Video #2: The Satisfaction Cycle

I’ve made a video series on developmental movement to go along with the Embodiment Guide I just wrote. This video series will be helpful to help you implement and practice the techniques and models I introduce in the Embodiment Guide. Click here for more information on the guide.

This first video covered The Bartenieff Fundamentals, a practice that I find foundational to the beginning of coming into one’s body. You can view that video on Youtube here.

The second video below is on The Satisfaction Cycle, a model developed by Susan Aposhyan that relates closely to the Bartenieff Fundamentals. This developmental movement cycle brings us further into the psychological aspect and the next phase of developmental movement in the body. The 5 fundamental actions associated with The Satisfaction Cycle (intentionally listed in linear order) are yield, push, reach, grasp, and pull. You can view this video on Youtube here.

This applies to many factors of life in regard to how we surrender, approach, go for, and digest all that we want and experience in life. Use an object available to you to practice this sequence (any object works, this is going to be the object of your desire, set it a few feet out of your reach):

– YIELD: Feel into your body.  Surrender your weight into the floor (lying or sitting on the floor helps). Get heavy. Let yourself see the object of your desire and let yourself have the experience without moving. Check in with all of your layers: your mind, emotions, body sensations, and breath. Ask yourself:
– what is happening in my mind?
– what is happening in my emotional world?
– what body sensations can I name?
– how is my breathing?
– where am I holding on that I can let go?

– PUSH: Begin to feel your weight become active against the floor. Push against the floor and feel yourself pushing the floor away and pushing yourself up from the heavy grounded place you were just in. Practice lifting and coming back down to the ground a few times. Check in with a breath.

– REACH: Only once you feel completely supported by the floor and stable in the action of pushing, begin to reach for the object. Do not grab it yet, just reach and then let your arm pull back into your core a few times. Check in with a breath.

– GRASP:  once your reach is fully extended and you can almost touch the object, you can reach to the max and grasp onto the object. Experience the object with your hand / eyes before you pull it into yourself. Check in with a breath.

– PULL: pull the object into yourself and notice the experience of satisfaction. Experience it fully and notice any senses that are appropriate (if it’s food, smell, taste, and chew slowly before swallowing). Savor this object before you put it down and move onto something new. Fully let go of it before your focus goes elsewhere. Check in with a breath.

I would love to hear your feedback! Please feel free to write to me with questions, comments, inquiries, etc. If there is a way I can support you and you feel called, don’t hesitate to ask. Sending all of my support and warmth for your practice!  Until next time, with love, Alicia

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Video Series: Developmental Movement: Bartenieff Fundamentals

IMG_1841I’ve made a video series on developmental movement to go along with the Embodiment Guide I just wrote. This video series will be helpful to help you implement and practice the techniques and models I introduce in the Embodiment Guide. Click here for more information on the guide.

This first video below covers The Bartenieff Fundamentals, a practice that I find foundational to the beginning of coming into one’s body. You can also view the video on Youtube here.

Developmental movement patterns are deeply locked into our bodies. Practice this sequence to begin to open more pathways for connection throughout your body, to warm up before dance or yoga or exercise, to work on over / under developed physical patterns & symptoms, and to access the earliest movement of your life that you can’t “remember”, but your body will remember once you begin!

These movements ignite these fundamental patterns of our bodies:
– breath : to find your core
– core-distal : naval radiation to connect inner with outer
– mouthing: the beginning of the development of the spine
– head – tail : spine begins exploring new options
– upper – lower : to help push through
– body – half : to gain clarity
– body – diagonal : to integrate

I would love to hear your feedback! Please feel free to write to me with questions, comments, inquiries, etc. If there is a way I can support you and you feel called, don’t hesitate to ask. Sending all of my support and warmth for your practice!  Until next time, with love, Alicia

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Embodiment Guide For You

Click here to go straight to the guide!

THIS GUIDE IS FOR YOU IF
You want to feel grounded in your body and emotional world. Confident. Curious. Open. Powerful. In touch with your full self, including the dark and messy. This is the way to the light. This writing provides a window into a few chosen practices that can help you open to a different relationship with your body. Through tangible and simple techniques, this will begin or deepen the dialogue you have with your own body. I’ll present a brief introduction to the theory, philosophy, and content of each practice. I will provide guidance on how to implement the practice in your own body, and possible places these practices can give meaning in your life.

Ultimately, feeling and breathing and moving your body is the top priority with all of these practices. My hope is that this lands on a deeper level for those who learn best by reading. I hope this is helpful and you use the power of your thinking mind in order to reach deeper into yourself.

INTENTION
The list goes on. The source of enlightenment, energy, center, power, light, love. Different systems have found labels to describe a phenomenon that is so sacred it is impossible to name it fully with words. The experience of a fully connected body, open and alive to the fullness of life, is a sought after gift. People go through countless explorations to find it. Yoga, breathwork, therapy, drugs, dance, mindfulness, sports, meditation, sexual techniques, there are countless ways that we all try to tap this phenomenon. Danger is a certain block to experiencing this fullness. Another is our own resistance, because this fullness often comes with a lot of intensity. The moment when we most need to keep going inward, something in us says “run!” My invitation is to stay, and keep going.

THE SOUL
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. speaks about this aspect of our psyche and bodies by saying without this instinctual part of ourselves alive and awake, our inner eyes are closed by a shadowy hand. Some people feel the physical feeling of soul in the chest or heart area. Others say the experience of soul is completely without a label. Without soul, large parts of our days are spent paralyzed and in wishful thinking, we lose the sureness of our footing, we forget why we are here, we hold on when it would be best to hold out, we take too much or too little or nothing at all, we are silent when we are in fact on fire. Once we are connected to this archetypal energy in our cells, we have an ally, teacher, leader, and model. We see not through two eyes, but through the eyes of intuition which has many eyes.

These are practices intended for you to apply to yourself as maps, small pieces to stitch together, to visit and revisit time and time again. To leave and come back to years later. The oldest form of psychology speaks of embodying the soul. This writing has been chosen to embolden you and offer a guide on your way so that you begin to thrive on your own nature. As you do these practices, do not be fooled. You may begin to feel your yearning and heartbreak in a different way than you have before. As you do this, receive the experience as another piece of yourself and enter the becoming stage of transformation.

Click here to visit the guide and begin practicing! Sending sweet support for your inquiries, write to me at alicianpatterson@gmail.com with feedback and questions!

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The Dynamics of Touch

I’ve been working on my form, Eros + The Body, for quite some time now. As I play with this work and structure, I’ve come across many incredible tools. One of them has been The Wheel of Consent, a model by Betty Martin. I’ve loved this particular model so much it’s become a foundation to how I’m teaching, which is why I wanted to outline it here. Here is a window into the style of work I’m engaging with groups around this content. Click here to watch the video for the full explanation of this model (this blog is a shortened summary).

Click here to read more about the Eros + The Body workshops
Click here to read more about the Eros + The Body closed group (the next group is starting this September 15th for 6 weeks on Thursday evenings, email me for more information and to register!)

Both the workshop and the closed group format utilize The Wheel of Consent, which involves working with the different dynamics present when we exchange touch. This model feels thorough, digestible, clear, and powerful to me, which is a rare combination to find. I hope you get some fruit from it!

The dynamics are:
– give
– receive
– take
– allow

The themes that are worked with are :
– What does giving and receiving mean to you? Do you know what both feel like? Do you want to? Do you know what feeds and nourishes you and where your challenges are?
– When someone touches you, is it for you or for them? What do both feel like? How does that matter?
– When you touch someone, are you giving to them or are you benefitting? Do they feel different? How do you know? What happens when both are going on?
– Clothed, experiential, agreement related explorations of embodiment practice and touch
– Starting where you are whether you’re brand new or experienced in these realms
– Learning about your and respecting others’ boundaries

I love that each dynamic has a gift and a challenge or “shadow” to it. The gifts and shadows of each are listed below. When we operate within the wheel of consent, all of these gifts can lead us to be in profound / altered states:

Gifts:
– give: service & generosity
– receive: gratitude
– take: integrity
– allow: surrender

Shadows:
– give: martyr / giving when not wanted or warranted
– receive: lazy / entitled, benefiting without wanting to return the same effort
– take: trespassing boundaries, invasive, even violence / rape / war
– allow: enduring, “putting up with”, tolerating

Again, click here for The Wheel of Consent video with Betty Martin. Enjoy!  Thank you for your reading and feel free to write to me with questions / feedback / inquiries. Til next time, with love, Alicia

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Vagina Blog #2

My last post (Vagina Blog #1) was centered around the menstrual cycle and how to support ourselves and others around it. I had this information below in with it but it made it too terribly long so I split it up into two posts. Here are some other pieces that relate and feel somewhat separate in their own right. In this post I’m going to cover Mayan Womb Massage, Vagina Steams, and Urinary Tract InfectionsIf you don’t know what these are, it is helpful for everyone to know!  Whether it’s for you or for someone you know, having these tools in our repertoire can sometimes make a huge difference. Believe me, being in the middle of a beginning urinary tract infection in the middle of the night really feels like an emergency! The vagina is strong and tender and needs all different kind of supports.

The Vulnerable Part: I stated this in my first blog but I’ll say it again. I grew up in this United States society just like many of you reading. Or if you’re not from the United States culture or you’re not living in it, many cultures have taboos around this information (and many don’t, I bow to those ones whom worship the vagina and the cycle!)  There’s a lot of thoughts and emotions around sharing this kind of information because I too was trained not to. Yet, I find it important and I’m choosing to do it anyway, even though I have the “am I sure I know what I’m doing, do I know what this could bring?” feelings. I’m prepared for the spectrum of responses and I won’t be surprised if I get everything from “how dare you write about this and post it on the internet, that’s disgusting” all the way to “right ON, this is amazing, thank you for this information” and all the in betweens of responses. This writing is designed to spark something inside of you…..let it.

Womb Bodywork: I received Mayan Womb Massage to help with menstrual symptoms a few years ago. If you have challenging menstrual symptoms, I highly recommend it! If you’re in Colorado, I saw Ixeeya Beacher and loved working with her, and have heard great things about Naomi Boggs. It was amazing to receive more holistic (less medical and based on medicines and “problems”) information and tips about caring for my reproductive system. It actually worked way better than anything the medical world ever gave me which cost way more and did squat. I got massage / acupressure trigger points, digestive / nutritional help, and information on how to use herbs and more natural supports like tea and tinctures. The massage on my womb (just like a massage but for uterus and the reproductive / digestive system on top of the skin) shifted things. Dramatically! I finally have a real visceral and physical sense of my uterus and reproductive space. There is more ease with my cycles and symptoms. It’s all easier to track and I can predict down to the day when my blood is going to show up. I released old traumas I still had no idea were locked up in my body. If you’re healing from birth related things or need structural work around your pelvis and womb, Lynn Leech is supposedly a vagina whisperer who works miracles like nothing I’ve ever heard.

Vagina Steam: This is something I experienced only a few years ago thanks to the womb work. Click here to read more. It’s like getting a sauna / steam for your inner vaginal tissues. Here’s how it goes:

– My recommendation is to either see a professional like I did (whom can walk you through your first one at the least). It’s really nice to have someone do that for you the first go around. If you can’t afford that or you’re ready to steam on your own, go into an herbal apothecary (if you’re in Colorado, Rebecca’s is the spot! On 13th & Spruce in downtown Boulder) and ask if they can help you make up a simple steam based on the symptoms you’re experiencing with your cycle. If they’re trained herbalists they should be able to help you figure out what will help your system. If you can’t find an apothecary with fresh herbs, you can look it up on the internet or ask an herbalist to find out some herbs (try gentle ones to begin) that may soothe symptoms you have. Some grocery stores will sell fresh herbs (like Vitamin Cottage in Colorado).
– Cooking a large pot of the herbs (about one cup) for 20 minutes to make them medicinal in their potency.
– Find something with holes in it to sit on (I use an egg crate and pad it up with a few small towels so I don’t have dig marks in my legs from sitting on it). If you can find a stool with a large hole in the middle that’s perfect.
– Wrap a few towels or a blanket around your waste and let them fall to the floor surrounding what you’re sitting on and your feet so the steam is sealed in (make sure to not leave holes or the steam will slip out and diverts the potency of the steam).
– Sit for 20-30 minutes above the steam until it cools off. It feels heavenly! If it’s too hot you can wait a little while until it’s tolerable. It wafts healing medicinal herbal steam up into the vaginal tissues. Can you imagine how stagnant things can get in there? Engaging the pelvic floor and imagining yourself being supported to open and clear out feels SO good, I can’t even describe it fully.
– After doing these steams at home for myself for a few months now, I’ve experienced even more relief in my menstrual cycle symptoms.

The Dreaded Urinary Tract Infection: if you’ve never had a UTI, give thanks! This is literally one of the most challenging things I’ve been through. It was a rough induction at age 18. Unfortunately once you’ve had one, they can come more often. But if you have them, you can learn how to deal with it. If you don’t know what it is or you’re unsure if maybe you’ve experienced it, read more here.
– Most of us may know it’s really helpful to go pee after having sex, as a way to avoid getting a UTI. If you have sex with someone who doesn’t know this, remind them to pee! Men rarely get UTI’s, unfortunately women are more sensitive to it.
– The Energetics of it: energetically, I’ve noticed that if I have sex where I wasn’t fully ready / feeling committed to it, I have a higher chance of getting a UTI. It may sound like there’s no proof, but that type of subtle dismissal of what my body needs has ultimately led to me having to deal with more UTI’s. It’s real.
– If you feel like you have to pee more than usual, and not a lot comes out when you do, and it burns, you may have a UTI. I know the sensation very well and I’ve finally figured out how to deal with it naturally at home. If I get it within the first few hours (which I usually can), I can avoid the cost and headache of the doctors visit and taking antibiotics.
– If you don’t treat it immediately, it can intensify and if it gets really bad you can get an infection in the bladder which is a point of no return. But, if you get it early, you can help it disappear within a few hours. This is what I’ve gotten to and I’ve kicked out two UTI’s within 12 hours with this process:

** Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional! If you’re having really intense / severe pain that feels like a UTI and you don’t think it’s light enough to deal with at home, please go to the doctor. I’ve been there. If it doesn’t get better at all and only gets worse or you go a day or two and it’s not clearing, go to the doctor. They will give you antibiotics that will work.

– Uva Ursi / Usnea is a tincture that can help wipe out a UTI if used effectively. You can get it at most health food stores or at an herbal apothecary. Take it as frequently as indicated on the bottle or even a little more frequently (just don’t overdo it too much). I end up taking some every 30 minutes to an hour.
– Garlic: garlic is a natural antibacterial. Get a piece of raw garlic and put it directly on your clitoris. It will probably sting so you may not keep it there for long.
– Apple Cider Vinegar: a natural balancing effect for the balance of the body (ph). You can put ACV with garlic as the topical treatment on your clitoris. Taking ACV internally is what I believe has been the most effective as zapping my UTI beginnings in combination with the tincture. As much as you can tolerate drinking (a tablespoon or two per dose should do it), mix apple cider vinegar, turmeric, and honey to make it tolerable to drink. Drink this little mixture every 15 minutes or so, with a ton of water. It should help you clear out the infection by neutralizing your body’s ph, and helping you cleanse out your urethra by peeing.
– If you have to pee, engage the urge and just do it even if only a little bit comes out. Do not hold it in.
– You can also try things like over the counter medications (pills that kills the pain but does not treat the infection), cranberry supplements or juice, and other recommended remedies, but cranberries never helped me much.
** Do NOT eat sugar or processed carbs or drink alcohol. It will make it worse much faster.

For now, this is the end of the vagina postings. If you’re curious about your relationship to vaginas, whether it’s your own or to people who have them, and how to engage on all levels, a wonderful way to investigate that conversation is to go see The Vagina Monologues. They usually have a showing in February every year at universities (I know Naropa and CU does them) and other theatrical outlets. I highly recommend seeing or performing in it (multiple times even! each cast puts on a different kind of show). It’s great for education and pure fun.

As always, thank you for your presence with me and here reading, I’m always open to feedback / questions / anything else. Until next time, with love, Alicia

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Vagina Blog #1

I’ve had the urge to write a different (similar enough to my birthing world posts, but still different) kind of blog for awhile. On vaginas! Yes, let’s take this in. Vagina, uterus, sex, fluid, blood, orgasm, cervix, vaginal walls….the list could really go on depending on how deep we go (no pun intended). This post is on the menstrual cycle and has some notes so that we can ALL care for ourselves and one another around this time (not just for those who bleed, those of you whom don’t bleed you can also read this to gain more understanding of those people in your life). These posts are loaded up with links so that you can educate yourself more and more. When I first wrote this post it was so long so I decided to make it two posts. The next post (Vagina Blog #2) will cover some other vagina themes (see the end of this post for the topics).

The reason is this: if you’re someone who bleeds, this is for you! If you’re someone who has a person in your life who bleeds (or may one day bleed, or has stopped bleeding but once did and may have a whole new internal world), this is for you! We can all use to know and read these things, they are essential to our humanness. If you have a cycle, you may relate to this just a bit more than if you don’t bleed. If this makes you squirmy, I get it. Here’s a soft hand on your back and me saying “you can do it” as can step further into your adult shoes. This is a grown up post. I heavily wish I had known about what I’ve written below a long time ago. I hope this is reaching you at the perfect moment. Since this isn’t widely talked about, I’m trying to break that up.

The Vulnerable Part: I grew up in this United States society just like many of you. If you’re not from the United States culture or you’re not living in it, many cultures have taboos around this content (and some don’t, I bow to those ones whom worship the vagina and the cycle!)  There’s a lot of thoughts and emotions around sharing this kind of information because I too was trained not to. However…I find it important and I’m choosing to do it anyway, even though I have the “am I sure I want to post this? Do I know what this could bring?” types of thoughts. I’m prepared for the spectrum of responses and I won’t be surprised if I get everything from “how dare you write about this and post it on the internet, that’s disgusting” all the way to “right ON, this is amazing, thank you for this information” and all the in betweens of responses where you may not be sure how you feel about it all. This writing is designed to spark something inside of you…..let it.

Taking care of my reproductive system has been one of the most challenging things in life, and also one of my most profound and tender lessons. I now relish it some of the time since I’ve gotten to the point where I can trust and ride the wave of it all. Sometimes I feel ecstasy when I bleed. Sometimes I still fight it and resist and to be so honest I hate everything and everyone on those days. But I have grown to love my blood like you love someone where there’s a full and complex relationship. The whole spectrum is there. It was not always this way. I came from menstrual cramps so severe that I couldn’t survive a school day without a lot of pain medication, couldn’t lie down to sleep, felt sick and like I had the flu at times, etc. I cursed my body, the fact that I was born into a female body. It was all fight. The short story was I really had no idea how to deal or take care of myself, in multiple ways.

** Disclaimer: This is what has done well for me (and I’ve heard for some others too). Take it with a grain of salt and know that you will figure out your answers. It seems some people (I know I used to be) are afraid or ashamed to speak about this. Sometimes we want to be private and that is valid and respected. And sometimes, being able to talk about this and ask questions helps and when it’s shut down, it stings so bad. Especially for young ones. I want to give voice to this and hope that through my using my voice, it gives permission for others to own their own stories and get support.

I’m going to get specific here. Details. Read on knowing that. Please don’t misunderstand me: with this culture we live in I feel I need to be so crystal clear, in case you haven’t gathered so far, that I’m going to talk about menstrual things here. Blood, body parts, fluids. For those of you whom haven’t yet realized that this cycle is the matter of life, that it is what you come from and what you will return to, my invitation is to see if you can stick with it. Keep reading even if an internal voice yells “Why the hell is she writing about this and sending it out to her entire email list!?”  There are reasons, even if they’re not always understood by everyone.

The Menstrual Cycle. What a universe this is! If you don’t know much, try starting with a little reading. To care for myself and still function in the world, I have seriously tried everything, like I’m sure many have (these are in no particular order, different days and different kinds of context call for different approaches):

– The “I don’t give a fuck, I’m not spending money or putting a damn thing against my cervix” approach using toilet paper and changing it when needed. That usually ends up being messy or feeling awkward when the TP gets out of place. Fail.

– Regular white pads (which either feel like a diaper or do not provide the coverage needed). Most pads are bleached and that is a no-no for me and my sacred vagina tissues. Some pads are organic / not bleached and very expensive. This is a no-no for my checkbook. Fail.

– Tampons: Again most are bleached, or if not are pricey. When I’m supposed to be in a time of release the last thing I want to do is put something dry and chemically made in there. Fail.

** WHO originally came up with all of these things that are the most widely available? CEO’s and sales executives of large companies = Probably 90% men who have no idea what it’s like to be in the midst of the ritual and release of bleeding? Right….Fail.

– Organic cotton cloth pads: kind of feel like a diaper and the velcro is uncomfortable if it touches skin but a better option and cheaper than the above stated methods. Moderate success.

– The Diva Cup (there is also The Keeper which is an older version): a rubber cup that you fold in half, insert up into the vagina, rests against the cervix, and catches blood. It can hold quite a bit depending on your flow. It leaks sometimes so a light panty-liner or black underwear was something I learned was a must. It’s uncomfortable for me on the first day (it can feel like putting pressure on a fresh wound, nothing wants to go in there! My body has very strong feelings that it’s a time of deep release, not a time to put anything up there). It really does work well on the light days. It’s been effective for me for years and has helped me mostly avoid the conventional ways discussed above which are old news in my book. It’s good to pee before inserting / removing the Diva Cup, it makes things easier, trust me.. Moderate success. Click here to read on the Diva Cup.

– Sea Sponge: this is one option I haven’t tried but have heard good things. It’s a natural small sponge that is inserted and soaks up blood (I imagine a similar effect to the Diva Cup but hopefully feels softer). They sound nice, but I couldn’t find them in a store (there are many online). They don’t last as long cause they wear out so it can be more expensive (the underwear below and the diva cup last much longer, once you buy them you can have them for extended time). Like the Diva Cup, at times the sponges can leak. If you google search, there are multiple brands you can try out and order.

– When all fails, I’ve thought about saying “fuck it!” and just going without anything at all but have gotten to that point only a few times. This mostly came out of emergency and refusing to buy anything so I suffered through a few hours until making it home). Ever gotten to that point of frustration? Not a fun place to be. Fail.

** A note of truth: I wish I could bleed on the earth and in the open water and have it not only be accepted, but encouraged and worshipped at sacred. At your core, do you feel that? I intend to be blunt here: my body is made to do this, this blood is some of the most nutrient dense matter that was ever made (it can make a human, I mean COME ON!) Yet here I am working my ass off wasting energy / money on things that are inappropriate and and ineffective. The fact that a bunch of large companies capitalize on a primal female process and that leads to what’s most available and widely taught in the mainstream for menstrual care is just baffling! And typical.

** A note of reality: Because this is a modern world we are in, I choose to refrain from going around expecting that I can bleed on the earth and in the waters freely as I vented above. As most of us do and I’m left with these questions of “Why is it this way?” Sigh.

Alas…..praise the universe for progress! As a modern woman, who cares for mine and others’ bodies deeply, I am so grateful for this addition below. Every month we go through this! This is revolutionary in my mind:

– Disclaimer: I do not work for Thinxx. They in no way asked me to write this (or even know that I am). I am just happy to shout it to the world as this really has helped my world in a very big way. And I know it is an extreme privilege to have access to these underwear, and to have the funds to purchase them. I know that and am deeply grateful.

– Thinxx underwear are one of many recent amazing add-ons to my life. They are underwear with double fabric (a built in pad that doesn’t move around) sewn in. They are comfortable and easy to wear and I did not bleed through even on my heaviest day. My cycle is not very heavy, you will have to figure out yours, but my assumption is that the full coverage underwear should provide you with enough support. Click here to read more.

The Fit: I ordered all of the cuts. If you like thongs, go with the thong for light days. If you like “regular” underwear, go with the full coverage. My least favorite cut is the “cheeky” because they feel like a wedgie and it feels like half my butt is in the underwear and half is out. If you like that feeling, they are cute to the eye if you or your lover like a little butt cheek.

Extra support:  You may need to use something (like a sponge or tampon or diva cup) in combination with the underwear on your first day if you are a heavy bleeder. Still, they are way better than the alternative cause if you bleed on them, you wash them and it doesn’t go through onto your clothes cause they are doubled up with effective fabric. And no bleach.

Money: Unfortunately, like anything high quality, they are pricey. The investment was worth it for me. A perk (if you have moral needs around where you put money) is when you buy some, they give menstrual supplies to women in Africa who have absolutely nothing and have been missing school for a week at a time when they are bleeding because they can’t walk the long way without soaking their clothes. Can we pause for a moment to feel what that would be like and acknowledge the fact that many of us reading have never had to experience anything close to that?

So, I am in full support of these products FOR women made BY women. It’s about damn fucking time! Next step for us as a species is to make healthy and comfortable supplies affordable and available to every single person who bleeds, no matter economic status or accessibility, because it is a terrible feeling being without support there.

And another thing! I like writing about my blood.  I know that makes some people uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can understand that discomfort and still not silence myself even though I know it’s there. Because it goes like this: It connects me to a primal aspect of life that I have had a habit of forgetting. This cycle puts me so in my body that I CANNOT be disembodied while I bleed. If this makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to get to know your blood or your loved ones blood on a level that works for you. One of my favorite books (named below) gave me an invitation that made me uncomfortable when I first read it. Then I got over that and indulged and really enjoyed it. The invitation was this: “play with your blood. Squat and watch it go all over the bathtub just because you can! Get to know your internal tissues.”

I repeat that invitation because this makes life. This is a gift to the world for us to know our bodies so deeply that we refuse to let them be abused because we know what they can do and what they deserve. Even if we don’t have a child, that’s not what this is about. This is about empowerment. Once we learn this for ourselves, we can teach it to our young ones and one by one, make change real. How did we get to the point where this was seen as gross and a burden instead of sacred and worthy of respect? Just like everything else, this is an institutional issue.

** An invitation: I noticed no one who identifies as a man “liked” my post when I posted something similar to this writing on Facebook a little while ago. That is so curious to me….Coincidence? Perhaps. Probably not. Uncomfortable and speechless? Maybe. For those of you whom identify as men and do not have the experience of this blood….You are welcome to support this and invited to get to know this as a strong and rooted thing you can do for yourself and for others! I really mean this with so much love and kindness. Do you have a woman or someone who bleeds in your life? Are you partnered to one? Are you a father or a son or a brother to one who bleeds? Do you have friends who bleed? Do you hope to have any of those one day? Are you a therapist or a doctor or some other kind of professional in the service world who serves people who bleed? The list goes on.

In short, do you ever hope to provide support to someone in your life whom is going through this cycle that can often be isolating and painful if there’s not support? If the answer is yes you may want to befriend this idea of bleeding and the cycle that is possibly one of the last things that still connects us ALL to the natural flow of life. If that feels challenging, try this on: YOU came from this. YOU are made of this very blood. The very first inkling of you started in the midst of all this matter that I’m writing about. Open yourself to supporting people in your life and you may be surprised at what it does for your relationships. Just a thought, I’ll bet you $100 the people who bleed in your life will appreciate it if you approach them and this cycle with gentleness, understanding, curiosity, making it ok when things happen, and asking how you can support them, even if it’s just a simple “that sounds hard, what can I do for you?”  Some of the most helpful things have been a simple “I’m sorry you’re struggling, I’m not scared of a little blood, Don’t apologize!” and the list goes on. A BIG thank you to those people who helped me soften around this with myself when I was still learning how to appreciate and validate my body.

A few book recommendations I love to give out that I read when I was first exploring these themes are:
· Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (she unpacks all of this, in addition to the actual meaning of the word Cunt…it’s not what we’ve been taught!)
·  A New View of a Woman’s Body: A Fully Illustrated Guide by the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers

To end on a fun note, I’ll leave you with a few things to watch to continue to feed this vagina love:
— “My First Period” by Stacyann Chin
— “The Period Poem” by Dominuque Christina

Alright! Deep breath. That was a lot. I hope this has provided you with something cause if you’re reading this you either read everything above or you skipped to the end. Either way, thanks for your presence here and reading. There is a Vagina Blog #2 coming and will cover Mayan Womb Massage (a type of bodywork that supports health of the female reproductive system), Vagina Steams, and Urinary Tract Infections. I’m always open to feedback and questions etc. Until next time, with love, Alicia

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Baby is Here! Now What?

This post wraps up my birthing blog series. It has been the most interesting process to write this series for you all!  Going through the entire process, from beginning to end, in blog form, is quite the helpful metaphor for mirroring birth. If you’re new to this blog series, you may want to visit earlier posts to get your feet wet. You can also peruse through to find specific information you’re looking for if you’re needing that. The first post is Light Step Into Birthing in the USA and follows from there. This post will cover a few things that come up once the baby has been born including cord clamping, the placenta, postpartum depression, and immediate care for baby post birth. Again as with other posts, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but this is meant to spark your thinking about where you’re at with these themes and how much you want to investigate more.

Clamping the Umbilical Cord
There is a wide variation in when the umbilical cord is clamped / cut between different care providers. Some places speedily do this quickly, and some let it pulse until there’s nothing else happening and then that bond is removed. Babies born in birth centers or at home usually have the cord clamped at the choice of the parents which is usually after the cord has stopped pulsing (there is an intense level of highly nutrient dense material going to the baby when the cord is still pulsing). Some practitioners in hospitals may clamp cords at the first chance due to the more convenient timing (this is not always the case, I was recently at a birth with the midwives at University Hosiptal in Aurora, CO and they let the cord pulse completely stop before anything was done with it). Letting the cord finish pulsing before it is removed allows for a higher amount of blood circulation in baby, and results in lower levels of red blood cells in the baby. Midwives testify that premature babies especially benefit from delayed cord clamping and cutting. It’s one of the most potently nourishing things you can do for the baby once the laboring is complete. If you want to give your baby this time, you may need to be explicit with your care providers. Know that you can always deny for the cord to be clamped / cut if you’re not ready and you want to wait. The evidence is on your side!

The Placenta
Some people feel surprised at the necessity to birth the placenta once the baby is out. There can be a “I thought this was finished” type of reaction. The placenta delivery is often much more mild in terms of sensation in comparison to birthing the baby. It’s a squishy, smaller organ that simply needs to slide out. The placenta will often detach from the uterus in its own time. It’s no longer needed and the body knows. It is sometimes given a gentle tug to get it to come out, but it does not need to be pulled out aggressively (which can be painful and cause bleeding). The natural process of releasing the placenta is usually respected in birth centers and home births. Some hospital staff can be known to rush the delivery of the placenta. Again, know that you can request to wait! Different positions can help the placenta to come out (once the person has rested after birthing and has had some time with the baby, they may be asked to sit upright and release the placenta). The risk of postpartum hemorrhage is there, especially if the placenta is taken before it’s ready.

The Postpartum Glow Time
How to hold onto that baby! If they try to take baby away soon after birth, request to keep them. Make it known you want skin to skin contact immediately following the birth before you get to that moment (it’s hard to make those requests when you’re in the post birthing time). If you’re unavailable for some reason, have the baby get skin to skin with the closest next person (if there is a second parent), or with some warm body. The warmth and hormones of the person who birthed the baby can regulate the baby’s system so fast it’s like a miracle. There’s been multiple cases noted about babies whom were needing medical attention and kept in incubators / nurseries and once they were put on a warm body (especially the person who birthed the baby), their systems began to heal way quicker and with more ease than with the medical care. Babies who are separated from the warmth of the human body immediately often have a harder time with their first few days. The euphoria that is sometimes available post birthing to some people should be marinated in for as long as possible, for all parties. Keep the baby warm with blankets and delay the first bath as long as possible. Keep the vernix on the baby when possible (this is a white kind of fluid that will be absorbed into the baby’s skin and has a ton of nutrients). Sometimes you’ll have to continually negotiate with staff to keep your baby with you, but it’s worth it!  You may have to tell them to leave you alone until you’re ready to give that baby up. This is important for the baby’s nervous system, if at all possible, to stay close to the birthing body. The best place for baby to be is on the chest. There are other procedures often given in hospitals to newborns including Vitamin K & Hep B vaccinations and antibiotic eye ointment. It would be good to do some research on these procedures and decide ahead of time what you would like to do about them so you’re not caught off guard when they ask you. If you would like unbiased information about any of it, please email me and I’m happy to provide some resources around newborn procedures.

Postpartum Depression
It’s real. It occurs way more often than we may think. Sometimes it’s really intense and changes everything and sometimes it’s subtle. It can hit immediately or within a year following the birth. The birthing person’s system has gone through the most intense physiological process that humans do. Of course their system is altered and needing support. Symptoms include feeling hopeless, insomnia, excessive crying, lack of appetite, nightmares, bizarre thoughts and new or heightened fears / phobias, and hostile or suicidal thoughts. Sometimes this can turn into postpartum psychosis. Most cases can be prevented and treated easily with simple care provided to the mother. If that’s not available, it can turn into a stressful situation quickly.

One step to preventing this is to make sure the birthing person gets sleep, adequate rest, nourishing foods, and support caring for the newborn. A postpartum doula is a wonderful resource for this time if you have the availability and funds for it. I’ve heard people say they would make a monthly payment for the rest of their lives, that it was the best money they ever spent! A postpartum doula is someone who will come to give you extra resources (depending on their training) including cooking for you, massage, help with nursing if you’re breastfeeding, taking care of the baby while you sleep, do laundry / cleaning / whatever is needed in the home, and providing other emotional supports. While friends and relatives can do some of this too, sometimes it’s nice and easier to have someone help you where there’s no expectation and no emotional baggage. If you have wonderful supportive family who is so healthy, by all means use them! Often times families have some dysfunctional dynamics that can add to the stress of the new parents (which adds to the stress of the baby). You’ll know who is the right postpartum care for you. If you suspect you may be suffering from postpartum depression, get in touch with a caregiver who is familiar with it.

This post concludes the birthing blog series. Thank you for your presence here reading! I commend you if you’ve gotten through it. And if you haven’t, but you know someday you might want / need to, keep it in the back of your mind. Please write to me with questions / needs and I will get back to you with the best of what I have. Until then, so much warmth, with love, Alicia

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The Myth and The Reality of the Episiotomy

As I dive deeper into the birthing world, I’m still sparked. It’s a deep dive! I recently audited a birth class (Inspired Birth with Katie Wise, hosted at The Mama Hood in Boulder & Denver). Just for fun, to learn, and to know what’s available locally as resources and referrals. Katie said she used to audit birth classes and that she considers herself “addicted to birthing”. It seems I can relate!

This post is about the episiotomy. If you don’t know what this means, you may want to take a deep breath. Maybe it won’t bother you, but when I first learned, I had a really hard time metabolizing it and understanding why it’s done routinely. An episiotomy (also known as perineotomy) is a surgical incision of the perineum and the posterior vaginal wall. It is performed by a midwife or OB during the second stage of labor to quickly enlarge the opening for the baby to pass through. The incision is performed under local anesthetic and is sutured closed after the the delivery of the baby. It is one of the most common medical procedures performed on women.

In simple language, this procedure stems from the myth that women can be (or that they simply are) “too small to give birth.” We can be taught that the female body is incapable of getting big enough. The fear is real! I can relate. When I first attempted to wrap my mind and body around the concept that a baby whom could weigh up to 10-11 pounds (or as small as 2) is going to come out of my vagina, it seemed impossible. I witness it on the faces of people I talk to about it and in the birth class and birth circle I am part of as a doula. This post is to help us unpack it, because it is possible and natural. Unfortunately, culture and society teaches us that it is not and many of us have no real life examples to go on to show us otherwise.

The reasoning behind this post is that if birthing professionals (and all of us really) could understand that female genitals have similar abilities to grow as male genitals do, the episiotomy and laceration rates could go way down. Unfortunately, earlier generations have helped us learn to believe that nature cheated women when it comes to the tissues of the vagina and perineum. Many have bought into the idea that their genitals are made of “bad goods”. No one expects that a penis can be pulled and stretched to the size that it attains when it’s erect without engorgement. Why do we expect the female genitalia to expand and stretch to the full capacity without being properly engorged? Sounds silly when we get down to the reality of it.

Ina May discusses that during her birthing lectures, she asks the group “What happens when you kiss?” Eventually some brave person answers while pointing to their genitals “it gets tingly.” From this place, engorgement happens. Birth is an act that enlarges the vagina, and sexual foreplay is another. One of the differences between us is that engorgement of the penis can be visibly noticed, and the engorgement of the female genitalia is largely internal and not easily seen. The engorgement of the female is just as important, even though it’s mostly hidden. If the tissues are not engorged, then when the baby’s head begins to emerge, the uterus will keep pushing the baby’s head and force its way through the vaginal tissues that aren’t softened or opened fully. Ouch!

A simple rule to remember is: engorgement = less stitching.

Hypothetically, let’s believe that nature designed the female body to get as huge as needed for the baby to easefully come out. Of course it will be easier if the atmosphere is right. A person kissing their partner through the pushing process may have a largely different experience than one who is uncomfortable and attempting a conversation with a medical provider they may not even know well. To quote Ina May (again): It is the competent care provider and other kindly helpers in constant attendance during labor who carry along the knowledge of what the undisturbed body / mind is capable of in birth. What actually happens can be incredibly difficult to believe to the person who doesn’t know the potential and possibilities.

 A Meditation: The thing about mental / meditation techniques is there’s no negative side effects from giving it a try. Ina May (one of the nation’s leading midwives) talks about a birth experience she had with a client whom had a big fear of not being able to open or get big enough for her baby to come out. The entire time she was birthing, she used a mantra of “I am going to get HUGE!” I’m going to discuss why this really is possible below. But if you stop reading here, staying with the concept of getting SO big, appears to be fruitful.

The logistics of the Episiotomy: One of the most common operations in North America, it is seen by some as a deliberate injury to the female body. Ina May goes so far as to say it’s this culture’s version of female genital mutilation. The belief is that inflicting this trauma on the female body does the following:

  • Prevents the laboring person from a more serious tear
  • Improves the partner’s (and possibly the laboring persons sexual life)
  • Saves them from urinary tract infections
  • Saves the baby from shoulder dystocia (which is easily maneuvered with proper technique and skill of the provider)
  • Makes the job of the medical provider easier
  • Prevents oxygen deprivation / brain injury to the baby

Is this really true or necessary? I can’t seem to believe that it is. Here is the reality of the Episiotomy based on research:

  • Causes pain that sometimes lasts for weeks / months
  • Increases blood loss
  • Causes more serious tears because a cut perineum is not as resistant to laceration as an intact one (the concept of once you cut a small incision, the tear has a lot more freedom to get larger)
  • Often becomes infected
  • Associate with wound breakdown, abcesses, permanent damage to the pelvic-floor muscles, and other complications that cause incontinence
  • Prevent many women from breastfeeding because of the pain

The times it’s justified might include when a baby is about to be born in distress, when a breech male baby’s testicles are the leading part to be born, and other rare and unique complications that literally equal an episiotomy leading to less harm being done. A careful review of evidence shows that the episiotomy rate of over 20% cannot be justified on any grounds.

Ina May’s Tips on How to Avoid an Unjustified Episiotomy / Laceration:

  • Choose a caregiver whom has an episiotomy rate lower than 20%
  • Choose a caregiver who performs median rather than mediolateral episiotomies (a cut from the bottom of the vagina straight down toward the rectum rather than an oblique cut from the bottom of the vagina toward the buttock). Mediolateral episiotomies are especially painful while healing
  • Push only when the urge comes. Allow for it to be a process of opening that has a natural rhythm
  • Take a quick breath between the pushes
  • When the baby’s head is about to come out, slow down the pushing as much as possible
  • Some people like to stimulate the clitoris as the baby emerges. This can increase vaginal engorgement which could explain why there are very few lacerations for people whom use this method of relaxation. A question to reflect on is would you discuss this with your provider and do it if you knew it were likely to help you? If not, perhaps take a visit to Eve Ensler’s show Vagina Monologues if you have a chance (they typically happen every February)
  • If making noise helps as you push, keep the sound in the lowest register possible so that the vibration comes to the lower part of your body. Low, sexy moans.

What about the receding? It can be helpful to know that babies’ heads typically advance towards birth during a push and then recede (go back in) once the push is over. People whom don’t understand this process sometimes feel they’re not making progress. This process is good! It helps the vulva gradually open and attain the necessary size. Circulation to the genitalia increases with the alternating stimulus of pressure, release, pressure, release.

Acceptance and power: As long as the episiotomy is continued to be accepted as a routine process, they will continue to be performed. That means accepted by you and me. Providers. Nurses. Anyone in relationship to the birthing process. Only when people take action by questioning the groups in power and refusing to hire professionals with high episiotomy rates will this practice change. It is important to realize how many people have very little choice about their care providers and practices. Even so, the fight can be fought and won in these environments with information and any type of support that is available. It is unfortunate that there is so much profit stemming from birth that this personal, intimate, intensive physiological process has become political. For me, this isn’t about politics, it’s about choice and power. Who has the power in your birth?

As always, thank you for your presence here reading! Please feel free to reach out with questions / concerns / needs for resources and referrals. I may not always know the answer but I have a brilliant network of supportive, well trained, highly competent and skilled people around me whom I work with that could help provide objective, unbiased information.

A Doula Offering: As I’ve announced in my newsletter email, I am working with the Boulder Doula Circle as an apprentice. I am SO THRILLED to be joining this group of women for this very unique time of initiation of myself into the birthing world. I’m offering my doula service at a reduced rate in relationship to the Boulder Doula Circle. Their regular rate is $1495, and my rate will be $500. This is a great option if you would like the support of a doula and the Boulder Doula Circle and all the versatility the group practice offers, but cannot afford the full rate. If you choose to work with me as your doula, you will have:

  • Prenatal and postpartum visits with me
  • The backup support of the Boulder Doula Circle so that you will not be without support during your labor. Visit the BDC website to read more about the other wonderful women in this circle whom bring a wide variety of expertise to your birthing experience.
  • The option to come to the Birth Cirlce at The MaMa’Hood (a monthly group to support pregnancy / families as they prepare and transition into being parents)
  • For more information, please visit my website here and contact me with any questions about hiring a doula whether it’s me or if you need a referral

On that note, I’m finally beginning to come toward the end of this birthing blog series. My last few posts will cover the final phase of birthing, the postpartum period following birth, and resources and self care around that tender time. With care, Alicia

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