Breech babies

You’ve just started your third trimester.  The last ultrasound showed that your baby was breech.  You expect it to flip any time now, but weeks pass by and your baby stubbornly remains head up.  Perhaps your OB or midwife suggests the Spinning Babies website. You do the exercises and hope that the movements you’re feeling involve a flip, and then, suddenly, it’s week 36.   Your baby is still upright, and the OB/midwife tells you that if the baby doesn’t flip soon, you’ll need to schedule a C-section.  Maybe you’re planning on having one already, but if not, the news could come as a bit of a shock.

The standard medical procedure for breech babies performed by your OB/midwife is an external cephalic version.  The OB/midwife manually encourage the baby to flip, with fetal monitoring to make sure that nothing goes wrong.  This is usually scheduled during weeks 36-38.  But perhaps you’re not content to just schedule a version.  You’re scared and stressed that you may have to have a c-section before you’ve had a chance to labor, and you want to see what’s out there.

I’m an acupuncturist, so of course I’m going to mention acupuncture.  In addition to using moxabustion (the burning of mugwort on or over an acupuncture point) over UB 67, the point classically indicated for breech babies, acupuncture can help relax the muscles and sinews, giving your baby more room to move.  Sometimes this is enough to flip the baby.  Other times, it’s not.

Prenatal massage can also help, relaxing you and your muscles.  I practice out of Aditi Studios, which has some wonderfully qualified massage therapists who specialize in prenatal massage.  This and acupuncture work well in tandem with the next thing on the list:

The Webster technique is a chiropractic technique that can also be tried.  Since I’m not a chiropractor, I can’t tell you exactly what’s involved, but from my own personal experience with it (this scenario is one I went through myself), it seems to address pelvic alignment, and it can be magical.  Only specially trained chiropractors do this, so make sure to call the chiropractors in your area to check in to see which ones know how.   I went to Dr. Gita Vasudeva at Health Excellence Chiropractic here in Seattle, and she was great.

There are a handful of other techniques you can try at home as well.  Ice near the baby’s head in an attempt to freeze them into moving can be helpful, but remember to warm yourself after.  Putting a speaker or headphones playing soft, relaxing music toward the bottom of your belly might lure the baby’s head down, trying to get closer to the source of the pretty sounds.  And being on your hands and knees as much as possible.  Is your floor kinda gross?  Might as well clean it now!  I’ve also heard stories of mamas on the eve of their scheduled c-section or during labor having a word with their babies, and the babies flipping then, but that’s pressing things a little close to the wire!

Remember though, even if your baby doesn’t flip and you have a c-section, the most important thing is a healthy baby and a healthy mama.  Labor and childbirth is unpredictable, and in the end, we have to surrender control to the process of our body as it figures out how to deliver our baby.  It never hurts to look into these things and most definitely advocate for yourself, but it’s ok if things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.  As long as you and your little one find each other in the end and are able to go home together, you’ve done good, Mama.

 

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Self-care


How often do you take a moment to check in with yourself?  Has it been a while?  

If it has, do that now.  When was the last time you took a day to do something that you entirely enjoy?  I’m not talking about an hour here or there, I’m talking about sleeping til whenever it is you want to sleep to, getting up, dawdling your morning routine out however long you like, and taking all those hours between then and when you go to bed activities that feel good to your soul.  

Some of us are lucky, and have had plenty of those days.  For us, maybe self care means taking care of stuff we don’t really want to but feels good when it’s done, like cleaning up, going to the bank, paying bills, what have you.  

Some of us aren’t so lucky, and feel overwhelmed by the endless need to make money and do the day to day chores that eat up all our time.  When this happens, it’s so easy to feel put upon, like life itself has an agenda to create a cloak of permanent stress that becomes quickly exhausting, eating up any extra energy you may have had.  

If this is you, make plans.  Set a date, far enough away from any deadlines so there’s nothing hanging over your. Mark your calendar, and inform your friends, partner, family.  This is your day.  When that day comes, obey Nike’s advertising slogan and just do it.  Maybe you can take more than a day.   Great, do that too.  Stretch this time however long you feel comfortable with and buy tickets, make non-refundable deposits, and commit yourself fully to it so that when the time comes, you can’t pull out because really, you don’t have the time to do this for yourself…nope.  You need this, you deserve this.  Surfdom has been outlawed for centuries, yet we shackle ourselves to our workaday routine as if our jobs were cruel Russian landowners who despised our happiness.  
Ok.  That was step one.  I didn’t tell you that this was a multi-step process, did I?  Ha ha!  Tricked you! 

Step two is to make some time with someone you love and talk with them.  Have a heart to heart.  Maybe this is your partner, or your best friend, maybe even your mother or father.  Get into it.  Talk about the good things, communicate how you’re feeling about the bad.  Let the love flow and, carefully, lovingly, own the frustrations you’re having as well as the joys.  Do something enjoyable together, even if it’s just having a cup of tea, or a walk down a well-trodden path.  Life is a loop-de-loop of happiness and pain, and bonding with our loved ones over what we’re seeing, thinking, feeling about it all makes the good times all the richer and lessens the burden of the bad.  


After all this, check in with yourself again.  How do you feel now?  And if all of this is asking too much for this time in your life, pay attention to what makes you feel calm, clear, and grounded, incorporating as many of these things into your day as much as possible.  These precious moments can provide the fortitude we need to make it through the storm, whenever it comes.  

It’s all in your head

I was listening to an older, more experienced acupuncturist talk to a group of students the other day.  He was talking about a patient who was rather obsessed with their illness, and who was causing himself more problems by being so.  This practitioner went on to say that most of our problems come about from our minds, 90-99%.  When I hear something like that pronounced with certainty, I have to bite my tongue.  I was raised with that ethos, and while it might be helpful to some, I don’t find it useful.


Where do you go where you are just a mind?  When do you leave your body behind as your mind leaps around on some ethereal, completely mental playground?  What has happened to you when you’re just a body, inert with no mental function?  One always tags along with the other, sometimes unwanted, like a younger sibling trailing behind their idolized older sister.  There’s nothing we can do about it, Mom told us to watch after them, however annoying they can be.  With this necessary and unavoidable entwining, why do we insist on a disorder being solely of the mind, or residing only in the body?  Stress, anxiety and depression can cause illness just as chronic pain or sickness can make one become depressed, stressed, or anxious.  

When we’re experiencing a symptom in our body or mind, we’re feeling it.  Be it real or imagined, it’s there.  If a person is making up an illness, there is something going on with that person that isn’t right and that needs attention.  They don’t need to be dismissed or told they’re not feeling what they’re feeling.  “It’s all in your head,” is neither sympathetic or empathetic, and it sure isn’t a treatment for a person who’s equilibrium is off in some intangible way that they are trying to communicate.  People deserve to be listened to without being questioned if what they’re saying isn’t really true.  I’m not talking about letting someone lead you down the garden path, but about allowing for someone else’s truth to be the truth, especially in how it impacts the health of their body and mind.  


As an acupuncturist, I have a unique opportunity to spend time with patients and to treat both the physical and the mental aspect of each complaint.  Every meridian in the Chinese system has it’s own association of both bodily and emotional symptoms, and this style of medicine allows for the two to be deeply enmeshed.  Though these two aspects of us, body and mind, can sometimes seem at odds and disconnected from each other, they depend on each other for their health and wellness.  We’re an extraordinarily complex animal, and there still exist uncharted continents of medicine where our current understanding doens’t suffice.  It doesn’t do us justice to relegate symptoms or pathology into one or the other of mind and body.  We should embrace this intricacy of our selves, and as a practitioner of a holistic medicine, I strive to honor it in each individual I have the opportunity to treat.  

Precious sleep

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I was listening to someone talk about their sleep issues yesterday.  They were speaking about the aches and pains they experienced at night, about how their sleep was shallow and frequently disturbed, and how they went to bed rather later than they should.  Since I wasn’t their practitioner, I only had once question, poised to satisfy my curiosity: did they have a screen in their bedroom?  Yes, she replied, they usually watch TV before bed, and that’s why she goes to sleep so late.

For people with chronic sleep issues, it can be hard to uproot old habits.  Still, what is known as “sleep hygiene” is scientifically proven to help improve sleep.  The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has published this list of simple things you can do to improve your sleep.   This includes, among many things, removing screens from the bedroom and taking the time to wind down with quiet activities before you go to your bed, making sure you’re fully tired and ready for sleep.

I’m well aware, however, that what seem like easy changes can incredibly difficult to implement.  We’re creatures of habit, even if those habits are maladaptive.  Sometimes, before we implement any change, we have to just think about it, ponder what it might mean for our lifestyle, see how it sits with us, and feel comfortable with it on our own terms.  It can feel invasive when someone else tells you how to live your life, and as a healthcare practitioner, I often need to remember this and step back, respecting that everyone has their own way of doing things.

Sleep hygiene is a good way to set up your pre-bedtime routine, but what about those of us who wake up in the middle of the night and find themselves unable to fall back asleep?   Insomnia, meet the audiobook.  Audiobooks can be a great way to help lull the reluctant sleeper back into slumber.  However, there’s a catch.  The book must be a familiar one, something you’ve read or listened to before, and that won’t engross you.  I used to watch “Spirited Away” every night before bed.  Yes, I was disobeying my own rules about screens, but eventually I stopped watching it and just started telling myself the story of the movie, and this helped my brain switch off from thinking.  Audiobooks are a way of doing the same thing.  You’re able to keep the room dark and quiet, not switching on the light and opening a book, which can serve to wake you up further.  Find a comforting and familiar story, like the first book of Harry Potter, Huckleberry Finn, and the like, or something slightly meandering like Moby Dick, and listen to it.  When you find yourself drifting off, turn it off and often times you’ll drift off.  If not, put back on the headphones and listen a little longer.

Sleep is one of the most important things we need to stay healthy.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, one of the best things you can do for yourself is spend some time figuring out something that works for you.  It can be tricky, and take some time, but it’s worth it.  If you need someone to help you troubleshoot it, make an appointment with a sleep specialist or a healthcare provider that you think might have some insight and won’t immediately reach for the Ambien.  Sleep medications are fine short-term solutions, but many lead to dependance.  When habit and routine are so much a part of a good nights sleep, sleep meds can easily become part of that routine, and weaning off of them is painful, sometimes near impossible.

Whatever you do before bed, I wish you a calm mind and tired body.  Sweet dreams.

Shine on, sister

I’m not normally a super happy happy type of person.  I prefer sticking to the facts, of planning for the worst while hoping for the best, and greeting new achievements by pondering what I need to do next.  You won’t find inspirational quotes on my walls, and I often forget that it’s nice to have a personal affirmation on hand for difficult moments.  But at this moment, I just want to say that you’re awesome.

Yes, you.  Sitting there looking at this screen right now.  I appreciate you.  The work you do for your job, the chores you do at home, the love you have for your family and friends, the ways you bring light to the world and people around you with your own particular personality and character.  Yeah, you’re pretty cool.

You might be saying: you don’t mean this.  I mean, we’re not talking in person, and you don’t know what I did today.  Maybe I sat on my butt all day long watching you tube videos of people hurting themselves and leaving nasty anonymous comments online.  Well, if that was your day, good for you.  The id is an important part of our psyche, and you’re channeling it for the rest of us.

But, chances are, you’re out there in the world doing the thing you do most weekdays and having whatever kind of day you’re having right.  If you’re day is kinda crappy, I’m sorry.  That sucks.  Period.  Do something nice for yourself.  Order in dinner, watch a movie, go get a drink with someone you like, take some time to do something creative if that’s your bag.  The dishes can wait, and whatever else you need to do can be done tomorrow.  You’re still a rock star, even if the band is Poison.  They were pretty killer if you think about it.

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I mean, look at that hair!  The neutral but shiny colored lipstick!  If you can strut your stuff looking like that, you’re amazing.

But seriously.

Everyone, absolutely everyone, deserves some unconditional positive regard in their lives.  Everyone, absolutely everyone, deserves compassion and loving kindness.  Even those dudes.  And if you need a fix of that right now, I’ve got your back.

Shine on, sisters and brothers, shine on.