Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happy 4th Birthday Birth Boot Camp - A Personal Post

Hard to believe my baby is FOUR. I feel rather sentimental about it. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on this special day.

I wrote this blog for many years as a childbirth educator and I loved it. This was my baby. I am truly sad that I have let it go. It was never my intention. Nor was not teaching childbirth classes. Sometimes if we could see the evolution of something, we can look back and realize we might have done things a little differently, or even not at all. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have started Birth Boot Camp, but there are downsides that I didn't see coming. I honestly had no idea I was getting a more-than-full-time job! Ignorance is sometime blissful, not to mention necessary!

Ironically, I keep a list of blog topics in my phone - last count was 13 - that I'd like to write about, but I just haven't gotten over to it. I have made a decision to write once a month though. If you've read my blog, ever, you know I don't do it for SEO or to make money. This is just a simple place for me to share my thoughts, no matter how unpopular they may be! So be on the lookout once a month. I'm going to do this!

Back to Birth Boot Camp ... Just to refresh your memory, I had all my childbirth classes on DVDs and was shipping them all over the world. It was crazy! I was like Blockbuster burning DVDs and renting them out! I told my good friend, Ceci Massa, that I wanted them to just be on the internet. She said she could help me with that. I started writing curriculum and shared it with another good friend, Hannah Reasoner, and she declared she'd like to teach it! Oh my. This took things a different direction, for sure.

I knew I couldn't do this by myself. I pulled in several people, including my good friend, Sarah Clark (you might know her as Mama Birth) but I'd known her long before either of us were childbirth educators. It was the best move I made in this endeavor! She's a machine! And I love her dearly.

We held a Launch Party from my house in Mansfield, TX, showing off the materials and online classes. It was quite a day! I remember feeling so proud and excited, but also anxious. We had our internet launch on Monday, March 26, and almost immediately online class registrations started rolling in. I knew we were on to something big!

Some highlights you might enjoy -

We've trained nearly 200 instructors from about 40 states. It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know all these women from all different backgrounds. I am honored and humbled to work alongside them.

We launched a doula program in November 2014. As you all know, I am not a doula, so I had to rope in some talented ladies, Amanda Devereux and Maria Pokluda, to write the program. It's absolutely amazing and I couldn't be more proud of that program. They keep the atmosphere professional, respectful, and drama free. That's something to be proud of when you work with all women! They've trained approximately 75 doulas so far. If you are interested in becoming a doula or childbirth educator, join us at Birth Boot Camp's Love What You DOULA Facebook group.

Our inital materials were rather dark in color, but adding the doula program pushed us to change our materials and brighten things up. This is a prime example of if you knew how much work something was going to be, you might reconsider starting the whole thing! Well, it was worth it and I'm glad we did it. I can say that now that it's done!

Oh wait, we keep coming up with great ideas! We aren't done! 

We've just recently announced two new classes, our Early Pregnancy Class and a Sibling Birth Prep Class, complete with beautiful workbooks. You can take a live class which will include much more, or you can just buy a workbook and study at home with your partner or family. These were so much work for Sarah and I, but we could not be more proud! We keep having babies!

My Instructor Advisory BoardDoula Advisory Board, and Management Teams have grown to inlcude 15 people in total and they are all vital to this organization. I'm incredibly lucky to work with such a diverse and talented group of women who put their heart and soul into Birth Boot Camp.

And finally, look for two HUGE announcements in June. We can't wait to share them with you!

I've often said, especially before launching Birth Boot Camp, that I wish I had a crystal ball and could see what things would look like for the company a year from now, 5 years from now, 20 years from now. At 4 years in, I have to say, I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished. It looks very different than what I expected, but I wouldn't change a thing! We are exactly where we need to be at this exact time. We have dealt with some ugliness, our product has been copied, we've seen some people come and go. But at the end of the day, I believe that if you go forward with integrity and kindness, that will trump all negativity.

Here's to another incredible 4 years!  If you are interested in becoming a Birth Boot Camp Instructor, read about our requirements here and apply here.

Dying to become a Birth Boot Camp DOULA? Our program is the BEST! Register today!

Pregnant and wanting a supportive online community? Join the conversation at Your AMAZING Pregnancy Facebook group. Join us on all forms of social media. If it exists, we are there!

Happy birthday Birth Boot Camp!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Questioning Water Birth -- My Most Unpopular Post Ever

It's been months since I've published anything here. I've written plenty, just not published them. At 44, I've finally learned when to keep my mouth shut. The birth community has really changed in the last couple of years, too, so there's that. I'm not overly excited about arguing with other birth workers when good will not come of it. Negativity breeds negativity and I really don't want to be a part of it. How about an actual blog post about birth, not business or the birth community?! Let's do it!

There is something that has weighed on my mind since the viewing of Microbirth back in February. I spoke up at the discussion afterwards about several thoughts I had during the movie, but they were not well received by the majority of the room, well, except for the longest working midwife in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Helen Jolly, who wholeheartedly agreed with me.

If you haven't seen the movie, here's a sneak peak:

I've hesitated to talk about the thoughts I had as I watched this movie because they won't be popular in the natural birth world. I own a company, Birth Boot Camp, that promotes natural birth and midwifery care, and the last thing I want to do is make people upset. The purpose of this post is a discussion. I'm not saying I'm right whatsoever, but I do want to bring up some points that I feel might be ignored or overlooked in the natural birth community. People are free to make their own decisions, as always.

A fascinating statement was made in Microbirth that a baby passes through over 400 beneficial bacteria in the vagina when they are born. They did a great job of addressing the complications that cesarean birth may be causing for these babies who are not receiving these bacteria. They proposed swabbing the vagina and rubbing it all over the the baby's face and in its mouth, etc. after it is born. If you are anything like me, you find this awkward to do after the birth. I'm curious how often this will actually be done. I have yet to hear of it.

As I'm watching this movie, and getting all this information about beneficial bacteria in the vagina, and then witnessing water birth after water birth, I can't help but think about the bacteria being washed off the babies immediately after the birth. When I mentioned this after the screening, one woman immediately started talking about how much she loved her water birth. That's not the issue! There are chemicals in the water and some babies are spending a lot of time in the water after the birth. Moms, or midwives, will keep washing water over the babies to keep them warm or wash off "goo" and inadvertantly, the beneficial bacteria. Even if they are taken immediately out of the water, doesn't it make sense the water likely washed some away?

What if this is part of the problem? What if we are doing damage - or at least not helping -  the baby to receive the benefits of vaginal birth because s/he is born in water? What if?

The mom is also submerged and anything that came off the baby that would have been on her, is also washed off. I wrote a post several years ago called The Sense of Smell Connects Babies and Mothers. When a baby is born in water, they do not have these same benefits of smell. The smells of amniotic fluid and "goo" are good for mom and baby to keep for a while! And while I'm not writing an entire post about it, I'll just add that mom wearing a bunch of essential oils when her baby is born may also be a distraction in this important smelling and bonding process.

As with so many of the things we do during labor and birth, I feel an important question to ask is, is this part of the natural process? Are we altering how God intended birth to go? Are babies intended to be born into water? I don't know. I had a water birth over 14 years ago, before it was trendy or popular. In fact, I'd never known anyone to have one before. Ironically - or maybe not - that child is my only one who has asthma and skin issues. I'm sure it's a coincidence, but what if it's not? Asthma was one of the main issues addressed in the movie.

I'm just putting this out there to think about. I could be totally wrong, but I think it's irresponsible to not at least explore the possibility of the harm water birth might be doing to our babies. We are so quick to "judge" cesareans and blame them for so many health problems, but perhaps we are doing damage by doing something so "natural."

Again, people love their water births. I don't want to take that away from anyone and I'm certainly not anti-water birth. I think it's super important that it is an option for women. I've said for years that water is a "midwife's epidural" and I believe that. Labor feels different in the water. It does good things for a laboring woman, but I am having serious questions about the actual births taking place in the water.

Since we are here, talking about water... Let's just touch on herbal baths. It's been explained to me that it is beneficial for the mom's perineum. OK. But does it have to be done so soon after the birth, with the baby submerged in the water again? It just seems like this is a photo opportunity and people like it, but again, is it possibly doing harm? Just putting it out there.

Bottom line - are we doing things because they are trendy, and are they really benefitting moms and babies?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Birth Boot Camp Class Schedule 2015

Thanks for checking out my class schedule.  I have taught live classes for 13 years and love it!

Tell me about Birth Boot Camp...
Birth Boot Camp is a fabulous, up-to-date program utilizing the internet, current videos, and loads of reliable links whether you are doing online classes or a live class.  The 172-page workbook is contemporary and full of information to help couples along their journey towards natural birth.   Classes run 10 weeks.   Each couple receives their workbook via Priority Mail plus a comprehensive breastfeeding course via download.  If one or both of you needs to miss class, or is due before the last day of class, you can make up up to 4 classes online.  Cost = $300/couple which includes all your materials, not to mention all the fun you can handle!

Because I am super busy running the Birth Boot Camp DOULA and Instructor programs, I'm only teaching Reboot Refresher classes until the Fall.

Sunday night 
MARCH 22, 2015
6:30 - 10:00 PM
$75 - cost includes Refresher booklet

Oh yeah, congratulations on your pregnancy and thanks for inviting me to be a part of this special time in your lives.

Contact info:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas in the Land of Pinterest

I haven't written a blog post here since August! I wish I could say that it's entirely because I am so busy with Birth Boot Camp, but the truth is, I feel like the culture in birth/breastfeeding has changed so much, it's not really fun to write anymore. You can't say anything without being criticized for offending someone. It's exhausting and sad. It's easier to keep my mouth shut. Am I the only one who thinks that we've taken political correctness too far?

At any rate, I feel compelled to write this post. It has nothing to do with birth or breastfeeding or raising children. It's about Christmas. I've had so many thoughts this season, and I've been writing this in my head for days and having lots of conversations with people who feel the same way.

I'll be 44 next month, so a part of me wonders if I have these thoughts because I'm getting older or if our society has really changed so much over the last few years. I've concluded it's probably a little of both.

As Thanksgiving was approaching, I was in the throes of work, having just completed our first Birth Boot Camp DOULA training. I was dreading the holidays. I had several things to do for work before Jan 1 and was feeling super overwhelmed with the fact that the holidays were in the mix too. I found myself saying things like "The holidays are getting in the way of work," and "Can't we just not do the holidays this year?" I was only half joking.

For the first time in 19 years, my Christmas letter still isn't written and Christmas is less than a week away. Yes, I could have written the letter instead of writing this blog post, but again, I felt compelled to write this. Perhaps David will write the letter this year... Something I did that has been on my list for over two years? I wrote each of my children a letter this year. It took an entire afternoon, but I'm so glad I did that. I hope it'll be the most special thing they open this Christmas. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, gifts are mailed, lights are on the house. It should be this simple, right?

The list is very long of the things I didn't do. I only donated one toy for Toys For Tots (instead of the 4 I was asked to donate), I didn't participate in the Angel Tree at church, I didn't do the cookie exchange, I only gave 2 teacher gifts, and I only gave money to one bell ringer outside the store. I haven't attended any Christmas musical programs or gone to any Christmas parties (other than the one at church that I helped organize). These are all wonderful things to participate in, there's just too many of them. The list is longer of things I didn't do that what I did do.

I'm not really one for guilt, and I actually don't feel guilty for not doing these things. To me, if feels like the holidays are on steroids now compared to what they used to be, even a few years ago. I blame Pinterest. Before all the Pinterest lovers get up in arms, the reason I do not have an account is because I know I would love it. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not good with moderation. I would go overboard, big time. I would be forced to do the things there because I wouldn't be able to get them out of my head. It would be the world's biggest time suck. Not just the actual time spent there, but then the time creating. There are so many ideas that are quite amazing. With good intentions, people (mostly women) want to make and do and participate in all these amazing things, but time just doesn't allow it. Many women I've talked to are overwhelmed with guilty feelings over not being able to do it all. And then when they actually do it all, they are exhausted and cranky, as are their families.

If everything else stopped during the holidays, maybe we could pull if off. But we still have to work, make dinner, clean the house, do homework, make lunches, do carpool, etc. But we throw all this extra stuff on top of it and we have a bunch of people walking around saying "I can't wait till Christmas is over!" People are grumpy and it's supposed to be the happiest time of the year!

Did you ever read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham? It was made into a movie called Christmas with the Kranks with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. I read the book when it first came out and laughed till I cried. I thought it was so entertaining. The message behind it, I'm seeing now, was much more serious than what I originally thought. Even if you want to, you really can't get off this ride. The pressure is immense to not be the only one on the street that doesn't put up Christmas lights. I can't imagine what will happen if I don't send out my letter this year! If you haven't read the book or watched the movie, you should. I'd say more about it, but I don't want to spoil it for you. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

As long as I can remember, people have talked about not taking "Christ" out of "Christmas", reminding us that He is the "reason for the season". And yet, we've created all these distractions that truly take us away from remembering Him. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launched a video campaign right after Thanksgiving and I haven't been able to get it out of my head - and heart. #SharetheGift. The people in the video are busy with preparations for Christmas, shopping, fighting a cold, standing in long lines, addressing envelopes, etc., but as the video goes on, things slow down as we are reminded of the birth of our Savior and the peace that He brought to the Earth.

As people around you are not participating in the hustle and bustle of Christmas, maybe they are not Scrooge or the Grinch after all. Perhaps they are trying to do the simple things, staying focused on their family and actually enjoying the season because they have not over-extended themselves. I have found, as I watch this video over and over, I feel my Savior's love, am more able to enjoy this Christmas season, and put aside the things that don't really matter.

Merry Christmas to each of you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Birth Boot Camp Launches DOULA Program!


This post has been over a year in the making. We’ve been running the Instructor program and online classes since March 2012, but after many conversations with doulas, doulas-in-training, and especially instructors who went through the Birth Boot Camp instructor training wanting to also become doulas, we are proud to announce the BEST doula certification program available!

As the founder of Birth Boot Camp, I am the first to admit that I am not a doula. But I am familiar with the available programs and, if I may, what they are lacking. Myself, along with a team of AMAZING people, came up with a program that has all the components of a one-of-a-kind doula program -- all for one price

Before telling you how Birth Boot Camp DOULA is unique, allow me to introduce the Co-creators of the program. These two amazing women, Amanda Devereux (New Orleans) and Maria Pokluda (Dallas), will also be conducting the training workshops.  Keeping us all organized as the Doula Certification Coordinator is the talented Nancy Rebarchik.

Amanda Devereux
Maria Pokluda
Nancy Rebarchik

Now, allow me tell you what sets Birth Boot Camp DOULA apart from other programs:

1. We are streamlined. Our doulas do not have to look for their own childbirth class to get educated.  Birth Boot Camp DOULAS will have 5 weeks access to the 10-week Birth Boot Camp online classes. We believe in all Birth Boot Camp-trained doulas being “on the same page”, so to speak. With a solid education, they are ready to move forward in becoming a doula.

2. We provide Birth Boot Camp DOULAS with breastfeeding education. Not only will they receive The Ultimate MRE, our 3+ hour DVD taught by IBCLC Mellanie Sheppard, Mellanie will be at the training workshop to teach her Breastfeeding Intensive for Birth Professionals class as well!

3. Birth Boot Camp DOULAS have unlimited access to our professional marketing videos once they complete their training. This is invaluable in growing and maintaining your doula business.

4. Birth Boot Camp DOULAS have all their contracts and materials available on the Birth Boot Camp Store once their training is complete.

5. All clients of a Birth Boot Camp DOULA will receive the 20-page Supporting Arms book. Beautifully laid out and packed with useful information for clients, it covers a variety of topics discussed in the 2 prenatal meetings, labor, and the postpartum visit. It’s a wonderful supplement to the Field Manual students get in their Birth Boot Camp class. A Birth Boot Camp DOULA never has to make copies!

6. Read all about the requirements and reading list to become a Birth Boot Camp DOULA, as well as the Step-by-Step Process to becoming certified.

7. Last thing I want to mention is about our tagline, Supporting Families in Natural Birth. Over the years, I’ve heard so many doulas say they became a doula because they wanted to help women have a natural birth. Women often hire a doula because they want a natural birth. Why not hire a doula who is trained specifically to help families achieve a natural birth? Birth Boot Camp DOULAS are trained to help families do just that. I don’t need to tell anyone that birth sometimes doesn’t go as planned, and Birth Boot Camp DOULAS are also trained in handling difficult or disappointing situations and have ongoing support and training from Birth Boot Camp Headquarters.

Expect lots of exciting and new stuff from Birth Boot Camp in the coming days and weeks. With the new website, we are also launching BRAND NEW ONLINE CLASSES! But we’ll save that for another blog post…

Apply today to become a Birth Boot Camp DOULA! There are four trainings in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area in 2015. We hope to see YOU there!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Value of Boredom and Other Observations

Sitting by my pool this summer has caused me to reflect on different types of behavior from various children that have visited my house. All children are annoying sometimes, but some children, let's face it, are more annoying than others. 

This is my observation. I've sat on the patio in my favorite chair with my laptop, working, for countless hours. For many of those hours, I've listened to kids play/fight in the pool, too. There are two types of kids, I've decided.

1.  These are the kids who use their imaginations to play with one another, or even alone. They come up with games in the pool and find ways to keep themselves entertained for hours. Generally, they problem-solve pretty well too. I try to stay out of the fights because there is value in figuring out how to resolve problems and get along. Don't get me wrong -- I've yanked some kids right out of there! But generally, they are pretty nice to have over.

2.  These are the kids I don't love hanging out at my house. Their stimulation seems to be all external. They slap the water with the pool noodles, and once they are board with that, they start hitting each other. They usually don't follow the rules (I only have 2), and seem incredibly bored right off the bat. They pester each other, tease, make fun of someone else, etc. You get the picture. If/when a fight breaks out, I have to step in or else it will escalate, not resolve itself. 

The imaginative kids hate playing with these kids because these kids act like bullies. I don't necessarily think it's because they are mean, but rather, they have not been taught to use their imaginations. They've been propped in front of a TV or computer, or iPad, or iPhone for so long that they don't know how to entertain themselves. The kind that comes from within. The kind that makes you push through boredom to the other side. 

I am totally guilty of letting my kids watch too much TV, but I think it's super important to acknowledge the damage done when we allow our kids to be constantly stimulated.  Boredom is important to embrace. We learn who we are through boredom because we are forced to figure out what interests us. As parents, it seems like we are so afraid for our kids to be bored. They don't need to be constantly entertained. 

I do see one common denominator between these groups of kids. Group number one - the imaginative kids - come from homes where the parents are actively engaged in what they are doing. Either the mom or dad is home with them when the kids are home. 

Group number two, the external stimulation kids (since it sounds nicer than what I really want to call them), seem to be home a lot by themselves. When my son was in early elementary school, he used to call these external stimulation kids "daycare kids". I know this has the potential of offending people. It's not my intention, but I do think it needs to be said. There is an effect on children that are in daycare instead of with their parents, or as they get older, go home to an empty house. With kids of all ages, and having had lots of kids in and out of my home over the years, I'm fairly comfortable writing this post. 

Half the battle is just being aware of and making time for other things where the devices and media are turned off. Anyone can do that, right? How about us as adults? Are we able to do it, too? How comfortable are you with boredom? .......

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pregnancy Belly Casting: What it is and Why it’s Deliciously Therapeutic - by Melissa Lang Lytle

This post needs very little introduction. I'm Facebook friends with Melissa, but we've never met in person. She posted her GORGEOUS belly casts and I immediately asked her if she'd write a guest post. Oh my word! So glad I did! Not only is this incredibly informative, it is truly inspiring. Enjoy.

I can remember the first time I saw a pregnant belly cast.  I was in my midwife's home office for my monthly prenatal. While waiting for her to return with a warm cup of tea, I gazed at her artwork, bookcases, and all the beautiful trimmings of her empowering space.  My eyes followed the wall up to where her own belly casts hung right above her door. How did I not notice these before? She had two beautifully painted, full pregnant belly, Venus-like molds hanging ever so delicately in her entryway.

"Is that you? I asked. "Is that what your belly actually looked like?" As I looked down at my own belly, I wondered, would I remember what I looked like pregnant? "Oh you should totally do one!" she exclaimed and bounced up to grab me some plaster tape and belly casting directions. "Make it fun or create a belly cast date night!" she said as if this was just a normal thing to do. "Oh and seriously, be liberal with that coconut oil, glob it on", she said with a wink.

I left that night thinking about all the things one might think having never seen a belly cast before and now, here I was, driving home with the materials to make one. Making a cast of my breasts and belly felt a bit, uncovered and well, revealing. Who would see this? What the heck would I do with it? Where would I put it? Is this just another one of those crunchy-granola pregnancy things? (I had just barely learned about consuming my own placenta and those who make art of said organ!)  I decided why not- worst case I’d make one and store it in a closet.

It's safe to say that after casting my belly with my first born son, I was totally hooked (I immersed myself into the world of birth work too, but that's a whole other story). I looked forward to making my belly casts at the end of my next two pregnancies. Creating my belly casts helped me encapsulate all that I was anticipating and feeling for 38 weeks into a tangible piece of molded plaster. Weird, I know, but making a cast toward the end of pregnancy helped me know that I would meet my baby soon. Looking at my casts as they dried and hardened, I was simply awestruck at what my body actually looked like. Pregnancy is full of vulnerability and feelings that are unique to women carrying their babies inside their bodies. I found when making my casts that they somehow helped me identify a moment in time upon which I can look back and remember it all. A cast of a big pregnant belly has a way of conveying that. At the very least I could physically see the sheer size of my breasts and belly and their unique shapes. Each one of my belly casts is different, my belly size, my baby's position when casting my belly, etc. I think anytime we, as women, can connect to the journey of pregnancy and becoming a mother, it’s a worthwhile exercise. Here's my two cents on why making your own belly cast is worthwhile.

So what the heck is a belly cast?

A pregnancy belly cast is a plaster cast made of an expecting woman's pregnant form. You can buy a belly cast kit or just simple plaster casting tape.  
(I think out of pocket for supplies range from $15-$35). 

The plaster used for belly casts is basically the same material used for setting bone casts. To prepare the materials for my cast I took some measurements of the various sizes around my body: breasts, chest, belly, hips etc. I then cut the tape into different lengths (some kits have the tape pre-cut).  

Before I started any actual placement of tape, I took coconut oil and very liberally applied it to the areas of my body where the cast would lay on my skin.  This is so important because when it’s time to take the cast off, you do not want it sticking to your body or hair (warning, those little hairs do stick to the plaster tape)! Ouch! Then, I wet the strips in warm water, using a long, flat container (I used a rectangle deep roasting pan) to get the plaster nice and saturated. I like to get the strips wet enough so they make a paste and the wetter they are it's easier to place them on my body. My husband actually did the tape placement for me as he was a stickler for attention to detail. You will need to smooth them out (warning to the ticklish type). With each strip we laid, we made sure to overlap each previous strip by 1/2" to 1". 

As far as what the actual "mold" or cast would ultimately look like finished, I preferred to be naked but some choose to wear a bra or bandeaux top to cover the breast or nipple definition. For more modest women, I’ve seen casts almost look like a dress! It really depends on how you want your belly cast to look. You can layer the casting tape as thick as you like, but I just layered 2-3 strips on top of each other. Once the tape has hardened minimally into a cast (10 minutes or so), you can gently remove it and place it somewhere to dry. The final drying time depends on how humid the air is, but it usually takes at least a few days to fully harden. 

Once it's fully dry, you can decide whether to trim or sand it and eventually even decorate it. With my casts, I chose not to sand them down, as I wanted mine to have a texture of the rugged tape as I prefer texture. Some prefer their casts to be soft and smooth, and honestly, both ways look beautiful. I’ve seen some amazing casts that have heart-shaped necklines, straps, and some even shaped almost into a statue like a bust. The creative possibilities really are endless. And you don't have to do it all yourself! If you know someone creative or want to hire someone to help make your cast or decorate it for you, go for it! My midwife had a friend paint hers. Again, this is where your own creativity comes in, and if you don't feel up to the task of painting or gluing, find someone who can do it for you.  Go with what makes you feel good.

When in my pregnancy should I make one? 

Most of the time, pregnant women make their belly cast between 36-40+ weeks. I have a few friends who made them while in early labor (it can be a wonderful distraction)! Some women make multiple belly casts to capture the miraculous changes in their bodies throughout their entire pregnancy. When choosing what to cast, it's really up to you. You can cast your entire torso (neck and shoulders all the way down to parts of your upper thigh) or keep it simple and only do your belly.  The actual making of a cast is a bit messy, but otherwise pretty simple. My midwife included a basic plaster casting tape instruction when giving me the tape, but belly cast kits with step by step directions are available too (not to mention videos on YouTube). Ideally I would suggest someone to help you, but surely it's not rocket science and you could do it solo with the help of a mirror. When casting my bellies, my husband (and kiddos with my last cast) helped me and we made it a family affair. Again, make it your own. Here are a few ideas you could try:

- blessing-way cast party with your girlfriends or doula
- date night (or early labor) with your partner
- use a belly cast professional (yes there are women who offer this service and will make, finish, and even decorate it for you with your help or suggestions)
- involve your kiddos so they can connect with your pregnancy and the new baby

If you create the intention, the making of your cast will be more special. At the very least, you are being creative in the moment even if it only sits in your closet or you decide not to keep it.

Why make a belly cast?

There are many different reasons women choose to preserve the memory of their pregnancy. This is a short time in our life and with so many physical changes, it's fun to document. Pictures and video are often popular and easy, but more women are choosing to celebrate their pregnant bodies. Painted belly art, henna belly art, and blessing-ways instead of baby showers are becoming more mainstream (I mean this is Banned From Baby Showers, right?). I've also seen some really cool apps that document body changes by taking a picture each week so that you can create a modern time-lapse movie set to music (so fun, I wish I had done this). I think making a pregnancy belly cast is a really special way to commemorate your body and just like snowflakes, no two are alike!

What do I do with it?

Put it anywhere, literally! My casts hang on my bedroom wall, and my boys love to point out which belly cast is theirs and we talk about how they were once small enough to fit into my belly. Seeing them for us is a way of celebrating our family. Again, this is totally up to you. Display them by hanging them in your living room, bedroom, or your baby's nursery. I've seen those who cast only their belly and use it as a decorative bowl. Use the belly cast as a prop and place your baby inside for some adorable newborn pictures! Of course, it's perfectly fine to store your belly casts in your closet, basement, or attic too; not everyone feels the need to show them off.  Like a baby book or keepsake, you may want to save it for your children or bring it out at special times like their birth day or when you are reminiscing about being pregnant. Keep your belly cast as is, or enjoy the process of decorating with paint, glue, or any artsy thing you can think of (again, anything goes!) Some decorate the belly cast with a theme for the baby or simply channel what I call “creative nesting” which is using the energy of this pregnancy to find what moves you. 

You can always decorate your belly casts after the baby arrives too. You may find that having time to think about it and meet your baby first will help you feel inspired. Having someone help you if decorating feels too overwhelming is wonderful too (we all have those friends who are crafty and pin on Pinterest daily)!  I know I was crazy nervous when I painted my first cast, but like a blank canvas or white walls, you can always repaint or touch it up if you mess up or change your mind. Also, there are women who offer services that will help you restore your belly cast by strengthening it on the underside and will help you add hooks or grommets to hang it.

So if art is therapy, and belly casts are art, then making a belly cast is therapeutic!

As a labor and birth doula, and an advocate of women-centered birth, I can't convey enough that connecting to this special time in pregnancy is important. Many feelings come up with carrying your baby that impact your experience from conception to birth to postpartum. I find that creating and using art as a process is an incredible way to connect to you, your baby, as well as your journey together. Sometimes there are complications in pregnancy or birth or maybe your birth was vastly different than you had imagined. Feelings aren’t always verbalized right away and often the act of creating something physical that you can look at later can be incredibly rewarding. Making and decorating my belly casts really helped me connect to how I was feeling at that moment and I worked through my reservations and feelings about my pregnancy and upcoming labor. My third son is a rainbow baby (a baby after a loss/miscarriage) so I wanted his cast to be decorated in a rainbow theme. I literally used tissue paper and Hodgepodge to create a colorful palette. My choice of decorating wasn’t fancy (really just what I had on hand) but I’ve seen mosaics, lace, and jewels used with great results. Cutting and laying each colored tissue took time and truly helped me focus on my feelings. I call it creative nesting (better than cleaning, right?). When it comes to belly casts, I often hear women say they don’t feel artsy or creative enough. Simply not true! This is your pregnancy, your body. Just making a cast and nothing else will still be a work of art!
Your body is miraculous. Taking the time to experience making a belly cast is a fantastic way to create a beautiful heirloom to pass onto your child or simply keep as a token just for yourself to remember the power and shape of your pregnant body. I love belly casts! I look at images of them all the time, appreciating that each are so different and special. I love to see how women choose to shape them, the various shapes of their bellies, and how they decorate them (or not). I recommend researching some of the fabulous ideas you could do with yours. The art of casting your pregnant belly is fun and I highly recommend the experience to all pregnant women. Creating one not only makes the pregnancy journey more fun, but a great way to preserve that awesome belly shape forever!
This post is dedicated to my amazing midwife, Andrea Meyer LM, CPM
Melissa Lang Lytle