This past month, I was able to be at my 500th birth as a doula. I have been attending births for 19 years!  I thought I would share some things I have learned in that time and in those experiences.

  • Birth is normal. And although the unexpected can happen, most births are normal. Enter into a birth expecting normal things to happen rather than awaiting the emergency.
  • Birth is unpredictable. I caught my 501st birth in the bath tub of her home- only 2 and a half hours after she left the hospital being only 3cm for the last two hours with no change- and it was her first baby! You have to trust birth so that when the unpredictable happens, you are able to move fluidly through it.
  • Fear is part of the process. But if you have not dealt with your fears before your labor begins, fear can be a harmful enemy in the midst of labor. Deal with it prior to your labor b beginning and it is amazing how your labor will unfold.
  • Women’s bodies are made to give birth. But we are instinctive birthers. If you move a mom- tell a mom how to birth- put her on her back- have her be in an environment that causes fear, you will destroy her ability to listen to her body and birth instinctively. (more…)

So, on facebook I asked the question, “: Talking to your newly pregnant girlfriend, what one piece of advice would you offer to her?” and we had 53 answers to this question – some that the responding folks could ask their own answer.

Hire a doula- 19
Choose a midwife -15
Take an out of hospital childbirth class – 4
Take a fitness, yoga class – 4
Educate yourself!!- 3
Go natural -2
Use birth control -1 – my guess is this is someone saying don’t have a child!
Sit on a yoga ball -1
Have a water birth -1
Go for long walks every day -1
Have a home birth -1
I am thinking this is what most would say who are on a website that is a doula site!  I do think one of the most important things to tell her is to find a care provider who truly believes in birth… often that is a midwife. I also = of course being a doula- believe that having a doula helps! And taking a childbirth class that offers you all of the options out there- not just the ones hospitals tell you about- can help you in having a gentle birth also.  And I think that taking good care of yourself physically- staying fit- is a great way to prepare for your birth! Fun little survey!

This week I have attended three births in five days. One was a long one- thirty hours of labor support. It was a birth with a wonderful midwife. The mom really was a warrior. She labored over twenty four hours before augmentation with Pitocin and her fatigue factored into her agreeing to an epidural that she had planned to avoid. She worked hard pushing for three hours and gave birth to a very large son. I enjoyed being with her. In all of those hours we only had about ten minutes of feeling like she was not respected properly by the staff… but beyond that, it was a wonderfully supportive labor and birth. Her husband who had been her Hynobirthing partner was super attentive in this labor.

I left that birth exhausted- only catching a two hour nap after the epidural was placed, but I also left elated. It was nice being with a mom whose desires were overall respected and supported by the staff. We had a wonderful team of midwives- Catherine Salazar and Ellen Martin and a fabulous nurse Shirel at Northside. I truly felt this was a wonderful birth for all involved. The mom was proud of the work she did and the decisions she made along the way. (more…)

Let me first say- this is Teresa Howard speaking- not the company- I am not speaking for anyone but me in this article.

I wear a lot of hats. I am a wife of one man for 37 years, the mother of three grown children who are great assets to our society, the nana to four wonderfully precocious grandchildren and  I am much more. I have been trained as a lactation educator and am quite the lactivist. I have been trained to teach several parenting techniques and consider myself an attachment parenting advocate. I have strong opinions about doing no harm and therefore tend to not like a lot of ultrasounds for babies in utero and do not like having skin cut off that we deem unneccessary such as in circumcision. So I guess I am a bit of a non interventionist and intactivist as well.

I remember what Dr Jeffrey Abrams said to my daughter when she was saying she was choosing to not vaccinate my first grandson. He asked her why. She gave him several reasons and sited studies that convinced her that it was not something she chose to do. He smiled and said that was fine. He said he just wanted to make sure she was informed. He said he did not like to not vaccinate children when their parents chose that route but had no education as to why. I liked that- he wanted to make sure she was making an informed decision. He gave her some more information and trusted that she would make the right decision for her. I try to do that as well when I meet with someone. If they feel strongly about something and have made an informed decision- even when I disagree – I totally respect that decision. Now that is not to say I may still offer a challenging comment to have them consider- but I will not debate it or feel differently about them if they decide to disagree with me. I am all about not feeling the need to conform to someone elses ideas if they are not my own! (Remember I got my first of 12 tattoos when I was 39!) (more…)

Do you know who Polly is? She is an amazing nurse, doula, childbirth educator, business woman, writer and speaker. I have had the opportunity to read her books, glean from her wisdom at conferences, sit and chat with her on several occasions and even co speak with her at the ICAN conference in Atlanta two years ago. She is a truly amazing woman. And did I also mention she is recovering from a brain attack as well?  Truly amazing!

I remember years ago when she had her stroke, those of us who know and love her sent her hearts. She loves anything with hearts on it! I think that is because she has a big one!

Well today I got an email from her regarding (more…)


Maya Abdominal Therapy and Yoga:
Time-tested Tools for Getting the Body “In Tune” for Birth

You spent your life dreaming of the birth of your child.   You imagined that moment, after your hard laboring, when your child journeys from your body into your arms, as a moment filled with light and love, one of life’s most amazing and joyous memories.

Come the day, you feel exhilaration as the “It’s time!” is messaged from your belly. Your bags are packed, your partner is primed, your birth caregiver is apprised, and the excited parents-to-be set out for their birth location.

Fast forward to hours later.  You’re in the delivery room with your spouse holding your hand.  You’re exhausted, dazed, and confused, having just had your baby pulled from your body. Your newborn is being poked and prodded nearby as your spouse is trying not to look stunned as your abdominal stitches from the c-section you just had are being laced. (more…)

I remember years ago when I still carried a pager, listening to the occasional  cell phone ring in a restaurant and thinking, “why does someone need to be accessible all the time?” I thought it was rude and annoying. I even made a comment about how special that person must be to need to take a call during dinner! My how silly that all sounds now!

It reminds me of my mom criticizing my music when I was a teenager. I just thought, she is old and does not understand! Well now I am feeling a bit old.  Yesterday I posted about teleconferences and virtual trainings and how I did not think they could be as an affective learning method. I still feel that way. But I was thinking of the folks who do teleconferences at work all day, who do a lot of virtual training and feel this is the way they learn best due to their busy schedules. Perhaps they learn differently than me. Who am I to determine the way they learn best? That is as silly as me saying my mom’s music was not good. The older I get the better I love her big band music CDs! (more…)

You know I think outside the box… I am creative and have ideas that are constantly swirling around in my head. This is one reason I love blogging- typing in those swirling ideas… and this week this has been swirling…

We hear when a mom in labor “stalls” at 6cm for hours that her labor is “stalled.” That something must be wrong. That someone needs to intervene. That perhaps she is having some type of “dystocia.” But why is that not a normal labor for her. If we are individuals- and we each have individuals growing inside of us- and our bodies are each unique…then why must this particular woman have a labor that can be “charted” and determined to be off the “normal” curve?

My oldest daughter takes a nap before she begins to push her babies out. Every labor has been this way- 3x. She rests before she begins the process of pushing her baby out. No one told her to do that. No one was afraid that her labor had “stalled”.  We accept this as “Julie’s way.” (more…)

In the March 2010 Atlanta Parent Magazine there was an article entitled “Mom to Mom: The Practical Side of Breastfeeding” by Kimberly Kennedy. I have no idea who she is and what her credentials are as the article does not say. But I was sooooo disappointed in the article. I thought I would share my dislike with you- I have already left the editorial staff a message on their voice mail.

The first paragraph was about how hard can it be. The suggestion is that they need to start by consulting a lactation consultant. And although I like using a lactation consultant if there is a problem- it is not the first course of action that is recommended. The studies actually show that the first thing- the most beneficial thing to preventing nipple trauma is taking a good lactation class prenatally. The writer does suggest consulting La Leche League- but there is no mention of attending a class or going to a LLL meeting prior to having the baby. Both of these things would make a huge difference- you know- prevention is worth a pound of cure! (more…)

Recently in a prenatal meeting I posed a number of phrases to get the couple’s thoughts- it helps me to understand what is important to them. There was one “I gave birth, I was not delivered,” that I posed to them. Usually it is met with how they feel giving birth is something they do- vs. being delivered is something that is done to them. But this mom did not share until much later what she felt about that phrase. She said, “I actually prefer the word “deliver” because it’s more empowering to me; “birth” seems too passive, as if you’re a bystander.”

This response made me realize that different things provoke different feelings in folks. I have to say this was the very first time in years of using these phrases to promote understanding and dialogue, that a woman shared this thought. I realized that if she felt “deliver” had more power, than by all means I wanted to use the word “delivered” when talking to her about her experience.

But this made me realize that if words are powerful, who gives them the power? Individuals do! It is important to allow a woman to use the words that help her have more power. For instance the hypnobabies program have words they use… deliver is replaced with giving birth, the husband is the birth partner, contractions are pressure waves or sensations, labor is birthing time, pain is discomfort, labor room is birth room, transition is transformation, false labor is pre-birth waves, pushing is ahhhh pushing or breathing your baby out and due dates is guess dates. They want to replace all negative connotations to be positive words.

But wait- who makes words positive or negative? Shouldn’t the mom be able to decide what works for her and what does not? I personally like the word birth more than deliver- but it is not my birth- or not my delivery- it is hers.

Hypnobirthing has their own words to use- some that are considered no nos that promote fear instead of correcting the years of negative subconscious belief. Well again- what if our subconscious belief has been full of positive birth beliefs? And what if we are not afraid of words like powerful contractions or labor is hard work- or labor hurts but I can do this? Shouldn’t I be able to use those words or phrases?

I think women should use the words they want to use. I hate that my phrases that were to promote thought and discussion made this mom feel I was coercing her to believe my words… nope – I wanted it to help her discover what she felt. And it did. Words are only given power by the one using the words or finding the word has power for them. Please share the words you need with those who are there to meet your needs!

My youngest daughter uses words I am not comfortable with sometimes and when I say so to her- she reminds me that we give the power to the words- that words themselves have no power. So, if you want to have specific words used or not used in your labor- then tell those around you what words work and what words you want to have avoided. If you are surrounding yourself with folks to help you achieve the experience you want, help them to help you by sharing the words you desire to hear as well.

But, I think it is unrealistic to expect everyone in a hospital atmosphere to not use their “normal” phrases. At a home birth it may be easier to accomplish this. I think making some birth art or encouragement cards with the phrases would be a great reminder for those around you. I have tried in my years as a doula to help change some semantics by hospital staff thinking I was helping women. For instance I do not like referring to a mom as the cesarean section but instead she is the mom who had a cesarean birth… But much to my surprise, I was taught by some wonderful women in ICAN that they did not like the term cesarean birth- because they felt it softened the surgical experience that they so wanted to avoid in their future.

There are several other phrases- like the word circumcision vs genital mutilation- hmmm you know how one feels based on using that second phrase don’t you? But some words hold less impact on their use- for instance I love the baby who is breastfeeding called a nursling- the mom nurses her baby- because I feel it is much more than just feeding a baby at the breasts. Lactivist call formula artificial breast milk. When a woman says the contraction she just had was a bad one, I do try to get her to use the word powerful instead because I think it helps her to re-identify it in a more positive way. I am not sure I will ever get women to embrace the word rush or surge for contractions… even though I do think labor can be a series of rushes and rhythmic surges… but some moms don’t relate to those words. And who am I to try to make her use my words?

So, rather than forcing a woman to use words that she does not relate to or words that for her have no power- words that she has a hard time embracing- let’s let women decide for themselves what they want to call their experiences… when we force them to embrace our words we dis-empower them by doing so. So, explore new phrases- ask yourself how the words make you feel- then share the ones that work for you with those who are there to help you!