Sometimes you hear of the labor and birth of the woman who did NOTHING to prepare for her birth. NOTHING except show up at her appointments and then arrive to the hospital and have a fabulous birth. She may have planned to get an epidural but her labor was so fast or so easy that she gave birth easily and naturally without any interventions. These happen- but trust me not that often. It is what is often referred to as a fluke birth.

Sometimes you hear of the labor and birth of the woman who did all sorts of fabulous preparation and had a fabulous birth because of that preparation. She took classes, prepared her mind and body, assembled a great birth team, and ended up with a natural and joyous birth. Perhaps she had realized the baggage she may have going into her labor and worked to unpack it before labor began. Or perhaps life had helped her prepare for this journey without baggage. We see these births happen frequently. Women worked hard to work through their fears. They daily did preparation for their bodies to be ready and their minds to be filled with birth wisdom, These births take a lot of preparation and hard work and the couples are truly invested in getting the outcome they receive.

Sometimes you hear of the labor and birth of the woman who did everything right and her journey of labor and birth was arduous. She had to make tough decisions along the way. Perhaps her water broke and she faced augmenting her labor with Pitocin that she had not wanted. Perhaps she had prodromal labor due to a malpositioned baby and spent hours working to get the baby to rotate and the baby may or may not have moved. Perhaps she had a cervix that was stubborn about dilating and ended up with fatigue and received the unwanted epidural. Perhaps she even did the hard work of laboring for days to end up in the OR for a cesarean birth. And then she had to deal with all of her “friends” who said things like, “Don’t you just wish you had not spent all that money on those classes and that doula and just planned on the epidural or the cesarean from the beginning?”  She hopefully comes to realize she had a hero journey- not a failed one at all. That the journey she was one was one full of faith and courage and was worth that in the end. Not because all that mattered was “a healthy mom and a healthy baby” but that she had worked hard with her partner working hard beside her. They had prepared to make those hard decisions and had done what was needed in the end with courage.

hero

 

It does not take courage or hard work to have a fluke birth. It does take hard work and courage to do the planning for a natural birth. But it takes special courage and even more hard work to journey as a hero. We need to hear your hero stories.  It is important because women hear the fluke stories and they hear the stories of the women who never planned or prepared for a natural birth because it was easier to just go in and do what most folks do-  be induced- get Pitocin- get an epidural and have a 40% chance of a cesarean – and call it a day. Often times this is the path chosen due to fear- fear of the unknown- fear of failure if they tried to be a hero- or an unwillingness to prepare properly or a belief that preparation really makes no difference. But we have two types of stories that are not told often enough.

We need to hear the stories of the prepared couples- what they did- how they decided how to proceed- and what worked for them. We want to hear your stories if that is your story. Often times when those around us had very different outcomes from our own, we are silent about sharing in fear that we may make others feel bad about their births. But it is these stories that need to be shared the most. Why share these stories? Couples need to hear the work that goes into having a natural birth. They need to hear that preparation made a difference.

We also need to hear the stories of the heros too, those whose journey took a really different path from the one they had planned for. These couples need to embrace their journeys and realize they are the heros. My longest labor was only eight hours. I had three wonderful prepared for natural births. But it is easy to say I had natural births when my longest was only eight hours long. Now I do know I did a ton of things to prepare for my easier and shorter births. But so did my daughter Jami who had an arduous home birth- natural birth- but three days long. She had a hard labor and birth. She is one of my heros. I am unsure if I could have done what she did.

I have been with women who had days of labor- active labor- struggled to get their babies lined up perfectly- spent money to hire doulas, took classes, saw their chiropractor, ate healthy and exercised, etc- and still ended up with very different births. Sometimes they look up at me when the decision is to get an epidural or a cesarean and they apologize to me and hope I am not disappointed in them. It makes me sad that they do not see that they are the hero. It takes a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears for some couples to have their babies. We want to hear those stories. Why? Because it will help others see the way you handled those difficult turns and hurdles. They may begin to explore how they may too face those hurdles.

So, I invite you to send me your stories. I would love to receive them via email as a word attachment- with perhaps some jpg pictures of the labor, birth or baby pics. Send them to info@alaboroflove.org. Let’s get the stories out there that will help prepare other couples to be well prepared and also equipped to become heroes if they need to be. Thanks!

 

I often call women in labor WARRIORS. I was thinking about this month and the births I attended and the type of warriors I witnessed.

valkerie with shield

One of my recent moms had to prepare for her upcoming fourth child – her third VBAC with her husband and her two oldest children being across the ocean for most of the last weeks as she cared for only her youngest. She was without a car and had to be dependant on several good friends to help her. She comes to this country to birth since the mortality rate is high in her homeland. It takes a brave woman to leave her home and family to travel and have to do most of her preparation by herself. She is a strong and resilient woman. Her baby was posterior the few days leading up to her labor. I instructed her on things to try to get the baby to turn and she worked to do so. In labor she was a warrior with a mission. She had prepared for the outcome she desired and her work paid off. She gave birth gently once again- her third VBAC. I call her the determined warrior.

I had a mom who had a very long prodromal labor with her first baby. The baby had presented posterior in labor and the mom had not really paid a lot of attention to that with this first pregnancy. She had been preparing for her dissertation for her doctorate and had not taken time for classes. Her labor was long and arduous. She ended up with a vaginal birth but not unmedicated as she had originally hoped. And the epidural had caused quite a lot of complications as well. This time around she took the Aligned and Ready class and really was determined to not have a posterior baby.  This time around I nicknamed her the stealth warrior. She had gotten in the tub for her first labor but got overheated and did not like it. This time she planned to labor in the tub but not necessarily birth in the tub. At one point in her labor she did look at us and tell us she was going to need medication but we all knew she was very close to getting in the tub. Once in the tub she did not feel the need to ask again about medication. She labored silently except to remind us when it was time to give her some back pressure. This baby was lined up great but her short waisted stature caused her to like the pressure. Soon I realized she was involuntarily and silently pushing. She did such a fabulous job and when she emerged from the tub and got in the bed her baby just slid out into her husband’s hands so gently. Her labor was so quiet- the kind that can sneak up on everyone in the room. She is my stealth warrior.

The next mom’s story was similar to the previous one,  but it started with days and days of prodromal labor from a posterior baby.  She worked for days and finally arrived in labor to the hospital to find that several hours later- and even fully dilated, this baby resisted being born vaginally after four hours of pushing. She had resisted getting  the epidural until the determination that she was headed to the OR to have her son. This next pregnancy she chose a different doula and a different path. Although she had taken good classes the first time- this time her focus was on lining the baby up perfectly. She took the Dancing for Birth class and also the Aligned and Ready workshop and worked on it diligently. Her labor was an on and off again one with  contractions for days again. She would tell you that the contractions were more annoying than really painful. She had begun to ignore them often realizing they would go away. But on this day she worked up until two hours of the birth. She was still unsure if this was the real deal. But she got her husband to fill up their tub and she got in it and things took off. I received a call and you could hear her actively working in the background. I suggested it was time to head to the hospital. I dressed and headed there as well. This birth turned into a rapid one as she entered the hospital and within twenty minutes was holding her second son. When I entered the room just after the birth I found the couple giddy with excitement on how different this birth had been from the first one. I had been on the phone several times with  her the previous weeks, reassuring her that it would be different. She worked really hard for this outcome. I call her the resilient, speedy ending warrior!

My last mom I want to share about worked against the odds. Finding a care provider that will give a mom the chance to have a vaginal birth after two previous cesareans is difficult at best. This mom was unable to take classes to prepare for this birth. Her husband traveled and she had two small children at home. She found time to read but other than her own preparation she was unable to do more. This did show up in her labor. She had fears coming in that she had not addressed fully. In her previous births her babies had not handled the augmentation to her labor and it had been traumatic for both of them. This fear of that happening again caused them to rush into the hospital prematurely.  At one point she looked at me in the dark of her room and told me her pain was where her scar was across her abdomen. She was afraid of the uterine rupture that others talked about, She shared it almost in a hushed whisper with my arm wrapped around her as we sat on the bed. I reminded her that is where most women feel contractions. I reassured her that the monitor would let us know if her uterus was not managing to keep her baby safe. I understood that she needed to be at the hospital to hear her baby’s heartbeat to reassure her that this baby was okay. This couple had to be brave through the fears of the past births. She got some medication to help her sleep since she  was too early in the process to be considered in active labor. I knew she would be able to battle through her fear but not if it was compounded by fatigue. So in a dark room the couple slept for three hours to awaken to active strong contractions. She had begun the day before with a mostly closed cervix but woke to her journey of labor almost at the end. She told me when the midwife told her she was already seven centimeters dilated she was shocked and thought she was unsure she could finish the plan she had hoped for. But her body kicked into high gear and she birthed within twenty four minutes of that exam. She told me she could not have prepared for this last part of labor. I told her if she were to get on a roller coaster and ask them to not lock or strap her into the seat, she may have been able to prepare! This was my warrior that won her battle of fear by fire! It takes great courage to even attempt a VBA2C!  I call her fire warrior!

I stand amazed at these warriors that I was able to be witness to. They are indeed warrior women! Battle takes preparation. Every woman will prepare differently than the next. Some will have the difficulty of a previous labor to unpack and use to help them prepare for the next birth. What type of warrior do you want to be?

Often times we sit down with a couple and their views or hopes of their upcoming birth is very different from each other.

  • She may want a doula and he sees no value in having one.
  • She may want to take childbirth classes and he does not believe they are needed at all.
  • She may want an unmedicated birth at home and he is scared to death of her doing so.
  • She may want an unmedicated birth at the hospital and he loves the idea of her getting an epidural.
  • She may want to dance naked and get in the tub to birth and he wants her to remain modest and in the bed behaving like he feels she should.
  • She may want a midwife and he wants a doctor.
  • She may want friends or family to be with her and he may not want that.

And every now and then we get this view too…

  • She is afraid and wants to get an epidural and he demands she have a natural birth.
  • She wants to birth without any pain and he feels there is value in her going through pain to become a mother.
  • But it is not his birth- or her mom’s or her sister’s or her friend’s.
  • She does not want her family present and they try to come anyway.

my-body-my-choice

It is her birth. It is her body. It is her baby.

  • We feel very strongly that it is her decision as to whether she takes classes and what classes to take.
  • We feel very strongly that it is her decision who she has accompany her in her labor and birth.
  • We feel very strongly that it is her choice to have medical intervention or not- but we do encourage her to be fully informed.
  • We feel very strongly that she gets to select where she will birth and who is her care provider.
  • We may not agree with her choices, but it is not our birth.
  • The choices and decisions she makes may not align with what we would do, but as long as they are hers- and she is informed and not being bullied or coerced by others, we fully support her decisions.

No one should bully her or coerce her. No one should shame her or disregard her desires. No one should force their opinion on her.

We ask a mom what she desires. We ask why she has decided on things regarding her birth. We try to give her information so she is making an informed decision that is right for her. And then we support her desires. And we think that is what everyone should be doing. Birth should be about informed decisions that she owns!

It is HER birth. It is HER body. It is HER baby.

 

My first birth was my fastest and easiest birth. My second one was my longest- albeit only eight hours. But I know that sometimes we bank on things being easier and shorter with each birth. My first baby was also my largest- I know that the rule is each baby gets bigger- but my third baby was almost a full pound smaller than the first. So exceptions happen. I was ten days postdates with each of my babies. It is difficult when one baby comes early and then the next one is postdates for moms. It is a happy moment when the second birth is shorter than the first one. But when birth unfolds unlike you expect it can flip you upside down. But it happens.

birth of jami

Recently I was with a mom giving birth to her fourth baby. She told me it was her hardest and most painful birth. Why? This baby was her largest. This time she had three other children to distract her from her preparation. She as older this time. Her uterus is more pendulous with each birth and this causes the baby to not align as easily. This time she was more impatient about the birth and did not sleep well and overworked herself trying to make this labor happen. It happens.

One of my doulas was with a mom for her first very gentle natural birth. She was asked back to support the mom in her second. For reasons outside of the mom’s control, she had a cesarean with her second. Often times we expect second births to go so much easier. Certainly a cesarean would not be needed for a healthy mom and baby. I too have had a mom who had three babies and it was the third that ended up being born by cesarean. I had been with her for her second and invited back for the third. But a different doula had been with her for the third when she went early while I was still out of town. It had been a very different birth from her previous ones. The birth was out of her control. Both moms felt supported and resolved that the outcomes were what was needed. It happens.

Last month I supported a mom who had a frantic first precipitous labor. It had been a whirlwind birth upon arriving to the hospital  two and a half weeks before her due date. She felt traumatized  from the experience although it was all natural. She had felt completely out of control. This time she was so scared of that happening she actually entertained the idea of an induction to control her labor. She was constantly fearful her first labor would repeat itself. She begged for an exam around that same time frame- 2.5 weeks early, to determine if anything was happening. And within a couple of days of that exam her water broke with no labor beginning. She ended up with an augmentation to her labor  since labor did not begin on it’s own. Her labor was fourteen hours long and she had medication she had avoided with the fast first one. It happens.

I supported a mom  in all three of her labors. She had beautiful natural unmedicated births with her first and second although the last bit of cervix always seemed to take much longer to dissolve away. With the third baby she had a lip of cervix and was so afraid it was going to take a long time, decided on an epidural at 9.5cm dilation. I could not convince her otherwise since the doctor told her it could take a while still. The moment the epidural was being placed she needed to push. She laid down immediately and had her baby. It happens.

I was the doula for a mom in her first labor. It was a Pitocin induction. She sat on the birth ball and swayed and moaned through the whole event and did it without any pain medication. She was so proud of herself. The midwife told them with their second she was sure it would go so much easier  the second time around. This convinced her husband and he decided he could be her sole support this time. She called me after the second birth to tell me how sad she was that without the support of a doula, she had gotten the epidural that she did not want although no Pitocin was involved this time. She had been afraid. It happens.

I heard this week from a doula client who had been referred to me from a past client, that the friend who referred her to me was also due with her third. I had been the doula for the first two. She had a natural water birth with both of her daughters with wonderful midwives. Both labors had unfold gently and the second one although slow at getting established had a speedy ending. I was sad she had not contacted me for this birth. She has chosen a different location for this birth- one closer to home. It is one where if you want a water birth you must bring in your own tub and it is contingent on only one particular midwife being available (something we have yet to have happen with our clients). She told my client, her friend, that she felt this birth was going to happen so quickly she did not need a doula. So her team has completely changed this time.  Ironically  the same folks who say second births usually are shorter, also say that the third birth is the wildcard- never knowing how it will unfold. I pray  she is not thrown a wildcard and  it unfolds gently for her. It happens.

Sometimes the combination of the team makes a huge  difference. Sometime the preparation makes a huge difference. Sometimes baggage you have taken from your previous births do not really come up in labor. Sometimes your labor is going to unfold beautifully and you need nothing else to really make a difference. You never know. What I do know is that each birth is unpredictable and unknown. Prepare for that unknown. Unpack baggage that may creep in. Have your support team for the just in case. It happens.

top-10-questions-h

  1. I see your office is in South Atlanta. Is that the only area you service?
    1. No not at all. We provide doula services, both labor and postpartum, in the whole metro area. We provide labor doula services in an extended area that includes the Athens area.
    2. We teach classes in both the Atlanta location as well as classes in the Roswell area currently.
  2. Do any of your doulas provide both labor and postpartum services?
    1. Some do.  But a busy labor doula does not make for a good postpartum doula since her labor clients will take precedence over the postpartum clients.
    2. We find that having separate doulas provide this service makes the likelihood of not making scheduled visits less likely.
  3. How do I go about meeting the women who work with Labor of Love?
    1. The Meet and Mingle is the best and easiest way to meet us all. Barring a birth or a family emergency, most every doula is at the Meet and Mingle each month and this provides a way to find a doula who is a good fit and meet her potential back ups if that need arose.
    2. If you can not make the Mingle, feel free to call the doula you are interested in meeting and set up a face to face interview.
    3. You can always come to a mingle later to meet us all and hear about our other services.
    4. Check our calendar for details on the Mingle and our class schedules.
  4. Do I have to commit to a natural birth in order to benefit from a doula?
    1. No, although we do like being with moms who want less intervention since it is usually best for the mom and baby, we understand that this is your journey and you may embark on it differently than we may choose. But this is your birth, your body and your baby and we respect that.
    2. We have found even if a mom chooses medication or even an elective cesarean, she can benefit from having a doula for many reasons.
  5. My mom is coming to help after the birth, how can I utilize some help without it interfering with her help?
    1. We have two postpartum services. One is a short visit for families to get some tips for adjusting more easily. You may benefit best from a short family  soothing session of only four hours.
    2. You may want to have the postpartum doula come for a few hours a day on alternative dates that family can help. But our doulas can help along side of a family member and perhaps offer some tips that will help everyone adjust the best.
  6. Will the postpartum doula help me with breastfeeding?
    1. Certainly she may do that with great experience offered. And while she can assist you in that, we suggest you take a breastfeeding class prior to having your baby to help prepare.
    2. We also offer lactation services if you need some additional help as well. And our lactation assistants offer free phone help as well!
  7. I am not sure I can afford a labor doula. Do you have payment options or ideas?
    1. We have doulas with varying levels of experience. Our company feels experience should be reflected in our fees. So, if you will consider a less experienced doula- who offers the same services and has a wonderful network of knowledge available to her, you may find she is more affordable.
    2. We also suggests asking for help with doula fees. Baby showers, gifts from family and even some creative baby pool on weight and dates can offer money to help pay for a doula.
  8. Do you offer a discount if we take classes and hire a doula?
    1. We actually have just begun to offer a discount if you take either the Fundamentals or the BOLD Women’s Birth Circle and hire one of our doulas. We feel taking a great childbirth preparation class helps you know how to work best with your doula.
    2. We offer a discount also if you take the combination of the Women’s Birth Circle and the Couple’s Birth Circle and sign up at the same time for both.
    3. And Charlotte offers discounts on massage for her doula clients.
  9. How does payment work?
    1. We require a retainer for both labor and postpartum doulas and the balance for services is due at 38 weeks.
    2. We require a deposit for placenta encapsulation and the balance is due at 38 weeks or you can pay via credit card at pick up but with a small cc fee added.
    3. You can always pay via credit card or HSA savings card for our services but there is a lesser fee if you pay using a check or cash.
    4. Our classes fill up quickly so we require full payment to hold your spot, so prepayment is needed.
  10. Which doula has the most VBAC, Twin, High Risk, etc experience?
    1. You will find the more births a doula does, the more likely she has the most experience in all of these areas.
    2. You may find experience is not the essential ingredient to finding the right doula. It may be who is the right “fit” that you can feel vulnerable with in labor is more important.

First, a little background… I had a natural birth with my first baby and it was the most powerful and amazing experience of my life.  For weeks, even months, after his birth, I kept proclaiming to my husband and friends that I wanted to do it (birth) all over again.  With a few exceptions, it was (my) perfect birth.  It would have only been better if it was at home.  I then had to wait 5 years, 3 months to “do it all over again.”  Sadly, at 39 weeks we discovered my baby was breech  and we could not get him to turn.  Feeling blindsided and like I was not a participant in his birth, my new son was brought into this world via a cesarean. {There are birth providers who offer a vaginal breech depending on the position of the breech. This opportunity was not offered by her provider.}

breech

I pray this little bit of information might help someone avoid the heartache I still feel 8 months later.  So many suggest the “but you have a healthy baby” line… but when you miss out on the something that you are so passionate about, that you waited so long for, and that your heart yearns for, well it just doesn’t make for a healthy momma.

So this is what I learned:

1.   Do consider how you will feel if you end up with the birth that you absolutely do NOT want

I did everything to prepare for the birth I wanted, but never imagined the “What If”..  If I had truly considered what it would do to me to have a cesarean, I believe it would have pushed me to take a different course of action.  Mainly, in my case, I would have sacrificed the extra travel time needed to go to a practice where I knew I had the least likely chance of having a cesarean.  I knew I was passionate about being in control of birthing my son, so I wish I would have thought more about what would happen if I lost that control and what further measures I could take to avoid losing control.  

2.   Listen to your gut and get clear answers to the nagging questions in the back of your mind.   

My husband always said that we didn’t need to worry about a doctor bullying me during labor and delivery because I am so outspoken and not afraid to challenge authority.  Yet, it was the routine doctor visits where I let my guard down and did not speak up.  When I started wondering and asking about my baby’s position, I accepted the general, brushed off answer my doctor gave me.  My gut was saying ‘Ask more.  Get more clarity…’ but for some reason I did not speak up.  I guess I thought that my doctor was paying attention to how my baby was positioned and that if he had a concern, he would have said something to me.  If we had discovered the breech sooner, we would have had a much better chance of getting him to turn and possibly could have avoided the cesarean. 

((Also, as an aside, when you are interviewing potential providers, I would ask lots of questions about how and when they follow the baby’s position.  Again, in hindsight, I might have changed practitioners if I had known that my doctor wasn’t going to give much time or attention the position until a 39 week ultrasound confirmed the breech position.))

3.   Accept what happens.

Maybe there were other things I could have done to avoid this heartache.  But maybe there was nothing I could have done to avoid it.  As many of us say to our children, life isn’t always fair.  But what I can do is share my story in hopes that someone else might take a different course and have a better chance at her ideal birth.  However your baby’s birth happens, I pray you have peace through it all!

Audrey DiGiovanni

 

{Knowing your options and choices are important. Thinking about asking good questions about the “what ifs” is an important thing to do as this testimony shared.}

 

There are a lot of doulas in the Atlanta metro area. That is a great thing since we still lack doulas to meet the needs of all the pregnant women in Atlanta. And doula work is one of those things you can dabble at doing if you love the work but can not devote the time to doing it full time.  This is not a bad thing, in fact it can be a good thing for new moms and women who work at other jobs. It is often the way someone is able to slowly acclimate to doula work. It is a way to test the waters to see if this is what you are really called to do. It can also be something that you once did full time but now due to life issues, you only dabble in now. In Atlanta we have a lot of doulas who dabble. In fact years ago there was a survey that was done regarding doulas and it said that the average doula in the USA only doula’d for a dozen births a year. I would personally consider taking one birth or less a month is a dabbling doula.

dabble

 

Sometimes you may find a doula who is a great fit and find out that she has attended only a few births. Perhaps she is just starting out or perhaps she is only able to commit a little time to this work and is a dabbler. That should be great for you if she is a good fit because her fee could reflect her experience. Sometimes you may think if she dabbles she may be fully available for you as well. Well, that is not always the situation. Sometimes a doula with little experience is charging fees that are in line with a doula who has been doulaing for years and attended hundreds of births. Sometimes she is not fully committed to being fully available for you and has to offer you a back up last minute for events that take precedence in her life that she failed to disclose to you.

Here are a few questions you may ask someone who is a doula to find out if she is a dabbler or someone who works this as a full time job:

  1. how many births does she take a month?
  2. does she have back up in the case that she is unable to attend due to an emergency?
  3. will you be able to know who that back up is or is it a random person you may not ever meet?
  4. is she familiar with your hospital or practice?
  5. is the back up she uses someone who practices the way she does and offers the same services?
  6. is she committed to being fully available during your due month= 38 weeks until you give birth?
  7. how many births has she attended- not including the birth of her own children? (I know this sounds funny, but some doulas count the babies they gave birth to as birth experience as a doula.)
  8. is she keeping up with continuing education?

In Labor of Love most of our doulas who do this work do so as a full time service. We are a busy group. In fact in any given month we can take between 16 and 18 labor doula clients per month and 4 to  8 postpartum families per month.We have five full time labor doulas. One of doulas works a flexible full time job and limits herself on the number of births she attends. And we have a doula who works a part time job in the birth field that sometimes may cause her to need a backup for a birth, although it is rare. But that is one of the wonderful things about working with a group of doulas who are full time birth workers. We provide consistent backup within the company of like minded and most often like experienced doulas.

When one of us attends a continuing education conference or training, we come back and share with the group. We are always sharing our experience with particular care providers or birth locations so as to keep up with what to expect there or with them. We try to meet monthly as a sisterhood to share experiences to offer teaching and learning opportunities.

We do not take on a client without full disclosure of our availability. There is no telling you the that we have made plans to be away later during your due month. Only if a true emergency arises do we provide a back up to be on call for you during that time we are on call. You will know that the person coming to you in your labor will be from our company unless there is a dire emergency like being snowed in (I provided back up to another doula outside of our company during the snowpocalypse of 2014 since I was already at the hospital- and I am sure this would be a rare situation if we ever needed that).  Backups are women you have been given an opportunity to meet prior to your labor by attending our monthly Meet and Mingles.

We are not a referral only group. Our doulas are independent contractors but do not work with several doula referral groups nor own their own companies independent of our group. We are a group of doulas who work together- supporting each other and backing each other up. And most of all, we have the same birth philosophy and offer the same services. When you contact us,  know that our group is made up of hard working full time birth professionals who are committed to and desire to meet your needs.

Here is our answer to those questions:

  1. how many births does she take a month?  We have doulas who take one birth a month and most take up to three or four births per month
  2. does she have back up in the case that she is unable to attend due to an emergency?  We back each other up
  3. will you be able to know who that back up is or is it a random person you may not ever meet? Come to the Meet and Mingles to meet us all.
  4. is she familiar with your hospital or practice? We attend most every facility and have over 1260 births as a group.
  5. is the back up she uses someone who practices the way she does and offers the same services? Absolutely.
  6. is she committed to being fully available during your due month= 38 weeks until you give birth?  Absolutely, things arise but they must be emergencies to cause us to ask for a back up to attend the birth instead.
  7. how many births has she attended- not including the birth of her own children? (I know this sounds funny, but some doulas count the babies they gave birth to as birth experience as a doula.)   Our least experienced doulas have attended at least a dozen births and our most experienced almost 890. We have five doulas who have attended more than 100 births.
  8. is she keeping up with continuing education?  In fact we all do this and share what we are doing with the others so we share the wisdom regularly.

We teach classes that prepare you for labor, birth and parenting. We cover the natural, non interventive ways to have a baby, to feed a baby and to nurture them. We also cover some of the things that may end up being part of your labor and birth journey.

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Instead of teaching you inductions for instance, we teach how to avoid an induction and the questions you need to ask prior to agreeing to one. We teach the methods of induction in case it becomes the way your labor has to unfold, so that you are informed.

Instead of teaching you about epidurals and when to get one or how they are placed, we teach you pain coping skills that will help you avoid an epidural. We teach you mind body preparation that helps you discover hidden fears and work through them prior to labor. We do not show a video on epidurals to scare you. We do teach you ways to improve birth outcomes if you decide you need or want an epidural. But there is a chance you will find you do not even need one!

Instead of teaching you how to bottle feed in our breastfeeding class, we teach you how to be successful breastfeeding. We do not promote a particular bottle or nipple or type of formula. We do teach you how to offer a bottle to a breastfed baby to help keep breastfeeding working well.

So if you desire to be induced, get an epidural or bottle feed, you can learn a lot from our classes still. But you will also learn how to be fully prepared in the event you end up going into labor on your own, can’t get an epidural or find breastfeeding a wonderful experience.

We try to teach comprehensive classes to fully prepare you. The decisions you make during your journey will then be fully informed and you will be well prepared for any changes on the path.

Often doulas and educators will say to a mom that she does not know what she does not know. Do you wonder what we mean when we say this?

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Women often hear from their girl friends the docs they used for gynecology and then followed that doctor into their birth experience. I ask women how they chose their provider and often this is the route they too have taken. Sometimes they are new to the area and they ask who someone is using without asking them what type of birth they consider ideal. In our experience we have found this is not the best way to choose a doctor. It is better to first figure out what type of birth you think you desire. Then find other women who have had that type of birth and ask who they used for their birth experience to turn out that way.

Women often trust that their provider is willing to support the type of birth they desire. But what we know from experience is that often they are only placating you and feel they will be directing you in labor once the first contraction hits you, begging for an epidural. So they believe that your desire for low intervention and no drugs will be washed out the door quickly.  What you do not know is they have no intentions or expectations that you will be having the birth you desire.

Women often asked their friends who took hospital based “how to be a good patient” classes if they should take classes. They often do not think the classes made any difference in their birth outcome and will tell you that weekend slam class is not worth taking. But did they know there are other classes out there that really do prepare you for getting the birth you desire?

Like my earlier blog on bait and switch practices , often your care provider is not being honest. We have been working in the birth arena for a while and we know the providers who are really supportive and will give you what you desire or at least support you in attempting that type of birth! So when you tell us you like your doctor and they seem amenable to your desires, we are skeptical.

Recently a student of mine had taken a tour of a hospital that had nice tubs. When she asked about water birth options the tour guide never said it was not available- in fact she eluded that it was possible. She realized later that NO ONE is allowed to birth in the tubs there. When one of the newest hospitals in our area put their big promo booklet out to the residents in the area, it said they would be offering water births. They do not have tubs- only showers and never planned to add tubs of any kind to the OB unit. We know that there are a lot of deceptions going on.

We know what women sometimes hire a midwife thinking that the midwife will be with them all of their labor once they arrive to the hospital. I had one midwife at one hospital tell a mom this very thing. She felt apprehensive in feeling that was true. When she was in labor the midwife was assisting in a cesarean birth that was planned, had two other births and then an unplanned cesarean. She arrived into the room when my client was pushing. What most moms do not know is this is more common than not.

Women sometimes feel this experience will be an intimate one – almost romantic with their partner. They feel they will manage just fine the two of them. And this is true for many. But I rarely talk to a couple who felt that having a doula did not enhance their experience and support them in ways they had no idea they would need. The average first time mom is in labor for 19 hours but we have supported couples for days- yes days- as in two or three before a baby arrives. What couples do not know is how they will do being awake for days without real food or sleep.

When you take a childbirth class from a birth professional who has been working in birth in your area for some time, she has some experiences that color her thoughts about what you may expect by the choices you make. So when she seems skeptical, she is just that. It does not make her absolutely correct. There are too many variables for you to tell you exactly what to expect. But she can tell you what is most common her experiences with your provider or location for your birth. We have all had beautiful births at most every location in spite of their rigid protocols or interventive providers. We know what we know from our experiences. And birth professionals share with each other especially when it has been a really fabulous birth and when it has been an horrific birth.

The mantra of every doula is , “It is not my birth.” and our job is to be responsible to you, not responsible for you. You get to decide what is right for you. We just ask for you to really ask a lot of questions. Initially ask yourself what type of birth you desire. Then move to the providers and locations that best match that desire. Don’t let the proximity of the location be a primary concern or loyalty to your current provider. This is about you- your choices- your desires. Ask in my dreams for my birth, what will it take to have the birth I desire- then move toward that!

Often we find women in labor bring along a companion. It may be the traditional companion of her partner. But it could be a companion of her best friend or her mother. Women need loving support at their labors and birth. I want to help offset some areas that I wish companions would remember when being at a birth…

  • Please don’t carry your birth fears into the labor room. The woman in labor feels your fears and it permeates her resolve to be fearless.
  • Please don’t remind her of the time she has been in labor or awake or without sleep, etc. The woman in labor does not need to be focused on time- only one contraction at a time.
  • Please don’t project your birth ideals onto her. This is her body, her birth. Even if you share some biologicals with this baby- remember it is her body. She knows what she is feeling and how she wants to proceed in her labor.
  • Please don’t try to rescue her. She is able to speak for herself and make good decisions for her. She does not need rescuing. On the rare occasion when she is unable to speak, remember what she has told you she wants and speak that.
  • Please don’t try to fix her. She is not broken. She is in labor. This is normal and natural. She was built for this. So don’t intervene on her behalf to fix that which does not need fixing.
  • Please don’t use words like “suffering”  “agony” “trauma” and such to describe the hard work she is doing. Words like this disable her from moving forward in the work she is doing and instead are paralyzing.
  • Please don’t use your fatigue or impatience to cloud her ability to continue the work she has prepared to do.
  • Please don’t take her comments or actions personally. She is making her way through her unknown journey and may act differently than she may otherwise act.

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