I can talk. Boy, I can talk! I can talk about babies and superheroes, science fiction, politics, dogs and cats, even the kitchen sink, and I’ve hit on all these topics and more during a birth, but there are also times when I know when to be quiet. You see, a mother doesn’t birth rationally. She doesn’t birth with the frontal lobe, the area of the brain that is in charge of logic and speech. In fact, trying to stay in that conscious area of the brain can keep a mom from progressing in labor
Another installment in our "Do I Need a Doula If..." series. See the rest here.
Doulas love childbirth education! Several of our doulas are also certified childbirth educators, and all of us recommend you take childbirth classes regardless of where and with whom you’re giving birth. We believe you can’t be too educated about the process and strategies of birth.
Childbirth classes, even the very best and most comprehensive ones, can’t give you experience in birth! Your doula not only has the knowledge you will gain in class (and probably more) she also has experience of when and how to use it! Doulas also support each other and often discuss situations that have occurred at previous birth – plus, we encourage our doulas to text or call a senior doula if they are in a situation that is new to them. This sort of wisdom enhances your classes.
No matter how closely you paid attention and how many notes you took, you will inevitably forget some of what you learned. Having a doula there is like taking your teacher with you! We often will remind you of something you learned in class or be able to fill in the knowledge gaps.
Emotions are understandably running high at a birth. Even the most clear-headed and rational person may find it hard to reason through things mid-contraction! Having a doula on-hand gives you a calm voice, and one who knows and cares about you and your wishes. Sometimes just having the doula there, speaking in a calm voice, changes the tone of a room.
So do you need a doula if you have had childbirth classes? Absolutely! Childbirth education and doulas go hand-in-hand to increase your chances of having exactly the birth you’re hoping for.
“You’re a doula? What's that? Like a midwife?” It’s a pretty common response when we talk to people about our work. The growing familiarity with midwife care is great for birth, and we hope that awareness of doulas will increase as well!
How is a doula different from a midwife? The biggest distinction is that a midwife is responsible for the physical wellbeing of the mother and baby, and a doula doesn’t do anything medical. A doula won’t take your pulse, blood pressure or temperature or check your cervix. A doula will stay with you continuously from the time you need her until after your baby is born. Heart to Heart doulas don’t change shift or go off duty. A homebirth midwife will often stay with you as well, but may need to take some time to sleep. A doula can do a great job even half-asleep, but your midwife needs to be alert when the baby’s coming out!
Did you every notice how much birth reflects our lives? There might be more in common than you think:
-Both have a beginning and an end and we rarely know exactly when either of those will be. We have very little control over when and how they will start and end.
-Birth, like life, is much better if you are surrounded by people you love, who love you, and support you and your choices.
-We might have a plan for our lives and our births, but no matter how hard we try and how detailed our plan, things don’t always go according to plan! Adaptability and flexibility are key for both.
-Hopefully you will laugh more than cry, and you’ll appreciate the journey. (Don’t think it’s possible to laugh during birth? We’ve all been to some births that are filled with laughter!) Whether giving birth or living your life, at the end, you want to look back and be proud of your choices and accomplishments.
-Each one is unique and special. No two lives and no two births are ever exactly the same.
-The more you know, the better decisions you can make.
-Things will get messy.
-Both are better when you can eat, drink, and move around when you want to.
-Surprises will happen.
Doulas take our life lessons to births and apply what we learn at births to our lives. Life and birth are too important to treat lightly and just hope things go well. Having a doula can help you get your best birth – which could just change your life!
Easier said than done, right? Some of us are natural worriers. We keep a mental list of all the things that could go wrong and spend far too much time playing and replaying that list in our heads and that can spiral in all sorts of unpleasant ways. Pregnancy should be a time of happy anticipation, not worry and dread. There are no guarantees in life or pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean we should dwell on the worst case scenarios. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
-Enjoy this day of pregnancy. Many of us have experienced pregnancy loss; it can make it difficult to feel excited about a subsequent pregnancy. The fear that it may end tomorrow is real, and the loss will be painful either way. It may help to tell yourself that you will enjoy this pregnancy for as long as it lasts and love this baby for as long as you have him/her.
-Remind yourself that worrying won’t solve anything. As hard as it may be to admit, envisioning all the things that may go wrong can’t change whether they will. We can eat the right foods, take care of our bodies and do all the right things, but we can’t control every aspect of pregnancy, so do what you can and try to let the rest of it go.
-Meditate, relax, pray, etc. Do whatever clears your mind and calms your soul. It might be yoga, knitting, long showers, or zoning out while watching a cheesy rom-com on Netflix, but whatever soothes you, be sure to do that often.
-Practice releasing the tension in your muscles. Right now, pregnant or not, pay attention to your body. Are your shoulders up? Forehead scrunched? How is your back? Actively, purposely, soften any tense muscles. Doing this in pregnancy will help you practice to do so during labor and remind you to keep your body loose. Blood pressure may rise during pregnancy and tightening muscles increases blood pressure as well.
-Find the funny. Did you have to use your ponytail holder to fasten your pants at work when you suddenly couldn’t fit into non-maternity pants one day? Pull over three times to pee on a 15 minute drive? Sneak your favorite snack into a wedding because you can’t go an hour without a nibble? Laughing is good for you emotionally and physically, and let’s face it, pregnancy can lead to some funny moments. Learn to laugh at those little surprises and you’ll find the entire pregnancy goes a little better.
- Talk to other people who are excited about your pregnancy! If you have a friend or relative who is always the optimist, let some of their positive attitude rub off on you.
- Give yourself a set time to worry every day and if concerns try to pop up during other times, remind yourself that you can deal with them tomorrow in your 5 minute worry-time. Imagine putting them away in a file cabinet, folder, or box, or whatever helps you remember that you don't have to ponder each worry as it arrives. Some women find that knowing they will think about it later makes it easier to relax in the moment.
Enjoy your pregnancy!
Around the time I was training to be a doula, one mom told me a story of giving birth in a hospital and questioning the need for Pitocin. She had been young and honestly didn’t even know what the doctor was talking about when he said that he’d like to start her on Pitocin. When she sincerely asked what it was and why they wanted to give it to her, the doctor asked her in what I’m sure he thought was a jovial way, “Hey, who’s in charge here? We know what we’re doing – we do this every day.” She’d been too surprised at the response to ask any more, so she just accepted the Pitocin and went on with her birth. She never forgot that moment.
So – who is in charge here? Well, I can tell you for sure, it’s not the doula! We might say to some extent, it’s the baby! We don’t know what exactly causes labor to begin, but it often depends on the baby’s health and readiness. The mom, definitely, should be in charge of her body, and decisions made about it. In emergency situations, doctors often have to make split second life-saving decisions, though in birth, this is rare.
The idea of a “Birth Plan” can be a hot button topic. We like to use birth “visions” instead of “plans” because one thing that’s certain is that you can’t plan a birth! A birth vision is a tool you, your partner, doula, healthcare provider (HCP) and nurses can all use to help you achieve your best birth by your standards.
In our “Do I Need a Doula If…” series, we wanted to do a post about planned cesarean births. We reached out to a former client, Heather, to see if she’d give us a few thoughts at having one of our doulas at her cesarean birth. Heather responded with more than the quote or two we were expecting, so here is her answer, in its entirety:
I didn't go into the pregnancy thinking about a c-section. In fact, that particular birth scared the bajeezus outta me and left me with shivers every time I thought of the possibility. Actually, if I'm being honest, it was truly my worst nightmare of a birth scenario. I had never been cut open before for anything. Okay, wisdom teeth, but that hardly counts. Nothing major. I had experienced two previous births, both of which I thought at the time were pretty awesome. I did not have a doula at those births, as I didn't know about them, but knew I needed one for the third because of their woman-to-woman power and calming effect on the birth partner. Oh, and the hand holding I knew I needed since I had some complications with second immediate post-birth.
Hello all! I am Jackie Shaffer, a trained doula and placenta encapsulation specialist. I specialize in the Raw method of encapsulation. I love all things pregnancy birth and placenta!
Placenta Encapsulation has been such a fun learning experience! People ask me quite frequently or if it gets gross or boring. It is not gross. It's beautiful! It is never boring. Every placenta is different and unique! I am always learning.
The placenta that stands out in my mind is a twin placenta that I recently encapsulated. It was two whole placentas fused together. It had two separate amniotic sacs and two umbilical cords. One cord was even a partial marginal insertion which means it was attached near an edge of the placenta not in the center. This particular placenta yielded around 200 placenta capsules and was very cool. Placenta Encapsulation is a service that I am blessed to be able to provide for any moms interested. It is truly just another way to support a woman in her journey into new motherhood, whether for the first time or the tenth or more! Be blessed!
If you’re old enough you might remember the old GI Joe cartoon that had the line at the end of each episode “Now I know and knowing is half the battle!” Doulas can attest to the truth of that statement at many births. Too many times, when discussing a past birth with a friend, family member or new client, we hear “I didn’t know that was an option!”, “I didn’t know I could ask for that!” or “No one told me that was allowed.” Doulas are there to inform you of your options as well as help you implement the ones you decide are right for you.
So what are we talking about? Monitoring is a good example:
Our doulas share their thoughts, tips and more with you.