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Frederick Birth Center

Twenty years ago, Special Beginnings was opened in Arnold, Maryland, and has since been one of the only freestanding birth centers in the state. For families that live too far from Special Beginnings, there are two options: use your local hospital or birth at home. There’s a wide swing to that pendulum in consideration of care providers, cesarean rate, interventions , maternal and infant health, and financial cost. Having options is important, and families should be able to find a birthing place that best fits their family.


Fortunately for our Maryland families, there will be another option. Meet Mychal Pilia, CNM and owner of the Frederick Birth Center.



Mychal holds a bachelors degrees in Nutrition, Nursing and a masters degree in Nurse-Midwifery. She has been serving the home birth community since 2014. Mychal has spent extensive amounts of time in both business research and seeking feedback from the community. You may remember seeing her at Baker park last summer completing surveys, and talking with families.


Her vision for the Frederick Birth Center includes a holistic and family centered approach to pregnancy and birth. Evidence based care is the mainstay of the practice, and means that parents are active participants in their prenatal care.


What makes a birthing center different?


The care at the birthing center is personal and is built on a relationship with Mychal and the midwives at the birth center throughout your pregnancy. You develop personal trusting relationships with your providers, because they spend more time with you.  Your appointments are typically a half hour long with the initial one being an hour. Discussions include everything from nutrition, options for prenatal testing, mental health and emotional health, and how your feeling physically. It’s a whole person approach.


Not only do they provide more one on one time and attention, but they also offer classes you can take with mothers due around the same time. These range from early pregnancy topics, sibling preparation, labor and birth, breastfeeding and new parenting classes.

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Rather than cycle through all the doctors and midwives at a large practice, your time is spent with your midwife and her nurse. When you come to the center in labor, your midwife is the one meeting you there. She’s the one evaluating your labor and overseeing the safety and comfort for both you and your baby. At a hospital, you are meeting with a group of strangers, wondering who’s on call, and only seeing that doctor for mere moments at a time, and often only at the glorious moment of when baby is crowning to its birth.


The birthing center facility is a beautifully designed home like atmosphere, with a real bed, shower, full immersion tubs for labor and birth, equipped with all the medical needs for mom and baby. This isn’t birthing in the hospital where it tries to not resemble a hospital. This is a home away from home.


When can you receive care at FBC?

The Frederick Birthing Center is now open and is currently taking patients. You can begin care before you even get pregnant or transfer care almost any time during your pregnancy.  After all this is a “service industry” and your health care providers work for you!

Boho room with creams, pops of color and texture.  

Boho room with creams, pops of color and texture.  




What does care include?

A midwife and nurse are on call if you have emergent or non-emergent needs during your pregnancy. Care includes 10-12 prenatal visits depending on when you begin services, and group classes are available. You will also have access to the lending library if your enjoy to prepare for your birth through reading.


You are fully supported during your birth, and families can leave for home as early as four hours after birth (upper limit is twelve).


Postpartum checks are completed with a 24-hour phone call, 1-2 day home visit, and a 1-2 week and 6 weeks office visits.


Well-woman care is also available at the center including pap smears, full range of family planning options, health screenings (cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid, and anemia labs to say the least), and mental health counseling and screenings.

This 33" Japanese soaking tub is huge. I'm 5'5", and could easily submerge into this beauty. 

This 33" Japanese soaking tub is huge. I'm 5'5", and could easily submerge into this beauty. 



Cost of birthing at a Birth Center

Cost is $7,000 and includes the professional care and the facility fee. Check with your insurance provider for full understanding of benefits and what can be covered or reimbursed for your out-of-hospital birth.


Having your baby at a birthing center is a lower cost option, with lower interventions, high level of satisfaction and high safety standards proven with large national studies (check out the National Birth Center Study II to see the birth center difference!). The cesarean rate in Maryland is currently ~36% (higher than the national average (33%), where the rate for birth centers is only 6%. For healthy low-risk pregnancies, out-of-hospital births provide options that protect maternal and infant health, while lowering health care costs, and providing a memorable experience for your family for a lilfetime.


For a look at hospital care cost, check out this article here:


Future plans

Plans include two more Maryland freestanding birthing centers, located in Baltimore and Silver Spring.


For more information

You can reach Mychal Pilia at the Frederick Birth Center (


More about birthing centers:



Ecocentric Mom Box: A Review of Awesome Goodies and Who Should Subscribe


While on a hunt for new gifts for the mamas in my life, I discovered Ecocentric Mom. It’s a subscription
service with a monthly box full of goodies for mom and little one (from birth to age five).
I gave it a try, and I was really happy with my first box. It was filled with tons of great products, all clean
ingredients and naturally based. Let me breakdown the goodies I received in this month’s box.
1) Tru You’re Mocha Me Cocoa Protein Shake. Chocolate is the key to my heart, so a quality
chocolate protein shake I can drink instead of a Chik-Fil-a milkshake is awesome. I’m trying to
eat less sugar, and this fits the bill perfectly. (Note: I blended this shake with coffee and ice, with
about a half cup of almond milk. Worked out nicely!)

Just give me all the chocolate.

Just give me all the chocolate.

2) Herbaland Protein Gummies. I love candy, but I need to cut sugar from my diet. These gummies are made with fruit juice and protein. My toddler wasn’t in to the taste, but that just means more for me. This may be a new staple item to keep in my doula bag.


3) Bug Protector Mosquito and Tick sprays. These will be used all summer long. My family is big into hiking, so tick protection is a must, especially with Maryland being a hot zone for Lyme disease. Our front and back yard is heavily colonized by mosquitoes, despite a lack of standing water. The sprays are made with essential oils known to deter insects, but have a nice scent to them. They are kid and pet friendly, so you can even give your dog a few sprays to help ward off ticks.


4) Ayr Skin Care Virgin Marula Oil. A light oil for face and hair, it doesn’t have a noticeable scent
that I could detect, but is great on my daughters thick curls and gives a light softness and shine
to my pixie length locks. Pressed from the nut of the Marula tree, a native plant of South Africa
and Mozambique, it’s used traditionally for cleansing the face, in the diet, and even preserving
leather. It’s a product I’ve never seen before, and would like to keep using. This will be a repeat
product for our family for sure. If you’d like to learn more about Ayr Skin Care, you can find them here.

Super soft hair, no frizz, and no chemicals.

Super soft hair, no frizz, and no chemicals.

5) Hyland for Kids Oral Pain Relief. When Hyland’s took their Teething Tablets off the market, I
cried. I’m not even kidding. This was the only product that helped my teething baby, and in a
snap of a finger they were sold out everywhere. I hoarded what precious tablets I had left, but
eventually we ran out. The next year and a half of teething was brutal for our household, and I
resorted to Motrin more often than I would have liked. Now they’ve released the Kids Oral Pain
Relief, and moms everywhere can rejoice (and possibly reclaim some sleep). It’s a different
formula from the teething tablets, but just as effective.

Hylands to the rescue!

Hylands to the rescue!

6) Effortless Art Crayons. Shaped in a chunky triangle with a grip, these crayons are meant to be
inclusive of children of all abilities and needs. My oldest tested them out for me, and was most
impressed by the shade of the red color crayon.  She's a crayon connoisseur.

My kids also enjoyed the confetti that came in the box for shipping. Fun for everyone!

My kids also enjoyed the confetti that came in the box for shipping. Fun for everyone!


The subscription service can be purchased with different moms in mind, with special gift sets for
pregnancy, mom care, and pregnancy-preschool.
Moms who could use monthly goodies:
 You!
 Your friend
 Your pregnant friend
 Your sister in law who is expecting, but doesn’t need another baby gift. Get something just for      her to enjoy!
 Any woman you know who could use some extra love.

Boxes are delivered monthly, and start at $32. Here’s your coupon code for $5 off!

Ecocentric Mom box



Natural Products for Pregnancy and Postpartum: Getting Clean Ingredients Without Going Broke

*This post contains affiliate links. 

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When I was pregnant with my first daughter back in 2012, I was suddenly very aware of the chemicals around me. I was being exposed to a ton of different chemicals and fragrances, due to my job as a zookeeper and just from the typical household and bath products I had always used. 

Knowing I was pregnant and that our environment effects our growing baby, had me digging into alternative products. I needed to clean up my home and my own skin products, and I wanted to not kill my wallet in the process. 

Improving my home cleaning products was pretty simple, and I found a ton of help on Pinterest. I've found vinegar and baking soda can clean just about everything that a whole host of grocery store cleaners can, at a fraction of the cost. 

The challenge came to my own skin care and beauty products. What would work well? What will help my pregnant skin? What will keep working with changes in hormones from breastfeeding? I've compiled my favorite clean brands and their best products that I've discovered over the years. These companies have clean ingredients and can carry on into your routine through the years. 

1) Be Blends 

A local Maryland company, every ingredient is organic and some are even wild harvested. My favorite product is the facial skin set, which includes Be Cleansed oil cleanser, Rose Water Toner, and Be Restored Hydrating Facial Serum. The oil cleanser is a self-care treat, and it makes me look forward to washing my face before bed. (Typically I'm too lazy/tired to wash off my make-up at night.) Contrary to what you might think, your skin feels amazingly soft and not greasy. The Rose Water Toner is a great product for pregnant mamas experiencing dry, irritated skin. Follow it up with the Be Restored, and your skin is set. The serum is super hydrating and has healed some of the worst chapped skin I've had. (Thank you Maryland Winter.) Altogether the set is $48, and is a total steal. Bonus: you only need a small amount. My set has lasted for four months, and I still have a half bottle to spare! I made you a short video to show how oil cleansing works. (Sometimes your outfit accidently matches your friend's bathroom! ) 

For a growing mama belly, the Be Enriched Moisturizer is very nourishing, and is great for stretch marks and dry skin. 

Be Blends is working on a baby line of products, and will be opening a store front in Ellicott City soon. In the mean time, you can find them online at 

For a full in-depth look at oil cleansing check out this article written by

2) The Naked Bee Body Butter

While I was pregnant with my second daughter in 2015, I discovered this body butter while browsing at the mall. With only a few preservatives to keep it from spoiling, its 98% organic and smells amazing with scents of Orange Blossom and Honey Coconut. It was perfect to slather on my belly and tired feet. Jars can range from $10-$15 depending on the retailer. 

3) Burt's Bees

From chapstick to sunscreen, Burt's Bees is probably the easiest to grab at a local grocery store with toddler in tow. Their products skip parafins and phthalates, and can be used by everyone in the family. A chapstick will set you back only $3, and the Mama Bee Pamper Set runs at $25. 

Run to your local Target, or you can shop here:

4) Lemongrass Spa

A pop-up spa company, Lemongrass has clean products with a variety of scents and essential oils. My favorite products are the facial sugar scrubs, and they come in pomegranate and charcoal. They run about $16, but will last you for months. They also have a variety of mineral makeup products. You can contact a representative for a pop-up party or shop products at


5) Earth Mama Organics

One of my favorite companies, Earth Mama Organics recently underwent a branding change (you'll probably remember them as Earth Mama Angel Baby) . You can still find your favorite products; they'll have a new label and a simplified name. Everything is non-gmo verified, toxin-free, and they focus on helping mom's and babies feel their best. 

Earth Mama Organics carries a great line of belly oil, belly butter, chapstick, and deodorant. I adore their postpartum products, and no mama should be without the herbal perineal spray. It's heaven on stitches and hemorrhoids, and can double as facial toner when your bum is healed. They've added new castile based soaps and clean ingredient deodorants. It's a great place to get staple bath items for your household. Stock up and shop for your next baby shower gift here:

Earth Mama Angel Baby - Pregnancy

Since Earth Mama Organics such an awesome company, here is a 20% off discount on any regular order until June 30! Just enter code LivingHeartDoula at check out. 


What's your favorite natural product? Share with us in the comments! 



Digging through the literature: Best New Baby Books (and available at your library!)

When I first thought about getting pregnant, I did what my nerd brain naturally gravitated toward: I went to the library and checked out a pile of books on every aspect of the topic.

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?


I sifted through the old standby classics like What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, some humorous ones like Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy or Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy. Some I found really informative, others super dry, and a few became favorites.


As the years have passed, I was turned on to some great books by my doula while I was preparing for birth. Others I have come across during my training with Birth Arts International. I’m always dissecting birth and pregnancy books.

Is the language accessible and not just medical jargon? Is it up to date with evidence based practices? Which clients or friends will appreciate this particular book?


Know better, do better. 

Know better, do better. 

I’ve gathered my top 3 favorite birth and pregnancy books. The bonus: they are available for free at your local library! If it’s not available for some reason, ask your librarian. Often a book title can be requested from another library or they’ll purchase it for you. If you have a favorite birth book, consider donating a copy to your local library. It’s great to have a collection of birth literature available in your community.

1)The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland

Written by YouTuber and natural parenting blogger,  Genevieve Howland, this comprehensive book covers all aspects of fertility, pregnancy, and birth. It covers all the options with prenatal testing, providers, birthing locations, etc. Having these options laid out is the definition of informed consent, and can help with decision making. It offers great natural options and nutrition options without seeming too far out there. (I can honestly say that on a personal level, I laugh when I see tofu in a pregnancy nutrition book. Not happening. Pass me that giant bowl of pasta please.) 

This is my favorite new pregnancy book. It's modern, it's accessible, and it gives a fresh take on birth. Have your support, know your options, and have the best birth you can that day. 

2) nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood- and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen. 

Author Erica Chidi Cohen brings a new voice to the pregnancy and birth literature choir. Writing from the perspective of a birth and postpartum doula, she brings a compassionate conversation to the reader instead of the usual lecture you feel like you're getting (eat right, get your finances and all the things done, be happy, etc.). 

The book takes a deep dive into the emotions surrounding pregnancy and birth, and offers beautifully realistic ways of handling them. She has a strong focus on self care and mindfulness that often gets overlooked. It hits the full spectrum of care that's needed for mamas and families right on the head. 

Best part of this book: more than a third of nurture is dedicated to postpartum care of mom. Postpartum care often gets the short end of the stick. The focus is on labor and newborn care, often not bringing attention to the fact that moms get put through the ringer with birth. Moms need more than just a primer on how to use a peri bottle and nursing. Cohen helps to plan your household, and gives tips for healing and bonding with baby without chaos, but with a lot more grace. 

3) The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start by Jennifer Lang, MD. 

If you were like me during pregnancy, you spent the first several months trying decide what would stay down, or at least not be brutal if it came back up. It's survival mode. This title tackles the nutrition behind feeling better during those early weeks, and how to eat for wellness for the remainder of your pregnancy. 

Lang breaks down what to look for in a prenatal vitamin, as well as eating to tackle pregnancy issues (hello constipation) and alternatives for crazy pregnancy cravings. 

The best part are the recipes included in the book. They're easy, delicious and healthy, and several can be made while having a screaming toddler at your feet. I love a realistic take on nutrition! 

What was your favorite book when you were preparing for pregnancy and birth? Share with us below! 



A Postpartum Checklist: Planning Ahead for a Better Recovery

There's a thing about birth that other moms don't tell you about. Recovery can be hard. You're sore and possibly torn in your most sensitive spots, your organs are rearranging themselves after pregnancy, and odds are pretty good that you haven't had more than a few hours sleep at a time for days. Not to mention nursing, trying to maintain your household and take care of any older siblings too. This period can be really hard, and we don't always have family and friends around to help out.

Planning and preparing for post postpartum in the last months of pregnancy can make a huge difference in the time spent resting and healing versus stressing over the to do list.

Here are my favorite tips:


  • Stock your freezer with extra meals that can be thrown in the crock pot or oven. (Ask friends to set up a meal train or have people bring freezer meals as a part of your baby shower!)
  • Stock snacks that are shelf stable and nutritious. (Trail mix, protein bars, granola bars, muffins.) Bonus points if it can be eaten with one hand.
  • Bottles of water or good cups with straws for easy access during nursing. Keep them stashed around the house!

Healing items for mama:

  •  Rice bag or heating pad for after pains. (And its true what they say, after pains get stronger after each baby!)
  • Witch hazel (Add to your Peri bottle to soothe angry tissue and stitches. You can use to make your own cooling pads, or you can purchase Tucks.)
  • Lavender essential oil. Add to the Peri bottle when you rinse, and the oil will help to heal any tears and help prevent infection.
  • Aloe, straight from an aloe plant! Will help sooth stitches. (Can you tell I've dealt with some nasty tearing?)
  • A boppy  pillow or hemorrhoid ring, because sitting on your sore bottom can be torture. As often as you can, lay down. Nurse on your side lying down or reclined. If you need to sit up for visits, don't be afraid to keep them short.
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby has a great line of products, including Happy Bottom spray, Postpartum Bath Herbs, and nipple cream. I loved them with my second baby! The bottom spray was heaven on stitches, and  the bath herbs can pull double duty. Save the liquid for your Peri bottle and use the herbal pack as a warm or cold compress, or use as a typical sitz bath.
  •  Padsicles! Ice packs feel awesome in those first swollen days and a padsicle can help with both swelling and irritation. Check out this recipe here:
  • If you had your placenta encapsulated, break those babies out! They'll start to help with healing and replacing lost nutrients.
  • Have extra large granny panties, in dark colors, because leaks are bound to happen. I suggest having a larger size to accommodate the large pads and ice packs in the early days after birth.
  • Have super comfy jammies. I had no shame and bought extra large sweat pants. I just needed comfort and room to heal; I really didn't care about being cute. (I may still have some of these in my drawer. A girl has to hold on to some things for a Maryland winter.)


  • Have some nursing tanks on hand, but in my humble opinion hold off on buying nursing bras until baby is born and nursing is established. I was shocked by how much my breasts changed. We are talking three cup sizes! Wait and see what your milk does before you go to the trouble of buying bras.
  • Have a good breast pump and parts ready to roll. You don't want to be sterilizing parts while engorged. (Ask me how I know.) if you're using a pump from a previous baby, ask for new parts from your hospital. My lactation consultant gave me a bag with new tubing, flanges, etc. for free! This is also a good time to make sure bottles, nipples and pacifiers are cleaned and ready for use.
  • This is where all the food prep will come in handy! Eat and a drink a ton, more than you think you might need to. Your body is doing a lot of work in repairing and also making milk for baby.

For Baby:

  • Besides all the usual items for baby, I suggest having a carrier or wrap for those newborn days. I love the maya wrap or a ring sling to help keep them snuggled while you keep your hands free.
  • Sleeping arrangements for baby to be close by, whether in a co-sleeper, bassinet, or pack n play, keep baby in the room with you. Everyone will sleep easier.

For the home:

  • Netflix. If you don't have it already, do it. There will be days where you will be nursing the baby non-stop on the couch. Binge watch and rest!
  •  Set up baby station baskets around the house. Any where you'll be spending time with baby, but also in places like your bedroom. Include a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, easy open  snacks, bottle of water, breast pads, toy/book to entertain an older sibling, and a magazine or book for you. I often found myself, “stuck”, under a nursing and napping baby while starving and thirsty. Having these in reach made things very easy. I felt like I had anything I could need within easy reach, without having to go up and down stairs for items. I seriously just used whatever baskets I had on hand around the house.

What was helpful for your family in the weeks following birth?




Using Water During Labor and Birth

          Humans have an integral relationship with the element of water.  It runs through our veins, we are born of it, and it is necessary for our survival. We are drawn to it for escape, adventure, release, and cleansing. As a woman is preparing to give birth, water is a means of release from the weight of her growing belly, and the means to ease her aching muscles. Water is a great coping tool in labor, whether through a shower or tub. (For the sake of this paper we will only be mentioning the use of a tub.) The use of water in labor can aide in pain management by increasing relaxation, decreasing strain on muscles, and creating freedom of movement.


         The mother’s ability to relax her muscles during labor can affect the length of labor and the intensity of contractions. The more a mother fights and tenses her muscles the worse contractions may feel. Especially in active labor, the mother may need as many coping strategies as possible. The birthing tub offers a great respite, and a simple way to relax. The birthing tub is often called, "The midwife’s epidural”, for its effectiveness (Drichta, Owen p. 257). The warmth of the water helps to ease the pain felt from contractions, relaxing muscles of the pelvic floor and back, and creates a mental space that creates privacy (Drichta p. 258). It is recommended to maintain water temperature at 96-98 degrees. Using higher temperatures could cause increased blood pressure, dehydration and lethargy (Drichta p. 258). The bath is also deeply engrained as a place of mental release in daily routines. Our bathtubs are typically places of retreat to relax, and the mental association during labor holds true.


          Labor is a physically demanding process. From hours of walking, lunging, squatting, intense contractions, and the possibility of little sleep can make for a grueling marathon on the mother’s muscles. The warmth of the tub eases both the pain of the contractions and the work of her remaining muscles (Drichta p. 257). Being in a large tub that covers her belly, the mother is buoyant and freed from the gravity of dry land. Her pelvic muscles are relaxed and her cervix will continue to dilate, often with more ease as she relaxes. A mother that is able to relax and mentally release her tension, will have an easier time laboring than a mother that is fighting each contraction.


        Being weightless allows the mom to assume positions that could be too taxing on land, such as deep squats using the side of the pool, that will help baby to descend and turn. She's able to easily move from one position to the next in response to her labor, while remaining warm and relaxed. The ease of movement allows the mother to find her own rhythm and coping responses that she would not have had if she was limited to a bed. Her ability to move through labor gives the mother more control and autonomy during the birth. She's able to push in the position that suits her, catch her own baby, and bring baby to chest without outside help or others manipulating her body. She has full confidence and control.


          Relaxation, decreased strain on muscles and freedom of movement are gained for the birthing mother with the use of water during labor. The three work together as a pain management strategy, addressing both mental and physical tension that could hinder a birth. The birthing tub is used at its greatest advantage during late stage active labor throughtransition. It is recommended that for every hour spent in the tub, the mother spends at least thirty minutes out of the tub. This is to ensure that contractions do not slow down, as can sometimes happen. Often contractions may just feel less intense, but are still actively working. According to Water BirthInternational, “Getting back in the water after thirty minutes will reactivate the chemical and hormonal process, including a sudden and often marked increase in oxytocin.” (Harper p. 2) As with other labors, hydration is of the utmost importance. Keep a drink with a straw nearby so the mother can drink at will. The birth can be completed in the water as well, depending on location (some hospitals only allow laboring in the tub) and as long as the labor is not having any complications (ex:meconium, shoulder dystocia).



                                                     Works Cited

Drichta, Jane E., CPM and Owen, Jodilyn, CPM. The Essential Homebirth Guide for Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home. 2003. Simon and Schuster.


Harper, Barbara. "Guidelines for Safe Waterbirth.”Waterbirth International. p. 2



Why You Should Hire an Encapsulator

After my first birth my body felt like it was hit by a truck. My muscles were achy, my belly was rubbery, and I was nursing a pretty bad tear. The baby blues were strong. I cried at the drop of a hat; looking at my beautiful Elena, thinking about how hard the birth was, how much I loved my husband for helping. I was overwhelmed with it all. Time went on, my body recovered and we managed to survive our first stent as parents.


I learned how consuming placenta can help in postpartum recovery, it can lessen the hormonal baby blues, help with milk production, help replace the nutrients lost in birth, and help the body to heal any trauma/injury. I was determined that with my next birth, I’d make the postpartum period better. I'd rest more instead of entertaining visitors, I'd make awesome witch hazel pads for healing, and I'd get my placenta encapsulated.


Fast forward two more years. I'm pregnant with my second baby and getting close to my due date. I was getting things in line for the birth. Cloth diapers prepped? Check. Doula set up and birth plan ready? Check. Postpartum supplies? Check. Placenta encapsulation? Oops! Somehow it fell to the bottom of my prepping list to check out my local encapsulators and get everything lined up. When I finally got around to it, we were a few weeks out from the birth, and our budget was looking tight. I felt like it was out of reach to hire out, but I'd heard of other crunchy mamas doing it themselves. How hard could it be right?


I did a little digging around (thank you google and Pinterest), and had my instructions pretty well laid out. I could totally handle cleaning my placenta and drying it out. Putting it in the capsules was going to be time consuming, but no huge deal right? Positive attitude all around! My hubs did tell me I was on my own on this one. Handling bodily organs isn't his thing. I felt totally confident I could handle it.


Sophia was born September 7, 2015, Labor Day. You can read her birth story below. Her birth was awesome, super peaceful and empowering. But I tore really badly. Yet again. I was in a lot of pain coming home from the hospital, and was looking for relief.  I was super excited to sleep in my own bed, and snuggle with my newborn.

Sophie is here!

Sophie is here!


But I had to deal with my placenta.


So in the fog of newborn haze, with a broken yoni, I stood at my kitchen counter with my placenta and supplies. It was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. I had a huge placenta too, that baby would have made a year’s worth of happy placenta pills. I started cleaning it and getting it into slivers. And it was taking me forever.

(Photos Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo)

I wish I could say I powered through and got it done. But I didn't. Instead I took a handful of my placenta slivers and saved them in the freezer and buried the rest of my placenta under a mulberry tree out back. Instead of encapsulating, I just used a small sliver of placenta in a berry smoothie. I had to tell myself it was going to help me, and I chugged it down. I couldn't taste it! Nothing gross, and I can happily report it helped with my baby blues. Not nearly as bad as the first round. I only used the slivers a few more times, and just kept the rest in the freezer on standby.


So what did I learn?


Take the time to hire someone to do this job for you! It's a big job, time consuming and needing attention to detail. Save your energy for the squishy newborn and wild toddler.


Photo Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo

Photo Courtesy of The Nurturing Root, Carmen Calvo

I'd like to share the business information of our local encapsulators, so you can encapsulate your next placenta:


Eimile Hannes

Helping Hannes Doula


Brittany Hotem

Northern Maryland Doulas


Deborah Bailey

Doulas of Central Maryland



Carmen calvo

The Nurturing Root




And for more in depth information on placenta consumption:



Pregnant in Sumatra

Being pregnant brought lots of joy and excitement to my life. Living in Sumatra with my Indonesian husband while pregnant brought some worry and fear as well. Fear of a serious medical complication in a developing country, fear of being far from my own mom and loving family members, fear of not being able to stick to my guns about what I wanted and knew was best for my pregnancy and son’s birth in a completely different culture and environment. In spite of the fear and the unknown, I tried to focus on the positive and the potential for amazing things to happen.

My mom shipped What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breastfeeding halfway across the world and I scoured the internet for what American mommies were doing so that I could try and blend as best as I could the two distinct cultures that my baby would be born into.

I loved the way many Indonesian moms practice attachment parenting simply because there is no alternative. Who would leave their infant in another room of the house to sleep? A centipede or snake could bite it! Or a tiger could attack! (Just kidding….mostly). Also, most houses simply don’t have another room in the house to make into a nursery nor do they have money to buy a crib. So we bought a baby hammock instead of a crib. Car seat? More babies are used to riding on motor bikes. Diapers? The hot, humid weather plus the cost mean that these are usually a luxury item that not all babies wear but that are becoming more common now especially in cities. Slings and baby carriers? Indonesian moms have been strapping their babies to ‘em in Batik sarongs and going about their day since forever. Breastfeeding? Again, a lot of women in villages usually do not work outside of the house nor are they able to spend money on formula so nursing is the best option for them. Natural childbirth? My mother-in-law delivered six children in her house with a midwife. No pitocin or epidurals available! Cry it out? I am not exaggerating when I say that the entire Indonesian family will do anything – anything – to comfort a baby at the first whimper or sign of discontent. While times are also changing here and all mother and baby stories are different, these were the impressions of labor and infant care that I witnessed and saw as common.


34 Weeks

Thankfully, I had an incredibly easy and manageable nine months with just one bout of morning sickness. My baby boy grew and kicked while I practiced yoga, deep breathing, Kegels, everything I could think of to stay calm, relaxed and prepared in order to envision a healthy, natural birth. My mantra was “I am a flower, I am a fountain.” I would say it every time I worried that my body would not open to push the baby out or that my breasts would not produce milk to nurture him.

Throughout my pregnancy, I had deep concerns about being pressured into a C-section here as the modern hospital where I received prenatal care seemed to have so many. I received an ultrasound at every monthly visit, which seemed so unusual and unnecessary. I was told I had low amniotic fluid and should take strange medicine not approved by the FDA along with placental extract thought to prevent miscarriage. All the medicine my OB-GYN tried to get me to take was discarded and I trusted my gut and stuck with my prenatal vitamin. I asked if I could try different labor positions and he was totally against it saying that I needed to stay attached to a monitor. While I stayed with this doctor, part of me wished I was in the middle of our house in the village with a bidan (trained midwife) so that I could avoid all of the interventions. But I knew that my family in America and my husband here trusted the hospital and wanted the security and safety assumed to be had there.

My due date was March 19th, 2015. The doctor wanted to induce the very night of my due date without waiting at all (this after being told earlier in my pregnancy inexplicably that my due date was 4 days earlier than the one previously given). I refused and went home resolved to wait a week before going back to the doctor. I walked around the neighborhood endlessly, ate all kinds of spicy food like curries and sambal (chili sauce - unavoidable in Indonesia!), and did squats and meditation. I began doubting myself and of course just wanted what was best for the baby. I knew that his movement could slow down as the time approached but I went to the doctor on the night of March 25th to check that everything was ok. They admitted me, hooked me up to the monitor and it felt like there was no going back. I wanted to move and walk like I read about. I wanted to get on all fours and stretch. I wanted to go in the water and take a bath. I was repeatedly told in a language not my own that I could not. I was scared and if not for my husband’s presence and support, I would have felt hopeless and entirely alone. I had brought prayer cards and a rosary and listened to Christian music on my phone while praying that he was safe and all would be well. They started me on a pitocin drip after an invasive internal examination from the doctor. I experienced mild pressure but no contractions all night and tried to rest.

The morning of the 26th, they increased the pitocin and the contractions came fast and strong. They felt erratic and unstoppable with no rhythm. I had been offered no pain medicine and was forced to stay in bed with no ability to change positions. I was even ridiculously told to keep my legs closed! At one point during the four hours of endless contractions with absolutely no progress or relief, a complete stranger, the mom of another laboring woman from the room across the hall, came into my room to stare at me as a strange foreign woman and talk to my mother-in-law. I wanted to scream “Get out!” but settled on telling my husband that I was in no way comfortable with random people in my room.

In the end, at noon after not even dilating one centimeter on the pitocin, the doctor suggested that I go for a C-section, which I firmly believe was his desired route all along. But by that time, I could not handle the rigid rules, the pain or the hopelessness of the situation anymore and just sought relief and the certainty that I would meet my baby boy soon. The five minutes in the Operating Room leading up to the procedure was the sweetest and most meaningful time of the whole labor. My husband bravely came into the room with me (something that I think not many Indonesian husbands do!) and we talked about seeing our son. He smoothed my hair, held my hand, kissed my cheek and I could not believe how calm and reassured I felt after the trauma of the night and morning before.


Sweetest Moment

Upon waking from a nap after the procedure, I had found my voice and my conviction that baby was not allowed to be far from me or receive any unnecessary treatment. I found it difficult to speak up for myself but had absolutely no qualms about speaking up for my son. My postpartum experience was extraordinary and even better than I could have anticipated. As soon as he was brought to me, he nursed and we were skin-to-skin. I breathed and soaked in every moment. We shared a surprisingly spacious and luxurious family room; he did not go to the nursery except for his bath and hospital photos. When I felt he had been gone too long, I immediately called for him to be brought back. The nurses and my experienced mother-in-law helped him latch and brought him to my bed every time they thought he was hungry. He received no supplementary sugar water, formula or pacifier as per my express instructions. When I had slightly high blood pressure and seemed tired, the nurses suggested he stay in the nursery but I refused to let them take him away and he slept by me instead. The second day in the hospital during my recovery, they brought a complimentary massage therapist to give me an hour massage. Absolutely heavenly! I was fed such nutritious fish, veggies, rice, broth, porridge and fruit. By the time we were released from the hospital, I was confidently nursing him.

We brought him home and I had the whole “it takes a village” experience with my in-laws staying with us to cook and clean. Our sweet baby boy slept between my husband and I, and I nursed and changed wet diapers in bed throughout the night – as we still do! And he takes his naps in his hammock. The all-in-one changing table, bassinet and play pen is still collecting dust in storage.


Baby in a Hammock

Although the birth experience was incredibly different than expected and I did not have a doula with me, Jessica’s constant support and advice via messages and care packages kept me sane, grounded and feeling more in control and knowledgeable. I can’t even imagine how helpful she would have been if she were actually by my side!


Indonesian-style Baby Wearing

By: Kristin Abt




Bradley Method for Natural Birth - Staci M.

Tuesday I was 40w 7d. Around 5pm I was relaxing in the living room and decided to try some nipple stimulation (I'd been having Braxton hicks and lots of pressure on my butt for months). And I think the nipple stimulation actually worked! Started having pretty consistant head butting type contractions anywhere from 4-8 min apart/40-55 seconds long for a couple hours. Then they slowed to around 12 min apart. So I listened to my sister and napped from about 12-5am (or tried to nap) between contractions. They stayed about 12 min apart for that whole time and my husband did counter pressure for me on pretty much all these earlier and night time contractions. Got up around 5:45am.

Photo Courtesy of Paper Moon Photography Credit: Danielle Bean

Photo Courtesy of Paper Moon Photography Credit: Danielle Bean

Took a hot shower and had 4 harder contractions in the 20 min shower. Got out and the kept coming one on top of the other and they were anywhere from 1-2 min! Super long and hard!! I was totally making caveman noises so decided we should go (around 6:30). The contractions were one on top of the other the whole 10-15 min drive! (More scary caveman noises) had a "I am freaking pushing" contraction when we pulled out front of emergency. Trav ran for the wheelchair and I got in it we left our car in the red zone with hazards on, door open, and my purse in the car!  I said,"Close the door!" Trav said,"Fuck that!"

Some nice front desk guy at kaiser ran out and escorted us up to L&d, and another lady took our keys out of our car and closed the door. Had some serious pushing contractions in the elevator on the way up to the 3rd floor. Luckily there was an l&d nurse in there who reminded me to blowwwww as best I could and not push. They got me in a room and I got on the bed. Trav sprinted down to move the car and sprinted back in like 5 min. Had another pushing contraction, after it stopped they checked me and I was fully effaced and dilated, (Trav got back at this point and Emma was practically near crowning.) I pushed 4-5 times for the midwife and out she came! Wow! It was crazy and amazing! #41w1d #bradleybaby2 #thankgoodnessnotraffic

Staci with Adam and Emma. Proud Bradley mama!

Staci with Adam and Emma. Proud Bradley mama!