Hypnobabies Mom of the Month

For the birth of my 3rd baby (7 years ago), I went through a 6 week Hypnobabies course. I was planning a home birth, my first, and wanted to learn some pain coping methods. My first two births were medicated hospital births.

I was chosen as the Hypnobabies mom of the month. As part of this, I was interviewed by Hypnobabies founder Kerry Tuschhoff.

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Intuition and Decision Making for Childbirth

intuition and childbirthIntuition has been on my mind as of late. I’ve been thinking about the ways we use our intuition and the ways we have stifled our intuition. I believe intuition is an important part of the decision making process. During our childbearing years we have many decisions to make. There are many options surrounding childbirth and one of the ways to know what the best decision for us and our situation is by tapping into our intuition. Sometimes we call this “going with our gut”.

Let’s talk about what intuition is and isn’t. Intuition isn’t the opposite of reason and logic. It’s not just going with a feeling. Psychologists think intuition is an unconscious associating process in our brains. Our brains look at a situation and match what it already knows about situations similar to the one we are processing. It comes up with a reaction, a chemical response in the body, or thoughts based on what it knows from past experiences. Sometimes our intuition is telling us we don’t have enough information to be able to make a decision and we need to gather more information. Brené Brown defines intuition as, “…not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason”.1


As I’ve thought about intuition, I have realized that our culture now days has forced us to stifle and distrust our intuition. So much so that I it’s difficult to even know what thoughts and feelings are coming from our intuition and what is coming from fear. Another way we stifle our intuition is by wanting to be sure about everything. Not knowing is difficult for us humans. In this day of abundant information I think we want to know and have all the answers. We want to be able to get all the information now and know that the outcome will be the one we desire. When using intuition, we don’t always have a sure answer. Sometimes we need to make decisions, witness the outcome, then make other decisions based on the outcome. I believe this is scary to us.

When we distrust our intuition we become fearful and look for assurance from outside sources. At times this comes as surveying other people. We want to know what others think. We want to know what they think we should do. We want to know if they think it’s a good idea. We want to know what they would do, if they were in the same situation. We start polling people. This is one way we know we are disconnected from our intuition. We want to be reassured and as Brené Brown says, “We want…folks with whom we can share the blame if things don’t pan out”.1

When I read that quote in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized how much this happens in the realm of childbirth. I see so many women, myself included, giving up the decision making to their care provider because they don’t trust their intuition. At the same time, they don’t have to take responsibility for the outcome, because someone else made the decision for them. They have someone else to blame.

I want to challenge you to make the decision to become responsible for your decisions and the outcomes from them. Taking the decision making process in your hands is an empowering experience. It forces you to own your life. It forces you to accept yourself where you are. This can be scary, but incredibly worth it.

Take it one step at a time. Don’t focus on the outcome. Focus on the process and owning it. Sometimes our intuition is telling us we need to slow down and move through the process slowly. Take time, gather the information you need before jumping in. I think sometimes we jump to make an answer before doing our due diligence, because we are afraid that it will lead us away from what we think we want. Don’t be afraid to change your mind from what you thought you originally wanted. Be flexible! Things change, we gain new information, if we aren’t flexible and are tied to an outcome, we will struggle to follow our intuition. Being still long enough to make a mindful decision, can feel vulnerable. Vulnerability can be scary. But when we are vulnerable we are able to connect with ourselves and those around us.

Practice using your intuition in all areas of your life. Becoming connected to ourselves and listening to our intuition is a powerful and empowering experience.

1.The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown.

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A Letter to Cesarean Birth Moms

Moms who have cesarean birth,

I want you to know that no matter the type of birth you have, there is always support for you here. If you have an elective repeat cesarean, I will support you. If you have a vaginal birth after cesarean, I will support you. If you have a cesarean birth after a trial of labor, I will support you. I will not judge you. No matter the type of birth you have, I will always support you.

You are not a failure if you have a trial of labor that becomes a cesarean. I will never think of you as a failure, if you have a repeat cesarean.

There is never one “right” way to birth. No one decision is right for every birthing woman or birth situation. This is why information is so important. Having all the information to make an informed decision that is right for you and your situation, is what is important. Feeling cared for and supported no matter your decisions is what is important.

As the ICAN of Utah County chapter leader, I feel the need to make my feelings public. Too often I hear women say “I feel like I failed” in reference to having a cesarean. I do not want any of you to feel this way! I want you to feel like you did what you needed to do to have your baby. We do the best we can with the information we have at the time. We do what we need to do to have the outcome we believe to be the most beneficial. Sometimes birth requires us to make difficult decisions. Making those decisions in critical moments makes you a strong woman, not the way you birth.

There is so much I wish I could express to each of you who have had a cesarean birth. I just don’t have the words to express this love and admiration adequately. I want you to know that I have a great love and admiration for women who have cesarean births. Birthing women are amazing, not because a baby comes out of their vagina, but because they grew a human inside of their body and now they must birth the baby in whatever way that baby needs to come. Sometimes that means being cut open for the baby to be born. A cesarean birth is still a birth and not any less difficult (or courageous or amazing….) than a vaginal birth. I believe there is a moment during (almost every birth, it probably doesn’t always happen) birth when the woman has a feeling of helplessness and despair and somehow we come out of that. We gather our strength and move above the helplessness and despair to bring new life. It doesn’t matter how you birth, somewhere you find that strength. Sometimes it doesn’t come when you need it, sometimes the helplessness and despair stays for a long time. If you feel this helplessness and despair, I want you to know I am here for you. Please lean on me. Please come to me. I will support you. I will help you. I will not leave you alone.

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Exploring Your Options Series – Part 5

Deciding on a place of birth is simple for most women. Most women choose to give birth in a hospital. Women generally feel safe in a hospital. Are there any other safe options? Is it safe to give birth out of the hospital? YES! Studies show that out of hospital options, such as a birth center or at home, are safe for low risk women.

I would encourage you to consider and research the different options and their safety before coming to a conclusion about where to have your baby. The location of your birth will determine what other options are available to you. Some links to help with your research Science and Sensibility “Is Home Birth Reasonable Option?”Science and Sensibility “Birth Outcomes by Birth Location”Science and Sensibility “Flaws In Recent Home Birth Research”, Science and Sensibility – “Obstetricians Claim Homebirth is Unsafe…Again. Where’s The Evidence?”

Part of the decision making process should include weighing the pros and cons of each birth place. Previous decisions (ie: deciding on a care provider) will also have an influence on where you give birth. If you want a physician to attend your birth, having a home birth may not be an option. Not many physicians attend home births, but there are some. I am not sure there are any in Utah, though.

Below are some pros and cons I came up with. Because everyone is different and there is no one right answer for anyone, these things may not apply to your situation. Feel free to make your own pros and cons list to figure out what is the best option for you. Where you feel the most comfortable and safest will be the best place for you to give birth.

Most women in this area plan to have a hospital birth and never consider a birth center or home birth. I would encourage you to consider and research the different options and their safety before coming to a conclusion about where to have your baby. The location of your birth will determine what other options are available to you.

  • Hospital
    • Pros –
      • Specialized care for high-risk pregnancies and births.
      • Pain medication readily available
      • A nurse to take care of you and baby, meals brought to you
    • Cons –
      • Birth is seen as a medical crisis.
      • Mother and baby are often separated
      • Difficulties are often resolved with medications and high-tech procedures
      • Standardized care rather than individualized.
      • Often noisy, lack of privacy, strangers (the nurses are likely people you will not have met prior to your birth. Your particular doctor or midwife may not be the one to attend the birth)
      • Institutional feel.
      • Understaffed.
      • Higher risk of infection.
      • Have to pack and travel to birth place
  • Birth Center
    • Pros –
      • Less infection risk than hospital.
      • Midwifery Care Model
      • More home like than hospital
      • Most problems that arise can be dealt with on location.
      • Baby is never separated from the mother
      • Continuous support
    • Cons –
      • Have to pack and travel to birth place
      • Higher transfer rate than home birth.
      • Fewer pain medication options available
  • Home
    • Pros –
      • Your own space/Familiarity
      • Midwifery Care Model
      • Low-risk treatments used to resolve issues that may arise.
      • One-on-one care with your chosen birth attendant (although this isn’t always the case now. There are some homebirth midwives in the area that have a “practice” much like doctors)
      • Individualized care.
      • Continuous support
    • Cons –
      • Arrange for someone to take care of mom’s needs, the home, and other children.
      • No pain medications available
      • May need to transfer if difficulties arise.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Henna – Temporary Decorative Body Art

hand henna

The art of henna (called mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced for over  5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. There is some documentation that it is over 9000 years old.  Because henna has natural cooling properties, people of the desert, for centuries, have been using henna to cool down their bodies.

What is henna?

hand henna

Henna is a flowering plant and the only species of the Lawsonia Inermis. It can grow up to 12 feet high. It is found in warm climates such as Egypt, Pakistan, India, Africa, Morocco, and Australia. It grows best at temperatures up to 120 degrees and has the richest color when grown at high temperatures. The henna plant contains lawsone which is a reddish-orange dye that binds to the keratin (a protein) in our skin and safely stains the skin.  The stain can be from pale orange to nearly black depending on the quality of the henna and how well a person’s skin takes it. For body decorations, the leaves of the henna plant are dried, crushed into a fine powder, and made into a creamy paste using a variety of techniques.  This paste is then applied to the skin, staining the top layer of skin only.  In its natural state it will dye the skin an orange or brown color.  Although it looks dark green (or dark brown depending on the henna) when applied, this green paste will flake off revealing an orange stain.  The stain becomes a reddish-brown color after 1-3 days of application. The palms and the soles of the feet stain the darkest because the skin is the thickest in these areas and contain the most keratin.  The farther away from hands and feet the henna is applied, the lesser the color.  The face area usually stains the lightest.   The designs generally last from 1-4 weeks on the skin surface depending on the henna, care and skin type.

Why During Pregnancy?

pregnant belly hennaIn ancient times, the purpose of tattoos was for protection. In some cultures today this function still remains. A tattoo created with henna, called mehndi, was used for protection during pregnancy and birth. The net-like pattern of the mehndi expands across the stomach protectively, different symbols were sometimes used for extra protection.

prenatal henna

Some mehndi extended onto the thighs for protection during childbirth. The purpose was to keep children healthy in the womb and protect both mother and child during pregnancy and childbirth.
Henna was regarded as having Barakah or “blessings”.  Many countries including Morocco and India have traditions of applying henna during the third trimester of pregnancy.Belly Henna Design

I am currently offering prenatal henna design and other henna related services. Visit my Services page for more information.

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Birth Photography – Capturing the Precious Journey


After having an amazing experience with the birth of my second girl, my love for all things birth grew substantially. I knew I wanted to be more involved in my birth community and it didn’t take long before I added this genre of photography to my portfolio. I remember the first birth I ever photographed and the high that remained in the weeks that followed. It was amazing! What an honor it is to me to be invited to witness, rejoice, and document one of the most wonderful things of life.


With birth photography gaining more recent attention, more and more couples are choosing to hire a professional birth photographer. But even with it’s growing popularity, there are still a great number of people who think that having your birth photographed is “gross”, “ugly” and “distasteful”. My goal for this article is to open your mind to the beauty of birth and show you some beautiful images as well.


Birth photography documents your experience from start to finish. It is your personal story that captures your labor, your partner’s/doulas support, the emotions, the moment you meet your baby for the first time, and so much more. The woman is a true goddess as she finds her inner strength to birth her baby. She is beautiful!


Someone who is not very familiar with birth photography may wonder why anyone would want such graphic images. But the truth is, unless a client requests a “graphic” image, everything is done very tastefully. A professional photographer will know exactly what to do with their camera to blur certain parts of a scene to ensure a mom’s modesty. Most moms are concerned about this anyway, and it’s something I discuss with them before the birth.


One reason some couples choose not to hire a photographer is because of the intimacy of such an experience and they prefer to keep it just between the two of them. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, your birth will most likely not be a two people only event. You have nurses, a doctor, and other medical staff going in and out of your room. This is where I believe who you hire to be your photographer matters greatly. Because of my small doula background and knowledge, and my own birth experiences, I have a high respect for the process of birth.


Your photographer should meet with you and get to know you, as well as keep in touch throughout your last few weeks of pregnancy. This helps to not feel like there is a stranger in the room. All that being said, my job is to be a fly on the wall. Never am I right up in a moms face invading her concentration. Just like with your doctor, you will build a relationship with your photographer also. If there is anything that you are concerned about, talk to her!


Another big reason they may forgo a photographer is because they think their partner can take the pictures. The partner is just as much a part of the birth as the mom and shouldn’t have to be held responsible for capturing some big moments. I learned that the hard way when I realized the photos my husband took made it look like he wasn’t even there! Some of the sweetest moments I capture are those of a partner caressing his sweet wife’s face, holding her hand, and focusing on each other. These are not pictures you’ll be able to treasure and remember if hubby is in charge of the camera. Leave it up to your photographer to include your partner in this experience and document how you welcomed your little bundle together!


There are so many beautiful pieces that make up a birth story; how you paced the hospital halls, how your partner rubbed your back and held your hand through every contraction, the encouraging words your doula said to you, yours and his first reaction, the tiny details of baby…it’s all beautiful! Your baby will only have one BIRTHday, and just like your wedding day, it is an event to be captured and remembered forever too.


Valery Bunnell is a photographer in Salt Lake City, Utah specializing in maternity, birth, and newborn photography. She attends births in hospitals, birth centers, and homes. To see more of her work, visit her website www.valerybunnell.com or Facebook page.

Check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YourChoiceBirth later today for a giveaway from Valery Bunnell Photography!

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Exploring Your Options Series – Part 4

questions to ask a potential care provider

After you’ve setup interviews with doctors and/or midwives, you’re going to need some questions to ask them. For this post I want to talk about how to conduct an interview.

Hence Goer, author of Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birthsuggest asking questions in a way that does not give away your opinion. If they know what your opinion is, they may tailor their response to your opinion instead of what their actual answer is. It is important to ask open-ended questions. Begin a question with “When do you usually recommend….?” Using the vision of your birth experience as a guide, ask questions about key elements of your birth vision. If you want to push in different positions than the traditional-hospital-position of laying on your back with legs in stirrups, ask your potential care provider about this. You could ask “What is your opinion of pushing in upright positions?” or “What is your approach to the pushing stage of labor?”

When the care provider answers the question vaguely, such as “I only do that when it is necessary”, follow up with more questions. If the answer they give is “I only do that when it is necessary”, ask “In what situation would it be necessary?” or “How often do you find it necessary?” If it is important to you not to have an episiotomy (when the care provider cuts your perineum), and the care provider says they find it necessary in every first time mom and about 80% of the rest of moms, then this is probably not the best care provider for the birth experience you want.

Is the care provider answering with feelings instead of facts? These types of answers can be very misleading. At first it seems like they care about your experience, when really they are trying to appeal to your emotion rather than using evidence based practices. If they answer with a feeling based answer, follow up with questions to get them to state specifics. In the situation of episiotomies, would you rather hear “Would you rather have a clean cut than a jagged tear?” or “I do them very rarely. It’s been about 3 years since the last time I did one. They are routinely done as part of a forceps delivery”.

Does the potential care provider seem comfortable with you asking them questions? If they seems irritated or impatient with your questions, they may not be the best care provider for you. If they are not comfortable with your interview questions, how would they react if you had a “dumb” question to ask. Think to yourself, “would I feel comfortable asking them a ‘dumb’ question?” There are times during pregnancy or birth that something doesn’t feel right or you unsure about what is going on with your body and you should feel comfortable talking to your care provider about these things without feeling stupid about it.

Here are specific questions to ask a potential care provider:

  • Are you board certified (physicians only)?
  •  Under what circumstances would you transfer my care to an obstetrician (midwives and family physicians only)?
  • Do the midwives attend births? (if you are interviewing at a practice that has both midwives and OBs)
  • What is the likelihood that you will attend my birth?
  • What are your dietary recommendations? How much weight should I gain?
  • What is your policy on ultrasounds?
  • Under what circumstances do you recommend inducing labor?
  • How do you handle slowly progressing labors?
  • What are your policies regarding monitoring the baby’s heart rate in labor, IVs, drinking or eating in labor, breaking the bag of waters (amniotomy), epidurals, episiotomies?
  • What are your reasons to do a cesarean? How often do you find it necessary? How do you try to avoid the need for cesarean?

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Henci Goer, p. 195-196


Henci Goers book has a lot of information about evidence based practices and I would recommend getting your hands on a copy. It may help you define your birth vision. In the particular section referenced about she also has “Red Flag Responses”. Great read!

Here are some links to help with questions to ask a potential care provider: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/pregnancy-childbirth/first-month/interviewing-midwife 

Read the previous posts in this series here: PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | Part 5

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Exploring Your Options Series – Part 3

In my last post I talked about choosing a care provider being an important decision in your childbirth experience. In that article I mentioned interviewing several care providers. Today I would like to talk more about interviewing a care provider.care providers

The first step to choosing a care provider is to become clear about what type of birth you want. Think about the experience you want to have. What does the end result look like? How do you want to feel about your experience? Become really clear about what is important to you and your partner as you begin this life changing event. If you decide you want a medicated birth in a hospital, you can eliminate home birth midwives from your list of care providers to interview.

The next step to choosing a care provider is to find some care providers to research and interview. This can be accomplished in several ways; receive recommendations from friends and acquaintances, ask for recommendations on social media, ask your current care provider for referrals and recommendations, you can search the internet. When asking friends and acquaintances for recommendations on a care provider make sure to ask them about their childbirth experience. You will know their care provider would make a good match for you, if their childbirth experience is similar to the one you hope for. If they had a wonderful medicated birth in the hospital and you would like to have an unmedicated birth without medical interventions, their care provider may not be the right one for you. Ask them how their care provider made them feel. I have heard several women talk about their care providers who say they were really nice, but they didn’t feel like their questions were important or the care provider didn’t spend much time with them. These points are important to know when receiving recommendations from friends and acquaintances. Searching online for a care provider can be very helpful. Several sites online have a rating and feedback system. You can read about other’s experiences with a particular care provider and see their overall rating. This can help you narrow down your list of care providers to interview. Keep in mind when hearing or reading feedback about care providers that birth is an emotionally charged event which creates strong feelings (positive and negative) toward those involved. Many times when things do not go how the birthing family had planned the care provider is seen as responsible and the negative emotion is directed solely toward the care provider. It also happens in reverse, when a birthing family has a positive experience, the positive emotion can become directed at the care provider. This is why many women have strong positive emotions toward their care provider and you may hear many say “I LOVE my OB” or “I LOVE my midwife”. Make sure to ask them why! What did they do to earn such a strong emotion?

The next step to choosing a care provider is to compile a list of care providers to interview. After you have become clear on the childbirth experience you want to have and have asked for recommendations, you are ready to compile a list, narrow it down and setup interviews. Take the recommendations you have received and use the information you gathered to determine which care providers can help you accomplish the type of childbirth experience you want to have. Make a list of these care providers. I suggest having at least 3 different care providers (as well as different types) and not more than 5. If a natural birth in a hospital is part of your ideal childbirth experience, I would suggest speaking with at least one licensed home birth midwife. You may find you can have the best of both worlds with a greater chance of having the childbirth experience you want. Make sure to ask questions about the safety of home birth and what she does in the case of certain emergencies (get specific!).

The next step to choosing a care provider is to setup and conduct interviews. Some women wonder why in the world you would interview a care provider. For most it doesn’t make sense, because it is rarely done. We usually just go to whomever is covered by insurance or whoever our mom or best friend go to. However, the care provider that attends your birth is a very important element to the type of experience you will have. If you want to have a natural birth with few medical interventions in a hospital and the OBGYN you choose is not supportive of natural birth your likelihood of having the experience you want is very low. If you want to reduce the risks of having a cesarean section and your OBGYN has a high c-section rate, your risk of cesarean is increased just by the care provider you chose. Choose carefully! Take your time! And if the one you choose isn’t supportive of the experience you want to have, fire them! Go to a new care provider who is supportive. I have known women you have fired their care provider during labor. They work for you!

The final step is to conduct interviews. Call the care provider’s office and setup a “consult” appointment. Tell the receptionist you would like to discuss different birth options with the care provider. This will help them know how much time to give you for the appointment. On my next post I will discuss how to interview a care provider.

Read the previous posts in this series here: PART 1  PART 2

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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I Am On A Mission…

I am on a mission to provide priceless information and support to empower birthing women to have a confident, respected, and intimate childbirth experience. – Marcie HunterI am on a mission

please do not copy or remove watermark. If you would like to share or post, please link back to my site.

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