MAYD to Birth: At Your Doorstep

Promoting gentle, empowering mother journies…

Is milk sharing like playing Russian Roulette?

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Zari admiring some donor milk I’d just pumped

I was listening to an NPR report a few days ago on how the booming demand for donated breastmilk has raised safety issues. I’m always happy to hear topics such as milk banks and informal milk sharing on a national stage. However, the reporting made me all jumpy. I almost talked back to the radio.

Quick synopsis: more women want to breastfeed, and those who can’t are turning to milk banks and informal milk sharing. Milk banks are swamped by high demand and can only give it to babies who need it the most. So many mothers have turned to milk donors/sellers. But milk sharing is dangerous! Don’t forget, formula isn’t that bad.

I’ve donated milk to many families after Zari and Ivy were born. It’s not that hard to ensure that donor milk is safe. If the mom has tested negative for certain communicable diseases (HIV, syphilus, hepatitis, etc.) and follows commonsense precautions like freezing the milk right away, then it’s not “playing Russian roulette with your child’s life,” as Kim Updegrove, president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, suggested.

To give Updegrove some credit, she was specifically referring to breast milk sold online through anonymous sellers. I’d be wary of buying milk online, too. I value the person-to-person contact involved in milk sharing.

I also take issue with the assertion that every ounce of milk donated informally or sold online is one less ounce to a milk bank. I don’t have time or desire to drive my milk to the nearest bank, which is a 2 hour drive roundtrip. And while I think that milk banks are fantastic, the cost of milk is over $4/oz, sometimes much more. That’s over $100/day for an average baby! I love that I can help other mothers out for free.

What bothered me the most, though, was how the report pushed formula at the very end:

In the meantime, even nursing proponents like Updegrove and Tucker maintain that when nursing fails emphasize that formula remains a good and safe choice for full-term, healthy babies. They say donor breast milk should be preserved for the babies who need it most: babies who are premature, allergic, or have digestive problems.

“Formula sometimes doesn’t have to be the four-letter word,” Tucker says. “Sometimes it’s necessary and that’s OK. And sometimes we need to let moms know that’s OK, you’re still doing the best you can do.”

Informal milk sharing isn’t a zero sum game. Milk is a free-flowing resource, and milk sharing can be very safe. Women who seek donor milk feel strongly that formula is not as “good and safe” as it’s made out to be–that’s why they’re looking for alternatives to formula in the first place!

If you’re looking to donate or receive donor breast milk, you can try:

Ivy is 8 months old!

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I know these updates are probably more exciting to me than to anyone else, but it’s so fun to have a record of my childrens’ babyhood.

Ivy is busy getting into everything: pulling open cabinet drawers, opening doors (if they’re not latched shut), climbing up stairs, pulling dirt out of my houseplants and then eating it if I’m not fast enough, climbing underneath and through the kitchen table and chairs in search of every stray crumb of food. She loves to pull the toilet paper off the roll, rip it into pieces, and stuff it into her mouth. She loves taking baths and showers. She has also acquired some new tricks: waving “hi” at people and shaking her head as if she were saying “no.”

She likes to crawl fast…it’s hard to get good pictures because she’s always on the move.

With a little help with water and a comb, Ivy’s hair stands up in a mohawk. Dio has now started asking for the same hair style.

She’s become really attached to Eric and will often fuss when he leaves the room, even if I’m there. She does the same for me, too, but I like that she cares about her Papa :) She’s become more accustomed to our houseguests. She will happily play with them and walk around in their arms…most of the time.

Sleep is getting better! I don’t know why it happened or what I did/didn’t do…but Ivy has started sleeping longer stretches. Many nights she wakes around 12 am, 4, and 6:30 (or 1, 5, and 6:30) and is up for the day around 7 am. If she wakes up before I am in bed, I let her fuss. It’s worse if either of us go in to help her, and she’s done pretty well at lying herself back down and going back to sleep. Usually, though, she doesn’t wake up until well into the night. If she wakes up soon after I’ve nursed her, I bring her into bed with me and snuggle her in the crook of my arm or lay her next to me and hold her hand. She gets really mad and cries for a few minutes, then conks out.

I haven’t started feeding her solid foods yet, but she’s pretty intrepid about finding morsels on her own. If they’re safe, I might let her eat them. She’s started getting carrot sticks, celery sticks, and apples to suck on.

Here’s a video of her growling. She hasn’t done it as much the past few weeks. Inga loves to say, “I love that Ivy!” as if there were another Ivy and she had to point out which one she meant.

And one of her crawling

And one of Dio “reading” a book to Inga

Your Holidays, Your Way

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If the calendar and the holiday shopping advertisements weren’t enough to tell me that Christmas is approaching, the big dump of snow that we got this week certainly did. Things turned, all of a sudden, from the kind of bitter cold that makes you, well, bitter, to a white fantasyland that sparkles and brings promises of magic. 

As the snow fell and my children were snuggled under their warm blankets, I put the last coat of paint on their new advent calendars. In past years, we’ve had chocolate advent calendars, Playmobil advent calenders, and Lego advent calendars. This year, however, I wanted a change. I didn’t want the special surprises hiding behind those little doors to be determined by a company. I wanted the advent calendar to be one of the little ways that I make the holidays magical for my family. So I bought a wooden advent calendar with little drawers, painted it in Christmasy colours, and have been plotting the little surprises that will be contained within. Things like:

  • fair trade chocolate
  • a dollar coin
  • a note promising a special activity that day
  • a Lego mini figure
  • a bottle of nail polish
  • a tiny puzzle
  • permission to download a new app to their ipads

Each day, a new surprise basically. I’m hoping it will add more magic and anticipation, since each day will be about more than just “what shape is my chocolate today?”.

If you head over to Pinterest, open a magazine, read a blog a post, go on facebook, talk to other parents or even think back to your own childhood, you may be overwhelmed by all the things that you could do, or that you feel you should do, to make the holidays special. You may also be overwhelmed with invitations and expectations from work, family, friends, neighbours, your children’s friends’ and more.  It is normal to feel overwhelmed or inadequate in the face of it all. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One theme I’m seeing this year among my friends is a desire to refocus what the holidays mean to them.

On The Stir, Kristen Chase wrote about a conversation she had with her friend Julie.

But this year, I’m going with a different mantra that I’ve newly inherited from my dear friend Julie.

When she first explained her new approach to the holiday season in particular, I first exclaimed, “So basically learning to say ‘no’ more” because, well, I totally get that. 

But she corrected me, and I’m really glad that she did.

The whole idea behind my new holiday rule (and her mantra) is that you’re not necessarily passing on the commitments and expectations, but rather you’re choosing the ones that you really want to do.

On Blue Eyed Bride, there is a list of 25 Christmas Traditions that your family could adopt. The suggestions are very Jesus and Santa slanted, which may or may not be right for you and your family. What will be magical and fun for you is really dependent on your family’s values and interests and abilities and budget. Just because another family makes homemade Christmas decorations as a family activity, doesn’t mean it is something that will make your family happy if you hate doing crafts and your children lack the patience to get through them.

So no, dear inbox, I don’t want to “Cook up some homemade hostess gifts”. No, Pinterest, I won’t be sewing Christmas-themed coffee cozies. No, as much as we loved it once in the past, we will not be spending a lot of money and using up a valuable weekend to see the Nutcracker this year. But we will be doing things that are right for us, some that are special and new this year, and some that are carry-overs from past years. Our traditions will be religion-free, but will include helping others, going outdoors (both in the Canadian Winter and on a sun vacation), making and eating food, spending time with friends, making fires both indoors and outside, and enjoying those new advent calendars full of surprises.

What should your family do? If you have it all figured out, that’s great. I’d love to hear about your plans and your traditions in the comments.

But if you’re not sure, I have something that may be able to help. My friend Magda from Ask Moxie created a fabulous workbook called Get Christmased. You can order and download the workbook online for $19. It is a detailed, but simple, workbook that will help you to plan the holidays and traditions that are right for your family. From selecting and planning activities, to dealing with stress, to choosing the right gifts, this workbook will get you through.

[Disclosure: I have had the chance to review the workbook and I really like it. I am also an affiliate and will make some money off the sale of the workbook, so this is a great way to plan your Christmas, support my blog, and support Magda].

Tell me about your holiday plans? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Festivus, something else, or just possibly enjoy a few days off of work and school, what will your family be doing?

The Tooth and The Birth

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“Mommy, I have a loose tooth. Can you pull it out for me?”
“No sweetie, I can’t pull it out, but you can.”
“I don’t want to mommy. I want you to do it for me.”
“Then it’s not time to pull it out, your tooth isn’t ready.”
“How will I know when it’s ready?”
“When it’s ready, and you’re ready, it’s time.”

This has a conversation I had with the elder of my twins. She is a sweet soul, deep and feeling in ways that my other children may not recognize. She wanted me to pull her not-quite-ready but mildly-loose tooth out for her. I wiggled it, smiled at her, pulled her onto my lap, and gave her the above talk.

This was a pivotal moment for her. She, my gentle spirit, wanted her parent, her caregiver, to do the thing that was hardest for her at that moment – take the responsibility into their own hands. She, who prefers protection to bravery, wanted me to ‘take the reigns’ and rid her mouth of this wiggly nuisance.

But I placed that power back into her hands, and although she resisted it at first, she soon grew to cherish it. Daily, she wiggled that tooth, and then came to report to me what new sensations it gave her and how it impacted her. Daily, I applauded her for her intuition and her strength to wait until the right time. Some days it bothered her more than others – some days, like the day she jarred it painfully with an apple, she begged me to help her. And I did, but not the way she had wanted. She wanted me to pull it – instead I gave her some warm tea with honey and cradled her jaw in my hand, kissing her nose.

One morning, without pomp or circumstance, she came to me and asked for my hand. She then dropped her tooth in my open palm, smiled with self-assurance and a glint in her eye that only those who have climbed an impossible mountain can achieve. When it was time, and she was ready, she took herself to the bathroom, locked the door, and plucked that tooth from it’s nest.

She later came to me and told me that she was nervous, but courageous. It was uncomfortable, but not nearly as painful or scary as prior tooth pullings done by others. She didn’t want to tell anyone else because it was ‘her time, her tooth, and she didn’t want to be watched’.

So it is with birth. Women come to me and other birth workers/keepers afraid to walk their journey in their own power. They are looking for someone to make the journey for them, do the work for them, or make the choices for them. But look what is lost when a birth worker/keeper takes on that role? If we can come along side of them and encourage them, give them information, and hold their space, they blossom into powerful, self-reliant, strong, capable journeyers.

Motivational Monday

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Of Pride & Placenta: A Birth Story

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Written by A, who is the husband of M, who both are the parents of O.

Having been together for a few years now, M. is used to waiting around a lot for a man that she loves, only to have him surprise her and come earlier than she excepted, which is to say…We’ve got a new baby boy!

Please welcome O, the newest cast member to our family. O was born on Saturday at our place, homebirth-style.

Chapter 1: The Water Breaks ( AKA Orinoco Flow (Preview) )
Here’s the scoop. M. woke me up at 3:00 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning and said, “I want you to come and look at something in the bathroom.” I know what you’re thinking, AND? Happens all the time, right? But, this time – this time it was different. This time her water had broken! Also, that is kind of a misnomer because water doesn’t break, ice breaks, but anyway—the bag holding the water had ruptured/broken what-have-you. What this means for all you people at home without any kids, is that—It. Is. On.
At this point, it may help to picture the little digital clock from Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 counting down in the corner of your mind throughout the rest of this story. (Pro Tip: Once the water breaks, the sterile environment that the baby has been in during pregnancy is no longer present. This means you want to deliver the baby within about 24 hours so you don’t auto-infect the newborn with flora present in your own system or external bacteria.)
We called our fantastic midwife Maria, and UCSF at 3:15 a.m. & they both agreed that we should pop over to the hospital to get an IV with a little antibiotic cocktail (first cocktail she’d had in 38.5 weeks, poor thing). We also needed to confirm that the water had indeed “broken” and have the baby’s heart rate monitored.
We took an UBER Black Car, because we figured A) they would be cleaner than a taxi, B) nobody ever takes them (easy to get) and C) because we don’t own a car. (Joshua, I did actually suggest a Flywheel at this point, but M. wanted the leather interiors with the (likely false) hope that they had recently been wiped down…)
Chapter 2: The Hospital
We arrived at the hospital and the nurses ushered us into a little hospital triage room for a long time. The monitoring looked good, the IV was administered, and we were finally able to leave the hospital and head home at about 9 a.m. This means that we checked in at 4 a.m. and checked out at 8:45 a.m. for a grand total of *4.75 hours (did that in my head). Most of our time was spent hurrying up and waiting since they kept telling us to sit tight until we could talk to yet another doctor. But, we were kind of like, “If everything is good, and we already talked to the doctors, then why are we still in this room?” So we made our escape to the birthing center, AKA: our house! (*Pay attention to that that number, it comes in handy for comparison purposes later.)
Chapter 3: Home Again
When we got back home just after 9 a.m.,M.  wasn’t really having contractions yet and since that 24-hour clock was still ticking, we decided to do what anyone having a baby at home would do: give her diarrhea to kick-start the labor.
Chapter 4: Castor Oil
We explained the lack of contractions to Maria, our amazing midwife, so she told us about a popular old midwife’s trick: castor oil. This trick is very simple. Go to Walgreens. Get a little $5 bottle of castor oil. Pour the oil into the blender with a lot of orange juice. You’re now holding the world’s worst Orange Julius. Drink the foamy laxative Vitamin C mixture. The oil says it will start to work anywhere between 4-12 hours. Tick tock. We decided to add some exercise to the mix to expedite things, so we left home and started walking around the neighborhood.
Chapter 5: 10:30 a.m. Go-Time
We came home from the walk and M. very quickly began feeling increasingly intense contractions. We walked around the house between contractions and then M. would post-up and lean against things like beds, couches, chairs, and me while she honed-in on her primal mama grizzly bear growl. After about an hour of increasingly vociferous and thunderous grumbles, all the small woodland creatures in the neighborhood had fled, leaving the house oddly still, save for M.’s impressive impersonation of Grendel’s mother.
Chapter 6: 12:30 p.m. Calvary Arrives
Gabrielle (the great doula) and Maria (our midwife) arrived around lunchtime. Gabrielle began helping with encouraging words and a practiced soothing touch, that included hip-squeezes and a bevy of comfort measures. Maria moved about the house with the practiced efficiency of a Swiss timepiece, setting up her supplies and checking-in on M. and the baby with her remote baby heart-monitoring wand.
Chapter 7: Dilation: It’s In the Details.
M.’s contractions were epic. Like Epic of Gilgamesh epic, and so Maria decides to check the cervix. The cer-what? Ha! M. laughs in the face of bottlenecks like this. Her powerful timbre and focused uterine surges had decimated the cervix and prepared the baby’s escape route.
Chapter 8: Crowning Achievements
Maria tells M. that it’s now okay for her to push anytime she wants.She  is surprised. She asks, “Really? Already?” Maria nods, and M. continues her Ironman sprint towards motherhood. 40 minutes of pushing ensue over several venues in the house, and then…we see him. He’s out, his powerful lungs quickly began filling the room with dulcet shrills, and Mom and son are helped up off the birthing stool into the bed. Per everyone’s instructions, including second awesome midwife Michelle Wellborn (real last name), we go skin-to-skin and cuddle with the baby in the bed. The doula & midwife team proceed to clean up the house and make us some farm eggs and market-fresh veggies scrambled up from the fridge.
Chapter 9: In this corner…weighing in at…
Maria conducts the postpartum exam. She weighs and measures and listens. Here’s what she found out:
Length 20.5 inches
Weight: 6 lbs. 1 oz.
Hair: Blond
Eyes: (currently closed) Blue (at the moment)
Chapter 10: Dirty Diapers & the Revenge of the Castor Oil
Special secret chapter for baby class only!
So, everyone’s wondering, was there poop? Great question. Yes and no. The castor oil worked in that it caused her stomach to cramp up and jump-start the uterine contractions, but it didn’t have the bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse that were promised by CAKE. Don’t worry, that oil was definitely going the distance, waiting until we thought everything had calmed down. At about 11 p.m., some 9 hours after the arrival of O., I was in bed holding him and M. said she needed to go pee.
After she finished she stood at the bathroom sink in her special post-delivery gauze boyshort undies – outfitted with a massive post-delivery maxi pad – calmly filling the rinse bottle that the midwife provided (she had been instructed not to wipe). At that moment, she felt a rumble. Before she could finish filling the bottle, or even move the 20 inches to the toilet, an explosive geyser of castor oil-lava spilled forth, quickly filling her boyshorts/pad with the house’s very first dirty diaper. Who knew? Don’t play around with castor oil, I think it’s from the same plant they use to make ricin.
Day 3: The Postpartum Script
The baby has quickly taken to his new San Francisco lifestyle. In fact, he’s already quite the foodie—he’s particularly fond of free-range unpasteurized organic breast milk.
Our house now looks like the Playboy Mansion. Everyone is naked and lounging around in bathrobes. M. looks like she just invested 50k in breast augmentation; apparently Mother Nature is a boob man.
Le Fin (and by that I mean Le Beginning)~

Hospital 4.75 hours, no baby. Home 3.5 Hours, baby.  Point for Home.

Birth is empowering!

Participants needed for alternative breastfeeding study

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I just received notice that a researcher is looking for women to interview about their “alternative” breastfeeding experiences. Details below!

Alternative Breastfeeding Study 

I’m seeking to interview all kinds of folks breastfeeding in “alternative” ways:

  • co-feeding
  • milk donors and recipients
  • adoptive parents breastfeeding
  • lesbian couples breastfeeding
  • re-lactators (e.g., older aunts, grandmothers breastfeeding)
  • trans breastfeeding

I am interested in interviewing folks who are currently nursing or who did so in the past or who are considering it right now (because a pregnancy or adoption is in process) or considered it seriously in the past. The interviews are confidential, take about an hour and a half, and the results are completely anonymous. I have ethics board approval and research ethic certifications.  If interested in volunteering, please email or text, 831-334-2258.

Kristin J. Wilson, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Anthropology
Author of “Not Trying: Infertility, Childlessness, and Ambivalence,” forthcoming from Vanderbilt University Press, Fall 2013

New Volunteer Opportunity – Chapter Leader Mentorship Program

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Would you like to connect with other chapter leaders in a meaningful way while helping BNN on a national level? Would you like to be part of a core team of chapter leaders who will lead BNN through a new era of growth? We are looking for volunteers to be part of a new program that will strengthen our chapters. In the past the BNN Board of Directors was able to offer each chapter individual support. Now we have too many chapters for this to be possible, and with a greater number of new chapters this one on one support is more needed then ever before. To meet this crucial need we are developing a program where chapter leaders will mentor one another.

This Chapter Leader Mentoring Program will provide nurturing relationships between the mentor and the chapter leaders. These relationships will also connect the chapter leaders to the BNN Board of Directors and the administrator, ensuring that each chapter is fully supported, doing the necessary things to be a chapter in good standing, and that communication is flowing freely between the chapter leaders and the board as well as between chapter leaders. The new mentors will be on the front lines, hearing the exciting things the chapters are working on as well as helping them work through their challenges. Each mentor will have a handful of chapter leaders they will be checking in with every month. This check in could be a simple “How are things going?” on Facebook or a more in depth phone call where you help the chapter leader troubleshoot a problem. Mentors will have opportunities to gather with other mentors and the board. The Mentoring Coordinator will be available to help throughout the whole mentoring process.

We know you are all working hard to promote the MFCI in your own communities; now is your chance to share your expertise with other chapter leaders as you develop new friendships with amazing birth advocates all over the country. If you are ready to join the BNN leadership team and be a mentor, or if you have any questions please contact me at

Thank you!

Anna Van Wagoner

A Birth Story

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S was a beautiful and intuitive mama that I had the honor of working with recently. She chose to share her story with me, so that I could share it with you! Thank you so much, S, for this honor. I have interjected a few comments on my perspective, in italics. 

On Tues. Oct. 1st at around 715 am, I started to feel contractions while getting ready for work. I had Braxton hicks toward the end of the pregnancy but these were different. Bh usually felt like tightening sensation…no pain. These were actually a little painful and felt like period cramps. I went into work anyway and timed my contractions wanting to make sure I was in actual labor. 

WTG! I love that you took the advice “ignore labor as long as possible” to heart! :)  

My coworkers thought I was crazy for wanting to stay “just one more hour” and jokingly said I would give birth there. After an hr at work I headed home…yes I drove myself. I woke Victor to let him know I was in early labor and tried to get some rest. I wasnt able to sleep but my body got to rest. Unfortunately I didn’t do any of the things I envisioned doing in early labor like dancing, sitting on ball, listening to birth playlist and positive affirmations.  

But you were so intuitive and listened to your bodies needs!  

The contractions picked up that afternoon after being on all fours and sitting on the toilet. we left for the hospital around 3 pm. When I got to the hospital I was 5cm. I was hoping to stay home a little longer but I was happy to be dialating. Doula Cole came to assist very quickly. Her presence was very calming. The contractions slowed once we got to the hospital. 

I was a little nervous that you were heading in too early, and we talked about that. Bottom line, though, I trusted your intuition and, if it told you to go in then, I trusted you! :) I headed out soon after your call.  And good thing too… 

I lacked energy and didn’t want to get in any positions other than laying down though i knew it wasn’t helping to progress labor. Eventually my mucus plug came out. I was checked again and was still 5cms! However I was 90 percent effaced. I wasn’t happy to hear this. Cole suggested I sit on the ball contractions and really starting picking up. I was coupling, tripling and quadrupling. I felt discouraged that my contractions were this intense and I was not more dialated. I asked Cole if this was normal and she said some women completely efface then dialate. I tried to remain encouraged.  

We could see your discouragement, but V was such an encouragement to you, staying positive and attending to you so gently but unobtrusively. You seemed to like lying on the ground where it was cool, because you were feeling so hot. So you moved from the ball to the ground, where I put a mat that you could lay on. I took that as a sign you were really picking it up and heading toward birth and your need to get ‘grounded’ was evident.  

Through out the labor I managed the pain with low moans and envisioned my body and moans pushing the baby down. I tried to keep my body relaxed during contractions instead of tensing and trying to fight what my body was doing. 

You did so well!  

I made trips to the bathroom feeling I had to have a bowel movement. When the contractions came I could feel my body pushing involuntarily.  

I could hear it, but didn’t want to say anything until you were ready to acknowledge it.  

I knew that this was a sign of being fully dilated but I couldn’t believe I was. After all the nurse has just checked me less than an hour ago. The second time the involuntary pushing occured it was much stronger and I let out a gutteral scream. This time I knew I was pushing. Cole was waiting outside the bathroom door as her suspicion was that I was pushing.  

Victor and I  had been waiting just outside your door, I knew you were going to move into birthing very quickly and it was already a little bit of a task trying to convince the nurse that I wouldn’t let you birth on the toilet :) The moment I heard that first real push, Victor and I gave each other thumbs up, we had just been talking about how you were going to be birthing any moment, and grinned at one another before I went dashing in to you and he went dashing for the call button.  

She told Victor to call the nurse. Melissa was in the room before I could even make it back to the bed. She checked me and said “She ten!”.  

Actually, she said “She’s complete!”. You looked at me and said ‘what?’. I said it meant you were 10 and could push. You said ‘no way!’. :)  

Words cant express how relieved and excited I felt to hear this. Melissa told me to listen to my body as far as pushing and positioning. I specifically wanted to do spontaneous pushing (uncoached) and Melissa and i had discussed this in our prenatal appts. So I listened to my body and did spontaneous pushing for about two pushes then Camille’s heartrate rate dropped. 

Melissa said that I needed to to get her out. I got on to my knees and pushed her out that very next contraction.  

You weren’t playing with that push. She gave you the ‘go’ and you did it! 

Victor attempted to catch her but she came out too fast for him to get gloves on! They past her to me thru my legs cord still attached. I couldn’t believe she was here! I couldn’t believe I had done it! It was an amazingly euphoric, empowering experience.  

Camille Rae was born Oct 1 at 10:27 pm weighing 6 lbs 5 oz 18.5 in long. She came out very alert and cried immediately. The bag of waters didn’t break until she was coming out and was almost delivered en caul which is incredibly rare but completely safe.  

She latched on immediately and nursed for about an hour. I couldn’t stop staring at her. I couldn’t believe she was here! We had an amazing birth team with Melissa and Cole. Victor was so loving and supportive though I could definitely tell he felt helpless lol. We were so blessed to have a great birth experience and a healthy baby girl! 

You were so amazing mama! 

Birth Relaxation Kit: a complete birth hypnosis program

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On last month’s post about my experiences using birth hypnosis, I mentioned that I used the Birth Relaxation Kit during Ivy’s pregnancy and birth. The company’s founders, a husband-wife team of certified hypnotherapists, generously donated the program for me to test out and review.

Dr. Mavi Gupta, a board-certified physician and hypnotherapist, created the Birth Relaxation Kit along with her husband Jeremy Dyen, a musician and hypnotherapist. They combined their medical, musical, and hypnosis training to create an effective, affordable birth hypnosis program.

When Mavi was pregnant with her first baby, she had originally planned a hospital birth with an epidural. However, exposure to birth hynposis helped her and Jeremy look into other options, and they ultimately decided to have a home birth with a midwife. She writes:

On February 7th, in the middle of winter, our daughter Anjali was born at home with our midwives and doula in attendance. The birth of our daughter turned out to be a beautiful, blissful and amazing experience.  It was the most intense experience of my life, yet I did not experience pain. I birthed Anjali on the day I envisioned and labored at the time I had envisioned as well, in the peacefulness and privacy of my own home. We felt truly blessed.

After the birth, my husband Jeremy and I became inspired to train in hypnosis so that we could develop our own hypnobirthing methods and empower women who want to have a natural birth process without fear.  We each became certified in hypnosis, accredited by the International Certification Board Of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ICBCH).  Our continued work in this field combined with the feedback we have received over the years help us continually refine our program.

Unlike most other hypnobirthing programs, we offer extensive experience in medicine and music in addition to hypnotherapy. I am a board certified physician with extensive pain training and Jeremy has over 20 years experience composing music for meditation and yoga. We have blended this experience along with our personal experience using these techniques to bring you a quality program that will change your life.

The Birth Relaxation Kit is a complete birth hypnosis program and comes in three different packages: Basic ($49), Plus ($79), and Deluxe ($499).

The Basic package has everything you need to learn and practice hypnosis techniques for your labor and birth.

If you’d like personalized one-on-one support, you can order the Deluxe package ($499). It includes all the materials from the Plus package, as well as a personalized hypnosis mp3, 2 phone consultations, and 2 phone or Skype hypnosis sessions.

I reviewed the Plus package while it was in the final stages of development, so I received everything except the sleep and postpartum mp3s.


I highly recommend the Birth Relaxation Kit. Mavi narrated all of the hypnosis tracks, and her voice was soothing and calming. (Sometimes the narrator of the Hypnobabies program got on my nerves, so I was really picky when testing out the BRK).

Jeremy composed all of the music for the BRK. I’m a trained musician, and I cannot focus on anything else if the background music is too loud. Fortunately, the Birth Relaxation Kit’s music was at the perfect volume: audible but never dominant or distracting. I sensed rather than heard the music when Mavi was speaking. Exactly how it should be.

I found the Birth Relaxation Kit incredibly relaxing during pregnancy. I’ve used hypnosis for all my labors during the early stages. However, the main value of hypnosis, for me, came in the daily deep relaxation during the final months of pregnancy. Hypnosis pulled me through the normal worries of pregnancy, terrible bouts of sleeplessness, and anxiety over various concerns (Dio’s breech presentation, possible GD during Inga’s pregnancy, etc.).

If you are looking for an affordable alternative to hypnosis classes or self-study programs such as Hypnobabies, the Birth Relaxation Kit is exactly what you need. 


I’ve been reflecting on Ivy’s birth. Every new detail I remember leads me to suspect that she was posterior the entire labor and for most of pushing. I never felt the amazing, pleasurable high between contractions that I was used to experiencing from my three previous labors. I could tell that the endorphins and other hormones were still there, but they manifested as dizziness rather than as “la-la-ahhhhhh” goodness. I never felt a complete break between contractions. The intensity and pain lessened, but never faded away entirely. I also had constant rectal pressure for most of my labor.

Ivy’s labor was definitely my most challenging, although not the longest or the shortest. I wonder how much more intense the birth might have been, had I not done daily hypnosis sessions with the Birth Relaxation Kit.


To end the review, I want to include some of my correspondence with Jeremy. We were discussing our motivations for using hypnosis. I mentioned that my main goal wasn’t to avoid pain; it was to embrace every sensation without judgment. He responded:

That you touch on the fact that your goal was not to avoid pain or have a “comfortable” birth, and that those goals are contrived, is so honest….I love that you want to “let birth be what it will be” and “to accept every sensation without judgment, fear or anxiety.” I think undoing the fear and anxiety are the most important elements of our program (and, if I may speak for Madhavi, my wife, her birth experience). But to say you “accept every sensation without judgment, fear or anxiety,” is so eloquent and speaks directly to birthing itself, not just the fear and anxiety that is felt during pregnancy.


The Birth Relaxation Kit is available as an instant download here.