About leighsteele

I'm a Mother of three, a lover of so much.

Course Sneak Peek: Chapter 22 – Sing Your Birth Song

Benefits of Vocalizing (from “The Holy Work of a Doula Independent/e-Course”)

Vocalizing is a way to externally dissipate the intense and overwhelming energy of birth. When a storm is brewing inside of you, moaning and breathing out its fire can be therapeutic. It’s also functions as a kind of distraction technique.

For me, the vibration of singing in labor helps to relax and soften my muscles, send the energy outwards, and distracts my mind. The added built-in benefit of singing is that you have to breathe to sing, so it keeps the exchange of breath and oxygen moving.

My singing in labor sounds like low-toned chants. Usually I chant or moan a single word or syllable (toning). Sometimes a phrase comes to me that I may chant or sing as well.

During my fourth child’s birth, I sang “Peace like a River” during the transition phase as I submerged myself in the water of my bathtub.  He would slide into my hands, underwater, just over an hour later.

In the clip, a surge begins and I begin my song.  As the surge climbs to it’s peak intensity, you’ll notice I bring my singing down to a whisper.  This was all of the energy I could muster during the most challenging moments of the surge.   It still helped me to focus my breath down and out, channeling the great momentum of the surge into song; into something more manageable.

A video clip of this moment is posted below.  Please note that I mistakenly noted his birth as “12.30.14” instead of 2013! Ha.  It was too much trouble and time to change it so it’s left that way for the moment.  :) Also, the video is grainy because my bathroom was only lit by candles and a salt lamp and I converted the video to black and white.

It’s not surprise that singing in labor has been proven to help reduce a woman’s perception of pain. This article outlines a study about singing in labor:

“The new method is being developed at the maternity ward in Italian city of Mantua. The research is led by Elise Benassi, doctor of musicology and obstetrics. She claims that voice vibration from singing partially prevents pain signals from reaching the brain. As the result, the pregnant woman experiences much less pain during labor. More precisely, singing expands the diaphragm, enhances respiratory capacity, and reduces muscle tensions and compression. Thus, the whole body is completely relaxed.”

Studies on the overall health benefits of singing have linked singing with:

  • a lower heart rate
  • decreased blood pressure
  • reduced stress
  • release of endorphins

“Some people who have been traumatized often want to leave the physical body, and using the voice helps ground them to their bodies,” music therapist Preston-Roberts says. “Singing also seems to block a lot of the neural pathways that pain travels through.”

Join us at Post Partum Elation!


Thinking Family practices for many continued blessings. Pro-active preventative to postpartum depression.

I have often said that it has been my tribe of women + families that has contributed the most to the overall “health” of my postpartum experiences.   A helping hand, a listening ear, the gentlest drop of advice, goes a long way for new (and new-again) mamas.

I am a contributer to the recently created Post Partum Elation, a Facebook page with two wildly intuitive + charmingly raw mamas Leslie Button and Maya Jundis Hackett. Between us we are guided by a total of 11 children; and thus we offer practical wisdom, practical magic, and practical love for encouraging a healthy postpartum period. Come and join in the daily conversation of elation!


From the Archives {2008, A Birth Letter to a Client’s Daughter}

a note card in a pile of petalsDear J,

The day of your birth will always remain in my memory.  When your Daddy called and said it was time to meet your Mama at the hospital, my heart filled with anticipation.   They had waited to song for you, their little girl.  Your Mama had prepared like a master; connected with you in her womb, surrounded herself with love and support, and walked the path of healing with grace.  I still remember your mama’s beautiful, glowing face when I met her for the first time.  I remember sitting on the floor with her, discussing the plans for your beautiful birth.  Oh, how joyful she was at your impending arrival!

I arrived at the hospital shortly before your Mama and Daddy.  It was a cool, beautiful Spring morning and I took time to close my eyes and envision your journey from womb to world.  Your mama arrived, breathing beautifully through labor surges and taking her time to stop in the halls and focus.    We were admitted into Triage, where your Mama bravely labored for around five hours in a tiny space with just a bed and curtains drawn.   A window in the space let the light of the morning in.    As your Mama balanced on a birth ball and leaned over the bed during surges, your Daddy would read calming affirmations about trusting her body, surrounding to the process, and knowing the process would unfold safely.   Over and over, his soothing, calm voice would speak in harmony with your mama’s breath.  I was humbled by the amazing connection I was witness to; what a team!

Finally, we were taken to a labor and delivery room where your mama settled in and kept the lights off for a soothing environment.   Surges continued to come on strong, and your Mama rocked, walked, swayed, bounced, knelt, and stood during each of them.   Her entire body was welcoming this process, her courage evident in every moan and sigh and smile.    Your Daddy was at her side, supporting her and holding her and telling her she was doing such a great job.

Your birth journey was long and arduous, barely allowing time for your mama to rest.  But still she continued on, doing everything she needed to do to bring you earth side.  And you continued on with strength as well, always with your heart beating strongly and perfectly.     On through the evening, labor progressed as your mama sat on the birthing ball and listened to music on her iPod.    She began to chant with the songs and in her voice I heard the sound of heaven.   In her voice, I heard her acknowledgement of surrender.

At one point, we all decided that we would have to get really serious with labor and so your mama agreed.   She changed positions, lunged, squatted, and got on hands and knees.  She did anything to help encourage you to move down and out of her body.   She was relentless, just like the waves of contractions that came and went with intensity in her body.    One moment that sticks in my mind when your mama was standing and swaying, her hands resting on her belly.  Suddenly she began to sing the most glorious song, in rhythm to her surges.   Her voice rang throughout the room, softly and calmly.    She was a beautiful vision to behold; her face so peaceful and serene.    I knew then that your mama would do anything for you.   The seriousness worked, as your mama’s body opened and progressed beautifully after all that work!   What a victorious moment!

As night fell, your mama’s body grew weary and worn from the intense work she was doing.  She needed rest and tried to sleep between the surges.  Sometimes, she would be successful and I would revel in the few moments of deep sleep she would receive.  I envisioned you resting as well, curled up in your mama’s warm womb, awaiting the next push and pull.     I think the nursing staff and doctors were astounded at your mama’s resilience, how she never gave up.  In fact, at one point the doctor strongly urged placing a scalp monitor on you and she refused.  Flat our refused with the confidence and brilliance of a goddess.   I was so proud of her I could have danced!

All along, your Daddy encouraged her, giving you both the love only he could give.  I knew the process was challenging for him as well, but his trust never wavered.

Soon, the evening began to turn into early morning, and we all gave your Mama and Daddy some space and privacy.  During this time, which I can only imagine was difficult and emotional, your Mama and Daddy decided that you would be born through the door of her belly.    I can relate to some of the emotions around this decision, Julianna, as my first daughter was born this way as well (and your sweet brothers).   It is difficult to put into words how a decision such as this comes from the deepest parts of us, especially when we want so much to push our babies into the world!  Many emotions surround this decision and I can only say I know it wasn’t an easy choice to make.   But I trust in your Mama’s wisdom and that is something I can say without reservation.   She knows.  She knew.  She still knows.

So, when I came back into the room, I held your Mama as tears streamed down her face.  Birth is such a transformative journey and your Mama had worked harder than any woman I’ve ever seen.    She wanted to meet you, feel your soft skin against her body, and rest with you in bliss.   Soon, she would do just this.

But again, your Mama’s courage shined through, as she asked to see the inserts for all of the medications that were being asked of her to take.  She even refused one of them and I was blown away at the clarity she had in these moments swirling with contractions, and decisions, and emotions.    Your mama was as brave as a lioness, protecting you and nurturing you through every single breath.    She had done everything in her power to will you through her body!  I told your Mama how proud I was of her and said goodbye as they took her to the room in which you’d be born.   Joy coursed through my body for her, for you, for your Daddy.   Finally, after a more than 24 hour journey, it was time for you to meet.

I waited in the recovery room and before I knew it, your Daddy walked beside your mama’s bed as it rolled in.  There in her arms was you; a perfect, gorgeous little girl!  My heart swelled with pride at your mama’s long and intense journey.   Your Mama and Daddy had finally gotten their little girl!   I stared into your mama’s tired eyes, noticed her sweet smile, and was reminded of the way birth changes us, continues to remind us of our perfection and humanity.     To me, your birth was full of triumph, even if it was not the way your Mama had intended.

I could not have been more full of pride for this woman who smiled before me.  She did it.  You did it.  Together, a team that flowed with the river of acceptance, faith, and resilience.  I cannot explain with sufficient words how proud I am of your warrior-Mama.  I am still reeling from your inspirational birth, from the way your Mama gathered her inner-resources and mixed them with your tiny soul-wisdom, and birthed you with everything she’d ever know.  She never doubted. She continued on.  She made choices, tough ones.

I am humbled, on my knees, to have been a small part of your journey.

This Holy Work Auction: Sessions + Courses at Reduced Rates*

Independent Study Course Logo Cropped birth consultant2*theoretically, depending on bid history :)

My dear and talented artist friend, Erin Darcy, lives in Ireland with her husband and two beautiful children. She recently held an art auction to help raise money to support her yearly trip back home to Oklahoma to visit her family. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to see her, I hope to fly to OK to visit her when she is there.

So, I thought I would also try out a little auction to see if I could add money to my “trip fund”.

Auction begins 2/17 and ends 2/20 at 6:00 pm MST at this link.

I am auctioning off:

  • Three Independent Study Doula Courses (starting big $15, valued at $40)
  • Three Skype/Phone Birth Consulting Sessions (starting big $15, valued at $40)
  • If there is enough interest I may add more courses/sessions to the auction list.

Check it out and spread the word!

SPECIAL OFFERS through 12/9/13

thisholywork specialIn celebration of the holiday season, and in joyful anticipation of our fourth baby, I am offering two specials on Birth Consulting Sessions and The Holy Work of a Doula Independent Study Course.   Both are excellent gift ideas as well. :)  Full details are below.

birth consultant2cropped

Skype/Phone session(s) are customized based on the specific needs and desires of the client and can range from a childbirth prep “crash course”, to emotional support leading up to birth, to open and flowing dialog addressing questions about birth.

OPTION A:  Cost for Full Session Package (purchased as one time package):  $100 SPECIAL through 12/9/13:  $85

  • Four hours of time (can be broken up into two sessions).
  • Skype sessions also available.
  • **Always open to the energy exchange of trades/bartering.
  • Session may be booked at any time from now through 2014 (Note:  I will be on maternity leave from 12/20/13 – February 2014.  Baby is expected in January.  I will be in contact with you to discuss possible dates and am always willing to be flexible).

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OPTION B:  Cost for Skype Mini Sessions (purchased à la carte):  $40         SPECIAL through 12/9/13:  $30

  • 1 hour of time via Skype/Phone
  • **Always open to the energy exchange of trades/bartering.
  • Session may be booked at any time from now through 2014 (Note:  I will be on maternity leave from 12/20/13 – February 2014.  Baby is expected in January.  I will be in contact with you to discuss possible dates and am always willing to be flexible).

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Independent Study Course Logo Cropped

A unique and simplified way to learn the craft of Birthkeeping and Doula Work at your own pace and on your own schedule.

See some snippets from the e-course material at these links:

Cost:  $40 introductory rate                                                                                                 SPECIAL through 12/9/13:  Buy One, Gift One for $25! (Order total $65)

Click below to purchase the course.   An email with a link to the password-protected area of the website will be sent to you shortly thereafter (from thisholywork@gmail.com).   This link will allow you to access all documents and materials immediately.

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PURCHASE “Buy One, Gift One for $25″ (total $65) BELOW: 

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NEW OFFER – Independent Study Option for Doula Course

Independent Study Course Logo CroppedFrom-the-heart, exciting news!

Based on input from former e-course participants, as well as many requests from wonderful women around the web, I am pleased to offer “The Holy Work of a Doula” e-course as an Independent Study Course!

This decision was made in part due to the fact that, because we will be welcoming baby #4 in January, I am unsure of when I’ll be able to host another live doula e-course session.  Instead of making those with interest wait, the Independent Study Course will offer another affordable option for garnering more wisdom around the role of those supporting women in birth.

The first round of the Independent Study Course will be offered at a reduced rate as I “test” out the effectiveness and format.  I will rely on my course participants to give me valuable feedback and input on how to continually improve the course.

What Recent e-Course Participants Have Said:

testify2“I cannot think of one single thing I would change, Leigh. This course has been a beautiful addition to my doula studies and I am SO thankful to you for gifting me a scholarship for it.”

“This course was simply fabulous and life-changing. The light it shed and the clarity it brought me were totally unexpected. I will definitely be recommending this to others!”

“Leigh, this course was invaluable! I was totally surprised by how healing it was for *me*! I have enjoyed every minute and treasured the “community of sisters” that was part of the journey. I will highly recommend this course to other doulas I know. You are a blessing!”

Cost:  $40 introductory rate.

Click below to purchase the course.   An email with a link to the password-protected area of the website will be sent to you shortly thereafter (from thisholywork@gmail.com).   This link will allow you to access all documents and materials immediately.
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How Is the Independent Study Course Similar the Live e-Course?

  • The course will still be an “at-your-own-pace” training, which is ideal for busy women or those who just want to dive into birth work in a way that feels organic to them
  • The same material will be offered:  500 pages (PDF) of information including the following:
  • Activities + guided meditations created to help the learner go deep into the well of wisdom within themselves
  • “Forever access” to a password-protected area on the website with links to all of the coursework and additional materials.
  • Instructional videos (created for this course) on comfort measures and relaxation techniques
  • Writing, video, and art prompts to stimulate creative learning and intuitive insights
  • Thoughtfully crafted handouts and guides, links to scholarly articles, references to evidence-based and holistic information
  • Visual aids and charts (electronic format) related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
  • Certificate of completion upon end of session (not the same as a certification)
  • Discounts on a variety of hand-made gifts

How Does the Independent Study Course Differ from the Live e-Course?

  • Not much! The level of real-time interactivity is the main difference between the Independent Study and the live e-Course.
  • I will not be hosting live webinars or managing an interactive Facebook discussion page.
  • While I am always available for questions or concerns via email, I will not be sending bi-weekly reminders or discussion prompts.  The idea of the Independent Study Course is to allow you space to manage the content on your own schedule, without being inundated with additional messages/media/social networking.
  • Note:  I am considering opening a Facebook page for participants that will allow for general discussion, camaraderie, and sharing of wisdom + experience.  It may not be as “moderated” with prompts and conversation as my live e-course Facebook discussion page.

Have questions? Feel free to email Leigh at thisholywork@gmail.com.