C A S E Y, a. k. a. the birth keeper: an earth goddess mother, acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner, and prenatal/postnatal doula with a passion for birth keeping that is palpable!
Inspired by her own pregnancy and already a qualified acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner, Casey underwent prenatal and postnatal doula training whilst pregnant, and combines her acupuncture skills with her clients for the ultimate in birth and postpartum support.
This other worldly goddess shares how acupuncture can support labour preparation, her "Must haves" for a short and relaxed labour, how traditional Chinese medicine regards the postpartum period or the "Golden Month", and reflects on her journey into Motherhood.
We are passionate about birth and postpartum, and applying the principles of holistic self care to daily life and all aspects of motherhood - hence we were so excited to hear that you are and prenatal and postpartum doula and TCM practitioner.
Can you tell us what a prenatal and postnatal doula is, and how you apply the principles of TCM into your work?
A prenatal and postnatal doula is someone who cares for and supports women during their pregnancy and postpartum times. I work with women throughout their pregnancies to prepare them for labour and birth.
"We work through birth fears, diet and lifestyle, emotions, energy healing and physical alignment and condition of the body with yoga and rebozo."
In the later stages of pregnancy around 36 weeks, we can start using acupuncture to prepare the body for labour.
Acupuncture works by promoting cervical softening and dilation and, from 38 weeks I will do labour induction treatments, if that is my client's goal.
I attend the birth of these women and use acupuncture/acupressure, massage, essential oils, rebozo and many other helpful techniques that promote a smooth and unhindered birth.
In the postpartum period, I assist women with breastfeeding, lactation support - for women with high or low supply, baby settling, postpartum nutrition with home cooked meals and reiki/energy healing.
TCM is especially relevant to the postpartum period where it's important for healing to observe the 'Golden Month'.
A 30 day period of complete rest where the mother does very little but stay in bed, rest and look after her baby. Friends, family and her partner should do the bulk of the cooking and housework. She should also be fed warming, easily digestible cooked foods such as soups, stews and broths to replenish her energy.
What led you on the path of becoming a birth keeper?
When I fell pregnant, I became incredibly passionate about birth and realised how much the maternal health industry abuses and takes advantage of women and their lack of education and support.
I want to educate and support women through their pregnancies and birth and protect them from obstetric abuse and exploitation.
What does your daily self care ritual look like?
At the moment it's a bit all over the place with an 8 week old baby! But every day I make sure to have a shower, wash my face, moisturise my dry postpartum skin (with your amazing Vata restorative body oil actually!!) and nourish my body with healthy food. I'm hoping to add meditation and yoga back into it soon too.
Does the TCM tradition have specific guidelines during the 40 day postpartum period?
Yes! Mainly staying in bed or inside the house and getting lots of rest and easily digested foods.
It is so important for avoiding postpartum depletion that women rest, rest rest during this time as you will never get it back.
Newborns sleep quite a lot so take advantage of that opportunity to recover from the marathon that labour and birth is because once they start to wake up to the world, soon they'll be crawling, walking and talking and you won't rest until they move out!
We know you have recently given birth, would you mind sharing your magical list of what contributes to a short and relaxed labour?
I prepared very hard for my labour and birth and while the last few moments and the birth of Atlas wasn't what I'd hoped for, I was still able to make educated and informed decisions about the process and wasn't left feeling like a victim of the system.
The labour however, was an absolute dream and I'm actually excited to do it all over again with baby number 2!
Acupressure ring: amazing for relaxing the central nervous system and providing a sensory distraction from the intensity of surges. Number 1 on my list because it was by far my favourite tool and kept me centred and focused on my breathing. I got mine from the ShaktiMat company.
Rose and jasmine essential oils: beautiful oils that calm the mind and body but also increase the efficiency and productivity of surges. I made a massage blend and massaged it onto my belly and lower back as well as inhaled the scent from the bottle as needed.
Birth pool: the weightlessness of the water was a godsend when I was feeling tired. I spent just about the whole labour on my hands and knees and after a while my arms got quite sore so the water took the weight off and allowed me to relax deeper.
Food, water and GLUCOSE -flavoured coconut water or sports drinks are perfect: being hydrated and providing sugars for your muscles is super important for preventing Adrenalin and cortisol from running the show. When your body is running low on fuel, Adrenalin and cortisol take over to keep you going, but these two hormones oppose oxytocin and other important hormones that allow labour to progress. If your labour is taking a long time, stalling or cervical dilation seems to be very slow, it's highly likely that your body is lacking fuel and nourishment to continue. Often a little snack or sports drink will get things going again.
Labour playlist: I played songs that I had used to relax throughout my entire pregnancy so they felt familiar and were a positive association for my mind and body. Kind of like Pavlov’s dogs, I had conditioned myself with these songs and mantras to relax.
Affirmations -both written and to listened to: I had affirmation cards stuck up in my birthing space as well as a hypno-birthing affirmation track on my labour playlist. They got me through some intense surges.
Dark room: super important for the flow of the labour hormones. Melatonin is also a big player in the labour process so being in a dark space increases melatonin secretion. Studies have shown melatonin supplementation to significantly shorten labour.
Candlelight: provides a soft and calming source of light that doesn’t interfere with melatonin production.
Nudity: inhibition and labour do not go together. You want to feel free to move around and comfortable in your own skin. Birth is a raw and primal event. Clothes can be a bit restrictive, but of course do what makes you feel most comfortable as this is the most important thing.
Calm and loving birth partner: your birth partner must be able to hold space for you. They are your rock. If they are nervous or anxious, you will feel it. It is so important for birth companions to be educated on labour and birth so that they are not blindsided by the process.
Solitude: lastly, when you feel like you need to be alone, then BE ALONE. Ask everyone to leave your space or go into another room. When my labour was at its most intense before we went to the hospital, I spent a lot of time alone in the bathroom in my comfy nest of pillows I made on the toilet -amazing place to labour - and I went into my own world to get through the surges and draw on my inner strength without distraction. My partner was always nearby so if I needed anything he would come straight away.
We love a good birth story, would you mind sharing how your birth experience was?
The actual birth was very intense and wasn't quite what I'd hoped for but being so prepared and informed on all my choices and options I was able to feel empowered about his vacuum assisted delivery and not like a victim of the system.
It was definitely a learning experience and has actually been very beneficial in my work as a doula.
Now having gone through that,
"I have armed myself with the knowledge and tools for preventing it happening to other women and myself in the future."
And if for whatever reason it isn't preventable, I know how to make it a more comfortable and empowering experience.
Finally, in celebration of Mother(hood) day, do you have a favourite motherhood moment for us?
My favourite motherhood moment lately was getting my first real smile from Atlas. It was and still is the highlight of my experience thus far. Now I get smiles and giggles and cooing from him every day and it melts my heart more and more every single time. It will never get old.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us Casey, with all of your incredible accomplishments, we would love to know what's next for you?
I'm looking forward to getting back into birth-keeping as of August hopefully.
I've been spending some of my spare time preparing my new doula package and I'm so so excited to share this with pregnant and birthing women and change some lives.
Follow Casey @multidimensionalmama