Small Blessings Blog

Senses and Sensitivity of a New Mother

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Saturday, August 02, 2014

 

When you get pregnant, what happens to your senses? What have you noticed?

 

Most women report that their senses seem amplified in pregnancy. Your sense of smell: stronger. You become pickier about what tastes good and what not. You can become sensitive to sound in a new way and sometimes have the feeling of wanting to hold something over your belly to protect your baby from harsh sounds. Some women report that how they see seems to change. What other sense haven't we touched on? Touch! Sense of touch is often increased – wanting to be touched more (or less). Needing physical reassurance.

 

What does all this point to? We could well ask, what is the innate intelligence of life up to with these changes? Are they just random? Kundalini Yoga humanology holds that women are 16 times more sensitive than men. Yes, 16 times. This may have something to do with the 16 petals of the lotus of the throat chakra and its connection to the thyroid and parathyroid glands with their function of regulating metabolism and energy balance. A woman, with her capacity to grow a new life in her own body, has to be a sophisticated being, to be able to regulate and balance 2 (and more) bodies at the same time. She is also more fluid than a man. She has a cycle which like the moon cycle is 28 days long and so she waxes and wanes, moves and changes, physically and mentally/emotionally. Without this ever-changing nature of woman, like nature is ever-changing, how boring would life be? How static and fixed.

 

When a woman becomes pregnant she enters into the field of nature in a whole new way. She becomes part of the cycle of nature itself. A young woman flowers into womanhood and then when her beauty attracts and she opens to let herself be pollinated (so to speak!) she begins to bear the fruit. Inside the fruit (the baby) is the seed of new life, which will in time take root, grow and spread out into the world, flower, attract and so on.

So it is common and also desirable to want to be in nature and feel it as a part of you and that you are a part of it. This can be a very connecting and nourishing thing for a pregnant woman especially.

 

A baby's senses also develop in the womb, starting with the sense of hearing, and so your voice and its vibrations, other outside sounds, including the voices of the father, other family members, friends, and all sounds around you as well as all your inner physical processes – gurglings, beating, and the sound of your breath – are the soundtrack of your baby's early life. Your voice is the sweetest thing to your child and it becomes the first link to the world and then back to you after birth. Your voice for the newborn is the sound of home and safety. But a lot less muffled once they are out of course, so this might be a clue as to how being quiet around a newborn could be wise. Anyway, we tend to naturally, intuitively do this around newborns.

You might want to think about your baby's soundscapes in the womb. How about playing beautiful music at home, at work, in the car? What about being selective about the kinds of movies and TV shows you watch? You will if you allow and tune into your increased sensitivity naturally know which sounds are wholesome and which aren't. It is just whether you choose to accept these messages and act on them or not.

 

Touch: touching your belly you send little ripples through the waters of your womb. Moving rhythmically with conscious breathing, like we do in yoga class, massages your baby's skin, which as she gets bigger stimulates all the body systems in their development. The baby as it is squeezed by contraction-expansions or surges is massaged. As it passes through the birth canal and out into the world it is squeezed thoroughly and its lungs stimulated into action. There have been many studies about children born by caesarian which suggest a link between a sense of personal boundaries and physical and emotional security and this pressing during vaginal birth. I have one child born by caesarian and the second two vaginally and I can testify to the difference in terms of the first having wanted to be physically squeezed as a little child, to get a sense of where his own body stops and the outside world begins, and to feel safe so he can relax. Vaginal birth seems to provide an important experience for babies, which if they don't get it it creates a need which seeks to be filled in other ways. And of course touch releases oxytocin in humans – the hormone of love and calm and belonging. Humans need to be touched. Babies that are fed but not held do not thrive. Adults who are not hugged and touched are also likely to feel less connected and loved and therefore so not thrive as they might – not hard to understand! So being touched, having massage, being intimate in ways you enjoy in pregnancy... All helping develop your baby's touch sense in the womb.

 

Sight: the baby begins to see in the womb – diffused of course through the waters of the womb and through the limited light let in through the skin of your belly. But seeing none the less. Think of it that what your eyes see translates into sense impressions, moods, physiological states, thoughts, feelings, states of consciousness .. and these are passed on invisibly to the baby. So be aware of the sights you are seeing, as you are seeing for two. Nature would have to be the most healing thing to see. Consciously see it daily if you can if you want your baby to grow into a sensitive, awake person.

 

Taste: baby starts to sip your waters and taste them. The second taste is you. Your colostrum, the first yellowy think precursor to milk. Your skin. Sense of belonging is also sealed through this tasting. What you taste and HOW you taste it in the pregnancy will also invite an aliveness to the wide world of taste. Your sense of taste is also finely tuned to show you which foods are good for you and which not in pregnancy. So you can trust that.

 

Smell: Smell comes last, as it needs air and there is only air when your baby comes “Earthside” or hits the atmosphere. From inner space to Earth space. Although when you look at a new born sometimes they seem to come from outer space, or look ageless, timeless. Your baby navigates their way to your breast and nipple not through sight of course, but through smell, the deepest, oldest sense. If you put your newborn to your breast they will probably snuffle around like a little animal with eyes closed to find the nipple. These are survival instincts but also an essential part of emotional bonding, deep security of attachment, sense of belonging and of being welcome and loved. Also if you bring your baby to the breast very soon after birth it increases the likelihood that breastfeeding will flow easily for you both. I will always be grateful to the midwife who got me to bring my first newborn (by emergency caesarian) to my breast after the birth. Those moments of him suckling and connecting so readily with me made everything seem ok.

 

Just an aside, the order in which the senses depart as death approaches is exactly the reverse of the above...

 

So the upshot of all this? You are sensitive! Yes! That's because you're a sophisticated being who brings new life into the world! If you weren't sensitive we would have a lot of damaged babies .. and seeing women who have clouded that sensitivity through alcohol or drug use or through an excess of trauma leading to shut down of sensitivity is the exception that proves the rule. On a gross physical level your sensitivity ensures the safety of your baby's health. On a more subtle level your sensitivity means your baby is nourished on an emotional and spiritual level, starting in the womb, as it means you will want to change certain moods, behaviours and environments to feel better, meaning your baby feels better. We also say in these teachings that your baby's mind (negative, positive and neutral minds) are shaped in the womb, through your own equivalent minds. So the whole timbre, atmosphere and vibration of your thoughts, not the content, because the baby is in a non-conceptual, pre-verbal state, is transferred to them and actually SHAPES them. So all your courage, openness and love is transferred. Troubles and challenges may well arise, and often do!! So its not to say wrap yourself in cotton wool for nine months. That's not possible for one, and it's also not life! So not that. But rising to meet the challenges presented with all your inner resources is what your baby will learn. They too will face challenges in their life, you betcha! So how will they face them? What model is laid deep in the dark pre-verbal time of the womb?

 

Don't be scared by this! I know some might be! Breathe. Trillions of babies have been born and there will be trillions more. Being kind with yourself, knowing you're ok and are the perfect one for your baby already, is a good place to start feeling good and ok. Life is not a pony yard (a translation of a German saying.. life is not a field of daisies?). Human dignity also comes from facing hard things and growing through them. So we're not talking polyanna here. So embrace your sensitivity! The dark with the light. The sunshine with the rain. The pleasure with the pain. You, after all, are a divine and noble woman, an intimate part of nature, and nature is happening inside you right now, initiating you into its secrets. You are your baby's first and most important teacher. You don't have to try. You just are. And you are up to the challenge and you will grow into it. Nature gives you 9 months and then the rest of your life to learn. It's kind like that.

The only thing about birth you can really control - your inner atttitude

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 

The previous post I wrote on this blog was about choosing your care provider for birth. There's much that can be done to create an EXTERNAL context which is as supportive as possible to you during pregnancy, birth and beyond. In fact, in life in general, right? Genuine, caring relationships in life, an occupation that is meaningful, a physical environment that lets you relax and feel secure on a material level. All these and more are factors which are supportive to happiness and contentment.

 

But are they the CAUSE of happiness and contentment? Is it also possible to feel happy when the outer circumstances are not ideal? I certainly hope so, since how often do we experience “perfection” in our life circumstances? How much is life rather more a coming and going, in a state of perpetual change and flux? Whether it's things like losing a job, a friend, moving house or challenges in relationships or as a woman the effects of the continual cycling of the moon and your menstrual cycle, or during pregnancy the wilder flux of emotions.... change is the only constant. And yet, don't we invest energy into trying to make things stable? Trying to bring about more of what we like and less of what we don't like? How successful are we ultimately in this? Is there another way?

 

There's a great saying: “Relax. Nothing's under control.” This suggests a paradigm shift. And this is what I want to write about today.

 

How liberating! Many women when I ask them in Mama Baba Yoga, when they come back to yoga after the birth, about what their journey of becoming a mother has revealed or taught them so far, say a similar thing: becoming a mother is showing me that I am not in control. And imagine! Almost all women say that this understanding comes as a relief, a source of relaxation and pleasure.

 

So while you can have a great deal of influence on the outer circumstances of the birth – where it is , with whom, under which conditions and in which atmosphere – you will never be able to control it completely. The person you were counting on to be there can't be there. Something comes up during the birth that means an intervention becomes necessary, you are held up in traffic, someone in the room is in a bad mood.. Uncountable factors subject to variation. What is the ONLY thing you can control?

 

Your mind.

 

Do you have control of your mind?

 

If the answer to this question is anything but an emphatic yes you belong to the vast majority of humanity. Your mind is the fastest thing on earth. Yogis say a thousand impulses are released from your mind per second, some of which become thoughts. Your mind is super active, a measuring, analysing, comparing, assessing tool, without which we couldn't exist in this world. But are you your mind? Are you these thoughts? Or are you something beyond your mind, bigger than these thoughts, or a context for these thoughts? Thoughts are constantly changing and moving. Is there anything that is still?

 

In yoga we say the mind is there to SERVE the soul, so we cultivate mastery of the mind and recognise its limitations. We practice quietening the mind so that in the stillness the truth that is always there beneath the movements of the thoughts can be revealed. Thoughts produce a lot of turbulence, like choppy water, stirring up sand or mud, making the water cloudy. It is then not possible to see through to the bottom of the water. By stilling the mind the waves subside, the water becomes still, and the treasures always lying there on the bed of the sea, waiting to be discovered, reveal themselves. So in meditation, having done the work of quieting your mind, what may well reveal itself is a quiet inner joy. How amazing. Under all the commotion, a quiet inner joy. A spaciousness that you crave.

 

This is what is meant by happiness that is not dependant on outer circumstances. And cultivating your access to this inner calm and contentment is in my opinion the BEST THING YOU CAN DO to prepare for the birth, but also to prepare for the challenges and joys of being a parent.

 

How? Let me highlight a contrast in 2 ways of being. In one way of being it is rather a way of doing. Our nervous systems are in a constant process of balance and adjustment. The sympathetic nervous system reacts to stress. Stress in itself is a non-emotional, neutral things. There are stressors in life – things that call for a response on our part. In ancient times the stressors were threats to our existence – wild animals, enemy tribes, threatening imbalances in the elements. These days they are traffic, job stress, unrealistic expectations, financial issues, overstimulation etc etc. Our stressors are further removed from the basics of survival. They are mostly not existential threats. And yet, we get very stressed. How is that?

 

This is not the place for a deep look at modern life, but the mechanism and message is the same: it is not the stressors themselves that matter, it is our REACTION to them that matters. And those reactions happen in our minds. Is it traffic that is stressful? Or is it the thoughts that follow that create the stress? Here I am wasting my time! How many years of my life will I spend sitting at red lights? I'm going to be late. What will happen when I'm late? I've been late 3 times this week! Maybe I'll lose my job if I keep being late! Etc etc etc. And what is happening in your body while these thoughts are coursing through your mind? A tightening in your chest? A closing in your throat? A hunching in your shoulders? Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises. You feel stressed, like there's not enough time or space and the pressure is mounting.

 

In short, your sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, leaps into action, to get ready to attack or defend. And yet, where is the enemy? Your mind has created this reaction out of the situation and is engaged in shadow boxing. It may or may not be true that your being late will have consequences, but certainly the WAY you RESPOND if this happens will be influenced by how stressed or not stressed you are about it. In other words, your experience of reality is totally subject to your reactions to it. Others also respond to us by taking in the state we are in and in turn reacting, so it creates a chain of events which then take on a certain reality in appearance.

 

In default drive, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. We get stressed. We know this. At least if it's not pleasant, it's known to us, and in this way, paradoxically, somehow a “safe” situation. What is less known to most of us is the alternative.

 

What IS the alternative to letting the mind react and run riot, creating a physiological reaction of stress and even fear? The alternative is to RESPOND. Respond is very different to react. The main ingredient that makes the difference is....... AWARENESS.

 

This is what all yoga is about. Awareness. Slowing things down so that we have a CHOICE. We can't control outer events, but we CAN choose our RESPONSE to them. When we respond rather than react, we create an opening in our EXPERIENCE of the rush of events, a pause, and then... we have a choice.

How to get to this more spacious space, where there is choice? The easiest way, the common way as a golden thread through all practices, whether ancient, spiritual, modern, scientific: the breath.

 

The breath.

 

On the inhale when you are aware of inhaling you balance your sympathetic nervous system.

On the exhale when you are conscious of exhaling you balance your parasympathetic nervous system.

In stead of fighting events and the stress that reaction in default drive, the absence of awareness, brings, we simply BE WITH what is happening. And we stay with what is happening, in awareness, by staying with the breath. Consciously inhaling, consciously exhaling.

 

This, friends, is the most direct way to influence your mind. Use the breath, slow it down, make it conscious and deep, and within seconds the chop caused by turbulent thoughts in the ocean of self begins to calm. After a few minutes, miracle of miracles, you may even find that underneath the chop and turbulence was always a feeling of calm and okayness. From this perspective, in this psycho-physiological state, things look very different. Much more manageable. New and creative solutions may even rise up out of the depths. Solutions the mind could never arrive at with its thinking. Which happens first: the mind slowing which then creates more balance in the nervous system, or the nervous system balancing, which creates more calm in the mind? Who knows? Does it matter if it works?

 

These days this practice of BEING rather than DOING, of slowing down and being aware of your breath, of noticing all the sensations of your body and seeing thoughts arise and letting them pass away without attaching to them or feeding them, is called Mindfulness. However, humans have always had minds and this is really just a packaging of truths that are eternal, not specific to any one time or space. In essence, instead of running and chasing and doing and trying to solve, you STOP, BREATHE, FEEL and BE. That's meditation. And meditative mind is by nature intuitive.

 

This brings us to the how of being with birth. Being with birth.

Birth is a process which we can't control. Birth happens not in the modern neo-cortex of the brain, but in the limbic part of the brain, which is much older. It is emotional and instinctive, not rational and logical. You don't DO birth. In birth, all you have to do is stay connected to that older part of your brain. Everything will happen then. And you do this through your breath.

 

No doubt, birth involves very strong sensations. Intense contracting and expanding of uterus and cervix in a wave like pattern. The best analogy for birth I have found is that it is like surfing. Each surge or rush comes (aka contraction) and it is your choice as to whether you will ride the waves, fight them or try to get away from them. I can tell you, as you instantly know yourself, that the first option is the only one that really works!

 

So how? One thing is, and this is a thing you can practice to great effect all through pregnancy, to learn to not fight the sensations. What you resist persists is the eternal truth to look at here. As I said above, our minds tell us we should avoid all discomfort if possible, and yet the more we fight against things we don't like, the stronger they seem to become. We turn our experiences into the enemy and then we fight. This is just an assessment of the mind. How could sensations that are part of getting your baby out into the world be the enemy? They are the friend!! Just turning your perception around in this way will make a HUGE difference to how you EXPERIENCE them. YOU CAN CHOOSE.

 

So this is why in pregnancy class we practice the birth preparation exercise. It is a challenging arm exercise in which strong physical sensations come up and you learn how to BE with these sensations, without avoiding them. What you are invited to learn, is that when you open yourself to and accept ALL the sensations – and feelings – that you have, they can be revealed as not the enemy at all. A sensation that you welcome, allow and embrace will transform. Consciousness, then, your conscious choosing of your RESPONSE, creates transformation. By staying open and curious (states which the hormone responsible for the rushes, oxytocin, naturally brings about), the sensations can be integrated into your overall experience in a whole new way. You RESPOND with awareness to your experience, you BE with it, just as it is. More than REACTING to or trying to DO something to get away from the sensations of birth, experiencing yourself as being reluctantly dragged through it, you become an active, willing participant.

Luckily, you have a load of help for this, coming from your own internal hormone cocktail. I have written other posts about this cocktail. Oxytocin is the hormone of love and connection. It makes you open, curious and empathetic. You can be empathetic with your self! Kind and compassionate with yourself. The more kindness and compassion you can bring the more beautifully you will sail through it. Kindness and compassion create an oozing of oxytocin, therefore stronger, more effective surges of waves. Oxytocin is also combined with vasopressin in the birth, which makes you courageous. You will need courage to rise up to meet the strong sensations of birth and not run away, to stay breathing and present throughout. BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT.

 

Added to this you have during birth endorphins – nature's pain killer. Each rush comes like a wave (a SIMULTANEOUS contraction of the uterus and expansion in the cervix) AND BETWEEN THE RUSHES ARE PERIODS OF REST! Capitals because we normally emphasise the rushes, whereas you spend MUCH more time during birth between waves than actually riding them. MUCH more. Anyone who has really surfed knows this. And so what is happening then? Well, in reactive, fight/flight, fear mode, in between you will be suffering from the last wave, anticipating the next painful one, contracting in your mind and body rather than opening and expanding, feeling overwhelmed and stressed, even panicking and trying to get away from the experience. Is the next rush going to feel more or less painful? Right, more. Alot more.

OR, you are resting. Recovering. Opening. And enjoying! Yes, enjoying. It is a high, a good, happy feeling, with those endorphins and that oxytocin running through you. So you can relax and savour it. Enjoy the peace. Really drop into the peace. Be with your breath, your true friend and golden thread throughout. Consciously inhaling and exhaling, balancing your nervous system, calming your mind, bringing loving kindness to every cell and to your baby's every cell. Maybe even going to sleep for a few minutes, later in the birth when you may be tiring. And when the first signs of the next rush come, welcoming them, allowing them, saying yes to them. Breathing consciously to stay present, riding to the peak of the wave and then gently surfing back down the other side. The actual peak will only last a few seconds. Most of it is building and subsiding. And then resting at the bottom of the wave, basking in the peace until the next one.

 

That's all you have to do. Sounds easy right? Actually, if you stay in the moment it may not be easy exactly, but it certainly is a challenge you are up to. Certainly. The problems only come when you start listening to your mind and fearful or resistant thoughts, which creates an imbalance in the sympathetic nervous system and a physiological state of fear in reaction to danger.

 

So while nothing is under control, THIS IS TOTALLY UNDER YOUR CONTROL. It's the only thing that is under your control, but it is also the most significant thing in determining HOW you will experience the birth subjectively. Wow. That's pretty cool.

 

Big news: This is also a NO MATTER WHAT scenario. It is not true only under certain conditions, but UNDER ALL CONDITIONS. So if something should happen before or during the birth that you hadn't planned for and thought you didn't want even, you can STILL choose what happens next on an internal level. Will you react, letting your mind add all sorts of layers to the facts of reality, jumping fearfully into what ifs in the future or replaying unhappy scenarios from the past to prove its point, or will you simply stay present? If you can stay present in this present moment and breathe consciously, I promise you your perspective will change. There may well still be emotions of disappointment, fear, anger, sadness, and they are all welcome and have their place. So allow them to be there, be kind and compassionate to all that arises, breathe, create an opening in the rush of events.. and from here take your time to respond. You will never regret a response, because in responding you are really giving yourself a chance to draw on all your inner and outer resources accessible in that particular moment to respond to the situation. In reacting you are not giving yourself time to consider deeply. Your deeper resources are not available – your creativity, true intelligence, wisdom, compassion and strength – and nor are you likely to investigate and possibilities and consult about alternatives on the outer level and so you make a choice that is not really a choice. THAT, you may later regret.

 

So this is in no way suggesting there is a perfect birth to aim for and anything else is a failure. Not at all. This idea is, when you think about it, also a construct of the mind that wants to control things, which as we have seen is a flawed premise for living. We say in Kundalini Yoga humanology that the soul of the baby chooses you, in full beyond time and space knowledge of all that you are, so from this perspective there is a level that is entirely out of our control and even comprehension and yet perfect just as it is. Reactive mind cannot understand this, but responsive awareness can certainly apprehend and touch it, and FEEL a sense of understanding and acceptance. Which brings peace. Even leaving soul out of it, the choice as to how to respond is still always there.

 

So let all this encourage you deeply. You will be getting the sense that developing a conscious habit that breaks the habit of default drive could bring a great deal of richness to not only birth but also to the life you already live, and to the life that lies before you as a parent. For what do our children need from us more than anything, more than any special pram, carrier, bed or toy? US. Our presence. Our awareness. Our loving, open attention and kindness. Pregnancy and birth are the training ground – a blessing and an opportunity, NO MATTER WHAT.

The Process of Choosing a Health Care Provider

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Friday, July 11, 2014

 

Very likely you are reading this because you are pregnant. And perhaps you are thinking of joining pregnancy yoga classes with me. Have you already thought about who will be your care providers for your pregnancy and birth? Or are they already chosen?

 

In this post I would like to share some things with you that may help you a.) in choosing where and with whom you would like to give birth or b.) in building a relationship of trust with the care providers you have already chosen.

 

But first, why is this important? If this is your first pregnancy, where everything is new and you have no measure from past experience, even the context that gives rise to this question might not be clear. So here I will try to help you into a place from where you are more aware of what is informing your choices and how you may be able to influence outer circumstances to make them most conducive to what you want, which is a healthy, happy baby and a healthy, happy you.

 

Many of you reading this will I suppose also be intending to have a birth with minimum to no medical intervention, so I would like to support you in this. There is much that can be done from WITHIN yourself, to help create the context where this becomes more possible, and this is what we practice in my pregnancy yoga classes. Ultimately, so much is OUT of our control, so the best thing you can do is to prepare for the unexpected and develop attitudes and skills that will help you, NO MATTER WHAT. AND there is also a lot that can be done on an external level to help create an environment where a birth in which you are aware and present and peaceful becomes simply more likely.

 

By the time women come to my classes they have most often already chosen a health care provider and where they will birth (waiting lists are often long and you have to move fast!). So hopefully here I will catch some women who have not yet chosen.. as well as, as I said before, giving some tips as to how to maximise the good in the relationships if there are no other alternatives.

 

For many women, birth will happen in a hospital. It's a good idea to visit the hospital and take the tour. Get a feeling for the place and the staff. You can then ask your questions. In general, hospitals are systems which operate according to procedures and schedules. This by nature puts the hospital as institution at cross purposes with the process of birth. In her great book, Mindful Birthing – Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, Nancy Bardacke highlights the difference between Institutional Time, which hospitals follow, and Horticultural Time, the time inhabited by a pregnant woman and her baby. Horticultural Time has its own inner logic. It is nature-driven. A seed is planted and if the ground is fertile and the conditions are right it will grow. 9 months that seed is nourished into a plant in your womb. Nature ripens in its own time and eventually when the fruit is ready it will drop from the tree. This is not a process that can be manipulated or pushed, any more than nature can be pushed. We are learning on a global level what happens when nature is pushed.

 

In the process of pregnancy and birth we are asked to approach the experience in a certain way – to be patient, humble and allowing. Each fruit (baby) has its own time, a result of a multitude of visible and invisible factors. (In this analogy the sunshine comes from the love from your heart and the other hearts that shine on this baby.. a topic for another day!).

 

The hospital system will try to influence nature with various interventions. This is not to say that medically trained people do not have the well being of you and your baby at heart. They do. But just as we are likely to go into auto pilot mode and do things just because we haven't considered alternatives or whether that thing is really the right thing at the time, so do they tend to go on auto pilot. An intervention applied just because it is procedure can have negative effects on the process. Just as an intervention applied as a result of a mindful and considered choice, that is applied with wisdom, has the potential to very positively influence the process. It is never the case of one thing is good and another bad. There is no substitute for mindfulness in each moment, as each moment has never happened before. This is what systems and institutions by their nature do not have programmed into them.

 

So when you go on your hospital tour, you will want to find out how much you can influence the process.

 

  • For example, asking what the caesarian rate is in the hospital is important. The World Health Organisation says 15% of births as caesarian is reasonable. In many hospitals in Australia, one third and sometimes higher is more likely.

 

  • Ask about induction and when the policy is to induce. These days women are increasingly being induced before term. Studies clearly show that babies born when they are ready to do so suffer from many less problems, particularly respiratory, during and after birth. Also, induced labours are twice as likely to end in caesarian.

  • Also ask about the use of sintocinon, the synthetic oxytocin used to “speed up” labour.
  • I have written another post on the relationship between sintocinon and epidural and the natural hormone cocktail in birth. Some hospitals use sintocinon as a procedure. Used wisely, it can help speed up a stuck or slow labour. It can also cause stress for mother and baby, bringing sharper contractions and therefore increasing the likelihood of the need for epidural. So it is good to ask how the hospital views the use of it.

  • Also ask about foetal monitoring. If you are permanently hooked up to a machine this will limit your mobility, and in labour being upright and able to move is working with gravity and ensures a rich blood and oxytocin supply to your baby and womb. It can also be distressing to feel stuck. Can you be monitored intermittently, using a Doppler? This is a hand held device for hearing a baby's heartbeat as it responds to contractions or rushes or surges.

  • How about vaginal examinations? Having someone roughly investigate how dilated you are can actually cause your cervix to contract as a reaction, so enquire how often they are deemed necessary. Experienced midwives can tell how dilated a woman is by other signs. If the hospital will not err from policy on this, you (your partner or assistant) can ask the examiner during the birth to be very gentle and breathe expanding breaths during the exam, visualising an opening and softening happening at the same time.

  • What is the policy on eating and drinking in labour? Sometimes a hospital will forbid it, so that you will have an empty stomach in case you need to have a caesarian. However, being able to eat if you're hungry – something light and easy to digest like fruit or light soup – will keep your strength up. And drinking liquids is also very important. Having fluids through a drip will also limit your mobility.

  • How about after the birth? These days it is more widely understood, as it was in the further back past, that waiting for the cord to stop pulsating before cutting it delivers precious blood, nutrients and antibodies to the baby. What is the policy on this and if it differs to your own view, is there flexibility? How about skin to skin contact? The sense of touch being the first language of a baby, how precious it is for your baby to feel on its skin your skin, feel your warmth, hear your familiar heartbeat. Putting your baby to the breast for the first time within the hour after birth significantly increases the chances of you having no problems with breastfeeding and is a strong factor in that first bonding between you. Is the hospital prepared to wait before doing tests, giving injections etc. Also, find out what exactly the procedure is here, so you can research what these things are, in order to ask yourself if they are really necessary or if there are alternatives.

It must seem like a lot! And a lot of work. It is certainly possible to have a wonderful birth with minimum to no intervention in a hospital, with good relationships with staff, but to look at it very honestly: this is work you will need to do, energy you will need to expend, to make it possible. There are many factors and evidence to strongly suggest that it will not happen by default. That's just the reality. This is nobody's fault, and no need to get angry or upset about it. We are all humans in this together, each on our own particular journey. AND there is also no need to give over the power of choice. There are other possibilities.

 

You may as a result of a visit to the hospital (or conversation with your obstetrician) find that there is too much of a mismatch for your satisfaction. Pay attention to your feelings during these conversations. If you feel comfortable in asking the questions, if you feel heard and welcome, this is a good sign for you. If you feel concerned or anxious that your views will not have a place in this setting, or that there may be no room for negotiation, go home and take time to consider whether there are alternatives. There is no right or wrong. Only by listening to yourself will you find the right way FOR YOU.

 

If you do feel that there is too much of a mismatch between you and the hospital, there are alternatives. There is in Perth the Family Birthing Centre, which provides midwife led care. If you are not in Perth find out if there are birthing centres in your area. In general the midwifery model of care is more Horticultural. It sees the woman in the centre of the process and is THERE for her, in her process. It emphasises the BEING over DOING way. BEING there for the process and giving it the TIME it needs, rather than thinking what needs to be DONE to move it along to fit into the procedural framework.

Here in Perth there is also Community Midwifery Centre, which provides midwife support for home birth and also a Domino programme, where your midwife accompanies you to the hospital.

 

Or there is the option of having a Doula – a trained birth assistant (not medically trained as a midwife, but aux fait with hospital procedures). She will be with you all through the birth and serve as an advocate for you in interface with medical staff, so you don't have to worry about this. She can also keep a close eye on you so that if an intervention might be wisely applied at any given time, she is in a position to recognise this and pose it to you so that you can decide together. In a hospital you will likely not have this kind of continuous care, as shift midwives will come and go. Evidence shows that women who have one person continuously there to support them (aside from the partner, who is mostly not trained) are much more likely to come through the birth without intervention.

 

A Doula can also be there for you after the birth, visiting you in hospital and at home and supporting you with breastfeeding. Simply knowing someone is at your side can be immensely helpful. She is definitely someone who follows the Horticultural Time way of thinking and is probably a strong advocate for this, since she has chosen this path for herself.

 

On a last note, my wish is that all this empowers you. I have come to see the whole process of preparing for birth as a kind of a modern rite of passage. Collectively, historically, we humans have come away from the view and experience of womanhood and motherhood as something natural, wholesome, divine and powerful. We women have contributed to this too. So going through this process CONSCIOUSLY and choosing consciously can for some women be a kind of reawakening to their own sensitivity, intuition, inner strength and capability to influence events. Not control events, but influence them. In fact, a huge lesson seems to be to learn that we are not in control. So much can happen in birth that is out of our control. So it is about creating as much of a conducive environment as possible, without it needing to be perfect.. and then letting go.

 

And this is where your own inner experience comes in. This is perhaps THE most valuable lesson of all: when you learn that no matter what, you can choose where and how to focus, when you learn that through your breath you influence your body and your mind, that you can find peace and calm in the midst of a storm, that happiness is your natural condition, no matter what... you have conquered your mind. And when you conquer your mind, you conquer the world. Not in a dominating way, but in the way of mastery. And this, dear women, is the highest skill you can take into life in general, and into parenting in particular, where emotions will run high, things WILL get irrational, and you will be challenged. To be able to breathe, find your centre, be strong and at the same time let go. In this way, birth is a training for life.

Your body is intelligent: Ina May Gaskin and the Sphincter Law

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Saturday, May 17, 2014

One of my biggest inspirations is the midwife Ina May Gaskin and I have had many of my own experiences and insights confirmed by the things she learned over assisting thousands of births and which she talks about.

I share in my pregnancy classes what Ina May says about the Sphincter Law and what women need instinctively to be able to let the process of birth just happen.

But I'll let the great lady tell you herself:

 

Here are 2 enjoyable and enlightening You Tube videos of her talking about very important stuff:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKDqnAktGiM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCfSZn28FgM 

 

Natures Cocktail and Synthetic Imitations

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Recently in class we have been addressing what is a very important theme for women in thinking about birth. Do you know what the ingredients of the natural hormone cocktail that women's bodies release during birth are?

 

Firstly, OXYTOCIN. This hormone generates feelings of love, openness, curiousity, empathy and surrender. It's also called the molecule of belonging and is present through human touch and in love making. The same energy that got the baby in there will get the baby out..! Oxytocin brings on the waves of the rushes, surges (or contractions).

With this, comes ENDORPHINS - natural pain killers which help you ride those waves. Also leading to feelings of bliss, joy, even ecstasy... yes, all this is possible during birth.

 

VASOPRESSIN for courage. There is love present, but it's also capable of being tough love. Birth takes courage and determination, so vasopressin gives you grit.

 

ADRENALIN. When it comes time to push, after the notorious transition stage where many women freak out for a short time, even if they've been breathing and flowing with it the whole time prior. Adrenalin comes to give you an extra push of energy and enthusiasm, The excitement of knowing you are very soon to meet your baby and just need to give a last concerted effort.

 

All this is beautifully choreographed by nature and by the super intelligence of your instinctive and intuitive natures. Nature knows what it's doing.

 

Then there are the synthetic drugs and hormones of labour, which you may well encounter. It pays for you to be aware and informed about your choices regarding these things, because if you birth in a hospital almost definitely they will come up at some point.

 

First there is SYNTOCINON or synthetic oxytocin. Inductions are commonly done using a syntocinon drip. Under certain conditions this might be necessary and good. However, it is wise to understand how this synthetic version of oxytocin works.

As compared to the natural oxytocin, which comes with its fellow ingredients endorphins and vasopressin to make you open, able to let go and also courageous, riding the waves with natural feel- good hormones, syntocinon rushes generally feel much sharper and more intense. Rather than a wave form the rushes tend to spike to a high level of strong sensation much faster. Most women report this experience, saying simply that the contractions are much more deserving of that name: contraction ie much more painful. Rather than the waves of a rush or surge.

 

Of course then the likelihood of feeling you need to have an EPIDURAL, which blocks neuro-transmitters in the spine and causes you to feel numb from the waist down, is higher. You will more likely feel you can't cope. Epidural tends to also weaken contractions, leading to the need for a higher dose of syntocinon, which may cause the baby's heart rate to rise and to increase your pain again, leading to the need for a higher dose of pain killer and so on. The two have a relationship with each other of see- sawing upwards. (There is an illuminating documentary about this called The Business of Being Born.)

 

Also, if you are induced with syntocinon, likely the doctors will want to monitor your baby's heart rate continuously, which will mean you may be restricted to staying still on the bed. In birth, one of THE most important things is to stay mobile and feel that you CAN move in any way your body tells you. You can also much more easily massage and breathe out tension through moving gently around, as well as gravity assisting the descent of your baby much better in an upright position. Psychologically too, you may feel stuck or trapped if you are limited to the bed - again, this is the reverse of what the ancient parts of your brain require for birth - that you feel you are in a safe and supportive environment.

 

It's good to know and consider too, that any synthetic hormones and drugs are going to block the production of your own hormones, which are dosed exactly right for you. Your body is a remarkably sensitive organism which can continuously measure and balance itself. If you add synthetics into the mix, this process is interrupted and it is up to medical staff to try to determine how much is the right amount. It seems an ungainly and highly inaccurate way of doing what the body itself can do infinitely better.

 

So a good question would be why use these drugs at all?

There are in my experience a lot of inductions happening, so that it seems almost rare that a woman should naturally go into labour because the baby and she have decided it is time. Induction is sometimes necessary and there can be good medical reasons to induce. However, think carefully and decide for yourself. If you take to heart what I've written above you will want to know that it really is necessary and not for the sake of convenience. It may seem like convenience or "being on the safe side" at the time, but how convenient will that be for you and your baby really, when it comes to it? And how safe is it really? Isn't it better to wait for the ripe apple to just plop into your hand off the tree, because it's ready than to have to twist and yank an unripe apple?

 

There is much interesting and illuminating information out there on this subject.

I hope this has given you food for thought.

If your ob does say they want to induce, at any time, full term or before or even after, consider this: there is a huge range of "normal", between 38 and 42 weeks, anything is possible. You can always say, thankyou, I'll think about it. Give yourself some time and space to take a step back, relax, breathe, feel your body and baby .. and from there decide. Also talk to someone you trust to present an alternative perspective, so that you can make your conscious choice rather than feeling pressured into something.

 

And if you DO need to induce, acupuncture with someone experienced is a very successful method. And maybe there is something you need to say or an idea you need to release or a talk you need to have. We are organisms, not machines, and our emotions and mind are not separable from our bodies. Is there something blocking you on that level? Some say, and I would personally concur, birth begins in the heart ie. the heart has to ready to receive the baby, and then the body will follow.

 

To leave you with a reminder of that hormone cocktail..

O is for Oxytocin, V for vasopressin, E for endorphins... what a shame adrenalin doesn't start with L.. we could have the perfect anagram!!

 

Roasted almonds in ghee

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

                                           

 

This is a very simple, nurturing and delicious thing to eat in the weeks after the birth. The naturally wrinkled skin of the almonds is said to help the uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size and shape after birth. It is best eaten BEFORE BREAKFAST. And ideally, prepared and served to you in bed by someone ... (if you have other children, someone with small hands and a big heart? :)

 

Roasted almonds in ghee is in fact recommended to women generally in Ayurveda, as a food that is nurturing to the female reproductive system. 


Ingredients
10 to 15 almonds
2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter which is a protein not a fat - look for it at organic or health food shops or Asian food shops. It tastes slightly nutty and can be used in Indian cooking.)
Honey, if you like.

Melt the ghee in a small pan and then add the almonds. Roast them on a relatively low flame for a minute or two. Add a little honey if you like it sweet! Let them cool off a little but eat them still warm. You can follow this up with a cup of yogi tea to nourish your nerves.

Note on the tendency to think "I can´t do that!":

Many of us have trouble letting ourselves be served. Consider that there might be a deep relaxation that comes from letting go of your internal struggle and allowing someone to do this simple thing for you in the morning - a grace and strength in being able to receive in the knowing that you are very valuable just as you are. If you´re already able to do that, excellent. If not, perhaps try it and find out what happens.

  
               

Meditation for Intuition and Happiness

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Saturday, August 17, 2013

 

This is a meditation that was given to Buddha, then Siddhartha, by a great sadhu or saint who found him very weakened and unable to walk after fasting for 40 days. It is said that when Siddhartha could smile again the sadhu gave him this meditation to help nurture him back to health.

Do it when you feel the need to focus and tune into your intuition, to increase the rays of your positive mind. The gentle pull across your chest encourages your heart centre to open and radiate.

Sit in easy pose with an elevated spine. Bend your arms at the elbows, the elbows relaxed against your sides. Extend the index and middle fingers and fold in your ring and pinkie fingers. Hold them down with your thumbs. You might recognise this mudra from depictions of Buddha.

Let your focus gather naturally at your brow point, between your eyebrows and slightly in.

Breathe slowly and consciously and chant silently Sa Ta Na Ma while focussing at the brow point. Project these syllables out from your brow, letting your thoughts be cleared.

Let all thoughts and feelings come and go. Keep returning gently to the focus and the mantra. Keep the hands pulled back gently to maintain the opening across your chest.

Keep going for 6 to 11 minutes.

Breathe in and out deeply 3 times.

Rest in the feeling that follows for as long as you like.

 

The Ashram is Here

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Grist Ashram, Mahan Ahram. Devee Dev Poojde.

This household life is so great, that the angels and divine worship it."

So said Guru Nanak, the originator of what is now Sikhism. He lived from 1469 to 1539.

 
This household life is so great... Is this what you're thinking when you're reluctantly awake in the middle of the night feeding your baby? Does this course through your mind as you mediate fighting siblings? Or as you exchange weary looks with your partner? I would be lying if I said I always feel that. But I do appreciate the truth in it.

In Kundalini Yoga we don't have a tradition of leaving family and work to go off into a cave or an ashram to find peace Nope. We've got to find it in the midst of all this. In the MIDST of it. Yogi Bhajan, founder of Kundalini Yoga in the West, emphasised that he was giving us technologies to see us through our increasingly busy lives. It's a householders' yoga, which is why it is also so damned effective. We don't have time for it not to be.

Breaking it down, it is Grist Ashram. All this is grist for the mill. So next time you're feeling challenged and some part of you wishes to escape, try breathing in, breathing out, and saying simply .. YES. Yes to it all. Yes. That yes is so noble, so dignified, it will dignify you. It will lift you up and redefine you. In being there for our children, really being there, we need to have a deep YES available. One that can take in everything and hold it. The boon of this of course is that in embracing all we get bigger.

We say you need a strong nervous system to be a parent. You need a strong nervous system to be able to hold all that is going on without cracking, without shaking, without breaking. It's when we break, when we can't hold the situation, that we might end up reacting rather than responding with presence. It's not good, not bad, but it is a reaction conditioned by the past and so we are in that moment not really present.

Good exercises for strengthening the nervous system are Triangle Pose (aka Downward Dog) and all exercises which test the arms. Breathing deeply and slowly, suspending the inhale and the exhale for a bit (but not the exhale when pregnant) also calms both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Grist Ashram, Mahan Ashram. I don't know about you, but it helps me to realise that the struggles, the grist of life, are actually what is making me an interesting person (so I like to believe). When you look back at the end of your life which of your experiences will have had the greatest and most valuable impact on who you are? Mahan means great. This ashram of life is the greatest ashram there is. There is peace at the very heart of it. Peace at the very heart of you, as a woman, as a mother. Always.

"Within us lives the most calm, serene lake of wisdom, the most beautiful, powerful pond of kindness, compassion and clarity. Let us understand and let us dive into it within ourselves." Yogi Bhajan.

Me woman you man.

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Friday, May 17, 2013

Serab Ko Gian - the whole knowledge to be a mother is contained in the very seed of a woman.

 

Recently I was reading some words from the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan, to whom I am indebted for the gift of Conscious Pregnancy teachings. It might seem weird that a man should speak such words, but this was not just any man, but a man who said that he was a worshipper of the feminine principle and who never ever lost his dignity and nobility in relation to a woman...

He said that a woman has "washna", meaning a very subtle desire in the subconscious mind, to have a cozy, comfortable, safe and secure home. On a more animal level, if you like, a nest. By nature, said Yogi Bhajan, if left to men, we would all be living from a backpack. All cities, all civilisation, all houses come about because of the subconscious desire of women to have cosy homes. Men's desire to serve this in us has huge and very visible results. We each have something the other wants.

 

In our modern world, prior to becoming a mother we as women might seem to be more same as our men than different, and yet with this turnaround event, big changes occur. It can take some time to adjust! How do you relate to your own motherhood and motherhood in the making? Can you feel the nobility in it? Can you see the dignity in it? And can you see the dignity and nobility in your man in his own role? The more I live in my own family the more I appreciate the value of recognising, accepting and agreeing to the fundamental differences between me and my husband. Life begins to become a dance between polarities, a wonderful and fun and interesting thing, based on an honouring of the differences between us.

"I am just giving you the psychological differences so that you can basically and truthfully understand your role in relationship with the role of a male. These roles are not the same at all. If it were left to men, you all would be living with a backpack. To have a home, to have protection, to have security, save some money, save some food, all this paraphernalia is the invention of a woman’s subconscious mind. Therefore, it is very correct when they say woman is the axle of human society."

Words from the Master.

40 Days Blessing

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

In many cultures around the world, there is a tradition of recognizing the first roughly 6 weeks after birth as a time of sanctity and importance. The mother is given support to grow into her new role as nurturer of another being, now on the outside, as well as begin to recover from the great physical feat she has just performed (birth and pregnancy) although establishing a whole new balance and strength can take a fair bit longer. The baby is given a soft, safe space to find its own metaphorical feet, with all its physical systems now having to function independently, its nervous system forming and firming, not to mention the astounding fact of simply being alive on this big planet, connected with others, needing to feel safe and loved and held.

 

In Kundalini Yoga humanology it is said that in the first 3 days of a baby´s life, he or she learns love and in the first 40 days, a sense of belonging. To this mother, this father, this family and this Earth.

 

I was very struck, years ago, reading The Forest People by Colin Turnbull, describing how these tribes structures their village life. First comes the womb of the mother, then the expanded circle of the family tent for the first approximately 40 days, and then the further expanded circle of the whole tribe, whose tents are positioned to form a very big circle. And beyond that, out into the the wider circle of the world, always to return… So the person, as they grow, moves into ever-expanding circles, but always held and in a sense of belonging. These are a simple but profoundly happy, secure people.

 

Our world is clearly not like this, but if we take this principle we might look into finding ways to come closer to creating a space which holds both us as emerging mothers and our babies until we are ready to move out into the world, feeling strong and secure.

 

Every woman must surely follow her own feeling and possibilities, but consider keeping things very quiet in the first weeks. Some women find it a relief to limit visitors, or at least have visitors who they feel bring in a nurturing presence. The father can be very helpful here, diplomatically arranging visits in the interests of holding a protected space for you and the baby. We say the father is the aura of the family, the protective filter. Sometimes limiting visitors might cause a kind of social tension, but the question is then – what is more important right now? Keeping everyone else happy or making the best of this one-off opportunity to lay the foundations for a secure and happy life together?

 

Also, the teachings of Kundalini Yoga hold that the baby is contained within the mother's energetic bodies for the first 3 years of life, as the child progressively develops their own and becomes a whole total independent person. In the first 40 days therefore we suggest staying in the same room as your baby as much as you can. This would mean having your baby sleep in the same room as you. This is also helpful as you hear your baby's noises throughout the night, getting to know them and your baby's rhythms. You are there to respond readily so your baby feels safe and secure and that positive attachment between you can develop. This security forms the foundations for the child's sense of inner security throughout its life.

 

As a new mother, we say, your one main task is to look after your baby. If possible, let yourself be cooked for – nurturing, strengthening, wholesome food. Some women organise a roster within their circle of friends and family - having a meal delivered to you once a day can be of immense relief and emotional as well as physical nourishment. If possible, you could even let someone take over cleaning and washing or even let things go for a while. In our tradition, the person who comes to look after the mother is called Sevadar, or one who serves, and it should be a woman. The key word in this time is REST. REST, REST, REST! From personal experience, if you can truly take time to rest in those first weeks the energy will be there for life beyond. So rest, even more than you might feel is necessary. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Let yourself be looked after as much as you can. Get a massage! 

 

My invitation is to think of this time as you being like a queen. You certainly have performed an act of creation which required a lot from you on all levels (and will continue to). Let things come to you and let yourself be served. The time will come soon enough for you to step out and take up your new role in the world, walking tall, feeling good, with your secure, well-nurtured, happy baby.

 

See also Ayurvedic recipes for the 40 days. http://www.smallblessingsyoga.com.au/_blog/Small_Blessings_Blog/post/Ayurvedic_recipes_for_after_birth/

Yogi Tea strengthens your nerves and is really delicious. http://www.smallblessingsyoga.com.au/_blog/Small_Blessings_Blog/post/Nourishing_Yogi_Tea_Recipe/




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