"Parents are like shuttles on a loom. They join the threads of the past with threads of the future and leave their own bright patterns as they go."
-Fred Rogers

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Surrogacy Story

During my most recent HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Childbirth Education series at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, IL, I had one expectant mom with a very unique, and in my opinion, super cool situation. This mom already had  four children of her own, and she was getting ready to birth twins for another family.

She was a surrogate.
How awesome.

I've dreamt of being a surrogate for a family who couldn't carry a baby or babies to term. I doubt I'll ever have the ability to make that dream a reality, so having this mom in my Hypno class was nothing short of amazing.

**As a side note...this mom birthed all of her biological children with medication, so this would be her first "natural birth" experience.

A few weeks ago I received this email, and my heart nearly exploded. I hope you enjoy reading this birth story as much as I did!

I wanted to share with you my birth story! Feel free to share it on Gentle Beginning Facebook Page or your website/blog.

On July 8 I was 35w4d along with surrogate boy/girl twins when we went in for a non-stress test and a weekly check up. As I was being swabbed for the group b strep, he decided to check for dilation since I had some minor contractions the day before. He was surprised to find I was already 6 cm and 100% effaced. He suggested we arrive at the hospital soon so things could happen under a controlled setting. My labors always went quick, and being my 5th pregnancy, we were sure this wouldn't be different.

In a few short hours, around 2 o'clock, Mom, Dad, and I all arrived at the hospital. I was hooked up to monitors and an IV since I forgot to eat before showing up and my sugar was low. All was good, but an ultrasound showed Baby B was breech and I was starting to worry we'd have to go through trying to flip him after his sister came out, or possibly end up with a c-section.

Within a few hours my contractions were beginning to become regular, but not a single one was more than uncomfortable! I was shocked at how easily I could breathe through them. By 8 pm my dr. arrived and checked me and broke my water. I was 8 cm. Even then the contractions weren't bad at all. By 8:40 I was wheeled into the OR for delivery. We were all so excited to meet these babies!

When we got into the OR, there were about 16 people in there. They all treated me like a superstar, having not received an epidural! The anesthesiologist explained to me that if they needed to do a section, I would be put under rather quickly and the parents would be rushed out. I was ok with that, but my dr. was willing to do a breech extraction on Baby B, which I was actually happy to hear. Anything but a c-section!

Well, with about 15 minutes of contractions in the OR and 3 pushes later, Baby A was born at 8:56 pm. Leyla Lesley was 5 lbs. 11 oz. and 18 3/4 in. long. After a quick ultrasound, it was confirmed that Baby B was head down. I was so happy!! However, he hung out high up in my ribs for so long, so it took quite a while for him to find his way down. Lots of intense pushing later, Baby B was born at 9:36. Aidan Henry was 5 lbs. 12 oz. and 18 3/4 in. long. It was amazing they were virtually the same exact sizes!

Ok, so these aren't really the twins, but aren't these two adorable??

I am so grateful for having taken your HypnoBirthing class. I listened to the relaxation music throughout the pregnancy, and I believe that really helped me. I was so relaxed in the labor room that I didn't even need to listen to the music. I recited it in my head when I needed to, and I felt so at ease. As for when I needed to push, I focused on breathing down like you had taught us and listening to my body. I trusted everything that was happening was for the health of me and those babies.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and having faith I could birth these babies un-medicated. Between that and the surrogacy experience, I am not sure which to be prouder of! But I do feel so empowered with myself now!

The twins are completely healthy and the parents are so happy! Thank you for being a part of their lives!

How. Awesome. Was. That???!!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Athletics and Children

Those of you who know me "in real life", know that I come from a very big sports family. My brother played football, baseball, and basketball since he was about 6 years old, and my sister and I participated in cheerleading and softball from a young age. But it's become more and more apparent that injuries and long term issues for children in sports are a real concern. I hope this guest blogger can help you gain some insight on how to minimize injuries for your little sports nuts.

NFL is Changing: How Youth Athletes are Learning About Injuries

Participating in physical sports is a great way for children not only to stay fit and healthy but also a way for them to have a fun time with their friends.  Along with health benefits, sports also teach children many valuable life lessons and traits, such as leadership and teamwork and also overcoming adversity and defeat.  Even with all these positive attributes that come with participating in contact sports, there are many dangers and risks that may present themselves if not played properly.  All sports can cause injury, but contact sports such as lacrosse, football and wrestling pose a higher threat of injury.  As a parent I want to ensure that my children along with others who are participating in sports are fully protected and safe at all times. 

An organization that has really began to present itself as a leader in trying to improve player safety in sports is the NFL.  Over the past few years the NFL has been making many rule changes in order to help make the game safer for all of the leagues athletes.  A major rule change has been implemented in order to further protect defenseless players.  Defenseless players are referred to those who are in a defenseless posture and do not have the ability to protect themselves from a hit.   An example of a defense player would be a quarterback in the motion of throwing, a receiver making a catch or a kicker attempting a field goal.  The rule allows for the player in the act to regain their balance and control before being hit.  Other rules that have recently been put into place prohibit players from using their helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder to hit an opponent.  These rules amongst many others have been put in place to help make the game of football more safe for everyone involved. 

Along with these rule changes, the NFL has formed a new campaign called NFL Evolution.  This campaign was formed to spread awareness and educate parents and young athletes on the dangers that come with playing sports and ways to be proactive in preventing sports injuries.  As a parent I am very pleased to see the proper steps being taken in trying to make sports safer for athletes at all levels. 

Some injuries that are very common in contact sports are concussions, torn ligaments and heat related injuries.  Below is some information regarding these injuries and ways in which they can be prevented. 

Head Injuries

When speaking of head injuries, concussions are usually the first that come to mind.  These are often minor traumatic injuries to the brain that cause headaches, confusion, nausea and even memory and hearing loss. The NFL Players Association has teamed up with EarQ, a hearing aid provider not only to help former football players with hearing loss but also to inform parents and younger athletes on the dangers of head injuries and their direct connection to hearing loss.  Here are some ways to prevent concussions in athletes:

- Wear protective headgear when playing contact sports like hockey, lacrosse, football and other big hit sports.

- Helmets need to fit the athlete so that they don't fall off or easily knock off from a hit.

- Coaches and parents need to help children learn how to tackle and take hits with the correct parts of their bodies. For instances, tacklers should never lead with their head first.

- Never wait to get a check up with a doctor if you suspect a head injury.

- No athlete should return to the field unless they feel 100 percent ready to go. Going on the field with a head injury can lead to even more serious problems. 

Torn Ligaments
Knee injuries are another issue athletes face in participating in contact sports. Most knee problems involve the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament which keeps the knee working properly and held together. Without this essential ligament, it's hard to walk, run, jump and essentially do a lot of movement. With minor ACL injuries, you can still play, but it's not advised. Frequently players make the problem worse by trying to play with a torn ACL or trying to return back to competition before the ACL heals. Here are ways to make sure your body is in top shape in order to help prevent ligament tears in the knee:

- Do training drills that focus on agility, leg power and balance.

- Build up muscles in the legs to lessen the chance of an ACL injury.

- Warm up before training or games to loosen your muscles. In addition, stretch after a big work out or game to alleviate tightness and sore muscles.

- If anything feels wrong with your knees, see a physician right away and get checked out. Don't wait for the problem to worsen. 

Injuries of the Elements
It's not just getting hit hard that can hurt your body. Many contact sports are played outside on fields during warmer months. Training camps are also traditionally held during the summer months. It's important that when things warm up that athletes stay hydrated and never stay out in the direct sunlight during high heat periods of the day. Heat stroke and dehydration are two serious injuries that players can suddenly experience in warmer months with little warning beforehand. Pay attention to how your body feels in the heat and make sure to stay in the shade when possible and drink as much water as you can.

Contact sports are a lot of fun for kids. It teaches them to push themselves and also work together with other kids. For many youth athletes, it's the start of a career and passion at a young age. In following some of the tips mentioned above, parents can ensure a safer experience for their children while playing sports.


Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman, sports enthusiast and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Check out my new blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

HypnoBirthing Schedule for Spring 2013

I will be offering HypnoBirthing, The Mongan Method, on the following dates and in the following locations in April/May 2013:

** HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Series **
Location: Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, IL
Day and Time: Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Class dates: 4/20, 4/27, 5/4, 5/11 and 5/25
Cost: $350
To register or if you have questions please e-mail Tricia Fitzgerald at gentlebeginning@gmail.com 

**HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Series **
Location: Elmhurst Yoga Shala in Elmhurst, IL
Day and Time: Sundays from noon-2:30 (3) p.m.
Class dates: 4/7, 4/14, 4/21, 5/5, and 5/12
Cost: $350
If you have questions please e-mail Tricia Fitzgerald at gentlebeginning@gmail.com
To register please visit Elmhurst Yoga Shala

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Story of Hope and Love

I am honored to have the opportunity to share this birth story with you. Mirabel's mom is a courageous survivor and I am in awe of her grace and strength.
I recently gave birth to a beautiful, nine-pound baby girl. Her birth took about 8 hours, start to finish, and I have absolutely NO REGRETS. My daughter’s name is Mirabel, meaning “wondrous”. My pregnancy and her birthing have been nothing short of that. My HypnoBirthing instructor, Tricia Fitzgerald, my midwife, and my doula have everything do with the tremendous feelings of joy and gratitude I have when I think of my birthing experience.

I struggled with the decision to get pregnant for years and didn’t even try to get pregnant until I was nearly forty. Because of abuse I experienced growing up I have difficulty with gynecological exams as well as physical intimacy. I had already adopted one child thinking my fears to parent, be pregnant, and give birth were far too great to ever have a biological child. By the grace of the universe I got pregnant immediately after putting my baby making fate in the hands of the universe (and going off of birth control).

My midwife, who usually encourages her patients to pursue natural childbirth, suggested I consider an epidural given my history. My immediate response was, “No way, I will be having a c-section.” I planned to have a c-section for the first four months of my pregnancy. I talked with my therapist and she agreed it made sense given my background. Despite the support of my midwife, my therapist and my husband something did not feel right about my decision. It didn’t feel consistent with my beliefs about being the primary decision maker regarding what happens to my body and about giving my baby the most calm, peaceful and natural entry into the world.

Fortunately, I recalled my midwife mentioning HypnoBirthing classes as a way to learn tools for natural birthing. I started to read on-line and decided that the mindset and approach of HypnoBirthing perfectly aligned with my personal beliefs.

I reflected on what I believed were the key pieces of my preparation and have listed them below. Take what you like and leave the rest.

1.      I developed positive mental images and beliefs about my body and the birthing process. I did this by attending the HypnoBirthing class series, by watching as many HypnoBirthing birth videos as I could get my hands on, by listening to the HypnoBirthing mediation cd’s as often as possible, by completing any assigned HypnoBirthing reflections, by reading the HypoBirthing book, and by posting HypnoBirthing visuals such as the flower and optimal birthing position images. I bought into the HypnoBirthing approach and surrounded myself with positive birthing messages and images.

2.      I developed a strong bond with my body prior to her birth. This motivated me to persist through the most intense times of her birthing. I don’t believe I would have done this without HypnoBirthing.

3.      I hired a doula that was experienced, calm and maternal. I figured out what I needed from a doula and picked someone who fit this.

4.      I was honest with my doula, my midwife, and my birthing instructor about my history but requested that I be treated like any other patient.

5.      I asked for what I needed both before and during birthing. I gave myself permission to get an epidural or a c-section if that was what I needed. I trusted that if I was not able to give birth naturally it was ok and in the best interest of my baby. More than anything I wanted my baby to enter the world calmly and peacefully and I was not overly attached to the “type” of birth she had.

6.      I went to acupuncture every week. I selected an acupuncturist who was also a doula who had also given birth naturally.

I believe wholeheartedly that the preparation I did as a result of my HypnoBirthing class allowed me to give birth lovingly, calmly, and to some extent quickly. Giving birth was not easy. I was very scared and uncomfortable at times. I was not always calm and quiet. I was at peace with my decisions and I did feel very in control of the entire process. My baby was alert and healthy when she arrived. So was I. I am forever grateful to my birthing class, to Tricia and to other the other people who supported me in this process.

This story is another example of how we can often overcome our fears and have the births we desire. Congratulations to Mirabel's entire family.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Satya's Birth at Home

I'm excited to be sharing another home birth story. I hope you enjoy reading the birth story of Satya, as told from her mama's perspective.
I met Tricia online and was so ecstatic because, just having moved here from California, I had little support here in Illinois for my first pregnancy, especially with plans to take the homebirth route. My husband was fabulous, but we both had many questions about what to expect. Well, when we started our Hypnobirthing series with Tricia in January of 2012, we finally started getting answers from someone who had a wealth of knowledge and experience in both the hospital and home setting. By the time the series was over, all of our questions had been answered and we actually felt prepared for whatever was to come. Here’s my story:
My blood pressure began to rise at about 7 months into my pregnancy, which made us all very nervous and confused, since I had very healthy eating and exercise habits. At 41 1/2 weeks when my BP reached 140/90 I started experimenting with castor oil to augment labor so I could still have my baby at home. If my BP went up any more I’d have to be admitted to the hospital to be hooked up to monitors and IV, which was not my optimal birth plan. I started drinking castor oil by the ounce on Saturday and my surges increased but not enough to start labor. So I made an appointment with an Acupuncturist in Chicago. I don’t know if it was the session itself, or the black and blue cohosh tincture I started taking that helped the most, but this is when I consider my labor truly beginning. Now it was Monday evening and I pushed my baby out gently and beautifully in my own bed on Tues night, 30 hours later.


I give thanks for the techniques I learned in Hypnobirthing to help me get through that very long 30 hours. Using the breathing and meditational techniques from the Rainbow Relaxation CD, I was able to stay calm the ENTIRE time and after 2 hours of pushing (and a huge grunt from mama) out popped Satya Aida right at 12:00 am on 4/4/12. Her little fist was pressed next to her little cheek and was stuck behind my cervix, which was the probable cause of the long and painful pushing session. If it wasn’t for Tricia and Hypnobirthing I don’t know how I would have made it through!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

What Studies Say about Mirena Birth Control

I've recently been asked by countless women if I can point them toward sound research regarding IUD's. (Not so) coincidentally, I was contacted by a writer who recently wrote an article that discusses the research conducted with one form of IUD. I hope this guest blog piece is helpful for those of you searching for more facts about this relatively new birth control option for women.
What Studies Say about Mirena Birth Control
By: Alanna Ritchie

Making yourself aware of clinical trials and their results can help you determine whether a new birth control method is safe and effective. Many women are trying out intrauterine devices (IUDs), which are implanted in the uterus by a doctor and provide birth control for several years. You  can prepare yourself for your next doctor's visit by learning about one popular IUD , Mirena.

Studies Show Effectiveness

Two clinical trials with large population samples found that Mirena is quite effective in preventing pregnancy1. The trials were conducted by Berlex Laboratories, a subsidiary of Bayer, and took place in Finland and Sweden. From 1982 to 1996, researchers evaluated data from both trials, which included a total of 1,169 women of child-bearing age using Mirena. Of the test subjects, 99 percent did not get pregnant.

The same trials revealed that after the device was removed, 80 percent of women desiring children were able to get pregnant within a year of using Mirena.

For women who use Mirena while breastfeeding, Bayer reports that there are no adverse effects, although milk production may be affected2. Also, small amounts of the progestin hormone that Mirena releases can pass into breast milk, but this does not affect growth, health or development of nursing infants.

Studies Reveal Side Effects

One study documented a dangerous side effect known as device migration; this occurs when Mirena moves out of the uterus3. Although the manufacturer claims this does not happen often, a study by the Department of Radiology at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center noted that device migration was a "frequently encountered complication."

Once the device migrates, it can enter the pelvis, bladder, abdominal cavity or blood vessels, causing pain, infection and damage. This requires a physician to locate Mirena and perform surgery to remove the device.

Mirena's labeling information includes other side effects discovered during clinical trials4, including:

·         Bleeding or spotting between periods

·         Amenorrhea (missed periods)

·         Ovarian cysts

·         Abdominal or pelvic pain

·         Headache or migraine

·         Breast tenderness or pain

·         Vaginal discharge

·         Menorrhagia (heavier and prolonged period)

·         Depressed or altered mood

·         IUD expulsion

·         Ectopic pregnancy

IUD expulsion is experienced by around 5 percent of women who use Mirena and occurs when the device comes out on its own. When this happens, women may experience cramping, bleeding and discomfort during sex. Back-up birth control must be used until a new device is implanted.

Ectopic pregnancy is a rare, but possible side effect of Mirena that occurs when the egg is fertilized in the fallopian tubes or other locations outside of the uterus. The pregnancy usually cannot survive and can put a woman's life at risk. Complications can result in infertility.

Clinical trials reveal the effectiveness of and side effects associated with Mirena. Some of these studies were completed by the manufacturer, Bayer, who is facing lawsuits over Mirena’s serious side effects.


Food and Drug Administration. (2000, February 2). Mirena Executive Summary. Retrieved from www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2000/21-225.pdf_Mirena_Medr.pdf

Bayer. (2013, February 8). Important safety information about Mirena. Retrieved from http://www.mirena-us.com/having-mirena-placed/make-an-appointment-with-mirena.jsp

Boortz, H.; Margolis, D.; Ragavendra, N. & Katell, D. (2012, March). Migration of intrauterine devices: radiologic findings and implications for patient care. Radiographics, 32 (2): 335-52. doi: 10.1148/rg.322115068

Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. (2009, October). Mirena. Retrieved from http://labeling.bayerhealthcare.com/html/products/pi/Mirena_PI.pdf



Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Drugwatch.com, specializing in news about prescription drugs, medical devices and consumer safety.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Willa's Unexpected Birth Plan

I had the absolute honor and privilege to be present at Willa's birth in November. I've known Willa's parents since high school and more recently have become very good friends with them. When Beth and Mark asked me to support them during their baby's birth I was so excited, especially because it was set to be my first birth back from my maternity leave. I love this story, and the slide show at the end is an absolute must see. Have your tissues handy!!!

Willa's Birth
By: Willa's mommy

Tricia is a dear friend and was my doula for the birth of our second child. My first birth was very traumatic and changed everything about the way I viewed birth. It showed me that the way in which a woman is treated during her pregnancy and birth greatly impacts the birth she will experience. I was hell bent on having a peaceful, loving and gentle birth for this baby. For that reason, I chose a home birth provider, took a 5 week HypnoBirthing course (Tricia was on maternity leave so I took it with another awesome CBE) and hired Tricia as my doula. I was so happy that we were her first birth back from her own maternity leave. My pregnancy went along normally and Tricia was always there to answer any questions I had. We had just purchased our first home and I was soooo excited to bring this baby into a place that was so full of love. I listened to my HypnoBirthing tracks each night and by 30 weeks had all of our homebirth supplies ready. At 35 weeks something started to feel off. I started itching like crazy. Blood work confirmed my liver enzymes and bile salts where out of control. They sent me to the head of MFM at UIC and that day I felt my home birth slipping away. I was 36 weeks 5 days when I had the appointment and it was confirmed that I indeed had Cholestasis. This disorder is dangerous for the baby and the determination was made to induce the very next day. Needless to say, I was a mess. Tricia was such a comfort to me during this time. I can't even really put it into words. Of course I wanted what was best for my baby and she was instrumental in helping me understand that all of the work I had done could still result in a peaceful birth...even with induction. Honestly, I had a lot of fear tied to hospital birth (from my last birth experience) and she helped me through all of that....and this is before the birth even started. The night before my induction I had tons of self doubt...tons of fear. I cried laying with my son (knowing it was the last time we would be a family of three). I cried in mourning for the birth we had lost.

The next day we arrived at the hospital at 2 and got shown to our room. Everyone was very respectful. They knew I was aiming for a natural and peaceful birthing and assured me that they would be there to help me achieve it. We didn't really feel at ease until Tricia arrived. They had started pitocin ( I was 3 to 4 centimeters so other methods first seemed useless). Tricia in the beginning was there helping to clam my nerves, reminded me to rest when I could and was overall just being my good friend. At this point, I wasn't having any meaningful contractions. Induction takes a really long time and I was terrified that someone would tell me it wasn't working...that my body was broken. Tricia was always there to clam my nerves to suggest a walk or a rest (to shhh offer a snack). I remember, she had given me this huge water bottle before the birth (that I was going to use in my homebirth) and I brought it with me to the hospital. For some reason, that water bottle became a focal point for me. It was always with me. I LOVED that thing.

When things got really going I was in my own world. I remember her suggesting things that helped tremendously....walking the halls, swaying, dancing with my husband. She was a little voice in my ear helping me through and my trust in her buoyed me...it helped me trust myself and the wonderful work that my body was doing. Finally it was time for me to push and this is where I really remember Tricia being such a huge huge support. You see, I hated pushing...it's the one time during labor that terror crept in. I didn't think it was possible for me to get this baby out. During the whole labor process I had felt pressure and change and some discomfort but I could handle it. I took it one step at a time. THIS was different. I swore, I pushed. I decided I wanted to go home. I let my voice soar high instead of low....I. was. terrified. During this time (and I have no idea how long it lasted) I heard Tricia. I focused on what she said to me. She told me I WAS doing it. There was a roar of voices in that room but I only heard her and I thank heavens she was there. This was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life and she was telling me I was doing a beautiful job. When the baby was crowning and all I wanted was to get the baby out NOW....I heard her saying "Listen to Hillary, Listen to Hillary" who was guiding me to give little pushes so as not to tear. When my baby got stuck for a moment and the room went wild...all I heard was her in my ear saying "just push just push." And then the baby was out. My husband announced that we had a girl. She was perfect but needed to be checked out quickly because of the shoulder getting stuck.

This birth was a far cry from what I had planned but it was so so so beautiful, gentle and peaceful. I attribute a lot that to Tricia and the love and support she showed my husband and I. I would never in my life birth another baby without her.

You must watch this gorgeous slide show from Willa's birth!

Tricia and Willa
The beautiful Willa at 12 weeks