Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When birth goes not according to plan

May I be honest for a minute? Not the kind of honest where I finally start telling the truth after speaking nothing but lies, but the kind of honest where I just allow the thoughts to come as they are and I don't edit for public consumption. Good. Thanks. I'm glad we're on the same page. I just feel like I need to get these words out of me before I burst into tears. 

What I want to say is this. Not all the births I attend are those amazing, empowering, warrior births that you hear about (in natural birthing circles). There. I said it. Please don't hate me!

Sometimes birth doesn't go according to plan. Not in the, "Oh, I wanted a water birth but didn't get one in time," or, " I changed my mind about pain meds, and I have no regrets" sort of way. It's those situations where things change so drastically that you thank God or whatever higher power you believe in that modern medicine is available to save lives if its gotten to that point. Sometimes I come home crying from a birth because, "What would have happened to her way back in the day?" And I know exactly what would have happened to her, and I start to cry harder. And I have to tip my hat to modern medicine, which at the same time it makes my doula heart cringe, because gosh darn it, why do they have to meddle with stuff so much when they don't need to, when everything is going well, but I'm glad you're here when I really need you, but please don't make me feel guilty and ashamed for not wanting to need you in the first place. Because sometimes we truly do need you, and sometimes we didn't want that at all. 

Being a doula and pouring my heart and soul into supporting moms and their families is so wonderfully enriching, but sometimes it leaves me in tears when I witness how hard a mom worked to bring her baby into the world and it goes beyond "not according to plan." When I attend a mother, her wishes become my wishes for her. Her hopes become my hopes for her. If she wants to give birth to the moon and back, by golly, I am going to pack extra fuel for the shuttle ride. I'll show up wearing my spacesuit ready to support her in the BEST MOON BIRTH EVER!

When births go "not according to plan" I do a lot of reflection afterward. Did I do enough? Did I do too much? Was I in the way? Did I support her in the way she needed? Did my presence actually hinder her progress? What if I would have just said that one thing or suggested that one position change? I'm not trying to sound like I am having a hero complex here. I know there are a lot of factors that determine how births unfold and very little of them have anything to do with me. But I just never ever ever ever want to hurt a mother. EVER. I never want to hinder her in any way. 

There is a moment with every couple I have served so far where I just see them, and it takes my breath away. I feel such awe for them. Sometimes that moment happens in the prenatal meetings. They don't even notice, but my arms get tingly, a wave of chills passes over me, and my arm hairs stand on end. I think, "These people are amazing. Just amazing." But it always happens at the birth. That moment. That, "Look at her. She's amazing, " moment. My eyes water, and I have to choke back tears for a split second and just marvel at what is before me. My admiration and reverence run deep for that split second that thankfully goes unnoticed by anyone but maybe the Divine, and I give thanks that I was able to be a witness to the majesty of that birthing mama. I will always be in complete awe of the mothers I serve for the rest of my life, even if we never meet again. I will always consider that time with them as sacred time and some of the most cherished memories of my life. 

Another thing that bothers me are the growing pains of gaining experience. Naturally a more experienced doula than I is a wealth of knowledge. She's "been there, done that" way more than I. Even with my modest two years of experience, which is exponentially more than when I started, I think back to my first few doula births. Oh, how much better I could have served those families, even as a two-years-in-the-field baby doula. If only I had known then what I know now. I can't help but wish that those mamas had benefited from the now me. I guess as I learn more and more, my future clients will have access to a more experienced doula than my current clients. It will always be that way. I'll always be the same Kristi. We'll have a connection or we won't. We'll work together or we won't, but I will always strive to do the best with the tools I have. It's just so very humbling how every birth is so different, and I learn so much from each one. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

4 Reasons why Hiring a Doula won't help you have a better birth

Sometimes I start to formulate a blog post in my head at the most inopportune times. Like, in the car. While driving. Sometimes these blog posts make it to publication. Sometimes they don't.  Sometimes they get thrown away because I'll write my notes on the back of a receipt that I luckily left in my floorboard. Sometimes I record my thoughts on a voice recorder app on my phone. Those have yet make it into a blog post. They seem to sound better in my head than they would in writing.

Blogging on the go
About a month ago, I was running late to a Girls' Night Out after teaching flute lessons. I started to think about some of the things I told my students that day and related them to some of the things I say to my doula clients. There are a lot of similarities. Especially when it comes to preparation, breathing, and relaxation. I started to think about online conversations I have read while perusing my favorite natural childbirth forums. I found a piece of paper and began to scratch notes out at every red light between the school and my friend's house.

Time and time again, I have seen questions such as, "What can I do to have a natural birth?" or "What can I do to have a VBAC?" The same advice is given each time, just presented a little differently each time. One piece of advice that always comes up is, "Hire a doula."

When I first became a doula, I would see that and think, "Heck yeah! Hire a doula! I'm a doula! Doulas are awesome." As I have been doing this for a few years now, I see that advice and think a little differently. It appears that I am not the only one thinking about this lately.

Hiring a doula is a very important step in achieving your ideal birth, but it does not guarantee that you will have the birth you want. It doesn't even guarantee a great birth. In fact, you might leave your birth feeling very let down by the experience and everyone involved. That's one of those inexplicable mysteries of birth. I know you know what I am talking about. "I did everything right and still ended up with..."

So the past few years have gotten me thinking. Hiring a doula is really good advice. However, there's more to it than that. Here are four reasons why it's not enough to just hire a doula.

1. You have to do the work. A doula can't make you prepare for birth. 

The advice "hire a doula" reminds me of some of the flute students and even fellow flute friends I've encountered throughout the years. When I was in high school, I had a few younger flutists come up to me around All-Parish Honor Band audition time and say, "Make me good." Huh? Make you good? What does that even mean? They would want to have a sort of flute slumber party where we would gather together for hours on end and practice the music. But it was too late. They hadn't been practicing all along. Audition day came, nerves got to them, and they didn't make the group. I have students who don't give it all they have for months before Region Band auditions, and then the last lesson or two before the audition, they finally panic. They start to give it their all. I'm happy they are finally trying, but it's usually too late. They don't make the group, whereas my students who have consistently practiced and worked hard all semester generally do very well. I only meet with my students once a week for 30 minutes at a time. It's up to them to spend the rest of the week practicing the material. I can't make them practice. I can give them tips on how to make their music sound better, I can give them tips on how to practice more effectively, and I can try to motivate and inspire them to want to practice. But I can't follow them home. I can't force them to spend time with the flute on their face.

One of my favorite parts of lessons is when a student comes the next week who has just blossomed since the previous week. I'll ask, "What did you do? You sound great!" Just about every time I ask, the answer is, "I practiced."

Oh, really? You mean, that's what it takes? Of course, that's what's in my brain. What I say is, "That's great. It looks like that is working really well for you. Keep it up!"

2. You have to want it. Really want it. This is your birth.

Throughout the years, my flute students have taught me that I can't want it more than them. If my students don't want to improve, if they don't want to make the top group at school, if they don't want to make Region or All-State groups, it won't happen. It doesn't matter how much I want those things for them, it's not going to happen if they don't want it first. They don't even have a shot if they don't want it. My students that really want it, that really really want to do it, will put in the necessary work. In order to preserve my sanity, I've had to learn to only want it as much as they do. The same applies to birth. If a mama wants it, she will do what it takes.

3. There's more to achieving the birth you want than hiring a doula.

What does it mean to do what it takes? It means to stack the cards in your favor in order to achieve success. Do you want a VBAC? Hire a VBAC friendly provider. Not just a provider who is willing to give you a trial of labor, but a provider who has an outstanding reputation for being truly VBAC supportive. (Need some names? If you are in the Houston area, I have some for you. If not, ask your doula, childbirth educator, or other moms who have had a VBAC.) Do you want a natural birth? Hire a truly natural birth friendly provider, hire a doula and do the work she gives you, and take a good childbirth education class. Read your butt off. There is a lot to know out there. If you aren't willing to do the work, there is a good chance that the fact that you hired a doula won't be enough to make your ideal birth happen.

4. Sometimes things don't work out despite our best efforts. 

Finally, occasionally some of my students work so very hard, do everything I ask them to do, and it still doesn't work out. They still don't make that group they wanted to make. They still don't get into Really Awesome School University. I was that kid. It sucks. I hate seeing my students do everything in their power to achieve their goals and things out of their control keep them from their dreams. It really sucks. However, I can't help but believe there is more in our power than we realize. There is more we can do to make things happen than we realize. But when we've done everything in our power and it still doesn't work out? That's another post for another day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gold stars, heroes, and natural childbirth

This one has been sitting in my queue for awhile now. One of my clients recently reminded me about some of the silly things people like to say to advise discourage be a jerk to make conversation with women who are planning a natural childbirth. I'm not sure why women have to hear such discouraging things about their birth preferences. Why is it that people feel the need to comment when they approach a woman with an obviously pregnant belly? Why are we recipients of such unsolicited opinions? Why do people feel the need to be nosy about a woman's method of giving birth? Why is it so many want to say things that make us go, "Huh?" What is it about that irresistible pregnant belly?

One of my clients recently told me that she went to a hospital birthing class where an anesthesiologist spoke to the class about epidurals. At the beginning of his spiel, he said it was his job to sell the epidural. Honestly, I think if that is his job, then his job is pretty easy. No one needs to sell the epidural. It's pretty much sold already. Am I right? At least he put it right out there in the open.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to have it myself during my first birth. My second birth was too fast to even think anything, much less think about having an epidural. My only experience with anesthesia was probably about a year after Lily was born and I loved it. LOVED it. In fact, I cried when they made me wake up again. It was the best sleep ever. Even though it was only 20 minutes, it felt like days! I cried when I woke up because I was going through a hard time with Lily, waking up multiple times a night. I was so. very. tired. Let me also say I don't hate epidurals. I don't have an agenda to villainize the epidural or moms who choose to have one. However, most of my clients are planning natural births. Some are open to pain medication if they need it, and it makes no difference to me. It's not really my job to have an opinion on their decisions. In fact, if it's something they want, I want them to have it. We talk about ways to get the most out of it and the optimal time to receive it to minimize some of the risks.

But when my client said that the anesthesiologist decided to make that little jab at the natural birthing mamas, "Don't be a hero, " I got a little miffed. Why? Why did he have to go there? Why do people have to go there? "Just wait until that first contraction." "You don't get any gold stars for having a natural childbirth." "Don't be a hero."

And then after the birth. "Did you do it natural?" What is the purpose of all the questions?

When I first had Lily, I was so excited. I couldn't believe I was able to have a baby without any pain medications. I also didn't know much about the risks until after the birth. Do you know what motivated me to have my baby without pain medications? I'm not proud of my reason.


I was scared to have a needle in my back. I was scared of the rare risks. I was scared I would be that one person who would get paralyzed from the epidural.


I think many women can relate to fear being one of the biggest motivators for our decisions. "I am afraid of the pain." "I am afraid of having a Cesarean." "I am afraid of being induced." "I am afraid of the hospital." "I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid."

Not once did I think, "I want to be a hero. I'm going to give birth naturally." Not once did I think, "I'd really like a gold star. I'm going to give birth naturally." I can think of better, much easier ways to be a hero and earn a gold star.

I'll admit, though, that the more I learned about it, the more I probably romanticized it a bit. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of the fact that I did it! That I don't consider it two of my biggest accomplishments ever. Because I do. My girls are my biggest accomplishments, and I am allowed to think it. I am so very thankful that we shared the birth experiences that we did. I count my blessings that we were all healthy and safe and got to enjoy the experience in the process. Because it goes without saying -seriously- it does not need to be said, that a healthy baby and a healthy mother is the ultimate goal.

No one is looking for a gold star, but I do think most women want to be treated with dignity and respect during their birthing times. I think most women want to be supported and encouraged during their pregnancies. If they are planning a natural birth, I think they would rather hear, "You're going to rock that natural birth" than "You don't get any gold stars for having a natural childbirth." I think it's much more encouraging to hear, "You are amazing, and you are going to have an amazing birth (whatever that looks like for her)" than "Don't be a hero. Just get the epidural." There are plenty of positive affirmations that can be shared with a woman planning a natural childbirth. Learn them. Use them if the situation presents itself. Otherwise, follow Thumper's advice: If you can't say anything nice...don't say nothin' at all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Tips for New Doulas

As I have continued my doula journey, I have observed as new "graduating classes" of doulas have come through the ranks. There seems to be waves of new doulas entering the field, and since it seems like some of the same questions get asked at the beginning of doulas' various journeys, I decided to compile a list of advice I have picked up over the past two years from my readings and various seasoned doulas. The following tips are not any one tip from any one doula, and I take no credit for coming up with these ideas. I am just passing along what others have graciously shared with me over the past two years. 

Me attending a Belly Mapping class as part of
my Spinning Babies workshop
I will share a little history with you. I am by no means an expert in the doula field. I have only been doing this work for two years now. I began my doula journey after many months of feeling an irresistible draw to serving mothers during their pregnancies and birthing time. It really felt like this invisible something was calling me to this work. You see it all the time. "I was called." It's true. There is no other way to describe it.

I never expected to be a doula. I kept telling my husband, "I wish I had decided to be a doula rather than a flutist." He said, "You know, it's not too late."

So, I began researching how one goes about becoming a doula. I knew doulas existed. My childbirth educator was a doula. I chose DONA International to certify through, picked a training, and waited many months to get started. In the meantime, I read anything and everything birthy I could get my hands on. I started on the DONA required reading list. I continued reading my favorite birthy blogs and the references that they would share in their articles. I joined Facebook pages. I lurked and gleaned as much information as I could.

Finally, training weekend came! After it was over, I felt pretty good. Enthusiatic. Excited. Eager to attend my first birth. Still, I was pretty humble and a bit intimidated by the prospect. These are peoples births here! These are once in a lifetime experiences. They only get to have THAT baby, experience THAT birth one time. I don't want to do ANYTHING to mess it up.

I started to reach out to local doulas. I started advertising my services. I began getting responses. I booked my first client. Then a second. Then a third. I felt on fire! Of course, I was doing my first few births for free. Then I started charging a little more every few births. Still, my fees were super low.

My first doula birth came and went. I realized that there was SO much I didn't know, and that my training didn't prepare me for. There were so many gaps that needed filling. Since then, even in a short two years, I have learned SO much that I wish I knew then. Every birth I attend is a new experience. I learn something different from each family, each baby, each birth.

I consider the name of doula to be sacred. There was a long time that I wouldn't refer to myself as "a doula." I was " a doula-in-training" for a long time. Taking the name of "doula" upon me was something that I didn't take lightly.

Long story short, the more I do this, the more I learn there are so many things that I don't know.So with that, my collection of tips for new doulas.

Me and my pregnant belly attending a rebozo workshop
It felt so good.
Before attending your first birth: 

1. Get some sort of training. Either attend a weekend workshop or by apprentice with a seasoned doula. In our area alone, I can think of three doula trainers off the top of my head and one doula who is offering a more formal and intense apprenticeship program. I know of several others who have happily allowed newer doulas to shadow them.

2. Read your butt off. If you are pursuing certification, read the books. If you are not pursuing certification, read the books anyway. Read studies. Stalk the websites of various doula organizations and childbirth education organizations. Read read read! At the very least, I recommend:

The Doula Book
The Birth Partner
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
A breastfeeding book such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

3. Network with other birth professionals. Meet a doula or two or three that you can call upon during that first birth (and the next and the next). I met a few doulas at a "Meet the Doula" night. I texted one of them during my first birth when I felt "stuck," and I am so very thankful for the support. There are tons of events happening in Houston all the time. There is a Houston Doulas Support Group on Facebook. Join it! There is also a Houston Pregnancy & Birth group on Facebook. Join that too! GO to something. Movie nights. Comfort Measures classes. Essential Oils classes. Houston Birth Alternatives meetings. Especially attend the B.I.R.T.H. Fair in October of each year. I have found that the more I get to be around other doulas, the better I get to know them, the better things are for me as a doula. I need that, and I need them.

4. Understand the role of a doula. Have some sort of scope of practice that you abide by, and know what things are appropriate for a doula and what are not. Not all organizations have exactly the same scope of practice, and even if you decide not to pursue certification, know what your boundaries are. Numbers 1-3 are especially good for knowing a basic doula scope of practice.

5. Get your paperwork ready. I have interview packets ready to go. I include a welcome letter, CV (curriculum vitae with references that I've asked permission prior if I can use them as references), a "What is a Doula?" page, my contract, information form, and confidentiality forms. Potential clients don't usually get put on my calendar until I receive the necessary paperwork and deposit back. Before I was charging, I needed the necessary paperwork back before I blocked out my valuable time.

6. Have your marketing materials ready. Prepare a website, Facebook page, email, phone number, SOMETHING that will allow potential clients to find you and know what you are all about. As you do number 3 and start attending births, referrals and word of mouth advertising will start happening. Let your word of mouth advertising be GOOD word of mouth advertising! Numbers 1-4 will help with this.

7. Pack your doula bag. I carry a few things with me such as massage tools, essential oils, rebozo, Emergen-Cs, a bottle of water, change of clothes, phone charger, a few toiletries, etc. I'll pack a few snack foods before I head out the door. Your doula bag will change as you continue the work and find out more what you tend to use and what you don't use as much.

8. Do your heart work. Examine why you are doing this. Examine your biases. Check them at the door, and go help mamas!

Once you start attending births: 

Find the pregnant belly!
Attending the Improving Birth Rally 2012
9. Sharpen the saw. I recently read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and this is a term that he used for his very last habit. It means to continue doing what you've been doing to a greater level. (This book has has a great section on empathic listening which is extremely applicable to doula work.) Continue to examine your biases, and try to overcome them. Continue networking. It's extremely helpful to have a group of doulas who can help you when you need to process a birth or for peer review purposes. Continue your education. Keep attending classes such as Spinning Babies workshops, Rebozo workshops, aromatherapy workshops, etc.

10. Pay it forward. Once you've been doing this for a little while, find a way to help your community.  Host a movie screening or two or teach some classes. It's a great way to get your name out there and help pregnant mamas in the process. And when you've been doing this for awhile and newer doulas come along, well, you'll be the one sharing timeless doula advice. Good luck on your journey!

Dear seasoned doulas,

I know this list is far from complete. I would love any input or advice that you would be willing to share with some of us newer doulas. I'd like to continuously add tips. Thanks!

Friday, July 5, 2013

If someone hates what you do, you are doing something right

Music lesson time! Way back in the day during the Baroque Period (1600-1750), composers wrote very minimal amounts of music on the page for performers. It was up to performers to improvise to make the music more interesting. This process of improvisation was known as ornamentation. Performers in that day understood that there were certain guidelines or rules to follow to make sure this was done the proper way.

There are some people out there who do crazy things like major in music and get their degrees in flute performance (yours truly). Some people go so far as get their Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. (not me...at least not yet...maybe not ever) Some people become specialists in a very specific niche, such as Baroque Flute. For the record, Baroque flutes are not the same as modern day flutes. There were many differences, one of the biggest differences being that Baroque flutes were made of wood. My flute is made of silver and cost more than my first car, so...yeah.

One day during my graduate school years, a Baroque flute specialist came and presented a masterclass on ornamentation. During the masterclass, she told one of the performers something I will never forget. She was explaining how to audition for a Baroque flute program, which usually requires performing for a board of a few people. She said, "Sometimes people hate what you do. If someone hates what you do, it means you are doing something right." That really struck a chord with me. (Ha ha! See what I did there? Get it? Chord?)

I just started thinking about this again recently because I've had to jump some hurdles in my latest endeavor. I've been wanting to become a Birth Boot Camp Instructor since I first heard about it, but one thing after another keeps popping up (And popping out. Ha ha! I crack myself up!) to  delay my opportunity to attend a training. Life happens. Opposition happens, and it seems to happen often when I am doing something right. Despite various hurtles, setbacks, and opposition, I know this is the right path for me and a really great service I will be able to provide for women and families in the Houston birthing community. I am happy to report that, finally, after much eager anticipation, I have been able to sign up for the training that will be coming to Houston next year. February 2014 can't come quickly enough!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Birth Story of Baby Leila

This is a long overdue post, and has been in the pipeline of blog posts for months. I am happy to share a beautiful midwife-assisted natural hospital birth. 

Baby Leila
You may have seen her make an appearance on my blog before. 
Tuesday was much better. Leila’s official due date. One of the chiropractors was out, so I had to keep my original appointment for the following Monday, which surprisingly didn’t make me anxious. I intended to do a lot of work, but I was so tired. The week before I decided to quit my weekly yoga classes until after the baby was born, and I was not in the least tempted to drag my swollen belly through an hour of Forrest yoga this particular morning. Instead I took a leisurely two hour nap in the afternoon and went on a nice long walk with Wrigley. Ben and I had a nice evening together, thus completing the short list of physical activities rumored to induce labor. I doubted that either would work for that particular purpose, but I was hopeful that all was well with our baby and things would progress like they should. Ben was just about to turn out the light when I felt some cramping. I knew I had no other signs of labor and this was probably just my body practicing, but I could not help but feel incredibly giddy. Ben told me to try to relax and get some rest (as he did many times that night), but I was excited and hopeful. I watched our usual episode of Seinfeld and felt my body continue to cramp. When I hadn’t fallen asleep by the end, I tried another episode knowing that was usually enough to lull me to sleep. I was still awake after my second attempt, and I think I might have turned on a third. I cannot remember if I even made it through that episode before I got restless and decided to get out of bed. I told Ben I was still feeling something, and he sleepily told me to try to get some rest. I could not sleep, and I did not particularly want to either. I finished watching the last two episodes of The Good Wife. I felt more comfortable sitting up, but I also felt increasingly alert and started to give up on the idea of ever falling asleep. Even as the contractions increased, I downplayed the possibility that I was in labor. I finally timed my first contraction at 2 am, which confirmed that they were as frequent as they felt, only about five minutes apart. I emailed my friend to cancel our plans for tea the next day, though I didn’t have the courage to admit the real reason.
Done with entertainment and email checking and faced with strengthening contractions I finally asked Ben to wake up and keep me company. Convinced the discomfort was nothing, I hated pulling him out of bed and wasting one of his vacation days. At some point I asked Ben to start timing the contractions. From the first one to the last, they were never more than five minutes apart, and some would only last as long as two minutes. Ben made me some peanut butter and jelly toast, but I couldn’t keep it down. At first I got on my hands and knees through the contractions. I dreaded the fifteen minutes I’d spend in that position during the last month, but somehow it was the most comfortable during the contractions. After awhile I worried that I defaulted to that position longer than the 45 minutes our birth class instructor recommended and transitioned to walking. At first I’d walk from the living room through the dining room into the kitchen and through the hallway back to the living room. Eventually I opened the doors and started doing laps in the same manner that our dog Wrigley used to sprint through the house. Ben offered to go on a walk with me once it got light outside, but by the time that came I was not feeling up for a walk through the neighborhood.
Eventually we decided it might help me relax if we put on a movie. I decided on When Harry Met Sally, my default when I’m not feeling well, but sitting still on the couch was too uncomfortable so I kept making the laps as the movie played. Thinking back on it, the first 12 hours of labor were so tame comparatively, I can hardly believe my struggle with them at the end of the night. Of course, at the time it was all I knew. At around 4 am, Ben started texting and calling. First it was his boss, to let her know he would not be in that day, then my brother, asking him to come by to get the keys just in case he needed to spend the night with our dog. My mom might have been next, warning her we might not be around for the cleaning she had generously scheduled. Thankfully he did not forget our doula Kristi. She suggested we contact the midwives. She also asked that I try switching up my contraction routine and try leaning against a wall while I swayed my hips. Maybe it was the actual move or the natural progression, but it made the contractions feel miserable. As much as our birth instructor had repeated it in class, it was hard to relax into the pain and trust that instigating it instead of relieving it was the right thing to do. Ben called the midwives and at first spoke with the one I saw on Monday. After assessing the situation with Ben she asked him to call back when the next midwife came in at the 7 am shift change. At some point Ben suggested I grab a shower. It brought such blessed relief. Instead of my usual quick ritual I took time to wash and condition my hair and even to shave my legs. I think the shower slowed down my contractions, but I was nowhere near comfortable enough to lie down and take a nap. My brother came by for the keys while Ben was in the shower. I could hardly summon the energy to get to the door. Most of the labor is a blur and I have a hard time remembering what exactly happened when, but I remember at one point early in the morning finally feeling like I could not walk through the contractions anymore and if I could physically talk through them I certainly did not want to make the effort. I’m not sure how much I actually did, but I just wanted to cry – out of excitement, out of pain and out of sheer fatigue.
As much as I did not want to make the trek to the hospital only to be returned home, I felt like I could not stay home much longer. At one point I demanded Ben vacuum the living room rug because the sight of Wrigley’s fur embedded in the fibers was driving me utterly nuts. I could not concentrate. Ben called the new midwife on call. I can’t remember much about what she asked me other than if I’d slept and saying something along the lines of fatigue being the enemy, which made me feel even wearier. She told us to come to triage because after my appointment on Monday, she did not think I was very far along. Ben packed the car and we left for what we assumed would be a short trip before we were sent back home. I had at least three contractions on our way to the hospital. Houston traffic is miserable in the best scenario, let alone while laboring. Ben said it took 45 minutes to an hour for us to make it to the medical center, what should have been a 15-20 minute drive. Then it took us awhile to figure out how to get to the St. Luke’s entrance. I wanted to be frustrated, but I was too tired. I struggled not to cry as we left our car with the valet. I was excited and nervous to walk through the hospital doors, still very unsure of what it would mean for us. We left our bags in the car and made our way to L&D. Kristi was there when we arrived. They were going to hook me up to a monitor but they let me finish a contraction first. When they came back they told us they were moving us to a room because they were pretty sure I was in labor. I stopped by a scale on the way to the room and could not have cared less had it read one million pounds. Once in the room, they wanted me to hook up to the monitors but another contraction had already started and brought me to my hands and knees. Thankfully our nurse was gracious and accommodating and worked around me. I anticipated the nurse being a random appendage in the whole process, but ours was an integral encouragement throughout labor and delivery. When my midwife came in to check me I was 4-5 cm dilated and as I remember 80-90% effaced and at a -2 station. I could not believe it. Leila had been working all night. The discomfort was not for naught. I was in labor. It was enough for them to keep me in the room.
Things were moving along, but Leila needed to turn. My midwife had me turn on my side and labor in that position, with one leg outstretched and the other bent up to aid in her turning. It was miserable. Unlike walking or leaning there was nowhere for me to physically move through the contraction. I just had to lie with it. After awhile in this position my midwife asked if I’d like to labor in the tub. I wanted to, but I was worried. I asked her if it would slow things down. She assured me that nothing would slow things down at this point, which was the most reassuring thing I could have been told. The tub felt wonderful. At first I struggled through the contractions, but they showed me how I could turn on my side. As nice as it felt, eventually even the tub ceased to be a comfort. They helped wrap a towel around me and I leaned against Ben and did a laboring slow dance. It was so comforting to have him hold me. I wanted to fully appreciate how amazing Ben was, how attentive and prayerful and loving, but the whole labor I had no words. I had no desire to talk and I had no desire to be spoken to – the only thing I could tolerate was brief encouragements to breathe or change positions. My midwife would feed me words of encouragement, telling me that I “couldn’t be doing it any better” or how natural I was. The simple assurances were so comforting. I could not connect to anything beyond what was going on within my body.
The lights remained dimmed, and the room felt like a cocoon. I labored in this sacred space, shared only with this small tribe of the most amazing women and loving man. Prompted by Kristi or my midwife I moved from one position to another. Despite hours spent squatting in yoga, unable to move my inflated body into more limber positions, I physically could not squat through a contraction. My midwife checked me at 6 cm/100% effaced/-1 station and 8 cm/100% effaced/-1 station (when Leila still hadn’t turned) and 8 cm/100% effaced/0 station again (when Leila turned into position). I felt discouraged to hear I was only at 6 cm and that I’d remained at 8 cm. After one of the checks Kristi asked me what I was thinking and I confessed I was thinking about “the thing I didn’t want to think about.” It was not that the pain was unmanageable, but rather the fleeting fear of how much longer this might last. My midwife quickly asked what we were talking about.
“Are you talking about an epidural? That’s okay. Just because you’re talking about it doesn’t mean you’re asking for it.”
It was exactly what I needed. The freedom to let the thought enter my head without the fear that it would lead to a sitcom inspired scream for drugs. I no longer needed to entertain the thought.
I eventually asked if it would be okay for me to return to the tub. This time it brought fleeting comfort. I spent most of the time bent over the edge of the tub, working through a contraction. I would sit halfway back before I felt the need to lean over again. At first I thought I was misreading the end of the contraction, but then I heard my midwife say that I was “coupling.” After about half an hour I got out of the tub and again danced with Ben before moving back into the room. The next two hours felt much longer. My midwife moved me to my side again. I didn’t want to be present in the agonizing contractions, but there was no other choice. They needed me to stay in bed and remain hooked up to the monitors. Eventually I had to move. I got on my knees and leaned over the bed. In the last thirty minutes of transition the pain was so agonizing it literally took my breath. I wanted an epidural, I wanted a c-section – I wanted to know this was going to be over immediately. Through every breath I kept waiting for the guttural change that signaled I was ready to push. I tried to will my body to make the noise, but the contractions were too intense for me to do anything other than survive them. A few times I said I couldn’t do it. It was not so much the labor but the breathing. I would hear a chorus of encouragement to breathe. I needed it. I begged for my midwife to come back in the room and check me. I was 9.5 cm and she thought I could start pushing. She asked me if I felt the need, and I remember hesitating and deciding to answer yes even though I wasn’t sure. Later Ben told me that he caught my hesitation and worried I was lying to my midwife. I prayed desperately that the pushing would only last 20 minutes. I could not imagine enduring two more hours, my body was so fatigued. During the last leg of contractions my leg would shake violently. But it was true was our birth instructor told us, pushing was a relief. I felt so relaxed after my first round of pushing. I only remember pushing four or five rounds, but by the end the constant breath holding made me start to feel dizzy. I wanted to ask if she was close, but I knew it was best to stay focused on each breath. At 6:06 pm, after almost exactly 20 minutes of pushing, Leila made her full appearance. Ben looked at me with tears in his eyes and announced her arrival with wonder. They threw her up on me for a second before taking her across the curtain to be checked by the pediatric team. When my water finally broke there was a lot of dark meconium, so my midwife wanted to make sure that everything was okay. I could tell she was really conflicted about it, but later I realized that it was a blessing. Ben was able to bond with Leila while I could lie back and let my midwife help me through the last part. I will never forget seeing Ben walk out from behind the curtained divider holding our baby as if it were the most natural thing in the world and then tell her he loved her. Our midwife said in 21 years she has never heard a father welcome their baby simply with “I love you.”
Finally I was ready and Leila was ready and they laid her on my chest to breastfeed. I saw Ben overcome with emotion the second she entered the world, but it was the moment that we physically reconnected again that I felt teary eyed and was overwhelmed by what those 9 months and 20 hours and 6 minutes meant. I am a mom, and this is my daughter. My absolute favorite scripture is Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I felt that verse in my soul as this most beautiful baby readily took to my breast. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of protection and trust, and gratitude. Later a friend asked me if being a mom was the best thing ever. I told her I didn’t know yet, but I did know that I had never felt more grateful for anything in my entire life.
By 8 pm we were finally ready to be wheeled over to our postpartum room. I felt regal as they wheeled me to our room, holding Leila, the center of the universe. All of the grandparents and aunts were waiting for us. It was a nice reunion. Later Ben and I ate the hamburgers our parents bought. Ben said it tasted like the La Sierra burgers we used to eat when we lived in Kigali – it was not so much how amazing they actually tasted but the context that made them unbelievable. Later that night neither one of us could sleep, so we stayed up reliving the entire labor and delivery experience. It was one of the sweetest nights I’ve ever had in my entire life. If God ever asks me what two days I want to relive, I will say our wedding day and Leila’s birth day. Hands down.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

8 Red Flags that tell you that you need to run far, far away from your OB

As a doula, I feel it is important to be familiar with the birthing climate in the Houston area. I consider it a privilege to get to know and become friends with other birth workers. I enjoy attending births all around the greater Houston area. I love to attend the occasional hospital tour to get a feel for what to expect at a hospital at which I've never joined a family for their special day. I also like to read the websites of various health care providers and hospitals, especially when they so generously provide a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section. However, every now and then I want to take a big red marker and say, "No! No! No! Red flag! Red flag! Run far, far away!" The following is a list of just a few red flags that I have collected after reading several provider websites. And because I am a fan of silly memes sometimes, you get to enjoy my silly sense of humor. 

Red Flag #1: Your doctor (or midwife) does not recommend birth plans.

By now, we all know that birth PLAN is probably not the best name for what a birth plan actually is. Everyone knows that birth does not always go according to plan. It is pretty unpredictable. It's exciting, thrilling, awe-inspiring and sometimes annoying, scary and heartbreaking that way. Sometimes a natural birthing mama ends up with a Cesarean because her blood pressure went through the roof at the end of her pregnancy, or a mama looking forward to her relaxing epidural birth ended up with a super fast natural birth. There is plenty that goes against the best and most carefully considered plans. There is plenty out of our control. However, there is plenty that is NOT out of our control, such as birth location, care provider, whether or not we accept or decline an induction, whether we accept or decline the epidural when that nurse in triage asks you if you want one when your husband and midwife left the room for that split second, what you wear during labor, etc. There is more that SHOULD be in your control, but often is not due to reasons such as hospital policies, such as position during pushing, eating and drinking during labor, laboring in water, etc. If a provider scoffs at your desires to have a birth plan, or makes fun, or tells you that you do not need one, that's a red flag. There are plenty of providers in Houston that do not mind them and actually encourage them.

Red Flag #2: You're not allowed to say no. 

If your doctor (or midwife) recommends an intervention, and you are made to feel like you are not allowed to decline, that's a red flag. Ask questions about why the doctor is recommending an intervention (such as induction, Cesarean, etc) and gauge the reaction. How is the doctor treating you because you've asked questions? Do you feel rushed? Stupid? Safe? Excited? Scared? Like just another number? If your doctor seems annoyed that you are asking questions, let that be a red flag. If your doctor says on her website, "if we recommend XYZ, we EXPECT YOUR FULL COOPERATION," let that be a red flag. The first time I came across a website that said that, I was completely floored. 

Red Flag #3: VBAC is not an option.

VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) is sort of a huge deal these days. Many many MANY women are seeking VBAC and many women are getting them! How is that possible? Because they are finding VBAC supportive doctors and midwives! (Or are forgoing the whole care provider thing all together) If they don't give the option of VBAC, what other options are not available? If you are seeking a VBAC, there ARE options available in Houston. Just not with everyone.

Red Flag #4: Your doctor (or midwife) uses scare tactics to try to persuade you to choose her recommendation. 

"You don't want your baby to die, do you?"
"If you do that, your baby could die."
"Your baby could die if you don't do what I am recommending."

Let's just use VBAC as an example. There truly is a risk of uterine rupture with VBAC. There is also a risk of uterine rupture with a woman who has never had a previous Cesarean. I've read websites from practices that do not offer VBAC and offer the explanations as to why they do not offer them by using lengthy scare tactics. This is unacceptable. Perhaps these providers do not feel comfortable with VBAC. This is fine. There are plenty of care providers in Houston who DO! Maybe they do not feel trained enough. That is fine as well. There are plenty of care providers in Houston who DO! I've got names. Even ACOG (who I don't always agree with, but usually OB's tend to) doesn't completely ban VBAC. 

Red Flag #5: Your care provider recommends induction at 41 weeks.

Ok, I'll concede a little one this one. Sometimes it might be a good idea to induce at 41 weeks IF, big ole fat IF, baby and/or mom are not doing well and the benefits of induction outweigh the risks. But to just recommend it (remember, there are some practices out there that say once they recommend something, they EXPECT YOUR FULL COOPERATION), "just cuz" does not sit well with me. 

Red Flag #6: Your provider recommends that you get induced to fit their schedule. 

Of course, you are allowed to schedule an induction to fit your schedule. It's your life, your baby, and your body. If the risks are worth it to you, by all means, do it. But it is NOT ok to be pressured into an induction because it fits into your doctor's schedule. Because you know why? Besides the fact that doctors usually only come in once the birth is imminent, meaning you're pushing and baby is coming soon, someone WILL be there to catch the baby. Why change your life around to fit such a short amount of your doctor's time. Why increase the risk of fetal distress, jaundice, c-section, etc to convenience your doctor? 

Red Flag #7: Doulas are not allowed.

I'm sure you've seen that famous misspelled sign. You know the one. Ask your doctor how s/he feels about doulas. If s/he says they are not allowed, or that they had a bad experience with doulas (which may actually be true, but not all doulas are created equally), if they don't want you to have whomever you want at your birth, like they are going to be there the whole time like a doula would anyway, let that be a red flag. When I was pregnant, I had a midwife tell me that doulas are a luxury and that I wouldn't need one. That was a red flag for me. A tiny one, but a red flag nonetheless. Of course, I like doulas. I AM a doula. I think every woman should have a doula if she wants one.

Red Flag #8: You feel like you need to run far, far away, and as quickly as you can, from your OB (or midwife).

If at any point you feel like you should switch providers, you should probably switch. It may be really hard sometimes because most of the time they are sweet, caring and truly do want to help you. Not all OBs are like the ones that make you say, "Huh? How in the world did you get in this business?" But those instincts are there for a reason. If it doesn't feel quite right that a certain person, whether it is an OB, midwife, doula, mother, mother-in-law, sister, best friend, photographer, or even your other children, attends your birth, then they probably should not be there.

Every now and then, you'll get a red flag with even the most cooperative care provider. One red flag doesn't necessarily mean to run. Two, three or even thirty-three red flags doesn't mean you've picked the wrong care provider if you still feel certain that you've picked one you can trust. But if you start seeing these red flags occur, if you start feeling like maybe you don't trust this person, that maybe they don't really care about you, in short, if you feel like Number 8, then it may be time to interview some other providers. 

I have a list waiting for you if you need it. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Spiritually Nourishing Journey: The Gift of Giving Life

The Gift of Giving Life has been on my doula wish list since I first started hearing whispers of it. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be blessed with the privilege of being part of a virtual book tour! As soon as I received this book, I devoured it. Even with a (nearly) 3 year old and a 3 month old nursling, I couldn't put it down! It was even better than I imagined it to be. What was supposed to be a book review turned out to be an unexpected, yet much needed reflective journey. This may be a different review because I kept a journal of sorts as I read through each chapter. I wanted to record any impressions that came to mind. In this post, I will share my journey of the past two weeks in its very raw, heartfelt form. Grab a hot chocolate, and get comfortable. This is kind of long. 

Look what I got in the mail!
From the book jacket, "Pregnancy and childbirth are not to be feared; they are divinely appointed processes that can be joyful, spiritual, and bring families closer to God. The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth offers something that no other pregnancy book has before- a spiritual look at pregnancy and birth by and for Latter-day Saint women and other women of faith. Through moving stories from women in the scriptures, women from early Latter-day Saint history, and dozens of modern mothers, The Gift of Giving Life assures readers that God cares deeply about the entire procreative process.

Topics covered include: constant nourishment, meditation, fear, pain, healing from loss, the physical and spiritual ties between the Atonement and childbirth, the role of the Relief Society in postpartum recovery, and more. Birthing women, birth attendants, childbirth educators, and interested readers of all faiths are invited to rediscover within these pages the divinity and gift of giving life."

Foreward, Chapter 1: Our Legacy, & Chapter 2:The Importance of Giving Life

Today I read through Chapter 2. I still love how the book is so segmented. Even something as aesthetically pleasing as frequent stopping places is a big deal to me and helps me to thoroughly enjoy reading this book. It allows me to get to a finishing spot really quickly in order to tend to my babies. I always feel a little interrupted when reading most books as it makes me uneasy to need to stop reading in the middle of a chapter. This book is a collection of short essays and birth stories, so I do not feel that anxiety.

My babies
I am filled with love for this book as I have finished up the second chapter. This is truly chicken soup for a Latter-day Saint doula's soul. Any mother, especially a Latter-day Saint mother, would appreciate the stories in this book. It is so detailed and well-researched. I can  tell a lot of "Search, Ponder and Pray" went into the writing of this book. So much love.

I have never read a book that has moved me to tears so much. The Foreward brought me to tears when I read it, and the adoption story at the end of Chapter 2 is making me bawl like a baby. I can't imagine what it must be like to feel a life growing inside of you for 9 months, give birth to a precious baby, and then have to say good-bye forever, even when you know it is the best and right thing to do. I can't imagine. I am looking forward to more.

Chapter 3:Personal Revelation & Chapter 4:Patience

I love this book! I just can't get over how much I adore every word. I love the aesthetics even- I love that the pages with personal stories are a different color. I love the symbols at the top of the page that provide a trigger warning. I love how the chapters are arranged.

As I've continued to read, I keep wishing that I had read this when I was pregnant just four months ago. So many words were exactly what I needed to hear during that time. I want to share this book with everyone. I want to shout from the rooftops, "Read this book!" I want to gift it to my midwife...my doula...I want to share it with my cherished LDS friends.

Chapter 5: Preparation & Chapter 6: Meditation

Playing with Lily at the park
Meditation. This is not something that I do very well. Prayer, yes. Meditation, no. I am guilty of doing as President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, praying to Heavenly Father like I am ordering groceries. I dump my "I thank thees" and "I ask thees" at His feet, and I sometimes wait in silence for an answer. I'll spend a few minutes waiting, listening for anything Heavenly Father might have to say to me. Most of the time, I feel like I do not receive anything. At least nothing that I recognize. Every now and then a word or two will come to mind. Words like, "Wait." Or, "Keep going." Or, "It's not that serious." If I am truly honest with myself, I don't really get any answers other than, "I'm here. I hear you. Thanks for checking in. Just go about your day." I suppose I won't be able to have these amazing deep experiences every day. And most of the time, when I do have an experience, its not during my prayers. It's when I am sitting on my couch right after getting my child (now children) down for a nap, and I gaze out of the windows to enjoy the sunlight and silence. Sometimes I feel His love and awareness in those moments. Or at the park watching Lily play. Or giving birth. Or witnessing a birth. Or reading a story out of the Friend magazine with my daughter.

I decided to try the meditation thing in the shower today. Lots of moms' Sacred Grove is in the shower. I retreated to the shower for my home birth. I've shed many a tear in the shower. I had no expectations. I decided to merely observe what thoughts came to mind. My first thought, "Prayer. You're doing it wrong." Sometimes saying my prayers and reading my scriptures frustrates me because I have attached expectations to them. I expect saying my prayers will help me have a good day. I expect the mere act of reading my blessings that I feel I desperately need. I often accuse myself of "doing those things just so I can get stuff." What if I just said my prayers just to commune with the Lord? What if I read my scriptures just to be with Him? No strings attached. No expectations. My next thought? Well, you'll just have to check back in a few weeks because I am not ready to reveal that yet.

Chapter 7: The Spirit-Mind-Body Connection

Constant nourishment. '"I once told a friend that I wished I had an umbilical cord to Heaven, to constantly fill me with God's love. I will never forget her answer. She said, "It is only an illusion that there is not."' (236)

Love. This. Book.

That is all.

Chapter 8: Fear & Chapter 9: Pain

"The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain. Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be. I saw that no matter what happened to me in this life, I could trust that God had me in mind and that life happens for me, not to me. It's all for my good." (254) LOVE!

Chapter 10: The Atonement

"Regardless of where a mother labors, it should feel safe to her. The Savior sought familiarity, privacy, and seclusion for the work He was about to do. Women find themselves doing the same as the labor." (344)

Trigger warning: Loss

This was a hard chapter to read. Infant loss, stillbirth, abortion, birth trauma. It was very heavy, but there were so many lessons about truly relying on the Lord and His Infinite Atonement. This chapter contained excellent advice on the stages of grief and helping women through there grief if ever called upon to do so. I was thankful for the symbol at the top of the page to warn me about the sensitive nature of the essays. I was just taken-aback by how many women have experienced such heartbreaking loss. How did they recover? How did they even survive these experiences? Ultimately, the only thing that helped these women was drawing on the power of the Atonement. As hard as it was to read, I think this was a necessary component to a book about birth. As much as I like to share a lot of positive birth experiences, and as much as I wish every birth was all sunshine and daisies, and as much as I want to change the face of birth and help it have a better reputation, the simple truth of the matter is, birth is not always a wonderful experience. Sometimes there is death. Pain. Loss. These mamas need to be heard too. They need a safe place to grieve, and this book has a fantastic website with resources to help women through that process.

Chapter 11: Unity

"Strengthening Marriage during Pregnancy and Beyond" is a fantastic essay. These is so much information that I want to shout from the rooftops! I know that the lessons I have gleaned from this essay will allow me to serve my clients in a much greater way.

Chapter 12: The Fourth Trimester

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I am kind of sad that a part of my journey has come to a close. I know that this will be a great resource for me, and I can't wait to be able to dig in the footnotes of the
The fourth trimester
chapters and ponder the things more. I feel like reading this book was such a spiritually nourishing journey. In such a short amount of time, I feel like this book has changed me. It has inspired me and encouraged me to be a better wife, mother, doula, Relief Society sister and Latter-day Saint. It has encouraged me to be a better daughter of my Heavenly Father. I feel all the women who contributed to this amazing work were inspired of the Lord. I have said lately to several people, "I am so lonely, though I am never alone." I feel like reading this book gave me some of the companionship that I have been craving. There are other women out there who get what I am going through when I thought no one else would or could. There are others who have been where I am now and who, through this book, have given me the strength to carry on. They have buoyed me up. This opportunity could not have come at a more perfect time.

One last thought, I couldn't help but notice that there were 12 chapters. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose, but I love the significance of the number 12. Hopefully someone can come along and provide some insight on that.

Final thoughts: I think this is my favorite book about birth ever! Believe me, this is a big deal, because I have read some truly amazing books. However, the authors "have written the book unabashedly for a Latter-day Saint audience" (xvii), and I can't help but feel a deep, heartfelt connection with a book that is written about two of my most favorite topics in the world: my faith and birth. Order your copy here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret

"The best-kept secret... about childbearing... is that it IS a sexual experience."

- Elizabeth Davis, CPM
Co-Director, National Midwifery Institute, Inc.

"Having a baby has a lot in common with making a baby." 

- Sarah Buckley, MD

Something very interesting and surprising happened to me during my pushing stage with Kimberly, and that was the fact that pushing started to feel really good. When I say really good, I mean in THAT way. You know the way I mean. Yes, that way. I know. Crazy, right?

Ina May Gaskin, world renowned midwife, has said, "If you listen to a woman in labor who is being cared for properly and who has been well-prepared for birth, she sounds like she's having great sex." I was aware that I was vocalizing because I was doing it on purpose, but I wasn't aware of exactly how I sounded. In my mind, I figured my neighbors were probably getting ready to call an ambulance because I probably sounded like I was dying. I really didn't care. A few weeks later at my postpartum visit, my doula told me, though, after I told her about my pleasurable birth feelings, that she had planned to tease me because apparently I sounded like I was in a porno. Oh. Ha ha! I can live with that. I suppose instead of calling 911, they probably started to think my husband was the ultimate stud. I can get on board with that. I'm sure he can too. 

Because I was curious about what I had recently experienced and hoping to learn more, and also because it is "required reading" for Birth Boot Camp certification, I decided to finally watch my Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret DVD that was still wrapped in the cellophane that had been just sitting in my library for months. It is, "a documentary that examines the intimate nature of birth and the powerful role it plays in women's lives when they are permitted to experience it fully." In this DVD, "11 couples share their intimate personal journeys, facing their fears and moving through pain into the ecstasy of birth." (Quoted from DVD jacket)

When I first started to watch this documentary, I had the windows in my living room open to let in the sunshine and cool breeze. Once the DVD started, I had to close my windows for fear that people would think I was watching something naughty. It DOES sound like women are enjoying themselves sometimes when they are giving birth, but I never really noticed it before. Usually when I hear a woman vocalizing during birth I notice her strength, and I recall what it feels like when someone is making those sounds. My heart goes out to her, but I know that she is perfectly capable of doing the work of labor. I feel like if I, little ole me, could bring forth life into this world, anyone can. I feel so much compassion for laboring women because I have been there twice so far. As the great Ina May has said regarding midwifery, birth just doesn't happen the same way around surgeons and medically trained doctors as it does around sympathetic women. I am not a midwife, but I am definitely a sympathetic woman. 

Having an orgasmic or ecstatic birth sounds a little "out there," doesn't it? It sounds like only something those crazy birth junkies can experience. It sounds like more like a stroke of good luck if a woman experiences any part of birth that actually feels pleasurable. Maybe it is just the luck of the draw,  but there is something that you CAN expect and remember, and that you and your body are AMAZING. "To be realistic is to expect your body to be wonderful." -Naoli Vinaver, CPM

Well, Kristi, having an orgasmic birth sounds great and all, but really? How can I have one? 

1. For starters, watch the DVD and consider some of these words from the it.

2. Choose a care provider and birthing location that is supportive of undisturbed birth.

This is not a plug for home birth, though I believe that a woman is more likely to be left alone to labor how she wants if she births at home. For some people this may not be possible to birth at home. It IS possible to have a mostly undisturbed birth in a hospital as well. I have had one. I have witnessed them with supportive care providers. A woman needs to feel safe and cared for to birth well, so wherever and with whomever that happens is the best place for her to give birth and the place where a highly pleasurable birth is most likely to happen.

 "If a woman wants to live through an experience that is ecstatic for birth, she will have to be conscious about choosing where she wants to give birth, with whom." 

- Naoli Vinaver, CPM

3. Set the mood. "Our sphincters are shy." -Ina May Gaskin 

What? Sphincters!?! (Google Sphincter Law for some fun reading material) Women in labor need privacy, a darkened room and a minimum of observation, much like during sex. Well, maybe not the darkened room is not necessary during sex, but I assume most women probably prefer to have sex in a private place with a minimum of observation most of the time. 

4. Understand that "birth is a part of a woman's sexual life." - Billie Wolff, RN and Lamaze Instructor

As a doula who talks with other doulas,  I hear a lot of "the same moves that got the baby in, get the baby out." We encourage mothers to move during pregnancy and birth and a lot of the movements look very sensual. And who hasn't heard that sex is supposed to help bring on labor? And nipple stimulation, kissing, touching and hugging helps to bring on contractions and also helps them to become stronger and more productive during labor. After all, the same hormones present during the big O are also present in higher amounts during birth. According to experts in this DVD, oxytocin, the wonderful ooey-gooey bonding and love hormone present during loving experiences in our life, will never be higher than those moments right after birth when a woman first meets her baby. How fantastically yummy! 

In summary, how can you have an orgasmic birth? When you are "safe and secure and uninterrupted and that is how you will have an orgasmic birth." -Mardsen Wagner

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Now offering placenta encapsulation services

It has been one of my goals to start offering placenta encapsulation services* to my doula clients and other women who may desire to reap the benefits that placenta encapsulation may offer. It has been said that ingesting one's placenta after birth can:

Increase milk supply

Lower the incidence of "baby blues"

Replenish iron

Increase energy

Lessen postpartum bleeding

Balance hormones

Placenta encapsulation is the process whereby one's placenta is dehydrated, powdered and put into capsules for the mother to ingest. It is also possible for the placenta to be processed in such a way to be used in smoothies, salves, tinctures and other recipes (even chocolate placenta truffles!)

I decided to have my placenta encapsulated after the birth of my second baby. My doula also prepared my placenta to be used in smoothies that lasted for about one week postpartum. I have noticed that my hormones have been much more friendly to me this time, and I have not experienced the baby blues to the same extent as I did with Lily. It took me a very long time to feel human again with Lily, and I feel like I have gotten back to normal much more quickly with Kimberly. However, I am hesitant to say for sure that my mood is much better this time because I didn't really start feeling stressed out about motherhood until Lily was about four months old. That was when I was first starting to teach flute lessons again and leave her with sitters that I barely knew. It stressed me out to have to rely on people, and I always felt like I was burdening them. Now that I have gotten used to relying on other people, and it isn't the end of the world to do so after all, I am adjusting much better this go round with Kimberly. One of the biggest benefits that I am experiencing that I do not mind sharing is the increase of milk supply. Holy oversupply!!! Poor little Kimberly went through weeks of sputtering on the milk, usually late at night like clockwork. For the past two weeks, I stopped taking my pills, and we have not had any late night choking and sputtering problems. Then today, because I was feeling a bad mood coming on, I decided to take some. Guess what happened! After two weeks without them, the very day I take placenta pills again, we have choking and sputtering problems. Too much milk! I also can't take them after lunch time because I will be up all night. They give me so much energy.

Although placentaphagy (ingestion of the placenta by the mother) has a rich history of being extremely beneficial during the postpartum period and the benefits can be supported by ongoing research, it has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. I am not a health care provider such as a doctor, midwife, pharmacist or herbalist, so the service I am providing is the encapsulation of the placenta only. I do not offer medical advice or treatment, nor can I guarantee that the ingestion of one's placenta will ensure the purported results. Clients are responsible for doing their own adequate research regarding placenta encapsulation, as the information shared here is for educational purposes only and not meant to treat, diagnose or advise clients in any way.

Here is a list of a few places to get started on your research to decide if placenta encapsulation is right for you.

Placenta: The Gift of Life by Cornelia Enning

Placenta Benefits.info (PBi) Research & Articles

Articles about the UNLV Placentaphagy Survey:

Steamed, Dehydrated or Raw: Placentas May Help Moms' Post-Partum Health

UNLV researchers author first-ever scholarly report on experiences of placenta-eating moms

Las Vegas SUN Highlights UNLV Research (This blog post includes a link to where you can purchase a copy of the original article published in The Journal of Ecology, Food and Nutrition. A copy of the article costs $37 which makes me really miss having access to a university library.)

* Regular price is $175 with discounts given to doula clients. My first few placenta encapsulation clients will receive a huge discount, so contact me ASAP! This opportunity won't last long!

Email: keendoula@yahoo.com
Phone: (225) 229-4130

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birth Energy

Every other year, the orchestra that I play in performs for the finals of an international piano competition. Artists from all over the globe compete in this amazing and inspiring event. I have been truly moved by many a pianist from it.

I believe it was last season that we provided the accompaniment to three talented pianists; two of them performing Rachmoninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. All three were unbelievably talented. They would have to be in order to make it to that stage of the competition after competing with some of the most talented young pianists from all over the world. But there was one who stood out in a major way.

Every time we would rehearse, I mean every single time, he would bring an amazing energy with him. Many musicians "save it" for the concert, but not this guy. He "brought it" every single time. That "it" was simply astounding. There was an energy that emanated from him as he played. It was like an invisible wind that circled through the orchestra. It had bands of energy, like an invisible hurricane had landed on top of the orchestra and enveloped us all. To me, his energy was quite tangible. I have never felt anything like it in my life, and I have performed in many concerts over the past nearly 20 years. I leaned over and asked my neighbor, "Do you feel that?" And he said, "Yes!" I expected him to ask me what I was talking about, but the amazing energy that was whipping around the orchestra wasn't just my imagination! It was apparent to my neighbor as well. It was really an amazing experience. 

That guy won the competition by the way. How could he not? I think I understand now where the phrase "blown away" came from. Because we were all quite literally blown away. 

I have only felt a tangible energy one other time since then, and that was at Kimberly's birth two months ago. Once I settled into my birth groove with the warm water running all over me, I felt this same windy energy circling around me. At the time, I was too overwhelmed to really draw anyone's attention to it, but it was neat for me to have the presence of mind just enough to appreciate this energy. Since then, when anyone would ask me how the birth went, all I could reply was, "It was..... " and then start making this spinning motion with my hand like I was stirring a big pot of gumbo with it. The birthy people in my life would smile and say, "Ah. Gotcha." 

I just couldn't find the words to describe this circling windy energy until I watched my Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret DVD, which is part of the Birth Boot Camp instructor required reading list. In case that title piqued your interest, it is "a documentary that examines the intimate nature of birth and the powerful role it plays in women's lives when they are permitted to experience it fully." In this DVD, "11 couples share their intimate personal journeys, facing their fears and moving through pain into the ecstasy of birth." (Quoted from DVD jacket)

I took notes as I watched and finally heard the perfect words to describe what I felt! The woman's name was Alexandra and she said it felt like, "a huge circle around, that was just spinning in the universe." 

Yes! This is the perfect description. I couldn't have said it better myself. 

I'd love to hear your experiences! Have you ever experienced a time where you felt a powerful energy circling around you? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.