Relaxation in Labor
I have often thought I need that wonderful old t-shirt, "Frankie say relax!", to wear when I am teaching classes or attending a birth. Could you imagine? I often joke that telling someone to relax is like telling someone to calm down -- it isn't helpful, it irritates people, and it often feels accusatory or as if someone overreacted to something. In labor we must learn when to actively relax, and when to work -- here Connie offers her thoughts on the subject.
If you were to believe the movies –- coping in labor means that you look like “The Buddha of Birth.” You sit in a lotus position, gently breathing, eyes closed. People in the birthing room often think that if the laboring person is doing well, they are completely quiet and deeply relaxed during each contraction.
Do you remember what it was like for those first couple years or those first few births, when being a doula was new and invigorating? Monalisa is a newer doula on fire for this work! I love hearing about her feelings, experiences, and excitement -- it stirs those feelings up within me and reminds me why I continue to love being a doula. Monalisa and I had the same doula trainer, and I am confident she learned the skills (to add to her already huge heart) which will help her on her doula journey.
I am a doula working in the Porterville and Tulare County area of California. I have worked as an in-home care provider for 15 years. In 2015, I attended a DONA-approved birth workshop. I quickly realized that I had not only found my passion, but I also found a tribe of strong, like-minded, loving and selfless women. I had never met these women, yet they accepted me and supported me -- they believed in me! These women instilled confidence in me and what I held within. My two-day workshop quickly came to an end, but these friends have remained close to my heart.
February of 2016 was my first experience as a birth doula, and it was EXTRAORDINARY! I knew without a single doubt this was my calling, this is what I was meant to do.
The remainder of 2016 was spent focusing on my family. Before I knew it, 2016 had come to an end. I had been feeling disappointed and very unsatisfied. I reflected back to remember the last time I had felt genuinely happy, fulfilled, and ALIVE: February of 2016, almost a year before, when I had helped welcome little Miss Katalina into this world. It was crystal clear: I needed to get back into my doula journey -- I need these mommies and they need me!
February 2017, I was on Facebook and came across a friend who had just announced her pregnancy. I quickly private messaged her to say congratulations, and in the course of our chatting I mentioned I was a doula, and I shared what doulas do. Then I offered my support if she wanted it, to which she quickly replied, “OMG, that sounds good. Yes!!”
I was shocked! What just happened ! Did I just get a client!?!?!?! YES!!!!
Our journey as mommy-to-be and doula had begun. She didn't seem to have a lot of support for pregnancy-related things, so I called around to get information about services in our area. Classes were being offered at our local hospital. I asked if she was interested in going, and she said yes. Every Monday evening, we got together for a quick snack, a review of her week, and we went over ideas for her labor and birth. Afterwards we attended the birth class together. Mondays, for the first time EVER, were now my favorite day of the week!
At home I read my doula books, strategically put together my doula bag, and went over our family plan on what to do when I got called to a birth. I was very thorough and clear to my family that I could be gone for 24 hours or more, and they needed to take care of each other.
April went on so slowly, it seemed like the days dragged! What does one do when their client’s due date is April 20 and it’s barely April 10? Role play! My family helped me out. We acted out different scenarios as laboring mother and doula. I have the best family! I must give credit to my daughters and my wife, they are always so willing to play along with my crazy ideas!
Every night I checked my phone, synced my Fitbit notifications so that my watch would alert me when my client called, and made sure my doula bag was all set and ready. I woke up numerous times a night to check things, and then I’d go back to sleep (but not a deep sleep because I was so worried I’d miss the call!).
Finally, April 20 had come -- this was the day we had all prepared for, this was the day we had reenacted over and over and over. But no baby came. My client felt great! She had no signs or symptoms of prelabor or labor. Every morning and every evening we’d chat: “How are u feeling? Do u feel any changes?” And she’d reply with a smiley face: “I feel good!”
The week went on like this, until one morning, I got the call! My client had been up all night with small inconsistent “cramping.” She was at the hospital. She assured me she was okay and she’d get back to me after getting checked out.
I went about my normal day. I took the kids to school, went to work, and gave my boss and coworkers a heads-up that I’d probably be clocking out early. Everyone was super supportive; we had all been waiting on this very special day. By noon my boss said, “get out of here, I can see how anxious you are, we will be fine.” So by 1pm I was clocking out and on my way to Sierra View hospital in Porterville.
Aril 26, 2017, I walked through the hospital doors and was asked where I was going? I proudly said, “I’m going to labor and delivery, I’m a doula.” Along the way I was asked again, where I was going? And again, so proud and full of glee I said, “I AM A DOULA here to see my client” I got buzzed in and at this point I think I was floating through the halls -- not even walking!
I opened the door to see my client in bed with the biggest smile I have ever seen. I calmly said “Hello, Honey, this is the day you have been waiting for!” She replied back with, “Yes, I can’t wait to meet my son!” I then introduced myself to the father of the baby and his mother. They looked confused, nervous, and unsure. We had never met, and it was now becoming apparent they had no idea who I was or what on earth I was doing there.
I gave them a brief description of myself and what it was I had to offer as a doula. Still confused-looking, they said, “ohhh, okay.” I then excused myself to get things ready. Again, they looked at me like I was crazy, and I know they wondered what the heck I had in this bag that I held onto so closely. Little did they know that my doula bag was my MAGIC BAG, my bag of TRICKS, my Other Half.
I went behind the curtain and begin using my electric pump to air up my peanut ball. My pump was not working! I felt my face turning RED, how could this be? My peanut ball was my main tool! Then I remembered I had also packed a hand pump just in case something like this happened. After airing up my peanut ball I set up a diffuser, battery-operated candles, a portable speaker, and massaging lotion just like my client and I had discussed.
Next I asked my client if she’d like to get up and “walk the baby out?” She smiled and got out of bed. We walked around and around and around -- I was definitely putting in my Fitbit steps! Every time the nurses came into the room they oohed and awed over how relaxing the room felt and how it had smelled so good!
Contractions got slightly stronger but still were not consistent. It was now 6 pm and my client's progress was slow. The doctor recommended Pitocin. My client declined -- she knew the pros and cons and opted not to take it at this point. Her doctor supported her decision and said she’d check back in at 9pm. 9pm came and still not much change had happened. Father and grandmother were sitting in the corner of the room and were now starting to look a bit more concerned. They were unsure how to help the laboring woman.
I knew I could role-model for them if they didn’t want to jump right in. I proceeded to sway, dance, and hum through contractions with my client. I continued to give her words of encouragement; I continued to remind her of how strong and capable she was. I reminded her to trust in her body and to “let it go.”
Let It Go was a song my client loved and was very passionate about, so I was sure to have it ready on my phone along with earbuds and a few play lists for her labor journey. With every passing hour, my client held on strong. She trusted me, but more importantly she trusted herself. We got through every wave together. At midnight, she decided to try the Pitocin in hopes that it would help her dilate and make more progress. My client went on for the next three hours with back-to-back contractions, stronger and fiercer than before.
I looked at her partner and gently said, “She needs you, your son needs you.” I coached him through the double-hip squeeze and applying pressure to her back. After just a few minutes he was saying “let it go,” and humming through the waves. They found their rhythm and they were riding the waves together! While he worked her back, I worked her feet and legs. And his mother encouraged him and she supported him, and she supported the laboring woman. We all worked together as a team to give this woman and her baby a better, healthier, birth experience.
It was now 3 in the morning and my client fought with everything she had and then some, but she needed rest -- she opted for an epidural hoping it would take the edge off so she could get some sleep and finishing dilating.
The epidural did not take, and she was still in agonizing pain around 5. The staff decided to turn off the Pitocin hoping we’d see some change. The nurse came in and checked but my client was still at 7 centimeters, 90% effaced.
9am came and the doctor checked -- she was now at 7-8, but the doctor was concerned she had already endured so much and was not dilating accordingly. A cesarean birth was suggested. For the first time in almost 24 hours, my client cried. Her mother was holding her and saying, “Baby, I know this isn’t what you wanted, but you have to do what’s best for your baby.” My client signed the consent form and the doctor went to make the arrangements.
Meanwhile the nurse and I are still rotating my client from side to side with the peanut ball, hoping it would expand her pelvis and allow for baby to come down.
It’s now around 9:50am and the laboring woman says she has to push! She’s told not to push, to breathe through it, that they are almost ready to take her. She says it again, and this time she adds, “ I KNOW MY BODY!!!”
Wow! She had remained so soft spoken her entire labor, but when she said “I know my body!” I knew that momma lioness was roaring, and by golly, we had better listen!
The doctor checked and said, “We are having this baby!” By now the room was filled with at least half a dozen staff. Everyone was spread out in their strategic little stations, waiting for their role in the birth, but right now it was all about the woman!
The doctor was in position, the nurse was on the right side and the mother of my client was holding her baby tight, encouraging her, cheering her on, coaching her through. Father was a wreck! It was all becoming reality. I stood back next to him, rested my hand on his back, and said, “It’s all going to be okay. Your son is coming, and you did amazingly good job, Dad.” This is what being a doula is. We are not there to take away from the family, we are there to guide, to help, to support.
On April 26, 2017 at 10:41, I witnessed three miracles: One was watching a beautiful baby boy enter this world. The second was seeing a family evolve and come together to work as one unit. And the third was understanding a boy became a father and a girl became a mother.
April 26 was nothing less than magical, REVOLUTIONARY! Why wouldn’t I want to live my life being a doula? Birth is the closest thing to magic out there.
Monalisa Orduno serves families in California's Central Valley. Other than working as a doula, she lives a pretty typical mom-life, caring for, shuttling, and cheering on her children and her wife. When she isn't enlisting her family to doula role-play with her, she spends her time devoted to her kids' various activities -- football, horses, ghost-hunting, or shopping for make-up. Monalisa takes time to continually educate herself with personal study and trainings. She loves being a doula and is excited to dig into this calling. "My kids are my BIGGEST accomplishment, and being a doula is my second." Visit her on her Facebook page or her website.
We are pretty familiar with Birth Plans, right? When it comes to what to do before it's time to head to the hospital, that's where an Early Labor Plan comes in.
One of the most powerful tools we have as humans is the ability to be distracted. Distraction is often thought of as a bad thing, but there are times in life when distraction is beneficial. For me, I can't say how many times I have been teaching a great group of future parents, only to realize, once class is over and the excitement dies down, that I have a monster headache! And in there somewhere at the edge of my consciousness, I knew I had a headache; I wasn't giving it attention, so it didn't bother me.
I heard once from a nurse I worked with that families, on average, go to the hospital 3 times before it is time to stay...I should clarify, 3 times before it is medically time for them to stay because they are actually in the phase of labor where the hospital will accept them. What often happens is the family, or the hospital, produce a (non-medical, or near-medical) reason to stay, which can mean interventions are now on the table to help things go faster. A secret about hospitals? They don't want people hanging around, not having babies, so the pressure to intervene is common. Check with your friends -- how many were sent back home when they were so sure it was the right time?
Enter: The Early Labor Plan. By utilizing distraction, we can stay home and labor longer, thus increasing our chances that it will be time to stay because labor is moving along at a more predictable pace. What kinds of things do people put on their ELPs? Here is a list from past clients:
The main idea is, this is a set task or list of activities that you are ready to move through before it is time to go to the hospital.
What's the advantage to having an ELP? Often when those first early labor signs occur, we are ready to jump into the car, or right to comfort measures and plans for birth -- but we aren't there yet. The mind is ready to labor, but the body doesn't need anything special. When we move through the things on our Birth Plan before it is time, we can set a psychological trap for later. You see, if you tried some of your comfort techniques before you really need them, when you do need them, you might feel like you already tried that. This can propel you through your coping measures more quickly, leaving you at a place where you may now consider options you wanted to avoid...not because labor is requiring it, but because our brains are moving to what seems the next logical step.
So, we calm and distract the mind, which gives the body time for labor to build. Don't worry that you might miss your window -- trust your body and its innate wisdom in this normal process to let you know when it needs your attention.
What will you put on your ELP? A favorite walk? Getting your toenails done? Finally beating that video game? Couple your ELP with your body's needs for food, hydration, and rest (remember the point of an ELP isn't to physically exhaust your body!), and soon enough, it WILL be time to move to the hospital and get one step closer to the birth of your baby.
Day 29: Graeme's Birth
When I initially read this story, I was struck by the challenges Katrina faced while pregnant -- a reminder that there are many health issues that can make pregnancy more difficult than normal, whatever normal means! I also loved how her doula set things up for Katrina to not only ease Katrina's adjustment to the hospital, but to also ease her mind. Katrina makes unique, comfortable gowns for moms to labor and birth in -- so when you are done reading her story, go check out her website!
I think it is important to tell you the story of how baby Graeme (pronounced grey – UHM) came Earthside because the more we hear about birth the less we fear birth and that is a catalyst for the continuing change towards mother centered birth. This is his birth story.
My mother had lived with us for several months before Graeme made his entrance. This was because I have Rheumatoid Autoimmune Arthritis or as it is now called Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease (it does NOT have me. :)) and it was actively flaring during pregnancy. I was unable to keep up with the demands of a household and our high-spirited toddler. This made for a unique environment with both good and bad points. By the end I believe we had become weary of the dynamic so you could feel the sizzle of anticipation in the air both from waiting for the baby, waiting for my disease levels to subside, and waiting for the end of our situation. I was told during pregnancy that having another child would be a very bad idea because of the many mounting health problems so having mourned that and come to terms with that I was very very ready to be done. When you come to terms with something, accept it, and move on and you have to wait several months for the moving on to come to an end it gets tedious. You are just waiting and pulling forward one day at a time to see a goal. It’s like closing the chapter to a book but you are watching the two covers come together in slow motion and it catches your breath. Ready to be done.
I had followed the pattern like my daughter’s labor I had labored off and on for 2 weeks. Real bouts of labor followed by several days of nothing. I thought this was Braxton Hicks, but my doctor once again told me otherwise. Graeme was born on a Monday morning. The Thursday before I had my last prenatal appointment and my doctor who has practiced over 30 years said “You are a 7 and you are 78% effaced. See you at the birth center this weekend or Monday.” Having seen it all he is never wrong. He told me with my daughter “see you in the next day or two” and she was born the next day. Yes he sent me home. He is one of the few doctors out there who trust the natural birth process completely. Trusts a mother’s body to do what it is intended to do. He only intervenes when it is absolutely necessary. I am fortunate to have had him as my doctor for the births of my children.
On February 10th, 2014 at 3:35 am I went to the bathroom. I felt a ton of pressure and was unable to go to the bathroom. This felt different to me. I had felt pressure sitting down for weeks but it became clear to me that this was different. I literally could not contract the muscles to go to the bathroom. This was a lot of pushing down. It didn’t feel like contractions to me but I felt “opening” and so I continued to sit as the half squat was helping that action . I was 39 weeks 4 days pregnant so I wasn’t sure if this was “it” or not. Then I began to feel the pressure come and go. This hadn’t happened this intense before. I started timing these “pressure “waves”. Before I could even get the timing app started I felt my body lurch forward. Labor is like that. You feel yourself being pulled and pushed down from inside. It is a powerful, earthy, painful and at once strange feeling. I texted my husband and said “Hey I’m stuck on the toilet in labor. Finding pants now.” He said “Ok. Waking Nana. FYI Blowing snow”. It was blowing snow across the highway and there was an advisory to avoid travel if possible. I feel very fortunate that we had my Mom living with us and we could just go, no having to wait or anything. We would ordinarily stay home until later stages of labor but my contractions STARTED at 3 minutes apart and we didn’t want to end up on the evening news as that couple who gave birth on the side of the road in blowing snow. (Congrats to those who do. You have bigger balls than I do.)
3:40 am Got in the car. Contractions 2 1/2 minutes apart. Cascading one on top of each other. Couldn’t breathe. I texted our doula/longtime friend that I was “going to the hospital now” and off we went.
White knuckle driving in the dark on an icy highway with no lines, high wind, and snow.
Growl at husband “No” when he attempts to put music on. Growl at him “No” when he attempts to turn it off. Poor fella couldn’t win. Yell at him “IF YOU COULD ATTEMPT TO NOT HIT POTHOLES THAT WOULD BE GREAT! THANKS!!!” with my eyes shut breathing through the wham wham wham of hard fast labor. Didn’t realize that we were two blocks from the hospital when he hit the pothole and this car trip was almost over. Laboring in the car sucks butt. I don’t recommend it at all.
4:10 am. Arrive at hospital. Nurse Stacey comes out. She is pretty great, she recognized me because she had talked to my doula. Nothing like being recognized to bring the walls down. My amazing doula had pre-arranged many of the nurses and people who were a part of our team. One was a homebirth midwife in another state, my post birth nurse who cared for us was a doula for many years and was wonderful. RN Stacey has many children herself. I had a 180 degree experience from last time. I am a sexual assault survivor so this was all pre-arranged to preserve my mental health and command the respect my body needed to do what it needed to do without the anxiety. This time no one asks me to do intake paperwork. My contractions are still 2 1/2 minutes apart. I am trying to keep cool through the pain. Fast labor is no picnic. It is like taking the entirety of regular long labor and smashing it into a few hours. Intense, overwhelming, terrifying and at times makes you doubt yourself and your ability to do it.
We get into the room and I had to sit on the bed because we needed to get antibiotics in. I don’t want to but I have to. I tested positive for Group B Strep during pregnancy and despite measures to get rid of it at home we didn’t succeed.
They get a line in and get antibiotics going. They try to get a heart beat on baby. This time manually. I am not strapped to the machine thank goodness.
Doula Lindsay arrives around 4:30am
They want me to stand to get a heartbeat on the baby. Husband steps out to get water. My doctor has arrived and he is sitting with his feet up on the front desk chatting up the nurses. Typical for him. He’s a character.
I HATED standing. I had to rest my head on my doula’s chest to get through it. I kept moaning/half-crying “Get me in the water. I want the water now.” “I can’t do this without the water.” Water reduces pain levels greatly and it is SO MUCH EASIER to labor in water. 110% easier. A nurse is running the water while we try to get a heartbeat. In fast labors sometimes the baby gets squeezed so much, so hard that the heartbeat isn’t consistent at all. Fast labors are hard on mom and hard on babies; they aren’t completely “normal”.
About 5 am Graeme finally cooperates and I can get in the water. Thank the Lord! At this point I was in so much pain that I didn’t even realize my husband still wasn’t there. I was so hyperfocused breathing through the pain. Contractions are on top of each other. I can hardly breathe. My doula says “breathe.” I breathe in.
As I sit in the hot water I lean back. Worst idea ever. I almost throw up it hurts so bad. I lean forward into almost a squat. Doula pours hot water on my stomach. It doesn’t help much. These contractions are so much more painful than with my daughter. My husband comes back. I cry “I can’t do this. I need pain medication” My doula says “you are doing this. You can do this.” I didn’t know that I was so close to having the baby. This was transition. I wish someone had told me, in retrospect, because I know the stages of labor. I thought this level of pain was going to go on for hours and I started crying. I started to not know what to do with my limbs. Almost flailing from the level of pain.
“I need to stand. I can’t sit here any more. I have to stand.”
6:15 am I stand and get out of the tub supported by my husband and my doula.
Yanno how they say when your water breaks it is never like it is in the movies? This was like the movies. WHOOSH it splashes everywhere. The bathroom floor is coated in amnion. Sorry about the shoes guys! (Never wear shoes to a birth if you can help it. Feet are washable.)
As soon as I stood up I started to push. When natural labor is unencumbered and progresses on its own a beautiful thing happens. The body pushes on its own. No orders. No instruction to push. I have to stop every foot on my way to the bed to push. I half-squatted every time and groaned that gutteral, earthy groan, down into the floor using my husband and doula for support.
I reach the bed. I feel I need to sit up with my breasts right against my knees. I begin to push and the team gets ready. No one counts this time. I push as the contractions tell me to. Which is a wonderful thing.
My son was a big boy so the nurses and our doula keep saying “pull those legs wider” I do. I hear my hip pop slightly out of socket and feel the pain of that. But I know this is the end of it so I keep going. I push that pain to the back of my mind and focus on the goal.
Something crucial happens. My doula tells me to “relax”. When a person tenses while pushing she tears. If she relaxes then the baby does their work and they don’t tear. That tissue is supposed to stretch and it will if you relax it. This was the ticket for me. Every time she said “relax”, I did. I am ever grateful for that. My son slowly corkscrews out. On his way out, I didn’t know it, but he split a vein with his shoulder. There was a lot of blood. And my doctor, being the calm man he is, says “Don’t look down” even though there was a lot of blood. My husband retained composure holding my hand even though he said it was a lot of blood and freaked him out a bit. He said nothing. That is an amazing gift he gave me so I wouldn’t panic.
6:37am Graeme is born. He cries and they place him skin to skin on my chest. He latches like a champ. I cry tears of joy at the instant ability of my eager baby to nurse. We had a long trial with my daughter and his gulping noises fill my heart to brim. I rotate my hip back into place after my doctor stitches my vein and minor tears. We wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting. I deliver the placenta which turns out to be huge and my doctor says “I’m sorry” as it comes out because it is folded over on itself. It’s like birthing another baby. Kudos to you twin moms out there, you rock. The placenta weighed in at just over 6 lbs. This is not uncommon for moms with active autoimmune disease during pregnancy. The placenta had to work extra hard to keep my baby boy safe. I am grateful for this organ and what it did for my son.
He is here. He made it. Hello baby boy.
Katrina Tholen is the mom of two, and owner and designer of Luna Labor gowns. Luna Labor started on June 3rd, 2011 as an idea. Katrina had made her own labor gown based on a basic scrubs pattern. She really enjoyed having the bright colors of her personal labor gown and the fact it was washed in her own home with her own detergent. The next day when Katrina's doula visited she said “those gowns are great, I bet you could sell those” and that was it! Katrina's gowns fit better than hospital gowns and have all the capabilities for laboring and breastfeeding. Her doula for Graeme's birth was Lindsay Bench of Welcome Baby Doula Care.
Day 14: The 14-year old Doula
I am incredibly thrilled to share today’s post. Samantha Morgan is the youngest trained doula I have ever known. She has faced adversity and prejudices, but that hasn’t stopped her from working toward her goals. At 14, I was thinking of boys and music – I certainly didn’t care much about birth and moms’ experiences! It has been inspiring to see Samantha’s passion, and her desire to help families.
I thought both of my doula trainings were amazing (birth & postpartum). I loved my trainers and they were able to bring fun into their trainings and put it on a level where everyone understood. I've been a vet tech for the last two years and I love getting to spend time with clients and I always love helping when an animal comes in with difficulties in labor. When a friend of mine told me about doulas, I couldn't believe there was actually such a thing, I was so excited. I have always loved kids and babies, and I love going above and beyond to help people. Thankfully DONA International doesn't have age restrictions, so I was able to take my trainings at 14, making me the youngest trained doula yet. I was able to graduate high school earlier this year and I'm now eligible to apply for certification having attended 6 births. At 15 (right before my birthday), I took a Lamaze workshop in Houston with The Family Way -- I am the youngest to take it and I plan on certifying in October once I take the exam.
Being young and not having children myself is actually one of my biggest problems (that I don't consider my problem!). Last year I joined in affiliation with another doula business, and after about 3 months, the head doula called me in and said “the other doulas in the group don't feel comfortable having you as back-up since you don't know what women go through having not experienced it yourself. They are also worried, since it seems like you just jumped into the doula carreer, you are not likely to stay in it.” So I was “let go.” I started talking with another doula who was young and childless herself. Together we found, looking down on doulas who have not gone through birth can be a very big problem in the doula community. This led to me create a Facebook group strictly for those doulas 25 and under who don’t have children.
I have never been turned down to be someone's doula. My clients always comment on loving my beliefs and personality. The local Midwife loves me, as I her, and she loves the fact that when I go to a birth, hospital or home, I'm dedicated to stay with my client no matter what. I have pulled all-nighter all the way to 3 nights with no sleep. Why? Because it's not my birth, I have plenty of time to sleep later. I was given great advice by one of my trainers to not freely give out my age. Of course if I'm asked I do tell, but you don't see it on my web page or in write-ups.
My main client base comes from literally all directions. I normally find myself traveling for births. I travel up to 2 hours away. I suppose most of my clients are ones who already know how they are wanting to labor or deliver. I make sure my clients have an opportunity to tell, express, and fight for what they are wanting -- whether that be natural, medicated, or even upside down, I support my clients 110%. My clients choose me because of my heart, not because of my life experience. I love working with clients to find an affordable price, to find what they need, what I can do, even the smallest things, to be able to help them. I'm always there for my clients, and I don't need to ever step away to make a phone call to check on kids, a babysitter or husband. I'm devoted and educated. I know the most recent research and facts that have been proven so that the client can make informed decisions immediately.
I love my job, my clients and everything in between. I don't worry about what client I will have next; my personal motto is that God will bring me what I need. He has never failed me. Often clients come from people I meet -- car sales man, bosses of expecting employees and such. For example, I needed a car and the salesman’s wife was expecting. He asked what I did, and I get the opportunity to share my passion. Guess what? He wants a doula for his wife. What an amazing divine appointment! I never let the strikes against me bring me down or discourage me; God will bring me exactly what I need and not a second too soon.
I am a DONA trained Birth and Postpartum Doula. I attended my Birth workshop in March 2013 along with a Childbirth Education Class and a Lactation Class (all DONA Approved). In April 2013 I attended my Postpartum Workshop. I'm currently working on my DONA certification. In April 2014, I attended a Lamaze Childbirth Educator Workshop and I'm looking forward to becoming certified in the late fall.
I believe every woman is empowered to give birth her way, naturally and confidently. My mission is to provide doula care and supply expecting parents with the information and education they need for pregnancy, labor, childbirth and the postpartum period. I want to give parents the loving support and encouragement they need during this special time.
For more information, visit my website, my Facbook page, or find me on Twitter.
Day 12: A Doula Hires a Doula
I was wanting to hear from doulas who hired a doula for their own birth. Thanks so much to Shanda for answering that call and sharing this with us today! There's no question Shanda put her money where her mouth was by choosing doula support for her second birth despite the knowledge she herself had about the birth process.
The day I met Emily was the beginning of an amazing journey. It was the weekend before my wedding and I was, instead of working on wedding things, attending a DONA certification workshop with Amy Gilliland. My husband and I were trying to conceive, and during the process I learned about doulas. As I explored more about what doulas do, I fell in love and knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. What I didn't know, was at that training, I would meet Emily.
Emily was at the training, not to become a doula, but to observe the trainers because she was learning to train new doulas. Something about her drew me to her right away. Around her, I felt confident, and strong. I was excited when I was paired with her for a few activities, and before the day was out, I asked if she would be my doula when my husband and I got pregnant. She, like the amazing doula she is, said that she would be happy to meet with me and my family when the time came to make sure she was a good fit. Fast forward a month and a half and I got the positive pregnancy test. I was ecstatic. After confirming with the doctor, I told my husband I was contacting Emily. He never second guessed my choice.
Every meeting with Emily was lovely. She understood my need to talk about the pregnancy and my excitement. My mom had died when I was a little girl and I didn't have a strong female to fill the role of a caring, supportive female. Emily was the perfect fit for us. We knew we wanted to hire Emily to help with our daughter, who would have questions and concerns through the process, and potentially with some help for me if needed.
The day I went into labor I had a lovely time attending a baby shower for a dear friend due a few months after me. Arriving home, my labor was picking up but I was laboring wonderfully with my husband. It wasn't until about 10 pm that I knew I was ready for Emily. Contractions were getting more intense and my daughter was peppering me with questions when I wasn't able to answer them.
Emily was a ray of light when she arrived. Without question she managed to finagle my daughter into bed and timing couldn't have been more perfect as my husband got sick. My husband getting sick wasn't something I was prepared to deal with buy Emily never missed a beat. She gave my husband the security to know I was being helped, so he could go rest. If he had had any doubts about the benefits of hiring a doula, even though I knew all the information, this was a great reminder that you never know what will happen, and having a strong support system is vital. Without Emily, either my poor husband would have had to suffer through the night and been worn out by the time our son was born, or I would have labored alone. She gave my best friend the confidence to labor with me when she felt like a fish out of water. It was how, in the morning and when my son was born, she was by my daughter's side, reassuring her everything was perfect.
For my birth, it wasn't just about the positions she could suggest, counter pressure or knowledge. It was her presence and personality as we labored through the night to welcome my son into the world. It was her belief in me and my ability to birth my baby. She was beyond invaluable. Even doulas deserve a doula.
From Shanda: I believe that every woman should have the option of choosing her birthing journey. Every woman's pregnancy, labor, and birth journey are unique to them and therefore they will have different needs and desires during this time. It is my goal to work with families to create a serene, loving and safe space. I believe that every woman deserves the chance to embrace her inner power during this journey. No matter whether it is their first birth or 4th, they deserve to be supported and nurtured as they navigate this life-changing event. My goal as a birth doula is to provide women and their partners with the information and support they need to capture their own strength during this special time in their lives and walk away feeling empowered and blessed. I'm certified as a birth doula through DONA International, and a trained Hypnodoula. I currently work with Beautiful Birth Doulas in Madison, WI and the surrounding areas.
Shanda Frydenlund CD(DONA)
Beautiful Birth Doulas
There are so many videos out there for the childbirth and breastfeeding world, and many come with hefty price tags -- it's hard to know what would fit your classes or clientele. Needing to make a concise list of my material anyway, I am taking the opportunity to also share what I have, how (if) I use it, and where it can be obtained.
One video I use at the beginning of every childbirth series is Lamaze's "Everyday Miracles." It is about 8 minutes long and for me, it sets the tone for my Lamaze-created curriculum, to let parents know what to expect and to introduce them to Lamaze as a philosophy (healthy birth practices) versus the older method (breathing). It follows three ethnically diverse couples through their labors and births with lovely, uplifting words detailing emotionally what the couples are experiencing. My only gripe is, they do not place the babies skin-to-skin with the mamas, but that is more about the time than the idea -- skin-to-skin and kangaroo care were just starting to get attention. Although this isn't a brand new video (2002), it is still relevant and the families shown look relatable. Two women have their babies in upright positions in bed, while a third births on a birthing stool. It is available to watch on Lamaze's website, and it is available for purchase for the very amazing price of about $13 through InJoy.
This is long! Be warned!
I think when a person in is a position to serve a woman while she is in labor, that person should have required training every few years, like a recertification, on what it feels like to have a baby. I am not certain how this certification could be obtained, virtual reality plus some sort of pregnancy suit? Actually having a baby? I haven’t figured out the logistics, but I have recently had a recertification of my own, and that is called, my fourth child.
This fourth pregnancy was a surprise. Technically, I got pregnant at a time when no one would be able to get pregnant – only I guess more like I got pregnant at a time I felt I was highly, highly unlikely to get pregnant. My last menstrual period was June 10th. I did not get pregnant until July 13th at the earliest (a time when I was waiting for my period to start), to July 20-ish at the latest; looking at the date he was born now (April 6th), July 13th seems closer to the target date…we were on vacation.
I had lots of irritable contractions combined with irritable baby movements (probably more of the latter versus the former) that would happen around 10 pm to 1 am. The week before labor began I pretty much experienced these every night and I hated them. During these times, I would have waves of panic and anxiety about the reality of actually having to go through the birth process again, and I was always grateful when they were over and I could finally climb into bed.
Friday the 5th of April was pretty normal except I had two very serious bouts of grumpiness that made me feel deeply in touch with someone who was (hopefully!) going to start labor soon -- it was like total,
irrational, not-triggered-by-much anger that switched on so fast, I knew it was something else with some other root than just me being moody.
We had pizza for dinner, and like I had for the last week, I restrained myself from eating too much (“If labor starts tonight I don’t want to be too full,” was my rationale). I had two pieces and then cut myself
off. I took a little nap in bed, which I hoped would actually be “going to bed,” but I woke up at about midnight when I couldn’t ignore the antics of Wild Baby any longer. I watched TV a little and sat on the ball to try and bounce my guy into a calmer state. At 1 am I decided to watch the last episode of Mad Men on Netflix so I would be ready for the new season, with the intention of going to bed after that.
At 2 am, just when I was settling into sleep, I realized I was contracting, and these contractions felt different. They came 5-6 minutes apart, were totally manageable, and lasted about 40 seconds. I tried to sleep, but I was also mindful of needing to recognize true labor so I could get my sister and my mom on the road from two and a half hours away if this really were it.
Everyone was asleep, and as long as I was okay, I felt no need to wake them. I was feeling hungry, so I ate half a lemon Chobani (again, not wanting to eat a lot) in the morning quiet. I did call my sister at 3 am to let her know it was go-time. I labored longer, in the quiet of my living room, tending to small errands and tasks between contractions. At 4 am I woke Brad up to tell him I was in labor. He came out to the living room and asked, “What can I do?” and I immediately answered, “Take the recycling out, it’s driving me crazy and I have contemplated doing it myself for the last 2 hours.” I was hoping he would just lie back down on the couch and snooze a little, but he was up and ready to go.
I thought I would wait to call my midwife until 5 am, but at 4:30 my contractions began to get stronger and longer and closer together, just as they should, and I finally had some show. I phoned Linda to let her know I was in labor. She asked me a few questions, and then said she would be over soon. She lives about 40 minutes from us.
At 6 am, Linda arrived, and things were beginning to feel real. We had our tub set up in the dining room and I was feeling a pull to climb in, but I didn’t want to stall labor if I wasn’t that far along. I asked Linda to check me and she said I was 3 centimeters (“Not quite active labor!” I thought with a little disappointment), about 90% effaced, baby maybe at -2 station? I can’t remember that part. I mentioned I wanted to get in the tub, but I should probably try the shower instead (so gravity could keep helping my labor), and Linda agreed.
I got in the shower, and I really don’t know how long I was in there. The water felt great on my belly and during contractions I would swing from side to side so the water could fan over me. In between contractions I alternated putting my foot up on the side of the shower to lunge, in case my baby was posterior like his two brothers before him. Soon I found I had to vocalize during the contractions. I was in the bathroom alone and I had a lot of time to think. The thought that kept coming back to me was, “All is as it should be,” which was part of a prayer Brad had said earlier in the week when I was feeling really overcome with fear. I rubbed my belly and talked to the baby and told him to hurry, it all felt like it was happening in slow motion.
When I got out of the shower it was about 7 am and Linda checked me again. I was 5 centimeters. I went straight for the tub at that point, dropped my towel, and climbed in.
Jacob and Jonas were awake and had been for a while. Soon Isaac woke up and came straggling out of his bedroom in his standard sleeping attire – undies and a t-shirt. Brad told him we had company and he might want to put clothes on. Before Isaac woke up I remember Brad asking Jonas if he knew why Linda was at our house so early? Jonas admitted he didn’t, and we made a joke about Linda just coming for an early-morning visit. Brad then said, “Your mom is going to have the baby today.”
I looked to the tub for the relief it had brought in the past; with both Isaac and Jonas I got into the Jacuzzi tub at 5ish centimeters and after an hour was at 9ish centimeters, and I was hoping for the same, with the addition of having the baby in the water. After 30 or 40 minutes it seemed the tub wasn’t going to work as I had planned. I had intense pain in my lower abdomen to the point of not being able to sit in a relaxing position, so the whole time I was in the water I had to be on my hands and knees, and I didn’t want to stay that way much longer. Also, Brad started making pancakes in the kitchen.
At about 7:45 my mom, sister Shiela, and her two boys arrived. I headed to my bedroom, finished with the tub. Linda had set things up around the pool in preparation of a water birth, so some rearranging was in order, moving things to my room, getting equipment ready if needed. Once in my room it was just Linda, my mom, Shiela, and I. Brad had the boys going with pancakes and if they were making any noise, I sure didn’t hear it.
I asked someone to bring the piano bench into my room as I was laboring standing up, and I wanted to continue to lunge in case I had a malpositioned baby (which I don’t think he was, but I was a little gun
I think I had Linda check me again, and I think I was 7 centimeters? I am not really clear on this part. I wasn’t ready to sit down, so I continued to labor standing up. Shiela was a super doula – she would squeeze my hips during my contractions, and it brought so much relief! One thing I know about that double-hip squeeze is, it is hard to do when you have to press your arms together at the height of a woman’s hips – you get tired fast, and the laboring woman usually doesn’t want you to stop. If the
mom can get on her hands and knees on the floor, you can squeeze her hips with your own inner knees by straddling over her back, but I didn’t even want to try or offer that as I didn’t feel good in that position.
Over and over, a contraction would come, and I would tell Shiela, “Hips, hips, hips,” and she would start
In reality I have no idea what kind of time span this all happened in, I say over and over, but maybe it was only about 5 contractions? Or maybe it was 10?
I did finally sit on the bed for a bit. I remember taking my watch off and handing it to Shiela with the feeling that this was taking too long. I know for a fact I wasn’t looking at my watch or paying attention to how long it was taking in a linear fashion, but it was more some sort of symbolic resignation that I
would try to just flow with the timetable my body and baby presented even though I am as impatient as they come; in the last picture of me with my watch on, I see the time is 8:55 am.
I decided to visit the toilet. I spent a couple of contractions there, and Shiela was with me. She said my noises changed and she knew I was getting closer. As I sat laboring on the toilet, I opened the shower door next to me and contemplated getting back in -- I was looking for anything to comfort me at this point. Then I decided to see if I could feel anything inside of me, so with one finger about one knuckle in I was shocked to find something! “Is that a head?” I asked. But then I realized it was a bulging bag of water, with a head behind it. After all the years of hearing practitioners say, “I feel a bulging bag of water” (which I did remember Linda saying when she checked me last), I finally knew what that felt like and what it meant. I think I almost gingerly hopped off the toilet at that point, feeling remotivated.
I had one contraction standing up, with Shiela at my hips. Then I had another, and my water exploded all over the floor. There was a little meconium but Linda said it looked old and there was no reason for concern. I finally climbed into bed.
At this point I knew it would soon be time to push. I suddenly had the need for Brad to come and be with me, so I called to him and patted the side of the bed next to me, I just wanted him to sit with me and be near. Shiela was on the other side of me, and Linda was at the foot of the bed. My mom was by the door, ready with the camera, and the boys were in the living room playing Legos (again, I never heard anything from the boys, and there were 5 of them. Actually, I think after they ate pancakes they walked to the park with the dog to play for a bit. But I do know when the baby was born, they were playing Legos in the living room).
I did begin pushing at some point, and Linda said I still had a rim of cervix and she was going to try and move it, and I was totally fine with that because if anything was holding this baby up, I wanted it gone. So for a couple of contractions she worked on that and I guess it went away. I was pushing with such intensity but it felt fruitless. I truly felt nothing moving or changing and I imagined pushing forever
and not making any progress. It was at this point that I remember thinking, “I should have gone to the hospital so I could have the drugs!” (Interestingly enough, when I had my babies in the hospital, I never thought to ask for drugs, because I know if I had had the thought, I would have asked; maybe at home when it is not an option, my brain safely went there, just as a way to cope and vent.) Brad and Shiela were helping me pull my legs back during the pushing. Instead of rolling my chin to my chest, which I have helped women remember who-knows-how-many-times, I arched my head back against my pillows. I also had my body twisted in some way, crooked a little. Linda gently reminded me to get better aligned (with words and heart I could understand at that point), while giving me positive encouragement for this task I had to undertake.
Linda! What else could you want from a midwife? Really, not one thing. As a doula, I get really uncomfortable when people say, “Stacie, I couldn’t have done it without you.” Because, come on, you could have, and you would have. I don’t want anyone’s birth experience to have me entangled as an
essential ingredient; it should be all about the mom and her family, not me. But I have to concede that
when the right person is helping you with the right words and attitude and presence and spirit, it helps make the experience even more amazing, if that is possible. When you have the right midwife, the feeling is similar to being in your own home – the comforts of being in your own bed, using your own bathroom, lunging on your own piano bench – Linda was a natural extension of that. It felt right that she be here, in our home, unobtrusively watching over the birth of our baby.
The support Shiela gave me was also invaluable. Family members don’t always make the best doulas.
Shiela actually has taken a DONA-doula training, and that coupled with what she knows about me (just about everything), made her perfect for the job. She stayed by my side, she gave me verbal encouragement, she wished she could help me more. The truth of the matter is, only the mother can have the baby, but she doesn’t have to be alone while she is having her baby. I will forever treasure that my sister was there to support me during one of the most intense experiences of my life.
Pushing was hard, it was really hard – it seemed harder than it ever had been. I know I was lost in my head, and in there, the storm was raging. Every push came with screams, I hate to say it. I have never screamed with any of my other babies. And also, I cried, which was something new for me. In hindsight I probably could have pushed more effectively keeping those screams to myself, but they just came out. I know the boys didn’t appreciate the noise (although they all later admitted they weren’t scared), I am thankful my neighbors didn’t call the police, and the screaming is not my favorite thing about the birth video – oh well!
After so much pushing (again my sense of time is really off here), finally his head emerged. I felt his head with my hand, but it really didn’t mean anything to me, I just wanted the rest of him out! I pushed for one or two more contractions, maybe three, and then his shoulders popped and he tumbled out on a
wave of fluid and tons of baby poop. Linda helped bring him to my chest, all the while rubbing him and talking to him and watching him carefully. I was so relieved and instantly went from that person experiencing the very hard work of pushing toward a goal, to that mother experiencing her baby
for the first time. I was rubbing him and toweling him off and just taking him in, my body relieved of the burden with the prize in my arms. He was born at 9:42 am.
We all watched as he turned from purple-y to pink. His apgars were 8 and 9. Very soon after birth he wanted to nurse and he seemed to know just what he was doing. The boys peeked in one by one, only appearing mildy interested (we had two 13 year olds, two 11 year olds, and one 7 year old), and then backing out of the room again.
There were lots of things in the birth kit we didn’t use. My perineum didn’t need massaging, which Linda was prepared to do. We didn’t need the bulb syringe to suction the baby’s airways. There are lots of Chux pads that didn’t get used. Everything just happened easily and well, as it so often can when left to its own devices. I am sure the level of comfort and security factored into that for me as well. I am still struck by how ordinary things were and how extraordinary they were. Within a couple hours I was back in my shower. A little while later I threw a load of laundry in. My mom bought donuts and I happily ate three. Our new (nameless) baby was being admired and touched and held by his cousins and brothers and dad and aunt and grandma, while also nursing and visually taking in all he could. In many ways it was like a normal Saturday morning at home, but then, it was also like some rare, high holy day, calm with introspection, peace and joy.
Ezra Christian was 8 pounds, 1 ounce. There was much debate about his name – the other choices were Benjamin, Ruben, and Abraham. He was born on what we in the LDS religion believe to be Christ’s birthday, and also the day the LDS religion was restored; Christian is my brother’s middle name, and we
felt it appropriate for Ezra as well.
Moving through that birth, I didn’t feel alone. I remembered so many births and situations and strong mamas moving gracefully through this work. I could name each and every one that came to mind, but hey, this one’s my story. Just know if I have been with you for the birth of your baby, you were with me during mine in spirit and endurance and admiration. This has brought me so much more appreciation and compassion for birth and women while experiencing it – that’s why I feel there should be something birth workers can do every few years to get back in touch with what it can really be like to physically grow and have a baby. It changes you, and sometimes we forget that.
Summer Solstice Baby
Tuesday night I was called to the home of N and J – N had been having contractions since 2 pm and now, 9 hours later, they decided it was time to go to the hospital. After being monitored and checked, and N being pronounced 1 centimeter dilated, they were sent home.
N continued having contractions and the next morning they were starting to pick up. Around noon, they headed back to the hospital and this time they were admitted – N’s dilation was now 3-4 centimeters. N coped beautifully, and J was one of the most connected partners I have ever seen. We took a walk around the hospital campus and noted such things as the cell phone tower that looks like a tree. N would pause during a contraction and lean into J, and then we would continue forward once the contraction had passed.
Around 6:30pm N was checked again and found to be 5 centimeters. Not what we wanted to hear! But N was motivated to stick with it even though she was tired. The shower worked well until the Jacuzzi tub was filled, and from about 8 until 10 that evening we were all stationed in the tub room. N was getting more relief than before, moving in the water to a hands and knees position during contractions, and then to a sitting position to rest.
N had been having intense back labor this whole time. It became obvious her little guy was in a posterior position. At 10pm, 32 hours into the process, N was checked and found to be 6ish centimeters open. Her midwife offered a couple of suggestions --one being to break the bulging bag of water to see if this helped labor and dilation, the other to assess the pressure of the contractions to see if, after all this time, their strength was adequate to make the necessary cervical changes. As their midwife spoke with N and J, answering questions, encouraging them to make the decisions they felt most comfortable with, and assuring them they had time to think about it all, she then left the room to let N and J talk it over. They decided to have N’s water broken, and N also wanted to try some pain medication.
With the bulging bag of water N was dilated to a 6.5, but once it was broken, she went back down to 5. This was disappointing news for N and J. After all these hours, though, the fast-acting narcotic pain medication was giving N a little bit of respite. Thankfully, N’s baby finally moved into a better position, relieving that unrelenting back pain. After 70 minutes or so of J and I standing vigil at the bed, and with the medication mostly worn off, N was found to be 8-9 centimeters. Her contractions never decreased in intensity or frequency and she was getting so close to being done!
At this point, J and I got her into the shower to sit on the ball. This is where the last of her cervix would melt away in preparation of the baby’s birth.
When we came out of the bathroom, J was feeling like pushing, and we were all happy to learn that yes, her cervix was gone. It was finally time to fill the birth tub!
J climbed in and, as she had many times before, she settled in to listen to her body’s signals. She began pushing. Their midwife said to Dad, “Hey, J – once the baby starts to come, do you want to help him out?” I don’t think this was something J ever imagined, and if the idea had been brought up at any other point than this precise moment, I wonder if he would have agreed so quickly? But the right question from the right person at the right time was the perfect set-up for this dad to help catch his baby.
N pushed on her hands and knees. In no time we saw the baby’s thick, dark hair waving in the water. Unlike the movies or television, N’s midwife relaxed and watched N follow her body’s cues. There was no “Push, push, push, pushpushpushPUSH!” –ing involved. All was quiet and peaceful as we eagerly waited to meet this baby.
At 3:05am, Baby Austin was born -- his daddy’s secure hands brought him up through the water to the safe harbor of his mommy’s chest. 37+ hours after labor began for this couple, they held their new baby and whispered elated words of joy and love to him.
The birth team worked incredibly well together, and the midwife was aptly soothing and intuitive. All of that aside, though, this couple was exquisite. When it's all said and done, this new family has their own story to tell, a story where no one else stood out as heroes except Mom and Dad. This couple shared an experience they will forever treasure: a long labor, on the longest day of the year, that brought them their summer solstice waterbaby.
Sleeping on the Job
I had a doula birth this weekend. This family was having their second baby; I was with them during the hospital birth of their first daughter almost two years ago. This time they planned a homebirth with our community midwife (whom I love).
I was struck by this couple's groundedness during their first birth. Mom labored for about 5 hours, and then had her baby, with no interventions or medications. She never complained, even when it was within her rights to do so. She never said, "This hurts," or "I want this to be over," or "It's hard." She did not utter one complaint during the whole birth. It really got me thinking: There are people out there who never complain; they just deal with what life offers them and move through it. What a lesson for someone like me.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)