dosage instructions for the products that have been recommended for you after a consultation.

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Group B Strep: What Does it Mean for Me and my Baby?

Group B Strep: What Does it Mean for Me and my Baby?

Group B Streptococcus, otherwise known as GBS or Group B Strep, is a normally occurring bacteria that lives in the lower intestines of human beings - from babies to the elderly.  It's a hot topic in the world of having babies, and there are no easy answers. I encourage educating yourself, weighing the risks and benefits of each option regarding testing, prevention and treatment, and deciding what is best for you and your baby.

Around 10-30% of pregnant women are colonized with the bacteria, depending on the population studied - but about 25% are reported to have vaginal GBS in the US. When there is a large amount of GBS in the colon and rectal areas, it can come forward to the vaginal and urinary tracts.

If detected vaginally in a non-pregnant woman, there is nothing wrong, and no need for treatment. The main concern is if a pregnant women has it in labor, and baby is exposed to the vaginal bacteria after the 'bag of water' breaks (during pregnancy, the baby is encased and protected in a double layered membranous sac of amniotic fluid, in lay terms referred to as the bag of water).

Although the vast majority of pregnant women with vaginal GBS have healthy babies, half are simply colonized - test positive for it but stay healthy, and about one in 200 babies in the US who are exposed to it during childbirth, can get infectious illness. GBS infection can become very severe or life threatening for about 1-2% of these babies, which is thankfully rare, but potentially devastating for those who are affected. 

Every human life matters, and I take those 1 or 2 babies per a thousand very seriously, as would any parent of a very gravely ill newborn.

I’ve collected some information for you below. I hope that this bite-sized chunk will save you from endless searching on the internet. Take note, that if you are in any doubt, please consult me, your midwife or doctor.

After a positive GBS test, don’t let anyone pressure or scare you out of having a free-standing birth center or home birth, if that’s what you want. GBS can easily be managed in the out-of-hospital setting. And know you do have options and can speak up on how the issue is dealt with; even though there is a standard of care that is strictly upheld in the US, there are different standards in other Westernized countries like the UK, that might just make more sense for you.

Risks During Pregnancy

Serious complications in pregnant women are rare. Complications of GBS can lead to urinary tract infection in women, but often the positive test results are actually from vaginal discharge, even if a ‘clean catch’ culture was obtained. In my practice, I found that out early on, after sending women with persistent GBS on clean catch urine culture tests, to a wonderful local urologist; she found them all to be negative for GBS in the urine using a sterile straight catheter specimen, and said there was no urinary infection to treat.

In the United States, GBS is routinely managed in the United States according to the Center For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. It is tested for between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy, by taking a Q-tip like swab from the vagina and rectal area, and sending it to a lab. This is currently the best time for obtaining results closest to the onset of labor.  It takes several days to get results, which are allegedly valid for 5 weeks. Current testing is not completely predictive, as tests can yield different results at different times because GBS can come and go intermittently. A mom can test negative in late pregnancy, but actually be positive for GBS if tested in labor. Likewise, but less commonly, a mom can test positive in late pregnancy, and test negative for GBS in labor. There is a new home GBS test in the UK called Strepelle that gives accurate results 3 days from receipt of the sample - but it is not without controversy. Unfortunately at this time, there are no reliable, widely available, cost effective, rapid test available during labor - which would at least address this issue. 

In other countries like the United Kingdom, women are not routinely tested in pregnancy for group B strep, according to recommendations by The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence; this is because they determined that evidence of the effectiveness of routine GBS testing in all pregnant women remains uncertain. Per guidelines of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are treated with antibiotics in labor only if there are risk factors - such as signs of infection like fever in labor, a prolonged time between 'water breaking' and birth, or if a preterm baby is expected.  Until 2002, in the United States, GBS in pregnancy was managed this way as well. The change in American obstetrical practice guidelines was based on analysis of some large studies around that time, even though there are limitations to the quality of those clinical trials, as is common with research; one major bias that concerns integrative, holistically minded practitioners, which most of the mainstream medical world discounts, is that this research is largely funded by for profit pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the antibiotics.  Today, in the US, all women who test positive for GBS during the late third trimester screen are given IV antibiotics in labor. That is a lot of healthy women and babies exposed to antibiotics when the risk of serious infection in newborn babies is rare. Additionally, most cases of group B strep in term newborns occur after screened pregnant women tested negative. 

Care Recommendations, Alternatives and Issues

The current standard of practice in the USA is based on the guidelines published by The Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which dictates that antibiotics are to be given during labor, to all women who tested positive for GBS in current pregnancy. This is hospital routine, and is based on the interpretation of the available research, indicating that IV antibiotics in labor significantly lowers the chance of infection in babies from 1 in 200 to 1 in 4000. But antibiotics can have serious side-effects. Many healthy moms in my practice don't want routine IV antibiotics, even though they can be given both in the home and freestanding birth center settings. It feels too medical for them; they are worried about it interfering with their ability to have a beautiful natural birth, have valid concerns about the consequences of the antibiotics and feel their risks do not outweigh potential benefits. Some pregnant moms do want the standard treatment, as they are more concerned with GBS than a few doses of intravenous antibiotics, and do not feel the IV in labor will hinder them or their birth dreams. 

If you do want the IV antibiotics, know you can still move around during the infusion, and be in the tub or shower if the access site is covered properly. I was gifted with a home IV pole on wheels, by a family in my practice. We had previously hung the IV on whatever we found in the house - like a door hook or hanger on a curtain rod (once antlers on a wall-mounted moose head did the trick); or when she needed to walk, someone would personally hold it up, and follow her around with it. You also don't need to be attached to an IV the entire labor and birth, but can have a saline lock, also known as a hep-lock. This is an IV catheter that's inserted into your vein, used only for the 15-30 minutes it takes for the medication to infuse; it is then disconnected from the access portal, so you are not attached to the IV tubing, pole and solution bag in between doses for the majority of your labor.

One reported side-effect of IV antibiotics in women is a harmless rash. Another potential annoying but treatable consequence is a vaginal yeast infection, which can lead to thrush in baby's mouth and on your nipples, and make breastfeeding painful for you until it resolves. A far more serious but fortunately very rare side-effect is Anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction which can be life-threatening, but most often managed effectively with medication. What concerns us most is the effect antibiotics can have on us and our little ones.  

Microbiome disruption is the disturbance of the intestinal tract balance of normal flora in babies (and mothers). More research is needed, but a recent Harvard magazine article tells us that this can cause life-long complications in infants. It also ups the antibiotic resistance in adults and infants, another life-long consequence and can lead to other serious infections for them both.  The award-winning chilling documentary MICROBIRTH, delves deeply into the microbiome - the trillions of bacteria that live on and in us that could be critical for human health.

Microbirth
Starring Martin Blaser, Maria Gloria, Dominguez Bello, Rodney Dietert

Chlorhexidine gluconate vaginal wash is commonly used in Europe for pregnant women who have been diagnosed with Group B Strep. Some studies have shown that the treatment of GBS using Chlorhexidine is safe, cheap, and as effective as antibiotics, without negative side-effects. Other studies suggest Chlorhexidine reduces GBS colonization, but not GBS infection in newborns. It is known in the US as Hibiclens, and is available over the counter without a prescription. It needs to be diluted and there are several effective protocols in pregnancy or during labor. It is not natural. It's a potent antiseptic and does disrupt the vaginal flora, which can hopefully be restored with vaginal probiotics; but it doesn't travel through the body and cross over to the baby like the IV antibiotics do. While it prevents the baby from exposure to GBS, it also does not allow exposure to the healthy vaginal bacteria during birth. But many moms in my practice prefer this to IV antibiotics in labor. I have tested its efficacy in my practice. After its use, I get back a culture swab negative for GBS, and have had no cases of newborn infection.  Chlorhexidine for GBS is increasing in the US, mostly in out-of -hospital settings.

Another treatment in late pregnancy that has been used especially among out-of-hospital midwives is a vaginal antibiotic.  Research is sparse, but suggests possible effectiveness. There is currently only one medication that apparently works, if the strain of GBS is not resistant to it, called Clindamycin; its IV use in labor is an alternative within the CDC guidelines, if mom is allergic to the drug of choice.  When testing for GBS, it’s sensitivity to the various antibiotics can also be tested. There is a small study, done by a colleague of mine, on its effectiveness to reduce GBS infection in newborns of moms who had tested positive for GBS in pregnancy. My relatively large homebirth practice was included in her research, as for years, I had been offering this option to pregnant women who tested positive for the bacteria. The option includes a Hibiclens daily wash protocol, other recommendations for prevention of recurrence and weekly GBS follow-up testing. The study demonstrated that this treatment was effective in the vast majority of women without any known complications; but it is only one small retrospective study, not a large, gold-standard, randomized clinical trial. I am still impressed by the negative follow up testing in my practice, and that no baby in my care, after this treatment had GBS infection or other problems. It is also not natural. It is an antibiotic medication, but with more of a local vaginal affect. Moms who have follow up cultures negative for GBS, feel better about declining the IV antibiotics in labor, especially if there are no risk factors. But it also disrupts the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina, can similarly cause yeast and thrush, and contribute to the issue of disease causing bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotic. 

Both of these treatments are easily accessible and thus convenient for home births, as well as birth center and hospital births. You can be empowered and learn to administer them yourself, once you have the supplies. It is important to know that Hibiclens or vaginal Clindamycin are NOT standard of care in the US, and they are not recognized to date by the medical world as a valid treatment to prevent GBS infection in babies. Women who chose either option are educated on the symptoms to watch for, advised to inform their pediatrician, and have the baby evaluated in 1-2 days. I also tell women who opt for either Hibiclens or vaginal Clindamycin, that they would be considered untreated for GBS and given antibiotics if transferred to the hospital - unless they refuse. Although you have the option to decline IV antibiotics in the hospital, disturbingly, it can get nasty if they are not supportive, involve social services or you are reported to the child protection agency and investigated for child abuse and negligence. Do discuss your plans with your provider and setting in advance, to avoid problems. 

Although I prefer natural remedies when they are effective, unfortunately in my 22 years of midwifery practice, I have yet to find one that works once GBS is detected; and I have had numerous moms who have used just about all of them, then have a positive GBS test on follow-up. There is forever a place in my heart, for a naturopathic mom who declined antibiotics and Hibiclens, and her severely ill newborn with GBS infection - the outcome was tragic. She tested positive for GBS repeatedly despite using the best of the best of protocols of natural remedies. What baffled all of us was there were no risk factors; it was a relatively short beautiful healthy birth with no interventions, water broke on its own during pushing. Yes, countless babies of moms treated naturally did not get sick even though follow up cultures were still positive for GBS. But the one case was enough for me. There is currently insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of any natural treatment remedy for preventing GBS infection in newborns. Holistic care includes all modalities, and sometimes there is a role for medication. When a pregnant mom tests positive for GBS, I discuss the issue, give her literature to read, present her with the pros and cons of all the options, from doing nothing to the alternative modalities, to IV antibiotics in labor, and honor her informed decision. Some want to use the UK’s risk factor protocol and decline GBS testing during pregnancy, and I respect their informed choice. 

It must be said, however, that no treatment is 100%. Cases are still reported in the medical literature where babies were infected with GBS after any treatment - including IV antibiotics, even though IV antibiotics have significantly reduced the incidence and severity of GBS illness in babies according to the research to date. I therefore recommend to keep a close eye on your newborn if you carry GBS, regardless of treatment. If any symptoms present themselves, consult your pediatrician immediately.  

Symptoms To Look Out For (Scary But Rare)

Early onset GBS occurs within the first week of life, most commonly within hours after birth. Signs and symptoms include: Lethargy; irritability; poor feeding; very slow or fast heart rate; abnormally high or low temperature; difficulty breathing such as flaring of the nostrils or grunting noises; too fast or slow breathing rate; blueness of the skin of baby's trunk, and/or pale or grey appearance. 

Late onset GBS occurs in 1/3 of babies with GBS infectious illness but is uncommon - effecting about 0.3 per 1000 babies, mostly who are premature. It can happen anywhere between the first week and 3 months postpartum; but it is rare after one month of life. Unfortunately there is no known prevention and like early onset GBS infection, can occur even when mom tested negative in pregnancy. An otherwise healthy baby can become critically ill within hours. Symptoms of late onset GBS are the same as early onset infection, but can also include: having a high-pitched, inconsolable cry, whimpering or moaning sounds; blank staring or trance-like expression; appearing floppy and listless; having an involuntary stiff body or jerking movements; not moving an arm or leg; excess sleeping and difficulty arousing; tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on baby's head); turning away from bright light; blotchy, tender skin; projectile vomiting; pus and red skin at base of umbilical cord or at any puncture site (from internal monitor).

Lets Talk Prevention!

Supplements during pregnancy can’t completely prevent GBS, but I highly advise taking them regardless, as I have had tremendous success with lowering the vaginal GBS rates in pregnant women who take the specific daily probiotic I recommend. Many of my colleagues report similar success with these probiotics. There is finally a small but growing amount of actual research - studies documenting the effectiveness of certain strains of probiotics to reduce the incidence of GBS. Probiotics are also safe and have many other health benefits. The other whole prenatal vitamins and minerals I recommend supplement a healthy diet with nutrients that enhance health and immunity.

You can lower the risk of infection also by minimizing exposure. You can try to lower the amount of GBS in your vagina, with natural remedies, such as in Dr Aviva Romm's protocol - even though there is no guarantee. If you have GBS in a healthy pregnancy and labor, you certainly can decline or limit vaginal exams, invasive procedures like internal fetal monitoring and having your bag of water broken artificially. If your bag of water has definitely broken before or early in labor, you can use natural remedies to gently stimulate labor and lessen the time it takes to birth. Some studies suggest that water birth can possibly help prevent GBS infection, because of less interventions and invasive procedures, as well as the bacteria being diluted or washed away, so baby is exposed to less of it.

Research is on the horizon regarding a vaccine for both early and late onset GBS infectious illness - which sparks an entirely different debate, as well as more accurate and available rapid testing in labor. There is much to be done to decrease risk and rates of preterm birth. But, my hope is for more research demonstrating prevention with probiotics in pregnancy, holistic modalities to improve immunity against infection, and the benefits of out-of-hospital midwifery care in terms of reducing newborn GBS infections. My dream is that there is widespread cessation of routine medical interventions in normal childbirth - one of the main pillars of authentic midwifery care. If there were more midwife-led birthing centers, out-of-hospital and home birthing for the low risk healthy population, according to evidence based NICES recommendations, this would decrease the rates of invasive procedures and hospital exposure to pathogens - especially resistant ones, that all increase risk of infection. And hopefully this would result in a major reduction of serious GBS illness in babies.

Can I Still Give Birth in a Birthing Center or Have a Home Birth?

Of course! And you might be better off doing so specifically in terms of GBS, by having a provider who honors your choices, possibly lessening infection risk by having a water birth, avoiding routine invasive procedures, as well as exposure to bacteria and infectious illnesses that are common in hospitals. Again, testing positive for GBS in pregnancy does not risk you out of either. Even the the usual protocol in the US to administer antibiotics by means of an IV, can be done at home or birth center with licensed midwives, which is good news!

If you are a carrier of GBS and experiencing a healthy pregnancy, I hope that you now feel confident that a home or birth center birth is still possible and actually a wonderful idea. I hope you have a better perspective about the issue, and feel more educated and empowered to make an informed decision about how you want to deal with it. Know you have alternative options to consider and most importantly do what you can in terms of prevention. Definitely take top quality prenatal supplements and probiotics!

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

If you are desiring the most natural, holistic pregnancy...

Let Me Help You Create The Happiest Birth Experience Of Your Life.

Whether you're a first time or experienced momma, planning a VBAC

Or a midwife, doula, or birth professional guiding mommas..

Regardless if you are intending to birth at home, a hospital, a birth center or need a cesarean section, or if you are taking another childbirth education class…

You Really Can Create The Delivery Of Your Dreams, ROCK your VBAC

And have a blissful birth wherever you are.

More Precious Than A Wedding...A Birth Should Be A Celebration!

Let me show you how to…

  • Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
  • Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself,letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
  • Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
  • Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom and communicate with baby in belly
  • Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
  • Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth

Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!

To learn more, visit:  LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!

It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy. 

Art by @spiritysol.

Art by @spiritysol.

 

Want to connect with like-minded women supporting each other through their natural birthing journey? Join our Facebook community, available to all moms in my local or global practice, who consult with me, are taking or have taken my Love Your Birth online course.

What To Eat and Drink in Pregnancy and Beyond

What To Eat and Drink in Pregnancy and Beyond

Photo by Crystal Engel

Why Mama Chose & Loved Her Homebirth...Even When It Got Intense

The baby (cherub) is sleeping beside me on the bed, one little arm draped across her cheek. According to everyone’s advice, I should be sleeping too, but I have wanted to record as much as I could recall before it is all one beautiful glossy memory. This is the story of our daughter’s homebirth on December 3, 2009. The choice to birth at home was an easy one without many reservations. Among them were the fear of disturbing the neighbors (which is quite possible as I sang through each contraction…more on that later) and the fear of destroying my favorite rug with various gross fluids (I actually birthed on my favorite rug with many layers of towels between us, and am so happy such a beautiful piece of art holds that memory).

Notably absent is the reservation shared by many…that “something” would go wrong. From the beginning of the pregnancy, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the belief that pregnancy and birth are a medical instance in need of treatment. My husband and I both favored the idea that birth is a normal physiological event and inherently safe process. It seemed the most tangible manifestation of nature and spirit that I could imagine. Very early on I began researching models of prenatal care that could reserve intervention and treatment for medically necessary complications, and allow a normally developing pregnancy to progress into a normally developing labor and birth. The primary goal was an emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy mother and baby. I realize labor doesn’t always progress as planned, and would have been happy and grateful to transfer our care to our local hospital in the event of an abnormality, complication, or (as most common with home birth transfers) a stall in labor progress. Luckily, there is education and information available today so that all expecting families can make choices that feel best for them. For us, this was midwife-managed care, although in the beginning we weren’t planning to birth at home. Deep in my pregnant belly I longed for the comfort of home birth, but I struggled with the myth so deeply indoctrinated in us all…you have to GO somewhere to labor and birth.

We started our journey at a free standing birth center near our apartment in Brooklyn. The center is staffed by four midwives and throughout the course of pregnancy, we saw each one (as is common with obstetrical practices, we wouldn’t know who would be on call the day labor started). Instead of packing a bag and preparing to leave for the hospital at the first sign of labor, we would pack a bag and labor at home until active labor began and then travel to the birthing center for delivery. At the center, I was so pleased with the quality of care that I found. I was surrounded by birthing professionals who reserved Pitocin use for emergency situations, wouldn’t equate a multiple pregnancy with a c-section, and didn’t even offer epidurals. I didn’t realize just how medicinal it still was. I had ultrasounds for instance, and in addition to multiple blood tests to check for a very long list of abnormalities, I drank the strange orange soda substance to check for gestational diabetes.

The midwives measured me and we listened for the baby’s heartbeat at each short visit. Because I spent most of my pregnancy deeply and quietly trusting of my body, when the portion of the check up arrived for me to ask all my burning questions, I wasn’t really interested in discussing all the strange and random pregnancy quirks, favoring talk of my meditation practice, the journal I was starting (of my experience of pregnancy that I plan to give to my daughter when she is pregnant someday J) and which affirmations were working best so far to keep me balanced. While the midwives would patiently nod while I described my vision of a peaceful, uncomplicated birth, there was a vacancy in their eyes that I can only attribute to a waiting room full of other moms needing their urine and weight checked too. It was better than what I imagined care to be at an obstetrical practice, but I wanted more.

Around my 28th week of pregnancy, we moved to a larger apartment in the Bronx, relieving some tension that had cropped up in my marriage due to sheer lack of space. While the birthing center assured me that many birthing moms traveled from over 2 hours away to labor there, my 45 minute labor commute scared me. My dreams of freedom of movement, candles, music, dancing, and laughter were replaced with nightmares of being fully dilated during rush hour traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and an unassisted back of our SUV birth.

Enter our superwoman home birth midwife Anne. I found her during an internet search of all places, and found her face so kind I scheduled an interview.  Although I wasn’t positive yet I had the strength to make my secret longing for home birth a reality, I wanted to meet with her in hopes I would find clarity surrounding my choices. In addition to sharing experience, offering references, and generally just putting me at ease, she made us laugh. I didn’t realize how much I needed a practitioner to be both knowledgeable at the craft, and also human enough to laugh at the process. We loved her. I wanted to home birth, and think I just needed someone to say YES YOU CAN. Coincidentally, we also found out a birth she attended was featured in a documentary that was next on our Netflix queue, a great movie called Orgasmic Birth. Although I had trouble picturing myself reaching orgasm during labor like some of the birthing women, we were excited to see her in action (and actually, our birth was more like her patient’s, beautiful and NOISY).

We began each prenatal visit at our homebirth midwife’s office with couch time. We discussed my diet, my feelings, my dream birth, and my questions before the routine check-up. She lent us books, documentaries, and showed us many photos of childbirth at home so we would be as prepared as possible. One of my favorite things from these visits is before our midwife measured or checked the baby’s heartbeat, she would lovingly place her hands on my belly and joyfully say “Hi, Baby!” I loved that our little mermaid girl swimming about in there was greeted. Without her, after all, we would not have been there in the first place. On average, our appointments at the birthing center lasted about 15 minutes. With our home birth midwife, they were closer to an hour.

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At a prenatal appointment conducted in our home with our midwife and our doula, they both asked what sort of vision I had for the birth. They wanted to be able to respect my wishes, and also hold the type of energy in the space in case I wasn’t able to maintain it. I wanted our beautiful home to be warm and dimly lit, have softly playing music, the sound of our softly trickling fountain, a million lit candles, and ROMANCE JOY and LOVE energy filling our apartment, both to nurture me, and to make the placeour little girl journeyed to beautiful and comfortable. During labor, I wanted to laugh, dance, sing, and kiss my buddy. I wanted to relax into the joy that my baby was coming, Most of all, I wanted to trust my body to know what to do.  I had a commitment from the birth team of my hubby, midwife, doula and my mom to maintain a loving, safe and gentle process for me and the baby. I joined a wonderful birth circle with other expecting moms where we released residual fears, blessed our bodies, and imagined our perfect births. I created drawings and notecards to hang that reflected the vision I had of a beautiful, gentle birth in hopes that the constant reminders would somehow influence the big day.

On my due date of November 23, my mom arrived. She planned to stay for three weeks. We were all hoping the baby wanted to come sooner than later so we’d have the necessary postpartum support that is so important for women to receive. I spent over a week with my mom watching movies, tooling around Manhattan, and answering the question “do you feel any contractions yet?” about 137 times. Every so often, I felt slight tingling sensations, but without any pattern whatsoever. Each new one even felt so different from the last, that if I were to experience it again I am not sure I would recognize them as Braxton Hicks.

The morning of December 2nd, I noticed I passed my mucus plug. I excitedly went into the living room and told my mom that YES I think we’re having a baby soon. I had already decided that during my early labor, I wanted to make a birthday cake for my little girl. We decided her name would be a tribute to my late grandmother, and so I wanted to make her specialty, Italian Crème Cake. (I get a lot of mileage out of that detail…not only did I have a home birth but I made a cake during labor. People are in disbelief. J)

Not yet contracting really, but just FEELING like the day was here, I started my cake project. During the baking I became ravenous. I ate about 5 leftover pancakes, a banana, and some other assorted snacks. Later I recognized this as a typical early labor sign…my body was trying to tank up for the day’s work. While my cakes were cooling, I decided to watch a little guilty pleasure comfort TV viewing (Gilmore Girls on DVD) and rest for a while. I dozed and watched and started to notice the dull tightening sensation I had been feeling all week were occurring about every 12 minutes. I was SO excited to realize that finally after all the waiting there was a pattern to the contractions. Not wanting to get my hopes up in case it turned out to be a long day, I napped and continued my GG marathon (for any fans out there….it was the season where Rory is secretly into Jess but still dating Dean. Juicy).

With beautiful butterflies in my tummy, I decided to take a bath. As I soaked, I called out to my mom in the other room every time I felt another tightening. Just as I’d done so many times before, I rubbed my belly and imagined what that little angel looked like. Realizing I would soon find out made me grin from ear to ear. The contractions still weren’t painful, and were just a dull achy feeling. My mom said they were starting to come every 8 minutes now. This was it! By the time I got out of the tub, I started to feel like I was leaving the room. It was so intense already. I lay on my bed, closed my eyes and started to go through one of the relaxations I learned in our Hypnobirthing class. (Hypnobirthing is a childbirth preparation method in which relaxation and visualization are utilized to eliminate the fear that constricts birthing muscles and allow your mind to aid your birthing). As I became more and more attuned and present in my body, everything else just started melting. I remember calling out to my mom and husband that I think they better put together the birthing tub we rented because this baby was coming faster than I expected.

Around 3:30, I met my much appreciated and loved birthing partner, the rented Aqua Doula birth tub. Instinctively, I sat in the same position polar bears do when they labor and rocked back and forth as my hubby rolled tennis balls on my lower back. The contractions were coming about every four minutes, and were strong already. During this time, I pictured this drawing our childbirth educator shared with us of an opening flower with a baby’s head in the center. With every rise, I imagined my body opening. At the advice of the doula that led the birth circle I joined, I also mentally said YES and THANK YOU to each tightening, yet opening feeling. Over the course of the next hour, the contractions began coming every 2 minutes. I was so deep in my body that I was having trouble coming out in between contractions to carry on conversation. My husband (or my mom?) called our doula. By the time she arrived, the contractions that were bringing my beautiful baby closer to us were only 90 seconds apart. It was around this time that I started chanting. A deep, moan-y, unstructured chant come from deep within my soul each time another came on. I am told most times, I was harmonizing with the brilliant global, rhythmic birth music mix my husband made. It makes me smile that even in labor, I was creating harmonies.  

Dreamlike, my midwife somehow arrived. About 5 hours into labor, I moved into our bedroom and asked her to check my progress. Luckily, I was 7 centimeters dilated and about 90% effaced. I say luckily because it is extraordinary, hard work. If I had gotten news that I wasn’t progressing as quickly as it felt like I should be, I imagine it would have been very discouraging. I feel for women who labor in hospitals and are forced into frequent and disruptive vaginal exams. Back to the tub I went where hubby resumed rubbing my back with tennis balls, which at this point was adding to the intensity. Apparently, I couldn’t control my volume when I struggled to focus long enough to ask (demand?) he STOP THE BALLS. I started picturing this spiral charm our childbirth educator gifted us. I traced in my mind its grooves while internally chanting with each contraction, “I am connected to every woman before me and every woman after”, the power and poignancy of which fueled me.

About an hour later, I was fading. I had gotten sick earlier in the day and the thought of eating again made my stomach churn. The only energy I was adding was in the form of frozen cubes of cranberry juice. My arms were tired from holding my position, and I struggled with the most challenging part of my birth…not knowing when it would be over. It is a bit like running a marathon without ever knowing just how long a marathon race is. I felt like if I just knew when I would see a finish line I could pace myself. Contractions were still coming every 90 seconds and lasting about 60 seconds. With only half a minute to rest between each, I desperately needed to know. I went back to our bedroom so our midwife could examine me. At 9 centimeters dilated and completely effaced, it seems I was somewhere around mile 20. Relief flooded me; the baby’s almost here. After the exam, the bag of waters in which my little girl so gracefully swam about for 9 months released. About 10 minutes later, I started pushing.

Because active labor was so manageable for me, I was completely overwhelmed by the intensity of pushing. Guttural screams escaped my tired throat each and every push. I was still lying on my side on our bed; eyes shut, I felt paralyzed. It was so intense that I was letting contractions pass without a push. My midwife and doula were encouraging me to try a new position, but I couldn’t move. I struggled to cry, but couldn’t find tears. Comfort comes when you most need it I suppose, because at that moment I heard a small clap of thunder and a downpour of rain. When I opened my eyes, I noticed my mom had moved a tray of candles into the bedroom and they were softly illuminating the Buddha statue on my dresser. The sound of rain and a candlelit Buddha saved me. I finally moved from the bed, sat on the birthing stool my midwife set up on my favorite rug and leaned against my sweet love husband. Finally, I reached down to find the baby was crowning. I remember hearing my mom say, “Oh, her head is out now!” Another push at 12:25am, and Carolena Frances Benelli joined the world. I looked down at her, overcome with sheer wonder and joy.

We wanted to leave her umbilical cord attached as long as possible so that she would benefit from the rich nutrients still pulsing through from the placenta. Maybe because of this, or maybe because I was just so exhausted, it was another hour and a half before I birthed the placenta. Carolena nursed and then snuggled with her grandma so I could clean up. Perhaps the most romantic moment of my life was my husband coming into the shower and cleaning my body after I gave birth to our daughter. I felt so loved and cared for in that moment. I came out of the shower to fresh sheets and a cleaned room. Our little love weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces, and measured 21 1/2 inches. Around 3:30 in the morning, our midwife and doula went home, and the new grandma went to sleep in the other room. Hubby and I snuggled in with our new little angel and enjoyed our first night of sleep together.

There is not a single thing I would change about the beautiful way our daughter joined the world. Seriously, how many times did I describe something as beautiful in this account? There just aren’t many other words for it. I am so grateful for the information available that allowed us to truly make conscious choices for Carolena’s birth, and that I found the perfect birth team for me (thanks Pauline, Marin, Nancy, Anne, Mom, Chris, and all the wonderful women I’ve met before the birth and since who encouraged me). I would birth naturally, and at home as many times as my husband will agree to pregnancies J.  When I tell the story, women are shocked that I “made it through natural childbirth”. To the women that think I am somehow MORE powerful than they, I would just like to say YOU’RE WRONG! My body is no different, and the power that enabled me to birth in the way it was intended is in every woman. The only difference between us is mental; I know what is possible for every woman and every baby. I learned that it is as true in birth as in life…you have the experience you intend to have. And mine was just beautiful. 

Stephanie B.

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

Let Me Help You Create The Happiest Birth Experience Of Your Life...

Whether you're a first time or experienced momma, planning a VBAC

Or a midwife, doula, or birth professional guiding mommas..

Regardless if you are intending to birth at home, a hospital, a birth center or need a cesarean section, or if you are taking another childbirth education class…

You Really Can Create The Delivery Of Your Dreams, ROCK your VBAC

And have a blissful birth wherever you are.

More Precious Than A Wedding...A Birth Should Be A Celebration!

Let me show you how to…

  • Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
  • Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself,letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
  • Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
  • Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom andcommunicate with baby in belly
  • Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
  • Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth

Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!

To learn more, visit:  LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!

It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy. 

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Review of Bellefit Postpartum Girdle

I was gifted with a Bellefit postpartum girdle and invited to write a review. You know, I can only keep it real. SO...here is my opinion with some basic information to help you decide whether this is right for you. Overall I was impressed, but I do want add some important points and caveats. Happily, I was able to partner with Bellefit so that you do get a discount of $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.   

Healthy women’s bodies recover intuitively and naturally on their own time after childbirth, without needing a support garment. Although a mama's body really never does look the same as it did before she was pregnant, even when she eventually loses her pregnancy weight (she looks better!), I encourage you to love and embrace your beautiful postpartum body and the normal postpartum changes that you feel both physically and emotionally. I invite you to bask in the gratitude of your experience, as there are countless women who would do just about anything to have such a gift that you are blessed with. Know that you are not alone, and like billions of women before you and along with you, you will continue to recover each day and eventually return your non-pregnant state, but now as a mom. Welcome to the tribe of motherhood! I have been there with you - four times.

I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby. The Bellefit girdle is really a wonderful adjunct to your postpartum tool kit.

Bellefit was founded in 2008 by a mom looking to help women have a positive recovery after childbirth. Bellefit is a mom owned brand, and was born out of a need to help women who need extra support after giving birth. The founder designed them to assist mothers like herself recover faster, help reduce pain and increase comfort.  Although many women are able to recover with ease, in addition to common discomforts and issues with changes in body image, there are many cases when a compression garment such as Bellefit helps a lot - like when women are faced with conditions such as Diastasis Recti, back pain or experience childbirth via C-Section, which is major abdominal surgery. It is the founder's hope to help provide this support to women who have experienced these challenging recovery journeys. 

The Bellefit girdles are recommended by many doctors and midwives, and have become so popular, even among celebrities - not that celebrity use matters to me.  The girdles are garments with Medical-grade compression and support that help in a variety of ways. They provide support for both your pendulous abdomen and back after pregnancy (especially helpful  after several babies), assist in releasing the increased fluids accumulated during pregnancy which reduces swelling, help relieve postpartum cramping, and enable you to move about, care for your baby and breastfeed more easily and comfortably. They also help to reduce incision pain after cesarean birth, and bring Diastasis Recti, the separation of abdominal muscles in pregnancy, back together. These benefits can result in feeling better emotionally, an important effect which is not to be taken lightly. When you are recovering well, you feel more at ease, more comfortable and have greater peace of mind, and can better enjoy this precious time of your life and bonding with your new baby.

You need to wear the girdle tightly around your torso, to maximize its benefits, following the birth of your baby.  The girdle should fit quite snugly around the midsection, which applies postpartum abdominal compression. It is this tightness and steady pressure around a your abdomen and lumbar region that helps aid in recovery and support after baby is born. It is this tightness and pressure that is even alleged to help straighten your spine and improve posture; but I have found osteopathic or chiropractic adjustment, and ongoing alignment based, strengthening yoga practice would be more effective modalities for this. The girdle is said to help your organs displaced in pregnancy go back to where they were a bit faster, but this will happen normally on its own with a dose of patience. The Bellefit girdle supposedly helps with lymphatic drainage and removal of toxins but I have not found evidence for this; and it allegedly compresses and decreases enlargement of fat cells, but really, the most effective way to lose excess weight and get back into shape is healthy eating and regular exercise. 

Many women report liking its corset style, feeling that it is more comfortable than imagined. It has convenient flap with hooks in your groin area, and it so well made that it does not roll down your back or roll up your buttocks. This fabric itself feels nice and soft on your skin and the clips hold together very well. It can look and feel quite sexy by itself. and it can be worn under clothing without being visible. It does seem to run small so make sure you get the size that is best for you. It's tight fit may take some getting used to, but overall mamas come to really like it.

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It is available in a variety of styles - duel closure, corset, girdle zipper, pull up - ranging in price from $72.50 to $145, and Bellefit sells other garments for support during pregnancy. I do like the garment for support and alleviating back and low pelvic discomfort during pregnancy as well - I have also found it effective to keep breech babies turned vertex, stay vertex, and help like a Rebozzo in long non progressing labors, assist baby's head to be better applied to the cervix for uterine contractions to more effectively result in dilatation and descent - especially mamas with lax abdominal tone and pendulous abdomens, after several pregnancies without toning in between. Bellefit has great customer service. They will help you with sizing and answer your questions promptly, which is why it is ideal to order directly from them rather than Amazon for example.

Have a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)! I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.   

Have a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)! I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.   

For additional information, watch testimonials on Bellefit's YouTube channel and remember, if you decide to purchase, you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout by clicking hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)!