the most magical sound in the world

The most magical sound in the world has to be your child’s laughter. We heard it for the first time yesterday. Hubby was making faces at her and she let out several utterly adorable giggles, one after another. The night before we thought we heard one small laugh escape, but last night we were certain.

I have a book on birthday celebrations and was perusing it recently for first birthday ideas (don’t ask me why — she’s not even three months yet!) and was so interested to read this passage:

“There is an old Navajo tradition of the ‘Laugh Day’ which was given more significance for a child than their birthday.  It was on ‘Laugh Day’ that the child was truly seen to respond to life, with a joy freely expressed.  The person for whom the baby had first laughed was assumed to have a special relationshipwith the child and was therefore invited to become godparent.  In this way it was laughter which began the developemnt of a spiritual life.”

Wow, typing this just now truly brought tears to my eyes as it was my husband who brought out that spark in our daughter and elicited her first laughs.  Of course he can’t be a godparent as he’s an actual parent, but I know he will nurture her spiritual growth throughout her life.  I love the idea that this marks a beginning of FJ existing as a multidimensional person truly interacting with the world around her.

May 1…FJ’s laugh day.  Do you remember your child’s ‘Laugh Day?’


This is not a photo of FJ on her actual laugh day, but it looked similarly sweet.


my labor beads

My favorite part of my shower for FJ was when my friends and family each selected a bead, wrote me a wish for my upcoming, unmedicated labor, and strung it on a necklace for me to hold or wear during labor.  During the time those wishes were shared I laughed and cried, and knew something very special and sacred had been created for my birth.

Birth blessings

During my short labor, I held my necklace almost the entire time, focusing largely on the strength of women who have come before me and who will come after me, as well as those who directly offered me the wishes and hopes for my labor. I remembered my friends’ and family’s words of wisdom, encouragement, and love — and was comforted.  I took this idea from the ideas of mother blessings or blessingways, and I think for our next child I’ll focus even more heavily on the idea of a mother/father/baby blessing, rather than on traditional gifts.

After my shower, I put the cards the wishes were written on into a scrapbook, and looked at them in the days leading up to FJ’s birth. Now I’m looking over them again and sharing them with you:

I wish for peace to surround you and to enter your heart as you bring Miss ___ into the world

I hope that you can remember your strength during labor and that you feel empowered and loved as you give birth to your baby girl. Wishing you a very memorable and magical moment.

I hope for you and Baby ____ a peaceful, healthy delivery. At the end of your labor will be the most amazing miracle and moment of your life. You will be amazing and strong. Lots of love!

I hope you have a fast and smooth delivery of baby ___. I wish you the best…and a healthy baby.

I wish for you that your birthing plan can be fulfilled and that things progress smoothly and peacefully. I also wish for you that [Hubby] doesn’t pass out…haha…just kidding!

My wish for you is strength and focus.

My wish for you is to have a safe and healthy birth. I hope it comes easy for you with the least stress possible.

My prayer is that your delivery will be quick.

My wish for you and the baby is health. Lots of love!

My wish for you is bravery. [*Note: This one was from my nine-year-old niece — how AMAZING and insightful is she!!?!?]

My wish for you is to remember that the pain has a purpose. As soon as your eyes meet hers — it’s a magical moment and you realize all good things in life take hard work.

I wish you a calm and speedy delivery. Let go of stress and just breathe (and push, push, push!) I picked a textured bead that will help distract you from any pain. [*Note: I remembered that this friend did this, and it did help!]

This may (or may not) sound strange, but I found labor to be very empowering. It’s pretty amazing what our bodies are capable of doing in order to bring a new life into the world. We are women, hear us roar!!!

I pray that you will have the strength of all the women who have gone before you, the courage of a thousand warriors, and the peace that comes from knowing the love to come will be greater than any before. Love you!

I love you sweetheart and know everything will go well during your labor and birth.

I love you so much and am very proud of all you’ve done with your life. Cherish all the memories of your preganncy, labor, and birth because when they hand you that beautiful life you’ve created, it will have been worth it!!

I am so happy to say all these prayers and wishes did come true.

things i learned about childbirth: my labor and birth affirmations list

For the last post in my mini series on labor tools that I believe may help me, I am going to discuss my labor and birth affirmations list. Both my doula and my childbirth class instructor suggested compiling a list of birth affirmations to help me during difficult parts of my labor — or even before, during pregnancy. In fact, I chose three that resonated with me and I felt weren’t particularly specific to labor itself (for example, I don’t want to focus now on anything involving my cervix opening up!) and posted them in three places I am often (on my bathroom mirror, my cube wall at work, and on my iPhone’s background.) These three are:

  • I am a strong and capable woman
  • I accept myself completely here and now
  • I am completely relaxed and comfortable

I have looked at these affirmations so much I can honestly say they are pretty well ingrained in my head now, and I imagine I could easily call upon them during a time of struggle. There are so many birth affirmations to choose from (try googling them — I bet you come up with a ton of options!) and it’s important to choose ones that resonate with YOU. These are the ones (along with the three I listed above) that resonated with me:

  • I can feel my body opening up like a flower
  • Every surge brings my baby closer to me
  • This is a healthy, positive pain that I can handle
  • I allow my body’s natural anesthesia to flow through my body
  • Inhale peace, exhale tension
  • I have the energy and stamina to birth my baby
  • Today is the day I have been waiting so patiently for
  • I am not afraid
  • I trust my body to know how to birth this child
  • The power of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me

I think the power of our thoughts is an amazing thing, and by allowing peaceful, powerful thoughts such as the ones above to dominate your thoughts regarding your labor and delivery I believe it can do nothing but help. Most of all, I am thankful for an amazing team in my husband, midwives, and doula. I know we’ve assembled the right team to bring our daughter safely into the world, and for that I am so thankful.

I hope these posts have helped you think about what might help you during your labor and delivery. As always, all my best wishes go out to you!

things i learned about childbirth: when distractions don’t work anymore

Welcome to the second post of my mini series on childbirth and labor coping techniques I’ve learned during this beautiful nine-month journey! Last time, I talked about the power of distractions during early labor. This time, I’d like to share what my second step will be, when distractions don’t work anymore!  The key with each of these steps is that you follow them until they can’t possibly distract you from your discomfort any longer. This way, you have tons of tools in your bag and go slowly through your tools, leaving lots to the end, when it may be hard for many of us. Don’t fly through your coping techniques. Really be purposeful about when you progress from one technique to the next.

So when distractions don’t work anymore, my second step (recommended to me by my wonderful childbirth class instructor) will be to pop in a relaxation/guided meditation CD (actually already loaded onto my iPhone so I can play it no matter where I am) and go through the CD of guided meditations…until that can’t possibly work for me anymore.

So for this second technique, I selected a guided meditation CD that we practiced with in class and that I really enjoyed. Check out this woman’s list of pregnancy-related guided meditation CDs here, or just pick out a guided meditation CD you like that relaxes you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pregnancy or labor specific. I purchased the “Imagery and Meditations for Labor and Birth Preparation” CD, which is also available, I believe, as an iTunes download.  One key to the success of this step is practicing with your CD from the moment you get it…our instructor suggested doing a meditation every day so you practice that deep relaxation. I have to admit I haven’t done it every day, but I have done it at least a few times a week and really enjoy it — even Hubby enjoys doing them along with me! Her voice is so soothing.

Make sure during any of these steps you are remaining limp through your contractions…as I learned, our only responsibility as birthing mothers (up until the pushing phase) is to remain limp and let our uterus work and bodies open up. When you tense up, you work against your contraction and also don’t release the pain — rather storing that energy in your muscles. So relax, breathe, and listen to your CD until you can’t possibly listen to it any longer.

Later this week I’ll talk about the breathing techniques and positions I will use during active labor and transition. As always, I can only share what I think might work for me, but as we all know none of us truly know what our experience during labor will be or what will work for us. I encourage you to do research, take a class, and find something that feels it will be a good fit for you!

our birth plan, and why we decided to write one

Our doula asked us about our birth plan, a question to which I immediately responded that we wouldn’t be drafting one up and that I didn’t want to be rigid in my wishes for our birth so I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s true that I do want to approach labor and  delivery with a flowing quality to myself and my expectations, but it’s not true that I don’t have very specific wants that I do not want changed. Some things you can control — some you can’t. Our doula suggested that if we wrote nothing else at all, that we write: “I plan on an unmedicated birth and request that the staff supports me in this decision. I insist on informed consent prior to any medications, procedures, or interventions.” Once I had written those sentences, others just seemed to flow from my pen — er, keyboard, in my case. Here’s what we ended up with:

My husband and I view our daughter’s birth as a very spiritual, emotional time in which the two of us will become a family of three as we usher a soul into the world.  We hope her birth will be a gentle, calm, and powerful experience.  My husband, doula, midwife, and any nursing staff necessary are the only people who should be present in the labor and delivery room.

I plan on an unmedicated birth and request that the staff supports me in this decision. I insist on informed consent prior to any medications, procedures, or interventions.  If I request pain relief, I would like if at all possible for that to be given in the form of pain coping techniques — massage, accupressures, water, etc.

I want to be mobile during labor when at all possible and am open to delivering in the water.  I would like the lights dimmed and my husband and I may bring music to play during labor.  My husband would like to be asked on the day we deliver whether he would like to help catch the baby and to cut the umbilical cord, and may decide to do so.  I want to hold the baby immediately upon delivery unless medically impossible — and, if I deliver in the tub, would like the baby returned to me immediately after getting into the bed for skin to skin contact and to begin nursing.  My husband will later spend time with the baby, skin to skin.  Our baby should not be given bottles of formula, water, or glucose, or a pacifier.  She should not be taken from our room unless medically necessary and we consent.

Thank you for doing your best to respect our wishes and help us have the gentle, calm, and powerful birth we hope to experience.

So there you have it. I think I laid out the groundwork for our hopes and desires for the birth without being rigid. Did you decide to write a birth plan? If so, would you share it or a link to where you have shared it before? Wishing you an empowering birth…

meet the crow

Yesterday hubby and I had two crows flying around our balcony. One kept landing for really long periods of time on our balcony ledge, really close where we (and the happy cats) could clearly see his shiny black feathers. One of them even returned today.

I always used to think of the crow as a bad omen, so to dispel that myth from my head I looked them up in our Animal Speak book and saw some info on the crow in relation to the magic of creation. I then remembered that at our last spiritual retreat, my husband had been given the crow as his “totem” animal for the next six months, and I the (related) magpie. My curiosity piqued by the appearance of one of our totems, I decided to talk to one of our spiritual advisors about the crow to see if he had any additional insight into the appearance of the mysterious and surprisingly lovely bird.

My Dear Sister,

The Crow is an awesome totem to have when preparing the path for a spirit to enter this realm (having a baby).

Meet the Crow

The Crow is about life, death and rebirth. It is also about integrity and doing unto others as we would like them to do to us.   Crow teaches us to know ourselves beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws.  It is about bringing magic into our lives.   This animal teaches to us to appreciate the many dimensions both of reality and our selves, and to learn to trust our intuition and personal integrity.  There is magic wherever crows are.  They give us the message that there is magic alive in our life, in our world and this magic is ours to use and create a new world for ourselves.

I send you and [hubby’s name] lots of love, light and Crow energy.

Now I don’t put as much stock into the metaphysical properties of animals and natural objects as some, but obviously I am interested enough that I asked our advisor’s opinion in the first place (and to go to the type of spiritual retreat in which we pick totems for ourselves!). Mostly, I just believe we create our own symbolism and meaning for the things that happen in our lives, but that in many cases archetypal images and themes of interpretation have evolved over the centuries in a way that makes sense and imparts meaning. To me that means not necessarily that the crow has actual inherent spiritual qualities, but that I (and many others before and after me) can interpret the crow in a way that just seems to make sense. I know many people would disagree with reading meaning into a bird on a balcony, but I hope you can respect this way that I may be different from you. Thank you for doing that.

Another interesting tidbit I learned: a white crow was said to have watched over Apollo’s pregnant wife Coronis. Maybe I have a guardian?