Don’t Let Fear Control Your Birth

Fear in childbirth, VT doulaLet’s start by taking a quick look at some clips from how birth is portrayed in the media. What we see as “entertainment”. We see this even before we are thinking about having kids. It may not mean much at the time watching the birth scenes, it might make you squirm because it’s birth and that’s just not something we typically talk about openly, but these birth scenes we see stick in the back of our mind creating an idea about birth. What is that idea? Birth is not normal, it is a medical event. Birth is PAINFUL. Birth is SCARY.

Who has seen the movie Knocked Up? I’m sure many of you have. Well please, take a minute and click the link to watch the clip from that movie.

Ok, now here is another birth scene from a popular movie, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Again, please take a minute to check it out.

What are your thoughts? I know what mine are and they definitely are not POSITIVE about the birth experience. We know it is necessary and care so much about our little ones to go through it but it looks SCARY. This is what we see, like I said earlier, before we are even thinking about birthing our own little one we are getting this idea of birth in the back of our minds.

Now, let’s look at the difference in THIS video.

Look at Mom. Yes, it looks HARD, but it’s not quite so SCARY is it. Have you EVER seen a birth scene like that in the media? In a movie? I haven’t. (If you have, please share because I would LOVE to see it!) Mom even said in the caption “it was scary at times…” but even reading that, knowing it was a REAL birth and not just made for the movies, I STILL didn’t get the “birth is scary vibe” like the first two movie clips. I get it, I mean for the movie they want drama, on the edge of your seat ya know, but really, it doesn’t do any good for the view of birth.

Why is it so important to NOT fear childbirth?

Well, lots of reasons. First of all, fear can be counterproductive. Take a minute. Think about something scary or a time when you were scared. What happens/happened to your body? Did it tense up? I bet it did. Maybe you clenched your fists or closed your eyes real tight. Now, think about what your body is trying to do during labor. Open. Open up to allow baby down and out. That tension caused by the fear will be working against what your body wants to be doing.

I have this WONDERFUL clip of midwife Ina May Gaskin doing a talk about Reducing Fear in Childbirth. I highly suggest taking the time to watch it as she gives some great information. If you are interested I would also recommend Ina May’s book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Not only is it filled with great, non-fear mongering information, but great positive and empowering birth stories.

Where is your fear? Find a way to work through it. Maybe with art, talking to a friend/loved one/doula, or maybe with a counselor/therapist. Find what works for you. Don’t let your fear control you.

 

Road to Becoming a Doula

Vermont doulaWhy I Decided to Become a Doula

You know I’m a doula… but why? What made me choose this path? Well, I guess in a way, this work chose me. If you were to ask me 5 years ago, during my last year of college, what I would be doing in 5 years, I most definitely would not have said being a doula or even working in any birth related way. I was a Chemistry major with a minor in Spanish at The University of Vermont. I knew one thing, I did not want to work in a lab, but other than that I was very unsure of where my life would go career wise.  I thought most likely I would become a teacher. So, how did I go from thinking of being a Chemistry teacher to a doula?

Finding My Passion

The events that took place from February 28th – March 2nd, 2011, is where my career path changed. My labor with my daughter started February 28th and I welcomed my amazing daughter into the world March 2nd, 2011. During my pregnancy I planned and dreamed of a natural water birth at the hospital. I did NOT hire a doula. I considered it, but wasn’t sure it was worth the money to be honest. My body was made for this. I could do it. Well I didn’t. I did give birth to my daughter, but not the way I had planned. I had a cesarean. Birth is unpredictable. While I felt so much love and support from both my husband and mother and even my nurse, I felt like something was missing. A knowledgeable person, that I had met before and knew my wishes, would give me encouragement, and keep me focused. Labor is hard, hence the name, labor. And not only is it hard for the “birth giver” but for the support people whether that is the partner, mother, grandmother, sister, or friend. I remember looking at my husband. He was tired, he was at a loss for what to do. I think we both needed that support from someone who knew more about birth than us. For someone to say to us, “it’s okay” “this is normal” or “you ARE doing this” “you are NOT a failure”.

Soon after the birth I realized how important support is for women during this time of their lives. Starting from trying to conceive. Please excuse the cheese, but my soul called me to support others. I was recovering and healing, emotionally and physically, from my own birth. I knew that in order to “serve” others, I needed to deal with my own birth first, and I did. Finally over 2 years later I attended my training workshop. My heart soars when helping women. Seeing the strength of a woman in labor and the love and joy wash over her face when meeting her little one for the first time is priceless. I am so incredibly thankful that I have found something that I truly love, that although it is very challenging, is yet so rewarding and fulfilling. I have said for years that “I want a job I enjoy, or at least don’t hate going to.” I found that in birth work.

 What’s Next?

My passion does not stop with birth doula work. I have mentioned this before, but some additional services are in the works that will compliment and add to my birth doula services. I feel this will be able to give my clients more of what they want and need at the ease of getting it from one spot! Sorry folks, but I won’t be letting you in on what is specifically I will be adding, but I am very excited about it and will soon be giving you a heads up.

When it comes to pregnancy and birth, you can never learn it all. There is so much information out there. That is one of the great things about this field is that I get to continue to learn. I am constantly trying to stay up to date and reading and learning more and more. It certainly keeps me busy! Since every birth is different and unique, I learn something at every birth I attend. I plan to keep on learning to offer my clients the highest possible care that I can. This work can be challenging, but I love it!

 

What is your passion? Are you following your dream? Any questions for me? Comment below!

World Breastfeeding Week: August 1-7, 2014

World Breastfeeding week is quickly approaching, only a few days away so let’s get ready! This year it is August 1-7, 2014. The purpose of World Breastfeeding week is to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. There are many challenges to breastfeeding and many mothers struggle with meeting their personal breastfeeding goals for a number of reasons. While breastfeeding certainly has its challenges, it has so many benefits! While breastfeeding is not the “right” choice for everyone (and that’s ok!) those that wish to really benefit from support which is why I think World Breastfeeding Week is great!

So, how can you celebrate World Breastfeeding Week?

There are many events going on that vary by location, but here are a few going on all over that you can check out and see if there is a location near you!

This is a really fun event if you can find one near you. There are locations worldwide where moms come together and all “latch on” their little ones at the same time! Organizers then count how many little ones are latched on at their location and send it in for a world wide count of little ones latched on all at once! Aren’t nursing right now? No worries, contact your local  event and see if they need help! Registering, counting, etc. or just go and cheer everyone on! For those in Vermont there is a Big Latch On event planned for August 1st at 10:30 AM at Landry Park, Winooski. Go look for a location near you! Can’t find one close to you? Keep this in mind next year and grab some friends and put one together yourself! Even if you are no longer breastfeeding it can still be a fun event!

This event is hosted by La Leche League. This event is run by La Leche League leaders throughout the US. It doesn’t require little ones to be latched on all at the same time but does count the number of breastfeeding supporters in attendance and tries to break the previous record! These events can vary greatly from one location to the next. It can be a small get together, picnic, festival and even a Big Latch On event can count! Unlike the Big Latch On that takes place August 1st and  August 2nd, these events take place all throughout the month of August. Differing from The Big Latch On this event counts not only those that are breastfeeding, or shall I say breastfeeding little ones (a mom tandem nursing counts as two), it also counts supporters so just attending and showing your support you are counted. The highlight of this is to celebrate not just breastfeeding, but the supporters who help make it happen!

 

These are the two biggest celebrations for World Breastfeeding Week (and World Breastfeeding Month) that I know of. So now I need you guys to help me out. Do you know of any other celebrations going on? Small, local ones or big, worldwide ones? Have you or Are you attending one of these events? What did you think? And lastly, since celebrating supports seems to be a theme, please tell me: Who was your biggest breastfeeding supporter? Partner, family member, nurse, IBCLC, La Leche League leader, friends?  Can’t wait to hear your answers! Now, Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Birth Affirmations

birth affirmationA tool I use during labors as well in my daily life is affirmations. And guess what. It’s FREE! It is also simple to use. Affirmations: Positive statements that you repeat to yourself. They can be used during pregnancy, during all stages of labor, postpartum and even throughout life. They are so versatile and can be so personal to you. But I thought I’d give some ideas about them and some of my favorites that I think you might find helpful.

So you think you want to use them during labor and birth? You should consider starting to use them during your pregnancy. An idea I like to recommend is to write them down on post it notes or index cards and put them around your house- your nightstand, bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, computer, and also your office desk or your car (DON’T READ IT WHILE DRIVING! THIS IS MEANT TO BE DONE WHILE CAR IS IN PARK! but I’m sure you know that).  Now, whenever you see a card, repeat it. Say it to yourself. Out loud, in your head, whatever works for you and you feel comfortable doing. When you do this take a few deep breaths and relax. Let your mind envision what the card reads. Put that positive thought out there. And do this over and over and over.

Why start during pregnancy? Well, when you are doing this you are training your body to relax. You are getting your mind used to hearing those affirmations, those positive words and phrases. It won’t be new to you during labor. You already have let your mind show you those positive images around each card and it will be triggered to do so again in labor. During labor it is important to be RELAXED to let your body open up and push baby down and out. Plus after repeating this affirmations over and over you will hopefully really start to believe in them.

You can make up your own affirmations. That way they are more specific to you. If you have a fear, something you are worried about, turn it around into a positive phrase. A general example. Say you are afraid of flying (like me!) turn that around. “I am safe on this plane. I will arrive safely at my destination.” So okay, it may not change things that CAN occur but after repeating it, it does help you relax and it’s true. Flying is safe. I tested this one out on my trip a few weeks ago so I can say it works, for me. That brings me to another note. What affirmations work for one person may not work for another. Pick ones that “speak” to you. That you can relate to or that trigger something inside you. You may not like a single affirmation I post here. That’s okay. Please don’t let that turn you off. There are TONS out there. Go on Pinterest or Google and trust me, you will find many. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites!

You Can't Stop the Waves...-4 (2)

I trust in my ability to birth my baby-1 (2)

My mind quiets-1 (2)

The Finnish Maternity Box

Finnish maternity box? What is that? You might have seen this floating around the internet lately, or maybe not. My brother in law came across this a few days ago and shared it with me knowing I would be interested in it- he was right! It is a mom in Finland who shows off a maternity box she received, for free, as all expecting Moms in Finland have the option to do so! How cool is that? Just for fun, here is a recap of what it is and my thoughts on it!

Finnish Mom and reddit user, Grumpy Finn, opening her box!

Finnish Mom and reddit user, Grumpy Finn, opening her box! imgur

What’s inside the Finnish Maternity Box?

  • snow suit
  • hat
  • mittens
  • warm body suit
  • sleeping bag and sheet (for baby)
  • more hats
  • balaclava
  • bra pads
  • socks
  • tights
  • book
  • toy
  • condoms
  • baby hygiene products
  • cloth diaper
  • towel
  • various gender-neutral clothes
  • bed! (the box itself can be used as baby’s bed!
Take a peek inside! imgur

Take a peek inside!
imgur

Wow! Look at that list! The bottom of the box is a mattress so baby can sleep there safely! Why did this start? Well according to this one article I found it started in the 1930’s due to high infant mortality rates and this box seemed to help that rate fall! And what else is great? Most of the items in this box are made in Finland or Finnish companies! Yay! for buying local!

Who gets the box?

This isn’t given to only certain moms that fall into a set of requirements. The only requirement is a woman that is passed 154 days (a little less than 5 months) of pregnancy. Cool right? Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened here in the US? I know, I know, the number one question is- well who pays for that? Well that is not the point of this post so I won’t go into that. I will, however, talk about WHY I think it is cool and what it shows me about the “mother culture” in Finland.

The Really Cool Thing About This Box

Ok, so what I love most about this Finnish Maternity Box is that it shows support to the mothers. It shows that mothers are important. It helps mothers out. Whether or not they can’t afford to buy the items inside otherwise, are too busy or unable to get to the store to buy these items. It gives moms the necessities needed for the first few weeks of baby’s life. That has got to feel good for Mom. It takes some weight off of their shoulders and lets them relax about at least one thing because let’s face it, many moms have lots going on in there head before baby arrives. The last thing Mom really needs is to be worrying about this. In my opinion, this is great! Mothers need support! And this is a great way for mother’s to feel that support! It seems to have turned into quite the tradition as well! I love seeing all the interesting differences in pregnancy and birth all over the world!

Tell me- What do you think of this Finnish Maternity Box?

 

 Want More? Check Out These Links:

A Doula’s Tips for Last Weeks of Pregnancy

tips for last weeks of pregnancyCongrats! You’ve made it to the last few weeks of your pregnancy. In a matter of weeks… or days… your little one will be making their much anticipated arrival! Emotions can be all over the place at this time. Maybe you’re stressed about finishing up the nursery or maybe you’re just tired and uncomfortable and ready to get the show on the road.

 

Tip #1: Share this tip with well-meaning friends and family! Stop asking mom- “Is baby here yet?”

Yes, you are anxiously waiting and ask with good intentions. You may think you only ask once, but you are most likely not the only one asking. It adds up. Mom is anxious enough and it doesn’t really help to answer the same question over and over. When it is time, when baby is here, you will hear about it, don’t worry. And Mom is most likely thinking about it A LOT. Instead of drawing her attention back to that thought- try to distract her. Invite her out for a movie, talk a walk with her, grab a cup of tea together. Maybe she’s not feeling well or is on bedrest. Try to make a visit over and do something for her- laundry, vacuum, sweep. She may be feeling run down (or told to lay off the housework by her doctor) yet she might be experiencing the common “nesting” urge that often comes before labor where mom feels the NEED to CLEAN EVERYTHING! Maybe you just go over to talk, bring her a yummy (healthy) snack and play a game of cards or watch a funny movie. While a visit might be good be advised not all moms may be up for it and you want to make sure you don’t overstay your welcome, mom needs her rest. So Moms, don’t feel bad to let your guests know you’re ready to rest… alone. Also, friends and family of Mom reading this, see Tip #3 as well. Note: stay away from sad movies and you might also want to stay away from movies with birth in it- remember you want to help her relax not see women in pain during labor. The other plus to funny movies? Laughing. Oxytocin the “love” hormone that is involved in all those happy feelings, including laughing, is also involved in labor! So help get that oxytocin flowing!

Tip #2: Don’t worry about having a spotless house.

Don’t wear yourself down cleaning the house top to bottom. Ask for help if you need it. You need to make sure you’re resting and not over doing it. I’m not saying be a couch potato- unless of course your doctor tells you this. Going on walks and doing your usual activities is great- as long as it is okay with your doctor- but if you’re tired, REST. Don’t push yourself to get the house clean. Baby won’t notice if there are dishes in the sink, laundry not put away, dust on the TV. IT IS OKAY.

Tip #3: Practice Relaxation

Not only is it good to relax because your body is working hard and carrying around another human being but relaxing is also important during labor. During labor your body needs to relax and open. If you practice relaxing before you are in labor, it will be easier for your body to do that during labor. Some ways you might want to try relaxing are:

  • using a focal point- maybe a picture of your favorite spot, the beach, the mountains, etc.
  • meditation
  • visualization- visualize baby engaging and moving down, visualize how you hope your birth to go, even what you think baby will look like
  • Affirmations- hang them up around the house, say them out loud or to yourself every time you see them.
  • Breathing- Practice breathing such as deep cleansing breath, releasing tension from the body. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth slowly. Breathe so your belly so it rises and falls and end with another cleansing breath. Or do what feels right to you. You may find breathing through contractions to be very helpful.

Tip #4: Spend quality time with your partner and/or friends

After your little bundle of joy gets here, they are the center of attention, rightly so. And you will spend a lot of time resting and recovering. Go on a date night. A nice dinner out, movie, play, or whatever you and your partner love to do. You will have less time to do all this once baby is here and when you do have the chance it takes more work and planning (babysitter, pumping milk, the worry of leaving little one, etc.). Not only do you want to do this while you can before little one gets here it can be very relaxing and ahem… maybe even intimate? Again, this goes back to this oxytocin hormone I was talking about earlier. If you have other children spend some quality time with them as well since the addition of a sibling can be a big change for them as well!

Tip #5: Don’t listen to labor “horror” stories!

This may have been happening to you from the start. Women start telling you about a horrible birth experience of herself, family member, friend or even friend-of-a-friend. If you haven’t stopped listening to these stories already, start now. You want to keep positive thoughts and don’t let yourself get scared about birth. Birth is a normal, natural event. Your body was made to do this! Fear is also not your friend during childbirth. Think about what happens when you’re scared. Your body tenses up right? Well your body is trying to do the opposite of that during labor; it wants to relax and open as I mentioned above. When you are tensed, you essentially are working against yourself and the pain is heightened. Now what happens when you are in pain? Pain can trigger fear and there you go, the never ending cycle. So (politely) decline all stories that aren’t so positive. If you are looking for some positive birth stories to help you feel empowered go check out the blog Birth Without Fear. There are so many wonderful positive stories on there.

 

There you have it! My tips for the last weeks of pregnancy for all of you strong, powerful, courageous mothers out there. These weeks may be going be ever so slowly but not only is it worth it, it will end, I promise. You will not be pregnant forever!

Please if you have any other tips you would like to share, feel free to comment below!

Doula Myths

doula mythsWhen I tell people “I’m a doula” I often get a confused look and have to explain what that is. That’s ok, other than Gilmore Girls I really didn’t know much about doulas either until I was pregnant. There are also a lot of myths or misconceptions about doulas so I thought I would clear some of those up!

Myth 1: Doulas replace Mom’s partner.

FALSE: This is briefly talked about over on my Doula FAQ’s page but doulas are not there to replace the partner but to work WITH the partner and medical staff making a well-rounded team to support mom. All with different roles. Doulas can also be supportive and helpful for the partner who may be scared, tired, nervous, or unsure of what to do to help mom. The partner also knows mom in a way the doula does not and has that special connection. They can make a really great team together!

 

Myth 2: Doulas are only needed for natural birth:

FALSE: Doulas support mom’s who wish to receive pain medication and even moms who receive a c-section. You might be wondering if mom has an epidural, what is a doula needed for? First doulas can help maintain a calm, quiet, atmosphere in the birth room allowing mom to relax and hopefully rest up for the next stage of labor- pushing. Speaking of pushing, when mom has an epidural it can make pushing a little more challenging since there is no, or little, feeling. The doula can offer encouragement to mom as well as coaching mom in pushing. The doula might offer ideas to help mom push more effectively such as holding a mirror so mom can see her progress or hold a towel for mom to pull on while pushing. There are also times when the epidural may not completely take so Mom is still feeling contractions- the doula is there to help Mom work through that as well. The list goes on and on. She still offers emotional support and can encourage Mom to advocate for herself.

 

Myth 3: The doula speaks FOR you.

FALSE: The doula does not speak on your behalf and doesn’t speak up for you but encourages and empowers you to speak up for yourself. Ask questions, gather information, then make an informed decision. It is YOUR birth and a doula can not and should not speak for you or make those decisions for you.

 

Myth 4: Doulas have their own agendas and/or won’t support my decision if I end up wanting pain medication.

FALSE: Doulas are there to support YOUR birth. We understand that what is “right” for one family may not be “right” for another. Also, you are the ones giving birth, not us. We want to support YOU on YOUR decisions for YOUR birth.

 

Myth 5: All doulas are female.

FALSE: There are males doulas out there! If there is one in your area don’t automatically discount them because they are male. They can still be wonderful support and may be a better fit for you than a female doula. Interviewing a few doulas is usually a good idea so you are able to find one that you really connect with and that you feel comfortable with. You may be surprised to find that the male doula is the best choice for you! Keep an open mind.

 

Have you heard any other myths? Or maybe you have a question about whether or not something is true or false about doulas. Comment below and I’ll start another list for Doula Myths: Part 2!

Meet the organization: ICAN

So every now and then I plan to talk about some resources available to families. Many times these great resources aren’t known about when they could be greatly beneficial. Hopefully at some point I will introduce you to a new resource that you could either use for yourself or you pass it on. You are not alone in whatever you are going through.

First up is one that I personally am a part of. International Cesarean Awareness Network or ICAN. The cesarean rates in the US are high, very high. With about 1 in 3 women receiving a c-section this is a very important group. Cesareans come with risks- immediate risks as well as increasing risks for future pregnancies and births, whether or not it is a repeat c-section or a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). There are also lots of emotions that come along with a mom needing a c-section, including birth trauma.

ICAN provides information and support to moms and families. There are local chapters around the US that are a safe place for mom to talk about the cesarean, to process it, and to get pointed in the direction of some local resources. They do have Facebook page as well as a private support group on Facebook. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a current cesarean, one that happened years and years ago, a future cesarean, or a VBAC.

As I said earlier, the c-section rate in the US is very high. This is a problem since it does come with risks. I often feel like the risks of a c-section are overlooked, not even mentioned. Now, they do save lives for sure, but that doesn’t mean the risks, immediate and future, shouldn’t be discussed. I could go on and on about this but in the future I will make a dedicated post to the problem with having such a high c-section rate and why you should INFORM yourself. I will probably say this again but, it is important to inform yourself about birth to make the decision that is best for you and your family, whatever that is. Again, I will write about informed consent in the future- what it is and why you should know about it.

Women are facing problems such as VBAC bans and difficulty finding a VBAC provider that is truly supportive even though the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, itself states that for most women VBACs are “safe and appropriate. You can find the 2014 ACOG paper about it here. ICAN is there to support women in these cases. On the flip side it is sometimes safer or decided by the mother that a repeat c-section is the best way to go. ICAN can also help with preparing for that, helping recover, and even help find tools about gentle or family-centered c-sections.

 

Go check out this great organization.

Welcome!

Welcome, welcome!

If you haven’t already, browse around the website and get to know a little bit about me in the About Me section or learn about what exactly a doula does and does NOT do in the Doula FAQ’s section.

To get things started I’m going to talk a little bit about my birth philosophy. Birth is a normal and natural process that our bodies were made for. Women are strong, capable, intuitive and powerful All women deserve the support they want and need and have the right to be informed and decisive about their journey into motherhood. They deserve the right to ask questions and receive evidenced based care. Birth is not something to be feared, but something that should EMPOWER a mother. Birth may not go as planned, but it is my hope that all women feel loved, cared for, and support during this time and have the best birth possible.

There are some additional things I want you to know about me as a person, doula, and blogger. While of course I have my own, personal beliefs, I do my absolute very best at all times to keep that separate from others. I understand that what I feel is best for me, may not be what is best for someone else. And that is okay. If you are informed and confident in your decision, I am too. Also, as stated in the Doula FAQ’s page, I do not give medical advice. All things written on here are my opinions, interpretations, etc. and meant in no way as medical advice. I am passionate about birth and passionate about supporting women during this time in their lives. It is hard work. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone.

My best wishes to you all!

Kristin