Reflections: Pregnancy, Labor, and the Value of Calm Birth

We love to hear from our teachers as their Calm Birth journey unfolds. Amy Lee Czadzeck, a bodyworker in Upstate New York, shared with us about her own experience of pregnancy and birth, and how Calm Birth may have been a welcome tool. Her deep insights into each practice will surely guide her clients to use these meditations for the long run! We're so pleased to have Amy in our community.

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The Future Is Now: We Have an App!

Birth-givers, rejoice!: We have an app!

It’s been percolating for years, but we finally had all the tools to create this in 2017—the same year as this program’s 20th birthday.

A lot has changed since Calm Birth’s own birth. Technology has grown exponentially, and these days, most of us have supercomputers living in our pockets! Building a platform for people to access from their phones has taken our program into the modern age—Calm Birth has officially been millennialized!

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Looking Back on Hana Leigh

Just after a winter sunrise in 2001, Clee gave birth to Hannah Leigh using the Calm Birth method. Sixteen years later, she reflects: "I look back on it as a really serene experience... I think it had a really big impact on me, and on her."

Read the original story here, and enjoy Clee's powerful story!

Teacher Feature: Melissa Gutierrez Nelson

Calm Birth is founded on an amazing community of caring, kind, motivated teachers. This month, we want to shine our spotlight on Melissa Gutierrez Nelson, a doula and yoga instructor based in Minneapolis. Melissa was recently featured on the toRaise Questions Doula Podcast for her work with Everyday Miracles, a nonprofit that provides holistic prenatal services for women in her community.  

We are so proud of and thankful to Melissa for her dedication and compassion. Read on to lean more about her!

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From the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama...

Recently, I wrote a letter I'd been meaning to send for quite some time. Although Calm Birth is based on ancient and modern practices, I've been achingly curious about what His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who thinks more about meditation than anyone on the planet, might have to say about the application of meditation to the prenatal period.

I drafted a letter, expressing my gratitude for the Dalai Lama's tireless work and influence on the planet, and I told him about the Calm Birth program. I concluded by asking what types of practices he might recommend for pregnancy and childbirth.

Much to my delight, I received a response from his religious interpreter within the week! Without any further ado, here is the letter:

Dear Anna

Thank you for your letter addressed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with an introduction to your Calm Birth and asking for some prenatal meditations. We appreciate your compassionate work in helping pregnant women within whom begins the human life on Earth! As His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very busy and is not able to attend to all the letters and requests received at this Office, I beg you to bear with me. I have been asked to respond to your questions.

Please do keep up with your good work for humanity, particularly involving nurturing our babies, the future seeds of humanity.

Your work definitely aligns His Holiness' vision for a better world, better tomorrow for our younger generations and the future generations, as he often says, "The first teacher of love and affection in our life is our beloved mothers before we ever heard anything about these values from our spiritual teachers!" Over the last numerous years, in accordance with some credible scientific findings, His Holiness has been urging the need for women taking more active role in building a compassionate world owing to your more acute sensitivity to others' pain and suffering compared to the male species of human beings. His Holiness also states his view that if we have more women leaders of the nations around the world probably there would be less warfare, fighting and conflict amongst the different countries, regions, or communities because of the propensityto empathy and affection, though some women may be exception!

As you are aware, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's message to the world, to everyone of us, is that we must take to heart, with the sense of oneness of all humans on Earth, how to nurture compassionate human beings right from the beginning, which is what you are doing, for a peaceful and happy future of the world and humans in it. Such an upbringing of our children, the seeds of our future, could produce generations who would shoulder the responsibility for our human society as a whole, not only one's tribes and race, etc., by working constructively and for the whole world holistically, including our ecology in which humanity survives and thrives.

In a nutshell, the key message of His Holiness for all of us is the cultivation and development of compassion which he believes is the fundamental teeming ground for care-giving and kindness to others--including our external environment with which we in inextricably bound--with the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. This message echoes in almost all of His Holiness' public talks, spiritual discourses and religious teachings these days everywhere he travels.

Therefore, though you already have a number of meditations for your clients and their babies, the driving intention for all of them should be genuine universal love and compassion embracing entire living being who are same as us in cherishing joy and happiness and wanting to avoid any problem, pain and suffering. Within this motive the mothers-to-be should care for their precious little babies inside them and focus on in and out breathe to relax their mind; once their emotionally calm and settled they could use tong-len meditation using their breath as the vehicle for sending their untainted love and compassion to the baby and taking any ill-health or harm of their babies onto the mothers themselves.

So, I would suggest you to design simple and practical meditation exercises for your project. I hope you could include those meditations which help promote the overall well-being of the mothers-to-be and their unborn children, which are practical, and suit them. If you could train them to maintain their clarity and luminosity nature of their mind without having to exert much physical pressure, I would think it would also help the baby's physical and mental well-being. So, any meditation that can boost the overall well-being, physical and mental (emotional/psychological/spiritual) of both the pregnant woman and her child would be advisable.

Thank you for your kind attention and I hope this makes sense to you as a professional. The details of what/how to use the meditation techniques on the ground, you would know better.

Please feel assured of His Holiness' prayers and blessings for your good health and success and all-round prosperity.
With warm regards,
Tsepag
Religious Interpreter to H. H. the Dalai Lama


I was so happy to read this: not only does H. H. the Dalai Lama support prenatal meditation, he also expresses the possibility of cultivating compassion from within the womb. By using the third practice on our audioguide, Giving and Receiving, perhaps this benefit will be received. The words of this letter resonate profoundly with our own teachings in the Calm Birth method, and it is refreshing and wonderful to know that we are all on the same team of bringing babies to this planet in more empowered ways.

Thanks to H. H. the Dalai Lama and his religious interpreter for this thoughtful letter, and may we all birth in a better way.

Dearest Doula

Like most of our Calm Birth instructors, Anna Humphreys, our co-director, is multi-faceted in the birth world. Anna has been a doula since 2012, and she was recently interviewed for the Dearest Doula podcast

Anna's interview with the lovely Nathalie Saenz focused primarily on Calm Birth's history, practices, and benefits for pregnant partners, womb-babies, and birth workers. "Calm Birth has helped me tremendously as a doula and a human being," Anna says, "And I hope that I can help other people find their inner calm with meditation!"

This 40-minute podcast is perfect for a car ride or a mellow time at home. Listen here and enjoy!

dearestdoula


Introduction from a Gem

The new edition of the Calm Birth book is slated for publication in June, and we couldn't be happier! As a special treat, here is a sneak preview: Sandra Bardsley, the president of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, wrote this shining introduction. Sandra, thanks for all that you do-- we love you!

 

The writings of Grantly Dick Reed and Fredrick LeBoyer were very familiar to me when I was pregnant and delivering my own children.  My births were easy and fast.  Unfortunately, fairly soon after those deliveries and early in my nursing career, I saw the influence of their the natural childbirth pioneers’ teachings diminish as the medicalization of birth became more predominant in our culture.  Women seemed to loose their innate power and internal focus.  Fear became prevalent in obstetrics.


Dissatisfied, I left hospital OB nursing and went on to study traditional midwifery.   Then, following a challenging automobile accident resulting in severe head and spinal chord injuries, my carreer path once again changed.  I needed to shift the focus of my work.  I wanted to stay in the area of obstetrical management and so I decided to become a childbirth educator with Lamaze International.  I also became educated as a lactation consultant and a doula trainer.  Each of these paths gave me opportunities to observe my clients’ responses to pregnancy, labor, birth, and early parenting.  I noted that women and their support persons were thrilled with the safe births of their babiesy, but many women later admitted to me that they were somehow dissatisfied and depressed.  I also noted that the family/partner bond was often weakened.   Both the woman and her partner were not learning how to maintain their power during times of stress.


I began searching for ways to help my clients.  I saw that the majority of childbirth classes of the time focused primarily on physical and intellectual preparation (what to eat, which exercises, what to read, who to see for your care, and how avoid pain using medication and interventions, etc.).  The main focus in childbirth education seemed to be that of helping women move away from awareness and the feelings that were going on in their body.  True, efforts were being made to include the partner in birth preparation, but the increasing use of medical technology at birth was adding confusion for them.  I could find no techniques for exploring feelings during pregnancy or methods to connect and develop a partnership with the unborn baby.  Very few emotional or relationship awareness techniques were available for childbirth preparation.  I continued to search and experiment with teaching methods that would focus more on these two areas.


One thing I began to notice among my students was that the more often a mother focused on her unborn baby during the pregnancy, the more secure and confident she became in herself.  I continued to study ways to tap into and magnify that awareness.  I observed the natural desire of the mother to tune into her unborn baby to meet his or her, needs.  I also observed that not only was the mother striving to protect the baby, but somehow tuning into the baby was helping the mother be more relaxed and calm.  I found this fascinating and wanted to learn more.


After the book “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child” by Thomas Verny, MD, was published, I became aware that the the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH)  Pre and Perinatal Psychology Association of North America (PPPANA) was being organized.  I became fascinated with what I read concerning this work.  I joined the group studying and learning about the consciousness of the unborn baby.  The name of the organization was later changed to the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH).  This organization continues to study this field of science in support of the unborn and newborn human being and society.


Following over 30+ years of research by APPPAH, science is now able to confirm for us that the baby is a conscious, sentient being, right from conception.  We know that the baby is holding primal, spiritual awareness from conception throughout the pregnancy as his or her body is forming in the womb.  Developing a true partnership with her unborn child becomes a great asset to the Mmother, because she taps into her own innate connection with spirit inherent wisdom as she connects with the baby's spirit.  In his book “Childbirth Meditation”, Robert expresses it beautifully when he statesAs Robert Bruce Newman beautifully states in this book, “When a pregnant woman turns her attention to what is innate in her, she touches upon her primal awareness, a deep basis for bonding with her wombchild.  She knows that the profound awareness nature of her child and her own primal awareness nature are one.”


As a result of my own growing awareness of the conscious baby, I incorporated more relaxation training into my classes.  That was helpful, but superficial—there was a missing element of deep spiritual connection with the wombchild.  During the 1990's, I had another wonderful breakthrough in my search for more ways to teach emotional and relationship awareness.  I met Robert Newman and learned about Calm Birth meditation practice.  I took teacher training classes with Robert and began to practice the methods of Calm Birth meditation with the Mmother's and their partners who were coming to my business, Co-Creations for Joyful Births.childbirth classes.


This life on earth is full of anxiety and stresses, big and small.  How one reacts to the stresses of life is largely dependeant on being able to shift one’s attention from the perceived outer havoc and chatter of one’s mind, to inner peace. (from mind to awareness).  – sifting from mind to awareness. I immediately noted that in teaching Calm Birth meditation to pregnant women, they were able to renew their inner strength and handle stress throughout pregnancy, labor, birth, and early parenting.  I also noticed that, no matter what medical interventions or stresses may have occurred for the baby during labor and birth, the babies themselvesy appeared to be more calm and less stressed as well.  The MotherBaby mother-baby dyad and family partnership appeared strongly bonded with Calm Birth meditation.


Calm Birth meditation became a two way communication of great value.   In preparation for the possible stress of labor and birth, the Mmother breathes into her center and focuses on her unborn baby.  This connecting with primal awareness strengthens and calms her.  At the same time, she is inadvertently teaching her developing baby how to also prepare for and handle possible stresses of birth and mortality.  Through Calm Birth meditation the baby becomes stronger and prepared psychologically for earth life, while the mother is also strenghthenedstrengthened and relieved of stress as she reconnects with her own primal, spiritual awareness.  Following the birth, lactation (breast-feeding) offers another opportunity for both the Mmother and Bbaby to reconnect with their innate awareness and primordial wisdom, thus helping both to keep intact their primal connection to spirit through centering and relaxation.  


I grew to love Calm Birth meditation and noted its great value for both Mmother, Bbaby, and the partner.  I love how it works on a quantum physics/energy level as well as meditation science to access energies that are invisible, but very much present.  I love how it draws the woman into her own experience and power, instead of using hypnotic techniques to move away from herself and her own power.  Indeed, the MotherBaby ismother and baby form a unified dyad and I see the Calm Birth/Calm Mother meditation practices producing a firm foundation for greater health and stability for both Mother and Babyboth. I saw it build a stronger bond between partners, thus ensuring the baby a safer family unit in which to grow. 


I truly hope you will enjoy reading this book and learning the practice of Calm Birth and Mothering Meditation.  I have seen it repeatedly bring stability and healing to mother, baby and partner.  May you find much joy and many blessings as you learn the Calm Birth method and develop a partnership with your unborn child for healthy pregnancy, labor, and early parenting. May these blessings continue into every breath of life.


Sandra Bardsley, RN, LCCE, FACCE, CM

President, Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health    

APPPAH World Congress 2015

            The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH) is a hotbed for childbirth professionals, therapists, researchers, and anyone who is actively working to bring awareness of the conscious prenate and baby into the modern medical paradigm. Since nearly its inception, Calm Birth has been supported by APPPAH’s constituents, and for good reason: this method offers a simple and intuitive way to support parent-infant bonding well before birth! The bi-annual APPPAH congress always provides a vibrant touchstone to strengthen existing connections and spark new friendships.

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Literature Review: “Prenatal Meditation Influences Infant Behaviors”

The first study, to my knowledge, of the effect of prenatal meditation’s effect on the behavior of the infant was released last year by an obstetrician in Hong Kong. This experiment recruited 64 pregnant Chinese women to learn meditation, with 59 women in a non-meditating control group. The meditation practices included mindfulness, compassionate meditation, mindful breathing, and progressive relaxation, which are also, fittingly enough, techniques that we implement in Calm Birth®.

Maternal salivary cortisol levels and mental-well-being were assessed periodically throughout the pregnancy and after delivery. As expected, salivary cortisol was lower in the meditation group. This measurement is fairly common in studies concerned with prenatal stress. What Dr. Chan did that sets this study apart from the others was to take a measurement of cortisol from the cord blood after delivery and compare the meditation group’s cortisol levels to the control group. He found that the cord blood cortisol levels of babies from the meditation group were higher than those in the control. While this may seem counterintuitive, a higher level of cortisol is actually beneficial in this case: it means that the babies were well prepared for the natural stress of birth, which prepares them to be alert upon entering the world. A more balanced endocrine system, which develops in a less stressful environment, enables an individual to have more appropriate stress responses, instead of a consistently elevated level of cortisol.

At five months, infant temperament was assessed using the Carey Infant Temperament Questionnaire. Statistically significant findings indicated that infants of the meditation group had more positive responses to new stimuli and “better temperament.”

The findings are clearly in support of prenatal meditation having a positive effect on the mother and offspring. This study is exciting, and hopefully will be the first of many. A plethora of research has indicated the negative effects of maternal stress on the child, but now scientists are beginning to explore the nonpharmacological interventions to counteract stress and prepare women to birth and live in a more balanced way.

Calm Birth has long been supported by scientific evidence, but studies like this reaffirm the importance of meditation in childbirth. The age of empowered birth is here, and we are happy to help usher it in.

If you want to know more about Dr. Chan’s study, you can read the full text at this link:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638314000733

Reference: Chan, K.P. (2014). Prenatal meditation influences infant behaviors. Infant Behavior and Development: 37(4), 556-561.