[A shortened version of this article appeared in Playground Magazine, Fall 2009.]
My Natural Journey
When I discovered I was pregnant, I settled into a blossoming “natural” mama-to-be easily as I have been on a eight year journey of discovery & incremental lifestyle upgrades as part of my quest to live a more connected life – to friends & family, to nature and to myself. I imagine what a challenge pregnancy can be without this foundation securely in place, as learning about toxins and making lifestyle changes can be stressful at an accelerated rate. For your families health, it is important to educate yourself & make incremental improvements at your own pace.
I am dilating as I write this, and it is safe to say that I have officially experienced a complaint free pregnancy, even in the final hour. Is it just luck? Or does it have some connection to what I put into my body, my mind and my environment?
Foundation for Healthy Pregnancy, Ecstatic Birth & Natural Baby
Real Food. A taste for quality led me to the “green” movement. I was literally drawn in by the tantalizing flavors that can only be found in food grown in harmony with our environment. I began to appreciate the vibrance of organic whole foods vs the indifference of processed manufacturing and tapped into a calm energy my new dietary preferences gave me.
In the process, I discovered that what is most nourishing for my body, also appears to balance my emotions and my ability to focus with clarity. Throughout my pregnancy, it has been vital to nourish myself with the best quality organic & healthy food available. The few times I experienced physical & emotional turmoil can be directly linked to times when I neglected this aspect of care.
Real Birth. Having witnessed two homebirths & two hospital births, there was no question that I would birth in the security of my own home using a technique called hypnobirthing, under the care of an experienced midwife. Our society perpetuates so much fear (birth’s worst enemy) around this natural process, treating labor as a disease instead of the sacred & empowering passage that it is. Complications arise in a hospital setting because everything from the position the put you in, to the gadgets they attach for “your safety” disrupt and interfere with the instinctual needs of a birthing woman to move freely, squat (opens your pelvis an inch more than lying on your back), and relax.
Real Stuff. Part of living a natural lifestyle is the old saying: reduce, reuse, recycle. Almost everything in my nursery is a hand-me-down from a friend in my community, which reduces toxins from off-gassing (that chemical “new-store” smell & suspect in SIDS) and lessens demand for new manufacturing. Incidentally, it also provided much needed mommy insight with each exchange.
I’ve made sure to eliminate as much plastic & polyurethane as I can from the nursery, especially anything that will likely end up in babies mouth or off-gas into her lungs, opting for wooden toys and organic cotton rattles with organic bedding an essential. Reduced electronic interference will also help keep our home more peaceful & connected: you don’t need a baby monitor when you practice co-sleeping, or a wipe warmer when you use washcloths and warm water as part of your cloth diapering routine.
Real Community. Being supported by your community (family, friends, co-workers, networks) is an often overlooked but essential part of becoming a parent. People who genuinely care for you, express faith in your ability to birth naturally, and support your choices (even if they wouldn’t necessarily make the same choices) are essential to making you feel safe, secure, nurtured and sure that you will have the help you need when you need it. If you are not part of a community like this, explain your needs to family & friends and seek out mommy groups that resonate with you such as Holistic Mom’s Network.
Real You. Becoming a mother is a transformative experience, a rite of passage that should be treated with reverence and held up as a sacred event in your life. As such, you must prepare yourself by going within to sort through any emotional roadblocks, unresolved issues or family patterns that you do not want to bring with you into your birth or new family unit. I found several tools that were useful, including Painless Childbirth (book & workbook) by Guiditta Tournetta and Birthing From Within (book & workshop).
Making It Easy
Midwifery Care – Each appointment is a full hour, where I can build a trusting relationship with my midwife. 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. Find it: Kelli Johnson at A Mother’s Nature Midwifery, 407-699-7897, http://www.amothersnaturemidwifery.com/
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. Find it: Private sessions with Amber Melendy at Shine On Yoga, 407-601-4394, http://shineonyoga.com
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. Wednesdays, 6-10pm at Stardust Coffee & Video, http://apmarket.wordpress.com/
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. Find it: Simply Well, 407-599-9182, http://besimplywell.com
Yoga – Keep your body toned, your breath moving and stay connected with gentle prenatal yoga classes. You’ll meet other mama’s-to-be, take time for yourself, and there’s that nifty 10 minute nap at the end. My yoga studio also had Crystal Bowl sessions, Vocal Resonance classes, and Alexander Technique instruction. Find it: Shine On Yoga, http://shineonyoga.com
Things I Love
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. Find it: Health Food Store such as Economy Health in Longwood
Pregnancy Vitamin Tea – prepared by my midwife Kelli Johnson, along with a variety of homemade and amazing herbal remedies. I drank this daily throughout my pregnancy, making a gallon at a time & storing in the fridge for ease of use. Find it: Purchase it at Dandelion Communitea Cafe or online at http://www.amothersnaturemidwifery.com/
Labor Ease Tea – I mixed this with the pregnancy vitamin tea above and drank it daily for two weeks leading up to my delivery. Find it: Online at http://anglebabyearthmama.com
Flower Essences – Flower essences correct emotional imbalances, replacing negative emotions with positive ones. I found several that were useful and placed drops in the big batches of tea I made each week so I was getting a constant stream. Find it: Online at http://www.bachflower.com/ or http://www.fesflowers.com/ or http://www.staressence.com/ (they have one called Graceful Passages in their Constellations Collection that sounds awesome) or http://www.plantspirithealing.com/essences.htm
Ways to Make it Special
Pregnancy Portraits – capture the essence of your pregnant self in full glow, a rare and special time that should be preserved for fond memories down the road. Find it: http://cristynielsen.com
Belly Cast – preserve your delightful belly for years to come with a professional belly cast that you can paint yourself as part of honoring your sacred feminine. A great educational tool for the kids, a fond memory for you post-pregnancy. Find it: Tina Santiago http://www.myspace.com/yourbeautifulbody
Blessingway – nothing is more empowering or nuturing than being celebrated by your divine sisters. My own blessingway marked a turnign point in my pregnancy where I emerged as a fearless woman, ready to face my birthing time knowing I was fully loved and supported. I received spirited gifts from each woman and built a birth alter using these sacred presents.