The “Birthing Circle” seeks to create a nurturing and informative environment through the sharing of information, ideas, and experiences.
We support the rights of women to make informed decisions regarding their pregnancy and birth. The “Birthing Circle’s”mission is to promote education and information about childbirth and the many birthing choices we have access to in Anne Arundel County
“Showering a birthing woman with the love of her sisterhood, stories of triumph and courage. Tokens of faith and gestures of love… What a memorable way to honor the rite of passage to motherhood.”
As our consciousness rises and more of us are becoming aware of the mark that we are leaving behind physically and spiritually. The move toward something a little deeper than your standard baby shower is increasing, as we are search for a way to celebrate this momentous occasion in a woman’s life in ways that leave more of a mark in our hearts than tiered nappy cakes and matching booties…
For centuries women have joined together in circle to honor the ways of the sacred feminine. Sisters forming a sanctuary to laugh, to listen to heal and honor themselves and their fellow woman through significant events of their lives. To offer support and strength through birth, menarche, marriage, pregnancy, menopause and death. Each woman respecting their individual paths yet sharing their wisdom, their knowledge and their spirit with a common element of feminine energy and love. Women gathering in circles is a form of power and prayer.
A “Birthing Circle” takes the essence of this sacred act and celebrates the birthing women from all walks of life. “Birthing Circles” transcend any specific religion or culture and move towards a deep spiritual and emotional connection to all women and the power that comes with giving life into the world. It is a powerful way to integrate elements of who you are and how you would like your journey to motherhood unfold. The flexibility to shape a celebration that is as individual as everyone is only bound by ones imagination.
There are elements to the circle that allows for a deeper connection to the women than just a social get together. It becomes an opportunity for a woman’s spirit to be nurtured and recognized for the wisdom and complexity it contains. Small rituals and rites that can be as stylized or as free flowing as suits the honored birthing woman.
Emphasis can be on creating something together, a birthing blanket, a group mandala, prayer flags jewelry, cooking/baking bread, weaving, knitting anything that allows for each woman to offer a piece of themselves toward the circle and to the birthing woman. Pampering such as massage pedicures manicures and braiding hair will all be well received, allow for this time to swap stories and lessons learned. Fun stuff like henna decoration, body painting a full swollen belly, belly dancing and making hair wreaths all make for a light way toward connection and love.
As women we are in a constant state of motion, and as we ebb and flow to the rhythm that is life it is important that we take the time to celebrate that which makes as uniquely female. Creating a sacred space that places the sanctity of birth and sisterhood as a vital part of being a woman signifies to our sisters our daughters and ourselves that women are worth celebrating.
My name is Tabitha Pick and I am a creator and facilitator of women’s “Birthing Circles”. My passion for the sanctity that is women stems from my own life changing experience of birth and motherhood. If you have any questions or queries or would like to create your own circle.
Together, we will create a space that is an extension of your pregnancy experience, a circle of acceptance, warmth and pure joy.
“Working with our community to build an integrated circle of care that addresses the needs of the childbearing family.”
Recently integrated into the Department of Family Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the “Birthing Circle” is a community-based program offering information and support to women and their families during pregnancy and childbirth.
Community Based Doula Program
The “Birthing Circle” offers support to childbearing women and their families through its Community-Based Doula program, which has been serving Pittsburgh mothers since 2004. The word “doula” is an ancient Greek word, meaning “a woman who serves.” Today, the word doula refers to paraprofessionals who provide support to mothers before, during, and after giving birth. Doulas provide emotional support and encouragement, including physical comfort measures and individualized one-on-one education to women during pregnancy, throughout labor and birth, and during the newborn period. “Birthing Circle” Doulas refer women to other needed social services, such as WIC and parenting support groups.
Doulas do not provide medical care. They are recognized by a national certifying body, DONA International.
The use of doulas at birth is associated with a number of positive health outcomes, including fewer medical interventions; lower incidence of Caesarean section; reduced use of pain medications and epidurals; increased success at breastfeeding; higher patient satisfaction; and decreased postpartum depression.
The primary service model for doula practice in the U.S. is fee-based, with families paying privately for doula services. However, the “Birthing Circle” is currently accepting clients for their no-cost doula services who have UPMC for You, UPMC for Kids, or UPMC for Life if they reside in, receive OB care in, and will deliver in Allegheny County. Please call for more information.
We offer mothers support tailored to their needs and unique challenges, and will meet with the mother at home, at a doctor’s appointment, or somewhere in the community to discuss pregnancy, nutrition, childbirth preparation, and birth planning. The doula will also provide continuous support during labor and birth, as well as at least one postpartum visit. While our expertise is in pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, we can also provide referrals to social service agencies as requested by our clients.
Wise Women Ambassador Program
The “Birthing Circle” offers information through its Ambassador Program, started in 2001, as a means of opening a community dialogue about health and social concerns. The Ambassadors group meets monthly at an East Liberty church for a dinner meeting and presentation about a health or social concern. Attendance is open, and during the meeting women have the opportunity to learn about the issue, ask questions and take resources back to share in their community. In this way, they become “Wise Women” in their communities, who can share valuable health information.
The “Birthing Circle” is a safe, nonjudgmental forum to share experiences, ask questions, connect with members of the local birth community, or just to listen and be a part of the experience. We are working toward the goal of empowering women to take control of their births, to provide them with caring support, sound guidance, and evidence-based information, and to create a safe place for encouragement, healing and connection.
In keeping with the idea that this blog will serve as a forum for our Birth Circle and is designed to foster a true sense of community, I’ll be the first to share my personal story.
This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Next week, however, is My Breastfeeding Week. You see, on August 14, my first-born, Blossom, will turn one. Which means that we’ll have been nursing for a whole year. And for me, that’s something to celebrate.
I had a difficult labor but a good birth overall. Blossom latched beautifully and nursed hungrily approximately twenty minutes after she was born. I sobbed tears of joy as her tiny little mouth found my nipple and suckled it as if she’d been doing it forever. It was the single most beautiful moment of my life. I had a daughter, and I was feeding her. Me. My body. The body that I thought was ugly and had hated for so many years was finally doing something that made me proud to call it mine. It had grown, birthed, and fed a whole human. My body was AWESOME. And breastfeeding was EASY!
At least for that first day.
After that, it got progressively, significantly less easy. Blossom wanted to nurse constantly. Which made my nipples very sore. As in, Not-Enough-Lansinoh-in-the-World-Can-Put-this-Fire-Out sore. She would nurse for an hour at a time, and then want back on the breast nearly a half an hour later! What kind of sane person could keep up with this schedule? I became exhausted, touched out, and raw beyond all levels of comfort. Something had to give.
At her two-week visit to the pediatrician’s office, the doctor suggested that I space out her feedings and put her on an every-three-hour schedule. He said that this would help reduce her reflux and make her feel “fuller” when she nursed. I took his advice. And I still regret it to this day.
Two weeks is a critical juncture in the life of a newborn. They’re hitting their first of many growth spurts and are starting to become more aware of their new world. This can freak tiny little babies out, so they naturally want to be comforted by the only person they’ve ever really known (that would be Mama) and they find comfort in the only way they know how (that would be “Num-Nums.” Or “Milkies.” Or whatever other cutesy nickname you’ve come up with for your newly-overgrown baby jugs.) In sum, growing babies who aren’t yet used to the sights, sounds, and smells of the world outside the womb need to nurse. A lot. Denying them this basic need can be detrimental to your milk supply and to baby’s well-being. Case in point:
The first weekend that we tried putting Blossom on The Good Doctor’s schedule she became so hungry, so desperate to nurse, that she sucked humongous hickey marks on her arms. It looks like she’d been abused, and in a way, she had been. I was beside myself with guilt, but we kept up with it for many more days. I would give her to my husband in an effort to feel less guilty about holding her so close to my bosom yet denying her what she needed. He, then, would try – to no avail – rocking her to sleep as she screamed, starving.
Well, guess what? My supply tanked. And I got my first serious case of Mama Guilt. From then on, we “broke up” with that particular pediatrician and went back to nursing on demand, but the damage was already done. My 7 pound, 7 ouncer – who had been gaining weight beautifully in the beginning – was suddenly not pooing very often and was desperately, fiercely hungry no matter how often we nursed. I began to suspect the worst.
But still, we persevered. And sometime around the six-week mark, my nipples started to hurt infinitely worse than they had been in the beginning phase of nursing. One afternoon, I noticed patches of white spots on the insides of Blossom’s cheeks after a nursing session.
We had thrush. The most painful, awful, resistant, debilitating case of thrush you can possibly imagine. We had it for the next seven months. It simply would not go away. We tried everything, up to and including: grapefruit seed extract, gentian violet, Nystatin, Dr. Newman’s APNO, a Candida cleanse diet, baking soda/vinegar rinses, and various prescription ointments. We boiled everything and disinfected all nursing bras and toys on a daily basis. It was a nightmare, and an exhausting one at that. Though I believe that we initially did have a serious case of thrush, to this day, I suspect that I had a staph infection rather than “resistant thrush” as a result of damage from using my breastpump on too high a setting.
In any case, because of the thrush, I physically couldn’t nurse her on demand anymore. My toes would curl, the pain was so awful. I would scream and cry through nursing sessions, praying for her to be done, often unlatching her as soon as she’d gotten the letdown.
For those of you still playing at home, what do you think this contributed to? Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it… an even further reduction in my supply! At her four-month appointment, Blossom weighed only ten pounds and was flirting with a Zero Percentile ranking on the growth charts (having declined from a birth in the 40s, and subsequent appointments in the 20s, then 10s, then single digits).
It was time to see a lactation consultant.
I found an IBCLC online who was willing to come to my house that weekend and survey our breastfeeding, weighing Blossom both before and after a feeding to evaluate how much milk she was getting. It was determined that she was only getting an ounce and a half per feeding. Even though I nursed her nearly every hour (save for naptime and stretches of sleep during the night), she simply wasn’t getting enough milk. My body had failed. I was starving my child.
To make matters worse, the IBCLC discovered that Blossom had a previously undiagnosed posterior tongue tie that had resulted in a shallow latch and low milk transfer. Though we were able to find an ENT to perform the frenectomy at six months old and her latch did improve slightly, once again the damage had already been done to my supply.
Back to my visit with the IBCLC. She gave me a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) and suggested we start Blossom on formula right away, using the SNS to feed her at the breast. The SNS accomplished two things – it got my baby the extra calories she needed but it used my body to do it. Having Blossom “nurse” to get her formula would stimulate my supply each time she fed, giving me a better chance of increasing my milk production.
But formula didn’t work for us. I couldn’t get over my own personal hang-ups about feeding it to her since I believed that it wasn’t what her body was designed to eat. She, in turn, simply hated it. It gave her diarrhea and bad gas and she was visibly opposed to the taste. So we needed to come up with an alternative.
The “alternative,” as it turned out, wasn’t an alternative at all. It was human breast milk; it just wasn’t mine. I posted on the MD/DC/VA chapter page for Human Milk 4 Human Babies that I was in need of donor milk for my daughter due to chronic low supply. Within a day or two, I received a response from the kindest woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She told me that she had a baby around the same age as Blossom and that she made more than enough milk for him. She freely disclosed details about her diet (healthy), alcohol and tobacco use (none), and medications she took (a prescription supplement for her thyroid that was classified by Dr. Hale as an L1 – deemed safe for breastfeeding mothers). And so I began making the three-hour round-trip trek to Alexandria each weekend to collect the milk she’d pumped for my daughter that week. She continued to pump for my daughter until Blossom had begun substituting some meals of solid foods for her nursing sessions at around 7 months old. In that time, she’d gained weight, found her way back onto the growth charts, and was generally a much happier baby. You can read more about my experience using donor milk in an article featured here in the Washington Post.
Soon, it was time to return to work from maternity leave. I had been dreading this for twelve weeks. I loved being at home with my daughter. Every fiber in my being told me that leaving her was wrong. I struggled, hard, with the transition. My body struggled, too. After being used to nursing (mostly) on demand for the last three months, my supply quickly regulated to a mere thrice-a-day pumping session in a glorified closet with bare, white walls and buzzy overhead fluorescent lights. Needless to say, it was nowhere near the same as physically nursing my daughter. Once again, my supply took a hit. I went from pumping 9 ounces a day (3 ounces per session), to 8 … to 7 … to 6. By the time I’d quit my job when she was eight months old, I was getting five ounces a day if I was lucky. To make up for the lost ounces, I was having to pump before bedtime and in the middle of the night just to send enough milk to her grandparents’ house each day so that they could sufficiently feed her. The stress of work and the overwhelming sadness of being away from my daughter had gotten the better of what little supply I’d built up, and I just couldn’t psych myself into producing while away from her.
When I did return to the home from working full-time, Blossom had truly begun eating solids several times a day so it mattered less that my supply was low. She still nursed on demand and for comfort and seemed satiated with what I had to offer.
Ten months into our nursing relationship, I became pregnant again, and the hormones from the pregnancy sent my supply into a nosedive. I had come to a much more solid place of acceptance by this time, though, and was happy that we’d made it as far as we had. Now, my body needed to prepare itself to nourish another baby and I would give it exactly what it needed to do just that – good nutrition, fluids, lots of rest, and as little stress as possible. I didn’t have these luxuries when I was nursing Blossom thanks to the demands of a full-time job. I know all the signs and signals to look for this time around and am completely confident that my breastfeeding experience with this baby will be different than it was with Blossom.
Please note that I chose to use the word “different,” not “better.” Because I have loved nursing my daughter, and I actually don’t wish that it had been anything other than what it was. I believe that our breastfeeding relationship was what it needed to be so that I could discover who I am as a mother. I believe that I was tested over and over again in order to learn how to surrender myself completely to the needs of my child, placing them above those of my own. I don’t know that I could have found that ability without our breastfeeding trials.
Having this experience has also humbled me, almost embarrassingly so. Back when I knew everything –read: before I actually had a baby – I believed that breastfeeding was as natural and simple as it got. I couldn’t possibly understand why women “failed” and why anybody would choose formula over nursing. Well, I’ve eaten my Humble Pie and have a much clearer understanding of the “booby traps” that surround new moms. Nobody is immune to bad advice or lack of support. My goal now is to use my experiences in a positive way to educate new moms and advocate for better breastfeeding support in our country – in our hospitals, in the workplace, in our communities, and in our homes.
For the immediate future, though, my goal is to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday next week with balloons, streamers, and more presents than she’s likely to even be interested in opening. And after the party’s over, we’ll have a cuddle on the couch for some “num-nums” just as we did in the hospital only a short year ago.