MAYD to Birth: At Your Doorstep

Promoting gentle, empowering mother journies…

Ivy is 7 months old!

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Remember how Ivy started commando crawling at 5 months and perfected crawling before she was 6 months? Now she’s pulling herself up to standing on everything: walls, beds, couches, chairs, my legs, cabinet knobs…

Poor thing is still fairly unsteady on her legs, so she’s had some good tumbles backwards. I’ve also caught her climbing up a step stool; she got stranded on the top and needed rescuing.

And she’s starting climbing up stairs. Yet Ivy still isn’t interested in sitting like a normal baby. No way!

Ivy is very sensitive to other people. If she’s in my arms or Eric’s, she smiles at everyone and makes noises to get their attention. But if I pass her on to someone…the world is ending! Go away scary stranger! (even when it’s grandma).

Sleep is pretty much awful. With rare exceptions, Ivy wakes up every 2 hours at night starting at around 11 pm. That translates into me getting about 1 1/2 hours of sleep at a time, factoring in how long it takes to nurse her and put her back down. It’s hard to sustain this week after week, month after month.

I’ve tried various things to see if I can help her sleep longer stretches, but they just fail. Patting her on the back or holding and rocking her? She gets furious. Letting her fuss and seeing if she’ll settle herself back down? Nope. She’ll cry for an hour or more and still be wide awake. I’ve resigned myself to just nursing her as soon as she wakes up. It’s the least bad solution.

But you know what? I can live with the mind-numbing fatigue. I’ve lived through it three other times, and I’ve survived. Eventually babies start to sleep. It gets better. And there’s so much about this stage that I love and will miss terribly when it’s over.

Growing a Birth Community by Cindy Collins – Delaware BirthNetwork

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“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18

When I first became a doula in 2009 I tried to start a doula network, facilitating meetings and workshops. I desired a community of colleagues, sharing their experiences and encouraging one another in their journey to empower women during the childbearing year. Unfortunately after 12 months roughly hosting regular meetings and plus two workshops, it had not thrived like I had hoped. I live in Delaware, up until several years ago it was near impossible to find a doula.

Most people had no idea what a doula was or did, if they had heard the term. The handful doulas I knew of lived an hour north of me bordering Pennsylvania. I had to surrender to the fact that the community I live in just wasn’t ready for a doula network. I put it on the back burner until the community was ready. However, I never surrendered my deep longing for a birth community.
Over the years as a birth professional I actively sought out doulas in my area; aspiring, new and seasoned alike. I worked to keep communication going, by adding those with an expressed interest to my email list or newsletter; to inform them about activities and events they may be interested in. Rarely I heard beyond the initial email inquiring about how to become a doula. It was disheartening for me.

This experience led me to change my approach a bit. Several times a year I attend events like baby fairs, holistic health expos and lactation educational seminars as a vendor so I can reach two types of audiences: consumers and health care professionals. It’s a really great opportunity to network with supporters in the community and potential advocates who can help promote your cause on a professional level within state health departments, health care practices, hospitals and various other organizations.
You could also seek out networking opportunities with like-minded women through babywearing groups and breastfeeding groups like Le Leche League. While these groups are not directly birth related, they are still a wonderful resource. 8 years ago we had no Le Leche League, but today we have two! When Delmarva Babywearers, first formed about 8 years ago about 5 women attended monthly. Their babywearing group has exploded into 6 meetings a month (some social and some instructional) with 15-20 women attending! I encourage all new local moms and my clients to attend their meetings. I have found it to be one the best sources of passionate advocates to tap into. While they may not be actively involved in every birth-relative initiative, they can help spread the word to new members joining their group.
Another fantastic option to creat a birth community is through an established organization like Birth Network National, who have chapters nation wide. The Birth Network is comprised of parents, professionals and advocates. Your state or community may be in need of you to start a chapter. An organization like Birth Network National has already done all the work to establish and can give you ideas on how to create a birth community. In Fall 2012 I started the Delaware Birth Network with great anticipation. In June the Delaware Birth Network hosted a successful “Doula Night”. Several women came out to support doulas, learn about becoming a doula and learn about what doulas do. I wish I could tell you our monthly meetings have a lot of people attending or even regular attendees. However, Delaware has tremendous obstacles to overcome to grow a thriving birth community. I firmly believe in time with a lot of hard work and creativity we will reach more people.
At the end of May I had the great privilege of hosting a doula workshop for Birth Arts International, which 12 wonderful women attended. One of the most touching parts of the workshop was that one of the women who attended was a former doula client of mine! That is powerful and beautiful! I had planned this for nearly 9 months and been dreaming of ways to grow the birth community in Delaware for 5 years. For quite some time I have been the only active doula in central Delaware. While some may say by hosting a doula workshop I’m “training my competition”, I disagree, I believe there is power in creating colleagues so your impact may be greater. Helen Keller said it best, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
In order to continue seeing growth in the community we must also facilitate opportunities for continuing education for birth professionals. Fall 2013 Delaware will be having its first placenta encapsulation workshop. In 2014 I hope to host a workshop with Lara Catone, to teach a workshop to birth professionals, about diastasis, pelvic floor health, scar tissue and it’s effect on labor. The neat thing about the workshop with Lara is that while I feel is vital information to all birth professionals, it will also be open to consumers. It’s a great opportunity to blend parents and professionals together!
If you are waiting for a birth community to start thriving in your area, stop waiting and start getting busy! The “community” may be waiting for YOU to cultivate it! Reach out, network, prepare to be rejected and ignored but don’t give up. It may take years but it will be worth it. If you are so fortunate to live in an area where there is an existing and thriving birth community, count your blessings and please go hug those pioneers that paved the way. They will appreciate it more than you know.

Cindy Collins is a native of the San Francisco Bay area but now resides in Delaware with her husband and 3 boys.

Before she became a doula she was a professionally trained baker, holding a degree in baking & pastry. In addition to being a doula she volunteers as the chapter leader for the Delaware Birth Network. She is also an herbalist studying dually with Heart of Herbs with Demetria Clark and Herbal Medicine for Women with Aviva Romm.

Cindy is also a professional photographer who specializes in maternity, birth and nursing portraiture. For more information she can be reached at and

What I’m up to right now

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Pumping (to donate) as I type. Trying to hurry up so I can nurse Ivy, who just woke up…

Old Job

I’m teaching freshman composition again this semester. Between teaching, taking care of four children, and the demands of everyday life, my free time is close to nonexistent. The kids are all asleep by 7:30-8 pm, so I have a 2-hour window of time to “get stuff done.” In the summers, this means reading books or checking emails. During the school year, this means grading papers and prepping for class.

Oh, and did I mention that Ivy wakes up every 2 hours at night? I’m also really tired. 

New Job

I took on a new job this summer: renovating on a historic property in town. It was originally a 2-family side-by-side home built in 1900. Several decades ago, each home was split into two apartments, making 4 total. I was hired to oversee all aspects of the renovations, since the property owner lives across the country.

I get to do fun stuff like choose finishes and paint colors or visit antique stores for light fixtures and doorknobs…and the less glamorous stuff like decide when to tear down a wall or when to keep the original flooring versus when it’s not able to be salvaged.

We are keeping as many of the historic details and original finishes as possible. The kitchens and bathrooms all needed to be completely renovated, though. Don’t you love the granite tile countertops and the mosaic tile backsplash?

This property is amazing–or rather, it will be when we’re done. Here are some before and after pictures from the first two apartments, both on the ground floor.

Apartment #1 Before:

Apartment #1 After:

Apartment #2 Before:

Apartment #2 After:

Now that these two downstairs apartments are finished and rented, we’re working on the upstairs apartments. One will be done by early November, the other by early December. 

Apples Everywhere

I have hundreds of pounds of organic apples that I picked from a friend’s tree or that were given to me. I’ve been making applesauce. I have a new respect for home canning. It’s so much work! So far I’ve put up 42 quarts and still have tons of apples left.

Canadian NICU puts parents in charge

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At Mount Sinai Hospital in Ontario, Canada, the NICU has implemented a new program putting parents in charge of their baby’s care. From an article at CTV News:

Parents have long been encouraged to spend time with their babies in the NICU, but they were typically more observers than participants, often feeling helpless and lost as they sat by their child’s isolette watching every breath, trying to make sense of the monitors and startling at every bell or buzzer around them.

“With family integrated care, we have done something quite different,” explains Dr. Shoo Lee, pediatrician-in-chief and director of the Maternal-Infant Care Research Centre.

“What we’ve done is to say that for all babies in the NICU, the parents should be the primary caregivers, not the nurses. And the nurses are really teachers to the parents.”

The program was instituted following a 2011-2012 pilot project in which the parents of 40 newborns were asked to spend a minimum of eight hours a day in the NICU and tasked with the overall management of their child’s care.

That included bathing and changing diapers, monitoring the infant’s vital signs, and recording feedings and weight gain on their medical chart. Nurses were responsible for the medical side of care — looking after feeding tubes, adjusting ventilation apparatus and administering medications.

The babies’ progress was compared with those whose care was primarily provided by nurses, and Lee says “the results were phenomenal.”

“There was a 25 per cent improvement in weight gain of the babies who were looked after by the parents,” he says. “Breastfeeding rates doubled from 40-something per cent to over 80 per cent. Infection rates fell from 11 per cent in the nurse group to zero in the parent group. Treatment errors dropped by 25 per cent. Parental satisfaction went up, parental stress went down.

What a fantastic idea! I hope this becomes standard practice across more NICUs.

Read the rest of the article here

Releasing Endorphins: Prenatal Education: THE UNITED NATIONS

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By guest blogger Barbara Rivera  -NJBN

  When you hear the words prenatal education, what comes to mind? A room full of expecting mothers and partners preparing for birth. But to Julie Ryan Gerland Chief United Nations Representative of the Non Governmental Organization OMAEP (also called the World Organization of Prenatal Education Associations -the initials for the organization are in French), prenatal education is a vital instrument for supporting a shift in the world regarding health, peace and sustainability.  During a recent event, held at Montclair State University, titled, “Fear & Stress to Wellbeing: How the nine months in the womb influence the rest of a person’s life,” Dr. Gerland shared how prenatal education can impart scientific and psychological knowledge to empower parents and society to move from a survival mindset, to one of thriving.

  Most people know that environmental toxins and a bad diet can contribute to disease of the developing fetus during pregnancy but many don’t know that chronic stress, fear and violence will cause a fetus to develop in different ways.  Dr. Gerland says that,  according to the overwhelming scientific evidence, all efforts to fix the problems in the world won’t work unless we change the way mothers live and the way babies are treated at the beginning of life.

  Over 30 year of science shows that everything the pregnant mother lives will contribute to the formation of her baby’s physical and psychological well being, including how “connected,” a child feels to others and the world.  “How can we expect someone who has always known violence from the moment of conception through the most vulnerable time of development, the nine-months in utero, followed by a violent birth and early infancy to act peacefully?” Dr. Gerland asks, “It’s like not watering a plant and expecting it to grow!”

  Likewise a child who is wanted and loved unconditionally, as well as formed inside of a mother who feels supported and nurtured will develop to meet a world that is _GoBacksafe, with a brain geared towards peace and creativity.  Babies in utero are conscious and are constantly downloading information about themselves and their environment. Their mothers and fathers attention and interactions with them, even from conception,  is more important to development than we once realized.

Some other key ideas Dr. Gerland shared were:
-The mother’s experiences and perceptions informs the fetus of the environment s/he must prepare for. The baby develops in expectation of that environment. Is the world a safe place or will life be a fight for survival?

-This womb time, birth and the baby’s first days, called the Primal Period, is of vital importance to the formation of human beings.

-Real or perceived stress plays a huge role in brain development and health. Stressed and/or fearful mothers will form human beings whose brains are geared towards stress, aggression and survival.

-A mother’s diet and environmental toxins will play a critical role in the health of her baby as well.

- Because of this, how we treat and care for mothers during the primal period should become a nation’s imperative, especially if we want a world where the humans are geared towards creativity, wellness and peace.

  Dr. Gerland says that by integrating prenatal education into early schooling, health systems, and other governmental organizations, humanity would have the answers that it seeks; humans who are more able to feel connected, peaceful and creative.

  How can we best help parents use this knowledge once they have it?  Dr. Gerland says that we can start by giving mothers and fathers permission to want the every best for their baby. We can’t start to improve anything unless we can imagine a better outcome.  The next step is letting people know that their creative power as a parent goes beyond our circumstances in life. They can make deliberate choices away from stress and towards peace in our life. Here is more of what Dr. Gerland shared about stress:

-Many people live in a constant state of adrenaline release, or stress. Adrenalin is a hormone of excitement, fear and danger.  Many people are so habituated to the sensations adrenalin that they don’t even realize that they are staying in the “survival mode,” of living.

-When you stay in this state, your body’s energy is routed to survival. Healing and cell regeneration is halted or slowed by the hormones that create this state.

-The opposite of a stressful state is feeling at ease, feeling connected, or feeling love. This state is ruled by adrenalin’s antagonists, endorphins and oxytocin.

-The good news is that we cannot occupy both states at once. By consciously choosing to releasing endorphins a person can learn to keep themselves in a state which is beneficial for optimal health, healing, and well being.

-Since oxytocin increases feelings of connection and love, this is the state of being that will nurture peace on this planet.

  Dr. Gerland shared a technique in which endorphins, which are estimated to be 200 times more powerful than morphine, can be released by using physical touch. After learning this technique, one has the power to consciously choose and create a peaceful, healing, connected state of being at will.  This technique could also be used on their loved ones to create a healing state, pain relief, or feelings of well being as needed.

  (An aside:  During the writing of this article, my 9 year old daughter came to me with a headache. Usually her headache will last up to 40 minutes, with me massaging her head, until finally I resort to using a pain reliever.

  This time, I played a soft song on the computer and used the technique that Dr. Gerland showed us during the workshop. My daughter’s headache was gone in under 5 minutes, resulting in a very happy little girl, and an even happier mother!)

  So how does prenatal education relate to the United Nations, peace and sustainability? Dr. Gerland says all efforts to fix the problems in the world won’t work unless we change the way mothers and babies are treated at the beginning of life.  Prenatal education will inform parents about their creative potential during conception, pregnancy and birth and how they can become to be deliberate creators in the formation of their babies and consciously create possibilities for their children.

  OMAEP is engaged and active within the United Nations because the members believe that understanding of the importance of prenatal life and the formation of human beings must be a part of every health, education, family and government initiative if we want a sustainable peaceful future. Below is a statement OMAEP recently released which was given to each of the 193 member states there stating why:

“Recent scientific research in the fields of medicine, biology, genetics and psychology has confirmed that the prenatal period is of crucial importance for the health, stability and well-being of all children, the citizens of tomorrow. It is during the prenatal period that each human being lays the groundwork for his or her physical and emotional health, interpersonal skills and capacity for love, as well as his or her character and even creativity…
…Unless we learn how to limit and ultimately eliminate what is toxic to unborn children, our attempts to fight against disease, crime, drugs, murder, pollution and self-destruction will all be doomed to failure.” – OMAEP

  Dr. Gerland reports huge and hopeful changes taking place in the main halls of the United Nations because of a desire to, “create outside of the box,” and make shifts in sustainability of the planet. More and more nations are waking up to the realization that what happens to one happens to us all, and that we must think differently and use new ideas to create lasting change.

  You can be a part of helping to raise awareness of the importance and impact of the primal period by participating in OMAEP’s, “Global Prenatal Initiative,” which will take place in 2014 in partnership with the UN 20Th Anniversary of the International Year of Families. You can find out more by joining the Facebook group, “Global Prenatal Initiative (GPI)” or sign up to the newsletter on

The Childbirth Summit – It is happening now!

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I am very excited to share with you that Michal has recently collaborated with some of the top doctors, authors and childbirth specialists from around the world on a special project called The Childbirth Summit!

Childbirth is one of the few, critical conversations that affects everyone and one of the most important conversations that I believe needs to be discussed.

And today, we would like to invite you to be an important part of this conversation. 

Everyday, we at BirthNetwork National see or hear about women wanting to give birth naturally, but are not sure where to seek advice. They have been bombarded with misinformation that only tells them every possible thing that could go wrong during pregnancy and delivery.  We have been working to provide valuable information and relate meaningful real-life experiences capable of changing their lives and the lives of their families.

The Childbirth Summit is a unique event that was sponsored by The National Center for Wellness, 501(c)3 to help inspire and empower women about childbirth. Because you are very important to BirthNetwork National and are equally passionate about childbirth, I am excited to share with you this once-in-a-lifetime gift that can transform how you view childbirth and can give you (and the women you care about most) greater confidence in the innate ability to give birth with less fear and less pain.

We cant promise that an event like this will ever happen again, so make sure to take advantage of it right away!

This special virtual event will specifically help you to:

  • ·       Learn about the benefits of natural childbirth
  • ·       Understand the difference between homebirths and hospital births
  • ·       Make informed choices regarding c-sections versus natural deliveries
  • ·       Learn how to improve your chances of becoming pregnant
  • ·       Learn about pregnancy health and nutrition
  • ·       Learn how to find the right midwife
  • ·       Feel confident in your bodys ability to deliver a healthy baby
  • ·       and so much more

Click here to reserve your seat now!