As things play out in the U.S. political arena I am troubled by the tendency to strike down or get rid of anyone who disagrees with you. When I take a look at my own life, I am very aware of how important it has been for me to learn to hear those who disagree with me, and then to find a way to work with them. For example, it is true that I have concerns about current birth practices in my community. I wish that our hospitals supported a more family-centered model, that there were more midwives and more support for women who choose to breastfeed.
I am not, however, interested in eliminating the professionals that are currently working within this system. Instead, I strive to understand them better and to see where I can be most helpful to those in need of support. This often means working with other professionals with whom I disagree, and respecting their perspective and way of doing things. I truly believe that we are all doing the best we can, with the knowledge and experience that we have.
I work hard to create a friendly working relationship with other care providers in my community. I want us to understand and trust one another, so that we can work along-side one another to support families during the childbearing year. We won’t always agree, but if we keep our focus on the mother and child, and treat one another with kindness and respect, I believe we can do a pretty good job to support, empower, and care for families as they go through the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
I was recently made aware of a Duracell commercial that highlighted all the unwelcome advice that new parents hear. One form of advice included a doula-recommended “dolphin assisted water birth.” This struck me as funny on a number of levels.
First, I had to Google it and it is a thing! Apparently a midwife in Hawaii does them. Who knew?
Second, we don’t even have a facility that allows any water births here, so I’m sorry to say that these will not be coming to the North Country any time soon.
Third, doulas want you to have the birth that YOU want! We listen to expecting parents and help them navigate the options by supplying information, not forcing expectations onto them. So while I would be happy to give resources on how a dolphin may or may not help facilitate a healthy birth, I would never tell someone that it is a necessity.
They would have to come to their own conclusions on that matter.
Are you worried a doula might interfere with the very personal and emotional nature of your birth. Do you envision having an intimate experience with your partner, and worry that having a doula present will take away from your privacy and diminish your connection with one another. I’d like to explain how having a doula can actually increase the chance that you’ll have all of this and more!
1. Less Stress for your partner = more energy for emotional connection and intimacy
Birth is unpredictable, and often stressful. Your partner loves you more, and knows you better, than anyone else on your support team. They care for you and this new life you are about to bring into the world, and they may be nervous about the sounds and smells and uncertainties of birth. Simply entering the hospital can bring up a lot of negative feelings, as it is a place we generally associate with pain and sickness. And if they are your sole support person, they may be worried about how they will perform. All of this creates stress and tension for your partner, and decreases their ability to be emotionally present.
Your doula knows birth, and both you and your partner know your doula and trust her. During your prenatal doula visits, you have both told her about your hopes for this birth, and shared with her your fears and worries. Your doula is also familiar with your birth setting, whether that may be a hospital, birth center, or your home. Having a doula means knowing that your partner doesn’t have to shoulder all the weight on their own. As we all know, when a person is well-supported, they are able to relax and enjoy the experience. Your partner can look to the doula for reassurance when they are worried. Having this support means that your partner will experience less stress and tension, and will therefore relax and be more emotionally present for you. This results in a more intimate birthing experience for you both. And more intimacy means more oxytocin, which means less pain and more progress in the birth process!
2. Your doula teaches your partner to help you with the pain so that you can work together throughout the birthing experience.
During prenatal visits, we will demonstrate and teach you and your partner many techniques for easing labor pains. We will practice these techniques so that your partner feels confident in their ability to help you. During the early stages of labor, your partner will be able to apply counter pressure to help ease the pain of your contractions. The longer you are feeling comfortable and staying on top of the pain, the less likely you will be to rush off to the hospital too early. This means that you may actually spend more time alone together during early labor. This increases your personal, emotional, intimate experience of laboring together…and once well established, it will be easier to continue once you are at the hospital.
3. Once at the hospital, your doula sets the scene for you to have a more personal experience.
Your doula knows the hospital and its staff. While the nurses are getting you admitted and adhering to hospital protocol, your doula will help you and your partner settle into the room. She may adjust lighting, set up aromatherapy, show you where to store your belongings, help you to change, acquire a birth ball for you, draw a bath…whatever is needed.
By helping you and your partner to settle in more quickly and smoothly, your doula helps you to keep your labor moving smoothly. Limiting discomfort and creating an atmosphere where you are both relaxed and cared-for helps to keep you feeling good. When you feel good, your body produces oxytocin, and that keeps labor progressing. It also keeps you in an emotional and intimate frame of mind.
While your doula is helping you both to settle in, your partner is able to focus all their attention on you. They are less distracted because they don’t have to worry about every little thing, and they trust that the doula will take care of you both.
Hiring a doula helps ensure that your birthing experience will be personal and intimate. When both you and your partner are supported by a doula, you both experience less stress and have more energy for emotional connection.
The big news over here at New Day Doula is that we’re now officially a partnership! In addition to being doula partners, Rainbow and I jointly own the company and will be handling all business dealings together. This has been in the works pretty much since we first met last March, and it is truly amazing for us and our clients.
Working with a partner is the only way I would ever consider being a doula. Birth doulas are on call whenever they have clients. Most of the time we can narrow that time down to the two weeks before and after the client’s due date, but it isn’t always that clear. No matter how far along she is, if one of our clients goes into labor, we will be there for her and her family. Labor doesn’t wait for the comfort and convenience of anyone. Those of you who are not birth workers can probably imagine how limiting that can be for an individual. Luckily, a partnership means that we are only on-call half of the time and are able to accommodate vacations and family events. This makes supporting pregnant women so much easier.
The partnership model is also really great for our clients. With the OBs at CPH sharing a call schedule, women never know which doctor will end up delivering their baby. It could likely be someone they’ve never met before! Rainbow and I both meet with our clients before the birth and they get to know both of us. We’re both available for phone and message support, which means that our clients will get answers to their questions right away! While only one of us goes to the actual birth, it will definitely be one of us there. There is no need for back-up doulas that our clients don’t know. If one of us has an emergency or is sick, the other is there for our clients.
We are also always coming up with new ideas to better serve our clients and to support women and families in the North Country. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. We are excited about the new possibilities that 2017 will bring. Working as a partnership allows us to vet ideas together to find the best possible solutions.
And above everything else, this partnership means that I get to work with the amazing Rainbow Crabtree not only as a doula partner but also on the business end. It isn’t every day you meet someone who not only cares strongly about pregnant women and new families but who also has a keen head for business and amazing follow-through on ideas. Here’s to many years working together!
Giving birth can be tricky. It’s easy to feel that your body is working against you, because you’re in pain. As a doula, I spend A LOT of time thinking about pregnancy, labor and birth. I was thinking about it last week, as I lay in bed with the flu. My energy was low, my body was weak, I had a headache, and I could feel my chest filling up with phlem, which I knew meant that I'd spend at least a week coughing, and losing sleep. Boy was I feeling sorry for myself…And wondering why my body was putting me through such misery!
But then I asked myself...is it, though? Is my body working against me? It’s true that I felt miserable, but the truth is that my body was doing exactly what it’s meant to do under these circumstances. A virus had invaded, and my body was doing its best to regain balance. In the process, I was feeling pretty crummy.
Here’s the thing…when I brought my mind around to gratitude for the good work that my body was doing to protect me, then it didn't feel quite so horrible. I was able to relax a little bit, and the intensity of the discomfort eased. When I acknowledged that my body is strong and intelligent, and that I would get better, some of the tension (and down-right crankiness) was relieved!
This is true for pregnancy, birth and parenting as well. When you just can’t stand to be pregnant any longer, know that this is part of the process. You are designed to reach a point where your body just can’t hold the baby any longer. And be grateful for the nature of the design. Your body holds your baby just as long as it needs to, and then it lets go.
Yeah, I know it’s easier said than done. But if you can access that place inside of yourself that is grateful for a healthy, functioning body, I promise it will make a difference.
The same holds true for you during labor and delivery. Giving birth is painful, no doubt about it. But it’s our mind that creates the suffering. When you allow yourself to fight the pain and the natural process, to wish it could be other than it is, then it just hurts more. When you brace yourself, you get tense. If you are tense, afraid, and angry that you body is making you feel so miserable, then how can you relax and open up to bring your baby into the world?
So when you’re feeling uncomfortable because the baby is kicking your ribs, or your feet are swollen, or your nose is stuffed up, I invite you to relax into the sensations and know that they are all part of the design. Start practicing now and you’ll be a pro by the time you give birth!
Trust your body. Your body has its reasons. Your body is smart, and it knows just how to handle the flu, your pregnancy, and the birth of your baby.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.