Listen to Your Heart – How to Choose Your Midwife

Choosing your care provider is a big deal decision when you’re pregnant. Heck, just deciding where you want to have your baby may have been a job and a half.

But now you’ve decided you want to have your baby at home!

Or a birth center.

Or maybe you’re pretty sure you want to have your baby in the hospital but you’re still curious about all the great things you’ve heard about homebirth midwives.

Great! Those are all wonderful starting places. But now you’re faced with a new decision – which midwife is the right one for me?

Step 1: Find Your Local Midwives

If you live in a community of wonderful midwives who get along well and collaborate in interesting ways (like we have here in Sacramento), they might have a local organization like the Midwives Collective of Sacramento. Almost every midwife serving the greater Sacramento area is listed on this page.

When you dig deeper into each of these practices, you start to realize that there’s a midwife for every person. You may not resonate with one midwife, but for somebody else they might be the perfect caregiver. Start by looking at websites. Read the about page for the midwife, look at the pictures, learn about their birth philosophies. You can even call them to get a better sense of their personality initially.

Tune into your heart and gut reactions and choose 2 or 3 midwives to interview in person. It’s actually not in your best interest to interview every midwife in the area. You’ll only wind up exhausted and confused, trying to remember how each one was different. The truth is you’ll know pretty immediately which midwife is the right one for you. There is power in trusting your intuition. This skill will continue to serve you well through your pregnancy and birth.

Before you meet with a midwife ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I like this person’s care philosophy?
  • Could I be comfortable with this person at my birth?
  • Do I find myself excited to learn more about them and how they practice?
Midwives Collective of Sacramento

Midwives Collective of Sacramento! You won’t see me here because my daughter was being born the day this photo was taken.

How do you know if a midwife is really as cool as their flashy website and beautiful birth pictures make them look? You can talk to other people in your community who had babies with that midwife. Former clients are often very happy to share about their experiences. Looking at Yelp reviews and Facebook reviews can give you a surprisingly insightful look into the aspects of a midwife’s care that really resonated with folks. The very best way to find out if a particular midwife is the right fit for you is to meet with them in person.

Step 2: The Interview

Every midwife I know is more than happy to sit down with you for an entire hour for free and chat with you. You have nothing to lose except that short amount of time. Here’s a universal midwife secret: we love meeting new people and talking to them about birth. I personally love educating people about what I do and what my care looks like. It helps folks see how my services are different than hospital-based care and what the pros and cons are of each birth setting. Answering questions and helping people feel more relaxed in their decision helps me get to know them, their reasons for considering homebirth, and their unique needs and desires for their care.

What if you’re not sure you want a homebirth but you’re curious about it? You should still interview a midwife. I’ve had folks interview me when one partner very much wanted a homebirth and the other partner was against it. Or they brought their mother-in-law who was scared of the idea. These folks sat down and asked me their hardest questions. I did my best to provide honest answers. It makes a huge difference when you can meet a midwife face to face and learn about the rigorous training they completed, the breadth and depth of their medical knowledge, and the emergency skills training and equipment they bring to every birth.

When a midwife is honest and up front with you about their practice style and their skills, this is an extension of the excellent informed choice we pride ourselves on offering. This informed choice process begins the very first time you meet a midwife and continues through your care every time a routine procedure or intervention is discussed.

Step 3: Choose Your Midwife

So how do you choose your midwife? I’m not going to give you a list of questions to ask your midwife (because so many other people have done that for me), but you should be asking yourself these questions throughout the interview:

  • How does this midwife make me feel?
  • Do I feel safe?
  • Do I feel comfortable?
  • Do I feel heard?
  • Do they seem knowledgeable?
  • Do I trust them?
  • Do I like the answers they’re giving me?
  • Do I feel like I get a good sense of their personality?
  • Could I see myself being vulnerable with them at my birth?
  • Do I want to see them again and again throughout my care?

Listen carefully with your heart and your gut and you will know if this is the right midwife for you. If you interview more than one midwife, take notes so when you go back and review them you can remember what it was that you liked or didn’t like about each one. Also, you might interview the first midwife on your list and realize that you really love them and want to hire them. It’s ok to cancel your other interviews if this happens. When it’s right, you just know it’s right.

Taking notes

Knowing that people are hiring me because they feel comfortable with me and my practice is a great feeling. This process develops trust between you and your midwife from before any medical care even begins. This initiates a care provider/client relationship that is heavy on rapport, honesty, vulnerability, and true client-centered care.

Choosing a midwife also means gaining access to a community that supports and celebrates you and your family. Interacting in my online client community, at potluck picnics, at walks and playdates, and at classes in the office you get immersed in a parenting community of like-minded folks. It helps make those long, hard, beautiful early days of parenting a little easier and filled with a lot more joy.

Hiking with babies

Taproot Midwifery families out for a hike.

Posted in About the Midwife, First Trimester, Second Trimester Tagged with: , , , , ,

Announcing Arvigo® Therapy Preconception Care Packages

I am so pleased to announce that I am expanding my Arvigo® Therapy and fertility offerings with packages tailored to your unique needs. Arvigo® Therapy Preconception Care is the first package I am offering. I created it to help you make the most of your conception experience and save you money in the process. Investing in yourself up front can shorten the length of time it takes you to conceive your baby, optimize your chances of conceiving a healthy baby, and help you enjoy a healthy normal pregnancy and birth experience.

Scroll down to learn more about using Arvigo® Therapy to help increase your fertility and make conception a joyful and easy experience.

Pregnant and glowing

Arvigo® Therapy Preconception Care 3-Month Program
recommended

Program cost: $1000 (just over $330 a month)
Program valued at $1500

Specifically designed to help support preconception, improve fertility, and prepare the body for pregnancy, this three-month program is an intensive period of uterine rest and cleansing. It takes roughly 3 months for a ovarian follicle to develop prior to ovulation. Everything your body experiences during this time period affects the health of that egg cell. Invest in yourself and your future children by utilizing Arvigo® Therapy and supportive therapies to get the best possible start. You will learn about your body, your cycles, and how to tell when you are ovulating. This program is appropriate for people planning to conceive a baby in any way, including intercourse, IUI, and IVF. Please note, it is important to avoid conception during this program.

What is included in the program?

  • 2-Hour fertility intake with Tel Viehmann Cunningfolk, licensed midwife and Arvigo® Therapy practitioner. During this appointment you will:
    • Learn what your body’s fertility signs are and how to chart these to determine when you ovulate and what your fertile window is
    • Discover how to maximize your fertility through positive changes in your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction
    • Find out what supplements and laboratory tests can help rule out fertility challenges or address them if they come up
    • Keep up to date on relevant legal issues (especially applicable to LGBTQ clients)
  • Initial Arvigo® Therapy session
  • 3 follow-up Arvigo® Therapy sessions
  • Learn the Arvigo® Therapy self-care massage sequence to continue your healing process at home daily
  • In-office castor oil pack, and the supplies and instructions to continue this work at home
  • 3 in-office v-steams/bajos and the instructions to do this at home
  • Herbal support through Rainforest Remedies
  • Email and phone access to Tel during the three month program, including diet diary review and consultations on your fertility charting

Newborn feet

Arvigo® Therapy Preconception Care 1-Month Program

Program cost: $500
Program valued at $750

A shortened version of the 3-month TTC program specially designed for clients who are actively trying to conceive and cannot or choose not to wait for a 3-month period of uterine rest. We highly recommend that people choose the 3-month program whenever possible. This program is appropriate for people planning to conceive a baby in any way, including intercourse, IUI, and IVF.

What is included in the program?

  • 2-Hour fertility intake with Tel Viehmann Cunningfolk, licensed midwife and Arvigo® Therapy practitioner. During this appointment you will:
    • Learn what your body’s fertility signs are and how to chart these to determine when you ovulate and what your fertile window is
    • Discover how to maximize your fertility through positive changes in your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction
    • Find out what supplements and laboratory tests can help rule out fertility challenges or address them if they come up
    • Keep up to date on relevant legal issues (especially applicable to LGBTQ clients)
  • Initial Arvigo® Therapy session
  • 1 follow-up Arvigo® Therapy session
  • Learn the Arvigo® Therapy self-care massage sequence to continue your healing process at home daily.
  • In-office castor oil pack, as well as the supplies and instructions to continue this work at home.
  • 1 in-office steam/bajo and the instructions to do this at home
  • Email and phone access to Tel during the one month program, including diet diary review and consultations on your fertility charting
  • 10% off of future monthly Arvigo® Therapy sessions while you are still trying to conceive

Optional Add-Ons Available

  • Fertility labs
  • Semen analysis through Quest Labs
  • Insemination
  • Semen washing in preparation for IUI
  • Discounted Arvigo® Therapy sessions for your partner

Happily pregnant

Posted in Arvigo

Postpartum: The Best Kept Secret About Homebirth?

One of the things we never seem to talk about is how very different the immediate postpartum period is at a homebirth versus at a hospital. I was recently a doula for a couple who planned a hospital birth. One of the parents turned to me at a postpartum visit and said, “You would not believe what postpartum was like in the hospital. Nurses coming in every 30 minutes, and if it’s not a nurse it’s someone coming in to empty the garbage or change the sharps container. Postpartum is REALLY why people have home births, I bet.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone choose to have a homebirth just for the postpartum period, but it’s absolutely true that there is a stark difference between the first few days and weeks after a homebirth and after a hospital birth.

Bed

Postpartum in the Hospital

In the hospital, after you birth your baby you stay in your birth room for 3-4 hours before you are transferred to the postpartum ward. You will birth your placenta and your midwife or doctor will suture your perineum if they need to. In most hospitals, you will get to hold your baby for the first “golden hour” before they take the baby away to the warmer. They do the newborn exam, weigh and measure the baby, do any procedures you want done, and give the baby a bath. After all of this, you’re moved to the postpartum ward. Once you get there, you have a whole new team of nurses and doctors. They know the details of your birth, but because they weren’t actually there, the care can feel impersonal and rote.

Uniform windows

You might have to share a room with another family depending on the hospital. And folks come in to check on you. A lot. They check your bleeding. They check the baby. Someone comes in to ask you what you want to eat when meals are brought to you. Someone does a hearing screen on the baby. A nurse comes in to check on you and the baby again. Depending on your situation, someone might be in every 2 hours to do labs on the baby. Someone comes to ask about your carseat. And this continues day and night. It just seems to go on and on. When you most want to rest and bond with your new baby, it can feel pretty impossible.

After you go home, your pediatrician will want to see the baby pretty frequently. Nobody will check up on you, however, for a full 6 weeks no matter whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean/surgical birth. It’s an absolute failure of our divided medical system where pediatricians really don’t know anything about adults and OB/GYNs really don’t know anything about babies. And it’s one of the reasons we have such high maternal and infant mortality rates in this country, especially for folks of color (and especially for Black and Native folks) who are much more likely to have a c-section (which means a higher rate of complications postpartum) in an underfunded medical facility than their white counterparts.

Brand new postpartum baby

Postpartum at Home

After a baby is born at home the baby goes right up onto the birthing parent’s chest. Even if we (my birth assistant and I) need to help the baby get started breathing, the baby usually stays right there. You’ll birth your placenta under your own power. We get you tucked into bed. And then that’s it for awhile.

We’ll come and make sure your bleeding is normal and that your baby is doing well, but our main goal (as long as everyone is otherwise healthy) is to keep you in bed with your baby in your arms undisturbed. When you and the baby are ready, we’ll help you get started with nursing. At some point (usually an hour or more after the baby is born), we’ll take a look at your perineum and suture if we need to (right there in the bed with your baby in your arms). Someone will make you a home cooked protein-rich meal.

Warm mug, cozy bed

We’ll help you to the bathroom when you’re ready. If you want to see your placenta, we’ll give you a tour. And two or so hours after the baby is born, we’ll do a full head to toe newborn exam, including weighing and measuring the baby. Of course we’ll do any newborn procedures you choose. This happens on the bed, right next to you, and we’ll talk you through every step. Oh, and we clean up your house so it doesn’t even look like a birth just happened there.

I usually stay 3-4 hours and then go home as long as everything is normal and stable. You have my personal cell phone number and are welcome to call or text 24 hours a day with concerns. No beeping machines, nobody bothering you. Just you and your family and your new baby tucked into bed to nurse and sleep and get to know each other.

Postpartum baby feet

I come back and see the parents and the baby quite a lot during the first six weeks. I see you at your home the day following the birth, 3 days and 7 days after the birth. You come see me at my office at 2-3 weeks postpartum and at 6 weeks postpartum. Mostly, we talk. We talk about what’s going on and what you need help with and what questions you have. I make sure that nursing is going well, and that you’re not at risk for postpartum depression or anxiety. If you need extra support, I’ll come see you more often. And of course, I’m just a text or a phone call away.

The difference between the postpartum period in the hospital vs. at home is night and day. I aim to wrap you up with support and shore up your confidence as new parents. It’s what every new parent deserves, regardless of where they birth their baby.

Posted in Postpartum Tagged with: ,

Meet YOUR Midwife

Meet Your Midwife

 

“So, you’re involved in Mid-WIFE-ery? What IS that anyway?”

“Wait, people still have their babies at HOME?”

“You went to school for HOW MANY years to become a midwife? But I thought midwives didn’t have any training …”

The thing about midwifery is that so many people have no idea what it is. Or that midwifery is a thriving profession worldwide helping countless folks have normal healthy births and healthy babies. So often, people don’t know that midwives provide excellent evidence-based care to birthing folks right here in the US, and that we all have gone through rigorous training and testing in order to practice. It’s rare, for example, that people know I’m licensed and regulated by the California Medical Board.

All of those things are true, and yet it’s not why people hire midwives. Sure, it might be a part of your decision, but rarely is it the deciding factor. Hiring a midwife is a decision you make with your heart. Is this someone I feel comfortable with? Can I see myself being vulnerable with them, birthing my baby with them, feeling safe with them? What if there’s an emergency, do I trust this person to take care of me and my family? Does my partner like them?

My clients open up with me and are vulnerable in countless powerful ways, so I’m going to take a moment and be vulnerable with you all.

Several years ago when I was a brand new baby midwife and I first started interviewing with potential birth clients, I was very nervous they wouldn’t want someone with as little experience as I had. I thought they’d want someone with DECADES of experience, who had birthed 12 children of their own at home, and who had single-handedly caught breech triplets in a snowstorm, walking 3 miles uphill both ways to get help, and who still saved the day. Ok, maybe I got a bit carried away with that last one. But you get the picture. I worried that I was inadequate because I didn’t have the numbers of births under my belt or the years in practice or advanced degrees of some of my colleagues.

So you might imagine that I was blown away when people hired me. And when we got to talking about why, it turns out that numbers and years and degrees aren’t the things your heart hones in on. My clients told me they knew immediately that I was the right midwife for them because I was kind, because I had a calming and loving presence, because my commitment to social justice helped them feel at home with me, because they knew I would be careful with their hearts and their bodies in labor, and because the kind of space I hold is exactly what they knew they needed to help them birth their baby.

So you can read all of the statistics and studies, do all of your due diligence, visit all the websites and read the opinions of strangers on the internet. But until you meet YOUR midwife, how on earth are you going to know that this is your midwife? Until you know what midwifery care can look like, how it feels to have individualized uncrushed care from someone working to get to know you and your family? Until you’ve experienced what a prenatal appointment is like where you and your partner and your older children are actively involved in assessing and maintaining your health and your baby’s wellbeing? Until you’ve labored under your own power, unrestricted and supported in your own home, surrounded by people who believe in you and your ability to do this great big thing 100%? Until you’ve imagined that for yourself, you might not even know you want a midwife or a homebirth. Until you know that this kind of care of is possible, you might not know that it’s something you want.

Which is exactly why you can schedule a FREE in-person consult with me before you make a firm decision about where you want to birth or what kind of care provider you want. An interview is a way to try it out, to see if I might be YOUR midwife. Heck, if you’ve got time this Saturday, you can swing by the Meet the Doula event that I’m sponsoring and see me in person, ask ALL of your questions, and start to think about whether I’d be a good fit as a care provider for you. Tickets are absolutely 100% free, but you need to RSVP. Register here.

Posted in About the Midwife

State of the Midwife: Sacramento Edition

As Taproot Midwifery gets ready to relocate to Sacramento, CA in January 2016, I’m finding that there are a lot of changes happening around here that I’m excited to share with y’all.

  1. I’m already taking new clients! We’re having appointments through video chat until I’m physically in Sacramento and so far, it’s almost as lovely and intimate as my current in-person home visits. Are you interested in becoming a Taproot Midwifery client? We can arrange for a free video-chat interview anytime you want, or an in-person interview starting in January. Just reach out to me here to schedule your appointment.

    Here’s the fine print about new Taproot Midwifery clients in Sacramento. I am now accepting:
    –> Birth clients due May 2016 or later with prenatal appointments starting immediately
    –> Fertility consults starting now for clients wanting to begin inseminations in January 2016 or later
    –> Arvigo Therapy and Well Body appointments starting in January 2016

    First Annual Taproot Midwifery Picnic

    We’re getting ready to have our second annual Taproot Midwifery Picnic. This is a picture from the very first one. Weren’t we cute?

  2. Taproot Midwifery weekly walks will begin in Sacramento in January 2016. They have been a staple of my practice here in Long Beach and are a community favorite. I’m scoping out potential walking locations where we can walk 1-3 miles, ideally in a beautiful natural setting where it’s easy to push a stroller. Watch my Taproot Midwifery Facebook page for details. Hey Sacramento locals, what are your recommendations for places to walk? Leave us a comment about it!
  3. Taproot Midwifery is moving to an office! I’m in the process of finding the perfect office space for my sweet little practice. This will open up so many opportunities and allow me to have regular support groups, meetings, and classes (like fertility charting, legal workshops for queer parents-to-be, herbs for the childbearing year, introduction to performing the Arvigo Therapy self-care sequence, etc. etc. etc.). I’m so excited about having an office! I’m currently looking for an ideal location close to downtown Sacramento with easy access to public transportation. Which leads us to the next item…
  4. Low-cost clinic! There are some serious plans in the works for a regular low-cost clinic where you can receive excellent midwifery care. Prenatal and postpartum appointments, well-body exams, and Arvigo Therapy, all with the same high-quality care you expect from Taproot Midwifery. These appointments will be open to everyone, with a special focus on serving low-income folks, and on providing culturally competent and gender-affirming care for the LGBTQ population.
  5. Finally, I changed my name! My long-time partner Alexis and I got married on our 10 year anniversary with a small hand fasting attended by our families. I am now officially Krystel Viehmann Cunningfolk. It was a beautiful ceremony followed by the sweetest little honeymoon you could ever ask for. Can I tell you how much I LOVE that we have a family name? I can’t wait to start getting mail regularly addressed to “The Cunningfolks.” <3 <3 <3

So that’s it for now, folks. I can’t wait to settle into my new home in my new city. I can’t wait to meet all of your beautiful selves and see your smiling faces. I can’t wait to dive into a relocated practice and see what new and exciting things are going to come of that. Here’s to wrapping up an exquisite year and looking forward to another one even better than the last.

Posted in State of the Midwife Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

My First Catch

Five years ago, I caught my first baby. On 10/10/10. Do you get a better date for a first catch than that? I was not expecting to catch the baby at this birth. I was expecting to sit and observe, like I had done at every other birth to date. Hopefully, I’d get to listen to heart tones if I was lucky. I was prepared to do small tasks for my preceptor, chart as I was able, and learn learn learn as much as I could from the generous clients who invited me along to their birth.

So we’re settled in and everything is going beautifully. The mom is laboring on her own in the birth tub. She says she has to push. My preceptor looks at me and smiles. We check to make sure she’s completely dilated (she is) and give her the go ahead to push when her body tells her to. My preceptor steps into the hallway and calls my name. I come right over. I am, after all, an eager student who wants to please. She leans over and tells me that I’m going to catch this baby.

My whole world stopped in that moment. What? Really? Am I ready? Will I ever be ready? Is this the right birth, the right circumstances? And hang on a minute, this is absolutely not how I thought this would go. I thought I’d be planning for weeks if not months in advance. I thought my preceptor and I would have many conversations leading up to this, making sure I knew what I was doing. I thought I would be more prepared. I thought …

But she’s still standing there, looking at me expectantly. I gather all of my courage and turn to her and say “Ok. But only if you’re right there beside me.” She laughs, and agrees. And there’s no more time to think because we have to get back to this mom who is pushing very effectively on her hands and knees in the birth tub.

But here’s what they don’t tell you in midwifery school. And this is why my preceptor laughed at what was undoubtedly panic and excitement and trepidation all mixed up in my eyes. Here’s a little secret I’m going to let you in on: catching the baby is the easy part. You just put your hands there and … well, catch.

I watch, transfixed, as the baby’s head emerges. My preceptor whispers in my ear. I put my hands on the baby’s head, waiting for the body to be born. The shoulders are a little sticky and don’t come right away. “Give a little pressure,” she says. I do. She says, “No, like this,” and puts her hands over mine and pulls downward. I never knew you would need to put so much pressure to help a baby out. And then suddenly there’s a shoulder and a baby and joy and tears all around. And that’s it, I caught my first baby. With my preceptor right by my side.

I will never forget that birth. I will never forget the sensation of baby head in my hands. I will never forget my panic and elation all mixed up together, or my preceptors’ guiding hands over mine. I felt so nervous and honored and chosen and lucky in the that moment. It felt so right. There are few moments in your life where you can definitely say that your life was changed forever. Black and white. After this moment, nothing will be the same again. And this is one of those few, precious, beautiful moments for me. That moment when I caught my very first baby, five years ago today.

Posted in Labor and Birth Tagged with: , , ,

Taproot Midwifery is Moving to Sacramento!

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I have a big announcement that I’m very excited to share. I am so pleased to announce that Taproot Midwifery will be relocating to Sacramento, California in January 2016. I will continue to offer all of the same Taproot services: homebirth, Arvigo Therapy, inseminations and fertility consultations, and well person care. Initially, all of my appointments will be home visits, although I’m looking forward to having an actual office for appointments, classes, support groups, and movie nights soon. And, of course, I will be looking for a new place for our popular weekly Taproot walk ASAP!

Taproot Midwifery is now beginning to offer prenatal appointments via phone and video chat for pregnant clients who live in and around Sacramento and who are due in April 2016 and later. I’m also offering this service for fertility consultations and for folks who would like to start inseminations in Sacramento as early as January 2016. Arvigo Therapy and all other in-person appointments will begin in January 2016.

I will be taking homebirth clients in Long Beach due through mid-December 2015, as well as inseminations and Arvigo Therapy appointments through the end of December 2015.

We’re moving for so many reasons, but mostly because it’s the right decision for me and my family. It is an act of love and of self-care. I need to live in a community where I can escape down a hiking path frequently, into the trees and rocks and rivers, even when I’m on-call for a birth. When I look two decades into the future, it’s where I want to be. Sacramento’s diverse community is vibrant and exciting and the city is just the right size – not too big and not too small. And perhaps most importantly, it’s right between my parents up in Washington and my partner’s parents in southern California. Both sets of parents are looking to move to Sacramento in the next few years, which will be absolutely key when there are little ones of our own running around in the future.

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Looking towards a bright and beautiful future in northern California

Confidential to Long Beach: Taproot Midwifery was born here in Long Beach and in many ways was grown and nurtured by you. You will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. With you, I found my midwife voice and discovered some new and deeply enriching paths (Arvigo Therapy comes to mind). Each and every one of you has touched me deeply and made me the midwife I am today. I love you and have nothing but the utmost gratitude for your presence in my life.

Posted in About the Midwife Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

One Midwife’s Journey to Arvigo Therapy

Ix ChelAbout a year after opening up Taproot Midwifery, I noticed I was carrying around a lot of heartache. My clients were complaining about aches and pains in pregnancy that I couldn’t fix. How could I believe that having babies was the most natural, normal thing someone could do – something our bodies were literally made to do – but just accept that it should be painful? And then there were the folks struggling to conceive or experiencing multiple miscarriages. So many of my clients had digestive complaints or food allergies that I lost count. It tore at my heart every time I had a client with these issues affecting their lives and I couldn’t help them. “You know, you could always go see a chiropractor,” I would offer weakly. All the while, my clients kept struggling on.

There’s got to be something else, I said to myself. I am, at my very core, a healer. I want to help people feel better and live well in their bodies. We don’t just have to resign ourselves to pain or discomfort or outright heartbreak. What did midwives used to do for this sort of thing? Once upon a time you couldn’t just send someone to the friendly neighborhood chiropractor or naturopath or reproductive endocrinologist. So I started to do some research.

Soon, I came across the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® (ATMAT). When I was a student, one of my midwifery preceptors used this technique very minimally with her clients. I remember being intrigued at the time, and the more I learned, the more I felt like it would be helpful to my clients. I enrolled in the Self Care Training right then and there and shortly after found myself searching my calendar for the next time my call schedule would line up with a Professional Care Training so I could start offering this therapy to clients.

When I began midwifery school, I was prepared to be blown away by palpating a pregnant uterus. I was. It is amazing. Every. Single. Time. It is deeply moving to be able to feel a growing baby and connect with them prenatally. When I began my Arvigo Professional Care Training, I was absolutely not prepared to be blown away by palpating a regular old abdomen. But I was. Completely and utterly. How awesome to locate and move a non-pregnant uterus. What an honor to place my hands on an abdomen post-hysterectomy and feel scar tissue and adhesions melt away at my touch. To feel the energy of this unique person with their unique body, to help move organs and bones and ligaments and lymph into better alignment, to effect change and healing is pure joy.

Learning Arvigo Therapy feels to me like stumbling upon a path I was always meant to walk but didn’t know was there. It was like I tried to take a forge a new path through the forest and instead of getting lost, accidentally found my way. Modern midwifery in the US often feels to me as if it is missing some puzzle pieces that have gotten lost throughout time and circumstance. My own ancestors come from lands that were conquered and colonized so long ago that much of the indigenous and ancestral knowledge has been long lost, forgotten, or suppressed, especially when it comes to “women’s work” like midwifery. Arvigo Therapy feels like I have been given this completely unexpected gift of my history back, even if the ancestral knowledge comes through a different avenue. My hands once again know how to ease and comfort digestive organs, reposition and correct the pelvis and reproductive organs, and teach and empower people to take their health literally into their own hands.

Providing Arvigo Therapy is an act of social justice and is a fundamental part of well-person care throughout the whole lifecycle. I believe in non-interventive care. I trust the inherent wisdom of the body. I know that sometimes all that’s needed for the body to heal itself is a little bit of help and support. That’s exactly what Arvigo Therapy is. In this culture, we are made uncomfortable by women’s bodies and trans bodies. We are deeply embarrassed by them. When something goes wrong with these types of bodies, we try to “fix” it with medication, surgery, and other highly interventive strategies. You have heavy periods with lots of cramping and clotting? Here, take this birth control pill. You have fibroids? Surely surgery is your only answer. You’re experiencing stress incontinence after giving birth? That’s just your lot in life. You better start wearing adult diapers. Or you could try surgery, but it probably won’t work for long. Arvigo Therapy treats all of these conditions with a simple hands-on techniques that are holistic, highly effective, and life-affirming.

Don Elijio Panti and Rosita Arvigo

Don Elijio Panti and Rosita Arvigo

Arvigo Therapy is mindful cross-cultural work. It is a combination of methods and techniques across borders nationalities, eras, and spiritual understandings. It is a masterful compilation of the teachings of Don Elijio Panti, the renowned Maya shaman and Dr. Rosita Arvigo’s teacher, Arvigo’s own naprapathic work, and techniques and knowledge from local skilled midwives such as Miss Hortence Robinson (who by all accounts was quite the spitfire). You can read more about her seven-year apprenticeship with Don Elijio Panti in her book Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer.

I have been continually impressed by Rosita Arvigo’s efforts to maintain and protect the cultural heritage of the Belizean people. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to pursue this work. First, she approached her apprenticeship with Panti with respect and humility. Not only did she complete a traditional apprenticeship and promise to carry on and share this sacred work as Panti asked, but she has set up several systems to protect Belizeans culturally and financially. The Don Elijio Panti Medicinal Trail is a nature trail that all Belizean school children visit to learn to identify and use medicinal rainforest plants. She holds summer camps to teach Belizean children traditional healing modalities. She has established the Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation which helps Belizean traditional healers to harvest and transplant medicinal plants (and get paid for their work) prior to clear cutting rainforest so at least some good comes out of a terrible situation. The foundation also researches plants found in the rainforest and if any portion of these plants winds up as a pharmaceutical drug (i.e. for cancer or HIV), the Belizean people will receive a portion of the profits.

Miss Hortence Robinson

Miss Hortence Robinson

I feel proud and honored to call myself an Arvigo Practitioner. At the end of the day, I know I have learned from one very special lineage of Maya Abdominal Therapy. And I have been seeing great results – my Arvigo clients report reduced hip and back pain, better digestion and elimination, successful pregnancies after trying to concieve for a long period of time, and more normal and consistent periods with less pain and unpleasant accompanying symptoms. I very much look forward to continuing my learning and hope to delve more deeply into Arvigo Therapy as I grow and improve as a practitioner.

Posted in About the Midwife, Arvigo Tagged with: , , ,

Flower + Gem Essences for the Journey: Labor

Borage Flower

Flower + Gem Essences that are particularly useful during pregnancy, labor and postpartum (to learn more about what Flower + Gem Essences are visit our previous blog post).  The great thing about Flower + Gem Essences is that they are good remedies that, by their very nature, can do no harm which makes them wonderfully safe to take during pregnancy.  Continuing our journey through pregnancy and postpartum, we’ve now arrived at labor!

Here we go (!) (?) (.) (!?)

CHERRY PLUM “I trust the journey”

Ah, sweet Cherry Plum!  Here is an ally for laborer and baby – it guides us to trust the experiences of our journey and to find balance during times of stress and uncertainty.  Sounds like it was made for labor, right?  Such clever flowers!  I find that Cherry Plum is especially good for those who seek to have lots of control in their life.  Cherry Plum is a kind massage of a Flower Essence, helping us to gently loosen our grip on our (generally futile) attempts to control all possible variables of labor (and life).  Trusting in the greater cycle of life, the lineage of births before us, and the knowledge that we don’t know everything is another gift of Cherry Plum.

BORAGE “I am courageous”

For some folks it is really scary to contemplate labor.  For first-time laborers it may be the uncertainty of the unknown or their mental / physical / emotional capacity to go through labor.  Other fears arise from previous birth traumas or worry about complications throughout pregnancy leading to complications during labor.  Sometimes it is just scary.  Borage teaches us that we get scared to know where the fear lies and knowing that fear is often a process of finding our own power.  The star-shaped blue flowers of Borage hang from their stems, gazing down at the earth, not fearing the fall, but meeting the journey with an open heart.  Take Borage for an infusion of courage during uncertain moments and the most challenging parts of labor to remember that you are, in fact, complete, whole, and full of strength.

MUGWORT “I move between”

Mugwort is an excellent ally to move between one stage to the next – a wonderful remedy during transition in labor.  The herb is also a guardian of childbirth and easy labors.  Mugwort seems to help communicate between parent and baby during labor, helping to psychically guide the child through the birth canal when both parent and baby are ready.  As a herb of dreaming, Mugwort also connects us to our most important visions dreams and vision just before and during labor.

BLACK COHOSH “I transform disturbances”

For those who have suffered from trauma in the past, especially of a sexual nature, Black Cohosh is an essential ally during the labor process.  Labor can be a birthing of many things: a new child, a family, and a (re)birthing of the laborer.  Through labor our previous traumas, our hardest challenges, and our most disturbing experiences can sometimes arise, challenging us during some of our most powerful and vulnerable moments.  Black Cohosh strengthens our back-bone and resolve to transform cycles of abuse into a wheel of wellbeing.  Releasing the built-up congestion of imbalance, Black Cohosh helps us not only confront previous trauma, but to be present to the challenge and joy of labor.

WALNUT “I free from limitations.”

Ever feel like everyone is so eager to offer their opinions of your pregnancy that it is hard to know what you really want in your labor?  Maybe an overbearing Mother-in-Law or a pushy, know-it-all sibling?  Labor is a good as time as any to be firm in your resolve and desire for your birth experience.  Walnut is your ally to untangle from the limitations of everyone else’s opinions, beliefs, and social conventions.  Walnut is a guiding star for your labor journey – it helps to attune you to your own internal compass.  Like Mugwort, Walnut helps us with the transitions of life, and, in particular, the transition from being swayed by the opinions of all around us to being steadied by the truth of our own experiences and desires.

Read our recommendations for the First TrimesterSecond Trimester, and Third Trimester.

We carry Borage in our Etsy Shop and Poppy Swap Shop.  Other Essences can be found from a variety of resources such as the Flower Essence Society and Bach Flower as well as local health food and natural healing stores.

Reblogged with permission from Worts + Cunning Apothecary.

Posted in Labor and Birth Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Flower + Gem Essences for the Journey: The Third Trimester

Amethyst

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Flower + Gem Essences that are particularly useful during pregnancy, labor and postpartum (to learn more about what Flower + Gem Essences are visit our previous blog post).  The great thing about Flower + Gem Essences is that they are good remedies that, by their very nature, can do no harm which makes them wonderfully safe to take during pregnancy.

Ok, I’m totally pregnant and it’s almost over and it’s just beginning.

OLIVE “I am revitalized”

An excellent remedy for both the third trimester and labor, Olive helps us to maintain energy during a time of great transformation, especially when we may feel that our energy reserves are completely spent.  Olive aids us in finding space to be emotionally and mentally presence even when we feel physically exhausted.  More than just bringing relief to our physical exhaustion, Olive helps us to connect the dots between our mental wellbeing, emotional wholeness, and our ability to thrive in our physical bodies.  Excellent for those folks who are feeling too exhausted to “deal with it all” because it helps them to reconnect with the ever-renewing energy of our deepest selves and find pleasure again in day-to-day life.

AMETHYST “I go with the flow”

The purple stone of Amethyst teaches us to go with the flow but not get overtaken or overwhelmed by the current.  With the early stages of labor on the horizon, there is excitement for baby and, at times, a feeling like all of the “to-do’s” will never get done in time.  Amethyst is helpful for folks who are moving quickly, but sometimes feel they are in a race against time.  In addition to its centering properties, Amethyst is also helps address those anxious thoughts that wake us up in the middle of the night and spur on arguments between loved ones.  Amethyst helps us to float gently when the waters feel tumultuous, eventually leading to a current that guides us gently back to shore.

RED CHESTNUT “I radiate calm”

Realizing that soon there will be a new baby and all of the responsibility that comes with a bundle of joy, can bring up issues of dependency, worry, and, at times, anxiety between partners.  Red Chestnut can help folks feel centered in their own ability to love themselves, to love others, and to care deeply for all without becoming overwhelmed but the unexpected nature of life.   Red Chestnut assists in facilitating the transformation of patterns of co-dependency into models of adventurous trust and a peaceful knowing that we are fully able to care and be cared for unconditionally.

Read our recommendations for the First Trimester and Second Trimester.

We carry Amethyst in our Etsy Shop and Poppy Swap Shop.  Essences such as Olive and Red Chestnut can be found from a variety of resources such as the Flower Essence Society and Bach Flower as well as local health food and natural healing stores.

Next time we will look at Flower + Gem Essences for Labor.

Reblogged with permission from Worts + Cunning Apothecary.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

Taproot Midwifery welcomes all families regardless of race, sexuality, gender, family structure, class, country of origin, religion, age, and/or ability.