About leighsteele

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

Imprints: The Brazilian Queen and her Little Prince

“Imprints” is where I share little snippets, flashbacks, and memories of the holy work I’ve been honored to partake in as a doula.  These are experiences that have imprinted my heart.

Some of these are bits from birth stories or letters to the babies.  Others are the visions that come to me randomly throughout my quiet moments and remind me that we are so succulently alive.  And so perfect.

*****************************************

{From a previously published post in 2006}

September 7, 2006

Antonio Dalton,

Indeed, little one, you are “Worthy of Praise” as your namesake denotes. Through the 24 hour journey of labor and birth you endured, you emerged peacefully, aware, and still connected intimately between both worlds. As a witness to your Mama’s quiet courage and resilience, I write this letter in awe of the incredible teamwork you both demonstrated during your passage of love. I am so honored to have been your Mama’s doula, her servant during the dance of your birth.

Antonio, your Mama and Daddy were so anxious to meet you. They joked many a time as to whether you’d be “black” or “white”. When your Mama was admitted to the hospital on September 5 for a health concern unrelated to her pregnancy, she found out that she would indeed be meeting you soon. “Antonio needs to come”, they said. How excited I was when I got the phone call from your Daddy; it was the moment I had been waiting for. As I drove to the hospital, I noticed the sun was shining proudly and the sky was clear. A warm, summer desert day, as bright as your eyes when you gazed at your Mama for the first time.

When I arrived, your Mama was sitting atop her bed like a Brazilian queen, royal and smiling broadly with perfectly happy eyes. I hugged her and stroked her hair and told her she was so beautiful. Your Daddy was hungry and brimming with excitement over your impending arrival. Soon, your Grandma Esther arrived and we decided unanimously that this was to be the best day ever.

Because you weren’t quite ready to enter our world just yet, your Mama needed a little bit of help to move your little body along inside her birth passage. This was tough, exhausting work on your Mama, but she never complained. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, opening like a delicate lotus flower on the earliest of mornings.


Your Mama sat on the birth ball and bounced with you, even relaxed in a big wooden rocking chair in the late hours of the night.For most of your Mama’s labor, she had requested that a nature music CD be playing; I would be surprised if you don’t now recognize the sounds of rain, thunder, and birds chirping.It was soothing and helped to set the tone for your peaceful birth.

Antonio, please know that your Mama was a birthing warrior. I can only hope one day you are lucky enough to witness such a woman. At one point, at 2:00 in the morning, she began to sob atop her bed. With your Daddy’s tender arms around her, I looked into her eyes, held her close, and said “Perfect, let it all out, let it flow, we are right here for you, we love you…” She then firmly said she needed “time to be alone with herself”, although she allowed your Daddy and me to sit silently in the dark room, flickering with the light of some battery-powered tea-lights I had purchased. She found an incredible, rocking rhythm to move you through her intense surges, as she sobbed loudly and moaned. I know it sounds strange, but inside I was so excited for her. I knew this was the “moment of truth” for her and could sense she was searching deep inside for strength as she allowed the overwhelming birth energy to surround her. Your Mama was talking to you, I know it. You were sharing secrets and making pacts and only you will ever know what was said. I think that is so perfect, a testament to your Mama’s deep connection and love for you.

As the sun began to rise outside on the dawning of a new day, your birth day, your Mama finally got some well-deserved rest. And when we thought you would be arriving soon, your Mama suddenly received a burst of energy and carefully applied makeup, combed her hair, and donned her silver hoop earrings. She was a lovely sight to behold.

Then it came time to help ease you down and out into our world. For 2 and a half hours, your Mama beautifully and courageously birthed you with every shred of strength left in body. With each push, she added hope and adoration and faith. My confidence in her ability never wavered; she was so strong.

I watched in total awe as she worked to bring you down, down, down. Seeing your tiny head inch forward, witnessing your Mama opening up perfectly for you, was nothing short of incredible. Your very supportive nurse, Charity, coached your Mama with an intense gentleness and kindness. And when your fuzzy, dark-haired head was nice and visible, Charity called in your Doctor to help guide you out of your warm, watery world.

Your Doctor sat patiently for more than half an hour, helping to encourage your Mama with every push. And your Mama, tired but resilient, pushed you out with a fierce, yet graceful, force. Your wet, slippery body slid out in one big grunt, your face “sunny side up” and your mouth pouting. You were born so quickly that the Doctor had not even donned her second glove or called in the nursery staff! When I saw your head emerge, I signaled for your Daddy to come quick…and he did. Grinning from ear to ear, your Daddy joined in the crowd of people loving and urging your Mama on, and welcoming your sweet spirit. We all shared tears of joy and laughter at your swift, posterior entry into the world. You were healthy and peaceful and only cried for a few moments. You were laid immediately on your Mama’s belly and she caressed and stroked your head and face and smiled like the proudest Mama in the whole, wide world. You knew her at once.

I could not have been more proud of your Mama’s amazing efforts! At once point, I had the honor of holding your tiny, swaddled body. We looked into each other’s eyes as I hummed an “OM”, the primal sound of the universe to you. You knew immediately what it meant. I held you close and whispered my welcome to you, telling you how loved you were. After awhile, we laid you again next to your Mama and you tenderly cuddled one another and continued the incredible process of bonding that started nine months ago. What a lovely moment. You had both worked so hard for that.

When I left a few hours later, your Mama was resting as your Daddy and Grandma Esther snuggled your closely and got to know the precious being that you are. I knew you were in the safest hands. It was another beautiful day, sunny and boldly bright, a glorious celebration of life.

I am honored to have been present for your birth. I am humbled to have observed the unfolding of three new lives: yours, your Mama’s, and your Daddy’s. As I sit here today, I am still surrounded by a force greater than us all – the same force that brought you into this world. It lingers. It is bittersweet. And it is completely yours.

Welcome, Antonio Dalton. You are proof of the relentless circle of life, the untamed dance of birth, and the awesome power of love.

Thank you for blessing me ten times over.

Last Chance for Doula Independent Study Course Introductory Pricing

Independent Study Course Logo Cropped

A unique and simplified way to learn the craft of Birthkeeping and Doula Work.

As the new year begins in a few months, I will begin to edit and renew the elements of my Independent Study Doula Course.    As such, the introductory pricing of $40 will only be available through December 19, 2014.  

After that, the course will be unavailable for purchase or download until the new edition is released in 2015.   The cost for the new version of the Independent Study Doula Course will be $65.

This unique Independent Study Course will offer another affordable and flexible option for garnering more wisdom around the role of those supporting women in birth.  It’s an “at-your-own-pace” course that delves deep into the areas of birth support and does not require participants to turn in any assignments.  Rather, the course focuses on going inward first to uncover and discover your personal stories, myths, fears, and skills that you bring to the table of birth.

purple blue wash

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.

PURCHASE ONE COURSE for $40 BELOW:
Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

purple blue wash

Check out what past Independent Study Course participants had to say:

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.”

“I am just loving this! I am so amazed at the depth and volume of information you are sharing with us. I want to shout it from the roof tops that everyone should be reading this material. So much about how we need to treat everyone with love,compassion and respect. Just love it! thank you, Leigh”

“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!”

“I loved this course. I am so grateful for how it has deepened my understanding of birth and a doula’s role.”

“First let me say that I am really enjoying this course. I’ve had lots of “aha” moments and some surprise insights I hadn’t expected.  I found the course work that I have gotten through so far to be very concise and informative. I’m so happy that I have finally had the chance to do this. And happy that I have met a wonderful teacher like you, Leigh.”

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!

1483382_473321846127757_2299912409812555026_n

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!