This morning, my Facebook feed was flooded with “Me Too” posts. Women (and some men) were sharing publicly the fact that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault. This is following many people being “shocked” or “surprised” about the growing number of stories detailing abuse Harvey Weinstein inflicted on women over the years. “How was this happening?” they wondered. “How could so many women experience abuse and no one knew?”
I also just read an article yesterday titled “The Husband Stitch.” It is about an essay on the barbaric practice of women getting an extra stitch while having tears from childbirth repaired. This happens. I pray that it doesn’t happen often, but I really have no idea. The essay isn’t only about the practice of altering a woman’s body without her knowledge or consent in order to give additional “pleasure” to a man – it is also about the fact that women are not believed when they speak about, well, anything. We don’t talk about these practices in society. But if a woman brought it up, would she be believed?
I say, let’s just start talking and not stop. If the world isn’t ready to hear us, let’s talk anyway. The more we share, the more likely someone else will feel comfortable sharing her story. And the more the rest of the world hears what women experience, the more likely bystanders will be to step in. That’s my hope, at least.
There is a lot of processing that often needs to happen surrounding birth. Even the most uncomplicated and straightforward births have parts that women would like to talk about. When we share our stories, they leave the confines of our bodies and enter into the listener as well. The joy, the pain, the sorrow all get shared. It is easier to think about these big events when you’re not carrying all the weight yourself.
That’s why we host birth story sharing events. Because those are your stories and they’re important stories. Let’s share them together and hold onto them as a community of women. There is no judgment and there is no disbelief. We come together with love and open hearts. And, most especially, with listening ears.
My hope is that as women become more comfortable sharing their stories, the world will start to understand what it is to be a woman. The world will become a safer place for women. They will be considered as humans first and not just bodies. It might be a bit idealistic, but I really think our stories can change the world.
Sarah Oakley from MamaBirth Yoga joins Rainbow to talk about some of the benefits of prenatal yoga! As birth doulas, Rainbow and I have seen time and time again how beneficial a yoga practice can be for preparing for the challenge of labor and delivery. Pregnancy is an excellent time to start yoga! You can even use some of the calming techniques in the months and years following birth. :)
During our prenatal visits, one of the things Rainbow and I ask our clients is if they are planning to bring music to the hospital. Sometimes the couple had already thought of it and was working on a playlist. However, a lot of the time it’s not something they’d thought of before. They’re intrigued but insure of how it would work for them. Would the music become annoying? Would it distract the hospital staff? What type of music would they want?
Really, it all comes down to what makes you the most comfortable and brings you joy. If you love listening to music, then of course you’d want it to be a part of your birth experience!
If you’re not a runner, then you might not be aware of what I’m going to share with you. But, forget circumcision, bed-sharing, or vaccines, if you want to get a heated conversation started, ask a group of runners about listening to music while running. You will not believe the passion in the responses! There is a strong mindset that listening to music will interfere with your ability to listen to your body and therefore should never be used. Others will say that it isn’t as “pure” a way to experience a run.
Well, I listen to music while I’m running. I love music and listen to it whenever I can. Sometimes the only thing that motivates me to get out for a run is a new playlist. This spring, I ran The Maple Run Half Marathon in Canton. I had done all the proper training and felt confident about completing the course. I’ve run many half marathons (and even a few full ones) before, so I wasn’t worried about the distance. Yet, when I began the race, I just wasn’t into it. My pace was dragging and I was just going through the motions. Then a song started that completely brightened my mood! (Would you laugh if I told you it was “Believe” by Cher?) I felt a surge of energy and picked up my pace! I was in a much better mood for the rest of the race.
During birth, you want to make your environment as comfortable as possible. For some people, music can make a big difference in adding comfort to a hospital setting. I’ve been to births where the couple brought music and ones where they did not. Both can be amazing and beautiful. I was at a birth where both parents were musicians and the playlist was amazing. I don’t know how much it helped the laboring woman, but it certainly put me in a positive mood! Some couples bring their own speaker or even just use the speaker on their phone. Your doula might even be able to bring a wireless speaker if you think about it ahead of time. (At New Day Doula, we can!)
For your birth, you should think about what makes you happy and calm. If you like silence when you’re stressed, then maybe music isn’t the right choice for you. But the wonderful thing about using music as an intervention is that if it doesn’t feel right at the time, you can simply turn it off. How many things can you say that about?
There are many loving, kind, knowledgeable nurses who, in many ways, can help you similarly to a doula. So you may be wondering if it’s worth the expense of hiring a doula.
I recently had a client whose doctor, upon hearing that she was hiring a doula, told her that the nurse would be with her the whole time anyways. Why would the doctor discourage her from hiring a doula? Why would the doctor mislead her to believe that she could count on continuous care from a nurse? I cannot answer these questions without getting into that doc’s head.
But I can tell you how your doula supports you in ways that a nurse generally cannot.
-The nurse works for the hospital. Your doula works for you.
When it comes down to it, the nurse’s priority must be hospital rules and protocol. S/he must also follow doctor’s orders. Once the nurse has finished the paperwork and procedures required for your admission to the hospital, only then will s/he be able to focus on your comfort and provide the type of support you would have from a doula. In addition the nurse may be called away if there is an emergency or if the maternity floor is short-staffed.
Your doula, on the other hand, has you as her only priority. She has gotten to know you in prenatal visits and is familiar with your hopes and wishes for this birth experience. Likely, she has already been with you for a few hours at home and knows how to help you manage the contractions. While the nurse is focused on your admittance and assessing your situation, your doula is focused on helping you to stay comfortable and relaxed through contractions so that your labor doesn’t slow down. Your doula works only for you, so she will not be called away to help someone else while you are in labor.
-If you want continuous support, you want a doula.
There is no guarantee that the nurse will be available to provide continuous support throughout the duration of your labor. When there is a shift change, s/he will leave and you will be handed over to a new nurse. This may happen several times, depending on when you arrive at the hospital and how long your labor lasts. And as mentioned above, the nurse’s availability will also be dependent upon staffing and emergency situations on the maternity floor.
Your doula has no shift change…she will stay with you for the duration of your labor, providing you with continuous support.
-Your nurse is likely a stranger. You have a relationship with your doula.
Even if you have a chance to develop a relationship with your favorite nurse, she will leave when her shift is over. At this point, you’ll need to start over with a new nurse, whom you may or may not like.
During your pregnancy, you met with your doula for several prenatal consults. You decided ahead of time that you like this person and feel comfortable and safe with her. Making this connection with your doula during your pregnancy ensures that you will have continuous support throughout your labor from a person whom you know and trust. Feeling safe and relaxed signals the body to secrete oxytocin, which helps contractions stay strong, your cervix to open up, and your labor to move along smoothly.
LABOR IS UNPREDICTABLE, BUT YOUR DOULA SUPPORT IS FOR SURE!
Still not convinced?
Check out this research as summarized by Evidence Based Birth…
In 2012, Hodnett et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. They pooled the results of 22 trials that included more than 15,000 women.
The best results occurred when women had continuous labor support from a doula— someone who was NOT a staff member at the hospital and who was NOT part of the woman’s social network.
When continuous labor support was provided by a doula, women experienced a:
*For these outcomes, results with a doula were better than all the other types of continuous support that were studied (partner, family member, nurse). For the other outcomes, there was no difference between types of continuous support.
When you’re pregnant there is so much to do! Regular doctor’s appointments, more careful attention to nutrition, dealing with rapid changes in your body, preparing the nursery, and generally planning for baby’s arrival.
In all of the “dealing with now” and “preparing for the after”, it can be easy to forget about preparing for the actual birth of your baby. Preparing for labor and delivery goes beyond choosing a medical provider and birth location. The physical and emotional energy required for birth is often equated to that required to complete a marathon. And you certainly wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without some serious preparation, practice, and support from friends and family. Right?!?!?
Over the past couple of years I have noticed that one of the most reliable methods of preparing for the physical and emotional requirements of giving birth is…PRENATAL YOGA!
Women know that the intentional use of breath during labor can help them relax and deal with the intensity of the contractions. But lacking solid experience using the breath for this purpose can make it difficult to access this simple and powerful tool.
It’s best to learn your coping techniques before labor begins so that it’s already second-nature.
I have noticed that New Day Doula clients who take prenatal yoga learn to be more calm and relaxed, and when I remind them to use their breath during labor they know exactly how to access that tool. In addition, they learn simple things about themselves that they can use to better cope during birth. One client learned that she liked lavender oil massages when the prenatal yoga teacher gave foot massages during class, and then asked us (her doulas) to bring lavender oil to her birth.
Prenatal yoga helps New Day Doula clients to bond with their babies while still in the womb, to use their breath to relax, to find a centered calm place inside themselves. Yoga also helps these women practice moving in ways that may help make for a more comfortable pregnancy and an easier, more empowered birth.
Would you like to give it a try?
Locally, prenatal yoga classes can be found in Canton at The Yoga Loft and in Potsdam at Trillium Center for Yoga and Health.
Sometimes, being a good mom means asking for help. It is so tempting to think we need to do everything ourselves. I am one of those people who wants to be in complete control of my life and family. I like figuring out routines and knowing what will happen at any given moment. When my mom watched my 10 month-old son for an overnight, I put together a detailed schedule that she could follow to make sure his routine didn’t vary much. I have repeated this for every overnight since – with an amended schedule as he got older. However, even I remember two distinct times while parenting my son that I really could have used some help from someone else.
This sleep regression hit my husband and me so hard! Our son had been sleeping so well! He would reliably sleep 7 hours for his first stretch for over a month. And then, right around Thanksgiving, that gradually grew shorter until he was up every hour. We tried everything!
Nothing seemed to work! We would have a good night and try to mimic exactly what we did the day before…and then we’d have a horrible night. I remember pushing my little guy in the stroller for hours to try to get him to have a nice long nap during the day – and then complaining to my grumpy baby in the middle of the night that he was supposed to be sleeping well after all that napping.
My husband and I were so. tired. We needed a break. We needed someone to come in and help us wrap our heads around this lack of sleep. What we did was read a bunch of opinions and buy a bunch of stuff that was supposed to help.
In the end, he eventually started sleeping better at some point. I also decided to just accept waking up three times a night. That acceptance made it much more manageable. But if I could have gotten some more sleep before then, I probably would have been a much happier person.
This was such a difficult phase in parenthood that I don’t even like thinking about it! I was so stubborn and unable to accept that my little one needed something different. I was used to a specific routine – one that had worked amazingly well for months. So when my baby started to resist his afternoon nap, I tried to power through. I would rock him for over an hour. Outwardly, I was calm and loving. But on the inside I was brimming with anger. Just go to sleep! I would think to myself, over and over. I even rocked a bit too fast and rubbed his back a little harder than was necessary. I was at my wits end, thinking about all the things I had planned to do during that nap that just wasn’t happening.
I could have reached out. I could have asked some other moms what they thought was going on or looked into parenting resources. But I figured it was my job to sort it out by myself. I was the mom, after all.
There will be times in parenting that a little help can go a long way. I wish I had surrendered some of the control at those points in parenting. I would still be “mom” but maybe just a calmer, better rested mom.
Are you struggling right now? If so, please take a moment to think about ways that you could let go or let someone else help out. Remember – your needs matter, too, and you deserve a break just like everyone else.
Where you give birth is one of the biggest indicators in how likely you are to have an experience similar to what you were hoping for. However, here in the North Country, we don't have too many options for where we can give birth. While some people choose to drive to Burlington or Syracuse, most people who live here decide to give birth at one of our local hospitals. Lucky for you, our doulas at New Day Doula are available to support you at any of the local hospitals or even at your home if you have a licensed midwife attending!
Rainbow and Mary not only support women planning to give birth at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, but we also travel to Massena Memorial Hospital, Ogdensburg's Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, and even Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone. We can either meet you at your home during early labor and leave for the hospital when you're ready, or we can meet you at the hospital. Like every pregnancy, every labor is different, and we make sure each client gets the individualized care that she deserves.
If you are planning a home birth, we can also support you! While your midwife and assistant are tending to your and your baby's medical needs, your doula will make sure you're comfortable and getting everything you need. No matter where you give birth, you still have the incredible task of birthing your baby ahead of you. We want to make sure your experience is as close to what you envisioned as possible!
For Earth Day, I want to share a few facts with you. First, birth is a natural process that has been going on since the first mammals graced our planet. Second, birth has become extremely medicalized and expensive. As of 2015, 32.0% of births in the United States and 41.4% at Canton-Potsdam Hospital were by cesarean section. The national average cost in 2011 for a cesarean section ranged from $17,859 to $23,923. Hospital vaginal births ranged from $10,657 to $13,749, while a vaginal birth at a birth center was $2,277.
Don’t get me wrong – hospitals are great if something goes wrong. I would much rather see women have access to a cesarean when they need one than to not have access. Medical interventions can mean the difference between mother and baby surviving and not. As a member of the human race and someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and helping laboring women, I know how valuable interventions can be. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should be spending tens of thousands of dollars to give birth. And a woman who is healthy should have the option to give birth in a space that doesn’t come with the costs and risks associated with hospitals.
Why are hospital births so expensive? There are a lot of pieces in play there. Adriana Lozada of the Birthful Podcast has an excellent interview with Nate Dallas that goes over the expenses of birth and how to finance for yours. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of what you’re paying for and how to afford it, listen to this podcast. But the short answer is that hospital births are expensive because they need to plan for all the possible problems and they also have a lot of waste. All the sterile only-to-be-used-once items need to be purchased for each patient and then thrown away. All those Peri Bottles and non-slip socks cost money. The packaging for your blood draw costs money. The mandatory Pitocin drip following birth to prevent hemorrhaging (standard practice at CPH) costs money.
I don’t think that everyone should be giving birth in a field with no medical support. I also know that we have to work with what we have. But, when many people are able to have complication-free vaginal births, they shouldn’t have to choose between giving birth in a hospital and having an unassisted birth. As of June of this year, we will no longer have a licensed homebirth midwife in St. Lawrence County. We have no birth centers here. There are very few options for how women can give birth and this is absurd.
I’ll end by leaving all the human-rights and feminist arguments aside and just speaking for the Earth. If we want to leave the smallest impact possible on our planet, we need more options for birth here. We and the Earth deserve that.
I was recently at a birth of a devout Catholic. During contractions, the mother would alternate between stating her birth affirmations and praying.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
This beautiful submission to her faith, her God, gave her the strength she needed to endure labor. She was able to let go and trust in her body. While I helped her with hip squeezes, I felt the calm stillness of a holy place in the room. It was amazing.
Birth is a sacred event. A new life is beginning, which in and of itself is sacred. But the trust the birthing woman needs to have in her body is also on the holy realm. She needs to have faith that she can give birth and needs to let go to a higher power. Whether that power is called God, Allah, Goddess, Jesus Christ, Great Spirit, or just Other, the letting go and having faith is what needs to happen.
There aren’t too many times in our modern-day lives that we encounter the type of out-of-body experience that birth puts us in. Interacting in certain athletic endeavors can do it, as can certain religious activities. The mental part of us needs to let go and let our body do what it already knows how to do. The faith in our bodies is what allows us to do the unbelievable.
I wish I could tell you that birth is easy. But it’s not. It’s going to require you to get to the point where you don’t think you can cope anymore. Every woman has a moment (or more) where she doesn’t think she can do it – where the pain is too much. This is the time that faith is especially needed. Most of the time, that point where we don’t think we can go on is right at transition; it’s the point right before pushing where the body makes a big leap. Having faith that the unbearable can be endured is crucial to getting to the part where you birth your baby.
In the months before your due date, you can practice this letting go. One of the best ways to do this is through prenatal yoga. Yoga offers the unique combination of stillness of the mind and challenge of the body. You will practice holding uncomfortable poses while focusing your mind to be comfortable with them. It also is excellent for stretching aching muscles and having a time to concentrate on the life you’re growing inside you.
You can also prepare yourself by meditating with birth affirmations or taking a calm walk. Any time you are alone with your head and body can be an opportunity to check in and remind yourself that you believe in you. You know that your body is capable of giving birth. You truly are amazing.
As birth doulas, Rainbow and I are frequently hailing the power of birth affirmations – positive mantras to repeat prior to and during labor to help a woman feel powerful and in control. I recently had someone mention that since her birth affirmations helped so much, she is going to start using them every day. But rather than mantras based around birth and how to feel positive in relation to that, these are everyday affirmations around parenting and being a good person.
This is an amazing idea! Parents, especially mothers, are under such scrutiny today and it’s easy to assume the worst about ourselves. We constantly hear contradictory messages on how to be a good parent and all the ways that we are subtly failing at the task. Shaming and focus on negativity does not work on helping people achieve. I saw it clearly in my days as a teacher and I can see it now when working with new parents. Let’s stay positive and the results could be amazing!
Some parenting affirmations to try out:
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.