10 Centimeters

Exploring the Sacred Art of Giving Birth

Written by Julie Norris | Photos by Cristy Nielsen

Exploring the Sacred Art of Giving Birth

Photo By Cristy Nielsen

Ten centimeters — the golden labor measurement. Being informed and believing in your body’s natural ability are the first steps toward exploring the many approaches that offer a kind and gentle experience into motherhood. Documentaries such as Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born and the almost unbelievable Orgasmic Birth have left many women questioning the status quo and pressing for more information on the nature of giving birth. We’re lucky to live in an area with a full spectrum of well-established care options and an advocacy community for some of the lesser-known alternatives. Here’s a local guide to empower you to choose the best path to get you to your 10 centimeters.

[Read the full article in the Spring 2010  Edition of PLAYGROUND Magazine. Found around town as well.]

‘Motherhood Politics’ Hijacked Healthcare Debate | RHRealityCheck.org

‘Motherhood Politics’ Hijacked Healthcare Debate | RHRealityCheck.org

I was just thinking this: “I don’t think it’s a “who” but a how many of us are willing to say this. Motherhood is sacred. How many of us are willing to get out and say this is not at all about abortion. This is about whether we’re going to be mothers. For men to understand this all of us need to join in on it. Too much of the rhetoric is about abortion and not enough about women and our roles in this country. And we better get off of it or we’re not going to have a country left.”

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Midwife Kelli Johnson

photo by Cristy Nielsen

photo by Cristy Nielsen

I just got home from my six week follow up appointment with my midwife, whom I now count amongst my sisters, Kelli Johnson. She looked radiant from her recent trip to Peru and it was nice catching up. As I sat there I realized I’ve been missing her – we met weekly leading up to the pregnancy and she came by several times after Maya was born, once with two dozen beautiful roses for us. I didn’t want to leave the familiarity of her daybed and got my first taste of sadness since birthing my baby girl as I realized I wouldn’t get to visit with her on a regular basis anymore. Total bummer.

photo by Cristy Nielsen

photo by Cristy Nielsen

I have no idea if other midwives structure their services the way Kelli does, but I am so grateful for her experience in taking care of mama’s to be – the love, respect and faith she had in me and for me was a huge contributing factor to my sense of security, empowerment and, ultimately, my magnificent birth experience. I’ve joked that she didn’t even get her hands wet during the actual delivery – she did one better and let me catch my own baby knowing everything was going splendidly – but her role as midwife was not solely about catching the baby. She was my guide throughout pregnancy, during the birth, in the intense weeks postpartum and most likely in various ways in the months and years to come.

Kelli took meticulous care of the medical aspects of the process and her scientific explanations were very detailed yet understandable whenever I had a question. By the time the birth came around, I had full trust in her ability to get Maya safely into this world even if complications arose, as she would know when to transfer me if need be. This was an essential aspect of care that was firmly in place, but it’s the other care, the one to my spirit and emotions that nourished and empowered me so that I could enter my birthing time with no fear.

One thing that she emphasized early and often, was the sacredness of the birthing & bonding time. You can see from the love on her face in these photos that she is a born baby greeter – she was able to maintain a sense of calm, peace and radiated love throughout my labor and afterwards, even though she had been awake for 36 hours or more!

photo by Cristy Nielsen

photo by Cristy Nielsen

Through her practice, I’ve also joined a community of families all linked by Kelli’s capable hands, and I get to join them this month at her annual Baby-Q held at her house, dubbed the Johnson manor. I am so glad for this, as on the drive home I was already thinking of excuses to return back to her cozy home office. I need to get everything ordered – financial stability, find a loving man & get hitched, breathe more room in my career – all in preparation for another baby so I can get back to Kelli’s care!

So it begins…

Last Tuesday I got my first confirmation that my birth journey has officially begun. My midwife declared me 1-2 cm dilated and noted the baby was riding low, good indications I would deliver sooner rather than later. I could walk around for a couple of weeks like this, or bust into active labor at any moment.

Instead of nervous, I feel excitement welling within, and I’ve been hustling between naps to finish all the things on my to-do list. Which has happily dwindled down to the bonus section of “would-be-nice” but “not required.”

Now that I’ve arrived at the last bit of pregnancy, I’ve officially declared it a huge success & have been reflecting on what a complaint free condition this has been. I deeply believe this has everything to do with the modest but monumental practices of care that I have assimilated into my pregnancy routine.

Here are the key aspects to my pregnancy routine that have contributed to a smooth pregnancy:

Practices That Made It Easy

Midwifery Care – Each appointment is a full hour, where I can build a trusting relationship with my midwife, Kelli Johnson. She answers my questions & allows me to share my feelings without judgment while performing all the necessary medical tests & procedures. I can call her anytime of the day or night & she’s part of a large network of families that recycle their baby gear, so I’ve come home with several boxes of baby clothing from her.

Reiki – Reiki is a technique for stress reduction & relaxation that also promotes healing. I made sure to get this energy treatment weekly to help clear my body of imbalances physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually which enabled me to handle my fluctuating hormones, connect with my baby, sit more comfortably in my body and work through life’s everyday stress with ease & grace. Private sessions with Amber Melendy at Shine On Yoga

Network Spinal Analysis – Gentle spinal adjustments combined with unique breathing techniques to reconnect me with parts of my body that shift throughout pregnancy. My pelvis and lower back loved me after each session. As Dr. D’Anna always says, you have to “Find it to fix it!” This weekly treatment prevented the aches and pains that most pregnant ladies complain about.

Hypno Birthing Meditations – When my older sister had her last child, I was blessed to be her birthing partner and took a series of classes with her on Hypno-Birthing. Then I witnessed her painless “labor” where she went within and focused so intently, it looked like she was sleeping while her cervix dilated to 10cm. It was impressive & empowering. My friend Sune handed down her Hypnobabies Home Course, which I have been listening to practically every night before bed. There are classes you can take in town – check the Central Florida Birth Network for info.

In these sessions, I am taught to surround myself with only positive people and messages, to create a positive view of childbirth and the expectation that my birthing with be a beautiful, peaceful experience. There are sessions dedicated to eliminating fear, labor’s worst enemy. Fear and anxiety can create adrenaline production in the body, causing labor to become dysfunctional, a common reason for Cesarean Section surgery.

Essentials I Couldn’t Go Without

Organic Healthy Food – Thank goddess I own Dandelion Communitea Cafe. I am able to eat delicious organic food, homemade with love by people who care for me anytime of the day or night. Since I run the place, I know the ingredients all meet my high standards and are SO good for me & my baby.

Community – An expectant mother needs additional support to lift things up around the house and listen when you start to feel a little blue. As a single mom, I had to patiently navigate some of the heavy lifting aspects, but my community of sisters & brothers really pulled through for me, helping me move, mow my lawn, cook me food, keep me company & support me endlessly, all while telling me how beautiful I am the whole time. Good people!

Coconut – Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for my body (no stretch marks!), coconut water to keep me hydrated & energized (no leg cramps!) and organic coconut milk to keep me in healthy fats.

Painless ChildbirthThis book & accompanying workbook guided me through my pregnancy, and helped me work through issues that needed healing from childhood and personal relationships. My number one recommended reading!

Pregnancy Vitamin Tea – grown, harvested & prepared by my midwife Kelli Johnson, along with a variety of homemade and amazing herbal remedies.

Audubon Park Community Market – My weekly ritual for the week’s essentials: a fresh batch of local eggs from happy hens, a locally grown vegan meal from the ROOTS booth, fresh squeezed juice, some of Ginger’s salsa and garden veggies. It’s also a time to catch up with friends while a local musician croons in the background and people monitor the progress of my growing belly.

By learning and practicing hypnosis, you are able to enter into self-hypnosis instantly, and create your own natural anesthesia whenever and wherever you need it. This is important as any drugs taken by a laboring woman can be dangerous for her, and especially her baby. Using Hypnobabies, you are in control over your body and emotions, and are an active participant in your birth process. You are always aware of everything around you, and as labor progresses, you’ll go deeper inside yourself, trusting in your body’s natural ability to give birth with ease and comfort. Your mind is trained and programmed to give you exactly what you need as you give birth to your baby.

Too good to be true?


Can women give birth without experiencing pain? They can, and there are many variables in labor and birth that can affect the outcome! Couples need to have a positive but realistic view of hypnosis for childbirth. Each pregnant woman and her partner must take responsibility for the choices they make while in labor and how they can affect the dynamics and outcome. Many a wonderful birth has been thwarted by not realizing how to make positive, informed choices and yet these issues are easily addressed and learned in a good consumer oriented childbirth hypnosis class such as Hypnobabies.

Without a doubt, all of our Hypno-Moms are much calmer and more relaxed during labor, which automatically creates more comfort, as well as having *powerful* post-hypnotic suggestions to actually eliminate pain and fear. How effective is this? Statistics vary depending on the goals of each Hypnobabies mother, as well as the dedication and compliance to the program. Our Hypnobabies Instructors all have backgrounds in both hypnotherapy and childbirth education and are able to address each woman’s personal needs to help her achieve her goals for childbirth.

Statistics: The following are statistics for Hypnobabies only: (our very successful 6 week course, 18 total hours of instruction)

1) Pain-free births – 70-75%.

Women who report that they felt mostly pressure, tightening or mild cramping sensations.

2) Pain-free until transition – 15%.

Pressure only, until the 10-60 minute transitional period, with mild to intense degrees of sensation thereafter. “Very manageable.”

3) Pain-free until active labor – 10%,

with mild to intense degrees of sensation thereafter This group can have any number of things that affect their birth experiences; prodromal labor, posterior or asynclitic presentations that do not resolve, other labor complications, emotional issues, lack of support, or they simply did not do their homework! (45 minutes a day) Hypnosis for childbirth won’t help a mother or a couple that is not willing to do the work involved in preparing for their baby’s birth.

All women reported that the Relaxation and Fear Clearing in Hypnobabies were invaluable to them during their labors.

Benefits of using hypnosis for childbirth:


* Fewer drugs or no drugs at all – less risk of side effects on mother and baby.


* Shorter labors – resistance of the birthing muscles as a response to pain is minimized or eliminated.


* An awake, energized mother, due to total relaxation throughout the birthing process.


* A calm, peaceful birthing environment. A comfortable natural birthing also allows for a joyful, rested mother and a calm baby post-partum.


* Breech and posterior babies can be turned using hypnosis.


* Fewer interventions and complications during labor.


* Babies who are better sleepers and nursers due to fewer drugs in their systems.

It is well worth the time to look into hypnosis for childbirth as an option, both for yourself and for your baby. Natural Childbirth without intense discomfort has many benefits to mom and baby, and the deep relaxation has even helped many a nervous dad to enjoy pregnancy and childbirth, since they experience hypnosis in Hypnobabies class as well! In addition, the skills you will learn for relaxation and hypnosis will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Hypnosis Instructor, Childbirth Educator, Hypno-Doula and Founder/Director of Hypnobabies Network in Cypress, CA.

She teaches Hypnobabies Childbirth classes, Hypnobabies Instructor Training Courses, Hypno-Doula Workshops, Pregnancy Nutrition and Breastfeeding workshops, Birth Hypnosis Specialty Courses and gives seminars in her community on natural pregnancy and childbirth options.

Kerry also created the Hypnobabies Home Study Course for women who need self-study options for hypnotic childbirth, and is the author of Hypnobabies, Eyes Open Childbirth Hypnosis, The Introduction to Childbirth Hypnosis Workbook for Professionals, and The Hypno-Doula Training Workbook.

The foremost expert in Hypnosis for Childbirth, she is also the “Ask the Doula” Expert on www.Pregnancy.Org and an international conference speaker and lecturer.

Kerry can be reached at: (714) 952-BABY (2229).

Website: www.Hypnobabies.com

E-mail: Info@Hypnobabies.com

Placenta Benefits – The Care and Keeping of Placentas

The placenta is not generally a topic of discussion during the course of a pregnancy, unless it is not doing its job properly or is not in the best position for safe birthing. If the placenta is functioning as it should, little thought or consideration is given to it.

The placenta is a key player in the generation of new life. Each one is as individual and unique as the baby itself. Every baby needs a strong, healthy placenta in order to have the best chance at surviving the pregnancy and birth. Considering the important role the placenta plays, it is surprising that it remains a mystery to the vast majority of people. In a discussion with one first-time mother, she expressed her confusion at the fact that she did not feel the baby pulling on her belly when it moved around in her uterus; she thought the umbilical cord was connected to the back of her belly button. Most expectant parents don’t know what a placenta even looks like. Some women don’t realize that they actually need to birth the placenta the same way that they birth their baby.

via Placenta Benefits.info – The Care and Keeping of Placentas.

Central Florida Birth Network Podcast

As some of you know, one of my side projects is a nifty radio program called Front Porch Radio, airing locally on WPRK 91.5 FM. We’ve just posted the second interview in the Holistic Birthing Series, which covers a broad range of topics.

Birth Professionals Michelle Isla & Maggie McCarthy discuss birth options for normal & natural births such as doula support, hypnobirthing and lactation consulting as representatives of the Central Florida Birth Network. Listen online here.

The first interview in the series with my own midwife, Kelli Johnson, can be heard here.

On Birth Control

I just read an article about the NuvaRing in Mother Jones and was disturbed, but not shocked at the fact that such untested technology is causing harm (even death) to the ladies out there. A lot of information about contraceptives makes them look harmless & when recommended by your trusted OB/GYN, most women don’t question the effects these contraceptives will have on them.

Not to get too personal here, but I gave up the Pill, hmmm, like 7 or 8 years ago now after years of having different pills wreak havoc with my hormones. Each pill I tried had some unfortunate side affect like losing interest in sex altogether or turning me into an emotional basketcase 24-7. It wasn’t until I stopped using the pill accidentally for a spell (I ran out and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor for new ones) that I realized it wasn’t me, it was the side effects of the pill. My boyfriend at the time strongly agreed pill-free-me was much preferred, as his quality of life and mine improved dramatically.

Since then, I’ve learned enough about chemical companies (ie: prescription drug manufacturers) to be leary of taking anything they are dishing out, as their main motive seems to be profit, not wellness. I avoid synthetic clothing, so I certainly want to avoid synthetic “medicine” – especially when I’ve learned to trust my body to make it’s own medicine and discovered the healing powers of herbs and food.

By coming into rythym through proper nutrition and a healthier lifestyle, my out-of-whack cycles regulated themselves and I learned to look for signs of fertility the natural way and used an old fashioned diaphragm (and pull out method) & non-spermicidal condoms (anything that ends in -cide does not belong near my or my partners root chakra) for years with quiet a bit of success. Of course, given my pregger state, I’m not exactly a poster child for birth control (above methods only work if used, after all) but using better judgment in general probably would not have put me in the single mother category either. Right.

While every choice we make is a personal one, I find that all too often women don’t have an opportunity to make an informed choice, since our society is so pill happy. I’d like to see women take more personal responsibility for their bodies instead of outsourcing it to a mystery pill or device like the deadly NuvaRing. We unknowingly give up our personalities and open ourselves to risk when we take what the doctor gives us without fulling understanding the affects, the most important, in my view, being out of touch with ourselves. If we are so disconnected from our own cycle, how are we suppose to know how to connect to other people, nature and the divine?

For more info on fertility, check out Garden of Fertility