I’ve had such a fantastic time while training doulas in Austria! I’m now at the Midwifery Today Conference in Germany, another inspiring and amazing time!
I’ve had such a fantastic time while training doulas in Austria! I’m now at the Midwifery Today Conference in Germany, another inspiring and amazing time!
“Thanks for sharing. I’ve not been comfortable to ask my students about sexual abuse. It’s really the wording that I need to work on and also how to go about helping the couples to heal their trauma before their birth.” – Yen Kong
Penny Simkin joined Debra for the Orgasmic Birth Virtual Conference to discuss “From Trauma to Triumph, Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on the Childbearing Woman” In the video excerpt below, Penny explains how to broach the subject of sexual abuse with expectant mothers. Co-founder of DONA International, Penny Simkin, PT, is a physical therapist who has specialized in childbirth education and labor support since 1968. She has assisted hundreds of women or couples through childbirth as a doula. To view the full discussion and full conference, please visit http://www.orgasmicbirth.com/orgasmic-birth-virtual-conference/
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This birth story is submitted by Milena Dyankova who shared her personal birth story with us after organizing a screening of Orgasmic Birth in Bulgaria in 2014.
My Birth Journey – to the Bathroom and Back
About a month before my due date I could finally take the long expected leave and finally focus on birth preparation. After a few extremely busy months I wanted to do yoga and other exercises to get tuned to and fit for birth as much as I could for the short period I had. Since this was my second birth I thought I had the knowledge I needed from my previous experience (what I call a mainstream hospital birth). And here I was the second night on my leave browsing through the Internet to find exercises I would like when I came across the idea of gentle birth. From one click to another a whole new world opened to me. I could not go to sleep until the early morning hours soaking information and stories on the idea of out-of-hospital birth. And it clicked with me. Strongly.
My mind brought memories from six years earlier when I had read a story about a homebirth in the Eastern European country we were living in that had stunned me with the beauty, the calmness, the strength I had felt from the woman’s words. Now I was reading similar stories that had only recently taken place in my native Bulgaria. That gave me great courage – I thought if people in Bulgaria that was lagging behind on many areas were already doing it so could I.
The next thing I needed was to equip myself with the right reliable sources of knowledge and support. I didn’t need tons of information; I just needed something reliable and inspiring. And my research led me to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, a book by Ina May Gaskin and Orgasmic Birth, a film by Debra Pascali-Bonaro. Ina May’s Guide gave to my husband and me a good understanding of birth physiology and the factors that inhibit or stimulate it. It convinced me that my body was perfectly capable of doing what it needed to birth a baby without artificial stimuli (no induction, thank you very much). The Orgasmic Birth film was truly transformative – not only labor and birth were a natural event but it was not meant to be an ordeal, something to put up with to have your baby. On the contrary I saw they were an important journey that could take a woman to a high, even give pleasure, and most of all give her a chance to experience her own power. So I “planned” for an orgasmic birth.
To me it was very important labor to begin when the baby was ready. My first baby was born after induction when two weeks past due date (defined without consideration for the length of my cycle and the conception date that I still remember to this day) I was no longer able to stand up to grandparents’ pressure. And even though I realized how lucky my baby and I had been to have had those two weeks, I was very sensitive to the topic, and it seemed to me the last couple of weeks everyone was calling to ask when I was going to give birth. The daily visits to the doctor’s office were the most troubling. My husband and I had decided we would keep the arrangement with the doctor who was very favorable to women’s active role in labor and birth. Yet, as due date passed he insisted on daily fetal monitoring as this was the protocol. Five days past due date he wanted us to do the monitoring at the hospital and I agreed to a vaginal check. It was rough.
In the late afternoon my palms started to itch and in the evening the mucus plug fell. I thought the reason was the harsh check and felt upset with the doctor for intervening, yet I decided to let this feeling go and enjoy the evening. Around midnight I woke up with quite intolerable itching on the palms and soles that was feeling better by touching cold surface. I found relief placing my hands and feet on different spots of a leather armchair and soon drifted off. In the morning the itching was gone. It was a weird phenomenon that I had not experienced before and I could not find any reasonable explanation.
It was Saturday. The day passed leisurely yet the cold weather prevented us from a much desired walk to refresh my mind so late afternoon we went shopping for the guests we were expecting the following day. Throughout the evening the memory of the previous night was recurring and I appreciated the itching gone so I could get a good sleep. Or so I thought…
At 1:30 AM I woke up with a feeling I had only taken a light nap as I remembered moving my palms and feet looking for a cold place on the bed linen in my sleep. I felt the itching pretty strong so I headed for the leather armchair to find the cure from the previous night. My husband also got up and went to arrange something in the bathroom but I urged him to go back to sleep as he had also stayed awake the night before.
This time the coldness of the leather did not bring the same effect. I also started to feel menstrual cramps and I became quite restless in the armchair. Soon it dawned on me – the time had come. I knew I had hours ahead and it was better to rest and gather energy so I went back to bed. Yet, pretty soon I found myself up again trying to find comfort on the birth ball. It didn’t work either. The bath tub seemed quite alluring at that point and with desperate hope to finally find my place I woke up my husband and asked him to fill it up. As he took to fulfilling my request I sensed the peace of mind one feels when the imminent and long expected is finally happening. Joy was there, too, as I was finally having the baby when he was ready to come. It was March 8th, Mothers’ Day in Bulgaria.
The contractions became more frequent and stronger. I immersed in the water and my whole body relaxed as I sensed this was my place, my zone. Suddenly the light was too much and I asked my husband to dim it. He took a seat next to the tub and held my hand. Every now and then he was handing me a bottle with water. I started to drift away in my own world, my own dimension. I was aware of all that was happening to and around me, yet I was in my own distant space where I could surrender to the sensations and enjoy the deep gratitude for actually experiencing labor in its pure power.
When contractions came my body changed its posture and arched, and I was diving somewhere deep while some strong alt sounds were emerging from within my womb. Later my husband called them moose mooing. The sensations were very strong and although my work with the Sedona Method had clearly shown me that ‘pain’ was only a label we attach to a group of sensations, it was difficult to deal with the ones I was experiencing. I tried the welcoming and allowing techniques that had done a great job for me many times, yet I could not keep my focus on anything. I was riding strong waves and the mental efforts somehow made the pain tougher. Contractions were becoming more and more intense and doubt crept into me “Oh, my Goodness, am I able to do this?”
Around 2:30 AM our daughter appeared in the bathroom, sat down next to the tub and started asking questions. I made an effort to respond, yet speaking was beyond my power. My answer was concise and I left it to her father to explain. However speech was disturbing and soon I asked for quiet. She stayed for a while, then went back to bed.
My husband was providing great support. Every now and then he would hand me over the water bottle reminding me to drink. I would take a couple of sips motivated by discipline rather than thirst. Soon I felt and urge to throw up. As if strictly following “the rules” my body started to cleanse itself. Although I was still in the tub with the original water, I was not feeling cold. After a few efforts my stomach was empty of its content and the urge to throw up disappeared as suddenly as it came.
Some time later I felt my face muscles contracting making my lips form an “O” and I realized this had accompanied orgasms sometimes. A slight regret crept in my mind, and then I smiled. As much as it was possible. Even though I was not having the orgasmic birth in the way I had envisaged it, my body was producing a similar reaction.
Each contraction was making my body arch and bringing some mooing sounds from deep inside. The pauses were short. I felt compelled to get out of the bathtub so I went out, put on a shirt and found my place of comfort on the toilet. My husband sat down on a small chair in front of me and held my hands. That was of great help as if him holding tightly my hands gave me additional strength. I felt his presence so comforting and solid, exactly what I needed to keep my focus on my job knowing there is someone there for me to take care of everything else.
Contractions intensified further and I started having bowel movements – apparently my body needed to cleanse some more. I was looking forward to the “rest and be thankful” phase so that I could take a little break, contractions were becoming stronger and stronger straining my whole body. And while I was thinking I’d finally found a way to ride the waves they started to grow into something different. The end of each contraction turned into a burning sensation that I could bear only screaming. The screams were tearing from my throat and I was thinking about the neighbors (we were living in a 6-storey building and the bathrooms underneath and above us had windows to a common space). Our daughter was sleeping in a distant room and the noise would not reach her. I was screaming at the end of the contractions squeezing my husband’s hands. He kept reminding me to drink yet I was already oblivious to the world around me.
“These are pushes,” a lightning thought cut through my mind. But there was supposed to be a break. “Where is my break?” I grunted in my mind in a miniscule pause between contractions. A few minutes later an impulse made me get up from the toilet and take all-fours position on the bathroom floor. While kneeling down my water broke. My husband asked what was going on and I responded that was it. I felt tired already. Pushes were becoming stronger and stronger and I screamed at the peak. I needed to push myself. The next one I joined and I felt the head moving down. My body seemed to have been stretched to the limit like a fully-bloated balloon.
I reached down to feel for the head yet it seemed my arm was not long enough. My husband realized birth was imminent and prepared himself. The head was slowly making its way downward. Energy surged all over me. Then the little body turned slowly and gently inside without any effort on my side, just like we had seen it on YouTube. I was strongly aware of the sliding inside, I felt as if electricity was going through me – my senses were acutely open and all perceptions came very powerful. Just a few seconds later the little body slipped out right into daddy’s palms. I turned around and sat down to embrace our baby who had been conceived with love and came to this world in an intimate environment where his dad and I were a team, one whole. My husband and I looked into each other’s eyes and I could see the same incredible happiness I felt. When I cuddled the little body the bathroom filled up with love as if coming from an invisible hidden spring. The incredible feeling of my own power and the grand power of Nature were going hand in hand with deep satisfaction. I was in awe with the wonders of Nature that had manifested through my body and I realized there was nothing I could not do. I had women’s power and strength.
In this blog Debra writes about the town of Agerola, located on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, where her family lives and where she guides a summer retreat.
Agerola is a town at the very top of the Amalfi coast, on top of the world. Views of the Tyrrhenian Sea – the Gulf of Salerno below and the whole Amalfi coast add to the views of this picturesque village. From our Hotel Le Rocce the views are stunning. Enjoy coffee, tea or a drinks on the terrace overlooking the Amalfi coast. Our morning workshops will nurture your spirit and passion for life and birth, a lunch that will tantalize your tastes. You will be ready to explore the riches of the region each afternoon and evening.
Agerola offers a glimpse into the culture, tastes and traditions of Italy that are often lost in the cities and escape the average tourist. Here life is rich with the smells, taste, sounds, views and traditions of life. The village announced each babies birth with fireworks, even number of blasts are for a girls and odd numbers signals a boy.
Festivals of Life Each month brings it festivals, March 8th – International Woman’s Day is a day when all the women in Agerola are celebrated. Women are given Mimosa flowers and taken out to dinner, as the men celebrate the women in their village, together they remember the many women who live in much more challenging situations. Easter brings the whole village out for a procession between the fractions\hamlets of the village. May, the month for the Holy Mother, begins with a village pilgrimage of 20 km to the chapel in Pompeii where Holy Mary’s many healings and miracles there have been celebrated for centuries. June 29th Festival of St. Piedro, July 2 is Madona delle Grazie. Early August brings the festival of “Fior Di Latte” to celebrate their special cheese and Agerolese products. The night of San Lorenzo, August 10th, is the night of the shooting stars, a magical midsummer night when all dreams come true. Looking at the stars from atop of the world, in Agerola they say the stars come down from the sky, and here you can really feel you can touch them. September 12th – Madonna del Rosario celebration, Mary of all Saints, October bring the chestnut festival. Other local celebrations abound all year long many dedicated to the Patron Saints of each region of the town.
Art is everywhere From the historic art, churches and old palace with art from Mussolini, as well as pottery makers who create the typical Italian pottery of the region, couples with views that are art to our eyes – your will be intoxicated with beauty at every turn. We will visit the Ceramiche Silvestri, a family owned pottery shop where they have been making and painting the traditional pottery of the region in the Vietri tradition for generations. You can purchase items or have them made for you, personalized with your family’s name on tiles, serving bowls and more.
Agerola da Gustare – A taste of Agerola If you are not feeling the culture of Italy yet, the local foods, the best in Italy will surely transcend you to another time and place. Agerola supplies the entire coastal area with many of it specialties. It is famous for their fior-di-latte – mozzarella cheese, made fresh every morning from the special Agerolese cows that are found grazing on the mountainside. If you are willing to wake early one morning we will visit a local cheese maker related to our family where you can help make the mozzarella and fresh ricotta cheese. In addition to their great cheeses Agerola is also famous for their salami Di Agerola, Provolone Cheese Del monaco – spicy cheese and Crisp Agerolse bread, traditional rye bread with its many nutritional benefits. We will visit a local bakery Integralpane di Armando Naclerio where you can watch the local breads and Terrari being made. In the evening you may enjoy the Nocino di Agerola, chestnut liquor, Limoncello, -lemon liquor, great local wine, in addition to all the breads, pasta, and fresh vegetables and fruits Hotel Le Rocce will ensure that you explore all the tastes of the region.
The Hidden Mystery If you have not felt completely transcended to another time, this special recent discovery, known only to the locals, will add to your sense of mystery. A fresco of the Last Supper was discovered after an earthquake loosened the plaster on the ceiling of a 12th century church. Was it done first here or after by a student or Leonardo Da Vinci? Whatever the answer, with no long lines and reservations needed as in Milan, you can walk in and wonder for yourself where this treasure came from and the story it tells.
The Paths of the Fairy’s and the God’s There are many walk that have been carved out of the mountains, an incredible set of stairs that have been hand made over the centuries- that has been come to be know as the Sentiero degli Dei – The Path the of Gods, taking you from Agerola to Positano, where the views of the sea below are seen as you wind through vineyards, gardens and villages as you descend to Positano.
The walk of the Valle delle Ferriere – the Valley of the Fairy’s is 10 km from Agerola to Amalfi, with views spectacular views, and with diverse micro climates that bring you from dense forest with chestnut groves, mountains, ferns, wild flowers, the smell of jasmine, roses, and herbs, a rain forest with waterfalls, old Roman ruins of mills and finally the lemon groves that descend into Amalfi. In one day, you feel like you have visited 3 – 4 totally different locations. The smells and sounds of birds, animals, waterfalls, sea below, as the wind, sun and water caress your skin, bring your senses to life as you walk on narrow paths and ledges and imagine a life of long ago when these were active merchant paths of trade. The spring water you will drink and bottle along the way is said to bring you dreams of another time.
If you are still yearning for more, there are 12 more paths to explore in and around Agerola, a hikers paradise and one of the Best-Kept Secrets of Italy or I think the world.
We will walk one or two of these hikes together based on the weather.
In addition to the pleasures of Agerola, we will visit the quaint beach town of Amalfi, the musical town of Ravello walking thru the Villa Cimbrone Gardens, and the often photographed town of Positano with all its shops, cafes and restaurants.
We will tour the scenic Amalifi coast by boat, visiting the Grotto Esmeralda, the Emerald Grotto, swimming in a small cove and visiting the island of Capri. Boating on the Mediterranean sea’s clear blue -green waters, looking back at the Amalfi coast is an adventure worth adding on to top off a week of nurturing, while re-inspiring your passion and connection to nature, birth and life.
Learn more how you join Debra and her family in Agerola, and special guests for a week of visioning , movement, and celebration in an Italian Paradise.
The basis of this article is founded on the information I gathered after interviewing 14 dads about their experience of being a birth partner and father. I went looking for answers that would have helped other fathers and me make a more smooth transition into fatherhood, because, let’s face it – it’s not necessarily an easy enterprise. Most of us dads are doing the best we have with the information we’ve found, which is no different than the fathers that came before us. If we can be intentional about our role, then, perhaps, it is possible to enhance the sound advice gleaned from the generation before. Perhaps, also, it is possible to break the unsustainable practices handed down to us and transform our actions as men that understand the needs of our children and ourselves.
So, without further adieu, I present to you 5 ways of being a great dad.
1. Emulate Other Great Fathers
Finding a dad that inspires you and replicating what you find most intriguing and wonderful is key to being a great dad. Many of the dads I interviewed spoke about other dads that inspired them. For one dad, he described a dad he knew that would write letters with his son to statesmen, artists, athletes, scientists, and visionaries. In these letters they would ask about advice and philosophies on life, so the son had this treasure trove of letters from great people. Another dad I interviewed described a man he knew that became a dad in his 50s and who was hands-on and patient. This vision of fatherhood inspired the dad I interviewed to be hands-on and patient with his own child.
2. Read and Study
Reading books and studying the material of fatherhood seemed to be another key factor for the dads I interviewed. These dads applied what they learned from reading to being analytical and making informed decisions. The dads also attributed various painful experiences in becoming a father to not having read enough material on the subject. I suspect that having a wealth of knowledge to draw from isn’t just about knowing the specific things to do in every moment; it’s more about developing a confidence that you can know what you need to know when you need to know it. Almost every father I interviewed mentioned that they had wished they had read and studied more about childbirth and becoming a father. It seemed that they wish they new what other dads had learned.
3. Find Your Own Satisfaction
I read a research paper on marital satisfaction and childbirth, and the findings were that marital satisfaction plummets after the first child is born. I was curious about this finding and wanted to know more, which is partly why I did the dad interviews. Perhaps I could help ease my own situation and those of others. If marital satisfaction goes down for everyone, then why would any of us have kids? I suspect that marital satisfaction does go down for many husbands and partners after their first child is born, yet I think there is more to the story than that. I believe that family satisfaction, something that didn’t necessarily exist until the first child is born, becomes a new factor in a man’s life. Finding ways to have satisfaction in the role of being a father and part of a young family seems to be the antidote for the strain that building a family can have on a relationship.
4. Welcome Your Intuition
Most dads I interviewed recognized that there was a knowledge inside of them about parenting that they never knew they had. It seemed to me, also, that many of these dads wished that they had trusted their intuition more or had been more active in growing their awareness of that intuition. One father described a growing awareness that we are full people no matter what age, and so he treated his kids with the respect of fully functioning humans that just happened to be small.
5. Have Flexible Expectations
It is hard to say what the experience of being a father will be like, because the process is so different for every man. For the most part, though, becoming a father means that responsibilities shift and grow. Most of the dads I interviewed mentioned that their focus on themselves diminished as they focused on the needs of their new baby. One dad explained that he had wanted to tell expectant fathers that their whole lives will change and that nothing they have now will remain the same after the baby is born. I relate to his sentiment, and perhaps many fathers reading this article will relate, as well.
What could people have told us that would have helped us be better prepared? If they had told us that life would change completely, then what would we have done differently? I think we might have changed our expectations. Perhaps we want to think that having a kid won’t change us. We think, “I won’t be like those poor suckers out there who have to disrupt their whole lives just because a child is born. Pshaw! I’m stronger than that! I mean, c’mon! How hard can it be?!”
Yet, having a kid changes everything. Everything. The more intentional we can be in deciding what kind of dads we are, the more chances we have in being the dads we’ve always needed.
Joe Valley is a psychotherapist, marketer, designer, and also creator of Empowered Papa, a resource for supporting dads in pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and beyond. He works with birth professionals to help them better understand and connect with dads. Contact Joe for more information about how you can help support dads’ role in birth: email@example.com.
And if you’re feeling especially creative, contact Joe for help designing your website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nurturing Beginnings: Guide to Postpartum Home Care for Doulas and Outreach Workers, Written by Debra Pascali-Bonaro, CD (DONA), LCCE, and Jane Arnold, CNM, MSN, with Marcia Ringel, takes you through the new mother’s journey and into your own as you explore what it means to be “in service of a postpartum woman and her family.” Nurturing Beginnings was one of the first comprehensive postpartum training manuals and is on the DONA Reading List for Post Partum Doulas.
Nurturing Beginnings contains 12 modules:
1.) The role of the doula
2.) Home visiting
3.) Providing care with caution:
Protecting health and safety in the home and car
4.) Honoring postpartum women and teaching self-care
5.) Easing postpartum adjustment
6.) Appreciating your client’s cultural diversity
7.) Supporting the breastfeeding mother
8.) Newborn basics: Appearance, behavior, and care
9.) Offering support to partners and siblings
10.) Unexpected outcomes: Caring for the family at a time of loss
11.) Nurturing yourself
12.) Pursuing professional development and building your practice
A revised e-version of Nurturing Beginnings will be available for order mid-November- we will no longer be carrying the hard copy. If you’d like to receive announcements about this updated, electronic version of Nurturing Beginnings please sign up here.