Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How to Be a Doula (as Demonstrated by Elf on the Shelf)

We are entering the season of yummy treats and silly elf antics, blinking lights and jolly white-haired guys. I thought it might be fun to explain what doulas DO in a fun and lighthearted way. 

Validate and encourage

Do you have a friend who loves Elf on the Shelf and faithfully sets up little schemes for that pesky elf to get into?

She is the most fun friend who has the coolest ideas. She is so imaginative and creative. She is making memories her kids will cherish forever.

Do you have a friend who hates Elf on the Shelf because he has a creepy little face?

She might have had an experience in her life that left her feeling very uncomfortable with the thought of dolls "watching" her and her children all day and night. Mind your own business, and don't pry into her past. Try to put yourself in her shoes and say, "I can totally understand that."

Support all choices

Do you have a friend that thinks playing "Naughty Elf on the Shelf" is the way to go?

Sweet! Maybe offer up a few other naughty elf ideas you have seen in the past.

Do you have a friend that wants to try Elf on the Shelf for the first time? Maybe she wants to go all out. Maybe she doesn't.

Sweet! Support her choice either way. Both choices are perfectly acceptable and valid and will provide a magical experience for her family.


Do you have a friend who wants to try Elf on the Shelf but doesn't know where to begin? A few simple blog posts may help. 

Do you have a friend who has no idea where to find an Elf on the Shelf? Share ideas of where they can be found and how to get the best deal for one.

Do you have a friend who thinks the entire idea is stupid and wants nothing to do with it?

Shun that friend. They are a lost cause.

I totally kid.

Perhaps they may be more interested in the idea of Kindness elves. Maybe they celebrate other traditions and can share their traditions with you. Be open to learning something new. 

Hold Space

Is your friend getting overwhelmed with the holidays with too much on her plate and just can't continue on with this whole Elf on the Shelf thing?

Hold space for those feelings.

Is your friend totally excited and wants to show you all the Elf on the Shelf things with daily pictures on Facebook?

Hold space. Click like. Better yet, try out all of the other buttons.

Help process difficult emotions

Did your friend work so very hard to create magical Elf on the Shelf moments but her kids just were not into it? Did they misbehave anyway? Did they stop believing in the magic of the season this year? Did things just not go as planned?

Listen. Lean into the uncomfortable feelings. Be ok with difficult emotions. Your friend trusts you enough to share her difficult emotions with you. Consider it an honor.

Avoid sentences that start with, "At least."

"At least you have an Elf on the Shelf."

"At least your kids have already made magical memories."

Help her find her voice

Do you have a friend who really doesn't want to do Elf on the Shelf, but feels tons of pressure to do it because that is what all the "good moms" are doing?

Help her find her voice to say, "No! I am enough. I don't need to do something I have no interest in doing, and that stresses me out, in order to be a good mom. I am totally a great mom! My kids can have a perfectly magical experience without Elf on the Freaking Shelf."

This is by no means an exhaustive list on how to be a doula, but it is a good start. After you take an amazing Birth Boot Camp DOULA training, of course!

Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Reasons People Don't Hire Doulas (And the 1 Reason Why They Shouldn't)

I have had many conversations with many women about my work as a doula. Most of the time they are seeking a listening ear for their questions or concerns. Often, these conversations end with some variation of why they can't hire a doula. Below are a few of the most common reasons. 

Doula performing a double hip squeeze
Image created using Canva

1. I can't afford a doula.

Most doulas are willing to make payment arrangements. Houston doulas charge very differently, so it is possible to find a doula to fit any budget. Some doulas will even barter. Some families include a doula on their baby registry.

2. My husband doesn't want a doula.

This usually stems from a misunderstanding of what a doula does. Doulas do not replace the partner nor take over. A woman's desire for a doula does not indicate that the partner is not good enough. Doulas support both parents in the way that they have decided beforehand. My goal as a doula is to make Dad the hero! I am an extra set of hands and ideas to help the experience become as wonderful a memory as possible. I am there for only one day, but Dad will be there forever! I want her to remember how amazing he was, so my biggest goal is to enhance what Dad can do-not replace.

3. I don't want a stranger in the room.

You will know your doula better than anyone in the room other than your partner and maybe your care provider. One of the foundations of doula support is relational support. By the time you are ready to give birth, you have likely spent several hours together. You've met and chatted at least 3 times. You have cultivated a trusting relationship together. You have shared intimate details of your life with your doula. You have shared your hopes and dreams for your upcoming birth. Your doula will be a familiar face in a sea of strangers on your birthing day. You will not know the nurses, residents, any other personnel that may be present. You may not even know your care provider should your normal care provider not be on-call that day. Your doula will not be the stranger in the room that day.

4. I want an epidural/am giving birth in the hospital/already have a midwife.

Doulas support any kind of birth. Doulas are great for women planning to have an epidural because they know techniques to help keep labor progressing. Most doulas attend births in the hospital because most women give birth there. Doulas and midwives make a great team together.

5. My care provider said I don't need one/doesn't work with doulas.

A care provider who wants to discourage a woman from seeking as much support as she can raises a red flag in my book. I get it. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I raised concerns that I wouldn't be able to have a doula. I was told I didn't need one because doulas are a luxury. I took that as an attempt to be reassuring at the time, but looking back, I wasn't given all of the information. A simple statement of, "You can find a doula to fit your budget if you really want one," could have been offered. Even adding, "But I think you are capable of giving birth without one," would have been more supportive.

Sometimes people give me these reasons because they truly believe that these are obstacles that stand in their way of having a doula. I am happy to help people find a doula if they really want one.

However, sometimes people want to tell me they aren't hiring a doula for the above reasons just to be nice. They don't want to tell me the real reason, which I believe is the ONLY reason people shouldn't hire a doula.

1. I don't want to hire a doula.

Wonderful! No one says you have to hire a doula to have a great birth. If you don't want a doula, it is perfectly acceptable not to hire a doula. If you are friends with a doula, it is ok to be direct and say you aren't interested. We are professionals and can understand. If you give us one of the other reasons, we will do our doula thing by giving options and trying to help you overcome obstacles. We will give you information about dispelling common doula myths. Because that is what we do. We will doula you until we get to the heart of the matter. And if that is simply you don't want a doula, then that is ok! You do you. Own that choice.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Making labor easier...with childbirth education

Not long after I started working as a doula in Houston, I began to notice an interesting trend. My clients who took an independent childbirth class were more likely to achieve the birth they were seeking. Witnessing how much more prepared for labor those clients were fueled my desire to become a childbirth educator.

There are many excellent options for childbirth education, but I will focus on Birth Boot Camp. Birth Boot Camp is a modern, evidence-based, and comprehensive course geared towards couples planning a natural childbirth. While the focus is on natural childbirth, the curriculum equips couples to navigate any type of birth.

What is an independent childbirth class?

An independent childbirth class is a childbirth class that is unaffiliated with a hospital or birth center. In other words, the curriculum is independent of any institution's philosophies about birth. 

How can taking an independent childbirth class make labor easier?

Childbirth education helps to prepare you and your partner by providing tools that can make labor easier. The skills couples learn in Birth Boot Camp classes include the following:


Right from the start, couples begin to learn about relaxation. Learning how to relax your body and mind is crucial for making labor easier. In a society where relaxation is seen as unproductive and lazy, and achievement and busy-ness are considered superior, many people need to re-learn this important skill. The Field Manual each couple receives contains scripts and guided relaxations that couples practice during class and on their own at home. While relaxation may not look the same to everyone, it is important to learn how to relax your mind and body during labor. Childbirth classes teach you how.

Comfort Measures

Beginning in Class 2, couples fill their tool box with different comfort measures that can help ease the discomforts of labor.  Being up and active often helps labor to progress more smoothly, but that is often the last thing people want to do once they are in active labor! Learning various comfort measures can make this easier.


Birth Boot Camp teaches couples how to navigate their health care. From teaching about common tests and procedures that occur during pregnancy that can change the course of labor before it even has a chance to begin, to choosing a care provider that will support the birth you are seeking, couples will learn the information they need to navigate their care. Being able to discern when to accept or decline certain interventions is one of the most important skills needed to having the kind of birth you want and for making labor easier.


Finally, being surrounded by other couples who are in the same place as you and being armed with tools to have your best birth will give you confidence. Confidence helps make labor much easier. Confidence relaxes your mind. Confidence relaxes your muscles. A relaxed mind and relaxed muscles make labor much easier.

Check out www.houstonbbci.com to find a Birth Boot Camp class near you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Making labor easier...with water!

One of my favorite tools to use during labor, not only for my own labors, but for my clients as well, is water. I have experienced first-hand the benefits water provides during labor. Below are several ways to use water during labor to help make labor easier.


Many women find a lot of comfort laboring in the tub. So much so that they often give birth in there. When a baby is born under water, usually in a tub or birth pool, it is called a water birth. Water birth is available in Houston in most homes and birth centers. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no hospitals in Houston that offer water birth. There are a few that are equipped to offer the option of laboring in the tub, but delivering your baby in the tub won't be allowed. Check with your hospital to see if this option is available.

Many women choose water birth or water labor because it has been shown to shorten labor, speed up labor, and helps to ease the discomforts of labor. For these reasons, it has been dubbed "Nature's Epidural."


Sometimes laboring in the tub is not feasible for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons I have seen are: the facility is not equipped with tubs, having ruptured membranes with a care provider who is not comfortable with the client laboring in the tub, or the electronic fetal monitors do not work very well in the tub. Sometimes women just don't like the idea of laboring in the tub.

The shower is a great compromise. Showers provide many of the same benefits as tubs. Using the shower during labor also provides an opportunity for some much-needed privacy, which is also super beneficial for labor. Feeling watched can slow labor down.


It is important to stay hydrated during labor. Dehydration can slow contractions down during labor. Take sips of water between contractions, or try a nice Labor-aid recipe. One of the perks of drinking lots of water during labor is the need to empty your bladder often. Sitting on the toilet is a great way to encourage dilation as our bodies are already used to relaxing there. 

Your care provider may recommend IV fluids during labor in order to avoid dehydration as well. 

Many women extol the benefits of laboring or giving birth in water. Ask your care provider how she can support making labor easier for you...using water!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vag TV - Not as Fun as it Sounds

Have you ever been really good at something, only to get really self-conscious about it when someone starts to watch you? 

I cook dinner for my family just about every day, but when my mom starts to watch me cook something that I've cooked 1000 times, I start to fumble around and forget steps. Or what about when you are eating something in peace and then someone starts to watch you eat? Eating is easy! You know how to do it! But all of a sudden, eating becomes super awkward when you have an audience.

I've had to learn how to perform well under pressure during my training as a musician. Every Friday afternoon for four years, I attended a class called "Recital Hour." It took place in the recital hall. Each week, a handful of students would perform a prepared solo.

Image created using Canva
On stage...

In the spotlight...

For an audience of their peers...

Talk about nerve-wracking. I had to perform in recital hour at least twice each semester. This class was supposed to teach us how to perform for an audience.

I was super nervous on the days it was my turn to perform. What if I messed up? What if they laughed at me? What if I humiliated myself? What if I forgot the music? What if the music falls off the stand? (That happened to me once during a Scholarship Contest. I survived. I also won the scholarship.)

I always practiced at least three hours a day during the week. I always did my best to prepare for recital hour. But no matter how prepared I was, or how great I sounded in the comfortable solitude of the practice room, I always messed up on something during the performance. I just didn't perform the same way in front of an audience as I did when I was alone. I eventually learned how to overcome my performance anxiety, but it still feels very different to perform for an audience.

So when I visited some clients a few weeks ago, I was reminded of what it feels like to perform for an audience. I often remove my shoes and leave them at the front door of a client's home when I go visit them. This was such an occassion. After the visit was over, I walked to the door to put my shoes on. They were sneakers, and I know how to put on my shoes. I really do! I've put on shoes so many times that there is no way I could ever keep track of how many times I've put on shoes. All of a sudden, things got really quiet. My clients were watching me put on my shoes. And I felt really weird. Awkward. So I sang, "I am putting on my shoes right now. And I feel really awkward!"

We all had a good laugh at my silly song.

But still. I felt awkward. And watched. I wanted to run away, or clam up. This experience reminded me of Vag TV. What is Vag TV? Vag TV is:

  • That awkward moment someone asks you how dilated you are. And you've never met the person before. Or maybe you have. 

  • When you get asked when your due date is for the 1000th time. That day. 

  • When you walk around at church, and two people exclaim "You're so big! You're so small!" At the exact. same. time. 

  • When your friends/family/facebook friends from highschool you never even talked to so why are you facebook friends start asking you at 36 weeks if you've had your baby yet.

  • When your sister/friend/cousin asks if they can attend your birth...just to see what it is like...

It is feeling watched. Inhibited. Uncomfortable. Awkward. Rushed. Ogled.

Most people don't mean to do this. It happens, nonetheless. I know I've accidentally contributed to my fair share of Vag TV. I do my best to be mindful of this and stop as soon as I realize what I am doing.

I learned recently that the conditions for birth need to be like that of a date night. The same hormones that flow during a nice intimate time with your partner are the very same ones we want flowing during birth. These hormones don't flow as well when we feel watched, inhibited, uncomfortable, awkward, rushed, or ogled.

Rowan TwoSisters, Urban Curandera and creator of the Labor Whispering protocol, based the protocol off of Vag TV.

Simply put, Vag TV can stop labor.

Let's not do that.

Turn off the Vag TV!

Schedule a Labor Whispering Session if you need help with that. 

Read more about Vag TV from my fellow Labor Whisperers:

Birth Announcements by Maureen of Apple Tree Doula Services

Why Your #32Weeks Post Might Be Delaying Your Labor by Jessica of Illuminated Revelry

Ever Heard of Vag TV? (Pronounced Vah-Juh) by Erin of Mothering Nature Birth Services

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

5 Best Toys for Babies

Babies are born ready to learn about the world around them. There is no better way for them to learn about their world than through play and exploration. As the late Mr. Rogers said, "Play is really the work of childhood." But how does one play with a baby? Do they need toys? What kinds of toys do they need? Not surprisingly, the only toy babies need is their favorite thing of all- YOU! You are the most interesting thing in your baby's life. You are already equipped with everything your baby needs: from warmth, comfort, safety, and nourishment, to fun and entertainment. Here are my picks for the 5 Best Toys for Babies.

1. Your Face

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Your baby loves to look at your face! Babies love to see exaggerated faces with big smiles and big surprised eyes. Because babies process what is going on around them much slower than adults, it'll take almost an entire minute for a baby to mimic what you are doing. Literally, give them a minute, and they will try to mimic you. Newborns can only see a few inches in front of them, about the distance between your face and breast. Lean in close to them so they can see your face.

Things to try:
  • Make funny faces
  • Poke out your tongue
  • Give kisses
  • Wiggle your eyebrows
  • Smile

2. Your Voice

Even before birth, your baby recognizes your voice. It is amazing to watch a brand new baby turn toward the parents' voices when they greet their new baby. Your baby loves your voice! It is a great toy.

Things to try:
  • Sing songs
  • Make funny noises
  • Talk to baby
  • Be sure to listen too!
  • Read to your baby

3. Your Breasts

Breasts are used for more than just nourishment. Even if you are not breastfeeding, your breasts can provide some entertainment, or even just comfort, for your baby. Many babies want to nurse when they are hungry, sleepy, scared, lonely, or even bored. I often ask people, "When you pick up a new kitten, how to you usually hold it?" Most people cuddle a kitten right up close to their hearts. Because they are cute. The same goes for babies. They like to be snuggled close.

Things to try:
  • Let baby have tummy time on your chest
  • Wear your baby in a carrier against your chest
  • Wear a nursing necklace while cradling baby
  • Skin to skin contact on chest
  • Warning: older babies sometimes entertain themselves by twiddling nipples

4. Your Hands

You will do so much for your baby with your hands. Your baby has likely already enjoyed your touch while in the womb. You may have already noticed how your baby responds to your touch with kicks, jabs, and wiggles. The fun continues after birth!

Things to try:
  • Massage
  • Tickles
  • Peek a boo
  • This Little Piggy
  • Let your baby grasp and explore your hands

5. Your Legs

Your legs can provide so much entertainment for your baby, especially when they get a little older and more mobile.

Things to try:
  • Dance with your baby
  • Bouncing games in your lap
  • Sit in the floor and just let them climb over your legs
  • Lie on your back and play airplane
  • Prop your baby up with your thighs and just let your baby look at you

Your body can provide plenty of entertainment for your baby. In fact, they can become overstimulated just with you being their sole source of fun. Signs that your baby is overstimulated and needs a break include (1):

  • Looking away
  • Shielding face
  • Pushing away
  • Fussing 
  • Crying

When your baby becomes overstimulated, things you can try include (2):

  • Let baby suck on something
  • Hold baby close
  • Stay calm
  • Wait for baby to look back at you before resuming play
  • Wait for baby to be calm and relaxed

It doesn't take much to entertain your baby. As you can see, you are all your baby needs for hours of fun. In fact, I still joke that Mommy is a jungle gym when it comes to my three kids, who are 5, 3, and 6 months. You are more than enough for your baby!


(1) And Baby Makes Three, Dr.'s John and Julie Gottman, pages 44-45
(2) Ibid. 46-47

Thursday, January 21, 2016

5 Sensations other than PAIN women can experience during childbirth

When asking a woman what her biggest fear is about giving birth, she'll probably respond with, "Pain! I'm scared of the pain!" Most people describe giving birth as, "The worst pain imaginable," or "The worst pain you will ever experience." In other words, if you enter a conversation about birth, you will probably hear the word "pain" mentioned at least once.

Image created using Canva
Recently, I attended a class given by a local midwife, Anna Caffrey (who has since moved to England), about Pleasurable Birth. Wait. What? Can birth be pleasurable? Can women even experience...wait for it...orgasms during birth? I'm here to tell you, yes! Yes they can. I did. Well, at least, I almost experienced an orgasm during the birth of my second child.

Read: Experiences of Pleasurable Childbirth: Uncovering a Blind Spot in Anthropology by Anna Caffrey

After attending the class, I was inspired to ask a few fellow Birth Boot Camp Instructors if they have experienced any sensations other than pain during their births. They had, and they were happy to share!

1. Powerful

Lauren McClain, a breech baby extraordinaire and  Birth Boot Camp Instructor in Maryland, shared, "Part of me approached birth as a scientist. What will this be like? What will I feel? How will I react? How will the feelings change if I do XYZ? The most apt term I can use to describe what I felt for all of my birth experiences is powerful. Where the power was or how the power felt depended on the individual experience."

Janine Heincker, a Birth Boot Camp Instructor in Topeka, KS, also describes her births as powerful. "Overwhelming power is how I describe my intense births. I've learned to love it!"

2. Intense

Vanessa Stepan, a Birth Boot Camp Instructor and birth doula in Bossier City, LA, said about her birth, "Birth for me was intense but I would not consider it painful in the traditional sense. Being so mentally prepared and aware of the amazing journey my body was taking me on to meet my baby was so powerful. I was able to stay calm and just trust that my body and baby knew what to do."

3. Aware

Melissa Meyer, a Birth Boot Camp Instructor and yoga instructor in Corvallis and Albany, OR, felt incredibly aware of her babies' movements during birth. She said, "I wanted so much to have an "orgasmic" birth! I told my husband he needed to kiss me through the whole thing. wink emoticonIt ended up being so fast there wasn't much time for any of that. I do love the pushing phase and I have such awareness of my body that I can feel the baby moving out of me. My second baby I felt her face as her head crowned. My third baby I felt her turn like a corkscrew right before I started to push. It's such an awesome feeling to feel your baby inside of you trying to get out."

4. Connected

Erin Marney, a Birth Boot Camp Instructor in Teller County, CO, felt connected with her body during birth. "I felt very connected with my body in a way I had never experienced before. Because I understood what was happening, I could feel and then visualize what was happening internally and with the baby. It was so intense, but knowing things were unfolding as they should was a comfort."

5. Orgasms

And finally, the one you have been waiting for. Some women can even describe their birth experiences as "orgasmic." One Birth Boot Camp Instructor described her births as orgasmic. "I experienced two, for lack of a better understanding of the sensation, orgasms. They were nothing like in Orgasmic Birth, but they were definitely real. The most intense sensation came as I was transitioning from labor to pushing (I had no control over the pushing, my body just did it). I could feel my son's head engaging with my cervix to help get me to complete dilation (which sounds weird, but I could FEEL it happening) and I just got this strange and pleasurable sensation. It was like this internal surprise to remind me that what was happening was super awesome even though it wasn't exactly fun. If I hadn't been so aware and focused on what my body was doing, it might have been lost in the other sensations of pain. But it was this secret and special thing happening. I don't share that with many people because it was so special to me, but birth can be enjoyable if you let go of what you expect and know of pain and pleasure." (emphasis mine)

Learn more: Visit the Orgasmic Birth website to learn more about the book, documentary, and childbirth classes. 

Watch: This video perfectly captures why we need to make our birthing environment more like we are preparing for a date night.

I love that women can have experiences other than pain during birth. Anna gave several suggestions on how to facilitate a more pleasurable birth experience during her talk. I am excited to share my knew knowledge with my clients! In short, make your birthing environment very similar to how you would for a date night. Pack certain unmentionables in your birth bag, and prepare your mind for a great birth!

I'd love to hear from you! Did you experience other sensations besides pain during your birth(s)? Please share your experiences.