Craniosacral Therapy and The Alexander Technique
Craniosacral Therapy and The Alexander Technique are two resources that can contribute to healthy baby-making, a healthy pregnancy and support an unfolding of a beautiful new family. I had the pleasure of meeting two women, Debra Bochinkski: a mother of two, a
and a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist and the second woman, Christie Johnson: a teacher of
The Alexander Technique
and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist. Each of these women are deeply committed to educating women as they prepare and move through birth. Not only are they sure that each and every woman is highly capable, they are also actively encouraging women to let go and trust in her body's ability to birth naturally. Below is their full interview, as always, I encourage you to read and use what you can, but never forget the power in your own intuition in choosing the resources that you want to support you along your path.
Ashley: Christie, do you want to start by introducing yourself? A little of your history.
Christie: I am a teacher by first career and I’ve always been interested in education on all levels, but I ended up migrating west and found more work opportunities. I stumbled into the Alexander Technique on a hike, literally.
Ashley: How did that happen?
Christie: We were walking in the mountains with a good friend of my husbands, and he’s 6’4”, a chemical engineer and he was gliding along like he was on cloud 9. And I thought, my goodness, what’s with that pep in your step? And I thought he was going to mention a woman’s name, honestly and he didn’t he said, I think it’s my Alexander lessons. And it was the first time I’d seen him move with such grace and ease. He’d usually been more fragmented in his form. So, the next week I took a lesson and I’d had chronic pain for quite a period, about 2 1/2 years of chronic pain. Took a lesson and about 90% of the pain went away immediately. A minute one-hour lesson and I took a second lesson and that was 10-years ago, and haven’t had any sciatica since then. At that point, I decided to shift careers and I went on an exploration of that. In any school you would train in for the Alexander Technique it was a minimum of 3 years and it could be as long as 10, depending on how you apprenticed or mentored or trained through the training. So, I completed the training in about 4 years, and then actually met Debra shortly thereafter and ended up taking 2 1/2 years of biodynamic craniosacral training. And added that to the list, and so now I kind of fuse the two. But I definitely I lend myself more to the platform and principles that are universal to the Alexander Technique, I apply them to all the other forms.
Ashley: And lets head over to Debra real quick; tell me about your self.
Debra: Okay, lets see. I would say I’m a mom and a grandma, and I became a mother very young, at twenty, and I lived in Ashton Oregon, and there was one doctor there that did ob/gyn work. And I went to him one day and asked him a question and he patted my head and told me I didn’t need to know that. And there was something in me, this was in 1973, that went total visceral and just wanted to hit him! And so with my words I did, and walked outside and thought, well, I burnt that bridge and so I decided to go find myself a midwife. And so, I had my first baby at home. And then I moved to Portland. It was an incredible experience, extremely empowering. And so, I went to Portland and in the city, six years later, I have no idea what happened to my brain, but I ended up having my second baby in the hospital. Thinking that I had negotiated with the doctor long enough to know what I want and to have my needs met. And even though I had my baby without drugs and everybody would say it was a perfect birth, what happened is they took my baby from me, and wouldn’t give him back, essentially, even though they’d promised me otherwise. And then he came back to me circumcised, without me knowing and within twelve hours of being born.
Ashley: Oh my goodness.
Debra: So, pretty traumatized and it really affected him. So, that kind of got me on supporting and educating women. I was a doula before there was the word doula. Educating women to their rights, their choices as a consumer. Letting them know they are consumers and they can shop around in our free market for doctors. Even though it doesn’t seem like they can with HMOs in place. And in my 30s I was drawn to alternative health. I actually started because I had a lot of learning difficulties, and I started something called Brain Gym, or Educate and I learned how to integrate my brain and helped other people learn how to integrate and that took me into craniosacral therapy. So, 14 years ago, or more, time flies… I took the first program that was taught in biodynamic craniosacral therapy here in the United States, coming in from England. And it was my love and I found it helped really well with helping with a lot of trauma, and I use it in helping birthing, help moms, between Christie and I, you know if I think people need her, as far as the real clear form, of their body, or if it’s out of my realm, or I don’t really think I’m connecting, I have my resources, and Christie is certainly one of them, to help me with pregnant moms. And to help them prepare themselves: physically, spiritually, emotionally to have their babies. Because I think it’s the most important event in any woman’s life. Ever. And they need the support and the wisdom of people who trust the process of birthing. It’s a very natural process and in our society, as you know and mentioned before, we are very fear-based. Very fear-based. And then of course it’s a good business. I’m sure you’ve heard of Ricki Lakes’ The Business of Being Born documentary.
Debra: So, I’m also very much about choice for women. That women can choose where they want to deliver their baby. Which the AMA came out this June, I don’t know if you’re aware, of them trying to make it a felony to have your baby at home. And that’s how scared, and very much noting Ricki Lake’s movie. So, that’s how afraid they are of losing that business. Where in reality, there are only 1% of babies that are being born at home.
Ashley: And that’s in the United States, right?
Debra: Oh, yes, not in other countries. Though there are a lot of countries that are westernizing themselves and a lot of very sad ways.
Ashley: So, when you work with the moms (as a doula and craniosacral therapist), what do you do?
Debra: A lot of education. I tell them to turn off their TV and quit watching the horror stories on TV. And I give them Ina May Gaskin’s book and Birthing From Within. And a lot of more fun, natural, there are really great Cds: My Body, My Baby, My Birth. So, a lot of positive input, and give them a chance to see that this is a very natural process. And then, physically I work with them just to see how their pelvis is, how things are moving within their whole system. So, there can be a lot of stuff going on, like someone has unresolved trauma that would be useful to take care of before they have their baby. And it really helps with bonding with the baby as well. I kind of watch how mom’s doing with that and watch how they are becoming a mother while they are carrying a baby. I really try to prepare them, which you cannot ever! But I tell a woman, you will never, ever, ever be the same person. Ever again! Your life will never, ever, ever be the same. Ever. You die. You know, I’ve had women say, I’m dying! I’m dying! Yes, you are, and you are being reborn with your baby. And so, somehow trying to help them prepare for this incredibly monumental experience. So that they come out empowered and if they do so, then it’s definitely more about a congruent experience for mom and baby and dad and the rest of the family. Try to make it as easy as possible. And everyone has a different experience. And I also, really listen to them about what they want. Because, what they want might not be what I want. So, I have to really support them in what they want and all I can do is to really educate them in their options. And that’s all. I really want to do that and then help them physically with the cranial work, and the Alexander work.
Ashley: So, before we move onto the Alexander work, the cranial work, you feel like it’s more to help them release past trauma and what else would you say specifically someone would want to go to help them in preparing for birth.
Debra: Well, for craniosacral works with the cranium down the spine. So, everything that it holds, which is specifically the nervous system. So, it helps balance the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. If there’s unresolved trauma, like car accidents, dental work, surgeries; surgeries, if there are unresolved issues particularly with people who’ve had anesthesia, it can be really, really helpful. But also, that alignment between the pelvis.
Ashley: So, helping with not only carrying the baby, but the birthing itself.
Ashley: So, the Alexander Technique. How does this figure into pregnancy?
Christie: In multiple ways, we were speaking earlier, about even in conception, in pre-conception. Because so many women are waiting, they are seeking their careers and wanting to have kids later in life. But then they get in a panic and are like, “oh my gosh, my clock is ticking but I haven’t been successful!” So then, they get into that loop cycle where basically they are contracting and their body can’t even really conceive. It doesn’t want to go there because it doesn’t know how to be resourceful and nurture their own noticing patterns, and observing themselves. And that’s the essence of the baseline of the Alexander Technique is training your own noticing skills and what am I doing in response to stimuli. Stimuli comes in, which whether it’s the biological clock ticking or the boss, or the job, or whatever those elements are, it’s all stress that may come in. We can’t get rid of stress; all we can do is choose how we respond to it. So, that’s the platform and first is that choice.
Ashley: So, what is the noticing you are speaking of?
Christie: In the Alexander Technique, they have what they call “noticing conditions present”. So, noticing what and how is my body responding to what’s going on. And for most people there are four primary things that happen, it’s part of the fight or flight reflex mechanism: the neck muscles tighten, the head goes back and down, shortening the stature of the thoracic cavity all the way through to the pelvis and then causing you to gasp for breath and unable to speak. So, if we let go of those, huh! You can imagine if you are in this state of compression, how can you even consider conceiving, there’s just no room.
Ashley: And no circulation.
Christie: And no circulation. So, then you open that up and you have the room, you have the interface. And taking that into actually being pregnant: same deal. A lot of people are over-stretched, over… being pregnant, “I’m going to work until the very day that I give birth”, whatever it is. And they’re trying to balance the weight of this baby that is starting to grow, and their back starts to tug at them and they don’t know how to deal with it. And then they get into more of a compression. So, the Alexander Technique just gives them a resource to continually grow in conjunction with the baby and allowing space for the baby to move more freely. So, when the baby kicks the rib and says I want more space. The mom thinks, oh I notice you are kicking my rib, what can I do with my pelvis in relationship to my spine to allow you a little bit more space to turn or twist or whatever you are doing. And as Debra mentioned then it becomes a dynamic dance, a duo, a team effort. The baby feels empowered because the mom listened, “mom I need more space, I just kicked you”, and then mom gives the baby more space. There is this language, this communication that evolves.
Ashley: Oh, that’s beautiful.
Christie: It is it’s brilliant! So, that takes it right on into the birth. If we’ve already played this game through the balance of noticing the conditions present, sure I’ll give it to you, here you go. The pain is there for a reason in the contraction. The pain is there to teach us how to allow there to be another opening, and which angle is that. So, literally noticing how the sit bones and pelvis and tailbone release in response to that contraction. And the dynamic motion of going forth through the birth canal. Again, it becomes a lot easier, a smoother laboring process if they’ve had lessons through pregnancy. And then after the baby is delivered, one of the most frustrating things seems to be, that I hear of, is the latching on and the breastfeeding. There is a lot of awkwardness and in the hands, how do I hold my hands and my breast and they get tension through the hand and don’t know how to hold the baby, and then compress over and then the shoulder is stuck and then there’s a knot behind the bra strap. So, again the same principles can be applied and used, so now the baby is on the outside, and is moving and has needs, so how can I respond to the 3am crying? Do I respond with tension, or do I honor that it’s a feeding time and I’m glad my baby is able to communicate when it’s hungry and how am I going to respond to that. So, it just carries on with that all the way through. And likewise the other aspect of birth, after birth would be carrying the baby and the baby carrier and the groceries, and trying to unlock the car. You know, all these different things. There are a lot of awkward positions and just noticing how your body can move more efficiently. Under the circumstances, you’re carrying a lot of objects, and weight, how can I move more efficiently with it?
Ashley: So, it’s basically a dance of communication with your own body first, then as your baby develops you and your baby’s body together, then when it comes out, the whole dance continues but you’re back to your body communicating with and listening to their body.
Christie: Yeah, I think, you know I haven’t been a mother yet, so I can’t really say, I raised my little brother, and that’s a whole other story. But, I think every parent truly tries to do the best job they can, they try to get it right. So then they dote over the child, and they put all their energy into the child, but then they loose themselves. And my job is to make sure they notice their own nurturing, because if they don’t take care of themselves, number one first… it’s kind of like the airplane, you’ve got to put the oxygen on you first and then you can put it on the loved ones around you. And so, it’s a skill-set that’s a baseline, a resource for the whole family. Because if you get fragmented and too focused on the new baby, it starts to fall apart.
Ashley: And I was actually just writing that very same thing yesterday because if you do start to do that, when they have a need you can’t respond from your filled up well. You can only be frustrated and angry because you haven’t fulfilled your own needs. You’ll be like; “I don’t have it to give to you, because I haven’t given it to myself.”
Christie: You’re spent.
Christie: And once we’re spent, it’s done! And that’s, I could go on in how when the mom models this in the baby and the toddler development stages, as the baby grow. That is a skill set that is profound and that child will have an edge in relationship building with their peers when they play. As they go into school because they notice, oh mom’s taking care of herself, she’s centering, she’s noticing… and that my seem like a lot of logic there, but the logic doesn’t develop till later, but kids mirror what they see. And so they are going to start to mirror that and give that back to all the people they come into contact with. Which ultimately would be beautiful if we can’t get them at the beginning then we can at least affect them later on.
Ashley: So, what do you most want women to know who are out there, about your work or trying to decide what kind of birth they want?
Debra: Geez, they are powerful beings and the skill of noticing who you are and what’s happening. It’s very powerful, simple and yet, it’s a skill that has to be developed, because we don’t do that much in society.
Ashley: And by noticing, it’s like awareness, right, awareness but specifically with certain different parts of the body? Is that right?
Christie: In response, it’s the whole self like Debra mentioned. If we took the example of the spine compressing and the neck muscles tightening, the breath changing: literally we’re cutting off circulation. Our system is shutting down to some degree because we can’t get the messages out; it’s our whole self. So, to be able to be in our whole self and work with the entirety and trust… the question you asked, what would we like women to know, women, men, the universe, all people all beings: to trust in our human condition. We’ve been giving birth forever. And so, it’s an option to do to trust the body and the baby will work together and find a way through the birth canal and there’s just greatness in allowing that trust. But we want to empower people to bring that back, they can feel that. Versus hearing the stories…
Debra: the experience…
Christie: Yeah. They can experience the freedom and I think you said the four parts, well, those are the four things that physiologically happen but then it’s more about what direction do I go in, I have a choice. So, noticing the new direction and then how do I want to be with that. Experiencing the release and then continuing on. It becomes an ever-present dance to be in the now versus end-gaming, and saying “oh, but I have to have the perfect nursery, and I have to have this and that!” Well, none of that is anything, unless you have right now! So, that would be…
Ashley: So, dancing with this moment.
Christie: Yep. Yes, honoring now!
Debra: And too that it’s like paying attention to what is healthy around you, what do you want to be around and noticing that. So, for instance, do I want to continue to watch this program that creates a lot of fear for me, or do I choose to allow my attention to go into something that is going to help me find my own power. So, I think that’s really important for women. Am I around the people who are going to support me? Because that’s a huge thing to be around people who truly, not just mouth it, but actually support you in the choices that you make. I think that’s really important too. To pay attention to that: where do we put our attention?
Ashley: Right, and who will empower me to make the choices, instead of just thinking there are no choices.
Debra: Correct. There are options, lots of options. And knowing as many as you can and the ramifications of them. And it really is about education. And we’ve been educating ourselves through TV and movies and through fear-based perpetuating some of the awful stories. And we do have awful stories, and we have them for a reason. And so it is about belief. And I say to people, what is your belief? And our belief systems are difficult to change, they are, so how much do you want to work at this? And if you go into a situation whether it be having a home birth or a birth center birth, or hospital birth you have to realize you are going into a belief system. So, that’s what’s holding you and that’s what’s going to impact what’s going to happen. Studies have shown you know the nurses in the room with you, what their belief system is.
Ashley: What do they show?
Debra: For instance, and I’ve seen this happen with me over and over again. If I go in, I can almost tell you what nurses have had “good births” and they pretty much trust the process and support the women in that as much as she’s allowing you to. It’s their belief system. One time I went in and the nurses asked the mom if she wanted medication. And most people hire me because they don’t want an epidural. And so she said no, and they said okay and never asked again. Where in other situations, they’ll come back in and ask over and over again. What’s your pain from 1-10? Do you want it now? Blah, blah, blah. And the ones who leave them alone, I’ll ask them later, do you have children? And how was it? And they almost invariably had their children with no medication and/or at home. And the ones who are terrified are the ones who had awful births and see a lot of that playing out in the hospitals. In hospitals it is a medical event, it’s treated as a disease, so they have found that having a woman who trusts in the process of birth, just sitting in the room witnessing has changed the outcome. It’s that quantum physics thing. So, we have a belief system that we work in and we have certain points that are very important to us. We pay attention to conditions present, where’s the health, in the body and the situation, where’s the health? And how can we grow the health? It’s easy to find the disease, so where do we put our attention.
Ashley: So, when you look for where you find the health, explain a little bit about that to me.
Christie: Attention is, I’m going to credit Nancy Slocum, she’s a life coach of mine and she said this to me one time, Attention is like fertilizer: wherever you put it, it will grow. Your attention grows more and more of wherever you are putting the attention. So, you can have it grow in a negative or in a positive, you choose. So, looking at the health, in my concept would be all the things that are going right, all the things that are working well and holding that space. I frequently have clients come in with lower back pain and they’ll be super-focused around that pain. And I’ll say, so how much of that pain, what percentage is that pain is relative to your whole body? And typically they’ll give me an answer between 5-10%. And I’ll be like, wow! You’ve got 90-95% of your body that’s just doing well! So, this is only 5-10%. So, let’s work with that other 90-95% and let our 5-10% learn from that other 90-95% to be able to go: oh, this is how we play the game. This is how our body’s designed to move efficiently and work.
Ashley: Which is really interesting because I feel like what happens a lot of the time with pain is it speaks so loudly, sometimes screaming at us. That we just go right there and it’s the only thing we think about. We’re just trying to make it through that thing that is so painful.
Christie: So, that’s exactly why people have the epidurals. Here’s pain, lets mitigate it right now with something else. But in Alexander there’s a term, if you listen to the whispers, you don’t have to hear the screams. So, as soon as you hear your body telling you, I’m starting to get that tightening or compression, you immediately have ways to look at the whole health of the body and look at how we can organize around it to kind of carry that little part along that’s starting to whisper, but that might start to scream shortly. And if we take that into the analogy of raising a child, it’s exactly the same. We are listening to the baby actively and what its needs are and more than likely we’re not going to have to hear or go into a full-on tantrum.
Debra: And we can really work toward that in birthing too. That we are just with the process instead of fighting it or resisting it in some way. God has made us incredibly; we are awesome, awesome beings. And we have this whole pharmacy up in our head, so that when we let it alone it begins to work and we have these incredible drugs that come through us. And the intensity of the experience moves up there is more and more that cascades down. I personally couldn’t understand women having pain in birth. My births were a lot of work, but I didn’t have pain.
Ashley: That’s beautiful. I’m just starting to discover that in my research that there are women who don’t experience pain. So, what is it that’s causing all these women to experience pain, and all these other women not to. It’s very fascinating when you look at it.
Debra: There are many different ways that women are different, but fear is huge. Fear is huge! They’re afraid of the back pain; it’s just the fear of the unknown. And this is of course a big unknown; you’ve never been through this. Second babies are so much easier, typically though it does depend on what the first experience was like. Fear is huge, biology…I have women who will come up to me and will say from history, me to my mother to my grandmother, “we have three-day labors”. And I go, okay. I just hold it, I’m not going to grasp onto it and decide we are going to have a three-day labor. And sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it is just in that mind. You never know what is going to come up. Nutrition is huge. But fear is the biggest.
Ashley: Before we move on to nutrition, there is a doctor and I can’t remember the name of the book, something like “Birthing Without Fear”, have you heard of it? And he says what caused him to go into all this research was he found that there were these women who didn’t know better who said, no it didn’t hurt, what do you mean, should it have hurt? So what he found out is all the constriction we are doing with the fear, the body constricting, there’s not blood circulation to the uterus, which is causing all the pain. So, it’s all the fears.
Debra: Not to mention we are getting hooked up to a lot of machines and can’t move easily. We aren’t listened too and we don’t listen to ourselves. Because we aren’t used to it, we haven’t had someone else reflect that. That’s another reason to have someone who understands the process because there is that function. That reflection back to us, oh I hear what you’re saying and then they reflect it back… that’s great intuition! They start trusting themselves, instead of putting themselves in someone else’s care. It’s very difficult to get in different positions, typically, in a hospital. And if you have an epidural, forget it! I did want to go back to something though, that Christie said, one day I came over here and I had really bad sciatica. But we were both really busy, I had to go, she had to go. And she was just like, come here and let me look at you. And so finally I said, fine 5 minutes she spent with me and what we got was my ankles were locked up. We were just noticing conditions present. And bringing my attention there with the intention of reintroducing movement it was gone. And so whenever I get this whispering now, I look at those ankles. That’s powerful!
Ashley: That is powerful.
Debra: And it saves me a lot of money! And a lot of anxiety.
Ashley: And a lot of time wasted.
Debra: And a lot of time wasted! And how simple is that! So, she’s awesome! Well, we all are, but I just had to say that!
Ashley: And you had something on your mind (to Christie).
Christie: Well, conditions present, fertilizer, what else?
Ashley: Lets go back to nutrition then. What do you ladies recommend?
Christie: I am not a nutrition expert, but I can say…
Debra: I think if you look at her body you can tell she is…
Ashley: Well, you have a lot of body wisdom, so we’ll go with that. Tell me about that.
Christie: Overall, my thing is form, function, flow. And it’s paying attention to our form, how it functions and how it flows. For most people, my thing is I’m not a shopper; I struggle with having to go buy clothes so, my form, when it starts to get bigger than what my clothes are I instantly start monitoring my intake. So, I pay attention, but that’s a pretty basic thing. And then our body functions better because it’s not as heavy. So, there’s the flow, it happens. You can also notice, I have a tendency to be active and I think people who have successful pregnancies maintain a pretty good active exercise base. And you really notice if you had a feast and you ate a lot of carbohydrate, sugary forms, then you go out and exercise the next day you go out and you have a sugar hangover. When you really start to notice that, the simplest form is to be in your form and notice how it’s functioning and see if there is a congruent flow. If there’s not, then there’s usually an indication of, oh yeah, that’s right, I may be eating for two but what would be in the best interest for my baby, if I feel like this, now multiply it by 10 or 20, how might the baby be feeling, because the baby experiences everything more intensely than we might. So, how are we, what are we doing? So that is my generic, overall catch for looking at the conditions and how am I noticing these things right now?
Ashley: And how is it affecting me? What is my intake and how is it making me feel afterwards.
Christie: Uh-huh! Yeah.
Ashley: Anything you’d like to add to that (to Debra)?
Debra: Wow, what can I say, pregnancy and nutrition in our country, wow. First of all, you know what preeclampsia is.
Ashley: Tell me about it.
Debra: Preeclampsia is a condition where you get a lot of swelling; a spilling of proteins and causes high blood pressure and it puts mom and baby in danger. And they do bed rest and take away your salt and things like that. But doctors will tell you that exercise and diet have nothing to do with it, but that’s not true, absolutely not true.
Ashley: Tell me about it.
Debra: There’s of research on that, and eating well, exercising. Walking every day, just breathing, it makes all the difference. It allows the waste to move through your body and out. So, just really eating well. Clean foods, not processed foods. Processed foods of course are full of sugar and salt. And toxemia, that’s another word for it. But there are a lot of studies and you can look them up. And I just know that the percentage of women who have preeclampsia that go to midwives are like so, so small because midwives spend a lot of time with women and they figure out what’s happening with them, what they are eating. They talk to them. So, instead of going to the doctor and waiting an hour or two hours to see the doctor, and then maybe seeing them for 10 minutes, 5 with the nurse and maybe 5 with the doctor, taking your pee, weighing you, that’s pretty much it. Midwives found out what’s happening with you. You might spend two hours with them. It’s a lot about education, what’s happening with you at home, what’s happening with you and your partner, finding out, just talking to you about a lot of things. So there are a lot of things that resolve in the pregnancy. There’s a woman in Washington, DC. There’s a video clip on the Internet and I have to google it because someone keeps saying they will and then forgetting. So this woman is a certified nurse-midwife, and then there are nurse practitioners, and actually the AMA is trying to get rid of all them. Right now, they have all sorts of supervision so they have power of them, so they will never be a peer or an equal. Anyways, so this woman is in DC. And are you aware of what DC looks like?
Ashley: I’ve been there, but what are you talking about?
Debra: You have the capitol and the Mall, and then everything off of it is just devastation. They’re cleaning it up now, but the District of Colombia is very poor. So, this woman who is certified nurse-midwife, which means she can get Medicare, because direct-entry midwives can’t. So all of her stats for women, preemies, infant mortality, way down. We’re talking double digits, so much so that the congressmen in the DC area are going what are you doing? Who is this, we want to support her and give her money. What are you doing? And she says, “I’m educating them.” I’m telling them what they need to do and they do it. I’m telling them what they can do and they do it. She empowers them to go “I am able to do this!” Then I find out this woman is in her 80s! And she doesn’t even live in DC; she goes home every weekend to New York City to see her husband.
Ashley: Oh my goodness.
Debra: We need midwives in this country. In the worst way, and we are in a witch-hunt to kill them off again. Instead of really finding the health of the system we have a lot of fear about “I’ve got to get my money!” So, someone was talking about socializing medicine, and if it was just Medicare, Dr. Marsden Wagner, he wrote Born in the USA, there’s a scathing book! A Dr., an ob, wrote about, it’s fabulous and I was reading it the other night as I was going to sleep and I thought I can’t do that, I have to read it in the morning. It’s just amazing, so I kind of got off a little bit, but it really is about empowering women how to do that. And it’s a real political issue right now. My point was though, he was saying, if we socialized maternity, just that, not even the whole medical system, doctors would leave by the droves. We spend $17,000 per woman in pregnancy, per baby. And that’s for a normal one! We start adding all the extras and all the complications and it’s even more.
Ashley: And people are having them, you know, in the backyard!
Debra: And we have the worst outcome of, we are 25th in the world of really bad outcomes, and we spend more money than any other country. Sorry, I went off. And there are places you can look up, CIMS is a great website, that’s the mother-baby friendly initiative that they’ve gotten into certain hospitals. And certain hospitals agree to certain things. Kaiser in Riverside is one, UCSD just got theirs.
Ashley: And is that nation-wide or just statewide?
Debra: That is nation-wide. So you might want to get on that website.
Christie: What does that stand for?
Debra: It’s the Child’s Infant Mother, I can’t remember! But it’s asking the hospital to do 10 things and one of them is the golden hour after the baby’s born to leave the baby on mom’s chest for an hour because they’ve found a lot of research of what happens to mommy-baby.
Ashley: Isn’t that sad that’s not the case already, for now! So, tell me is there anything we haven’t covered that you think is really important that you want women to know.
Debra: I think that both of these techniques or tools...
Debra: … really are resources that help you come in touch with your self. Therefore, they are so very empowering. I mean how empowering was it for me to go, “check my ankles”! That’s huge. That’s what I want to say is that they are incredible resources to help you come back to your wholeness and to be able to stand there.
Christie: And I was just thinking of, for lack of a better word, wives’ tales, that there are a lot of different resources out there for birth, a lot of different breathing techniques and I am most frequently called “the breathing lady”, go see Christie, she does all the stuff about the breath. The irony in that is that the breath breathes you! All you have to do is be with it. But unfortunately there are a lot of mainstream people that will promote a certain panting, or a certain kind of breath and then we’re almost hyperventilating. The beauty of the breath in birthing, in parenting, in pre-parenting in pregnancy, is that when we allow the presence more, I like to give to the exhale: allowing the exhale to happen, and then the inhale just occurs. Follow the exhale and let the inhale occur. That keeps us more in a nice homeostasis that serves us through pregnancy, through the birth. And it’s probably the biggest thing that I wish I could share with everybody. Because it’s such a simple thing. There are all these guru’s out there in yoga and what not, who talk about the breath and being with the breath but it all comes down to being with the breath and the breath breathing you! But if we force things, people say take a deep breath. Well, that stimulates the sympathetic overdrives the nervous system. And then it’s like oh my gosh, I’m in need of breath, so I need to take a big one! And now I want to exhale and that serves more of the parasympathetic rest and digest that allows me then to be clear in where I am in the here and now. So, that would be a great thing to provide more of to people.
Ashley: So, say a woman is noticing her breath, but noticing she’s holding her breath and not releasing her breath. So, where do you go from there?
Christie: Exhale. Notice where your next exhale is and follow it as lot as you can, just for the fun of it.
Ashley: So not necessarily make your next exhale happen now?
Christie: No, just the next time you notice it, follow it, just let it go, let it go, let it go. And then you can be surprised when the inhale happens. Cause we’re not going to turn off. We are not a computer where we can hit the button and we can completely shut the body off. The breath is going to continue, there is a lot of people who will test it to the deepest depths of the sea and hold their breath for so long, but it’s still going to come.
Debra: It’s kind of like the baby’s come out! The breath goes in, the breath comes out.
Christie: So, that’s a simple thing that I think is important to share.
Debra: A lot of it is so simple.
Christie: Most of it is.
Debra: It’s so simple and we make it so crazy. So I just wanted to add one other thing because what we’ve touched on so many times is that sympathetic overdrive. Which is what we have in this country, in particular in California. I remember when I came down here from Oregon, it was too bright, it was too fast, and we just have this synaptic chatter going all the time. And a lot of what we deal with is just helping people to find a calmer place within themselves. You do it through the breath, through posture, through touching in certain places for the nervous system.
Christie: Just noticing.
Debra: And noticing. But I think that’s a huge part. Dr. Jealous talks about how 90% of all disease is sympathetic overload. And if you think about it, hypertension, there’s so many things that are affected. Our endocrine system, everything.
Christie: Our endocrine system is still today, there are research studies about why people go into see a doctor or to the hospital and its like 90-95% of all conditions are stressed-induced.
Ashley: And that sympathetic overload is coming from what, from what you’re intaking, what we’re watching, basically everything.
Debra: It’s our culture.
Christie: And it’s losing connection with that parasympathetic counterbalance. Because we’re just living in the hyper-overdrive and we don’t know how to bring ourselves back into neutral. I mean you have to, in order to do anything successfully, to really do what you’re going to do you have to be omnipresent, neutral observer. Because if you start to go in one extreme or another, you’re not hearing or seeing something that could be very valuable in the information. Probably one of my biggest compliments in my work over the last 10 years, I had a woman who came in and we worked, I gave her a lesson, she came back in the next week and I said, how’s it going? Because I always check in, it’s always about what’s going on in the here and now. She says, well, my relationship with my husband has completely changed! And I said, oh my goodness, you didn’t even mention your husband last week, I had no idea. So what is it from our lesson that served you in changing your relationship with your husband? And it was so simple to her. She realized as soon as her husband opened his mouth and said, “blah, blah, blah”, she instantly started to tense. So she didn’t even hear what the “blah, blah, blah” was. She shut off, turned off and then went back into a rant. So, instead she pulled back, stopped, noticed conditions present and instead of tensing to the stimulus was opened to receiving it from a neutral place and then they had the best communication of their marriage in that week. And I’m not a therapist! All I’m doing is teaching people how to notice what’s happening. Listen to the whispers, and you don’t have to hear the screams. Equally true in relationships with loved ones: spouses, children, whatever. That’s how easy it is. Debra: You know we see a lot of autism now; a lot of ADHD and it has a lot to do with our environment and how we’re not in tune with ourselves, first of all and our child. A child relates to mom, that’s how they know they are in that midline as they develop. And if mom’s not in that midline of the compass, then they get lost. It’s really amazing to watch children, as they get lost. It’s quite amazing to see a child who can orient as they grow, that’s what the terrible twos are about, “well, I’m not mom! I’m me!” That’s a natural progression and it may take a while to check in but then eventually they can go… And that’s not what we have. So, it’s just amazing, but a lot of it is our culture and how we’ve chosen to be. And it’s lovely to watch people to find their way like this, I’ve worked with moms with lactation issues, you know the big thing now is babies have reflux. It used to be called colic! It can be caused by a lot of different things, but reflux, it’s called reflux now because they have a pharmaceutical for babies for it. But when I look at moms, whether it’s something physically, but often times I’ll check in with mom and how she’s nursing. And a lot of time if moms can’t settle into that parasympathetic place then what comes out through their milk, or how their milk comes out, depending on how the baby relates to that, is too much. Because if mom is holding her breath, baby reflects that. We model to our children, so oftentimes I’ll have moms, you know, where are you comfortable? We’ll talk about all that and a lot of times they’ll come back and say, my baby doesn’t have reflux anymore! So there’s a lot of different ways to work with these things, but we throw pills at them.
Ashley: But we’re changing!
Debra: Yes! It’s a big movement. And I love what you’re doing. When I saw it, I was thinking you’re young and you’re doing this! That’s so cool! I just love it. And I do know that there’s an exponential energy that happens and that’s really, really important. So, thank you so much for coming and talking with us, and acknowledging what we have to offer as useful.
Ashley: No, thank you so much, it is so incredibly important. Thank you.
Debra: And I love what you do with the yoga and meditation, huge in what we need!
Christie: Yes, thank you.