Closing out 2017

2017 is a year that I am unlikely to forget because of the very personal accomplishment of launching About Birth and serving my first birth doula families. Since March of this year, when I completed my DONA birth doula training with Chama Woydak of Homegrown Babies in Asheville, NC, I have been able to serve eight families at their births. The first four were shadowing Christina Libby of Commonwealth Doula Services and the final four were solo. All of my clients this year were first time moms with their labors ranging from a lightning fast four hours to about 40 hours. Two of the births were at the families' homes and the other two were at Lexington, KY, hospitals. Each family that I worked with was unique in personality, beliefs, background, and birth preferences, but I was able meet their individual needs by listening and learning at our prenatal meetings, and all four families wrote incredible reviews of my services. I feel very fortunate that they gave me the opportunity to serve them and show that I am excellent at this work. It was truly an awesome year!

So what's ahead for 2018? I have completed all of the my DONA certification work and will be submitting the paperwork on January 2. I understand that the review process can take awhile, but I expect to receive my certification by springtime. I just started a doula mentorship with BirdSong Brooklyn and have already learned a lot about how I can enhance my work as a doula (and wife, mother, and friend). I also recently became a professional member of Evidence Based Birth and will continue my training with them this year. 2018 will also be my first time serving a VBAC family and a second time mom.

Can I add your family to my work for 2018? It's been a wonderful first year as a birth doula so far, and I'd love to have you join me as we journey through the new year. Here's to beautiful, empowered birthing in 2018! Cheers (with a non-alcholic beverage of your choice)!

Not everyone's doula

On my website, I state that everyone who wants a doula should have one. As much as I’d love to be that doula for everyone, the truth is, I’m not everyone’s doula. In an earlier blog post, I talked about the importance of making a personal connection with the doula you hire. You are inviting this person to support and be present with you through one of life’s most intimate and sometimes vulnerable events. It is so important that you feel comfortable with the doula’s personality and manner.  

One of the best ways to make sure your doula is a good fit is to meet in person. At About Birth, the in-person consultations are free. My goal in these meetings is to get a feel for how we’d interact and work together. They are brief, typically 30 minutes, and casual. At my last two “interviews”, I was hired on the spot, so sometimes we’ll just know if it’s right. And if I’m not the right person for you, or you want to check out other doulas before making a decision, I understand and encourage it! There are several other doulas in the Lexington, KY, area who practice similarly to me, but have very different personalities that might be more in line with yours.

So, while it’s great to get hired, it’s way more important to me that you’re finding the right person to support you during pregnancy and birth. Who you choose to be on your birth team is crucial to having a positive birth experience. And everyone, I mean EVERYONE, deserves a positive birth experience. 

She’s a human, not an incubator

Many expectant parents make comments along the lines of, “…as long as the baby is healthy” when talking about their upcoming birth. As a mother of two, I wholeheartedly understand wanting healthy babies, but somehow we have created such a babycentric culture that not only friends and family, but also mothers themselves, believe that their mental and physical health have a lower value than that of their child’s. It starts when a woman is pregnant and complete strangers think it’s okay to feel her belly. She’s treated like a vessel instead of a human who may be totally uncomfortable with you touching her body.

Then, as the women thinks about how she might want her birth experience to unfold, she may weigh her options in terms of what is “best for baby.” These sentiments may be echoed or strengthened by her care provider, family, or even her own partner. Of course the baby’s health is important, but did the mother’s lose its value the moment the baby was conceived? There are two lives to consider, and a person shouldn’t be treated as though they are selfish or heartless if they take their own body into consideration.

The postpartum period seems to be a time when a mother’s mental and physical health gets most neglected. It pains me when women who’ve recently birthed are treated as though they’ve served their purpose in delivering this new life to the world, that they’re now an empty incubator, and all of the attention turns to the newborn. New moms need care. They need to know that they have support as they focus nearly all of their energy on caring for their baby. And while mom’s eyes are on the newborn, close family and friends need to remember to keep theirs on the new mom. Is she eating well? Is there something you could do around the house for her so she can feed and rest with the baby? Does she seem overwhelmed or anxious? Does she know that you have her back?

New babies are squishy and adorable and exciting. Feed them and hold them and talk to them. Respect when they’re upset or tired, revel in their joy, and celebrate their milestones. New moms are awesome. Feed them and hold them (if they want to be touched) and talk to them. Respect when they’re upset or tired, revel in their joy, and celebrate their milestones. These are two lives, two humans who are equally important to each other and to the world.

All my bags are packed (but am I missing something?)

With our first pregnancy, my hospital bag was packed weeks in advance. It was full to the zipper with things I thought I’d need based on books and online articles I’d read. I overpacked and stressed myself out about it. With my next pregnancy, I threw things in a bag in between contractions. Packing, along with many other aspects of birth and baby raising, can be easier the second go-around. So, while by no means a complete list, here are items a lot of people find useful:

  • Nursing tanks/bras: Good for easy access to skin-to-skin time.
  • Slippers: For walking around the hospital in labor and use around the room postpartum.
  • Flip flops: Sure they clean the shower before use, but still…
  • Going home outfit for you and baby: Think comfortable maternity wear and seasonally appropriate onesie/jammies.
  • Your own pillow: Preferably with a pillow case that will set it apart from hospital's.
  • Snacks: For most women, eating and drinking during labor is safe and so helpful.
  • Toiletries, and glasses if you wear contacts

For birth partner:

  • Sweatshirt: Hospitals can be really cold. My husband had to have a friend bring one (and still hasn’t returned it four years later- sorry, Jarrod).
  • Snacks: Hospitals feed mama after the birth, but dads need nourishment, too.
  • Breath mints: Mama does not want to smell said digesting snacks while she’s birthing.
  • Phone chargers:  Most phones get quite the workout during labor, delivery and postpartum.
  • Car seat: The hospital won't let you leave without one installed and will watch you load up baby.

When you hire me, I will provide a more comprehensive list, but in all honesty, you’ll need less than you think. The hospital provides a lot of birthing and postpartum essentials and you’ll spend most of your recovery time in the bed because rest is best.

Intuition in pregnancy and birth

In my experience, as the baby grows and your body changes in pregnancy, so does your intuition relative to the wellbeing of yourself and baby. And while many people seem keenly aware of and reactive to what their gut tells them in other aspects of life, some find it hard to do so when they’re pregnant. I think part of this may stem from the fact that everything is so new with a first pregnancy, so you tend to rely on books or others’ advice to decide if what you’re experiencing is normal. I strongly suggest trusting your gut and bringing any concerns and questions, no matter how silly they may feel, to your care provider. Of course, you can also run them past your doula first if you feel like you need a filter for all of the questions that may arise. Your care provider should be willing to listen to your concerns and answer questions. If you feel like you’re not being heard, it’s never too late to consider interviewing and possibly switching providers.

During labor, being in tune with what your mind and body are telling you is also important. For example, maybe you’ve been on your back in the bed, but you feel like you should get up and change positions. It could be that your baby is trying to move to an optimal birthing position and your body wants to help the baby along. Listening to your body comes into play during the pushing phase of labor. ACOG states: “In the absence of an indication for expeditious delivery, women ... may be offered a period of rest of 1–2 hours (unless the woman has an urge to bear down sooner) ...”* This means that some people will rest before they begin the pushing phase, and there are cases when it is okay to do so. Most of the time, you can also listen to your body in terms of how you push. Again, from ACOG: “When not coached to breathe in a specific way, women push with an open glottis. In consideration of the limited data regarding outcomes ..., each woman should be encouraged to use the technique that she prefers and is most effective for her.”*

So while books and Facebook groups may be your first stop when you have questions, don’t forget that each pregnancy is unique. Your intuition is important and you should always feel safe sharing information with and asking questions of your care provider and birth partners. You know best how and what you’re feeling- it is your body, your pregnancy and your birth.