On December 4th, 2014, I had my posterior tongue tie released by laser. I am not ready to get into the whole nitty-gritty story right now -- I am hoping for some better results in the future. I did want to address something amazing I am happy about, though: my tongue finally found its home.
All my life I struggled to know how my tongue was supposed to fit in my mouth. It felt big, unelegant, cumbersome. I never knew where to put it to make things feel together. I sucked my thumb until I was 8 years old. I started seeing a speech therapist before I quit sucking my thumb to address issues with "thertain thounds." Dr. Peachy (and I can't remember if that is how his name was spelled -- that's how we said it; I checked with my mom and she can't remember his proper name either) tried many strategies to get me to stop this thumb-sucking. We put that tape you use on hair (do they even make that anymore?) around my thumb, stained yellow with food coloring; if I sucked my thumb, my mouth would be yellow when I woke in the morning. Once he helped me scrape the dirt out from under my fingernails and we put in on a cracker -- he then invited me to eat! I cannot remember if I put the saltine in my mouth or not -- it obviously didn't make me stop putting my thumb in my mouth.
Dr. Peachy also made a big deal about where my tongue was supposed to rest, and how I should swallow. I had tongue thrust, and the natural resting position that felt good was between my teeth. I had an open bite (although future braces closed that) from the tongue thrust, and he was helping me learn my way out of bad habits. He had this stuff that seemed like a thin spot of gelatin; he affixed it to the roof of my mouth and told me this is where my tongue should go. At rest, at play, before and after swallows -- this was "my spot."
At some point I learned to speak more clearly and stopped speech therapy. I even grew out of thumb-sucking, and as I said before, I am pretty certain it had nothing to do with any of Dr. Peachy's interventions -- I think I just was finished.
All my life I have had this feeling my tongue wasn't right for my mouth -- somehow, I was given a tongue a few sizes too big. I had anxiety about where "my spot" was. I was always trying to remember to put my tongue on "my spot." What this meant was, taking my tongue from its position between my teeth, and putting the tip to "my spot."
Fast-forward many years, and learning the oldest and youngest of my four children have Tethered Oral Tissue-issues -- somewhere along the way, an amazing IBCLC and mentor, Norma Ritter, suggests I look in my mouth, and she bets I have restrictions of my own. I was doubtful. "No," I told her, "I know I am fine." Months later, I decide to look and see, and what do I find? What looks like a posterior tongue tie! I have this confirmed casually by a few other professional acquaintances and friends, and I start to put together symptoms I deal with, like debilitating tension headaches, clenching and grinding of my teeth, tapping of my teeth, and mandibular tori, to name a few, or four.
I make an appointment for treatment with an area dentist. Five days after this release, I was lying on my bed, nursing my toddler. No one was home, it was quiet, and again, I was trying to find "my spot." Through the years I have developed different ways to do this. Sometimes I lift my tongue to the roof of my mouth and start to "click," but instead I leave my tongue there and close my mouth; another trick is to say "ehnnnn," like the letter "n." I tried to map my palate so I could just know by the ridges where "my spot" was, but the topography still was not enough, in 30-ish years of knowing this, to help me out...so it always requires thought and action.
Again, I was trying to locate "my spot," and while I was figuring this out, the back of my tongue lifted to my palate and I found the tip of my tongue was not pressed against my palate, but resting right at "my spot." This may sound unremarkable, but for me, it was nothing short of inventive! I had just made a discovery, and all the lightbulbs in my brain flashed at the same time and gave me the realization, "This is it!!! This is what Dr. Peachy was talking about! This is 'my spot'! MY SPOT!!!" And I sat there, marveling at how all my life I was misunderstanding what my tongue was supposed to do once it got to "my spot." Miscommunication perhaps -- heck, maybe Dr. Peachy didn't realize I was curling my tongue up to my palate -- but I was struck by something else...by a feeling.
If you ever sucked your thumb, maybe you remember what was so awesome about it, or maybe you don't. But we have sensors in our bodies called mechanoreceptors -- I learned this in my Lamaze training. Pressure to these mechanoreceptors can bring feelings of comfort or calm -- I would even say joy (and I'm not a scientist, and I don't feel like researching this -- so call it anecdata if you will...because I will). Some places we have these are in our hands, in our lips, and in our mouths. Think about that -- we hold hands, we kiss, we eat food, and all these activities bring us little rushes of endorphins. When a baby sucks his thumb, he is directly providing the stimulation feeding would or should bring; in my case, with a vaulted palate, feeding may not have given me these warm-fuzzies (and in fact, my mother tried to nurse me and it didn't work out), so I got creative and figured out, on my own, how to get my endorphin-fill. Another mentor and friend, Michale Fetzik of The Myofunctional Center, shared that thumb-suckers are smart, because they figure out how to make up for this loss.
So, back to me and this new feeling -- I suddenly was a small child again, filled with the comforting sensations of sucking my thumb...and this all came because my tongue finally found its home in my mouth, resting along my palate.
I am not a science journal writer, and I don't want to be a science journal writer -- currently my 22 month old clings to my left leg, and thank goodness for automatic saving, because I inadvertently closed this page and had to retype this sentence (but everything else was still here!). I am just a mom who is noticing things and trying to help others who may be noticing things as well. But now I have to nurse my baby to sleep. And while I'm at it, I'm going to practice hitting the spot.
Every doula brings her own support supplies with her to births. These consist of items that help the mother and the family, as well as personal items a doula might require for her own needs and comfort. It can often take years to get the right puzzle pieces together which make up that perfect bag of supplies -- even finding the right bag can be a challenge. Once it feels right, though, there is nothing like knowing you have everything you need to labor with a couple for hours or days, and it's all right there in your magical doula bag.
Let me start with my bag. I went through a number of bags before, like Cinderella, I found one that fit. I tried an awesome LeSportSac duffel (I am an addict), a regular Jansport backpack, another LeSportSac backpack, but nothing seemed to work for me...until that day I met my bag at Mervyn's (remember Mervyn's?). It is Ciao brand, and I had been eyeing it for a few weeks before it went on sale. It was originally designed as a laptop bag, with three different compartments, but I saw how it would lend itself to becoming my ideal birth bag, and I bought it as soon as I could.
Here you see my pretty pink bag (pink is my favorite color), and you see the three sections of the bag, including an easily-accessible outside pocket (for slipping in a family's birth plan or other papers I need to keep handy).
In the first section, I have labor tools for mom and company. This includes: personal rice sock I make for her (two cups of rice in a long sock with the end tied in a knot), Tupperware Rolling Pin that can be filled with hot or cold water, bag of lotion/essential oils/chapstick, massage aids, and my trusty bag of gum/mints/and chewy-breath candies (I bring this out and leave it in a place where everyone can grab from it -- and I announce to the birth team that at any time, they are welcome to use anything in it -- fresh breath is appreciated by moms!). It is nice to be able to open one section of the bag and know I won't accidentally pull out my personal chapstick, or that I don't have to dive below my spare jeans to get something for the mom in labor.
The middle section is where you are supposed to strap your laptop in. It has a divider, so on one side, I strap in my two garden kneeling pads (I am sure to wash these before putting them away after a birth, or I wrap them in plastic if I am unable to clean them right away). These come in handy when moms want to kneel in the shower, and others use them as well -- midwives, partners, or me, kneeling next to a birth tub or anywhere on the hard ground. The other side is where I keep my snacks and water, as well as my change of clothes (just in case I ever get wet, dirty, or vomited on!).
The third compartment is where I keep boredom-busters and office supplies. I bring a book or two -- one for reference and one for enjoyment -- pens, business cards, and a notebook. This is also where I keep small things I might need, like Tylenol, tampons, toothbrush, hair bands, etc. There is a place for my keys, wallet, phone, and camera here as well.
This bag has one small pocket on either end, and in one I keep loose change for vending machines, and in the other I keep a pair of Mary Jane-style slipper-socks, for use inside a family's home if we are laboring there or a homebirth.
Out of all these goodies, every doula still has something she could not live without. For me, it is absolutely my bag of mints and gum -- everyone loves this and it gets the most use. The other thing, if I could pick a second, would be the kneeling pads! Again, I use them constantly. Everything else is there "just in case." Just in case I need new clothes, just in case mom wants massage my hands can't keep up with, just in case I need to look something up I have a question about...
I asked other doulas what they could not live without, and here are their responses:
Anne Junge of Happy Pushing Childbirth Services: "Handheld fan. If I don't use it, the partner, or the grandma, or the best friend uses it to keep their loved one cool."
Emily Willitt of Mommy Matters: "Bottled water and snacks; if I'm not hydrated and fueled, I'm not at my best, and it doesn't matter which other tools I have in my bag."
Marivette Torres of Tender Hands Doula: "A rebozo, because of its multi-purpose use for comfort during all stages of labor including the pushing stage."
Samantha Morgan of Doula Your Way: "Not that it fits in the bag, but a crock pot, wash cloths and water. Get the water hot and using dish gloves get the clothes wet. It's great for back pain and fantastic for pain relief."
Most doulas would agree, it's not about the tools and the stuff, it's about the support offered to moms and families during this transitional life event, so of course Teri Nava-Anderson of Harmony Doula sums it up beautifully: "The only things I can't do without are patience and empathy. And they fit in every bag I own."
I have lots of fun goodies I use as an educator and doula. Sometimes these look like toys, and sometimes they are purchased in the toy section, but I promise, they are not toys, they are props.
What's the difference? How do Hot Wheels track pieces change from toy to prop once absconded from my kid's room and placed in my childbirth ed supplies? What changes a kitchen utensil to an educational model? Dollar Tree junk to demonstration delight?
Here is a sampling of toys, and how I use them!
And my current favorite! This was an impulse buy when I stopped into a local store, Planet Bambini. I had to have it! I can't wait to use it! It would be great to help a sibling understand basics of how babies grow. Am I the only one who could imagine a contest between birth partners in a childbirth class -- maybe teams -- to see who can assemble all the layers the fastest?
One thing's for certain, it isn't going into the toybox at home! I let my little guy (21 months old) play with it, heavily supervised, for about 30 minutes, before I packed it up and put it back in its box. I know, I've got problems, you say -- it is, after all, a kid's puzzle! I own my issues. Just like we encourage when it comes to precious personal objects: it's my special toy and I don't want to share it.
I added links to similar posts...
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)