This post was born from a Facebook comment Sejal made about not understanding why professionals are hesitant to share their knowledge. I asked her if she could think about it and share something for the 31 Days project. Sure enough -- she gives her back story, and then shares how fortunate she has been to be mentored by amazing, open IBCLCs.
A few days back while I was in the hospital visiting a friend of mine after their surgery, I saw a family with a brand new baby heading home from the hospital. As I walk past them, I see a lady walking next to them, pushing a hospital cart filled with a few balloons and flowers resting on top of a couple of Trader Joe’s reusable bags and a duffel bag.
This brought back so many memories of my own discharge from the hospital I gave birth at and how it was a cold December morning that we walked to the parking garage with our newborn daughter dressed in a red fleece dress and buckled up in her car seat. I don’t think we realized how cold it was for her tiny little feet to be outside in the breeze.
My baby girl was upset with the draft of the cold breeze and I was so upset with her crying as we tried to get her into the car. Fumbling through the seat belt and a bunch of other stuff to keep her warm, we managed to at least get out of the parking garage. I sat down in the front passenger seat (mind you this was the one time I hated sitting down because of the perineal pain). If I had known what I know about mother infant separation and how I could have been closer to her and kept her less stressed and more warm by being in the seat next to my daughter I would have been able to keep her calm. But what did we know as new parents, apparently nothing, but as they say ignorance is bliss and bliss we did feel when we had her in our arms after a long traumatic birth.
Here we were leaving the hospital, embarking on this journey as three of us instead of two of us, completely oblivious to what was ahead of us. The drive home was not too pleasant and every bump in the road was causing me pain. It felt like I was hanging on to the handle on the inside of car so I did not have to put any pressure on my perineum. At home my kind and loving parents were waiting for us to get home with our little nugget. I just wanted to lay down but the pain was too much and by the time I reached home, my feet had gotten half a size bigger. I still had no idea what was going on. I could not walk properly or sit properly and then the idea of breastfeeding my baby without any help from the nurses seemed daunting. My mom was really willing to help and she did try but somehow my daughter could not latch without a nipple shield. Also no one at the hospital had shown me how to breastfeed my daughter lying down and that was a completely foreign concept to me. Every time that my little girl needed to breastfeed I would sit upright in my bed, get my Boppy pillow ready, cover it with a receiving blanket to protect the pillowcase (mind you I was a clean freak back then) and have my mom bring my baby to me to feed, and every time she tried to latch, either the nipple shield would fall off or she would accidentally whack it out of place and then the whole saga of a screaming baby and flailing hands and crying mama would begin.
By Day 3, my breasts were getting engorged and my feet were super swollen. I could not walk to the bathroom, which was only 10 steps away from my bed. I called my OB's office and they said I needed to come in as soon as possible because they were not sure what was going on with my swollen feet. When my OB came in and saw my face, my feet, and my hands, she smiled and said, “You look like the Michelin Man”. I was unfamiliar with who the Michelin Man was but figured it was a character out of some movie. She gave me a script for diuretics and sent me home. She did not even tell me that the number of times I would need to get up to pee would be exhausting in and of itself. I came home and breastfeeding was still difficult for me and my baby. I kept using the nipple shield and having the struggles. I went to develop mastitis and had a really high fever which put me into a delirium. I kept telling my mom, that she should take care of my baby in case something terrible were to happen to me. The pain with breastfeeding was excruciating and I was feeling like I was going to die.
The doctor’s office called in a prescription for antibiotics and I started them immediately. They told me to use the manual pump that I had to relieve any engorgement. I ended up using the nipple shield for 3 months before I went in for a lactation visit at our local hospital where I met a lactation consultant who helped me breastfeed my baby for the first time without a nipple shield. I had never pictured myself not using the nipple shield.
Fast forward my life 10 years and now I was a veteran mom who has helped her friends through their postpartum journey, and my kids were growing up and I was doing the best I could to fit this mold of a supermom, partly created by the expectations of the society, the family and myself. Due to a life event, I had to make the choice of going back to school to get a vocational certificate that could get me a job and somehow I chose to go to nursing school. I became a CNA and then started taking my prerequisites to apply for nursing school. I was also working as a CNA at a private nursing home. I worked 4 half days and learnt so many things on the job as well. During my year as a CNA, my younger sister who was pregnant at the time sustained a fall and broke her leg. She could not move and had to have surgery. She had to stay in bed until her baby arrived and I left my job to care for her. She had her baby and I was there to help her during her postpartum recovery and so were my parents. She was having breastfeeding troubles, her baby was not gaining weight very well and had jaundice. The hospital lactation consultants came and helped as much as they could and then we went home.
The breastfeeding continued to be a struggle and she had to start supplementing with formula. We tried to look for someone who could come to her home for a lactation consult and finally found a lady who did. The lactation consultant started her visit and I was a mute spectator in the room, and all I could think was, who is this person who is so knowledgeable about breastfeeding and was able explain everything to us so clearly? Her name was Meg Stalnaker. Why did I not meet her when I had my first baby ? I absorbed and listened to everything she did and said, as did my sister and brother-in-law. I just had a lightbulb moment. I wanted to do what she does. That was it. I did not want to be a nurse. I wanted to be a lactation consultant. I talked to my sister and she told me that I should ask for the contact information for this angel who helped her. I don’t know why, but I did.
I kept doing my own research about what classes I needed to take and signed up for them at the local community college. I kept in touch with the Meg via email. After I finished my community college classes, I contacted her again and asked her if she could be my mentor. She said yes, but there was a caveat. I needed to wait until she finished mentoring two other students she had at the time.
I was really sad that there was not enough guidance on how to find mentors for the pathway I had chosen to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It also felt like there were a lot of negativity in regards to choosing to become an IBCLC as a career. I kept looking to see if someone would be interested in being my mentor and taking me on as a student.
During one of my lactation classes at the community college, we had a guest speaker by the name of Peggy Andrews, who was giving a lecture on the topic of jaundice and breastfeeding. I saw a tall woman with golden and white hair walk into our classroom with a smile. She had the brightest smile I had seen on someone’s face. She started the lecture and I was just mesmerized by her way of teaching and felt like I was back in India in my middle school, listening to my favorite biology teacher. At the end of her lecture she shared her email address with our class and something in my head said, “Sejal, you need to email Peggy and ask her if she could be your mentor.” I mean that was a spur of the moment thought and I acted on it by sending her an email asking if that was possible.
The next moment I thought, oh boy, have I made a big mistake by asking this guest speaker to be my mentor. I was hoping that I would get an email saying how inappropriate that question was. To my surprise, I hear back from Peggy saying she loves to mentor students. I was cooking and jumped up and down in my kitchen saying, YESSSSSS!! Wait that is not it, I actually got a call that evening from Peggy asking me if I wanted to go on a lactation visit in Washougal the next morning. I said, I most certainly would, but then I thought, where in the world is Washougal? Well it is in our neighboring state of Washington.
The next morning I meet Peggy at a designated location and she said to me that she will be driving me to the appointment since it is so far. I was so excited and off I went on my first official visit. I started learning about how to talk to a new mother, ask specific questions and give her plenty of time to tell her story. We were there for an hour and a half and I felt like I still made the right choice by asking Peggy to be my mentor. I have learnt so much about being a good listener from Peggy.
I never for one moment thought that Peggy was keeping any information from me when it came to lactation. I had asked a few other local lactation consultants and they said that they don’t mentor students and I was quite discouraged. I am sure other students like me were discouraged as well. Meg, also let me go on a few lactation visits with her and I kept learning from both Peggy and Meg.
One day I saw a class on hand expression at a local boutique taught by another lactation consultant named Bryna Sampey. I immediately signed up for it, and when I went to the class I was secretly happy that I was one of the two people in class, although I also felt sad that people did not sign up for this informative class. I felt like I had learnt so much about manual expression of breastmilk in this class and that little voice in my head said, “Sejal, ask Bryna if she would mentor you.”
After the class, Bryna asked if I wanted to have a bite to eat at the place next door. I jumped at the opportunity to hang out a few more minutes with this brilliant brain. I was practically salivating. We talked about what I did as a postpartum doula and how I was studying to be an IBCLC and she mentioned to me that she also mentored students. I almost wanted to give her a hug and say, where were you a year ago and why did I not meet you earlier. I did not want to be a total psycho so I did not hug her, but told her that I would love to be her mentee. She said that she would let me know as soon as a spot opened up.
What I learned from Bryna and her brilliance made me think critically about breastfeeding and the challenges that come with it and how she made breastfeeding a breeze with all the techniques and tricks that she shared with her clients. As I followed these three amazing women, as my mentors, each one of them taught me how to help with breastfeeding challenges in their own special ways. I feel blessed to have learnt from them and will be eternally grateful for them sharing their wisdom, knowledge and time with me.
I was talking to other lactation students like me one day, who were in the same boat as I was and one of them told me that when they asked a local IBCLC to mentor them, the local IBCLC said to them, and I quote, “Why would I let you shadow me ? You will take my knowledge and compete with me once you get certified.” I was so shocked to hear this. I have no idea who the IBCLC is and don’t even want to know, but it made me realize how fortunate I was to have mentors like Peggy, Meg and Bryna.
With the struggles I had in finding mentors, I had decided in my mind that if I ever become an experienced lactation consultant, I will mentor students. I am an IBCLC now, and I am a brand new IBCLC, but I hope to someday mentor students. I think it is our responsibility as professionals to mentor the future IBCLCs. My dad used to say, knowledge only increases by sharing. He is a brilliant surgeon and he has helped many other doctors become surgeons and I am certain he never thought this way.
So, why do some people have a hard time sharing their knowledge with others who are seeking mentorship in the field of lactation consulting ?
Maybe the experienced professional does not have the time or the resources to mentor someone. Maybe the experienced professional thinks that, sharing their knowledge with newbies will reduce their chance of personal success.
Maybe the experienced professional does not trust this newbie. Trust building does take time.
Maybe the experienced professional in the specific field is a knowledge hoarder.
Maybe the experienced professional wants to have monopoly in their field.
Maybe the experienced professional feels more powerful if they don’t share their knowledge.
Being a mentor and taking on mentees is also a huge responsibility and one that is not easy. I understand that it may be difficult to take on students, but in the field of lactation consulting, I wish we had more mentors. I wish students had access to mentors without having to wait for a long time. I wish experienced IBCLCs would be willing to share their knowledge and expertise with them.
Mentors are an inspiration. Mentors can connect you with opportunities. Mentors know ways to make you succeed professionally. Mentors keep you motivated. Mentors invest their time and energy in you to help you grow. Mentors teach you about finding a good opportunity. Mentors have been where you are and can empathize with your struggles and help you find your way through the obstacles and hurdles. I am so thankfull to have found such mentors who continue to be there for me and do not feel threatened by my success.
Sejal Fichadia, owner of Kindred Mother Care, is the first 31 Days participant to be featured four years in a row. In 2014 she wrote "Our Culture's Needs for Postpartum Doulas," in 2015 she added "Growing Happy, Healthy Moms." Last year she added "Hitting the Pause Button." She has a love for babies and mothers, and feels it is important to help families learn skills to help them on their parenthood journeys. Sejal works hard at expanding her education and working to improve her knowledge base so she can provide families with up-to-date, evidence-based information, which in turn gives them the tools to parent with confidence. This year she passed the exam to add IBCLC to her credentials. She has a caring heart, and as soon as she can, she will be mentoring others wishing to get to IBCLC.
The excitement that surrounds an expectant mother starts building as soon as the good news is shared. As her burgeoning belly grows, so does the attention from others. Baby’s arrival brings relatives, friends, and neighbors…at first. But as the much-awaited birth comes and goes, so do the people. Often this can leave a new mother feeling isolated, tired, and depressed.
In some cultures, the new mother is relieved of her daily duties and attended to for up to 40 days postpartum. Special restorative foods are brought to the mother, she is taken care of by members of her family, and her sole responsibility is to bond with her new baby. In our culture, 40 days after birth typically sees the end of a mother’s maternity leave!
You can help meet a new mother’s needs simply by using your heart and your hands, and sometimes your ears. Never expect to just plop in and be entertained – always ask what you can do to help. Often mothers have reservations about letting you pitch in with cleaning or laundry. If this is the case, place a simple list numbered 1, 2, 3 on the refrigerator. Ask her to write down three things she would feel comfortable accepting help with. The next time you visit, glance at the list and get going! If she insists life is great, do something unexpected for her. Bring her a pot of homemade soup and some warm bread. Drop off a new pair of pajamas for her, or the baby, or both! Demonstrate your active listening skills by using attending body language and summarizing her shared feelings; suspend your judgment and offer suggestions only if she asks for your opinion.
I have the fortunate opportunity to nurture and support women of the Bakersfield and Visalia areas during their experiences of pregnancy and birth. I have noticed the mother who functions well, feels good, and exudes confidence early in the postpartum period is the mother who continues to be blessed with help and visits from her extended supporters. Babies bring joy, but they bring demands as well. By meeting the needs of the new mother in your life, whether she is a friend, a neighbor, or your own daughter, you are enabling her to better care for and meet the needs of her own baby.
Three things that can help after the baby comes:
I love this post. It reminds me of Jennifer Kara's post last year, "There Will be a Time After This." I am amazed by these doulas and the work that comes with being on the receiving end of help and service. Health is something taken for granted, and when our state changes suddenly, adjustments become necessary, and often the biggest one is within our brains. What also happens, though, is a change in the heart. I love that Sejal shares her change of heart here.
Today as I sit and write this, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be sitting in this cozy bed with all my gadgets and chargers next to me, and my constant companion for now (my pain, that is), motivating me to write. On the morning of March 28th, 2016, as I am going down the stairs outside my clients’ home from an overnight shift, I slipped on a thin layer of ice. I heard a snap and I saw my left ankle being twisted while I tried to hold on to the side rail to avoid the fall. I screamed loudly due to the excruciating pain, and I thought I must have woken up the whole neighborhood. I started to see stars and began crying like a baby getting his vaccinations, surprised by the needle. I felt sad for myself, and then I tried to remember my client’s address because I am in no position to get up on my feet.
I called my client instead, since I am sure she knows her own address. She comes and calls 911 for me. I am so grateful she was there and that she picked up my phone call. The firefighters come first, and they ask me if I am hurt anywhere else. I am so happy to see them since I am thinking they are paramedics! Pain messes with your brain. They put a temporary splint on me while I tried not to scream.
The paramedics and firefighters tried to carry me down the rest of the flight of stairs, since I am in no position to walk. At this point I am blabbering stuff at them about how sorry I was that I had to call them, and blah-blah-blah. I get nasal Fentanyl since my veins are fried, from panicking probably. I think I am in a good place as they take me to the ER. The x-ray tech comes and wheels me out to the x-ray room, and I hear myself begging, “No! No! No! Please don’t!” as she is trying to position my leg the best she can without causing me pain. The x-ray results confirm there is a fracture of the distal tibia and I am going for surgery the next morning. Loads of morphine helped me come to my senses, and I start thinking, “Oh my, I have to work tonight and tomorrow night for the same client!” I texted my client and asked her if she wanted someone else to come for the following two nights. She says she will be okay.
I talk to my husband about how I am feeling. He says that he understands, but that is why we call incidents like these accidents. I think in my mind, he does not understand me at all, and I quietly lay in bed. He has been working from home for the past year developing his own business, and many times it has been difficult on our family to adjust to that financially and emotionally. I am worried about our income, and I know he is too. We had to cut down on our kids' extracurricular activities and extra spending to meet our budget. I thought I was helping ease the financial burden by doing my doula work, and that income is gone as well. I am not good for anything. I am not a good wife, mother, or postpartum doula.
I am really grateful that he is at home and ready to help me anytime -- if I need to go to the bathroom, or if the pillows under my leg need to be adjusted, or if I need to hold his hand while my pain meds kick in. Besides doing all that, he also takes care of the kids and all the household chores while still trying to build his business. I am just overcome with guilt and fear. That does not help me or anyone else, but that is the reality.
I am very fortunate to have a circle of friends, family, and clients who have brought me food, flowers, chocolates, and given me their time to just sit and hangout with me. I am still recovering from the injury, and my splint has come off and sutures taken out. The hard part now is the physical therapy and rehab. The hardest thing for me to learn from this accident is accepting help from everyone and not feeling guilty about it. I had to practice what I preach, and it is not as easy as I used to think it was, even to this day. I thought that I was being a hypocrite to feel that way, and then to expect mothers to follow my advice. I decided to learn to accept help, even though it is still one small step at a time.
I had to acknowledge the fact that I did help people when I could, and it would not be so bad if some of them chose to help me and family. I started calling people to see if they were available to visit me, and as daunting as that question was for me to ask, I was surprised how many actually said yes. I am a social person, and I felt the best way for me to heal is to socialize. I didn't think people would have the time to hangout with me, but even if it is half an hour, it is worth my sanity. I kept talking to friends via Facebook, text, and phone. Some even stopped by to view an online conference with me, or to bring me lunch or dessert.
I called my brother up on my worst day of pain and told him to drive from Washington state to come hangout with me, and he did that more than a few times. I asked my sister to stop by to see me on days that she may have been doing something else, and I felt guilty about it, but seeing her and my nieces made that guilt go away very quickly. I learned that no matter how busy I thought she was, she was happy to come see me. I am learning not to feel guilty for laughing with people when they visit me while my husband is cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry. There are good days and bad ones, but most of them are good and I learn a new thing everyday about having patience and bowing down to my circumstances instead of fighting them.
Some very important life lessons that I have learned from my injury and the process of recovering from it:
Hitting the pause button has taught me how to be the gracious receiver of help that is offered. It is not easy, but it is helping me become a better and more understanding caregiver for all my future postpartum families.
I love Sejal and her way of thinking. As a postpartum doula, she understands and appreciates what our new mothers need to take root and blossom. It is unrealistic to expect a new mother to confidently handle her new role independent of support, friendship, and practical help. If you take nothing else from today's post -- reach out to a new mom you know, and see how you can lighten her load.
I teach a newborn care class at our local Babies R Us store every month. One of the few points that I mention while I am teaching, that has nothing to do with newborn care, is how a partner, a friend or a family member can support the new mother. My love for the work I do as a postpartum doula does not just come from being able to care for the newborn -- it comes from caring for the mother. When a mother’s recovery is given priority, the impact of that support goes a long way for the entire family.
A mother who feels loved and supported can be a better mother and a better partner. The more I work in the postpartum world, the more I realize that for mothers in our country, being independent and rugged is considered the norm. I strongly disagree with this practice. Having support from the partner, friend, family, or a postpartum doula can prevent the challenges of future health issues, whether they are physical or psychological. In this case, prevention is better than cure. The increase in incidence of postpartum mood disorders is a big red flag that tells us that something needs to change in the way we care for our mothers.
A partner can provide support, understanding, organization and patience for the mother who is recovering from birth. This also applies to partners who have the privilege of supporting adoptive or surrogate mothers. We need to remember that there is invisible healing that takes place along with external physical healing that all new mothers go through in the first 6 to 8 weeks postpartum. A new mother’s mind and body are as fragile as her new baby. A new mother needs to rest and digest, to keep the stress level down. A partner can bring her snacks and make her a plate of healthy food. A partner can remember to keep her water cup or bottle filled. A partner can bring her a cup of hot tea. A partner can hold the baby while the mother takes a shower or a nap. Did you know that a partner who believes in breastfeeding is a marker of how successful a new mother is going to be at breastfeeding? The faith and energetic support of the partner is vital for the new mother.
A friend who is planning a baby shower for the new mother can communicate with the people on the guest list about organizing for postpartum support. Some of the best gifts for a new mother are not toys or things for the baby. Instead, if a new mother gets postpartum doula hours, housekeeping service gift certificates, massages, meal deliveriesl or even a friend or family who can come and do laundry once a week, she will find that more helpful than any gift. Trust me, I know this because my clients have told me so! Instead of investing heavily in the care and relationship of the mother and baby, we are investing in fancy toys and decor for the baby.
Postpartum doulas can provide emotional and physical support to a new mother. They can also educate new parents and provide targeted breastfeeding support. 92% of new mothers report at least one breastfeeding concern three days postpartum. When a mother has the support of a postpartum doula, she can be rest assured that her postpartum doula will try to find the best resources to help the mother if she cannot take care of it herself. When a partner needs extra sleep, a postpartum doula can make that happen, too. Meal preparation, running errands, baby’s laundry, light housekeeping and newborn care are just a few things that are on a postpartum doula’s to-do list. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most wonderful families who trust my knowledge and experience. I have only become more convinced about the value of the work I do as a postpartum doula.
Without good postpartum care practices, new mothers in the developed world will be, just like babies who aren't gaining and growing well, “Failure-to-Thrive."
Sejal is a postpartum doula whose career was inspired by a lactation consultant and the birth of her niece. Her need to care for people has been fulfilled in this career. She comes from a family of healthcare professionals and grew up with babies being born around her. She is from India, a culture that is known worldwide for its heritage and hospitality. Sejal feels strongly when you help a mom you are helping the entire family. Her primary goal as a postpartum doula is to empower new parents with all the skills that are needed to raise their child while also promoting healing through evidence-based information. To connect with Sejal, visit her website, or find her on Facebook.
The picture above shows my nephew holding Ezra, the first day of his life. Isaac is playing lullabies on the lap harp in the background. With Ezra's birth, I have had many helpers around, and the benefits from that are huge! Some days when I was feeling isolated, home alone, exhausted -- I knew I just had to wait for my boys to get off the bus and I could have a break. They aren't formally trained as postpartum doulas, but they have the brotherly skills to alleviate some of my stress, and who wouldn't appreciate that!?
I am incredibly excited to share today's post. When Keegan mentioned this to me, I was amazed -- that she had helped a mother through birth trauma by something as simple and genuine as a ceremonious bath intrigued me. Reading her story left me awestruck. If you feel you have a client who may benefit from a rebirthing, I would encourage you get in touch with someone who has experience in this area -- Keegan would have great information for you, I am sure!
As a postpartum doula and birth educator one of the areas I see a gap in our maternal care system is postpartum follow up, particularly when it comes to birth trauma. Most expectant mothers imagine what it will be like the day their new baby arrives. Others are afraid of what will happen on their birthing day, and try to put it out of their minds. Some women have a plan of how they would like their birth to go and some even put the words down on paper to give to their care provider.
When a birthing day does not happen the way a mother envisions, it can result in shattered expectations and the loss of dreams. Any situation that a person is put into where they are forced to make a decision under duress (or without their consent) can result in guilt and second guessing. Many of these mothers have difficulty forming the essential bond that new mothers have with their baby in the first days of life. Some develop perinatal mood disorders. They are not typically seen by their care provider until their six week follow-up, and even then new mothers struggling to manage birth trauma are often missed, and continue to fight their feelings alone. This is my story of a time I was able to help one of these mothers dealing with birth trauma by facilitating a rebirthing.
I received a call from a new mother, who was still in the hospital after she experienced a traumatic emergency caesarean section. She described to me that throughout her pregnancy, she envisioned seeing her son enter the world in a gentle way, surrounded by love and met with joyful anticipation. Unfortunately the birth had not happened according to her plan and after many long hours of labor, her doctor decided that it was time for her to meet her baby and sent her for a caesarian. I knew she needed to see her birth in a new way, and to have a second chance to have the birth that she wanted. Physically, her recovery was difficult, and she and her son had difficulty establishing breastfeeding. He had been separated from her for over an hour after the birth, and was having trouble staying latched on and was often fussy at the breast. Mama was feeling hurt and powerless and she told me about the loss she had endured. They were all home from the hospital on the fourth day after her son was born, and I met with her soon after they arrived at their house.
I had heard about the idea of a rebirth, and I suggested that it may be a way for her to begin her healing. I had her prepare a letter written to her baby, telling him the story of the birth she had imagined for him. She spent some time talking through this with her husband, and when they were finished I ran a warm bath for them, lit some candles, and dimmed the lights. She and her baby got in to the bath skin to skin and I read her letter. Her eyes gently closed as she held her baby close and I saw them both relax almost as if they were melting into each other. She helped her baby to her breast, and he was able to latch on. He seemed like he was almost asleep, maybe he was just finally relaxed enough to nurse. They stayed in the bath for some time, and I encouraged her husband to stay and sit with them.
I waited in another room, and when they all came out to join me, something had shifted. There was a stillness and peace that was tangible and I could feel their deep love resonating though their home. I stayed with them long enough to see baby latch on again. I saw her eyes fill with tears of relief, smiling as she looked at her husband beside her. This was the new start that they needed.
Everyone who was there that day experienced their own rebirth, and I am forever grateful that I was able to be a part of such a special day for this new family. Every mother with birth trauma deserves a chance to find healing and peace, and I am humbled to have a role in that journey.
Keegan Barkley is the founder of New Journey Postpartum, LLC, serving the Indianapolis area. She is a DONA trained postpartum doula, a HypnoBirthing Instructor, a Sacred Pregnancy mini workshop and Birth Journey instructor, and she is trained in Rebozo techniques for birthing. She also offers babywearing and cloth diaper consultations, basic breastfeeding support, and birth trauma and pregnancy loss support. She has worked in mental health and substance abuse counseling for seven years. If you are interested in learning more about rebirthing or any of the services she has to offer, please visit her website or her Facebook page.
I hear people ask this questions a lot. There seems to be the belief that for a woman to truly support another woman during birth, she has to have experienced childbirth herself. I say with testimony, there is not truth in this -- it is a doula myth. While it may be important for certain families to know their doula has passed through the rite of passage of motherhood, being a doula means one thing and one thing only: this birth is not about you. And guess what? You have more of an opportunity to make it about you if you have had your own birth experiences! Read more to see why Amber feels confident in her abilities; just because you haven't mothered your own baby, doesn't mean you lack the heart and hands to mother someone else!
When I am being interviewed by families seeking a doula, I often get this question: “So you do have any children?” I smile sweetly and give my standard answer, “No not yet.” I know this question will come at some point during most interviews.
It used to be a question I dreaded. I used to have this nagging voice in my head “Why would they want to hire you? You’ve never given birth, and there are plenty of other doulas who have that experience.”
These days, though, my internal chatter has stopped. I know that regardless of whether or not a woman has given birth herself, she can still be a phenomenal doula. In fact, I think I have a couple perks to offer, since I don’t yet have children.
#1 I don’t have to worry about childcare. This is a big one! Many, many doulas out there that have children need to coordinate who’s going to watch little ones, drop off and pick up from school, or take care of a sick kid, if they get called to a birth or postpartum situation last minute. Being on-call can be challenging in and of itself, and not having to worry about kiddos yet may mean that I am more immediately available to families.
#2 I don’t have any baggage from my own births. Many doulas that have given birth are able to put their own birth experiences, joys, and struggles aside and simply focus on the family they are serving. But this can be challenging. Perhaps a doula wishes things had gone differently during her birth, and she may subconsciously steer her clients toward birth choices she herself made or didn’t make. Without any previous emotional ties to my own birth experience, I can fully hear families’ wishes and support them in their ideal birth or postpartum time.
Many women take an interest in doula training after they themselves have given birth. Maybe their birth was a life-changing ecstatic and empowering event, and they want to share with other women the potential for birth to be wonderful. Or maybe they had a challenging birth or postpartum time that they wish they could go back and do differently. As I do not have children yet, I come to doula work with a different background, although I share the same passion all doulas have for making birth and the postpartum time as empowering, positive, and supported as it can be.
My first experience with birth was witnessing my mother giving birth to my little sister when I was 13 years old. She had Maryann in a nice hospital in Southern California. I was at the hospital while my mom was in labor, but I wasn’t much interested in it. I remember she was in bed, on her back the whole time (or so it seemed). I was in the room when an epidural was placed, and I remember her vomiting a lot. All in all, labor looked like the pits. I remember there were a few family members in the room, but no one seemed to really be helping her. I remember everyone sitting around chatting, knitting, doing crossword puzzles. I remember thinking if I was in my mom’s shoes I would yell at everyone to either get out, or to get off their butts and do something like give me a massage!
After seeing enough of what looked like a hellish labor, I went out to the waiting room until my aunt came and got me when my sister’s arrival was imminent. The birth went by quick, and I don’t remember many details, other than holding my little sister soon after she was born. It was the labor that stuck with me; I was convinced that I never wanted to go through what my mom went through.
Fast forward to when I was 21 years old. Some of my girlfriends started having babies, and when I asked them about it, they all had horror stories. Most of them had cesareans, and seemed to think that if not for their cesarean/OB/other decision, they would have died or their baby would have died. I started adding these stories up, along with the memories of my mom’s birth, and it just didn’t make sense to me.
If birth was so exceptionally awful, how had all the generations of our ancestors made it through? This little idea started to develop in the back of my mind that maybe birth didn’t have to be so scary and dangerous, and gut-wrenchingly painful.
When I was 22, I had just gotten out of a yucky relationship and was kind of in a rut. Being close to my mom, she was privy to my interest in my friends’ birth experiences, and she suggested I complete a doula workshop that was coming to town. When she first sprang the idea on me, I wasn’t convinced it would be neat. I thought doulas were like woman shamans who attended births and oversaw the spiritual aspect of birth; was I up for that?
But by the first hour after my doula training began, I realized doulas were not old-lady shamans, we were the reclaimers of the potential for positive birth experiences!
I’ve been a birth doula for six years now and a postpartum doula for one year. It truly is my life’s passion to help every family have their best birth and postpartum experience as they define it.
Amber is one of my most favorite doulas. She even volunteered to come be my doula after I moved 6 hours south of her! I didn't take her up on it because with a baby coming, it seemed that might be hard to count on. But I love and appreciate her just the same, and I know she would have been awesome for me.
"I come to this field as a woman, and as a daughter. I am a teacher, and also a student. A former aspiring elementary school teacher, I was drawn to this work after hearing stories from my young mother friends who had less than ideal birth experiences. I truly know that a positive and empowered pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period is integral to creating a more compassionate species."
Find Amber online at her website or her Facebook page.
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.
When I read this piece by Sejal, I was surprised by things I had never thought about before -- she makes some excellent points about how we care (or lack thereof) for our new moms in this culture. While reading, I longed to have the kind of nurturing of new moms she says is common in her culture. This loss is what inspired Sejal to work as a postpartum doula. Sejal saw a need, and she worked to fix it. I can't say how that touches me -- it is a reminder that we can all work for change, one at a time, and even though there seems to be so much to do, the moms, babies, and families we help will benefit from our heart and hands.
Mother-friendly Care Initiative
Postpartum period, the fourth trimester, maternity leave time, call it what you may but this is the most underestimated time for new mothers in America. We have made gender equality, marriage equality and other things a priority, but until we make the postpartum period a valuable commodity to be invested in we are not building a stronger future generation. I am a postpartum doula and I came to America and fell in love with this country.
My home country India, is where I learnt the basics of postpartum care growing up in a family of women taking care of each other during the time after the baby arrives. After years of helping my friends during their postpartum time I decided to make this passion of mine into something that could be used for helping moms who are not my friends and family. The amount of time needed to rest after giving birth cannot be generalized as each and every mother who has given birth recovers differently.
We have all the information on speeding up the postpartum recovery, but we fail to realize that it is a rebirth of the mother too. Baby steps are not just for baby but they should also be for the mom. The uterus, the vagina, the abdominal muscles, the breasts and the entire endocrine system go through a reorganization in the time following birth. All of these systems need time to heal and some more than others. Let us all unite to value the postpartum body and its recovery and help the new family have a wonderful time together. How do you get the rest when there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, house to be cleaned and baby to be fed? The postpartum doula will be there to help you with all of those and other things so you can have more time bonding with your baby and creating beautiful memories for your new family.
Sleep deprivation, stress from delivery, blood loss, pain associated with cesarean recovery, hormonal changes affecting the mood, and household chores are just a few challenges faced by a new mother. Add to that the worry that comes with taking care of this precious being who is solely dependant on the new mom is not a small challenge. The incidence of baby blues or postpartum depression in other cultures, including mine from India, are so less that it is sure in my mind that if women get the help at such an important transitional time as a new mother we could change the statistics in America too.
The dads need help too, and why not? There is enough research supporting that. ASKING FOR HELP does not make anyone weak, but on the contrary, it makes you see the REALITY and prove to yourself that you are HUMAN and we are a social being who needs people around us to help us.
I hope to work with families in empowering them to be stronger together by getting help at the right time. I strongly believe that it takes a village to raise a family and I would love to be a part of your village.
My postpartum doula career was inspired by a lactation consultant and the birth of my niece. My need to care for people has been fulfilled in this career. I come from a family of healthcare professionals like General Surgeons, Ob-Gyns, Pediatricians, Plastic surgeons and I grew up with babies being born around me. I am also very proud to be from India, a culture that is known worldwide for its heritage and hospitality. I feel that when you help a mom you are helping the entire family to grow and be empowered. With my education and interest I believe that I can be a part of the village that is needed to raise a child for a better future. I love to cook for my family, friends and even my clients. I love that food connects us all in one way or another. My primary goal as a postpartum doula is to empower new parents with all the skills that are needed to raise their child. I have also helped many of my friends during their postpartum recovery. To promote healing through evidence-based information and getting the family to be confident as caregivers is very important to me.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)