When everyone else is too busy

Sometimes it seems like everyone else is so busy. Sometimes it feels like, no matter how busy I am, I still have more downtime. In any case, it seems like everyone is too busy for me. What are they doing? Are they all hanging out without me? Am I a loser because I have free time right now? Why is it that, no matter how busy I am, everyone else is busier? Why is it that they just don’t have time for me. Am I not very important? Why is it that when a friend wants to connect with me, I have time for them? Why is it that I can’t seem to find people who have that same kind of time for me?

These are a few of the thoughts that run through my mind during certain times of the month. During my luteal phase, which lasts roughly two weeks, all of my insecurities that I can usually ignore the rest of the month, come to the forefront of my mind.  Today, while I am in the follicular phase and feeling great, I want to remind my luteal self of some things.

This morning I remembered a certain man I used to know that I really admired. This man, who was like a father figure, had a certain way of making me feel like I was the only person in the room when he talked with me. I knew his position in my church meant that he spoke with lots of people throughout the week, but I had a suspicion that he was able to make every person he met feel like they were the only person he was thinking about in that moment. I admired that about him, though I never thought to develop that skill myself. Until this morning.

Have you ever been around someone who seemed too busy for you, even when you both set aside some time to spend together?

I have. I never really know if people are genuinely that busy or if they are trying to appear busy. In our society, busy-ness and productivity are praised while rest and free time are mocked. While I was in the presence of those who seemed super busy, I felt like they didn’t have time for me. I felt like I could never measure up in the amount of busy-ness I had compared to them. I felt less than.

One way I try to give people my undivided attention is to put my phone away when I am with others. I want them to know that I am with them. During my precious time with friends and loved ones, my phone can wait. Even when I am on-call, as I often am, I am not constantly checking it. I try to make a point of setting it in a place that is close enough to hear and go about spending time with those I am around. My off-call time is my treasured time to put my phone on silent and give my entire attention to those in my presence.

I didn’t realize until this morning, that in order to help people feel like they are the only person I am thinking about when I am with them, I will need to practice. I need to reframe my lack of busy-ness as a skill-building exercise rather than evidence of my losery-ness. (Thank you to some precious women in my life who encourage me to reframe, especially during times that that is the last thing I want to do.)

I asked myself, “Who do I want to feel like they are the only one in my presence when we are together?”

I want my friends to feel that when we are together, that I am truly with them. I want them to feel like I want to know them and that I treasure those rare stolen moments that we get to spend time together. I want them to feel loved and special around me. I want them to feel like I am interested in them. I want them to know that I am concerned about them and that I really am here for them to hear those deep questions about life. I want them to know that I am always ready to have meaningful conversations.

I want my clients to feel like they are my only client. I don’t want them to have to worry where my mind is while I am attending their birth. I don’t want my clients to have to worry about my “behind the scenes” or my “busy-ness.” I don’t want them to feel rushed when I am around, and I want them to feel like I am giving them my undivided attention. I want them to feel like I truly care about them as people and want them to have an amazing birth.

My poor unfortunate family hasn’t always gotten my best, nor my undivided attention. I want to work on that. I do try to put my phone away in a place that I can hear it, though. They know that I am a doula, and they know that means I may need to leave at a moment’s notice. But I do not need to constantly check my phone in order to be able to leave at a moment’s notice.

And if I do have some free time? I need to treasure those moments as time I can spend on myself. I can finally do those things I am usually too busy to do. I often wish I had time to just do what I want, such as finally read those books that keep piling up on my nightstand. Losing myself in an awesome novel used to be one of my favorite activities, but I haven’t had the time to do that as much as I used to since having kids. Now that they are getting older and a little more independent, I’ve been able to read more often. Instead of chiding myself as being a loser who just doesn’t have enough to do, I need to embrace those sacred opportunities to fill my cup. I am worth it, and I am finally starting to realize it.

I still treasure connecting with my friends. I am an introvert, so it isn’t quite enough for me to distract myself with small-talk. I want to really connect with others. My bids for connection aren’t very grand. Usually it is a simple text asking, “How are you doing? What are you up to?” Really what I want to ask is, “Can you tell me about what you are really feeling right now? What thoughts have you had about life today?” I truly want to know.

Sometimes I don’t want to think about those things that haunt my mind.

Sometimes I need a break from those racing thoughts, but I am learning that “busy-ness” doesn’t cure it. I am learning that connection with others is what cures it. I hope that during those times that everyone seems too busy, I can remember to not give up on connecting with others. I need to keep searching. I need to remember that I am not actually a loser who doesn’t have enough to do, but that I have been given an opportunity to help others feel like they are special to me. I can practice helping people feel like I do not have anything better to do in that moment than to give them my undivided attention. Which, if they are anything like me, helps them feel pretty loved and special. Spending a lifetime learning how to love others sounds like a pretty un-losery thing to me!

How to make mom friends…an experiment

Remember when you were in grade school and all you had to do to make friends was waltz up to another kid and ask, “Will you be my friend?” I do! Sometimes I miss those days and how easy it was to make friends. Somewhere along the line, we grow up, and it goes against social norms to walk up to people and ask them to be your friend. There is a ritual to making friends as an adult and it tends to involve several awkward meetings of assessing one another to see if you are indeed friend material.

Making mom friends

Making mom friends is especially difficult because your meetings must revolve around crazy schedules, nap times, and feeding times. Parenting opinions often differ so dramatically that someone could be deemed unworthy of friendship with a mere glance. The great paradox of modern motherhood is that we have so many social networking sites and gadgets to keep us connected, yet we are increasingly lonely. Even though we are never alone, many mothers suffer from chronic loneliness. No one seems to have any answers.

Finding your tribe

For one reason or another, whether relocating or having your first baby, you might find yourself needing to enter the mom friend-finding scene. One of the first women who seemed like “my people” had kids much older than mine. She became like a mentor to me. While I didn’t understand the importance of this advice at the time, I understand it now. She often encouraged me to find my tribe. I thought it was strange at first that she used that language, but it really is great advice.

The longer I spend on this motherhood journey of mine, the more I yearn for a tribe of women to share this journey with. I ache for their support and encouragement. I need reminders that I’m not crazy, that it really is that hard, and that I am doing a great job. I need people to tell me that it’s okay to be imperfect and that  we all are.

I don’t necessarily need advice-especially the unsolicited variety. That first mentor mom was great about advice. I say she followed the “Vampire Rule of Advice.” Vampires aren’t allowed into your house unless you invite them in. However, once you invite them in that first time, they can enter your home any time they want. She patiently waited until I asked for advice before offering it. I appreciated her patience. I welcomed all of her future unsolicited advice because she respected me enough to wait until I asked for it that first time. After awhile, I began to take her advice and search for my tribe.

Houston BBC Instructors
I met these wonderful ladies through Birth Boot Camp. 

An experiment

Recently, I participated in an experiment for a course I am taking. I was supposed to violate a social norm and report on my findings. At first I wanted to go up to unsuspecting mothers and ask them if they would be my friend. Instead, I decided to tone it down a bit and spend the day walking up to mothers in Target and Walmart and ask them to just talk with me for a few minutes. I asked, “Hi! I am just a mom trying to get out and get some social interaction today. Will you talk to me for a few minutes?”

In order to blend into my surroundings, I secured my 3 year old little boy in a shopping cart and walked around with him for a few hours. I strolled back and forth between the school supplies, toys, baby sections, and children’s clothes sections. I approached 5 women in Target and 6 women in Walmart, for a total of 11 women. I looked for women who were walking around with children but no other adult. If they did not have any children with them, I looked to see if they had items in their shopping cart that would suggest they were shopping for a child. Only 1 woman I approached did not have any children with her.

The results

All 5 women I met in Target talked with me for about 5-10 minutes each. I ended up exchanging information with 3 of the 5 women, and 2 of those 3 women gave me their business cards. Everyone was friendly, though some women seemed more comfortable than others stopping to chat with me. The women with more than one child, whether or not all of their children were with them, were the most comfortable with me. They gave me great advice on potty training boys, communicating with teens, and preparing older kids for school. Everyone was kind and seemed sympathetic to my plight as the mom “who just needed to have some adult conversation.”

Only 3 of the 6 women in Walmart spent some time talking with me. One of those 3 women was a mother who spoke very little English but allowed her daughter to translate. The last 3 women I approached were the only ones of the day that said no to talking with me. I hypothesize it had more to do with the fact that it was around the same time many people were getting off work. I may have found those moms who were trying to make a quick stop before going home.

Surprising consequences

I began this experiment nervous, yet excited. I had a positive and optimistic attitude that I might actually find a friend during the experiment. Once the experiment was over, I felt tired and morose. I felt extremely lonely even though I had spent the day with my family and had a ton of social interaction. I feel like I began to identify with that poor lonely mom that I was acting like. The only word I could use to describe how I felt was pathetic. It took me a few hours to recover from those feelings.

Conclusion

The moms I met seemed to be kind and compassionate toward me and seemed to identify with needing social interaction. I just needed someone to talk to, and I seemed like a non-threatening individual walking around with my 3 year old son. I was surprised at how quickly people trusted me enough to have a conversation with me.

Where to find mom friends

The aisles of Target and Walmart are definitely not the best place to find mom friends, but stranger things have happened. I have had the best luck finding mom friends through more formal organizations like MOPS and La Leche League. I have found a few friends through more informal playgroups and babywearing groups. I have found friends through my church and just interacting with other people through my work as a doula. I have made a few mom friends at local library story times and even play areas at some fast food restaurants. Whatever your interests, there is probably a group for it.

Sara and Kristi donuts
I met this awesome lady at MOPS over our mutual love of birth and donuts

Finding mom friends is not always easy, but it is well worth the effort. Those few friends who “stick” are definitely worth their weight in gold. I am thankful for the amazing mom friends who have mentored me, encouraged me, and made me laugh when I needed it. They “get me” like few can. Hoorah for mom friends!

 

Doulas and pain meds

It has come to my attention that there may be some misconceptions out there about how doulas support clients in labor. I want to clear those up.

Doulas do NOT try to prevent clients from receiving pain meds in labor.

 

This bears repeating. Doulas do NOT try to prevent their clients from receiving pain medication in labor.

Doulas do not seek after unsuspecting people and try to force them to give birth a certain way. Doulas do not have any goal other than to support a family how they’ve been asked to support the family. They’ve spent several hours together before labor even begins discussing birth goals and brainstorming strategies on how to meet those goals.

While there are people in clients’ lives who try to influence their decisions, clients can rest assured that their doula is not going to be one of them.

 

A doula is an encourager and comforter. Doulas remind their clients that, “You can do this!”  “This” could mean many things. It could mean to handle one more contraction without an epidural because Baby is RIGHT THERE or switching gears to something as far away from the original birth plan as one can get.

Doulas are a sounding board. They can share options and explain risks and benefits of interventions. However, a doula won’t make decisions for the client. Clients must give consent for everything that happens to them because they are the ones with the power over their bodies and health care. They are the ones that must live with the consequences of the decisions made during labor.

Speaking of power. The only other person in the room other than the client that has any power to influence outcomes is the care provider. A doula will not try to usurp the power of the care provider nor attempt to have a position of power over the client. Doulas remind clients of THEIR power and THEIR voice and encourages them to use them.

Doulas are not medically trained individuals, and professional doulas understand their role on the birth team. They will not try to take on a role outside of their boundaries.

Doulas  want their clients to have safe, healthy, and satisfying births.

 

Just to be clear, if a client decides that pain medication is a part of the birth plan, whether that is an epidural or IV pain medication, a doula supports that decision. A doula won’t say, “I don’t think you should do that.”  Professional doulas will not abandon, judge, or be disappointed in their clients should they decide to use pain meds in labor. It is a mistake to confuse encouraging a client to keep going as forcing a client to avoid pain meds. People hire doulas because they want encouragement when labor starts to get hard. People seek out a doula’s support because THEY are they ones hoping to avoid pain medication in labor.

Doulas do not try to stand in the way of clients receiving pain medication. Ever.

 

Doulas are similar to personal trainers. Personal trainers have a special way of motivating people to exercise when they really don’t want to in the moment. People hire personal trainers because they need someone to help them stay motivated. They know they might lose their resolve during the activity. They know they might not feel like exercising some days. They know they need that extra knowledge and encouragement that personal trainers have.

If someone had diabetes, they would need a team of people to help them meet their health care goals. They would need a doctor to help them manage their health care and perhaps prescribe medication that can help control blood sugar levels. They would need a personal trainer to help them implement a fitness routine. They may need a nutritionist to help them formulate a healthy eating plan. A doctor can’t follow people around and encourage them to exercise each day and personal trainers can’t prescribe medication to help control blood sugar levels. But together, they can help an individual reach their health goals by staying within their prescribed boundaries. Just like doulas and care providers can work together to help people reach their birth goals.

Breastfeeding a toddler

Breastfeeding a toddler is something I never thought I would do. Long before I decided to have children, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my children for one year. I am not sure how I came to this decision, but when I was around 9 years old, I learned that babies were not supposed to have cow’s milk until they were a year old. Using my kid logic, I decided that, if that were the case, then babies should be breastfed until they were a year old. At 9 years old, I decided that any babies I would have would be breastfed for one year.

I do not remember being exposed to breastfeeding at any point until I became a breastfeeding mother myself. I think I must have been pretty lucky to know at such a young age that breastfeeding was even a thing. I honestly can’t recall how I learned about it. I filed away my breastfeeding knowledge for later.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I had my first baby. We breastfed through mastitis, blebs, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, and many tears. I took my first doula training when she was 11 months old. I still managed to pump a ton of milk throughout that training. This was before I realized that I had a bit of an oversupply problem- which reoccurred with each baby.

One of my first doula clients hired me for her second birth, and she told me that she breastfed her first child for 2 years. I thought that was amazing. And completely unimaginable. I did not plan to do that, and 2 years seemed so far away. Needless to say, we were still going strong at my first child’s second birthday. I couldn’t believe it. I did not plan it. I wanted to wean her gently, but it happened more abruptly than I was hoping. It also happened way later than I expected. We breastfed for a little over 2 years. I weaned her shortly after I became pregnant with my second baby. It began to hurt too much after the first trimester was coming to a close.

I planned to breastfeed my second baby for 2 years- just to be fair. Our journey together was delightfully uneventful as far as the mechanics were concerned. However, this child was a ruthless twiddler. There was nothing I could do to dissuade her from twiddling the other nipple. Like my first child, I weaned her when I became pregnant again. This little girl loved breastfeeding, and I bet she would still be breastfeeding if I let her.

Again, I decided to breastfeed my third baby for 2 years. I wanted him to have the same treatment as the other two. This being my last baby, I tried to hang onto this breastfeeding relationship for dear life. I wanted to cherish every moment- like they say. I cherished many moments, but this was my most challenging experience yet. I was supposed to be an expert by now, but apparently, I gave birth to a piranha. I never breastfed comfortably. His latch never felt great. He had such a strong suction that I never breastfed without a tiny bit of discomfort. I breastfed through oversupply, 3 bouts of mastitis, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, mangled nipples, gymnurstics more violent than the other two combined, more garlic “pills” than I could stomach, and even a round of antibiotics when I suffered such bad mastitis at 18 months in that half of my breast turned red. It was a bittersweet relationship. It hurt, but I hung on. I kept thinking, “He’s my last baby. This is the last time I get to do this.”

His 2nd birthday came and went with no sign of stopping. A part of me was ready to close this chapter of my life, but another part just wasn’t ready to let go. I nursed him through people asking, “When are you going to wean him?” I nursed him even after people stopped asking. I knew I needed some sort of closure. Some event.

So I signed up to take photos with the amazing Joanna Booth. We took family photos, but I asked if we could take a few breastfeeding photos to mark the end of an era. I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 8 years, so I needed to make it special. I wanted to have something to help me remember this time.

AndyBFColor
My wiggling, active breastfeeding toddler

I wish I could say that I knew the exact day that my last baby weaned. We had our photo session on March 24th, and it has been at least a month now that he hasn’t asked for “ninnie.” I wanted to breastfeed until he finally asked for “ninnie,” which was only about a month or two before we took those photos. Before that he called it “bite.” (Because he wanted a “bite” of milk like he takes a bite of food)

I used to tell myself when my first was a baby that I wanted to enjoy it so much that I wouldn’t need to look back and miss that time. I tried to do that with each baby. As I am typing this post, I am thinking back about all of my time breastfeeding my children. I think I did a pretty good job “enjoying every moment”- even though, let’s be real, there were so many moments that I did NOT enjoy. But I enjoyed enough moments that I am content that I can close this chapter of my life and look forward to all the great moments yet to come.

How having a baby is like having sex

Childbirth and sex are a lot alike. From the hormones that are involved in both processes to the mental aspects of each one, the similarities are quite astounding once you take the time to really think about them. Besides the obvious fact that one act often leads to the other, most people do not think about the fact that childbirth and sex are both reproductive functions. Somehow in our society, birth, babies, and breastfeeding are about as far away from sex as one can get, even though biologically they are much the same. Here are a few ways that having a baby is like having sex.

Hormones & Chemicals

Oxytocin

One of the biggest hormones at play during both of these acts is oxytocin. Doulas love oxytocin! Oxytocin is the love hormone and is present anytime a person is in a bonding situation. For example, oxytocin is present when you are falling in love, sharing a meal, having a pleasant conversation, hugging, kissing, snuggling your baby, having sex, having a baby, and experiencing an orgasm. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes uterine contractions as well as the hormone that makes you feel bonded with your loved ones. The more oxytocin that is flowing in labor, the better your contractions.

Melatonin

Melatonin is another hormone that can be present during both childbirth and sex. While this is not always the case, many people like to have sex at night. Many babies like to be born at night. Melatonin increases at night and is responsible for helping people feel ready for sleep. It encourages people to want to head to bed, and perhaps certain other activities that often happen in bed. Melatonin helps oxytocin work better during labor. In order to encourage melatonin to show up to help its friend, oxytocin, turn the lights low. Melatonin works better in dim lighting.

Endorphins

Our bodies produce endorphins during orgasm, exercise, and childbirth. This is our body’s own natural pain-relieving chemical. Isn’t that amazing? If you’ve heard of the Runner’s High, what you have heard about are those amazing endorphins that make runners feel AWESOME after what would have been a long, extremely painful run without endorphins. Give that runner time for those endorphins to wear off, and that pain will come a’runnin. See what I did there?

During childbirth, oxytocin tells the brain that contractions are happening, and the brain goes, “Whoa. Contractions? Let me help you out with those. Here are some endorphins to make those a bit easier for you.” Endorphins are also released during sex and orgasm. That is why people can tolerate more pain during sex when ordinarily, doing those same things outside of the sex act would be extremely painful. It stands to reason that incorporating pleasure and sex during labor could help lessen the pain of labor.

Adrenaline

One of the hormones that you want to AVOID during both acts is adrenaline. Adrenaline scares contractions and orgasms away. This is the hormone that helps you get ready to run from a tiger or prepare to kick that tiger’s butt. The last thing that someone would want to do when a tiger is licking its lips and getting ready to eat you is to stop to have sex or have a baby. Thankfully, Mother Nature has given us adrenaline, which pretty much does not allow labor or sex to work properly when adrenaline is present. Our modern brains and bodies often don’t know the difference between a tiger getting ready to pounce, scary white coats, or bright lights in a clinical birthing setting. If you feel nervous or scared, or your body is flooded with adrenaline, your oxytocin can’t do its job.

Safety

People give birth the best where they feel the safest and with people that help them feel safe. People have the best sex of their lives when they feel safe. No one has great sex when they are being faced with being eaten by a tiger. I think maybe most people aren’t even thinking about sex when they are being faced with being eaten by a tiger.

Privacy

Both sex and birth tend to work better when those involved feel unobserved. While it is possible to do both while being watched, it often takes longer. It has been said that for every extra person who is at your birth who does not have a specific job, it adds an hour to your labor. While that could just be an old wives’ tale, I have observed this concept in action at many births. Support is lovely, but if that support is only observing and not helping, they may be doing more harm than good. I have also read many stories of people who can orgasm quickly on their own, but once they are with a partner, it takes much longer or sometimes doesn’t happen at all. Both birth and sex require a sense of privacy.

Vulnerability

Both sex and birth need people to be able to “let go” in order to fully enjoy the process. Both of these acts are extremely vulnerable, and you are showing your most vulnerable self to other people. Both acts can be very emotional. You might cry. You might feel fear, anger, joy, and many other emotions. You might get naked. People see your most intimate parts during both acts. You might behave in ways that you wouldn’t during any other time. You need to feel “okay” with whatever happens, being whoever you are, moving, sounding, looking, smelling, saying, thinking whatever you are thinking. It is important to surround yourself with people that you can be vulnerable with during both acts. You need to be surrounded by people that you can trust won’t take advantage of your vulnerability.

Trust

The best sex and childbirth experiences both have trust present. When you trust your partner, doula, care provider, and other support people to keep you safe- both emotionally and physically- during labor, it goes so much better than when you don’t. I believe that sex is better when you can trust your partner completely. The more trust you have with that person, the better the sex. This is not to say that you can’t have great sex with someone you don’t trust, but I believe that trust makes sex better. Do you trust your care provider to advise you properly and be truthful about your health so that you can make the best decisions for your birth? Will you second-guess them later?

Sounds

Funny story. One beautiful spring afternoon, I was watching the Orgasmic Birth documentary with my windows open. I lived in a second story apartment, and the neighborhood kids would get dropped off at the bus stop at 3pm each day. At 3:01pm that day, I heard a large group of kids approaching my window at about the same time a woman was pushing her baby out of her body on my TV screen. I came to my senses quickly! I ran to shut the windows because to an unsuspecting outsider, someone having a baby sounds very similar to someone having sex. To paraphrase the great Ina May Gaskin, someone who is giving birth well sounds like someone who is having great sex.

Movement

Getting into the right positions and moving around to find the best positions is important for both sex and childbirth. The exact movements needed can vary between people, but it is a pretty common theme that movement helps during both acts. It has been said by many doulas and midwives, “What gets the baby in, gets the baby out.” This is especially true with moving around during labor. It is really helpful to exaggerate those hip movements and to dance that baby out like you are trying to seduce a birth ball. It really helps!

Pleasure

If given the opportunity, both having a baby and having sex can be some of the most pleasurable experiences of one’s life. Although giving birth does not have the reputation of being pleasurable, why not? Why can’t people enjoy their births? What is stopping people from experiencing pleasure during childbirth? Pleasure does not necessarily mean pain-free. Many wonderful experiences in life involve pain. It is extremely pleasurable to finally hold a long-awaited college degree in one’s hand, but it often takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to that point. Even so, there can be pleasurable moments along the way. Finally holding one’s baby is often one of the most pleasurable things we will ever experience, but that does not happen without some pain along the way. We still consider meeting our babies as pleasurable even though pain was involved. Is it possible to consider childbirth a pleasurable experience even though pain is often involved? What can we do to invite pleasure into our birthing experiences? I am on a quest to figure this out. I invite you to join me on this journey.

Resources:

Orgasmic Birth book & DVD documentary

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

Ecstatic Birth– I have not taken the birth practitioner training yet, but I want to some day. It seems amazing! I will, however, take a webinar tomorrow that I am super excited about. Hopefully I will be able to share more later.

 

 

What to do if your water breaks before labor begins

Research shows that about 10% of labors begin with the water breaking. Usually, if left intact, the water will break on its own shortly before pushing. This could be around 8-9cm or more and is very different from what is portrayed on TV and in movies. More often than not, people will have their water broken for them at some point in labor.

Just in case you are one of the few who may suddenly find yourself in a situation where your water has broken, here are a few options and observations I’ve learned over the years.

Membrane Sweep

This procedure goes by several names: membrane sweep, sweeping of the membranes, or stripping of the membranes. This is a procedure in which the care provider inserts a finger into the cervix and attemps to separate the bag of waters from the inside of the cervix. This is intended to stir things up and try to convince the body that labor is beginning. It may or may not put someone into labor. Some studies have shown that it doesn’t necessarily put people into labor, but that it will shave off a few days from when they would have gone into labor in the first place. I’ve noticed that those who call me saying their water has broken have more often than not had their membranes stripped that day or the day before. This is merely my observation, but it is worth researching the risks and benefits of membrane sweeping.

Full moon

I have not noticed this myself, but I’ve had a few conversations with nurses who swear that they see more people coming into Labor & Delivery with membranes ruptured when there is a full moon. I’ve asked them if they have noticed if the full moon puts people into labor, and they usually respond with, “No, but I notice that more people show up with their water broken when there is a full moon out.”

Communicate with care provider

I recommend finding out long before labor begins what your care provider likes to do in the event your water breaks before labor. Some care providers want you to go straight to the hospital and start pitocin immediately. Some care providers want you to go straight to the hospital, yet are willing to wait several hours before starting pitocin. Some care providers are willing to wait much longer, even up to 24 hours or more, before starting any methods to get labor going. The good news is that most people go into labor on their own within 24 hours of their water breaking.

Consider risk of infection

You will likely hear the words “risk of infection” several times during your communications with care providers and hospital staff. They are worried that your risk of infection increases the longer you go with ruptured membranes. The bag of waters has spent 9 or so months providing a barrier between your baby and the outside world. Once it breaks, that protective barrier is no longer able to protect against infection. One of the biggest causes of increased infection is vaginal exams. Even though they use sterile gloves in order to perform vaginal exams, their fingers can push the bacteria that is already in your birth canal further up into the cervix.

Antibiotics

This may or may not be an option in some cases, but ask your care provider if antibiotics can be used to decrease your risk of infection during labor with ruptured membranes. Antibiotics are often used during a labor with someone who is GBS positive, so it stands to reason that they could also be used in a labor where other risks of infection are present.

Take temperature

If you’ve discussed with your care provider beforehand about staying at home for awhile if your water breaks before labor begins, they may ask you to take your temperature every few hours. If you are in the hospital, they will monitor your temperature. A fever can often mean an infection is beginning. If someone has an epidural, there is also something known as an “epidural fever.” You may need to ask them to explain how they can tell the difference between a fever caused by an epidural or a fever caused by an impending infection. A temperature of 100.4 is usually the magic number where other options will need to be discussed.

Breast pump

If you are interested in waiting for labor to begin on its own and do not want to start pitocin immediately, a breast pump may be an option to try to encourage contractions to begin on their own. Your care provider can guide you on exactly how long this should be done in order to stimulate contractions.

Walking

Getting up and walking around may help contractions to begin on their own once your water has broken. Even if you are in the hospital, you may be able to walk the halls for awhile.

Affection and Orgasm

This is similar in nature to the breast pump in that it helps get your own naturally-occurring oxytocin flowing. There is one important rule when your water is broken: nothing should be inserted into the vagina, including fingers and/or penis. Intercourse may be out of the question at this point (unless your care provider gives the green light), but there are other creative ways to experience an orgasm. If having an orgasm seems like something you are not interested in doing, kissing, hugging, and snuggling can also stimulate your own oxytocin.

Massage and comforting touch

Massage is great for getting oxytocin flowing. It may be helpful to get a massage before heading into your birth facility if you and your care provider feel there is time to do so. If there is not time to get one outside of the hospital, some hospitals offer massage services. It may be something to consider. If that is not an option, your loved one and/or doula can offer comforting touch in order to help your oxytocin to flow.

Informed Consent

All of these ideas boil down to making sure that you have enough information in order to make the best decision that you can. The earlier you have these conversations during pregnancy, the easier it will be to make decisions if the situation actually comes up. If you have not had time to discuss these options with your care provider ahead of time, and easy way to remember which questions to ask is the acronym BRAIN.

B- What are the benefits of proposed procedure?

R- What are the risks of proposed procedure?

A- Are there any alternatives to proposed procedure?

I- What is my intuition telling me?

N- What happens if we do nothing?

Pitocin

Even if it comes to the point of you needing to use pitocin in order to stimulate contractions, that does not mean all is lost if you were planning to have a natural childbirth. It does not mean an automatic epidural. It is still possible to have an amazing birth, even if you have pitocin.

How to get the most out of your doula services

Hiring a birth doula provides so many benefits to your birthing experience and is definitely an investment worth careful consideration. I understand that hiring a doula is a big decision, and it is important to me that my clients feel like they have gotten the most out of their investment. Providing outstanding care to my clients is very important to me, and I always hope that my clients are satisfied with the services they receive. Below are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of your doula services.

Take a quality childbirth education class

Doulas know all about birth. They research constantly, and many of them also teach childbirth classes. They are happy to educate their clients on episiotomies and stages of labor. However, one of the most important aspects of doula care is relational support. On average, a doula spends about 3-5 hours with each client before attending their birth. This usually includes 1 interview as well as 2 meetings at the client’s home before the birth. Ideally, these precious hours are spent getting to know each other, building a trusting relationship together, and learning about those things that will make your birth special. A childbirth class is a great place to learn things like the stages of labor, what episiotomies are, the different degrees of tearing, breastfeeding information, and more.

Stay in touch

I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay in touch with your doula, especially during labor. It is up to you to decide how much help you want from your doula. The more your keep in touch with her, the more she can help you. I ask my clients to touch base with me after each of the prenatal visits with their care provider just to let me know how they are doing, if they have any questions or concerns, or if there is anything they need me to help them with. Once in labor, letting your doula know how you are feeling and whether or not you are ready for her help is important. If you are unable to talk on the phone or respond to text messages, a partner, spouse, or loved one can respond instead. That also usually means that it is time to ask your doula to join you in labor.

Hire early

It is never too late to hire a doula, unless the baby is already born. Even then, there is a doula for that! (Postpartum doula) In order to get the most out of your time with your doula, hire her early. Many experienced doulas book up quickly, so it isn’t out of the question to start making calls as soon as you find out you are pregnant. That way when you get ready to hire someone, you know exactly who you want to work with. You’ll be able to open the lines of communication with her and secure your spot when you need to. You’ll have more time to communicate with her and get to know her if you hire her earlier in your pregnancy.

Be clear about your wishes

Let your doula know exactly what you expect from her. Many doulas have wonderful intuition, but some things still need to be communicated. How do you envision your birth? In what ways do you typically find comfort? How do you like to be touched? Do you even like to be touched? Are there affirmations that you love and/or hate? Do you like aromatherapy? These are just a few examples of what can be shared with your doula so that she can do her best work for you. Doulas are some of the most caring and compassionate people on the planet. They want to do a great job serving you!

These are just a few ideas on how to get the most out of your doula service. As with any other service, you are able to utilize the service in a way that helps benefit you the most. Not everyone will utilize their doula services the same way, but hopefully you will be able to get the most out of your investment by following these suggestions.

How doulas provide emotional support and why it matters

I have had the privilege of meeting with many couples throughout my doula career to chat about their births. Sometimes I will get a question that I am not sure how to answer. Even after all this time, I still have a lot to learn.

I interviewed with a couple recently, and the dad asked me an interesting question. What exactly is emotional support? Why does it matter?

I answered that question as best as I could in the moment, but I did not feel satisfied that I answered that question in a way that helped him understand exactly how doulas provide emotional support and why it matters. The standard definition of birth doulas is someone trained in birth who provides emotional, physical, informational, and relational support before, during, and after labor. That has always been the definition, but I have never taken the opportunity to explore exactly what emotional support means until now.

What is emotional support?

I met with someone recently who happened to work in the field of mental health. After I gushed about Brene Brown with her, I began to ask her questions. I explained to her how I was stumped by being presented with this question. She said something to the effect of, “Emotional support is being able to identify what another person is feeling with accuracy and is able to respond in an appropriate, compassionate, and empathetic manner.”

I thought that was a perfect definition. It encapsulated everything I tried to explain in a direct and concise way. I loved her definition!

I’ve asked several people in the past few months what they believe emotional support is and whether or not they believe it is valuable. Everyone has said yes. They feel that having another person to be there for them, to have their back, to listen to their concerns without trying to offer advice or fix them, listening without judgement, offering compassion and empathy in a world deficient in it, and having someone who just gets it, is immensely valuable in all aspects of life, not just during birth. I’m sure most of us can think of times in our lives where we longed for emotional support and didn’t receive it. I’m sure we could identify how emotional support could have improved those situations.

How do doulas provide emotional support?

Doulas provide emotional support during birth in much the same way as a good friend would provide emotional support during any other time that you would want emotional support. In addition to listening to your concerns without judgement, caring about you, and having your back, doulas offer the following:

  • They have no other concerns or agenda- they do not need to chart or keep notes, or worry about keeping anyone alive.
  • They do not try to convince anyone to have a certain type of birth or accept interventions. In other words, they won’t say things like, “Just get the epidural already. There is no need to be a hero.”
  • They encourage, uplift, and never stop believing in their clients’ abilities to totally rock their amazing birth.
  • They see the person underneath all of the technology.
  • They provide warmth in a sterile environment.
  • They smile, tell jokes, or share affirmations when others are asking about pain levels, fixing monitors, or asking about the last time someone ate or went to the bathroom.
  • They remind their clients that they still have time when they feel pressured to answer NOW.
  • They provide calm reassurance which rubs off on those around them.
Melissa Birth Laughing at Jokes
Photo credit: Joanna Booth Photography

Why does emotional support matter?

The first studies done on doulas showed that just having another woman in the room helped women have better births. These women were not family members nor hospital workers. They also just sat in a corner. They did not do all the neat things that modern doulas do, yet they still helped women have better births by their presence alone.

Evidence shows that the best kind of support during birth is someone who knows about birth, is unaffiliated with the hospital, and is also not a member of the birthing person’s family. Doulas are immensely helpful in this area because there is no need to worry about offending a family member that you have to continue a relationship with later. Doulas don’t mind if someone rejects their suggestions or has a hard time staying polite. They understand that is just how labor goes. Doulas help relieve the pressure that many partners now face to know everything and be everything, especially if things begin to deviate from the original plan. They are an extra person that can answer questions if staff gets too busy to answer, and clients can also be assured that their doula will not  omit any important details from their answer.

A doula is in a unique position to practice loving detachment. Think about how hard it is to watch a loved one in pain, whether that is physical or emotional pain. I stink at seeing my husband and children in pain. I’d make a terrible doula for them!

People struggle with seeing loved ones in pain, and as such, have their own pain to deal with. A doula is able to provide support and encouragement without being caught up in anyone’s family dynamic. It is important to have someone that you can vent to without that person getting mad, upset, or taking things personally. It is important to be able to get angry or scared. It is important to have someone you can fall apart around without that person also falling apart. Doulas are used to being that mountain in the emotional turmoil of labor. Being able to weather the storms of labor can mean the difference between a low-intervention or high-intervention birth. It can also mean the difference between a traumatic or satisfying birth.

 

How being miserable and pregnant can be a good thing

I love being pregnant. I love the way my hair looks so thick and lustrous, how steady my moods become, and how I finally have an excuse to let my belly hang out. I love how maternity pants fit me. I love how I feel on a deeper wavelength and more at one with the universe. I feel like I am co-creator with the divine when I am growing a baby. I am a goddess. A warrior woman. My boobs look amazing. I never feel so beautiful as when I am carrying a new life in my womb. I love pregnancy.

Until I don’t.

After 9 months of feeling glorious and lovely, I loathe pregnancy. I. am. DONE.

DONE.

There are several midwives in the Houston area that will tell their clients, “I don’t think you are miserable enough to go into labor this week.”

I am beginning to see a trend with myself and my clients as well. Everyone thinks they are done at various points in pregnancy, but there really is a big difference between “done” and “I am so beyond miserable what was I thinking I hate this and I will do ANYTHING to get this baby out of me.”

I think nature does us a favor in that way. The thought of experiencing contractions might be terrifying to someone who is 5 months pregnant. To someone who is 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant?

Bring it. Bring it like 3 weeks ago.

I’d love to share examples about my transformation from Happy, Glowing Pregnant Lady to Get This Baby Out Now Lady in order to illustrate what I mean.

First Pregnancy

39 Weeks 1 Day

“Still no baby. Yesterday I had an exam and I am 40% effaced, almost 2 cm dilated, and the baby is at a -2 station. I’ve probably been this way for awhile and will probably be like this for awhile. Out of everyone around me, I may be the least eager to get her out. I’m feeling a little nervous about going through labor and delivery, especially since I am attempting this without medication. It’s important to me to have a natural birth, and I know I will be disappointed if I end up needing medication. I’m just scared that I won’t be strong enough to deal with labor. I included on my birth plan that if I ask for pain medications, that those around me will encourage me to try other methods of dealing first. I think that’s what I’m afraid of. I won’t necessarily want the medication, it’ll just mean that I need more support or help dealing with it. It’s weird; I’m not really scared that it’s going to HURT, I’m scared that I won’t make it without being overcome by it.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have an uplifting birth story to be able to share soon!”

39 Week 4 Days

“Last night I finally started feeling impatient with being pregnant. I’ve been pretending that I’m ready for my baby to come out for the sake of being nice to the well wishers that think it’s funny to joke about it. With three days until my due date, I think I’ve done a great job being patient and sweet throughout this pregnancy. But in a snap, I got fiercely angry…” Read more about my “done-ness” and doubts that I will ever going into labor here.

39 Weeks 5 Days

“It’s getting more and more difficult to keep a positive attitude about the whole thing. Who am I kidding? My positive attitude is gone now…I’m getting to the point where I don’t trust my body anymore. I still have no prelabor symptoms…unless you count moodiness, crampiness, and fatigue to be prelabor symptoms. I think it’s just symptoms of being two days away from your due date. I think I’m so mopey today that I broke down and ate a Sonic coney and mozzarella sticks. I haven’t done anything right for the past few days….especially when it comes to food.”

40 Weeks 1 Day (6:32am)

“Yesterday was my due date and I did not have my baby. I went to the midwives yesterday and I am dilated 3cm. My little due date ticker says to take heart because first babies are on average 8 days late. Nice. How come just about everyone else I know had their babies early? Am I doing something wrong? I mean, I AM a little nervous about giving birth, but isn’t everyone? That can’t possibly be keeping me from having my baby.”

This was the day that I truly thought I was going to be the first person in the history of ever to stay pregnant forever, and I gave up on the idea that I would ever go into labor. I went into labor that night. My baby was born at 2:41am the very next day.

Second Pregnancy

This process went much faster during my second pregnancy. I was not ready to go into labor until the night of my due date. That day I told my midwife that I was going to go to the grocery store the next day to buy ingredients for an “induction tea.” I went to bed that night thinking about my grocery list. Early the next morning, I woke up in labor.

Third Pregnancy

My 3rd baby threw me for a loop by coming a week earlier than I expected. That just goes to show you that, with everything pregnancy and birth, there are no hard and fast rules. There are trends and rhythms and ebbs and flows, but no rules. Babies don’t know anything about rules.

I truly believe that nature makes us so miserable at the end of pregnancy that we are willing to go through anything to have that baby in our arms- even the pain of contractions. We might even yearn for the pain of contractions. When we start to experience those first tightenings, we rejoice. Finally! Finally the day has come to birth my baby.

I am ready.

For those who are in that place of in-between where are you are tired of being pregnant but not yet experiencing any labor symptoms, read this. This is my favorite article about that place of waiting.

Houston Childbirth Classes

Another amazing Birth Boot Camp series began in Houston last night. It is not too late to join in! There is still space available for the next two weeks if anyone wants to take a top-notch childbirth class.

I have been teaching childbirth classes since 2014, but I still get those first-night jitters. I am always excited to learn about the couples who join the class. I love how they get to know each other throughout the series and start to relax more as we progress through each class. I can see their confidence grow. I always find it interesting how most people come to Class 1 nervous about birth and by the end of Class 10, they are excited.

Birth Boot Camp has really grown over the past several years. It has gone through many changes and has developed some new and exciting classes. I have listed the new classes I will begin offering this year in more detail under the Services & Pricing page. The current Birth Boot Camp series will be my last Comprehensive (10 week) course for 2018. I will offer the 6 week Hospital course for the rest of the year. I am very excited about helping people prepare to have an amazing birth in the hospital setting.

These classes always come full-circle. On Saturday we were finally able to have our reunion for the Summer 2017 group. I love meeting the new babies and seeing the new parents in action. They are amazing! At the end of every single Class 1, I worry if the couples will bond. I worry if they will feel comfortable in the class. I worry if what they learn will be helpful to them on the big day. By the end of Class 10, and then again at the class reunions, I wonder why I worried in the first place. They are excited to see each other and swap advice and stories.

And so it will be with our newest group of Birth Boot Camp students. Join us!