For many women the idea of a doula is simply obscure. Not because she doesn’t know what they are or what they offer….it’s more because she has the support of her mother, sister, best friend, husband, you name it. She considers them her doula. You know, the whole, support and love stuff. Which is really what a doula does. She isn’t even wrong. She is leaning on her most trusted life companions and who could blame her. Motherhood and birth is an emotional and somewhat confusing time in life. Why on earth would anyone pay someone else to replace their own mom….
For the most part, it’s so hard for me to disagree. These are the people you have grown to trust and love over years and years throughout your life. Who better right? That’s where I start to see why a doula is so incredibly valuable. Unlike your family and trusted friends, doula’s are not emotionally involved. I know, I know, that sounds super harsh. Hear me out though.
We go into this whole birth thing listening to all the advice, well meaning as it is, from everyone near us. We read books, visit websites, reading nightly while we lay awake waiting for our next potty break. We willingly absorb all of the “they came before us, they must know something stories”. Exhaustingly so. We poke and pry their brains for months about all the what not to do, what to be sure to do etc…What we do not prepare for is the emotional side of actual childbirth.
While we enter the hospital, be it for induction, scheduled cesarean, or spontaneous birth, we are unprepared for the emotional ‘now’ of the process. This is where a doula enters. They understand, and have been there, seen that and then some. While the nurses are explaining procedures at a hurried pace, it’s hard to catch what is going on. A doula helps to ease the interaction between staff and mom, making it easier to ask questions to nursing staff and reduce any misunderstandings. They do all this without any invested emotion. They do what you wish as per your birth plan.
During he childbirth period, be it in hospital, at a birth center, or in the home, the Doula is the consistent presence to the mother. Sometimes the consistent care is to ensure the husband is allowed a meal, or the soon to be grandma gets a little break between loving gazes and sentiments. Other moments it’s guided help or instruction on ways to alleviate discomfort for the laboring mom, or extra words of encouragement that the soon to be aunt may not have considered. These are ways the doula interacts with the whole support team to ensure that the focus is on the birthing mother. To be sure everyone is available and involved as the mother wishes to offer their best support.
Truth is this. Your family, your best friend, your mother. They are all emotionally invested. Translation is, they do NOT want to see you in a situation where they are unable to help. Many times a doula is the perfect person to bring the birth team together, and offer advice on meaningful ways to assist the mother while not impeding the desired birth. They are there to help the mother, which sometimes means helping those who want to be close her. They hold the space, so that all involved are able to have a direct and meaningful part of the miracle of birth.
I think we all experience the same levels of anxiety inducing craziness after bringing kiddos into the world. Literally, from the moment we first hold our babes until we ship them off to school or daycare. Whether we ship them off to daycare at 3 months or earlier, or if we do it at 6 months, 2 years, or we wait until they enter preschool. No matter when it happens...the struggle is the same. We face a world of emotions. They are always the same regardless of the timing. The fear, guilt, the struggle of finding our place as parents. It's a whirlwind of ever evolving emotions. Knowing that every other mother finds this transition difficult is often of no help. After all we are facing something new, something completely undesired. Girl, even knowing you are not alone is no assurance of sanity. I get it, I really do. I've been there, just like you. Looking around to see all the other moms, seemingly complacent in their new found roles, like they are a pro at it or something. (fyi, they are crying in the car just like the rest of us.)
It's so easy to see others and do the comparison game. SO EASY. Truth of the matter is that we are all experiencing the same feelings about the sudden although brief detachment.THE EXACT SAME FEELINGS. We just all handle them differently. That does absolutely nothing from our fear of what our kids are doing during their first day alone. We all worry about that. We all worry about whether or not they are being included, are they being loved, are they lost in the crowd, are they making new friends...That is what makes us all so similar.
Parenting doesn't come with a handbook, that's what we are all told, aren't we? That really doesn't help. Truth is, nothing helps. The hard reality is that we have to live it and trust that we have done the best we can. (including those days when we just wanted to sit and breastfeed while Netflix binging) Guess what...THATS OK. That famous line, 'The kids are alright', is dead on. Children are so resilient. They will grow and thrive as individuals, because that's what they are. INDIVIDUALS. Real Talk. Parenting isn't much more than creating a space for them to be themselves. We all just need to take a deep deep breath and relax. Let them be themselves, and offer guidance when needed. Outside of that, they really will end up doing amazing stuff. Allow them the space, and they will surprise you. It's all a lesson. For them, for us, for society. My favorite parenting motto is "Let them be" and "Love wins". As a mom or dad, you really cannot lose. Love and love more, that's all there is to it.
From an overwhelmed mama, who feels like a failure lots and lots of nights.
It's time. I had slowed my doula work since the birth of Paige, and acclimating to two little ones that are years apart. Now that she is almost two and a half, the decision to return to my passion and work is an easy one. I am elated to get back to doing what I love.
Staying home while the babies learn to nurse, coo, laugh, and crawl is something I decided was best for my family. Since every family is different, many families choose different routes after becoming a family. I had wanted to return when she was one, however, we weren't comfortable with daycare options in our area, and she couldn't yet tell us about her day to day. Those days have passed. (I really miss the crawling and snuggle coo's though, that's the best part of babies, oh, and the smell!)
So I just wanted to say Hellooooo, and that there is another Doula out here in KC!
There are many herbs, and even more ways to use them. For post pregnancy ailments, she is a good choice to provide comfort and can aid in the healing process. Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is often referred to as "knitbone" due to it's ability to promote mending. The herb contains 'allanton' which aids the healing of torn tissues and can also be used postpartum to provide comfort in several fascinating ways...
- As a leaf compress comfrey soothes swollen and sore/tender breasts.
- Comfrey Sitz bath or adding some to a peri bottle can relieve tenderness from childbirth.
- Some midwives have used a poultice with comfrey and applied to vaginal tears.
Comfrey is one of nature's healers, and has many more uses outside of the postpartum period. Throughout various cultures, women have been finding the comforts of comfrey an integral part of their postpartum healing.
In the beginning of a pregnancy, it's all so new and exciting. There are all of those 'firsts', hearing the baby's heartbeat, getting that much anticipated sonogram, even those early midwife/OB visits seem to bring on their own special brand of anticipatory excitement. Then that last trimester sneaks right up on us. With the frequent bathroom breaks, seemingly endless cups of water, and aches and pains that go along with growing a human being start to catch up and take a small toll. Many of us 'mothers to be' in that space have a universal feeling of the never ending pregnancy. So, how exactly does one cope with the anxious waiting game associated with the last few weeks, and sometimes, those extra days beyond the prescribed 'due date'? Having patience in pregnancy can be a tall order in the end...take it from me, I was beyond 42 weeks when my little one decided it was time.
The first and best way to handle all that antsy pantsy-ness is pure distraction. It's great to use while in very early labor as well. While most mama's have a 'nesting' phase in the late 3rd trimester, it seems to serve a good purpose. Firstly, it can help you prepare for your new little one, by getting all the clothes, diapers, feeding supplies, and crib all prepared, you are also distracting yourself from playing that waiting game. Not only that, you are gearing up for a wonderful early bonding period because you are gathering all those necessary items beforehand. As any good boy scout can tell you, it's good to be prepared!~
A second way to move your mind away from counting days, is to focus on your support system. If you have a large friend/family circle, you could organize who is doing what and when. This way, you have all of your needs clearly defined, and all of your inner circle can be involved in their own way. (In a way that best suits YOU) This will alleviate some of the "anything you need, just let me know" conversations. You can create a schedule, or even dedicate specific days or even times when you are welcome to visits. If you are comfortable, you could even put in early requests for prepared meals, or laundry help.
Lastly, you could also create a form of documentation of the last days of your pregnancy. Something to add to a baby book, or even the early parts of a photo album. Some ideas to jot down are, special activities you and your significant other did to prepare for the arrival, a favorite 'last date' you may have planned, or even how you are feeling about the impending arrival of your little one. Taking photos to document your growing belly and changing shape during the later stages can be another fun way to document the last days of your pregnancy.
While many a mother has thought she would be pregnant forever, rest assured that every pregnancy will eventually come to fruition and a baby will be earth side. Those last weeks and days are something to treasure for a lifetime.
After the birth, usually the baby is kind of messy. While bringing baby into the world is neither easy or clean work, a lot of the 'messy' stuff remaining on the baby is quite useful for the early moments in life and bonding. Typically once baby is delivered, and placed on mama's chest, a gentle wipe down or towel off is sufficient for a while.
Aside from a beautiful beginning to breast feeding, bathing too soon may lower the infants temperature. Even when warm water is used, studies have show. The temperature can decrease up to 3 degrees. Infants are not fully able to regulate their own temperature until about 72 hours of life.
Delaying or refusing a bath in hospital also requires all people who come into contact with the infant to wear gloves. This not only protects the nursing staff, but also your little one. Using gloves means you don't have to worry about hand washing between visits with other infants. It's a great way to keep germs to a minimum.
So, whether you delay that first bath for a few hours, or even days, there are certainly benefits to be had.
During the childbearing year, so many of us prepare for the birth experience. We take childbirth preparation classes, such as Lamaze, Hypnobabies, or even Birthing from Within. While these are all gloriously wonderful techniques to use in preparation for and during childbirth, those first few 'baby moon' months are of great importance as well. The idea of the 'fourth trimester', or the first three months post birth, creates a soft landing space for your new baby to cope with the whole concept of being 'land side', and all the exciting experiences that come with it.
The newborns' experiences in the womb are often recreated post birth in order to calm/soothe baby. Such techniques include swaddling, which recreates the tight, enclosed womb like feeling they had while in utero, and swinging/swaying, again baby was constantly swayed while in the womb. Shushing, or humming are also quite soothing to baby since they have been hearing mom's heartbeat, and other body functions consistently during gestation. When new parents try to mimic the womb like environment they are often met with a soothed and calmed infant, and everyone likes that!
So while you are preparing for the birth of your new family member, also combine skills/techniques that will help you in the early days with baby. Some great tools for new parents are calming techniques. There is the 5 'S' approach. (Swaddle, Side lying, Swinging/Swaying, Shushing, Sucking) Seen used in the Happiest Baby on the Block which also contains the 'cuddle cure', and much more information pertaining to newborn emotional care. Taking time to prepare for those early moments can assist with the transition to parenthood, while also preparing you for what to expect once baby is home. May you have a bliss filled baby moon.
We all know the look and feel of the standard issue hospital gown. It usually has several ties around the waist or back, which I personally have yet to be able to apply to my own body alone. Sometimes they boast a very bland geometric type pattern. Most maternity hospital gowns also have snaps or openings to allow for easy and discreet breastfeeding. But what alternatives are there if you don't want to wear such a fashionable "gown" during your labor and delivery?
There are so many options out there! From etsy to amazon, you can certainly find gorgeous maternity gowns to pack in your hospital bag. There are sleeveless, satin ribbon ties, long sleeved, and even gowns made using the ever comfortable jersey knit fabric. One just needs to search for maternity gowns and watch the results pour in. There are several quite adorable ones, and a few that look like actual dresses. Should you have the desire to sew your own, you can also find a plethora of patterns to make one of your own as well.
You can also ditch the gown altogether, whether it's the lovely hospital grade, or the fashionable "gownie" you can get online and wear something of your own that you feel comfortable in. Anything you feel able to move freely in and that is easily removed should you want to breastfeed immediately after delivery. Or in lieu of clothes altogether, you can just go in your own birthday suit.
Being active in labor is important for both baby and mother. Walking, changing positions, and even just standing and swaying, can help the baby descend into the pelvis. It can also help to alleviate discomfort that mother could be experiencing as well. I think we can all agree that is a win/win situation.
Research tells us that changing positions while laboring may result in less severe pain, a decrease in need for pain medications, contributes to shorter labors, and could play a part in a reduction of cesarean sections. Being active may also contribute a sense of personal freedom for the mother, and being in control of the birthing process.
Some hospital procedures may seem to prevent the woman from being able to move freely as an active participant during labor. Such as fetal monitoring, which is usually done for 20 minutes each hour, intravenous fluids being given for the duration of labor, and blood pressure cuff attachment. However, all of these procedures can be performed while the mother is in motion/active without adversely affecting the monitors or the results. Mothers may walk around, sit/rock on a birth ball, alternate leg lunges, enjoy a shower, or slowly lean on their partner and "slow dance". All of this and more is possible while in labor and possibly on a monitoring device.
Many women who labor for extended periods of time, or who may encounter particularly strong waves during labor may wish to rest. During the resting period, she will be able to remain subtly active by rotate side lying positions and using a peanut ball/stack of pillows between the knees to keep the pelvis open and provide additional comfort. Even while resting it is possible to create a more favorable environment for both mother and baby.
Much like the resting mother, a woman who has received an epidural may also remain active. During the laboring period the mother can choose from several positions to maintain an active and help progress labor while still in the bed. There is the upright "throne" position, with the back of the bed propped upright, and several pillows under moms arms. There is also either side lying position, as well as side lying with one knee at a right angle. If mother feels able, she can choose hands and knees on a pillow or ball. There are always different movements for labor even with an epidural.
Movement is an important role for the process of labor. Bringing baby down into the pelvis and comforting mother all while she is in control of her desired movements. Having the knowledge of several available positions to use during monitoring periods provides an effective tool to birthing mothers.
"Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity of ecstasy through giving birth" - Dr. Christiane Northrup
A lot of birthing women and their partners have the fear of hiring a doula. They may feel that a doula will “replace” the Dad and he will no longer have a leading role in support. Dads can feel that their partner doesn’t trust them and they may worry that a doula’s presence may interfere with the intimacy of the birth experience.
Be assured that a doula will never replace the father’s role during birth. Doulas compliment the birth partner and together they are able to provide an amazing support team for the mother. Birth can often be an overwhelming event for many fathers – Since fathers were brought into labor and delivery in the 1960's and 1970's often times they were the only support person available to the mother, they are to remember everything from childbirth preparation classes, physically and emotionally support the mother, and take care of themselves all while experiencing the birth of their child too! This is an overwhelming task for even the most well informed father to be. When a doula is present, she can offer her expertise to help lessen some of the pressure on Dad so that he can more effectively support the birthing mother.
These are just a few ways a doula can assist the father during the birthing process.
I am a DONA Certified birth Doula. Serving the greater Kansas City metro area. I am also Rebozo and Dad Certified and a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. My heart's passion is to be able to work within the birthing community to serve expecting women through the childbearing experience.