One thing about being a doula is, you learn quickly what positions a mom likes; and you learn just as quickly, what positions are hard for you to maintain. When performing the hip squeeze with your own hands, you exert pressure in an awkward manner (envision your hands on either side of a woman's hips, fingers reaching toward each other over her back, and you pressing inward, with your elbows poking out). But women respond to this over and over and over! By pressing the top of the hips, the base of the pelvis can actually be helped to open wider, and this feels good to the woman, especially if she is experiencing back labor. With my own birth a year ago, my doula was charged with "The hips! The hips! The hips!" as a contraction would build. These tips Marivette shares will definitely save a support person's strength, as well as help the mother with restorative and relaxing ways to cope with labor. Thank you, Marivette!
I first became aware of the rebozo eight years ago when I visited a border town near Weslaco, Texas, called Progresso, Mexico. The women and young girls were carrying babies and toddlers on their backs with a fabric. After showing an interest in that cloth, my mom, who had taken me to visit Mexico, took me to a small store to purchase one. My first ever rebozo was a beautifully woven white rebozo.
Fast forward six years, when I see an advertisement for a rebozo class for doulas and midwives. After reading the information on what the workshop offered, I signed up. That day, was the first day that fell I love with the rebozo for the use in pregnancy, labor, and birth. The Rebozo is a shawl or scarf which is long enough to wrap around a woman's body and has been used for centuries to help women find comfort and support during the birthing process. There are several other uses for the rebozo such a baby wearing, using as a shawl on a cool day or evening, or using it as an accessory to an outfit. These are only a few of its uses; there are many other methods to use the rebozo. In this blog post, you will read about its use in pregnancy, labor, and birth. A rebozo comes in different lengths. For the purposes of pregnancy, labor, and birth, the ideal length is 9 ft long X 2-3 inches wide. The shortest it should be for optimal labor support is 6 ft.. Rebozos come in a variety of textures and colors. My favorite rebozos are the handmade ones from Laos because they are thin, long, and have some beautiful hues.
As a doula, one of my goals is to integrate the partner with the laboring woman. The majority of my clients are husband and wife relationships. The husbands desire to have a very active role in supporting their wife's labor. Where as before, all I had to offer were the use of the hands as a tool, I can now offer the use of the rebozo. Most men like tools. Having a tangible item to use in labor, can help him feel connected to his wife. I have found that the rebozo is a great tool to facilitate the bond between partner and mother. The rebozo can be used to engage the partner in the birth process and is an extension of the labor partner's arms.
There roughly more than 30 different ways that a rebozo can be used for pregnancy, labor, and birth. You will be introduced to five in this post. If you would like to discover other uses for the rebozo, taking a rebozo class or workshop for either pregnant families or professionals would be extremely beneficial. You will gain knowledge and hands on experience in the use of this traditional shawl.
A rule of thumb when using the rebozo, and any other comfort method, is to always ask the laboring woman if she is comfortable with what is being done. If she likes the way it feels, the partner should continue with the comfort measure. IF at anytime the woman feels discomfort the partner should stop what he/she is doing. The partner can readjust the rebozo or discontinue its use altogether. Always measure continuing the use of any comfort method based on how it feels to the laboring woman. Since doulas do not diagnose nor treat their birth clients, the rebozo is meant only for comfort, support, and extension of the arms. The rebozo should never be used as a treatment.
The following are five ways to use the rebozo to give comfort while performing the hip squeeze. The hip squeeze is one of the most desired labor comforts. The partner uses his or her hands to squeeze the hips together to alleviate some of the pelvic pressure from contractions. Hip squeezing can last up to a minute or more during a contraction. Although the partner would never voice this in labor, it can be a tiring job for him or her. If her main support is her husband and he has any wrist injury, he would be unable to perform the hip squeeze with his hands alone. The rebozo can take the place of the hands, thus allowing for longer and stronger hip squeeze support.
3. Hands and knees
The hands and knees position is great especially if the laboring woman is having back labor. This position relieves some of the pressure from her back. If she isn't having back labor, it could still help take some of the baby's weight off her back. Help mom get on hands and knees. Wrap the center of the rebozo around the woman's hips paying attention to that it is not on her abdomen. For the hip squeeze, we want the rebozo around her hips. The partner holds the open part close to the woman's buttocks, and tightens the hips. A knot can then be made in the rebozo to assist with the squeezing of the hips. Once the knot is in place, the partner can use one free hand to put pressure on the sacrum. Continue as long as mom desires.
5. Leaning over the bed
This position can be done similar to the above mentioned hands and knees. If she is in a hospital, the bed can be raised to a more comfortable level for the woman's height. She can then lean on the bed and hug a pillow or two for comfort and to support her upper torso. The center of the rebozo is wrapped around the woman's hips making sure not to wrap on the belly while she is leaning on the bed. The partner holds the opened side of the rebozo (fringed side) and tightens the rebozo around her hips. Make a knot at the end close to her buttocks as tight as she likes. The partner will have a free hand to add some pressure on the sacrum.
The use of the rebozo can free a partner's hand to give him or her the ability to use an additional comfort measure such as massage and a gentle anchoring hand on the shoulder. It can assist in longer durations of comfort measures to the laboring woman because the partner is not too tired from using his or her hands. This is beneficial to the laboring woman because she will feel fully supported by her labor team. In all, the rebozo is an amazing tool which can enhance the labor and birth experience.
Marivette Torres is the founder/owner of Tender Doula Hands, a rebozo trained instructor and distributor. She is a CBI certified birth doula with 16 years experience serving the Bakersfield, California area. She has eight children ranging in ages from 24 to 6 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 lay (unlicensed) midwife. She breastfed all her children with her last child self-weaned at six years old this January. In her birth doula practice, she utilizes some of her own personal experiences and many years of labor support experience with well over 175 clients. She is currently teaching rebozo classes to pregnant women and their partners and to birth professionals which includes midwives, doulas, nurses, doctors, and anyone involved in the birth community. You may visit her website and Facebook page. She also has a page dedicated to specific rebozo class information.
Did you know? For two years in a row, I have celebrated International Doula Month (May) by featuring guest posts by and about doulas? This is Day 28 from 2014, and it is constantly being re-pinned on Pinterest. I am always looking for stories to feature, and 2017 will be the 4th year of this tradition! So if you are a doula, or had an experience with a doula, contact me to reserve your guest spot! You can write something just for this occasion, or share something you have previously written.
Reimbursement for doula through health insurance is something we hear about every once in a while. I thought this was a great example of, you never know until you try! It seems to be the consensus that most companies will automatically decline the first request...but don't stop there! Sarah shows that her last-ditch effort actually proved fruitful!
I was about 32 weeks pregnant with Hope when I thought about hiring a doula. Knowing friends who had used them, I thought it might be something I would benefit from, especially because I wanted to have a med-free birth. I emailed Charlie Rae Young, a doula that Jenny had used during her pregnancy with Noah. We met a few times before my due date and she was always available via phone or text if I had any questions. When I called my insurance company to inquire about coverage, their answer was short and to the point - "Sorry, but your insurance doesn't cover doulas. Even though I was going to pay $800 out of pocket, it was an experience I definitely didn't want to pass up. (for anyone wondering, that money covered two pre-natal home visits, the entire birth, a post partum home visit, lactation support and constant availability via text/email/phone).
I briefly wrote about how amazing it was to have a Charlie present at the birth of Hope. If anyone is on the fence or questioning having a doula for their birth experience, I say do it! You can never have too much support while you're in labor.
In January, I decided to write a letter to my insurance company, requesting reimbursement for my doula, or "labor support services." Even though I had been turned down over the phone, Charlie said it wouldn't hurt to send a letter. I mean, really, the worst they could say was no - and I'd already heard that.
Below is the letter I sent (certain areas blocked out for privacy):
(Insurance ID & Account Number)
Date of Delivery: November 15, 2012
January 8, 2013
With the labor support of Charlie Rae Young, DOULA, CLC, SM, I was able to forgo medical pain management and avoid other interventions that are costly to (Insurance Carrier), including a cesarean birth, during my recent vaginal birth at Florida Hospital.
The following were charged to Cigna during the birth of my first daughter on 11/15/10:
Vacuum Extract/Forceps: $197.00
Vacuum Mityvac: $126.83
Hi Risk Care per hour: $552.00 (8 hours)
Urinary Cath Ins-Foley: $202.00 (2)
OB Epidural Service: $506.00
Urinary Cath Ins-ST CA: $101.00
Daily Bed Service: $1508.00 (quicker recovery, so stayed one less night this time)
This is a savings total to (Insurance Company) of at least $3192.83, plus the cost of pain medication, as I used much less during the recovery period this time around. The cost of my labor support was $800.00, in which I am requesting reimbursement.
Please feel free to call with any questions.
I mailed it off, crossed my fingers, and waited to hear back. Four weeks later, I opened up my mailbox to see this:
I went screaming into the house, I was so excited. Progress! And my total out of pocket expenses? $230. Not bad.
Feel free to use the above letter to start drafting a letter to YOUR insurance company. If more companies were willing to cover labor support, I'd like to think we'd be on our way to less inductions, c-sections and an all around happier birthing experience for all women. Good luck!
(*Update - I also included an itemized invoice from Charlie along with my letter - something most doulas should provide.)
Sarah is a full-time graphic designer in Orlando, Florida. She is a mom to two daughters, Emmalyn and Hope - and has a baby boy due in July. When she is not having babies and working her day job, she can be found photographing newborns, births and families and selling headbands in her Etsy shop. You can follow her blog as well. This was originally shared on her blog.
In honor of our men and women who have served in our military, today's post shares the story of one family's birth experience when Dad couldn't make it home from his Air Force assignment. Using technology, Dad was able to participate via Skype, and he still had his leave 2 weeks later so this new family did have time together before Dad had to return to service.
When Lloyd got his orders and was leaving for the middle east, I was newly, newly pregnant. We knew this might happen. We made the decision to start a family anyway. This was Lloyd's second tour to the middle east. He had good expectations of what to expect, and so did I.
I have been used to being home while he is away. We were engaged shortly before his basic training. As I said, he had been gone before. We had good ways of communicating. We would email and we tried to Skype once a week if not more than that. A friend on base suggested a doula. She said there was something military moms found helpful called Operation Special Delivery where trained women would help military families, especially if the father was away. I got a list of doulas from the Beale Pediatric Clinic and started calling around. I found my doula and she was about an hour from base, but it seemed like it would work. After all, my husband was due to have some R&R around my due date, and the plan was he would come home then. My doctor was open to inducing us so Lloyd could be there at the birthing.
My doula and I would meet so she could give me childbirth classes and help me with things I wanted to know. Once we even Skyped with Lloyd so it was almost like a a regular visit with mom and dad and doula, lol. I was feeling ready. I had things mostly ready at home. I was excited to have my baby and have Lloyd home!
Lloyd was schedule to come near my due date on June 17th. I woke up the morning of June 4th thinking I had wet the bed. I realized my water had broken. It was about 4:30 am and I wasn't sure what to do! This was not supposed to be! I got calm and quickly called my doula. She said sit tight, call your doctor, and I'm on my way. I did all that, and then I waited.
We got to the hospital at about 8:00. I wasn't really feeling contractions yet but my doctor wanted me to come in. I got an IV and they started a little bit of pitocin. I had trying to get in touch with Lloyd. I was sending him emails and I just hoped maybe he would check before he went to bed. With luck he did. He was able to Skype in and I had my laptop. We had set up the computer in the room so Lloyd could see me and I could see him.
Lloyd was about 11 hours ahead of us and he had a full day already. He was excited though. It took about 8 hours before I was feeling ready to have our baby. I was excited. But suddenly I was feeling something else. I was afraid and nervous. The doctor said I was ready to push, go ahead! But I felt frozen. I really felt I needed Lloyd right there with me. I felt like I was going to panic and I started to cry. My doula hugged me. She asked if I could have a few minutes alone to talk to Lloyd on the computer. It was a funny thing for her to do, but my doctor understood. My doula was going to leave the room, but I asked her to stay at the door while I talked to Lloyd. He just told me we were so close now! He said he was sorry it happened this way but he would be with us soon. He told me he loved me and was so proud of me. After I had a little crying spree, and my doula came back to hold my hand, the nurses and doctors returned. Lloyd was on my little table on the computer screen. My doula was next to me. I started to push.
We moved the table a bit so Lloyd could see our baby be born. My doula ended up behind me on the bed, supporting me as I sat up to push. Our baby came fast once I went through my emotional sadness and fear. We named her Evelyn and she weighed 7 pounds even. It was incredible, and even though my husband wasn't there physically, our doula helped us figure out how to manage things to still have great birth memories and experience. I am so grateful to Operation Special Delivery and to our doula and what they do for military families.
Lloyd, Marin, Evelyn and (new baby!) Jake currently reside in Idaho. Lloyd and Marin had a doula for their second baby, and Lloyd was there for the whole thing. Marin plans to train as a doula to help others in the future.
The picture above shows my nephew holding Ezra, the first day of his life. Isaac is playing lullabies on the lap harp in the background. With Ezra's birth, I have had many helpers around, and the benefits from that are huge! Some days when I was feeling isolated, home alone, exhausted -- I knew I just had to wait for my boys to get off the bus and I could have a break. They aren't formally trained as postpartum doulas, but they have the brotherly skills to alleviate some of my stress, and who wouldn't appreciate that!?
I have known Avira for almost a year now. I remember being struck by her professionalism, and entirely impressed by what she had built up, all while waiting and feeling frustrated at the lack of doula clients coming her way. She didn't sit around waiting for business, she went out and created awareness about doulas, and community for birth workers! I was amazed at what her passion and efforts had "birthed." Hopefully this is encouraging to anyone still feeling stuck in that waiting period between wanting to work as a doula, and actually working as a doula!
I had felt a tug since my own births, the first being over 12 years ago, that I wanted to be involved in other women’s births. But raising two little ones, dealing with special needs, and deciding to homeschool my children for a time, meant there was little time to give to this dream.
A new season in my life opened a way to my doula training at the end of 2011. It was intoxicating and surreal to be fully immersed in my favorite subject for a full weekend!
Afterwards I was left with the job to complete my certification steps and to blaze forward in this work, on my own accord, which seemed daunting, if not impossible. I was in an area that seemed to have NO birth community or even an awareness of what doula care is. There did seem to be a thriving little birth community about an hour away, but that didn’t seem very practical as a source to plug into, as our local moms would not be reaching that far either.
After a few months it occurred to me that I needed to start to round up some doulas to create a support circle. There were at least the ones I did the training with, and I had caught wind of a second nearby training that had taken place shortly after mine, so there MUST be enough of us to start a group! I sent out an email to everyone’s name I could gather, and the email got forwarded and forwarded, and soon we had rounded up a group of about 7 of us who were interested in meeting. We met at a local coffee shop and chatted up a storm. One of these amazing ladies, Coleen Salazar, was an experienced doula and IBCLC who had moved to our small area from San Diego several years ago, and was such a valuable resource for us! She welcomed us into her home for monthly meetings! From there we started our little Valley Doula Group, which ranged from 3-8 doulas a meeting. We would advance our education by digging into subjects and even have an occasional guest come and share with us. More than anything our purpose was to share and support each other on our various paths of birth work. This group was so inspirational and so needed for me. I would leave every night with my cup overflowing, by having others to share in my passion with me.
As months went by, as much as I tried to promote myself as a doula in the community, no births would come. I felt so frustrated. How am I going to be a doula if no one will choose me to be theirs! Even offers of minimal fees and sliding scale didn’t seem to work. Then it occurred to me… people are not going to hire a doula if they don’t know what one is!
Sadly, we live in an area where a very small percent of the population seemed to care about their childbirth experiences, very few even attend the low-cost or free childbirth education offered by the local hospitals. I knew that it had to start with education!
Where I had formerly lived, in San Luis Obispo, CA, there was a “Birth & Baby Network." I had browsed through one of their resource guides while sitting in the waiting room for an appointment with the CNM group who was providing my care. It was by browsing through that pamphlet, back in 2001, when I learned of the term doula, and became area of all my local pregnancy, birth, and parenting-related resources.
The idea hit me like a lightning bolt! We need a local birth network!! Ideas are funny how they hit you and they stick, and fester and grow. Well that’s precisely what happened. Soon I had the name chosen, the website purchased, began building it (thanks to my IT savvy husband!) and the beginnings of a birth network started to take structure. Now I just needed a team!
Surprisingly only one of the doulas from our doula group was as inspired as me: Denise Stricklind, a local doula, placenta encapsulation specialist, and birth photographer. Denise recognized the need in our area and was fully on board with my mission! Together we plugged away, like a full time job, how to establish a local birth network as a resource for support and education in our community.
Visalia Birth Network was founded in the late summer/early fall of 2012. Now, a year and half later, we have grown to 21 members, all various local professionals who support the Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative, which is the cornerstone of the Coalition to Improve Maternity Services and birth networks across the globe. The 10 steps in this Initiative propose a wellness model of maternity care that improves birth outcomes and substantially reduces costs. Every member must endorse this document upon joining.
VBN offers free monthly educational meetings for our community. We have had topics like: 10 Ways to Avoid a Primary Cesarean Birth, Cloth Diapering and Baby-wearing, the Midwifery Model of Care, Perinatal Mood Disorders, VBAC: Can it be Done, Breastfeeding Q & A, and so much more. We also make a monthly appearance at our local farmers market to help integrate, and we also host some amazing events throughout the year such as the BOLD Red Tent (our 1st one coming this Saturday!), the Big Latch On, and the Rally to Improve Birth. We are a local collective of moms and professionals who care about birth experiences and who strive to make grassroots change in our community (you can follow us on Facebook if you’d like to keep up with our activities!).
I love the way VBN seems to be impacting our community. We are starting to have loyal moms, who come out each month, not only for the information but for the support circle that VBN provides. It’s a group where moms are met with nurturing, supportive, and a “come as you are” attitude. I believe moms are grateful for our presence.
And the other good news is that I’m starting to get busier with doula work! Our education appears to be working too! Moms are learning the benefits of doula care and the undeniable help that doulas offer at every birth. My hope is that this birth community we’ve created continues to grow and take hold in our area for years to come, and that our area moms and families continue to benefit from the access and support of caring perinatal professionals.
Avira has an expansive list of accomplishments! I just want to share what I know about her. She is eager to learn and eager to help. She has passion and talent. Avira's ability to rearrange her goals in order to maintain her love for doula work is the sign of her endurance and her creative thinking -- both excellent qualities on someone who supports families through the birth process! It has been a joy to work with her, and I have appreciation for what she offers to area moms, babies, and birth workers! Find her through her website, her Facebook page, VBN's Facebook page, and if you are an area doula, check out the Valley Doula Group.
I am incredibly excited to share today's post. When Keegan mentioned this to me, I was amazed -- that she had helped a mother through birth trauma by something as simple and genuine as a ceremonious bath intrigued me. Reading her story left me awestruck. If you feel you have a client who may benefit from a rebirthing, I would encourage you get in touch with someone who has experience in this area -- Keegan would have great information for you, I am sure!
As a postpartum doula and birth educator one of the areas I see a gap in our maternal care system is postpartum follow up, particularly when it comes to birth trauma. Most expectant mothers imagine what it will be like the day their new baby arrives. Others are afraid of what will happen on their birthing day, and try to put it out of their minds. Some women have a plan of how they would like their birth to go and some even put the words down on paper to give to their care provider.
When a birthing day does not happen the way a mother envisions, it can result in shattered expectations and the loss of dreams. Any situation that a person is put into where they are forced to make a decision under duress (or without their consent) can result in guilt and second guessing. Many of these mothers have difficulty forming the essential bond that new mothers have with their baby in the first days of life. Some develop perinatal mood disorders. They are not typically seen by their care provider until their six week follow-up, and even then new mothers struggling to manage birth trauma are often missed, and continue to fight their feelings alone. This is my story of a time I was able to help one of these mothers dealing with birth trauma by facilitating a rebirthing.
I received a call from a new mother, who was still in the hospital after she experienced a traumatic emergency caesarean section. She described to me that throughout her pregnancy, she envisioned seeing her son enter the world in a gentle way, surrounded by love and met with joyful anticipation. Unfortunately the birth had not happened according to her plan and after many long hours of labor, her doctor decided that it was time for her to meet her baby and sent her for a caesarian. I knew she needed to see her birth in a new way, and to have a second chance to have the birth that she wanted. Physically, her recovery was difficult, and she and her son had difficulty establishing breastfeeding. He had been separated from her for over an hour after the birth, and was having trouble staying latched on and was often fussy at the breast. Mama was feeling hurt and powerless and she told me about the loss she had endured. They were all home from the hospital on the fourth day after her son was born, and I met with her soon after they arrived at their house.
I had heard about the idea of a rebirth, and I suggested that it may be a way for her to begin her healing. I had her prepare a letter written to her baby, telling him the story of the birth she had imagined for him. She spent some time talking through this with her husband, and when they were finished I ran a warm bath for them, lit some candles, and dimmed the lights. She and her baby got in to the bath skin to skin and I read her letter. Her eyes gently closed as she held her baby close and I saw them both relax almost as if they were melting into each other. She helped her baby to her breast, and he was able to latch on. He seemed like he was almost asleep, maybe he was just finally relaxed enough to nurse. They stayed in the bath for some time, and I encouraged her husband to stay and sit with them.
I waited in another room, and when they all came out to join me, something had shifted. There was a stillness and peace that was tangible and I could feel their deep love resonating though their home. I stayed with them long enough to see baby latch on again. I saw her eyes fill with tears of relief, smiling as she looked at her husband beside her. This was the new start that they needed.
Everyone who was there that day experienced their own rebirth, and I am forever grateful that I was able to be a part of such a special day for this new family. Every mother with birth trauma deserves a chance to find healing and peace, and I am humbled to have a role in that journey.
Keegan Barkley is the founder of New Journey Postpartum, LLC, serving the Indianapolis area. She is a DONA trained postpartum doula, a HypnoBirthing Instructor, a Sacred Pregnancy mini workshop and Birth Journey instructor, and she is trained in Rebozo techniques for birthing. She also offers babywearing and cloth diaper consultations, basic breastfeeding support, and birth trauma and pregnancy loss support. She has worked in mental health and substance abuse counseling for seven years. If you are interested in learning more about rebirthing or any of the services she has to offer, please visit her website or her Facebook page.
Today marks 33 years of the WHO code, or the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Social media outlets of all kinds are trying to inundate businesses today who choose not to comply with this code -- add your picture to show your support.
In my post about getting a breastpump, I mentioned the WHO-Code and different companies who are or are not in compliance with the code. But what is the Code? And who cares? Or should I say, WHO cares? Here is a break-down:
Everything that was decided was done so in order to protect breastfeeding and breastmilk. We know not everyone can breastfeed, and not everyone chooses to breastfeed. Formula isn't the subject up for debate -- it is a necessity in our world and it is the safest option we have for babies not receiving breastmilk. But the way formula companies advertise undermines breastfeeding.
For example, have you noticed advertising often depicts breastfeeding moms as lounging in their beds and their pajamas all day? Or surrounded by expensive-looking gourmet or "extra-healthy" food? The message is simple: To choose to breastfeed, you will be tied down to you home, your bed, your pajamas, and you baby -- and you must eat costly food to be healthy enough to nurse.
Moms depicted giving their babies bottles of formula, on the other hand, look put together, dressed professionally, ready to take on the world with their awake, alert babies. Or better yet, just a cute baby alone with her bottle, showing independence!
Celebrate the making of the WHO Code, and the businesses who choose to comply with it. When breastmilk is not the option, we know formula is available. Unethical marketing practices only serve to hurt moms and babies.
Today, a dad and former client shares his feelings on hiring a doula. Enjoy!
My wide (oops! wife!) is the one suggesting doula in our house. I am the one who scoffs at this idea. Women and men have been having babies forever and I am obviously capable to be there to support her (like all the dads before me right?). When we have disagreements we have a system where we each right down 5 reasons for our point of view and we share these with each other. . . sometimes it ends up fixing our issue and sometimes it ends up a way for me to sleep on the couch. We tried it. I had some good ones.
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
Well my wife decided to hit each of my points with her own points (she even used a red pen and underlined things twice. Did I mention she is a teacher?):
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY. SO WE CUT BACK ON EATING OUT.
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
WE WILL MET HER AND HIRE HER, WE GET TO CHOOSE HER. YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY.
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
DR P. ALSO SAID HE DID HIS OWN VASECTOMY. HE IS NOT HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
REMEMBER HOW MY MOM ACTED AT OUR WEDDING? AND HOW YOUR MOM ACTED AT YOUR NEPHEW'S CHRISTENING? WE DON'T WANT THAT CRAZY IN OUR HOSPITAL ROOM. AND THEY AREN'T HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
I AM SCARED TO HAVE A BABY. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I WANT A DOULA. I AGREE YOU DON'T NEED A DOULA. YOU ARE NOT HAVING THE BABY.
So in the interest of sleeping in my bed I agreed to meet some doulas. And guess what? I was right that I didn't need a doula. But my wife did. And I admit she knew what she as doing.
I hear people ask this questions a lot. There seems to be the belief that for a woman to truly support another woman during birth, she has to have experienced childbirth herself. I say with testimony, there is not truth in this -- it is a doula myth. While it may be important for certain families to know their doula has passed through the rite of passage of motherhood, being a doula means one thing and one thing only: this birth is not about you. And guess what? You have more of an opportunity to make it about you if you have had your own birth experiences! Read more to see why Amber feels confident in her abilities; just because you haven't mothered your own baby, doesn't mean you lack the heart and hands to mother someone else!
When I am being interviewed by families seeking a doula, I often get this question: “So you do have any children?” I smile sweetly and give my standard answer, “No not yet.” I know this question will come at some point during most interviews.
It used to be a question I dreaded. I used to have this nagging voice in my head “Why would they want to hire you? You’ve never given birth, and there are plenty of other doulas who have that experience.”
These days, though, my internal chatter has stopped. I know that regardless of whether or not a woman has given birth herself, she can still be a phenomenal doula. In fact, I think I have a couple perks to offer, since I don’t yet have children.
#1 I don’t have to worry about childcare. This is a big one! Many, many doulas out there that have children need to coordinate who’s going to watch little ones, drop off and pick up from school, or take care of a sick kid, if they get called to a birth or postpartum situation last minute. Being on-call can be challenging in and of itself, and not having to worry about kiddos yet may mean that I am more immediately available to families.
#2 I don’t have any baggage from my own births. Many doulas that have given birth are able to put their own birth experiences, joys, and struggles aside and simply focus on the family they are serving. But this can be challenging. Perhaps a doula wishes things had gone differently during her birth, and she may subconsciously steer her clients toward birth choices she herself made or didn’t make. Without any previous emotional ties to my own birth experience, I can fully hear families’ wishes and support them in their ideal birth or postpartum time.
Many women take an interest in doula training after they themselves have given birth. Maybe their birth was a life-changing ecstatic and empowering event, and they want to share with other women the potential for birth to be wonderful. Or maybe they had a challenging birth or postpartum time that they wish they could go back and do differently. As I do not have children yet, I come to doula work with a different background, although I share the same passion all doulas have for making birth and the postpartum time as empowering, positive, and supported as it can be.
My first experience with birth was witnessing my mother giving birth to my little sister when I was 13 years old. She had Maryann in a nice hospital in Southern California. I was at the hospital while my mom was in labor, but I wasn’t much interested in it. I remember she was in bed, on her back the whole time (or so it seemed). I was in the room when an epidural was placed, and I remember her vomiting a lot. All in all, labor looked like the pits. I remember there were a few family members in the room, but no one seemed to really be helping her. I remember everyone sitting around chatting, knitting, doing crossword puzzles. I remember thinking if I was in my mom’s shoes I would yell at everyone to either get out, or to get off their butts and do something like give me a massage!
After seeing enough of what looked like a hellish labor, I went out to the waiting room until my aunt came and got me when my sister’s arrival was imminent. The birth went by quick, and I don’t remember many details, other than holding my little sister soon after she was born. It was the labor that stuck with me; I was convinced that I never wanted to go through what my mom went through.
Fast forward to when I was 21 years old. Some of my girlfriends started having babies, and when I asked them about it, they all had horror stories. Most of them had cesareans, and seemed to think that if not for their cesarean/OB/other decision, they would have died or their baby would have died. I started adding these stories up, along with the memories of my mom’s birth, and it just didn’t make sense to me.
If birth was so exceptionally awful, how had all the generations of our ancestors made it through? This little idea started to develop in the back of my mind that maybe birth didn’t have to be so scary and dangerous, and gut-wrenchingly painful.
When I was 22, I had just gotten out of a yucky relationship and was kind of in a rut. Being close to my mom, she was privy to my interest in my friends’ birth experiences, and she suggested I complete a doula workshop that was coming to town. When she first sprang the idea on me, I wasn’t convinced it would be neat. I thought doulas were like woman shamans who attended births and oversaw the spiritual aspect of birth; was I up for that?
But by the first hour after my doula training began, I realized doulas were not old-lady shamans, we were the reclaimers of the potential for positive birth experiences!
I’ve been a birth doula for six years now and a postpartum doula for one year. It truly is my life’s passion to help every family have their best birth and postpartum experience as they define it.
Amber is one of my most favorite doulas. She even volunteered to come be my doula after I moved 6 hours south of her! I didn't take her up on it because with a baby coming, it seemed that might be hard to count on. But I love and appreciate her just the same, and I know she would have been awesome for me.
"I come to this field as a woman, and as a daughter. I am a teacher, and also a student. A former aspiring elementary school teacher, I was drawn to this work after hearing stories from my young mother friends who had less than ideal birth experiences. I truly know that a positive and empowered pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period is integral to creating a more compassionate species."
Find Amber online at her website or her Facebook page.
Tesa is a doula who, after my recent move, gave me my first insight into the local birth climate. She has such a passion for helping moms and babies through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, working with families to ensure they have positive, safe experiences. A mother herself, with a 10 year career in the Air Force, she has an impressive story of how she even ended up in the birth world. She is currently overseas getting practical training to become a midwife; I appreciate that she took the time out of her educational pursuits to share this with us.
I discovered soon after training as a Doula that I wanted to pursue Midwifery. I was told by many my Doula experiences would translate into my midwifery training and the experiences of supporting Mothers in the hospital would be immeasurable. I focused intensely on how to interpret a woman’s body language during labor. I knew from experience that most women did not communicate their emotions or physical discomforts throughout labor. I knew that I needed to get good at feeling what she needed. I did not realize the extent of this intuition that I developed until my experience while interning for my midwifery clinical requirements.
Our family decided that I would take an opportunity to travel abroad to volunteer at a birth home in the Philippines for my clinical experience. I was a bit nervous about the language barrier, even though I was assured that most of the mothers spoke English to a point which we could communicate. I planned to learn basic phrases before I set out. Of course life was busy, and a lot of other preparations became a higher priority. So I landed in the Philippines without even knowing how to say hello. I know, bad planning on my part. Luckily I was met at the airport by an American and was never in a sticky situation where I needed to speak Tagalog (the language spoken by Filipinos). From the airport I was taken to the birth home where I met the other American Interns and the Filipino Midwives. Again no need for language skills there either.
The next morning I was integrated into the prenatal check up routine, and that’s when it all came and smacked me in the face. I quickly realized I needed to learn how to communicate with these women if I was going to assist in their care. So where am I going with this? Well after a few weeks I was ready to start attending births as student under supervision, and again I was nervous about communicating with the mother. How would I know what she was feeling? Up to this point my training had focused on the physiological changes to observe that would help me assess the stages of labor, the health of the mother, and fetal well-being. My first birth was a bit of a blur, but the second birth I settled into a very familiar role as this Mother immediately connected with me.
Reflecting I can recall the moment when I understood not a single word she said to me but I could feel everything she needed from me. My Doula heart took over the emotional and physical care of this mother as she labored hard and just needed to feel safe in her moment of vulnerability. I did not need to speak in her language to support her. I was able to express that I was there for her by not leaving her presence. With sincerity in my touch I think she was able to feel safer and more relaxed. I helped her with breathing patterns and movement, only through demonstrating it myself first. These unspoken instructions quickly helped her gain control of her labor and gave her confidence in her ability. Holding her hand through contractions, reassured her I was not leaving. Simple nods from me seemed to confirm to her that everything was normal. No words were required between us; it was a dance of sharing a common goal to bring her baby into the world safely and peacefully.
It’s now been almost 3 months since I have been here in the Philippines and I have since learned many useful Tagalog words to aide me in communicating with woman in the prenatal as well as labor and birth. Like sakit and pwerta, go look them up. Now more than ever I realize the value of my Doula experience, and how it will always be a part of me as a Midwife. The ability to communicate without words extends across many roles in life. I’m very grateful for my experience here and the woman that have allowed me to stand, rock, moan, and cry with them as they birthed their babies. They have given me more than I have given them, and I will hold it close as I move forward to serve many more.
Tesa Kurin is the mother of 6 wonderful children, each different in their own way. She believes that every pregnancy is different and every Woman’s needs are different. Tesa also believes you have the right to choose your birth path. Whether you choose to give birth in a hospital or home, she will provide you with the support and information you need. Find her through her website.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)