Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Sensations of Labor: Morphine Rest

Welcome back to part II of my Sensations of Labor series! Some of you may be wondering why my first two posts are such high-intervention choices for managing the sensations associated with labor. It's a valid question! I strongly believe that when a situation isn't an emergency, a birthing person is best served by starting with the most minimal intervention possible, and escalating from there only as necessary. That said, while our culture certainly has a lot to do with this, and our culture will hopefully continue to change with time, over 90% of people giving birth in America receive an epidural. They've heard of them, and what they've heard is basically that they're magical and fix everything. Giving them the other side of that coin is going to be more helpful than comparing massage, warm water, TENS units, etc. to their magical concept of what an epidural is. I think dispelling the mystique around these medical pain relief options is an important first step to introducing non-medical pain relief techniques as valid alternatives. Also, and this is important, I DON'T THINK EPIDURALS ARE BAD. They are a valid choice for managing labor sensations. Knowing all the pros, and the cons, helps birthing people discern if they're the right choice for their birth, and prevents them from being blindsided by the cons if they choose to use one. Now, onto the 'morphine rest'!

I find that this is a pain relief option that many people aren't familiar with, but it definitely has its place as a tool for birth, so everyone should be aware of it. It can make the difference between getting an epidural (and all that entails), and not getting one in some cases, and can help avoid or resolve labor slowing down or stalling by providing the birthing person with needed rest (hence, the name).

A 'morphine rest' is a term for giving someone a course of iv opioid (or synthetic opioid)-based pain relief drugs (morphine being just one example of what may be given) to someone in labor, generally for the express purpose of giving that one a 'rest' from dealing with labor. The does of opioid given via IV is much higher than what would be given via the epidural, since it's being put into the blood stream, and not directly into the epidural space where it can immediately affect the relevant nerves.

Now I know what you're thinking: why in the world would anyone opt for a HIGHER dose of drugs?? Fair question! But dosage is only part of the picture. A morphine rest is often used for different situations than an epidural would be. Let's look at pros and cons:

Pros:

Sweet sleep! Particularly if you're having a very long and uncomfortable pre-labor or early labor, getting admitted to the hospital, and getting an epidural so early in the game may not be an option at all, or even if it is, you're much more likely to experience a slowing or stopping of labor if you're forced to stop moving so early on in the process. The drug will provide pain relief, and also make you very, very sleepy. A good night's rest can work wonders on speeding things up, and once the drugs wear off, you can be back on your feet, laboring how you choose! Since you'll be better rested later on when things continue to get more intense, you'll be less likely to choose an epidural out of exhaustion.

Stay home! Many doctors will allow you to return home after the drug is delivered via IV providing someone is there with you to take you home and keep an eye on you. This means you can receive significant medical pain relief, without committing to hospital admission, and delay being checked in until things have had a chance to progress to active labor, which doctors, midwives, and doulas all universally recommend!

Keep your options open! A morphine rest is temporary. The drugs wear off, and you're back to normal. You're allowed to be up about again if you're at the hospital, using any other coping mechanisms or position changes you wish. You can opt for an epidural later on if you wish, or switch to non-medical coping strategies. While epidurals can be turned down or off, the numbness persists long enough that most hospitals won't let you out of bed again, and they certainly won't let you go home.

Temporary relief for temporary discomfort! Are you experience terrible back labor, and are hoping the baby will turn given time and position changes? Does the doctor want to use a foley balloon to dilate you those first few centimeters and get things moving? Why opt for long-term pain relief for a short term procedure or situation?

Cons:

Drugged birthing person, drugged baby! Yes, your baby will experience the effects of this drug as well. These drugs are this dosage are not shown to cause any long term effects or issues, but many people are still not comfortable with their baby receiving this dose of these drugs. This option will not be offered if there's reason to think you'll have your baby in six hours or less, because it isn't safe for a newborn, who needs to be highly alert and stimulated to transition to breathing on their own etc., to be under the influence of opioids. If you have any reason to think this labor could go unusually fast, it likely won't be recommended to you, and it's a riskier choice. At the end of the day, this is always a calculated risk, as even a seemingly very slow labor can suddenly speed up and resolve very quickly.

Itchy Pukey! Itchiness, and nausea/vomiting are common side effects with opioids. Not everyone experiences them, but the higher the dose, the more likely they are, which is why you're much more likely to experience these side effects with a morphine rest than with an epidural.

Incomplete Pain Relief! IV opioids are less effective at reducing pain than the epidural. Depending on the severity of your discomfort, you may still experience significant pain. For labor contractions, this can mean not noticing the beginning or end of the contraction, but suddenly being struck by the peak. The element of surprise, and the lack of time to prepare and get into a breathing pattern can make contractions difficult to deal with, especially if you're sleeping, and are woken up by the intense sensations. If you're dealing with this, it's helpful to have a partner who notices how your breathing pattern or how you hold your body changes when a contraction starts, who can wake you up and get you into coping mode before the contraction peaks, and let you drift back off as the contraction ebbs away.

As you can see, this option is clearly not right for every birthing person, or every situation. It's one choice among many that can be beneficial in the right circumstances. Wouldn't it be cool if we thought of all birth interventions that way?? :-D See you next week for a discuss of nitrous oxide, aka, gas and air, or laughing gas!

Live Omily,
~Emily

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Sensations of Labor: Epidurals! (part 1 in a series)

With the launch of The Flying Doula (my doula business, and my new website! Check it out!!!), I wanted to share a post about a topic that every pregnant person has on their minds: the sensations of labor! I soon realized that this is a huuuuge topic, so this is going to be a series! Yaaaay!!! Today we'll have a little overview, and we'll focus on a topic that could probably be a series in and of itself: the epidural!

When discussing the experience of labor with my clients, I favor words like, 'sensations', 'intensity', and 'power' because they leave room for your subjective experience of labor to be whatever it is! But let's be frank: the majority of people who have given birth in our culture (and there's a whooooooole conversations to be had about how our culture contributes to this) describe at least parts of it as being significantly painful, even extremely painful, to the point of being the most pain they've ever experienced in their lives.

And that's SCARY! How could it not be?? I don't like to talk about that much because if you're expecting something to be painful, if you're fearing something will be painful, if you're tensed up and closed off to something, there's just no question that your experience will be the worse for that negative anticipation, bodily tension, and catecholamines (fight or fight hormones). Catecholamines also work antagonistically with the primary hormone of labor: oxytocin. When they go up, oxytocin goes down, which can easily slow or even stall labor. (This is a survival adaption. If you're in danger, you need to get the hell out of there, not drop a vulnerable baby!)

AND, not everyone experiences labor that way! For some people, it may feel intense, and uncomfortable, but pain just isn't the word they would use to describe it. A small percentage of people orgasm at some point during labor and birth (don't look so surprised! All the same hormones, and body parts are at play here, and vaginas can accommodate very big things when warmed up and stretched adequately. Some people are into fisting!) For some people, it just never feels worse than mild cramping, and they're shocked to find out their baby is well on its way when someone finally decides they'd better get checked, just in case.

But of course, that can be scary in its own way! No one wants to be the subject of the headline: " BABY BORN ON BROOKLYN BRIDGE!!!"

Obviously fear surrounding labor is strongly tied to anticipating the sensations of labor, and also to the unknown. You just can't know how your brain will interpret the sensations of labor, or how fast, slow, intensely or gently, your body will go through labor. Some clients dilate several centimeters before they're even in labor. Others labor HARD for hours and hours just to achieve enough effacement to begin dilation! There is such a wide range of normal, and a really important aspect of labor preparation is working on getting comfortable with this not knowing, with taking your birth one moment at a time, as it comes. That shit is HARD, and it's one of the reasons why meditation work is part of the Flying Doula umbrella (and def the subject of another post in this series)

But, another important part of labor prep that can help you feel perhaps just a bit more ready for this adventure is to research your pain relief options in advance! So we'll be dealing with those options one post at a time in this series, and today's topic is...

The Epidural

The mystical, magical epidural if you're approaching birth from the point of view of our current birth culture, or perhaps the EVIL, INTERFERING, BIRTH-RUINING epidural if you've spent some time on natural birth message boards.

Well surprise-surprise: the truth is somewhere in the middle. Like every medical treatment ever, the epidural has pros and cons, and for some people and some labors, the pros will outweigh the cons, and for others, the cons will outweigh the pros. So lets talk a bit about what's entailed in getting an epidural, and what some of those pros and cons are.

An epidural is a tiny flexible tube that stays in your epidural space, allowing small amounts of a 'caine' pain reliever (think novocaine at the dentist), and an opiate/synthetic opiate-based pain reliever to be injected into this space, providing generally very effective pain relief and numbness to the entire lower body. It's put in place via a large needle, but the area is numbed via injections of a 'caine' pain reliever before hand, because that needle needs to be placed very slowly and carefully for the epidural to be safe, and effective. 

Different anesthesiologists will position you differently, but the common thread is that you'll be asked to curl forward to make your lumber spine, and the space between your vertebrae where the doctor will be aiming, as big and accessible as possible. Every doctor, and every situation is different, so sometimes the epidural can be placed very quickly, and sometimes it takes some time. It's critical that you stay still while the process is going on, even if you have contractions. If you can't, the doctor will stop and wait for you to be able to stay still again, which of course makes the process longer. Once it's all set up, in most cases, you'll have a button you can press to get another dose of medication in your epidural so you're in control of how much pain relief you get. You'll be locked out from overdosing yourself, so no worries there.

Along with the epidural, you'll receive an iv so that meds to raise your blood pressure, or fluids to bolus your blood pressure, can be quickly administered, as the epidural sometimes causes a drop in blood pressure. You'll also have your blood pressure taken regularly, usually via an automatic cuff that stays on your arm, your blood oxygen level monitored via a clip on your finger, and two sensors held on your belly via stretchy belts to monitor your baby's heart rate, and your contractions. Since you can't get out of bed or walk because of the numbness, you'll have a catheter inserted into your bladder. Some or all of these interventions may have already been in place before the epidural, depending on your labor, your risk status, your choices, your hospital, and your doctor...but that's a whole other blog post!

Other potential side effects include a bad headache, and very, very, very rarely, pain that persists for weeks or longer. In a tiny, tiny percentage of women, the epidural is totally ineffective. Just does not work. We don't know why! Again, this is exceedingly rare, but it is a real thing to be aware of, especially if the epidural is the only pain relief/comfort measure you're considering. More commonly, the epidural can leave a 'window' of sensation where you can still feel the discomfort of contractions. There are ways of dealing with this though, and often it can be resolved.

This might sound scary, and obviously you should take all possibilities into account when considering your pain relief options, but statistically, the epidural is very safe, and very effective. So, lets talk pros and cons.

Pros:

Pain relief! Obviously. But this isn't a matter of taking something for your headache or toughing it out. This isn't just about making the experience of labor and birth less unpleasant, though that is a very real and valid benefit of the epidural for some people. Because, you know what comes along with pain? Tension! And you know what makes it hard for a baby to descend and put good, even pressure on a cervix so it can dilate? Tension!

Relaxation! Some people in some labors are able to keep breathing and softening their bodies, and labor along just fine without an epidural. Others reach a point where that is just not possible anymore. They're unable to get back into a place where they can just let labor happen and not fight it. This is a miserable place to be. No one should ever feel like they have to continue at this point just because they technically could. But aside from that, their tension could slow dilation and/or descent of the baby, and their distress could trigger the catecholamines that slow labor. In instances like this, an epidural could speed up labor, and prevent the need for other interventions!

Sleep! This is no small potatoes, people. I always tell my clients who can't believe I'm sitting up all night with them, when this is all over, I go home and go to bed! You're going to have a newborn to care for! And even before that, you'll need to push this baby out. The pushing stage is a lot of work for most people, and if you've had a very long, hard labor, and are too exhausted to think straight, you may struggle to push your baby out. Nature helps us out here of course, by giving a burst of those catecholamines right when you need that surge of energy, and of course, if you don't have the epidural, you'll be able to move freely to find positions to help baby descend more easily...but we'll talk about that in the cons section. Sometimes rest is whats needed so refuel the uterus and get it back to a more consistent or effective contraction pattern as well. If you haven't been able to eat, sleep, or take in much fluids over the course of your labor due to your discomfort, an epidural could be a tool that would allow you to refuel your body, so your uterus can continue the hard work of opening, and expelling your baby.

Awareness! The intensity of labor will take you to some interesting places. You'll connect to your mammalian brain in a way you probably never have before. You'll find yourself rocking, tapping, chanting, grabbing, moaning, anything to help you ride these incredibly powerful waves! This can be a beautiful experience for many people, but for others, it's just scary, and not how they want to welcome their child. They want to be fully human, full themselves, talking to their partner, co-parent, and/or support person, waiting excitedly for their baby to arrive! The epidural can let you do that.

Cons:

So many tubes! The epidural itself, and the different monitoring protocols it comes with, means you'll suddenly be tethered by many different tubes and machines. Few people would call this a comfortable situation. Of course, if all you want to do is lie still and sleep anyway, it may not seem like much of a sacrifice.

Stuck in bed! No sitting and hula-ing on your birth ball, no blessedly hot shower, no 'dancing your baby down'. You're grounded, missy/mister/mixter! If you had pictured yourself being an active participant in your labor, the epidural can be a bit of a let-down. You can still carefully change positions in bed with help, and in fact regularly switching sides will not only help promote descent and dilation, but can make your epidural more effective (see, 'window' of sensation), but a lot of options aren't available anymore, and that can be a bummer.

Slowing down labor! This potential side-effect of the epidural is much more likely to be an issue when the epidural is administered before labor is well-established. By blocking the sensations of labor, a kink gets thrown into the hormonal chain that keeps labor progressing. But as I like to say, at a certain point, there is just no stopping this train! If you've made it to a strong, active-labor contraction pattern, odds are good things aren't going to slow back down, but it is a possibility to be aware of, especially if you're less than three centimeters, and/or not meeting that 411 rule, or your labor has stalled out in the past.

You give me fever! (insert song clip here) A fever is a potential side effect of an epidural, particularly one that has been in place a long time. The fever itself isn't high enough to be dangerous to you and baby, the problem is, there's no way for your medical team to know if your high temperature is just a side effect of your epidural, or if it's a sign of infection that could be putting you and your baby at risk. They have to assume the latter, and that means wanting your baby born sooner rather than later, which can mean more interventions, and possibly even a c-section, possibly starting iv antibiotics immediately, and a potential work-up in the NICU, including a spinal tap, for your newborn. Not everyone who gets an epidural, even if they have it in place for a long time, will get a fever! And of course, getting or not getting the epidural does not change your likelihood of getting a fever caused by an infection (well, sometimes a catheter leads to a bladder infection, and without the epidural, you don't need one of those...but that's getting tangental.)

Pushing options get limited! So, pushing a baby out is hard work, and being able to listen to your instincts and move around, from all-fours, to squatting, or lying on your side, to sitting on the toilet, to walking around the room, can really help baby descend and save you some effort. But with an epidural in place, you need to stay in bed, and you can't support your weight on your legs. In theory, you can still push while lying on your side, but in practice, you'll almost certainly be advised (told) to lie on your back, grab onto your thighs, pull them toward you while you crunch around your baby, and hold your breath for a slow-count of ten while you push for all you're worth. Go on, pop a blood vessel! Now, this kind of pushing absolutely has its place. This position helps baby duck under your pubic bone, and if you pull your legs up enough, you'll even make space for your sacrum to move as necessary. It's not a bad position to push in! And sometimes it really takes three loooooong pushes per contraction to get baby moving...but that shit is HARD, and it will leave you out of breath and panting after every contraction. If you're out of breath, guess who else is, too? Yep! Baby! Between contractions you'll be advised to 'breathe for baby!' 'take long, slow, deep breaths!', and possibly even offered an oxygen mask to pump up your blood oxygen faster. If you had the freedom to push in whatever position you wanted, you'd be more likely to be able to follow your own body and push for as long as feels right with your contractions, and you'd almost certainly pause for a breathe before that ETERNAL ten count. With gravity helping, the pushing phase would likely go faster, so no one would be stressing about watching the clock, and needing your pushes to be more effective faster. 

If you can't feel whats happening, its hard to call the shots! Relating to that previous point, if you don't have an epidural, or your epidural is turned down enough that you have some sensations, your care provider will likely wait to advise you on pushing until you...START PUSHING! Like, on your own, because your body's telling you to! Some doctors will tell you to let them know when you feel 'rectal pressure'. They mean to tell them when you feel like you need to poop. But if you just aren't feeling much of anything with your wonderfully effective epidural, what often happens is, your doctor checks, finds you fully dilated, and tells you to go ahead and push. Has your baby descended enough for you to be able to push effectively? Has your uterus built up the fundus enough to successfully eject the baby? Without knowing if your body would instinctively be pushing on its own, we can't know that. And now the clock is started. What clock? Well, most hospitals in the U.S. aren't going to let you push for more than two or three hours, even if baby is doing well, because despite little evidence to support this cultural idea, more than that is just too long to push. Time to give up, and roll on to c-section. And...

If you can't feel, it's tough to push effectively! Think about how weird it is to talk and eat after getting novocain at the dentist. Your motor control is a little wonky because you aren't getting sensory feedback from that part of your body. Without that feedback, pushing, and figuring out how to push effectively, takes longer, and if it takes too long, you could be looking at a c-section.

Now, I listed more cons than pros to the epidural, but I want to be really clear here: those pros are all really important and valid ones, and lot of those cons are interconnected enough that a different person may have combined them. Counting isn't going to tell you much. Your own values and wishes for your birth will tell you more, and at the end of the day, you just won't know until you get there. I've had clients who were certain they did not want an epidural wind up getting one, and having an excellent birth experience because of it. I've had clients who were having a very challenging labor, and they didn't get an epidural, and looking back, they're proud that they stuck to their guns, but wondering if it was really worth it. I've had clients not get one, and have an awe-inspiring, beautiful, 'natural' birth experience that they'll be drawing on for inspiration and confidence for the rest of their lives, and I've had clients who got an epidural, and then wondered if it was necessary/helpful. I have yet to have a client who wants one and ends up not getting one, but it absolutely happens!

So, whats my final say on the epidural? It reminds me of that old joke...how many doulas does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: we don't change the lightbulb! We help you decide how you want to that lightbulb changed, and we support you through the process. I think the epidural is a tool. Sometimes its the right tool for the job, and sometimes its not. It's as simple as that.


Live Omily,
~Emily

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks and Giving Food: Supporting New Parents at Thanksgiving

Whew, three births in one week has left me feeling thankful that I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year! Instead I'm joining friends at a potluck, so all I have to manage is my delicious, local, (truly) free range turkey from the Farmers' Market! With my close-to-Thanksgiving due-dated clients all home with their new babies, I'm feeling pretty confident that my Thanksgiving plans won't get derailed last minute, though you never know!! (#doulalife)

We won't get to postnatal appointments till after Thanksgiving, but I'm still thinking about my new-parent clients gearing up for their holidays. They all have different plans to manage a new baby, a major holiday, and families eager to meet the newest member. There's no right or wrong here: having people over, going to someone else's event, or just laying low all have their pros and cons. It can be a very difficult decision, though: many new parents feel pressure from their families to host or show up when their world has shifted cataclysmically, and it feels best right now when kept very small. Is it easier to have people over and have to deal with clean up, or get everybody suited up for an all-day adventure somewhere else? And what if your family doesn't live nearby?? It can seem like rotten luck to have a baby arrive just before such an eventful time of year, but Thanksgiving babies come with one huge perk that makes Thanksgiving parents some of the luckiest if they know how to take advantage of it!

All us doulas give our clients the same advice for postpartum: stock up on food! Frozen meals you can pop in the oven easily as well as snacks you can eat quickly with minimal prep work are real life-savers as you adjust to life with an infant. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it's a holiday that revolves around delicious, hearty, rich sure, but wholesome for the most part, food! What do all those people hosting huge dinners have in common? They're drowning in leftovers they'll never be able to eat!

So here's what you do: everyone who wants to come see the new baby has to come after Thanksgiving, and they have to come bearing turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, you name it! The greater the variety, the better. Put them to work dividing up your loot, making one to two serving plates you can pop in an oven or microwave to have ready to eat in minutes! Don't neglect fresh fruit, crudite, sliced cheeses, nuts, and other grab-and-eat snacks, too! These are often Thanksgiving leftovers as well.

It can feel awkward to enforce conditions on people's visits, but new parents are entitled, so really take the time to empower your clients, or new-parent family and friends, to do this! No one should walk in their door without contributing to their well-being in a meaningful way, and bringing a freezer bag of turkey, plunking it on the corner reaching out for that plump newborn and saying "GIMME!" is not going to cut it! Meal prep is a great chore visitors can help out with, but doing dishes, doing laundry, changing the sheets on the bed (don't be embarrassed!), sweeping the floor, organizing baby gifts, holding baby while you take a shower (this is the job everyone wants; make them pay their dues first) are all meaningful ways to contribute.

A quick note: got a pet? Don't outsource the walks or playtime! You are your pet's entire world. Your attention just got split in a huge way. Don't underestimate how difficult this transition is, even if your loving, well-adjusted pet isn't acting out in any way. Use your visitor's help to make time to give your pet undivided attention and reassurance that you love them, and they are an important member of your family. This goes equally for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots, any pet intelligent enough to suffer from a lack of stimulation. Your tarantula will probably be ok. Your bearded dragon should remain a priority. This deserves a whole blogpost of its own, and believe me, one is coming.

Picturing new parents all over the country enjoying delicious, home-cooked meals in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving while friends and families fill their homes with the love of service makes me so happy. Creating a postpartum culture of service and support is perhaps easiest this time of year, though of course, it's always essential! Help your clients and/or family and friends make the connection between the big cookers, and their empty freezers, and you could be making a huge difference in their postpartum recovery, adjustment to baby, even breastfeeding success! 

And whether you're at a birth, cooking up a storm, or sitting around a table of family or friends, I'm wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!

~Emily

Monday, March 27, 2017

Eating Omily: If You are What You Eat, that Cow's Ass is Grass.

It's time to talk about the Lexicon of Sustainability again!! :-D We've made it to one of my favorite topics: grass-fed beef, or as I call it, NOT RAISING ANIMALS IN THE STUPIDEST WAY POSSIBLE! And even better, this video uses Joel Salatin, genius, common-sense, guru, animal lover, (those are my titles; he's a chill humble guy, but trust me, they're all true), and owner of Polyface Farms. Ok, ok, I'm getting ahead of myself. Go watch the video, and then we'll talk. It's embedded below, or you can just follow this link.
See what I mean? This is something many Vegan-diet proponents get wrong, and it's also why I can't stand it when people say 'plant-based diet' to mean a vegan diet: EVERY DIET IS PLANT BASED! Yes, you get more pounds of food by growing grains on land than by raising cattle there, but cattle turn food we can't eat (grass) into food that we can, and they can do it on land that it is not sustainable to grow food crops on. If we raise animals the way nature evolved them to live, and we respect basic laws of sustainability (No, you can't eat beef five days a week. Get over yourself.), then eating meat becomes a crucial tool for reforestation, combatting global warming, saving water, and many other things that seem straight up backwards if all you hear is vegan propaganda. 

Land that has evolved along-side ruminant grazers is healthier with those animals on it than not. News flash: most of our country used to host MASSIVE herds of ruminants commonly called buffalo, but more appropriately called bison. Through conservation efforts, and breeding, we've saved these incredible animals from extinction, and hopefully they'll cover more and more of their original range in the coming years. In the meantime, cows are grazing ruminants! Putting them on that land fills a crucial gap in the ecosystem, keeping the whole system healthier! Now, is there going to eventually be some competition between the recovering bison population, and people making money off of grazing cows on that land? Certainly! By maintaining protections, and supporting farmers with small, and diverse farms who are able to pivot to other crops and animals if they can't maintain the land for cattle that they once did, we can manage that situation responsibly. Yes, I'm optimistic. I can't help it.

On these small-scale diverse farms, cows, chickens, pigs, and crops all fill important ecological niches, creating a beautifully functioning cyclical ecosystem that produces healthy and delicious food for people, and improves the natural ecosystems they're a part of year after year. Whereas CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations, or feed lots) create cesspools of cow shit, really sick animals, really unhealthy meat, and tons of greenhouse gases, all in the name of, you guessed it, everyone having access to beef five times a week (or more).

Sometimes, I can't blame the vegans for their hardline approach. The situation is bleak, and so many people are so happy to put their heads in the sand, and their $2.99/pound steaks on the grill. Advocating for delicious vegetarian and vegan alternatives to what so many still think of as the only thing that can constitute a meal (animal flesh, starch, veggie) is a crucial role in building a sustainable future. If that's the role you can best fill in this fight, do it! But, please, don't fall into the trap of thinking, or worse, telling other people, that all meat is the same. Even if you feel that killing any animal for their meat under any circumstances is wrong, you can't compare the life of a CAFO cow to a grass-fed (and grass-finished) cow. And if you compared the life of that grass-fed (and grass-finished) cow to a wild ruminant, guess what? The grass-fed cow probably had a happier, easier life, and a less painful death. So that's enough for me.

But wait, what does grass-finished mean?? Ah, here's where it gets tricky. Big surprise: companies know that people care about these issues, and want healthy, sustainably-raised meat. Fun fact: much of the cattle in America spend the early part of its life eating grass before it gets shipped off to those feed lots. That's why the distinction of 'grass-fed' doesn't always mean a whole lot. Look for 'grass-finished' meat, or independent certification programs like the step system you'll see at Whole Foods to know what you're buying, and make the choice that's right for you, the planet, and the cow. Or even better, buy your meat directly from a farmer, and talk to them about how they raise their animals and why! Nothing protects you, the consumer, like a relationship with the people who grow and raise your food.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I'm Not Dead! :-D

You may have noticed I'm a bit off my blogging schedule. There are a few reasons why, depending on how you want to look at it, but the one I've chosen to stick with is that the universe is pushing me out of the nest. I promise to get it sorted out and get back to blogging more regularly. Until then, my twitter (@OmilyNYC) is getting more action than it ever has, as I explore new hashtags like #doulathoughts, #doulalife, and #doulaproblems...

A shift in my schedule leaving me free to devote more time to both training, and doula work isn't the only less than voluntary change of 2017. I look at our budget revealed we've been relying far too heavily on seamless...and now I'm back in the saddle, cooking about five nights a week. I had forgotten how much I love it! And you can see the tasty results on my instagram (@Emily.Hursh) because I'm a millennial! As a result of cooking more often, I've been able to pack delicious leftovers for lunch instead of buying it, which is saving us even more money! I'm also back on the making my own smoothies train, since it's the easiest thing to eat for a late lunch when I find myself at home on all these suddenly free late afternoons. As usual, typing it all up is showing me how its all connected, how my life is shifting to make more space for the things I want to be doing, rather than the things I felt stuck doing.

Did I mention it's also Lent? Lent being a time of sacrifice, I tend to think of it as a long, slow slog...but then Sister Cavanah at church asked us to think of us as a sprint: an intense spiritual workout...and it is, when you compare it to the rest of the year, when spiritual practices don't tend to take center stage so much. This year I want to take the time to get to know Jesus. You know, that radical middle-eastern refugee who challenged social norms, didn't think much of religious leaders of the day, and hung out with criminals? That guy. I'd like to get to know him better. To make more time for that goal, I'm taking a break from commenting on facebook posts that make me ragey. Might be good for my stress levels, too...

But what's new for you? Well, I'm putting together a new workshop that I'm hoping to offer in both Jersey City, and NYC in the coming months! And I'll be performing ambient with my incredible aerial partner March 19th at the Muse Cabaret! So check that stuff out! Woop woop!

And let's leave it at that for now. I have soooooo many e-mails to send! (#doulalife!)

Live Omily,
~Emily

Monday, January 9, 2017

Finding Our Way in 2017

It's the New Year! Lately I have the strangest feeling that I'm living in The Future. Usually it's only the first month or two of the new year that I get that vibe, but I never really got used to it being 2016, and now it's 2017! Is this just part of getting older?

That said, I have so many concrete things to be excited about this year. I've never been so clear on what I need to do to accomplish my goals, and grow into who I hope to be, and that feels fantastic!

In that spirit, I just launched my doulamatch.net profile! Check one important step off that list!

Of course, this year is off to a rough start, too. I'm deeply saddened by the massive mistake made in the presidential election, and the damage that mistake will cost us for the next four years. I also lost my paternal grandfather on the 4th day of the new year. He was suffering, and ready to check out of his nursing home for good though, so while I mourn the era his death definitively ended, I'm more relieved for his sake than anything else.

Usually I post my New Years resolutions here, publicly, on the blog...but this year, I think I'll make you wait till I announce their completion, one by one.

Are you settling into 2017? Does it still feel new and shiny? Are you thinking about resolutions, or do you have your list all set?

Why not set aside ten minutes for a meditation to help you focus your energies toward the highest good in the year ahead?

Recalibrating Meditation:

Choose a comfortable space where you won't be disturbed. Make sure your phone won't make any noises or vibrate! Change into comfortable clothes, and if it helps you to shift gears, light a candle, or some insense, or turn on your fancy-schmancy essential oil defuser. Either way, keep the lights low. Sit or lie down in a comfortable, supported position. You don't want to get a cramp and have to shift halfway through.

Give yourself at least a few breaths to just relax, and release tension from your body. As you let out your breath with a sigh, gently shake our your shoulders, arms, and hands. Let your breath flow in and out easily, and naturally, inviting your exhales to be longer than your inhales.

You might close your eyes, or you might just let your focus go soft. Either way, invite yourself into your body. Take an energetic look around. Are there sensations you notice? Sensations you already expected to find count, but don't forget about those subtler ones, the ones that you could dismiss as just your imagination. Don't. These sensations are your body talking to you.

What is your body saying? What does your body need? Listen and absorb these messages for as long as feels right, then thank your body for communicating its needs to you.

Shift your focus back out of your body. Start to zoom out. Way out. You can imagine the view as you float up,  through roof of your building, up through the sky, out, out, out, until you can see the earth spinning below you. Send love to the earth. Let her know you are listening. What is the earth saying? What does the earth, and all the beings living on her, need from you? You will not be burdened with all the needs of the entire world! Only what is in line with what you can give will be asked. Listen and absorb these messages. Thank the earth for being your beautiful home. Enjoy the view for as long as you'd like! You can turn around to take a gander at the rest of the universe, or fly wherever you'd like to go.

When you're ready, see yourself making the journey all the way back to your body. Take a few deep breaths, and make small movements with your fingers and toes, making your way back to the moment you're in.

Take some time to journal about what you've received. What concrete steps can you take to better care for yourself, and the world? What larger goals can you set for yourself for 2017 along those lines? If you're feeling overwhelmed instead of expired, focus only on those small steps, and consider what resources you would need to make larger goals feel doable.

Come back to this meditation any time you feel a need to recalibrate your inner compass: toward your own greatest good, and toward the universe's greatest good...

Enjoy!

Live Omily,
~em