Births that make me smile...

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There are some births I have that I can’t help smiling throughout the entire labor. I had one of those births the other night. The mother came in with her second baby already in what I call fast and furious labor. She had a birth plan, requesting an unmedicated, non-intervention birth with skin to skin contact immediately after birth, delayed cord clamping, basically what as midwives we do anyway whenever possible. 

What I loved about her birth was that she was CLEAR about her needs. She verbalized, sometimes vehemently to her husband, her mother, the nurse, and me what she needed. She was not apologetic or polite. It was awesome!  When her mother kept talking, she asked her clearly to please stop talking. She and her husband were working through each contraction with a system that worked for them as a couple. He would say, relax your belly, relax your chest, relax your back, and she would breathe deeply and focus. At one point when he strayed from her side, she told him clearly I need you here. While these points of reference would not work for most women, it worked for her. Then when the nurse kept talking about IV placement, she told her, "I don’t care! Just do it."   I know from years of experience that when a women is clear about her needs, sometimes impolite that she will birth her baby. It makes me smile to myself and congratulate her in my mind.

When it came time to push, she loudly welcomed her baby into the world. Some people would call it screaming but I just thought to myself, "Yes, go for it!"  When someone is letting their air out through moaning and yelling I know it works because they are allowing the baby’s head to be born slowly. You can’t push as hard when you are letting all your air out through vocalizing.

After the birth she apologized to me for screaming and I told her, "No, you did great! That’s what I wanted."  We usually try to have women blow as the head is being born to minimize or prevent tearing, but yelling also works. No one said birth should be quiet! You are welcoming a new soul into this world. Celebrate it any way that works for you!

It was a beautiful birth, this mother embodied everything I know about childbirth. She was unrestricted and unencumbered and welcomed  her daughter with everything she had. 

With love,

Karen

 

Back to work after baby...

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Recently I’ve talked to a few first time mamas about the stress of returning to work. I went back to teaching when my daughter was 4 months old. I cried the whole day before I had to go back. Going back was no doubt quite an adjustment.  After my son was born, I went back when he was also 4 months old. I had just  figured out how to get both kids to nap at the same time and now, once again, I had to adjust to going back to work.

My first day back I spilled 8 ounces of pumped breastmilk all over the floor. I cried tears because there is nothing worse than spilled breastmilk. I read the wrong attendance sheet to my first period class and my supervisor came in during my prep period to have a meeting I was unaware of. Needless to say, it was a rough first day returning to work. However, just like 2 years before, I found a new routine. I enjoyed being at work and at the same time could not wait to get home to my little monsters. Is it hard? No doubt. Exhausting? Absolutely. A few things I have found make it easier when you return to work.

1. Crockpot dinners are your best friend. It’s great to come home and dinner is ready.

2. Amazon is great for diapers so you don’t have to run to the drug store at 8 pm because you forgot to go to Target last weekend.

3. Get organized. Pack your lunch/ diaper bag/ work bag the night before. (I personally struggle with this one, but it makes a huge difference when I do it)

4.  Let something go. Don’t sweat it if your house isn’t perfect, laundry isn’t finished, you need your eyebrows done, etc. Realize it’s impossible to do it all and keep your sanity. Sometimes you just need to call it a day and go to bed. 

5.  Use a calendar to write down important dates / time.  Make sure it’s visible to your spouse. 

6. Hang in there mama. You’re doing great. You’re going to find your new routine just like you did with your new baby the day you came home from the hospital. 

Love,
Kendall

Balance or lack thereof...

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Some thoughts on balance or lack thereof…

Happy spring (if that’s what this is). My best friend says, “March is a month of lies” and I can’t help but agree. I always feel like the coming of spring should mean you know… the end of winter… but it doesn’t always feel that way, especially when the Vernal Equinox brings a snowstorm. 

BALANCE and HARMONY- these were my words of the year and three months in, I’m NOWHERE NEAR EITHER OF THEM.  My year started off a little rocky. I got my finger stuck in the garage door two days before Christmas and lost my nail down to the bed. If you’re making a horrified face right now, that’s pretty accurate.  Medieval torture tactic anyone?  While injuries are never fun, this one also took me out of work for about three weeks, which added stress, and I’ve only just gotten a real fingernail back in the past week or so. Oh, how I miss my glittery manicures. Sometime in February, I added to the fun by spraining my hand. Yes, I can still work but it’s taking what feels like FOREVER to heal. All of this combined with the fact that I become a monster once the temperature drops below 50 degrees,  and let’s just say I wouldn’t call myself balanced or harmonious on any front. 

Have you seen The Trolls movie? At one point one of the trolls says, “How about a little positivity ‘ay? A little positivity might go with that vest.” I’ve been hearing this line in my head repeatedly over the last month or so. It’s not helping.  I think March is usually the month where I lose it. I spend the rest of the year dreading this feeling of hopelessness. It feels like I’ve been stuck inside FOREVER and I feel all depressed and a bit stir crazy. I miss taking my niece and nephew outside, riding my bike, planting gardens, outdoor farm markets, picnics on my deck, the ocean, and all of the fun things you get to do when it isn’t cold and miserable out. I want to chuck my coats and boots into a box and throw them in the attic. My 3 year old niece has been wearing her bathing suit in the house for the past two weeks. She’s ready, too.

I think sometimes when we set an intention, we are made even more aware of what in us is lacking in creating/having/getting the thing we are striving for. For me, when I set the intention for balance and harmony, it has been made PAINFULLY obvious just how out of balance I am. Last week, I was an absolute and total monster.  I was even crabby with my wonderful mother and perfect husband. Here’s the part where I would love to tell you that some yoga, meditation, a little self-care or boundary setting is what I needed, but alas… none of that is true and we like to “keep it real” at Spiral Path, so here goes:

Sometimes, you’re just in a rough space, physically, emotionally, mentally, or all of the above. We have this idea, especially in the yoga community that we should always feel the love, be the love, spread the love…  The reality is life can be pretty messy, and it’s all part of the process. Sometimes it isn’t about fixing or shifting or changing anything. Sometimes it’s about accepting where you are and letting that be ok. Just because you’re having a bad day, week, month doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you aren’t spiritual. Hell, it doesn’t even mean you aren’t trying. Sometimes we just need to be ok with not feeling perfect or positive because it’s part of the cycle of life. Just as the earth goes through seasons and cycles of growth and death, we all have our ups and downs as we move through our lives and those cycles serve a purpose. In the same way, just because you don’t love every second of your pregnancy it doesn’t mean you aren’t happy or excited or that you won’t be an amazing mother. (I know some pretty awesome women who hated every second of pregnancy and are currently wonderful mothers). So when you’re feeling off, yes- do all the self-care things… the yoga, massage, meditation, positive intentions… but if none of it helps, maybe just be ok being where you are and ride the wave for a bit. I think we should all cut ourselves some slack, and acknowledge that moods change, feelings shift, and someday soon this winter will actually end.

xo,
Katie

 

What Does it Mean to be a Midwife in 2018?

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What is a Midwife in 2018?

I am always saddened to discover that in 2018 many people do not know or understand what a midwife is or does! The term itself mid….wife means with…women.  I became a midwife over 30 years ago because I wanted to make a difference for women wherever they chose to birth their baby. At that time I was working at a large urban hospital with residents, obstetricians, and one midwife. The difference between the births that the midwife did and everyone else was so moving to me that I chose to follow her path.  Much has changed in the past three decades, but the principals of midwifery have not. Our commitment to support the mother and family unit, to encourage a woman to trust her own instincts and birth in whatever position/location that feels right for her while being surrounded by the people important to her has not. 

Today, there are over 12,000 women and a few men who are midwives in the United States. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are the most common type, but there are also Certified Midwives (CMs).  Both CNM’s and CM’s have graduate level midwifery degrees, have passed a national certification exam, and can prescribe medications and treatments. About 95% of the births done by midwives occur in hospitals, but another 5% safely birth at home or in birth centers.

Although midwives are best known for their role in pregnancy and birth, we also provide care for women from puberty through menopause. This can include routine gynecological care, birth control,  and  yearly visits after menopause.  Many women become so attached to their midwife that they follow the same person through all the stages of their life. I always say that once you see a midwife you will  be sold on the difference in your care.

Often I am asked to explain what the difference in birthing with a midwife vs a doctor might  be. Many people think it means they cannot have an epidural or drugs, which is not the case.  During pregnancy, my goal is to assist the mother in feeling healthy on all levels, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. There is so much more to birth than just the size of the baby and the mother’s pelvis. A woman's emotions, needs, past experiences, etc. are all major players in the birth process. I seek to educate her about her body, nutrition, exercise, and to understand her desires for the birth. I am there to support her in birthing in whatever way she feels is right for her. It is her birth, and I while I cannot control the course of labor, I can control that she feel supported during the process.  I believe that the only way to manage labor is to be present with the woman during the entire process. Pushing with a midwife can be different in that we encourage you to push in any position that works for you. We limit interventions to necessary medical problems, and rarely will cut an episiotomy.

Although most birth is normal, we recognize that sometimes there is intervention needed in the form of C/Section. I am grateful to work with a group of five Ob-Gyn’s and four other Certified Nurse-Midwives.  Just as there is always a midwife from our group on call, there is also a obstetrician available if we need them. In this way our patients are always cared for by members of our group that they have met before labor.

Suzanne Arms wrote this in the 70’s and I have strived in my 30 years of practice to practice with this philosophy. 

“Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her Forever.  Passing through these powerful gates –Each in her own way-Remembering All the generations of mothers Who walk with her She is alone- Yet not alone.”

Love,

Karen

Seven Steps to Creating Your Postpartum Wardrobe...

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I wish I had an 8 weeks postpartum photo to share showing my bikini ready body, but sadly I do not. In fact, 18 months after my second baby, I still walk into my closet and a row of pants whisper “We don’t fit you.” Guess what? That’s totally normal and ok. The truth is mamas, your body changes after a baby. My friend who IS back to her pre-baby weight swears her rib cage expanded after two kids.
 
If you got back to your pre-preggo size fairly quickly, rock on with your bad self. However, if you’re struggling with an extra 15 or 20 lbs like many of us, I’ve got some advice for you. Buy some new clothes! That’s right. Go shopping. Last summer, I came out to the pool in a one piece Speedo because my other bathing suits did not fit. My sister looked at me horrified and said, “WHAT are you wearing?” I said “ Well nothing fits. “ She said “Well then go get some new suits! I'm not looking at an ugly speedo all summer.”

And I did just that. I bought two new tankinis that I loved and felt good in.

Here’s a list of tips for my postpartum Mamas struggling to get dressed in be morning:

1. Find a friend who is similar to your size and ask if she has any pants you can borrow. My best friend Katie and I shared our maternity clothes, but also an “after baby” bin of dress pants.

2. But some staples for work. Two pairs of black pants and one pair of gray should do it.

3. Get a new pair of jeans! Maternity jeans look terrible once you’re no longer pregnant. Old navy has jeans for $25-$30 and have a variety of styles to suit various body types.

4. Get some wrap dresses. Super comfy and will still fit up or down a few pounds.

5. Buy some V-necks, plain shirts that you can dress up or down.

6. Wear whatever you makes you feel like you again- Makeup, heels, fun earrings, etc.

7. Know you’re awesome!  You made a person. That little person loves you , even if your skinny pants don’t.

Love,
Kendall

Why I teach postnatal yoga without babies...

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Why I teach postnatal yoga without babies…

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am not in any way against Mom and Baby yoga. I completely support and encourage any activity that brings moms together in community, and if any of my mamas ask for it, I’m happy to direct them to a class. This post is simply about my thoughts and ideas on Spiral Path Postnatal Yoga. 

I firmly believe that after you have a baby, someone needs to take your baby for an hour so you can go to yoga- ALONE. Because even though you’re a mom, you are still a woman, and your body just did this amazing and miraculous thing….YOU MADE A PERSON!  Regardless of how easy or difficult you felt your pregnancy was (as I type this I can hear my sister saying, “Whose pregnancy was easy?”), the fact of the matter is, you are working with a brand new body.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with that. I felt the need for a class which offers support and variations for however and whenever you show up ready to reclaim your practice. This might in be 6 or 8 weeks or it may be in 2 or 3 years. 

When I was in my early 20’s, I taught a postnatal class with babies. Even then my version of it was to teach a class for moms that they could bring their babies to, but the class was still simply about the moms. The babies mostly slept in their carriers or if someone needed to step out with one, nobody minded. If a baby was fussy, I would just hold the baby while I walked around teaching. More than a decade later, now in my mid-30’s with both of my businesses completely centered around caring for moms pre- and postpartum, I see even more of a need to focus on the mom. I feel like postpartum care is where as a society we are really dropping the ball. Women get all of this care and attention while pregnant, and then are sent home with a new baby and may not always have enough support in place. Teaching my postnatal class without babies is my way of giving women permission to do something just for them. An hour to yourself can go a long way, especially when you're adapting to a new baby; and as my mom always says, "Someone needs to mother the mother."  One of my mamas recently told me that her husband noticed a positive shift when she took time to come back to class. My sister claims that we make her a better mom by giving her support and breaks. Having a baby is an incredible and all encompassing transformation and the transition to motherhood doesn’t end with birth.  In a society where we expect moms to hop right back into life, work, relationships, and exercise routines, I want to send the message that hey- it might take a little while and you know what? It SHOULD. You should have space to adapt, to process, to regroup, to find out what being a mother really means for you.

Our postnatal class gives moms that space, to simply be the women that they are, to re-acquaint themselves with their bodies, minds, and hearts, to have time to connect with other women, to be shown modifications and variations of postures, to be able to express their feelings without judgment, and to be supported physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Oh and also, I love being able to see my mamas between pregnancies! 

xo,

Katie

The strength you find...

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CJ Lewis wrote,  "A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong!"

A good friend, also a midwife, gave me this quote on a plaque. It resonates with me in so many ways.  It is about accepting that yes, life can be hard sometimes. It is about knowing that in the challenges the universe presents we can choose to grow stronger or we can wallow in our own self-doubt and judgments.

For all the pregnant woman I am blessed to be connected to the message is clear. Women have the strength, they were born to birth and mother their children, it is in their genes;  but it is in accepting the challenges along the way that they truly grow strong. Carrying, nurturing, and birthing a baby requires great strength and endurance but even if a woman perceives herself as not strong she will have her baby. However if she embraces the entire journey and accepts that it will have ups and downs, that it may not be a straight line, she will be empowered  and transformed by the birth.

I have raised four children and lost one more. Each birth taught me something different.  Each child in their formative years and on into adulthood has also challenged me. For example, each one of my children was very different with different needs, personalities, and strengths. I learned that when my girls came to me with a problem, they wanted me to “fix it.”  My boys just wanted me to listen. My teenage son stopped me dead in mid sentence when he said to me “I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen.” I recognized that when I allowed my eldest child to decide on her own, she would always go in the right direction. I also found that my eldest son would never choose the way I hoped so, therefore, needed more forceful direction if it was an issue of safety. My second daughter was so difficult at 3 that I read every book on child development. It convinced me her behavior was very normal and she ultimately morphed into the easiest child at 4 and ½ and stayed that way all through school. Finally, I learned that sometimes if you try to push your children too hard, they will just push back harder. You have to let go and allow them to learn their own lessons. When my youngest son was in high school I could not get him to take grades seriously, so I said to him I cannot want this more than you want it for yourself.  He told me that was the most important thing I said to him.

In some ways each experience has made me the strong woman I am. When there were health issues, I learned that the more “experts” you spoke to, the more you could make an informed decision. When there were no clear answers, I learned to let go and trust there was a reason. I have taken these lessons and embraced them to enable me to give the support to pregnant women and new mothers that possibly someone without the same challenges would not be able to give.

I always say birth is not easy because motherhood is not easy!  Birth requires great strength but motherhood asks for 100 times that strength in accepting that our children will teach us the lessons we need to learn; and that it is not always easy but it is incredibly fulfilling. We continue to grow with each stage and through the journey, we are transformed into mother and eventually wise woman.

Love,

Karen

It goes too fast...

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“It goes too fast.” This is a phrase a mother of two young children hears often. It’s a constant reminder the years of having babies and toddlers flies by in the blink of an eye. When I hear it , I usually respond with “ yea yea , I know. “

Recently though, it’s as if the universe is constantly reminding me of that phrase. I saw a coworker in 3 different stores 3 times in a week. Once at Target, and twice at the food store. All of the times, she was shopping alone and I had my 3 year old and 1 year old in tow. Her kids are in college and I envied her pushing her shopping cart all alone, while I tried to get through my list while simultaneously throwing goldfish at my children.  She said to me “I remember those days." She said it as if she missed them. Really? I am thinking to myself. You are in Target-  ALONE!
Then we went to Disney and constantly people are commenting “Enjoy this, it goes too fast.”  Somehow, I don’t think you can appreciate this phrase until your kids are grown. Because you’re tired mama. It’s hard to enjoy every second. Sometimes kids are hard and demanding and it doesn’t feel like it’s going fast. It feels exhausting.

Last week, I held a friends 3 month old baby and I thought “Aww, I remember when my babies were this small. It goes too fast.” Dammit ! I thought the phrase!!!
So in an effort to "Enjoy this," I’ve started to stop and pause. When my toddler is splashing all over the bathroom in the tub, I laugh and splash with him. I hold onto the snuggle time a little longer. I listen to my 3 year old sing the god awful “daddy finger “ song because she thinks it’s great.

Because we all need to “Enjoy this. It goes too fast.”

Love,

Kendall
 

28 days of yoga...and sleep

Do you know when you KNOW you need an attitude adjustment? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately, like I need to shake myself up like an etch-a-sketch and start over. I just don’t like my attitude. It’s a lot more, “What day is it again?” than “Whoohoo! New Day! Let’s make things happen!” I’m sick of hearing myself say, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I have no time.” It’s not cool, not inspiring, and not how I want to spend my energy.

October is typically a really good month for me, so I thought I’d use that positive energy and try to shift gears. I need to get out of my head and back in my body, big time. I’m embarrassed to admit how far away my personal asana practice has slipped from me… Let’s just say my mat is starting to forget what I look like. With my schedule, it’s been almost impossible to get to class, and I haven’t had the discipline to get on my mat at home so my practice has been slip sliding away, and I am definitely noticing the effects. It’s not pretty. I’ve been a little bit of a monster lately, as my husband can attest.

In true Katie fashion, I decided to go big or go home and on October 1st, I told myself that I was going to practice for an hour a day for the next 28 days. While I’m at it, I thought I’d throw in attempting to get 6.5-7 hours of sleep a night. I sort of feel like sleep is a waste of my time. My sister is always telling me most of my problems and headaches stem from lack of sleep. It’s a theory… but I digress.  As usually happens when I stop and set positive intentions, the universe decided to back me up and my friend started teaching yoga classes at 6 am just minutes from my house. Bam. No excuses now. 

I’m 12 days into the month. No, I have not made it onto my mat for an hour a day and I definitely haven’t hit 7 hours of sleep a night for the past 11 nights… BUT… Last week, I made three days of yoga and three nights of 7 hours and this week I’ve made 4 days and 2 nights, so it’s a start, and I definitely feel better.  It feels amazing to actually be going to yoga (Ryan got dragged along the other day, too).  I was reminded how important it is to actually get to class and recharge, and I think it's easy to let that slip, especially when you're teaching a lot.  I feel like I’m getting my energy back and my head feels clearer and more calm. Even taking small steps can lead to big changes. What’s impressed me most about the last two weeks is that although I only achieved about 50 percent of what I set out to do, even that 50 percent is making a big difference. 

I’m really noticing where I can be more efficient with my time management. For example, if I’m adding in more 5 am wake up calls, I really need to close my eyes by 10:30-11:00pm, and also if I’m trying to get to sleep and get up earlier, it means I need to be more organized and pack lunches the night before and prep dinners better.  So interestingly enough, by sleeping more and adding in time for yoga, I’ve actually been getting more accomplished. I even managed to “find time” to finish that gallery wall I started oh about 6 months ago, and every time I look at it, I feel so happy. Lesson of the week… if you don’t like how you’re feeling, do something about it. Even a little something can go a really long way. I’m a firm believer in aim high, go big. Maybe you won’t completely achieve what you set out to do, but it doesn’t really matter. The intention towards making positive change has a positive ripple effect. Just making the choice to attempt to get back on my mat every day has been helping me shake some dust and the rest of my life is flowing more smoothly. And also, this yoga stuff really does make a difference. 

xo,

Katie

 

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Mothering the mother

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Mothering the Mother

 “The health of every family begins with the mother.

She is the tree from which the healthy fruit must come “

   Juliette De Bairacli levy

From the moment a woman even contemplates wanting a child she begins to enter into her mothering role.  Her heart expands and she begins to look beyond herself.  It is the single most important role and often the most difficult one that women have.  I have been delivering babies for over 30 years and am always in awe of watching a mother see her baby for the first time. She is almost always overwhelmed, scared, excited, and completely in love with her baby.  I never get tired of delivering a baby and seeing the pure love pouring from a new mom as I place her baby in her arms.

When talking to pregnant women, we often focus on the pregnancy and birth and fail to consider the first 6 weeks postpartum. My daughter Kendall, who has 2 children, reminded me of how challenging this time can be.  The mother has just willingly signed up to be awake for days on end, to endure physical pain after childbirth, while simultaneously loving this new person with her entire being and then questioning, is she doing it “right"?  Often, the new mom wants her own mother to come help her. After my first granddaughter was born, my husband told me Kendall would want space to be with her baby. I thought that was wrong, but agreed. The first night home with her baby, Kendall called me crying to please come over because she needed help.  I looked at my husband, said some form of “I told you so” and drove over to her house.

The job of a mother wears so many “hats." They are constantly loving unconditionally, serving as a role model, instilling confidence and compassion, providing discipline and structure,  usually the chief cook and housekeeper,  and of course meeting everyone’s physical and emotional needs. It can be exhausting.  As a mother of four children, I can certainly speak from experience.  One of the key phrases in our house was “Where’s Mom?” For there is a certain comfort, only the mom can provide.

Only since my mother passed last year, did I truly recognize the power of the maternal bond, especially between mothers and daughters. I was blessed to have my mother for 58 years. She nurtured me, supported me, and helped me raise my children.  She was my best friend and listener. In later years I spent a great deal of time caring for her. But when she passed, I realized the void of being “motherless."  She was the person who always accepted me for who I am, loved me unconditionally, and told me I was doing a great job. Now trying to fill her shoes and assume her role as matriarch, I truly know the importance of the Mother!

Individually and as a society I would like to remind all of us to support all new mothers by encouraging them to trust their instincts and their intuition. They will know their baby better than anyone. To help new mothers in the physical , bring them food, offer to clean, take their other children. Remind them of the amazing work they are doing.  And to support all women, as we move through the stages of our life, without criticism or judgement, recognizing the nurturing bond we all share.


With love,

Karen

It's a long nine months...

In the past few months, I have had a few first time pregnant friends talk to me about being pregnant. The consensus being the same for all of them. Pregnancy sucks. There I said it. Pregnancy is awful. If you were one of the people who walked through nine months looking and feeling amazing, then this particular blog is not for you (and the rest of us hate you). For starters, most of the time you feel sick as a dog, for the first few months. It's like being hungover all the time without the fun night before and the only thing you can tolerate is Gatorade and crackers. Then usually somebody comments, "Gatorade probably isn't good for the baby?" Oh yea? Well it's the only thing the baby tolerates so stop talking. Not to mention, pregnancy migraines, carpal tunnel, swollen feet, weight gain, acne, etc.  Oh did I mention, you can't take Advil while pregnant? You can have Tylenol which basically has the same effect as eating skittles when a full blown migraine comes on. Put all that together and you have a pretty miserable nine months to survive. 

I was talking to a friend and she was expressing how crappy she felt and said she felt fat and uncomfortable. I commiserated but I said, "When this baby comes, you won't believe how much you love your baby. You won't care about anything else except your baby." A few weeks after her birth, she told me "You were right. I can't believe how much I love my baby." 

Two things I am sure of:  Pregnancy is really hard. It is the first of many sacrifices you will make for your baby. The second being You will love your baby more than anyone/ anything in your life. You really can't imagine until you hold your baby for the first time. 

So hang in there pregnant mamas. You're going to get through this. You are going to get to the Finish Line with the most precious gift the world has to offer.

Love,
Kendall

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"Good try, Mommy!"

A few weeks ago, I went to the beach with my family. My Uncle was showing all of us how to paddle board. He took my daughter and nephew (who are both 3) while they sat, and then a few of the adults gave it a try. I wasn't even planning on taking a turn, but then my daughter , Mackenzie said, "Ok Mommy, it's your turn." So I gave it a try.

I actually got up fairly easily and was able to paddle (we were in the bay so don't be overly impressed by my skills).  Then I took a turn too sharply and fell off the board. All of a sudden, I hear a little voice from the dock yelling, "Good try Mommy! It's ok! Try again!" It's Mackenzie, cheering me on. I smiled, got back up, and paddled back. 

The rest of the day I thought about how Mackenzie had cheered for me and encouraged me to try again. Where did she learn that? Well, from me, her Dad, her Aunt, her Noni, her Grandma, etc.  It made me think what kind of example I would be setting if I told her I was afraid to try, I didn't want to wear a bathing suit, I was worried I'd fall and feel embarrassed.  
Kids do what you do. You can't expect them to be confident if you're not. You can't expect them to eat healthy if you don't. You can't expect them to try new things if you won't.

Always remember, your kids are watching you! Be a good example. Teach them to take risks, fall and get up again, eat healthy but never turn down a cupcake. Be a kind person. Do all the things you want them to do. Be the person you hope they will be. 

Love,

Kendall

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You will know your baby better than anyone...

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“You will know your baby better than anyone.” I’ve heard my mom say this countless times. She tells all mothers this, and she says it repeatedly. 

I started whining at my sister about 6 months ago. As soon as she mentioned the word, preschool. “I don’t understand why she has to go! She’s only turning three in July. Why can’t we wait until next year?"  When that had no effect, “Well, then don’t sign her up on my days. I don’t want to lose time with her.” I watch my niece and nephew two days a week during the school year. My mom does two days, and her mother in law takes the fifth day. Well, here’s the other side of family care. 

I just really didn’t want Kenzie to go to preschool. I LOVE my days with my niece and nephew, or as I usually call them, “My friends.” I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. So I was arguing with my sister about it, telling her that it was a dumb idea. What if Kenzie’s not ready?  What if she doesn’t like it? My sister calmly, and then not so calmly repeatedly told me it was going to be good for her, she was definitely ready, and she would like it. She also wanted to know what was wrong with me because why wouldn't I want a break in the day?

So, it turns out to be MY day the FIRST DAY we have to drop her off at preschool. I had total anxiety about this for the two weeks leading up to it. What if she cried? What if she was upset? What if she got mad at me for leaving her? What if it destroyed our trust? The list went on. I explained all my fears to my mom, and you know what? She backed me up. I told her that if Kenzie cried, I wasn’t going to leave her and my mom said, “I wouldn’t either Kate. I don’t think she’s ready. I think we should wait until January.” One of us relayed this message to my sister, who not so calmly told us we HAD to drop her off. “What are you doing to do if I don’t, Kendall? Fire me? You can’t. I’m your sister.” See- downside of family care. Your family can give you a hard time about basic things that a regular babysitter wouldn’t.  Kendall again said, “She’s ready. She’ll like it. It will be good for her.”

And you know what… She was right BECAUSE SHE’S THE MOM AND THE MOM ALWAYS KNOWS. Kenzie was totally ready. We debated between ballerinas and unicorn dresses, we talked about how she was going to have SOOO MUCH FUN, and we headed off. I was still very anxious. We walked in, and she got a little overwhelmed with all the people. She asked me three times if I was going to come back for her.  Then we walked into her classroom, and her teacher greeted her warmly and told her she would have fun and make new friends. She gave me a big squeeze, asked again if I was coming back, and said, “Ok. Bye.” To my surprise, she didn’t cry. I didn’t either. 

So to all our mamas out there, remember this, “You will know your baby better than anyone.” Remember it when friends and family (even well meaning friends and family) give you their opinions on breastfeeding, on co-sleeping, and parenting choices. This is your baby. You will know. Trust your instincts. 

xo,
Katie

 

It is hard to be an expectant mother today.

It is hard to be an expectant mother today. It is more challenging and demanding than when I was having my children or when my mother birthed me.  I always apologize to mothers with their first prenatal visit with me because I have to list all the possible things that could be wrong with their baby, all the tests available to ensure the perfect outcome, and what foods and substances are “dangerous." Then, if they decline this testing I  have to repeat the warning on the next visit because what if something goes wrong and they didn’t hear me the first time. Sigh. Actually what I want to say is trust your body, trust your instincts, trust the universe to give you what you need and enjoy this new life growing inside of you.  The medical model of birth does everything to make women fearful of  what could go wrong.

Furthermore, pregnant moms today are all expected to look like every cover model on pregnancy magazines, perfectly dressed, manicured, made up, not swollen, and of course... fit and toned. There are no allowances for the difference in women's bodies during this short time. Some women  need to gain more weight, have other priorites, or responsibilities than going to the gym. Some are just more tired.

Then there is  social media, where women can look and see every horror story that people post about labor or birth or see only perfect looking pictures of their pregnant friends and perfect families.

Finally there is the baby registry. Women are told they need everything  marketed to ensure a healthy happy newborn. Swaddles, chairs that vibrate and rock, suits that immobilize your baby to help them sleep, nursing cover ups, etc . The sheer  volume of choosing can be overwhelming.

Nobody says that all you need is your arms, time, patience, and love.  I tell all new mothers that they will know their baby better than anyone. Trust your instincts! This is why I teach yoga, hoping to combat society’s message of fear and perfection by encouraging mothers to trust their intuition, their bodies, and their own innate knowing. 

   “Birth is not only  about making babies, Birth is about making mothers:

        Strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves

         And know their inner strength.” – Barbra Katz

 

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The Biggest Mom Shamer of Them All...

A few weeks ago my daughter had five cavities. Yes that’s right, five. Five cavities which needed to be filled either using laughing gas or sedation. While most of my mom friends were supportive, there was one voice who was not. She told me it was my fault. She said I gave my daughter too much juice. She told me I let her fall asleep without brushing her  teeth. I let her eat too many goldfish. I gave her lollipops at the bank.  Who is this judgemental person you ask? It’s me, myself, and I. 

You see mamas, we judge ourselves much harder than we do other moms. I was so upset at the dentist and repeatedly blamed myself for my daughter’s cavities. I called a few friends and a few of them told me they had similar experiences with their kids. Did I judge them the way I judged myself?  No; of course not.  I was relieved to hear someone else had been there.   Even the dentist said “Kids get cavities, it happens.” 

Whenever  I see another child throwing a tantrum at Target, I think two things. “Ugh, I feel so bad for this mom” and “Glad it’s not just my kid who behaves this way. “ 

Does mom shaming happen?  You bet. People make dumb comments about breastfeeding or not, co-sleeping, cry it out, whatever. But no one is truly judging your parenting skills the way you are mama. 90% of the time, they have been where you are and they sympathize.  

I am extremely fortunate to have a great husband, family and friends who remind me I am doing a good job as a mom, even when I feel like I’m not. 

Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself you’re doing a great job. Reach out to your fellow mamas when you need support. You got this. 

It's a girl thing...

I took my first surf lesson, and I am hooked . . . like in LOVE! It’s a tiny bit ridiculous that I haven’t figured this out until now.  I've always lived about 15 minutes from the beach and I spent my teen years competitively swimming. Oh, and did I mention that I'm completely obsessed with the ocean, and I'm convinced it can heal all things? Learning to surf has been on my wish list for about as long as I can remember. My friend, Kirsten, started a girls surf camp called Girls Wave Riding. When I saw this, I was really jealous of those kids, and jokingly asked her if I could come to camp. Luckily for me,  she expanded and started offering surf lessons for women! Last week, I took my first lesson with Women in the Water, and it was amazing! 

I tried learning to surf a few times before this. Two of my guy friends took me out and tried to teach me, but sometimes I think you just need to hear it from a woman. Kirsten, the owner of both surf camps, is a phenomenal teacher! She makes learning to surf easy, accessible, and FUN; and she has the confidence and skill necessary to truly teach what she loves. She completely takes the intimidation factor out of it. Being out in the water with her early in the morning before the crowds hit the beach was pure magic. It was the happiest and most excited I’ve felt in a long time. 

For those of you who have been following along with me here, I’ve been talking about working my way through grief. I always compare deep grief to drowning in the ocean. When you’re grieving, for a long time, you can feel like you’re drowning. It’s dark, scary, and hard to breathe.  Eventually you start to tread water and begin to swim. Then, a giant wave knocks you back down and you’re struggling to breathe again. The water settles, you tread water, start to swim, and then another wave. But at some point (hopefully), the waves become farther and farther apart until you are again swimming or moving through your life. Grief’s tricky and just like the ocean, you never really know when you’ll get knocked back by another wave. I took my surf lesson on my Nana’s first anniversary. I wanted to do something to shift my energy. I’ve been really struggling with her passing, and the awareness that I had completed an entire year of my life without her has been challenging for me. Something about taking this step, to learn to surf, like I’ve always wanted to do, really helped me. I’ve been living in anxiety about life moving too fast, and fear around death and the inevitability of it all; booking this lesson and beginning the process of learning a new skill really shifted something for me. It reminded me of how much I want to do and learn, and I feel less stuck. My lesson was a week ago, and it’s the first week I've made it a week without crying in the past year. While I think it’s easy to get stuck in our routines and in the business of day to day life, there’s always the opportunity to try something new, to find something else that lights us up. All it really takes is one step forward. 

When Kirsten and I were out in the water, I started thinking about how powerful learning to surf is, especially for young girls. When you surf, you’re waiting to catch the wave you want, and when you see it, you paddle for it and go after it as hard as you can. Sometimes you miss it.  Sometimes you catch it and ride the wave in, maybe on your stomach, a bit hesitant at first;  then you try to pop up to your knees, and finally you try to stand. Sometimes you fall, and sometimes you ride the wave all the way in. It feels like a perfect metaphor for really LIVING your life. You have to wait until you know what you want, and then you go after it with everything you’ve got. Sometimes you miss it completely, and then you wait a little while until the next opportunity presents itself and you try again. Sometimes you go for it and fall, maybe gently, or maybe you get completely rocked. Either way, if you’re really going for a goal, you’re probably going to fall a few times. Falling is important, it’s how we learn! You have to shake it off and try again. Then there are those times in life, where you catch your wave, you achieve your goal and it’s awesome, effortless, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. No matter how long the ride is, eventually the wave ends and you jump off and paddle back out and wait to make your next move, maybe feeling ready for a bigger challenge.

I think it’s really important that as women we support each other and encourage each other to go for our goals.  It’s ok if you fall, if you don’t make it the first time. It’s awesome really because it means you tried. It means you’re actively living your life, and the best part is, there’s always going to be another wave….

Birth Plans...

Detailed Birth Plans

I often wonder what is it about detailed birth plans that make labor and birth so difficult? In my 30 years as a midwife, I have never seen this document improve the quality of care or the outcome of birth.  In fact, it is always the reverse. It  seems the more detail in the plan, the  less likely someone is to birth without intervention.  

So the question is WHY? As a yoga teacher, I would assume that writing your positive intentions  down on a piece  of paper would be beneficial. After all, I often talk in my prenatal classes about affirmations and writing down positive thoughts, successful outcomes. Smart  intelligent women research birth plans on the internet and in good faith print them to reinforce their wishes to their provider.  Possibly one of the reasons this backfires is because the scripts on the internet microanalyze every facet of labor and birth, giving women scenarios to worry about they never thought to consider. The other issue is that women are encouraged to write birth plans rather than talk to their providers about what their views are on intervention and promoting natural  birth.

When my patients ask me if they need a birth plan, my response is usually, “No, because there is nothing you could want that I  would not normally do."  I tell them that while I cannot control how labor goes, I can control that they be supported throughout the process.  I also want them to share with me their views and visions for their birth. For example, whether they are definitely planning an epidural, whether they are going to wait and see, or whether they think they absolutely do not want an epidural.  This helps me guide them in labor.  If a woman tells me she  is absolutely sure she wants one, then I know to suggest the optimal time to take  it.  If she tells me she would prefer not taking one, then if she is progressing quickly but suddenly feels anxious (usually signifying transition is coming), I know to tell her to wait just 10 more contractions and then reevaluate. However, I also tell them that even if they are absolutely sure they don’t want one, I will encourage it if I believe it is in their best interest.  My suggestion is always to visualize the way they would like labor to go, to see it flowing and easeful, and then to accept there may be  detours along the way. 

Most importantly, I feel that as a society we are not encouraging women to trust their intuition, their bodies, and their ability to birth. I encourage women to prepare for birth through prenatal yoga, meditation, breathing, and childbirth classes.  Katie and I started Spiral Path Yoga to give women the information and support they need to fully enjoy and embrace their pregnancies and transitions to motherhood. Both in and out of the office, I work to support and help as many women as I can experience positive, healthy pregnancies and prepare for birth. If a woman tells me she still feels the need to write a birth plan, I suggest she write down on paper her WISHES, a POSITIVE document of what she would like her labor and birth to be as opposed to writing down all the things she doesn't want. 

Suzanne Arms wrote in the 70’s, “Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her forever. Passing through these powerful gates –Each in her own way—Remembering all the generations of mothers Who walk with her. She is alone—Yet not alone.”

 

Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp

Last summer I was very pregnant, as my son was born at the END of August. This summer I realize how uncomfortable I was last year being so big and pregnant.  It reminded me how hard being pregnant was and I thought of a conversation I had with one of my best friends a few months ago. My friend Katie (who has two kids) called me after watching “Lady and the Tramp” with her daughter.  A classic movie. She was infuriated because in the movie the husband tells his wife “he doesn't want her walking the dog in her condition.” Her “condition” is she is about 12 weeks pregnant, give or take. Now here is where I add, my friend Katie is a Veterinarian and was performing surgery on 100 pound dogs at 9 months pregnant.  So of course we had a good laugh about this movie made in 1955.

Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t walk your dog pregnant.  However, it did make me think about how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction. If Disney had a pregnant character in 2017, she would probably be exericising  throughout her pregnancy, working until she was 39 weeks and expected to get back into shape 3 months after giving birth.  In my opinion, we have forgotten as a society what a big deal having a baby actually is.  Being pregnant is really hard. You feel sick, exhausted, everything aches, you might be swollen, etc. Let’s not forget the mamas who carried twins, you deserve a heroic medal!

When you actually have the baby, you are beyond exhausted, in physical pain and adjusting to this new life. My mom always said, “Someone has to mother the mother.” This could not be more true. New moms need help. They need food. They need support. They need to know how fabulous they are just by being a mom!

So to all my fellow mamas out there:  When you feel like you cannot do it all, keep the house clean, exercise, make pinterest like chalkboards for your kids first day of school, know this… 60 years ago someone would have walked your dog as you laid on the couch in your first trimester.

You’re amazing. You’re fabulous. You’re a MOM!

Sacred Spaces

 
 

Sacred Spaces

There are some places that are inherently sacred to each of us. For me, that space is found at the tip of a peninsula in the middle of Maine at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. It looks as if you are about to walk off the end of the earth. Rugged rocks meet ocean with expansive sky all around, and for me, it is perfect. I’ve walked on these rocks almost every summer of my life. My husband proposed on them, and we were married there. One of the most amazing moments of my life was walking down the aisle on our wedding day and seeing all of the people I love in my favorite and most sacred of places. For me, these rocks are like old friends. They have held me through all of the phases of my life, from climbing and day dreaming as a little girl, through the angst and worries of my teen years, through the highs and lows of my 20’s, and then to the biggest steps of my life, saying yes to this amazing man and having all of the people I love travel to witness the start of our life together. 

From the time I was very young, I’ve always loved this spot in Maine. It holds so many memories, so much emotion for me and it’s where I go when I need deep healing. In my last post, I wrote about grieving. When I lost my friend, I felt like I was drowning and I kept sinking deeper and deeper; I truly feared I wouldn’t pull out of it. During this time, we had a trip scheduled to the point to finish wedding planning, meet our wedding photographer, and take engagement photos. There was something incredibly healing for me about being up there. It was the first day I felt like myself in the months since he died, the first day I felt the spark of real excitement. I remember closing my eyes that night and feeling at peace. For that short visit, I felt like I could breathe again. 

The same thing happened for me when we traveled up to Maine for our anniversary a few weeks ago. I was worried with all that I’ve had going on emotionally that I would crash if I stopped moving, but I didn’t. I walked on my rocks, jumped in the freezing cold Maine ocean, soaked up the quiet space, and there it was again…the peace, the healing I’ve been searching for. When I’m on Pemaquid Point, I feel like the earth is holding me in its arms and telling me everything is going to be alright. There is something about the steadiness and familiarity of these rocks and particular piece of the ocean that calms and settles my spirit. The awareness that through all the different phases and experiences of my life, this space is always there for me to come home to brings me peace and comfort. My friend, Cindy, says there are some places that belong to each of us. This is mine. 

Sometimes, in order to shift our energy, it helps to shift our physical space. While it isn’t always possible to immediately jump in a car or on a plane and travel far, it is always possible to go outside. Whether it’s the ocean, the woods, or the mountains, there is real power when you allow yourself to tap in to the energy of the earth. It recharges you. Many of us spend all day using up and giving away our energy without ever taking the time and space that we need to recharge and replenish. Take the time. It’s worth it.

xo,
Katie

The IN-Between

The IN-Between

I had a busy call this Monday, helping and supporting 5 women birthing their babies. As busy as I was, I had time to sit with my mothers, to be in their space, and observe the quiet. Sometimes the most meditative moments I have in a week come when I sit with a mother in the throes of labor. Women rock, they moan, they breathe, and then…there is quiet. The space between contractions when women gather their strength and prepare, for the next contraction, for the next phase of their lives.

The IN-BETWEEN… the space in-between contractions, in-between being a pregnant woman and a mother, in-between being a couple and parents; these are important transitions and require contemplative space.

It is incredibly important to respect this time. All too often I see visitors, care providers, support people chattering and talking in a manner that is not supportive to the laboring women. She needs the quiet to draw upon all her reserves, her incredible mama strength. She needs to know that she is the most important and only focus of everyone in the room. Only then can she use her intuition to move in a manner that allows her to birth her baby. 

When I was a young midwife in training, I was told by a preceptor that when you enter a laboring woman’s room, you must leave your own issues, moods, concerns outside so that you can support her energy in a positive manner. I have found this to be true over and over. There are times when a woman is stalled in labor and I have asked a particular “support person or persons” to step out and she will spontaneously become fully dilated and birth her baby.

I love observing a woman as she proceeds with her “labor dance,” rocking and moving, looking completely inward with the quiet only broken by her own sounding, or requests for support or nourishment. I know she gathers her courage, her strength, maybe acknowledges her fear during the in-between one contraction and the next. For me, this time of stillness, of being with women in all their power gives me joy but also insight into my own intuition, my soul knowing and sometimes the strength to continue to the next laboring women and the next…