So many times, our modern culture focuses on the fact that cesareans are now a choice and the technology and skills have improved. So many times, birth in the modern world is promoted because we have epidurals and obstetricians and... well, those aspects cannot be denied. However, I want to focus not on what technology didn't exist throughout the history of birth, but what the historical influences on birth were that actually may have improved the outcomes of birth compared to the modern day.
Historical Influences on Birth - Life
You birth how you live. It is kind of that simple. The historical birth would have experienced life in a way that better prepared the body for birth. Nothing more than the daily actions (and non-actions) of living prepare the body to gestate, birth, breastfeeding and experience vitality in the childbearing years and beyond. Now, this also means each culture would have seen their own influences of how they live on birth - most having really great outcomes. Think way back before civilized America. Too many times early America and Europe-before-America is the comparison to health statistics when people were either living in highly crowded unsanitary conditions or highly secluded conditions with mono-diets full of filler foods.
Historical Influences on Birth - Wild Food
Wild food is hardier. Wild food germinates and sprouts in the conditions that support its growth the best. This means they are, typically, growing in optimal conditions being fertilized naturally through forest decomposition and companion plants. It will thrive in those conditions (or stop growing when it is not provided with them or overtaken by larger plants or invasive species). A wild food will most often have more nutrients than its store-bought, farmers-market purchased, and even organically farmed counterparts - especially when the comparison is to a mono-culture of plants. Hunter-gatherer cultures have increased nutrients in their body compared to western cultures, reducing the need for synthetic or whole-foods supplements. Wild foods are highly diverse. One wild fruit tree will never be the same variety as another wild fruit tree grown from the seed. The seeds are designed to carry unique genetic codes to improve the health of the species. We can relate this to what happens when humans mate with other humans who's genetic structure is similar to theirs - many complications physically and neurologically.
Adding wild foods (not seeds planted in rows in the forest - but foods that grow, seed and spread on their own) is one way we can improve modern birth in the way that a historical birth would have benefited.
Historical Influences on Birth - Movement
Movement was crucial for survival at one time. This meant, even when someone didn't want to move - they had to from a very early age or they wouldn't eat or have shelter. They not only had to move to hunt and gather their food, but also to process it. A food processing movement now takes only the push of a button. A food processing movement historically would have taken days of labor to not only create a quality tool to process the food, but then to process the food with that tool by hand. It isn't just the movement that improves the whole healthy of the body, but the significant decrease in processed food due to the movement it took to create a processed food.
The other major movement influence on historical birth was walking and climbing with minimal to no footwear as well as bending and squatting for various needs, such as elimination. This improved whole body alignment, especially in the pelvis area. The soft tissue surrounding the pelvis was significantly more flexible and toned (round ligament and lower back pain would have been experienced to a much less degree). This would have created a significant impact on not only the health and safety of the birth, but also the speed of labor and the birth phase. While many tribal rituals appear to be barbaric to our modern culture, the daily life of the woman prepared her for this physiological task. Wallis tells us in The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada that, "a normal labor lasted two hours." Each culture, of course would have had their differences just like the modern women that sits more than she moves will often experience a longer more physically demanding labor (or deal with symphysis pubis dysfunction). More whole-body movement prior to childbirth (and pregnancy) typically equates to an easier labor. Whole body movement does not equate to one style or a few styles of exercise; keep this in mind.
Historical Influences on Birth - Reverence for the Circle of Life (Not Fear)
The heartbreaking aspects of life are the most difficult topics for modern cultures. I cannot even begin to pretend that I wholly understand what a family experiences through some of these most difficult times, even through various losses I have experienced myself and with my family. What we do see, however, is that our culture is built on quantity of life and not quality of life. We do see that the more disconnected cultures become in daily life, the more difficult it is to manage the times where our spirit must be supported from many angles. Tribal cultures had a deep reverence for not just human life and death, but the place humans have in connection to the earth - giving thanks for everything that is received and thanks (because of understanding) when desired things are not. The more we fear any of life's experiences, the more we fear birth. The more we search for one thing or many things to save us, the less we rely on our own actions. Making choices doesn't guarantee us anything (hospital, home, midwife, obstetrician, unassisted, herbs, medications, faith) - but it does allow us to be an active participant in this experience and better understand, or trust, outcomes when we have participated in the informed decisions of our life. There can be a lot of healing in accepting that we will never know everything; our beliefs shape our actions and reactions.
Historical Influences on Birth - Birth Normalization
Though many historical cultures used a woman that had experienced many more births and had more knowledge of herbs than the others, most births that weren't unassisted, were attended by the family and friends of a woman who had a natural knowledge of birth and herbs because they were immersed in it from the time they were born themselves. A young child would have fetched water or an extra set of hands to come when labor had arrived and these women were often mistakenly labeled as a "midwife" causing modern readers to relate that name to what they see in a care provider today. Being someone that would have learned from their elders and having been immersed in [mostly] normal birth from when they were a babe is quite different than someone who learns western medicine, surgery and birth on your back from mothers that may be very ill-prepared going into pregnancy. Modern birth is simply not like birth was from a culture that lived a life of survival which naturally developed the body for reproduction. The historical birth attendant (usually the mother or mother-in-law) provided guidance on herbs and foods to use or avoid, and in many cultures offered regular abdominal massage throughout the pregnancy improving fetal position and maternal relaxation. During pregnancy, she held space and provided calm energy. Not much more was needed and in most cases hands and herbs did the trick where it was needed.
We can't address the normalcy of birth views without addressing the awareness historical cultures had on the number of pregnancies they experienced. More babies would have meant a lot more work for survival of the tribe, so it wasn't common to have more than 2-3 kids in many tribal hunter and gatherer cultures. Food sources, and even various stress levels, would have influenced the menstrual cycle and affecting fertility too for when natural food sources would have better supported pregnancy. Additionally, through awareness of their body, physiological breastfeeding, and herbal uses, they would have naturally spaced babies and prevented pregnancy (yes, even more barbaric measures as well) to reduce the number of babies for their culture's needs. Spacing their babies meant more time for the uterus and body to heal between pregnancies and to be in a physiological space best prepared to handle a pregnancy and birth.
just breathe Reflection Journal Prompt - Week 2
Reflect: List 6 practical goals for movement and health:
The Oxytocin Method creates actions that improve the biological function of your body - physically, emotionally and holistically to improve the natural hormone needed for spontaneous labor progression and a happy healthy birth.
While we can choose to utilize historical approaches to birth, we are also blessed to not have to use all their measures as well. The biggest influences are our regular life choices that will affect our perinatal experience. Can you see historical influences on birth that you can adapt to your daily routine which may positively influence your birth?
Many Americans are still of the mindset that a low-fat diet is the key to reducing many of the common ailments experienced later in life like heart disease, high cholesterol, and weight gain. Even modern trendy "health supplements" block the body's ability to utilize fat, promoting weight loss. However, healthy fats are a necessary component of whole foods needed for soothing the nerves, balancing digestion, and supporting healthy brain growth. In fact, healthy fats can actually promote weight balance.
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Birth Prep Challenge for a happy healthy birth is coming soon!!!
Everyone wants a great birth. We also want birth prep to be easy and straight forward. What everyone might not know are the amazingly simple things you can do to make that happen. Discovering how to navigate the birth industry is important. Realizing how your birth environment and birth team influences your birth is crucial. Learning techniques for comfort and optimal fetal positioning is a wonderful way to enhance our birth experience. However, a great birth doesn't simply mean fun, pain free, or vaginal. A happy birth IS a healthy birth and the definition of a happy healthy birth changes for everyone as long as the whole family's health and happiness is included in that definition.
Do you receive the Esali Birth Newsletter? Be sure to sign up for updates because tomorrow I'll start sharing simple routines that will not only change your birth - but your whole life health! If you want a little more guidance along the way, be sure to schedule a mentoring session and we'll talk specifics for your personal experience.
Preparing for birth, years ago, happened with daily life. It still does... only you may not be preparing for the type of birth your body was designed for or what you desire. Maybe you're not quite sure if you can change your experience or where to start - and that's what the Esali Birth Prep Challenge is for.
It is said that it takes at least 21 days to create a new habit.
Follow along over the next 10 weeks as we talk about simple habits you can create that take only a small mind shift or a few extra minutes of your day to change your whole body. The habits are key to continued health. We all create habits - some positively influencing us and some negatively influencing us. Creating new habits might not always be easy - so you'll need to incorporate these new routines daily - but it starts with a desire to want to change or try something new. Some only require a change in action without any extra effort, so what are you going to lose?
Are you ready for the Esali Birth Prep Challenge?
Can't wait to get started with you - tomorrow January 17, 2017!
At Esali Birth, we go far beyond "what to expect" in birth. While "birth class" is often what people call it - that's simply because it is a term that has been around for so long. Additionally, people think of the word "doula" as someone that only supports moms during labor - and that is not completely accurate, either. Ideally, your care provider is the one that not only educates you and supports you and provides breastfeeding guideance, but reality these days doesn't really offer the opportunity for providers to have the time to do so. This is where a birth educator comes in and then often a separate doula after that and then a separate lactation counselor after that. However, reducing the amount of people not only in the birth itself, but overall during the perinatal journey has many values. No matter what you want to call it - someone that provides a continuum of education and support from pregnancy through labor and into postpartum not only has the value of trust, but the value of knowing your personal journey. Even more than a standard series, I LOVE focusing on individualized education - because just like your care provider for birth, the information you receive prenatally is specific to your needs. Working with couples in private mentoring sessions allows me to focus on not only your questions, but techniques that are specific to your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
What might a prenatal mentoring session look like? That really depends on your goals, and where you are in your childbearing journey. We may:
Talk about birth history and the birth industry and how that will influence your health and happiness - do you know how the business of birth changes your options and safety? We'll talk about the safety of birth in the US, too.
Process a previous birth (or even a birth story you've heard) to reduce fear and move on to enjoying your perinatal experience - Do you know how this can affect the comfort and health of your birth? We'll talk about that, too.
Work on body techniques to eliminate pregnancy discomfort and help position baby for the best birth possible - Do you know techniques you can do at home to reduce these discomforts and why misalignment changes even things like vaginal birth and VBAC? We'll talk about that, too.
Discover nutrition that will increase your health, your baby's health, and reduce chances of things like rupture of the membranes before labor due to nutrition - Do you know about whole foods and herbal therapies? We'll talk about that, too.
Find a birth team to best support your needs - Do you know what is available to you from home to hospital? We'll explore your options.
Develop a relationship that carries into trust in birth so I am not only your "labor doula" - but a connected part of your team that knows more about your history, who you are, and what you desire - Do you know what a doula can do for you AND Dad? Let's discuss that, too.
Build confidence in you AND dad so you can work together through the perinatal stages and become empowered parents - because confidence is key and I want you to walk away from a mentoring session with a smile and an energy excited for birth.
Wow, and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Overall, we're not only working towards your goals in birth - but in creating the happiest birth possible because a happy birth is a healthy birth. One on one sessions - virtually or locally - help you have that special time to focus on you and a guide along the way to provide you with information and resources that support you holistically without having to spend hours and hours in parenting groups and blogs trying to filter through the information.
We've had a wonderful #esali5k this year! As we work on using the funds in ways that can make a difference in birth and impact the lives of families in a unique way, we are starting out with an amazing giveaway!
THREE - 3-Month Subscriptions to the Esali Baby Basket
Holistic childbirth prep at your door - a monthly box sent to you that nourishes your soul, your health, and access to the complete online perinatal education series, PLUS group mentoring sessions monthly (online). Learn more at http://babybasket.esalibirth.com/. This is an AMAZING opportunity for any family! Yes, you can even gift your subscription if you win to someone you love that is expecting. Boxes can only ship within the continental U.S. - please consider when entering into the raffle.
Raffle begins WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2016 and ends MONDAY, May 16, 2016 at MIDNIGHT
So, how do I enter? Easy peasy! You have 3 options to earn points:
Comment on THIS blog post - tell us why you would love to have an Esali Baby Basket subscription.
Visit the Esali Birth Facebook page.
Every day during the raffle, tweet "Check out the #esalibirth #babybasket subscription for holistic #childbirth prep."
That's it, families. GOOD LUCK!!! Winners will be announced Monday, May 16th, 2016 on the Esali Blog, the Esali Facebook page, and the Esali Twitter page.