HomeBirth Focusd Childbirth Education Classes–in Oakland

HomeBirth Focused Childbirth Education Classes

in Oakland

Instructor: Esther Healey, Licensed Midwife

When: Thursdays (5 classes)

Time: 7-10 pm

Where: Oakland, near Lake Merritt

Fee: 8% of homebirth midwifery services fee ($400 max, $150 min)

Class Start Dates for 2012: June 21 (EDDs end of July – Sept) & Sept 20 (EDDs end of Oct – Dec)

To Register or for more info, contact:

The class is a balance of:

-Experiential learning of techniques you may use in labor

-Exposure to births from videos

-Informational coverage of:

*the “stages” of labor and what labor may look like

*what changes are made in the body during labor and postpartum

*what the baby goes through to be born

-Deeper discussions of common questions around standards of care (GBS, Vitamin K, Non Stress Tests, etc.)

-Opportunities to begin processing fears using specific techniques

-Setting intension for birth and postpartum

-What happens if complications arise and transfer of care is necessary (non urgent, urgent, emergency)

-Immediate postpartum and postpartum needs and expectations

-Expectations for newborn babies – what their needs are, and how can we as parents support them

-Breastfeeding techniques and expectations

-and, of course, more

Esther Healey, CPM, LM
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Waking the Womb Consciousness ~ Journeying with Inanna’s Descent before the Solstice

We live in a culture that is fundamentally unfriendly if not outright hostile to anything that has to do with women’s bodies, especially our reproductive organs.  Boobs are fine for advertising, but breastfeeding photos are banned on Facebook.  Vaginas are great as objects of pleasure, but having a say over our reproductive capacities and sexual pleasure makes us sluts.  These are wide generalizations, but they permeate the world we are living in, and encourage a disconnect within our body and soul, especially from our our pelvis/yoni/womb.  Yet we are not solely creatures of intellect.  It is through the body that we experience life, and like any mammal, our body has the basic capacity to navigate the world and know what is good/healthy/safe for it.  When we do not allow, either out of habit, fear or both, our consciousness to reside in the womb, as well as in the heart and mind (and let me remind you that we now know there are brain cells in your heart AND gut), we cannot fully access our capacity to navigate our world.  However, when we are awake in both the heart and womb, our mind becomes the beautiful servant of this unity.

So how do we awaken Her?  What does it take to move from an overly-intellectual, disembodied existence to a more balanced union of body/heart/mind?  We begin by bringing our attention to the body.  We treat her for what she is, soul manifest as flesh and blood.  We do not view needs for rest/activity/food/play as agenda items or as something to be overridden with caffeine, technology or a will of steel.  When the body is tended to as we would tend to any temple or church, our spirit can wake up and speak to us through this bodily manifestation.

Inanna: Embracing the Shadow, by Hrana Janto

When we are moving towards greater light and awareness, we must ensure that we bring forward with us the parts of ourselves previously unseen, unheard, unfelt.  Without this integration, these parts will dog us as shadow, crying out for wholeness and witness.  With integration, the dark, wounded places become our strengths and allies, our personal wisdom that no one can take away from us.

As humans we have the gifts of story and myth, containing wisdom to help us navigate both the inner and outer worlds.  From Sumer we have the stories of Inanna, goddess of heaven and earth; one of her most potent myths is a story about waking and witnessing the darkness.  As we move towards the wonderful light of Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, we can deepen and widen our capacity to hold this light within ourselves by journeying with Inanna into the well of our own wombs.  Our ‘sunlight’ conscious can shed light and love onto the dark parts, freeing up stagnant energy.

On June 4th you will have an opportunity to journey with Inanna at the first of my monthly women’s circles, Resonant Field:

Are you looking to connect more deeply with your own feminine wisdom (or know a woman in your life who would)?  Would you like to share mindful space with other women?  These free monthly gatherings offer a simple, pleasurable way to connect and deepen your relationship to your body and soul, other resonant women and the Divine Feminine.  Each month will be loosely based around a theme, incorporating stillness/meditation, visualization, breath, journaling, feminine archetypes and other healing resources for an evening of sacred play!

  • Open to all interested women, straight/queer/trans, all spiritual and cultural backgrounds, and mothers with babes-in-arms.
  • Held the first Monday evening of the month, private location upon RSVP.  Please arrive 6:45, circle begins at 7 PM.
  • This circle is my community offering, and free of charge.  Please share your gratitude by telling others.
  • Please eat dinner beforehand; ok to bring a snack and I will provide tea, fruit and chocolate.
  • Bring a journal, pen and water bottle.
  • Floor pillows and a few chairs available to those who need; if you have a particular cushion, etc, feel free to bring it.
  • Please RSVP with phone # for both Yes and Maybes, as sometimes I am on-call for a birth and need to be able to contact you:  anahata.bhakti@gmail.com or (510) 473-6724

Community Offering: Resonant Field, a monthly women’s body wisdom circle

Are you looking to connect more deeply with your own feminine wisdom?  Would you like to share mindful space with other women?  These free monthly gatherings offer a simple, pleasurable way to connect and deepen your relationship to your body and soul, other resonant women and the Divine Feminine.  Each month will be loosely based around a theme, incorporating stillness/meditation, visualization, breath, journaling, feminine archetypes and other healing resources for an evening of sacred play!

  • Open to all interested women, straight/queer/trans, all spiritual and cultural backgrounds, and mothers with babes-in-arms.
  • Held the first Monday evening of the month, private location upon RSVP.  Please arrive 6:45, circle begins at 7 PM.
  • This circle is my community offering, and free of charge.  Please share your gratitude by telling others.
  • Please eat dinner beforehand; ok to bring a snack and I will provide tea, fruit and chocolate.
  • Bring a journal, pen and water bottle.
  • Floor pillows and a few chairs available to those who need; if you have a particular cushion, etc, feel free to bring it.

Please RSVP with phone # for both Yes and Maybes, as sometimes I am on-call for a birth and need to be able to contact you:  anahata.bhakti@gmail.com or (510) 473-6724

June 4th:  Waking the Womb Consciousness:  Journeying with Inanna’s Descent before the Solstice

Themes for July 2 and August 6th TBA.

Connecting How We Have Sex with How We Give Birth

Originally posted on Good Vibrations Sexy Mama Online Magazine (currently recovering from internet difficulties so no link)

Since the release in 2008 of the documentary Orgasmic Birth, which promotes undisturbed birth as both safe and deeply pleasurable, western culture has shown an increasing interest in sex and birth. More and more women are waking up to their bodies, their sexuality and well-being, and exploring different traditions as well as journeying into the unknown areas of bodily experience. The potency of a film such as Orgasmic Birth is that it tears away a veil of assumption, in this case that birth is always a burden of pain, something to be feared and endured.
At the same time, I find the term ‘orgasmic birth’ to be problematic in that orgasm is a loaded word that often triggers the idea that there is one more thing for women to achieve, in this case, pleasure. As a practitioner who works one on one and in groups with women, as well as being the mother of a daughter born at home, I’d like to share some fundamental connections between sex and birth that are accessible to a wide range of individuals, regardless of whether you can conceptualize birth as pleasurable or not. Since sex is what starts the whole thing off, I will begin by describing how paying attention to our sex life can both increase our sexual pleasure and healing, as well as preparing our bodies for the journey of birth.
Both sex and birth are generally private events. Mammals are for the most part shy, and will seek privacy to begin labor, or even change locations if interrupted (think of a cat who stops labor when she is discovered, and gets up to find a new dark, quiet place to continue). Now think about the environment in which most people make love: the lighting is low, the space is private, no one is observing (yes, yes, I know some of you are exhibitionists, but go along for the ride please!). Now contrast this to the typical birthing environment found in a hospital: bright lights, no privacy, funny smells, strange sounds, not just one but often multiple rounds of strangers, people putting hands into your yoni to check your cervix. Does this sound like an environment conducive to a peaceful–let alone successful–mammalian birthing experience?
The thing is, we can’t think our way into birth. We can’t force ourselves to trust this sterile environment and these people we don’t know. So is it any wonder that women don’t labor well in hospitals? That their cervixes don’t open, that they feel pain because they are adrenalized? The hormones and physiology of how we birth is factual evidence backed up by science, not just romantic bohemian ideals, yet all over the world hospitals are practicing non-evidence based medicine, and women, babies and families are paying the price. The routine use of interventions on healthy women and infants causes physical, emotional and spiritual trauma, including horrific rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the United States: despite our national wealth and technological advancements, we rank behind forty other nations in maternal mortality, and behind thirty others in neonatal. So I’d like to emphasize that your pleasure is meaningful, that by maintaining connection to what feels good and safe in the body will bring greater health and positive outcomes. This may or may not culminate in an experience that you may define as orgasmic, but the empowerment of staying connected to your body and baby will have lasting, beneficial effects.
Birth is possibly the most intense sensation western women will experience in their bodies. How, as such a sedentary culture, do we prepare ourselves for this sensation? Sex is an excellent, and fun, option. However, we must shift our relationship to sex, to one of relaxing into sensation instead of driving ourselves towards orgasm. I know that for many women even having an orgasm in the first place is not a given. What I am arguing for is not a turning away from the embrace of pleasure (which underlies this desire for orgasm), but a broader embrace of what pleasure means. This is a process of learning to relax into sensation which allows the energy, and pleasure, of sex to circulate beyond the pelvis throughout the whole body, which not only feels great but brings greater vitality, including a stronger immune system!
Eastern traditions such as Tantra and Taoism understand that the body is enlivened by life force (prana and chi, respectively), and that this life force moves through the body along specific channels. By opening up and maintaining the flow in our channels through such practices as breathwork, mindful attention, meditation, bodywork and sexual practice we can receive great benefit. How this translates in birth is that we have a much greater capacity to move the energy of birth in a way that is familiar, safe and possibly even pleasurable. Furthermore, if we are holding past memories of sexual or bodily trauma in our yoni/womb/pelvis, doing the work to heal this up before birth is much more manageable and less scary. When we don’t have the inner resources to move the energy, contractions can seem like a great wave about to drown us. Women often shut down/contract against this energy, which turns intense sensation into pain and a hormonal flood of adrenaline and fear. When we take responsibility for our sexual pleasure and well-being, we learn to trust, or remember to trust, in the wisdom of the body and the knowing that only comes from our first-hand experience of living, loving, birthing. When we enter labor centered in ourselves this way, we remain the subject of our own birth, instead of becoming the object upon which interventions are done and decisions are made about. If you come out of reading this with nothing else, I hope it is this point that you take away.
For birth is, in the end, out of our control. We may have read all the right books, practiced our yoga and ate our kale and protein, even visualized ourselves into nirvana, and still birth may throw us for a loop. But if we are centered in ourselves, if we experience the wisdom of our bodies and are resourced in the relationships of love and intimacy in our lives, then we can find a way through that will leave us ultimately empowered instead of traumatized.

Further Reading:

Some great resources that I recommend for continued exploration are Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering; Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth; Diane Richardson’s Tantric Orgasm for Women; and the various books by Mantak Chia on Taoist sexual practices, such as Healing Love through the Tao: Cultivating Female Sexual Energy
and The Multi-Orgasmic Woman. Buckley is an Australian MD with four children born at home; her writing combines under a wholistic perspective both personal birth stories and current scientific information on undisturbed/ecstatic birth that is readable for the layperson. Gaskin, the famous face of the The Farm’s intentional community in Tennessee and author of the seminal Spiritual Midwifery, talks about ‘sphincter law’, as well as encouraging the intimacy and sexual/sensual energy between a woman and her partner. Richardson is a tantra teacher who teaches women and couples about how to relax into pleasure and advocates ‘valley’ over ‘peak’ orgasms; while this book is both hetero-normative and somewhat dismissive of sex outside of tantric intercourse, her information about the body and pleasure are invaluable. Chia’s books are a great practical source of how to move the energy in your body. I will be writing about some simple and practical suggestions that you can do at home in a upcoming blog post–stay tuned!