A Reminder to Mothers

“You are chosen and highly favored.”

This week I attended a birth where this was so incredibly evident, it was absolutely beautiful.

It was a long labor followed by a Cesarean.

When I first became a doula, I thought a “successful birth” was one that ended with the mama triumphantly and naturally pushing her baby out into her own hands, those of her partner, or her trusted provider. When you first become a doula, it feels like it’s your job to prevent interventions. Interventions begin a cascade of unnecessary things that all stop the natural progression of labor and generally screw everything up. When I became a nurse, I learned why those interventions are performed and all the horrible things they’re used to prevent. Things like shoulder dystocia, HELLP syndrome, postpartum hemorrhage, and the very worst – fetal demise. As a nurse/doula, I’ve learned how to work with moms to prevent the need for interventions. How to keep themselves and their bodies healthy so the interventions can be kept in the cabinet. But this week – I got to see something really cool. This story is being shared with permission from the mama.

Tracy went into a slowish labor on Wednesday morning. Her contractions slowly progressed to being regular and intense, I joined she and her husband late that night. We made our way to the hospital. She appeared to be in transition – shaking, sweating, nauseated and working very hard. We were told she was only 4cm dilated. I was still upbeat – that just meant we had more walks to take. Hey, it’s my job to find the bright side. We worked for a couple of hours, but it became harder and harder for her to get out of one of two positions – laying on one of her sides, or on all fours. The baby wasn’t wanting to descend, but the pain was too great for her to stand up so gravity could help her. Every contraction would bring her to the floor, rocking and moaning. My gut was telling me to get her upright, but the force of this big muscle would drop her down every time. Another cervical exam revealed no progress.  We filled up the pool, hoping the warm water would help her relax, and allow for better positioning. It worked for maybe 10 minutes before she was back to the same position and level of pain.

By now it was deep into the early morning, and Tracy decided she needed some help and to rest. She opted for pain medicine and spent the next hour in the bed, rolled on to her side. The pain did not subside, she was just sleeping until the contractions slammed into her. We were hoping it would allow her to relax, praying for her body to cooperate and allow this baby to descend and be born.

Over 6 hours, she progressed one more centimeter of dilation.  She requested an epidural. As soon as she laid back after it was placed, the baby’s heart rate plummeted. It stayed down until Tracy got oxygen, fluids running in quickly and was flipped on to all fours, then laid on her side. From then on, the baby only tolerated labor if his mama was far on one of her sides. No laying on her back, no sitting up, no leaning toward her back. His heart rate would drop, the nurses would rush in and it would crawl back up. I began to see the writing on the wall and wondered where his cord was positioned. I began preparing Tracy for the difficult conversations she may end up having, the decisions that were on the horizon.

When the midwife arrived to explain that a Cesarean was necessary, it was clear that Tracy was disappointed. I reassured her that when these things happen, the reason is almost always apparent once they get into surgery.

When they pulled him out, Baby Bo was wrapped in his cord – tightly around his neck and one arm/hand. Now we know that nothing was coincidental.  Tracy was being pulled forward to keep him from descending, her body knew that laying back or sitting down would compromise his cord. Her cervix wasn’t opening because her body was protecting her son. The pain medicine didn’t work as well as it should have because her body was trying to keep her alert enough to stay off her back. What we (medical people) were seeing as dysfunctional, was actually quite purposeful. Her body was fighting to keep her son safe.

I’ve watched this mom since her son’s birth. She already knows him so well. She and her husband are already pros at reading his newborn behavior. They’re amazing advocates for him and love him so well. You know what I learned? She was chosen to be his mama, and highly favored in the process. God knew that she would listen to her body. That she would make decisions carefully, listening to her intuition. He knew it would be hard, and she would suffer, but He never leaves us. He is always with us.

“You are chosen, and highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

My pastor’s wife spoke these words to us today, as she bravely shared her recent struggles and talked to us about suffering. That sounds like a strange subject for Mother’s Day – but it was so perfect. Especially on the heels of her husband’s discussion LAST week when he basically said the “mommy wars” don’t matter. I backed him up online – I think people expected me to be upset because he listed several of my personal choices, but I wasn’t. He’s so right. None of that really matters.

What matters is that we use pregnancy and childbirth as an opportunity to get to know God. To learn how to lean on the Creator of the universe who loves us so much. He chooses every woman for her specific child or children. If we’ll turn to Him, He’ll empower us to be the best mother for our children. For my dear client this week, that meant giving up her plans and being ok with a surgical birth. For some moms it is homeschooling. Some choose to breastfeed for several years, others decide that formula is the very best thing for their child. I chose to have my daughter at home in a tub of water, pushing her out in the waiting hands of my midwife. One of my dearest friends had both of her babies with the help of beloved epidurals, and a really great physician. We both love our children dearly, and I know that we are both adored by God. We are chosen and highly favored.

Mama, YOU are chosen and HIGHLY. FAVORED.  The Lord your God will never leave or forsake you.  He is generous in grace in mercy. Walk in that. Hold your head high as you parent your children. And have a Happy Mother’s Day.

{Jamilla}

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Jamilla Walker is Co-Owner of The Labor Ladies, LLC. She is a doula, nurse, board certified lactation consultant and childbirth educator. Click here to read more about Jamilla.

How to Talk to a Pregnant Lady

How to Talk to a Pregnant Lady

As I’m typing this post I am in my 35th week of pregnancy.  I’m also in the business of pregnancy and birth.  To me, pregnancy is a totally normal thing.  It doesn’t warrant stares.  It doesn’t open the door for strangers to stroke my belly.  It’s not weird and it doesn’t make me a freak.  I’m pregnant.  I’m growing a baby.  Inside my belly.  And she’s getting bigger, therefore so am I.  I walk a little different.  I rub my belly when she tries to stick her foot out in between my ribs.  I probably look a bit tired once 4pm hits.  I’m pregnant.  To the rest of the population though I am a spectacle it seems.  Not in a bad way.  I really do believe people mean well.  They have the very best intentions.  I have decided many people just don’t know how to talk to us preggos.  They can’t not stare.  For some reason.  It doesn’t offend me.  But since I spend most of my time around sweet pregnant ladies I’ve taken it upon myself to try to teach the general public the basics of how to speak to those of us with babies in our bellies.  Feel free to print this out and leave it on the copier at work, the lunch table at your weekend family reunion, stick it in your toddler’s party invitations, whatever you feel like you need to do.

I’ll start with my most recent encounters:

Stranger: Stares, looks me up and down, turns to her friends as I’m standing RIGHT THERE, “Wooow!!!  She MUST be having a BOY!!”  (I’m not even sure what this means so I didn’t respond.)

Another stranger: “You’re about to have that baby, aren’t you?!”

Me: “well, no.  I still have like a month and a half.”

Her (full of pity): “uh..oh!  wow!  well, ya know they always come out eventually.”

Guy at Whole Foods to my 4 year old daughter: “So!  Are you getting a brother or a sister??”

Daughter: “a sister!”

Guy: “UGH I’m so sorry about that!!!  Sisters are the WORST!!!”

SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  Who says that to a little girl excited about her baby sister?!

So don’t do that stuff.  Also don’t say…

You’re about to POP! –   What a terrible visual.  Nobody wants anybody to pop anything.

How many babies ya got in there?! – Another no.  Most women have one baby.  Some women are lucky enough to have more than one.  As in, God has entrusted some women with the huge blessing and responsibility of growing, carrying, and then raising more than one baby at a time.  It doesn’t make her a freak.  It makes her highly favored.

Think you’ll make it to your due date?! – Don’t.  All women hope to go into labor a few days early.  All women know they may go more than a few days past their due date.  Why do we have to talk about it?  You already know what she’s thinking and bringing it up lets her know you think she looks huge.  Which is rude.

You look HUGE! –  Do we really need to discuss this?  Don’t call anyone huge.  The only huge thing is the piece of chocolate cake you are forcing me to eat because you have just told me how huge I am.  Actually, you can call a pregnant lady huge if you then hand her cake.  “Hi beautiful pregnant lady.  You look HUGE!  Here is some chocolate cake.”  If you aren’t holding cake don’t say it.

A nicer version of “You look huge” that I’ve heard more than once is “You are great with child!”  I’m not dumb.  You’ve just called me big.  Really big.  But you did it with flowery words hoping I wouldn’t notice.  I noticed.  And you aren’t holding cake so…

Okay, we’ve gotten the basics out of the way.  Now for the good news!  Here is what you CAN say to a pregnant lady!  (And if anyone wants to take the opportunity to say these things to me I will bless you in Jesus’ name.)

How to Talk to a Pregnant LadyYou look AWESOME!!!!

You are SO beautiful!

Would you like some cake?

It’s like you were made for this!  (She was, by the way)

You don’t even look pregnant from behind!  (I feel like this is always a winner!  She’s growing a baby and her butt still looks great.  It’s a win win!)

That’s it.  Nothing more is needed.  We don’t need to talk about due dates or the number of babies or the size of the belly.  Just a simple “You’re the most beautiful, glowing, radiant pregnant woman I’ve ever seen.  Great job growing a human.  Also, here’s some cake.” will do just fine.

Now…who is craving chocolate cake?!  😉

0622d6_0de5370a3d26426d8e6dcb5406307ca5This article was written by Meredith Tanner. She is a DONA certified birth doula, a teacher, a researcher of all things, mom to a wonderful little girl and another little one on the way, and the wife of a youth pastor. To learn more about Meredith and the birth services she provides please click HERE.

The Birth of the Labor Ladies

The Birth of the Labor Ladies- Greensboro NC Birth Doulas

The first time I wrote out “2016” I stopped to think for a moment…this year is my 10-year doula anniversary. Technically not until October, but 2006 is when my doula journey began. Here are some of the thoughts I had within those first few months:

“Ugh, I never want to be a nurse.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I ever want to be a midwife, I don’t want that much responsibility…”

“Owning a business is good for some people, but I don’t think I have enough motivation to do it.”

“I can’t believe this is a JOB. Sitting with moms in labor is so fun!”

“I don’t think anything will change once I have kids, I mean, I’ve been around the birth world since I was a baby…”

Well…*cough*… I might have been completely wrong about…everything. Ten years later and here I am, an RN, working toward midwifery, running a business that is everything I didn’t know I ever wanted (because that’s how God works). EVERYTHING changed with children, especially after the birth of my feisty little girl. I still wouldn’t classify what I do as a job. It’s my calling, and while some of the hours are long and lead to zombie-like days trying to stay awake while children take advantage of my sleepiness, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Supporting moms is my heart.

Ten years ago, I walked into a Panera to meet a potential new client, Devon Kline. I was in business sales and I’d stumbled across her card. Her card said “birth doula”. I’d grown up around the birth community – my mom was a Direct Entry Midwife when I was a baby, then a childbirth educator and La Leche League leader, as well as an avid Ina May Gaskin fan. I’d somehow never heard of a doula, and when I found out she was a professional labor attendant, let’s just say I was more than intrigued. We met for lunch, and she told me all about being a doula. I failed at getting her to sign up with Cincinnati Bell, but we became good friends and within a few days I was signed up for a doula course with Perinatal Educational Associates run by a woman named Connie Livingston. I completed my training and was released into the wild to change the world, decreasing the Cesarean rates and empowering women. I was idealistic and so naïve, but filled with hope and ready to take on the world. You know, be the change you want to see in the world and all that. My car died around the same time, and we replaced it with a VW Bug. My husband said it needed personalized plates and suggested LABR LDY to reflect my new career. And so The Labor Lady was born.

The Birth of The Labor Ladies- Greensboro NC Birth DoulasMy first three births ended in the OR. I was devastated and convinced I sucked at life. I cried so hard after the first one that my husband asked if the baby had survived the labor. But those births made me crave more knowledge. Connie had taken an immediate interest in me and tucked me under her wing (she’d been a doula for 20+ years at this point), including me in all her endeavors, giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow. Her belief in me is how I became the treasurer and then president of Dayton Area Labor Support, how I met and befriended Barbara Harper, and why I am now the Blog Manager for the International Childbirth Education Association. She and Devon were who I’d call on the way home from a tough birth, and would meet me for endless coffees and lunch dates. Connie and I would go to dinner with our husbands – where they would chat about sports and computers as we tried to keep our voices down while discussing placenta encapsulation in the middle of restaurants. Under her guidance, I became a childbirth and lactation educator. Devon and I would meet for study dates – as she completed a midwifery program and I my nursing degree.

A month before graduating from nursing school, my husband and I made the decision to move to move to Greensboro, North Carolina. Away from my comfort zone and the birth community in which I was well known and had been promised a handful of post-graduate nursing jobs. When we got to Greensboro, I applied everywhere and ended up working as an RN in a step-down ICU. ICUs are notoriously high-stress, but great experience and great for teaching nurses how to remain calm in crazy situations. Let’s just say my husband is a great source of comfort, as I got pregnant about six months into that job.

I hadn’t plugged into the Greensboro birth world yet, but hey, I fancied myself a doula extraordinaire. Who needs a doula when you ARE an awesome doula?? (Note – trying to doula yourself is ill-advised.) I ended up switching practicing mid-pregnancy from a midwife who’d yelled at me about my borderline glucose numbers (how dare she). When it was birth time, I talked my doc into inducing me after days of painful prodromal labor, got myself two epidurals, a couple big bags of Pitocin, a postpartum hemorrhage and some postpartum depression. I also had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad breastfeeding start with my son. I cracked, bled and cried my way through our first six weeks. It was pretty awful, but the Lord is good and redeems all things.

I’d quit my job to stay home with our son, so I was able to get back into the birth world. I began teaching childbirth classes again. Two of my sweet mom friends (Meredith Tanner and Amanda Freeman) requested that I start a breastfeeding support group at our church. A woman at our church caught wind of the fact that I was doing so and informed me that our women’s hospital was hiring nurses with lactation experience. I applied and got the job. I learned so much the year I worked for Women’s Hospital, surrounded by wise women who’d been LCs for years and were like walking encyclopedias of breastfeeding knowledge. However my daily census often listed 21-25 patients, which meant I was in another high-stress job. *Wink, wink.* Enter baby number two. My Elie-Bean, whose pregnancy and birth changed everything.

I did not want the birth experience I’d had with my son. I wanted the birth I’d dreamed of since I was 12 and pinched my mom’s copy of Spiritual Midwifery. I read Supernatural Childbirth and laid on my face before the Lord. I knew where I’d gone wrong with my son’s pregnancy. Arrogance, exhaustion, stress and crappy food will get you exactly what I got – an intervention filled birth and postpartum depression. So I prayed for humility. I paid close attention to what I ate and what I allowed in my heart. I contacted a homebirth midwife and politely excused myself from the fantastic (but hospital-based) obstetrical practice I’d been seeing, and hired a doula experienced in attending homebirths.

All my praying worked (go figure) and I had the most beautiful, complication free homebirth a girl could dream of. I didn’t realize quite how hugely my prayers would be answered, but I was in for a surprise. Three nights before she was born, I was out pacing. Restless. I begged the Lord – make this my testimony. Make me the light on the hill – I don’t know WHY I’ve been given this heart for birth of all things, but whatever, I’ll do it. Send me, Lord! Use me!

Now. While I was pregnant and praying all over the place, one of those sweet mom friends was in the process of becoming a doula. This time I was the more experienced one, full of all the wisdom that had been passed down to me. I came alongside her and encouraged her as she completed her training and first few births. And thus Meredith became a doula. She attended Eliana’s uneventful birth, as my friend and prayer warrior – getting to watch my doula in action. Two months after Eliana’s uneventful birth, Meredith asked me, in her quiet yet convincing way, to start a business with her. She’d been asking me for months, but on this day, she’d apparently spiked my chocolate cake and I agreed. And one Lady became two. We were The Labor Ladies.

I’d found, in my search for a doula for my E-birth, that not ALL doulas pour into each other. In fact, it seemed that a large number were more competitive than supportive. Meredith and I hated (still do) seeing this. We asked two other doulas that we’d worked with (including the one I’d hand-picked to attend E’s birth), to join us and explained our vision. Poorly. Because we barely had one. It sounded something like “um, we want you to join us so we can back each other and be nice.” But they agreed and we became four. Then our friend, Kayla, expressed an interest in becoming a doula and we adopted her. We didn’t really give her a choice, and we became five. That first year, we learned so many valuable lessons. We were forced to define our mission and purpose, as we kept adding in people and services. There are now 13 of us, including those in our mentorship program. There are sweet friendships woven throughout the group in which we love and support each other, we hold ourselves accountable and refuse to let pettiness and the expected, stereotypical girl fighting creep in. We share the knowledge we gain, our wins and our disappointments, so we all learn from each birth experience we witness. We partner up with new doulas, giving them a safe space to practice their skills, so they don’t think they suck at life and end up crying in the corner of an empty labor room. (And if they do, we come scoop them up and feed them cake.) We are a tribe.

The Labor Ladies is only a year and a half old. But The Labor Lady…I’m ten this year and I’ve been so blessed along the way. The most important thing being that this work is done best when we share the knowledge we gain, when we work together. Here’s to the next ten years!

Group Photo

T0622d6_220a10c5d20c4141a34c01c8e6db1e76oday’s post is written by Jamilla Walker. Jamilla is the owner of The Labor Ladies. She is  a Registered Nurse, a very experienced birth doula, an IBCLC, a childbirth educator! Jamilla is also the daughter of a midwife and strong believer in the love of Jesus. To learn more about Jamilla and the services she offers click HERE.

 

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor’s Wife

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor's Wife

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor’s Wife

When I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I took a Christian childbirth class.  I enjoyed the majority of the content.  I came out of the class after 12 weeks feeling completely confident in my ability to birth my daughter naturally.  At some point during the series of classes the instructor mentioned postpartum depression.  I don’t remember what she said.  I wasn’t listening.  I wasn’t going to have postpartum depression.  Plus I already knew about postpartum depression, it was something sad women without husbands get after traumatic births.  It was reserved for women who already had a history of depression, for those who didn’t have family to help them.  (Spoiler alert: I was wrong!!)  I definitely didn’t think it was for healthy Christian women with awesome husbands who happen to be pastors.

My daughter was born beautifully, naturally, just as we planned and prayed.  I left the hospital feeling like I could tackle anything the world could throw at me, after all, did you see how I just pushed out that kid without any drugs?!  Come at me, world!  I got this!  And then I started crying…

Now for some background into the complexity that is me.  I am not a hugely emotional person.  Give me a cute puppy, a Hallmark commercial, a sappy poem, and a sad movie all wrapped up into one and I’m the girl that says “Oh.  Yea that stuff is kinda sweet…”  I’m NOT the girl that cries about emotional things.  I reserve my tears for death and frustration.  That’s pretty much it.  It’s not intentional and I don’t believe its a sign of some pent up emtional baggage.  It’s just the way I am, I’m not a huge crier.  (Disclaimer:  I DO get teary at most births because…birth!)

I was fine for the first few days, but then the tears came.  This is normal, I thought.  I think it’s called “Baby Blues” or something – didn’t our teacher say something about the blues?  But it didn’t stop.  I would be holding my perfectly healthy baby girl with her delicious baby fuzz and just begin to weep.  Or I would put my baby down and go look at myself in the mirror.  No make-up, dirty hair, and my stomach.  Where was my nice flat stomach?!  The baby was out, why was I so squishy?!  Again, I would weep.  Not teary eyes, like actual crying.  My sweet mom would tell me I’m doing a great job and, you guessed it, I would burst into tears.  Sometimes, when my daughter was sleeping in my arms, I would begin to cry because I was so convinced that something was wrong with her.  Did you just hear that squeak she made?!  To her adoring father it was the most precious sound.  To me it was a sure sign that she was struggling to breathe.  Or maybe it was cancer.  Do you think we could find a nurse who will move in with us for a few months?  What if she is sick and I don’t even realize it?!  Anxiety, table for one??

I didn’t recognize myself.  For 27 years I had been stable, happy, easy-going.  Life had not thrown too many curveballs my way.  I had friends, I had family, I had the most amazing, godly husband.  I’ve always described my life as “vanilla.”  Just not much to report.  All of a sudden I was this bucket of tears and nerves.  I felt nothing like who I had always been.  I wasn’t sure I ever would feel normal again.  (I probably cried about that too).  This went on for weeks.  Four, maybe five weeks of feeling anxious and worrying about EV.ER.Y.THING.  Friends wanted to bring us meals.  I canceled them because…people!!  Mommy friends wanted to come over and poke my new baby’s rolls.  I declined because I knew they probably had polio or scabies and would give it to my daughter.  At no point, however, did I think this was postpartum depression.  It never crossed my mind.  I wasn’t depressed.  I wasn’t sad.  I had no feelings of emptiness.  I was just anxious.  I was just scared.  It’s called being a responsible parent and protecting your kid from EVERYTHING EVER POSSIBLE.

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor's WifeFast forward 4 years.  I’m currently pregnant with my second daughter.  We’re in the home stretch and so looking forward to welcoming another rolly, chunky, squish of deliciousness into our tiny family.  Around Christmas I began to think through my “fourth trimester” if you will.  In the years since my first daughter’s birth I’ve become a doula, a childbirth educator, and launched The Labor Ladies business with my dear friend Jamilla.  Needless to say, I know more now than I did 4 years ago, I’ve heard more stories, I’ve seen more things.  As I sat to process all that happened in the weeks after the birth I solemnly realized that I did, in fact, have a touch (…or a few touches) of postpartum depression.  See, I’ve learned that postpartum depression not only knows no prejudices, but exists on a broad spectrum.  Sometimes it’s about sadness, but sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes it’s about feeling empty, but sometimes it’s not.  I heard a story on the Today Show the other day where another celebrity was making a “shocking confession” that she too had postpartum depression.  An “expert” was listing signs and symptoms.  Overwhelming sadness, feelings of loss, feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.  It was all I could do to not scream at the TV…”THAT ISN’T TRUE!!!!!”  Mild postpartum depression can just look like anxiety.  Anxiety that interrupts your life, anxiety that takes you away from your normal routines.  Yes, I cried, but I wasn’t crying because I was sad.  I was crying out of worry.  I had no feelings of emptiness.  In fact my life, my heart had never felt so full of joy!  It was just those darn “what ifs.”  Turns out postpartum depression is NOT just for sad, unstable people.  Turns out a Jesus-loving, fully supported, pastor’s wives with a happy, vanilla life can jump over that line between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression just as quickly and easily.

The lesson I’ve learned and the one I share with the couples in The Labor Ladies Guide to Childbirth Class is that it is okay!  Hear me say this!  IT IS OKAY to not be okay!   Oh, you love Jesus and are supposed to be happy all the time??  It’s still okay to not be okay.  You’re a pastor’s wife??  It’s still okay to not be okay.  You’ve never been depressed or known anyone to be depressed?  Depression of any form is only something that exists in your college psychology books?  Yup, it’s still okay to not be okay…for a little while.  I wish someone had told me, “Meredith, it’s okay!  Everything is going to be okay!  You don’t have to put on makeup and skinny jeans and be on the front row of church right away.  You don’t have to feel like entertaining visitors yet.  It’s okay!!!”  (So actually my husband and my mom did tell me this, but I didn’t believe them.  Next post: The Most Stubborn Doula).  Here is what is not ok: It’s NOT okay to stay that way.  Every once in a while, even after the most beautiful births, we find ourselves in a dark hole.  It’s a safe hole, but we know in our hearts we need to get out and into the daylight.  Alert your tribe.  Tell your people you need to be forced out.  My tribe all knows I struggled with anxiety the first time around and they know to be on high alert this time just in case.  I don’t know what will happen after this sweet new baby is born.  I do have more knowledge now, and I do have my people who are watching, and I do know that postpartum depression is a possibility for ANYone.  Also, I have an almost 4 year old who will force me to get off of the couch and get on with life.  I can already hear the conversation:

Me: “but sweetheart, mommy is feeling kind of weepy and anxious today…”

Her: “mmm hmm, but the science center…”

Right.  Off we go.

Note: If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression please talk to someone who can get you the resources you need. Talk to a doula, a midwife, a nurse, a doctor or a counselor so that they can help you in whatever ways you need help. 

0622d6_0de5370a3d26426d8e6dcb5406307ca5This article was written by Meredith Tanner. She is a DONA certified birth doula, a teacher, a researcher of all things, mom to a wonderful little girl and another little one on the way, and the wife of a youth pastor. To learn more about Meredith and the birth services she provides please click HERE.

What We DO as DOulas

What Doulas Actually Do

When I first became a doula, I was certain I’d be spending the majority of my “work” hours (it’s hard to consider your passion as work, but for lack of a better word…) in hospitals, assisting a laboring momma and helping her have the birth she so desired. I pictured me waiting eagerly by my phone for THE call that it was time. I pictured myself praying over the labor and birth the entire way there, and upon arrival, soothing her in the waiting room. I pictured myself helping her through the sometimes rough transition of triage/admittance. Then, getting her from there to the delivery room. I pictured walking the halls with her, and helping her find a good position when she had to stop for a contraction. I pictured myself coaching her, reassuring her, encouraging her, massaging her, getting her into different positions in the room…etc. I figured I would be reminding her husband of what to do, getting him to do all of those things for her as well, and reassuring him if/when things got intense. I pictured myself being a beacon of knowledge, someone to answer all of their questions when nobody else was in the room, or when they were simply confused. I pictured myself as a gopher-when Dad had things under control, running to get more ice, water, snacks…etc, anything mom or dad wanted or needed. I pictured myself setting up a waterbirth tub and tearing it down after a beautiful waterbirth. I pictured myself getting mom through her transition, and reminding her to focus, breathe, relax, and be STRONG! I pictured myself doing counter pressure, using a rebozo, doing a double hip squeeze, and so forth. I pictured helping her figure out how to push if she could not feel the pressure due to medications. I saw myself taking pictures of those first precious moments when their baby arrives. And as sad as this is, I pictured myself reassuring moms should their birth plans not pan out the way we all wanted it to…holding her hand up until they wheeled her off to the OR, and then waiting patiently for the procedure to be over so I could assist with anything she needed. I pictured myself helping mothers and babies with their first latch just minutes after birth. I thought I would be answering the parent’s questions about newborn procedures and their postpartum plans as they stared into the eyes of their new little one, unable to remember or realize what was going on around them. I pictured staying with them as long as they needed me, and then letting them bond as a new family as I left the hospital on a birth high, praising God for His goodness, and heading to Cook Out for much needed post birth fuel.

 

Well, I was right. That’s exactly what I do as a doula when I’m at the hospital during a birth. However, I was wrong when I thought that would be the majority of my “work”.

 

I have discovered (in the best way!) that being a doula involves so much more than coaching and supporting a family through their labor/birth while it’s actually happening. It’s all of the stuff that comes beforehand, and all of the stuff that comes afterward that truly make up the majority of my “work.”

 

What Doulas actually doIt’s the first time they contact you and you have that lovely phone conversation or answer that exciting email. It’s the initial interview with the family, the first time you meet them and the first time they meet you. It’s getting to know one another and making sure you are a good match for each other for the special day. It’s meeting with them multiple times before any labor signs ever occur, coming up with a birth plan, talking about strategies and preparation, answering questions they didn’t know they had, and teaching them things they never knew before (I LOVE teaching during pre-natals, it’s seriously my favorite!). It’s working as a team to come up with the best scenario for their little one to enter the world in. It’s showing them things we’ll be doing during the birth to help them visualize the process. It’s practicing different birthing positions with them ahead of time so they’ll be more comfortable come labor night. It’s going to a waterbirth class with them to answer any additional questions they might have. It’s suggesting and offering up different resources for them to see and use leading up to the birth of their child, as well as for after their baby is born. It’s going to doctor’s appointments with them to keep them company during an NST, or reassure them during an ultrasound. It’s being available 24/7 to answer any questions they might have about ANYTHING, regardless of whether or not it relates to childbirth. It’s talking to them after a long day of people making comments like “you’re still pregnant?” and “you look like you’re about to pop!” and letting them know that they are beautiful and that their child will come out when it’s ready! It’s listening to their phone calls after appointments when their doctors say it will still be awhile, and encouraging them that this baby will come out one day. It’s keeping them up beat and positive in late pregnancy when their care provider utters the dreaded “I” word…induction. It’s reminding them to stay focused on their sweet baby and preparing them for the amazing birth they are about to go through. It’s reminding them to eat well and drink lots of water, taking whatever supplements they should be taking to make sure they and baby stay healthy through the very end when it’s so easy to slack off and give up. It’s having your phone on you at all times, and with the ringer turned up, even in the wee hours of the night, just in case you’re needed. It’s being ready to go the 5 times they think they’re in labor before they actually are, and consoling them when they realize that they are not. It’s visiting them the next day after the baby is born to help them remember their labor and answer any additional questions they have, as well as offering them assistance with nursing and good advice on transitioning home with their little one. It’s keeping in contact with them via phone in the days following their birth and making sure everything is going as smoothly as possible. It’s visiting them in their homes once they have settled back in and start to adjust to their new life. It’s continuing to be available to them as questions pop up that they didn’t realize they would have, and giving them referrals to other professionals when they need help outside of your scope of practice. It’s being there for them, no matter what, whether or not they are currently in labor.

 

No, I don’t have to do every single one of these things for every single client I have, for they are all different, and have different needs. However, juggling multiple clients at once, this is what the life of a doula looks like over the course of a few weeks. And I love every part of it! I’m so glad my job goes beyond the hospital walls! I treasure the relationships I have with my clients and I couldn’t be happier that God led me to this career!


0622d6_f7ca6db4ccc04cf5a1d1c93647df3e8aToday’s Post was lovingly written by Kayla Heeter. Kayla is an internationally certified birth doula through ICEA, a true lover of Jesus, a wife and a mother. To learn more about Kayla and the services she offers read her full bio HERE

Why You Don’t Get to Be “Done” Being Pregnant

How attitude at the end of pregnancy impacts your birth experience

“Attitude is everything”- we’ve all heard that expression before. Usually its an expression that is thrown in our face during a time where our attitude isn’t exactly at its best. Given that, it might be easy to just roll your eyes at this phrase and brush it off, but the reality is that it is true. Our attitudes really do shape our reality to some extent, and this fact continues to be true in those final weeks of pregnancy. (Cue major eye rolls)

Yes, I know that you can’t sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time because that little bundle of joy thinks your bladder is a trampoline. Yes, I know that your ankles are swollen and your back hurts. Yes, I know that you are sweating like its 110 degrees regardless of the fact that it is January. Yes, I know that you can’t eat more than 4 bites of food at a time. Everyone around you would be wise to give you a free pass on your attitude and let you moan and groan as much as you please, whenever you please because you have spent the last nine (ten?) months growing a human that is imminently about to join the world in a less than pleasurable manner… am I right? Well, just hold on one second.

Right around that 37/38 week mark of pregnancy most of my clients will tell me that they are just “done” being pregnant. They’re over it, they’re ready to get this baby out. Obviously this is understandable, and I am not about to tell them to quit whining, but this attitude can be potentially problematic for a lot of moms.

In the last four weeks of your pregnancy the baby’s brain, lungs and liver are continuing to develop and they are continuing to gain the weight and strength they need to thrive outside of the womb. Granted there are babies who come naturally at 35 and 36 weeks who are perfectly healthy, but that brings me to my next point. Your baby should get to decide when you’re done being pregnant, not you. Babies are born when they send a signal to your body that it is time for labor to begin, they literally tell you when they’re ready (how cool is that?) By allowing your baby to pick his or her birthday you are giving them the chance to tell you when and how they need to be born. (Obviously, if a mother has a health condition that prevents this, she should work with her care provider to determine how late in pregnancy she can safely wait before giving birth.)

So, back to the issue of attitude. Having a negative attitude about the final weeks of pregnancy can have some real implications on your labor and delivery. First, depending on your care provider, if you tell them that you are “done” being pregnant they may offer to induce you so that you can deliver sooner. This is a very tempting offer for many moms, but it is not supported by any evidenced based research, it is against the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) guidelines, and it increases your risk of having a C-section. It also increases your baby’s risk of having to be taken to the NICU after birth. Second, giving up on being pregnant leads many moms to stop actively managing their health and well being. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a conversation with a mom who was “done” because she was having tons of back pain and she was so sore and when I asked her if she had been to the chiropractor or taken an Epsom salt bath she says no. Deciding that you are “done” dealing with the increased doctor’s visits and the self care that pregnancy requires is only going to make you more miserable for longer so go to the chiropractor, take an Epsom salt bath, keep exercising and wear a support band. Finally, the attitude you have during the end of your pregnancy shapes the attitude you will have in the delivery room. These difficult last few weeks of pregnancy can help you build the mental endurance you will need in labor. You simply can’t expect to go from being defeatist and down on yourself for weeks on end to being a well-trained mama-warrior in the delivery room. You have to get your head in the game. These last few weeks of pregnancy should be spent affirming yourself, reading positive and empowering birth stories, talking with your baby about the excitement of birth, and developing the strong and empowered mindset you need to conquer labor.

I know it isn’t easy, but few important things in life are, and when you feel those defeated feelings creeping in, and you probably will, call your doula and she well help you move past them.

Attitude and Pregnancy Pinterest

Paleo Pregnancy Nutrition

Paleo Pregnancy Nutrition.jpg

As I discuss in my About The Doula page outside of my work as a birth doula I am also a health and nutrition writer, specifically I write about ancestral eating (real food, paleo diet) and autoimmune diseases and chronic illness. These topics are actually incredibly relevant to many pregnant women as women of childbearing age comprise the majority of autoimmune disease sufferers and obviously optimal nutrition is very important for all pregnant women.

I get questions quite often about pregnancy and the paleo diet from people asking if it is too restrictive to follow during pregnancy or if it would result in nutrient deficiencies. I always have to laugh at this. The paleo diet is designed around the concept of eating the foods we were designed to eat. This is the way we were created by God to nourish ourselves with meat, fruit and vegetables. How could this be anything but ideal for nourishing a growing baby?

Eliminating processed foods, sugar, grains and dairy also help with pregnancy in a variety of ways. Obviously eliminating processed foods eliminates a large amount of synthetic chemicals and environmental toxins decreasing the stress on your body, eliminating grains can decrease inflammation in the gut resulting in a healthier microflora which increases both your and your baby’s immunity and decreases inflammation in the body. Decreasing sugar  helps to keep your blood sugar and natural insulin resistance in check throughout pregnancy which decreases the risk of gestational diabetes or helps in the management of it, if it occurs.

With all of that being said, a while ago I was asked to be a part of a podcast discussing all of these topics that I would love to share with you all. It covers nutrition through each trimester, dealing with common pregnancy complaints and discusses common pregnancy testing. I hope you will find it informative.

Click HERE to Listen Now