Monday, December 1, 2014

Birth of Baby Holly

Katy and Bryan were the first couple to sign up for my very first Birth Boot Camp series. I had the privilege of being their doula as well. I remember the moon being so big and full in the sky that night. I called that moon and every full moon since the "Holly Moon." I am in awe of this couple, their adorable baby, and their joyful birth. Enjoy!

I’ve wanted to write my birth story for several months now, because my birth was so much more wonderful than I expected. Being a first-time mom, I was initially nervous about a natural, unmedicated birth, but knew that it was definitely what I wanted. My husband, Bryan, fully supported me and after finding a birth center that we loved and Kristi, our amazing doula and Birth Boot Camp instructor, we knew that we were completely prepared to experience the beauty of birth without medical intervention.

My birth story starts when I was 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. It was a Tuesday. I worked full-time as an ICU nurse in a local hospital and was actually off of work on this particular day. I woke up feeling some mild cramping on and off during the morning, and finally lost my mucus plug in the early afternoon. Of course, my husband and I were excited, but we knew that we didn’t want to get our hopes up for labor since first-time labor is usually not early. Sure enough, things slowed down and we realized that we were not really in labor. The next day was uneventful and I decided that I would not skip work, since there was really no reason for me to stay home. The week passed so slowly until Friday at lunch, when again, I felt some mild cramping.

Katy, Bryan, and Holly
Photo shared with permission
Sitting in our nurse’s break room, eating my lunch, I felt what seemed like mild menstrual cramps for a few seconds. I hardly noticed it, honestly, and put it out of my head since it felt like what I experienced on Tuesday. I continued to work, staying busy with my patients. Around 4 in the afternoon, I realized that this cramping had not stopped, but had instead become slightly stronger and more frequent so I texted my husband and let him know that I thought there was a chance we could be in labor. Of course, I didn’t want to jinx anything, but I couldn’t deny the fact that these “cramps” were getting more intense. By the end of my shift at 7pm, I finally admitted that these cramps were contractions, but even at this point, I was convinced that this was not real labor yet. I gave shift report to the oncoming night shift nurse and drove home (I even had a contraction in the car).
When I got home, my husband Bryan met me at the door, and suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood to see if that would intensify my contractions. I agreed, but during our walk, every time a contraction would hit, I had to stop walking and hold onto Bryan for support. At that point, he was convinced that I was in labor. I, on the other hand, was still somehow in denial. Finally, around 8:30 pm, after I could no longer talk through a contraction, I called work to let them know that I would not be back in the morning. We were in labor!
Around 9pm, I decided that I wanted to get into the bath tub to labor for a while. I texted my midwives and doula to let them know that I was in labor, then texted the family who would be present at the birth, to have them on standby. I expected that it would be a long night, since this was my first labor. The bath felt good for a while, and my husband was so sweet. He rubbed my back and helped me get into comfortable positions for each contraction. At this point, I couldn’t talk through contractions anymore, but instead got quiet and breathed deeply. Bryan asked if I wanted to go to the birth center, but I didn’t think that it was time. Still, he called our midwives and spoke to them on the phone. They listened to the sounds I made through a contraction and decided that I should come in at midnight to be checked out. We called everyone to let them know the plan, and I decided to try lying down in bed in order to get some rest. Immediately, my contractions became too intense to lie down and I began moving around the house, finding different positions in which to labor. My husband was so wonderful; he really became a source of strength for me during this time. It was really wonderful to have this time for just the two of us, to enjoy labor privately before traveling to the birth center. Finally, at 11pm, I got into the shower, changed into some comfortable clothes, and got into the car.
As soon as we got into the car to make the 45-minute drive to our birth center, I began to transition. Each contraction caused me to moan loudly, with a low, guttural vocalization. I held onto the seat of the car and rode through each contraction like a wave, almost drifting to sleep between each one. This helped the drive seem to go by quickly. Finally, we arrived at the birth center and met the few family members that were attending our birth.
Inside, I labored in the lobby for a few minutes, since they had just had two other births back to back that night and were preparing a birth room for me. I held on to the edge of one of the couches to steady myself through each contraction and moaned loudly while my husband applied counter pressure to my back. Shortly after we arrived, Kristi, my doula, arrived to the birth center as well. I was so relieved to see her. I cried with happiness when she hugged me, knowing that she had been in my place and that she knew what I was going through. She told me that I was doing a great job, which really made me feel better, since labor was becoming very intense by this point.

Finally, my midwives brought me back to a labor room and checked my cervix. I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced, but had some scar tissue on my cervix. As soon as my midwife Camilla massaged my cervix, I opened up to 10 cm and started pushing immediately. At the time, I didn’t know that I was pushing. I only felt an involuntary change in my contractions, in that they suddenly caused me to bear down. My moaning quickly changed to a much louder sound at this point- not necessarily a scream, but more like a controlled yell. This was the most intense part of labor: the pushing. Since I wanted to try a water birth, my midwives helped me move into the birth room with a tub. I got into the water and kept pushing with each contraction, still not really knowing that I was in fact pushing. My water broke in the tub like a rubber band popping inside of me. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in labor, I had a bowel movement in the tub and had to get out of the water since it was dirty. I moved to the bed, where I got on all fours and buried my face into a pillow. Kristi rubbed my back and whispered affirmations in my ear, encouraging me with every push. My husband got behind me, ready to catch our daughter.

As I continued to push, I soon felt a strong burning and suddenly, my midwife informed me that my daughter was wiggling her eyebrows at everyone. Shocked and in disbelief, I asked, “her head is out?!” I couldn’t believe that my birth was happening so quickly. I had already delivered my baby’s head and we had only been there for an hour and a half (it seemed even shorter than that)! With one last push, I delivered the rest of her into my husband’s hands. I flipped over and took hold of my sweet baby girl, Holly.

That moment was the most amazing moment of my entire life. I held my baby against my chest and time stopped. It was like a high; I was elated. I had never felt such a rush before in my life. I was completely giddy as I kissed my sweet baby over and over again. We waited until after Holly’s umbilical cord stopped pulsating before my husband cut the cord, and soon after I delivered my placenta. I sat and held Holly while my midwives cleaned me up. They helped me breastfeed for the first time, and then I handed the baby to my husband while they got me into the tub to bathe me. It felt so good to get cleaned up and to move around (one of the benefits of a natural labor). Afterward, they placed some stitches, since I sustained a second degree tear during delivery. Once I was finished with that, I took Holly back into my arms and lay in bed with her on my chest, my husband in bed next to me. We slept for the rest of the night there at the birth center.

In the morning, we got up and drove home, still high on the excitement of the night. Our baby was perfect and our birth was so beautiful. The experience was truly life-changing. Our birth team was wonderful and honestly, we can’t wait to do it again- at home, next time, since apparently I’m a fast birther. We couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Just for the mother

I have a question.

A common criticism of extended breastfeeding is that it is "just for the mother." Critics don't seem to realize the benefits of extended breastfeeding and just assume that women are forcing their breasts into their toddlers' unwilling mouths. They obviously haven't been around a breastfeeding toddler. If you have, you know what I am talking about. You're not going to force a toddler to do much of anything, much less breastfeed. In fact, the toddler is probably the one forcing the mother to breastfeed. At least this is my experience.

A common criticism of home birth is that it is "just for the mother." Critics don't seem to realize the benefits of home birth and just assume that women are putting their babies lives at risk for the sake of "an experience."

Let's give mothers some credit, shall we? Not everyone wants to admit it, but the mere act of reproducing puts our lives at risk. Even if the risk is small, it is there. Not everyone makes it through the process. Thanks to medical advances, more people make it through this process than they used to. Mothers put their lives on the line for their babies just by the mere act of giving birth to them.

Mothers sacrifice their bodies for their children. Our bodies stretch and nourish our growing babies for nine months. At some point, most women experience significant discomfort in this process, whether it is the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy early on (or throughout the entire pregnancy), the backaches, hemorrhoids, or the discomfort of giving birth to a baby. Our breasts swell and stretch to provide milk for our babies.

We sacrifice sleep. All the glorious, wonderful sleep... gone.... with the birth of a baby.

Our hair falls out. Our skin gets dry. Our eyesight changes. Our bellies get kind of flabby. Our bones get out of alignment and our hips become wider. Our bodies leak things- blood, sweat, tears, milk... urine when we cough or laugh. All for our sweet babies. And these things happen whether we like it or not. Good mothers and bad mothers alike. It doesn't matter. We all experience it. If we have been pregnant and given birth, we have already offered our very lives for our children.

So even if we do something just for ourselves, and even if something like extended breastfeeding or having a home birth is just for US...

After all we have done...

I have a question.

Why is that so wrong?

I have the answer.

It's not.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not all birth is natural

Woot! She came out of my vagina.
From time to time, I am witness to a discussion about the definition of "natural" birth. Some people think that natural birth means unmedicated birth, completely free of medication of any kind. Some people think that using labor inducing drugs, such as Pitocin, while avoiding pain medications constitutes a natural birth. Others believe a birth is natural as long as a baby comes out of a vagina. Some believe that all birth is natural.

I admit it.

I do not believe that all birth is natural.

However, I also do not believe in defining a woman's birth experience for her. I'm not going to tell a woman that she didn't have a natural birth if she insists that she did. I think a lot of people want to pretend like they aren't quite sure what "natural" really means, but I think more people know what a woman is getting at when she says she wants a "natural" birth than would care to admit. I think it is patronizing to tell a woman that "all birth is natural" when she had a Cesarean and wanted with all of her heart to have a home birth. Even if it was necessary. Even if, because of modern technology, she and her baby are alive and well. No one gets to make that call except for the woman. If she feels like it was "natural," by all means, it was "natural." If she feels disappointment in her birth experience and doesn't feel like she even gave birth, that is perfectly valid as well.

I like to compare giving birth to running a marathon. What if someone rode a bike during their marathon? Is that the same as someone who ran their entire marathon? Even if they both crossed the same finish line? Maybe that is the way someone chose to complete their marathon, but biking it is not the same as running it. Completing a marathon is pretty amazing, even if someone runs, walks, bikes, or crawls across the finish line. Even if the end result is the same, running, walking, biking, and crawling are not the same thing. Anyone is allowed to feel pride in finishing the race however they need to, because 26.2 miles is a dang long time, no matter how it is done.

Flutes Rule! Trumpets Drool!
I think part of the problem that people have with the term "natural" birth is that some people perceive "natural birth" as being better than other types of births. And you know what? They are right! "Natural" birth IS better than other types of births if that is what someone wants. How many women praise the benefits of giving birth with an epidural? How many people proclaim the epidural to be the BEST. THING. EVER????

People obviously think some things are better than others or they wouldn't choose them. It is OK for people to disagree on what is better or not. I think brownies are better than ice cream. Actually, I think brownies are better than just about everything. Cheesecake is a close second. I think flute is better than trumpet. Actually, I think flute is better than just about all the other instruments, or I wouldn't have chosen it. But if everyone agreed with me, we wouldn't have a very interesting orchestra. It takes all kinds of different instruments to make beautiful music.

What gets people feeling offended and wanting to blame "natural" birth for it, is when people say, "You chose that? You must be stupid/uneducated/fill in the blank. I would NEVER choose that." And this is where we try to make people who feel bad about their choices feel better by saying things like, "All birth is natural."

 No. It is not. And that is okay.

Look at all of that natural nature. 
You know what is natural? Nature. And I'm not always a fan of nature. I like my modern air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and electricity thank you very much. Sometimes nature doesn't like me very much. It sends mosquitoes to bite me and intense heat to make me sweat. Ew. And sometimes, nature may not want someone to make it through the birthing process, so taking advantage of modern medicine is the best decision. In that case, for that woman, and for that baby, non-natural highly-medicated birth is BETTER than natural birth any day.

And that is okay.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why would anyone want to have a natural childbirth?

Can I just say that I love teaching Birth Boot Camp classes? I get to meet lots of cool people who actually want to listen to me talk about natural childbirth. I get to hear their stories too, and boy do they have good stories to share.

I'm not sure that I have had a Birth Boot Camp student or doula client who hasn't told me that they have been questioned as to why they are having a natural childbirth. "Why would you do that? That's crazy!" This is especially true for first time moms. There is no shortage of comments about how crazy it is to want to have a natural childbirth, especially for someone who has never experienced birth before. I know it was true for me. I heard plenty about how I would beg for the epidural as soon as I experienced my first contraction. I heard that I was crazy once or twice. I heard scoffs, experienced eye-rolls, and even some laughter. "Yeah, okay. You're cute, Kristi."

I did it!
Unfortunately, I think this comes with the territory of doing something you've never done before or if you are doing something out of character. I think planning a natural childbirth was a little bit out of character for me. I'd never been one to take on difficult physical challenges before. I wasn't athletic. I wasn't strong. I was a soft, sweet, flute player- a soft, sweet, flute player planning to take on the biggest challenge of her life.

Don't get me wrong. I had some support. There were a few people in my life who believed I was capable. I wasn't sure, myself, but they were. I'm thankful for their support.

My reasons for wanting a natural childbirth the first time were motivated by fear. I was scared of having an epidural. The thought of having a needle in my back terrified me enough to start me on the path to natural childbirth. The more I learned about it, the more I wanted one just because, well, just cuz. I wanted a natural childbirth just because I wanted one.

We cover many of the evidence-based reasons for having a natural childbirth in the very first class in a Birth Boot Camp series, but those reasons really were not my motivation at all. Science is nice. I like having that support, but if I am honest, that really isn't why I wanted to or why I still want to even after experiencing it twice now. Especially after experiencing it twice now.

I also figured I would feel pretty proud of myself if I was able to accomplish the thing that is supposed to be one of the most difficult challenges a woman can experience. But I still didn't want to have a natural childbirth just so that I could feel proud of myself. Feeling proud doesn't really capture the deep, almost primal, longing to give birth without any pain medications or unnecessary interventions. There was something deep in my heart and soul that just wanted to do this. Something beyond thought, words, reason, or explanation. Something beyond studies, science, and evidence. I just wanted it, and I was going to do everything in my power to accomplish it.

In my experience, great things don't happen without first experiencing my fair share of challenges. I understood that birth is unpredictable, and there is that mystical element of birth that is just plain ole out of anyone's control. We humans try to control this force of nature that refuses to be bridled, but there is only so much we can do. I did just about everything I knew to do in order to stack the odds in my favor of having a natural childbirth. I chose supportive care providers, took an independent childbirth class, and prepared as much as I could. I surrounded myself with supportive people. Then there was the challenge of birth itself. The day finally came, and I finally had the natural childbirth I longed for. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I couldn't believe that I did it! We did it. I am so thankful to my little girl for giving me that experience of meeting her in that way. I will cherish that memory forever. I feel like it gave me the boost I needed to be the best mother I could be. Until that moment, I never really thought of myself as someone who was strong and capable of hard things, but at that moment, I was a warrior woman! I was a soft, sweet, flute player who could give BIRTH. I think that it was the first moment in my life that I truly felt like I was awesome.

Nearly there. Just keep going. 
After that day, I was hooked on birth. I was hooked on my baby, and I was hooked on birth. I never considered myself a baby person, but I loved my little girl with a fierceness that I never thought was possible for me. I never wanted to be far from her. I remember missing being pregnant because we just weren't close enough. That feeling has passed now that she is older, and I am enjoying being a witness to her growing independence. However, I will never forget what she gave me the day I became a mother.

Everyone's reasons for wanting a natural childbirth are different. Some people want one because they want to accomplish something great. Others have done a lot of research and feel like natural childbirth is the best option for them. Whatever the reason, they don't have to explain it to me. They don't have to justify why they want one. I feel like many women feel like they have to explain themselves for making this choice. Why can't we just want it just cuz? Why is that reason not good enough? No one asks me why I choose to shower everyday. No one asks me why I want to lose weight. No one asks me why I want to run. No one has called me crazy (yet) for running my first 10K yesterday, but people still call me crazy for having had two natural childbirths. People still look at me like I have two heads when I say, "I would totally birth all the babies if I could. It's the raising of them that keeps me from it."

And speaking of running. I'm getting hooked on the high that you get after accomplishing something you didn't think you could. I completed my first 10K yesterday, and I am still flying high on that accomplishment. I'm super proud of myself for setting that goal, for training for it, and then doing it. But I have to admit, the running high just pales in comparison to a birth high. My birth high lasted months!

Has anyone ever asked you why you want a natural childbirth? What did you tell them?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Evidence-Based Care in Birth

On Saturday, October 4th, I attended the annual B.I.R.T.H. Fair. B.I.R.T.H. stands for Bringing Information and Resources to Houston. It lives up to its name because there were tons of vendors, excellent workshops, and even a fashion show. I signed up to volunteer, but there were so many volunteers I wasn't really needed. I decided to just stay and take it all in as a consumer. I'm glad I did!

I didn't take pictures at BIRTH Fair, so enjoy some of my
random baby pictures!
My favorite workshop of the day was entitled "Evidence-Based Care Teaching," which was taught by Dr. Christina Davidson, Dr. Julie McKee, and Sherri Urban, RN. Dr. Davidson is the Chief of OB at Ben Taub Hospital. Dr. McKee is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UTMB in Galveston. Sherri Urban is a Lactation Consultant at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital. These women received the Physician and Community Friends Awards this year. 

I wish I could have recorded this workshop because there was so much information that I could not write it all down. I wanted to capture every word. This class made me realize how important it is to take advantage of opportunities to hear leaders in the birth community speak as often as I can. I learned so much!

At the beginning of class, I heard a little bit about how Ben Taub has changed under the direction of Dr. Davidson. I learned that Ben Taub has no nursery, and that all healthy babies stay with their mothers. There is only a NICU for the babies who need that, but for the most part, babies go directly on mom. Also, Dr. Davidson teaches students at Ben Taub certain skills that she called a "dying art" such as VBAC, vaginal twins, and using forceps. She said when she first arrived, there were a lot of practices going on that she referred to as "Ben Taubisms." She would ask the other medical personnel why they were doing certain things, and they didn't have an answer other than "Because that's how we've always done it." They had no idea why they were doing them, even if the practices were good ones. It was just the way it was. 

This story led to a discussion about the differences between evidence-based practices and cultural practices.

What is evidence-based care? 

Evidence-based care is healthcare that includes the following three components: First, one must take into account what the latest reliable scientific research says about a practice. Second, one must consider the experience and knowledge of the care provider. Finally, one must include the knowledge and desires of the patient when practicing evidence-based care. True evidence-based care must include all 3 components in order to be considered evidence-based care. 

Dr. Davidson mentioned that there isn't always evidence to support every practice. This is where care-provider knowledge and expertise and the desires of the patient come into play. She said, "There won't be a random controlled trial on jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, but everyone knows not to do it." Good point.

Baby #1 minutes old-unmedicated hospital birth
After doing some research, a healthcare consumer might find that not all practices are evidence-based. Some of what happens is based on the culture of a certain healthcare facility. Sometimes it takes time for the culture to catch up to the evidence. For example, this explains why ACOG might say that a Trial of Labor for a woman who has had two previous Cesareans is a reasonable option, but there are still VBAC bans in many hospitals. According to Dr. Davidson, "Your practice has to change as the evidence changes." This was a concern of mine as a doula at one point, because I felt bad for sharing information with past clients that has become outdated at this point. My job is to provide information to my clients, so I try to provide the latest evidence-based information. Because I plan to be a doula for many years, I imagine what I tell people will change as the evidence changes. This isn't a bad thing! 

Dr. Davidson went on to say that if someone has been practicing a certain way for a very long time, it might be harder for that person to change. They may not feel comfortable with the new information, which may involve practicing new skills that they don't really have practice with. She mentioned that she has skills in certain areas that she used often when she first started practicing medicine, but because the evidence for it has changed, she doesn't use it anymore. It doesn't matter that she's good at it. The evidence says she no longer needs it. 

Dr. McKee mentioned that once the evidence changes and the culture finally catches up, then things become the "new normal." She began to talk about how a lot of changes are money-driven. "Money is attached to outcomes," she said. She relayed a story about how she got chastened by an L&D nurse for taking the baby from the mother too soon after the birth, which she doesn't ordinarily do. She said she was tickled that the nurse did that because it had become the norm not to take the babies from the mothers. However, it only happened because of a grant they received to work toward becoming a Baby-Friendly Hospital.

Baby #2- home birth
The moderator then asked the panel what they wished that the community knew about the obstacles they faced. Dr. McKee said there are a lot of politics care providers have to face. There is good evidence, but sometimes there is a culture to overcome. I liked what Sherri said about overcoming obstacles. You either have to go around them or go over them. A bridge is a good way to do what. Building bridges is very important. We have to try to build bridges in our community. 

Dr. Davidson said that she wished there was an easier way for consumers to find the right doctor. She would also like to see fewer women needing a VBAC in the first place and more emphasis on "how to prevent the first Cesarean."

Sherri says we need to have more consumer driven healthcare. "You have to care about this." 

One last thought was from Dr. McKee. If there is an opportunity, and you feel comfortable, allow the students and residents to learn from the awesome doctors in the area. If we have the opportunity, we should help future generations of women by helping train the new generations of doctors on how to perform these skills that are considered a "dying art." We need to have a birth Renaissance! 

In order to have a re-birth of evidence-based care practices in this area, it will take all of us as the consumers to do it. There won't be change unless we demand it. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How do I have a fast birth?

When I get the chance to share my birth stories with Birth Boot Camp students or anyone else who feels like humoring me, I often get the question, "How do I have a fast birth?" Usually I respond with, "If I knew the answer to that question, I would be living in a huge mansion." Then I pretend to throw my fast-birthing fairy dust their way, and we all have a good laugh.

I honestly have no idea how I've managed to have two quick and relatively easy (for labor) births so far. I feel like a large portion of my good fortune, is well, exactly that. I've had really good luck so far, and for that, I am immensely thankful. I'm really a wuss when it comes to pain, so I am glad that my labors didn't last too long.

In any case, I will share some of the things I did to prepare for my births, just in case someone finds any of these ideas helpful.

For birth #1:

I chose amazingly supportive care providers for the type of birth I was seeking. I wanted a natural birth in a hospital setting, so I chose the midwives with The Women's Specialists of Houston. At the time, they worked at St. Luke's. Now they attend births out of Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.

Following the advice of my midwives, I did my best to eat a good diet that consisted of food that was as close to its original form as possible. I also cooked most of my own meals, and I cut out all of the sweets. Even my beloved brownies. Especially my beloved brownies. I can brag that I did not have a single brownie when I was pregnant with my first baby. Of course, I was not perfect with my diet. There was still more to learn. I gained 35 pounds with this pregnancy.

Baby #1
I walked everyday for at least 30 minutes.

I took a thorough independent childbirth education class.

I learned the art of denial. Even though I was feeling pretty crampy for awhile, in my mind, I wasn't going to have a baby. Even though my midwife stripped my membranes, I wasn't going to have a baby. Even though my water had broken, I still wasn't going to have a baby. I just knew they were going to send me home because I wasn't having any contractions. Even though we were peacefully driving to the hospital to get checked out, I still wasn't going to have a baby. When the security guard asked me if I was going to Labor & Deliver to have a baby, I said, "I doubt it." When they hooked me up to the monitors and told me I was having contractions that were 2-3 minutes apart, I still wasn't having a baby. I told the nurse that I wasn't feeling anything, and she looked at me like I had two heads. 

Until, suddenly,

I FELT THEM. OH MY GOODNESS I FELT THEM!!!! I felt them so much that I started to shake and dry heave. I began to doubt whether or not I could do this anymore and "they" were all right that as soon as I felt my first contraction, I would be begging for the epidural. Only I didn't say anything other than, "I don't know if I can do this" to my poor husband. I wasn't even in a Labor and Delivery room yet. I was still in triage, and they were preparing my room. Robbie told me to "remember my sounds" and I started to moan. Or, rather, moo like a cow like I planned.

My room was finally ready, and they wheeled me to my room. Oh my goodness the breeze felt so good. As I was getting out of the wheelchair, I had a contraction. I just stood there in the middle of the room not knowing what to do. I think I reached out to thin air, and suddenly the midwife was there, hugging me tightly and swaying with me. Her embrace felt so good. She was so strong. She asked me if I wanted the tub. In my mind, I screamed, "YES!" I think all I managed was a nod, so she started running the water. The sound of it was wonderful. I made it to the bathroom and somehow I became naked. During the next contraction, I leaned over the sink to rock my hips back and forth. I remember the midwife telling me I was doing good, and I thought, "Huh? What am I doing? I'm just doing this. Doing this right here is all that exists right now." I didn't say anything out loud.

I made it into the tub, and it was wonderful. The midwife turned the lights off, and then Robbie was there. He vocalized with me, and it was wonderful. I didn't feel self-conscious or alone while he was with me. Having him there meant the world to me. The midwife stood by the wall and would remind me every now and then to relax my shoulders. Mostly it was me and my husband sounding together, with the whir of the jets in the tub and warm water relaxing me.

I visualized. I imagined standing on a beach next to the ocean. It was foggy. I was standing at the opening of a cave that was facing the ocean, and I held my baby in my arms. The wind was fierce, and the ocean waves would flow into the cave and flow back out. I imagined my uterus was the cave, and every time the wave would flow into the cave, and go back out, it was pulling my baby out a little bit more each time.

I made noise. I mooed like a cow. I mooed louder and louder and my sounds became more gritty and intense. Suddenly I was being pulled out of the tub, and I didn't know why. When I was standing upright, preparing to step over the edge, I said to whomever felt like listening, "I need to poop." The midwife said, "That's the baby, Sweetie." Somehow at that moment, I had absolutely no idea that needing to poop meant the baby was coming. That information had never been a part of my brain, ever. According to my brain at that very moment, that was the first time I had ever made that connection. Poop equals baby? Wha???

When I made it to the bed, the midwife checked me and proclaimed I was 9.5 cm with a little bit of lip. She said I could start giving little grunt pushes, and I believe I said, "Oh shit!" Which was the first thing I had said since I started feeling my contractions. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that it was already time to push. I hadn't done any of the positions I learned in childbirth class. What happened to early labor? What about slow dancing? I didn't even do perineal massage!!! I never got around to it. 

After a few little practice pushes, my cervix melted away and I pushed my baby out. Once she was born, she was placed directly on my chest. I marveled at how big her mouth was. Of course, she was screaming right in my face. It was wonderful! From the first contraction that I felt to the birth of my  8 lb 3 oz baby was 4.5 hours.

Here is where I think I was really lucky.

I was lucky that my contractions started so quickly after my water broke that I didn't need to be induced. I think back on that quite a bit that things could have been very different for me if my body hadn't gone into labor on its own after my water breaking.

I was lucky that I had a tub to labor in. I think having water and the ability to move freely helped my labor to speed along like it did.

I was lucky that my baby just happened to be in the optimal starting position without me having to try to do anything to move my baby. In fact, I didn't even know about Optimal Fetal Positioning or Spinning Babies.

I was very lucky to have such wonderful support. I couldn't have done it without my husband being there every step of the way, starting with his unwavering belief in my ability to give birth naturally. 

For birth #2:

I chose an amazingly supportive care provider for the type of birth I was seeking. I wanted to have a natural birth at home, so I sought the services of a home birth midwife.

I hired a doula. This doula is also a really good friend of mine, so it seems really weird to me to say that I hired her, but I asked her to be at my birth. I just wanted her to be there.

I practiced the home study Hypnobabies program. It was so wonderfully relaxing. I was not yet a Birth Boot Camp Instructor at the time, so naturally, at this point I prefer Birth Boot Camp. However, I still love the Hypnobabies program although it was not the one I felt drawn to teach. 

I worked even harder to have a better diet than before. My midwife really helped me to incorporate more greens, more protein, and fewer carbs. She advised me to be careful of my carbs. I tried, but I couldn't resist peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were so good. Also, dark chocolate. So yummy. I gained 25 pounds.

I tried to exercise. I walked when I could, and I went up and down our stairs a lot. My midwife told me that 50 times a day wouldn't be too much.

Baby #2
When I rested, I always made sure to rest smart.

I processed my fears. I was really afraid of having a 24 hour labor, and I would tell my husband. I was afraid of the pain and worried I would not be able to handle it. He expressed the utmost confidence in me. I was afraid that if I had a home birth transport that ended in Cesarean, people would be secretly satisfied and think that I got what I deserved for being such an advocate of natural childbirth. I never expressed that fear to anyone, but I processed it in my own way. I wrote that down somewhere and got those fears out of my heart.

I used denial to my advantage. I never prepared my birth pool because I was certain I would have time during labor. I figured I would need something to do to keep my mind off the contractions. When I thought my water had broken, and I couldn't go back to sleep, I started cleaning the kitchen. Once I was done with the kitchen, I opted to practice a relaxation on the couch. My contractions started when I was trying to do the Hypnobabies Deepening CD. I just couldn't get comfortable. Thinking back on it, it felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. It felt like something was being pushed up the wrong way when I would try to sit.

I was so uncomfortable, and I was frustrated at how uncomfortable I was. I just couldn't understand why I was SO UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN LABOR JUST STARTED. How could I be this uncomfortable already. I started blowing up the birth pool, and I didn't care that it might wake the neighbors. I couldn't sit while I was waiting. I had to be on hands and knees. I started rocking back and forth and bonking my head into the side of the pool. Somehow that felt good to me. Robbie came out of the bathroom, and saw me there. I was nearly in tears. I was so uncomfortable! He asked me about calling the midwife, and I just repeated, "I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!" He tried to get me to vocalize, but I argued that it was too soon for that. I think he talked to the midwife and he asked if she should come. I answered like before. "I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!" Then he asked if he should call the doula, and I said, "Yes! Tell her I am irrational." She would know what that meant. I remember him saying, "You want the doula but not the midwife?" In my mind, I wanted them to arrive at the same time. The doula lived further away.

Finally, I stopped being in denial and retreated to the shower. I asked Robbie to continue preparing the birth pool. I vocalized just like old times. I allowed myself to be as loud as I needed to be. My doula arrived, and she smelled so good. I knew she was there by the smell of essential oils. I thought, "Mmmm. Doula." Once she got there, I was honest with my feelings. I growled, "I hate this!" She reminded me of my baby, and asked me if I felt pushy. I thought that was a silly question since I had just started laboring. But as soon as she started asking me the sensations I was feeling, I started to be more aware of the sensations. I started to notice the feeling of needing to poop, so I yelled, "Poo poo!" At that point my midwife was there. She asked if she could check me. I didn't want to let her because I knew I was just 3 cm. I consented, and I noticed her fingers didn't get very far. At that point they were trying to convince me to get out of the shower and labor on the toilet. I didn't want to, but I did it anyway. I knew I needed to.

My midwife said I could push if I wanted to. I swear, if she never told me that, I'd still be in labor. I pushed for a few minutes, stood up, and Robbie suddenly was there. I feel like I was trying to walk, when my baby fell out of me. They helped me sit back down, and I had my baby in my arms. I was in shock. It happened so fast.

From the first contraction that I felt to the birth of my 9 lb 4 oz baby was 2 hours.

Here is where I think I was really lucky.

With this birth, I feel like my body took off without me. I didn't do anything to help my uterus work as efficiently as it did. That part is luck. 

I had such amazing support. I had my husband, midwife, and doula who believed in me and created a safe place for me to let go and just birth. I didn't care about anything when they were there. I didn't need to care about anything. I could just be exactly who I was at that very moment, and that was a laboring woman. Things come out in labor sometimes: bad words, poop, gas, and most importantly, babies, but I felt secure that I could be anything and do or say whatever I needed to do or say without being judged for it.

I am also really lucky that I have been in the right places at the right times to meet some very special people who opened my eyes to the fact that there are OTHER ways to have a baby. Before being introduced to the wonderful world of natural childbirth, all I knew about were OBs, epidurals, and Cesareans. I didn't know women had options. I didn't know women could make their own choices. I didn't know that women were ALLOWED to give birth without epidurals. I didn't know natural childbirth was still around. I didn't know that midwives still existed.

I've learned a lot since then. I've been really lucky. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Social Media Policy

I couldn't decide on a picture,
so enjoy this picture of a cat.
Once upon a time, I used to update my facebook page with statuses such as, "What a lovely prenatal visit!" or "I just had an interview with the most amazing couple" or "Off to a birth!" or "Welcome to the world baby boy! Your mom and dad are so excited to meet you!" It was not that long ago that I was doing that. Then I began to notice something about myself.

Maybe I should not admit my imperfections to the world, but sometimes I feel like it is therapeutic to free my conscience of things that bother me. Even before a wave of articles regarding doulas and social media, such as this one or this one, were published, I began to contemplate my reasons for posting my birth work on my facebook page. Of course, I love being a doula. I love supporting families as a doula during their birthing time. I think it is the coolest thing ever, and one part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops. Over time, I started to notice this other part of me that wanted to share about how busy I was attending births to sort of keep of with the Joneses. I know that I am not the busiest nor and I the most sought-after doula in Houston. I know I am supposed to toot my own horn more, grow in confidence, market myself more, make myself look really good, and that was partially why I would post what I was up to as far as my birth work is concerned. I wanted to appear busy. Yes, the biggest reason for posting about my birth work on social media is that I am so excited about it. A close second was for my less than noble intentions. I'm not a fan of bragging. It is not my style. I was trying to make it my style. I was (and still am) encouraged to brag more, but it just isn't me. Maybe I will continue to reach out of my bragging comfort zone in other areas, but when it comes to posting on social media, I am going to stop.

This is one reason why I am so excited about Birth Boot Camp DOULA's stance regarding doulas and social media. It takes the pressure off me to have to decide, "Should I do it? Or should I not do it?" No one really needs to know when I am attending a birth, or headed to a client's house for a meeting, or heading to an interview, except for the people I am meeting with and my husband, just in case something happens to me. There is no reason for potential clients to know exactly how busy I am. All anyone really needs to know is that I am precisely as busy as I want to be. I am attending births. I am continuously trying to improve my skill-set as a  doula. I am always striving to become a better doula and be the best doula I can be. My clients deserve that.

Just in case anyone was just dying to know why I haven't really posted much about what I have been up to, because I know everyone was stalking my page just waiting for me to reveal this, it is because I have started to feel weird about it. Being invited to join a family in their birthing time is sacred to me, and when I think about the things that happen in my life that are sacred to me, I don't really talk about them. I treasure them in my heart.

When it comes to being friends with clients on my personal facebook page, I am delighted to be friends with them. I would love to be able to see pictures as their babies grow. However, I don't send out friend requests to clients. If they want to be friends with me on facebook, they can send me a request. I am happy to accept it. I sent out a few friend requests during my early days as a doula, but I stopped doing that a few years ago. It is not that I don't think my clients are just awesome sauce. I do. They rock. It is that I want to respect their boundaries. I don't want anyone to feel pressured to accept a friend request from me, so I don't send them out. I should have done that from the beginning. Oh well! Live and Learn.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Birth Boot Camp DOULA

I'm not the best at keeping secrets. Okay, maybe I am. If someone utters the words, "Don't tell anyone," I won't tell anyone. But it will drive me absolutely crazy! In order to alleviate that discomfort of keeping a secret, I usually ask the person if I can tell Robbie. Usually they say, "Yes, but no one else." He always says it is almost like we are one person, so, when it comes to secrets, telling Robbie would be like telling myself.

What is the secret I have been dying to share? This!!!!!!

When I attended my Birth Boot Camp Instructor training back in February, I learned that they were in the process of developing a doula training. I had a mix of emotions come over me. On the one hand I was super excited, and I KNEW it would be awesome sauce. On the other, I was discouraged. I KNEW I would HAVE to do it. I felt discouraged because it took me nearly two years of waiting and yearning before I could take the instructor training. Would it be the same for the doula training? Would I have to wait again?

Well, it turns out NO! NO! NO! I don't have to wait again. My Birth Boot Camp Doula training is happening in November. It is approaching more quickly than I am ready for. There is so much work involved. After my Birth Boot Camp Instructor training, I felt SO PREPARED to teach. I didn't doubt my abilities for a minute. After my first doula training, I didn't feel as prepared as I hoped I would. I know I was inspired during my training, but once I was left to my own devices, I started to feel like maybe my training wasn't enough. I can tell that this training is going to be pretty intense. I love how we have to get all of the book work done beforehand so that we can focus on the training. I know it sounds crazy, but I love how there is a test at the end. It really makes sure you know your stuff! After all of that, there are 5 certifying births which I will be able to process with one of the doula trainers. That was a missing element of my first doula training. I didn't really have anyone to talk to! Eventually, through my own efforts, I have gotten to know some awesome local doulas who have allowed me to process births with them. I didn't have that for my first several births, though, and it really would have helped me.

After I take the workshop and pass the test, I will be ready to serve 5 families as a "Doula in Training." If I can do that within 6 months of my workshop, I will receive an awesome silver stamped necklace. I think they'll look like dog tags. I want 'em, y'all. I really, really want 'em.

Who will be my 5 families? Who wants to be among the first families to see what a Birth Boot Camp Doula (in training) has to offer? What will be super cool about having me as your doula (in training), is I'm already a doula! I've been serving families in the Houston area as a birth doula for the past 3 years. I know stuff! I'm going to know lots more stuff after this training.

I'm so excited about this. Can you tell? If you (or a friend) are due December 2014 to mid-May 2015, email me right now!


Friday, June 13, 2014

Do I Need a Childbirth Class?

Among all the things we have to think about when we are pregnant, whether or not to take a childbirth class is one of them. If you are wondering whether or not you should take a childbirth class, answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions. 

Have you given birth before?

Do you feel prepared to give birth?

Have you breastfed before?

Are you planning to breastfeed?

Do you feel prepared to breastfeed?

Do you have experience caring for infants?

Do you feel prepared to care for a new baby?

If you have given birth before:

Are you planning a similar birth experience as before?

Do you have the same care provider as before?

Are you giving birth in the same location as before?

Are you satisfied with your previous birth experience(s)?

Have you taken an independent (out-of-hospital) childbirth class before?

Have you had a natural birth?*

Have you ever given birth to THIS baby before?

If you answered "NO" to any of the above questions, I highly recommend an independent childbirth class. Here is why.

*If you answered "NO" to only the last question, and you have had a natural childbirth before, I highly recommend an independent refresher course.

Birth Boot Camp classes cover all of these topics and more! My next Birth Boot Camp series begins October 11 in Sugar Land. I also offer refresher courses to those who have had a natural birth before.

Email me today at to start preparing for YOUR amazing birth!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Should I get certified? An honest look at doula certification

Every now and then, I will receive an email from someone who is thinking about becoming a doula. This is usually the first question I get. This is also a very common question on all the doula message boards and facebook doula groups I have perused. 

Should I get certified? 

People are very passionate about their answers to this question. I am going to attempt to answer this question with the hope that I might be able to help someone who is trying to decide whether or not they should be certified. 

Before continuing, I should probably share that I am certified. I completed my training and certification through DONA International, and I finally heard the good news in September 2012 that I could finally put the letters CD(DONA) after my name. 

It felt like a graduation! It was as if the words of my college diplomas echoed through my brain, "You have successfully completed the requirements of DONA International and are entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto."

Only, I was just as confused as to what those "rights and privileges" were after my DONA certification was approved as to what they meant after I earned my music degrees. Was I a better flutist now that I had these two pieces of paper in my hands? Am I a Master of Music now because this piece of paper says so? Am I now, all of a sudden, more equipped to play in the same symphonies and teach the same students as I have been for the past several years? Am I all of a sudden a better doula because I can put letters after my name? 

No. Not really. 

Want to know something that stinks? I bet there are high school flutists out there that can play better than me. Especially now that I don't really get to practice anymore. However, you know what I can do that they can't? Get a job. One day I might want to teach at a university, and the position might require that one has earned at least a Master of Music degree. Many universities require a doctorate in music. Minimum. 

Sometimes if you are really really good, and have played in famous symphonies and have made a name for yourself, your education doesn't really matter. There have been a few of my friends who never finished school, who have been able to live a life performing in orchestras, musicals, and other shows that most people can only dream of doing. It's extremely rare, though. Most of us have to spend years in school developing our craft. And before I go off on a rant about my two music degrees and how they are not really worth the time, effort, and money I poured into earning them, I'm going to move on to something else. At least, at this point in my life, I can't see how all of that was worth it. Maybe it will all reveal itself one day.

So did the clouds part and a beam of light shine on me and proclaim me Kristi, the Better Now Certified Doula? Did I hear concourses of angels singing the letters CD(DONA)? Maybe for a minute or two as I basked in my accomplishment. Once reality set in, I realized I didn't really feel different. I guess I expected to feel different. Potential clients were like, "Oh, that's nice. Good for you." I suppose I thought business would boom. I suppose I thought I would somehow feel more qualified as a doula. I felt like the same ole me. 

Here's what I feel doula certification has done for me:

It has provided proof that I have met a minimum standard of training and education. I feel like certification is a START. It is the bare minimum training someone needs in order to start serving clients well. Whether or not someone completes the certification paperwork, aspiring doulas need to, at the very least, attend a training and read the material. 

It provided structure for my training and studies, and it gave me a place to start. Because I had absolutely no background in supporting women during pregnancy, birth, or the immediate postpartum period, I needed to attend a doula training. I am the type of person that thrives in a classroom setting, and I needed the structure that pursuing certification offered in order to remain disciplined to finish my work. The promise of having letters behind my name if I completed all the requirements kept me motivated. 

It has given me a sense of accomplishment. I am the type of person that just feels icky and unsettled if I don't finish something that I started. It would irk me if I did all that work to become trained and educated and didn't just go ahead and finish all the other paperwork in order to earn the letters. Some people ask, "Why be certified? It doesn't make you a better doula." My thoughts are, "Why not? I did all that work. Why not just finish?" 

It keeps me motivated. I want to keep my letters, so I will do what I need to do in order to continue my education. I feel like I am more motivated to sign up for continuing education opportunities if there is potential that I can lose something for which I worked so hard. This is my learning style. This is what I need to stay disciplined. 

Here's what I feel doula certification has NOT done for me:

It did not make me a better doula. The parts that made me a better doula (and continue to make me a better doula) were the training, the reading, and attending births. Continuing all of that after receiving my certification makes me a better doula. I become a better doula after every birth I attend, every book I read, and every workshop I attend. I become a better doula by gleaning all the information I can from other doulas. I become a better doula when I pay it forward and teach workshops. I feel like I am a better doula after adding to my skill set and becoming a Birth Boot Camp Instructor. The certification itself did not do those things for me. The work I put into obtaining my certification did those things for me. Some people don't need all of that to motivate themselves to pursue initial training and education and then continue it for as long as they are a doula, but I do. 

It did not bring me more business. I suppose it was naive to think that I would all of a sudden have more business because my name and information were now on the DONA website. I have yet to receive a client from the DONA website. I have received inquiries from people who are thinking about becoming doulas, hence this inspiration for this post, but not from women who are seeking a doula for their upcoming births. Most of my business comes from word of mouth. Some comes from doula match, my website, and from Facebook.

It did not prepare me as much as I thought it would. Maybe I was expecting too much from my training. I feel like I was thrown into the ocean with the instruction, "Now, swim!" I've had a few life preservers thrown my way in the form of a few amazing doula friends who are always there for me. I've had some pieces of driftwood float past me, in the form of additional trainings and workshops, that I have been able to use to build a sizable and comfortable raft. The glue and rope that holds it all together is all the reading and studying I do. Every book I read makes my raft just that much stronger. Sometimes the wind and rain beat against me, and the waters are choppy. Other times, the waters are as smooth as glass. However, my raft is strong, and my life preservers are still waiting there should I ever need them. 

Do I think everyone should get certified? 

Not really. I don't mind what other people do, except in a few cases. 

It bugs me when someone who has no training whatsoever starts calling themselves a doula, behaves in ways that trained doulas would never behave, and makes us all look bad. In other words, trained professional doulas follow what is called a Scope of Practice. There are certain guidelines for doula work. There are certain things we should and should not do, things that are outside of our range of expertise. Do you know what these things are? If not, you should probably take a training. 

Other than that, I am not bothered by someone's method of training, or whether or not they are certified, as long as they are trained in some way and conduct themselves professionally

How does one receive training as a doula? 

There are several options available for anyone wanting to receive training as a doula. 

Live training: Usually these are held over the course of 2-3 days, and participants learn birth support skills in a hands-on environment. Organizations such as DONA International require attendance at a live training taught by an approved doula trainer in order to complete certification. 

Online/distance training: Some programs do not require a live workshop and provide all of their training via distance or online learning. 

Apprenticeship: This type of training allows participants to learn from a more experienced doula, and the requirements and length of training vary. Depending on the skills and experience of the mentor, I feel like an apprenticeship has the potential to be one of the most thorough trainings available. Combined with all of the book work required of other types of programs, this would make for a very comprehensive training. It doesn't matter how long I do this, I will never get so big for my britches that I won't feel like I would benefit from spending lots of time learning from a more experienced doula.

To summarize, I feel like whether or not a doula should become certified depends on his or her learning style and previous experience. There is not a one-size-fits-all doula, just as there is not a one-size-fits-all way for becoming a doula. For me, however, certification works. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Want a natural birth? Don't just hire a doula!

I'm about to be really transparent. Ready? Here it goes. After calculating doula birth stats today, I discovered something that I began to suspect about a year and a half ago. 

Hypothesis: My clients who take a comprehensive independent childbirth education course are more likely to achieve their desired results. 

Is it fool-proof? No. Are the results pretty amazing? Yes. 

Conclusion: It is not enough to just hire a doula. A comprehensive childbirth education class is a must!

Doulas are great. I love doulas. I am a doula! But I will go ahead and admit it. I am not all you need for a satisfying birth experience. I'm a pretty cool, pretty awesome, good-at-my-job doula, but I can't impart all of the knowledge and preparation learned in a childbirth education course in our prenatal visits. I can send link after link, article after article, study after study, and I can talk A LOT about birth, but I can't force you to read them. However, there is something to be said about devoting 2 hours a pop for 10 weeks on birth preparation. I spend around 6 hours with you during your 3 prenatal visits discussing exactly what it is that you want from your birth experience, how I can help you as your doula, going over techniques for helping your birth go as smoothly as reasonably possible, and just getting to know you, your hopes, and your concerns. That's pretty far from at LEAST 20 hours worth of education received in an independent childbirth class.

What is an independent childbirth class? It is a class not affiliated with a hospital. These include classes such as Birth Boot Camp, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, and many others. 

Without further ado, here are some numbers:

Total Doula Stats:

Natural*: 56%

Medicated Vaginal**: 28%

Cesarean: 16%

*Natural birth includes those moms who may have been induced but did not receive pain medications

**Women who received pain medications

Those who took an independent or out-of-hospital (OOH) childbirth class:

Natural: 90%

Medicated Vaginal: 10%

Cesarean: 0% 

Those who took a hospital-based or took NO childbirth class:

*12% took a hospital class, the rest took no class

Natural: 33%

Medicated Vaginal: 40%

Cesarean: 27%

How many clients took childbirth classes?

Independent classes: 40%

No classes: 52%

Hospital-based classes: 8%

A few things to mention:

Not all of my clients were planning natural births. Some of them were planning to receive epidurals. It probably goes without saying, but those who were planning natural births were more likely to take an independent childbirth class. 

I started teaching Birth Boot Camp classes because I could see the value of childbirth education. It's so important! Doulas are very helpful, and when you are in the heat of the moment, it is important to have someone there to help you remember all the things you learned in your childbirth class. That is who your doula is, a walking, talking, childbirth encyclopedia. A doula helps you carry out all of those comfort measures you learned in class. She knows exactly when to use them. She is there to remind you that what you are experiencing is normal even though it may NOT have been covered in your childbirth class. She is there to support you no matter what course your birth takes. She helps your partner to shine! She is a calming presence for other members of your birth team who did not take those many hours of birth classes with you, who may not be very experienced in birth. But don't leave it all up to your doula! Invest in yourself. Invest in your birth. If you want a natural childbirth, commit to it! Take an amazing, comprehensive childbirth class. 

Sign up today. Shoot me an email at: with the message, "Sign me up!" 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Doula growing pains

As my hands ventured under the running water to wash dishes for what felt like the hundredth time this week, my mind began to wander. It tends to wander to some of my favorite subjects when I am doing unpleasant things like washing dishes or exercising. Motherhood. Birth. Family. Birth. My cute husband. Birth. Birth Work.

Today I was mulling over my past clients, thinking back to my time with them, and what I could have done to help them better than I did. I think over past births quite frequently, assessing my performance as a doula, in the event that I face a similar situation in the future. That way I can be better prepared for Next Time.

The only thing is, Next Time never comes. That's one of the challenges of birth work. Every birth is a new experience, and I am always learning something new at each birth I attend. No two births are the same. Sure, they often follow a certain pattern. Early labor, active labor, transition, pushing, and BABY! There are as many variations to how one's birthing journey will go as there are differences in the women who are on those journeys. Sure, I might have a better idea of what to do the next time a woman experiences a cervical lip or the next time a woman has a posterior baby, but what works for one woman may not work for the next. What one woman loves another woman may hate. Some women want to be loved on, caressed, hugged, touched, massaged, and some women just want a peaceful presence. A watchful eye. Someone to just BE there who has been where she is before. My job as a doula is to try to figure out what each woman needs right there in the moment. Most of the time, we've met several times before to try to determine what she might want during her birthing time, but sometimes, and oftentimes, it's totally different when we're in the moment. I do my best. I try to guess what may help her. Sometimes I guess wrong. I probably guess wrong a lot. I wish it weren't so, but it happens.

I just hope my humble offering of MY BEST EFFORT is enough. I really want to help the women who have honored me by inviting me to serve as their doula. The help I offer will look different to each woman and each birth.

After each birth I think back. Did I help enough? Did I do too much? Did I say enough? Did I say too much? Did I interfere in any way? Did that position I tried to help her with annoy her? If I would have suggested that one position I was thinking about but didn't get a chance to, would that have helped her avoid the epidural? Is she happy with her birth? What if? What if? What if? Sometimes I wish I could go back in time with the knowledge that I have now and have a do-over with some of my earlier clients. Would it make a difference, though? Is that the kind of support they wanted or needed at the time?

The perfect recipe
I had a conversation with the bishop of my ward the other day, and he started talking about missionary work. He compared each missionary to a recipe and used his hands to illustrate. To compare that conversation to doula work, the recipe that is Me, with all my strengths (represented by my fingers) and weaknesses (represented by the spaces between my fingers) is a perfect fit for the client who hires me with her various strengths and weaknesses. (Interlace the fingers) I'm not a perfect doula. I have various strengths and various weaknesses that complement the families that I am allowed to serve. I thought that was cool when he shared that with me. So perhaps at the time, I was just the doula they needed.

It's still uncomfortable for me at times to experience periods of growth, whether it is in my doula career, or if it's just life in general. Life has provided ample opportunity to strengthen and stretch my emotional and spiritual muscles. Quite often, it's very uncomfortable for me. Even painful. It's not my favorite thing to do, to be molded and stretched, but it's necessary. I have to go through these growing pains in order to become a more experienced doula, and I have to go through these growing pains in order to more effectively serve those families who honor me by allowing me to serve as their doula.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Acupressure Training for Doulas in Houston, TX

Practicing acupressure with Erin of Mothering Nature Birth Services

A few Sundays ago I attended a DONA approved workshop on Acupressure for Pregnancy Care and Labor Support. As part of my re-certification requirements for DONA, I must earn 15 Continuing Education Units. This class earned me 5 CEUs. I enjoyed meeting with fellow doulas and friends to learn how to better serve my clients. I am looking forward to practicing my new skills at the next several births I attend.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Maybe you don't need a natural childbirth to feel like a real woman, but I do.

I've started back to the gym after a long and much-needed break. I've struggled this postpartum taking on too much, too soon, and exercise is no exception. I need to just accept the fact that I need an ENTIRE YEAR, and maybe even more, to fully recover from childbirth. I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew this time around. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that having two kids wasn't going to slow me down, like slowing down is a bad thing or something.

Aren't they cute together? 
I'm trying not to bite off more than I can chew in the exercise department, especially after I threw my back out at the beginning of the month for the first time in about 6 or 7 years. I'm trying to be gentle with myself, so I am just walking. I'm just trying to get back in the habit of getting up early and doing something to take care of myself. I have very low expectations right now. Actually, I have no expectations that walking will do anything for me except get me moving in the morning. That's okay. I'm starting to learn that I should probably never have any expectations about anything ever.

I'm not sure the last time you did it, but 30 minutes walking on a treadmill feels like a really. REALLY. long. time. I'd forgotten that that was what was harder about walking than running. Running wears me out, but it doesn't drag on forever like walking does. The last time I walked regularly was when I was pregnant with Lily. I did it some when I was pregnant with Kimberly, but I had Lily in the stroller and there was stuff to look at and some of the best company to keep me entertained. Today, I just had my brain. After I got over the hump of just thinking about how bored I was, I started thinking about birth. My mind usually turns to birth when I am on the treadmill. Don't ask my why. It seems to turn to birth when I am in the shower too. Or fixing my hair. Or driving in the car. Or sitting around doing nothing. Or when I am seeking it out on the internet. Or when I'm not seeking it out on the internet. I guess I like it.
Here's that same baby 1 year later

I started to think about when I first had Lily. There were two people in the world who believed in my ability to have a natural childbirth. My husband and my childbirth educator. Then I did it. I couldn't believe it. Imagine my shock! No sooner had I uttered the words, "I did it," than the naysayers started coming out to try to discount my experience. "Well, you must have had an easy birth." "Well, you just got lucky." "Well, I don't need a natural birth to feel like more of a woman." You know, all those lovely comments that people hear when they accomplish something awesome. It's very similar to that time I was in high school and made a 30 on the ACT the first and only time I ever took it, and after having absolutely no prep classes on it, a kid says, "It must have been easy this year." Oh wow. Thanks, jerk. I guess because *I* managed to do it, it must have been easy.

There were several reasons that I wanted a natural childbirth. The biggest one was my fear of the epidural. As I started to learn more about it, I wanted one, well, just because. I JUST wanted that kind of birth. Is that so wrong? Maybe I romanticized it a little. Maybe I thought a natural birth just seemed so AMAZING. Kind of like I just wanted to play the flute because I wanted to. It's funny how no one has really asked me to justify my desire to play the flute. No one gets mad at me when I say I succeeded at auditions. It's just...being excited about natural childbirth is not allowed for some reason.

But I started to think about how there are many people who think that women want to have natural childbirths so that they can feel like more of a woman. Or that we think we are a better mother because we had a natural childbirth. Or that we think we are a better mother than someone else who didn't have a natural childbirth. Or something like that. I don't know anymore. I've sort of given up trying to figure out what people think.

My two little cuties that keep me humble
When I first started this journey, it never crossed my mind that having a natural childbirth would make me a better mother. I never thought that I would be a better mother than someone else who didn't have a natural childbirth. I never thought that I would be more of a woman if I had a natural childbirth either. It just wasn't part of the equation. However, after the fact, I started to feel like I was a better mother for having had a natural childbirth. Not a better mother than anyone else, but a better mother than I would have been had I not had a natural childbirth. Because I know myself. I would have grieved my birth experience. I would have struggled with that for a very long time. If I could struggle with not getting into LSU as long as I did (and still do sometimes; there are things that trigger an episode of major upset), I'm sure I would struggle with not getting the type of birth that I was hoping for. It would take me a long time to feel at peace with it. Postpartum life is difficult enough for me with two satisfying birth experiences that I am terrified to think of what it might be like for me if I had to come to terms with an unsatisfying birth experience on top of it all. Motherhood is hard for me. I knew it would be. So much of it has taken me by surprise, and it changes every day. My children keep me on my toes and really make me earn my keep around here. Every time I think I am finally starting to get the hang of things, when I have finally figured it all out, they change it on me. One of my favorite quotes is "Motherhood is savory humble pie, served hot fresh daily." (paraphrased from Let the Baby Drive by Lu Hanessian) Motherhood keeps me humble. Or maybe, motherhood is trying to teach me how to be humble. I bet there's some pridefulness in there somewhere.

I admire those woman who are not bothered by what others might perceive as a traumatic or otherwise unsatisfying birth experience. I really do. I'm just not that awesome. Or that strong. I really do need my two deeply satisfying birth experiences to draw strength from when motherhood gets hard. Nothing else in my life has left me feeling like, "I did that? I can do anything!" like those two births have. Nothing. And I really do need those experiences to be the best mother and woman I can be. I didn't do it on my own. Goodness knows I didn't do it on my own. No. I had so much support and help along the way, and I give thanks to my Heavenly Father every day for placing those amazing people in my life that helped me to have such beautiful birth memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.