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Self Care | Charleston Birth Doula
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Five Ways Abdominal Massage Improved My Health In Just Seven Days

Five Ways Abdominal Massage Improved My Health In Just Seven Days

It’s a new year and with that comes the idea of starting fresh and having a clean slate.  I did one of those silly Facebook games to see what my word was for 2016 and it said, “Renewal.”  I love that!  I had already decided this year was for me.  I have spent the last 4 years being pregnant and/or nursing, I have struggled with weight loss, postpartum depression, memory loss, and chronic fatigue from not applying my own oxygen mask before helping others.   To start my year off right, I hosted a two and a half day workshop in my home on the self-care level 1 training from the Arvigo Institute with Donna Zubrod.  She was absolutely fantastic.  It was like entering a red tent of self-awareness and care for a whole weekend.

What happened in the first seven days of doing the self-care work is what has amazed me.  For a routine that is easy enough for a non-professional to learn, the results are profound.  I also happened to be within the timeframe of my menses and I could not apply the lower abdominal work, so I am looking forward to seeing what will happen with 7 days of the full abdominal routine.  I am so excited to be taking the professional level training this summer and bringing this work to my area.  If the self-care response is this fast, imagine what can happen with additional techniques and positioning a therapist can do!

Here are 5 areas that abdominal massage has improved in my health:

  1. Lymphatic System – I woke up the first morning feeling like I had a head cold from the lymphatic cleansing that happened over night. It took several hours for it to clear all the way out. The thought of moving and clearing all that congestion that was sitting in my body was pretty cool. There is nothing like starting your new year with a happy lymphatic system!
  2. Rib Cage – This one has been mind blowing and, honestly, the biggest surprise. After 4 pregnancies and 3 children, my lower rib cage had flared out from all my organs being pushed up and under my ribs during pregnancy. I had begun to resign to the fact that it was just going to stay that way. Even with targeted core exercises to this area, it didn’t seem to want to move. In just 7 days of doing my self-care work, my rib cage is completely flat and back to normal.
  3. Shoulder Blades – Due to the optimal positioning of my lower ribcage, my entire thoracic spine (backbones to which the ribs attach) has begun to shift and adjust. Muscles that have spent years in chronic tension, as they compensated for the flared lower ribs, have begun to adjust and begin to let go. This hasn’t been super fun and there is a deep ache as the muscles and connective tissue begin to unwind, but the results are going to be a better, healthier, happier me!
  4. Hips/Pelvis – Just as my thoracic spine has begun to shift and align into a more optimal position, so have my hips. Again, keep in mind that I haven’t even begun the lower portion of the self-care routine yet. This is all strictly from the upper abdominal massage. My leg muscles that attach to the front (flexors) and inside (adductors) have been adjusting and shifting, I have been having pain in my right periformis/sciatic nerve, and the tendons and ligaments throughout my pelvis have a deep ache as they process the body work that has been going on. One of the things that has always been hard for me is to hold my pelvis in a correct position. I am excited to see how my posture begins to align and correct itself with continued work.
  5. Menses/Moon – I was informed in class that the first and possibly second menses after doing this work would be, well to put it mildly, interesting. I didn’t think a whole lot would be different the first time, because I was due the weekend of the class and skipped the lower abdominal portion. The first morning I woke up, my abdominal cavity was so bloated that I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. It was actually painful to feel my body expanding like that. We were told that things usually get worse before they get better, but I wasn’t anticipating that! I don’t normally get bloated or have cramping symptoms before my moon but I went with the flow and affectionately called it my Arvigo baby for the rest of the weekend! lol

When my moon started to flow, I could tell it was cleansing more deeply than usual and then it finished in half the time. I did learn in class that sciatic pain may be associated with a uterus that is not aligned properly so I am interested to see what happens throughout the next few weeks and my next moon.

Sisterhood from self-care workshop.

Sisterhood from self-care workshop.

I initially put this work on my vision board in 2007 and it took 8 years to manifest this class in my area.  I finally reached a point where I was tired of waiting for it to come to my area and brought the workshop to me.  Has a part of my experience triggered a yearning in yourself to seek out this work?  Are you interested in finding an Arvigo therapist or bringing this workshop to your area?  Are you interested in learning about how bringing lymph, nerve, blood, and chi flow to your abdominal organs may help alleviate Constipation, Digestive Disorders, Pain in the Low Back/Neck/Shoulders/Pelvis, Urinary Incontinence, Scar Tissue/Adhesions, Painful/Irregular Periods, Fertility/Conception, Postpartum, Birth by Cesarean, Endometriosis, Peri-Menopause, Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome, Chronic Bladder and Yeast Infections, Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Uterine Fibroids, Ovarian Cysts, Prostate Swelling, Prostatitis and Erectile Dysfunction and more? You can contact the institute directly at ArvigoTherapy.com

Have you experienced this work and have your own success story?  Please consider sharing in the comments.

How to celebrate your daughter’s first period.

How to celebrate your daughter’s first period.

Women across the globe have started reconnecting with their menstrual cycles and one way is celebrating hen their daughter has their first period, called a menarche’.  When there are so many opportunities to focus on the negative aspect of our natural fertility cycle, taking the time to celebrate the miracle and power of being a woman is important for your physical, emotional and spirit/soul level self.

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We recently created a bridging ceremony for our local red tent to welcome newly initiated women into the sisterhood. This is the program that we offer.

Red Ribbon Bridging Ceremony – Place a wide red ribbon on the ground.  We placed our’s at the entry way into the ceremonial space.  (This can be done whether inside or outside.) Place everyone who has already begun menstruating inside the ceremonial space and the virgin girls outside the ceremonial space.

While the initiated is on the “virgin” side of the ribbon explain to her how, as a Goddess, she has 3 representations within herself.  Before her menarche her dominant presence was as the maiden. The Maiden is the young goddess from birth to menarche: learning, growing, striving, and searching. She is Persephone/Kore, and her spirit is also present in “virgin goddesses” such as Artemis/Diana or Athena. She is independent, willful, impulsive, vivacious, and aggressive. Connecting with the Maiden Goddess provides energy for undertaking a new venture, helps us assert our autonomy, and helps us summon resources and seek out what we need.

Next, I like to mention something about the sisters she has to lean on for support and ask questions.  To use her matriarchal tribe to learn, grow and experience both the “positive” and “negative” aspects of womanhood as a sisterhood.  After you have shared the sacredness your community with her, invite her to step over the red ribbon and into the sisterhood.

Finally, explain to her that now that she has started her menarche her dominant presence will be the mother until she no longer has anymore moon cycles.  The Mother is the goddess from menarche to menopause: governing, creating, nourishing, sustaining. She is Demeter, Hera, Gaia. Although her energy can be expressed through physically giving birth and raising children, the term “Mother” should not be taken so literally as to appear limiting. The Mother Goddess is woman (or man) at maturity, with the experience, energy, and inclination to undertake large-scale and long-term endeavors, to manage resources and relationships, to promote positive change in others.  This concludes our bridging ceremony.

We then invite our newest sister to sit on her throne and eat a chocolate bar while her elders create a crown of flowers on her head. We present her with a new journal and have all her new sisters write blessings in it for her while her mother paints her toes red.

I hope this has inspired you to create a special moment with your loved ones when they start menstruating.  We perform our ceremonies during our red tent temple gatherings, every sister who is at our tent is already menstruating and we already journal at every gathering.   Our ceremony has been created to fit within an already established sacred time together.  You may need to alter slightly if there are other girls there for the ceremony who have not experienced their moon time yet. Use your own fertile energy and get creative with what resonates with you and fits the personality of the newest sister.

5 alternatives remedies for colds and allergies

5 alternatives remedies for colds and allergies

It’s that time of year again.  We are full speed ahead into cold, flu and allergy season.  This season is the first time in 4 years that I can take an antihistamine when I need to.  Being sick when pregnant or nursing can be really hard because we have limited options for what we can take and be safe for our children.  It is important to remember that the milk glands are also a mucus gland, and they will dry up with any medication targeting your congestion.  Another popular remedy is using essential oils and most of those oils are also contraindicated during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and with young children in the home.  Here is the routine that I share when asked what I do for a cold or allergies.

First thing I do is make sure that I have PROBIOTICS as a regular part of my diet.  A common way that dis-ease can enter the body is through the gut.  A good line of defense is to take probiotics in the form of fermented food, eating yogurt or taking it as supplement.  Most people have heard of anti-biotics, which is prescribed to fight bacterial infections in the body.  It is against bacteria.  Well, pro-biotics are in favor of the good bacteria that live in your gut.  If you have been sick and needed to take an antibiotic, including an antibiotic IV during labor, you should consider taking probiotics to help replenish the good bacteria that were killed in the process of fighting the disease.

The second thing that I do when I don’t feel well is use my NETI POT twice a day.  This gentle form of flushing the sinuses out has reduced the length of my discomfort and made it easier to breath when it wasn’t safe for me to take an anti-congestant.  Check out my how to video here –

My mom taught me the next step. I am not sure where she learned it from but since vitamin c is water-soluble it can’t really hurt.  As she explained it to me, you take 1000 mil of VITAMIN C starting at the first sign of being sick.  Then take it again every hour until you have a bowel movement.  She told me that as long as you are not going to the bathroom your body is using the vitamin c to fight the disease.  When the vitamin c upsets your GI tract enough to create a movement your body doesn’t need anymore for that day.  You repeat this step daily, every day, until you are better.  I am the only person in my immediate family who does this and I have a way shorter duration of being sick than anyone else.

My friend Amber Allen taught me step four.  She uses STINGING NETTLE capsules to help fight allergies.  I happened to have organic stinging nettle herbs on hand and make a tea or infusion, based on how much time I have.  The difference between a tea and infusion, in its simplest explanation, is how long you steep it for.  You would steep your tea for 2-4 minutes and you would steep your infusion for 4 or more hours.  The longer you steep the herbs the more medicinal properties are released and the stronger the potency of the drink.  I have no herbalist training to explain why it works, I just know her advice was a godsend while nursing and it worked for me.

Stinging nettle infusion using a French Press.

Stinging Nettle infusion using a French Press.

Proceed to this last step with caution, if you are nursing.  I LOVE this remedy and it is an all over great thing to do daily, unless you are nursing, to reduce the overall congestion in your body.    Drink tons of water with LEMON JUICE added to it.  I caution if you are nursing because I have not found someone who can answer whether the anti-congestant benefit of the lemon juice will affect your milk supply or not. I have asked herbalists, LLL leaders, lactation consultants and midwives but no one seems to know that answer.  Best thing to do is proceed slowly and pay attention to your own body.  My body was so fragile with milk supply that it didn’t take much to upset it and I decided to only use this option when pregnant or really, really desperate.

I have heard of other remedies that can be useful but stuck to the tried and true remedies for me.  What remedies have worked for you?

5 better things to say to a loved one after a pregnancy loss

5 better things to say to a loved one after a pregnancy loss

As this years pregnancy and infant loss month comes to a close, I decided maybe I would sneak a blog in after all.  See, I lost a daughter, Lily, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2010.  It still pains me to talk about it, even with 2 full term pregnancies since then.  Couple that with this years continued education, for our doula community, being on stillbirth, I wanted to just crawl under a rock and cry.   I think it is great that there is a way for our community to process and grieve through such a tough time and for me personally, having my newsfeed explode with well-intentioned meme’s and profile picture overlays of pink and blue is like tearing open an old wound.  I don’t need to walk to remember her, I think about Lily every day of my life.  So, just like buying a bunch of stuff in pink won’t actually screen for breast cancer, for families who have experienced the loss; we don’t need awareness, we live it every day, and blowing up all over social media won’t bring back our babies.

So this blog is for the extended family, the friends, and the community who desperately want to help during this hard time and just don’t know what to do.

Here are 5 better things you can say or do for your loved one when going through a trauma, like a pregnancy or infant loss.

1- Instead of saying, ” You can try again.” say, “Put your cooler on the porch because I am dropping dinner off.”

See, it doesn’t matter if we will try again, you can’t replace a child with another child.  It isn’t like I lost my house key and I just go get a new one.  It doesn’t make this loss any less painful.

Trust me, we will let you know if and when we want company but until we do, bring food and don’t plan on staying to visit.  As a matter of fact, when you are invited in, politely decline and you will be loved for it.  This is definitely a time where a ring and dash is appropriate.  Better yet, go to a website like Take Them A Meal and set up a meal calendar.  Make sure you give the same guidelines for friends and family, let them know what time the cooler will be outside and whether the family prefers a text message when the food has arrived.

2- Instead of saying, “At least you know you can get pregnant” say, “Plan on taking a nap at this time, because I am coming over to catch up the housework.”

Again, this isn’t about you, your feelings or your recognition.  This is about allowing the family space to grieve without having to worry about day to day chores and obligations.  So take a deep breath, bring your cleaning products with you and don’t forget to empty the trash.

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My rainbow baby, Macey Keys.

3- Instead of saying, “At least you already have a child/ children.” say, “I will _______________ for your child.”

Another great gift, is to take a shift with the children.  They may or may not even understand what is happening, but their lives are still a jam packed schedule.  They may need a ride to or from school, have music or sport practice, or just need a play date, at the park.

4- Instead of saying anything at all the sounds like God’s plan, say, “I  love you and I am here for you day or night.” 

And mean it, because grief knows no calling hours.  As someone who heard every version of God’s plan, let me tell you that the biggest accomplishment of pregnancy loss was the fact that I didn’t actually punch anyone in the face.

To be clear, if the family brings God into the conversation and they talk about his plan, go right on ahead, validate that for them.  If they haven’t said a word, refrain from using anyone else’s plan as condolence for their plans not coming to fruition.

5- Instead of saying, “It will get better.” say, “This totally sucks!”

Yes, deep down we all know that things will “get better” but, in the middle of loss and trauma, we don’t want to hear it.  We are angry, we feel like we have been given a raw deal and validating our experience and feelings is really the only humane thing to do. Our message will change, depending on what stage of grief we are in. Just keep validating and parroting back.  One day, we will be able to rationally think about things, but right now, we just need you to agree with us.

 

I am going to leave you with 2 final thoughts.  Think of them like a bonus fry at the bottom of your take out bag.

Notice how I didn’t have you asking any questions.  I didn’t have you ask if you could clean the house, or help with little Johnny.  In my experience, as a doula, families have a hard time asking for help and they often turn it down.  In the words of Nike, just do it.  Bring the food, set up the play date, take care of them the way you would want to be taken care of.  Know that you are a blessing to this family and your service is greatly appreciated.

 

comfort in - dump out

Finally, let me just put this beautifully imperfect drawing I made right here.   I learned this technique as part of my doula certification. When in doubt, remember this comfort in ~ dump out.  You send comfort to those closer to the trauma by doing things to help them and when no other words seem right, say “I love you”.  You dump out your feeling and opinions to those further away than you, from the trauma.  If you are in doubt over who is closer to the trauma, assume the other person is closer.  This means the parents who have experienced the loss can scream whatever they want, whenever they want, to whoever they want and no one gets to dump anything back on them.

If you are still confused over what you can say or do, send flowers and a card.  I still have every card that was given to me and that bouquet of flowers that my husband sent to my work; well, he made everyone at work cry with me.  Damn him for quoting The Notebook!

 

 

 

9 ways to an easier period.

9 ways to an easier period.

Although, I already knew about all these option, and I was still shocked when I actually wrote them all down and counted.  Nine,  say it with me, ” nine options”  ladies!! No one is saying we need to start having a menstrual party and loving our moon time but isn’t it exciting to have options?  Just remember, there are going to be pros and cons to every one.

My personal experience started with tampons.  When switching to a hard cup, I noticed no more cramping,  constipation or odor.  I didn’t realize it was the product that made that “period smell” and not my actual menses.  When I started transitioning I  had to use tampons the first two nights, because my flow is so heavy.  I have heard people say it is impossible to overflow the cup and alas it is. You can overflow your cup if you are one of those women who flows a lot or if you have a weak pelvic floor.  I was a combo of both, one by nature and the other due to multiple births.   By doing my due diligence with my postpartum pelvic care, I have been able to finally wear my cup all night, but I better change it as soon as I stand and gravity takes over, or else nature wins over every time.   I am looking forward to trying the Thinx panties and seeing if they will be a great alternative for evening backup protection.

This article from Mercola explains in detail why a conventional method may be convenient and easy, but may not necessarily be in our best interest.  For the most part, you are choosing cheap up front with long term expense and waist or expensive up front with long term investment but a little “unconventional” for 2015.  Or, like me, you could run middle of the road and use a combination of more than one option.

So without further ado, here are 9 ways you can experience your monthly moon time~

Tampons, Cups & Sponges

Conventional Disposable Tampons – a “plug” of cotton inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood.  Tampons are one of the most marketed forms used by women.  They are convenient, popular, inexpensive up front and because they are absorbing the blood internally, have a “clean” feeling.  Downsides would be cost over time, landfill repercussions, risk of TSS, and the material is made with bleached, GMO cotton.

Organic Disposable Tampons – for the woman who prefers the convenience of a tampon but does not like the idea of bleach and GMO cotton in her reproductive system.  Pros include familiarity with product due to the conventional counterpart and zero chemicals used in making the product but it still has the risk of TSS, is costly, and contributes to landfill waist.

The Ultimate Prep - Lunette

Hard Menstrual Cup – made of a “hard” medical grade silicone, it can be purchased latex or latex free.  I did some math and figured out that the cup holds the equivalent of an ultra tampons absorbency without the risk of TSS.  When inserted into the vagina, it forms a suction ring around the cervix and catches the menstrual flow, rather than absorbing it.  There are many different brands and it may take purchasing a couple to find the right fit but in the long run they are way cheaper than disposable options.  Positives to using a cup are not needing to keep tampons with you wherever you go, reduction/ some say zero risk of TSS, the same “clean” feeling as using a tampon, and cost over time.  Negatives are cost up front and not always having access to rinse in a public bathroom.

Soft Menstrual Cups – similar to a hard cup, these are made out of a plastic “bag” material.  There is a hard ring at the top to hold it in place.  Positives include reduction/ zero TSS, same “clean” feeling as a hard cup and tampon, ability to have sex while wearing the cup.  Negatives include blood leaking when removing the ring, not cost effective over time, lack of access for rinsing in public bathrooms.

Menstrual Sponge – a sea sponge that is inserted and used like a tampon.  You can tie a string around it if you want to be able to remove like a standard tampon or you can remove normally like an OB tampon.  Positives are a combo of cup and tampon options.  It is reusable and nicer to the environment like a hard cup and it absorbs like a tampon (which is familiar).  Negatives would include the possibility of needing to rinse in a public bathroom and the risk of TSS.  It really depends on the size of your sponge but on average they hold the same amount as your hard cup or an ultra tampon.  This has me wondering how safe it is for TSS if you are suppose to use the lowest absorbency possible.  I did a little research and although I didn’t find anything linking to the absorbency of the sponge, I did find this article talking about the possibility of tiny sponge fragments staying behind and causing TSS that way.

Be Prepared. Period.

Pads & Panties-

Conventional Disposable Pads – are worn inside a woman’s panties to absorb menstrual flow as it leaves the body. This option is most popular with girls starting their period, before becoming sexually active and for people who don’t like the idea of inserting anything into their vagina.  Conventional pads are often made of plastics, cotton and chemicals.  Some people experience chronic bladder or yeast infections from the materials used in conventional pads and there is always the continued cost and landfill to consider.

Organic Disposable Pads – Work exactly like conventional pads, except they are made from organic materials.  They need to be changed more often due to less absorbency but reduce your exposure to chemicals.

Cloth Pads/ Liners – an absorbent cloth insert that works similar to a cloth diaper (for babies).  You would wash between your cycles. You would want a “stash”, just like diapering.  Some things to consider with cloth pads are the expense up front but cost effective in the long run.  Some women sew their own cloth, which is pretty awesome.  They also reduce waste in the environment; reduce chemicals on your reproductive area; reduce yeast infections and irritation by reducing the exposure to chemicals.

Menstrual Panties – an absorbent panty that works similar to a cloth pad but theoretically has more coverage.

There is a new menstrual panty on the market called Thinx.  My first thought when I saw this was personal; the possibility of making it through the night during the first 2 days of my cycle without leaking all over the place.  My second thought was ease of use for postpartum mama’s.  There is a lot going on those first few days and leak control usually ends up looking like a Depends panty.  My third; I hope they start offering them in young girl sizes.  I think my daughter would really appreciate a set when she starts her period.  The idea of having coverage without feeling like you are wearing a diaper AND being able to absorb up to 2 tampons at a time is extremely appealing.

What is your preferred product for your menstrual cycle and why?  I love my hard cup, with the occasional tampon, and a panty liner for protection.  I am looking forward to ordering a pair of the panties and checking those out too.

 

Featured image provided by~ Selena Stoney Photography


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