BACK TO SCHOOL MINDFULNESS: PARENTAL EDITION

As labor day weekend comes to an end, we plunge headfirst into the season of fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, ripe apple picking, brisk nights, and cider mills. That first month back to school can be a doozy, especially for parents still in summer mode. Not only are we faced with developing a whole new routine from scratch, but now we’re also faced with a whole new set of challenges as our children grow into the next school year. Teachers often have their students set goals for the coming school year, so it’s only fitting that we do the same!

The word “mindfulness” is thrown around a lot with the images of spas, fancy art projects, and far-off lands. When really all “mindfulness” means is checking in with yourself. We recognize that most parents don’t have time to sit down, much less getting their nails done or get pampered at a spa. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 3 minute exercise we’d like you to do. Obviously we’re not going to ask you to do homework because we know you’ll get enough of that with your little ones 😉

As the week goes on pick 2 of these prompts. Reflect on each of them for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Even set a timer if you need to! Focus on your thoughts and how you react to each prompt. 

  • What is your biggest win from the 7 days?
  • What are 3 attitudes you want to embody this school year? 
  • What makes you feel calm? 
  • Have you felt stressed or anxious today? What did you do to overcome it?
  • What realistic adjustment could you make to your daily routine to give yourself more energy?
  • What have you recently said “yes” to that is not a “hell yes”?
  • What does it feel like to go back to school after summer?
  • Who is someone you have not talked to in a while that you’re grateful for?
  • Is there an area of your life that needs to be more organized?
  • What is something you’re anxious about for the coming school year? How can you reasonably prepare for this?
  • What is one thing you need to let go of?
  • What is your 3rd most unique strength? How can you make it as strong as your 1st and 2nd?
  • What do you spend a silly amount of time on?
  • When was the last time you laughed?
  • What is important to you this school year?
  • When do you have a hard time letting go? When do you feel so overwhelmed you “check out,” and what does that look like for you (e.g. checking social media too much, feeling irritable, etc..)?
  • What is one long term goal you’re working towards?
  • How have you shown yourself patience in the last week? How can you continue to do so?
And that’s it! I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but checking in with yourself (and your kids!) in this way for even just 3 minutes per day can work absolute wonders for your mental health. Being a parent can be unbelievably stressful, especially when you add the school year, your kids’ new schedules, extra curricular activities, homework, and work (job and/or house work) on top of that!  Both parenting and the new school year will come with a plethora of expectations from all directions. When the stress starts to pile on, these expectations can easily transform into self-criticism and sometimes even assumptions or criticism towards the kiddos. Practicing mindfulness not only improves memory, but also increases our patience, understanding, emotional intelligence, stability, adaptability, and decreases self- and outwardly-directed criticism. Will you still lose your cool sometimes? Oh heck yeah, because kids are a handful! Plus, no one is perfect! But giving yourself those 3 minutes per day will help lengthen your rope a bit so that you can let go of expectations, set goals, weather what you can’t control, and address what you can. (PROTIP: goals are flexible and have the planning/growth process built into them, but expectations often revolve around assumptions with no means to achieve/ resolve them). You’re an amazing parent and your kids already know this. So please cut yourself some slack, show yourself some patience, and give yourself that 3 minutes per day!

Both you and your kids (and their teachers!!) will thank you for it 🙂 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRE AND POSTNATAL YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. When she’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes. Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community. So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!

ELISE BOWERMAN

Elise Bowerman operates the only Southeast Michigan Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS) offering teacher training for anyone who’d like to specialize as a Prenatal (and Postnatal) Yoga teacher. As founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, she provides a one-stop-shop for those looking for Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes, and for the RPYS graduates a platform to build their business faster than if they were starting from scratch. Elise has been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching (even Prenatal Yoga) for over 10 years, and holds the following credentials with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP. You’ll find Elise in Livonia (the city she grew up in) every Monday night for Prenatal and ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga classes; and twice a year offering the 85-hour Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at her home in Bloomfield Hills.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

The women in my life, including my mom, weren’t capable of offering the emotional or physical support I needed to feel normal, healthy, and confident as a mother; and as a woman. Plus, being depressed and anxious left me feeling alone and afraid most of the time.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes was where I found practical information and connected to other birthers to help figure out what the heck I was doing! It gave me reassurance to keep going through the long days.

Basically, on a deep level – I’m offering what I never received. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and afraid becoming a mother. By offering time to tune-in, connect with the breath, the pulse of self + baby, and community in which we all belong – I’m breaking the broken cycle women in my family were unable to tap in to, in hopes my children are empowered if they become parents one day. 

 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

The myth: one must be ’zen’ or athletic to participate in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. These classes are designed for our busy lifestyles and all fitness levels! In fact, most participants are brand new to yoga!

You wouldn’t expect to go to the gym before you get in shape, right? Same thing for the yoga practice… it’s called a practice for a reason. We meet ourselves on the mat to see what we’re bringing in that moment. Observing how we feel mentally and physically. Then we explore! We notice our thoughts, invite some new thoughts in, move our bodies to see if the movement provides support, a challenge, or simply curiosity to explore more. There’s no need to be ‘calm’ before coming to class. There’s no need to touch your toes, either. It’s the process of the practice that keeps us coming back for more.

 What do you enjoy doing when not working?

Now that our kids are nine and seven a greater sense of time apart has developed compared to the five and under years… So, I’m basking in it! These days I love watching movies with my hubby and kids on the weekends. During the summer I’m outside tending to our yard; staying connected with nature, and appreciative to all it has to offer. I love our home and yard. Maintaining it keeps me grateful for all our the blessings. During the school year a morning highlight is enjoying breakfast or lunch with mom-friends after a yoga practice together. Then coming home to no one else around… I really love that part. After school hours I’m running around with the kids 🙂  #momlife

What moment are you most proud of?

On a personal level my proudest moment was birthing my daughter with no interventions. I knew I could do it, and when I did (peacefully), it ignited a passion to share with other birthers the possibility to birth with trust, understanding, and peace. 

Professionally I am most proud of the moment – actually moments – when former Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga students join in my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course so that they may provide the empowerment they received when they were students. When students become the teachers they are such a force of nature thrilling to witness!

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is open to all birthers; well, that’s not completely true… I have students who haven’t given birth join in ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga because it really isn’t about parenting or birthing… it’s about the desire to spend time to decompress and connect with the ‘core’ of the body and self. In our classes we are focused on building confidence through education, the practice of yoga, and the connection to one another. This yoga supports however and wherever someone births. As teachers, we are holding a light to help our community birth and parent with love.

CLASS IS IN SESSION

Who’s hype for August’s Childbirth Education Classes? THESE DOULAS ARE!!

At Tree Town Doulas, we HIGHLY recommend taking a Childbirth Education Class of some shape or form before you give birth. Whether it’s an online course, a hospital tour/class combo, a condensed course for busy parents, or the full 8-weeks complete with demonstrations. No matter how many books your read, or how many tutorials you watch, these classes are truly invaluable. So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to take a Childbirth Education Class, here are some of the amazing benefits they bring parents:

  • Learning about your options. We fully believe that you should have your baby on your terms and no one else’s (except maybe the baby’s because babies really do have agendas of their own). The key to this is knowing your options and alternatives. Because, ultimately, YOU are in control of your body. A childbirth education class walks you through the options/alternatives you’ll have available during different situations in childbirth. And while you might not remember every little detail, classes give you the tools to ask the right questions so that you can get the information you need to make an informed decision in the moment. 
  • Addressing fears and concerns. Everyone’s body is different, and for this reason every birth is different. This ambiguity can be a huge source of anxiety for parents, and understandably so! Attending a childbirth education class provides the unique opportunity to ask questions real-time right as they come up, and receive validation from other parents who are also going through the same thing. Childbirth books and literature are incredibly helpful and necessary, but they tend to be geared towards the general public. A class will allow you to address concerns and ask questions that are geared more towards you specifically!
  • Building confidence. Confidence is key! And every parent deserves to trust in themselves. Classes not only boost confidence by creating a more concrete image of what labor can look like, but they can also teach you strategies to make your labor your own. 
  •  Building community. Finding out you’re pregnant can be overwhelming for some parents. For this reason, one of the greatest benefits of childbirth education classes is a sense of community. Whether that’s through having fears validated by another parent, or making a new parent-friend. Never underestimate the comfort that can be found in knowing that someone understands what you’re going through!
  • Tailoring to your specific needs. On the flip side, parents can also feel intensely anxious about the social aspect of childbirth education classes. But don’t be discouraged! Many birth work agencies offer online courses or one-on-one childbirth education classes that you can tailor to YOUR needs (here you can check out the classes offered by Tree Town Doulas!).This is also a wonderful option of you have specific medical conditions or social identities that are often overlooked in classic childbirth classes. EVERY parent deserves to feel validated and seen, so this can be a wonderful option for LGBTQ+ parents, Parents of Color, and parents with disabilities who might not otherwise find the representation they need and deserve.

 

  • Enhancing communication skills with your labor partner. Childbirth education classes don’t just prepare parents and their labor partners for birth in “theory,” they also give you the opportunity to explore methods of support together in practice. Communicating verbally is one thing, but supporting and communicating can be very different when a person is in physical pain. Many of the exercises in childbirth education classes are geared towards enhancing this communication and increasing your bond with the person supporting you through labor. 
  • Hands-on learning. Childbirth naturally comes with a lot of adrenaline. That means that when your contractions actually start, it’s easy for all of the information you learned about childbirth to just fall right out. In a childbirth ed class they’ll have you practice comfort strategies and labor positions in person, so that when you’re actually in labor it’ll already be committed to your physical memory. That way, you won’t even have to think about it! 
  • Exploring hospital facilities and their go-to practices. One of the perks of taking a class at the hospital where you plan to give birth, is that you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the location. That way it’s less hectic when you’re actually in labor! You’ll also be able to ask questions about the hospital’s go-to procedures. This is of the utmost importance because birth philosophy is everything. Whether you’re planning to give birth with minimal interventions, or through a planned C-section, it’s so important to make sure that your providers will support you along the way when it’s time to birth your baby. 
  • From a doula’s perspective: Even if you’re thinking of hiring a doula, we STILL recommend signing up for a class! You’ll definitely be able to go over questions in your prenatal visits, but we highly recommend learning as much as you can ahead of time. That way when you show up for your prenatal visits, you won’t have to spend as much time rehashing the basics and your doula can tailor your prenatal visit to your specific needs.

Hopefully by this point we’ve got you convinced of the immense benefits that come with attending a class. Of course these benefits apply to Childbirth Education Classes in general, but if you’re interested in signing up for a Childbirth Education Class through Tree Town Doulas, feel free to take a gander over to that part of our website!

There’s still room in Cynthia’s August Childbirth Education Classes, so mark it on your calendars!

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self-care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or are already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned  “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BIRTHWORK GALORE

On this lovely Thursday afternoon, we shine our Community Spotlight on the amazing Jessica English!!! If you’re looking for a birthwork super hero, you’ve pretty much found her! When she’s not running Birth Kalamazoo, she’s doing amazing work training doulas, childbirth educators, working as a doula, and advocating for parents in her community. So if you’re interested in any of these things, keep on scrolling! 🙂

Jessica English, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Jessica English trains birth doulas for DONA International and childbirth educators for Lamaze International, traveling the country from Ann Arbor to Honolulu. She is one of just 48 advanced DONA birth doulas worldwide, and she still attends births and also cares for families as a postpartum doula. You’ll find her every Tuesday night teaching her 8-week childbirth class in Southwest Michigan, where she runs the state’s first and longest-running doula agency, Birth Kalamazoo. As a trainer, Jessica has also developed specialties in coaching doula agency owners and teaching hands-on labor support techniques to nurses. You can learn more about her trainings at heartsoulbirthpros.com or explore her agency at birthkalamazoo.com.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

Very simply, I had a great birth. After going through IVF and having this very high-tech conception with my son, I knew I wanted a low-tech birth experience. I did everything I could to stack my deck for my best chance at a great birth experience, including an independent childbirth education class, long walks every day, a midwife and a doula. 

After my son was born (such a beautiful, straightforward, physiologic birth), my doula said to me at our postpartum visit: “You’ve had a birth experience not many people in our culture get to have. I want you to think about what you’re going to do to share that with other people.” I wasn’t sure where to go with that, because I had a great job in public relations at a university, and a new baby that I had no idea how to take care of. But her challenge stuck with me, especially as I connected to other new parents who were not having great births – actually, their births were often pretty traumatic. 

I decided what I could do was teach, which seemed like a nice little sidelight in addition to my full-time job. I got trained and certified as a childbirth educator, and then my students started asking me to come to their births. That led me to train as a birth doula, which led me to… all the things. I’ve been doing this work for 14 years now, and I don’t miss university PR one bit. I’m so grateful I found my calling. 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I’d love to bust a couple of myths! 

For birth professionals (or future birth professionals), let’s bust the myth that you can’t make a full-time living as a birth professional. I have trained so many doulas and childbirth educators who are absolutely thriving in their home communities. I love watching them each find their niche and develop their own unique mix of services. This is heart work, but it absolutely can be financially rewarding too. Even for those doulas who are called to exclusively support under-resourced parents, I’ve watched them found or join nonprofits that can support them while they support families. 

For parents, I’m not sure if I’d call it a myth or a misconception, but I definitely see an assumption that if you just read enough, learn enough, practice enough, and hire the right doula, you can have a positive birth with any provider or any birth place. No! At least not unless you have a whole lot of luck working for you. The provider and birth place you choose will have an immeasurable impact on your birth experience, from the messages they send you about your ability to birth, to your risk of being induced or having a cesarean. And that doesn’t even address how you’re likely to be treated during your birth. I’ve seen such a huge difference in philosophy and approach among the providers in my area. If you want to know who the most respectful, patient and natural-minded providers are in your area, ask the doulas. 

OK, actually, I have one more for parents… I think especially in the Midwest, we have this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth that families don’t need professional support postpartum. I understand that we are very capable here in the heartland, but new mamas and other parents need so much TLC — and not just for a few weeks, but for several months after birth. If we can take better care of the whole family, we can increase bonding and confidence, and potentially head off postpartum mood disorders. It’s not a badge of honor to talk about how terrible it was after your baby was born; it’s a tragedy, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d like to see people investing at least as much in birth and postpartum doula care as they might in their wedding or a new vehicle. Your birth and your settling-in time with your baby are 1,000 times more important.

You asked me for one myth, I hope you don’t mind that I gave you three. There are just so many myths that need busting!

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I’m in a very busy work season of my life, but I also have two amazing teenage boys and a husband that I love to spend time with. I’m a travel hockey mom times two, which is great fun (and super intense). We also love to fish or do anything on the water, whether that’s summers in Michigan or spring break on one of the out islands of the Bahamas (I call it the “rural Caribbean”). I’m part of a sweet little book club that rarely reads books together anymore but still meets often. And I love a nice glass of cabernet or rosé.

What moment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the way my doula trainings have grown over the years. That’s not an exact moment, but a series of many moments, sharing my passion and seeing new doulas light up. It was a revelation to find that I have a unique talent for training adults, and it’s such a gift to me to help other people get started in this amazing field.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

Informed choice (consent or refusal) is the legal and ethical right of every person giving birth. Childbirth educators should be teaching it, doulas should be supporting it, and providers should be practicing it — every time, for every parent (especially for black women and other women of color, who are even less likely to receive respectful care than everyone else). That’s the hill I’m willing to die on.

 

 

MAMA ON THE MOVE

We interrupt your daily internet adventures to bring you a video of this amazing pregnant mama kicking butt on the dance floor:

 

We wish we could dance like Chachi! When this video first came out, there was some controversy about whether or not it was safe for a pregnant mom to be shaking her tail feathers (flawlessly, we might add) out on the dance floor like this. Well we’re here to debunk some myths and share some fun facts about prenatal workouts and exercise!

FUN FACT #1: It is completely safe to exercise during pregnancy

Especially if you were active before you found out you were pregnant. In fact, doctors actually encourage it regardless of how active you were before pregnancy! Not only will exercising build up your endurance for labor, but it will also improve blood flow, help position your baby, and decrease the risk of birth complications. So essentially, Chachi’s got the right idea! If your body can push out a baby, it can handle a little exercise 😉

FUN FACT #2: Labor is like a marathon.

 Especially if you have a long labor, fatigue from contracting and pushing for so many hours can easily become your Mount Everest during childbirth. You would never run a marathon without training, so why do it with labor? When it comes to carrying a tiny human in your uterus for 9 months, there’s a lot of stigma around prenatal exercise and it’s incredibly common to become overly cautious. Some caution is good, but there’s no reason to keep you confined to the sofa for the whole 9 months. Unless your doctor has explicitly instructed you to do so, that’s actually one of the worst things you can do! Gotta keep those muscles nimble and flexible 🙂 Pregnant parents need at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week to facilitate a healthy pregnancy, so it’s actually pretty important to keep moving and to stay active during each trimester. As far as pregnancy-friendly forms of exercise go, we highly recommend swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates, strength training, or riding a stationary bike! Whichever form of movement makes sense for you and your body 🙂

FUN FACT #3: Prenatal exercise can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and help you have a smooth labor

Whether you’re walking for 15 minutes a day or jamming it out at zumba, keeping your body in motion has been known to have amazing effects on the pregnancy/labor experience. Including the following:

  • Easing back pain by strengthening the muscles that are usually strained/thrown off-balance by your baby growing so quickly
  • Relieving any swelling in the limbs by ramping up the movement/ use of fluids throughout your body
  • Easing constipation by increasing blood flow around the body which causes the intestinal muscles to contract and push more waste through
  • Sleeping better (because who isn’t tired after a good workout? 😉 )
  • Increasing strength for labor which will allow you to explore more birth positions and improve your comfort while you’re birthing your baby
  • Shortened labor by equiping your body with extra flexibility, strength, and endurance for the more taxing parts of labor
  • Developing breathing/mindfulness techniques for labor
  • Decreasing the likelihood of an emergency C-section 

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER: Listen to your body!!

Your body will tell you very clearly when it’s time to take a break or call it quits for the day. If you’re someone who is already very active and athletic, your normal workout routine should be fine for the majority of your pregnancy as long as you’re not over-exerting yourself or doing risky activities. If you haven’t exercised for a while, try building up to it by doing 10-15 minutes of exercise per day. When we say “stay active during pregnancy” we don’t mean that you need to build a 6-pack over your baby bump (if that’s even possible – what a strange image). All you need to do is get moving enough to work up a sweat and get those muscles moving! You should absolutely not be in pain, feel shaky, or have any incontinence due to exertion while you’re exercising. If you feel any pressure in your lower pelvis, or are experiencing incontinence when you move/exercise, please contact your doctor!

FUN FACT #4: As long as your doctor has not said otherwise, exercise does NOT increase the likelihood of miscarriage or premature labor

Staying active actually DECREASES the likelihood of developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes, which are two of the big causes of pregnancy complications and premature labor. We definitely want you to avoid activities that put you and your baby at risk though, so unfortunately it’s time to put the skiing, horseback riding, basketball playing, scuba diving, heavy lifting, hot yoga, gymnastics, and other high-impact sports away for the next 9 months (so sorry for all of you dare devils and adrenaline junkies out there). But as long as you’re in the clear with your doctor, you are good to indulge in the safer forms of exercise!

There are, however, a few scenarios in which exercise is NOT safe during pregnancy.

This includes if you are currently or have previously experienced: certain cervical conditons, certain heart or lung conditions, anemia, gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, placenta previa after 26 weeks, bleeding during the 2nd or 3rd trimester, if your water has broken, or if you are having multiple births.

But as long as you’ve gotten the OK from your doctor,

 

It’s time to move that body!

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: CHIROPRACTIC CARE

This week’s Community Spotlight is giving a special shoutout to the wonderful Dr. Andrea Hoglen!!! Dr. Andrea does truly incredible work with parents from all walks of life. So if you’ve been looking for some amazing quality prenatal/postpartum chiropractic care, keep on reading!

DR. ANDREA HOGLEN

Dr. Andrea is a chiropractor who practices in Plymouth, Michigan. She utilizes the Webster Technique for pregnancy, as well as a number of gentle chiropractic and muscle techniques for expectant moms and babies. She is supportive of moms regardless of their birth plan, and she is passionate about supporting moms throughout their journey of motherhood. She is a runner, a crafter, a military wife, and a loving mom to one energetic 3 year old boy.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always been passionate about supporting moms and babies! I took all of the maternity and pediatric courses that I could when I was in school. I had the opportunity to support moms and babies in my practice for years, but having my own son made realize how important it really is for moms to get musculoskeletal care during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t really know how moms can go without!

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I think there is a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic. People are afraid that it is unsafe for pregnancy or babies. People fear that they will have to go back forever. Both of these are wrong. There are specially designed techniques that are not only safe for pregnancy, but like Webster Technique, actually relieve pain during pregnancy and may help with optimal fetal positioning. I never assign anyone to care “for life” but many of my patients choose to return for occasional wellness visits just like they go in for a dental check-up.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I love spending time with my son in nature. We love riding bikes, hiking trails, swimming, and playing. In addition, I do a lot of volunteering. I help teach safe baby wearing, I serve on the board for my local Chamber of Commerce, and I frequently teach at local moms groups.

What moment are you most proud of?

When my son was born. Isn’t that always the answer? But really, the whole journey of my labor brought so many elements together. I had been treated with chiropractic my whole pregnancy, I had my doula and my midwife. I had the whole birth team and I did “everything right” (if there is such a thing!). But in labor, my son got stuck sunny-side up and it stalled my labor. So my chiropractor and good friend came to adjust me during labor. During the adjustment, my son finally was able to turn and my labor progressed very rapidly. Within a very short span of time, he was earthside. Obviously a lot changes in that moment when you become a mother, but I also learned how much that I, personally, could do to help support mothers in that transition. These days I tell my patients to call me if something like that happens to them (or better, have their doula text me throughout their labor) and I have been known to make hospital visits for moms in labor. So not only did the birth of my son change my personal life, it changed my practice as well.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

You don’t have to struggle! Chiropractic can help with so many facets of new motherhood. Whether its back and pelvic pain during pregnancy and postpartum, or neck pain from holding a newborn and staring at their sweet face. It can also help babies too! Some babies struggle to nurse because they can’t turn their head completely or open their jaw fully. There are gentle, painless solutions that are safe for you and your baby!

HOME SWEET HOSPITAL

There are plenty of different reasons that parents choose to have hospital births. For some it’s merely out of preference and comfort, while others choose to give birth in a hospital out of necessity due to health conditions. These are all perfectly valid decisions! But regardless of the reasons, one of the drawbacks of hospital births is that they can sometimes feel too sterile. Some people enjoy the feeling of extreme cleanliness, but for many parents it can make room for a lot of anxiety, discomfort, and the feeling of being a “sick patient” instead of someone who is bringing life into the world. Of course, we WANT our hospitals to be sterile, but feeling sterile isn’t always conducive with the feelings of relaxation/safety that are so key to a smooth labor. Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to make a hospital birth feel more home-y!

Here are a few of our tried tips and tricks for bringing the comfort of your own home to the hospital: 

  • Play your favorite music – this doesn’t necessarily have to be calming music! We’ve been to many births where parents were dancing around and treating their baby’s birth like a party 🙂 
  • Scented candles (please don’t light them in the hospital though!)
  • Soft lighting
  • Sheets/ pillows of your own – make sure you’re okay with them getting dirty because birth can be messy!
  • Blankets
  • Flame-less candles – especially if you have access to a birthing tub or shower, you can make your very own spa
  • A comfy robe
  • Movies – fantastic for when you need a distraction
  • Your favorite scents/  aroma therapy
  • Photos of loved ones/things that make you happy
  • Flowers – and if you don’t want the smell of real flowers in your room, Dollar Stores usually have really stunning plastic flowers that you can grab!
  • Your own food if your doctor hasn’t requested dietary restrictions for medical reasons – that way you’ll feel less like a “sick patient” and keep your blood sugar up! 
  • Tapestries to hang on the walls – command strips will be extra handy for this
  • Comfy slippers
  • Remove the clock from the wall – take the pressure off, you’re not on a time crunch! Birth your baby at your own pace.
  • Fun socks
  • Gatorade/protein shake to keep your energy up
  • Your own lamp if you don’t like fluorescent lighting
  • Comfy clothes to wear after birth
  • Lotion (can also be a part of aroma therapy!)
  • Your own soaps to shower after birth – because who doesn’t like smelling like themselves? 
  • Your own pillow – this can be a wonderful way to bring the smell and comfort of your own bed along with you
  • A colorful or comforting throw blanket

From the outside, all of these things might seem small on their own, but we’ve seen them work WONDERS in helping labor along. Especially if your goal is to have a vaginal birth and/or a birth with minimal interventions! It all comes down to hormones. Feelings of safety, love, peace, and comfort all facilitate the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is the exact hormone that causes the uterine contractions that push your baby out. If the person who is giving birth feels tense, stressed, afraid, or unsafe, these emotions can cause birth hormones to decrease and contractions to slow/stall as a result of the fight-or-flight response. Even if this does happen, do not worry! One of the best ways to keep this from happening, or to start contractions back up again, is to decrease that adrenaline, and get you back into your relaxed, focused birth mode again. What better way to do this than feeling at home in your surroundings? So wrap up in your favorite blanket, put on your favorite music, and look at the beautiful photos of your loved ones that you brought along with you. In other words:

Get that oxytocin in motion!

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT LAUNCH

Welcome to our first official Community Spotlight! 🙂 This is going to be a new segment of our blog where we shine the spotlight on some of our community members that are doing awesome work for prenatal/postpartum care! This will be a weekly occurrence, so get ready to meet some pretty awesome people. 

For our first Community Spotlight, it’s only natural that we shine the light on one of our very own doulas, Toni Auker!

To learn more about Toni’s work, passions, winning personality, and the births of her little ones while she busts some common myths about childbirth/ parenting, keep on reading!

TONI AUKER

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always wanted to work with women and children, but wasn’t sure in exactly what capacity. When I was an undergrad I was certain that it would be through therapy. I double majored in psychology and women’s studies and hoped to work with families in crisis. Before graduation I realized that I didn’t actually want to do therapy, but I still began looking for jobs working with families. The job market at the time wasn’t easy and I found that I made more money as a server than I would at most of the jobs that would use my degree. I put off the career search for a long time as I concentrated on building my own family. 

As soon as my first son was born I knew what I wanted to do. Although I didn’t have a doula for my birth, I felt extremely supported by my mother. She had 3 natural hospital births, and her confidence in my ability to birth was instrumental in my own confidence. My husband was by my side, but he was nervous and needed his own support. My OB of 10 years happened to be the one that caught my baby, but I felt like I had only seen him for a few minutes throughout the entire labor and birth. The nurses were great, but it felt so strange to me that I had never met them and would never see them again. Birth seemed so personal, and I felt like everyone deserved the continuous support of someone that knew and trusted birth. I knew a little bit about what birth doulas did, and I started to do more research. It wasn’t long before I decided that this was the career I had been looking for. I found a DONA (Doulas of North America) training in Ann Arbor and I took my four month old son with me to the classes. After attending my first birth, I knew that I had finally found my place in the world. Eight years later I have added Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator to my resume and I couldn’t be more excited about where my career is headed. I get to work with the most amazing families at such an exciting time in their lives. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

There are so many birth myths that I would like to bust, but I think the biggest is that your provider is in charge of your birth. People might not say it directly, but it is in the way that we talk about birth. “My doctor won’t allow…”, “My doctor is making me…” and even “My doctor delivered my baby” are all phrases that I would love to do away with. You are in control of your birth. You birth your baby. Your doctor or midwife simply makes recommendations that you are welcome to accept or refuse. Some of their suggestions will be based on solid research and experience, but others come from habit or fear of litigation. Most of their recommendations come from generic hospital policy with no regard to your personal health or history. I have also found that many providers aren’t even attached to these recommendations, and they are more than willing to support people that ask for alternatives. I am so privileged to work with many brilliant providers and I absolutely respect everything that they do, but I also have amazing respect for the wonderfully intuitive families that take charge of their own births and make the decisions that work best for them

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I am currently six months pregnant and planning to move, so I am not working much these days. My days seem to be filled with packing and keeping 2 active boys happy. The things I enjoy the most are getting out in nature. I love to hike and camp. Hikes are quite a bit shorter right now, but even just sitting in nature makes me happy. This year we have visited the Hocking Hills and Ocqueoc Falls. We are heading up for a camping trip this weekend, and I hope to plan at least one more adventure before this baby arrives. 

What moment are you most proud of?

I have two moments that I am extremely proud of, one personal and one professional. My proudest professional moment was passing the Lamaze exam. I had already been teaching for someone else, and using their curriculum, for three years. Striking out on my own and passing the Lamaze exam was huge for me. It was like validation that I was on the right path. It makes me a more confident instructor, and I feel like it gives me a bit of credibility in the eyes of the many providers that now send their clients to me.

My proudest moment personally was the birth of my second son. My first birth was amazing and enlightening. I had tried to conceive him for 5 years with the help of 2 fertility doctors. Looking back there was so much I didn’t know, and so many things that I would have changed. Overall though, it was a good birth. With the second I hired homebirth midwives. I rented an inflatable tub for my dining room and asked a doula to be there. From the minute that I hired my midwives, things felt so much different. I felt supported and empowered in a way that I didn’t know was possible with my first birth. Although not everything went as planned (my son was not born in the water as I had envisioned), I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I was in control. I kicked people out of my room when I needed privacy, I pushed when my body told me, and I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My oldest got to meet his baby brother before we even cut the cord, and I feel like that solidified their bond immediately. I know that homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it was absolutely the right decision for me.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

I would like everyone to know that Lamaze supports every kind of birth and all choices. I teach directly from research and try to lay out all of your options. I will never tell a client that they need to do something or that they need to refuse something. I give them the evidence on both sides, and often help them find the compromises in the middle. Birth is unpredictable and the best thing that I can give you is the tools to communicate with your providers and make decisions in the moment. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I only gave you the tools for an unmedicated birth. This is something that everyone with Tree Town Doulas has in common. We are here to support you no matter what your circumstances and choices are. Whether you plan to give birth at home or in a hospital, with or without medication, vaginally or caesarean, we are here to support you