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Your body is your temple

Ever heard the expression, ‘your body is your temple’?

 

I didn’t really get this concept until the last couple of years when I started female yoga & qi gong practices that helped me connect to my body in a way I hadn’t before.

Up until then I’d spent most of my life living in my head – and hadn’t even realised it! My mind was constantly in overdrive, running the show, whereas my body was more of a love-hate relationship – I loved to hate her. Since puberty I hadn’t felt good about my body.

It wasn’t until I took up practices that tuned me into my body – particularly the feminine aspect of my body – that I discovered the well of womanly wisdom that lives inside me…as it lives inside YOU.

Ok, it may have been a little weird at first to have a conversation with my womb or breathe into my ovaries, but in doing so I’ve gained an embodied understanding of the gifts of the goddess.

La Diosa!

What a blessing it is to be living life in a woman’s body!

Yet, if you’re anything like most women, I bet you’ve spent most of your life hating or otherwise rejecting your body rather then worshipping her as a temple. 

I know I have.

 

Unfortunately, women have been taught since puberty that their body is the enemy. She’s too fat, too thin, her thighs too dimply, her teeth too crooked, her breasts to small, her breasts too large, her belly too round, her skin too pale, her skin too dark, her legs too hairy, her flesh too soft, her bum too big…and so on. And lets not mention the fact that she bleeds every month. I’m sure you get my point. In so many ways our culture sends women the message that the female body is flawed or must be controlled.

 

As a result, women are literally programmed to think negatively about their body and to wage a constant war against their body – from hormonal control to complete eradication of body hair, to constant dieting to bootcamps aimed at transforming female curves into hard masculine physiques.

The average woman has a negative thought about her body at least once per hour, and up to 50-100 times per day!

 

In fact, it’s such an accepted norm to put your body down that women bond by negative self-talk – when women get together it’s socially acceptable to insult their body rather then praise it.

As a health practitioner I notice this all the time. I even wrote a blog on the subject: Have you ever noticed how often women apologise?

When you’re so busy fighting yourself, you don’t have power.

You might find it interesting to consider how it serves society to keep sending media messages to women that fuel body insecurity; and how this insecurity and lack of body love might flow on to disempowered birth experiences…

(…thoughtful pause)

 

Women’s bodies are powerful.

A woman’s body is so powerful political campaigns are won or lost over the topic of controlling women’s bodies.

A woman’s body holds the gift of life. In ancient times, goddess temples were built to celebrate the life giving, abundant power of a woman’s body and this helped remind women of their creative potential, strength and innate capacity to birth.

It’s no coincidence that fear and mistrust of birth has coincided with the disappearance of the Goddess for the last few thousand years – replaced by a patriarchal mindset that’s taught women that, as punishment for the sin of their female body, they must suffer during childbirth.

I’m telling you this now, not to challenge your religious or spiritual beliefs, but to invite you to open your mind to possibilities you might not have considered before:

Women are not meant to suffer during childbirth. It’s not meant to be painful or traumatic or frightening. A woman’s body was built for birth. The truth is birth is meant to be ecstatic. 



 

Here’s what I invite you to know:

Your relationship to your physical body is integral to your power as a woman; therefore the relationship women have with their body is integral to their birth experience. 

 

Thinking negatively about your body is a habit that keeps you disempowered.

Don’t you think its time for change?

Neuroscience reveals that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, those negative neural pathways become stronger and those thoughts become habituated.

The good news is habit is just that…habit.

You can break negative thought patterns by consciously choosing to focus on positive thoughts about your self and your body.

By choosing to deliberately seek thoughts of appreciation and gratitude toward your body you start developing new neural pathways – pathways that lead to a healthier, more connected and empowered ‘Goddess’ you. Your honour her wisdom.

Body love is not something that only happens to other women. It’s a choice available to you everyday to say f**k it and bring more woman (power) to you. 

Your body is your temple, home to the goddess that is YOU.

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and viewed your body through the eyes of love and approval?

 

Contact me if you would like more information about Ecstatic Birth Preparation.


Body Love Action Step

Rather then focusing on how your body looks start appreciating your body for what she does.

Start a Body Love Journal and commit to the practice of writing daily about your body in a positive way, starting with appreciating what she does for you and how she serves you. Every day choose three things about your body that you’re grateful for and write about them.

The secret to your success is simple: small practices done regularly produce BIG results. Be consistent.

If you stick to this practice everyday for 30 days, you’ll notice a profound difference in how you feel about your body.

 

Body Love Journal

Today’s Date:                                                             

I’m so happy and grateful that my body:

 

 

Need Inspiration?

  • How does you body allow you to experience the world? How does she bring you feelings of pleasure?
  • What about your senses do you appreciate? Think about touch, taste, smell, sight & sound.
  • Imagine you were your own lover. How might a lover appreciate your body?
  • Take a tour around your body and consider each part and the important role they play in your day-to-day life: your eyes, your feet, your hands, your mouth, your stomach, your breasts, your vital organs, etc. What are you grateful for?
  • What parts of your body do you like? Can you spend more time focusing on these aspects and letting those good feelings grow?
  • If you’re pregnant, think about your baby’s experience of your body. What attributes does your body provide for your baby, now during pregnancy and after your baby is born? How might your body feel to your baby?
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What does it mean to surrender?

So, how do these words make you feel..?

Surrender.

Let go.

Allow.

The reason I ask is that these words are often used to describe what a woman needs to hear or move toward during birth, and yet it can be hard to comprehend exactly what that means until you’ve actually been there.

What does it mean to surrender, or to let go, or to allow?

For the past twelve months I’ve been in the process of creating, gestating and now launching my online course Breathe | Believe | Birth with Ease. Just like preparing to birth a real baby, this has been a labour of love that has stretched me way outside my usual comfort zone…

I’ve stalled. I’ve procrastinated.

I’ve connected to my Heart and felt invincible. I’ve been moved to tears by the love and the beauty of the act of creation, and the overflowing of feminine wisdom that is not coming from me but through me.

I’ve doubted myself again and again. Told myself I don’t have what it takes. Told myself I can’t do this thing, I am not enough.

But this baby is coming through me anyhow. She’s my love, my passion, my hope for the future. She keeps me inspired to keep pushing through, to have faith in this birthing process, to trust myself.

I keep opening. I keep expanding. I keep pushing.

I keep moving to places I’ve never been before. Places that take me far beyond all that I’ve known to be safe and comfortable and familiar and secure to a point where I can no longer feel the edge of what was, but I’m still so far away from what is to come.

It’s like floating in darkness. There’s nothing left to hold on to.

I feel all alone with my fear.

She whispers…let go.

And eventually I do. I stop resisting. I lay aside my small and individual fear and doubt and my need to control or to know what comes next.

I open to a process and a movement that is SO MUCH BIGGER then me.

I no longer try to contain it. I do all that I can to allow it.

To surrender is to feel divinely guided. Like I am one with the energy of the universe. Like I am all that is in this expanded state of being without edges or boundaries in the spaciousness of infinite possibility.

It is an experience that takes me outside myself, that has pushed me to my limits and then beyond to remind me, each time I let go my resistance, of the extra-ordinary power of the Mysterious Feminine.

Call it ecstasy…or bliss…or union.

THIS is birth.

 

Resistance.

These past few months I’ve learnt much about how fear is simply resistance to the Unknown.

Life is growth. Growth is exciting because it opens you to new possibilities but scary because it takes you places you’ve never been before.

One of the effects of fear is to keep you in a contracted state. Fear is under the illusion that if everything stays the same (freeze), fear can keep you ‘safe’. You know what to expect. You can plan ahead. You can be prepared. Fear provides a false sense of being in control.

In this way it becomes human nature to seek experiences that are familiar. Known.

This is how fast food giant McDonalds became a global success – their business model was based on the realization that people seek the comfort of what they know. With this basic understanding of human psychology, McDonalds started a restaurant that delivered the same food, the same menu, the same interior and the same experience every time. Cha-ching!

Yet life is growth and growth can only occur by expanding beyond the boundaries of what is Known – your current reality – into the Unknown.

That means in order to invite any new possibility into your life – a new baby, a new relationship, new wealth, new health, new career – you need to let go your attachment to the safety net of what is Known, and breathe for a bit in the uncertainty of the Unknown.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory the Unknown is the realm of the Mysterious Feminine.

Fear of the Mysterious Feminine is the underlying impulse behind every intervention that is the cornerstone of modern antenatal care.

If you consider how birth – and women’s bodies – are the gateway to the Unknown, you get a sense of why birth triggers so much fear and why the human response is to seek the illusion of control by imposing human will rather then letting divine will lead the way.

We prefer to set a time or a date or a measurement or a preconceived idea on how things should be rather then trusting in the flow of life. We want McDonalds because it keeps us feeling safe, yet it’s when we venture outside the familiar and the known that we open ourselves up to the magic of the miracle that is life.

Few times in life is the growth process as obvious as during pregnancy.

Pregnancy forces you to move beyond your current limitations not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Whether you like it or not, the life force growing inside you is taking you outside your comfort zone on a journey that will stretch you in every way imaginable.

Every day you’re growing. You’re changing.

You’re more aware of being part of something much bigger then yourself, something other then you that’s driving the wheel.

Pregnancy and birth is simply life lived with heightened intensity. It’s like a vortex opens where the usual growth processes start spiralling at greater speed. From a spiritual perspective, how fast you move through the birth process depends entirely on how quickly you move through your resistance.

This is what it means to surrender: you let go your fear and human need to control in order to open with love and trust to magic and the mystery of LIFE.

Sounds good in theory, but in action how do you surrender?

1 – Breathe

Learning to breathe properly and deeply is your most powerful tool to connect you to the present. To be present allows you to surrender your attachment to outcomes and open to the delicious possibility of what is. Correct breathing is also key to physiologically and psychologically resetting the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ (fear) response.

2 – Positive Anchors

To surrender is to lose sight of the shore and be willing to take yourself into unchartered waters. It is at these moments that you can forget why you are going through what you are going through and get lost in the fear and uncertainty and doubt. A Positive Anchor is something that strongly anchors you to your why, something that connects you to positive feelings – feelings of love, calm, trust, faith, confidence – that will support you through the process. A Positive Anchor can be an image, a word, an affirmation, a mantra, a person, a vision for the future. Whatever it is, keep your Positive Anchor where you can see it constantly.

3 – Creative Visualisation

Your thoughts are powerful. You can use creative visualisation techniques to mentally prepare yourself for the reality you wish to create. The more you consciously and creatively visualise yourself surrendering to the flow of the divine – and enjoying the process! – the more you prepare your mind for that possibility. This in itself helps the mind surrender control.

 

Breathe | Believe | Birth with Ease is the birth preparation course that will revolutionise what you know about birth and being a woman. Want to learn how to ENJOY childbirth? CLICK HERE

 

 

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Why a Doula is a Rolls Royce of birth support

love doula

Imagine what it would feel like to give birth feeling supported, informed and involved in all your choices?

What difference do you think it would make if your birth support team helped you believe in yourself?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Birth is a normal, everyday physiological event that your body was designed to do naturally. In fact, according to nature’s design, birth is meant to be a joyous and ecstatic life experience.

Sure, birth can be hard work and for a small minority of women pregnancy and birth can present problems. But, the fact is for the vast majority of women pregnancy and birth are healthy transitions in life and yet this healthy state of womanhood is increasingly medically managed as an illness. It has become so normal for our culture to view pregnancy and birth according to the medical model that for most women the first thing they do when they believe themselves pregnant is visit a doctor for confirmation and book in for an ultrasound.

And fair enough, it’s exciting and extra special care is part of enjoying being pregnant. However our culture has come to provide that extra special care comes in the form of ongoing medical tests and measurements that do little to prepare a woman for birthing or motherhood, and does a lot to instil fear that pregnancy and birth are risky business.

Wouldn’t it be special to enjoy a model of antenatal care that treated you like a pregnant and birthing goddess?

Why a doula can be the Rolls Royce of birth support…

It’s common to believe that private health insurance and a private hospital means a ‘superior’ level of maternity care, but this depends on your vision of the birth you want. Choosing a private hospital means an obstetric model of care and therefore a medically managed birth by default. This is because an obstetrician is trained in intervention and surgical delivery methods, and may not ever have experienced normal, uninterrupted physiological labor.

If your vision is for natural childbirth then this not be the best model of care for you.

Unfortunately, many women don’t realise until they’ve had first hand experience that the medical model of care can lead to a medically managed birth often involving routine, unnecessary interventions. Due to patient demands, hospital midwives can be limited in the care they can provide and are often in the difficult position of having to comply with hospital protocols. The medical system may provide for the physical management of your birth experience, but isn’t equipped to support for your mental and emotional wellbeing; the essential ingredient of love and comfort that allows women to feel safe, reassured and in control of their experience.

Although your partner can be a wonderful source of support in labour, your partner is not trained in birth support and it’s unfair that partners are now routinely expected to assume this role. It’s all new to them too!

Evidence shows women birth best when supported by people they know and trust, who are able to stay with them continuously throughout their labour, and who understand techniques to be with women that promote normal, natural physiological childbirth.

And so, I give you the doula.

Doula is the name given to a birth support person who provides one-on-one continuous support of a non-medical nature and is instead trained in alternative, traditional and natural methods of being with women during labour.

A doula will develop a relationship with you and listen to your fears and concerns, providing support for your mental and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

A doula will guide you through your birth choices and help keep you informed.

A doula will support your partner and help your partner support you.

A doula will help you believe in yourself and find the resources within that you need to birth your baby.

A doula will hold the space for you to birth your baby and do so for as long as you need.

A doula is YOUR ‘servant to birth’ and there to support your unique needs. The primary aim of a doula is to provide for your emotional and mental well-being and your comfort. This is why, especially for women birthing within the hospital system, a doula can be the Rolls Royce of birth support.

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Are you a powerful birthing goddess?

Do you remember a few months back when I shared how I’d benefitted from discovering the work of Australian Money Mindset Mentor and author of Get Rich Lucky Bitch, Denise Duffield-Thomas?

At the time I said, lots of women have big blocks and fears around money in the same way they have big blocks and fears around birth, and that helping women achieve a great birth and helping women overcome their money blocks kind of goes hand in hand.

Your mindset is the key. Your beliefs create your reality and a belief is simply a thought stuck on repeat.

For example, I commonly hear women say that they would love to have a home birth but they “can’t afford it” or “it’s too expensive”.

The truth is money is not the obstacle. Your mindset is.

The average cost of an Independent Midwife is between $3500-$5500. That figure reflects extraordinary value for what is, statistically, the safest model of birth.

I was recently reading an article that stated the average cost of a wedding for an Australian couple is $65,482.

Both a wedding and a baby’s birth day is a day of celebration; a day a couple will remember for the rest of their life. So why don’t women and couples invest in birth in the same way they do their wedding day?

The article went on to explain the mindset of the bride: her wedding was “their day” and “I will wear what I want, I will play whatever music I want and I will give the bomboniere that I want. I will have a day that reflects me and my partner, not what tradition has dictated”.

The reason I love this quote is it highlights the mindset of a woman planning her wedding day: she’s in charge, it’s HER day and everyone knows that what the bride says, goes.

Blame it on Cinderella.

Your beliefs are formed by the stories you hear throughout your life that teach you what’s possible for yourself. Young girls are brought up listening to fairy tales of being rescued by a handsome prince and a fairy tale wedding. The princess mindset is embedded deep in every woman’s subconscious.

So, when it comes time to marry, this fairy tale princess archetype makes it easy for women to embrace their sovereignty. And being sovereign, allow the money to support that reality.

Here’s the thing, I can’t think of a single fairy tale of a powerful birthing goddess?  

Can you?

These stories exist but you have to go back several thousand years to times when the Goddess was celebrated and the power of woman to create life and to birth was revered and not feared.

So part of the reason WHY the face of birth in the modern world is such that some countries are now at a 100% caesarean rate (Australia is 30-50%) is because we teach young girls becoming women they need to be rescued and have forgotten the stories that teach the truth of their bodies: stories that embed the mindset of a powerful birthing goddess.

Just for a moment, can you imagine what birth might look like when a woman applied the same mindset to her birth planning as she did her wedding?

I will wear what I want, I will play whatever music I want and I will…what I want… 

… I will birth in whatever position I want... I will take as long as I want to push out my baby or birth my placenta … I will birth in water if I want… I will make whatever noises I want… I will only allow the people present that I want and who I trust… 

I will have a day that reflects me and my partner, not what tradition has dictated.”

And imagine if women expected the money to support their birth plans in the same way they expect the money to manifest that 1-carat princess cut solitaire diamond ring (the current most popular engagement ring)?

Mindset is key to creating the reality of your desire. 

You can only receive what you allow.

To own your self worth is to see that reflected in your external world.

My soul purpose is to help women remember their power and come home to their goddess self. To allow yourself an expectation of so much more for birth, and for life.

When you embody the mindset of a birthing goddess you expect to birth like a goddess. It’s a mindset shift that takes you out of fear and disempowerment to a place of maternal authority. It’s a crucial mindset shift that needs to happen to move beyond the fear-based culture of birth, to a world that benefits from remembering the gifts of the feminine.

Helping women achieve a great birth and helping a women overcome their money blocks go hand in hand – both require shifting deeply embedded beliefs of lack of feminine self worth to bring greater power and freedom to your life.

For this reason I’m a proud affiliate of the work of Denise Duffield-Thomas as a pioneer in helping women shift their relationship with money. I’d love you to know that the reason women accept 30% less then men has nothing to do with external circumstances and everything to do with your relationship with yourself and the feminine.

You can find more about Denise’s Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp here, or check out a chapter of her Get Rich, Lucky Bitch book.

 

 

“What are you all doing disrespecting women? Nothing comes to this Earth unless it first passes through a woman. What are you doing? You’re all nuts. You have to respect it; it’s the one and only reality that the universe blesses. All comes through the woman.”

– Guru Nanek, cited Hari Kaur Khalsa, Ecstatic Birth Foundation Series 

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Please, rethink the ‘dating’ scan…

Ultrasound in pregnancy has become such a routine procedure that you may not even have thought to question this medical intervention. After all, it’s an exciting part of early pregnancy, almost a right of passage and the first way that many couples now announce their pregnancy – with that little black and white photo on Facebook.

I’m not going to talk about the potential physical side effects of ultrasound. That’s up to you to do your research but if you’re interested in knowing more, a good starting point is Dr Sarah Buckley.

What I’m going to talk about is why I would love you to rethink that early ultrasound. You might not have thought about this before…

Many of my clients are super keen for that early ultrasound because they need confirmation that everything is ok. At 8-12 weeks it can be too early for most women to show any physical signs of pregnancy. Sure, you might feel nauseous and like you have a permanent hangover, but except for that and tender breasts or having to pee more often, its not like you can tell you’re pregnant. There isn’t any discernible bump to prove that there’s a baby on board.

The first trimester can be a psychologically challenging time. There’s an unspoken rule that most women seem to wait until 12 weeks before announcing the pregnancy, a pact that reflects the fear of miscarriage in the first trimester. For many women, especially those who might have previously experienced miscarriage, an early ultrasound provides reassurance – they can see the tiny sign of a heart beating.

Unfortunately, a heart beating at 8 weeks doesn’t guarantee that the pregnancy will be ok.

There really is no reason to have an ultrasound at this early stage because it can’t make a difference to whether the pregnancy will continue or not. If the ultrasound detects no heart beat, your body will miscarry naturally in a couple of weeks. If the ultrasound detects a heart beat, you might still miscarry. Unfortunately it happens.

On the other hand, ultrasound is an intervention and not without risk. Despite the increasingly common and routine use of ultrasound in early pregnancy, the truth is we don’t know the effect of ultrasound on foetal development but we do know that guidelines advise against the use of ultrasound before 12 weeks unless absolutely necessary.

The reason I would love you to rethink early ultrasound has nothing to do with any of this. And nor does it have to do with the implications a dating scan will have on establishing an EDD and the associated pressure to be induced for every day that goes beyond that EDD.

What I would like you to consider is how a seemingly harmless early ultrasound has the potential to set in motion a chain of events that can effect your entire pregnancy, your birth and even mothering.

Every time you choose an external source to reassure you that everything is ok, you strengthen the neural pathways that teach you that the way to know what is best for you and your baby is to be found from an external authority. 

At the same time, when you choose to depend upon an external authority for reassurance you weaken the neural pathways that connect you to the inner knowing that all women possess – your intuitive body wisdom. 

It’s simply a matter of brain development.

As a modern woman, you’ve probably been taught that when you first think you’re pregnant, you do a pregnancy test. Now, generally at this stage you know you’re pregnant. The pregnancy test confirms what you already know. You don’t really need to pee on a strip, and you certainly don’t really need to have a blood test. You know.

This inner knowing that comes from inside and can’t always be explained is called your intuitive body wisdom.

Some women know the moment they conceive. I did.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of technological advancement as it applies to pregnancy and birth is that it teaches us to over ride this intuitive body wisdom in preference of physical measurements and tests.

So even though you know you’re pregnant, you don’t trust it unless a physical test or measurement confirms it.

Another way of looking at this is over riding the feminine, right brain abilities of intuitive knowing in favour of the masculine, left brain pursuit of analytical understanding.

Like all skills and abilities the more you use it, the more it develops. Use it or loose it.

Now, on its own an ultrasound in early pregnancy might seem a fairly harmless thing.

But, as the beginning of a journey that informs how you choose to approach your pregnancy either from a place of inner awareness and connection or from a point of seeking external authority, that has huge implications.

The more you learn to develop your intuitive body wisdom, the greater you develop connection to the parts of your brain that know how to birth and know what your baby needs, its instinctual.

These skills don’t happen overnight. In order to make it in the career world, modern women have learnt to become highly left brain, masculine dominant. These are the analytical, rational, logical neural pathways that you’ve practiced again and again since primary school when the focus was on maths and english rather then art.

Learning to develop your inner world, the right brain world of feminine intuition is not something our culture actively encourages. That’s because the feminine is the great mystery. She is the unknowable – the expansive reaches of infinite possibility – the creative conscious. It is this unknowable quality that fills the masculine, critical consciousness with dread. Rather then being able to surrender to the Unknowable, the critical consciousness in us all wants to be able to control, wants to keep us ‘safe’ by trying to manage the unknowable: to compartmentalise, analysis and rationalise. It is based in fear.

It is scary to be in the face of the Unknowable. Every woman who has stood at the threshold of birth and embodied the word surrender is a testimony to the word courage.

Natural childbirth is the ultimate surrender to the feminine pathways of instinct and intuition. Preparing for natural childbirth is learning to get comfortable with the unknown. It’s learning to relinquish the parts of your brain that seek to control and to expand your capacity to trust your inner guidance and act on it.

This is a choice that you must practice every day.

And these are choices that begin long before your day of birth. It’s the small but consistent actions that you take that shape your destiny.

Saying yes to a dating ultrasound scan might seem like no big deal, but before you make this choice I would invite you to rethink:

Do I really need this intervention?

What benefit does it offer to me and my baby?

What are the potential risks?

Why am I making this decision?

Is my decision based on fear or trust? 

What does my intuition say?


THE BAO MAI MERIDIAN

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a special meridian, known as Bao Mai, that connects the Heart to the Womb. It is this Bao Mai connection that allows the inner communication between mother and child.

To strengthen your Bao Mai connection, place one hand over your heart space in the centre of your chest and the other hand over your lower abdomen, just below your belly button. You’ll find even just holding your hands in this position is centering and creates a sense of connection.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathing deeply, notice how your hands rise in unison with each inhalation as your belly and chest expand, and then how both hands move in unison with each exhalation falling back toward your spine.

Using your imagination or your visualisation, notice if you can sense a connection between your Heart and Womb. 

Repeat this exercise daily and learn to listen to the voice within.

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Could you be unsuitable to birth in hospital?

A recent United Kingdom National Health report advised that 45% of women in the UK were unsuitable to give birth in hospital.

I love this!

Imagine if you found out you were pregnant and, rather then automatically opting in to the standard medical model of care for your pregnancy and birth, your first thought was that pregnancy was a normal, healthy state of being a woman and didn’t need to be managed as an illness. So you chose something different.

What would your pregnancy and birth look like if you opted for a wellness model of antenatal care rather then an illness model?

Wellness Model versus Illness Model

So what do I mean by that?

A wellness model of care takes a holistic approach to care, taking into account the mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of wellbeing as well as the body physiology. This is known as a Mind Body Spirit approach. An illness model of care focuses almost exclusively on the physiological aspects of health. An illness model looks for disease, whereas a wellness model sees health as not just the absence of disease, but a sense of wellbeing. Not just absence of pain, but feeling good.

A wellness model of antenatal care views pregnancy and birth as normal, healthy states of womanhood and looks to provide the emotional, mental, social and spiritual support to provide for a sense of wellbeing in the mother throughout pregnancy, birth and postnatal, as well as caring for the physical body.

I recently attended a planning meeting for a home birth. The appointment was at Sarah’s home. There was Sarah and her partner, plus her other children running in and out, plus two midwives and myself. We drank cups of tea and looked through photo albums of Sarah’s previous births. The meeting went for about 2-3 hours. During this time we discussed what was important to Sarah – what did she expect from us, how could we best assist her, how could we support her partner? The midwives discussed all of Sarah’s birth preferences and made it clear they were comfortable supporting her wishes. She debriefed her previous births and talked through where she had felt challenged and how we could support her better this time. Being her fourth baby, Sarah had set her intention to have a fast birth. Her midwives offered her wise advice to achieve this goal naturally. The atmosphere was relaxed, unhurried and intimate. The focus was supporting Sarah mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually to achieve her birth vision. Toward the end of the session, the midwife performed the routine physical tests of checking baby. At the end of the session Sarah said it left her feeling confident, excited and looking forward to birthing her baby.

An illness model of antenatal care focuses on the pathology and physiology of pregnancy of birth, the assumption being that pregnancy and birth is fraught with danger to mother and baby and needs to be medically managed by the continuous process of tests and monitoring to make sure everything is ok: blood tests, ultrasounds, foetal monitoring, blood pressure checks, amniocentesis etc. It follows that birth then becomes a medically managed event within a hospital setting.

Ok, I’ve got no problem with that.

This isn’t us against them. Everything has its place. I just want to highlight the imbalance that exists in our culture. An overwhelming 98.5% of Australian consumers choose to birth in hospital. More Australian babies are born on the way to the hospital then are a planned home birth (0.5%)!

If a UK study can recommend that 45% of women are unsuitable to give birth in hospital – and that’s probably a conservative figure – then why are Australian women not able to birth without medical assistance? Where are we going wrong?

Why does this matter?

Because pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy states of womanhood. The fact that 98.5% of Australian women choose to birth in a hospital reflects that women (and their partners) aren’t being provided the information to trust birth and the innate intelligence of women’s bodies and are not being offered automatic access to a wellness model of care.

And that’s not ok.

It’s a bit like needing to fix something that isn’t broken. Rather the first supporting the normal, naturalness of pregnancy and birth, our culture jumps straight to the pathology of pregnancy and birth. That creates a culture of fear and mistrust and leads to a vicious cycle where women aren’t made aware of the true ability of their body to birth their baby with ease and without intervention.

It’s disturbing that we’ve allowed a situation where ‘normal’ birth is only seen in 1.5% of the population.

For the rest of the population, the focus on pregnancy and birth as an illness mean that women’s mental and emotional wellbeing is secondary to the outcome of a living baby. Under this system, women are prepared to put up with all manner of indignity, trauma, surgery, invasive procedures, pain and suffering ‘as long as the baby is ok’.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You have choice and its important to understand where your choices might lead. That allows you to take responsibility for your wellbeing and not come out of your birth experience feeling a victim.

I want to have as natural birth as possible with minimal intervention.

Sound familiar?

This is something I hear women say all the time and yet their choices do not reflect their intention. If you want to have as natural birth as possible with minimal intervention you choose a wellness model of antenatal care that supports natural processes.

If you choose an illness model of care, if your antenatal care involves a focus on the pathology of pregnancy and birth, if your antenatal appointments involve the medical management and physiology of pregnancy, you might want to consider where your choices are leading and if they support your desire for natural, vaginal childbirth with minimal intervention.

A common mistake Australian consumers make is to choose obstetric-led care because they have private health insurance, believing that because it costs more it is ‘superior’. If you’ve choose an obstetrician as your primary care giver, you’ve chosen the medical management of your pregnancy and birth because that is what obstetrics is: the pathology of birth.

It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you are aware of where your choices are leading.

May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears. – Nelson Mandela

It takes courage to make the choices that go against the vast majority. But if you want something different for yourself and your baby, you can’t do what everyone else is doing and expect a different result.

Courage is the ability to act on your heart, even in the face of fear.

Who holds the power?

Under an illness model of healthcare, the doctor is viewed as the authority and top of the hierarchy and the patient is at the bottom. The system operates according to a hierarchy, a bit like a military operation, where responsibility for health outcomes belongs to the doctor, and the patient plays a passive role. Under this model, there is an expectation of assumed compliance – the patient will do what they’re told because the doctor is viewed as having higher authority.

At the same time, the patient expects the doctor to ‘fix it’. This can be a happy trade off because it means the patient doesn’t have to take responsibility.

The problem with applying an illness model to antenatal care is the perception that the hospital, obstetricians, doctors and midwives have greater authority and power then the birthing woman. This has led to the common situation where women play a passive role in their antenatal care, doing what they’re told and expecting their baby to be delivered for them.

The result is a antenatal system where women aren’t actively encouraged to be the authority when it comes to their birth, and they’re not empowered to trust their body or trust themselves. Yet it is when women assert themselves and play an active role in their birth journey that women report a positive outcome.

Authority, power, responsibility and assertiveness are qualities that can be challenging for women. Yet giving birth is arguably the most powerful human experience possible.

“What are you all doing disrespecting women? Nothing comes to this Earth unless it first passes through a woman. What are you doing? You’re all nuts. You have to respect it; it’s the one and only reality that the universe blesses. All comes through the woman.” – Guru Nanek, Ecstatic Birth Foundation Series

Wouldn’t it be great if more Australian women decided to choose different?

Wouldn’t it be an empowering step if we, as consumers, demanded a different model of antenatal care based on wellness rather then illness? 

What would your pregnancy and birth look like if you opted for a wellness model of antenatal care rather then an illness model?

 

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Success versus Failure

Are you hung up on achieving a vaginal birth?

Is your worst fear being induced?

One issue I find women struggle with when they’re preparing for birth is wanting things to go a certain way or else they feel they’ve failed or their body has failed.

Feelings of failure or fear of failure are often the result of deeply held beliefs about how things should be in order to be happy or successful or loveable etc.

And this doesn’t just apply to pregnancy and birth!

Most women are constantly putting pressure on themselves to achieve certain outcomes or feel they’ve failed.

Yes, it’s a powerful thing to have goals – that’s what helps you know what you want and to go after it. BUT, what’s more important is focusing on how you desire to feel unconditional of an outcome.

When you’re focused on achieving a particular outcome as a measure of success this creates a condition that must be met before you can experience the feelings of success.

It could be having a vaginal birth, or getting baby to sleep through the night or in their own bed, or having a home that is display-house immaculate. Or, it might be success is equated to earning a particular income, or measuring a certain weight on the scales, or having relationship fulfilment.

Whatever it might be, the end result is the same: unless you achieve the goal that you associate with success, the underlying premise is that you’ve somehow failed.

The problem with this is that outcomes contain variables that you can’t always control.

You might have a pelvis that is the wrong shape to birth your baby; or your baby might have digestive issues that mean they cry every night for the first twelve months; or you might naturally have a curvy body that doesn’t want to conform to dieting etc. These are all variables that may get in the way of you experiencing the outcome you want.

Outcomes contain variables that you can’t control but what you CAN control is how you choose to think and feel unconditional of what the outcome looks like.

Here’s another reason why focusing on outcomes is not the best option. According to the medical model a ‘successful’ birth outcome is a living baby. Because the emphasis is on the outcome, consideration is not given to how that outcome is achieved. Baby might be physically alive, but at what cost? How was mum treated throughout the process? Is it a successful birth if the mother feels fearful, out of control and emotionally traumatised throughout?

Success is a state of mind. It’s the journey not the destination that counts. Whether you feel successful or whether you feel a failure is dependent on your thoughts. It is how you think about a certain issue that creates your feeling emotional response.

How you feel should always be the heart of the matter.

You should have a vaginal birth. You should avoid induction. You should breast feed. You should avoid pain relief during labor. You should be able to get your baby to sleep through the night. You should breast feed on demand. You should be meditating to relax. You should go to the gym three times a week. You should have a perfect body. You should live in a big house full of appliances and you should never have dishes on the sink. You should not have hairy legs…ever.

What you should do is care about how you feel.

Success IS NOT having it together with your perfect body and your perfect work life, your perfect baby and your perfect relationship.

Success is not attachment to birth being a certain way but how you choose to feel throughout the journey.

Success is a choice to feel good about yourself, your body and your external world no matter what.

Success is total, radical self love and acceptance.

Redefining your definition of success so that it’s unconditional and no longer dependent on a particular outcome allows you to let go of attachment to how things should be and instead surrender to the beauty and appreciation of what is.

Success is a feeling state, not an outcome and you always have choice over how you feel.

 

 

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Self Love: Your Internal Guidance System

What’s the one step you can take that will guarantee you always make the right choices in pregnancy, birth and beyond?

The answer is Self Love. 

This is the place to begin. Learning to love yourself is so powerful it’s really all you need to do. When you commit to learning to truly love yourself then from this place of deep self respect you’re naturally led to the choices, the behaviour and the attitude that is best for you and your baby’s wellbeing.

Not only that, Self Love and Self Worth are interchangeable. When you love who you are, you allow yourself to receive the abundance of love, support, wellness, personal fulfilment and success available to you. You let go of the self sabotaging thoughts, beliefs and actions that hold you back from living your best life.

Unfortunately most of us have been taught through life experience the opposite of Self Love. 

Most people learn at a very young age to seek love and approval from outside of themselves.

Whilst in the beginning you experience unconditional love, as you grow older you start to learn that certain behaviours meet with approval and other behaviour meet with disapproval. You start to learn that love and approval is conditional upon acting or being a certain way, and because Love feels good and you want to feel good, you learn to modify your behaviour and who you are in order to feel good conditional upon this or that.

As a result you reject the parts of your Self that cause you to feel disapproval or unlovable.

You lose connection to the beauty of who you truly are. This leads to choices, behaviours and actions that are out of alignment with your natural expression of Self.

Little girls in particular are taught to be ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’. Girls are encouraged to be ‘good girls’ and that means rejecting those aspects of their personalities that challenge how other people want them to behave. As girls grow into women this conditioned response to please other people means women frequently put themselves last. When girls aren’t encouraged to engage the assertive and aggressive parts of their personality, it may be hard for them during pregnancy or birth to speak up for themselves and assert their authority and autonomy.

Self Love is the process that reconnects you to the truth of who you are and teaches you to reclaim the parts of yourself that have been rejected throughout your life.

As you learn to love the whole of who you are, you are able to receive with greater abundance.

Self Love is the commitment to knowing that you are worthy of your deep love, forgiveness and approval unconditionally.

Self Love is your Internal Guidance System

When you use Love as your guide, you are always moving toward a state that feels good. It feels good because Love is associated with the expansive vibration of joy, abundance and alignment. It is your natural state of being, the truth of who you are.

Self Love is about always moving towards the thoughts and feelings and actions that allow for you to feel good. You choose Self Love because you care about how you feel and it’s from this place of self care that you allow yourself to receive all you need to be happy, healthy, loved and supported.

Self Love is about honoring your own divinity. That sounds kind of cliché, but it’s something worth thinking about. It’s a powerful act of creation to grow and birth and sustain a baby, and women have that power. Throughout time the Mother archetype has been worshipped as the creator of life, and yet today the value placed on mothering has fallen to an all time low.

In addition to undervaluing the role of mothering, our culture does little to prepare women to be strong and confident mothers.

For example, most of what’s offered as part of routine antenatal care teaches women that their bodies are not to be trusted, that birth is dangerous and that some external source knows what’s best for them and their baby.

It’s no wonder that when the baby arrives women experience doubt and confusion and uncertainty when every step along the pregnancy journey leads women to seek guidance and approval outside of themselves that they are doing it ‘right’ and that everything is ok.

Now, imagine a world where your routine antenatal care supported you to find the skills and resources within to trust yourself, your body and your intuition as you made the transition to motherhood. A model of care that built you up and helped you feel powerful as a woman. What would that look like?

Self Love is the answer.

When you use Self Love as your guide you are connecting to your Internal Guidance System, you are listening to the whisper of your Heart for guidance rather then looking outside of yourself for confirmation or approval. You do what feels good to YOU, and what feels good to you is always the right choice for yourself and for your baby – even if that goes against outside opinions.

Happy Mother = Happy Baby

The world of pregnancy, birth and mothering is full of do and don’t advice, something that preys on the vulnerability of women at such a pivotal time in life. Self Love teaches you to honour and trust your Self and to convey the personal authority that your choices are worthy of respect.

It’s so powerful to know you have an Internal Guidance System; that you have access to inner resources that will always lead you to the right choices.

The very first step is Self Love. It is the one practice that will transform your life.

Are you ready to begin?


Self Love Action Step…

Let’s start with an INTENTION.

For extra power, do this standing in front of a mirror looking deep into your own eyes. If that feels a little strange right now, skip this bit and just speak your intention out loud. You can always come back to doing it in front of a mirror later when you feel more comfortable.

Put one hand over your heart and the other over your lower belly. This connects your Heart with your Womb, a connection in Traditional Chinese Medicine known as Bao Mai that connects a woman’s creative centre with her heart’s desire (the secret to manifestation).

Take a few deep breaths to centre yourself and when you are ready say out loud,

‘I choose to commit to deepening my connection to my Self and to my unconditional Self Love. I deeply and completely love and approve of myself.’

Take a deep breath. Let it go…

Smile into your body and allow that smile to drop down into your heart and to your lower belly. 

Before you finish, take a moment to feel a sense of gratitude for your Self. 

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Post Partum Restorative Chicken Broth

One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it is rich in practical self help practices that have been handed down for centuries because they are grounded in common sense. One of my favourite of these is the practice of prescribing Chicken Broth to women in the post partum period, which is what I want to share with you here.

According to TCM, the process of labor and birth strongly depletes a woman’s Qi (energy) and Blood; birth involves tremendous physical, mental and emotional effort and after birth women are considered to be relatively ’empty’.  This is even more so for women who have had caesarean section or post partum haemorrhage.

It is this Qi and Blood emptiness that leaves women vulnerable to post partum disorders such as low milk supply, post natal depression, insomnia, exhaustion and mastitis. According to TCM, the key focus for women in the post partum should be to replenish what is lost.  Aside from emphasising the importance of plentiful bed rest for at least one month after birth, TCM Diet Therapy recommends Chicken Broth as a powerful way to nourish Qi and Blood reserves.

I’ve been making Chicken Broth according to the following recipe for well over a decade and it is one of the most nurturing and nourishing health practices I know. There is a nutritive quality to the broth that feels so restorative and life enhancing. It is good medicine and your body will thank you for the foresight of freezing a few batches in the later stages of pregnancy.

vegetables for soup

Vegetables for Soup Stock

Delivering a new mama with a big pot of Chicken Soup made from the following broth is one of the most thoughtful post natal gestures I know (right up there with with Post Natal Sitz Bath herbs).


Post Partum Restorative Chicken Broth

The first 3 ingredients are key but the rest of the recipe can be modified according to your own tastes and preferences and what you have available in the fridge or garden.

Organic Free-Range Chicken*

3-4 slices fresh ginger*

splash of Apple Cider Vinegar*

Next add…

6 spring onions, green tips included

1 leek

2 stalks celery

1-2 carrots

3 bay leaves

1tblspn black peppercorns

Then add…

Fresh herbs: choose from any or all of the following

1 large sprig rosemary

Half a bunch of parsley

1 large sprig sage

2 large sprigs of thyme 

Finally add…

½ tspn sea salt 

Directions

Rinse chicken and place in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover (about 3-4 litres). Add fresh ginger and a splash of vinegar. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer. Roughly chop vegetables and add to the pot with bay leaf and peppercorn. You can also add a whole onion, unpeeled (but some find onion disagrees with baby’s digestion). Simmer for a minimum of 3 hours, at least 6 hours is best. Add fresh herbs in the final 30 minutes of cooking time.

Finally, add salt. Do not add salt earlier as it will prevent proper extraction of nutrients.

Allow stock to cool and then strain through a sieve.  The broth can be drunk as is as a daily bowl of goodness, or can be used as the stock to make Chicken Soup. It is not necessary to skim the fat and this adds to flavour. You can pick the flesh off the chicken and use for soup, or for sandwiches, or add to pies or risotto.  The broth can be added to stews, risottos and congee etc, and can be frozen for convenience.

The vinegar helps pull minerals from the bones. Much of the benefits of the broth are to be gained by slow cooking the chicken for at least 6 hours so that the minerals and nutrients are extracted from the bone level. In TCM this is considered the level of the Essence, or Jing, which corresponds to the deepest levels of our life force.  Because of this it is important to choose an organic chicken.


Chicken Broth is powerful medicine and a wonderful source of nutrition when the body is run down or recovering from illness. I’ve found it can be a blessing for women suffering from severe morning sickness who are unable to tolerate most food but are able to drink the nutritive broth.  It is also an excellent food choice for digestive weakness and auto immune disorders. Severely Blood deficient vegetarians will benefit from the occasional Chicken Broth with the understanding that food is medicine. For all women, the Blood nourishing properties of Chicken Broth are beneficial not just post partum but as a regular tonic at the end of menstruation.

For post partum medicine, traditionally Chinese herbs that nourish Qi and Blood are added to the cooking process, in particular  the herb Dang Gui Angelica sinensis which has a well deserved reputation as a herb for women’s health. Most Asian supermarkets will have these kind of soup stock herbs, or you can contact a Chinese Herbalist for better quality herbs.

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Chinese Herbs for Soup Stock

If you would like to add extra potency to your broth, I have available for purchase (complete with recipes) the Post Partum Restorative Blend to nourish Yin and Blood. Contact me for more information.

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Why your Mind could be your most powerful birth tool

How often do you catch yourself thinking or saying that you want to try for a natural birth, but then quickly add you know you have to accept what comes?

Or you would love to go into spontaneous labour but some part of you fears that won’t happen so you are afraid to set your Heart on it?

I collect birth stories. One of my clients told me the story of her second birth. She was in labour and had been for most of the day. The baby was posterior so she was experiencing a lot of back pain and had a lot of fear come up due to trauma to the perineum after her first birth. She recalls she got to a point that she decided she didn’t want to go any further. AND SHE STOPPED THE LABOUR. For the next 2-3 days she spent rocking, humming, chanting and visualizing until she knew the baby had shifted position and she had worked through her fears. THEN SHE LET LABOUR START AGAIN. She went on to have what she described as ‘the most beautiful birth possible’.

affirmationAllThat I Need

You may find it challenging to visualize your ideal birth because of the assumption (belief) that birth is a bodily function beyond your control, ‘it will happen when, where and how it happens and there is nothing I can do about that.’ There is a perceived unpredictability about birth that generates Fear, ‘I’m not in control of what happens to me and my body’. This kind of thinking shifts you into a sense of powerlessness.

It is important to distinguish the difference between feeling powerless regarding your body and birth and surrendering control because you trust your body and the birth process.

We know via the hormone adrenaline a woman’s body can completely stop labour until she has found someplace safe to birth. We know a woman’s body responds positively to the hormone oxytocin by initiating and promoting birth. We also know that our thoughts and emotions have the ability to trigger the hormonal production of adrenaline or oxytocin. Fearful and stressful thoughts produce adrenaline: its energetic effect is contraction and constriction.  Loving and trusting thoughts produce oxytocin: its energetic effect is opening and expansion. Seen in this way, Fear is the natural counterpart to expansion. Moving through Fear is how you grow.

Is it not possible to imagine that you have so much more power and control over your birthing body then you currently believe?

Your body is YOU: every cell, every muscle and every fiber; every nerve impulse and every hormonal exchange. A piece of your consciousness lives in every cell of your being: this is the Mind-Body connection. Learning how to focus your thoughts and use your breath to connect with your body teaches you: you are never powerless. Although it might not be your usual habit to experience this connection, pregnancy offers much incentive to deepen your body awareness.

Want to know more?

Contact me if you would like help creating trust and confidence in your birthing body.

Or click here if you would like to know more about Breathe | Believe | Birth with Ease: using the power of your mind and breathing techniques to birth with calm and ease.


Pink lotusAbout the author…
Peta Elmer is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and Doula with a passion for promoting trust and respect for the wisdom of women’s bodies. She helps women learn to work with their body’s natural rhythms for maximum health, vitality, fertility, creativity and feminine power. She has a deep calling to birth work and her special mission is the message birth is meant to be a pleasurable and ecstatic experience. She believes a holistic Mind Body Spirit approach is key to preparing for the unfamiliar opening sensations of birth.