Leaving Birth Better Than I Found It

The motto among many birth workers is, “We are here to leave birth better than we found it.”

Many of us get in to this type of work as a result of our own birth experiences. Good, bad, or indifferent. If it was good, we want to ‘enlighten’ every one else with what we learned and we sometimes overwhelm them with what they should be doing to achieve the best birth possible. If our experience was bad, we tell them what caused it and how to avoid it. Still pushing our agenda on them to help them achieve the best birth possible.

Who decides what the best birth possible is?

I remember having a conversation many years ago with my best friend. She had witnessed my two home births and had been in the middle of many emotionally charged rants towards women that were doing it ‘wrong’.  When she became pregnant, I assumed she would use the same midwives and have her baby at home, too. When I questioned her about her plans, she simply told me that she didn’t trust her body enough to do that.

This profound statement took a while to set in. I didn’t get it at first. It took years, actually. Years of talking with other women and instead of looking solely at the way they had their baby, I took into account their whole experience and history.

What is best for me, and what is best for you can be two completely different things. And that is okay. You can do it totally  different from your sister or cousin or best friend. It doesn’t matter what the best experience was for them because this is your experience and it is about you.

What happens when the plan changes?

We have convinced ourselves to birth our baby in a specific way because it is what we were told to do, say an unmedicated hospital birth. What happens when after 30 hours of labor you give in to the epidural because you really need sleep? Are you a failure because you got some relief? Absolutely not. What happens if a cesarean becomes necessary? Did you fail or do it wrong? No!

When we put our pre-conceived notions on what is best we are only setting others up for failure. Are you really going to alienate someone because her choice was different from yours, although you both chose what was right for you? I certainly hope not. Instead, vow to love her and show her unconditional support while she makes the transition into motherhood.

What is a better birth?

I used to think that leaving birth better than I found it meant that I was going to educate the hell out of women about interventions and what I thought was the only way to give birth. The best way. I thought that I was going to help reduce the amount of cesarean sections in our community. I was going to change the way we did things!

Instead, I have changed the way that I do things. As long as a woman is making what she feels is the best choice for her and her baby, I do not care what that choice is. What I really care about is that she has at least one person that has her back, no matter what. Everyone has an opinion on what you should be doing, and that never changes. You will always be wrong in the eyes of someone.

For my clients, I vow to always provide them with the support they need through any situation. You can plan a cesarean for your first baby. You can squat in a pool in your living room. You can have any mix of anything in between. Myself, and everyone else on the All Mothers team are going to support you and cheer you on while you have your best birth.

Making sure that no one feels wrong, or like a bad mom for making the choices they make– that is how I am going to leave birth better than I found it.

 

 

Breast Feeding in the First Six Weeks- Part 2

“He’s hungry again!?”

“That baby is too attached to the boob. You’ll never be able to go anywhere.”

“You’d get more sleep if you just gave her formula.”

Comments like this come from friends and family members who may mean well, but they don’t realize how much damage their remarks can do. The first few weeks of the breastfeeding relationship are important. While other cultures consider the first six weeks to be a sacred time for mother and baby bonding, ours focuses on getting mom back to normal as soon as possible so she can get back to work or other responsibilities.

Babies go through growth spurts and have periods when they want to nurse almost constantly. Without proper support and encouragement to get through these tough times, a new mom can begin to feel inadequate. She may wonder if she is making enough milk to keep the baby nourished and happy. She may consider giving up on breast feeding so that other family members can feed the baby, or so she doesn’t have to hear the negative remarks. It is no doubt that there are a lot of thoughts going through a new mom’s head, and most of them make her question every decision she is making.

As a new mom, what can you do?

Educate yourself as much as you can about breast feeding and the trials that come with it.

Surround yourself with others who have been where you are. Joining the local La Leche League or other support group is a good option.

Reach out for help when needed. It can be as simple as asking your partner to help with something, or you can enlist the help of a postpartum doula or lactation consultant. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Be confident in the choices you are making for yourself and your baby. Pretty soon, you’ll be the one giving advice to another new mom.

 

You are in the middle of what is soon to be a faint memory. In the first few weeks of your baby’s life the hours are long but the days are short. You can do this!

Doulas Only Attend Home Births… And Other Myths

In my profession, I’ve heard a lot of myths about what I do. When I meet someone and say that I am a doula, I often get the, “Oh, so you deliver babies!?” response. I usually take it as an opportunity to set the record straight and explain what I do. So let’s take a look at the common myths and misconceptions about what doulas do and explore the truths behind them.

Doulas deliver babies.

No. I don’t deliver babies. That is what midwives and obstetricians do. Doulas don’t do anything clinical during labor and birth. Doulas are there to provide emotional, physical, and moral support. They are also a great source of education and information regarding options during labor, birth, and the postpartum period.

Doulas only support home birth.

This myth could not be farther from the truth. Your doula should support you no matter where you chose to have your baby. Home, birth center, hospital- it is your choice and you should find a doula that supports that choice.

Doulas only support un-medicated, natural birth.

Again, not true. Doulas may be most associated with natural birth, but the truth is the doula you choose should give you unwavering support no matter what your birth plan includes. A doula can be a powerful addition to any birth; Inductions, cesarean births, and even the birth that includes no plan or the option to change the plan. She is there for you and you family, no matter what.

Doulas are just chasing a dream or hobby and may be unreliable.

Unfortunately, most people run in to a hobby doula that doesn’t return calls or show up to consultations. This can be damaging to the reputations for those of us that take this job seriously. One bad interaction can label the way you feel about the group as a whole. This is my dream and my passion, but this is also my business and the way I feed my family. Professional, confidential services are my top priority. The same can be said for many other successful doulas and agencies across the country.

Doulas are advocates and will fight for your wishes.

I’m not an advocate. I can’t protect you from evil or a particular birth outcome. I’m not going to fight with doctors and nurses about their decisions for your care. I can explain things to you, or give you an unbiased sound board so you can think the decisions through before things happen, but I can not and will not make those decisions for you. I will not force my opinions of birth and parenting on you or make you feel wrong for what you want. I am here to act as a communication bridge between patient and provider, not a barrier to stand in the way.

 

I most certainly can not speak for all doulas in this profession. I can only attest to the level of care you will receive from All Mothers Doula Care. Do you have any other myths to add? Any questions now that you know a little more about what we do? Post them in the comments section or send them to contact@allmothersdoulacare.com.

Better yet, schedule a consultation today to see the difference!

 

 

5 Things I Know About Switching From Breast to Bottle- Guest Post

At some point most parents want their baby to be able to take a bottle. This can be for various reasons- a night out, having someone else take over night feedings, switching to exclusively pumping, or switching to formula. For whatever reason, switching from breast to bottle can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

1. Begin by having someone else introduce baby to the bottle in between feedings.

 

If baby is with you, they will smell breastmilk and will prefer that over the offering of the bottle. By having someone else offer it in between feedings it increases the likelihood that baby will be willing to check out this new contraption.

2. Try giving the baby the bottle several times before committing to a feeding.

By giving the baby several opportunities to get used to the bottle it increases the chance that baby will be ready to take the bottle during a feeding without a fuss.

3. The first feeding should be one during which baby is least fussy.

Every baby’s schedule is different so choose a time when baby is the calmest and have someone other than mom offer the bottle for the feeding. After baby has taken as much as they will from the bottle, give them to mom to top off with the breast.

4. Be prepared to ease baby from breast to bottle over the course of a few days.

By easing the transition over a few days it gives the baby and your breasts a chance to get acclimated to the new feeding schedule/routine. It will also make engorgement less of an issue if the reason for weaning is not lack of supply.

5. Find a support group for mental and emotional support as you transition from breast to bottle and afterwards.

Choosing to switch from breast to bottle can be emotionally and mentally draining. It is helpful to have a support network. Individuals who have already been there or are going through it at the same time can help you and your family make the same transition.

As you are moving from breast to bottle feel free to seek out support from your local hospital’s lactation department, La Leche League, and even your doula. They can help you address any cares or concerns that may come up along the way.

sbc_pinksaint247_1895    Christine Santos is the owner of Sun State Doulas, LLC. They work with families in central Florida. She has been doing work in the birth world for four years. She has three wonderful kids and a husband of ten years. Want to know more? Visit the Sun State Doula website today!

 

 

Creating Your Postpartum Space

You will spend months preparing for a new baby.

Hours upon hours have been put into designing a nursery. Or, maybe you set up a space in your room so the baby would be close by.  You spent time reading up on the must-haves to make life with baby easier. Care has been taken to ensure that the clothes have been washed and organized by size, ready when you are to dress that beautiful babe.

While you are busy getting things ready for the baby, do not forget about yourself. It is all too common for new parents to get swept up in everything baby and they often forget that they will have needs too when the baby arrives. The most important thing that you can do to help yourself is to set up a postpartum space. Getting your space set up before the baby is born will allow you to come home from the hospital or birth center and have everything ready for you. Though, it is never too late to set up a space, just ask for a little help.

What will this space look like?

Although your postpartum space may look different from someone else’s, they will all essentially have the same items. You should choose a place where you can easily rest, like the couch or your bed. You may even want to set this space up in two places so you have the option of being where you want. It isn’t really where you are, but rather not having to leave once you get there. Rest is important in those first few weeks after  the baby is born. Adequate rest will make a world of difference in how your body heals after birth and in your state of mind. Choose a place with easy access to a bathroom, so when you are moving it isn’t very far. Also, take into consideration the fact that you may not want to (or be able to in the case of surgical birth) go up and down stairs.

 

What should I include?

Since you want to limit movement, you should keep all of the necessities within arms reach.

  • Diapers and wipes.
  • Receiving blankets and an extra onesie or layette in case you need to change the baby.
  • Easy snack foods like crackers, granola bars, or dried fruit.
  • An insulated cup with a straw, or bottles of water.
  • Breastfeeding supplies (nipple cream, breast pads, pump accessories, etc.)
  • Phone, charger, favorite book, TV remote, or anything else that you would like.

 

You can totally customize your space to match your needs. As always, it is important to ask for help from your partner when you need it. Family, friends, and a postpartum doula are also good to utilize in those first few weeks. Having this space will allow you to take advantage of not getting up and down for frequent diaper changes or when you need a snack. This is especially important after a c-section.

Rest and bonding with your baby should be the priority for the first few weeks. Now,  go create your space!

 

The Part That No One Talks About

When I got pregnant there was no shortage of women talking to me. Telling me what to do and how to do it. Stories of this and that and what worked for them and what didn’t. Even if I didn’t ask, someone always had something to say about how I was going to have my baby and how I was going to raise him.

As time has passed, I have learned that the well-meaning advice doesn’t always apply. Outdated information has been replaced by current recommendations. Old wives tales have proved to be ineffective. But throughout all of this, one of the least talked about subjects is something that impacted me greatly: Postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is defined as depression that affects a woman after giving birth. It can happen anytime in the year after the child is born. It is due in part to fluctuating hormones, fatigue, and issues adjusting to demands of motherhood. It can include anxiety, extreme changes in sleep patterns (beyond the normal disruption a baby brings), irritability, and appetite changes. These are just a few of the symptoms and sometimes, though rarely, the depression can turn into a more serious condition called Postpartum Psychosis.

I have been a mom for almost eight years. I have been around babies and moms my whole life. And guess what? I don’t know anyone personally, aside from myself that has struggled with postpartum depression. How is that? How am I the only one when the CDC says that on average 15% of women struggle with PPD. 15% may not sound like much, but in reality that 15% translates into more than 600,000 women. Take a minute with that number. 600,000 women EVERY year  in the United States alone. To make it worse, when calculating this number, they only look at live births. They do not take into account the number of miscarriages or stillbirths. This number is tragically high and still, we are NOT talking about it. Why is that!?

I can remember feeling like  my baby would be better off without me. I was withdrawn and couldn’t handle the pressure of being a new mom and being so young. I didn’t feel like I had the support I needed. I parented a lot different that the people who surrounded me and they were quick to let me know. It wasn’t that they were trying to be unsupportive, but their innocent comments wore me down and got to me. My husband said that I should talk to my midwife about it. He saw me struggling, but didn’t know how to help. I was connected with a therapist and began to slowly start the process to recovery. I went for a couple of months in spite of negative comments about why I needed to go. No one around me understood what was going on. No one had a similar story or an understanding ear to listen. I was alone in the journey. I eventually convinced myself that I was better. I stopped seeing the therapist. Before too long, my life came crashing down again and I was too embarrassed to ask for more help. I suffered in silence. I suffered through another pregnancy while dealing with depression because I never got the help I needed when I needed it the most. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. But, I crawled out of that hole. It took years and hard work. A lot of self love and forgiveness. I had a little help from therapists along the way and thankfully never had to have prescription medication.

To this day, I feel the stigma that surrounds PPD as I hesitate to type this out. I can’t control what happened to me or how I felt in those crucial months after having a baby. No one can. I have said many times that motherhood is isolating. Dealing with something like postpartum depression can make it so much worse.

What can you do?

The most important thing we can do is simply talk about it. Make it a topic that we aren’t ashamed of. Learn the symptoms to look for in yourself or someone else. When you suspect it in yourself, a friend, cousin, sister, or whomever, let her know that she is not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Many women go through this and conquer it. There are many resources available, and talking to a care provider may lead you in the right direction.

Let’s get the conversation going. Have you or someone you know dealt with postpartum depression? How did you get through it, or what steps are you taking to get through it?

 

 

Learning to Let Go

Toxic relationships.

We’ve all been there. Or, maybe you are there.

It is a tough place to be. It is even harder once you realize that the relationship (or person) is toxic. Your mental and physical health can suffer. Your outlook on life can become dim. Your self-esteem can be depleted. You want to get out, but you don’t know how. It is likely that this person is someone you care about deeply. They haven’t always been this way, or maybe you just never noticed if they were. The toxic person can be anyone. A friend, a parent, sibling, child, spouse… you never know until it is too late.

But today, enough is enough!

You are too good to be treated this way. The longer you let them manipulate you, the worse it will become. It is time that you take care of yourself. After all, that is what this toxic person is doing. Looking out for #1: them.

This person might be using you. They might be dumping their problems on you and expecting you to fix it. They could just be that person that always lets you down, no matter how much faith you have in them and how many chances you’ve given. Whatever the case, it is wearing on you. Time with this person is something you dread. A simple conversation can be exhausting. It is okay to feel this way. You don’t have to feel sorry for the way this person makes you feel.

When the time is right and you have decided that enough is enough, it is time to let go. Take a deep breath and decide to let go of the toxicity with love. Not only love for the other person, but love for yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do is to realize that there is no good that can come out of repeatedly attempting something that just wont work. You can let go of all of the past hurt and disappointment and wish them well. Separating yourself from the drama will be liberating. It is likely that this person wont understand. They may blame you for whatever they can and guilt trip you to suck you back in to the mess. Continue on your path of letting go. Let them go with love.

There will be days that you think of what once was. There were good times and great memories. It is okay to miss this, and you may even go through a period of grief. You will eventually find something else to occupy your mind and time. Hopefully your morale is raised and your mental and physical health recovers. You never realize the toll that stress takes on you until you get rid of it.

So, today or tomorrow or whenever you are ready, let go with love, for yourself and for the other person. Your world should be a happy place.

 

 

 

To All Mothers on Mother’s Day

I was having a particularly rough day when I had the bright idea to take three children into the grocery store. I was mentally and physically exhausted and this was the last stop before we could go home. I just needed a few things. It would be quick. We could do it.

I was barely two items into my list. We had been in the store for a whole five minutes. The two boys were chasing each other around the bananas and the baby was screaming and trying to climb out of the cart. All of this was going on while the store was busy and crowded and my husband kept texting to tell me what he wanted for dinner. Everything was happening at the same time and I was on my way to a breakdown.

Then it happened.

An older lady came up to me and said, “Well, you just have your hands full!”
Her tone was almost condescending; as if to say you shouldn’t have had all of these kids if you couldn’t handle it.

My normal reaction would have been some snippy retort about how we don’t own a TV so procreating is really all we have going for us. But I couldn’t say anything. I just stared down into the cart. That was the thing that broke me. I was defeated. I was near tears and just done. I wanted to go home and crawl in bed, but I continued on with my list.

It was in that same shopping trip that another woman stopped me to tell me that I was doing a wonderful job. She told me that she had three kids, two boys and a girl who were spaced like mine. They are grown now and successful. She told me that the hard days were worth it and that it will get better. She now has time to focus on her husband and herself, something that only seemed like a dream when raising children was the priority. She was like an angel. Her nice comments were just what I needed to restore my faith in people, and in myself. Both of these women were complete strangers. Yet, they both had an immense impact on the way that I saw myself as a mother.

We are constantly trying to hold ourselves up to a higher standard because we see snippets of life on someone else’s Facebook or Instagram. We are judged on every single thing. From what our kids watch, to whether or not we work, to how we feed our baby- the list goes on and on.

I can post a picture of my kids smiling but I can guarantee that within five minutes they will be beating the crap out of each other and arguing over who gets to play with green car. But you would never know that from the picture. All you see is happy kids, and you think to yourself, “Ï wish my children would behave like that.”

Screw that. You can’t think that way. We are all in this together and if we don’t have each other’s backs, who will? Stop comparing yourself and your life with what someone else is doing. All you see is what they choose to show you.

Motherhood is hard. It is isolating because you think you are the only one having a rough time with it. Trust me, we are all winging it.

So, to the mom who is struggling to nurse that three week old through the growth spurt. You stick to your guns and keep going. It will get better.

To the mom with the toddler screaming because it is 3:00 on a Tuesday, you are doing great.

To the mom struggling to help your kid with homework, don’t worry. They will get it one day.

No matter where you are in your journey, just know that we are all having a crazy time. I describe motherhood as being the best worst job I’ve ever had. It is true. I can go from the highest high to the lowest low in a span of ten minutes, and that is only with one child.

You are doing great. You are a wonderful mom. All I ask is that you spread the love and let another mom know that she is doing a good job, too.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

I wish I had a doula when…

I never considered having a doula present when I had my babies. I was confident in my abilities. I had a great support system, and it just seemed silly to hire someone who I didn’t need.

Fast forward to after the birth of my third child. My husband went back to work when she was two days old. This was especially hard for me because he got six weeks off with our first and twelve weeks with our second. I just couldn’t understand why this particular employer thought it would be okay to ask him to come back so soon, and why he agreed to it.

Our sons were four and five at the time. They are your typical, rambunctious boys and they needed more of me than I could give at the time. We had multiple appointments to attend in that first week, and if you’ve ever taken multiple children out to run errands you know what a task this can be. Especially if you aren’t 100%. And I wasn’t. I was exhausted and still healing from having a baby. My hormones were fluctuating and I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I was ready to have an anxiety attack because my house was a mess and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

The people who were so excited during pregnancy, the people who promised they would be there to help when she was born, were nowhere to be found. I felt abandoned. It was lonely and isolating. I can remember sitting up at night after everyone else was sleeping and just crying. Crying from exhaustion. Crying from disappointment. Crying from frustration.

This was all in the first few days.

I finally reached out to a friend. Reaching out is hard to do when you don’t want to burden anyone. Honestly, when I say I reached out it was really breaking down in the middle of a phone call and having to hand the phone to my husband. Without hesitation she made plans to come help. She traveled down to see us for a weekend trip and helped me regain my sanity (somewhat). She took the boys to the park, she cleaned up a bit, she laughed at me when the baby pooped everywhere, and she listened. She let me vent my frustrations and listed to my crazy ramblings about this precious new creature. I don’t know what I would have done if she didn’t insist on coming. It was only a weekend of her time, but the impact will stay with me forever.

Feeling the need for help, and seeing just how awesome it feels to have that help is what inspired me to offer postpartum doula services. I had heard the term before but never really understood what it meant or what a postpartum doula did. As much as I loved having Shauna with me that weekend, if I had known then what I know now, I would have hired a postpartum doula.

The baby was content. She was perfect. Breastfeeding was fine. But, I still needed support. I needed emotional support and to know that everything I was feeling was appropriate. I needed someone to listen without judging me for feeling a certain way. I needed help preparing meals for my family, because as a stay-at-home mom that was all in my hands. It would have been so nice to have someone to go to those appointments with me and help me get accustomed to taking three kids out of the house. I wanted and needed so much in those first few weeks.

If I ever have another baby, I will enlist the help of a postpartum doula. My whole family will benefit from it, and I will be able to enjoy bonding with my baby and taking in my role as a ‘new’ mom again.

 

Has there been a time in your life when you needed a doula?