I am sure that every pregnant person out there can agree that once you announce your pregnancy you are hit with a barrage of unsolicited advice. And something along the lines of "Oh you're pregnant? My cousin almost died in her pregnancy..." WHY? Why must you?
I want to make a maternity t-shirt that says "Only accepting positive stories" Just nip comments like the above right in the bud. People just love to scare the crap out of pregnant women.
Well, as a birth professional I am here to help you take control of your birth and your journey to it! Here is my Top 10 List of things that YOU can do to better your birth.
1. Inform yourself! Take a childbirth education class, read the books, watch the good videos, please take a class. Knowledge is power and the more you know about what your body will be going through the more apt you will be to make an informed, conscious decision.
2. Continue the workout routine you had before you were pregnant. If you were a runner, continue to run. If you did yoga, YES! Please continue to do yoga. If you were into weights, continue to do so, but also follow your care provider's advice on how much. Just don't start a new workout routine. You're growing a human, now is not the time to sign up for your first 5K. Fitness is important in pregnancy but also is the ability to let go, physically as well as mentally. This all being said, I think prenatal yoga is a fantastic thing for pregnancy, even if you've never done it before. And also, when it comes to caring for your body, follow your care provider's advice.
3. Get some sort of wellness/body care at least a few times, if not monthly in your pregnancy. A massage (really, we all should be doing those, bun-in-the-oven or not) going to a chiropractor is a great idea, again yoga is huge in this department. Your body is going to be moving a lot of itself around, making sure it is cared for is important. A chiro is a great tool to keeping your body aligned. Your hip may hurt for a reason you don't know of, a good maternal chiropractor can help with that.
This facebook post is a good example of the importance of chiropractic care www.facebook.com/mschaeferdc/posts/10100598181907309:0
4. Surround yourself with supportive, non-judgemental people, perhaps hire a doula. Throughout this transitional time you want to have people around you that lift you up, not say things like "Are you sure that is where the baby will sleep?" or "I can't believe your birthing at home." or "I can't believe you are birthing at a hospital." It can swing both ways. You want people around you that say thing like "I like that idea." or "You are doing such a good job growing this baby." And only give you advice when you ask. Goes back to that t-shirt, "Only accepting positive stories."
5. Eat well. This is not the same as eating for two. Eat well, lots of fruits and veggies and good protein. You know, the way we are supposed to be eating all the time, not just when we are pregnant. If you want seconds, have seconds. If you want ice cream, have ice cream. With pickles. But also be mindful that everything you eat, baby does too. Make sure you both are getting the nutrients needed for the next 9-12 months.
6. Drink water! You may be surprised by how thirsty you are. Start to carry a water bottle with you and have no problem asking anyone to refill it when you are out. Plus the uterus is a muscle and it will cramp (contract) when dehydrated. So drink drink drink!
7. Make sure you are aligned with your care provider. Meaning, you know where they stand on induction, episiotomy, eating/drinking during labor, pushing in up- right positions, etc. And know where you stand on those as well. You want to be excited to go into your place of birth and have your provider catch your baby. Not go in with your fists up ready to fight for what you want in labor.
8. Take a breastfeeding class. This is along the same lines as knowledge is power. I often hear "It's natural, I can do it." which is absolutely true. BUT, there is also so much information about breastfeeding that we just don't know if we've never done it before. Did you know the milk comes out like a shower head, not like a garden hose? Did you know that the amniotic fluid smells similar to your breastmilk, which helps baby find your breast more easily? See? Take the class, it's going to be so so helpful.
9. Make a birth plan/just-in-case plan/birth preferences letter. If anything it may help you figure out what is important to you. One page, like a resume, be as specific as you'd like, but also don't be afraid to put things down like "do not under any circumstances offer me narcotics." You can be firm, you can be strong in your wants and needs. The staff is there for you and the more informed they are of your desires, the more helpful they can be.
10. TRUST YOURSELF. There is an acronym in the birth community B.R.A.I.N. Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Next/not now/nothing. These are all the things that should be explained to you when choosing something in your birth; they should explain the benefits and risks of artificially breaking your water, the alternatives to that option and the "I" sometimes falls by the wayside. Your intuition is real, your mama gut knows. TRUST it. If there seems to be a red flag somewhere on your journey, take a moment and look at it. You have the time to take a moment. You have the time to say "I need a minute." Trust yourself, you and baby are the only ones experiencing what you are going through, listen to yourself.
Any questions or comments to this post, feel free to Contact me.
...that have nothing to do with the actual act of pushing out your baby.
1. Most doulas, me included, base our work on EVIDENCE BASED INFORMATION. The idea of a "big baby" is not evidence based. The idea of your weight being a factor to not vaginally deliver your baby is not evidence based. The idea to have an induction because you are passed your due date is not evidence based. (Note, babies aren't fruit or milk, they don't expire. Therefore they don't have a due date.) One of our jobs as doulas to help inform you of your choices and the evidence and science behind what is or is not presented to you so that you can make an informed, confident decision about your birth.
This is an excellent website to find evidence based information evidencebasedbirth.com/
2. Whether you are a few days, hours, weeks, months postpartum, doulas are still your doula. We can help with all sorts of things besides birth. Baby won't sleep, baby is on a nursing strike, baby won't stop crying, baby won't sleep. OR you can't sleep, you're not eating, you can't stop crying. We are your resource for all things pregnancy, birth, baby related. And we really do want you to succeed as a parent in the way that works best for you. We are a tight community, especially in the Twin Cities, and we have resources and experts that we know personally and professionally to pass you onto.
3. In relation to the one above, doulas are someone to talk to that is not your mother/sister-in-law,/best friend,/nosey neighbor/old lady at the grocery store who gives you unsolicited advice. I mean, how often can you hear "You know, that child is going or not going to ...." and then they tell you something that you never asked for. I am not saying that all those people are bad people but some have a vested interest in the topic at hand and unknowingly may not say the right thing or give helpful information. You can show your sore, bloody nipple to your doula without being concerned that it may come back into a conversation without warning. Your doula is a neutral party with your needs and best interests at heart.
4. We are not your family. That being said, you are in the midst of creating or extending your family and all important parties should be involved as far as you would like them to be. The difference of having a doula versus a family member, we don't take our past stories or other births into your birth story. This is YOUR journey, YOUR story and we are just there to witness and support you as it unfolds. However, if you do have a wonderful relationship, we always welcome family members as long as you welcome them too.
5. This is so much more than giving birth. It is an intimate, vulnerable experience, not your high school graduation or 21st birthday party. It's a moment of tremendous change and you have a doula to observe your power, your love, your connection to your partner and your baby. Doulas are there for for you; to hold onto, to whisper your fears to, to take your frustration, to hold your space, to physically hold you up and to catch you when you stumble, literally and figuratively. And to watch your love heart grow 1000 times in an instant.
Like what you've read or want to know more about becoming a doula? Click Contact to connect!
"I'll be there for you. These five words I swear to you. When you breathe, I want to be the air for you. I'll be there for you."
You're welcome for that little earworm. And my apologies if you're not a Bon Jovi fan. You're missing out.
But seriously folks, you're probably here reading to figure out how a doula can help you in your birth. What are the benefits of hiring one? What will you get out of it? Why can't my partner just do it? All valid questions, all real answers. I've said to people when asked something similar that if you don't hire a doula, you're going to have a baby just fine, you're not going to know what you're missing. But if you do hire a doula, you can't imagine going through the experience without one. Birth is life-changing and being supported through that change helps immensely.
So lets talk numbers first. The risk of the birthing person needing to use Pitocin go down, the risk of having a cesarean go down, the use of any medication for pain relief go down, and the chance of being dissatisfied with the birth experience go down as well. And to top it off, the chances of having a spontaneous vaginal birth go up. To be specific
But there is so much more than just numbers. Imagine watching your loved one in pain and exhaustion and you are nervous on what to do and how to help. A doula eases all of that for you. One of our many roles is to make sure that you, the partner, feel secure and strong in your role as Co-Captain of this ship. It is your journey too, you deserve to feel empowered in your knowledge to help comfort your loved one, to assure them that are doing a wonderful job. I think that when a birthing person says after the birth that they didn't know who was rubbing their back or putting a cool cloth on their face, it was all so nice, then the partner and the doula made a great team. High five, Partner! We did it!
Doulas also come with a whole bag of tricks, literally and figuratively, to get you through your labor process. We have positions for you to do to make space for baby, walking, lunging, sitting, (did you know laboring on a toilet is actually really good for you?) counter-pressure spots to show partner to how to do to ease back labor, a tool called a Rebozo that does wonders, heat packs, ice packs, food, tea, birth balls, breathing techniques, etc. (Oddly enough the thing I use most at births are hair ties/bobby pins and chapstick. No joke, every birth.) Usually you will go over much of those laboring positions with your doula before you go into labor, so you're prepared.
A doula is also there as the voice of reason in what can sometimes feel like chaos. Especially for first time parents, you've never done this before, you've never felt a pain/pressure like that before, you've never heard those noises come from your loved one before. It's all on the spectrum of normal. When a wrench is thrown into your plan, a doula is there to help you navigate your choices. I encourage my clients to continuously ask "Am I safe? Is baby safe?" Simple yes and no questions and the answers will help you make your next move. And sometimes that move is nothing. You can continue to labor and just do what you were doing. A doula will help you decide which steps to take.
A doula is there for the expectant parents. Not the medical staff, usually not the other family members (unless previously discussed). You hire a midwife or an OB to help get the baby out. You hire a doula to help ease your mind and your heart. I often tell expectant parents that a laboring person is internally focused on what their body is doing, partner is focused on their loved one, a doula is focused on both. A doula protects your space and your time and your emotions. It's a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming. So much so that the only place the emotions have to go is out your eyeballs. A doula will be there with a tissue when that happens.
At some point in labor, the laboring person will hit a wall, figuratively speaking. (Although sometimes a laboring person actually hits the wall. In a rhythm. That is normal too.) A doula is there to get you up and over that wall and to catch you when you jump. Every time.
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Sarah: Birth doula, wife, mother, coffee and wine drinker, lover of beer, books and tattoos.