#MeToo Pregnancy and How We Break the Cycle

In The Guardian’s article “‘I felt I Was Being Punished for Pushing Back’: Pregnancy and #MeToo,” we learn about the author’s journey through her high risk pregnancy. I have much respect for this author for exposing this story. Still – her stereotypes about midwives are shared with the public at large and are part of the #metoo pregnancy problem. I bring this up because down in the 24th paragraph is the part of the solution that has to do with midwives, but it is considered a flawed solution because it can’t help all women (ie high risk) and some women just want the epidural. We are ignorant to the fact that hospital-based midwives can attend some high-risk women and attend any epidural births, and that countries where midwives lead the obstetric teams have the healthiest, safest and most satisfying outcomes. To combat #metoo birth, we need to see how much power we are giving to a patriarchical medical model that still considers women’s bodies as somehow “other.” We (all sexes) are stuck in the thinking that woman-centric care somehow must not be safe, or too grannyish, or too bold, or unscientific. As long as we are bought into our fears about the unmediated birth movement on a deeper level than the “emergency around every corner” birth movement, this raw, intelligent, deeply thoughtful article will persist as truth. I fully acknowledge midwives aren’t the answer for every situation, just as doctors are not – the world is too filled with complexity to be able to control every variable. Yet the allopathic model is way too often selling us the Titanic, and I’m very weary of anyone trying to sell me an unsinkable ship. I admire the author’s courage to ultimately advocate for herself, and her deep insights about how we are subjugated in typical pregnancies.

The 5 “Ws” of sharing your birth story

Have you ever shared more than you meant to?

I know I have been there… When it happens about our births it can feel even trickier, particularly if feelings of loss of control are associated with the birth, if you’re now losing control over the story. If you can entertain the following questions, you’ll be more prepared over the next few times it comes up.

WHAT to share:
Not that you need my permission, but it is totally appropriate to just say, “Our family is in a whole new universe right now, we are adjusting!!” I remember when my mother passed away 17 years ago, it took me a few tries to realize that if someone said, “I”m sorry,” I could just say, “thank you.” I didn’t have to say, “it’s ok.” I didn’t owe them anything while they were offering of themselves to me. You can thank them and move on.
On the other hand, did you want to share? You might be really in the moment, and it comes natural to share your story. You might even feel like the belle of the ball and like all the attention! Many women create 1 min, 5 min, and hour-long versions of their stories.You could make it as formal as writing a birth story. Another cool and EASY option is record yourself while sharing your birth story with a dear friend on your phone’s Voice Memo so you have it as a memento. Or it can be as informal as making a quick mental note of a few parts of the story that you are proud of, and possibly one part that was hard that you can frame in a way that is useful for both yourself AND the person receiving it.
The trick is to give some thought to what feels honest and true to you that positions yourself in the most positive light.
If anything happened that you’re not happy about, it’s not your fault. Even if you were warned but couldn’t hear that warning as clearly then as you recognize it now. If there’s anything broken in the modern maternity care system, that is on the system, not on you. We are all doing the best we can with the information, resources, and skill we have in the moment.
Whoever you are speaking with, you could consider telling them in advance “I just want to share (without feedback)” vs. “I’d like feedback about x, y, and z.” Let people know what you’re looking for.

WHO to share it with:
Short answer is, no one has a right to your story, any more than you are obligated to answer a phone just because it is ringing. I actually felt prompted to write this post because I recently needed a doctor, and his wife happened to be 40 weeks pregnant #doulalife. At a follow-up visit, he shared some of the “nitty gritty” in a way that felt like he thought I expected details.
A friendly birthworker you met doesn’t deserve details just because you know they knows about birth and might be more curious about details. You don’t owe your story to: mothers, pregnant people, your doctor cousin, the person who takes yoga with you, the lady at the corner store, an “inquisitive” person keeping score on everyone at the office, or a mom trying to figure out who ranks where in the birth olympics. What about BFF? No, also no. I really don’t come across too much of this, but it doesn’t hurt to give it thought. Do any of these archetypes make you think of someone you’ll want to prepare for before you see them?
And how to deal with people who DO ask and pressure? Ideas:
“Too busy to chat about it right now!” or “Not ready yet. Just no. :-/” or
“Honestly it was great/fine, it just feels really personal! Amiright????!?”
Also a quick note about confidentiality – is this your story to share? If you did not give birth to that baby, quick check with that person for some input on what you share. Mindful on social media, do not post “I’m gonna be an uncle any minute!” – Please don’t announce someone else’s birth! Not to your community, school, whatever…
You also might want to think about who you DO want to talk to and actively seek that opportunity. You could also email me for names of birth counselors.

When to Share:
Any time you want. You may just want to refer to the thought points above before telling anyone. You may even choose not to look at photos of your birth for a few days (or as long as you want) so the memories in your head stay most vivid (although majority of my clients report that the photos helped them see the birth in a more positive light). You also may still have feelings years later. The right person even years later can shift your memories and emotions around birth profoundly.

Where?
Cafe? Living room? Phone? Any other ideas? It’s all fine. Except I personally don’t prefer episiotomy conversations over the thanksgiving dinner. Call me prudish.

And Why?
Oh… WHY. it’s everything!!!! Women rate their births as the most memorable events of their lives. That’s MY big why for being a doula. I help women have births that feels more like a happy event than a procedure. And it’s age old sport for women across the millennia. It’s cathartic. It can help you plan for the future if you’re ready to think about that too.

Women may need to share their story and if they chose to share with you, please listen and tell her how strong and ok she was and is. OR just listen and say, “that’s hard” The “all that matters…” speech is the birth world’s version of “what weather we are having!!” in the elevator. It’s trite in addition to being hurtful. She knows more than anyone what matters most is a healthy baby… she may ALSO just need to hear you say, “that sounds hard, I’m sorry.” Or “WOW, you sound like a rock star!!!!”

PS – I had beautiful transformative births. We need to hear positive birth stories to get more of ’em as a society. And what’s my secret?? 😉
Schedule a complimentary consultation to find out.
Sending you love and inspired visioning about what your birth means in the grand scheme of your life.
The birth had to be huge. It was your passage to parenthood. Like rocks become sand on the beach, your body and life shifts and changes to make space for baby. Blessings for your recovery and may you embrace all to come.

Habits

This week I noticed some of the little things I do without thinking about them. I grab the girls’ towels from their hooks without noticing. I probably picked up ten other things along the way that I didn’t notice I picked up. I turned off the overhead lights and flipped on soothing dim evening lights around the apartment without noticing.
Later I went into the bathroom to reach for something… Without thinking, I pulled down a roll of toilet paper! Any time I reach into that corner of the bathroom it is usually for TP, and that’s what I automatically reached for.
And why was I psyched? Because I realized that most of my mama habits were not there my whole life. If they can take root this completely, some without my even trying, than the new habits I WANT to create, and I’m willing to put my effort into, certainly can stick.
Have you ever thought hard habits are super easy to grow, but good habits take a lot of work? Well I’m here to tell you that statement is a habit of the mind, in and of itself. You CAN tell yourself a new story about your life and your tendencies, and they won’t change overnight, but I promise you things shift. Meditating and writing intentions each morning comes as naturally to me as tweezing eyebrows each morning before coffee was for a friend (true story!), and I promise you I haven’t been doing these things my whole life (or even my whole yogi doula life).
This year has been a challenging one for my family. Trust me I can relate to how easy it is to shrink from the responsibilities that don’t pull at your shirt sleeve (and even some that do). I opened to support (doulas believe in such things), and admitted vulnerably how much I want to put myself back out there in a big way rather than run on passive income and autopilot.
New good habits creep in that you don’t give yourself credit for because you they won’t look so shiny or polished for another few years still. When you’re so focused on forcing one habit, you might neglect to notice (or even suppress) another great one that is percolating. And let’s not forget the old habits we don’t even give ourselves credit for (hoping you washed those hands when you left the bathroom?!?)
They say it takes 40 days to form a new habit… that has always impressed me. That’s not so long! And only as I finish writing this do I notice that it corresponds to my 40th birthday this year – I can make it the start of even 40 years of habitual trust.
I’m not even gonna even get started about how this applies to birth and baby care… (I’ll save for another post!). But I will say so much of knowledge is about reconnecting with deep truths (sometimes with a caring guide) that you already had inside yourself.

What habits have you created without even trying feel automatic to you since becoming a parent?

UPTOWN Holistic Newborn Care Mar 31

YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. YOU CAN FEEL PREPARED AND DELIBERATE IN YOUR ACTIONS

In this workshop you will learn the basics of newborn care and a few techniques to find your own voice as a parent. Topics covered include babywearing, feeding, bathing, sleep, diapering, bonding, soothing, and some holistic practices to consider for fever or other illness. You will also receive practical readings and websites which serve as a reference as your baby grows. Expectant families, grandparents, birthworkers and seasoned parents alike will take away something new in this holistic class.

Julia Mannes, LCCE, CD(DONA), CLC, RYT, MOM is a birth and postpartum doula, Lamaze trained, multidisciplinary childbirth educator, Lactation Counselor, yoga instructor, and pragmatist who will help you on both ethereal and concrete matters.

Thursday, March 31 – 6:15 – 9:15 pm
UWS location given upon registration
$115/couple
reductions always available for those with demonstrable need
Contact malkayoga@gmail.com with any questions

SUBMIT PAYMENT HERE – you will receive all registrant info via email

See you there!

New Mother’s Support Group

New Mother Support Group
Six Wednesdays beginning May 11, 12:30-1:45 pm
212 W 93rd Street- Congregation Shaare Zedek
For new parents and their babies under 6 months
All mothers and those self-identified a bit differently on this spectrum are welcome and honored

”You might not meet your new best friend at this group… but you really might! Either way it will be fun, and a relief to have people to share your new parenting experience with in real time.”

You don’t have to do this alone.
Topics include: baby care, self-care, sleep, baby feeding, work considerations, birth processing, extended family, relationship changes, and more. In this unique, in-depth series you will also dabble in infant massage, babywearing education, parent baby yoga, recipe exchanges, and basic new parent operations. You will receive generous support and information from the facilitator, Julia Mannes, Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula, Lactation Counselor, and Yoga instructor, and Shaare Zedek’s “rebbetzin.”

[REGISTER HERE – 50% discount Shaare Zedek member]

TOP TEN TIPS NEW PARENTS

#10 use night lights (or dimmers) – one in your room with the baby, one in bathroom keeping low light in the middle of the night helps everyone get back to sleep

#9 hang your “to do” list in a visible spot for guests

#8 use slip-on shoes to help get out of the house in the beginning

#7 pat DRY your baby’s bottom with a washcloth between diaper changes, moisture can create diaper rash

#6 use ordinary household items instead of buying all things marketed to new parents

#5 the “5 S’s” for calming your infant – http://www.babyslumber.com/ happiestbaby.html (although lay off the swaddling during breastfeeding!)

#4 go to bed early!! 7 or 8 pm people, not regular early, unbelievably early

#3 hold/wear your baby close and hardly let them cry (at least not on purpose)
give them what they need, and they will make your life easier

#2 breastfeed on cue, which is short and frequent feeds – Here’s a whole other “tipsy” post to help you with breastfeeding.

#1 HIRE A DOULA! an easier birth leads to an easier postpartum

adapted from Doula Juliaʼs “tips/stuff for new parents”
email malkayoga@gmail.com for full recommendations
email or call for birth or postpartum support – 917.216.1991

Uptown New Mothers and Working Mothers Support Groups (STARTING THIS WEEK!)

All moms are hard-working moms… and moms still need to connect and discuss parenting even when the babies get a little bigger.

We’ve got groups for the new moms at home, and for the mamas who work outside the home!

[REGISTER FOR EITHER GROUP HERE]

-$150 total/either group (50% discount Romemu members)
-mothers are welcome to choose either group if it feels it will suit their needs best, regardless of baby age
-facilitated by Julia Mannes, Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula, Lactation Counselor, and Yoga instructor.
CONTACT malkayoga@gmail.com with any questions

all details below!

ROMEMU’S AFTERNOON NEW MOTHER’S SUPPORT GROUP
Have a great destination for you and your baby this winter! Topics include: baby and family care, sleep, baby feeding, work considerations, birth processing, hormones and emotions, relationship changes, and more. In this unique, in-depth series you will also dabble in some infant massage, parent baby yoga, babywearing, recipe exchanges, and basic mama operations. You will also receive helpful birth and postpartum preparation materials, and have generous support from the facilitator.
Find your tribe. ALL types of families welcome.
[REGISTER] Six consecutive Wednesdays Starting Feb 11, 11:30-1 pm, for babies approx 0-6 months

ROMEMU’S EVENING WORKING MOTHER’S SUPPORT GROUP is designed for moms who are looking to connect with other women going through similar balancing acts of work, home, family, and self-care. We will focus on topics such as sleep, partner relations, pumping, parenting strategies, childcare, introduction of solid foods, and whatever manifests in the moment. You will receive similar resources to the afternoon group regarding babywearing, breastfeeding, infant massage, etc, but these will not be the focus of our condensed sessions.
[REGISTER] Six non-consecutive Tuesdays (over 3 months):
Feb 10, Feb 24, March 10, March 24, April 14, May 5, 5:30-6:30 pm

FALL NEW MOTHER’S SUPPORT GROUP (UWS/Harlem)

REGISTER HERE

ROMEMU’S NEW MOTHER’S SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Julia Mannes, Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula, Lactation Counselor, and Yoga instructor.

Connect with local mothers, get some tips and ideas, and have a great destination for you and your baby this fall! Topics include: baby and family care, sleep, baby feeding, work considerations, birth processing, hormones and emotions, relationship changes, and more. In this unique, in-depth series you will also dabble in some infant massage, parent baby yoga, babywearing, recipe exchanges, and basic mama operations. You will also receive helpful birth and postpartum preparation materials, and have generous support from the facilitator.
Find your tribe. ALL types of families welcome.

Six Mondays
11 am

starting Oct 6th
$150 (50% discount Romemu members)

Limited space available — REGISTER HERE
and submit paypal to malkayoga@gmail.com

VBAC Preparation Class (UWS/Harlem)

SUBMIT PAYPAL to malkayoga@gmail.com to reserve your space!

Are you planning a vaginal birth after a cesarean and want to feel more confident? Or interested in learning about your options when you eventually become pregnant again?

In this practical class, you will learn:

▪ The benefits and concerns regarding VBAC
▪ What to expect for labor
▪ How to feel more resolved body and mind for a future birth
▪ How to make whole experience and recovery more comfortable in case of repeat cesarean
▪ options for type of care provider and good ones in NYC area
▪ How to increase your chances of a vaginal birth!

Taught by Julia Mannes, Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula, Lactation Counselor, and Yoga instructor; with a special segment about hospital protocols and your legal rights taught by the fabulous Anat Grosfeld, lawyer and doula with expertise in this topic.

Sunday, November 23, 4-7 pm, at private residence
$125/couple

Includes practical reading materials and continued support from class teacher as needed.

Limited space available —SUBMIT PAYPAL to malkayoga@gmail.com to reserve your space!

Returning, again



Hard to remember what it was like with a newborn? Thinking about how you’re going to manage doing the birth and baby thing all over again with another little one tugging on your sleeve? You’re not alone. There is something of amnesia that comes along with having babies, which makes us confident (foolish?) enough to do it again, yet shaky and shocked about how little info we’ve retained. The good news is that it’s a little like riding a bicycle when we are prepared. These days, I’m more focused on getting baby Shula (just over a year now!) a spot on the tire swing with the big kids. But the feelings of figuring it all out again, once I thought I had figured it all out, still feel alive for me too.

Be a well-planned mama bear
First time around I felt much more like a kid and there was a lot of on-the-job learning. Now is a great time to start thinking like your elders and take the longer view. Buy duplicates of your favorite products. (If it flashes in your mind “Do I need this YET?” probably YES, soon! Get it. If it simply flashes, “Do I need this?,” probably NO!). Maybe invest in an electric hot water kettle, rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster oven (things that start the cooking process for you, that you don’t have to watch, and turn themselves off). Pull out a yearly calendar and take 2 minutes to write down everything that jumps out at you as something you will need to manage. Take a little extra time to write yourself calendar reminders to decide about those things 6 weeks in advance. Outfit your stroller with extra hooks. Maybe plan for one extra babysitting shift than you think you need (on the other hand maybe plan to cancel shifts if they interrupt connection time and be flexible). Pack duplicate versions of your diaper bag to use either with a stroller or in a backpack with your carrier. Fly Lady is not for everyone, but she has some helpful downloadables for meal planning, schedule planning, etc. No fear! – if you don’t like writing it all out, you still are already well on your way by keeping ideas for staying on your game in the back of your mind.

The birth will likely be much faster – Early labor for days or weeks? may not be terribly uncomfortable but wondering when (if ever) it’s all gonna go down? the grand finale is usually upon you much sooner than you expect once the big moment does arrive. on the other hand it is helpful to hear that not ALL 2nd time labors are this fast. Many wonder if a doula will be needed again second time around – I can only tell you that my doula 2nd time was priceless!! Part insurance plan, part major emotional support, still useful to help you navigate when to go or alert your birth team and help with physical support. So much focus in your life has shifted to your first child, usually even more than you realize. It is so enjoyable (and practical) to have someone who attends to your needs primarily (to help you “put on your life vest before putting on your child’s,” so to speak). Many doulas will offer a discount to repeat clients, or help you find another in your price range, and will not be insulted at all! Most love repeat clients. So please let your doula know when you are pregnant again so she can talk it through with you. Consider it part of the first service.

You don’t time contractions the same way
(and you may have more questions/contractions the last month of pregnancy!)

You can keep track of contractions, but you’re not waiting for them to be “3 minutes apart or one minute long” the same way – you want to let your doula know when you feel anything at the end of pregnancy, and you want her to know when you feel any kind of consistent feeling that “today might be the day,” and you want her ready to run out the door when you feel one or two “good ones” that really stop you in your tracks. A doula or a good friend will be great to keep perspective when you start overthinking stuff – another listener can remind you how fabulous you are and give you a different point of view if worries arise.

Postpartum contractions are more intense to help the uterus “involute” (aka go back to pre-pregnancy size) – When your uterus is done holding the baby, it goes from the size of a watermelon to the size of a fist astonishingly fast (famous midwife Ina May Gaskin says “if men had a body part that can grow and shrink and do such cool stuff they would talk about it all the time, and so should you ;-)”). But the more times you have been pregnant, the more she needs to work to accomplish this. You may want afterease tincture (must start taking right after the birth for it to work much) or Motrin handy.

You might want your children at or near the birth – and you might want a backup plan!
Generally, the sooner your child can meet the baby after the birth, the more the child understands and has been informed, the less the baby will feel like a stranger invading her territory. Then it’s just about upkeep of goodwill. Only caveat is wait until the visit can be a reasonably ample duration – not a good plan to rush the child in only to send him/her out against their will. Below I have a few favorite resources to prepare an older sibling for a new baby and birth.

Planning a hospital birth?
Links to good homebirth videos for children to watch?

You need some time to process the last birth – Maybe a childbirth refresher class, maybe some birth counseling (email me for recommendations), maybe some journaling or a good friend who can listen to your fears, without quickly going to all-that-matters-is-a-healthy-baby… We desperately need connection in the childbearing years. Join a Facebook, google, yahoo or meetup group to supplement the people you already know. Meditate in the least fussy way available to you (Seasoned meditator but prefer to lay down – do it. New meditators – just sit still with a timer 2-5 minutes and don’t worry about what it’s supposed to look like). Take a few moments to write down what you want this next birth to look like. Shorter? Easier? Talked to kinder? Hold the baby sooner? Google around to find stories that reflect your specific birth preference so you picture how it is possible.

You can also check out some children’s books to help them get prepared… here are 2 for a start:
What Baby Needs
Hello Baby

Take heart!!! The biggest work you do second time around is likely on the front end (thinking, early contracting, more heavily pregnant)…You are growing like the rings inside a tree, year by year. There will be growing pains for all of us. The heart is deep, you are strong, and you are building a family history, with sweet stories for generations to come. With all the commotion, maybe grandparents/helpers focusing on taking big bro/big sis off your hands, all of a sudden YOU again have. A tiny soul. Tiny body. In. Your. Arms. Second baby felt to me like a gift to the mama more than to everyone else. In time she will grow just as fully into her extended family. But I enjoyed having her close to me. Just a few years wiser. Sipping in and nestling baby’s head. Stroking a soft cheek. Kissing curled fingers. With maybe a sigh and just a few minutes to myself.