Birth Affirmations

Your mind is often an overlooked tool you have during labor. For some women, the biggest challenge of giving birth is “moving out of the way” of their bodies, and allowing them to do their work. Giving up control in your mind and letting your bodies take over is not a muscle that we exercise very often. Birth Affirmations are a powerful way to train your mind to step out of the way of your body, and many women attest to their effectiveness in creating smoother, shorter, and less challenging labors. Birth affirmations are a way to encourage yourself or to be encouraged by your birth team before and during labor. Affirmations can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like them to be. They can be written out, read aloud, painted, drawn, hung on walls or written on mirrors. Women can make the affirmations themselves, have them made by family and friends at a Blessingway or baby shower, or purchase them online.

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Image from havingbabiesraisingbabies.wordpress.com

Affirmations can be anything that inspires you or encourages you to believe in yourself and your ability to birth your baby. They can be simple sentences, statements, song lyrics, poems, quotes, bible verses, or even a single word. Some women make a list of things to be read aloud to them while they labor, some post notecards on their bathroom mirror and some make flags or signs to hang in their labor space when the time comes.


Ideas for Affirmations: 

TCM: Birth Affirmation Images, check out these sweet images made by one of our TCM mamas.

Blooma Love Notes: Check out this fun blog by Blooma for more affirmation ideas and images.

The Birth Story of Violet Jane: This TCM mama wrote her birth story and incorporated some of her favorite affirmations into it.

This Pinterest board of Birth Affirmations.

That Mama Gretchen Blog: This lovely lady come up with a month of affirmations and compiled it into a list she then shared on her blog. Here are a few examples:

“300,000 women will be giving birth with you today.”

“I set aside my worries and I allow my body to do its job.”

“My baby’s size is perfect for my body.”

“My baby is coming to meet me at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way.”

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Image from glowdoula.com.au

“My body opens, my mind quiets, my baby descends”

 


Options for Purchasing Affirmations:

Birth Without Fear: Set of 10 Affirmation Cards by January Harshe $15-$20

HearthMagic Etsy Shop: Set of 8 Digital Copies of Affirmations  $8

The Fairy Wood Etsy Shop: Soften, Open, Release: A Coloring Book of Affirmations $12

Belly Casting

by Rachel Voigt, TCM student

Belly casting can be a fun way to memorialize & remember the end of pregnancy & the beautiful belly that has housed your baby. Making the cast can be a family activity, a part of a blessingway or can be done by the parents of the baby. It can be done at any time in pregnancy; it is often done between 32-38 weeks. Some women choose to make a cast for each trimester as a way to remember the changes that happen over the course of a pregnancy.

Belly casts can be used as decorative pieces in just about any space. Some women turn them into mobiles or central art pieces in their nurseries. They can also be used as decorative bowls if they are solely the belly. Families have also used them in newborn photo sessions as a fun way to see how baby may have been hanging out on the inside.

To make a belly cast you can choose to purchase a belly casting kit or you can gather the supplies on your own.

Belly Cast with Tree Art via bellycastartist on Square Space

Belly Cast with Tree Art via bellycastartist on Square Space


Kits:

Pearhead Belly Casting Kit $19.99 at Target

The Belly Casting Kit $12.97 from Motherhood Maternity

ProudBody Basic Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit $19.99 from Toys R Us (online or free in store pick up)

ProudBody Deluxe Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit $29.99 from Toys R Us (online or free in store pick up)

Casting Keepsakes Essential Pregnant Belly Mask Casting Kit $15.95 from Casting Keepsakes

Even if you do purchase a kit, you may still need to assemble some supplies from the following list. If you did not purchase a kit you will definitely need plaster bandages. These can be purchased from craft stores & some department stores (Target, Walmart, etc.).

Supplies:

  • Drop cloth or old sheet
  • Table that you don’t mind getting plaster on
  • Petroleum jelly or Vaseline
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Belly Cast kit OR plaster bandages cut in lengths of up to 12 inches & in varying widths
  • Paint or other materials to decorate the finished product with
  • Optional: Clear Plastic Wrap (for covering your bra if you choose to use one)
  • Instructions (if your kit does not come with instructions there are some below)
proudbody.com

from proudbody.com

Instructions:

  1. Lay the drop cloth on the floor where you are planning to make the cast
  2. Place your chair in the middle of the drop cloth
  3. Mark the edges of the areas in which you want the cast to end (having jagged edges sticking out beyond the borders you were hoping for can be hard to remove after its tried). You can mark the area with a marker, pen or just discuss it with whoever is helping you to make the cast
  4. Put Vaseline or petroleum jelly over your belly & any others areas you’ll be including in the cast (breasts, arms, etc) *If you choose to wear a bra & include your breasts in the cast place plastic wrap over the bra in place of Vaseline)
  5. Have your casting assistant wet the plaster bandages in warm water & then smooth them evenly over your torso. Make sure your assistant is overlapping the strips & there are no open spaces. Plaster begins to dry within a few minutes of getting wet so you’ll need to move quickly but be careful to smooth the strips out nicely.
  6. Reinforce the cast by doing several layers of bandages.
  7. Allow the cast to dry for about 10 minutes on your body & then remove it carefully & slowly
  8. Place the cast in a secure area and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours.
  9. Trim edges as needed (this can be difficult so if you do this use sharp scissors & be careful!). Some women also like to sand the edges & the corners of their cast.
  10. Optional: Prior to decorating your cast you can mix up some plaster of paris & with either your hands or paintbrush go over the cast to smooth out any bumps
  11. Decorate however you’d like! Paint, stickers, tiles, feathers, collage style pictures…Anything that you would like.
  12. Keep in mind when decorating some women have found it useful to shellack the finished product with some sort of clear finishing spray or paint. You can find these sorts of things at most craft stores & department stores.
brightonbodycasting.com

from brightonbodycasting.com

doulaginnysbirthsvcs.com

from doulaginnysbirthsvcs.com

Blessingways

by Rachel Voigt and Kate Saumweber Hogan

What is a Blessingway?
A blessingway was traditionally a Navajo Ritual, a sacred fertility rite, created to spiritually support and empower the new mother for her journey of birthing and motherhood. Not only used around birth, the blessingway can also celebrate women at a time in a woman’s life when she is experiencing some type of change or transition, such as menarche, menopause, or engagement. In recent times, the blessingway as been loosely adapted from its Navajo beginnings to create a woman-centered celebration. The emphasis in a blessingway is on the supporting the expectant mother – her strength, her beauty, her dignity, her womanhood, her divine procreative powers, her metamorphosis as she goes through the creative process of bringing new life into this world.

Blessingways are similar to baby showers in that they celebrate the pregnancy and the growth of a family but they are different in several ways. Baby showers tend to have a focus on lighthearted fun, jokes, and many, many gifts for babies. In comparison, blessingways focus more on the strength of the mother and celebrate her new phase in life. There is an emphasis on the bond between the various women in her life and the importance of their support as she moves towards the birth and the postpartum period. Blessingways are not a time to share horror stories or fears, but a time to share positive and uplifting words of support and encouragement. It is a time to welcome the power and strength that is already intrinsic in women’s bodies, and to shower the mother with love and support.

What do you do at a Blessingway?
There are many things that can be done at a blessingway. Not all practices need to be incorporated into each ceremony and some can be mixed into traditional baby showers. Take a few aspects that you and the pregnant mama are comfortable with and use them to celebrate her journey.

Setting a Sacred Space:
On arrival guests should strive to intentionally leave all stresses of the day behind and focus on support the pregnant mama. This can be done by having a bowl of warm water with lavender essential oil &/or lavender springs in it for women to dip their hands in or by diffusing lavender essential oil in the room.

Candle Introductions:
Have each woman light a candle and then introduce herself by saying “I am (name), daughter of (name), daughter of (name), and I am mother of (name), grandmother of (name)”. This is a great way to invite the female lineage into the circle and to capture the power of female traditions passed on generationally.

1Beading Ceremony:
Either the host can have an assortment of beads or buttons at the ceremony or each guest can bring a bead (or a pair of beads for symmetry) to share. Pass a small bowl or jar around the group and have each woman place her bead in it while saying a wish or hope for the mother and baby. Once all guests have shared their beads, the host can string it into a bracelet or necklace for mama that she can wear or have near her in her birthing time. Some women also like to turn these beads into lovely mobiles for their babies.

Bracelet Tying:
Sit or stand in a circle, pass around a ball of yarn, and loosely wrap the yarn around each person’s wrist or ankle. As the yarn is passed, the group is literally creating a web of support. After everyone is connected, they can help each other cut the yarn and tie it on each other (including the pregnant mom) as a bracelet. It is tradition to wear this bracelet until the mother gives birth. Seeing the yarn every day gives each person in the group an opportunity to send love and blessings to the mother as she gets closer to her birthing time. When the news is shared of her little one’s arrival, then the yarn can be cut off, like a symbolic cutting of the umbilical cord. The yarn symbolizes the support that these friends are offering the mother. This activity is often done at the beginning (and can be done as each person introduces themselves), or to close the circle at the end (and could be accompanied with each person sharing a strength or quality that they know the mother will serve her in her birthing space and/or motherhood journey, incorporating into this web the mother’s gifts that already make her such a wonderful mother).

Make an Altar:2
An altar is a place to set good intentions and things that are important for the mother at the time of the birth. If the mother would like this, in the invitation the host can ask guests to bring something for the labor altar, such as a figurine, symbol, image, framed poem, candles, a necklace, rock, whatever seems appropriate.

Flower Crown:
Flower crowns can connect women to the earth, can be beautiful, can be a sign of respect for her as the birthing woman, and can simply be fun. Flower crowns can be made before the blessingway or as a part of the ceremony.

3Prayer Flags and/or Affirmations:
Each guest and the mother can make prayer flags or write out birth affirmations that the mother can hang some where within eye sight during labor. She could also hang these in the baby’s room as he or she grows. If each guest had stated a hope/wish for the mom during the beading ceremony, the host could also write those on the prayer flags.

Candle Gifts:
Sometimes a candle is lit as each person introduces themselves and their maternal lineage. Each guest can take home a candle and can light it when the mama is in labor, or after the baby arrives to honor her birthing and new mother time.

4Henna her Belly:
This is a very ancient practice that asks women to slow down and take the time to show love and respect to the pregnant mama’s belly and the baby that is inside. It is a way to honor and decorate the pregnant body, and each guest can also get a little henna on their hand or foot to artistically tie them to the mother’s body.

Laying of Hands:
Have each guest place their hands on the pregnant woman’s belly (if she is comfortable with this) and sing a song, say a prayer or say a blessing in unison.

5Foot Washing, Massage, or Hair Braiding:
These rituals honor the mother’s physical body, offering her some relaxation and loving touch. This allows the mother to practice relaxing into the hands of another and openly accepting the kind of nurturing that she will need during labor. Washing is also a form of cleansing in preparation for the journey into motherhood. And as the mother approaches the threshold into birth, these rituals can bless her body.

Poems and Blessings:
The host can ask guests to bring a poem, blessing, or scripture passage to read and leave with the mother. Sometimes mothers will have these with them during their birthing time for their birth team to read to them, bringing them extra strength and support. Twin Cities Midwifery has an ever growing list of wonderful blessings and poems to consider bringing to a blessingway.

Food:
Often food and drink are part of the celebration, allowing for some unstructured time for the participants to be present together.

For more information please see “Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers” by Shari Maser; there is a copy available to be borrowed from the Twin Cities Midwifery library.

All photos taken from Pinterest

Capturing the Pregnancy Glow

I am a big advocate for maternity photos. During pregnancy most moms think they’ll always remember what their body looked like and felt like, with baby curled up in their womb. But then baby arrives and (eventually) the body goes back to “normal,” or finds a new shape, and it can be hard to remember where each of those curves used to be. Getting maternity photos is such a great way to remember what that baby bump was like before baby was in your arms.

A huge thanks to Alicia Meyer from Art of Light Photography for sharing these beautiful photos of a lovely TCM mama!

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Alicia is also extending a special offer to other TCM mamas and any other TCM blog readers. Be sure to mention this post to recieve the package below for $350, a savings of $150!

1st year

The Lowdown on Out-of-Hospital (OOH) Birth

by Kate Saumweber Hogan, CPM, LM

(I had the honor of writing this post for the Childbirth Collective’s blog, but wanted to repost it here since it addresses common questions that I hear all the time about home birth. I also thought it would be a great 100th post for the TCM blog!) 

A homebirth mama getting support from her midwife during labor.

A homebirth mama getting support from her midwife during labor.

What is OOH Birth?

Out-of-hospital (OOH) birth refers to births occurring outside of a hospital, such as at a home or a free-standing birth center that is not connected to a hospital.

Planned OOH births can be in a house, townhouse, apartment, trailer, hotel, friend’s house, birth center, or even a back yard! Most homebirth midwives are pretty flexible with space needs, and can make almost any “home” work. Ideally, there should be running water, electricity, and a phone (or cell phone service), but even those can be negotiated!

What do all of those letters mean after midwives names?

There are two general kinds of midwives in our country. There are nurse midwives who are primarily trained in a hospital setting and most often attend births in the hospital; they are called Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs). Some CNMs gain additional experience to offer OOH care as well.

The second type are direct entry midwives; these midwives are primarily trained in the home birth or OOH setting and provide care in this setting. Some direct entry midwives earn the national credential of Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). In Minnesota, CPMs also have the option of becoming licensed by the state, which also gives them the title of Licensed Midwife (LM). It is a good idea to ask your midwife what her credentials are, especially in Minnesota where there are so many possible combinations!

It is safe to birth at home or at a birth center outside of a hospital?

A mama meeting her baby in her own living room.

A mama meeting her baby in her own living room.

Midwives are experts in normal. So for normal, low-risk, healthy moms and babies, YES, research shows that with a trained care provider, it is as safe or safer to be OOH than being in a hospital setting. However, OOH birth isn’t for everyone. Your midwife will help determine if you are a good candidate for OOH birth, and will continue to monitor you and your baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to ensure that it is still safe to be at home.

If you would like to read the research available regarding home birth, a thorough review is available through Midwives Alliance of North America.

The question is often, “is homebirth safe,” but rarely, “is hospital birth safe.” This article looks at the other side of the coin.

What equipment do OOH midwives bring?

Each midwife will have a little variation in her birth bags, but in general, most midwives are certified in neonatal resuscitation and CPR, and will have equipment pertaining to those certifications. She will have medical supplies such as oxygen, suction for baby, medications for hemorrhage, a fetoscope and doppler to monitor baby’s heartbeat, a baby scale, and equipment to check mom’s vitals (blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, thermometer, a watch).

Some midwives carry IV equipment, suture and lidocaine for perineal tears, a pulse oximeter, a variety of herbal and homeopath remedies, and a birth stool. Some midwives also rent birth tubs and have additional equipment relating to the tub. Be sure to ask your midwife what you can expect her to bring to your birth.

Most midwives have families purchase a birth kit, which will have all of the disposable things that are needed for the birth, such as underpads, gloves, gauze, and a peri bottle. Families will also be asked to gather a list of supplies to use at the birth, such as towels, baby blankets, and extra pillows.

A homebirth midwife helps a mama welcome her baby earthside.

A homebirth midwife helps a mama welcome her baby earthside.

Is homebirth messy?

This question comes up a lot! Surprisingly, birth is not at all like it is portrayed in the media and it really isn’t very messy. Your midwife uses supplies from your birth kit to help protect your bed and floor. She will start the laundry and clean up any sign of your birth before she leaves your home so your visitors won’t even know where the birth happened! There isn’t even very much trash, often barely enough to fill a kitchen sized garbage bag. You may have a second bag of trash if you are using a birth tub with a large plastic liner.

What about labs, ultrasound, and newborn care options? 

When you interview potential midwives, it is good to ask if they offer routine labs, ultrasounds, and newborn care options (vitamin K, erythromycin, newborn metabolic screening, hearing screening, CCHD screening). Some midwives offer them as part of routine care, and others would refer you to your primary clinic for these services. Informed consent and shared decision making is at the heart of midwifery care. Prenatal visits will be an opportunity to discuss the pros, cons, and alternatives, and make a decision together about what is the best choice for you and your family. If you’d like to decline testing or newborn options, you can! It is your choice and it shouldn’t be a fight! But it can be nice to know what options will be available to you, since there may be some that you want for yourself or your baby.

If the midwife you choose doesn’t offer the newborn screening options (metabolic screening, hearing screening, and CCHD) most midwives who offer these options are willing to see babies outside of their practice for these screenings. You can find providers who offer these services here: http://minnesotamidwives.org/MCCPM/Newborn_Hearing_Screening.html

Weighing the baby at a homebirth

Weighing the baby at a homebirth

Does insurance cover it? 

Sometimes! There isn’t an easy yes or no answer, since it is really plan dependent. Most OOH midwives are out-of-network and will be covered based on your out-of-network benefit levels. Many of the birth centers are in-network and are covered at that level. Some midwives bill insurance, and others don’t. Midwives who offer insurance billing usually can do a benefits check to give you a better idea of what you can expect to be covered. If you have an HSA or flex spending plan, those funds can go towards paying for your midwifery care. The vast majority of the time, even paying 100% out-of-pocket for your home birth is less expensive than the out-of-pocket costs for a hospital birth after insurance processes the claim. The Childbirth Connection is a good resource for comparing costs by birth place from a national level.

Brand-new homebirth family.

Brand-new homebirth family.

Can I have a doula and a midwife?

Yes! Many out-of-hospital midwives encourage each woman to consider having a doula at her birth. Doulas provide continuous emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after birth. Many midwives offer this kind of physical and emotional support as well. However, unlike midwives, doulas don’t provide any medical care. Doulas are great at offering comfort measures and supporting both the laboring woman and her partner from early labor until after baby is born. Be sure to check out the Childbirth Collective for free parent topic nights and ample opportunities to meet with and interview doulas.

How do I find a midwife who works in a home birth or birth center setting?

Check out the midwife listings on the Childbirth Collective, view members of the Minnesota Council of Certified Professional Midwives, and check out this comprehensive list of midwives from Minnesota Families for Midwifery. Most practices offer a free consultation to see if the midwife and family are a good fit, that is a great opportunity to ask any additional questions you may have about out-of-hospital midwifery and birth!

A new family snuggles in their own bed just after birth.

A new family snuggles in their own bed just after birth.

Kate Saumweber Hogan is a certified professional midwife and licensed midwife, serving Minnesota and Wisconsin. She is the owner of Twin Cities Midwifery where she provides prenatal, home birth, newborn, and postpartum care. She sees families at clinic spaces in Minneapolis and White Bear Lake, and lives in south Minneapolis with her husband and nursing daughter, born at home in the water in December 2012.

Belly Oil: Formula F Plus

This recipe for belly oil was passed along to me from Jamie Titus at Emanata Chiropractic. She got the recipe from her sister, who got it from a friend, so we aren’t quite sure of the original source! Jamie enjoyed using it during her pregnancy and has found it to anecdotally reduce the likelihood of stretch marks! It isn’t just for the belly, but you can use it anywhere. Especially consider using it on breasts and the perineum. I haven’t made up my own batch to test out yet, but hope to soon! If you make some, please leave a comment below letting us know what you think of it!

2 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp avocado oil

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp almost oil

10,000 IU vitman E mixed tocopherols

200,000 USP units vitamin A

a few drops of your favorite perfume (optional)

Pour the oils into an empty bottle or small jar. Take 10 gelatin capsules of vitamin E (1,000 IU each) and capsules of vitamin A (25,000 units each). Puncture the capsules with a needle, or cut the ends off with a scissors, and squeeze the contents into the bottle. Add a drop or two of your favorite perfume (if using), close the cap tightly, and shake well. Store in the refrigerator.

This formula also works wel for those who have badly deteriorated complexions and a prematurely aged skin with wrinkles and blemishes. This formula will feed your skin with the nutrients it needs to help revitalized and restore its normal biological activity. The most effective way to use this formula is to take a few drops and massage it directly on to your skin every night before going to bed and to leave it on overnight. By morning it is usually totally absorbed into the skin.

Homemade Pregnancy Herbal Tea

by Melanie Gray, TCM apprentice

This is a recipe for homemade pregnancy herbal tea that I particularly love because of the yummy flavors that the orange and lemon peel give it. Bulk herbs are really easy to find at the Co-ops or at Present Moment, an herb store in Minneapolis. They are relatively cheap and you can make your own combinations of herbs that you like the most. Buying 1 oz of each of the herbs below will give you a good supply of pregnancy tea once they are all mixed together. Just make sure they are stored out of direct sunlight and in an airtight container.
To make the tea:

Fill a quart jar ¼ full with the dried herb mixture, cover with boiling water, cap and let sit 2-4 hours (to extract nutrients).  Strain the drink using a coffee filter to catch all the small pieces and  discard or compost the herbal material.

Drink at least 2 cups daily.  This tea can be consumed as traditional hot tea or more like an ice tea.  Some people like the taste better with a little honey for sweetness also.

  • Red Raspberry leaf
  • Nettles
  • Oatstraw
  • Alfalfa
  • Red Clover
  • Rosehips
  • Lemon and Orange Peel