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.


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!

How doulas help with epidurals

Most of my clients are seeking a natural childbirth and are planning to forego the epidural during their labors. However, for various reasons, some of my clients will utilize an epidural during their birth experience. From time to time, one of my clients or their partner will ask me a question like, “Now that we have the epidural, what is your role? Do you need to stay?” It makes me realize that I did not do enough to educate my clients on how a doula can help them have an amazing birth with an epidural.

So how can a doula help you have an amazing birth with an epidural?

Physical Support

Doulas are amazing at offering physical support during any kind of birth. Even though those with epidurals are usually confined to the bed once they receive an epidural, there is still so much that can be done to help labor stay on track. Doulas help with position changes, comforting touch, and other physical techniques during labor with an epidural. Sometimes someone might still experience discomfort, and they’ve received as much pain medication as they can safely receive. Doulas might still need to apply counter-pressure during back-labor or squeeze a painful hip. There are techniques to simulate walking and squatting, just to name a few. I know sometimes the hospital bed receives a bum rap in the birth community, but there is so much that can be done with a hospital bed! They really can be a helpful tool during any kind of labor.

Peanut ball with logo
Peanut balls are a favorite tool doulas use to help make room for baby to descend during a labor with an epidural.

Emotional Support

Many of my clients have certain fears surrounding how their bodies might react to an epidural, and it can be frightening when those fears are realized. Doulas provide a calm and confident presence and are masters of reassurance. They can explain what is going on and how birth tends to progress once an epidural is administered. They can still work on creating a positive and comfortable environment and are still there to support you through anything that happens.

Informational Support

Once someone has received an epidural, they tend to be more aware of their surroundings. They notice the baby’s heart rate on the monitor more and they now notice every single sound and beep from all of the machines. Sometimes clients become anxious because their minds now have more time to anticipate what comes next or what can go wrong. Doulas love to answer any and all questions to provide more information and if they don’t know the answer, they are happy to help you communicate with your nurses or care provider.

Relational Support

By the time you are in labor, you have built a relationship of trust with your doula. Just her presence alone gives you a particular kind of confidence and comfort to help you have an amazing birth. It may seem like she isn’t doing as much as she would if you were having a birth without pain medications, but she is still serving you much the same way as she does with all of her clients- with her very best work. She is giving you her heart and soul in her support for you. She is giving you her confidence in YOU and how amazing you are.

These are just a few ways a doula can help you have an amazing birth with an epidural. Speak with your doula about how you would like her to support you in the event you receive an epidural, even if that is not your goal. It is helpful to know what you would like just in case, so that you can have your very best birth.

Share the Struggle

This is a personal post.

When I was pregnant, I took especial care of myself. I ate a diet full of healthy and nutritious food. I exercised nearly every day. I read good books. I practiced relaxations. I took Epsom salt baths. I did everything “for the baby.” My babies always motivated me to take care of myself. Even when I was not pregnant, I prepared for the next time I would become pregnant. My entire motivation for taking care of myself was so I could grow a healthy baby and have an amazing birth.

I am no longer planning on having more children. My “baby” is now 2.5 years old. He is the age that my other two children were when they became an older sibling. It’s funny, if I were planning on having more children, I’d probably have a new baby by now. I still don’t feel ready to have another baby. My “baby” is the babiest baby I’ve had so far. He is so baby-like, and he is not ready to become a big brother. Even if that was what we were planning on doing.

I struggle with self-care. I’m not sure how to fit it in most of the time, and I struggle to feel worthy of self-care. And sometimes, because I take care of people all day long, I just wish someone else would take care of me. I don’t want to add another chore to the to-do list, and, most of the time, self-care seems like a chore

But who could take care of me? Everyone is overwhelmed. Everyone needs to practice self-care. Everyone has too much to do. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who is confused by this whole self-care thing.

The other day I decided I would try to find a guided relaxation for boosting energy. I was so exhausted, but I didn’t have time to rest for very long. I wanted to see if I could take a quick pause to get through the rest of my day. I loved practicing relaxation during my second pregnancy with the Hypnobabies program. I thought, “Why not try it now?”

Then I wondered why I haven’t tried it before now. I explored that question.

Why haven’t I tried to practice guided relaxation before now?

Because I am just a mom now.

I kept exploring.

What does that mean, “just a mom now?”

I figured out that somehow I felt less worthy as a person because I wasn’t growing a baby. There is a lot of affirmation and validation during pregnancy. Everyone is interested in you. Sort of, anyway. There is something special about being pregnant. Even if you don’t get a whole lot of attention, and even if some of that attention is stupid and annoying, there is some attention. And odds are, there is a bit of good attention. Maybe someone throws you a baby shower. Maybe you take maternity pictures. Maybe you get massages and pamper yourself, because after all, you are pregnant. You deserve it. And I mean it, someone growing a baby really does deserve to be pampered. It’s hard work!

And then the baby comes out, and there is a quick celebration. Then life goes back to normal for everyone else, and you just become sort of forgotten.

To much of the world, being a mother is no big deal-nothing to be celebrated. But somehow it is still one of the hardest things on the planet to do. You have to validate yourself. You have to affirm yourself. You have to find meaning in the everyday mundane. There is no lack of judgement and criticism, and nearly 8 years into this gig, I am still not used to it. Some days it just wears on my soul. Some days I just need some affirmation that I am a worthy human being and there are good things about me.

So all of this leads me to the amazing workout I just had with the MommaStrong program. I treated myself to this program. (Self-care) I was tired of having chronic back pain, and I wanted to figure out what I could do to make it go away. (Self-care). So nearly everyday, I exercise in some way. (Self-care) I’ve been doing something each day, whether it is yoga, lifting weights, running, or walking, for nearly eighteen months. (Self-care) I practiced another program (that I liked a lot) to heal my diastasis recti for about a year, and I decided it was time to try something new. I’ve been hearing about MommaStrong for awhile. I decided to take the plunge.

I am so glad that I did! I was in ugly tears after the first few workouts. It was not just the physical healing that was leaving me in tears. I love her life lessons at the end of each workout, and some of them are exactly what I need to hear that day. Some of my favorite lessons could make wonderful hashtags. Maybe they are already hashtags. I don’t understand hashtags. They look like sharps to me. #musicreference #beabeginner #winugly

I’ve been struggling with some negative emotions lately, and I can’t pinpoint where they are coming from. I feel like I need a lot of help from my friends, yet nothing is helping. I don’t know what will help. I keep telling my husband that I am birthing an Anger Baby and I am 8cm. Because when you are 8cm, you just don’t know. You don’t know what you want or what will help. If someone asks you a question, you don’t know. They can ask, “Would you like to get in the tub?” You’ll respond, “I don’t know.” They might ask, “Did you feel pressure with that last contraction?” You’ll respond, “I don’t know.” Because you are 8cm. Or more! When a baby is about to exit your body, it takes too much brain power to come up with words and answers. You just don’t know.

And the partner doesn’t know. It is hard to watch your loved one going through something so difficult and not be able to take the pain away. All you can do is just be there and do the best that you can. Your presence and willingness to just be there means the world.

So here I am, 8cm with difficult emotions that I don’t know what to do with, for about a week now. My poor husband has no idea what to do for me. My friends have no idea what wisdom they can impart. And I have no idea how to help myself because none of my usual self-care tactics are working. I can’t “just think positively” out of this nor can I “choose to be happy” my way out of it. I have to surrender to it.

Which brings me to my amazing workout today. Courtney talked about how the workouts often feel harder the stronger you get.  This happens because you are engaging more of the right muscles and you are doing it more correctly. So your body shakes more and it feels harder. She talked about when you are going through something hard, not to try to condemn it or try to stop it, but to look at it with curiosity. And to reach out to others. And to share the struggle. So many of us suffer in silence until we have it all figured out, then we share what we learned. We don’t share the struggle.

I’m not a fan of sharing the struggle. I want to look like I have it all figured out. Which is funny because no one thinks I have it all figured out. Just this morning I told my husband, “I don’t want to talk to you about it because I don’t understand it yet. I want to think about it, to figure it out, and be able to explain it in rational and reasonable words.”

But here I am. I really just don’t know. I am 8cm. I just don’t get it. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m just going to have to go through it. #surrender #sharethestruggle

How to use a rebozo during labor

I love the rebozo! I first learned about the rebozo and how it can help during labor during my first doula training back in 2011. I fell in love immediate, and I knew I had to have one accompany me at births from that moment on. I’ve taken an amazing workshop with Gena Kirby to learn more about the history of the rebozo and how to utilize her services to help me assist my clients during labor.

Yes. I just referred to my rebozo as “her.” She is my companion and helper during births. Her presence at births is so sacred to me. I believe she brings the strength and power of all the people whose births she has witnessed to each and every birth she attends with me. She is amazing, and I truly love her.

I introduce all of my Birth Boot Camp students and doula clients to the rebozo, and I would like to introduce her to you as well! Here are just a few ways you can use a rebozo during labor.

Belly Sifting

Rebozo belly sifting alexa

This is the very basic move when using the rebozo. Sometimes I think of this position as Rebozo 101. With belly hanging down, either in hands and knees position, or leaning over something, wrap the rebozo around the belly. Spread the fabric out evenly over the belly so that it feels comfortable. Gather up the ends of the rebozo and pull up until you hear her say, “Aaaaaahhhhh.” (she may not actually say that, but the point here is to try to take some of the weight off the belly so that she gets a break from holding the belly up) Start slowly moving your hands up and down, alternating which hand goes up and which goes down. You are trying to jiggle the tummy back and forth. This can be done very gently and comfortably. Try to sustain it for a minute or so, or until your forearms get tired. Then slow down the jiggling and stop. Try again in a few minutes.

Hip Squeeze

Rebozo double hip squeeze

This is a lovely-feeling move that can be done using the rebozo. Instead of wrapping the rebozo around the belly, wrap it around the hips. You might need to fold it lengthwise a few times to make it thinner and easier to work with. From underneath the belly, wrap the rebozo around the hips, cross one end over the other over the back. Squeeze as hard as is comfortable and try to tie a knot. Or, if you have a doula or other supportive person around, you can each take an end and pull. This can provide some amazing hip support.

rebozo me and gena kirby
I took this amazing rebozo workshop in 2012 with Gena Kirby. I was pregnant with my second baby at the time and this hip squeeze was divine. As you can see, this particular version of it took two people to pull off.

Knee press

Rebozo knee press

This position can be done with or without the rebozo in a variety of positions. I am sharing this because this is an example of how the rebozo can enhance just about any position. It can either provide relief to the tired arms of the support person or give more power to the position by using different angles.

To do the knee press using the rebozo, wrap the rebozo around the pregnant person’s back as they sit in a chair. Sit on the floor, and pull on both sides of the rebozo. Place your heels into the pregnant person’s knees. Try to push the knees straight back. This position can help relieve hip or back pain during labor.

Knee press with dad
This is the knee press without using the rebozo. As you can see, someone’s arms may get tired after awhile. Adding the rebozo can give some extra support.


rebozo dangle from door

Wrap the rebozo around the support person’s shoulders, the hospital bed railings, or a door. Allow the pregnant person to dangle while holding onto the rebozo. The pregnant partner can either dangle slightly or drop all the way down into the squatting position. The rebozo can help the support person use body weight to help support rather than relying on arm strength alone.

rebozo dangle comparison
The rebozo can add some extra support for the support person in this position.


rebozo motorcycle
I actually did not have the chance to grab my rebozo for this birth, and I had to use a scarf that I happened to have in my car. I missed my rebozo dearly because this scarf did not have the grip that my rebozo has. It was sliding across her body and my hands were not as close to her hips as I like them to be. It was still a fun(ny) experience though. Photo credit: Joanna Booth Photography

This is my favorite move to talk about during classes and always makes students and clients laugh. I have affectionately dubbed this move “the booty thing.” With the pregnant partner in a hands and knees position, drape the rebozo over their butt. Gather the ends as close their hips as you can. The goal here is to make sure that the material does not slide across the body. Instead the movement comes from moving your hands up and down in an alternating fashion. It will remind you of riding a motorcycle, hence the name. Most of the partners in my classes end up making motorcycle noises as they practice this position.

These are just a few basic positions that can be done with a rebozo during labor. You can learn more about how to perform these moves, as well as the best time to use them, during my childbirth and comfort measures classes. I am also happy to bring this knowledge and my rebozo to your birth as your doula.

How to have an AMAZING induction

For one reason or another, you are scheduled for an induction of labor. You’ve weighed the risks and benefits of having an induction, and you have decided that this is the best decision for your family. Even though you know this is the right choice, you may be feeling apprehensive. After all, you’ve been on the Internet. You’ve read all those articles about how horrible Pitocin is, and your friends have volunteered their own induction horror stories. You may be wondering if you have ruined your chances at having an amazing birth. I’d like to offer some encouraging words and say, “No!” You can have an induction AND have an amazing birth.

Below are a few ideas on how to have an AMAZING induction.

Comfort Measures

You learned about all kinds of comfort measures during your childbirth class. Put them to good use! You already know that contractions with Pitocin are usually stronger, longer, and closer together. It will help to change positions frequently in order to help your baby find a great position and also to keep your mind focused on other things besides contractions. Use the tools available to you. Try the birth ball. Try various positions. Try getting into the shower or tub if you are at a birth location where this option is available. 


Touch increases your own naturally occurring oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes contractions. Pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin. Back rubs, snuggles with your partner, and any kind of touch that makes you feel loved and safe is going to increase your naturally occurring oxytocin. Having more of your own oxytocin flowing may mean less Pitocin is needed in order to create the strong contractions necessary to bring a baby.


Dim lighting, calming music, comforting scents, and positive people can all create an environment conducive to having an amazing birth. Some people compare the birthing environment needed to generate the most oxytocin-friendly atmosphere to a date night. Think about your favorite and most intimate date night. What was the environment like? Trying to recreate that environment helps bring feelings of safety and well-being, which helps the oxytocin to flow.


I am a huge proponent of resting as much as possible during labor, especially early labor. I also like the idea of restful work. You can still do all of the positions you learned about during your childbirth class, but try doing them in the most restful position possible. For example, placing a peanut ball between your knees while taking a nap in the bed can help you get rest AND open the pelvis to give your baby room to move down. If labor has been taking an especially long time, you can discuss with your care provider the possibility of turning the Pitocin off during the night to shower, eat, and rest. That little break may be just what your body needs in order to be ready to start again in the morning.


The goal of an induction of labor is to mimic a spontaneous labor as much as possible. There are many ways to achieve this. Discuss with you care provider the various options available in order to achieve the goals you both desire. For example, you may have the option of increasing Pitocin in slower intervals than usual to create a more gentle experience. There are many methods for inducing labor, and they vary between care providers. Communicate with your care provider to decide together on a plan of action that can help you have the best experience possible.

Pain meds

As with every birth, the decision to use pain medication is a personal choice. Just because you are planning an induction does not mean that now you HAVE to use pain medication. Plenty of people have given birth without pain medication even though their labors were induced. However, there are times that pain meds can mean the difference between a vaginal delivery or a Cesarean delivery. They can also mean the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic experience. Remember that pain meds are a tool in your toolbox just like the suggestions already mentioned. 


Surrounding yourself with adequate support can help you have an amazing induction. Choose people who believe in you and your goals. Support can come in the form of your carefully-chosen care provider who wants you to have the birth you desire, an experienced doula, family, and/or friends. Surround yourself with people who help you to feel encouraged, confident, and safe. Your birth team needs to include people who believe that you will rock an induction!

Positive thinking

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking during labor. Try to have a list of affirmations handy for those times when your resolve begins to waver. Surround yourself with positive people who can remind you that you are amazing and strong and have what it takes to do this. Having an induction might take longer and be harder than a spontaneous labor, but you can do it anyway. You’ve got this!


10 Reasons to Hire a Birth Photographer

One of the biggest and just about only regrets I have about my births is that I didn’t have a birth photographer at any of them. I hired one for my last birth, but things happened so fast she wasn’t able to make it. Hardly anyone made it to that birth in time.

I love working with birth photographers, and I really wanted to have one for my births. I wanted to have a record of the wonderfully hard work I was doing bringing my babies into this world, and I didn’t want to have to rely on my horrible memory. I know everyone has different reasons for hiring birth photographers, so I asked around to see what people had to say. Here are ten reasons to hire a birth photographer.

1. To preserve one of the most special days of your life

“People hire wedding photographers so they can capture the moments of one of the best days of their lives. I think birth photography is the same concept. A birth is full of love, and it’s something for which you’ve been hoping and planning for months. It all becomes such a blur, and being able to look back at that beautiful day in photos is a priceless gift.”

Meagan Bender, Houston Birth Boot Camp Doula

“I got a birth photographer because the births of my children are the most important moments of my life and I needed to have those moments forever. Everybody plans their wedding for months and get a photographer. To me, the births of my children were even more important than my wedding.”

Elsa G., Keen Doula Care client

Birth Photographer: Ethan Avery Photography, Houston, TX

2. To capture all of the amazing moments in birth

“There are so many beautiful moments in birth. The love. The strength. The power. Those moments should be captured. When I was pregnant with my first baby, my midwife encouraged us to video and photograph our birth. She told me that I never have to look at them, but I want to I have them. She was right. I have a million times. Those photos are so special to me.”

Cheryl Amelang, Katy Birth Boot Camp Instructor

3. To be able to share your child’s birth with them

“I love my husband and love our wedding day. But hands down, my birth photos and video are my biggest prized possessions. I cherish them. My kids love being able to watch the videos and see their pictures. Those moments are so special.”

Andrea Felton Brannock, Forth Worth Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Doula, and Instructor Trainer

4. To fill in the blanks of your memory

“So much of labor I had my eyes closed. After my first I wished I had pictures to fill in the blanks of my memory from when I was so internally focused I didn’t know what was happening. With my second we had pictures, and it was so special to see how my husband was supporting me even when I wasn’t physically needing him that moment. It helped me to better remember the timeline of my labor and birth. It’s absolutely worth the investment!”

Rebekah Lewis, North Central Texas Birth Boot Camp Doula

5. To capture the love of your support team

“Birth is beautiful and magical and when I’m in labor, I’m not able to fully appreciate the beauty until Baby is in my arms. I wanted a photographer to capture some of the hardest work I’ll ever do. I also wanted to capture some of what my hard working birth team was up to. I’m a little busy while laboring and not capable of fully appreciating the love and care they are so generously giving to a laboring woman.”

Melissa N., Keen Doula Care client

Birth Photographer: Joanna Booth Photography, Houston, TX

melissa birth team smaller

6. There may not be time for anyone else to take pictures

“If you have a fast birth, you may not have time to get photos or for your doula to get photos. We left the good camera at home due to a fast birth and rushing out the door. It’s nice to have someone there who only has one job and has expertise in capturing these moments (even in dim lighting).”

Andrea Powell, Houston Birth Boot Camp Instructor

7. To see how you REALLY look during birth

“I feel like moms have screaming and panic in their heads when they give birth – and when they see the photography, they can see what the rest of us see – the peaceful, calm, controlled woman that gave birth to their baby.”

Beth Dickerson, Dallas Birth Boot Camp Doula

8. To ensure you receive good quality pictures and videos

“If you want photos of your baby’s birth, you need to hire a birth photographer. Your husband, your doula, and your friend who is a photographer are all poorly suited for this job.

Dad’s priority is to support mom and be present for the birth of his child – being behind the lens inhibits both of those responsibilities.

Your doula, especially in a fast birth, may not be able to take birth photos.

A photographer who is not familiar with on-call life may leave you to go to work, or care for a sick child. If they are not familiar with birth, they can add tension and fear to your birth space.

A birth photographer is worth their weight in gold. And they charge accordingly. Ask if they have on-call childcare, a backup photographer, and backup equipment. Ask to see their portfolio – it should include and entire birth.

Jillian Hilton Blakeman, Birth Boot Camp Instructor and Instructor Trainer


10 reasons to hire a birth photographer

9. So you won’t regret NOT hiring one later

“Literally, my biggest regret from my birth is not hiring a photographer. There were so many blanks and it happened so fast. I wish I could have had more to look back on when remembering my birth.”

Brooke Harralson, Keller Birth Boot Camp Doula

10. You’re meeting one of the loves of your life

“Because it’s rare to have the opportunity to capture meeting one of the loves of your life.”

Alexa Gumm, Atlanta Birth Boot Camp Instructor and Doula, Lead Birth Boot Camp Doula Trainer



How to pick an AMAZING care provider

One of the most important things you can do to increase your odds of having the birth you want is to pick a supportive care provider. Your care provider is the most influential member of your birth team and has the most impact on the outcome. This will be a very important relationship throughout your pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. Below are my best tips for picking an AMAZING care provider.

1. Ask for recommendations

Ask your friends for recommendations, especially the ones who had the type of birth you want. Ask them why they chose that person. Get online and ask for recommendations. Ask your childbirth educator or doula for recommendations. If you don’t have a childbirth educator or doula, many of them are online and happy to provide recommendations in local pregnancy and birth-related social media groups. Doulas are in a unique position to provide some really honest feedback since they work with care providers in all settings. They have the inside scoop on OBs, midwives, birth centers, and hospitals. They know who the amazing care providers are even if they haven’t personally worked with them. Childbirth educators hear about their students’ births and remember the care providers that were amazing as well as the not-so-amazing ones.

2. Google

Do some online research for care providers. Look for reviews about the people that were recommended to you. Just remember that the best person for you might not be the first person on the list. Many amazing care providers are not the first to pop up with a Google search. Dig deeper than just the first page of search results. Many hidden gems, and even the perfect care provider for you, might not be on the first page of Google. They might not even have a website. My midwife is an example of a care provider who doesn’t really have a website or online presence but who is an amazing midwife. She has a great reputation in the birth community, and I found her through several friends. In my opinion, personal recommendations carry a bit more weight than Google searches, but if you find someone through an online search AND they come highly recommended through your friends or doula? You’ve got a great start.

3. Start interviewing

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of care providers, it is time to start meeting them. There are plenty of lists of interview questions out there, but your goal is to find out if they have similar ideas about birth as you. Do they support the birth that you want? What do they think about your goals? Can they support you safely? Do they have the necessary equipment and policies in place that are needed to help you have birth you want?

This is the time to really dig deep to find out how they can help you have an amazing birth. Notice how they respond to your questions. Notice how you feel as they are answering. Do you feel safe? Rushed? Embarrassed? Stupid? Educated? Respected? The way you feel around this person is an important factor in making your decision.

4. Intuition

As I mentioned in #3, it is important to trust your intuition when selecting your care provider. Does this person feel like the right person for you? My husband and I met several midwives, but I knew even before interviewing any midwives at all which midwife I wanted at my birth. My husband walked out of our interview with her and said, “She’s the one.” We hadn’t even met all of the others yet. We met with them just to confirm our intuition. They were all wonderful, lovely, and competent midwives, but our intuition told us that one particular midwife was “the one.”

Me and Sandra

5. Decide

Once you have considered your options, it is time to decide. Many factors might come into play, such as cost and insurance, but all things considered, decide on the person who seems like the best choice for you. This person may not be someone your friends chose, but they are the best for you. Keep in mind that just because they felt right at first, if at any point things start to feel wrong, there is always time to change care providers. Trust those feelings. In Birth Boot Camp class 3, we discuss “red flags” to keep in mind as you are interacting with your care provider. This is the class that some students discover a change is in order. I have even had clients change care providers DURING LABOR. As long as you are still pregnant, it isn’t too late to change care providers.

Choosing a care provider is a deeply personal yet highly important part of having the type of birth you want. I hope these tips help you find the perfect care provider for your AMAZING birth.


Sex after Baby: Will we ever have sex again?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: Keep reading. 

Toward the end of nearly every Birth Boot Camp series, I ask the students to write down their most pressing questions about life after baby. Without fail, I receive at least one little piece of paper with the question, “Will we ever have sex again?” Most of the questions I receive are about sex and sleep. Most expecting parents want to know if they will ever be able to do either one of those treasured activities again. I hope that I can share a little bit of what I have learned over the years about sex in order to alleviate some of the fears surrounding this topic.

Disclaimer: I am not a sex therapist. I kind of wish I had decided to be one when I grew up, but alas, it is not to be. However, it is one of my favorite topics. It helps keep me in business. Most of my students and clients are in committed heterosexual relationships, so my comments will be run through that filter. Sexuality is as varied as there are people in the world, so please understand that the things I share are not absolutes and will not apply to everyone. As with all types of advice, take what you like and leave the rest. My goal in writing this article is to encourage rather than inform.

Below are a few nuggets of wisdom that have helped my husband and me over the years as we have worked on improving our sexual relationship after having our three babies.


You’ve heard it once, and you will hear it again. Communication is super important in a relationship, and especially about a topic as important as sex. Keep the lines of communication open. Share your feelings with one another, especially the uncomfortable feelings. Lean into the discomfort. Have those hard conversations. Try to stay calm and respectful when having conversations about sex. One of my favorite parenting books ever is And Baby Makes Three by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. This book is about preserving your relationship after baby, and I recommend it to everyone. If it is hard to make time to read, the Bringing Baby Home workshop is amazing and is based on this book. Couples learn how to communicate with each other during this workshop. The more my husband and I work on improving our communication with each other, the better our sexual relationship becomes.


Not much makes me feel like I can just take off running and start flying like when my husband finally understands me. And I can tell not much makes him feel better than when I finally understand him. Trying to really understand where your partner is coming from during this time will help fuel connection, which helps increase desire. If you really want to make sure that you have sex again, work on understanding your partner.

For Him:

Dads, try to understand how much your partner has sacrificed of her body and soul to grow, birth, and nurture your new baby. She was willing to put her life on the line to bring a new baby into the family. We are blessed in this day and age to have wonderful technological advances that help most people come through the birth process alive. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t traumatic for many people. The trauma of birth can dramatically alter the rest of someone’s life. Even when a birth goes perfectly well, it changes people. You can’t go through a pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and not be a different person.

Once your baby has arrived, a lot is expected of you. It might seem unfair that you are the one that has to take care of her while no one is taking care of you. Try to remember that everyone’s work load increases with a new baby. Your partner has no choice but to take care of the new baby. Biologically, the baby is going to want more of her. Her body, her smells, her heartbeat, and her hormones are all geared toward keeping that baby, your baby, alive. Your job now is to keep her alive. And not only alive, but to help her thrive. She will remember how you made her feel during this time. A woman who feels loved and cared for will (usually) return the favor a hundredfold. A woman who feels pressured, overwhelmed, and unloved… well, there’s no telling how she will respond. She might come after you or she might retreat into herself. Either way, it won’t fuel her desire to connect with you. Try to think about things you can do to fuel her desire to connect with you.

And speaking of hormones. They. Are. Everywhere. It is going to take a long time before her hormones level out. Many women are at the mercy of their hormones and really do try to do their best with what is happening. Educating yourself on what exactly is happening in a woman’s body after a baby is born is helpful for understanding why certain things are happening.

Note about hormones: Keeping track of my cycles and understanding how desire fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle as well as having a basic understanding of how sexual desire works has really helped us in this part of our relationship. One of the coolest books I’ve read about this topic is called Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski, and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans on having sex.

For Her:

Moms, try to remember he is making sacrifices too. It is going to be hard for him to fill your shoes. You gave birth to a freaking baby. He can’t really top that. But he is learning his new role of parent, and trying to do things he has never done before. He is sacrificing his spare time, his ability to just get up and go like before, his time with you, his hobbies, sleep, and money. Yes, you are too, and then some. But what I am trying to say is that, yes, you are making so many sacrifices. But try to remember that so is he. Except for the pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding part, he is making many of the same sacrifices you are. Unless he is a complete abusive jerk, to which, none of this article would even apply.

For Both:

To moms and dads, you are both making tremendous sacrifices for each other and for your family. A little recognition and appreciation from each of you to the other one goes a long way to fueling desire.


It is so important to have patience with one another. You are going to mess up on the whole communication thing. One of the most important things in determining how your communication turns out is how often you are willing to repair your mistakes when you make them. It’s okay to mess up and mess up often. Keep working on it. This is new territory for everyone involved. It doesn’t matter how many babies someone has had. This is the first time you’ve had to be a parent with THAT many babies. This is the first time you’ve had to navigate THIS particular postpartum. Try to remember the love that brought you together. This is starting to sound like newlywed advice, isn’t it?


Every couple has to decide what is and isn’t allowed in their sexual relationship. Most care providers recommend halting sexual activities for awhile after a baby is born to give the woman’s body time to heal. This period of time can vary from person to person. Some people are ready to resume sexual activities at two weeks, some are eager by their 6 week check up, and some just can’t imagine doing the deed again for a very long time. So many factors come into play here. A little creativity can be really helpful.

I think every couple at some point is going to have to come face to face with unmatched libido. What are your boundaries surrounding when one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t? What are your boundaries surrounding a prolonged and perhaps necessary period of abstinence due to health, travel, or other reasons? Is it okay if one partner seeks sexual gratification from sources outside of the relationship while the other partner is unavailable for whatever reason? Don’t just assume that you know the answer to these questions. And it is also okay to change your mind later if you didn’t quite understand how certain things would make you feel once complicated with postpartum hormones and a new baby thrown into the mix.

Having a new baby is wonderful but comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to sex. Sex can be such a wonderful experience, but it can also complicate relationships. But there is hope! Almost ten years and 3 kids later, my sex life with my husband is better than ever. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, challenges, tears, and epic misunderstandings. But we keep working on this beautiful part of our relationship. We definitely had sex again, and so will you. Communication, understanding, and patience go a long way in ensuring you will have sex again.