Private & Prenatal Yoga Teacher and Doula in Los Angeles

Nurturing Joyous Life

Emily Herakovich: Private & Prenatal Yoga Teacher, Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator and Ayurvedic Consultant in Los Angeles

Comfort Measures: For Labor & For Life

There is a lot of preparation these days for childbirth. Many parents-to-be enroll in multiple week series of childbirth education classes, newborn care classes, CPR, breastfeeding, quietly obsessing over their "birth plan", grasping at control over any part of the process. A great deal of time is also spend pouring over registries, trying to find all of the right products for every need that may arise. And yet, amidst all of this, there is very little talk of how to manage pain and discomfort, how to self soothe and how to get your mind right for managing the actual physical act of laboring a baby down and out and recovering from that. But, isn't that actually the point; the most important part of it all?!

In order to really do this thing, this childbirth thing, we have to know about comfort measures. And "comfort measures" is not just a term we should use for the tools and techniques we may use for managing pain in labor. Comfort measures are life skills. Comfort measures are self-soothing techniques. And in life, we are all already self-soothing, every single second of the day. We are trying to keep ourselves in balance, manage physical or mental discomforts and distractions, and maintain some semblance of our sanity to get through this very difficult journey called life. Some of us are able to successfully self soothe with things like breathing, or warm baths or a nap. Others of us need to up the ante to things like spending sprees, or alcohol or recreational drugs. Either way, it's all self-soothing, it's all "comfort measures". And the ones we choose are usually just defaults because we don't know any other way. No one ever taught us how to self-soothe or really what it even means!

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In childbirth, probably the most important and valuable thing you can do is start to learn about the variety of comfort measures available to you in life. In pregnancy, you have a great opportunity to explore the innumerable tools and techniques for managing pain and discomfort and when you introduce these things in your daily life, you then become more likely to not only use them in labor but for them to actually be effective. Essentially, you have to practice comfort measures! That is what makes them more successful.

So where does one go in adulthood to learn about comfort measures and maybe make some changes in their typical discomfort management techniques? Well, actually, in pregnancy, there's a great deal of choices out there! It's the best time to start to learn this kind of stuff, not only for yourself, but so you can teach your kid this very valuable life skill. Starting to make changes in your lifestyle at this critical time in your life will pay dividends for generations to come!

Here in LA you can check out BINI Birth, Silver Lake Yoga and Gracefull Birthing Center for the most comprehensive and helpful classes for managing pain and discomfort!

The Postpartum Time

In our world today, there's a strange happening that occurs when a woman has a baby. During her pregnancy, she is treated with the utmost respect and consideration. She is encouraged to do whatever she needs to take care of herself: get massages, eat very well, take time off of work, enjoy social activities, relax as much as possible and concentrate only on herself and her baby within. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours are spent on self-care. It's her number one priority in her home and out in the world.

And then she has the baby. 

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She spends hours in labor, painfully trucking along to give her baby the best intro into it's new world. In much of the world today, this process also includes some unnecessary abuses or interventions and she's told to take these in stride; to do what she needs for her baby. She births the baby either through major abdominal surgery or by pushing it out through a very small orifice in her body, which often requires stitching and repair. And then she immediately brings the baby to her breast for sucking. And all of the sudden, literally within moments, she is no longer the focus of care and her baby becomes the one and only priority. Long gone are the days of massages, of eating very well, or enjoying social activities, of relaxation and of any sort of self-care. Her partner and family are greatly undereducated as to what is required to take care of her physically and mentally and in too many cases, she becomes sick and possibly dies.

The good news is that is does not have to be this way. Although we have little control over what happens in childbirth, we have a great amount of control over what happens in postpartum. We can learn what to feed a new mother, we can learn how to make sure she gets enough sleep, we can learn how to negotiate with her workplace to ensure she has the proper support and scheduling. We can learn how to actually take care of a mother in postpartum! And, in fact, when the mother is well taken care of, the baby thrives. It does not work the other way around.

So, while you're out there searching for the best baby care class or how to learn about cloth diapering, also find a class (or professional) who can help you learn how to take care of a woman in her postpartum time so that the family can achieve the highest level of health and happiness!

OR join my class in LA at Gracefull Birthing Center on November 4th!

HORMONES!

We sometimes forgot that our bodies are not just made of physical mass. We think of our selves as walking, talking, moving, originating from the physicality of our bodies. But, actually the "action of life" is not physical, it's physiological. We came once, from nothing. Not literally from nothing, but from a physical perspective (from what we can physically see), we did sort of just appear. And by "we", I mean life. I mean bacteria, I mean cells, I mean the basic physical component of life.

Our physical bodies, in fact, came last. First it was a mix of very strong forces and those strong forces created a variety of separate strong, but not quite as strong forces. We call this energy, or emotions, or even circulation. And we forget that beneath all of that, at the first point of life, some chemical (or energetic) interaction had to occur to create the force of dense mass: hormones! 

Sound all too over your head or like a science class you're not that interested in? Well, you're right! That's not the point. The point is that we are made of hormones. Life is hormones. The hormones create emotions and thought, directing us toward the next physical action, helping us through the present one. 

This is an important concept to consider in childbirth. It is, in fact, the hormones that create the baby. Both in the encouragement of intercourse, but more importantly in the growing of the baby. And when you get to labor, it's a hormone release that initiates it, it's a continuous flow of the right hormones that keep it going, and it's a huge surge of them that delivery the baby into the world. When the baby comes, it's a certain mix of hormones that maintains the mothers interest in the child. If not for this unique movement of chemical reactions (mainly oxytocin) in the body, humans would cease to exist. 

The thing is, because hormones are so powerful, we have to make sure that we are producing the right ones. Mostly the control of that comes from environment and this is why the struggle for "natural" birth is so strong. Long ago, we all used to deliver babies at home. Doctors traveled to patients; not patients to doctors. We controlled the setting in the very place we were most comfortable in. Now, most of us travel to our delivery location. As a result, she enters an unfamiliar environment - one that she has no control over, that is stripped of any comforting surroundings, and that is nothing like her usual everyday environment. So, her body produces cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) as a physiological response to her immediate situation.

Sometimes in our physical reality, we forgot that a woman must be able to get herself into a state where she is producing oxytocin to have her baby on her own with her own body. Otherwise, she requires the assistance of a medical team to elicit that state in her body. She must make an adjustment in her physiological structure and our understanding an awareness to this need makes all the difference in our treatment of her situation and ultimately, her life. 

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