What do you remember of yor births? Are there thing you would change? Things you are surprised you did that didn't follow what you learned about or expected? In this feature, a doula shares her birth story with additional hints and advice as seen through her professional lens -- what a great idea!
On my first born's 6th birthday, an idea popped into my head to share the story, but this version will be injected with Doula Tips and new discoveries I’ve made since being a natural health educator.
When you get to know me, you know that I’m a big planner. Fortunately, we got pregnant the first month of “trying”. I took the pregnancy test in the morning, saw the + sign and danced with delight. I brought the test into our room to share the news with my husband. We instantly prayed together to thank God that pregnancy happened easily, and asked Him for health and well-being. I didn’t experience morning sickness. There were a handful of times I needed to vomit in the morning, but as soon as it came up I was ready to rock ‘n roll. I figured out that I was taking my prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. DOULA TIP: purchase a natural prenatal vitamin.
One issue I experienced was the increase in headaches around the beginning of the 2nd trimester. My midwife advised I needed to drink more water. I remember one day driving home from work, and I had to pull over and vomit in a plastic bag because my headache was throbbing. Ouch + ick. The headaches didn’t last long. DOULA TIP: essential oils can address head tension. I wish I knew about them when I was pregnant the first time.
I have fond memories of prenatal yoga. It was so fun being surrounded by other mommas and baby bumps. Another great experience was our antenatal childbirth education class provided by BirthCare. It’s a 6-week class and they structure it so you have a coffee group once all the babies are born. We met weekly for about a year (when we all went back to work). To this day, these mommas are some of my favourite people in the world and I miss them dearly. DOULA TIP: create your supportive group of peers while pregnant.
Her due date was Friday … but she arrived three days early on Tuesday.
I woke up before midnight to use the restroom and when I wiped there was a “bloody show”. Exciting! There were mild tightenings, so I went to the living room to watch the wall clock. Sure enough, those tightenings were coming and going every 10 minutes. I remember our midwife telling me to sleep at night and not wake my husband (if at all possible). DOULA TIP: let your partner sleep and you really need to sleep too!
Back to bed I went to try to sleep, but let’s be honest, this is an exciting moment. I laid in bed, took a nap, then eventually woke Brad around 3am. In his delirium, he started to pack and wanted to throw things into the car. I laughed at him and just told him to calm down because it would be a while before going to the birth center. Brad started to time the contractions. We got ourselves organized, packed the last minute items, made some toast and a smoothie, and walked around the house. At 7am, we called the midwife to tell her what was happening. She encouraged us to keep moving at home and call when the contractions got closer together. I got into the shower, washed my hair, shaved my legs. I had rented a TENS machine, so we tried that around 9am. This was not comfortable for me, so we ditched that. Bummer that we wasted over $100 to rent it. DOULA TIP: ask your maternity provider about TENS because this can be an effective pain management tool for you.
We put on a Grey’s Anatomy as a distraction… do you remember the theme song? When you play the DVD, that song just keeps rolling over and over again until you press “play” so that was on in the background as the contractions started to get more intense and closer together. My husband was amazing. We found a groove of him massaging my lower back during the contractions.
After talking on the phone again with our midwife, she agreed it was a good time to head to BirthCare. We arrived around 11:30am and she said I would probably have to leave because I was smiling upon arrival. When she did the vaginal exam, I was 6cm dilated. She filled up the birthing pool (huge, Jacuzzi style tubs in the birthing room). I noticed that she dropped a couple drops of something in the pool. Later on, I found out it was clary sage. She is amazing. I didn’t know of essential oils back then, but I was so glad she used it in the pool. We got settled into the room and kept moving/ massaging/ going in and out of the pool. My midwife provided a carrier oil (probably sweet almond oil) for my husband to use on my back. DOULA TIP: I always have fractionated coconut oil in my doula bag when I attend births. A carrier oil helps hands to glide smoothly on momma’s back, even in water.
Both of our girls were born at BirthCare, Auckland – a primary birthing center across the park from Auckland City Hospital. No doctors, no epidurals… just large birthing rooms with pools and midwives and oxygen/ gas if needed. My main motivation for birthing here was that if you birth here (instead of the hospital), you get to stay in a PRIVATE postpartum room for three nights. Everyone else has to share a room with another momma + baby, or pay a ton of money for a private room. Looking back, the other part I love about BirthCare is that there wasn’t anybody else coming and going (no nurses, no lab techs). It was just Brad and Christine as my birthing team. It’s like a home birth, just in a comfortable space with more tools (and the freedom to leak blood and fluids and water from the pool/ shower all over the place). DOULA NOTE: find a birth space your are comfortable with
At some stage, my water broke (but I didn’t feel a pop or gush). My midwife noticed leaking and some meconium coming down my legs. Darn. She did a great job of protecting me from this information. She mentioned it, but did NOT say it was an “issue”. She let me keep labouring comfortably. My husband kept massaging my lower back. He only missed two contractions during the whole labor experience. What a champion. His hands must have been so tired. My midwife was on the phone with the Charge Midwife up at Auckland City Hospital. She was checking in with her decision making to keep me at BirthCare as she monitored the meconium situation. There was potential that I might need to transfer up to the hospital since meconium can be dangerous for baby. Did you know that I didn’t need to be on the fetal monitor until towards the end of my time in the birthing room? We used a doppler to check baby girl’s heart rate while I was moving in the pool and around the room. Due to the meconium, I was hooked up to the electric monitors to make sure Madam Blueberry was safe. DOULA TIP: you can request intermittent, portably fetal monitoring if birthing in a hospital.
I started to feel the urge to push! A couple of deep growly grunts were let out because I could feel my body taking over. I wasn’t fully dilated yet. So my midwife gave me some oxygen to breathe deep and regain control. The entire birthing experience was very calm, quiet. At this stage, I was up on the bed being monitored. I was checked again and given the go ahead to push. Another midwife came into the room to assistant mine. They had my legs up and coached me to “bear down” to push. My midwife wanted to get baby girl out as fast as possible because of the meconium. I was still oblivious to this being an issue. I took deep breath and pushed so hard that I burst a blood vessel in my right eye. Yikes! DOULA TIP: I now suggest that mommas “breathe” the baby out and spontaneously push instead of “bear down” coaching that most nurses and care providers use. But every situation varies.
Because I was so internally focused, I wasn’t honing in to my midwife's voice. With the last push, baby girl’s head came out at the beginning and I didn’t hear my midwife telling me to stop pushing… so out came the rest of her body all in one fast swoop. Whoops. That’s how you get tearing. DOULA TIP: listen to your lead maternity carer’s voice right at this moment. They are there to protect your perineum.
Baby girl was instantly placed on my chest for skin-to-skin time. She was born at 4:50pm, about 16 hours after seeing the bloody show. Talk about love at first sight. Whew. I didn’t know I could love a creature so much. It’s like loving a pet only times a billion. Baby girl was breathing fine -– she did have some meconium on her, so they wiped that off. My husband cut her cord, then my midwife waited for the placenta (we took it home and planted it below a lemon tree) and started my stitches. We started breastfeeding right away. I was able to take a shower in the birthing room before waddling over to my private postpartum room. Stitches on your bottom are sore. DOULA TIP: I recommend a blend of helichrysum and frankincense essential oils to help with perineum healing.
I felt so loved and safe and cozy in our room after that epic experience. BirthCare is like a hotel with midwives. The food is delicious and plentiful, the midwives help you establish breastfeeding, and there are educational video streams on the TV in your room. It makes me so upset that mommas of O’ahu don’t have access to the same maternity care experience covered by insurance. You can hire a home birth midwife and pay out of pocket for a similar set up. I count myself monumentally blessed to have been living in that part of New Zealand with my incredible midwife and our amazing natural birth experience at BirthCare. After three nights there, we headed home with our treasure. My midwife visited us at home for the next 6 weeks to check on my stitches, help with breastfeeding, and track Madam Blueberry’s growth. We did well. My husband had two weeks off work, then Mom and Dad came from Hawai’i for two weeks. We cherish this birth story and are so grateful to our midwife and all the midwives at BirthCare. DOULA TIP: postpartum blues are normal and the American maternity system is NOT mom-centered. Ask for help. A postpartum doula can provide references to services and can support you with newborn care, routines, sleep solutions, etc.
Jenna Clarke is a doula in O'ahu, Hawaii. She is the owner of Malama Momma, where she shares "Mālama" is Hawaiian, and it means, "to care for, to protect." Jenna provides labor and postpartum doula services, as well as lactation support and education. She is the happy mother of two little girls, born in New Zealand. Jenna and her husband are passionate about natural health, the importance of reducing toxic load, the science and pathology behind illness, and how to treat illness with plant-based therapies, whole food, exercise, and reducing toxic exposure.
Marivette is one of the doulas I have the pleasure of knowing in real life. She is an amazing woman I admire, look up to, and learn from. I loved this piece she sent me -- and with permission from the others involved, this creates a picture of what support can look like from your fellow doulas.
After being a doula for 20 years, I got the calling to become a midwife. I didn’t accept the calling haphazardly. About a year passed by, lots of contemplation, discussion with my husband, and then the application process, before I became an enrolled student in a MEAC-approved school. Now I’m in my third year, and things are getting hectic.
I have a circle of doulas around me, though! And do you know what these doulas do best? They doula me through this midwifery journey. Some of the best times I have is when we get together for doula lunches, and we just hang out together around a good meal. It never fails that they ask me how school is going, and encourage me with their kind words. It’s like I have my own support team, and they are wiping the sweat off my forehead with a cool rag.
I sent several of them a message a few weeks back, including Stacie. Just knowing that I have these few doulas, surrounding me, giving me encouragement, and simply being there, is a huge boost to my morale. They are helping me get through this active stage of labor! I don’t even think they know that they are doing this for me. It’s such a part of the fabric of being a doula, that it comes naturally for them.
Hey you all! I am just so thankful to have you all as part of my business circle, but I also consider you all my friends. You all giving me your support through this challenging midwifery school journey means so much to me. I'm in tears as I think about how your words lift me up. When I feel down and heavy with all the school work, your words encourage me. You don't even know how much your words of kindness mean to me. I truly appreciate your friendships!!!
To all of you Doulas who are there beside me, rooting me on, THANK YOU for being my encouragement doulas. Thank you for being MY Doulas during my labor as a student-midwife. Don’t stop doing what you do. I really need you all!!
Do you know someone who is going through a difficult time? Or do you know someone who has chosen to move forward into the midwifery journey? What do you do to encourage those people? A simple, “You’ve got this,” goes a long way!
Marivette Torres is the founder/owner of Tender Doula Hands, a rebozo trained instructor and distributor. She is a CBI certified birth doula with 19 years experience serving the Bakersfield, California area. She has eight children ranging in ages from 26 to 8 years old. Her first child was born via surgery at a community hospital due to breech presentation. Her subsequent seven children were all VBAC births, two of which were born at a hospital birth center and five were born at home attended by a midwife.
She is currently halfway through her dream of pursuing a midwifery career. You may visit her website and Facebook page. She also has a page dedicated to specific rebozo class information.
For Mother's Day, a birth-day slide show! My friend, Jen, just had her third baby. They didn't know the sex of the baby, and they already had two boys. Jen's first two dealt with tongue ties, and she fully expected her third baby to be tied -- she wasn't wrong! That's how we met, when we helped create Advocates for Tongue Tie Education. Jen has since moved from California to the East Coast, and I am thrilled she got to welcome her baby at home with a birth team who supported her in all the right ways.
Jen, her husband, and their three boys live in Washington DC. They love exploring all DC has to offer in the way of parks and monuments, and this new baby will fit right in on their adventures. Her doula was Justine Robinison.
Note: There is often the need for back-up posts for 31 Days of Doulas -- if you would like to share something you have written, contact me and we can see where you might fit.
I loved Jessica's piece immediately. Not all doula days are this packed with life, but it absolutely does happen! Many doulas are cautious about taking multiple clients with close due dates -- I know for me, the only times I have had two births in one day is when I had clients who were due weeks or even a month apart -- then inevitably one client goes early and one client goes late. That's the doula life -- unpredictability at its finest! With confidence, reliable back-up, and maybe a coffee or a sweet treat, we manage to balance the best we can.
4 am One of my clients texts that she’s been having contractions on and off for a couple of hours that keep waking her up. I ask a few questions to get more details. I try to go back to sleep.
5:00 Different client texts that she’s been having regular contractions since about 1. They’re about 10 minutes apart. We converse for a few minutes.
5:10 Toddler wakes up for her morning nurse.
5:25 I slide out from under my baby and head downstairs to check my doula bag. All I really take with me are personal care items like toothbrush and toothpaste in case of a long birth, and snacks. I top off my snacks and mill around a bit. I start texting my back-ups because obviously I can’t be two places at once. I freak out a little when I don’t hear back right away.
6:30 My daughter B wakes up and asks right away if I have a birth. She’s so astute. I text my fellow Essentials tutor and our Classical Conversations director and let them know I might need a sub for my class.
6:40 Water broke for second client! She reports contractions are little closer. I stay in regular contact with my client and her husband as I get ready and get the children ready. I tell my husband all of the things that need to happen. It seems this client’s moving pretty quickly, so I decide to head to the hospital while my clients wait for Grandma to come to their house to take care of their toddler. I hear back from my back-ups and breathe big sighs of relief. I give necessary info so I don’t have to think about my other client still having irregular birth waves during another client’s birth. I try to get the kids organized to help my husband as much as possible; they do amazingly helping each other.
7:50 I text my clients to see how they’re doing as I’m pulling into the parking garage. They are on their way.
8:05 In triage–the nurse is all business, bustles in and tells client to pee in cup and change into a gown. My client is working incredibly hard. It always amazes me how strong and beautiful women are when they feel loved and supported through their labors. Her husband was feeling a little frantic, but he is taking good care of her. She is handling her labor waves wonderfully, even as they come every few minutes. She climbs up onto the narrow bed and promptly assumes the elbows and knees position. I suspect she is ready to just get this baby out, so I ask if she wants to skip the monitoring and just get checked to see if she could get back in her room. She thinks that sounds like a solid plan and affirms with a terse “YEAH!” It’s hard for women in labor to respond to people’s questions, and it’s best to just ask questions or make statements they can answer with a nod or shake of the head. The midwife asks if she can flip over to have her cervix checked. My client does not think that sounds like a good idea. The apprentice midwife is awesome and says she would do her best to check her in this “non-traditional” position! Many care providers make the laboring mother roll over on their backs for a cervical check. Apprentice midwife concludes client is at a 7 or 8 (10 being complete and ready to push the baby out), and we could immediately move down the hall to a room.
8:20 Officially admitted. Once we get settled in the room, I start the tub in case she has time to get in the soothing warmth of the water. They still have to monitor baby for a while according to hospital regulations. I’m stroking her hair and head, saying soothing, encouraging things while her husband rubs her back. Dad suddenly realizes his car is still down in the circle drive in the front of the hospital, and thinks he should move it. I say, “No, no, stay here! I’ll run down and park it for you.” I figure the distance would be about the same so I decide to run around the hospital instead of having to walk through it, and I am literally sprinting once I get outside the building. It feels amazing to run, even though I never do it anymore and am quickly out of breath. I find them a primo spot right next to the hospital door in the parking garage, grab their bags from the trunk and hightail down the hall, back to the elevators.
8:35 Baby born. As I enter the Labor and Delivery Unit, the nurse grouches, “You missed it.” My first thought is “Oh man! Bummer!” and my second thought is “Better me than him!” But all I say is, “I never thought I’d miss a birth because I was moving their car!” I have missed it by mere seconds thanks to my sprinting, as they haven’t cut the cord or hatted the baby yet. Mama is looking more gorgeous than ever now that baby is here, and Daddy is all choked up and beaming. I love these moments! I immediately pluck up my camera and snap some photos. I’m strictly an amateur photographer, but I know my families appreciate some memories captured from those first precious moments. I hang around for a couple of hours after the birth to answer questions, give leg massages, run errands such as getting heated blankets or coffee, talk things over, help with baby’s first breastfeeding if necessary, take photos of when babe gets weighed and measured, and just be there, holding space for them, as they need.
11:00 I take my leave and head for our Classical Conversations Community, where my four older kids already are. I’d been in a bit of a time warp and can’t believe it is still morning! It is a grey, wet day which usually makes me sluggish and morose, but not today! I swing by Panera to treat myself to a scone, a breakfast sandwich and coffee. Depending on the time of day, I almost always get myself a store bought coffee after a birth. I feel like I deserve it and, just on Birth Days, I want to act like a grown-up who has a job and money, instead of a stay at home mom, who scrimps on the coffee creamer. It’s always surreal for me to go back into the regular world after just witnessing the miracle of a new life, and seeing the overwhelming love between new parents and from them to their new family member. It’s almost weird to see people just working on their laptops, just drinking their lattes, doing regular people things. I want to yell at them, “Don’t you know what I just got to do?! Don’t you know where I just WAS?! Don’t you know what just happened? A BABY WAS BORN! A new person was given LIFE today! A mama found out how strong and powerful and wonderful she is!! Don’t you KNOW?!” But I hardly ever do that. I arrive at Classical Conversations in time to see the kids do their review. I have some really amazing conversations, and a friend prays for me and some relationship struggles I’ve been having. I immediately feel the pain and heartsick hurt dissipate. It is really incredible.
12:00 pm We all eat lunch together, which is always loud and overwhelming, but I get to talk to my friends and be with my Mama Tribe.
1-3 In the afternoons, I teach an English class. We do math review in addition to English grammar and writing. My phone goes off right at the end of class. Perfect. My text tone for my doula clients is the Justin Bieber chorus “baby, baby, baby ohhh” which gets my attention, no matter the time of day, and always makes me smile. I have been in contact with my other client all day and she is contracting more regularly now, and they are feeling more intense. We decide I would take my kids home, spend some time with my wee ones, and then I would head in to her house after an hour or so. I snuggle and nurse Finnella and read a few books to Elivette. I chat with the older kids and try to squeeze in their daily quota of hugs.
4:45 I arrive at client number two’s house. We spend time chatting while she is laboring. Her husband gets their other kids ready to go and I keep her company and help as she seems to need through the labor waves. She is handling them wonderfully.
7:10 When we get to the hospital, I am completely shocked to hear her tell the nurse they were a 10+ on the pain scale because she was so completely calm and relaxed on the outside. She really wants me to keep talking during her waves, which is surprisingly awkward for me. I’m used to most women not wanting chit-chat during the contractions. Everyone is upbeat and lively for quite a while. She watches some funny YouTube videos (Zach King, if you’re wondering), and we laugh and banter. As things heat up, we discover scalp rubs really help her relax during her birth waves. We do some relaxation exercises and she says she is feeling really calm and peaceful during this part of her labor.
7:44 We are in her room. She has some delicious essential oils in her diffuser going and I am thankful because this room really smells like nursing home.
8:47 It is time to push, and she starts out on her back. After pushing there awhile I suggest a squatting position. She tries that for a while and feels it isn’t effective. She wants to be on her back. I learn that as long as the mother chooses the position, it’s a great position to be in.
9:39 Her baby comes out face down, and completely rotates to face up. This is really unusual! Baby’s shoulders get stuck, which can be dangerous because the baby can’t get oxygen while the head is out and the chest is still in the birth canal. Extracting them is a little more complicated than usual because of baby’s face up position, but the midwife acts quickly and stays calm. Her expertise and instant action save the day.
9:41 Baby born! Baby is able to be placed immediately on mom before they take her over to the warmer and check her oxygen levels. She is fine and almost right away is brought back to mom. It was scary there for long minute though! I am so happy they were able to put baby on mom right after birth.
I’ve been at a homebirth when baby wasn’t breathing right away and mom was holding baby and talking to her and rubbing her while the midwife gave oxygen and did the necessary things. I’ve also been at a hospital birth where baby was taken away immediately to give oxygen and do the necessary things. The mom had no idea what was happening, the doctor wasn’t giving any kind of updates, and it was terrifying. I wish they could always do the former as much as possible. I stayed for a few hours after the birth, taking more photos, talking and helping any way I could. This mom was still nursing her toddler and didn’t really need any assistance nursing.
Two baby girls, born almost exactly 13 hours apart. They were both third children, and one weighed over three pounds more than the other. Both mamas handled their labors gorgeously, and completely differently. Two different hospitals, two different midwives, interestingly, both with a midwifery student.
I got home around midnight and promptly went to sleep.
Jessica Holst is a farmer's wife, the mother six rambunctious blessings, and the owner of Farm Fresh Birth in Iowa. They live in a temperamental 160+ year old farm house that has had Holsts living in it since 1889. She home educate her little ones, tutors an English class in her homeschool community, and writes for the Quad City Mom's Blog.
Jessica has experienced a Cesarean birth, a hospital VBAC with epidural, an unplanned unassisted homebirth, and three midwife attended homebirths -- including a water birth. Jessica's varied birth experiences ignited a fire within her to pursue birth work, as she knows how life changing the power of birth is. She knows how crucial being appropriately and continuously supported during birth is. As a doula and a Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator, she offers support to Quad City women.
I had the privilege of attending this homebirth -- one of the longer births I have witnessed as a doula, 38 hours. Had this been a hospital birth, I am positive it would not have been allowed to progress at its own pace. All the while, Mom and Baby were perfect, healthy, and happy. Baby just decided to come out OP, face-up, and that made things happen a little slower than what we expected. There is just nothing like watching a woman bloom in labor -- no matter where she is -- when she feels safe, cared-for, and in-control.
I want to share what I think and how I feel about pregnancy and birth. I believe so much in respectful, evidence-based care for women and their babies. To me it's about choice; the choice to choose a care provider you're comfortable with, the choice to deliver your baby in the place you feel safest, and the choice to surround yourself with the people who will best support and love you during labor. Not everyone will make the same choices, and that shows how important it is for women to have safe options for whatever method they choose. Below are some photos of me in labor with our sweet baby boy and right after birth. We are all familiar with what hospital birth looks like, so here's a look at the other side.
Here my midwife's apprentice is showing my midwife how to hold up my belly and gently shake it side to side. This was heavenly! It got the weight of my baby off my back and was such a relief. and my husband has his feet up, too! Power of an effective birth team!
Here we were trying to get my labor to progress. I had such a strange labor (to me at least, no one else seemed that surprised!). It was a lot of intense contractions followed by long breaks. It didn't progress normally and we were surprised when my midwife would check my dilation and said there had been significant progress. The sweetness and patience of my support team is not lost on me. I would probably have not been able to labor so long at the hospital without intervention and augmentation. I'm thankful I got plenty of time to labor, even if it was unconventional.
"This may just look like a picture of two blurry feet with toenails of pink. But what you don't see is the AMAZING way a woman blossoms while laboring at home with the support of her family, her midwife, and her birth team. One foot is mine -- offering leverage and stability to the other foot -- a woman as she works to push her baby out. Not seen is the midwife using creative means to look for baby while not disturbing mom's floor-crouching position, dad who is behind mom physically supporting her, a student midwife simultaneously uplifting mom while preparing to serve birthing women in the future, and grandma who takes care of us all with homemade food and hospitality. Homebirth with a midwife offers a respect and kindness for the woman that is hard to find in the hospital, at least I can say that is my experience. What a joy to witness the simple miracle of birth and the power of a woman in her home who has choices and support."
I just love this picture and think it sums up homebirth perfectly. My midwife and her apprentice are studying me and waiting patiently for my next contraction. The equipment behind them is ready for use if we need it, but do not rely on it, trusting that my body knows how to birth this baby. I remember them encouraging me; telling me what a good job I was doing and that soon my baby would be in my arms. My husband sits behind me, a rebozo around his shoulders so I can use the scarf to pull on while I push through a contraction. Not pictured are my mom and Stacie, who are also watching and waiting, ready with a drink of water or a cool washcloth to wipe my forehead. What a privilege it was to be surrounded by this excellent, prepared and encouraging team!
Our baby is finally born!! We eventually moved onto the bed and were surprised to see him come out face first! My midwife rubs him down and checks to see that he's breathing. I am pretty much yelling about how much I love this little guy. Haha! What a rush of emotions!!!
For us, homebirth was where we felt safest and most comfortable, and where we believed our choices would be respected, while still having professionals available to advise us on risks and look out for potential problems. It is how I have birthed all three of my babies. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Marivette is another Bakersfield area local, and this is also her third time participating in the 31 Days project. She holds the record for most repins in her first post, Using the Rebozo in Labor. I had the honor of joining her at a very long homebirth recently, and with the casual nature of this labor, family, and birth team, in the long stretches between serious midwife-needed events, I saw Marivette's doula side shine though. Ever appreciative for all the support a woman gets in labor (and let's be honest, it made my job easier), I saw Marivette's knowledge and understanding come though her voice, her eyes, her touch. I know she will be an incredible midwife, and the families she will serve will be in great hands.
I have been a doula for 18 years. I began after the birth of my third child who was born at home with a direct-entry midwife. My midwife asked me if I would help her at births, and that launched me into being a home birth doula for seven years. She eventually moved away, and at that time, it was too far for me to travel to be a doula for her clients. I decided to start attending births at hospitals, and I have been an in-hospital doula for 11 years now.
When I was a doula at home births, I never saw myself in the position of midwife. I think at that time in my life, I wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility. My children were all very young, and I wasn’t yet done having children. I was a lot younger, and I felt I wasn’t quite qualified and didn’t have enough experience to be in that role. So, I’d occasionally tell the midwife with whom I worked, that I didn’t want to be a midwife. I also thought that midwifery was not for me. After all, I had been pregnant while a senior in high school, barely graduated (attended a California’s continuation program to finish high school) and I had five children by the time I was 29 years old. By the time I was 38, I had eight children. Life was busy enough with homeschooling, church, helping my husband with his business, and being a doula. I couldn’t possibly add anything else to my over-flowing plate.
Well…that all changed in 2014. I noticed a trend in homebirths not only in the nation, but in my own community. I noticed no midwifery care was being provided to Spanish speaking women in my community. While English speaking women at least had the option of receiving midwifery care from a midwife who spoke their language if they so desired, Spanish speaking women in my county do not even have that option. “Someone should do something about this!” I thought. I still didn’t think that person would or could be me.
I became friends with a doula in a nearby city. She also has a large family, AND she was studying to be a midwife. I was excited for her! A doula-turned-midwife was a great journey. As the months and years of our friendship developed and grew, she eventually finished midwifery college, passed the NARM exam, and became a licensed midwife. During this time, I began being moved to pursue midwifery. I think it was always in me to become a midwife, but I just couldn’t imagine how I would pursue a midwifery degree. Watching my friend inspired me, so I began asking her questions about midwifery school.
My friend patiently answered all my questions, provided me with links, and fully encouraged me to go this route. I talked to my husband, I prayed about it, and I -- finally -- knew this was the next step for my life.
After looking at different schools, I chose Midwives College of Utah (MCU). MCU offers continuing education classes and these classes are a non-committal fashion to figure out if a distance education platform works for a person. After one semester of continuing ed classes, and getting a feel for how MCU operates, I knew, for sure, this was the school for me. I began the process of enrolling, and I was accepted into the Associates of Science in Midwifery at Midwives College of Utah in August, 2015. It will take me three years to complete the academic portion of the associate’s degree, and possibly another year to complete the clinical portion, totaling four years before taking the NARM exam.
Changing careers at the age of 45 has been an exciting and stressful adventure. My whole life, and how I operate, changed drastically. I went from having plenty of time to do all the things household, to doing school work 6-8 hours per day, including the weekends. I had to adjust my way of thinking, accept that going to school is the same as having a full-time job. When deciding to take vacations or weekend trips, or even day trips, I look at my calendar. I may have to do extra school work to make up for days I won’t be able to get any work done. I may have to take some school work with me, and get some studying done while on vacation. I have had to adjust everything around my education, and it has been difficult to make that transition.
Everything, right now in my life, is all planned around my schooling. In case any of you might by thinking, “Well there are summer breaks.” No, actually, there aren’t any summer breaks. MCU operates on a trimester schedule. That means, school runs all year long. We have four – fifteen week semesters: fall trimester, winter trimester, spring trimester, and summer trimester. Between semesters, we get a two-week break. That’s it, folks! So, no summer breaks! Now, if I plan it just right, I can finish up about 3 weeks early, and have about a 5-week break, but that means doubling up on assignments to get done early. It’s doable, but not an easy task!
Currently, I am in the assist phase and working with a preceptor (a licensed midwife who has been approved by MCU to be my supervising midwife). Being in an apprenticeship is such a blessing, but such a huge change for me! I have been accustomed to being in the doula role (education, information, and labor support – which means, never any medical advice is given and no medical procedures are ever done!). Being in the midwife apprentice position is completely different. I get to check blood pressure, pulse, and feel the abdomen for the baby’s position (Leopold’s maneuvers). These are things which are out of the scope of practice for doulas, but within the scope of practice for midwife’s apprentice while under the supervision of a licensed midwife. It’s amazing and exhilarating to be in this new role!
Another big change, for me, is that I now call meetings with my preceptor’s clients “prenatal” appointments. As a doula, I never felt comfortable calling meetings with clients a “prenatal,” because that, to me, is a term used to describe an obstetricians or midwife’s appointment to receive prenatal care. But, now, I am in the midwife’s apprentice role, and can call these "prenatal" meetings.
Going from doula to midwife is completely polar opposite. Doulas provide one to three meetings before birth, provide education, information, and emotional support, provide labor support, some breastfeeding support, and one visit after the baby is born. Doula support is invaluable! Doulas do not, however, provide any medical services, whatsoever.
Midwives provide one prenatal visit once per month from 4 weeks – 28 weeks of pregnancy, one prenatal visit every 2 weeks from 28 weeks – 36 weeks of pregnancy, and one prenatal visit from 36 weeks – 40 weeks and beyond if needed. That’s a total of approximately 15 prenatal visits. These visits include blood pressure, pulse, weight, and fundal measurements. They include lots of information on pregnancy health, nutrition, exercise, and things to expect. They make sure mom and baby are well, and that there are no medical issues. If there are issues, they refer them to an OB. Each prenatal visit typically lasts an hour, sometimes more…Postpartum, they provide approximately 3-4 visits…
So, for me, going from the doula role, to the midwife assistant role, has been a huge transition. Being part of the care a woman is receiving during her entire pregnancy is a completely different role from the doula role. I am in transition. As we know, transition is a hard place to be -- and I am eager to make the changes to get to my dream of becoming a midwife.
Marivette Torres is the founder/owner of Tender Doula Hands, a rebozo trained instructor and distributor. She is a CBI certified birth doula with 19 years experience serving the Bakersfield, California area. She has eight children ranging in ages from 26 to 8 years old. Her first child was born via surgery at a community hospital due to breech presentation. Her subsequent seven children were all VBAC births, two of which were born at a hospital birth center and five were born at home attended by a midwife.
She is currently undertaking her dream of pursuing a midwifery career. You may visit her website and
Facebook page. She also has a page dedicated to specific rebozo class information.
This guest birth story is by a friend who, after 5 boys, had her baby girl. Nicolle was instrumental in helping me find my midwife when I moved to Bakersfield pregnant -- this was her hometown. I knew Linda Cowley was right for me when, at our interview, my dog sat on her feet! I owe Nicolle a debt of gratitude for her recommendation, and in an abuncance of good karma points, she found a midwife just as excellent to help her with Keira's birth. Enjoy the story and pictures!
On March 29th, 2014, my blue streak ended. I had a daughter. She was a total and utter surprise, starting from her pregnancy. I found I was pregnant after losing a pregnancy early in the first trimester. I assumed I would be having another boy. I don't think I allowed myself to even entertain the thought of having a girl, but shortly after finding out I was pregnant I bought a tiny pink nightgown, keeping the tags on, because surely I would be re-gifting.
My pregnancy progressed normally. I was taken care of by a great midwife. I can say in my life I have had the privilege of knowing some very amazing midwives. Randi was no exception. I called her for a consult, she came to my house, and I knew in my gut she was the one. I had interviewed several homebirth midwives at this point, but had not yet pulled the trigger After my initial consult, I hired her on the spot. I knew she was the perfect fit to help me and guide my baby earthside. She was competent, confident, and smart. I felt immediately comfortable, and it felt I had known her a million years. Our appointments were like a visit from an old friend. Lots of laughs and love.
Towards the end, baby decided head down was for losers. This baby decided breech was the way to be. I immediately called Randi, who came out the next morning and confirmed the lump I felt under my ribs was exactly what I thought it was, a head. No panicking, no freaking out was done by her, she was cool as cucumber. My mother, a seasoned midwife said inside she probably thinking, "oh for the love of Pete, this great big baby needs to turn head down immediately or I will have to be carried out of here on stretcher." We did some exercises, threatened the baby with a spanking(haha) and that silly baby turned head down. And then I stayed pregnant for another few weeks, as my babies like to do.
41 weeks came and went. Xander, our oldest, was to be confirmed on March 30th. March 28 came and bit of urgency was felt by me. I did NOT want to be in labor the day of his confirmation. My mom and Cheryl, my ever present birth partner, made the 5 hour drive up north. But, alas, no labor came.
I woke up at 12:45 AM, March 29th, with my water breaking in bed. I shook Jacob awake and told him my water broke. He didn't really wake up, but moved over so he wasn't laying in amniotic fluid. I heaved my very large self out of bed and had a contraction that brought me to my knees. I had to have Jacob get out of bed to wake my mom and Cheryl, and call the midwife. I was having back to back contractions and couldn't do anything but stay kneeling over my bed, preparing for the next contraction.
Things moved quickly from that point on. Randi made it, and my friend Danielle was there as well. Cheryl was taking pictures and I was getting close. I have always labored a long time, but this time it was different. I was going fast. Jacob and I seemed to be completely in sync with each other, and I didn't really have to even articulate what I needed, he just knew. Between he, my mom, and Cheryl, I was very well attended to, and I had a lot of help to support me through my intense contractions.
My contractions were on top of each other, and very intense. I thought maybe the bathtub would help, but I didn't care for it, at all. I had a really hard contraction when I was getting out of the bath, and I told Jacob I didn't think I could handle another like it. I started to get a little a weepy, and my legs started to shake, a sure sign of transition for me.
I was not feeling the urge to push, although I was fully dilated. Baby was high and floating. Randi said I could push if I wanted to, and I didn't want to, but it was going to be the only way to get this over with. I pushed, and the amniotic sac bulged out like a tidal wave. My bag of water burst explosively, shooting up over the chux sheet Randi was shielding herself and Jacob. Keira's head quickly followed, and with one more push came her body. I heard Jacob say "I think it's a girl!" and the whole room just came alive. I laughed, and then I cried tears of joy. I could not believe I had a daughter. I kept saying over and over I can't believe I have a daughter. She was perfect. Just perfect. She breathed and cried, and was trying to nurse while she was still connected to me. I was on cloud 9!
I wish I had to words to describe how the air felt in the room. I wish I was not limited by language so I could fully explain the joy, the peace, and the euphoria I was feeling. That feeling, that is birth. That is why it happens in a sacred place, the place where that child was created, a living token of the love between Jacob and myself, who are given the privilege to create life.
My child was welcomed into the world surrounded by those that loved her the most. The first hands to touch my daughter were the hands of her grandmother, who lifted her into my arms, the arms of the woman who would be her champion until the end of time. My world was complete.
Keira Kristina was born on March 29th, 2014 at 3:16 AM. My fastest, easiest delivery. It was everything I wanted it to be, and I wasn't in labor for Xander's confirmation. She was gracious and came the day before. My mom made it, Cheryl made it, and she took the most beautiful pictures. I will treasure them always. A truer friend there never was. I am pretty sure she'd drive the Bronco in a slow speed chase if I needed her to. Randi was perfect, just perfect. She slipped out of the room after I delivered the placenta and was tucked into bed, Facetiming my sister. She came back in with a plate of snacks, and yummy tea for me, and had thrown in a load of laundry for us. I love her so, and I forever am in debt to her goodness to me.
Two years later, and I am still reduced to tears of joy when I think about my girl's entrance into the world. She is just what this family needed!
Just a few shout-outs to some great professionals:
Linda Cowley, LM, CPM, serving the Bakersfield Area
Randi Payton, LM, CPM, serving the Greater Sacramento Area
Cheryl Lopez Photography, serving the Bakersfield Area
I had been looking forward to Sunday afternoon all week. A local midwife (and friend!) was throwing an open-house party to reveal her new office and birth suite. There was to be a petting zoo, bounce house, food, families, and fun. I couldn't wait, and I excitedly brought my mom and Ezra along for the ride.
LaMonica Bryant, LM, CPM, has been a midwife since 1999. She offers homebirth services to families in Kern, Tulare, and Kings Counties. LaMonica is based outside of Bakersfield, and after moving to a farm with more room, it was time to create a dedicated office space. It was also decided to include a birth suite, for situations when families may want the option of out-of-hospital birth closer to town than they may be.
I arrived to the party, eager to check out the new space and visit with LaMonica. I saw many friends, including my own midwife, Linda Cowley, who had helped me birth Ezra. Tables were set up and food was near, so I sat and visited for a bit, always keeping an eye out for LaMonica as I wanted to tour the new space with her. After about a half hour, another friend came to our table and whispered something about there being a baby born that morning.
Let me back up: LaMonica was pregnant, due around Valentine's Day. Her party's date was supposed to have been far enough ahead of her baby's date to not get the two mixed up. But as we all know, sometimes baby's have other plans!
The night before the party, around 11 pm, LaMonica's water broke! Labor ensued, and at 6:17 am, on the day of the planned party, Jasper was born! A short while later LaMonica's husband asked what they were going to do about the party? LaMonica said, the food was bought, the bounce house was on its way, so the show must go on! A bit bewildered, I would imagine, her husband agreed -- as long as she promised to stay in the house, in bed, with her baby.
After hearing LaMonica's baby had been born (and realizing that was why I hadn't seen her around), I went off to find her. She was accepting visitors, thankfully. I came to her bedroom, where she was skin-to-skin with Jasper. There were a couple other women with her, and it was calm and quiet, despite the party outside. If you are anything like me, though, you know THIS is where the real party is! A mom and her new baby, complete for the moment, happy and resting in a comfy bed with a wall of festive turquoise behind them. LaMonica had such a look of happiness on her face! In truth, she looked amazing and bright -- like she could be out there, showing families the new space! But a woman who has been present for 300+ families when they birthed was having her own moment. And truly, I felt her joy.
There was a buzz at this open house, like all of us were gathered to celebrate the birth of Jasper. Even though most never even saw him, we knew he was near, and we knew he was safe and happy. The most honored guest didn't even come to his own party, but all of us there were aware of his impact. We were reminded that birth is wonderful and unpredictable -- and that birth is safe.
How better for a midwife to know the functionality of her space than to test it herself? It may not have been in LaMonica's plans, but Jasper decided they needed to do just that. Well before the guests arrived, and with the help of her family and her own midwife, the baby was born, the suite was cleaned, and LaMonica and Jasper moved to their bedroom in the house to begin their babymoon (despite the festivities of the day!).
Reflecting back to the spirit of this day, I think I pin-pointed it: As a midwife, LaMonica is with families on these, the most special days of their lives. The birth of a baby -- magical and amazing -- changes a family. What a blessing to us, just to be near LaMonica and Jasper on their own special day, we family and friends who were mostly brought together by birth in the first place. Thanks to Jasper and his timing, to really give us something to celebrate.
Thanks to fellow doula, Melissa Hettick, for sharing pictures of the office/suite.
Before working as a doula in Bakersfield, Visalia, Hanford, and the lower Central Valley, I was in Chico, CA -- up north. This mother was a client of mine, and here she is shown having her second baby at home, after a very medicalized first birth due to her baby's health issues. This time around she labored all night, with erratic but strong contractions. When she finally realized they needed the midwife, it was just in the nick of time! The joy and ecstasy she experienced by this fast, healing birth shows in her body language, and of course her face! For this woman, being left undisturbed to labor was a huge part in the emotions and feelings that helped her have an ecstatic experience. It is a day she will always remember and have pride in -- and no matter how a woman's birth experience goes, with support from her team and knowledge of her choices, she can also be left with these good feelings.
Joyce learned about doulas during her first pregnancy, and like so many, she went on to train and work as a doula herself. I am a fan of birth stories, of course, and what struck me about this one is how we are not only seeing Joyce's journey unfold, but also we are learning about physical and emotional changes that occur along the way. This is a great example of what loving support can do for a woman experiencing a difficult labor.
First off, my goal, as long as the baby and I were both doing well, was for a nonmedicated childbirth. To help towards that goal, we hired a labor/birth doula, Marsha, as labor support for me and Justin. A doula's presence speeds up labor, reduces mothers' requests for pain medications, increases babies' Apgar scores, decreases postpartum depression, decreases cesarean birth rates, increases mothers' satisfaction with the birth partner/husbands, support, improves the birth partner/husbands' satisfaction with the birth, and more. They're awesome. Marsha brought along Becky, a doula-in-training, as well.
Carol, my midwife, told me to call her when contractions lasted at least a minute long and were 3 to 5 minutes apart. I woke up at 3:30 am on Friday, Nov 7th, and couldn't fall back asleep. I finally realized I was having contractions at 4:15, so I got up and tried to distract myself by putting together a lamp for our living room. However, I was still having them at 5:30, and they seemed to be pretty regular, so I woke up Justin and we started timing contractions. At this point they were about a minute long and 3 to 4 minutes apart, but I was able to talk through them, so I took a shower and we timed again at 6:30. They were still a minute long, but now closer to 2 minutes apart, but I was still able to talk through the contractions, so we didn't know what to do. You're not supposed to be able to talk through active labor contractions. I called Marsha, who was also unsure, but told me to call Carol. Carol instructed us to go to the hospital, so we started packing the car and left for the hospital just before 8 am. Justin sweetly made me a PB&J sandwich, which I promptly threw up about 10 blocks from the house, right on "A" Street during morning traffic. Poor commuters. This was actually a good sign that this was it.
We got to the hospital and checked in, and Jill, the student midwife who's training with Carol, came in and examined me. I was 5 cm dilated and having regular, long, strong contractions that were now difficult to talk through. Marsha arrived soon, then Carol and Becky. Marsha started helping me relax during contractions and keeping my mind clear between them. One of the things doulas do to speed labor is encourage the laboring woman to change positions frequently, every 20 minutes. First, she had me walk through the halls. That made me puke again, which is a pretty good indicator that labor was progressing quickly! My active labor was from about 8 am until 1:30 when I started pushing, just 5.5 hours, which is pretty fast for a first-time mom!
Doulas also help mom move in ways that encourage the baby to position itself correctly for delivery. Baby K started out facing my left hip, and should have been facing my back, so we tried all sorts of different positions to get him to turn. Unfortunately, my son inherited my stubbornness and independence, and turned to face my front instead. This position leads to "back labor," or excruciating back pain during contractions that typically doesn't abate between them. It's just lovely... Luckily, being able to move around helped with the back pain. I didn't want to change positions, but getting into the new one always felt better. I also used the big Jacuzzi tub in the delivery room for pain relief - once you're about 7cm dilated, immersion in a big bath of hot water has been shown to be as effective for pain relief as an epidural and it can speed up labor because it helps mom relax. I still had terrible pain in my sacrum (very low back) during contractions, but I actually felt pretty good between them. Counterpressure on my back helped a ton, but poor Justin's back started hurting from hunching over me. Luckily, he had lots of people to jump in when his back got really tired. He also was able to eat lunch while I was in the tub - the doulas and midwives took good care of him.
After an hour and a half or so in the tub, I was 9cm and completely effaced. I got out and during the next contraction my water broke. This is when I really entered transition, the shortest but most intense phase of labor, right before you start pushing. For most of my labor, I was pretty quiet, but during transition, moaning seemed to be the thing to do. Apparently something like 90% of no-med women scream during their labor - I guess I'm 1 in 10! For me, transition really felt like (sorry!) I needed to have a bm, but didn't have anything in my colon. Like that nauseated feeling several minutes before you throw up. You want to puke, but you just can't yet. I wanted to push, but I couldn't.
Pushing was the most difficult part for me because of the way Baby K was positioned. When baby is facing mom's front, the angle of their head and neck means that the part of their head that has to fit through the pelvis is larger than if they were facing mom's back. I pushed for 2 hours. He actually crowned after about an hour or so, but we just weren't getting anywhere after that. Jill decided to do a small episiotomy to try to speed up delivery, since his heart rate had started dropping during contractions now, and that did the trick. I watched my son being born in the mirror, Justin got to announce to the room that we had a baby boy, and he cut the cord.
Jill and Carol are positive that if I hadn't had Marsha and Becky encouraging me to change positions and move around, or if I had been unwilling or unable to do so, I would have needed a cesarean because of Baby K's position. He just wouldn't have descended at all. I also think that my pelvis was able to shift and move to get him out partly because I was seeing a chiropractor throughout my pregnancy and my joints were nice and loose. I'm also lucky that I had a midwife who let me push for so long. I'm really lucky that Baby K and I both physically handled labor well and I was able to have a med-free birth like I hoped for. I also couldn't have done it without Justin. He was with me through every single contraction, and he helped me focus my energy while pushing. I am a lucky, lucky, lucky woman.
Joyce Dykema, CD(DONA), HCHD, became a certified birth doula in May 2012. She is also a trained Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula. Joyce is a woman-focused doula. While passionate about natural birth and what research shows is the best for moms and for babies, the goal she strives for with every client is for women to have empowering and positive births, as the woman defines it. In addition to her doula credentials, she holds a BA in psychology and an MS in biological sciences. She breastfeeds, uses cloth diapers, uses baby sign language, babywears, and homeschools because these choices made sense for her family; she encourages others to explore and find what makes sense for their families. Joyce and her husband have three children, and live in the Lincoln, Nebraska area.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)