Often  I will get a call regarding if we offer free doulas. Often new doulas in training will hear that they need to provide free doula services in order to get their “certifying” births for the certification for doula organizations. But we do not offer free doulas. Why?

free vs paid

If someone is working toward certification they have probably bought in excess of $50 worth of books in their required reading lists. Sometimes you can find some of the books in libraries but often not. The doula in training has paid for a membership to a doula organization that is probably more than $50 annually. She has attended her doula training that alone cost over $350 not including her travel cost to attend and her hotel to be housed while attending. She has paid for a certification packet that costs – for instance for an international organization like CAPPA, here is a breakdown on cost- Membership fee: $55.00 · CAPPA Academy : $175.00 · · Training registration fee: $350.00 – $450.00 Total cost: $580.00 – $680.00 plus cost of books and HUG Your Baby Part I · Time limit: 2 years from date of training to send completed materials to CAPPA. 

Then there are actual cost of attending the birth. There is gong to the prenatal appointment unless you are meeting her in her home or office . There is gas to get to the location for the birth and back home. There is cost involved in providing the postnatal meeting. There is parking costs at most every hospital. And there is food costs involved when she is at the birth. This is not taking into consideration her cost of supplies- her birth bag could hold over $300 of supplies easily. She may have children who are being cared for by a sitter.

We do things a bit differently. We provide an apprentice program for our doulas in training. So our doulas have hands on training by a mentoring doula. They are not paid to attend a birth but see this as an additional cost of training. This hands on training is so valuable without it being at the cost of them attending a birth with only their training and no guidance at your birth.

For those who are looking for a low cost doula, we do provide that. We are a bit different than other doulas and doula groups. We base our fees not on what the market will bear but instead based on experience. So, if you are looking for a low cost doula, you can find doulas in our group usually starting out- already trained- already apprenticed several births with one of our mentoring doulas, and often well on her way to completion of her certification process, for a low fee of $475. Yet this doula is backed up by and experienced group- not only if she is unable to attend the birth for an unplanned reason but also to seek advice from if she finds herself needing that in your birth situation.

Would you expect your midwife or doctor to provide services for free? Did you realize the average first time mom is in labor for 19+ hours? So consider the time prenatally she will spend with you both in person, on the phone and being on call for you. Consider unlimited labor support and staying with you for a few hours postpartum to help get breastfeeding established and have that golden hour with your baby. Consider the back up and mentoring support provided. Consider that postnatal meeting where you get photos and your birth timeline.

A free doula is not usually able to provide back up if she were to be called away for an emergency or illness. She may not have ever attended a birth at all. She may not have access to calling an experienced doula to get input on ideas for your labor concerns in the wee hours of the night. She may not be fully vested in being on call and fully available for the due month. She may find that she is unable to meet your needs due to the cost of doing so if you live outside of her immediate area. Is it worth having an experienced, supported, well trained doula at your birth for a lower fee, but not free?  If so, let us know if we can assist you. Thanks!

What does that mean? Do you fear it means some kind of psychic new age thinking?  I received a call today and realized that the young woman was concerned about that phrase when I was sharing about the BOLD classes we teach. It was something that she thought may conflict with her religious convictions. It made me feel the need to explain what that means to me.

Body, spirit, mind Balance

So first I did a search to see what that may mean to others. I love this Cleveland Clinic article.

The mind-body connection means that you can learn to use your thoughts to positively influence some of your body’s physical responses, thereby decreasing stress. If you recall a time when you were happy, grateful or calm, your body and mind tend to relax.

The article then gives you a variety of calming and empowering mind-body exercises have been proven to help people:

  • Decrease anxiety
  • Decrease pain
  • Enhance sleep
  • Decrease the use of medication for post-surgical pain
  • Decrease side effects of medical procedures
  • Reduce recovery time and shorten hospital stays
  • Strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal
  • Increase sense of control and well-being

Yep, that is what our classes do! What else do folks think?  We will do exercises to help you be calmer during labor and birth and give you homework to do as well.

The Holistic Healing page says:

The word psychosomatic (psyche-soma) means mind-body. It refers to the connection between the body and the mind.

The mind-body connection is based on the principle that the nature of the mind is reflected in the state of the body. It explains why every body is different. No two minds are the same and neither will you find two bodies the same.

Even identical twins are more alike at birth than any other time in their lives. Why? Because as they develop their own unique personalities and their bodies change to reflect their individual state of mind.

When we heal the body, through balancing the mind-body connection, we call it psychosomatic healing.

Yep, that is what our classes do! We realize folks carry baggage of past experiences and traumas in their mind and the scars of those experiences in their bodies. We help them uncover those issues and unpack that baggage before labor begins so that it does not impair their ability to let go and birth.

The Mind Body Psychotherapy site states:

What is the Body? Where is the Mind?
If you were asked to point to your mind, you would most likely point to your head, thinking that where your brain is. However, you would be wrong to think that your mind is limited to your brain alone. The mind exists throughout the physical body, mediated by the neurons and biochemicals of the central nervous system and the hormones of the endocrine system. The mind receives its impressions of the world primarily through the sensory system of the physical body (ie., the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) and interprets these perceptions through the brain

Yep, that is what our classes explore as well. We do discuss the sensory perceptions involved with labor and birth. We discuss the science a bit of how our brain and body work in the midst of labor.

Sometimes there is concern about the guided imagery we offer within the yoga nidra. I found this medical article that may help you understand how effective this can be.

Guided imagery, which utilizes the power of imagination to heal, has been shown to reduce anxiety and pain in people with a wide range of medical conditions, including asthma, back pain, and headache, and to help patients better tolerate medical procedures and treatments. “Imagery utilizes the natural language of the unconscious mind to help a person connect with the deeper resources available to them at cognitive, affective and somatic levels,” explains Martin L. Rossman, MD.

The first time my daughter heard me talking about the chakras of the body, she questioned that conflicting with my religious beliefs as a Christian. I see no conflict. But I believe that the power centers or meridians of the body called chakras, are there because God created us with energy within us. The halos that the early artists painted around the Christ was his aura that they believed were evident. We are a powerful duality of spiritual and physical. I think it is imperative to consider how our spiritual/mind connection to our physical/body need to be aligned in order to move smoothly and gently through labor and birth and into motherhood.

Our classes are not religious in nature but do touch on spiritual thoughts and concepts. We do some yoga movements in class but do not do any religious of yoga meditation. We encourage any person regardless of their religion or lack thereof to join our classes. If there are any conflicts within our class for your religious beliefs, feel free to step away from that part of class. The truth is we have had numerous religions represented in our classes and never had anyone feel the need to do so.

Hopefully these have cleared up what we mean when we use the “Mind-Body Connection to describe our classes.

I often get phone calls and emails from women who want to become a doula. They are in love with the idea of being at births. I love my job, don’t get me wrong- but it is not the warm and fuzzy job that many folks think it is. So, I try to discuss with them the process of becoming a doula- you know- the reading you need to do, the training you should do, the certification you could do… and then I get to the truth. They need to know the truth. And when they hear the truth those who know this is their calling stick with the path. And those who were just considering a job change look into a different path. So what is the truth?

I love my job but it is a hard one. I have written on the hardest thing being on call. You take a client and you are on call two weeks before she is due up to when she births, which could be two weeks or more after her due date. Being on call means when you lay your head on your pillow at night you have to realize it may be a short nap at most. You have to realize it also means a limitation to the events that “normal” people who have regular jobs with regular hours. Your life has to revolve on that call from that mom who needs you right then.

girl-alarm-clock-insomnia

I love my job but it is one that offers an unknown salary of sorts. Most folks get paid either for the job they do based on working a set number of hours or they get paid an hourly rate. Doulas get paid per client. But that time is spread over the interview, the prenatal, the labor and birth, the postnatal and the numerous calls and texts in between it all. So when someone hears that I attended a quick birth, they do not understand I may have already cancelled events- declined invitations and provided several hours of support along the way and will do a bit more before I have completed my job. And they also do not know that I just attended a two day labor support of a mom with little or no sleep all the while. If the average woman is in labor for 19 hours and she may have labor support for 12 hours or more + the prelabor support of probably 5 hours or more- and will do a postnatal and phone support that may add +3 more hours to that- 20 hours is broken down in that fee- breaks down to $40 to $25 per hour. That is a normal rate for a trained professional. But for that birth that you were with the mom for days- that hourly rate is much less. And keep in mind a busy doula may only take three clients per month. So that hourly rate is not weekly. Think about it- if the busy doula does three births a month all year long- not ever taking off call time- she will do 36 births a year- and that is a pretty busy doula. The average fee in our group is $600 (we charge based on experience in our group). So that means she will possibly earn $21,600 a year without any of her expenses being calculated into that. So you see, you do not go into this job for the money!

Stacks_of_money

I love my job but it can be very physical. I don’t think folks realize the irregular sleep, irregular diet and the high peaks of cortisol that occurs can be very taxing on you physically. When you return home after a birth you crash. You are often too tired to eat and ironically too tired to sleep. Your family needs continue and often they expect you to be ready to roll with them. And often you are back on call again. I come home sometimes and feel like I have been hit by a truck! I need a massage and my chiropractor on speed dial! When a new mom calls me and says she wants to do this, it always concerns me for their babies at home.  Do they really understand this level of time away from their babies? I have body work done monthly just to keep my body able to do those long births. And sometimes it is not a long birth but a woman who needs you after you have been up all day- and then you are up for 24 hours straight or more without sleep.

sore back

I love my job but it is often misunderstood. Folks think I catch babies- I don’t. Folks think I make a ton of money for little work- I don’t. Some medical support team members think I control my clients- I don’t. The choices they make are theirs. I support them and those decisions. Folks sometimes get frustrated with your inability to commit to things due to your erratic schedule. And that means your true friends have to really understand your commitments. And your partners must be completely on board with this level of commitment.

I love my job but often we are just hired help. Some clients love us and take us into a special place relationship wise after a birth. And sometimes you are only the hired help. I get that. But often times I feel more invested in their births than they are. And that is hard for doulas. Sometimes they may hire a doula just because it is trendy or they can say the outcome they had was in spite of having a doula. They are not invested in preparing for their birth but want you to teach them in the moment. It is one of the leading causes of burn out. I have to remind myself all the time that this is their birth and they are responsible for their choices, not me.

So why do I love my job? I love being with families as they become a family. I love guiding them with information and watching how they translate that into what works for them. I love seeing women transition into motherhood. I love the warrior that those women become. And I love watching their partners beam with admiration at their warrior woman.  I love seeing a woman come into her power- having a voice and a real say in her birth experience. I love seeing God in the room as the baby is born. I love seeing that newborn baby latach to his mother’s breast and the smile come to the mom’s face. I love making a difference in births. I love preparing those moms and then seeing that preparation come to fruition. I love helping a mom overcome difficulties with breastfeeding. I love continuing to learn about birth at each birth!

doula_shots-11

But if this is truly your calling, you must do it. There is nothing that causes you to see the difficult things as obstacles. You only see them as challenges that you must work through. You see the benefits as so grand that they provide the drive. So if you are looking for a part time, light commitment job that pays really good money, this is not it. But if those things I love sing to your heart and the challenges seem inconsequential, then give me a call. I am always looking for women who find birth work to be their calling. But I warn you, my company requires a special commitment that requires your full heart.

basket with pebbles

Imagine you have a basket of pebbles- and a jar that is empty. And every skill you learn as a doula, you add one pebble from the basket to the jar. When you begin your journey as a new doula you learn some basic skills in your training… the double hip squeeze, counter pressure, some acupressure points, touch, etc… And so add the pebbles to the jar from the basket. You may end up with a dozen or more in the jar.

jar with little pebbles

Now you attend your certifying births and you pick up some more tools- you learn how to put ice in between the layers of a baby diaper and the padding for helping the mom with perineal swelling from a nurse. You learn how to spray water on the mom’s back without spraying her partner. And you pick up maybe a few more skills from watching the nurses. So you add a few more pebbles to the jar.

You read more books and you learn how the clock is one of the most detrimental tools in a labor room (Sarah Buckley). You learn that truly watching a mom in labor is better (Whappio Bartlett) than using a contraction app on your phone. You read Ina May’s books and add horse lips to the mix of pain coping skills. And over time you add a dozen more pebbles to your jar.

jar with pebbles

Now if you only doula as a hobby or only dabble, then perhaps you are not adding as many pebbles to your jar. But if you see this as a calling that you need to refine and add skills to, then you may find other ways to add pebbles to your jar. You may find that attending conferences are essential. You may hear others say they can not afford to attend that Rebozo workshop or that workshop on acupressure for labor and postpartum. And if this is not bringing them in any income to support these trainings or they find this is just more of a part time hobby, this may be true. But a doula who is serious about her craft will work on enhancing it.

You should expect that doula to be attending workshops. You should expect that doula to be reading articles online that present new research. You should expect that she has a library of books that is becoming more extensive over time. You would expect that of anyone else in a profession. Can you imagine if you went to your computer programmer and he only worked in DOS and had no idea how computers had changed over the last decade or even the last few years?

And as a doula, sometimes as you are learning new things, you still rely too heavily on the basic tools. It may be because you have not yet learned how to integrate new tools into your approach. It may be that you are forgetting some basics because you have replaced them with some newer ones. Sometimes it may be good to pour out some of those pebbles and review them.

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We do this in several ways as a doula group. Everyone can not attend every training. So when someone does, we get together as a group and discuss new skills we have learned and share them with each other. During a birth you may be frazzled over a long night and forget something that if you were fresh you would have remembered. We are often texting to each other during breaks to get reminders. We even have a private facebook group where someone may step out to the bathroom and share a dilemma and get pretty immediate responses from the other doulas. And after a birth, we call each other to debrief often times, reviewing what worked- or what did not work and getting input on new ideas for solutions if that issue arises in the future. And we encourage each other to keep sharp by learning new techniques- by attending workshops and conferences first hand- and by being open to input from each other.

I loved a new blog article that released by Amy Gilliland, PhD on her doulaing the doula blog. It is called Not Any Woman. She writes about the different skill sets a doula needs and even more so the ones she acquires with time and experience. A few she discusses are: the emotional skills, the positioning and comfort skills,  and her communication skills. She emphasises that many of these skills take time and are honed over that time by learning from what works and what does not. I think this is so true.

Our newest doulas are not thrown into the bull pen and expected to be experts from the beginning of their doula work. Our mentoring only begins when they apprentice a birth. There are countless conversations along the way. We chat after our Mingles about conversations that were just had with new potential clients, ways we can best meet their needs a newly pregnant families. We discuss how to learn what the family needs during the prenatal meeting. We share so much within our group. We enjoy each others input and offerings.

And over time each doula has a very full jar of pebbles of knowledge that she can pull out and utilize as she sharpens her skills in meeting the needs of the couples we serve.

Fourteen years ago- I could have sworn it was longer- I had a student in my childbirth class, Sylvia. She really wanted me to be at her birth as her doula, but her midwife told her she did not need a doula. But after careful thought and a early run to the hospital to be sent home, Sylvia decided to include me. I met this midwife whom I had heard about from the nurses months earlier- they called her the “Water Walker.”  She had been up all night and came in to check on Sylvia and said, “Oh good, you have a doula!”  She then proceeded to return to the sleep room until she was needed further.

margaret and me

She was fabulous when she returned. She lived up to all of the things the nurses had told me about her. And after that birth of Sophia, my world as a doula changed. Margaret was the second midwife to rock my world. The first had been Debbie Pulley who I had known prior to becoming a doula. She was the one who encouraged me on this route more than 20 years ago. And she honored me by being the “catcher” and care provider to my youngest daughter at the birth of my first grandson. Debbie is dear to me as well.

Margaret had a special croning ceremony a few months back. She was celebrating turning 70 and being a midwife for over 40 years. If you had not been there to see her, you would think this was a memorial service of sorts. Folks got up and shared how she had influenced their lives. I was honored to be the first to get to share. I can say that I have grown to love this woman dearly and she has had more influence over my life as a doula than any one person.

croning

Margaret is the one who brought water birth to Atlanta. Did you know that? Margaret is the force behind us getting our Atlanta Birth Center. She is the one who has fought many of the battles that have been won to bring birth back to Atlanta. She is amazing.

She is the only daughter of a family of all boys from my home state of NC. She was reared in Charlotte, NC. She became a midwife in a round about way- not initially going that route out of school. She married later in her life to Tom who died a few years ago. She never had any children. But she is mother to many.

I have traveled to Charlotte with her to be with her niece’s birth. I have gone to Mississippi to the Sweet Potato Queen Festival. There are plants in my yard that were gifted to me from her. She has had Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with my family. She is truly my friend. When I feel frustrated about something, especially about birth, I call her and she always has time to chat.

rose of sharon

I just wanted to honor her in this post. She owns Intown Midwifery  and although she is not in the office that often and rarely takes call, she is the heart of that practice. And she has given her blood, sweat and tears to that practice over the years. I love her and honor her. If you have had a chance to know her or be midwifed by her over the years, you should feel honored. I hope her legacy of the Atlanta Birth Center happens soon so she can bask in her hard work.

Why Be a Part of a Doula Group?

When I first started out as a doula, you went to your training and got home and started chasing bellies. There was little in my training about how to find clients really. There was no role playing of an interview. You were all of a sudden at a birth trying to rely on what you learned in those two and a half days or so. I had done all my reading and felt prepared. But we all know you are really green when you start out.

There was a group of doulas online- and keep in mind this was pre chats and facebook days. We would share and those who had been doing this longer would mentor us with advice. There were no hands on training. How I wished there were mentoring doulas. Well there more experienced doulas but they had had a corner on the market and were not so eager to share with a newbie who they did not really know.

So soon I found another doula who was a bit more experienced and we met to decide if we could be a good match for backing each other up if one of us was unable to attend a birth. This was fabulous. She was a Godsend to me! And soon we decided to start hosting a group called the Birth Junkies. Keep in mind this was pre birth network days as well. And a few birth workers came and it was fun. But there was an underlying competitiveness going on. This happens with many birth networks groups as well. Women can be a bit caddy and competitive. So soon this was not a meeting I wanted to host. But it brought another doula into the group of the two of us who wanted to get started as a doula. She had completed her training already.

And soon someone I had doula’d for had her toddler where she felt she could enter doula work. And then someone introduced me to a woman who was meant to be a doula for sure… and so forth. Pretty soon I found myself mentoring and referring out clients to these women. They did not want to do any  of the business part of the work and instead wanted to work along side of me with me handling that stuff. And soon A Labor of Love Doula and Childbirth Services, Inc began.

I love working as a group. I do not always love running the company. I feel between the regular doula work I do, the classes I teach and my regular life as a wife is crammed with keeping the blog updated with new articles, updating the website, designing new marketing ideas, going to Meet and Greets of the favorite midwives we work with to promote our company, preparing for our monthly meeting, supporting and mentoring new doulas in our group, rewriting protocols for training where we can improve and marketing our page on facebook, I put in more than a 40 hour week. So what is to love?

I love the women who work alongside of me. I love it when they learn new things and share their enthusiasm. I love it when a new doula goes on an interview and gets the client! I love it when we sit together and learn new ideas someone gleaned from attending a birth or a workshop. I love their faces when they begin to share about a birth they attended. I love to see them grow. I love feeling like I am making a difference.

But last year when two of my doulas- the most experienced ones- who had recently stepped away from doing regular doula work due to major health issues, decided to branch off and begin a birth education business. At first it was just to begin enhancing the type of classes they taught- a method I had decided to leave behind for a new one that really spoke to me. But soon they decided to add all of the services my company offered. So in other words I had grown my competition. It was hard. I reminded myself that you get the clients you are supposed to get but it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. And it cost me some business as their repeat clients went to them instead of my company. They were themselves limiting themselves to only a few clients.  And this caused some of our repeat business clients are going to the doulas who work for them. But that is part of business. You grow a business and you mentor those who grow in a different way and need more room. Good for them.I am happy for them and the business they are growing. It took me a while  but soon I was happy for them and needed to realize I jneeded to focus on how happy I am with the fabulous doulas I have and trust the process.

Sometimes, just like with families, the dynamics get a bit tough at times. This happens with groups too I have had one fabulous doula need to move out of our company due to her feeling like she saw some business aspects differently. The truth is she was taking repeat clients she had had with our company initially and offering her services for free since they could not justify paying again this time. It was just not good business to do that over and over. A few times maybe, but repetitively it was hurting our company. I love her dearly but you could tell she was feeling divided and needed to move on.

And the family will not always be smooth and will need changing up at times. I have had one doula that consistently would be caught in a lie. Once I can forgive and warn. Twice I begin to find you not trustworthy. A third time you are gone. You have to realize that these women represent your company. If they are lying to me, they are lying to clients too. I had another doula who no matter how something was said she took it personally. I felt like I was tiptoeing around her on a regular basis trying to not hurt her feelings. It was exasperating. I soon found most of the other women in the group had felt the same way. She found her way to leave the company when she began to work part time and it was taking more time. I had a doula who was just plain divisive. She had been added when we were in deep need of another doula and although it did not feel right in my heart, I invited her to join us. I realize now that she actually attended less than half of the births she was hired to attend. Others were backing her up and she was still receiving enough of the fee to keep these antics up. It was not how we worked. She also, although a novice doula felt the need to question everything that we had in place as our model of care and business. I told her it was time for her to go elsewhere. And I have had two doulas who I loved dearly but had personal issues that were interfering with their work as doulas. The complaints were rolling in where moms did not feel taken care of and wanted to changed doulas midstream. And then the complaints after the births started to roll in. I suggested to them both that perhaps it was time for a change. One of those doulas returned a few years later for a short time, a different doula for sure. The other realized her personal situation had to make some dynamic changes and began working full time and went through some marital changes as well. I have had other doulas come and go- transfers, new babies, new careers, etc. So, change is inevitable. I wish I had acted quicker on some of them and I wish I had listened to my heart on all of them a bit more. Life changes and you need to roll with it.

I co teach the classes I offer now. I love team teaching. This has grown out of the same team approach that this group fosters. There is something really special about our sisterhood. We love each other. We trust each other. We count on each other. We have had some retreats together and even have a day trip planned to go to a speaking engagement together soon. It is fabulous laying on the floor of my classroom laughing together, crying together, learning and growing together. I am so proud of the women who are in my company.

There is something really special about taking clients and knowing that if one of us had been at a long birth and needed to call someone in so we could take a power nap and doula on- they would do that for us. There is something really special about knowing if one of us was sick or had a sick child, we have a group of doulas where surely someone was available to step in and be with our client or teach our class.

When someone is stuck in a situation at a birth and is at their wits end as to what to do next, they can text another or call me in the middle of the night for guidance. We are growing together to build a wonderful company of caring birth professionals.

My advice to you- start or join a group. But have someone who is the deciding vote- that is why owning my company is a good idea. There needs to be someone who is fully invested in the day to day of the group. So co-ops would not work for many for this reason. Choose your team carefully. Do not let the busyness get in the way of good business sense. Listen to your heart and gut. Find some folks you can talk to- some in the birth business that are not feeling competitive with you- perhaps in another area of the country and find someone who is a good business person and bounce ideas off of them. Continue to improve yourself = this improves the group and those in it. Take time to chill with those you work with- grow emotionally connected- it is obvious when you are out of sync- so stay in sync. And be happy. If you are not happy, the group will suffer. I was so hurt last year that my business suffered as I struggled through feeling abandoned by others. Rely on yourself if you are the leader- make a plan- teach your plan to others and work your plan as long as it is working. When it is not working –change it! But keep working at your dream. Take time for yourself if you are the leader though. A dead or tired leader does not lead well. So practice self care and self love!

I love the very successful group I have grown over the last twenty years. It has been fabulous and sometimes hard as it has morphed along the way. You have to be a leader and sometimes that is difficult and you are misunderstood, but in the end it has been worth it to me! I am extremely proud of the group I lead and feel honored to be the leader of this group of birth professionals.

These are the two things that I feel are most important as a labor doula: Hearts and Hands.

Hands make heart shape

  • Hearts to hold the love and caring that is needed to support women in their journey to motherhood.
  • Hearts to understand the fear that sometimes creeps in during labor and birth and desire to replace that fear with confidence in the process.
  • Hearts to wipe tears of pain and joy away during the process of labor and birth and becoming a new mom.
  • Hearts to listen to a woman as she feels she needs to share her ideas and be listened to and heard.
  • Hearts to being open to learning new things no matter how many birth you have attended.
  • Hands to hold her and remind her she is not alone.
  • Hands to offer touch and massage her on her journey.
  • Hands to caress her face and remind her of how strong she is.
  • Hands to hold the shower sprayer on her back and cool cloth to her forehead.
  • Hands to help guide her as she nurses her newborn.

I used to think it was being on call that made my job hard. The never knowing when a mom may go into labor- realizing those theater tickets or that concert ticket that was costly was not going to happen. Or worse, that child’s birthday party or special event was not able to be prioritized. But recently I had to realize the on call is something I just surrender to. I trust that I am supposed to be at the births I attend, and those who give birth while I am at another birth or am called away on an emergency are the ones someone else is supposed to attend. I put my head on the pillow at night and trust the process. But I had a birth recently that made me come to terms with the hardest thing for me as a doula.

In the process of working through this, I asked some doulas what they felt the hardest thing about being a doula was. I did not get a lot of responses- which in and of itself was interesting. But I do realize that many doulas only dabble at being doulas- they do not do this regularly. But here are the replies I received:

  1. “Not judging clients’ decisions.” and “Supporting choices we don’t believe in.”
  2. “It’s hard to keep my cup empty sometimes, to remember that it is not my birth and that I do NOT know what is best for anyone else.”
  3. “The on call/lack of spontaneity in my life is sometimes a nuisance.” “on call 24/7” and “The “not knowing when”, especially when you have other things in your life to juggle.”
  4. “Remembering that its not our fault when things go far from plan, just like we can’t take credit when they go perfectly. The latter is easy for me, the former, not so much.” and another said, “criticizing myself after the fact for not knowing enough or helping in the right way.”
  5. “Long labors- like 48 hour long labors!”
  6. A novice doula said,” I’ve only been to a few births but leaving my kids at the drop of a hat has been hardest.”
  7. “Lack of sleep. That was really stressful for me, and I ended up having a lot of anxiety caused by sleep deprivation.”
  8. “Staying grounded in who you are (after all usually the client hired you based on that) but yet being willing to grow & learn from others.”
  9. “Knowing when to just step back & “be” in the space.”
  10. “Leaving our baggage”- the issues we have going on personally and professionally.
  11. “Catching up at home after being gone for days.”
  12. “Guilt about being gone from my family” and “Missing events with my kids.”
  13. And one doula hit on the nail, “Seeing a woman relinquish her power (‘lose her voice’) and watching OBs be bullies.” (more…)

My first birth was a client who was in my very first BOLD weekend back when it was called Fear to Freedom. The mom had an early labor that was fairly mild. Her partner had called me and when I reminded him of some relaxation techniques, it cranked up, it cranked up quickly and she ended up having her baby with her partner by her side but without a care provider there. She hired me to be her doula this next birth and chose to have a home birth. She realized her body seemed to like laboring and birthing at home and this time she was not going to resist listening to it preemptively and planned for her home birth. She labored easily and called us over to her home but still wondered if she had called us prematurely. But after a few hours of us being with her she cranked it up and quickly knelt by her bed leaning against the filled tub, and had her baby into the hands of a midwife on a chucks pad on the floor! It was beautiful and simple. We used the warm tub for her recovery area instead! I stayed for several hours to make sure nursing was smooth and tucked her and her partner with their baby into bed before kissing her goodbye. I learned that sometimes moms just need those around her to be able to fully let go and give birth.


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My second birth was a client who hired me as her second doula, after her first doula retired unexpectedly. She took our BOLD class and in doing so realized she really did not want to follow through with the hospital birth she had been planning for. She was “advanced maternal age” and was being treated like an emergency about to happen. She was not feeling supported. So with some guidance she chose the midwife who was a perfect fit for her. She started laboring very gradually but not with a real regularity. The baby had been positioned on the right side rather than the preferred left side. I think that is why her labor was a bit unpredictable at the beginning. We chatted several times and then I talked to her husband and asked if I could come over to lend support. They had been hesitant to have me come since the labor was not very regular and they thought it may be a long day ahead. The midwife and I communicated and she decided to drop by between appointments. She found the mom to be dilated to 8 cm! I was happy I had already left the house. Something told me to go! And within two hours of our arrival she had birthed her daughter into her hands in the tub in the screened sun room. I learned to encourage women to really listen to that vision of their birth and help them find the path to making it happen.

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My third birth was a client giving birth to her second child. She had sat in the BOLD class and shared she really wanted a home birth this time. In fact many of the students who knew I was her doula asked me later if she had switched to a home birth. But when she returned home the “what ifs” started to roll in and she decided to stick with her original plan to drive downtown to a great midwifery hospital practice.  But her labor started with a bang. 45 minutes from the start of contractions to giving birth in her bedroom on her bed with her mother in law and husband and 4 year old daughter running around. The paramedics arrived 7 minutes or so after the birth. I decided to drive over when I heard how things were going- I thought I was meeting them at the hospital but on the drive over the midwife had agreed that she needed to call 911 and stay home. I arrived and brought more calmness to what could have been chaotic but never was. The paramedics were in total awe at how beautifully this mom had managed this birth. I stayed until they were ready to leave to go see the pediatrician. But she never headed into the hospital- there really was no need. I learned that when a mom says she really wants to birth at home, her body knows what her heart wants and will cooperate to make it happen!

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My fourth birth was a client who took private classes with me. They had been in contact with me prior to moving here. They lived about an hour from the location they chose to birth. I had forgotten that is where she had chosen to birth. I remember asking, based on where they lived if they were birthing at the hospital that was just around the corner from me. She told me no but did share that she and her husband were both a bit concerned about knowing when to go to the hospital since her first birth was a cesarean due to a breech presentation and her second labor was a long natural labor. I joked that the closer hospital was always a good emergency option. She had her first real contraction around 7:30am and was in the car at 7:50am but after talking to them I realized she was moving fast and right into rush hour. I suggested the emergency back up plan and when she spoke to the midwife the midwife agreed. We arrived at the same time to the hospital and within 20 minutes of arriving in the room, she birthed her daughter into her hands with a midwife stranger assisting! I learned to trust that voice inside of me that says, she may not really be birthing where she plans!

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Four beautiful natural births, three of them at home, in four days is a record for me! I learned how beautifully women birth when there is no fear holding them back. It was a beautiful week! I feel like I had a little slice of heaven!

We know that squatting helps to push a baby out. It makes sense to align the baby directly over the outlet it is supposed to come out of instead of laying like a dead roach in the bed. Well western and most eastern medicine has screwed that up for sure. Women are often relegated to laying on their backs due to doctors “needing to be able to see the birth and control the process.” But we now know that moving, dancing, rotating our hips, being upward and listening to our bodies is better for birth. Better for the moms anyway. We have figured out that we can control our birth, rather than be mandated to the position of choice from someone else.

Well guess what? Squatting is also the better way to eliminate. The malady of illnesses related to elimination or the lack thereof has caused many problems not only for pregnant woman but for everyone. This video is so eye opening. Squatty Potty. If we align the process of elimination over the outlet it is supposed to come out of instead of sitting so politely on the western toilet, we may find many of those maladies to be eliminated!

It seems there are a plethora of endorsements for this product. NPR, Mercola, The Doctors, and more. They say that 90% of their customers love the product. But they give a 60 day guarantee to that 10% of folks who want to return it! Do you want to be “choked” or “relaxed” when you poop? Check them out! http://www.squattypotty.com/  They are American made and very economical ranging in price from $29.95 to $59.95.

If this could help pregnant women not suffer from hemorrhoids and constipation in pregnancy, that alone is something to celebrate!

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