Sunday, November 22, 2015

Birth Boot Camp Class 3: Setting Up Camp & Chain of Command

Last week was the third week in my current Sugar Land Birth Boot Camp series. Class 3 is called Setting Up Camp & Chain of Command. This is my favorite class of the series!

In this class, couples learn how to find a supportive care provider that supports your desired birth, picking a perfect birth location for your goals, certain interventions that can impact your birth, and affirming that YOU are in charge of your birth.

I believe that choosing a supportive care provider is the most important thing you can do to have the kind of birth that you want. I love how Houston doula and childbirth educator, Debbie Hull, says, "Make sure your caregiver is selling the kind of birth you want to buy. You don't go to a Toyota dealership if you want a Honda." If you want a natural birth, you're more likely to achieve one with a care provider who loves and specializes in natural birth.

Read: Meet our incredible OBs in Sugar Land who support natural childbirth

Also: Meet our amazing Houston midwives

Red Flags Game
We played the Red Flags Game and introduced the class to certain "red flags" to be aware of when choosing the perfect care provider. Too many "red flags," and a change of provider might be in order. It is never too late to change care providers! One couple from a previous series changed care providers during labor!

The class came up with advantages and disadvantages to giving birth in the hospital, at a birth center, or at home. They did a great job on this!

Of course, I always love what Jim Gaffigan has to say about giving birth at home.

Finally, the class taught one another about various policies that have an impact on your birth, such as frequent vaginal exams, routine use of IVs, electronic fetal monitoring, and VBAC policies.

MUST read: Is your provider VBAC friendly or just VBAC tolerant? by Austin, TX birth doula and natural childbirth educator, Melek Speros

I may or may not have gotten on a soapbox about frequent vaginal exams, as I am known to do.

Read: Your Cervix is Not a Crystal Ball written by one of my amazing Birth Boot Camp DOULA trainers, Maria Pokluda

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Ways to Play with Kids for Moms who Hate to Play

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I have a hard time playing with my kids. I get bored easily, especially when my kids usually just want me to watch them play rather than actually play. As soon as I divert my gaze to something else, like my phone or a book, they climb all over me. They want me to just sit there. All day. Watching them have fun. Doing nothing else. 

Last week, I took to the internet to ask my mom friends for ideas on how I could enjoy playing with my kids. The responses surprised me. Instead of ideas, I got a lot of exclamations of, "Me too!" I also received a lot of encouraging responses. I don't have to enjoy playing with my kids. That's what other kids are for! I'm still a great mom even if I don't enjoy playing with my kids. I can show love in other ways. The wonderful women who responded helped me to realize that I am still a great mom even if I don't enjoy playing with kids. They also helped me to realize all of the other cool things I do with my kids already. I'm not such a bad mom after all! They helped me to come up with this list of 10 ways to play with kids for moms who hate to play.

1. Set a timer. 

I have a hard time being fully present during my time with the kids. I worry about all the stuff I need to do when I am trying to spend time with them. I've learned how to play with my kids in small spurts. I say things like, "I will play with you until the timer goes off, but then I have to wash dishes," or,  "I need to work until the timer goes off. Then I will play with you." 

2. Let them help. 

My kids love to help me around the house. I don't know about you, but it is so hard for me to enjoy spending time with my kids when there is still work to be done. My solution is to let my kids help. They love to help unload the dishwasher, rake leaves, or fold clothes. It usually does make the chore take longer, but it helps on those days when there is a lot to do.

3. Visit indoor play areas.

I really don't like chasing after my kids. I had a few experiences with my oldest when she was a toddler that have left me with anxiety about wide-open outdoor places. Since then indoor places have been my friend. I still have to watch them like a hawk to be sure they don't escape, but I'm not quite as anxious as I am at parks. My kids love to play at a Chikfila or McDonald's play area, but our favorite is the Playscape at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land.

Check out: Stomping Grounds in Sugar Land 

Also: Majestkids Playland in Sugar Land

4. Visit parks. 

I still take my kids to the park, but I prefer to take them to parks that seem a little more contained. My favorite parks in Sugar Land are Eldridge Park and Sugar Land Park by Sugar Land Middle School. 

5. Exercise with them. 

My kids joined me on all of my daily walks throughout my third pregnancy. I strapped the toddler in the stroller, and my preschooler walked with me. She kept up really well too! She'd run ahead sometimes and wait for me to catch up. Now she is one of the fastest kids in her class. It is one of the most adorable things to watch my kids do yoga or Pilates with me. I get jealous when it is so easy for them. 

6. Have bath time. 

It is pretty sad how long it took me to figure out that bath time isn't necessarily just for taking baths. Now that my kids are old enough to take baths independently, I can let them play in the tub when I need to catch up on things. Sometimes my kids climb in the shower with me when I'm taking a shower. It is a win for all involved. The kids climb in, I get a shower, and the kids think I'm playing with them.

7. Visit the library. 

We love Toddler Time at the Fort Bend County Libraries! We go as often as our schedule allows. All I have to do is make sure that my kids don't escape, and sit back while the teachers sing songs, read books, and share crafts with them. 

8.  Snuggle up and read books. 

I am a master at reading books with my kids. This is my favorite thing to do with them. Our current favorite is If You Give a Mouse a CookieI'm also a really great snuggler. I'd enjoy it more if my toddler could JUST SNUGGLE without wiggling incessantly. Snuggling with her makes my stress melt away when she is able to be still.  We love to snuggle up and read books together.

9. Sing songs. 

We sing lots of songs. Everything becomes a song. We sing when we clean up. We sing when we brush teeth. I even sing them a song about "wiping butts" during diaper changes. (I didn't say they were GOOD songs.) Our current favorites are Bingo and Little Bunny Foo Foo. 

10. Attend play dates. 

For a mom who has a hard time playing with kids, play dates are a lifesaver! Not only do they allow for adult conversation, but the kids *mostly* entertain each other. All I have to do is help settle disputes sometimes. 

I loved that the biggest takeaway I got from asking my mom friends how to play with my kids is that I am enough! Who I am and what I have to offer my kids is enough. Brene Brown would be proud. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Birth Boot Camp Class 2: P.T. & Chow

Eat a Rainbow Coloring Page
Last week marked the beginning of a new Birth Boot Camp series at my home in Sugar Land. There are three couples in this series. (It is not too late to join in!) This week we covered Class 2: P.T. & Chow. This is the second class in a series of ten classes. It is all about physical training and nutrition for your birth.

Class 2 is one of those classes that I feel like I learn much more from my students than I could ever teach them. I learn something new at every series. My students are amazing! They teach each other and me. Last night we went over what a Whole Foods Diet is and why it is important to consume one during pregnancy. We discussed the importance of eating a rainbow and colored a picture of our own rainbows to help us remember to eat more colorful foods. Did you know that coloring can help relieve stress?

Learn more: adult coloring books relieve stress

Because we cover ideas for self-care during pregnancy, I mentioned a new trick I learned about teaching your brain to be happier. At the end of every day, in order to rewire your brain be happier, think of at least 3 good things that happened to you that day. Over time, your brain will learn how to think happier thoughts.

Learn more: positive affirmations for birth

You can't talk about eating healthy without mentioning how awful fast food is! We discussed how some fast foods are better for you than others. Poor McDonald's is always at the bottom of the list. Of course, I had to mention the Jim Gaffigan McDonald's skit. Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians because he "gets it." He has the best skit about home birth. I laugh every. single. time.

Watch Jim Gaffigan's McDonald's skit. Watch it now!

Finally, I issued what I like to call the Apple Challenge. The Apple Challenge was first issued by one of our dads in the Spring 2015 series. When I encouraged couples to eat organic as often as they could and as often as their budgets allow, this dad raved about how awesome organic apples were. He challenged all of us to just do ONE thing that week. Just buy organic apples. We didn't have to worry about anything else. Even if all we could do was eat ONE organic apple, we should try it.

Ever since then, I've been issuing the Apple Challenge to all of my classes. All of my students from here on out will benefit because this dad was willing to share a passionate testimonial and issue an easily attainable challenge.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What if they laugh at me for needing a C-Section?

I have given birth three times, and all three times I have been afraid of having a c-section. 

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This isn't an unusual fear. Most of the women who enroll in my Birth Boot Camp classes or interview me as their doula list having a C-section as one of their biggest fears for their upcoming birth. Most women I meet prefer to give birth vaginally, whether or not they are planning a completely un-medicated birth. I'm in good company when I say I am afraid of having a C-section.

I hear many reasons for the fear:

  • It is major abdominal surgery 
  • It requires a longer recovery time
  • They are worried about being able to bond with their baby
  •  They worry about potential breastfeeding trouble
  •  They want a large family and don't want to potentially limit the size of their family by having a c-section (most of my clients are first time moms who realize that the first birth will set the stage for all future births)
  •  They fear missing out on a pivotal experience of womanhood
  • They want to experience birth as "it was meant to be" (not my words, just something I hear a lot)

My reasons for wanting to avoid a c-section evolved over the course of my childbearing years.

During my first pregnancy, it wasn't so much that I feared a c-section, but that I really wanted to have a natural birth. 

A c-section would be the complete opposite of what I wanted. I'm not proud to admit this, but I was scared that I would feel like a failure if I had a c-section. I had this feeling that people expected me to fail at natural birth. That, maybe, they even wanted me to fail. Of course, of COURSE, I would consent to surgery, if my baby needed it. I just really hoped I wouldn't need to, and I did everything in my power to avoid needing a surgical birth. Luckily, with the support of my amazing husband, I managed to avoid a C-section AND have the natural birth I desired. 

For my second pregnancy, I worried about having a c-section for prideful reasons. 

By this time, I'd been a birth doula for nearly two years, and I was planning to certify to teach Birth Boot Camp classes, which are geared toward couples planning a natural childbirth. It was no secret that I felt pretty awesome that I managed to have a natural childbirth. Me! A dainty flutist! It was also no secret that I thought natural childbirth was the bee's knees. What would it look like if I, a birth junkie/doula/aspiring childbirth educator, ended up with a Cesarean? Well, certainly it would look like I got what I deserved for thinking so highly of myself for having a natural childbirth and for putting natural childbirth on a pedestal. Certainly " they" would be happy to see me knocked down a peg or two. 

Pride. I feared my pride would be hurt. 

Recently, during my third pregnancy, that old familiar C-section fear came back. There were a few new elements to this fear, however. 

First, I had confidence. 

Confidence that if I should need a C-section, it was because it was necessary. 

Confidence in my midwife, that she would know when a transport was necessary. 

Confidence in my doula, that she would support me No. Matter. What. That she wouldn't be one of the ones who laughed at me for needing a C-section. 

Confidence in my husband, that he would advocate for our baby and me. 

But mostly confidence in myself, that I would know under which circumstances a C-section was truly necessary. I had confidence in my body that it worked, that it was capable of amazing things, and that a C-section only meant that this baby needed to be born this way, not that there was a defect with my body. 

Second, I wasn't worried about the surgery itself, or about the physical recovery. I was terrified of the emotional recovery. 

I've seen how heartbreaking it has been for so many women, and I was afraid I wasn't strong enough to handle that aspect of recovery. I've battled a tendency toward negativity my entire life. I was really scared that if I needed a C-section, it would be one more thing I had to work really hard at being positive about. I didn't know if I had it in me. 

Finally, the pride was still there. 

What if they laughed at me for needing a C-section? 

I finally admitted that old ugly feeling to my doula, and she said the perfect thing to help that fear go away for good. This right there, people, is why doulas need doulas too and why I couldn't doula myself. I believe getting all those fears out in the open helped me to have a better birth experience than I would have without it. Processing fears is an important part of preparing to give birth, no matter what kind of birth one is planning. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The rebozo chooses the doula

Image created using morgueFile and Canva
I attended a wonderful birth several months ago and ended up getting vernix on my rebozo. As these things tend to happen, it was no big deal. After I washed it, I laid it out to dry on our deck in the warm sun. As I was on hands and knees smoothing out the wrinkles in my rebozo, I couldn't help but think of how my actions were like a thanks offering I was making to the birth goddess for allowing for such a beautiful birth experience. I don't actually worship any birth goddesses, but it seemed to be such a sacred moment to me. I was deeply thankful that the birth I had attended had turned out to be such a great experience for that family. I couldn't help but think that tenderly smoothing out my rebozo in the warm sun was my humble offering of gratitude. I love my rebozo. It is more than just a piece of cloth to me. It is sacred.

I fell in love with the rebozo at my first doula training. Before I started purchasing items to include in my doula bag, I knew I had to have a rebozo. A real one. I wish I could describe what it means to me. It has been on quite a journey with me as I have learned how to support birthing families during one of the most special times of their lives. It has been a companion. If I ever stopped doing birth work, I imagine the only thing I would keep to remember this wonderful season of my life is my rebozo. I could never let it go. It has become a part of me. 

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I am also a musician, and I carry a lot of supplies in my flute bag: my flute, metronome, sheet music, pencils, tuner, and cleaning supplies. Out of all of those things, my flute is the most important to me. I could never get rid of my flute. It is a part of me. My rebozo is like my flute. I could teach a flute lesson without ever playing a note on my flute, but it HAS to be there right next to me in case I need it. I COULD use a cheaper model in a pinch, but I won't. My flute helps me do my best work. It is the same with my rebozo. I don't always use it, but I need it to be there just in case I need it. It has to be MY rebozo. Not only is it a birth tool, but it has a history. It means something. My rebozo has attended many births with me, and it brings the strength of the women who made it and the strength of the women who have birthed in its presence to every birth I attend.

I've had my flute for 14 years. During that time I've tried lots of other flutes. In all that time, I have NEVER found a flute that I like better than mine. It is THE ONE. Mr. Olivander had it right. Just like the wand chooses the wizard, the flute chooses the flutist. It is the same with my rebozo.