Spirituality/religion as a doula

We're "nothing" here in the Karen household. Or as we like to say, secular humanists. I was raised in a religious upbringing, my husband was not. As I came into adulthood, my experiences and exposure to different people and ideas changes my views on some important social teachings of the faith of my upbringing and I couldn't any longer, "in good faith," remain part of that religion.

It really surprises me that I'm so frequently asked about my faith, as a doula. I've been asked about my faith before being asked about my experience or philosophy about birth! I try to understand that a prospective client is PROBABLY asking in order to see if I would judge her for incorporating her spirituality into the birth, since I've never misrepresented my beliefs and it's never driven a client away. The way I feel about it is, if it helps a woman be more comfortable/strong/herself in labor, she can dance the Charleston -- whatever works, I'll meet her there!

Birthing Assistants Foster Healthy Babies

Birthing Assistants Foster Healthy Babies

A nice news story about how doulas improve outcomes.

Dads and Doulas

I've been thinking a lot about dads and doulas. Both dads for my upcoming births are very keen to be active participants in supporting their wives and one in particular was concerned that a doula could usurp his role. It's something that I have to be very conscious of because I do have the instinct to swoop in and comfort and do my thing. I try to model the behavior for the dads if that is to be my role. In some births though, Dad wants to be there to see his child being born but does not want to be active in support -- for whatever reason... personal comfort level, past experiences, cultural or religious beliefs. And that's OK too, honestly. My husband is one who isn't entirely comfortable with the whole biological machine thing. Honestly, if it wasn't so important to me, I think he'd rather be in the waiting room.

So, dads, doulas, interwebs? Any thoughts on how doulas and dads can complement each other?

Interesting links I've found regarding this!
DONA International: Dads and Doulas

Kim James: Do Doulas Replace Dads? (I love Kim James, I really do!)

Met my late-March clients tonight

What a nice couple! Her first child, his third. Interesting back story and you can tell by their interactions that they're going to be giving this little one a good foundation. They're aiming for a natural childbirth at the women's hospital here in town. Apparently her mom is a former LLL Leader so she is super excited about her having a doula -- yay doulas!

Of course it took me nearly an hour to get home because of the SNOW. Of which I have had ENOUGH. Hear me, sky? ENOUGH! We're starting to look more like the North Pole than Pittsburgh.

I guess it depends on who you ask!

Moms-to-be rejecting natural childbirth in favor of anesthesia
I find this article totally off-base in a lot of ways -- especially the doctor comparing unmedicated childbirth to unmedicated dental surgery (and for the record, I've had both. My unmedicated birth was awesome and my unmedicated dental surgery hurt like hell.), and this gem:
"It's nice to involve fathers in the delivery process, but I don't know how much they enjoy it, and I don't know how much they want to be traumatized."

Outside the Hospital: Local women discover natural birth
Ahhhh, and then there is this article, which includes this quote:
“Natural birth means different things to different people,” Herta said. “To me, it’s the sensation of delivering your child and participating in the delivery to some degree.”

Isn't that nicer?!

Another client, maybe!

Another client may be on tap for late March. First time mom, hospital birth. Hopefully I will still be able to attend Heart and Hands Doula Service's Family Centered Maternity Conference and be on the VBAC panel, but I am excited about being doula for another mom for sure!

Ina May Gaskin

At 67, hippie-midwife who changed childbirth in America still crusades for natural method

Somehow this article is running in the sports section of a Minnesota TV station's website, but I can get by that! Ina May Gaskin's role in reviving homebirth and her influence beyond the Farm. I think this observation is especially astute: "Part of Gaskin's success has been that she combines an analytical mind with an instinctual understanding of birth." By not being satisfied to having the experiences at the Farm stay on the Farm, she's made all the difference to so many women... me included!!!

Amber Teething Necklaces

I've heard about these just recently and I've heard wonderful things about them. I have been "blessed" with cluster teethers -- each of my kids got teeth in spurts of 4-8 at a time (I'm not kidding -- Badger is right now getting 8 teeth at the same time). So instead of 20 weeks of crankiness, I get maybe 4 weeks of 5x the crankiness. Good times, great oldies. At any rate, with teeth numbers 9 through 16 popping through, I hope my kids' teething days are numbered.

So anyway. Amber. It's apparently analgesic when worn against the skin and they release healing oils. Not teething beads like you see but meant to be worn close to baby's skin so that they're not gobbled up. The necklaces are supposed to be quite safely made, so that if the cord does break, the beads don't come off.

Something to perhaps look into if anyone's teefers are giving them grief!!!

Doula Certification

I'm gathering up my paperwork for certification through DONA. I want to be able to send it all off after I've completed my childbirth education series in March and attend my client (edd 3/15) so I have yet another birth from which to choose to submit for consideration.

It's exciting to be approaching this milestone! Hopefully all the paperwork will be in order and the childbirth education classes are appropriate, the births satisfy the requirements, and that my essays are good enough. I had hoped to get my paperwork in by Badger's first birthday but that didn't come close to happening -- I hadn't even attended one birth that would have counted.

A New Client!

A new client, due 3/15. Wouldn't it be something if I attend a Christmas birth AND an Easter birth?

This is a nice couple. Really well-educated about birth, switched from an ob/gyn practice to the Midwife Center. Dad wants to be very involved which is super nice. Mom is awfully sweet and smart. This should be a really fun birth!

Negative Breastfeeding Language

I rambled around this topic a few weeks back, but this article is much better at addressing the topic!

Negative Breastfeeding Language: Summary of Diane Weissinger’s Essay, “Watch Your Language”

Consequences of Improper Formula Use

Formula Anyone? From Bellies and Babies

I'm so glad that Nicole Deelah's blog reminded me of this incredible illustration.

This is such a dramatic photo and story of a woman who was told that she would not be able to breastfeed both her twins, so she formula fed one and breastfed the other. Of course in many parts of the world, the water used to mix formula powder is unsafe; and the expense of formula leads mothers to water down the formula in order to stretch their supplies. This leads to the state of the child on the right. Absolutely tragic.

Do some babies need formula in order to thrive? Yes, and thank goodness that it's available for those babies. I'm thinking of one friend in particular who had a post-cesarean infection that resulted in her milk supply never being fully established (even so, she breastfed and supplemented with formula for four months, before switching to formula exclusively). But I'll be darned if I don't see the majority of babies on formula who don't need to be and it makes me upset, in part because it funnels money to these companies who continue to market their product to women who live in parts of the world that just don't support the proper use of formula.

It's unfortunate that women are given terrible breastfeeding advice; that we live in a country where the chips are stacked against women breastfeeding for longer than 6 weeks; that our maternity care system includes standard interventions that interrupt the natural cycle of hormones and bonding that can be vital in establishing breastfeeding.

Family Centered Maternity Conference

My doula group is hosting a conference on March 29 here in Pittsburgh and I'm going to be on the VBAC panel! So, I have about 6 weeks to come to terms with my fear of public speaking. And, of course, being a doula, I will be talking about the importance of having a doula when going for a vbac. Personally, I didn't use a doula and looking back I'm not sure that anything would've been all that different if I had. Of course my midwife has a doula's heart and did not leave my side once we were in the hospital.

But was the support vital, regardless of the job title? You betcha. And without the VBAC prep class that was taught by Jan Mallak, who is the owner and coordinator of Heart and Hands, I'm not sure the prep work and healing would've been as established for me by the "big day."

So any VBAC moms who may be reading this -- please feel free to talk about what sort of emotional or physical preparations you did for your VBAC and the sort of support you found important! I'd love your input.

And if anyone has anything more helpful than, "Picture everyone in the crowd in their underwear," I'd love public speaking tips too!!!

Meet The Doula Night

On Thursday I went to Magee Women's Hospital's Meet the Doula night. I should've posted about this BEFORE the event, but just so you know, there's another one coming up on May 19th at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh!

It was fun! There were some community-based doulas and doulas employed by Magee, and the two private doula agencies, Heart and Hands (the agency I am working through) and the other agency in Pittsburgh ;)

We had a nice hour or so talking about what a doula does or doesn't do, when in pregnancy to hire a doula, what if you're not sure you don't want an epidural, etc. There was such a level of respect between the "competing" doulas -- there sure is enough work to go around and we'd rather see another doula be hired than for a woman who wants a doula, not have one.

Had the scare of my life today.

This morning started like usual... got Badger up and dressed, got ChimChim up and dressed and headed down the stairs with my 3yo Chim going first and me holding Badger. Next thing I knew -- I see my daughter falling down the steps. All 14 of them. I have never been more scared. Not when I was in a car accident. Not when I was prepping for the c/section. Not even when we thought Badger wouldn't make it. I couldn't do a damn thing but watch her little body bounce down the stairs.

I screamed for my husband as she was falling and I was down at the bottom of the stairs quickly. I was afraid to move her so I asked her if she could get up and she was FINE. Scared but uninjured. We asked her what hurt and she said, crying, "THE STAIRS!!!" That's my girl.

Thank you to whatever protection the universe offered my little girl!!!

Vaginal Birth after C-sec predicts future success

Vaginal Birth after C-sec predicts future success

A woman who has had one successful vaginal birth after cesarean delivery is even more likely to succeed during subsequent trials of vaginal birth, new research suggests.


"Women planning large families ... should be reassured by the increasing success rates and decreasing risks associated with VBAC attempts in successive pregnancies," Mercer and his associates conclude.

I am happy to see this! My vbac journey also happened to begin my doula journey (although you could also say it began with my cesarean birth). I am unimaginably glad that I vbac'd and had a great care provider who helped me gain confidence.

Although Pittsburgh has its challenges for pregnant women, it seems like every day I hear about another awesome story about some doctor who tells a mom that VBAC is an excellent option that statistically has excellent outcomes, or a wonderful nurse in the women's hospital who took the time to help a new mom breastfeed, or a pediatrician who doesn't like to circumcise, or a midwife who goes above and beyond the call, or a doula who helps a dad-to-be gain confidence to be a wonderful labor partner.

Pregnancy Does Cause Memory Loss, Study Says

Pregnancy Does Cause Memory Loss, Study Says

Science has now confirmed what expectant moms already know: Carrying a baby makes them more forgetful.

A recent study by two Australian researchers has found that pregnant women do experience a slight loss of memory -- and in many cases, the forgetfulness continues after birth.

I meant to write about this yesterday... but I forgot ;) And no I'm not pregnant, just the continued memory loss. Seriously, it's for real! When I was pregnant with Badger I started a job as a marketing assistant and friends, was I terrible at this job! It wasn't hard, I just couldn't remember how to do it from day to day. I was so embarrassed. Oh well, just another fork in the road that led me to be a doula!

An article about my midwife!

Oakland male midwife is one of 3 in state

Thornton delivers babies at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Oakland. He prefers to practice almost like an old country doctor, making house calls when necessary and staying with the mother at her bedside until the baby is born.

He said he doesn't like the "large, impersonal, almost conveyer belt process" of delivering babies at some hospitals.

"There is no substitute for spending time with people," Thornton said.

As a doula, I am thrilled to see illustrated yet another choice women in Pittsburgh have when pregnant.

On a personal note, I think that Patrick is a paramount professional and a compassionate care provider. I don't know how we would have made it through the first few months of Badger's gestation trying to get support from an ob/gyn in 4 minute appointments. It meant the world to us to have someone lay out the possibilities and options regarding the unexplained bleeding and suspected anencephaly. We declined some tests that we probably would've been bullied into from another health care provider and he was willing to refer us to imaging centers for ultrasounds even though he probably wouldn't have chosen that himself. For the first time in my life I was a participant in my health care, and I think the confidence that began as I made my own decisions during the first trimester fostered my commitment to VBAC!