In honor of all my doula sisters out there, I am sharing different posts featuring different aspects of life in the doula world.
Starting the month off is a post by my lovely friend, Anne Junge. Anne is a DONA-certified doula who was one of my partners at the Chico Doula Circle. She volunteered as a doula for a local hospital. She is a mom and a 4-H Lover, and she has an incredible sense of humor (very important in this line of work!). She wrote this post about all the things she learns as she supports families to their best birth stories. Anne has a doula heart and a doula brain, and I value her outlook and what she has to offer. She can be found at her website or on Facebook.
I learn at least one “new” thing at every birth I attend. One of the best things I have ever done in my development as a doula is keeping a doula journal. I made sure the journal I choose was pretty so I would enjoy retrieving it to use. It is smallish so that it is easily portable in my doula bag. As I enter year 4 as a doula, the benefits of keeping a journal are coming back to me.
So what do I record? The bare essentials, like first names of mom, dad, and baby. The date. The location. The care provider. Vaginal or cesarean. Epidural or not. Then I write down one special memory and one “thing” that I learned. Most entries are one page. Sometimes there is more than one special memory and more than one thing that I learned.
At the start of each year I also record some of the goals I would like to meet in the coming year. These are examples of some goals I have already met and some I am still looking forward to:
-Make a webpage.
-Have a booth at the Farmer’s Market.
-Attend Lamaze Training.
-Send in DONA recertification packet in August.
At the end of the year, I do a little recap on the statistics of my birth work. I can provide these statistics to my clients when they seek reimbursement from their health insurance!
-How many vaginal births versus cesarean births?
-How many epidurals versus no pain meds?
-Which hospitals did I attend the most?
The journal has been a great way to maintain focus on the how, when, where and why of my work in the birth world. I read my journal two to three times a year. Time changes perspective on events and often leads to new insights on why things happened the way they did. The new insight gives me a broader, more complete knowledge base to work from. So what have I learned?
I always pack extra hair bands in my doula bag, because my clients often get irritated with their hair in their face. Little did I know that one day I would use one to pull back the midwife’s hair (when her hair knot did not work)!
Always bring a fresh change of clothes. I never know when a birth is going to be a little lonnngggg. That includes socks. And underwear. I feel fresher and smell better.
Some women don’t like to be touched. Expand my verbal support toolbag.
Never, ever close my mind to the suggestions of a nurse or a care provider. Question them? Yes. But never dismiss them without respectful consideration. I have learned many things from nurses, midwives and obstetricians. But, on the other hand, the time to have an in-depth, philosophical conversation on “episiotomy or not to episiotomy” is probably not when my client is pushing (not one of my prouder doula moments).
If a mom gets discouraged during pushing, encourage her to feel the baby’s head. The amount of energy they find at that moment is amazing. Learned from a midwife.
At some births, I may never feel like I am in sync with the mom, the dad, the staff, the whatever. BUT, the most important thing is continuous caring presence. It makes a difference-it really does. Thank-you cards received months later and chance encounters with past clients in a grocery store have all proved to me that my presence was truly appreciated and positive. On the other hand, there will be births that are unhappy, but my presence will probably make it easier to bear.
Birth number 4, I decided I was never again going to tell a mom to push. There are plenty of other people in the room willing to do that. Instead, I focus on telling her how well she is doing, wiping her brow, reminding her to take a deep breath for baby, giving her a sip of water.
Some babies come really fast. Do I need to say more? Stealing a phrase from one of my doula sisters, “Use your spidey sense.” If a mom seems transitiony or pushy, trust your doula instinct.
Extended family love updates. Take a stroll past the waiting room on the way to a bathroom break. Give them an update. They may feel uninformed. It is a great time to provide educational support that may lead to them, in turn, providing better support to your client.
Few births are “typical.” They almost all have something that makes them unique. So, essentially the more you experience, the more likely you are to have the next birth teach you something new. A concept I learned from a lactation consultant.
I want a peanut ball. My clients like them and not all hospitals have them. Doula work is my passion. It is an art. It takes creativity, an open mind, empathy, diplomacy, and a willingness to learn. My journal gives me a chance to rejoice at the special memories and acknowledge the things I learned that will make me a better doula at the next birth, and the next birth, and the birth after that. Looking forward to recording my next Happy Pushing memory!
My Super Secret Notebook
I have a notebook. It is just a basic marble-type composition notebook, except mine has pretty foil flowers and butterflies on it. I call it My Super Secret Notebook Full of Exciting, Wonderfully Helpful Information. Or My Super Secret Notebook for short. Truthfully, I only put the word secret in there to amp up the level of buzz surrounding my notebook -- there really isn't anything secret in there; it's more like my own secret club, I guess, because I am probably the only one who thinks there is value in what is written within the pages.
I use my notebook in a few different ways, which in my mind, all relate to my role and energy as a childbirth educator.
1. When I read a book, I always keep my notebook handy. As I come across meaningful phrases, ideas, or concepts, I copy them down in my notebook, taking care to also record the quoted source and corresponding page number. A couple quotes from this section: "Scent memory - rub your nose prior to learning something important that you want to remember" (Smart Moves; Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, by Carla Hannaford). And another: "...living the focused life is not about trying to feel happy all the time....Rather, it's about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there" (Rapt; Attention and the Focused Life, by Winifred Gallagher).
2. I like to keep my notebook around as I watch movies and TV. If I see something funny that I could relate to a class topic, I make a note of it. If I see something that is analogous to an idea we discuss in class, I also make a note of it. As a learning tool, I can introduce a concept in a humorous light which helps springboard a discussion. Or I can show 40 seconds of what seems to be an unrelated media clip and then flesh out similarities to a particular procedure, intervention, or idea without actually starting the discussion with the boring term or concept. An example I have in my notebook is a scene from Mission Impossible II. Tom Cruise is chasing after the heroine/co-star after she refuses to join forces with him against the villain. They are shown flying around winding cliff roads driving two very fast sports cars. All of his chasing causes her car to almost drive off a cliff edge. He jumps out of his car and into hers, pulling her out to safety just before her car takes a nosedive off the precipice. What does this represent? An Iatrogenic effect. Had he not been chasing her, she wouldn't have driven off the cliff; he "saved" her, yet it was he who put her at risk.
3. As I am able to attend conferences, workshops, or other classes, childbirth or otherwise, I take notes about things I want to remember, thoughts I have relating to the subject at hand, and even (this may be the secret part!) critques about the presenter or facilitator. A few good ones I have: "Lead by following." "Eye to eye, breath to breath, heart to heart." "The quietest person in the room is often the one most heard." Contrasted with: "What I felt was missing - no intros, no warm-ups, no outlet for embarassment, no explanation of terms, no talk of birth images or films that are watched..." and a big :( to go along with that last list.
Cultivating my notebook has taken years, and it is still a work in progress! As I mentioned before, it may not hold any value for any other person on the planet but me, and I guess that's what makes it my Super Secret Notebook Full of Exciting, Wonderfully Helpful Information. I highly suggest, no matter what you do in life, you seek to create one of your own.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)