I got great news over the weekend, which gave me the idea for today's post. I then asked other doulas to share something they love -- it could be tangible or intangible. Something that makes us smile. Something that makes us cry. Something that keeps us connected to this work we do. I loved that the responses I got were all so different, yet they are pretty universal when it comes to doula work.
I received a simple text message on Saturday, and it made my day. "Hey, Stacie -- we will be needing you again!"
"I can never get over the shock and awe when parents see their baby for the very first time. So much emotion, so much love, so much birth ❤️." Ashley Rodside
"I love watching partners take over and lead the coaching they just saw from me a minute ago. Then, I can fall back into the ether while they labor without me."
-Sarah Branion of Wonderstruck Doula Service
"That moment of instantaneous relief and pure ecstasy as the new mom and dad meet their baby for the first time."
-Brittany Kurtzhals of Holding Space Birth
"I love it when I am working with a mom who has valid fears and she overcomes them. They are so happy that they did it!!"
-Erin Swart of Erin's Doula & Birth Services
"The look on mom's face when she sees her baby and realizes she did it!"
-Courtney Little of Little Miracles Birth Services
"When I watch a partner or dad tuned into the laboring person's needs, and I know that my job is simply to hold space for that magic to happen.
-Andrea Hewitt of East Nashville Doula
"I love watching new dyads getting the first feeding latch -- the look on the face that says 'Wow, I'm doing it!'"
-Vicki Bloom of Whole Self Doula
"The tangible relief and burden lifted I watch happen in families when they know they have someone (their doula) who's going to be like their guide through the process!"
-Camille Nyman of Abundant Birth Support
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.
When someone says, "At least I have a healthy baby," how do you interpret she feels about her experience? Birth is a transformative experience, and women can be transformed for the better, or for the worse. How can we, as doulas, help support someone who has had a traumatic experience? Abby gives excellent ideas which remain within our scopes and roles as doulas.
When you look at the probability of trauma in the course of a woman’s life, the statistics are high. One in three will experience sexual abuse in her lifetime, one in four will perceive her birth as traumatic. So, if you’re a childbirth or postpartum professional, you are regularly working with women who have experienced trauma. And keep in mind: a woman who has previous trauma or a history of abuse has a much higher chance of being triggered in birth and experiencing trauma again.
What is birth trauma? It’s all about perception. When a woman perceives her birth as traumatic, she has felt one or more of the following in an intense and damaging way:
Birth trauma will have immediate effects on a woman and change her experience of birth, postpartum and motherhood. As birth professionals, our goals are to prevent birth trauma by providing support, information and guidance for laboring Mamas. Some of the things you can do during your time together are build trust, tune in to Mom’s behaviors to establish safety in the labor room, and speak to her in a calm, affirming voice. But unfortunately, we can’t always prevent birth trauma.
Women who have experienced a traumatic birth can develop PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). It can be misdiagnosed as postpartum depression or anxiety but the symptoms are actually different. Some signs of PTSD in a new mother are:
There are some important things to keep in mind when dealing with a Mom who has birth trauma. Your support will be critical to establishing safety, support and eventually healing from this difficult time.
Here are some things you can do to support a Mom with trauma
The exciting and encouraging thing to hope for is what’s called post traumatic growth. With proper self-care, nutrition, sleep, and exercise she will begin to feel better. Suggest to her that some women find healing through yoga, body work, trauma therapy and groups. Post traumatic growth provides women the opportunity to heal from trauma and become stronger, wiser and more compassionate because of it. With adequate support, education and care, new Moms can fall in love with their babies and leave the shame and pain of trauma behind.
Abby Bordner’s background is in medical settings, community education and entrepreneurship. She currently has many online and in person projects for the non profit sector and her private business. She is a Cappa Doula Trainer, Labor Doula, and Lactation Educator. She is a certified ICEA Childbirth Educator, as well as an author and entrepenuer, creating such projects as Yoga Born, Birthing Tree Cooperative, Relationship Based Parenting, and Modern Motherhood. She travels around the US providing certification training for future Cappa doulas, and Yoga Born Childbirth Preparation classes – trainings for prenatal yoga instructors which integrate yoga and childbirth education.
If there is one thing I love, it is helping other doulas get started. There are so many aspects of doula work left to individual preference and style -- it can be beneficial to watch and learn from other doulas as you discover your own shape. The first time I was able to shadow a doula, it was accidental. I was hired by a family, along with a second doula, because both of us had prior scheduled events near the due date that we couldn't miss. The offer was then extended: If you are both available then you can both come and support our birth. As luck would have it, we were! Although I had plenty of doula experience at this point, it was my first time in a new hospital; the other doula was generous with her knowledge -- I couldn't help but grow in many ways thanks to her openness to share all kinds of things with me.
Have you ever shadowed an experienced doula or asked to be shadowed? Did the experience match your expectations?
I think one of the greatest challenges new doulas face once they’ve finished their initial training is learning how to put their knowledge of textbook labors into practice when so very many labors are not textbook. I remember walking out of my initial training excited, feeling ready to jump in as a knowledgeable support person, only to find myself at a 56-hour complicated and confusing labor both for me and the couple I was supporting. It wasn’t following any of the textbook rules. Neither did the next 2 births I attended, which were equally complicated and confusing for entirely different reasons.
Many certifying organizations offer only a short introduction to the labor process in person in which there isn’t much time to get over the natural and normal variations of labor. While there are many books, articles, and websites available for further study into the various reasons why a labor might look active when it’s not or why it might not progress in a linear fashion, it takes time for a new doula to start putting those puzzle pieces together. I had to learn as I went.
Often on the fly, little by little, we learn as we go. I sort of took those early difficult labors as a test of my will to be doula. Wouldn’t that be so much easier, wouldn’t it be so much faster though, if there was a mentor to help in those situations? This stress over feeling not well enough prepared is what leads many doulas to try find someone to shadow or another doula they can call while at a birth. But it’s not always so easy to find or implement. I often hear from doulas that they asked around but no one was willing, or that they found someone but then their client don’t want someone sitting in the corner watching, or that they were afraid to wake a mentor at 2 A.M. to ask questions about a situation unfolding. While many certifying organizations encourage finding a mentor, few formally arrange for it.
As someone who comes from a strong teaching and mentoring background, I really wanted to offer shadowing situations for new doulas. But I found that the shadow concept didn’t work well for me or for my clients for a lot of different reasons. It might be a new doula that I didn’t personally know very well, the connection with the client might be awkward, or often the case, the new doula might reach out once and then never follow up. The energy output for a mentor is high. When it’s not reciprocated, it can be frustrating and discouraging. I needed a different solution, which luckily presented itself as most great ideas do, like a light switch coming on.
I’m fortunate that I often get to work with licensed midwives, and an important part of becoming a licensed midwife is be an apprentice. An apprenticeship has all the things I was looking for: It addresses that most people learn best by watching and then doing; it’s a formal relationship with clear expectations; it’s long term so you get to know each other well; and, clients know we come as a package.
By this time, I was already working in a group practice. We had already worked through the logistics of our business model, things like work load distribution, call time management, money management, and most importantly communication requirements. It was relatively easy to slip an apprentice into the mix, what remained was deciding what was required of the apprentice and how to select one. This process has evolved and been refined over the years and includes the obvious things, such as attending prenatal sessions, active labor, and postpartum follow-up with the client, but also now has requirements about reading, advanced classes, and hands-on experience. When our group turns a doula out into the world, we want to be confident and we want that doula to feel confident that they have the skills and experience to handle any situation. The birthing people and families in our community deserve excellent doulas. We really enjoy being a part of helping to make that happen. It’s an honor and a privilege.
In case you’d like the do the same, here are a some tips to you started:
In working with an apprentice, I believe that it’s very important to know yourself before you can know what you need from an apprentice (it’s not all just you giving, it’s a reciprocal relationship). For example, what are your core values or what makes you tick? Your values help you to stay focused and keep on track, make appropriate decisions, connect with like-minded people, and be inspired.
Some questions to ask yourself (answer truthfully!):
Best of luck to you and your students! If you need a mentor, I’m here!
Teri Nava-Anderson, PhD, CD(DONA), ICCE has been assisting pregnant people and their families through their labors since 2008. She is the CEO and founder of the Harmony Doula Group and co-founder of the Modesto Doula Group, both private practices dedicated to community education, mentoring new doulas, and advancing “mother/baby-friendly” practices in local hospitals. She has been teaching advanced doula training classes since 2012. Teri is the Northern California Regional Representative for DONA International, and the Board President of Mt. Diablo Doula Community.
Evan was such a great "sport" with this feature. I loved the unique position of this excited dad -- he said it was even he who called the doula (which she later admitted to Evan and his wife, was unusual enough that, had she not remembered them from class, she might have thought this was a hoax doula call). Dads need doulas, too! And the "coaching" support they get can often be invaluable.
Week 4 of our childbirthing classes, our instructor said, "Next week, we will have a doula come talk to us about doula support. A doula is like a coach and you parents are a team. She coaches you through birth." I was curious! Well, as a junior high school teacher, I have coached a lot of different sports, from volleyball, to track and field, football, softball, and baseball. I am a sports-lover, so that term had me excited to learn more.
As promised, the next week me met Renate, the doula. Renate was a confident-looking woman, in her mid-forties. She knew about birth, that was clear. Renate shared about meeting with couples before birth to learn about them. She walked us through a typical doula/couple relationship from before the birth to after the birth. She told us about a few things she carries in her bag. When you add that all together, it looked like the perfect playbook to help a team win a game. I wanted in!
Convincing my wife, Shelly, that a doula would be good for us was a different story. Shelly was more inclined to let things happen on their own without a lot of preparation or planning. "I just want a healthy baby," is what she would say to me. Everyone wants a healthy baby. Everyone wants to finish the game. As a coach, I wanted more. I wanted to feel good about the effort we put in as a team in this birth "sport," and I wanted to feel like we won.
Where was the turning point in this? Our doctor. At one of our appointments, Shelly shared with our doctor that I was making a little book filled with information I would need to help her cope. In this "playbook" were things like, 4-1-1 (when to go to the hospital), labor stages and signs, the Take-Charge Routine, what happens in the hospital's mandated "Golden Hour." When our doctor heard this, she asked, "Oh, have you thought about hiring a doula?" I nodded my head yes. "What's the hold-up? Often it's the dad who doesn't want one." I pointed at Shelly. Maybe that wasn't the most mature thing to do.
"What do you think, Mom?" our doctor asked. Shelly replied: "I hear birth stories all the time. I have so many friends who had ideas about their births, and then their plans went out the window. I don't want to set myself up for some special experience, and then feel let down." Our doctor said there are no guarantees in birth, but that doulas can help couples feel better about their overall experience. She handed us a list of local doulas, starred a couple she thought we might get along with. Shelly still wasn't convinced, but she agreed to meet with a couple doulas and see what she thought.
We recognized one name on the list: Renate! We arranged a meet-up.
When it came down to it, Shelly and I liked Renate and we felt she could help us both achieve our birth goals. She was an amazing help. My father had an accident a few days before our baby was born, and he was in Intensive Care Unit of the same hospital where we were having our baby. He actually had a surgery planned for the day Shelly went into labor! Because of Renate, I could run between these two important people in my life to make sure they were all okay. I could know about where things were with Renate texting me, so I could be with my dad for a few minutes before his surgery. I was also able to stop by once he was out of recovery. The most exciting thing was, when I could come back to my dad and step-mom with a picture of our baby, Stuart Henry, to his grandfather, Henry Stuart.
With Renate by our side, I didn't need to clutch my playbook to my chest. I could relax and trust her coaching abilities. When I say coaching, I say she supported Shelly, and she helped me support Shelly. But she absolutely coached me! And that was just what I needed.
Evan is a middle school teacher from Des Moines, Iowa. He, Shelly, and their daughter can be found screaming their heads off at Iowa Wild Hockey games, or cruising around their neighborhood on their tandem bike (with a baby seat).
Chelsea is a great friend and doula. I had the opportunity to be her doula with her most recent baby, and maybe her text-doula with her baby before that! She has dealt with a lot, and she had crippling HG. Today, May 15th, is HG Awareness Day -- so I felt it was only appropriate to hare her thoughts on this.
I've taken a few days to think about what I wanted to write for HG awareness Day. I would like everyone to take their time reading this and try not to judge. Hyperemesis Gravidium is described as extreme morning sickness. But there are things that the public doesn't see -- things that our families and friends don't even see.
I vomited anywhere from 5 times on a good day to 40 times on a bad day. I battled daily to figure out what was safe that day to eat or drink, to find out most of the time the answer to the question was nothing. Nothing was safe to eat or drink, and attempting to would land you back in the bathroom in a endless cycle of vomiting.
Now here's the part you don't see:
You don't see when we are sitting on the floor, considering termination of our pregnancies, because we can't stand the thought of being this sick any longer -- considering giving up much-wanted babies because we feel like we're causing our husbands and kids to suffer along with us.
You don't see us wishing for a miscarriage, to end the constant torment of feeling like we're dying. You don't see the days where we question living anymore at all.
You don't see the deep dark hole of depression that we sometimes sink in to because we are missing life everyday. We give up family events. Moments with our other kids. Being angry at our husbands because we feel so sick and they're trying to help but sometimes it makes things worse.
You don't see the countless medicine bottles, ER trips, and IV bags.
You don't see the countless times, crying alone on the floor, scared we are harming our unborn babies with the medications that don't stop the sickness, but just help keep us both alive.
My family had to see me so sick I wanted to die, more then once. They had to see me pale and withering away. They had to see me cry, day after day, because I just didn't feel good ever.
I've thrown up in more public bathrooms and parking lots than I care to count. I've had to buy new shirts while we were out because I threw up all over the one I was wearing.
Did you know that toilet water has a distinct smell? We do. We smell everything. Your perfume. Your lunch you ate. It all makes us sick.
The smell of my kids when they played outside made me extremely ill.
I took the highest dose of zofran a person is allowed to take. I had to rotate meds. I had to fight to not get a PICC line IV. At the end I battled to keep a feeding tube out of my nose and a hospital admission out of my family's life. I had to tell my doctor no, because I had nowhere for my kids to go for such a long period of time.
I've done 4 HG pregnancies, my first and my fourth being the hardest. My last one, I lost 45 pounds and was sick the entire pregnancy. I never made it back to pre-pregnancy weight with him.
So please. I beg you. The next time you see a woman clearly suffering from HG, take a second to consider what she's going through. Don't try to force ginger, crackers, and natural remedies down her throat. Just love her and try to understand that her life at that moment is hard. Try to pitch in and help. Bring a meal for the rest of her family. Bring her a good book or movie. Maybe some comfy pajamas. I can tell you for certain, she'll appreciate your efforts.
Chelsea is a doula and the mom of four. She recently relocated from Bakersfield, CA to Tulare, CA. She tried desperately to breastfeed her babies, but it was always a struggle for them to gain weight. Between her 3rd and 4th babies, she learned her children all had tongue ties, affecting their abilities to nurse well and get enough milk. She had her most recent baby's tongue treated, and things got amazing after that -- now she is a fierce advocate. When she's not helping other moms, or suffering from HG (with 4 babies in 4 years, that has been a lot of time!), she and her family love going to Disneyland.
I'm sure we have all heard different myths about doulas -- whether it's thinking doulas catch babies like midwives, or they come together to dance beneath the full moon -- there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Becky amazes me -- not only is she a comic genius when it comes to doula humor, her graphic art choice is the perfect medium to convey her message. She addresses common myths about doulas, and leaves us full of happy feelings for the work we do.
There is often confusion over what a doula is. Many times I have talked with couples nervous about a doula possibly taking over their birth. They are afraid that a doula may guilt them into a certain type of birthing. To add a little silliness I have illustrated examples below with my subpar Window’s Paint skills. These show the differences between someone that will fight against your birth, a duel-a you could call her, and a doula, or birth support for your choices.
This may be new to you, but doulas are not just for natural birth. They are for anyone wanting more support for their birth. Doulas are helpful in cesarean births, medicated births, natural births, hospital births, home births, single parent moms, and so much more. Whether you have a plan or not, we are here for you, no light sabers involved. Note: In the odd case that you want light sabers at your birth, we can help you with that. We do not discriminate against nerds; we just won’t use them to stop your choices.
The next concern often had regarding doulas: "But I want my husband involved. I want him to intuitively know what I need.” If he helped start this baby business, then it totally makes sense to want him right there involved in the birth.
Can I tell you my secret? We LOVE it when dads are hands-on and involved. It is our biggest goal to facilitate the best connection between you and your partner. We know that dad helps get the oxytocin and birthing hormones going. Some men need a little direction along the way. They are new to this. Our job isn’t to replace dad, it’s to help him help you best. If dad isn’t there this works the same for grandmas and friends. We will not erupt in flames if someone else gives you counter-pressure.
I met with a doctor today. He was a little on-guard, and he felt the need to explain how he goes out of the way to help his patients. Sadly, too many providers have met some kind of duel-a, or have heard stories of them. All he knew was that I was a doula and he assumed that I had a negative view of him as a doctor. In reality, I have yet to meet a provider that did not want the best for mom and baby. Sometimes they have differing opinions on care, and different points of view, but they all care. Doulas are not out to defy anything medically related. We need the medical team so that we can focus on emotional support and comfort for mom and the family.
Doulas work with mom’s birth team to help her best reach her desires. Doulas will encourage you to choose a provider that you feel you can trust that you can work with together. They encourage mom to ask questions, find evidence-based information, think over benefits and risks, and if needed, help mom stand up for herself. Our job is not to have a show down with the medical staff. Our job is not to speak for you. Our job is to help you get the information you need to make choices, and to support you as you speak for yourself.
I am not a duel-a. I am not out to fight or prove anything. I am a doula -- a supporter of women, babies and families.
Becky Hartman serves as a birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula, birth and pregnancy photographer, Benkung belly binder, and energy worker. She has been shaped by her own births, and the realization that education factors into creating an empowering experience. Becky strongly believes women can follow their hearts and they will know the decisions that are right for their situations. She encourages families to learn, explore, develop ideas, and then go with the flow of their birth experience. Becky lives with her family in Clearfield, Utah.
What a pleasure to feature Yiska's piece on self-care! The longer I stay working as a doula, the more I realize the value in taking care of me -- and it seems to get harder each passing year. As a new doula, I bounced back from births more quickly, feeling like Super Girl. Now I drag myself around for a couple days as I try to fit back into the pace of my (still-running-around-me) life. Yiska has a gentle heart that is bursting with ideas and eagerness to help not only birthing families, but also those who support those birthing families.
The topic of self-care is an essential one for any care-giver. As doulas in particular, we’re always telling our clients to make self-care a priority, but do we listen to our own advice? There are some obvious and some less obvious ways doulas can take good care of ourselves. The following are the top 4 areas, in my book, for doula self-care…nourishment, body posture, recovery practices, and emotional self-care.
Packing healthy nourishing foods for births and staying hydrated is priority number one. Some great portable meal and snack ideas include protein bars, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, a thermos of bone broth or other soups, homemade nutrient dense smoothies, fresh fruits, trail mix, coconut butter packets, almond butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. A helpful tip here is to avoid peanut butter because it’s such a common allergen and keep stinky foods tucked away.
Emergen-C packets are a great way to keep your immune system boosted and I started mixing mine with CALM magnesium packets as well. Some use magnesium to help them sleep but the reason it works for that is because it calms the nervous system. I found myself feeling way less strung out and more grounded as a result of adding this to the mix. Both powders dissolve in water and you can nurse the drink anytime throughout the birth.
Bottom line is, staying hydrated is key to sustaining our well-being. Whether you’re a coconut water lover or into the vitamin c and magnesium mixture, keeping your own water bottle nearby will help ensure you don’t end up dehydrated, just like your clients. Hospitals are notoriously dry too!
2. Body Posture
When I first started doula-ing, I would get myself into all sorts of contorted positions trying to support my clients. Part of the reason I teach comforting touch for birth the way I do is based on what I’ve learned over the years around taking care of my own body even while I serve my clients.
Now, if I get twisted up trying to support a client, after the next contraction, I make sure we all adjust our positioning so I can face their back or hips head on, without compromising my own well-being. There’s always a way to find a win-win, but we need to be willing to include ourselves and our needs as well. It doesn’t have to be us or them.
One of my biggest tips in this vein is to use your body weight when offering comforting touch. Rather than muscling your way through a counter pressure or massage technique, lean your body into and onto your client, taking advantage of gravity. This approach tends to feel more enveloping, intimate, safe, warming and less effortful, all adding to the comfort value.
Watch this video from my Comforting Touch for Birth guidebook as an example of how to adapt your double hip squeeze so you’re straining your muscles less and leaning in more. Both you and your clients will appreciate the difference.
3. Recovery Practices
Taking time for recovery after a long birth, double-header or simply being up all night is crucial to keeping up with this work and life in general. Some approaches are as simple as a healthy meal, a bath or shower and a long, uninterrupted sleep. If you’re still on call, look into ways to program your phone to ring only for your “favorites”, and put those clients on that list. I also turn my text tones off and let my on-call clients know they must actually call me if they need me. This way I’m not woken up by unnecessary text message notifications.
The biggest thing here is to be kind with yourself and allow yourself the time it takes to recovery your energy and catch up. Some births will be more taxing than others. Many doulas feel the time they need to recover increases over time, so adjusting to what we need as we need it often takes self-compassion as we adapt our expectations. Just as you’d advise a client to be gentle with themselves postpartum and relax expectations, we could use the same advice in the days following a birth.
Additional practices I’ve found helpful in the days following a birth including getting a massage or acupuncture, taking a yoga class, a trip to the local Korean spa, and a magnesium float. Just like it helps to calm the nervous system when you drink it, flotation or sensory deprivation tanks can be found in most major cities. The intense concentration of magnesium salts makes you float while you rest for an hour in a dark, sound proof room, as if in the womb. I can’t think of a better way to recover from a birth than going back to the womb!
If any of these fee-based recovery practices appeal to you, the key is to budget for them just as you budget for childcare or travel expenses and include the cost in your doula fee. Self-care is including ourselves in the equation of care financially too.
Finally, for a great restorative exercise, visit my blog post on constructive rest here.
Emotional self-care is just what it sounds like. As we mentioned above, being kind with ourselves both after as well as during births is one way to care for ourselves. Doulas are drawn to this work for many reasons, but at the crux of it all, we care. We care about women and we care about birth. Sometimes, when there’s only so much we can do, it can be hard to accept the things that lie outside the realm of our care, responsibility, experience-level, or control. Births can stir up a lot.
Making time to talk about our experiences with friends or colleagues is often helpful. Whether we’re feeling uncertain about something we did or traumatized by something that happened, expressing it will always lighten the load. Journaling is another great way to process the emotional content of births. However we do it, giving ourselves space and time and permission to feel our feelings is hands-down one of the greatest acts of self-care there is.
I hope these suggestions help you add a few new things to your self-care tool-box or simply serve as a reminder, so you can continue to do your work feeling healthy and strong. You deserve it!
Yiska Obadia-Gedal is a proud, been-at-this-for-more-than-half-her-life massagapuncturist, oxytocin-fiending, Comforting-Touch obsessing, doula, wife, friend, writer, teacher, rockin’ Moroccan, dance-loving, wannabe-mama and one of the world’s best huggers (or so she's been told)! She has trained in Israel, China, Maryland, and New York, but calls NYC home.
Yiska is the creator behind Comforting Touch for Birth Workshops and the subsequent guidebook -- a comprehensive curriculum for doulas and expectant parents. These resources are designed as tools to give partners and doulas confidence, skills, and ease in offering hands-on labor support, regardless of experience level.
"Birth is one of those rare life experiences where power and vulnerability live side by side. That is all! To touch that. To touch others who touch that, is my great pleasure and honor."
I love Sharon and her creativity, and what an idea machine she is! She is great to brainstorm with -- I lay out all my half-baked imaginings, and Sharon helps plug the holes into a complete activity, or she offers an additional use of something I came up with. When I asked her to share in this year's 31 Days, I had a vague idea I tried to (poorly) convey: "...something about motivating yourself to write when it's the last thing you want to do. How do you come up with creative content, over and over and over?" Well Sharon has figured it out. She took that seed of an idea and grew this amazing, inspiring post, sure to help any new or blocked-blogger out there.
As a birth or postpartum doula, writing blog posts may seem like a lot of extra work for no reward, but I would like to suggest just the opposite. Positioning yourself as an expert on topics that come up during the childbearing year is a great way to establish yourself as an up-to-date professional, attract more business and provide resources to your current clients. Many doulas are hesitant to blog or don’t know how to start or what to write about. I have collated 45 tips, resources and potential topics that you can use to get your professional blogging off the ground or maintain momentum if you already blog.
Blogging can create new business opportunities for you and helps you share your expertise with other professionals, potential clients and the general public. It doesn’t have to take up lots of time or even be done every week. A regular and informative blog can help you to highlight your skills and can be fun to write. I challenge you to write a post and email me with a link, I will be sure to circle back to your blog and leave a comment! I look forward to reading what you have written.
Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes to over a thousand families and providing doula services to more than 450 expectant families through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is an instructor at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University where she is a birth doula trainer. Sharon is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. In 2015, Sharon was awarded Lamaze International’s Media Award for promoting safe and healthy birth. Sharon has been an engaging speaker at international conferences on topics of interest to birth professionals and enjoys collaborating with others to share ideas and information that benefit birth professionals and families. You can find Sharon blogging on Lamaze International’s Science & Sensibility and DONA International’s DONA Doula Chronicles. To learn more about Sharon, you are invited to visit her website, SharonMuza.com.
Did you know, those fabulous statistics we read about regarding "continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by...a doula," don't diminish if the person in labor also happens to be a doula? That's right! Even doulas hire other doulas, because we know EVERYONE deserves a doula -- even a doula. Are you tired of the word doula yet? Because it happens to be World Doula Week, and I am pretty positive the "d" word will be prolifically used herein -- fair warning! Now, settle back and read why doulas choose to have that unique support and help only doulas bring to birth.
Other reasons are longer, and they still make a lot of sense:
"Preparing for my fifth baby I considered a doula. However, my husband has been such a great support and I found myself using all the common reasons not to have a doula. I worried it may interfere with the dynamic between me and my awesome, supportive husband. I worried about expense. I also have precipitous labors and didn't know if I'd be able to make it to the hospital, much less if my doula would make it. I spent much of my pregnancy helping my own doula clients plan their births. Yet I struggled to focus on my own. Finally I realized that I needed some help to focus and plan on my birth. Talking with my doula was invaluable. She helped calm my fears and work through trauma from a previous birth. I still didn't know if she would be able to make it in time but having her help me prepare and knowing she would be there to help me process afterwards was a big comfort. I also knew that I could use all the hands I could get for counter pressure. When my birth came, it was longer than expected. It was wonderful to have someone that knew what I meant when I asked for different counter pressures or rebozo techniques. She read my mind so I didn't have to verbalize each step. I was able to hold onto my husband while she gave counter pressure -- to hug him while still having the comfort measures. In transition I was grateful for multiple hands providing relief. I have birthed four times without a doula. I have supported countless families as a doula myself. However, having a doula for my fifth baby, I will never personally go back to not having one again. There is always a use for one. You never know what may happen or how useful a doula may be."
-Becky Hartman is a doula, photographer, and energy worker in Davis County, Utah. She just birthed her 5th baby this past week, so this is all fresh in her mind! To learn more, visit her website and go "like" her Facebook page.
Sometimes the decision seems made for you:
"I didn't actively choose to have a doula for my births -- it just happened that the universe provided them. They were just the right amount of hands-off until absolutely necessary, and then hands-off again -- which is exactly how I work. I felt so relieved I could let myself fall into the network provided for me by my community. I'm eternally grateful to these women who gifted me their work, both emotional and physical! My midwives through the years have been amazing support, as well. There's nothing I would change about my births, thanks to their skilled care."
Bryna Sampey is the creator behind the Portland-based Doula My Soul. Always about community, she and the others at Doula My Soul offer birth and postpartum doula support, breastfeeding help, classes, and more.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)