Esali Birth: Philosophy… not a Method

What is Esali?  More importantly, what is Esali Birth?

I get this question All.The.Time!  In fact, it is one of my favorite questions to answer.  Why?  Because I am able to explain so much about the importance of perinatal education when someone asks me this question.  I can dispell myths about childbirth, and talk about the important choices parents will be making throughout this short time period.  It is really a question that has a never ending answer, so sometimes it is a little difficult to adequately describe to those inquiring. 

Esali is Italian for "exhale."  It is simple.  It is relaxing.  It is effective.  It is a combination of perspective and physiology.  It is a positive approach to a beautiful time in your life and a way of looking differently about the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experience.  Esali Birth is a perinatal and birth philosophy.  Start calling this a "Childbirth Method," and you've instantly downgraded the quality of education and importance of an Esali Birth course.  Anyone can have a baby, but unless you're taking a responsible role and actively creating your perinatal experience, not everyone can have a healthy birth experience.  Yes, there are many instances where birth is not perfect, and birth is not meant to be perfect.  Like pooping, it is really just another natural bodily function that has a variety of outcomes and small yet significant ways it can be changed.  Only this particular function has a lasting impact on your life, your baby's life, your partner's life, and any other person connceted to that child.

Childbirth (as in the actual act of birth) is not the most important focus in an EB class.  Do many parents sign up for a class because they want to learn how to birth a child?  Yes... but, we quickly switch their focus to more important matters.  Your body knows how to birth your baby, you need no instruction.  What IS important, is EVERYTHING that surrounds that birth.  You will beautifully birth IF you make choices that allow you to do so.  We teach you these choices and provide the information for what also happens when you don't make these choices.  If you're not making choices to allow your body to do what it was biologically meant to do, then you may need a little instruction in childbirth.  Only, that would not be biological childbirth - that would be managed childbirth - and then the cycle is repeated for women not trusting their bodies, men having such an influence on birth decisions, and more medical interventions becoming necessary. 

Esali Birth is PERINATAL education.  Yes, it is very important to call it PERINATAL education because it is so much more than just childbirth. 

We discuss selecting a care provider and birth location.  We talk about your options and talk about the differences.  We talk about the history of the birth industry and how it has affected birthing practices.  We talk about pros and cons to medically managed birth, and pros and cons to biological birth.  We provide an array of information that women early in their pregnancies (or even before) can utilize.  We have many students taking classes at the end of their pregnancies, but encourage taking a course as early as possible because this provides you with the most time to develop a healthy birth philosophy and make any necessary changes to create a positive perinatal experience.

We talk about pregnancy and how your body changes.  We avoid discussing "what to expect" traditions, and stress how much influence you have on your physical and emotional health during pregnancy.  We go in depth on nutrition and how this affects your pregnancy, your developing baby, your birth, and postpartum.  We talk about cravings and how to listen to your physical body and emotions.  We talk about intimacy during pregnancy and how this can  affect your birth experience.

We discuss comfort measures - naturally.  We talk about the hormones important to labor and birth and how these affect your birth experience.  We discuss the optimal setting for these hormones to efficiently work, and talk about ways they are affected when birth goes off course.  We discuss the importance of a birth team and how each individual will affect your experience.  We discuss ways that you can talk to your birth team and give them a role during or after the birth.  We talk about the physiology of a contraction, how your cervix dilates, and how the baby moves through the birth canal. 

We stress the importance of instinctive labor and choosing a provider and birth location that supports instinctive biological birth.

We talk about every stage of labor from the first braxton hicks, through prelabor, and to involution during postpartum.  We discuss common medically managed routines such as vaginal exams, contraction timing, and dilation and effacement - and talk about the pros and cons to each of these.  We take a lot of time talking about the physical and emotional signposts of labor and ways that the birth partner can recognize, and assist with, the various stages of labor.  We do multiple labor rehearsals practicing various positive positions and birth partner assistance techniques, discussing the pros and cons for each.

We discuss MULTIPLE ways of reacting to the sensations of labor and birth.  We practice a different relaxation technique every night knowing that we are not a cookie cutter method of childbirth, and stress the importance of practice, practice, practice (and good birth choices) if parents want to achieve a certain level of pain-free birth.  We want our parents to have a variety of resources at their fingertips.  We discuss how effective the 3 R's of childbirth are for mothers (Rythm, Ritual, Relaxation), and the importance of instinctive labor for handling labor sensations. 

We stress that the choices made during pregnancy directly affect the ability to biologically birth as well as affect the sensations a mother will experience, so we focus on providing information to allow our mothers to make these choices.  It is good practice for mothers to choose a birth location supportive of biological birth, and then using techniques to deal with labor sensations, rather than focusing so much attention on relaxation methods that when they experience something other than a low-pain birth they feel like a failure.  Along the same lines, we discuss best techniques for developing a birth guide, but stress the importance of making the same decisions about birth team and birth location first and then using a birth guide for the last little bit of information.  In EB's eyes, relaxation and birth guides (though important in many situations) are not the first focus and should not be thought of as a way to a pleasant birth experience. 

Form follows function - in the end, we really don't care what the birth looked like or even much how it felt - we care about the experience - and an amazing experience is created when a mother is enabled to biologically birth and be actively involved in the choices throughout.  Ask any women 1 year later how she feels about her birth.  Once she's had time to reflect on her experience, she isn't dealing with new mommy tasks and postpartum hormones, and she's had a while to think about what happened.  Ask her and see what she remembers most about her experience.  I would bet the majority of the time it is "this was done to me" "this nurse did this" "this provider did this" "I had to have this"  "I was allowed to do such and such" "they wouldn't let me" "we didn't have to argu"  "they wouldn't let me have my baby" "they followed my birth guide" "I got my VBAC" "I was able to immediately breastfeed...etc." She'll talk less about the pain she may have experienced than what happened due to her birth team and birth location selections.   

We discuss common routines and variations to biological birth and the pros and cons and affects of each.  We talk about common medical interventions, the pros, cons, and affects these have on the birth and postpartum.  We discuss cesarean section, the affects this has on the mother and baby, and ways to make this type of birth more pleasant should the need arise.  We talk about unassisted birth and unplanned birth situations and how those present can help.  We talk about recovery and differences between recoveries with medically managed and biological births.  We talk about perinatal loss and expectations for if this rare event should occur.

We talk about perinatal support within your family and how a trained professional (doula) can help with each phase of the perinatal period.  We discuss postpartum, physical and emotional changes, and expectations.  We talk a lot about breastfeeding and discuss newborn routines and newborn care.  We talk about babywearing, co-sleeping, and various other tips and techniques for adjusting to life with a new baby.

We take time to discuss fears, answer questions, and talk about class member's experiences.  We show videos, ask questions, provide "assignments" and weekly tasks.  We bond and learn with and from each other.  We take time to review all the course material in a variety of ways - my favorite being the EB just breathe board game.  We talk outside of class and create a connection that allows students to know they have someone to come to when they have questions, concerns, or just want a professional opinion.

We provide an online learning environment for distance education, and also as a supplement to our local courses until our mamas birth their babies (which are also available for enrollment at any time).  This provides time for parents to review between classes and after they've finished their course as well as quality perinatal education for mamas who don't have a course near them, or want the option of learning with Esali Birth.

Additionally, we train individuals to become Esali Birth Specialists.  Currently we have distance education training for Educators and Breastfeeding Counselors (and significant discount opportunities available until the end of 2011).  Interested?  Check us out at

What do YOU think Esali Birth is?  Is this just another "childbirth method?"