Thursday, December 23, 2010

Motivation Part 2 - Would You Do It For a Medal?

This is the sequel to another post on motivation. To read it click here or scroll back one day.

There is a contingent of people out there who roll their eyes and assume that some women make certain birthing and mothering choices for some sort of medal or badge of honor -- or a new diamond ring, which in Beverly Hills they call a "push prize." Any of us who have given birth naturally or made other pregnancy and birth choices that are counter to the current culture know that extrinsic motivation has nothing to do with it. In fact, if you are interested in some cool facts about extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, 40 years of studies have proven that a promise of rewards actually has a negative impact on results. What? Yes it's true--in cases that require any amount of creative problem solving.

Here's the experiment that has been repeated for 40 years now: Scientists gave a group of people a problem to solve and told them they would be timing them for norms. They gave another group the same problem and told them that they would be timing them and if they finished in the top 25% they would give them a substantial monetary reward. The group given an incentive took 3 1/2 minutes longer that other group. Sadly, this fact, though well known among social scientists is not widely known in business. If you want to watch a very interesting and entertaining talk on this by Dan Pink you can click here.

I tend to agree with social scientists and Dan Pink when it comes to business, skilled labor, and also pregnancy and birth. True success (whatever that means to you) is most frequently achieved with intrinsic motivation. Specifically, motivation that revolves around three ares:

Autonomy-- The urge to direct our own lives.

Mastery - The desire to be better and better at something that matters to us.

Purpose - Yearning to do what we do in service to something larger than ourselves.

I believe that behind all towards motivation is one of these three values, and I would like to see what readers think. How can you see these motivations at work in your life? Please comment and pass this post on if it is interesting to you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Motivation - Are You Moving Towards or Away From

As a hypnotherapist, many people come to me for reasons involving motivation. Either they want more of it, or they want to better understand their own or others motivations. And so naturally, I have been thinking a lot about motivation and pregnancy and birth.

What are some possible motivations people might have for the choices that they make before, during and after pregnancy and birth? I'm sure this not a complete list, but below is a generic list of motivations.

Higher Purpose

However, these motives don't necessarily tell us the whole story. The big question that you have to ask yourself is, "Is the motivation towards or away from something?" A person may be motivated by love--but when we examine that motivation, it may be a motivation away from loneliness rather than toward a deeper connection with others.

The problem with away from motivation is that it often leads to inconsistent results. For example, pain is usually an away from motivation. "Get me the heck out of this pain!" you say? You will pay anything? People in pain make a lot of promises. Pain comes in many forms (loneliness, poverty, boredom, etc). One could call these people highly motivated. However, as soon as they are a far enough distance from the pain, they become much less motivated. They begin a gradual or speedy slide backward until they are in the same or a similar situation--whether it is financial pain, relationship pain, physical pain or other kinds of pain.

What happens then? If they saw an acupuncturist, they might complain that acupuncture doesn't work. If they saw a marriage counselor, they might complain that marriage counseling doesn't work. You get the picture.

The difference between away from and towards motivation is that when a person is moving towards something, there is always more. More to have, more to grow, and more to work toward, which they can do consistently. Away from motivation is more often characterized by bursts of activity and change and then gradual backsliding.

It in important to consider our motivations in pregnancy, birth and motherhood and examine how we can change away from motivation to towards motivation. For example, a woman might be motivated to have a home birth because of a fear of hospitals. In this case, it might be helpful to explore all the wonderful things about birthing at home, and work on the fear in private prayer and mediation. Hypnotherapy is not the only thing that can neutralize fears. Mediation is also wonderful. The Atonement of Christ covers fears as well as sins, pain, and sorrows.

Another woman might be motivated to have a certain type of birth because she doesn't want to be different than her friends or family. This is also an away from motivation. It would be important for this woman to consider all her options and list all her motivations towards each option. The option to which she feels most towards motivation is likely to give her the most satisfaction with her birth experience.

A woman might be motivated to do a hypnosis for childbirth method because she is afraid of pain. She is motivated by fear, away from pain. Fear and pain are not bad motivations. No motivation is bad, if it gets you doing the right things. Ina May Gaskin says that the more right things you do, the more synergistic they become. It is possible for very dramatic shifts to happen when a mother is open. Soon, pain is the farthest thing from a woman's mind as she moves toward a peaceful, gentle birth.

Feel free to comment, question, share, or think aloud.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Birth Story - Prayer and the Lord's Tender Mercies

This story was sent to us by Shelene Westover. I grew up with Shelene when she had a different last name and so I was surprised to hear from her. It's strange how people you knew way back when aren't allowed to age in your mind. I still thought of her as much younger than me. Then I read her story and I realized just how much we all go through in the process of "growing up." It breaks my heart for all the little ones. And yet. They chose it. We chose it. Shelene's story is a good example of where we can turn for peace.

When my husband first started having health difficulties, I was four months pregnant with our second child. At the time, it all seemed to happen so slowly, but in retrospect, it really flew past us. Before we knew it, we learned we were expecting a boy and then learned that my husband was in need of a bone marrow transplant. We felt confident and positive throughout the process and even up until the day he died, we were optimistic. Now I look back and see that may have actually been denial. I suddenly found myself a single mother of a 21 month old daughter and a soon to be born son. Never before had my prayers been so sincere as they were that summer. I couldn't understand why Heavenly Father would take a good, hard working father from a happy family, and I can't say that I understand now either. However, through this I knew that I needed my Heavenly Father more than anything and he was the only comforter I could find solace with now. People were so kind and loving, but the only one who could bring me comfort was the Lord. I knew where I could turn for peace and He was always there. It was in these trying times that I was humbled and blessed by my Heavenly Father.

I was given so much advice from caring people, but also, people who had no idea what I was going through. One person gave me a book about a woman who was in a similar situation as I was. In this woman's book, she recounted several experiences where she saw and even had conversations with her late husband. This gave me hope, and I kept waiting for my turn to have an experience like hers. I never did have an experiences like hers, but I did have an experience that my Heavenly Father knew was what I needed. In the last moments of labor and pushing, I suddenly came to a realization that my late husband was there, I could feel his hand on my arm, and I could feel his presence in the room. I knew if I turned my head to look, I wouldn't see him, but I didn't need to see him. I could feel him, and that was good enough for me. In that bittersweet time of my life, my Heavenly Father blessed me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Feeling Like You Come Second

Tickle Tickle - 079, originally uploaded by RoxandaBear.

Everyone has heard of the husband who gets jealous of the new baby. It is almost a cliche. The baby is getting all the attention and he feels like he has lost his wife forever. I don't love gender specific cliches because they are almost always not gender specific and can be found on both sides of the spectrum.

I have seen it happen with fathers who transfer all their love to the child, and the wife feels left out in the cold. This is more common among ethnic fathers, because some cultures (e.g. Italian, Hispanic, Greek, Egyptian, etc.) traditionally put the kids first, but it can also happen with non-ethnic fathers. For example, if a new mother has postpartum depression, a well-meaning father may feel rejected and transfer all his love into the child, who is easy to please and gives love back freely--especially if you give them treats.

Either way it happens, it is a huge problem if it lasts for very long. When the child always comes first and one spouse feels rejected for long enough, the marriage will suffer. This dynamic could lead one partner to find comfort in another man or woman, in an addiction, in a fictional video game life, or any number of other destructive forms of comfort.

When the marriage suffers, the children suffer. No matter how much you do to make them happy, what children need is an intact, happy family. Recently I witnessed something like this first hand and it made me very sad, so I had to write about it.

Doctrinally, we are taught that the marriage relationship comes first. Of course, newborns need a lot of care and attention and your marriage will change during that first year after each child. But despite how tired you are or how much else is on your plate (moms and dads) you can't stop nurturing your marriage. Just because you see no negative warning signs doesn't mean that there isn't trouble. One party usually is oblivious when things are stewing. So don't let them get stewing. Keep going on dates, keep giving back rubs. Keep having sex. And communicate. Too many people don't know how to constructively communicate and they seek marriage counseling when it is too late. A good marriage counselor or relationship coach has tools that can help you--a lot--but not if you get them too late. If you can't afford a counselor, there are number of good books on communication and on making marriage work.

In our book we have a whole chapter on unity and a section in nurturing marriage. This section is filled mostly with information from general authorities, and lots of great input from real couples. I may post a cliff notes version of that chapter on the blog soon, because I think everyone could benefit from it. But I would love more input and comments that might add to it.

What did you do to nurture your marriage during pregnancy? What were some problem areas you didn't expect? How did you deal with them? How did you enhance communication? How did you work out division of labor issues? How did having a joint spiritual path help you? If you had any advice to share, what would it be? If you had an warnings, what would they be? What were you most grateful for during that time?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Protecting Our Powers

Super Mom

In every cartoon, comic book, or action movie, what would the bad guys like more than anything? Answer: to figure out how to take away a superhero's powers. Without their powers, heroes are no match for villains. Game over. World as we know it--over.

This isn't just comic book reality. It's a real life strategy, too. In business, in war, and even sometimes in relationships. Of course, this is all patterned after the ultimate struggle between God and Satan. Satan is the bad guy, and in his attempts to frustrate the plan of salvation, he is going after our one divine power--procreation. It is our duty to protect these powers--and not just our own, but our children's, too.

I'm not talking about sex here. We already know that Satan has convinced loads of people to abuse and misuse sex. That is the attack that gets most of the attention, diverting attention from the more subtle forms of attack which he is waging directly on our wombs and our bodies' abilities to function and bring forth children.

According to a 1985 study in England, one in 6 couples who try to conceive will require specialist help at some time in their lives due to infertility for 2 1/2 years or more. Based on my own random sampling, I think that number may be much higher now.

Does anyone have any idea why not just America, but the whole world is in a fertility crisis?

Here are just a few of the things that I have discovered through my fertility journey and my own research and study.

Plastics - Did you know that plastics leech into your food and water, bind to our DNA and actually alter it. If you can avoid using plastic, microwaving in plastic or freezing in plastic, you will be doing your family a great favor. Try glass storage containers and stainless steel water bottles. Since we can't avoid plastic altogether, learn what kinds of plastic are worse than others.

The Foods We Eat - It is no secret that the foods you eat while pregnant have an effect on your developing child. In fact, this has been known since Biblical times. In the birth story of Samson, in Judges 13, an angel appeared to Samson’s mother and told her that she was to bear a son and gave her these instructions:
"...drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb… " (Judges 13: 4-5)
A Nazarite was a man or woman who was consecrated unto God. The vow could be for their whole lives or for a limited amount of time. As part of the Nazarite vow, a person could not drink wine, vinegar or any other strong drink. They also could not eat grapes or anything that came from a vine tree or else their vow with God would be broken (Numbers 6: 1-9).

From the angel, we learn that Sampson was foreordained to be a Nazarite “from the womb,” and that in order for her unborn son to keep his vow, his mother needed to keep it. From this ancient record we learn that what we eat and drink effects our children from the womb.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but lets start with the basics: eating a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains is important to the proper functioning of our bodies. It is also recommended in the Word of Wisdom.

But sadly, not all vegetables are created equally anymore, and it's not always evident from the outside. The hormones and chemicals that are found in “conventionally grown” foods (using pesticides, etc.) have been found to have associations with fertility. Studies are limited because there are some restriction on studying expectant women and children, but using simple, logical math, it stands to reason that if an ounce of toxins in my body have "associations with infertility" then think of the effect an ounce of toxins in the body of a 30 pound child.

But the benefits of eating and feeding your children a toxin free diet are not just fertility related. Some very interesting studies have been done on kids who were fed an organic menu one week and an identical non-organic menu. The results were that the children were much more well behaved while eating organic. But why not try your own study?

Sure, organic dairy and organic meat is twice the price, but organic veggies are not much more if you shop smart - farmers markets or coops. If you buy local and in season, it's usually cheaper than the grocery store. And you can save money by cutting back on packaged foods. You can read this post to learn more about that.

Eat meat sparingly - Too much beef consumption during pregnancy can impair male babies' sperm quality: "These data suggest that maternal beef consumption, and possibly xenobiotics in beef, may alter a man's testicular development in utero and adversely affect his reproductive capacity."

Genetically Modified Foods-- A shocking study just came out of Russia. Here's a clip from an article I recommend reading in its entirety.

"This study was just routine," said Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, in what could end up as the understatement of this century. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction. What he discovered may uproot a multi-billion dollar industry.

After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups."

This wasn't the first study of it's kind. A 2005 study showed similar results in rats, and not just the females--the male testes were affected, too. This is something to seriously consider when buying groceries for yourself and your children. Currently, more than 90% of the soy and corn grown in America is genetically modified. I don't have statistics on other crops, but I would be that if they are not labeled organic or GMO free, then you don't know what you are getting. And it's not just crops. Cows and other animals that are being raised for meat are being fed these same crops, which you may be eating second hand. Even farm raised fish are being fed soy. All I can say about that is yikes.

Prenatal Exposure to Dietary Oestrogen – Did you know that the food you eat while pregnant and that you feed your infant boy can have a major effect his fertility?
Phytoestrogens have become a major component in the typical Western fast food diet over the last few decades. Soy formula milk is another common source of phytoestrogens, now used increasingly as an alternative to breast or cow's milk for infants with allergies. This use is of particular concern since the most vulnerable periods for oestrogenic insult are thought to be the pre- and neonatal periods when irreversible damage can be inflicted on the developing germinal epithelium.”

Chlorine in Tampons, Pads, Diapers, Wipes, and More
- When on my fertility journey, my acupuncturist discovered that one of the potential problems was chlorine in my uterus. How the heck did chlorine get in there? I asked. Tampons. That's how. Unless you buy organic or chlorine free tampons, they are treated with bleach and other chemicals that may even make you bleed more. Sanitary Pads as well as baby diapers and wipes also have chlorine in them. Your babies--both boys and girls--have their reproductive parts soaking in this stuff--sometimes for several years. Think about that.

7th Generation diapers makes awesome chlorine free diapers that are the same price as the other major brands if you buy them on line. (In the store they are way more expensive). They also make chlorine free wipes. If you buy them on Amazon, the shipping is free. And if you subscribe to monthly delivery, you can get another 10-20% off. Or you can use cloth diapers or go diaper free (Elimination Communication), like I did. I am a huge fan of E.C., but that is for a whole different post.

Drugs - I'm talking mostly about pharmaceuticals here. Martin Rossman M.D., author of Fighting Cancer From Within, states that almost all drugs are poison to the body. While sometimes we need them, they often do other damage, and it is important to know possible side effects not just to us, but our forming child. According to this study, using painkillers during pregnancy can harm male babies' testicles and future fertility.

Consider learning about alternative or complementary healing as well as preventative measures. In D&C 89: 10, the Lord mentions herbs that have been ordained for the use of man. Alma 46:40 also mentions the healing properties of these
"And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—"
Many physicians and are now practicing more integrative medicine, which combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques (such as hypnotherapy) -- all in the effort to treat the whole person.

To give you a personal example of how natural medicine has helped my family, my daughter's pediatrician is also a homeopath. While she could easily prescribe pharmaceuticals or antibiotics every time Phoebe has an earache or other complaint, instead, she "prescribes" homeopathic remedies which I can pick up at Whole Foods or at my local homeopathic pharmacy (you can also find them online if you live in remote areas.) I have used homeopathic remedies with amazing success on myself and my child for the following: to stop vomiting, curb nausea, cure an earache, clear up a nasty snotty cold, calm anxiety, calm stage fright, stop diarrhea, aid sleep, heal bruising quickly, bring down swelling, and much more. To date, my daughter has only been on antibiotics once in her entire 4 1/2 years of life.

C-Sections - Cesarean section has been reported to be associated with decreased subsequent fertility. I have heard statistics that claim that 1 in 5 women are sterile after a c-section. Recent studies, which have tried to explain this association, suggest that there may be additional factors, such as voluntary infertility, or psychosocial effects of an emergency cesarean section or labor preceding the cesarean delivery. To me, this explanation is worse than the medical causes of sterility--basically explaining that women are too traumatized to give birth again. Hardly the way our Heavenly Father and Mother would want their daughters to feel during the one of the most profound expressions of our divine powers. Women afraid and unwilling to use their powers=point for Satan.

Other Surgeries
- Did you know that the c-section is the most commonly preformed surgery in America and #2 is Hysterectomies? That is a lot of wombs being cut open and thrown in the trash every year. I find this shocking and sad. While many hysterectomies are necessary, as well as other forms of surgical sterilization, this is something not to take lightly.
“The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer. (CHOI 2006, pg. 188)”
There are many more factors that can influence fertility in men and women, such as STDs, eating disorders, vaccines, and much more, but I have chosen to focus on the most far reaching.

I hate to use war metaphors, but I'm afraid it is not just a metaphor this time. Satan is waging a literal war against the plan of salvation/happiness, and he's aiming all his efforts at our procreative powers. If you have watched any spy/war movies you understand that in times of peril, hyper-vigilance is essential in order to survive.

We can not afford to be lackadaisical, blindly trusting consumers any more. And it's our job to protect our children, who can't yet make these choices for themselves. If you feel overwhelmed by this information or this responsibility, I would invite you to start simply by reading 2 pages in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Word of Wisdom is short. Very short when you compare it to the thousands of pages of information in the bookstore on health and diet and exercise. Perhaps it is this simplicity that misleads people. Don't be fooled. A careful, in-depth read of the Word of Wisdom and other verses that comprise the Lord's Law of Health will reveal more truth and personal revelation for your physical and spiritual health than you ever thought possible. Even if you have read it recently. Read it again. And read this post, too, about some additional scriptures included in the lords law of health.

I would love to hear comments or have you share additional information.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Considerations for Birthing

Today I want to share a subtlety about love and happiness.

I was once in a stake conference and I heard my stake president say that as a spouses, your number one priority is to make your spouse happy. I had heard him say that before. But this time, he explained it a bit more, and said something to this effect: "Making your spouse happy means more than just doing things to make him/her happy. It means creating an environment in which they can thrive and be happy." I didn't hear anything after that because that's when I went inside and started processing. I was in a loving relationship at the time and though my boyfriend had almost all of the qualities I wanted in a partner and he did many things to make me happy, I knew that the environment he created was not one in which I could thrive and fulfill my life mission, and thus have true joy. This was huge epiphany.

I was thinking of this again today as I contemplated what I look for in friends, colleagues, employees, collaborators, etc. For me it comes down to a subtle energy exchange. Do I feel drained, or do I feel energized? If I were to try to explain further I might use adjectives like openness, acceptance, and belief. If a friend, or even a stranger, were to tell me they are going to swim the channel, write a book, or have their baby with dolphins, I hope that I would say hooray!--and if I could, I'd try to help them achieve it. I believe that whatever the mind can dream up, it can achieve. I try to surround myself with friends would do the same for me. Although the occasional naysayer serves their purpose to inspire me, I don't want to spend too much time around them.

I hope that as you contemplate the environment you plan to give birth in that you consider this. What kind of people and surroundings will allow you to thrive and have a positive experience? How supportive is everyone on your team? Is there anyone you feel uncomfortable with? You don't have to be able to explain why. It's never to late to change care providers, hire a doula, or decide to un-invite a friend. (you can always not call them when you go into labor--say it went too fast.) Just follow your intuition--which is just another word for Spirit. You can never go wrong in doing this.

I would love to hear comments from readers about how you followed your intuition.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Definition of Crisis

Never a Bad Decision, originally uploaded by ilina s.

This week I was reading an interview with Naomi Judd and she said something great. She said, "You're only a victim once, after that you're a volunteer." Of course, she was talking about something different, but I think it applies to birth.

If you feel victimized by a birth experience, for whatever reason, and you go down the same path again, you are a volunteer. That is not to say that if the outcome of your next birth is the same, that you were a victim again. I know women who have had repeat emergency caesarians, however, the second time, they weren't victims. They made empowered choices and took responsibility for them. The difference is in ownership. When we educate ourselves and nurture that connection with our source--the source of all of our innate wisdom and all truth--there is power. And peace.

If you have been a victim in the past, don't beat yourself up about it. Just move on and don't volunteer anymore. Sometimes, for whatever reason, trauma is in our karma. I know it was in mine. I had to learn some hard lessons early so that I could then go on to fulfill my mission. Sometimes it takes a crisis to create a catalyst for change. The Chinese definition of crisis is actually danger+opportunity. I think that's wonderful. Dangerous opportunity.

Last night, several long time California residents and I were reminiscing about the 1994 earthquake. During the the 1994 earthquake in Southern California, I was living about 5-10 miles from the epicenter. The thing we all remembered and articulated was, "We all became friends." And we did. It seems like the oddest thing to me now, because my current neighborhood is great. But I have lived in apartment buildings and neighborhoods where I didn't know anyone, and in fact, tried not to know to anyone. But after the '94 earthquake, everyone came together. Our neighbors suddenly became very important parts of our lives.

I seem to have had many of these same kind of experiences in my life--many personal natural disasters if you will. On of these dangerous opportunities happened during my pregnancy when I was unceremoniously abandoned. I got to know a lot of people. I learned to accept help. I was open to God's help. I was open to positive change. I found out I had a lot of friends, and a whole world of opportunity.

Please share your thoughts or dangerous opportunities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Father's Journey

The following story was submitted by Reid, father of 3 and one on the way. Please send us more stories, dads. Your voice is important.
"When we became pregnant with our first child, I knew next to nothing about pregnancy and birth. Over the course of that pregnancy, my wife and I read about birth, researched various birth topics, watched birth TV programs all in the hopes of making this birth the best experience possible. Despite all we learned, there was one thing I said over and over again: “There is no way I’d feel comfortable having a home birth.” Guess what happened two pregnancies later.

The main reason for my hesitation is queasiness. I don’t do so well with blood. I managed to do okay during our first birth (if you don’t count my slight light-headedness when the nurse couldn’t get the IV put in my wife’s hand). Our second birth was a little more difficult for me, but I made it through. I was relieved that I didn’t have any role to fill other than support for my wife. If we were to have a home birth, I’d feel more of a responsibility in the actual birthing of the baby. And what if the midwife didn’t make it in time? There would be no one other than me to deliver! I could not handle that.

So, what changed for me in order to feel comfortable with a home birth? There were a number of factors, and although it was not the deciding factor, it was the financial aspect that first allowed us to consider a home birth. Our insurance did not cover maternity care, so we would be paying out of pocket for all expenses, and this was going to be expensive. We began to explore other options, and we finally faced the idea of home birth. The difference in cost was very appealing, but we needed more than that to feel comfortable and confident having this birth at home.

It was the spirit and peace the Lord blessed us with that convinced us that having this baby at home was the right thing for us to do. This was by no means an easy decision for us, and one that we could not make alone. I still had my fears, and both of us had our misgivings and worries that something could go wrong. But we knew that God knew what was right for us. We are told in the Doctrine & Covenants, “Let them ask and they shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto them, and be made known from on high, even by the Comforter, whither they shall go” (D&C 75:27). So, after much thought and pondering, and feeling like a home birth was the path we were being led to, we went to the Lord in prayer to ask if it was right. After the prayer, we felt good about it, but my wife asked for a priesthood blessing for additional reassurance. Reassurance came when God told us that he would watch over us and keep us safe during the birth.

Over the course of the rest of that pregnancy, we occasionally had moments of worry and doubt, but that promise that the Lord gave us was something we could always fall back on. And that was enough for me to go into that birth calmly and comfortably, and come back out without the slightest bit of queasiness or light-headedness. God truly knows what is right for us all individually. Home birth is not going to be right fore everyone, but this was so right for us. I’m so glad we were led down this path. The Lord is so eager to help His children make these difficult decisions, and if we will but ask Him for assistance, He will guide us in the way we should go."

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I have been blog silent for a few weeks. Not for lack of things to say. But because the book has been progressing at rocket speed the last month or so. We have been lucky to get many more stories, essays, and contributors join us in our last push. Thank goodness for the laborers that come into the vineyard at the end--they bring that last surge of energy that the others need. Thanks everyone who has contributed even in small ways such as commenting on the blog. Every comment gives us more inspiration and information. We are very close to being done with the first draft and are ready to talk to publishers.

In the last year of working on this book, we have met or connected with many wonderful people and have quite a few publishing contacts, interest, support, and ideas available to us. The feeling I have right now and than has been echoed by some of the other inspired women on this project is that we should submit it far and wide and then let God ultimately guide our choice. We have considered everything from LDS publishers, small and large, self publishing--just for the freedom of it, and medium to large mainstream presses.

Though our book is written to and by a very specific target audience, I believe it will still appeal to a wide audience, which makes me lean toward mainstream publishing, which I am more familiar with anyway. Many people read this blog who are not LDS or even into birth. The fact is, birth junkies want to know about how anyone and everyone views birth (at least I do--especially other religions and cultures) and religious junkies want to know about all different kinds of religious cultural history, which our book is full of. So we are going to query all the contacts we have, as well as some we don't know, but thought we'd put it out there to readers to let us know if you have any additional ideas or contacts you want to share. We'd really like to find a publisher that shares our vision of helping women to rediscover and reclaim the divine nature of pregnancy and birth.

If you have any information or comments for me please leave them here or email them to me privately. And please pray for this book! Satan doesn't want this book to be published, because the ramifications could be horrible for him. Imagine if every woman did not fear birth or motherhood, or if all women saw birth, their bodies, and their powers of procreation as sacred. Satan's attacks against the family would fail. What a wonderful thought. So he has really been trying to slam some of us down hard for all the work we have been putting into this. We could all use your prayers and love.

Friday, October 15, 2010

You Only Remember...

I have been reading a lot of poetry this week. This is a really beautiful one by Pablo Neruda. The translation may be a little clunky, but it's a beautiful poem.

by Pablo Neruda

We will never have any memory of dying.

We were so patient
about our being,
noting down
numbers, days,
years and months,
hair, and the mouths we kiss,
and that moment of dying
we let pass without a a note--
we leave it to others as memory,
or we leave it simply to water,
to water, to air, to time.
Nor do we even keep
the memory of being born,
although to come into being was tumultuous and new;
and now you don't remember a single detail
and haven't kept even a trace
of your first light.

It's well known that we are born.

It's well known that in the room
or in the wood
or in the fisherman's quarter
or in the rustling canefields
there is a quite unusual silence,
a grave and wooden moment as
a woman prepares to give birth.

It's well known that we are born.

But of that abrupt translation
from not being to existing, to having hands,
to seeing, to having eyes,
to eating and weeping and overflowing
and loving and loving and suffering and suffering,
of that transition, that quivering
of an electric presence, raising up
one body more, like a living cup,
and of that women left empty,
the mother who is left there in her blood
and her lacerated fullness,
and its end and its beginning, and disorder
tumbling the pulse, the floor, the covers,
till everything comes together and adds
one knot more to the thread of life,
nothing, nothing remains in your memory
of the savage sea that which summoned up a wave
and plucked a shrouded apple from the tree.

The only thing you remember is your life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today is My Birthday

And I have nothing profound to say about it. Nothing at all. So I think I will share a poem.

Birth Day
by Elise Paschen

Armored in red, her voice commands
every corner. Bells gong on squares,
in steeples, answering the prayers.
Bright tulips crown the boulevards.

Pulled from the womb she imitates
that mythic kick from some god's head.
She roars, and we are conquered.
Her legs, set free, combat the air.

Naked warrior: she is our own.
Entire empires are overthrown.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Breastfeeding Struggles

3rd March - Breastfeeding

I will say no more than to just publish this beautiful story as it was submitted to us by Julie Mills.

To start I have always struggled with nursing my children (we have 5). However, nursing has always been very important to me. So when my daughter was born (she’s our 4th) it was no surprise to have some struggles in the hospital. It was typical so I didn’t think that much about. By the time we got home it was getting harder and harder and more painful. I began to see why it was getting worse. My first three kids are boys and now we had this little girl. Well, her mouth was much smaller than her brothers had been. Her mouth was too small to be able to latch on properly. This is because I am (unfortunately) very large busted and so she just simply couldn’t do it. By the time I finally figured this out, I was in tons of pain every time she tried nursing. My face would just run with tears. She and I were both upset and struggling. I began bleeding every time and when she would let go, she would have blood around her mouth and that of course just made me cry more and feel like I was failing her.

We went to see the doctor because we were afraid I was going to develop mastitis. The doctor let me know that I was fine. He then told me that it’s no big deal not to nurse and that I should just give up and not worry about it. Well that wasn’t going to work for me. I got a really good pump and began pumping for her. I pumped and pumped and pumped. I pumped everything she ate. I kept a log of how much milk I pumped, what she ate and how much I had in reserve. I also had a system to make sure the milk was being rotated properly.

My family and I prayed and prayed that Elise would be able to nurse. After a couple of weeks and then months, I pretty much gave up on that idea and just accepted the fact that she wasn’t going to. I would try from time to time to get her to nurse, but she didn’t like it. It would just make her mad. My oldest son Jake (he was 5 ½ at the time) was not willing to give up. He continued to pray. He was very faithful about praying for us everyday.

There were some blessings I gained from pumping. My husband David was able to help feed his little girl. He really enjoyed taking part in this. The boys also enjoyed in helping out their new little sister. I think it helped them realize how special she was. They are so close to her and absolutely adore her! She really, really looks up to them a lot. Also it forced me to be more organized. Pumping to that degree takes a lot a time and so I needed to be very careful with my time. Plus my milk supply is very sensitive. If I missed a pumping or was more than 15-20 minutes off my schedule, I could see the effects of it the next day. So this experience really taught me several things.

Then one day when Elise was about 4 ½ months old, David asked me if I had tried nursing her lately. I said no, because I had just accepted that I was going to pump and that nursing wasn’t going work. Now, like I said, Jake would not give up on praying for us. He was very diligent. David encouraged me to go ahead and try one more time. So I did… and she took right to it!!! I couldn’t believe it. My little girl was 4 ½ months old and started nursing. To us it was a miracle and a true answer to prayer! I am so incredibly grateful that Jake never gave up! After that, she and I had no more struggles with nursing. But I did have one other problem… I had 432 ounces of breast milk stocked up in my freezer!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Birth Story From a Midwife's Perspective

This cool story was sent to us by Stephanie Fritz, a midwife in Arizona. She has written it in the form of a letter to the child.

Dear Kaytlyn,

This letter comes to your from your Grandma Fritz, my first name is Stephanie, but Grandma Stephanie seems too long to say, and you already have another Grandma Fritz--either way, when you get older, you can call me whatever you want. I was your mom’s midwife and mom through her pregnancy and your birth. Your mom and dad wanted me to be with them at home as they welcomed you into this world, but you had a little different plan. You must have been so excited to come to your new family that you decided to be born 12 weeks early. You surprised us all, but it was a wonderful and awesome experience that I was honored to be a part of. I want to share with you the story of that great day.

I will actually start your story from the week before you were born. Your dad was staying at our house in Sierra Vista, because he was going to Cochise College near our home. He would come on Sunday nights and stay until Thursday afternoon. On Monday night June 25th you gave your mom a little nudge by starting contractions. She went to the hospital in Safford and the doctor wanted her to get the very best care available, so they decided to give her a helicopter ride to Tucson. Your dad and I and your aunt Whitney got in the car and drove to Tucson. We got there at the same time the helicopter was landing. Your dad was so happy to see your mom. She was in great spirits and not a bit worried. The doctor gave her some medication to stop her contractions, and to help your lungs develop.

She stayed in the hospital for a few days just to make sure her labor stopped. Your mom kept her positive attitude, and was reassuring everyone else that everything would be okay. She didn’t let any fear come in at all. She stayed in the space of faith and trust and love the whole time. We talked about what your name would be. You see ever since you were first conceived I called you Liberty. I thought it was cute for you to be Liberty Bell. Everyone else kind of laughed, but soon that is was everyone, even your mom and dad called you. Your mom was afraid you wouldn’t like it when you grew up, so we were trying to think of a middle name to soften it a little bit. I mentioned Ewa, because that is your great, great, grandma’s name. As soon as I said her name, I was filled with the spirit, I knew then that her spirit was with us, and had been throughout your mom’s pre-term labor. Your mom felt it as well, and your dad said he liked that. Nothing was decided on, but there were definitely good feelings around it. It was comforting to know that Grandma Ewa was with us even from the other side of the veil.

On Thursday, the 28th your mom was able to go home. She said she was so excited to sleep in her own bed. The doctor said she had to be on bed rest, that means she could only get up to shower and go the bathroom, and eat, other than that, she had to stay laying down. She and your dad came to our house on Saturday to spend the week, and that way I could take good care of your mom. Well, it didn’t matter how much she stayed down, by Sunday night around 6:00 you were giving your mom lots of nudges. You really wanted to be born even though it was early. Your dad and grandpa laid their hands on your moms head and gave her a blessing. I knew at that time you were going to be born tonight. We decided to drive directly to Tucson to the hospital there, because your mom didn’t want another helicopter ride. I guess she thought once was enough and it wasn’t very exciting for her, so I drove your mom and dad in my car, and your grandpa (Big Daddy) and aunt Whitney drove your mom’s car. Your mom lay in the back seat contracting every 2-3 minutes. She was singing “I am a Child of God” to you. She was trying so hard to stay relaxed and calm. You have such an amazing mom. She would squeeze your dad’s hand every time she had a contraction, and your dad would tell her how great she was doing.

As we were driving to Tucson, I offered a prayer in your mom’s behalf. I prayed this would be an easy birth for her and we would have many angels attend us, and that the doctors would be guided by angels. I prayed that I would hear the whisperings and promptings of the spirit to know exactly what to do for you and your mom. I prayed for confidence and strength for your mom and that you would come into this world happy, content and most of all safe.

When we got to the hospital your mom wanted to take one more picture of her belly with you inside her, I think she must have know it would be the last one of you inside her. As we got settled into a room, my heart was smiling, I could see your dad was taking such great care of your mom. The love he has for her is obvious, it is overflowing. He was helping her with counter pressure on her back; that seemed to make her feel better. By the time the doctor came in to check her she was already dilated 10 cm. and you were coming out feet first. The doctor said your mom would have to have C-section because it was too risky to deliver a breech baby. Your mom was so sad; she wanted to have you at home and she didn’t want a C-section. She got on her hands and knees to try to help you turn, but there just wasn’t enough time. Your dad and grandpa gave your mom a priesthood blessing, and it was confirmed that all would be well, that you would be strong and healthy and everything was in Heavenly Father’s hands. This blessing was one of comfort and peace we soon realized Heavenly Father had a very special day already picked out for you to be born. We just didn’t know that it would be 12 weeks early.
I was pushing on your mom’s knees and your dad was giving counter pressure on her back, this helped your mom a lot, and relieved some of the intense contractions. Your aunt Jamie came just in time to say a prayer for you and your mom. It wasn’t long before they wheeled you away for delivery, and as they did your grandpa pushed on your mom’s back for a minute, and that made your mom so happy.

Your dad went into the operating room with your mom to see you born. He as so worried for you and your mom, he loves you both so much. He stayed right beside her, and was very attentive to her needs. Whatever she desires was his pleasure to serve. The doctor gave your mom some medication so she could not feel anything. They put a drape in front of your her head so she couldn’t see you be born, but your dad is so tall, he could look right over and tell your mom exactly what was happening.

Your mom and dad lovingly welcome you into this world at 10:23 PM on July 1st, 2007! Weighing in at 2 pounds, 8 ounces, and 14 ¼ inches long. You are so very tiny, but we are so grateful you are here and so strong and healthy. We welcome you with more love than you know what to do with. Do not ever doubt the strength, and power of your mom, she is truly amazing.

The doctor came back to the room that we were waiting in and told us the good news. There were tears of joy from everyone. She said your mom has a very unique uterus. It is like a two room uterus, so this explained why you came so early. You basically grew out of our warm and comfy home you had known for 28 weeks. There was no room for you to grow or even turn around. You could grow better outside where you had plenty of room, instead of inside your mom’s womb. We were so happy for this explanation, and now we could be grateful for the C-section, because we would not have known this otherwise. This information will help your mom when she gets pregnant with your brothers and sisters. Your mom was so strong through your birth, and your dad was very sensitive and loving. Their bond is very obvious, and they immediately welcomed you into a loving family when you were born. You are a very lucky girl to have such devoted and loving parents. I hope you cherish them throughout your life as they cherish you.

The next day we all gathered in your mom’s hospital room and your mom and dad announced your name. Both of your grandparents were there, and your aunt Jamie and uncle Preston and Whitney. We all gathered around and your dad announced that the name they had chosen for you was Kaytlyn Ewa Bell. We all cheered, and I was smiling from the inside out because I knew your grandma Ewa was there with us. She had been with you since the beginning, and was there by your side always. She is the angel Heavenly Father sent to escort you to this earth. Your name holds an abundance of love. It is filled with blessings and promises that will be a comfort to you in times of need. I know Grandma Ewa holds and comforts you through this journey. Kaytlyn Ewa Bell, treasure your name, love your name, and honor your name, for it is more than just a name, it is “your” name and it is your heritage, both in this world and the one beyond the veil.

Kaylyn, you are the greatest miracle in your life, and you were born for greatness!
Thank you for the gift you gave to me and the lessons I learned.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Real Killer

16 Things, originally uploaded by ruth™.

Every now and then I hear about the (thankfully) rare case of a woman who dies in childbirth. This is tragic to me as someone who understands loss (especially of mothers) on a deep level. However, today I want to discuss what is really killing pregnant women. Something that is not often discussed on birth blogs--and that is violence. The fact is, the number one cause of death among pregnant women has nothing to do with pregnancy. It's homicide. And more often than not, the slayer is her partner.

I was pregnant shortly after the Scott Peterson trial. There was also that guy in Utah who got some media attention for the same thing, but pled guilty and didn't put the world through a trial. In cased you missed it--both men killed their pregnant wives. Both had been model citizens--outwardly--and shocked their families and communities. I'm not sure why these particular cases got so much attention and others that happen don't, but according to a Maryland study in March 2001 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, murder was the leading cause of death in pregnant women. "Using death records and coroner reports, state health department researchers found 247 pregnancy-associated deaths between 1993 and 1998. Among those deaths, 50 were murders." The Maryland study reinforced two earlier studies that found the same results--the leading cause of death in pregnant women is murder.

Here's some information from an article that I cut and pasted from the National Organization for Women:

"People think that pregnancy is a joyful, happy time for families. That's not always true," said Phyllis Sharps, an associate professor at The Johns Hopkins University's school of nursing who researches violence against women.

In some cases, the woman has been abused for years, and the violence escalates to murder after she's pregnant. In others, pregnancy itself sparks emotions that can lead to murderous rages.

"Violence in intimate relationships is all about power," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "There are fewer times when you can have power over a woman than when she's pregnant. She's vulnerable. It's an easier time to threaten her."

"There are a lot of dynamics that go on in a relationship that involves violence—power and control and the need for the abuser to be primary," she said. "A pregnancy can create a sense of possibly losing that primary position."

The last statement rang very true in my case. The abuse was subtle and so confusing for years so that I couldn't see my way out. I thought batterers hit their wives weekly. He hit me only once--but the threat was always there. He once threatened to disfigure me on a Christmas vacation, and another time he beat up a chair in front of me. I can take inferences.

Most of the abuse was psychological. He'd isolate me by telling me people didn't like me. But in public he was charming and told everyone how wonderful he thought I was. At home, he'd do more gas lighting. I was always sucked back in by the honeymoon phase of the cycle and the promises that everything would change. I couldn't tell anyone what was really going on because I'd have to admit what an idiot I was. So most of the time I was in denial. I honestly believed that the honeymoon phase was the real marriage and everything else was just "out of character." Here's news for anyone else out there who believes this: everything a person does, even if it is only once, is in her/his character.

Well, then I got pregnant. Things were fine until I got sick and he wasn't the center of attention. Then the psychological abuse got so bad that I started to talk to people. And I realized something was wrong. I knew he had mental health issues, and so I blamed his OCD. I told him he had to get help or I'd be staying with a friend till he could get his head together. If I had known anything about the cycle of abuse and power struggle I might have expected his response.

He said, "I'd rather pay alimony." He filed for divorce the next day. Of course, the filing for divorce was an attempt to get me to panic and change back to that way I always was. To come back and to get rid of the pregnancy. He tried very hard to make me think I wanted an abortion--that it was my idea.

Of course, by then, I was thinking with two brains and I wasn't having it. Something about a growing baby in your womb changes everything. To cut this story short I put his stuff outside and changed the locks and that was it.

But I spent the rest of my pregnancy on high alert. I got a few dirty crank phone calls that were somewhat traumatizing, and my car was vandalized twice during that time. I had the police department down the street on speed dial and they regularly patrolled my house. Many times, I wondered if I was being paranoid, but when I look back I also wonder if my hyper-vigilance saved my life. Thankfully, his manic behavior settled down after a few years and I finally broke out of the cycle. (Divorce doesn't end the cycle.)

I feel sort of naked sharing all this here but I'm hoping that it helps someone. The thing I have learned about abuse is that is can happen to anyone. There is no special type of person that batterers target, and there is no stereotypical batterer.

In fact, police records show that violence, including homicidal violence, cuts across all races and classes.

"There is no profile of what these men look like," Sharps said. "Many are educated, upstanding citizens."

Upstanding citizens means that they could be priesthood holders and do their home teaching every month. Mine did. This was one of the problems--I thought no one would believe me if I told them. Thankfully he made that choice for me and soon everyone saw what I knew all along. But here's the deal--it doesn't matter how it looks to anyone else. Heavenly Father knows. And there is no way he wants one of his daughters (or sons) being treated this way. He will help you and guide you if you go to Him. How do I know? Because I have been there. (If you are not so hip on men right now, try to remember that we have two heavenly parents, and that they are united. While we address our prayers to Him, I imagine that if they are united, She hears everything, and is as much a loving mother as He is our loving father in heaven.)

If you or someone you know needs to get out of a physically or psychologically abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline ( at 1800-799-SAFE (7233). Also, I would advise counseling with your bishop. He has resources that can help you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Opposite of Anxiety

I once heard a hypnotherapy teacher say that the opposite of anxiety was options. It made sense at first--options are always good. It's very empowering to know and understand your options, especially as you go into your pregnancy and birth journey. However, recently I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think it is important to differentiate between having options, and keeping your options open. It is my belief, the once you've considered your options and made a choice, the opposite of anxiety is actually commitment. And it is commitment that allows us even more choices.

Here are some examples that may better illustrate my point:

  • Keeping your options open when it comes to romantic relationships prevents you from forming deep attachment, trust, and love. From a stable committed marriage you have the ability to grow and develop. In fact, digging deeper in the same spot is how we reach the rich, fertile soil of a relationship. When one tries to to dig in several places at the same time because they don't want to chose the wrong spot--this is more likely to create anxiety. In addition, when you are in a committed relationship you have the option of a regular ride to the airport and hospital--and a few other nice perks you can think of yourself.

  • When you commit to one faith and set of values that don't change, you have the option of peace and of expansion. Metaphorically, the deeper you dig with your faith, the more the hole can be filled with treasure--or "hidden treasures of knowledge," as they are sometimes called. (I might say more about this in a later blog post.)

  • When you commit to a career, you can advance in it to the highest level and skill. Whereas, if you are always changing directions, it is difficult to become the best at any one thing.
  • When you commit to bring your child into the world in a gentle, spiritual, dignified manner, then you have the option of being open to spiritual guidance. You also have the simplicity of having a measuring stick for all related choices. Questions such as, "Is it peaceful? Is it gentle? Is it necessary? Will it allow me to feel the connection to the divine? If not, what else might need to happen first, so that it can?"

I have been trying to find a way to articulate how commitment also produces miracles and divine assistance, but two days ago I found these perfect words from Goethe:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." -- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
This reminds me of Lani's birth story. When Lani felt inspired to have a home birth, she had some inner struggle at first about making a decision that was not popular. They also weren't sure how they were going to pay for it. However, when she and her husband made the decision and committed to it, the heavens opened up. Here are her words:

"I still struggled, at times, to remember the assurance that we had chosen the correct path. “Are we sure we’re doing the right thing?” I frequently asked Reid at bedtime. While the idea of home birth had been frightening to him in the past, he was now blessed to become my rock of strength—never doubting for a moment. He reassured me time and again when my faith wavered or when I expressed my real concerns that I wouldn’t know how to love our boy baby. In another priesthood blessing I had sought for reassurance, the Lord promised us that He would watch over all of us to ensure that we would be “well and safe” as I gave birth. And the Lord, my God, "did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith," just as He had told me He would, through the scriptures, at the beginning of my pregnancy.

The blessings and miracles continued to pour down upon us. In February, I attended a doula training workshop (offered for free as a gift to the community by the doula trainer) where I met many women who would become my friends. One of them, Cassie, offered to be my doula and take photographs of my birth (again, for free). She came over several times before the birth to meet Reid and my girls and to take maternity photos for us. Unexpected additional income came to us, with the probability of further additional income opportunities in the future. Just as the Lord had promised, we found ourselves with enough and to spare financially, and our baby’s birth was completely paid-for by my 36th week of pregnancy."
Lani's story is also a great example of how a loving committed partner can give us added strength and courage to keep digging.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We are Daughters: Preparing Young Women for Pregnancy and Childbirth

This truly inspired guest post is form Brittany from Birth Unplugged

Every Sunday, 12-18 year old girls all over the world stand and read aloud or recite a very beautiful and powerful document. It goes like this…

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:


Divine Nature

Individual Worth


Choice and Accountability

Good Works

Integrity and


We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

(the Young Women theme)

Learning to live the values in this theme is an important part of the Young Women program, and the Personal Progress program is designed to give young women opportunities to learn about and develop these values in their lives.

As stated in the theme, the purpose of living the Young Women values is to prepare young women for the future, including the responsibility to “strengthen home and family.” The phrase “strengthen home and family” was added when I was in the Young Women program. Part of strengthening home and family involves our participation in “the means by which mortal life is created,” (from The Family: A Proclamation to the World) the process of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. It makes sense that living the Young Women values can be a preparation for the important experiences of being pregnant and giving birth.

I would like to explore how each of the values applies to the great work of childbearing which the Lord gives to His daughters. I will include with each value, the scripture and short explanation of the value from the 2009 edition of the Personal Progress manual.


Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true (Alma 32:21).

I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, who loves me. I have faith in His eternal plan, which centers on Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Faith is the first principle of the Gospel. We must have faith to believe that our Heavenly Father is real and He cares about our lives. If we have faith, we can ask the Lord for guidance in our lives and trust that the inspiration we receive is from Him, and then we must exercise faith to act upon it.

Often we hear natural birth advocates announcing that birth is safe, with cries of “Trust Birth!” while those in the medical field scoff and say that birth is relatively dangerous with the implication that women should trust doctors. As women of faith, we know in whom we must place our trust. With our faith in the Lord, we can be guided to make the decisions that are best for us and our children, individually.

Divine Nature

Be partakers of the divine nature. … Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:4–7).

I have inherited divine qualities, which I will strive to develop.

Divine Nature is the knowledge that we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and that we are His children and have within us divine potential. The processes of pregnancy and birth were divinely designed and are the beautiful, sacred, godly purpose of our creation. “The woman, by her very nature, is also co-creator with God.” (Boyd K. Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 21)

As a woman who knows that the female body is divine and who understands that pregnancy and birth are part of its divine purposes, it is easy for me to believe that there can be harm in interfering with the natural birth process when it is going according to Heavenly Father’s design. This leads me to feel that something is not right with a system that relies heavily on medications and surgery to complete a natural process. I also believe that our Father in Heaven has provided us with safe, natural ways to relieve pain during birthing.

Individual Worth

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10).

I am of infinite worth with my own divine mission, which I will strive to fulfill.

Important to understanding Individual Worth is understanding how it differs from Divine Nature. I like to think of it this way. Divine Nature refers to knowing that God created His children to be like Him, while Individual Worth refers to knowing that he only created one of me. He wants us to know that He loves us each individually, with our own unique attributes and purposes. This is why Individual Worth is included separately from Divine Nature.

Knowing that our Father loves each of us helps us recognize that He cares about our experiences enough to guide us in them. No two birth stories are the same, and yet every baby born is as important to Him as Jesus Christ. I found I had difficulty enjoying my second pregnancy because the experience was not new, and therefore not as exciting as my first pregnancy—until I realized that my new baby was his own unique soul. This realization helped me significantly bond with my child, who I know the Lord loves and created to be an individual with infinite worth. As the Lord told His prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.” (Jer. 1:5)


Seek learning, even by study and also by faith (D&C 88:118).

I will continually seek opportunities for learning and growth.

The Lord desires for his daughters to cultivate a spirit of learning in our lives. In a speech to BYU students entitled “The Journey of Lifelong Learning,” Elder Robert D. Hales specifically addressed opportunities for learning in motherhood,

“Motherhood is the ideal opportunity for lifelong learning. A mother’s learning grows as she nurtures the child in his or her development years. They are both learning and maturing together at a remarkable pace. It’s exponential, not linear. Just think of the learning process of a mother throughout the lifetime of her children. . . For example, in the process of rearing her children, a mother studies such topics as child development; nutrition; health care; physiology; psychology; nursing with medical research and care. . . The learning examples could continue endlessly. . . My point is, my dear sisters—as well as for the brethren, who I hope are listening carefully—a mother’s opportunity for lifelong learning and teaching is universal in nature.”

I believe that in something as important as the divinely created process of bringing His children into this world, the Lord is pleased when his daughters’ desire to learn more about it. We are acting on the value of knowledge when we learn about how pregnancy and birth typically unfold according to His plan, as well as the benefits and risks of various tests, procedures, and medications commonly used in pregnancy and birth.

Choice and Accountability

Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

I will choose good over evil and will accept responsibility for my decisions.

The basic principle of Choice and Accountability is that we have choices, and our choices have consequences. From the account of the war in heaven found in Moses 4:1-4, we know that it is part of God’s plan for us to have choices, and that Satan’s rebellion was based on the belief that he could accomplish universal salvation by taking away agency.

It is common in American maternity care for women to defer all decisions, and therefore all responsibility for the consequences, to their doctors. This is one reason so many doctors are sued. I believe that our Heavenly Father desires for us to make our own decisions, with his guidance. If we learn about all of our options and the possible consequences of various choices we may make, we are in a position where we can be accountable for our choices.

Good Works

Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 12:16).

I will help others and build the kingdom through righteous service.

Good Works is the value of giving of one’s self for the benefit of others. In a 1942 issue of the Improvement Era, the first presidency referred to motherhood as “the highest, holiest service … assumed by mankind.” The sharing of the body’s resources with our babies during pregnancy and other hardships we may endure in order to give our children life constitute very important form of service. The value of the service we give in creating and sustaining new life with our bodies is not to be understated.


Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me (Job 27:5).

I will have the moral courage to make my actions consistent with my knowledge of right and wrong.

Integrity is having the courage to act on what you know is the truth. In pregnancy and birth, this applies to holding strong to what the Lord has guided you to do to best take care of yourself and your baby. Sometimes your choices may not be popular, but integrity means holding fast to your principles in the face of any opposition you may receive from anyone who may disagree with your choices, whether they are friends, family, or medical professionals.


Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10).

I will prepare to enter the temple and remain pure and worthy.

My thoughts and actions will be based on high moral standards.

The eighth value, virtue, was added in November 2008. Virtue encompasses chastity in thought and deed, as well as modesty in dress, speech, and action. A virtuous woman knows the true holy purposes of her body, and does not seek to misuse it for ungodly purposes. Striving to be virtuous before marriage will bless a women in her marriage as she uses her divine body for two of its most divine purposes, the binding together of husband and wife and the creation of physical bodies for children to join her family.

I believe it is important for our young women to understand that while being worthy to enter the Lord’s house is a very good reason to be pure, it is not the only reason. Virtue is not a means to an end of a temple marriage, but rather a lifestyle of respect for Heavenly Father’s plan and our place within that plan.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Sweetness I Never Expected

This birth story was submitted by Kelley Birrell:

Several months before I got pregnant with my last child, a little girl, my then 4-year-old son asked me where babies come from. I wasn't prepared with a pat answer, so I just shot from the hip and told it to him straight. I didn't explain the nitty-gritty details of how the babies got in there, but I did tell him how they start as special seeds from the daddy, grow inside the mommy's belly, and that they eventually come out through a special hole in her bottom. I also told him that he'd be welcome to be there at the birth of our next baby.

This really got him excited, and for the next several months I kept getting questions about when I was going to get another baby in my belly so he could watch it be born. Finally, the long-awaited day came and I announced to my husband and sons, through happy tears, that I was pregnant. My son immediately asked if he could still be there when the baby came. I told him "absolutely."

This pregnancy, with what turned out to be my first and only daughter, was not a pleasant one. I was miserably sick at the beginning (for the first time in 4 pregnancies!), and in excruciating pain at the end. I was planning a homebirth, but it took me several months to find a midwife who could practice in my state, and then I found that I really didn't like her style of care. I was worried that I'd have to have my baby in the hospital, and that it wouldn't work for my son to be there for the birth.

Around my 6th month, we moved to a different state and I quickly found another midwife. I adored this one from the moment I set eyes on her, and we bonded immediately. She helped me cope through the last 3 very difficult months of my pregnancy, for which I was deeply grateful.

The best thing about finding her is that I realized that my dreams of a homebirth were very likely going to come true. By this time, the invitation to my one son to be at the birth had grown to include all three of my sons (now aged 3 1/2, nearly 6, and 8). They were excited, but I don't think they really had any idea of what was going to happen.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I began to worry about how I was going to handle having three little, sometimes rambunctious boys around me while I was in labor. Previously I had had only adults around me, and my kids were not there. Also, I was getting some really strange looks when I'd tell friends that my sons were going to watch the birth. It was like everyone around me thought it was extremely inappropriate for my sons to see that. On top of all this, my mom kept telling me that I should have a back-up plan for the kids in case I had to go to the hospital suddenly. The problem was that I wasn't about to tell them they couldn't come when I'd been telling them they could for over a year. I decided to brush off everybody else's opinions, and just focus on what I knew was right - that my boys needed to be there.

Finally the day we'd all been waiting for came. I started having contractions at about 3:00 in the morning, but managed to sleep through them off and on. They weren't too terribly frequent or intense by morning when everyone got up, so I took the kids to a birthday party at a local park. Lots of people were there, and the kids played while I talked to several of the moms, stopping every five minutes or so to breathe through contractions that were starting to become more consuming. I was very glad when the party was over, and we could go home (I hated to make my boys leave before all their friends did).

Next came the part I had been mildly dreading - at home, taking care of my three kids by myself for a few hours while I was in labor. However, the afternoon went much better than I could have anticipated. My boys took great naps, and then played quietly (totally out of character for them, I should add) while I labored on a birth ball in our living room. My husband came home, and all 4 of them took very good care of me. My now nearly 6-year-old son brought me water, and my boys took turns with each other and my husband rubbing my back for me. They were gentle and kind, and I was truly surprised at how sweet the experience was turning out to be.

Fast forward a few hours... the time had come for the birth. My boys were starting to get very excited, and my midwife showed up at the house about the time my husband was planning to take them to a nearby restaurant with a playland so they could burn off some energy. We all thought there were still several more hours to go. My midwife and I got comfortable, I made myself a peanut butter smoothie, and we talked for a few minutes.

After I finished, we went into the bedroom so she could check me to get an idea of where things were. What happened next was a total surprise to both of us. My cervix was positioned far enough back that she could barely reach it, however, she managed to ascertain that I was about 4 centimeters and VERY stretchy. As an experiment, she lightly tugged on the edge during a contraction (they ARE inevitable when you're getting checked) to see what would happen. What happened is that I immediately opened up to about a 10 and my baby's head came down right to her hand!

She jumped up, and started getting things ready for the birth VERY quickly! I had her call my husband and tell him to get home IMMEDIATELY while I knelt on my hands and knees and vocalized through a few more contractions. By the time they all arrived a couple minutes later, I was positioned on a birth ball at the side of my bed, and pushing with all my might. My husband and our sons stood at the door of our room getting a full view of the action, but I didn't mind a bit. At one point, I remember my youngest son (the 3 1/2-year-old) telling his brother that the baby was going to come out Mommy's special hole in her bottom. Even though I was working hard, I just had to smile at that dear little voice saying such an innocent and funny thing. A few minutes later, my beautiful daughter was born, and my husband (of course) and boys saw every bit of it.

Looking back on the experience, I will be eternally grateful that I trusted myself and my boys enough to have them at the birth. My almost 6-year-old said some every special things about the birth later, even though he did admit thinking it was just a little gross (boys WILL be boys!). All of them adore their sister, and did immediately. It was like she was every bit as much their baby as she was my baby. I was pleasantly surprised at how delightful and sweet it was having my children there, and being able to hear their thoughtful comments and charming voices in the background. It is an experience I will always cherish, a moment when we truly became a family all together at last.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women Give Birth, Pizzas are Delivered

La bella luz, originally uploaded by Danielle Lupin.

When Busca, Heather, and I met with Lynn Callister in July we had a discussion about birth language. Lynn is on the review board of several nursing journals and said that she is known for getting after writers about birth language. "Women give birth, pizzas are delivered" has become almost a mantra for her.

Of course, birth language is one of the first things hypnosis for childbirth methods change. Like the word, contraction--in reality, the body is not contracting but opening and massaging your baby down. It is amazing what just changing language can do for a mom. The new language bypasses the critical filter of the mind and the limited beliefs/knowns about birth and allows for a whole new range of experience.

In my study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I am learning about all the ways that language can reveal a person's internal structure of the world, and how, just by changing language, we can expand that structure.

One of the big problems with medical language is all the nominalizations. Linguistically, nominalization is the changing of a verb which is active in time into a noun which is static and unchanging. Words like friendship or strategy or relationship. The problem with these words is that they imply no active participation by other elements. If I ask you, "How is your relationship?" you are able to answer without accountability: "the relationship is suffering." However, change the word back into the verb form--"How are you relating?"--and see how your answer changes.

Abstract nouns cause distortion and make it seem like we have few choices. I read an interesting article by Dr. Wallace Ellerbroek, titled, "Language, Emotion and Disease" in which Dr. Ellerbroek who is both a surgeon and a psychiatrist, attempted to denominalize his own medical terminology. He states:

"I called all diseases "behaviors," in other words, things that people do...When i found a patient with elevated blood pressure...I said to myself not "He has hypertension" but "He is hypertensioning."

He found that transforming this abstract noun that represented a set of medical conditions back into a process, altered his behavior toward his patients and also changed his patients' responses to treatment in a dramatic and positive way.

So how do we help ourselves, and possibly our care providers, learn to use different language? The answer is first to identify these abstract nouns. I like the wheelbarrow test: Can I put it in a wheelbarrow? I can put my cervix in a wheelbarrow, but I can't put incompetence into it--or pain. If you can't put it into a wheelbarrow, it's probably a nominalization. You can begin to denominalize our own speech and that of our care providers just by asking questions. Who , what, when, where, why, and how, until you reconnect the abstract back into a process.

What does this have to do with spirituality and birth?

In English, the language of birth has been largely rid of spiritual underpinnings. I believe that when you change language, you can change the way people think about things, and therefore, how they will behave. If you don't believe me you can read dozens of studies on this. I read a really interesting one which I can't find now about Native Americans who don't have a word for certain colors and so they don't see that range of colors as different from those similar. On the other hand, Eskimos have 70 words for different types of snow, which allow them to perceive an amazingly wide rage of different characteristics of snow that the rest of us could not notice. In the first example, language inhibited experience, and in the second it enhanced it.

It is my desire, and I would love to invite everyone to add the divine back into birth language. It is my belief that in so doing, we will not only enhance our experiences and our options, but also bridge some of the gap between opposing birth camps, and dramatically change the process of birth.


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