Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giving Birth Is the Easy Part: Surrendering to Parenthood

Giving birth was the easy part. Don't get me wrong. It took some considerable effort on mine and my husband's part to prepare for having a natural childbirth, but little did I know, that parenthood would be way more challenging than giving birth would be.

As I have come to learn, "parenthood is savory humble pie, baked fresh daily." (Hanessian 253) It takes so much humility to be the kind of parent that most of us want to be, and this is something that I have been struggling with since Lily was born.

Even before the birth of a baby, parents, especially mothers-to-be are inundated with tons of advice and stories, especially stories of the more horrific variety. There is no lack of poo explosions and weeks worth of labor to make a pregnant mama wonder, "What was I thinking?" Why is it that people decide to wait until there is no turning back to share those stories with as much glee as they can muster?

I remember when I was pregnant that I was given advice about certain topics that didn't sit well with me. I remember the negativity I received when I revealed that I was planning a natural childbirth. I remember being told by people who didn't even have children that we were spoiling our newborn baby by picking her up when she started crying. I remember being told to just put her down and let her cry over and over and over again. I was offered so many tips and tricks but for some reason I kept resisting. I didn't want to hear from these people and I would just smile and nod while on the inside yelling, "Grrrr!!!! Grrrr!!!! Grrrrr!!!!! I don't want to hear this." I didn't really understand why it made me so mad.

Baby Leila
I had the honor of attending her birth, and I love love love this onesie! I will need it for our next baby!
Posted with permission.

Then I started to notice something. The people who would lead by example rather than spout out their unsolicited advice were the ones who taught me the most. It seems as if those that I most respected and admired in their parenting choices were the ones who didn't offer advice until I asked. And once I asked they were happy to share their gems of wisdom with me and I happily and thankfully accepted. And like a vampire who only needs to be invited into your home once, I happily accepted unsolicited advice from those parents that I deeply respected and admired once that little ritual of waiting until I approached them first was observed.

For example, one of my favorite people at church is a retired La Leche League group leader, and she was the kind of parent that I was hoping to be. You know, one of those natural birthing (she had several successful VBACs that I can't wait to eventually hear about), breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc, etc, mamas. When Lily was first born, I was having a bit of breastfeeding trouble, so I asked her to come over to help me if she had the time. She did, and she also held Lily in this certain way that instantly put her at ease. I don't even know if she meant to do that, but I asked her to show me more. And from that respectful observance of boundaries, I have no problems whatsoever if she were to decide to offer me some help. But since she is awesome, I have noticed that she doesn't do that. However, I watched her when we worked in nursery together once the things that she would do with the little toddlers, and I took notes. She's a great mom.

My own mom is good at the whole leading by example thing, but it's different with your own mom. Sometimes she can tell me something that gets under my skin a little, but I guess it's just because she's my mom. When Lily was getting into the wiggling-while-changing-diapers stage, I went home for a visit. My mom offered to change a diaper and I told her that Lily was getting in the really wiggly stage. Do you know what she did? She gave Lily a toy to hold while she changed her that kept her occupied so she wouldn't wiggle anymore. My mom didn't say a word to me about what she did, she did it without thinking, but it completely blew my mind. Something so simple, and I also appreciated how she just led by example.

I could go on and on about how I have been encouraged to be a better mother, and about just little tricks of the trade to make my life easier by the wonderful examples around me. I could also go on and on about the aggravating unsolicited advice I have received. I know I am not alone in this; it's sort of a rite of passage when it comes to parenthood. I think they're all just so excited and everyone wants to help and participate and tell their own stories because hey! They survived! They remember how hard it was in the beginning (or maybe they don't), but I imagine they remember and it's their way of saying, "Hey! I survived! This is what I did to survive, so hopefully it'll make your life easier." At least that's what I hope they are thinking rather than, "Man, this girl is stupid and I can't believe she had a baby, she needs all the help she can get." Because, believe me, when I first became a parent, I already felt pretty dumb, and was already really sensitive thanks to the hormones. I didn't really need anyone else to help me feel stupid.

At the same time, there is a lot of pressure to be a good mom. We really do need all the help and advice we can get. I imagine before families became separated from one another and we were all so far away from each other, it was just the way things were done. A woman became pregnant, gave birth, and I bet her mother and grandmother were there to help her during labor and birth. I bet they helped her establish breastfeeding, and I bet they all worked together to raise that baby. I imagine that it's just the way things were and new mamas didn't feel insulted if they didn't know everything. They felt like it was just normal to have their mothers and grandmothers help raise the baby. I imagine that new mothers were way more pampered back in the day after birth and I bet they were expected to take it easy and expected to sit around and breastfeed while everyone else took care of household duties. New mamas now are expected to jump back on the treadmill immediately and keep a clean house and raise babies while somehow taking enough "me time" and getting enough rest. "Once across the threshold of motherhood, we begin to feel as if the whole thing depends on us, on our good judgement and perfect choices, on how well we mothers can manage and what kind of children we can grow with enough advice, time, and money-like the entire trajectory and outcome of our children's development falls squarely on our shoulders." (Hanessian 234)

It's really just too much for someone like me to raise my little family without all the help I can get, and I especially need the help of my husband. But even he can give me some advice and I just take it so personally that sometimes we get into these huge fights over it. I know that we need to be able to talk about things, but I often feel that what he says is criticism to the hard work of parenting. I put my heart and soul and my everything into being a good mama to our little girl, and I just can't stop being so sensitive when the person that I admire and love more than anyone else thinks that I'm not doing something quite up to par. But he never ever says it that way. I take it that way. He's Lily's parent too, and I want him to participate. And I want him to have a say in the way things go around here, so why is it that I can't stop taking things so personally? It's something I don't understand about myself, but I hope after time, experience, and much prayer, I will come to understand and change this about myself. "We can never know until we butt heads over whose way is better, whose way is right, until we feel the sting of criticism and the unforgiving armor of our defenses, until we come of age, that there is no "wrong" way when two people love a child well." (Hanessian 173)

I think that what I am needing to do more than anything is learn to surrender. I need to surrender to life and to parenthood. I need to just allow my life to happen and find joy in it. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes the hurt seems to grow and grow. It's a lot like labor. Sometimes it hurts, but in order to get through it the quickest and easiest, one needs to surrender to the process. Accept that this is the way it goes and just find a way to calmly get through, and even enjoy the experience.

"Surrender is about being open, letting in and offering a depth of love and vulnerability and commitment-in motherhood and in marriage-that I might have previously yearned for at a distance. In a sense, it is about giving up, giving up the barrier between love and fear. In doing so, I feel more connected-to myself, my son, my husband, God, the history of time. Somehow, sitting here, I feel related to every mother who ever rocked a baby in her arms. I surrender." (Hanessian 168)

Quotes from Let the Baby Drive by Lu Hanessian; read my review here

Friday, June 22, 2012

So who do you REALLY want to hire? A doula or a monitrice?

What a doula provides:

Continuity of care:*

Once the doula comes to your side in labor, she is there for the duration of your labor, birth and immediate postpartum period. Nurses have other patients to care for and will be in and out during labor. Your OB may only show up for the delivery and then again, you may end up with a completely different OB. If you have a hospital birth with midwives, there is a great chance that the midwife will have other patients as well and will be in and out. You get to know your doula at several visits before the birth, and she gets to know you and your hopes and concerns regarding your upcoming birth experience. She will also see you after the birth. Some doulas are also postpartum doulas, and if you desire, your postpartum doula can help you during the postpartum period with breastfeeding and parenting issues.

Support for the birth parter:

Doulas do not just help the mother! I have seen a very visible sigh of relief from fathers when I have entered the room. Just knowing that there is someone else available to help their partners seems to put them at ease. If they forget something they learned in their childbirth education class, even if they forget everything they ever knew, having the doula there to provide loving encouragement to the birth partners to participate as much as they are comfortable is a huge relief to dads to be.

Wealth of knowledge:

Doulas know all about birth and the birth process. Many have given birth themselves. Even if they have not given birth themselves, they have supported women in the process and know what a laboring woman looks like. They know the birth environment of local hospitals and practitioners. Even if they do not have experience at that particular location themselves, most doulas network with other doulas and can always find out. If a doula doesn't know the answer to your question off the top of her head, she knows where to go to find the answer.

Another pair of hands:

It gets tiring to massage a laboring mom sometimes, so if the labor is very long, the birth partner and the doula can take turns.


The doula knows how hard labor can be and what needs to be done to get through it. Many times the labor doula has given birth herself, and if she hasn't, she is experienced with supporting mothers through labor. A laboring mom and her partner can rest assured that their doula truly "gets it."


The doula is there for the parents. She is hired by the parents and has loyalty to only the parents. She can help remind you to make informed decisions and can help explain what hospital staff are saying when you are in the middle of concentrating on labor.

Reduced rates of medical procedures and complications:

Studies have shown that a woman can have another woman sitting in the room doing absolutely nothing, and her presence alone will improve the outcome of a woman's labor and birth. Imagine if a trained doula is in the room. In summary the benefits of a doula are:

Source: Unknown. If this is yours, please let me know.

What a monitrice provides:

All of the above plus:

A monitrice is able to provide clinical skills such as checking fetal heart tones, taking blood pressure, and assessing cervical dilation through pelvic exams. 

Do you want someone who can provide some medical skills? Do you want someone who can help you decide when to go to the hospital by assessing cervical dilation through a pelvic exam? 

Then you want a monitrice

About both doulas and monitrices:

There is a wide spectrum of what services doulas and monitrices are comfortable providing. Some doulas are certified and some choose not to certify. It is up to the expectant families to do research to determine what type of doula they want and/or need at their births, and if they want a doula at all. Maybe what a mama really needs is not a doula at all but a monitrice. 

If you decide that a monitrice is what you really need, I am happy to provide a few referrals to some doulas who also have been trained as monitrices. 


The list of services that doulas typically provide comes from Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, pages 182-183. The elaboration of services provided are my own clumsily written thoughts. 

Because I like to give credit where credit is due, a local doula who wrote an article about the scope of practice of doulas, sparked this entire thought process of mine. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Memorial Hermann Memorial City

This past weekend I joined an expecting couple for a tour of the hospital at which they plan to deliver their baby. I have never attended a birth at this hospital before, so I thought it was a good idea to see where everything was and know where to go on the big day.

For the first part of the tour, everyone met in one of the hospital classrooms. A nurse started the meeting by discussing all the scary stuff that could possibly happen that would prompt you to go to the hospital. Once that was out of the way, the rest of the meeting was pretty positive. I appreciated when she mentioned she was from Europe and how things are done over there is vastly different than in the U.S. I've heard this before from some of my former clients who came from Europe. The nurse said that mothers and babies are considered "one" and they do not separate them. It's taken awhile for the U.S. to catch up, but she did say that, provided everything was okay with the baby and mom, the baby goes directly on the mom's chest after the delivery. She said "skin to skin", and I appreciated that she was adamant about skin to skin being the best for the baby. She said that there was no reason to rush any of the postpartum procedures and as soon as mom and baby are ready, to go ahead and give breastfeeding a try. She did mention that this hospital hasn't always been like this, but that they are now.

I also appreciated how she encouraged the use of gravity during labor, whether moms choose to use an epidural or not. Just because a mom chooses to use an epidural to help with pain relief does not mean that there isn't plenty to do to help baby descend.

At this hospital, if a mom does not have an epidural, she is free to walk the halls and walk anywhere in the room. If she has an epidural, naturally she will be confined to the bed.

If a mom does not have an epidural or Pitocin, then she does not need to be on the electronic fetal monitor continuously. If she does have medications, she does.

Anesthesia is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is good because I have been at a birth out here in my neck of the woods (I kind of live in the boonies) where mom had to wait about an hour and a half to receive an epidural because the anesthesiologist wasn't at the hospital yet. I'm pretty sure that most hospitals in Houston have anesthesia available 24/7. It's these outlying hospitals that might not.

Because we could not visit an OR, the nurse showed us a picture of the OR and described procedures in case of a Cesarean section. She said that mom can have 1 person go back to the OR with her, but she said that moms really need 2. She encouraged the moms to ask their care providers if they can have 2 (If they want 2). One person needs to be available to go with the baby should the baby need to go to the nursery and the other person needs to stay with mom. She still encouraged the dads to hold the baby skin to skin after the birth as the mom will still be in surgery once the baby is born.

After the classroom portion of the tour, we visited the L & D floor. The room we visited was one of the smallest rooms I have been in, but it still has plenty of room for anyone mom wish to be in there for her labor. Only 1 or 2 people are allowed during the actual delivery, but during labor, there is no limit to how many people can be in the room.

The bathrooms seem pretty nice. There are no tubs to labor in but there are nice roomy showers. I was disappointed that there are no rooms with tubs because for many women who wish to have a natural birth, immersion in water is one of the most helpful tools available.

Moms need to bring their own birth balls if they will to use that during labor. Anything you would want to use to help during labor such as birth balls, massage tools, aromatherapy, etc. you would need to bring yourself. Or if you have a doula, she'll have it.

The nurse did say that the doctors do like it if moms push on their backs but she said, "That is the worst position! You have the right to push in any position you want. They are not the ones having the baby."


After the L & D portion, we went down to the 2nd floor and saw the postpartum rooms. They are typical size. If I remember correctly, there are no tubs in those rooms either. It's weird but cool. It's like going to the gym. Both the L & D and postpartum showers looked roomy enough to put the birth ball in there if you wanted to sit on the birth ball in the shower.

A few things about postpartum: Most moms room in with the baby. If I remember correctly, they will take the baby to the nursery at 7am and 7pm (nurse shift change) to check vitals. Because I am paranoid, I would probably either refuse this or send my husband to go with the baby during this time. They also bathe the baby at night in the nursery. For me, we decided not to have our baby bathed because of the wonderful properties of vernix, but not everyone wants that. Mom's and baby's vitals will be checked every hour during the day and every two hours at night, so don't expect any sleep. But who can sleep with a new cute bundle to get to know?

Lactation consultants are unfortunately not available on the weekend. Neither are the staff who help with the birth certificate info. They will catch up with you after you go home.

All rooms are private. Woot!

I'm sure I left some information out, but hopefully I remembered correctly the things that I do remember.

From what I can tell with just looking at the hospital and hearing this particular nurse speak, lots of improvements have been made at this hospital. Seems like women are speaking, and this hospital is listening. I hope other hospitals in the area, especially the ones out in the boonies near me, will get the memo soon and get themselves in gear!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cute face discount

Sometimes when we make the trip home we will stop halfway and get a hotel room to sleep. My husband is funny and decided to ask the lady at the desk for a "cute face discount" the first time we stopped at that hotel. She laughed a bit, but she really hooked us up! It was pretty amazing!

So the next time we stopped there, and it was a good several months later, she was working at the desk and he walks in and she goes, "Cute face!" She remembered he had said that! Ha ha! So instead of giving the cute face discount she asked, "Did you see any billboards on the way?" He said, "Uhhhh...." She says, "Yeah, you did. You can have the billboard discount." So she hooked us up again! It was awesome.

So, in honor of my cute faced husband's birthday and Father's Day this month, I am offering a $50 discount to any families that book my doula services and pay the deposit during the month of June. It doesn't matter when your baby is due, if you book and pay the deposit in June, you receive the discount.

Oh, what's that? You want to see what this cute faced husband looks like? Here ya go!

This picture is almost four years old, but he hasn't really changed much in the past four years. Same hair, same beard, same cute face. :o)