Wonderfully Made Births

Changing childbirth, one woman at a time.

It Takes a Doula to Raise a Website

I think I need a doula.  I am in labor with this website, see?  The official “Wonderfully Made Births” website, for my doula business.  I’ve neglected doing it for far too long, and am feeling the push to make myself accessible via the web.  So I bought my domain name, I bought hosting, and now?  Now I’m buying a ticket straight to crazyville.

Change is hard.  Every decision made to do something necessarily means some things are not done.  If you choose the robin’s egg blue, you can’t have the intense green and teal.  If you go with the four column layout, you don’t have the gorgeous header image.

Actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about, for the most part.  Except the part about change.  Pointing ourselves in a focused direction, as in birth, means we must push other things out of our minds, or even out of our lives.  It takes mindfulness and determination, and a whole lot of energy.  Sometimes, the scene is orchestrated for us just so:  someone dims the lights, scents the room with lavender, and gives us little baby sips of our favorite mango nectar over perfectly crushed ice.  Other times, we rush in, our least favorite doctor is on call, the aquadoula is broken, and we are in the room without telemetry.  Somehow, this baby must get born no matter the circumstances.

And somehow, this baby always does.

So I will plug along on this new baby, and continue to try to grow my business.  I hate to even think of it as a business, because I love what I do so much.  It doesn’t usually feel like work.  Well, okay.  Maybe sometimes, usually after the 20 hour mark.  And I sure wish I had someone whispering in my ear, “You can do it!”

Anyway, coming soon, you will be able to visit Wonderfully Made Births and see who I am, what I do, peruse some adorable baby pictures and get access to evidence-based pregnancy and childbirth information.

I will post a calender of events including a welcome tea that will serve as an introduction to me and a couple of other area doulas that are joining forces with me (using our powers only for good, I assure you).  I will keep everyone in touch with birth related events and educational opportunities in our area, and always, always, offer you the best information I can find.

I welcome questions, comments, or any kind of contact.  Okay, well – maybe not any kind.

Whew.  Is there a doula in the house?

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What does support look like? What to do and not do to support a breastfeeding mother | PhD in Parenting

What does support look like? What to do and not do to support a breastfeeding mother | PhD in Parenting.

Often times, others say it better.  In the above referenced posting from my favorite parenting resource on the web, the author cites a variety of articles on how to support a breastfeeding mother, and how NOT to.

I will just add a few thoughts to the discussion.

As I have said about birth, I firmly believe the best possible way to affect a real change in our attitudes about breastfeeding is to shift the way we talk about it.  While I don’t believe women should be “guilted” into breastfeeding, I DO believe that hearing other moms who have successfully breastfed for any period of time talk positively about the experience can work wonders.

When a couple initially interviews me to be their doula, I hand them a stack of papers including a lengthy list of things they might want to consider for their birth plan.  I preface it by saying that it likely includes many things that they do not care about at all, but also many things that they might never have considered.  What smells bother them?  Are they fearful of throwing up (any kind of fear can cause difficulties).  If this is a boy, have they considered not circumcising?  I feel the more the discussion is open, the more clarified certain things become.  Rather than making it too complicated a process, seeing things side by side can make it easier to separate the chaff from the wheat, if you will.

Why not write a breastfeeding plan?  If we truly believe in evidence-based decision making, why not go ahead an put all the potential issues out on the table so a woman can see them laid out before her?

Rather than assuming that seeing the potential challenges of breastfeeding will discourage a woman, let’s imagine that she can make good decisions for herself and her baby when given accurate information.

Let’s include on these lists all the intangible benefits, also.  Nutrition is a great ideal, but in life few of us can wrap our minds around it in a way that makes it real, hence our obesity problems.  Let’s talk about getting to hold your baby so close and warm as often as you like without feeling apologetic for it.  Let’s add the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for bonding.  Let’s discuss the multitudes of disorders caused by invalidation and lack of proper attachment, and how the oxytocin boost from breastfeeding can help avoid some of the behaviors that can cause or contribute to these problems.

We can add that if you don’t have good support, you might have more hurdles to overcome.  Help her come up with a plan to do just that.  “What will you do if…” planning can help her visualize and own a situation, which can make it that much easier to deal with if it actually happens.

Here are some very practical, simple ways to plan for successful breastfeeding:

1.  Cook meals ahead.  I did this with each of my last two pregnancies, and it was so nice to just go to the freezer to pull out dinner.

2.  When you visit, keep the visit short when the baby is very new, and do something helpful.  Throw in a load of laundry, wash some dishes, and for crying out loud call ahead and ask what is needed from the store.

3.  Bring foods (or prepare and freeze them if you are the new mom) that can be picked up with one hand to eat!  Sounds silly, but it’s no easy thing to juggle a newborn and a fork and a plate.  A breastfeeding woman needs 300 calories more than a pregnant woman.  This time is much more appropriate a period to “eat for two.”  Some great suggestions:  nutritious smoothies, muffins with extra goodies like fruit and nuts in them, and sandwich wraps or pitas stuffed not-too-full.

It’s not a long list.  As I said, others have done a better job than I could here.  But I do have one last thought.

If you are not 100% on board with the breastfeeding and cannot think of anything encouraging to say, or even if you have a question that you could really get answered elsewhere (by someone not quite so hormonally challenged or tired and overwhelmed or emotionally vulnerable) – KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, and just hang back and witness.

You might just learn a thing or two.

Expectations

I sat in the comfy chair at Starbucks, reserving the other one for the pregnant woman I was to meet along with her boyfriend.  I knew he was a business owner, so when I saw an obviously due-pretty-soon woman walk in beside a pierced, North Face-wearing man, I thought: that’s not them.  She looked model-thin, wore high-heeled boots.  She looked pretty, delicate – I couldn’t see that couple wanting to hire me, a doula.

So when they came over expectantly and introduced themselves as my potential clients, I was ashamed.

Often when I meet with a client for the first time, I form an impression, born of experience and an understanding that not everyone has the same view of childbirth.  At some point during our relationship, I realize that this person will likely be induced, this one will end up with an epidural, that this one is too scared or too tired to have an easy time of it.  I am generally right.  And I don’t hold judgements about those decisions.  It’s not my job.

My job is to be supplier of information, supporter of informed decision making.  I had my births, now it’s their turn.  I take these decisions seriously, and try to ensure that my clients have access to all the information they need.  But I cannot make the choices for them.

But I see, now, that sometimes I will be surprised.  This beautiful, put-together woman in the high-heeled boots had the most amazing labor.  There are times when all outward signs tell you nothing.  When there is nothing but intuition telling you that this is really labor, this is transition, this is time to push.  She was absolutely quiet during her contractions.  She withdrew into herself, grew serious and focused.  Between, she chatted and laughed like the rest of us.  I kept thinking, if she wasn’t dilating they would give her pitocin because this couldn’t be active labor.  But she was six centimeters dilated!

Then, during one contraction, tears began falling down her face in a steady stream.  She didn’t sob, and it didn’t seem like a reaction to pain.  Instead, it seemed laden with emotion, and I wondered if it might be transition.  Then just as suddenly, she was ready to push.

She worked hard during pushing, and leaned heavily on her partner, but she still shone through and was amazingly strong and fearless.

I am constantly amazed by the power of this rite, the strength we are able to find within ourselves even when exhausted and unsure.  And I am contrite in the face of my wrongness, my judgement about what kind of person won’t succumb to fear.  And I am grateful for the lessons.

A New Conversation

Your birth, your way. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, but it doesn’t have to be a debacle, either.

One of my favorite quotes is this one, from Laurie Stavoe Harm:

“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that childbirth is painful, it’s that women are strong.”

Whether you believe our bodies were created or evolved, the fact is the design is not flawed. Our ideas about it might be, but for the most part we can do this thing, this incredible, life-changing thing that makes us feel powerful and amazing, without a whole lot of help.

Of course sometimes things happen to make it so that we do need help, a little or quite a lot. And yes, it is wonderful that we have great technology and medical knowledge to keep those situations from becoming dangerous or life threatening. My argument is not that we should toss all those medical ideas out the window. I am a firm believer in supporting what a woman feels is right for her. I do not have to live with the decisions my clients make – they do.

I know enough of depression, guilt, and anger to understand that a woman’s ability to chose her own path through pregnancy and childbirth can mean the difference between a satisfying experience and a nightmare, no matter how things progress.

What I do insist on, and would love to see, is this:

Let’s change the way we talk about birth. Is it painful? Hell yes. But is it also the most incredible kick-ass moment many of us ever have?  Yes, absolutely it is. I want my daughter to understand that. I want to talk about it with all the energy and joy I felt when each of my children was born. I want to see the discussion start to center around the transformational experience, rather than the fear.  We can talk about the pain, we can talk about the doubts that creep in no matter how many babies you’ve had – the thought that oh my God I really have to push this terrifically huge baby out through my tiny little vagina and I have changed my mind please God, please I want a do over!

But let’s also talk about that moment when a mother first touches her baby. That moment that all the hard work and self-care of pregnancy and labor manifests itself in a tiny, perfect little person. The moment a baby is born is also the moment a mother is born. Let’s remember that the birth, while beautiful and exhilarating, is only the beginning of the journey.