How to Choose a Doula

So you’ve heard about doulas and learned what we do and don’t do.  You’ve done some reading and realize that you want the birth of your child to be a positive, mom and baby-centered experience, and that you want to be informed, educated, and supported during your pregnancy and delivery experience.  You want to hire a doula, but how do you actually go about doing that?How to Choose a Doula: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

There are several key factors to consider when deciding which doula is a right fit for your birth team.  Consider these questions:

1. What are my unique circumstances?  Will you be seeking a VBAC or delivering at home?  Are you having a high risk pregnancy?  Do I want a doula who will be able to pray with me within my own faith?  Is this your first baby, or your first med-free baby?  How does your partner feel about having a doula attend the birth?  These questions will help you determine the sort of experience your doula should have.

2. What do I want from my doula?  Do you expect to attend childbirth education classes with her as well or are you interested in only her doula services?  Or would you like to receive postpartum care from her as well?  What sort of experience do you expect her to bring to the table?  How many prenatal or postpartum meetings do you want with her?  How often will you be able to communicate with her during your pregnancy?  How does her education and experience apply to the birth experience you desire?  Is it important to you that she has worked with your hospital or doctor before?

3. What I can afford to pay?  Have you considered that even a “free” doula is spending money out of her own pocket to attend your birth?  Did you know that doulas commonly have many fees to pay- childcare, continuing education courses, gas and parking at the birth, and taxes off her income?  Have you researched the cost of doulas in your area, taking into consideration her experience?   (This post is a great reference if you’re interested in learning how much a doula actually makes!)

4. How do I feel about her?  Check out her website or Facebook page.  Do you like what you see?  When you meet in person- was there a mutual, personal connection?  Can you imagine this person present at one of the most important events of your life?  Is she passionate and knowledgeable?  You should meet two or three doulas for a consultation before you make your final decision.

Bring a list of questions to the initial consultation if you’d like, but in my experience, one of the most important factors in hiring the right doula is considering whether or not you “clicked” with each other!  In the end, when it comes time for you to labor, you’re going to want to be supported with a team who helps you relax and stay calm.

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for in a doula, start by looking at doulamatch.net to find doulas in your area who are available for your due date, and ask friends for referrals.  Good luck!

Getting Back in to My Doula Work

Hello!  Well, I’ve had another baby!  It was a little different this time because it was my first birth after becoming a certified doula. My labor was about 6 hours, and my baby was posterior and asynclitic.  Needless to say, this labor was a little more difficult than some of the others, but in the end I was just happy that it was OVER and we had a GIRL!  This was our first time to have a surprise gender baby and it was amazing!

She will be six weeks old this week, and I am slowly getting back into my work as a doula.  I have three consultations scheduled over the next three weeks and hope to fill up the rest of my fall calendar soon.  I plan to take only one birth per month for the rest of the year, possibly with the exception of repeat clients. :-)

Please “like” my Facebook page for updates, or if you’d like to see a picture of my fourth baby!

Taking Care of New Moms: A Freezer Cooking Party

This weekend I threw a freezer cooking party for myself!  I had six sweet friends come over for about three hours and we all worked together to make 3 lasagnas, 3 enchilada casseroles, 2 huge bags of minestrone soup, 6 pizza crusts, 12 bags of dry bread mix, and 6 bags of dry muffin mix!  For our family, this is a monumental task, since we have to keep a strict gluten-free diet, and are unable to accept food after the baby is born.  However, the more we all chatted about it, everyone agreed it was an amazing idea and something we should be doing to support all moms-to-be!

“Many hands make light work.” 

One of the best parts of the morning was for me to be able to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, without small children underfoot.  We agreed that cooking was more enjoyable while drinking faux- mimosas and chatting with friends!

So what exactly did we do? 

I planned my menu ahead of time by picking out some favorite recipes that I knew would freeze well, making a giant grocery list, and shopping.  Unfortunately I missed a couple of ingredients but the recipes still worked!  I put all the recipes in page protectors the night before and borrowed some extra cutting boards, bowls, and knives.  I also made sure to have extra foil, gallon-sized freezer bags, saran wrap, and disposable foil containers in which to freeze the lasagnas and casseroles.

When everyone arrived around 9 am, we took a few minutes for introductions and some homemade muffins and coffee that I had prepared earlier that morning.  Then I explained the tasks- one person would mix up my own homemade flour blend (it is the base for most of my gluten free baking), one person would use that flour blend to mix up dry bread mix (for me to use later in my bread machine),   one person would mix up pizza crust dough, one person would wash/chop veggies, one person would brown meat and work over the stove, and I would sort of float around and do whatever needed to be done.  We took turns washing dishes as needed.  It worked well to have several people out of the kitchen at the table and several people in the kitchen moving around, otherwise the kitchen would have been too crowded.

Everyone chose jobs and got to work.  The recipes were ones that I had modified so they were a bit confusing when helpers were doubling/quadrupling, and if I could change something I would have re-typed them out with exactly what to do, just to eliminate confusion.

We worked for about 2.5-3 hours, with a couple of people going and coming and re-shuffling of jobs.  About halfway through I broke out the sparkling grape juice and orange juice for our “mimosas” (4 of the 6 women were pregnant!).   Everyone took breaks as needed, and overall I think everyone got along well and the morning flowed nicely!

I sent everyone home with a big piece of cake from a baby shower my husband’s office threw for us the day before, and they liked that!  I wish I had prepared a little thank-you gift ahead of time for each of them, but instead I’ll be writing hand-written notes.

In Conclusion…

What this morning came down to was friends offering several hours of their weekend to help me out, and supportive husbands who watched their kids while they did so!  Because of their generosity with their time I will have so many handmade meals ready to go after baby is born!  Considering how necessary it is for our family to have certain foods, this is such a blessing! Freezer Cooking Party

Hosting My Own Party

I felt a little silly hosting an event like this for myself, considering in our society usually a friend throws a baby shower/party for the mom-to-be.   Since this is my fourth child, and we had new dietary restrictions since the third one was born, I let go of my pride and just went for it.  And I am so glad I did.  I preach to clients all the time about letting people help them out after the baby is born, and I realized I needed to take my own advice!

I would highly recommend offering to host an event like this for a friend, or even throwing one for yourself!  Don’t be shy or afraid.  One way we can change how society views our moms-to-be is through our own actions and by the example we set.  Yes, baby showers and party games are very nice, but usually they’re centered around the baby.  Mother Blessings and Blessingways are beautiful ceremonies in which mom and her baby take center stage, but I knew for me- by having our fourth baby and our strict dietary needs- what would help the most would be prepared food!

Consider your postpartum needs and decide what works well for you and your family, and then take action.  Leave a comment if you have questions about the details of our party!

Welcome Baby M.!

Baby Girl M. was born at Nativiti Birth Center after a non-interventive labor, and it was a lovely labor and birth as Mama was able to relax, laugh, and follow her body’s natural lead on how to birth her baby!

Mama called to let me know they were on their way to the birth center after she felt her contractions were getting more intense.  I beat them there- they stopped by Sonic for some drinks first- and as I saw Mama get out of the car I knew we still had awhile to go before Baby M. would be ready to come!  But her contractions were intense, they just weren’t lasting very long yet.  As we all got settled in, the midwife and I both suspected Baby M. wasn’t lined up quite right, and an internal check confirmed our hunch.

The birth team (Dad, Mom’s sweet sister, and me) got to work on helping Mama reposition the baby.  Mama remained so calm and in such a good mood the whole time- it was such a pleasure to work with this peaceful family!  I taught Dad and Sister some ways to help relieve Mama’s hip pain (I was greatly complimented when Mom said I had “magic hands” later at our postpartum visit!), we took turns belly sifting with my rebozo, but for the most part Mama just listened to her body.  There were a few times she needed to lay down and rest for awhile before starting her work again, but when she was up and working during her contractions she had such fluid, beautiful movement and total trust in us to care for her while she devoted her entire body to her contraction.

Mama’s sister provided amazing beautiful words of encouragement and Dad always knew just the right thing to say to make Mom giggle or feel confident in herself.  They worked so well together- I wish everyone could have a support team like this!

After a few hours of intense, long-lasting contractions, Mom suddenly started  to “sound different” and wanted to push.  She impressed us all with her control during pushing, and she birthed sweet Baby M. slowly and gently, without any damage to Mom’s body!  Her birth was peaceful and she was welcomed into our world with tears all the way around, perfectly pink and ready to look at and meet her Mama.

I love walking away from each birth, reflecting on the day (or in this case, the night!) and thinking about the beauty of birth.  In this case, I attended a birth in the same exact room that my son was born in, exactly 5 years before, and while I focused on Mom during her labor, it was fun to think that exactly 5 years prior it was me in that room, becoming a second-time mom!  This birth also happened to be my last one before I started on my own “maternity leave,” and while I feel like I was able to work hard physically and give my all to this family, it was bittersweet knowing that it was my last birth for at least half a year or so- but I’ll write more on that later!  I was so impressed with Mom’s birth team and so happy that she had such an empowering and amazing birth experience!  Congratulations S. family, and Welcome Baby M.!

Welcome Baby Q.!

The birth of Baby Q. was long-anticipated by Mom and Dad.  I was hired early on in Mom’s pregnancy so that she could prepare herself in every way possible for her VBAC experience.  She worked so hard- she prepared her mind, body, and spirit to welcome her second son into the world!  I could easily see that the choices she made throughout her journey were made not only for her health, but for the love of her son.

As due dates draw near, it’s always hard for a doula to not get a little antsy.  So many mom prepare for for an unmedicated VBAC, and it’s an all-too-familiar scenario for us to see the old “bait and switch” maneuver by an obstetrician.  What was okay before is all of the sudden not okay anymore, and Mom is left facing a decision, in a vulnerable time, that she thought she wouldn’t have to make.  We all know that circumstances change- and as a doula I am certainly aware of the fact that birth can be unpredictable.  But… These situations are certainly the exception, rather than the rule.

Mom was given a deadline and ultimatum by her OB, an ultimatum that Mom chose to ignore.  Her confidence was astounding to me as she told me that she left the hospital against medical advice!  Not many moms are confident enough to make such a decision- but this mom knew her stuff and listened to her intuition.  She found a new OB who would support her choice to VBAC with a medical induction, and Mom felt sure that this was the best choice for her family.  I trusted her.

Days later, Mom began her journey to meet her baby boy.  She was induced first using a foley catheter bulb, then later augmented with Pitocin.  This journey was long, though she was strong, in-charge, and informed the entire time.  She asked questions and waited for answers.  She insisted on the best care.  She knew when she felt she was being manipulated.  She was on a journey that her husband and I could coach her on, but ultimately she had to walk alone.

I showed up on day two of her journey, in quite a dramatic moment.  Mom’s Pitocin had just been increased and her contractions became very intense very quickly.  Several student doctors and an injection later, her contractions had been slowed to a more manageable rate.  She labored that way for a long time… Slow and steady, then a bit dramatic, then slow and steady some more.  Despite everything that happened, she worked hard the entire time.  For herself, for her baby, and I think maybe a tiny little part to show the world what she was made of!

At one of the dramatic points, baby’s heart rate dropped significantly.  We spoke and I tried to keep her calm and help her be aware of the situation, which she seemed to understand.  She was very quickly wheeled to the OR for an emergency cesarean section, but as they checked baby’s heart rate again he had stabilized and was fine!  Mom asked to be brought back to her labor room to continue her labor journey!

She continued her work for several more hours.  Her body continued to dilate and she progressed as she knew she would.  At 10 centimeters and fully effaced, she began to push her baby down and out.  Baby Q. tried to come naturally but he told us through his heart rate that he insisted to be born the same way as his brother was.  Mom was brought to the OR again and this time, she met her baby boy!  Baby Q. arrived in the early hours of the morning, welcomed into our world by his loving Daddy and amazing Mommy.

In recovery, Baby Q. nursed and got to know his Mom and Dad, who were exhausted but definitely in love with their new little son.  Her labor journey had ended, but a new life had been born and the new family started on their own journey; he had been welcomed into a home full of love, of that I had no doubt.  These two parents, willing to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity yet not afraid to make decisions contrary to the original “plan,” had taken control of their birthing experience but yet listened to the needs of their son.   How selfless- to put the needs of another before your own personal desires!  Yes, he had been born into a home full of love!

Should A Doula Write Birth Stories?

Eek, has it really been over 2 months since my last post?  How embarrassing!  Truth be told, in addition to gestating my own child, things business-wise have been slowing down, and neglecting my website has sadly been a result of that.  I attended a birth in August (the night before my birthday!) of a friend that was quick and beautiful.  It was such an honor to be present at the birth of my dear friend’s son- a couple with whom I am so close- there’s something special about that!

In September I met a little boy who has one of the strongest moms I know.  Her birth was an attempted VBAC, against so many odds, and it was an emotional experience for all of us.  However, after attending her birth, I was sent into a place I hadn’t been before as a doula- a place that left me wondering if it’s my right or privilege to write the birth story of another mother.

I have thought about it before.  I have seen articles on the blogs of other doulas that either endorse or discourage a doula from writing out a birth story for her client.  To be honest, I can see both sides very clearly.

I majored in journalism and have used writing as a way to communicate my strong feelings to other people since childhood.  I remember writing notes to my parents when I couldn’t figure out the words to say during those wild hormonal years!  So it’s natural to me to write after a birth as a way to personally decompress. But maybe these stories should be for my eyes only?  I have thought that by sharing them, I am building up my clients and giving them an ego boost, or even a means to remember some details that maybe they had forgotten.  Now, I am wondering if that’s my place?Should a doula write a birth story?

While I have great intentions, the thought has crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn’t tell.  It’s not my story.  It’s my side of her story- my version of what happened- but it comes down to the fact that it wasn’t my birth.  What I saw as something that was awesome might have been a struggle for her, and by suggesting it was awesome could potentially confuse her or make her question her feelings.  What I saw as something that was negative could have meant nothing to her, and I am unintentionally inflicting my feelings on her.  Yes, it’s possible to be careful- very careful- with words, but we all interpret words differently, especially when written and not spoken.  How many times have you misinterpreted a friend’s text or email, only because you didn’t hear how she said it?

It comes down to the fact that I still want the best for my clients.  I desperately want them to have a satisfying birth experience, and after it’s all said and done, I want them to own their decisions and process their experience with confidence that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had.  I ask myself how I come into play at this part?  Is our postpartum visit enough?  Is the birth story helpful, healing, confusing, or unwanted?  These are all questions I will take into consideration in the future as I hope to remodel some of my business during my maternity leave.  Helping women have the postpartum support they need is going to be a big part of that.

Please feel free to leave me your comments as I work through how I will handle birth stories in the future!

Welcome Baby D.!

Early morning on Tuesday August 6, I started getting some texts from Dad suggesting that Mom was in early labor.  Those early morning texts are always an adrenaline rush for me, and soon they realized it would be time to go to the hospital, and they asked me to meet them there.  Mom was contracting very regularly and frequently very early in her labor, and having been up the night before also I was concerned about her tiredness and waning strength.  But she was excited to be there- it was finally time to meet her baby girl!

After some time in triage, they admitted her to a room where I found Mom breathing through her contractions and ready to get to work.  After several hours though, no progress in dilation had been made, and her OB suggested she start some Pitocin.  Mom agreed and requested a light epidural so she could get some rest.  I helped Mom stay comfortable and put her in positions to help her dilation while she was in bed, trying to banish thoughts in my head of my own first labor.  Mom was able to rest and sleep for a little while, which was just the thing she needed to push out her beautiful PINK baby girl!  It was beautiful to witness Mom and Dad (and Grandma too!) meet their new little girl- I could tell their hearts were full of joy and love!

I was so proud of Mom and Dad for making the right decisions for themselves!  Congratulations Mom and Dad and Big Sister T. on the birth of Baby D.!