Posts for : January 2014


Sacred Birth- Johanna Schnell

Take a minute and relax. Visualize what the big day is going to be like. The twinge in your belly, signaling a time of great change is nigh. You’ve opened yourself up, completely, to the arrival of a special person. The veil is lifted, briefly, to reveal the great mystery of life.

Sacred Connections

Sacred Connections

Birth is a sacred, mystical experience. But it’s hard to feel like a Goddess when bright lights are shining upon an antiseptic room, and you are distracted by a stream of staff to plug your beautiful body into machines that go beep, poke you with needles, and prod your sacred opening, as a clock looks down upon you with judgmental precision. It just doesn’t feel right.

It is important to understand how hospital routine impacts your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual state.  A hospital can be compared to an assembly line. Medical procedures and tradition encourage efficiency in order to provide roughly the same quality of care to as many people as possible. This directly conflicts with the birth process, as unique to each woman as a snowflake.

This is not just some emotional mumbo jumbo- the level of satisfaction with your birth experience will impact how well you bond with your baby. The strength of your bond will impact how well your child will attach to you, which has long-lasting effects on how your child will approach relationships and independence. Sure, you have plenty of time for you and baby to get to know each other. Bonding doesn’t stop when you check out of the hospital. It sure does help when memories of the birth aren’t clouded by a stressful birthing environment. Mom’s security and comfort will determine how much she will enjoy the experience- the more she enjoys it, the less pain and medical intervention she will need. It is wise to educate yourself on what to expect and ensure you have plenty of support.

Researches on medical dehumanization and on sexual objectification have independently revealed similar characteristics of power imbalance, victimization, and control. Medical dehumanization and sexual objectification are a double whammy also known as intersectionality- when a person comprises two or more categories of disempowered groups. In this case, (non-minority, heterosexual, cis-gendered) woman and patient.  There can be an assumption floating about the antiseptic halls of medicine that women in childbirth are defective and weak objects in need of improvement via masculine intervention.  Seriously, would humanity be here if women weren’t fully capable of doing birthing babies? Pregnancy is not an illness in need of a cure! Your body is not a lemon!!

Read the table below and see the similarities for yourself.

Medical Dehumanization Tactics (according to psychologists Omar Sultan Haque and Adam Waytz) Sexual Objectification (According to the philosopher Martha Nussbaum)
deindivudating practices (taking away identifying characteristics, ex. the generic hospital gown)     as if interchangeable (fungibility)
impaired patient agency (a lessened ability to think or plan for oneself)     as if lacking in agency or self-determination (denial of autonomy, inertness);
dissimilarity (The dynamic of a healthy person in power and an ill one needing help sets up a dehumanizing relationship) as if owned by another (ownership);
empathy reduction (tactic to reduce burnout- not empathetic to pain experienced by patient) as if there is no need for concern for their feelings and experiences (denial of subjectivity)
moral disengagement (so that willfully inflicting pain during medical procedures becomes permissible rather than abhorrent) as if permissible to damage or destroy (violability)
Mechanization (patient is not a person but a set of interacting systems,  literally as a mechanical object, to make it easier to diagnose problems) As a tool for another’s purposes (instrumentality)


Given the studies documenting the damaging impact sexual objectification has on women, it is disturbing to see hospital staff treating women in childbirth in a nearly identical manner simply as a matter of course. The behavior is excused on the grounds it will provide better diagnoses and keep staff calm in case of an emergency. However, this belief is questionable, particularly as it relates to childbirth, since this is a natural physiological process. The woman in question is not sick, after all. We don’t keep a doctor on hand every time we climb into the car, just in case we have an accident. So it seems absurd to include professional healers to our bedside during birth.

The overall impact of objectification: your unique birth experience will be treated as though it is a mechanical process, identical to the women who birthed before, and any variation to the Ideal Birth as laid down in the holy medical textbooks is a problem needing to be fixed. This impacts the chances you will be treated with dignity and respect. It will interrupt the flow of your birth, slowing you down and causing unnecessary pain.

Once a birth has deviated too far from your hospital’s rigid norm, it is easy (and profitable) to scare women into accepting “help” they don’t always truly need and tends to disrupt the birth process by telling the mother they are not in control and need experts to tell them what to do, rather than tune into their own intuition and rely on their inherent resources to complete their journey. Staff will try to make all the decisions, meaning your sense of self-respect and empowerment in this transformative experience will be reduced to feelings of dependency and self-doubt. Not the best way to start motherhood!

Want to try a different approach that celebrates your power as a woman and mother? Have your baby at home! Usually, any problem requiring hospital attention will be detected with plenty of time to go to the hospital. You can start out at home and go from there. You will be the boss in a comfortable and safe space. This is how women gave birth for centuries. Only in the last 100 years have women moved into delivery rooms, and it took quite a lot of convincing from the medical establishment for them to do so. If you decide you must have your baby in a hospital, take time to enjoy the experience and make it your own. Wear a nightgown from home. Dim the lights. Dance! You need to feel secure and relaxed to accomplish the great work ahead of you.

The best thing you can do, at home or in the hospital, is to hire a doula. She is a non-medical addition to your support team. Your doula will provide physical and emotional support. She provides spaciousness for you as you create space for your child. It is her job to empower you, help you relax and enjoy the flow of birth, and act as a buffer between you, your fears, and the hospital staff so your wishes are respected.


“Objectification”. Nussbaum, Martha C. Philosophy and Public Affairs; Fall 1995; 24, 4

“Dehumanization in Medicine: Causes, Solutions, and Functions”. Omar Sultan Haque and Adam Waytz. Perspectives on Psychological Science March 2012 vol. 7 no. 2 176-186

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May Gaskin. 2003. Bantam.

“The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth”. Bretherton I. Developmental Psychology 1992 vol. 28 no. 5 759.


Johanna Schnell is a doula based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She believes healthy parenting will save the world.


Six is the New Four!

Birth Arts International Student Article- Alexa Weeks

Six is the New Four!

There has been a re-evaluation of the timing and progression of labor sort of going on behind the scenes for awhile now. While many have clung to the Friedman curve to measure progress in labor, others had started to investigate the wider range of variations to “normal labor.” These, now decades old studies, by Friedman and his colleagues created the notion of a normal progression of 1cm dilation per hour in the active phase of labor. The idea that active labor begins when a woman is dilated to 4cm has become a mainstay of modern obstetrical practice.

In LaborAsk most birth professionals and they’ll tell you that they’d already  figured that out, of course! Anyone who has been around enough women in labor knows that it is a process and not one that follows a neat little curve. In fact, as our society and the practice of medicine have tried to place time constraints on the progression of labor and micro-manage laboring women the more we have seen women fail to feel confident and successful in their birth experience. “Stalled labor,” “failure to progress,” “labor dystocia”- the notion that something was wrong with process if a woman didn’t progress 1cm/hr has had a significant impact on the rate of labor augmentation and c-sections.

More contemporary studies are now providing clear evidence that the reality of labor is much different, confirming what many have long suspected. The studies suggest that normal labor can progress at rates that are less than 1cm/hr, especially for women who have not previously given birth. Adding to that, the evidence indicates that many women progress quite slowly before reaching 7cm dilation.

The move to redefine active labor as beginning at 5cm for women who have previously given birth and 6cm for those who have not, is a step in the right direction to say the least. This evidence only adds to what many birth professionals have been telling women all along- TRUST the PROCESS! Believe in your body and your ability to give birth to your baby… not on neatly plotted curve… but rather, when your body and your baby are able to complete the process.

Of course there will always be women who experience difficulties with labor or unavoidable complications and the appropriate interventions can be essential to achieve the best outcome for both mother and baby. There is just no reason to go looking for problems where they do not exist, and this new concept of active labor can go a long way to reduce unnecessary pressure on laboring women.

For more information, check out this article!



Are you still nursing?

Student Article Birth Arts International Christina Szrama

Are You Still Nursing?

I guess I grew up knowing that the normal way women fed their babies was to nurse them.  My mom did it, my aunts did it, and it was enough of a non-issue for me that I don’t remember ever thinking more about it than that.  I thought bottle feeding was super-cool, because then I got to feed the babies and rock them and burp them and tote them on my hip… but I never really thought about what was in the bottles (expressed milk or formula or cow or goat milk).

When I found myself pregnant with Éowyn I set out with a general idea in mind of nursing “at least to a year and hopefully beyond.”  We got through a bit of a rocky start (we both were drowning in milk) but never looked back and were both very pleased with our nursing relationship when we weaned painlessly in the spring of 2011 (E was 21 months old).  I didn’t really keep nursing to prove a point or out of any conviction; I could just tell it was good for her, our pediatrician recommended it since we were following our own vaccination schedule, and it was convenient & simple (what can I say, laziness is a powerful motivator for me, hehe).  As I went I started noticing that more than one factor seemed to point towards a natural weaning age of two -three years instead of closer to the American mentality of 6 mos -1 year.  Liam is now 18 months old and I hope to nurse him at least 6 months more– with a summer birthday I have a feeling he’ll be glad to wean right around the 2 year mark (hot & muggy SC summers don’t encourage snuggling).

I have already gotten the “why are you still nursing?question, and I’m sure as he gets older I’ll get it even more.  So here are a few of the reasons I’ve catalogued for nursing on through the second year of life (and into the third if you both like!).  This is in no way a critique of moms who did not nurse until one, or two, or three, or any arbitrary age, rather by choice or circumstance.  Any breast milk is better than none! And I’m not arguing for an arbitrary “nurse until” date here; I’m trying to see what hints we get from our biology regarding when a “natural” weaning age range might be.  Basically, it boils down to this:  there seems to be way less of a difference between an 1 year old & and an 18 month old than there is between a 2 year old & a 2.5 year old.
1. molars--  most kids get their molars, needed for chewing grains and helpful in chewing meats– between 13 & 33 months old. This is a very simple indication that a constant, consistent source of carbs & fat would be helpful (breast milk is mostly just that:  carbs/sugar and saturated fat).
2. brain development- a baby’s brain grows incredibly rapidly through the second year of life, and by age 3 has reached 90% of its adult size.  The type of growth that particularly characterizes these years is synaptogenisis, or the formation of connections throughout the brain.  A toddler’s brain actually makes way more connections than he will use, and by adolescence will have “pruned” away about half of these connections.  Also ongoing in the infant & toddler years is myelination, which is the coating of brain cells with fat to allow proper transmission of information across the synapses.  What nutrient is essential to brain growth & development?  Fat.  Specifically, saturated fat.  Even more specifically, cholesterol.  Breast milk is an amazing source of saturated fat.  While cow’s milk (and this is an average which varies by breed) has about 8 g of fat, and 33 mg of cholesterol per cup, human breast milk has around 11.2 g of fat, and 43 mg of cholesterol per cup (this also can vary from mom to mom, and mom’s diet is a part of that)!  Also, the brain is a huge consumer of glucose, which is supplied in breast milk in the form of lactose (carbs make up about 40% of the calories in breast milk).   A toddler’s brain still needs lots of sugar and fat, and mom’s milk is still the perfect source of those through the second year of life.  In fact, the longer a mom nurses, the more fatty & energy-dense her milk gets, providing more calories & fat per ounce!  (isn’t that amazing!? breast milk really is designer custom-made food!)  Could this be why IQ scores go up the longer a child is breast-fed?
Most students of the brain note a difference between 2 & 3 years in terms of brain development, rather than between 1 & 2, whether one is studying Erickson’s “Psychosocial,” Piaget’s “Cognitive Development,”or physiological “brain development” stages, or critical periods in language acquisition.
3. immune factors- this is a complex subject that is still not wholly understood even by experts… so please excuse this extreme simplification of the topic: it seems that there are 3 “arms” to a mature immune system: cell-mediated (Th1), humoral (Th2), and regulator (Th3) immunities.  Th1 tends to respond to danger in our cells with inflammation (white blood cells), Th2 tends to respond to danger outside our cells with antibodies, and Th3 keeps the other two in check.  As Dr. Russell Blaylock (MD) explains:

“If a virus invades, it quickly switches to the Th1 phase, which allows immune cells to secrete a group of cytokines that kill viruses. [...]  At other times, the immune system needs a whole different set of immune signals and cells, which are supplied by the Th2 phase. The Th2 phase favors the production of antibodies, mainly supplied by B-cells, but in general they reduce immune reactions.”

If left alone, babies start to make antibodies on their own around 6 months (artificially-fed babies do get antibodies earlier) and the mature immune system develops by age 3.  However at birth babies depend largely on their humoral (Th2) system– this keeps them from being flagged as an invader by Mom’s immune system pre-birth, allows good bacteria to colonize their gut, and also helps keep their brains growing without any inflammation to endanger it.  (Think of how rare, and therefore how serious, it is when a young baby gets an infectious fever– babies just aren’t wired to get fevers, which are a form of inflammation.)  So, how can a baby fight infection if everything in its system is trying to avoid inflammation to allow his brain & nervous system to develop as much as it can?  Breast milk again.  A mother’s milk will be custom-made with antibodies for whatever germs she has been exposed to– and with as much kissing and snuggling as moms naturally do with their babies, by day’s end, she’s been exposed to whatever he’s been exposed to.  Continuing to supplement baby’s immune system with maternal antibodies as long as his brain is rapidly growing and his immune system is still largely in Th2 mode (to protect that brain) makes complete sense– that would mean breast-feeding for 2-3 years, not 1-2.
4. hints from other mammals- looking at the weaning ages in other mammals and adjusting them for various factors (like gestation, permanent tooth eruption, age of puberty, etc.) is a fascinating study, and indicates a “natural weaning age” for our species between 2 and 7 years.  Definitely not before 1 year.
5. child spacing- [[I'm not sure which is the "chicken" and which is the "egg:" if we naturally nurse 2-3 years and that helps us space our kids ideally, or if it's designed so that we generally have another child 2-3 years after the first, and thus wean around that time... either way God's system seems to have the two interrelated somehow.]] Much research indicates that the “ideal” spacing between pregnancies is 2 years, from a purely nutritional point of view.  In developing countries, breast feeding is an effective form of child spacing known as “LAM” (lactational amenorrhea), delaying the onset of ovulation for an average of 15 months, or even the duration of breast feeding in some women.  [Why doesn't this work in our own society?  My own theory is that it has to do with all the hormones we ingest constantly, from our food (especially milk, meat & soy, which is in most processed foods), water and even the plastics in our lives!]  While some women are able to “tandem nurse” (nurse through pregnancy and then nurse two children of different ages), many find pregnancy a natural weaning point, or choose to wean in order to “restock” before conceiving again.  It seems logical to expect 2-3 years of nursing one child before another child would naturally follow…
I want to restate that any breast milk is a gift.  To the moms who nursed to 1 year, awesome.  You gave your baby a tremendous start in life.  To moms who nursed to 6 months, yes!! You supplied your baby with antibodies until her body started making her own!  To moms who nursed 6 weeks; excellent.  Your baby got not only “liquid gold” (colostrum) but also got his metabolism correctly calibrated.  To the moms who nursed 3 days, you sealed your baby’s intestinal wall and gave her a mega-dose of probiotics…  kudos especially go to those moms who persevered through pain and/or difficulties to get to whatever milestone you reached!!!
My own “takeaway” as I’ve waded through so many aspects of this topic has been to aim to nurse well into toddlerhood --whether that means 18 or 24 or 36 months will vary by situation, and by child– just as each child learns to walk & talk at different ages, so they also get their molars at varying ages, their brains develop at different paces and their immune systems switch from Th2-dominant to a mature balanced system, all at different ages.  Follow your body, your child’s body, and your own gut… and pray.  How many of us have prayed about when to wean?  But God invented breast milk, just as He controls immunity and molar eruption. :)

(I have also posted this on my personal blog, at


Planning Childbirth

The following is a student blog post.
Sara Fernberg

Planning Childbirth

Why have a birth plan?

While no two births are identical, and your birth may not go as planned, it is important to have a document or outline of your wants and expectations for your birth journey. By distributing written copies of your birth plan to the members of your birth team everyone will be on the same page, thus making your birth go as smooth as possible. Having a birth plan allows you to look into different birth options to help you find what you want for your birthing experience, such as whether you would prefer an epidural or natural labor. A birth plan is also essential because it informs your birth team and care provider of which interventions you are and are not comfortable with. Also, a birth plan will cover your wishes if a Cesarean Section is necessary.

Just Born

Just Born

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a document or an outline that your birth team or care provider can follow throughout your birth. Your birth plan should be descriptive with your expectations, not your demands. As noted before, your birth plan should include which interventions you are and are not comfortable with.

It is suggested that your birth plan include objects from your home that will make you feel more comfortable and relaxed   during your childbirth. These items may include a pillow, fuzzy slippers, a stress ball. Also, a music player, music can bring comfort through contractions and help you focus on your birth. Things that you also may want to have present at your birthing cite are a birthing pool, shower, birthing ball, or birthing stool.  These may or may not be provided by your hospital or birthing center.

Your birth plan should include your wishes regarding a Cesarean birth if necessary. You can also state if you would prefer things such as using double mirrors to view your own birth, having your partner cut the umbilical cord, or videotaping the birth. Things that should also be included are who you want present at the birth and what type of anesthetic you would prefer.

Who will be attending your birth?

Will your partner or relative be attending your birth? Maybe both? Or perhaps a best friend?  Maybe you have a Doula or a Midwife. Regardless of what your circumstances are, it is very important to have a set plan as to who you want present at your birth. If you have another child that you don’t want present at your birth, arrangements you have made for them can be stated in your birth plan to avoid confusion.

Things to consider when writing a birth plan.

A birth plan is by no means a set in stone document and if some of your expectations due to hospital regulations or health concerns are not met, you have not failed. Your birth plan is simply something to work off of so your care providers can support you in the best way possible. Your birth plan should be extensively discussed with your care provider and all of your birth team. You should be open and honest with your provider while going over it and open to suggestions. Also, be sure to ask your care provider about the hospital or birth center’s fetal monitoring policies if an active birth is depicted in your birth plan.


Ford-Martin, Paula. The Everything Birthing Book: Know All Your Options and Choose the Method That Is Right for You. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2004. Print.

About Sara

I am 18 years old, I am currently studying to be a Doula and also a Preschool teacher. I am very excited about both and my journey throughout education and life. I hope you find my article on creating your own birth plan very helpful and easy to understand. 


De-Stress in the New Year

De-Stress in the New Year

If you know anything about me, it is that I really feel that stress effects so much more of our daily lives than stress.

Stress effects our weight, sleep, ability to communicate, relate to others, and so much more. If we are stressed we may find that we cannot relate as well to the needs of clients as we should. We may find that we share too much, are not able to function as well as practitioners and overall job satisfaction will lessen. We can use the following tools to make sure we are experiencing less stress day to day and have more relaxing and fulfilling lives.

Relax in the Bath

Relax in the Bath

1. Get your move on! Move, burn calories, increase your heart rate, and your sweat on. Dance, yoga, weight machines, whatever makes you feel good. Give yourself the gift of joyful movement, take 20-30 minutes a day for yourself. This movement time will really make you feel so much better.

2. Bathing Beauty- Take time to bathe. Relaxing and breathing and a nice long bath with relax you on so many levels.  When I need a relaxing bath to help me de-stress and feel at peace. Generally I add 2 cups of Epsom salts, 1/4 cup Celtic sea salt, 1/4 cup baking soda, with 10 drops of either Lavender, Sandalwood or Rose essential oil. Soak for at least 20 minutes, breath and close your eyes and try to let the world go.


3. Breathe- Deep restful breathes. Make sure you do not hold your breath. Often during the day we are taking shallow breaths, and erratically breathing, this is often when we are feeling anxious or stressed. So work at taking restful breathes. Eventually this will become a natural way, we are just rewiring circuits and reminding our body on how to have restful breathes. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound effect on resetting the stress response, because the vagus (relaxation) nerve goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath.

4. Sleep More! Many adults, and children for that matter are not getting enough sleep. 8 hours for grown-ups. Children and teens need more, sometimes teens need a lot more. Not getting enough sleep effects the metabolism, stress and anxiety levels and it should be a priority.

5. Change your thinking- Learn how to rethink life. Identify stressors, and learn how to lessen them, deep breaths, listening to a happy song, dance around the room, laugh. Laughing is often the best medicine for everything. Laughter can bring light into the mist stressful times. Always take time to laugh.



Pregnancy Nutrition Shake

Pregnancy Nutrition Shake



1/2 cup coconut juice or water, the fresher the better
2 medjool dates- soaked.
1 cup soaked cashews or hazelnuts
1/2 cup of infusion of nettles, red raspberry leaves and milky oats, or you can make a cup of your favorite pregnancy tea.
1 handful of fresh raspberries, which are wonderful for pregnancy and full of vitamins and minerals.
1 ripe banana

Soak the nuts and dates for an hour. You can soak them together. The sugars in the dates will assist in breaking down the nuts. Strain and add to the blender.
In a blender add the ingredients rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
If you want a cold treat you can use frozen bananas and raspberries.

This will make enough for more than one serving. This recipe will also be featured in my upcoming book on herbs and pregnancy.

Instead of nuts you can use yogurt, or plain silken tofu.

Disclaimer: For educational use only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

You can get Demetria Clark’s book Herbal Healing for Children and 475 Herbal and Aromatherapy Recipes at Amazon.

Mountain Rose Herbs