Thursday, January 30, 2014

Welcome After 20 years of educating pregnant couples in San Luis Obispo County and supporting over 100 women in labor I decided I wanted to connect with women in a new way to share the wisdom I had gleaned; my new baby, a doula blog, was born. It is dedicated to all the women who have come before; a gift from them to you. Please use it to help create the birth you want. Read, enjoy, empower yourself! 

I Believe

Pregnancy, birth and early parenting are a very special season in the cycle of your life. I believe every woman deserves to be treasured during this transformational process. True care and nurturing for the entire family throughout their journey empowers them and creates deeper bonds. An educational foundation rooted in the natural abilities of women to birth their babies instills confidence and is a critical component of empowerment. My classes prepare the heart, mind and body for the journey ahead. Through the birth of my son I came to understand the critical role a doula plays in helping couples achieve a harmonious and uplifting birth experience. A doula is a vital member of your team no matter where you birth or who your care provider is. As an experienced guide providing one-on-one continuous care throughout your birth I allow everyone to relax and be fully present in their roles. As a communication facilitator I help insure your voice is heard and respected, as well as, translating medical information and choices; providing you the opportunity to make your own choices. I have been helping birthing women here on the beautiful Central Coast of San Luis Obispo county since 1992 and am passionate about protecting and preparing women during this most vulnerable time. Please use the words I have written in this blog to learn more about my beliefs surrounding birth.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Spectrum of Pregnancy, Birth & Parenting Services to Meet Your Needs

After working with San Luis Obispo families for over 20 years I am more strongly committed than ever to helping families find what feels right to them for pregnancy, birth and parenting. I have a broad perspective and a depth of knowledge which is grounded in the work I have done with families making a wide variety of choices. As a doula I have been blessed to be part of over 100 births. Working beside doctors and midwives I have witnessed inspiring births both in and out of the hospital. As a birth educator I have impacted the births of several hundred babies and through my work with the Birth & Baby Resource Network, La Leche League, and the International Cesarean Awareness Network I have touched the lives of countless families in our community and beyond.

I offer a variety of support/education options to match your unique needs. Our journey together may start at any point along the spectrum. Please feel free to mix and match and make the exact support and education package that meets your needs. All classes are offered both as group or private experiences with flexible schedules.

Before You are Pregnant

Private consultations over tea: learn about options & resources in our community or review and process a past birth and discuss possible effects on future births. We can meet in the privacy of your home or at a coffee shop.                              

Early in Your Pregnancy

Classes: learn how to nurture your body, your baby and your relationships in my Healthy Beginnings/Healthy Choices classes.

Preparing for Your Birth

Classes: My small group classes held, in the privacy of a home, foster a sense of belonging as we eat, laugh, learn and share together this amazing adventure. My Heart, Mind & Body series empowers and inspires you to create the birth you want.

For each class group I create a private on-line community for extended sharing of ideas, inspiration, connection and support which continues until your baby is sleeping blissfully in your arms.
Labor Land Practice: My Birth Connection Date Nights are serene spaces where all learning is experiential through relaxation, guided imagery and touch. The focus is encouraging oxytocin, the “love hormone”, to flow between you, your partner and your baby, and to teach you how to move through labor land together. These “practice” sessions are ideal for experienced birthers, homebirthers, or as an expansion of more intellectual birth classes.

Private Classes in Your Home: Every family has different needs; bed resting moms, changing schedules, or simply a desire for privacy. I try to be as flexible as possible to let you create your unique education package. Let my Class Outline be your guide. I am happy to create a series just for you!

Doula Service: I am happy to join your birth team no matter where you are planning to birth; home, birth center or hospital. We start building a trust relationship with prenatal visits in your home. Through listening I learn what you need and want to feel confident about your coming birth. I facilitate thinking and dialogue between partners to help clarify and prioritize what is important to them and help craft a birth plan which reflects these values while being well received by your care provider and staff.

I am available via phone, email or Facebook to answer questions and lend support throughout the pregnancy.

                    Once labor begins. . .

 I will stay continuously by your side
 where ever you are laboring until. . .
your baby has arrived. . .

and is blissfully breastfeeding for the first time!

I will visit your home a few days after your birth to ensure breastfeeding is going well, check on your postpartum recovery, and help you process your experience with tears, talking and laughter. I will answer questions, clarify and enlighten you on issues you may not have understood. I want you to have a thorough grasp of what happened, why, and how necessary it was, to empower you for future births.
After Your Birth

Private consultations over tea: When women suffer after a difficult birth experience it is very helpful to share your story to a listening heart who is knowledgeable enough to review your birth, answer your questions, and help you move forward in your process. I can connect you to resources for your recovery and discuss things you will need to think about for future births.

Private Postpartum Visits: I believe new mamas need to rest and adjust to motherhood in the comfort of their home. I am happy to travel to you. The first days and weeks of parenthood many new families need some additional guidance. A little hands-on help from an experienced mother/doula can give a new mama just the boost of confidence she needs.

Welcome to the parenting community!

Classes: My Becoming a Family monthly support and learning group is the only new parents’ class for couples. Meeting on a Sunday afternoon allows dads to participate and become more confident in their role, as you learn and share together. Designed to cover areas of concern from birth to 18 months.

Support Group: I lead a La Leche League Mothers’ Meeting once a month in the South County which is free and open to all mothers for breastfeeding advice and support.


Loving Guidance Workshops: These periodic workshops cover my Five Steps to Creating a Healthy, Happy, Whole Family empowering parents to move through the normal ups and downs of parenthood, take control of their own learning, and make their own decisions on how they wish to parent.

Support Group: I created “Whole”istic Mamas and Papas to provide community for families choosing to parent from an alternative point of view; attachment parenting, co-sleeping, extended nursing, baby wearing, individual vaccination choices, homeschooling, etc. It is a safe space; both in our face-to-face play day meet ups and private on-line group for asking questions, gathering information, sharing and learning from each other.

Parenting is much more fun when we share and play with others!

Let's connect! I am happy to answer questions and get you started on just the right path for you.            Call: 473-3746

Monday, December 30, 2013

California Measles Outbreak; What's a Parent to Do?

Yesterday I caught the tail end of Dave Congalton on the radio talking with a local pediatrician who has written a new e-book about baby's first year. She was adamant about vaccinations and was sure that if parents were simply told the facts by their doctor they would automatically want to vaccinate. During the short time I was listening, 2 other docs called in to FULLY support vaccinations.                                 
She also said we were having a measles epidemic in California. At that point I called in. I asked her how many cases there actually were. She backed off and said she shouldn't have called it an epidemic but an outbreak. I told her I thought the cases were in vaccinated people. She said no they were unvaccinated. (Keep reading to see she and I were both right and wrong on that one.) She said this kind of bad information was the problem with the internet spreading false info. She accused parents of getting poor information off the internet and then being too frightened to do the right thing for their kids. So this morning I went to the internet to see what I could find out about measles in CA. Here is some info you should know.

Facts on California's measles outbreak
From the CDC web site:
"Measles causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die."                

Also from our government:                                                
"HEALTH ADVISORY – February 19, 2014

14 Measles Cases in the State of California in 2014

Fourteen cases of measles with onset in 2014 have been reported to California Department of Public Health. (In all of 2013, 189 people have been reported to have the disease. This represents the second largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.)
Among the 2014 California cases, four case-patients had traveled outside of North and South America, with three traveling to the Philippines. Nationally, an increase has been noted in the proportion of measles cases with travel to the Philippines. Measles cases from recent years have reported travel to Germany, France, England, India, and China, among other destinations.

Of the 2014 California case-patients without international travel, three had contact with known measles cases, two had contact with international travelers and five are under investigation to identify potential sources.

Of the 12 cases with known measles vaccination status, 8 were unvaccinated (7 were intentionally unvaccinated and 1 was too young to be vaccinated). That means 4 were vaccinated and 8 were not. So a third of the cases were in vaccinated people and 2/3 in unvaccinated. Why are vaccinated people getting sick? Had they only had the initial vaccine and not the booster or did they fave both shots and the life-long immunity they said we would have isn't turning out to be true? 

Please note they are NOT talking about deaths or even tell us how severe the cases were; simply that they had measles.

The last large outbreak of measles in the U.S. occurred during 1989-1991, with 17,000 cases of measles and 70 deaths in California.

Let's compare this to influenza. For the 2013-2014 flu season the California Department of Public Health says there were 332 deaths in California. 

Efforts to increase immunization rates in the 1990s were successful and endemic transmission of measles in the U.S. was eliminated in 2000.

Here is what eliminated actually means. In 2000 there were 86 cases in the US and 19 in California. 

 In 2013-2014, a large measles outbreak in the Philippines has resulted in over 1700 cases and 21 deaths. This outbreak has led to measles importations to Australia, Canada, the UK, and in many U.S. states. Additionally, measles is currently circulating in most regions of the world outside of North and South America."

In 2013 there were 189 cases of measles in the US and 15 cases in California. There were NO deaths. Now I want you to think about the numbers of people you know in California who had the flu this year. We probably each know at least 15 people. Of the California measles cases, 11% needed to be hospitalized, so 17 people were seriously ill. Pneumonia was the reason for hospitalization for 4 of the cases. It is important for pregnant mothers to note that 2 of these hospitalizations were for pregnant women and 1 miscarried. Let's look closer. Ninety-nine percent were import associated. In other words there was contact with someone who brought the virus into the US from abroad or was in contact with someone who was in contact with someone who had been abroad. Another interesting item is that 8% of the cases were in vaccinated people. 

How Does This Compare to the Flu?

Let's see what Web MD says about the flu:

Here's a rundown of some important flu statistics, based on the best available data.

Percentage of the U.S. population that will get the flu, on average, each year: between 5% and 20%.
That is with the current flu vaccination rate. So what percentage of the US population is 159 measles cases? The US Census Record says there are 316.99 million people in the US. So last year's outbreak was .00005% of people in the US.

Number of Americans hospitalized each year because of flu complications: 200,000, on average.
Remember there were 17 people hospitalized for measles complications last year. The last big outbreak of measles occurred from 1989-1991. Each year there were approximately 18,000 cases in the US with approximately 3,600 hospitalizations. 

The number of people who die each year from flu-related causes in the U.S.: ranges from 3,000 to 49,000.
During the last big outbreak of measles in the US approximately 41 people died each year.

In the U.S., influenza and pneumonia were the eighth leading cause of death in males in 2009.

Number of flu vaccine doses available in the U.S. for the 2013-2014 flu season: Between 135 and 139 million.
That means that if all the doses get used they will have vaccinated 44% of the population for flu. The federal government wants a 90% vaccine rate for measles and they say are meeting or exceeding that goal! Less than 1% of young children are not vaccinated  and most of the unvaccinated kids are for economic reasons. So what percent of all the kids in the US are not vaccinated due to parental choice? I couldn't find that number. Obviously it is less than 1%. 

So where does all this fear come from? Most of it stems from one situation in New York where many people in one extended family became ill with measles. This family had chosen not to vaccinate due to philosophical reasons. They had family members who traveled to Europe and brought home an unwelcome souvenir. In total there were 65 cases of measles in New York. Here is the final word of why the the CDC is concerned:  "imported measles cases can result in large outbreaks, particularly if introduced into areas with pockets of unvaccinated persons."

From the National Vaccine Information Center:
(this is the organization which the medical establishment is talking about when they say crazy 
anti-vaccine people)  
"In 1960, three years before the first measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S., there were 380 deaths from measles recorded."            

Are vaccines safe or not?
Now let's explore the possible side effects from getting the MMR vaccine. Remember very little in life is 100% safe so with life there is risk. What are those risks?

From the CDC: 
"Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)

Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Deafness, long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage
These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.
(Please note they give us NO numbers)

From the National Vaccine Information Center: 

"Common side effects from the MMR vaccine include low-grade fever, skin rash, itching, hives, swelling, reddening of skin, and weakness. Reported serious adverse reactions following MMR vaccination include seizures, brain inflammation and encephalopathy; thrombocytopenia; joint, muscle and nerve pain; gastrointestinal disorders; measles like rash; conjunctivitis and other serious health problems.

As of March 1, 2012, there have been 898 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following MMR vaccination, including 56 deaths and 842 serious injuries. (Again we have no numbers of doses of vaccines to help us understand what percentage of doses; or true level of risk. I'm not even sure if these numbers include multiple years.)

Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of July 9, 2012 there have been 6,058 serious adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in connection with measles vaccine since 1990, with over half of those occurring in children 3 and under.

Evidence has been published in the medical literature that vaccinated persons can get measles because either they do not respond to the vaccine or the vaccine’s efficacy wanes over time and vaccinated mothers do not transfer long lasting maternal antibodies to their infants to protect them in the first few months of life."

There are other theories about vaccines long term risks beyond immediate reactions. None of these, as far as I know, have been proven. Conversely I don't know that there are any long-term studies on vaccine safety. Questions out there which I feel bear looking into are the potential vaccine/autoimmune disease link. Especially after seeing that the CDC says one of the moderate immediate reactions can be pain and stiffness in the joints in teens and women. Autoimmune diseases are definitely on the rise. Is this caused by vaccines? The anti-vaccine group would like you to think so. As far as I know we have no scientific studies to definitively make that connection yet. I want long term studies done. I want studies done on bundled vaccines, not individual vaccines. I don't believe the scientific community has done enough research into the possible synergistic effects of bundling vaccines. I think the fact that we now have potential humans to do matched studies on right here in America is fantastic. I don't want studies with unvaccinated people from third world countries compared to people in the developed world. I want us to follow long-term some of the now unvaccinated US kids and a matched group of vaccinated US kids. Let's really find out some concrete answers. Until then I'm not sure anyone knows. 
What's a parent to do?
Parents need to make wise choices for their children. Are you planning to travel outside the US? Will you be having world travelers come into your home or be in contact with them in some other way, such as, airplanes, buses, trains, or hotel rooms? Perhaps you want to vaccinate. Perhaps 2 measles deaths in a 1000 cases is too high a risk for you to comfortably take as a parent. As doctors love to say (the doctor on the radio yesterday said it too) when it is your child 1 death is too many. Of course they NEVER factor in that, 1 death from a vaccine reaction is also 1 death too many for any parent. What is important to me is that you have solid information to make your own best choices. 

Then I want you to find a doctor who will listen to you as a parent, help educate you and then will allow you to make your choices without shaming you in any way; or worse yet fire you as a client. I want to take a moment to acknowledge one such local pediatrician, Dr. Renee Bravo. Here is what one of my "Whole"istic Mamas said about a recent visit. 

"Just wanted to share my positive experience yesterday. I've known Dr Bravo for probably 25 years & have been bringing my children to him since my 1st was born almost 11 years ago. I respect him & think he's a great person. Yesterday I brought baby #4 in for her 2 mos checkup. I was really nervous to tell him I didn't want vaccines for my baby since I'd unknowingly vaccinated my other 3 children & thought he might possibly hassle me like his associate did. When he asked about shots for this visit I declined & he said "no problem, whatever you want to do I'll support!" He said we could do delayed vaccines (he said he really likes Dr. Sears schedule), even more delayed, or none at all, just let him know. Then he said "you know you really only need most of these if you're traveling to a 3rd world country anyway." No hassle, no debate, just pure support. Yet another reason why I respect him!"

I know this was a lot to read but it is important that all of us base these kinds of parenting decisions on a real understanding of the facts. 

Next, since it is "going around", I wanted to give you info on how to tell if your child has measles and what your doctor can do. If you think you or your child has measles, or you have been exposed to measles, the sooner you go to your doctor the better if  you want to utilize their help. 

IMPORTANT: Do NOT go to your doctor without FIRST calling. Let them know you think your child has been exposed to or come down with measles. Ask IF they wish you to come in and HOW they plan to minimize risk to their other clients. Babies do not get vaccinated for measles until they are 12 months old. Therefore the kids most vulnerable to having difficulty fighting off the infection are not vaccinated.   

What do measles look like?
From the Mayo Clinic web site:
Description: a red, blotchy rash that usually appears first on the face and behind the ears, then spreads downward to the chest and back and finally to the feet.

Measles signs and symptoms appear seven to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:
Dry cough
Runny nose
Sore throat
Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
Sensitivity to light
Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek, called Koplik's spots
A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another
The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.

Infection and incubation. For the first seven to 14 days after you're infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.

Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days.

Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first, particularly behind the ears and along the hairline. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 or 105 F (40 or 40.6 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.

Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
When to see a doctor

What if I think my child has measles?

More from Mayo
Call your doctor if you think you or your child may have been exposed to measles, or if you or your child has a rash resembling measles.

No treatment can get rid of an established measles infection. However, some measures can be taken to protect vulnerable individuals who have been exposed to the virus.

Post-exposure vaccination. Nonimmunized people, including infants, may be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus, to provide protection against the disease. If measles still develops, the illness usually has milder symptoms and lasts for a shorter time.
Immune serum globulin. Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems who are exposed to the virus may receive an injection of proteins (antibodies) called immune serum globulin. When given within six days of exposure to the virus, these antibodies can prevent measles or make symptoms less severe.


Fever reducers. You or your child may also take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve) to help relieve the fever that accompanies measles. Don't give aspirin to children because of the risk of Reye's syndrome — a rare but potentially fatal disease.

Antibiotics. If a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or an ear infection, develops while you or your child has measles, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Vitamin A. People with low levels of vitamin A are more likely to have a more severe case of measles. Giving vitamin A may lessen the severity of the measles. It's generally given as a large dose of 200,000 international units (IU) for two days.

How do you tell if it is measles or chicken pox? 
Also from the Mayo Clinic site:

Chickenpox infection usually lasts about five to 10 days. The rash is the telltale indication of chickenpox. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include:

Loss of appetite
Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise)Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:

Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
Fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), forming from the raised bumps over about one day before breaking and leaking
Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take several more days to heal
New bumps continue to appear for several days. As a result, you may have all three stages of the rash — bumps, blisters and scabbed lesions — at the same time on the second day of the rash. Once infected, you can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before the rash appears, and you remain contagious until all spots crust over.

The disease is generally mild in healthy children. In severe cases, the rash can spread to cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina. New spots continue to appear for several days.

What if my child has Chicken Pox?

Most children do not need to see a doctor other than to tell you they have chicken pox. When do you need to see a doctor?

From the CDC:
For people with chickenpox at risk of serious complications, call a health care provider if the person:
is older than 12 years of age
has a weakened immune system
is pregnant
develops any of the following:
fever that lasts longer than 4 days
fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)
any areas of the rash or any part of the body becomes very red, warm, or tender, or begins leaking pus (thick, discolored fluid), since these symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection
extreme illness
difficult waking up or confused demeanor
difficulty walking
stiff neck
frequent vomiting
difficulty breathing
severe cough

Good luck with your decision and good parenting!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Not Gain My Trust

Dear Doctor,

You will not gain my trust by pigeon-holing me at an unrelated professional public event and in a loud confrontational tone telling me I don’t know what I am talking about. Do you realize how disrespectful it is to assume that if people just knew what you know they would obviously agree with you?

You will not gain my trust by going on and on with rarely a break long enough for me to get in a word. This was not a respectful rational dialogue between two equally intelligent individuals. Instead it was an overly emotional barrage of highly charged personal experiences bound up with concern for your own children.

You will not gain my trust by not being considerate of time and place. Did you give any thought to the fact that you were in the middle of an organization that has worked very hard to establish trusting relationships between often competing parties by keeping our focus on the ways in which we agree, respectfully sharing information, and focusing on a common goal? Did you take a moment to consider that I was about to get up in front of a room full of people and speak? Luckily I am confident enough to be gracious to you, while not backing down in my defense of parents who you feel make the wrong choice about vaccine, and immediately after still get up and give a caring, warm introduction for a woman I greatly admire. Did you know that about me? No because you don’t know me at all.

You will not gain my trust by not being conscious of who else is around you and how they might be affected by our exchange. Did you know that it was mortifying to me that the evening’s presenter, a professional who inspires me, was listening to you? Did you never give it a moment’s thought that sitting all around you might be parents who have chosen not to vaccinate or are following less traditional vaccination schedules? How do you think this made them feel? Do you think you gained their trust?

As I said to you that night you are obviously sincere in your concern about the potential for children to become ill and die because of parents choosing not to vaccinate. I can tell you care deeply. I too care deeply. It is very important to me that I give out as accurate information as I can to parents and prospective parents. What they do with that information is up to them. I believe in their abilities to make good choices for their children. In the past when it has been brought to my attention that I may have printed inaccurate statistics I have gone back and taken a second look at my original information and, with guidance by far better statisticians than I, I have made corrections as needed. Based on the discrepancies between your numbers and mine I am reviewing my original measles outbreak post, my sources and the original numbers, and will be posting an up-date. I will also be working on a post as to how the medical establishment as a whole lost our trust. Unfortunately you, dear doctor, did nothing to re-gain mine.


Friday, November 1, 2013

A New Path Down an Old Road

Like many mothers, the road I started down after the birth of my son has taken me places I never expected. I have reinvented myself many times in the process or perhaps the road has reinvented me. Threads from my past lives weave together and my tapestry gets richer and deeper, mellowing with age.

Many years ago my body lay broken upon the jagged shores of my deepest passion, riding horses. Just as with the birth of my son I was once again confronted with the limits of the medical model. In this case if they couldn't visualize it with their many tests, quantify it, and label it, it didn't exist therefore they had nothing to offer me as a path back to health. They would happily prescribe pain medication for the rest of my life or refer me to a psychologist because the pain was obviously in my head not in my back. My search for a way out of pain led me to a deeper understanding of many modalities; acupuncture, chiropractic, watsu, myofascial release, spinal decompression, Feldenkrais body work, hormone balancing, and craniosacral therapy. All have been instrumental in my journey toward a pain free life.

Our lives lead us many places. Mine lead me to Cayucos to the door of CranioSacral Therapist, Celeste Varas de Valdes. The combination of her amazing ability to "read" my body, the gentleness of her touch, and the profound response of my body as I floated out of pain were incomprehensible to me. How could this be? I told my husband she was a wizard. How could she hardly touch me and have such an amazing healing effect?

Celeste encouraged me to read John Upledger's book "Your Inner Physician and You." Upledger is the founder of CranioSacral work. Actually I believe he may be a re-discoverer of a wisdom known through the centuries and across many cultures. I bought the book but consciously chose to never open it. I wanted to learn on an experiential level. It is easy for me to get in my head, to get caught up in intellectual learning. I wanted this to be clean unfettered learning through my own body's experience.

As my body began to heal I became more drawn to the how and whys of cranio work. Celeste patiently answered my questions. Next my path brought a chance to learn more at a California Midwifery Conference. I attended an all day workshop by Carol Gray introducing cranio work for pregnant moms and infants. After that I was convinced I wanted to learn more about how to incorporate this modality into my doula work. Time, expense and timing, i.e. life, kept this from happening.

A few years later I was offered an opportunity to watch at the hands-on part of an Obstetric 1 CranioSacral Training at Sukha Wellness Center in Avila. I was graciously allowed to try putting my hands on one of my pregnant clients who was there for demonstration purposes. I was astonished at all that I could "feel" going on inside her; the blockages and tensions. I put my hands on clients all the time, hugs, massages, counter pressure, or just holding a hand. This was completely different. It was tuning into a vibration and letting her body gently move me in a dance. The crazy part is she was lying completely still upon a massage table. No one else looking could see the swirling movement under my hands as her body gently unwound.

Interesting, but now what? I was busy going down a new path, working on earning my La Leche League
Leadership and learning as much as I could about breastfeeding. The more I immersed myself in the world of breastfeeding the more concerned I became. Listening to so many postpartum mothers who were struggling to breastfeed; to do what should have been a simple natural act. Something that every mare I helped foal never had a problem doing. Rarely, a mare will reject her foal completely, but no mare who allows her foal to latch has problems. Foals don't have latching or sucking issues. If you feed the mare right she has plenty of milk and the foal has no problems transferring that milk from the teat to his tummy. So why were so many of our mothers caught up in the pumping, bottling, exhaustion merry-go-round?

I am a question asker. If something doesn't add up for me I ask people I trust, who have more knowledge than I, why this doesn't add up. Lactation Consultant, Julie Merrill, kindly loaned me the book "The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding" by Kroeger and Smith. I read that book cover to cover and in its pages I discovered all the research explaining why. I immediately incorporated what I learned into educating my class and doula clients. I was inspired to try harder than ever to support pregnant mamas in ways that would keep them off the self defeating merry-go-round. That didn't feel like enough to me. More moms needed to know. So I helped create and present the community event, Beating the Booby Traps.

Wait! This is supposed to be about cranio right? Took you right down the path with me didn't I? With an out of work husband there was no time or money to think about cranio. Then last May, with the financial help of LLL and labor and delivery nurse, Janell Todd, I attended La Leche League Conference. One lecture I chose to attend was given by Alison Hazelbaker assessing Tongue-tie, a condition which wrecks havoc on breastfeeding. It was presented over 2 days. The first day all the SLO Leaders went. The second day I think I was the only one who continued. I don't know why I went. She said she was going to present how to tell the difference between a real tie and a "faux" one. I thought it would just be more assessment tools. Well her assessment tool was to do CRANIO work on the infants and after several sessions re-assess for tongue function. Turns out she was a CranioSacral Therapist as well as a Lactation Consultant. An incredibly high percentage of tongue-ties were fixed with this gentle non-surgical technique. The pieces all slid into place for me. Now I knew what I wanted to do. It isn't enough to try to help moms say no to procedures which can impact their births and their breastfeeding. It isn't enough to give technical and emotional support to moms struggling unsuccessfully to feed their little ones. I want to actually help the babies and now I know how. I need to become trained in CranioSacral Therapy for infants. These babies are literally crying out for this kind of work.

Again money and time were blocking my path. Thank you to David and Mary Sage Sennewald of Sukha who gifted me a partial scholarship so I could attend CranioSacral I last month. Thank you to Alyssa Nixon and baby Finley for birthing before October 17th!

So now what? Well this path looks fairly long and I'm already finding roadblocks but I am determined. I've attended 2 study groups since the 4 day training. I ordered my books on-line yesterday. I think I have found a used massage table so I can practice on my family and friends. I can't even begin the Obstetric or Pediatric training until I have passed Cranio II and Somato Emotional Release. I'm trying to find a way to get my anatomy studies done without having massage therapists "in training" practice on me. This is something I know my body can not handle. Then there is the legal stuff about setting up a business which involves touching people. Yesterday I was so depressed. All I could see were the roadblocks. Today I'm cracking open the pages of "Your Inner Physician and You".

Celeste's Keep In Touch:

David and Mary Sage's Sukha Wellness Center:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thank you!

Recently I received this lovely card.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, your patience, your wisdom, your encouragement, your expertise, your attention to detail...

Thank you Jennifer for starting our little family off on the right foot! We are eternally grateful to you for all that you have done-and continue to do-for our family!!

Steve, Laurie & Ruby Jo

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some Truth about the Strength of Women

I recently ran into the quote on Facebook. I liked it so much I chose to use it as a cover on my Labor of Love Facebook page. Then I went searching to learn about Laura Harm. I immediately ran into this article; "Why Some Birth Quotes May Be Damaging to Women" on the Midwife International web site.  After carefully reading their post and the comments left by others I was drawn to leave this comment.

I have been a doula in San Luis Obispo for many years supporting women in the hospital and at home through medicated, un-medicated and cesarean births. I recently saw this quote and chose to put it on my doula facebook page. For most women birth IS painful. For most women it requires them to surrender in some form. Surrendering to your process where ever that process may lead, even into an operating room, IS the strength I see in this quote. Women ARE strong.The strength it takes to endure a surgery at the end of a long labor, the strength it takes to hold yourself together for the sake of your baby during an emergency cesarean, the strength it takes to surrender to the power of the process of dilation, the strength it takes to push a baby out of our bodies and into the world. This strength inspires me each time I am lucky enough to witness a birth, any birth. I make no distinction in my respect for birthing women, medicated, un-medicated, vaginal or surgical. ALL women are strong and need strength no matter how their baby arrives. I wish women could stop dividing themselves into groups. I wish women could stop feeling they are being judged and stop judging themselves. Filtered through our own souls this quote, like art, will mean something different to each of us. I am sorry it is painful for you. I wish you could see the beauty in this quote that I see. The acknowledgement that ALL women no matter how they birth are strong. You were strong.

I would like to know how YOU feel about this quote. I encourage you to read their article. Look deep into your soul. How does this quote make you feel? Who have you been judging?
Please post your comments here or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Acupuncture; Keeping a Pregnancy Healthy

I believe my son owes his life to an acupuncturist. My husband and I had been together for 10 years and actively trying to get pregnant for the last 2 without any luck. By using a combination of herbs and needles I was pregnant within 2 cycles of walking into Dr. Yu's office. I willingly drank the nastiest tasting herbal tea ever, in order to maintain the pregnancy for the first trimester. Nine months later when I pushed out a beautiful, strong, healthy baby boy I knew I had acupuncture to thank for this precious life in my arms.

I'll let you in on a little secret about me. I am scared of needles. I have real fears, (think fainting here) around having my blood drawn or getting a shot. What you need to know is that the sensation of having a thin flexible acupuncture needle placed in no way resembles getting poked by a regular needle. There isn't anyway I could have stood it if that was what the sensation was like. 

Since my successful pregnancy I have come to use acupuncture for many health issues, from injuries, to chronic pain, menopause and illness. So far it has never failed me and  I asked Carla Nerelli, L.Ac., of SLO Family Acupuncture to write a blog piece for my Creating a Healthy Pregnancy series focusing on all the ways acupuncture can support a woman during pregnancy. Carla has a special interest in pregnancy and babies and is thrilled to work with young families. She is new to SLO so I am happy to introduce her to the community through this post.

Most people associate acupuncture with treating pain and other physical ailments. But, did you know it could also be part of creating optimum pregnancy health? Acupuncture is an ideal form of treatment as it offers women drug-free relief from a multitude of problems that can arise during pregnancy and childbirth  creating a thriving environment for a growing baby, and keeping mother and baby healthy and happy.
Common Conditions Treated During Early Pregnancy
Pregnancy is such a beautiful time in a woman’s life. It is a time to celebrate, glow, flourish, and most of all, get excited for the new family addition. Pregnancy is one of the most natural cycles in human life. Unfortunately in today’s society pregnancy can often come with some uncomfortable and mood-ruining aches, pains, and other conditions. Acupuncture is a very safe, gentle, and pharmaceutical-free way to deal with most of these common ailments.

Prevention of Miscarriage
Morning Sickness
Migraines and Headaches

If a woman has a history of miscarriage, it is recommended they come in for weekly treatments at least through week 9 to help prevent a miscarriage and secure the pregnancy.

Common Conditions Treated During Mid-Pregnancy
Not only can acupuncture help treat issues that may arise during pregnancy, but it also helps to create a healthy and comfortable pregnancy.

Digestion Irregularities
Increased Immunity
Anxiety, Stress, and other Emotional Issues

Your baby’s health, as well as your health and comfort, are of the utmost importance. To aid in your well-being and relaxation, SLO Family Acupuncture exclusively uses massage tables that are specifically made to accommodate your growing belly during pregnancy.

Common Conditions Treated During Late Pregnancy
As the due date approaches, weekly acupuncture treatments can help prepare the mother for a smooth, healthy, and efficient labor and delivery by helping to alleviate anxiety and stress, relax the pelvic floor musculature, ripen the cervix, and ease the baby into a comfortable, optimal birth position.

Low back pain
Body Aches
Leg Cramps
Varicose Veins
Breech Presentation
Delayed Labor

Safety During Pregnancy 
Although acupuncture during pregnancy is completely safe, it is important to go to a qualified, licensed acupuncturist who specifically treats pregnant women since there are several acupuncture points that are contraindicated to use during pregnancy.  San Luis Obispo Family Acupuncture is happy to treat women in all stages of pregnancy. Treatment strategies and recommendations are on an individualized basis. In general, monthly treatments are considered ideal to sustain a comfortable and healthy pregnancy.

Centrally located near Downtown San Luis Obispo, SLO Family Acupuncture is happy to treat women from all over the Central Coast, Paso Robles to Santa Maria and everything in between.

Visit Carla's website for more information about creating a vital pregnancy! To reach SLO Family Acupuncture call 805-242-6852 or email.

Call about SLO Family Acupuncture’s Pre-Birth Acupuncture Summer Special for babies due in June, July, or August 2013!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

From a New Mother

Beautiful Ruby Jo
I receive many sweet cards and thank yous after births. I treasure them all. Here is one from a mother who came to me fairly sure she wanted an epidural and a husband who was wishing that she wouldn't. We spent many hours together in their home eating, talking, learning and sharing. Of course her birth didn't go anything as she had envisioned. Here is what she wrote to me several months afterwards.

"Thank you Jennifer for all of your encouragement, support & empowerment that helped to bring out the strength I doubted I had to bring Ruby into this world without drugs & very little intervention. I honestly never expected to be able to make it through the birth without an epidural. I feel strong & have never felt more proud of this accomplishment.

Your support before, during & after the birth will always be remembered & appreciated. Thank  you for all that you do for the families in our community. We are lucky to have you!


Monday, April 29, 2013

A Window into My Birth Classes

My classes weave heart learning, intellectual learning and physical practices together in a careful balance of caring, fun, creativity and stimulating thoughts. As a doula in San Luis Obispo for twenty years I know women birth best when all of these areas are nurtured to expand and grow during pregnancy.

Birth rehearsals are always a fun part of class! I do a class devoted to LOTS of different labor/birth positions. Then at another class I ask each mom the position she imagines giving birth in and that is what we practice. This pregnant mama chose the classic hospital birth position because that was where she was planning to birth. Getting over a woman's natural shyness or sense of modesty is an important part of the process. What a good sport she was to let her photo be taken. We were all having such a good time we failed terribly at holding still for the camera.

Creating an atmosphere which allows couples to feel safe is important. When we turn on music, light candles and practice focused relaxation or visualize giving birth women tune into their own intuition about their body and birth. They in turn can communicate to their partners what they can do to help them through the process.

Potlucks are part of the process! To break bread, talk and laugh together builds community. Pregnancy is a time of growth and connection between partners and the world of parenting. Nothing beats a home environment for learning about birth no matter where you are planning to have your baby. For this St. Paddy's Day class couples where greeted by the smell of fresh baked Irish Soda bread. Dads brought Guinness beer and moms supplied plenty of good healthy greens to eat.

Friendships blossom as moms blossom. Connections are strengthened through a private Facebook group and moms are invited to join my "Whole"istic Mamas group to continue these supportive relationships after babies come.

Thoughtful discussion flows after simple creative drawing or word association exercises help everyone tune into their interior life. 

Crafting concrete personal positive affirmation cards to post around their homes help couples stay positive and empowered as the big day draws near.

The reading homework in Special Delivery is helpful to fill in any missing pieces. Reading birth stories from Ina May's book fills women with the knowledge that women ARE designed to do this work and they can do it too! Notebooks full of additional information are loaned to be used as much or as little as desired. My extensive library of books and movies are also available to my clients. 

I enjoy teaching a mixed group of in and out of hospital clients because of the thought provoking discussion. A balanced respectful discussion leaves everyone feeling more confident in their choices.

A mix of real props to see and touch, communication practices and role playing in my Becoming an Educated Consumer, If a Problem Arises and Facing Our Fears classes take the fear of the unknown away and teach couples what choices may come their way during their birth. Accurate unbiased consumer information is key to creating the birth you want.

My years as a doula have taught me beautiful positive births are possible everywhere!

And then there's love. Lighting my birth mama candle sets the mood for an intimate chat about the role oxytocin, the love hormone, plays in labor and what you can do to encourage it to flow. Simple tools that speak to the 5 senses enhance birth energy and are easy for partners to master. Tuning into our partners through touch, dancing, and simple massage teaches the partners their most important labor tool, loving connection.

The last 2 classes are devoted to parenting. What could be better than answering all the questions expecting parents have about parenting a newborn?

I love teaching new parents about all the amazing things their new baby will be capable of right from the start.

I demonstrate how to get breastfeeding off to a great start and invite all my clients to join me as I lead La Leche League meetings.

Graduation Potluck means learning from the experts; couples who have become parents in the last few months. Telling their birth stories in the sharing circle help couples process their birth. Sharing the highs and lows of their labors gives a realistic window into birth for the waiting couples. Giving real world common sense survival tips on how to get through the first weeks of parenting is mutually beneficial, expectant parents become more prepared and new parents get to see how far they have come in just a few short weeks.

The private Facebook group serves many purposes, simple communication of class logistics and reminders, potluck sign-ups, or recipe sharing.

Pregnant mamas are encouraged to find and post their own images of power, flexibility, and strength to help them keep the faith during labor.

I post many inspiring images and quotes, as well as, links to the latest studies. After the classes end we all post words of encouragement as moms wait for the big day to finally arrive.

And of course baby photos! Each baby is welcomed by all. The leaders in the class give pep talks to the moms still waiting while the waiting moms send warm wishes and way to goes to the couples who have already birthed.

Reunions are fun! Whether the group chooses a park, a home or the beach, joy and pride fills the air.

Themed reunions seem especially delightful for everyone.
Now it's on to La Leche League meetings and "Whole"istic Mamas park days for the mothers. All of my class and doula clients are invited to join my Becoming a Family support group; the only parenting classes for moms AND dads in the county.

Let's connect and talk about when, where and how you can begin classes!