A few days after my son was born, my husband and I needed to buy something from the drug store. I don’t remember what it was, I only remember that at first we assumed my husband would get it but then decided that he should watch the baby and I would walk the few blocks to the store. It was a beautiful August day. I let the warm sun soak into my skin and marveled at how nice it felt to do something so ordinary. Bringing home our son felt like all the pieces of our life were thrown into a bag, shaken up, and then scattered onto the ground. I felt completely changed and had no idea when normalcy would return. That walk felt amazing.
When I got to the store, I found what we needed and impulsively picked up a king-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups pack while I waited in line. (It took a few days for me to remember it was in my bag and finally get to eat it.) When it was my turn at the register, the cashier and I exchanged pleasantries and remarked at how beautiful the day was. She lamented the fact that she had to work. “By the time I get off work, it’s supposed to change to rain,” she sighed. I felt a bubble of desire to explain what I had been doing before my trip to the store – the baby at home who was either crying, sucking desperately from my sore nipples, or sleeping on my chest – but it seemed too surreal to mention in the fluorescent-lit store. How could I explain the combination of joy and exhaustion to this young clerk? Could she possibly understand what it’s like to have another being depend solely on you for survival? Were there even words in the English language to express how hard it was for me to be just a few blocks away from my new son even though I desperately craved a break?
I ended up saying nothing – just smiled and nodded at her wish to be outside. When I got home, I learned that baby boy had slept all of 5 minutes after I left and screamed the rest of the time I was gone. This started the struggle I have continued to have with leaving him with not-Mom. And I still don’t know how to explain to people without children what it’s like to suddenly be a parent and carry so much weight.
All families are different and responsibilities settle themselves in various ways depending on the individuals. However, the majority of the time, there is one individual who becomes the “default parent” and it is usually the mom.
The day my son was born, I tried to determine the emotion I felt. I knew people often referred to that day as being “the happiest day of their life.” But that didn’t seem right. To me, it was like an eclipse occurred. I was no longer the center of my universe but now this new person shared the space with me. And while my life has settled down for the most part and I can go for a walk by myself without feeling torn, I still cannot do anything without first considering how the act will impact my son. My heart and soul have grown to include another being.
How do we tackle huge obstacles? Do we just jump in head first and try to accomplish it all at once or is it easier to take small steps, spreading it out over time? As someone who has trained for many endurance events, I know the latter is the best policy! No one should run a marathon without training for it, just as making gradual payments for a doula can make the process much easier to accomplish.
At New Day Doula, we know having a baby today ain’t cheap! Not only do you have many, many prenatal doctor’s appointments and a birth to pay for, but there are all those teeny-tiny clothes, car seats, strollers, cribs, and miscellaneous-extras-that-babies-just-have-to-have to add on! With all this to worry about, it’s no wonder expecting families are a little overwhelmed with the prospect of paying for a doula.
We want to make this easier for you! Having a doula can greatly improve a woman’s overall satisfaction with her labor and delivery. Even ACOG (the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) is promoting the use of a doula! We want you to be able to hire us so that we can help you have the best birth possible. To help you do that, we’ve created an adjustable payment plan. This plan breaks down payments into easier chunks, which you pay every 5 weeks. The one here starts at 20 weeks, but it can be adjusted to start however far along you are.
Small steps can make a daunting prospect seem much more attainable! We are more than happy to help you in this task as well as your birth goals! Just let us know you’d like to consider a payment plan when you schedule your consultation.
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.
Women are so powerful. Not only do we create life, but we are often the glue that holds families together and would do anything to protect our children.
Birth is many things, but easy is rarely one of them. It is a right of passage into motherhood. It brings us to our breaking point and forces us to continue even when doing so seems impossible. No matter how challenging or even traumatic the birth was, though, if the end result is a healthy baby, that is all we are told matters.
But our stories matter. What we experienced during birth matters. Whatever path our transformation took, it matters. Because we matter. We matter.
Last night was the first Birth Story Share sponsored by the St. Lawrence County Birth Connection. It was an amazing success. Women from all walks of life came together to celebrate birth while holding space for all stories, be they traumatic, joyful, peaceful, or sad. The respect and reverence in the room blew me away and I can’t wait to experience it again. I felt a part of something sacred and something that we tend to forget in this fast-paced world.
Last week was hard for a lot of people and felt like a major blow to women. A lot of people are scared and may feel like their voices don’t matter. But they do matter. And the more we speak of the challenging parts of being a woman and the things that we need to change, the more they become heard. Sharing our birth stories may feel like a small thing, but I know it is hugely important. If we don’t talk about what we have experienced, nothing will ever change. The world will never know how powerful we women are or how much the current culture surrounding birth threatens to smother that power by adding time limits and unnecessary interventions unless we talk about it.
The way we birth matters and the way we talk about it matters as well. Sharing inspiring stories as well as the complex-somewhat-horrible ones shows the reality of what women experience. As the queen of birth, Ina May Gaskin, says, “Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” The way you gave birth sticks with you and speaking of the experience can heal and light the way for all future births. We are so powerful and it is time the rest of the world sat up and took notice.
The upcoming election has me thinking about options. We are so fortunate in this society to have so many options surrounding where we live, what we eat, the clothes we buy, who we vote for, and even how we choose to watch our favorite television series. Having children will drastically change one’s life and we are so fortunate that individuals here are able to make that decision for themselves.
As a doula, I know a lot about birth and babies. I also know a lot about pregnancy and the amazing toll it can take on a woman’s body. Women have to sacrifice comfort, eating choices, and sometimes health to grow a baby. There is so much joy and wonder surrounding new life and everything involved in creating it. But for every positive, there is often something about the mom or her partner that needs to be forsaken or at least put on hold.
Each step of a child’s development has its own set of challenges. We need to function on very little sleep accompanied by nagging self-doubt with a newborn. Breastfeeding can bring pain and struggle, while formula may bring guilt. The toddler years turn the most patient people into screamers and preschoolers are the best negotiators in the world. Need I even write about tweens and teenagers?
But all the superficial struggles aside, likely the hardest part about parenting is what we end up losing. There is little flexibility in life once children enter the picture. Not only do we need to account for children’s schedules, but we also need to make sure that someone can be with them at all times. It is nearly impossible to fully commit oneself to work when having to make sure there is backup care in the event of running overtime. Doulas know this struggle well!
We also need to schedule in self-care as children suck up negativity and stress like sponges. Any disruption in our personal equilibriums can sabotage an entire day. If I don’t sleep well, I need to load up on caffeine and positive affirmations so I don’t get a tiny bit agitated, thus creating a downward spiral of behavior – his and mine.
I love my son more than anything and am so grateful that I was blessed with him. I also had to put a lot of what I love on hold. There are many things that used to strongly be a part of who I was that may be gone forever. I have chosen to raise my son in a way that puts him in the forefront of my life. I am fortunate that I was able to make that choice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn for my pre-child life from time to time.
Raising a child takes a lot of work. Everyone who has done it or is doing it knows that. It is a lot of work and there is rarely any acknowledgment that you are doing it “right.” None of us want to raise jerks and we’re all trying our darnedest to make sure we’re making as few mistakes as possible.
I love seeing the creation of a family at birth. New life is precious.
But it is not for everyone, and I firmly believe in giving people options.
I’m a runner. Anyone who is also a runner or is close to a runner knows how much our shoes mean to us. When the whole sport pretty much comes down to how your feet hit the ground, the shoes in the middle are pretty important. We research them, test them in the store, and often wear them for a few practice runs before ultimately deciding that a pair will work. Once a runner has found a line of shoes that feels right and doesn’t aggravate any particular body part, he or she will do everything possible to keep buying the same ones.
The shoe industry is like any other and always tries to make their products “better.” Sometimes that means that a shoe that once was the perfect fit, suddenly becomes a disastrous choice. Or, in my case, a runner becomes pregnant and her feet change size, causing the shoes that had worked for 10 years to become uncomfortable. Whatever the reason, sometimes a runner has to try out new shoes and that can be a terrifying venture.
I decided to try a few different lines of shoe to determine what worked best for me. This could have been a very expensive proposition as your average running shoe costs over $100. Since you can’t really tell if a shoe is “right” until you run in it for a bit, you need to have a retailer kind enough to allow returns even after shoes have been worn. I am really lucky to be a VIP member of an online running store that allows just that – you can wear a pair of shoes for up to 90 days and exchange them for only the cost of the shipping. I could try a new pair of shoes and have the freedom to change my mind.
Knowing that you can try something and not be stuck with it in the long run gives us the freedom to try things that are hard or expensive. While having to pay for a pair of shoes that don’t work may be annoying, feeling stuck in a particular birth scenario that doesn’t end up working out can be really scary. Women deserve to have access to whatever type of birth they want; they also deserve to be able to change their minds if it doesn’t feel right or something else seems like the better choice in the moment.
As a doula, I help women find ways to feel comfortable during labor. Sometimes this means applying cold washcloths to her forehead or a heating pad to her lower back, sometimes it involves counter pressure techniques and words of encouragement, and often it means reminding a woman of her options during labor. Knowing that we have options and can change our minds gives us power. The more power a woman has or feels she has during labor, the more smoothly everything will go.
I’m really happy that I can mail back these shoes that make my feet feel like blocks of cement during a run, but I’m even happier that women can feel empowered to make the decisions that work for them during labor – regardless of what their initial plans had been.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.