Doula Katy #1

Doula Katy, pt 1

Hi y’all! My name is Katy Gladwin. This post is just a start, but I’m going to try to tell you who I am, and why I think the way I do.

Katy Gladwin sisters
Me and my sisters!

I grew up in Michigan from the age of 5 and have lived here my whole life (minus a year in Nashville, but that’s an entirely different post). I have 3 little sisters, all of whom are amazing, smart beautiful women who I love dearly. We are all close, and feel very lucky to have them in my life.

I am married to a smart, driven, project and outdoors loving engineer. It’s because of him and his support that I’ve been able to be a doula, continue my education, while also being a mostly stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. We built an awesome house in rural Ypsilanti, which just over a mile from the city center. Building a house from scratch is quite an undertaking, that I don’t recommend taking up lightly. I did not quite realize how much work and thought goes into designing, then planning, then building a home. It took a couple years in the planning phase, but once we got to building, it took shape fast and now, we live in a house that we designed ourselves, for ourselves, in the woods. Looking back, it’s pretty fantastic what we were able to accomplish.

Gladwin house in the woods

My partner and I have an almost 5 year old son who is, 98% of the time, pretty much the coolest kid ever. He is empathetic, sweet, super goofy, smarter than us both, and an introvert like me. He makes even the hardest days joyful.

I’ve been Doula Katy for 7 years!

Katy, ZOG and Ross Gladwin
My little family

Never once have a thought maybe this isn’t the right job for me. I love love love this work! When I was in college, studying and preparing myself for the MCATs, I was so looking forward to being able to help people! I was looking forward to working with people to heal themselves, to listening and learning. I was also dreading the years of hazing and indoctrination that goes along with med school. For many this is just part of the plan to become a doctor, for me, I was worried it would hurt my ability to be critical, to question the systems set in place, not to mention the staggering debt. When I learned that being a doula was even a thing, I was sold! A profession where I get to listen and learn, empower and advocate… I am in!

It was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life. While it can be frustrating to see births go sideways in an individual basis, overall, I love this job with all my heart. I love the families I have had the honor of working with. I love the care providers I have gotten to know over the years. I love the nurses I get to work along side. While 90% of the births I have attended are in the hospital, I extra love that I have the opportunity to attend home-births as an assistant as well.  This helps me remember that birth works.

I learn something at every birth I go to. A new amazing phrase to use with laboring families, a magic trick to help a swollen cervix disappear, a new medical procedure to talk to mothers about, or a new way to advocate.  I take all of this and can share it with the families I work with.  Help them prepare and create a vision for a good birth.  I’m so grateful!

to be continued…

What to Read When You Are Expecting: … (part I)

Why we need more than “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”

Birth isn't something we suffer

When it comes to books about the childbearing year, twinkle-in-the-eye to postpartum time, there are a number of really great books out there for expectant parents. For myself (and the families we support) I want a book about birth and pregnancy that affirms and reinforces the things that I know about myself. That I am powerful, I am capable, and I am smart. I don’t want a to be condescended toward, and I don’t want to be worn down. This is part of the reason I became a doula (the approach part, not because of books necessarily), and it’s also why I recommend certain books over others when clients ask for reading suggestions.

While “What to Expect…” may be one of the easiest books to find, the following excerpt is just one of the reasons we don’t include it in our lending library:

“Those 15 or so hours it takes to birth a baby aren’t called labor because it’s a walk in the park. Labor is hard work — hard work that can hurt, big time. And if you actually consider what’s going on down there, it’s really no wonder that labor hurts. During childbirth, your uterus contracts over and over again to squeeze a relatively big baby through one relatively tight space (your cervix) and out through an even tighter once (your vagina, that same opening you once thought was too small for a tampon). Like they say, it’s pain with a purpose — a really cute and cuddly purpose –yet it is pain nonetheless.”

 

doula rcontractions affirmationsOuch!

Thankfully, this is only one way of approaching the work of labor. As I was going through our library I was struck by the different words that various authors chose to describe the work a body does in labor. Their intentional word choice is indicative of the disparate tones the books strike.  There are lots of books about pregnancy and childbirth that affirm a pregnant woman’s intelligence and ability to birth her baby. For example, here is an excerpt (with some paraphrasing) from “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” in which she proposes that whether a baby, a penis, or a tampon it may be less the size and more the preparation that makes the difference:

“No one questions that labor and birth can be physically painful experiences for many women. Less well known is the fact some women in all cultures have labors that are essentially painless…How is it possible…?…What can we learn from this…? To answer these questions, it may help to try and think of labor and birth from a different angle than the usual one…Consider another act that involves the same female reproductive organs as labor does – the sex act. [It] may be extremely painful or ecstatically pleasurable, depending on the skill and sensitivity of the sexual partner and the willingness of the female involved. The size of the object…has less to do with the physical sensations…than do the factors just mentioned…The same size tampon can be inserted in a painful or painless fashion, depending on whether the woman had too much coffee to drink that morning, how cold it is, or the speed with which she tries to insert it. A lot depends on how ready she is for the experience. Looked at from this perspective, it should be somewhat less surprising that there is such a wide variation in the way different woman describe the sensations of labor and birth.”

 
The language we use impacts our perception of an event. It all boils down to attitude and how the author approaches the reader. There are other books out there that give the same format as “What to Expect” (month-by-month what you can expect from pregnancy, with information on medical and non-medical interventions), but also offer an alternative, less alarming, approach.

  • The Healthy Pregnancy Book – William Sears, MD & Martha Sears, RN with Linda Holt, MD and BJ Snell PhD,CNWempowering books suggestions
  • The Natural Pregnancy Book – Aviva Jill Romm
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn – Penny Simkin et al
  • The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth – Sheila Kitzinger

Long story short:

It is possible to write about all the potential risks, trials, triumphs and joys that pregnancy holds while also making it a time of personal strength. A challenge that does not have to exhaust you. Which books did you love during your pregnancy and postpartum time?

Check back next month for some more of our favorites!

Mother Interview: Really Drawn Out Change of Plans

We’re going to start doing small interviews with our past clients, not necessarily about birth, but about some of the little things surrounding birth.  What was hard, what was the best advice you received, etc…  We hope that in sharing these candid little parts of pregnancy and new motherhood, we can normalize this experience for everyone.  We so often only see the most beautiful parts, or the hardest struggles, of  this major life change.  There is so much more!  All titles for the interviews are chosen by the mothers themselves.
This is MY interview!  Nothing profound, just a casual chat.  If you would like to be interviewed, please let us know, we would LOVE to hear from you.  We hope to have a new interview every month or so. Love, Katy

Katy and Ross get to know baby ZOG
Love at First Sight

Name (Age): KG (31)
City: Ypsilanti
Birth Location(s): Home Birth Transfer to University of Michigan Hospital

SRS: When did you decide to hire a doula? Was it always in your plan, or was there a moment when you decided?
KG: I actually didn’t call on a doula for support until about 36 weeks. I had people who were attending who would be great doulas, so it wasn’t until about 36 weeks that I realized I needed one of them to “take the lead” in managing all the little things that doulas do.
SRS: Who did you have on your birth team?laboring, support, labor
KG: My partner, Ross, my midwife, Beth, my mom (who has worked as a Birth Assistant), and Grace, my best friend (also a trained Doula).
SRS: What do you wish no one would have said to you while you were pregnant?
KG: Are you sure there aren’t twins in there? And all the horror birth stories. All I could think was: Why didn’t you have a doula!
SRS: What 2 things do you wish you would have been told before you were pregnant?
KG: Oh geez… 1. This is probably TMI, but, vaginal discharge! I know a woman’s body goes through all sorts of changes, but man. It wasn’t gross or anything, just like glue! Ugh. 2. I didn’t realize that pregnancy would affect my appetite so much. I didn’t have any interest in food for most of my pregnancy. I didn’t have terrible “morning sickness” but did have mild nausea the entire pregnancy.
SRS: What kept you up at night during your pregnancy?
KG: Insomnia. Which I learned was normal during my late night researching because I couldn’t sleep.
SRS: What were you not able to do while pregnant that you couldn’t wait to do again?
KG: Drink a nice strong beer!
SRS: What is the most indispensable thing that you have needed as a new mom?
KG: Baby carriers. The Moby wrap early on, and my woven wrap into toddler-hood. These are indispensable when trying to get around or get anything done with an infant. At 2 years old, Z also still loves to fall asleep being all wrapped up.
SRS: What was the hardest part about your postpartum time?
KG: Depression.  This was also great, because while depression is hard, I had never been told I was depressed.  Postpartum exacerbated my symptoms, but also helped me see I have been suffering years.
SRS: What was the biggest surprise with the immediate postpartum time?
KG: How much I actually knew about what was best for my baby. Trusting my instincts hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Creating Your Ideal Birth Plan

This is a starting point, use the method of writing your birth plan that suits you and your family.  Dreaming is encouraged! Step out of reality a little bit and use your imagination.

alexander97“The first step in writing a birth plan is to dream.  Let go of all the ‘shoulds’ and pressing realities that circumscribe your choices. Let yourself visualize the perfect, ideal birth for you.  Trust that later you can add in reality.  Right now, let loose your feelings and your imagination.  It’s OK to invoke magic in your dream birth.  Think through all the stages of labor: early, active, pushing the baby into the world, and the first hour with your new baby […]. Get specific about the details.”

Natural Hospital Birth (2011) by Cynthia Gabriel

Dream

Write this dream down, be as specific as you can.  Have your partner dream too.  Talk about your dreams and begin the dialogue of what is a reality.

Discover

Next, take a look at one of the “check-box birth plans”.  Check all the boxes!  Mark everything you want, or don’t wantcheck all the boxes while creating your birth plan as the case may be.  
Use this tool to start your research.  Ask questions, google, read.  

Find out what procedures are common in your chosen birth location, and which ones are unlikely to happen no matter the situation.  

Create

Now take these two very different ideas of a birth plan, both of which may be several pages long, and begin to reconcile the differences.  Chat with your care provider, your doula, your friend who has had a baby in the location you have chosen, or your mom or sister.  Work with someone who is familiar with local birth policies and make your final birth plan.  Ideally this plan is one page, uses positive language (“I would like…”, “I prefer…” etc, rather than “I don’t want…”, “Don’t do…”) and expresses your desires in a kind, yet firm way.  
There is no need to compromise at this point in your birth process, there will be plenty of time for that if a need arises while IN LABOR.  If you would like to avoid pitocin, don’t say “I would like to avoid pitocin, unless XYZ…” Instead say “I would like to avoid pitocin, I have other labor enhancing methods I would like to try in the event that there is a need”.
Sit with it for a few days, revisit it and make changes as you need. This is not a document you will necessarily be able to finish in a day, or even a week. Take your time. Print a few copies, put them in your birth bag. Now forget about it.

Printable PDF version of this post is here –> CreatingyourBirthPlan

Getting back in the game!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of updating here, and a lot has changed in my life.IMG_2268
I was living my dream of doula-ing full-time taking 3-4 clients per month, and loving life.  When I thought things couldn’t get much better, my husband and I found out we were going to be welcoming a new little soul into the world in August 2013.  Winter, Spring, and Summer were full of birth energy, both from my clients ( I attended 21 births during the first 2 trimesters!) and my own.
All the families I got to work with were wonderful, and the babies are, of course, amazing.  What a fun time.  I stopped attending births as I entered into my third trimester.  This was due to my growing belly making physical support harder, but also to start to move my birthing energy and knowledge inward.  To have some time to reflect on my own pregnancy and focus on my own little one.
After Zachary was born, I tried to jump right in again into doula work.  Leaving my baby proved too anxiety producing, so after a few difficult months of back and forth, I decided to step back and take some real time off with my new family.  While I did support a few repeat families, (which is so amazing!!) my summer was relaxing and spent doing a lot of self reflecting and working on myself.

doula, SAHM, mother
he’s amazing!
SAHM, doula, family, play
my family
What did I learn?  I learned that I absolutely love being a mother!  I learned that being a stay at home mom is very challenging, lonely at times, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  I also learned that I LOVE doula work and birth work way too much to stay away for long.  Supporting families as they welcome a new member into their arms is something that will continue to be my calling for the rest of my life.  Having the honor of being present for these transformative moments is something I am eternally grateful for.  I hope I continue to learn and grow as families trust me to hold their space.
Thank you to all of the families who have allowed me to support them over these past 3+ years.  I will forever hold each of your families in my heart!  Love, Katy