2017 Statistics

2017 is almost over, and it’s time to do my yearly, birth review!  I had the honor of attending 16 births this year.  Fewer than I normally attend, but traveling with my family was a major priority this year. 🙂  So, out of 16 births….

14 were vaginal deliveries, 1 was vacuum assisted, and 2 were cesareans

2 of my clients were induced, and neither of them got an epidural!

5 of them had their water break before labor started

8 occurred in the hospital, 6 in a birth center, and 2 at home

3 of the hospital births were birth center transfers (1 for vacuum delivery and 2 for becoming high risk)

2 clients had epidurals

2 Successful VBACs, 1 Repeat Cesarean

2 delivered after 41 weeks, 9 delivered after 40 weeks, and 5 delivered after 39 weeks

2 babies were born on their due dates

I would love to be your doula in 2018 and help you have a great birthing experience!  Contact me for a free consultation.

Marie Bigelow, MT, AdvCD(DONA)



Holiday Savings

I’m excited to offer some great savings this holiday season.  For yourself or for the pregnant mama on your shopping list.

One copy of my book “The Sacred Gift of Childbirth” for $10 and free shipping.  (I’m happy to include a personal note if you are sending this as a gift, and ship directly to the recipient.)

$25 off!  Sign yourself or a friend up for my self-study course, Music and Miracles, which combines childbirth education with music therapy and spiritual support for mind-body-soul preparation for birth.

$10 off Music Birth Class tuition.  Upcoming dates are Jan. 10th and March 7th.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Professional Presentations

Do you run a professional or church group that would benefit from a guest speaker?  Today I am excited to announce 7 classes/presentations that I would LOVE to present to your group!  By combining LDS doctrine with scientific data, my presentations are sure to inform, engage and excite your group.  With over a decade of teaching experience and public speaking engagements, you can trust that you will be educated and entertained.  Currently, all of my presentations are available in the Treasure Valley and the Wasatch Front/Salt Lake Valley.  Contact me here for more details or to get something scheduled.

Below you will find my options.  Want something different?  Just let me know!  I’m happy to cater my presentation to your group’s needs.


Complimentary Presentations

Appropriate for Activity Days, Young Women/Young Men, Youth Firesides, Relief Society Meetings, etc.

Each presentation is approximately 1 hour- 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for questions/discussion.

  1. Redeeming Childbirth: Understanding God’s design for childbirth and how it fits into the plan of salvation. Also discusses how women are changed and magnified through the process of giving birth.
  1. Historical Birth: From pioneers to millennials, understanding how birth has changed for better and worse.
  1. Heavenly Mother: Where did She go and how can I find Her?

Stipend Presentations ($50-$100 depending on distance traveled.)

Appropriate for expectant couples, doula groups, childbirth educators, parent support groups etc.

Each presentation is approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for questions/discussion.

  1. What is an empowered birth and how can I have one? Evidence based decision- making will also be discussed.
  2. A doula’s role to educate and still provide unconditional support. Finding the line between judgement and trained support.
  3. Make or break: How those you invite to your birth will influence it for good or bad.

Tuition Class (outside of Boise)

3 hour Music Birth Class, $75/couple.  Minimum of 2 couples.

As a one-night comprehensive class, Music Birth is perfect for busy parents-to-be, a great refresher course for experienced parents and an empowering class for all parents who want to have a safe and comfortable birth. This class teaches moms how to become deeply relaxed, support people how to effectively encourage and comfort the birthing woman, and is the only class that teaches how to effectively use music during birth.

Class tuition includes 3 hours of professional instruction, one signed copy of my book The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby, Music Birth Class Manual, Playlist sample CD and Imagery practice CD.

Presentations by Marie Bigelow, MT, AdvCD(DONA)

Poor Advice I Followed and Now Regret

New moms are bombarded with unsolicited advice.  It can feel overwhelming, condescending, annoying, and make you really doubt yourself!  Having no younger siblings, I didn’t know anything about babies when I became a mom!  Like many women, I learned as I went.  And 12 years later I’d like to share some of the worst advice I was given.  Advice that I followed and now wish I hadn’t.  And just for fun, I’ll throw in some unsolicited advice of my own now that I’ve had 4 kids and have surely become an expert by now.  🙂

1: Share your baby.  I remember shortly before giving birth to my first child, my dad encouraged me to share my baby with the family.  He pointed out that I would have soooo much time with her, and I should be willing to share her.  Having never been given poor advice from my dad, I followed this advice and happily passed my baby around as much as I could.  I now see that I should have held her close more and not have been so eager to make others happy with her presence.  (  can also see that he was possibly planting a seed so he would get more time with her….  It’s sweet and I love my dad, and I loved watching him be a grandpa to her, but I do feel like I missed out on her parts of her babyhood.)

My advice:  Sure my time with her was ample, but only for a handful of months.  I initially felt like she would be a baby for much longer than she really was, and before I knew it, she was crawling and wanted little to do with me.  My arms still ache to hold her as a baby.  So my advice is to mainly share your baby when it benefits you, not when it benefits others.  If someone would like to hold your baby so you can rest, shower, or eat- then that is wonderful.  If someone wants to hold your baby while he/she is content and snuggly in your arms, think twice about how fleeting babyhood is.  It’s ok to be selfish when it comes to your own baby.

2: Don’t sleep with your baby: Co-sleeping is a hot topic, and it was even more polarized 12 years ago than it is now.  There were no voices of reason when it came to co-sleeping back then.  There was one message, and that was you should never sleep with your baby.  If you do one of two things will happen: 1: they will become totally co-dependent on you forever for everything, or 2: you will roll onto your baby and they will die.

It’s always in my nature to do the “right” thing, so I fought my baby for months, insisting she sleep alone in her crib.  I wasted hours upon hours of sleep, on my feet, shh-ing her back to sleep, only to have her wake up the second I placed her back in her crib.  By about 4:00 or 5:00 am each morning I would give up and co-sleep until 9 or 10.  Then each morning I felt like a miserable failure and vowed to never co- sleep again.  Only to end up reliving the same torturous night again and again.

Everyone told me it was dangerous to co-sleep.  11 years later I’d like to argue that the real danger is a mother who is pushed to the brink of delirium due to lack of sleep!  No one told me that my rest was important.  The only message given to me was that the only important thing was teaching my baby to sleep alone.  And all that meant was that neither of us slept.  For about an entire year.  And it was dreadful.  And I almost lost my mind.

My advice:  Let your baby tell you how they want to sleep:  Due to extreme fatigue and baby number #2 arriving less than 16 months after baby #1, co-   sleeping happened constantly because I pretty much fell asleep every time I nursed.  I would nurse for 5 hours straight at night and not even realize it.  But then baby #3 came along and he was totally content to sleep alone.  So we hardly ever co-slept.  I enjoyed the freedom of watching TV at night with my husband, going out with friends after he was down for the night, and even started attending more births as a doula.  But then baby #4 came and he wanted to sleep in my arms.  So I cut back on doula work and slept with him most nights because by then I had learned that nothing is more important than sleep.  If your baby sleeps well without you, then don’t feel guilty for having them sleep alone.  Enjoy it.  If your baby wants to sleep with you, then tuck them into bed with you.  Enjoy it.  Don’t do drugs.  Don’t go to bed intoxicated.  Chances are you won’t only not kill your baby, but you just might get some sleep, too.  (Get more sleep tips here!)

3: Stop nursing when you get pregnant.  At my first child’s 9 month well baby visit I mentioned to our pediatrician that I was pregnant and we would be adding a new baby to his practice.  He asked me if I was still nursing and I told him I was.  He looked me in the eye and said “No, you’re done nursing.”  So what did I do?  I went home and weaned my baby, of course.  Again, wanting to do the “right” thing, I obeyed the advice I was given, assuming it was doctrine, because it came from a doctor after all.

My advice: Decide for yourself.  I think my big takeaway with this experience is that I wasn’t the one who chose when to stop breastfeeding.  I hate that I blindly obeyed a doctor, especially now when I know many women who have continued breastfeeding after becoming pregnant.  My big regret is not being an active participant in the decision making, not the decision itself.  My milk supply was dwindling by that point, and weaning would have probably happened on it’s own in the next month or so.  But that decision was mine to make.  No my pediatrician’s.

In my experience, regret tends to come more often when we do something because someone else told us to do it, instead of us deciding for ourselves that it is the best thing to do.  Over the years I have also been given an abundance of good advice that I have incorporated into my mothering, and I feel good about it because I thought it over and felt that it rang true to myself and my beliefs.  Bottom line is, you are the mom and you are in charge!  You get to decide what works for your family, because no one else is as in-tune to your family’s needs than you are.  So don’t doubt yourself.  You’ve got this!

If you want more information on how to make decisions, check out my book The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby.  Learn how women all over the country are using scientific data, LDS doctrine, and personal revelation to make birthing decisions that are right for them and prevent personal regrets.

Written by Marie Bigelow, MT, AdvCD(DONA)

Spiritual Birthing: One Woman’s Journey

How does a woman find the strength to birth her baby?  Where should she search for that strength, and what will she need to do in order to receive it?  There is no one answer to these questions, for as we seek for strength, we will find it; even in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

Preparing for Spiritual Strength

Towards the end of my third pregnancy, I felt an urgency to prepare spiritually for his birth.  I delivered my first baby with an epidural and the next without any medication.  I knew I wanted another natural birth with my third because I had a very bad experience with my epidural, and never wanted to experience a birth like that again.  Although I felt extremely prepared to cope with the intensity and pain that comes with childbirth, I also desired to have a more spiritual experience with my third birth.  I knew that I could take my birth process beyond the physical experience, and I could thrive and gain a deeper understanding of my Savior and His sacrifice.

One day I was reading a blog post written by a birth doula.  She had been studying about Eve and her life experiences, specifically childbirth.  After thinking about how Eve had no earthly help except Adam, she wondered if it was part of Eve’s eternal mission to continue helping women on Earth with this important life event.  This doula decided to take her question to the Lord.  At the next birth she attended she felt Eve’s presence very strongly in the delivery room.  This doula had a distinct impression that Eve attended any birth that she was invited to.  Though our doctrine does not teach this, I was intrigued by this idea.  Could I receive help and strength from Eve, just by asking for it? I figured it was worth a shot. I began praying and telling my Heavenly Father that I was willing to accept help from Eve and was inviting her to attend my birth.

Seeking strength from both sides of the veil

Throughout my whole labor and delivery I never felt Eve’s presence.  I was waiting to feel her but never did.  At first this was slightly confusing and disappointing, and I thought maybe I hadn’t invited her in the right way or that Heavenly Father hadn’t understood my true desires.  But I later saw that there was just a greater plan for this birth and the experience I would gain from it.

My husband has always been a wonderful support to me throughout labor and delivery, but this time I expressed to him my personal desires to be more mentally present and open to the promptings of the Spirit.  I also wanted him to be in the right mindset as well.  He was very accepting of this and was extremely present, physically and mentally, during the birth.  I am very blessed that he met my every need, (even my midwife commented about how lucky I was to have such an amazing birth partner!) I felt so supported and strengthened.

But after a long and trying first half of labor without much progress, I knew that something wasn’t going quite right.  I was tired of being hooked up to monitors (even intermittently) and felt that I needed some alone time to just listen to my body.  My midwife unhooked me from everything and I got into the shower in a dark, candle-lit bathroom.  With my husband just on the other side of the glass door I knelt over the stool and let the warm water run down my back.  I had a contraction that was much more intense than the previous 16 hours had been and I knew this was the beginning of my baby’s arrival.

In the quiet solitude of that warm and peaceful bathroom I pleaded with the Lord for extra strength.  As soon as I had uttered my plea, I felt a warmth that was not coming from the water of the shower.  It came from within my body and I knew that my Savior was with me, holding me up and helping me understand the depth of His love for everyone, and teaching me why He suffered in the garden for me.  He loves me so much, and as I felt this love, I received a renewal of strength to “suffer” for my baby because I loved him! Not only did I gain a greater testimony of my Savior but also of prayer and that the Lord will respond when we need the answers the most.

In the excited moments after my son’s arrival, I had another amazing experience.  It was an “out of body” experience that I can only describe now as a vision.  As I pushed my baby out, I was surrounded by 4 of my ancestors.  My grandmothers were standing by my right shoulder, embracing each other; and my husband’s father and grandmother were by my left shoulder.  The veil was so thin I felt as though heaven was touching earth.  I felt their love for me and my desire to bring children into this world.  I will always hold this moment close to my heart.  Overcome with joy and gratitude, I thanked my Father in Heaven for blessing me with family members who strengthened and comforted me more than I could have imagined.  I was hoping to find strength in Eve, but Heavenly Father knew what I truly needed.

Inquiring of the Lord

My experience was unique to me.  It was what I needed at the time to have the spiritual birth I desired and to bless my family.  Through my experience my husband was able to feel the love of his earthly and Heavenly fathers, and other family members have felt comfort as I have shared this experience with them.

In Alma 34:27 it states, “Let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare”.  This scripture reminds us that our Heavenly Father cares about our welfare.  CONTINUALLY!  He is our Father and His love for us is beyond what we can measure! He doesn’t just care about us when we are on a mission serving him 24 hours a day, or when we are the Relief Society president, or when our husband gets called into the stake presidency.  He thinks about each of us individually and constantly.  And since He cares about our welfare at all times, just imagine how much more He feels when we are making a body for one of His choice children!  If we remember to pray to Him always, then we will be in a position to receive the help or revelation that we need.

A few years ago I realized that I was turning to the Lord, in particular, to decide when my husband and I should have children and when I felt I needed extra help parenting our oldest.  But I never thought to include Him in my decisions in between; pregnancy and the birth!  Just as the Lord cares about if, when, and how we choose to have children, He also cares when, where, and how we give birth.  Once I realized this, I was able to change everything about how I feel during my pregnancies and each birth.  I now have confidence in how I choose to give birth and there is no room for fear.   If you are feeling trepidation during your pregnancy, go to the Lord!  If you are unsure about your birth plan, go to the Lord!  He will bless you with comfort, knowledge, reassurance and anything else you need.  “But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8)  Do your own research, pray and be willing to follow and the Lord will guide you toward which path is right for you.

Just like Heavenly Father knew me and what I needed most, he knows you! Think of what you would like your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum experience to be like and then go to Him in prayer with your requests. But be open! You may have the experience you are wanting or something even better!  I never would have dreamed that I would have the experiences I did, but I’m grateful that I was ready to feel whatever He saw fit to bless me with.  It changed the way I see my family and it changed the way I view birth!


Written by Marissa Mason

Birth doula serving Hayward, CA

(760) 987-9009

My name is Marissa Mason.  My wonderful husband, Brandon, and I have been married for 7 amazing years and have 3 wonderful children.  We are excited to be welcoming our 4th baby in August.  Brandon is attending Life Chiropractic College West and will graduate in June as a Doctor of Chiropractic.  I am thrilled to be at the beginning of my journey as a birth doula. I’ve helped two mothers, so far, meet their beautiful babies and achieve their dream births. I look forward to helping educate and empower women for many years to come and aid them as they achieve their ideal birth outcomes.  My family is currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area as my husband finishes his schooling and we plan to move back home to San Diego upon completion.

Want to learn more about preparing for a spiritual birth of your own?  You’ll love this book.

Finally!  A resource that discusses the spiritual and scientific truths regarding childbirth.  Learn the benefits and risk of all types of births, and learn how to make safe and informed decisions regarding the birth of your child.  In addition, learn to trust in God’s divine design of childbirth, and discover the many ways He blesses and magnifies the birthing woman.

Labor Playlists: 7 Helpful Tips

Are you wondering what your labor playlist should include?  Most women want to incorporate music into their births, but are often confused about what type of music to listen to.  Luckily for you, I have a degree in Music Therapy and am going to give you some advice on compiling your perfect, labor playlist!

  1. Music that is beautiful. For your labor music to be most effective, you need to love listening to it.  Set aside time to truly listen and find music that you enjoy and look forward to hearing at your birth.  It needs to be a lovely distraction that will be easy for you to want to focus on.  Enjoyable music is subjective, and will vary from person to person.
  1. Music that relaxes you: My clients often want to listen to music that pumps them up, but this is usually the opposite of what you want during labor.  Relaxation is key to a successful birth.  Not only does being relaxed make contractions less painful, relaxation also helps labor progress in a timely manner.  So pick music that is simple and helps your heart rate slow down, your breathing become rhythmic, and helps you feel at peace.  Find pieces that are simple and free flowing, and with just one or two instruments.  Something that reminds you of a peaceful stream.  My favorite: Kelly Yost, Piano Reflections.
  1. Music that energizes you. This may sound like a contradiction to number two, but hear me out.  Labor can be long, and often occurs during the night when we are tired.  If you find yourself exhausted during your labor, then you need to find music that helps you wake up and become reenergized.  It still needs to be relaxing, but can have a stronger beat and more instrumentation.  The music should be rhythmic and entertaining enough that listening to it invigorates you and helps you stay motivated.  My favorite: Chris Botti, Italia.
  1. Music that inspires you. Though lyrics can become bothersome as labor progresses, music with a positive message can help keep your mind optimistic and your heart happy.  Music with religious significance or positive messages can do wonders for your mental health during labor!  My favorite: “I Surrender All” and Sia, “Unstoppable”.
  1. Music that makes oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone of love, and also the hormone of labor!  So turn on some tunes that turn you on!  Too weird?  Turn on some lullabies.  Music that makes you think about your baby will help your brain make more oxytocin, helping your labor progress.  It also reminds you that your discomfort has a purpose. My Favorite: John Legend, All of Me
  1. Music that matches how you feel. As labor gets more intense, make sure your music does, too.  Music is most supportive when it matches how you feel.  Transition feels a lot different than early labor, and the music you listen to should reflect that.  Think full orchestra, movie soundtrack.  Trade in your free-flowing relaxation playlist for music that has a lot more tension and release in it, with a lot more instruments.  My favorite: Out of Africa soundtrack
  1. Music that makes you feel like you. Sometimes labor can be long and frustrating.  Have some tunes on hand that always lift your spirit and make you happy.  Don’t listen to them for too long because they probably won’t be appropriate for all of labor.  But it’s ok to take an emotional time-out and listen to something fun and upbeat to help you get your game face back on.

Adding the right music to your labor can make your birth less painful and more relaxing.  Practice relaxing and breathing slowly as you listen to your music.  This will help your body automatically relax when it hears your labor music on the big day.

Want more information?  Music Birth classes are offered monthly in Boise, ID.  I also offer a self-study course, Music and Miracles, which includes one copy of my book The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby, Music Birth class manual, Playlist CD, Imagery CD, and a 30 minute phone call with me (Marie Bigelow, doula, music therapist, author, childbirth educator).

Written by Marie Bigelow, MT, AdvCD(DONA)

Author of The Sacred Gift of Childbirth and owner of Sacred Gifts Birthing-

Music Birth Childbirth Education and Doula Services

Breastfeeding: Friend or Foe?

Breastfeeding Bond
Breastfeeding is so special. It can be a source of comfort, love and bonding. It is beautiful, good for baby, and good for momma.

But what about when it’s not?

For some women, myself included, there can be endless obstacles, problems, challenges, heartache and tears! This is my story, and includes a few major “obstacles” I experienced after the birth of my third child. We had a beautiful natural birth. It was only 4 hours long and he was delivered safely, all on his own. We chose to not find out the gender, so when he was born I swooped him up quickly and held him tightly to my chest as I cried tears of joy! I pulled him away and announced to my hunny that we had another son! It was a picture perfect birth.

Immediately following birth he latched on and began to nurse. I nursed my first two children exclusively for nearly a year. So I figured breastfeeding would be no problem for me! I was an expert. During this first feeding, it felt awkward, uncomfortable and painful. I asked my midwife to check his latch because it seemed different, she told me it looked great and to continue because “it’s always tender at first” (very true). I also asked the pediatrician to check the latch and she did as well.


Every time I nursed it still hurt. ‘Maybe I should call the lactation consultant,’ I thought. ‘But I’m a third time mom, this is like riding a bike! I’m fine.’ Wrong! I decided to be humble and ignore my embarrassment and eventually called for the Lactation consultant to come in. She checked the baby’s mouth and tongue for ties (what the heck is a tie??) and did not find any. She then evaluated the latch and said it was good. (okay, great! I’ll try again, thank you very much!)

Well guess what? Nothing improved. Even though I saw 4 doctors and 3 lactation consultants. None of them could help. I spent 3 long months trying figure out nursing. I would cry through every – single – feeding. My nipples had begun to crack and were very sore and painful to touch. When my son was 2 weeks old I was burping him and his spit up was completely red from the blood of my nipples. I never had baby blues with my others, but I had it now! I wanted to be happy and enjoy my baby, but I began to resent feedings. I was so weary of him that I went to great lengths to keep my older children quiet just so he would sleep longer and I wouldn’t have to nurse.

I was so mad at myself for feeling that way. I wanted to enjoy my baby. I wanted to love nursing like I did with my first two. I felt like a failure each time I saw a different professional and they told me nothing was wrong. I thought maybe I had post-partum depression and if I could just be happy it wouldn’t hurt to nurse. I was angry at my baby. I was angry at my breasts, but mostly I was angry at the professionals that couldn’t help me. I lost faith in their abilities.

My husband was so sweet and supportive, but he had a hard time understanding why I wouldn’t feed the baby formula. The problem was, I knew how to nurse and I knew I could do it! I had already successfully nursed two babies! I just didn’t know why this baby couldn’t do it! Together we prayed, fasted, and he gave me several blessings.

Seek Help

My sweet sister also had a nursing baby at the time, and one day offered to nurse my son. We spent the whole day together and she nursed him several times. At first she said it was good- felt normal- but by the end of the day she was in pain as well, and said she couldn’t do it anymore. Heaven to my ears! I knew it wasn’t my fault! Her confirming that it felt different gave me even more hope and a desire to seek answers. I decided to share my story on social media and got the response from several women that my son MUST be tongue-tied.
I thought they were crazy. How could seven different professionals say this was not the case, and ten moms who never even looked at my son be SO SURE that it was the case? I didn’t care! I listened to them and saw a specialist the next day.

At the initial appointment with the tongue-tie specialist, I watched a video describing tongue-tie, the effects in the baby and the mother, and the process of diagnosing it. I cried through the WHOLE video. My son had every – single – symptom. And I had EVERY – SINGLE – SYMPTOM. When the nurse came back to the room after the video she asked if I had any questions about the video. I immediately said, “YES! How long until the doctor can fix this!?” I felt so relieved. The doctor diagnosed my son with a 4th degree tie. I asked my doctor in tears why no one else could see it. I explained to him that I had seen SEVEN different professionals and none of them diagnosed my son properly. I had to endure pain for six long weeks! I was so angry at each one of them for being so neglectful. My doctor explained that 4th degree ties are very uncommon and hard to see unless you have been specifically trained in the area. He explained that many women who have breastfeeding problems switch to bottle feeding, so birth professionals no longer encounter problems like this, thus losing the opportunity to learn from it.

The days following the tongue-clipping were so much better! My nipples healed within days and nursing began to become lovely, just as I hoped it would be.

What is a tongue-tie?

“Tongue tie’, ‘Ankyloglossia’ or ‘short frenum’ are the terms used when the lingual frenum is short and restricts the mobility of the tongue.” (http://tonguetie.net/background/) In other words, a tongue-tie is when the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of your mouth is too short for the tongue to extend out past the teeth. A tongue-tie can cause many problems in a developing child such as breastfeeding difficulty and speech and language development.


Sometimes it seems our bodies have to go through heaven and hell. It’s hard. Sometimes there are obstacles. Don’t give up! Don’t stop trying! You are beautiful.

Your body is a gift. A gift that can keep on giving! Trust in your body and your instincts.

You are strong, Momma

Your body gives and provides life.

Your body sustains life.

Your body is beautiful.



I am Clarissa Baxter, mother of four. This experience helped me substantially when my fourth child was born. As soon as my baby entered this earth and I pulled her up to my chest- I could see she had a tongue-tie. The very next day an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) came to my hospital room and clipped her tongue right there. She was diagnosed with a 1st degree, meaning at the very front of her tongue.

It was such a relief to know that because of my hard work, learning and knowledge that I was able to take care of a problem the second time around before it even became a problem. In addition, my daughter was the first baby to ever have her tongue clipped in that hospital. The head nurse came to my room to thank me for insisting that a doctor come to my aid to help my nursing baby. She said that I was the first mother to ever do that and that it created a “buzz“ around the maternity ward. Throughout my stay in the hospital I had several nurses come to my room and thank me as well. I felt very proud to have helped the hospital in a small step to becoming a baby-friendly status hospital. Several of the nurses invited me to attend the breastfeeding support group to share my story and hopefully help other mothers.  I have always had a passion for labor; birth and breastfeeding, but feeling the reward of being helpful really lit a fire under me. This led me to enroll in an online doula course and become a certified labor and birth doula. I am now on my way to becoming a midwife and hope to help many more women in the future.



Written by Clarissa Baxter, CNA, CLD(CBI)

  • Birth Doula, Certified Nurse Assistant, Childbirth Instructor, Midwifery Student at Midwives College of Utah
  • 480-338-2851
  • clarissajbaxter@gmail.com
  • Serving San Lorenzo, CA

4 Things that are Hard to Understand about Birth

As I wrote my book, I dreamt of giving women the birthing information they desire and deserve.  Information that empowers them to make the best choices for themselves and for their babies.  I dreamt of changing the world, one birth at a time!  But once people actually started reading it, I experienced a pretty big case of nerves!  As reviews started coming in, my nerves were eased with the glowing remarks of many readers and reviewers.  But there were a small handful of readers who did not like what they read.  I was prepared for that.  I knew it was unrealistic to expect everyone to sing my book’s praises.

As I contemplated the few negative reviews I received, I began to see similarities in all of them. Misinterpreting the message, not understanding the data, and attaching righteousness to scientific outcomes were common themes.

So today’s post is geared towards addressing these common concerns and hopefully adding some clarity to a very difficult and new concept regarding childbirth.  I worked tirelessly to find the perfect way to explain everything in my book, and overall, readers are understanding and appreciating it.  But I haven’t found the perfect way to explain it to everyone so I want to take the opportunity right now to try to fix that with my list of four things that are difficult to understand regarding birth.


1: There is a physiological aspect of childbirth. 

There is a physiological component to most, if not all, physical aspects and actions of our bodies.  This is not a hypothesis and is not up for debate as it has been scientifically proven time and time again.  The primary difference between my writing and other scientific writing is I am saying that God purposely created the physiological aspect of birth.  Other researchers believe that evolution created this physiology in order to promote survival.  You may believe whichever theory you choose, but they both have the same science behind them, and the same ultimate goal of a healthy birth with a thriving mother and a thriving infant.

When birth occurs naturally, there is a physiological chain reaction that promotes bonding, increases breastfeeding success, and strengthens the woman physically and emotionally.  While many of my critics have tried to discredit it, the physiologic component of childbirth is well-documented and as such is one of the strongest arguments in my book. Believing in the power of physiology does not discredit the power of the atonement or free agency, but gives a broader understanding of the mind-body connection, and helps us make choices that can lead to greater health.

The physiology of birth is another testament of God’s love for His daughters because it shows His love in every tiny detail of childbirth.  No, not everyone will experience birth the way God intended, but that doesn’t make the information less important or less true.  We wouldn’t dream of discontinuing teaching about the Word of Wisdom just because followers of the commandment will not have perfect health.  Healthy physiology is not guaranteed during birth, but is a goal women can reach for when planning for a safe and healthy birth.

Turning scaryintoSacred (2)

2: Mortality prevents physical and physiological perfection.

My book teaches that the design of childbirth is perfect, but our bodies are not.  We are able to apply this thinking to most aspects of our health, but for many it is difficult to apply to childbirth.  Surely God designed every aspect of our mortal bodies.  Every synapse and response is purposeful and perfect in theory.  Mortality takes a perfect design and allows it to be imperfect.  But the imperfections of mortality do not mean that God doesn’t have a plan for the human body and its many functions.

Physical injury, physical illness and mental illness, are all (to a certain extent) an expected part of mortality, as none of us are immune to them.  Since childbirth encompasses the physical and physiological aspects of a woman’s body, we can safely assume that mortality often interferes with the birthing process. God allows mortality to interfere with birth, just as He allows it to interfere with every other physical and physiological aspect of our bodies.  While God is capable of removing our earthly pain and illness, He often doesn’t, as experiencing these trials is part of His plan for us to experience mortality and opposition in all things.  God is also bound by natural laws, and mortality is a condition that we all agreed to – knowing we would be tested and tried.

Along with mortality, we can’t ignore how our personal choices have an effect on our overall health and on our births.  Just as proper rest, nutrition and exercise increase our chances of a long and healthy life, proper preparation and decision-making skills increase our chances of a healthy birth.


3: Our choices during birth often interfere with the physical and physiological aspects of birth, but that has nothing to do with righteousness.

Utilizing our free agency isn’t always a matter of right and wrong, and personal worthiness is not relevant to birthing outcomes. This is a difficult concept for the Christian who has always viewed choices as good or bad. There is no righteous or sinful options during birth, just safer options with no religious tandem.

People really struggle with this one because usually choices that lead to poor outcomes are also labeled as sins, and that makes it easier for us to know what God wants us to choose.  This is not the case in birth.  Receiving an epidural or needing a cesarean are not sins (a point I make several times in my book), but they can lead to poor outcomes.  Since we are always attaching labels of sin and righteousness to our choices, this makes childbirth choices difficult to process and understand.  If getting an epidural isn’t a sin, then why can it increase my chances of having postpartum depression?

Plainly because it interferes with physiology.

Physiological interference disrupts the birthing and bonding process for many women.  This information is crucial for women to understand, as Latter Day saints are encouraged (not commanded) to make decisions that support good health. Of course there are the big commandments like avoiding drugs and alcohol, but things like getting enough sleep and low sugar intake are healthy goals to strive for, but won’t keep you out of the temple.  Our food and sleep choices often lead to poor health.  Poor health, however, has never been deemed a sin.  But poor health does make life harder and prevents many of us from using our mortal bodies to their full potential.

The physical and physiological potential of birth is miraculous and life-changing.  When understood this way, we can’t help but see God’s influence and our own personal influence on the experience.  A natural birth without complications is not a badge of righteousness just as a difficult birth with many interventions is not a scarlet letter.  They are both the combination of mortality and personal choices. The purpose of my book is to give black and white information categorized into risks and benefits and empower women as they make choices for themselves and their babies.  There is absolutely no talk of worthy or righteous choices.

I want all women to (1)

4: Science doesn’t have to be politically correct.

Just like our LDS culture wants to assign sin or righteousness to everything, our modern-American culture wants to assign equality to everything.  Our politically correct world wants to give women the right to make any choice they want during childbirth, and present all choices as equally safe and rewarding.  While I agree that women should be given the right to make birthing choices for themselves, we should not ignore how those choices can affect a birth and the long-term physical and emotional health of the mother and child. 

As we strive for equality, we still must be able to admit that every choice will not lead to the same outcome.  Thankfully, data doesn’t have to be politically correct.  We can choose to honestly look at the data and admit that many of the choices we are given during childbirth interfere with the normal processes and functions of birth.  It may not be politically correct or popular to admit this, but the truth often isn’t.
For those who have misunderstood my work, I hope this has helped clear things up. For others, I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the incredible design of birth. Understanding the divine design of childbirth gives us more reasons to feel God’s love. This understanding also empowers women to make safe choices based in data and doctrine.  Choices that improve outcomes, build testimonies, and strengthen families.

How God Makes a Mother

The qualities and attributes of mothers are an innate gift from a loving Heavenly Father.  Women who become mothers by giving birth, through adoption, and women who do not have the opportunity to mother in this life, are all blessed with feminine qualities that contribute to Christ-like love and mothering.

Strengthening and developing the desired characteristics and attributes of mothering takes time, even a lifetime. Qualities like kindness, empathy, love, and patience are given to women in a small, raw form with the expectation from Heavenly Father that we will live our lives in a way that will build up and strengthen our innate abilities.

Life experience, setting and reaching goals, following Christ’s example, and simply growing older and maturing, all contribute to the development of these desired characteristics. But there is also one other way that women change into mothers, and that is through the chemical and hormonal changes their brains undergo during pregnancy and childbirth.  Rarely spoken of and understood by few, Heavenly Father created a physiological chain reaction to ignite a woman’s ability to love, nurture, and protect her children, and help her develop into a loving, strong, patient, and compassionate parent.

I was pretty nervous to become a mother.  Growing up I didn’t have any younger siblings, and was so involved in school and extra-curricular activities that I didn’t babysit much either.  I remember quickly running out of patience during the times that I did babysit, and found myself easily annoyed by the tantrums and childhood antics of the children I was watching.  In my late teen years I discussed this with my mom, and she told me it would be different when I had my own children.  She claimed I would be more patient and enjoy them more.  I found it very hard to believe.


Selflessness and Strength

At just 23 years old, I prepared to give birth to my first child.  The pregnancy was difficult, as most are.  I was finishing up my degree and was always exhausted and sick to my stomach.  I would run out of class just in time to throw up into the nearest trash can.  My baby was literally making me sick day in and day out, and I was happy to bear that burden because it meant that I would have her in my arms someday.  After years of complete selfishness and personal growth, I was willfully putting aside my own comfort for my child.

I was becoming stronger, too, even though I didn’t know it.  The longer I was pregnant, the more estrogen and progesterone my body made, increasing my pain tolerance and preparing me for the upcoming discomforts of labor. (1) Once labor would hit, my body would undergo many more chemical reactions that would help me bond with my daughter, love her intensely, and nurture her with empathy and patience.

Love and Nurturance

During labor and birth, I experienced a closeness to my baby and to my husband that I did not expect.  Now I know those feelings were caused by the same hormone causing my contractions: oxytocin.  Outside of childbirth, oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding.  Our brains create oxytocin when we have positive interactions with others.  The more positive and consistent those interactions are, the more oxytocin our brain makes.  This not only makes us happy in the moment, but assists in keeping long-term relationships strong.  High and frequent amounts of oxytocin tell our brains how important someone is to us. If our brains were computers, oxytocin would be the code.

During labor, oxytocin tells the uterus to have contractions and the brain to love, protect, and nurture the infant.  Once the child is born, the mother’s brain experiences an oxytocin high, and creates more oxytocin than her brain will create at any other time in her life.  This not only heightens initial bonding, but creates coding in the woman’s brain for a long-term relationship, even though the mother-child relationship is new.  It also teaches us of God’s love for His daughters, His plan for birth to be joyful, and His desire for mothers and children to be intrinsically bonded.

The heightened amounts estrogen from pregnancy also create oxytocin receptors in the mother’s brain, helping her maternal instincts go into overdrive directly after giving birth.  This helps the early days of motherhood feel natural, even for a first-time mom.  It helps a woman bond to her child, which will help her feel rewarded by taking care of her child, instead of resentful.  (2) It also brings out her protective nature, and keeps her alert to anger dangers that may threaten her child.

Brain Power

We often hear women claiming to have “pregnancy brain” or “mommy brain”.  While the fatigue of motherhood can definitely contribute to a woman feeling foggy, the physiological firework session that women experience after giving birth actually increases their brain power.  Neuroscientists have determined that the chemical components of pregnancy and childbirth increase a mother’s long-term memory, motivation, empathy, multitasking abilities and prioritizing skills!  (3)  They also decrease a woman’s fear, giving her the courage to do whatever it takes to keep her family safe.

When we consider the miracle of birth, we are typically only considering the birth of the child.  But the physiological aspect of birth is the birth of a mother.  It is how Heavenly Father helps turn our potential into practice.



  1. “Hormones Driving Labor and Birth,” Childbirth Connection, Apr. 2011.
  2. Linda Folden Palmer, “The Chemistry of Attachment,” Mothering Magazine. http://theattachedfamily.com/?p=4979
  3. Craig H. Kinsley. “Motherhood and the Hormones of Pregnancy Modify Concentrations of Hippocampal Neuronal Dendritic Spines”.Hormones and Behavior. February 2006. 49,2 :131-142


Written by Marie Bigelow, author of “The Sacred Gift of Childbirth”. If you liked this article, you’ll love the book!

When it Comes to Cesareans, We Need More than Just Awareness

It’s April, meaning my daughter just turned 11, and it’s Cesarean Awareness Month!  As a childbirth educator and doula, my Facebook feed has been exploding with all the current improvements to cesarean births.  Like my colleagues, I applaud these changes as they not only humanize the surgical birth, but also make the birth healthier for both the infant and mother, and more fulfilling for the mother.  But unlike many of my colleagues, I find that these measures fall short of what should really be done to improve cesareans in America.

What’s currently being done?

A new technique called seeding introduces the infant to the healthy bacteria found in the mother’s birth canal.  Babies born vaginally are naturally exposed to this, and their immune systems are strengthened this way.  Cesarean born babies miss out on this natural exposure to healthy bacteria, so women now can ask for their vaginal fluid to be gathered and swabbed around the baby’s face shortly after birth. (1)

There’s also news of care providers now allowing skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant directly after the birth.  This is a great step in humanizing the experience, improving birth satisfaction for the mother, and eliminating unnecessary separation of mother and child.  The benefits of skin-to-skin have been well documented for quite some time, (2) and honestly, it’s ridiculous that it has taken this long to include mother-child interaction in 1/3 of American births.

Some hospitals now are giving women the option of clear drapes so they can view their cesarean.  Though not for the faint of heart, this measure helps include the woman in her own birth.  It can help her feel like she participated in her birth, instead of making her feel like her birth was something that was done to her.  There’s even a new drape with a flap for the doctor to pass the baby through so the mother can have contact with her child.  (3)

I think that women requiring cesareans absolutely should have access to all the improvements listed above, as well as any other reasonable request they may have.  (ie: her choice of music playing, her husband/doula/photographer present)  But these new measures are far from being routine, and parents shouldn’t assume they will be offered all or any of them.  As a country we need to get behind these improvements and encourage them to become routine practice.  But there’s also a lot more we need to do.

Why aren’t these improvements enough?

The measures mentioned above are good ideas to improve certain aspects of the cesarean.  But to the overwhelming majority of American women who receive cesareans, these improvements are a consolation prize.  Why?  Because over half of these women did not medically require a cesarean.

www.MarieBigelow.com (3)

The big issue here isn’t only “how can we make a cesarean a better and safer experience?”  We also need to address the fact that our cesarean rate is triple what it should be, that many doctors feel more comfortable performing a cesarean than they do supporting a difficult vaginal birth, and there are financial incentives that feed into our high cesarean rates.

Our rates are way too high.

The number one reform needed to the cesarean is a lower cesarean rate!  The World Health Organization believes that the cesarean rate should be between 5 and 10%, yet America’s rate is a whopping 33%.  (4) So no matter how family friendly a cesarean is, the truth of the matter is, 70% of women receiving a cesarean don’t even need one! Cesareans have a large list of potential risks, and improving one aspect of the birth will not remove the side effects of having a cesarean that you didn’t need.

Doctors need to feel more comfortable with vaginal births.

With a reasonable cesarean rate, women know they are only getting a cesarean if they truly need one.  In order to lower our rates, American obstetricians need to get more comfortable outside of the operating room.  New doctors to the field report feeling less confident in delivering a baby with forceps or a vacuum as opposed to doing a cesarean. (5) If doctors feel the most competent outside of vaginal birth, then vaginal birth has a very small chance of survival.

Get Rid of Financial Incentives for Doctors

If someone told you they would give you a hefty bonus if you could get the job done in a fraction of the time, would you be tempted?  Studies indicate that doctors sure are, as long labors are the number one reason for cesareans (5), and doctors make more money performing a cesarean than they do supporting a vaginal birth (6).  Hospitals can also pocket thousands of more dollars after the procedure.(6)  (Shouldn’t insurance companies just be outraged over this?!)

The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that labor dystocia (long labor) is not an evidence based reason for needing a cesarean, and that most women will be able to deliver vaginally when given more time to do so.  And since most women desire a vaginal birth, their care providers should be patiently encouraging them, not offering a quick fix with the potential of long-term side effects.

This research suggests that some doctors are performing cesareans out of convenience and financial payoff.  And that puts moms and babies last, when they should be first.  Imagine telling a women, “Hey, don’t feel bad about your unwarranted cesarean that cost twice as much as a vaginal birth and will take a lot longer to recover from, and may even prevent you from having more children.  At least you got the clear drape!”

Getting it Right

What women really want and deserve is the peace of mind in knowing that they are getting the best care available.  Reassured they will be supported through a vaginal birth – even if it’s long and inconvenient.  Confident they will receive a cesarean only when medically necessary,

For many women, cesareans are scary and their recovery can be long and burdensome.  It’s time for the medical world to make some accommodations that improve the experience for women.  All women who truly need a cesarean should be treated with respect and given as many family friendly options as possible.  We need to improve the cesarean without normalizing it, or using improvements as justification for the continued over-use of them.




  1. http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/06/birth-canal-bacteria-c-section
  2. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806325
  3. http://www.richmond.com/business/local/article_6a61730c-f78b-5cef-8c96-0967a9da554d.html
  4. World Health Organization, The Global Numbers and Costs of Additionally Needed and Unnecessary Cesarean Sections Performed Per Year: Overuse as a Barrier to Universal Coverage, World Health Report (2010) Background Paper, No 30.
  5. ACOG, Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery, Obstetric Care Consensus, March 2014.
  6. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/08/30/216479305/money-may-be-motivating-doctors-to-do-more-c-sections
  7. Carol Sakala and Maureen P. Corry, Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve (Milbank Memorial Fund, 2008), 44–46.