Tag Archives: Birth

The Obligatory New Year’s Resolution Post

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Despite my resistance now for a few days, a proper health and wellness blog cannot go without mentioning New Year’s Day and the birth of countless resolutions. A handful of these promises will be life-changing, while the rest will soon be forgotten as people fall back into living their familiar stories. This year marks another year I hope to wind up in the handful. I say, why not?

Truthfully, I used to think New Year’s was kind of a joke. It kind of is when you look at all of the failed attempts at resolutions. And for me, it really was just another day in another year of my life. Now, as I feel more inclined to live life fully each day and to live according to the seasons of the calendar year, I realize the powerful symbol the New Year brings to my consciousness, when I pay attention. The day ritualizes new beginnings in my life, and I get inspired by it. I hear other people embarking on their own journeys because of the New Year, and it makes me smile.

What my New Year’s ritual looks like is me sitting down in quiet reflection, jotting down thoughts about life and the world, but I also use this time to empty out. After I get all of the words on paper, I go through and think deeply about what I really want to accomplish. While my list of things I want to do, do, do, seems never-ending, I wonder about the bare necessities. I strip away my desires to the most necessary and truthful dreams I carry with me. I recognize that before I can move forward in making my dreams a reality, I must be honest and shed the parts of my life that no longer work. I let go of some of those ambitions (okay most), and I decipher which dreams are mine and which are my ego’s. It’s not always easy to tell, but I try to figure it out anyway.

I then practice letting go of even the dreams that I think are mine, and I practice focusing on clearing my mind. I repeat this process as often as necessary, and this reflection and discernment goes on for the rest of the year,  because circumstances change, the world changes and I change accordingly. I build and practice faith and “trust the process” as I let go.

To bring you outside of my whimsical, New Year’s reflection and back to reality, here is the succinct takeaway from my thoughts on New Year’s: Instead of viewing New Year’s as a time to add more to life, why not view it as a time to really simplify life? Let go of old habits, relationships, experiences and make room for new. You will find that learning to accept accompanies this letting go process, and I don’t know about you, but I think it feels really good to accept yourself and your life and strip away the non-essentials. You may just find joy at the bottom of your catch-all-drawer you’ve been meaning to clean.

Only 5 days into the New Year and letting go has already taken many shapes and forms that have made me feel great. With a new meal plan routine, I let go of foods that do not nourish me and that harm the environment. In addition to the health benefits, as a secondary result, this act of letting go actually now produces a financial plus (saving money) and an emotional benefit (I am cooking more and sharing meals with family, which makes me happy!)  Just today, I let go of 4 bags of old clothes that no longer fit me (you know those ones you keep just in case, well, I moved on). So far, letting go has been a fairly easy resolution for me. So far. I know it won’t always be that way, but I hope I can be open to the experience when it arises.

I also hope that you take a moment to honor the New Year and the surprises and teachings it may bring to your life. If you haven’t already, Mandala Reflections challenges you to really sit with yourself and think about your life. Maybe do art, write, practice yoga, dance, have a beer or do whatever inspires you to tap into your unconscious. Rediscover old dreams. Ask yourself where you feel well and where you feel unwell. Go to the discomfort. Ask yourself what you want to change about that uncomfortable place and most important, be honest. Recognize and discern if you are actually ready and willing to change. If you are not ready to change or you are a superstar, you won’t feel the urge to make a resolution, and that’s okay. Just listen and you will know what to do. Give yourself the chance to practice self-awareness in the New Year, and you will make the best decisions you can.

Embracing Wildness: Ina May Gaskin on Birth Matters

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As Minnesota’s change in season begins to show signs of death–longer periods of darkness, bare tree branches and frosted crops, last night, I had the opportunity to attend a talk delivered by Ina May Gaskin that addressed the joys and sorrows of birth. Considered “the midwife of modern midwifery,” she was exactly how I imagined her to be. I was enlightened by her easy-going presence and her dedication to empowering people through education and social activism.

Starting with a rather intense Youtube video of an elephant giving birth, she captured my attention right away and reminded me that like an elephant, my body has an innate knowledge and wildness that can also give birth to great things. But before recognizing the beautiful wildness of the human species or any species, she laid some facts down about the reality of what it means to give birth in the United States.

Ina highlighted some pretty astounding facts about our progress (or lack thereof) in the realm of infant and maternal mortality rates. While we have made steady improvements over the years, currently the U.S. ranks 41st worldwide in newborn death rates, and the maternal death rate is also rising (to be fair, USA Today kindly provides a defensive view on this figure). Regardless of where you stand, the numbers speak loudly. In 2010, according to a World Health Organization report, the U.S. ranked 50th of 59 developed countries. Ina mentioned from 1996-2006, maternal death rates tripled in California which has caused a number of people to be concerned, as they should be. This figure was alarming enough for the state to ask the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative to perform a statewide review, which later discovered that nearly 40% of these deaths were preventable–which is big enough in itself for another day’s blogging.

While all of these facts are interesting and somewhat surprising, I already understand that we need a more holistic approach to birth and that mothers need more options (midwives, doulas, etc.)–what spoke to me the most from the talk was Ina’s comment about how powerful our minds are in the process of birth. When talking about pain related to birth, she mentioned that pain is accentuated by fear and that most women are fearful of giving birth because society has trained them to be. She mentioned that its common practice to pick on pregnant women and scare them. She added that we are pathologically afraid of birth even though a century ago, it was hospitals that were afraid of women abandoning hospitals to have home births, which was when midwifery was eliminated.

In addition to the fact society scares women of their bodies, Ina emphasized that education is lacking in the area of human anatomy and sex-ed. She said not enough time is spent teaching about preventative measures, how the body works and how miraculous it is. To improve this situation, she recommends junior high and high schools to teach kids early on about their bodies in a way that dismantles the dominant culture’s perception of the body and our ingrained  belief that we need to control every aspect of it.

When Ina talked about being afraid of our bodies, I turned to the lovely pregnant woman who invited me to the talk, and we agreed that there were aspects of our bodies that we felt uncomfortable with. Never before had I really thought of why I was that way, I just accepted it. With a new perspective about myself and society, Ina challenged me to increase my comfort level with my own physical body and not blame myself for being a product of my cultural upbringing.

Ina lastly reminded me, as an environmentalist, that I need to respect nature in a way that recognizes that women are a part of nature too– that women have the right to know and accept that their bodies are wild and that’s okay. Ina left the audience with one final piece of advice: “Be as wild as you can”–like the elephant in the video. She added, “your instinctual self is in your wildness,” and that women must go to the wildness to remember and trust that they really do know how to give birth.

For additional details on the statistics provided in this blog, the following websites were used:

Stanford School of Medicine

California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative

Trends in Maternal Mortality Report