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!
There is a common theme in birth, especially first time parents, "I have no idea what I'm doing." I like to think it's just initiation to parenthood, we all just kind of fly by the seat of our pants and thank goodness when everyone is still in one piece at the end of the day. But not knowing how your birth is going to go is part of the journey. The baby is really the captain, the Skipper, you're Gilligan.
Just as in life, not knowing can very easily be paired with fear. I know for me fear of the unknown is one of the biggest things that stop me from doing something. All the what ifs can be paralyzing. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, (hell, maybe I
should get it tattooed) knowledge is power. The more you know, well then the more you know. Knowledge takes away a lot of the scary. For most. Some people, ignorance is bliss, I feel that way about calorie and fat in-take in food, I just eat what tastes good. And no, I don't want to know about the trans fats, thank you very much.
Back to the knowledge and to the fear and to the what ifs. I try to explain to my families that there is a point in labor that is scary. It feels like there is a huge, insurmountable wall in front of you. With no idea what is on the other side. Well, this doula is here to tell you that on the other side is your baby. And that I will catch you when you climb that wall and miss your footing a few times. It can be a big, hard, scary climb but damn, the triumph at the top and the descent to the other side, there is nothing like it in the world.
That scary moment, facing that wall. The techincal/medical/real term for that is transition. It is the hardest part YET the shortest part of labor. When you think "I can't do it" you are so close to the end. And let me tell you, the role of your birth team is crucial to this moment. Imagine being told to jump out of a plane with no one else in the cabin with you saying "You got this! I'm right here with you! Lets do this!" It wouldn't be nearly as exciting if you had no one cheering you on. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all go-team-go-annoying-cheerleader in my doula work, but I do a heck of a job empowering that mama in that moment. Jump, Mama! Climb, Mama! I'm right here with you.
I think that if our brains had an actual off switch, we would go through labor much more smoothly. It's those pesky "this hurts" "how much longer" "I don't know if I can do it" thoughts that stop is from just riding the waves. Take this one contraction, ride it, breathe. Then rest. That's it. And then in a minute or two, do it again. Then rest. Don't worry about the rest of us. Turn your brain off and breathe.
A friend and mentor of mine said once "There is only room for one head in your pelvis and it isn't yours." Hilarious and spot on.
Breathe. Trust. Educate. This is your birth and you can absolutely face all the unknowns head on.
Originally written for the Childbirth Collective Blog on 7/17/17
But I'm going to share it here as well, they are my words after all.
I so often get asked “So, like, what do you do, you know, while you wait for a birth?” Good question, my friend. And one I asked myself multiple times in the early days of my doulaing. In fact, I remember texting my doula after I had become a doula and was on-call and waiting for my client to request me. My text said something like “Oh my goodness, how do you not drive yourself crazy waiting for a call to a birth?!” And I was serious. Here I was, a new doula, anxiously waiting the we’re-ready-for-you call and I couldn’t sit still. I paced, I ate, I channel surfed the 7 channels we had, I obsessively checked my phone, I ate some more, I checked my phone again, nothing. As it should be. Babies come when they are ready. My doula responded with a light-hearted giggle I’m sure, and said “You do you. But do things that are easy to leave. Garden, read, write, coffee/lunch with friends, clean, nap.” All things I love to do anyway, what was my problem?
No problem, just an eagerness and a readiness to be satisfied. I quickly learned that what I do while I wait for a birth is I Do Me. Just as I tell all my clients, “You do you, Boo. Baby will come when baby is ready.” Funny, once I figured out how to follow my own advice, I became much more comfortable with the continuous waiting period of labor.
Labor can have very much a feel of “Hurry up. Wait. Hurry up. Wait.” You get everything set at work to be off for a set amount of time and then you wait. You get the baby’s space all set up and ready and then you wait. You text all the family members “No baby yet. We’ll let you know.” and then everyone waits. You go into labor and then are told to sleep. And by that I mean, you wait. You get to the place of birth and oh wait for it, you wait again. Babies come when babies are ready.
And no one understands that better than a doula. It’s all we do. And we absolutely love it. However, don’t be fooled, we do have lives. It’s not like we sit all serene-like with a never-ending cup of coffee and the best book ever written on a dock by the clearest lake, just calmly waiting. (But doesn’t that sound fantastic?) We have families and other jobs and responsibilities, all that adulting stuff they tell you about in school. But man, when that call comes, when that client who is at so-many-weeks-and-a-few-days who has been ready for that plus some, calls and says “We could really use your support.” it’s like some mysterious force lit a fire inside and to keep that fire alive, we NEED to get to that family.
The life of a doula is a life lived all on it’s own. Until it’s not. And for a small amount of time in this big expansive universe, it is a life that is lived just for that birth and that birth alone.
"When you know better, you do better..." - Maya Angelou
Knowledge is power, the more you know then the more you know. I encourage my clients to take a Childbirth Education Class because I want them to be prepared for their birth. When buying a car, we research, we read reviews, we talk to our friends and we test drive and we make sure we are prepared with the knowledge to make the best decision for our family. Right? Then why don't we do the same thing when it comes to birth?
The female body is an amazing thing, yes, it can give birth. We have been doing it for thousands of years. It's our brains that get in the way, we think "This hurts, this is hard, how much longer, I'm tired, nervous, scared, etc." But if armed with the knowledge of "This is normal." or "I remember this from class." or "She said this could happen." all of that can make your birth go that much smoother.
Someone said to me once that they were so busy with X, Y, Z and they weren't sure they would have time for a birth class. I gently explained that I understand they are busy with life and sometimes life is a lot. But to not be willing to find at least one day to prepare yourself for the birth your child just starts your birth journey off on an unknown path.
The things you gain from your childbirth education class should make you feel empowered and prepared, not make you think "Oh crap. I am not going to be able to do this." Did you know that it takes your hormones about 20 minutes to catch up to the shift in labor and contractions? So when you think "I can't" give it a bit, because you can. Did you know baby needs to make two full rotations in your pelvis in order to make it out? You'll learn all about the HUGE role baby plays in your birth. Do you know the name of the hormone that is released to start labor? You will when you take a birth class! (Hint, it's Oxytocin.)
We don't do anything big in life; buying a house, a car, going on vacation, choosing a school, etc without research and studying our options. Childbirth shouldn't be any different. Prepare yourself, read, watch the videos, and take a class. Knowledge is power, be powerful in YOUR birth journey.
**if you need a birth class or are unsure of where to start, this doula and her classes are some of the best www.birthedmn.com/workshops/
I've been doulaing for about a year and half and I consider myself experienced. But on the flip side of that, I also consider myself a sponge, not a faucet, I'm always soaking up anything I can learn from each birth I attend. When we say every birth is different, we mean it. For real, the only one who really knows what is going on, is the baby. We have yet to find the technology to fully see inside the womb and check out what they are doing. Someday, I'm sure. But right now, we have the baby's heart rate and how the mom is doing. The rest is a shot in the dark.
I'm sure that isn't very appealing to those that currently have a bun in the oven, but it's the truth. "You mean I hire you and you still can't tell me exactly what is going on?" That is correct. We take the knowledge we have from our schooling, our hands-on experience, learning from other birth workers, from any and all books we can get our hands on and we apply that to your birth and see if baby complies.
I was recently at a long birth (long is a relative term, but it was my longest yet) and we had 2 midwives, went through 4 nurse shift changes, an OB came in to give her opinion, they had me as their doula, and a family member or two giving their two cents. Knowledge and opinions abound, yet there is baby all "Nah, I'm good. Give it a go if you want, but I'm gonna stay right here." Why, baby why?! And we jut don't know until baby comes out.
We can do all the things throughout pregnancy; yoga, chiropractic work, acupuncture, staying active, resting when needed, self-care, reading all the books, and the one who is really in charge is the baby. Did you know that it's the baby that initiates labor? They release a hormone called CRH (cortico-releasing hormone) which sends a message to the placenta who then talks to the uterus and your cervix and at some point the message gets to your brain.
*you can read more about it here www.kimjames.net/Close-To-Due-Date.aspx
This can all happen and you may have no idea. Because baby is the one driving this labor train and we are just along for the ride. And because science rocks.
They say to plan for exactly what you'd like your birth to look like and then be prepared for all of it to go out the window. I encourage my clients to take a birth class, because knowledge is power and the more you know, the better you will do. To be aware of all that can happen, to have an idea what is behind this birth door or what happens when we chose to open that birth window, it all can be your choice, if you are informed. Are you asking "Is it like anything in life, prepare for the worst but expect the best"?? Kind of. In birth it's more like fill your brain with all your options and prepare yourself to use the one you least expect.
Oh and hire a doula. They will help you make your choice and support you through every decision and every move that that baby in your belly makes. Baby drives, and you and your doula make sure you stay on the road.
Sarah: Birth doula, wife, mother, coffee and wine drinker, lover of beer, books and tattoos.