Raven participated in the 31 Days of Doulas last year, with her post The Joy in Finding Your Doula Tribe. She lends more wisdom in today's piece, including practical, easy ideas families can use during a cesarean birth. I know words can build up, and words can hurt, so it is with great pleasure I feature Raven's contribution -- I hope it reaches past your screen and into a place where it can help a family facing a cesarean birth.
What comes to your mind when you think of the term “had a C-section”? Words like “fear” and “disappointment” might come up for you. You might feel a response in your body, some tension or a furrowed brow. As an experiment, let’s change our language a bit. What comes to your mind when you think of the term “birth by Cesarean” or even just “Cesarean birth”? Does that produce a different result? Perhaps it highlights the idea that this is a birth, the making of a family. It might even make room for the birthing woman to be viewed as a more active participant. As a birth worker, I acknowledge the power of words and semantics and have made a conscious effort to change the way I talk about Cesarean births.
The fact of the matter is, Cesarean births happen. Instead of discussing rates and statistics in this post, our focus will be on how we can bring awareness and love into the operating room. The Birthing from Within® model of childbirth preparation places an emphasis on birth as a rite of passage. Through creative exercises, journaling, and class discussions, parents explore their views of birth and the stories they carry about what makes a “good” birth, what our culture teaches about birth, and how they will know what to do when their birthing hours arrive. This thorough examination would be incomplete if we didn’t talk about Cesarean births. We never want you to whisper to your partner, “but I didn’t read this part in the book!” when a Cesarean becomes a part of your birth. Better to have a plan, to have thought things through a bit so that you can rest easier knowing that should a Cesarean become part of your birth, you have something you can bring into that space and ways to maintain your mindfulness mindset.
5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness to a Cesarean Birth
1. Music Have a chat with your provider about the possibility of playing music in the room during a Cesarean birth. They might request that it be kept low so that your birth team can talk and communicate easily during the birth, but think of how lovely it would be to set the tone in the room with music of your choice. This is a concrete way to say, “I am involved. I am choosing to add a bit of warmth and presence to this room where I will meet my little one.”
2. Affirmations Words carry so much power and this doesn’t change with a Cesarean birth. Talk to your birth partner about words you would like to hear during this time so they feel prepared to support you. “I focus on my breathing as I prepare to meet my baby.” “I make loving and mindful choices for me and my baby.” “Each inhale brings peace and each exhale sends love down to my baby.” What would be meaningful to you during that time?
3. Rainbow of Love This is a beautiful concept that I first learned about during my Birthing from Within training. As you lie on the table with a drape between you and your sweet baby, imagine a beautiful rainbow of rich colors, saturated with all of the love you have for your child. Imagine that rainbow reaching from your heart, over the drape, and touching down on your belly, right above your baby. Imagine this rainbow acting as a conduit for all of your love, connection, and good intentions. You and your baby are a team and you can shower them with your love.
4. Eye Contact An operating room can be a busy and distracting place, both for birthing women and their partners. It can be easy for a mother to suddenly feel very alone or removed from what is happening. Talk to your birth partner ahead of time and remind them to maintain eye contact with you when they come in the room. Let that eye contact communicate love, security, and connection. Let them show you that you are seen and heard and that you are still very much birthing this baby.
5. Stay Involved This is another important point for birth partners to remember. When a mother can’t see what is happening with her baby, it can be easy for her to become worried and wonder what might be wrong. When baby is born, it’s time for partners to keep mothers updated. “Oh, he has so much hair!” “They are taking baby to the warmer right now, but I’ll remind them that you want to hold her as soon as possible.” “She has your nose for sure, Sweetheart!” Fill her cup with details about her child and let her know that baby will be with her as soon as possible. Help maintain that connection and let her know that she has not been forgotten and that baby wants to be with her. Take pictures of baby and bring the camera over to show the birthing mother.
The ideas are simple, but they can make such a big difference. What ideas have you come up with as you consider the possibility of a Cesarean birth?
Raven Haymond is a Certified Birth Doula and Advanced Birthing from Within mentor serving the Salt Lake City area. Beyond the birth room and the classroom, Raven finds joy in her family and a good book. You can find her at www.beehivebirthcare.com
I have always loved music. I love when families incorporate music into their birth experiences. In fact, the other day I was at a postpartum visit where Mom and Grandma were asking all sorts of important questions about life with baby, and Dad interjected, seriously: "I have a question..." Long pause. "Should I be playing her country music around the clock now?" I laughed, and answered back with a question of my own, "Do you listen to country music? I wish I would have known that before I agreed to be your doula." They do listen to county music, and their baby's birth happened over the weekend of Stagecoach Festival, an important event in their lives as music lovers. As a Music Therapist and Birth Doula, Kate offers compelling reasons and creative ways to bring music to birth -- I know I can't wait to learn more.
Music is an accessible, adaptable, and valuable tool for comfort during birth because music is a whole-brain- whole body experience. A holistic resource like music can reach the many needs of a family in labor: physical, neurological, spiritual, emotional, social -- even environmental by shaping the birthing space. There are so many reasons music for birth is just.so.awesome! And the music we choose for birth can be really impactful and powerful. As leaders in health care, music therapists have demonstrated how accessible and enriching music can be for improving quality of life, rehabilitation and healing. As a doula and music therapist, I’m entrusted to bring the music to the birth environment and I use it as therapy -- a prompt for change, discovery and self-expression. To be clear, music therapy for birth comes in many forms. I use my voice, my body, and at times various instruments through live musical interactions whenever appropriate. Yet, most often during the labor and delivery stage, music enters the space as pre-recorded playlists. Music is more portable and higher quality than ever before. So every time my phone beeps or buzzes in the middle of the night, I make sure my speaker is charged, my client’s custom birth playlists are downloaded, and that I am ready to help deliver one of my favorite birth bag resources: the music.
So for the birth workers and parents out there who are considering using music as birth support, I’ll share my top three reasons why the music you choose in childbirth matters.
1. Music can support comfort and relaxation during birth to reduce pain perception, optimize hormone release and steady breathing. I was privileged to attend a birth where the mother, so calm and so peaceful, took deep, slow, controlled breaths and did not need to push her baby into this world. Instead, the power of her breathing and the rhythm of her pulsing contractions, very simply, very gently, guided her baby out. Her vocal and guttural instincts were validated through the singer and supported by her beautiful lyrical mantra. The rhythm of the music helped the mother’s body entrain and progress, to open and release her baby gently into this world. Music has been shown to support, entrain and influence many dimensions of childbirth. So if there is music out there that will support this, do you think there is music out there that might work against the birth process, making birth more painful, longer and unsteady? Most likely there is, but this will be different for every person. This is why it’s important that doulas and birthing families recognize how every song you plan to use makes the birthing team feel, move, breathe and think -- tall order and a big responsibly. It is important to know favorites and to know what music typically is not preferred. It’s also important to know the difference between just streaming any “birth” playlist, and using carefully chosen songs to purposefully impact birth.
2. Music supports ANY type of birth. Regardless of what type or style is preferred, music can be incorporated into any birth plan and pairs nicely will ALL childbirth techniques. I collaborate with couples to create the most customized and comfortable playlists for birth no matter what type of birth they have planned. Many of my tips for using music work no matter how families plan to birth; active breathing, passive hypnosis, partner supported, even planned surgical deliveries. Everyone’s birth rhythm is different. This is why the music should reflect the goals for birth and the stage of birth. Feel like movement will make a difference? You’ll need a steady rhythm or a beat. Need to sleep? Try a single instrument or vocal tone to help lull the brain to deep relaxation. Epic contractions? Why not try that romantic soundtrack for support of vocal moaning? As a music therapist, I provide guidance in making the best song choices from preferred and familiar music to shape birth playlists to suit birth plans and personalities while maximizing the therapeutic potential of the music to support birth at home, in hospitals or during cesarean sections. In fact, music in the operating room and a doula by your side can make cesarean births calmer, more memorable and family centered.
3. Music will create unforgettable bonds with baby before and at the time of birth. As a whole brain stimulus, music is a window into great realms of creativity, self-awareness and healing. I’ve witnessed families experience the importance of prenatal sound together in music, making art, moving through the stages of grief and life and love; all initiated by a song. At the moment of birth the music can become part of the baby’s and parents' permanent memory landscape, a neurological imprint if you will. A carefully chosen playlist of songs can help families revisit the memories at any time, rejoicing in the happiness or healing from difficulties that were faced in labor. Along with supporting the biological imperative of bonding after birth, music can also etch the vibrations of your family birth song in your minds and on your heart, forever. Parents are always reporting back to Creative Childbirth Concepts® that they continue to use their custom playlists as they transition into the reality of raising a baby. Together they continue to explore and use their favorite music as a resource for parenting. Parents report music was an integral part to their therapeutic prenatal preparation. Their music playlists were magical in how they connected them as a team, shaped their environment and created lifelong memories as a soundtrack to their birth. The music helped heal their past birth experiences. The music helped them anticipate their fears and anxiety and work through them by supporting imagery and reflection. The music was “theirs” and the music was therapeutic. It CHANGED their births. This is why I believe the music we choose for childbirth matters.
I believe in the power of music at the moment of birth. I believe in the power of music for supporting the prenatal experience. I believe in the power of music bonding, to process fears, to address anxieties. And I believe in you: I trust that those of you who use music, make music, and incorporate music into birth already are capable of making awesome choices and using intuition when working in the moment. I trust that those of you who are invested in learning more will seek knowledge and integrate it into the best music choices possible. But I also believe it’s important for you to know that there is a growing number of perinatal music therapists out there who are here to guide you whenever advice is needed. We really do want to help make birth better through music. Connect with me and I’ll share my favorite birthing music with you!
It’s your birth. Be Creative.™
Kate Taylor, MA, MTBC is a birth doula, board certified music therapist and owner of Creative Childbirth Concepts® in Chicago IL. Kate provides perinatal music therapy services and assists families through labor and delivery as a birth doula. Kate provides creative supervision for music therapists and mentors birth professionals around the globe. She is passionate about educating others about music for childbirth and helps empower families through music, movement and other creative arts during infertility, pregnancy, birth, even during new parenting adventures. Visit www.birthmusic.net for more information or connect on facebook with: Creative Childbirth Concepts® Music Therapy & Doula Services. In depth YouTube interviews, blog radio interviews, and audio podcasts of Kate are also available for you to learn more about her music therapy assisted childbirth practices, doula work and personal journey as a birth worker.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my 6-year-old and 9-year-old to a Weezer concert. We had so much fun, dancing and singing to the songs we love. It was my first time seeing Weezer, and for both boys (barring my 9-year-old's Sting concert at 11-months-old) it was their first show. It is definitely something we want to do again.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)