In June 2020, I presented to the University of Michigan “Stay Home, Stay Connected” prenatal support group. This group was created to provide support to soon-to-be mothers during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.
If you’re wondering if a doula might be a good tool for you in your birth (or you just have no idea what a doula is) please watch. This presentation explains everything you need to know about how a doula/client relationship works. It also covers how to find and hire a doula and the roles a doula has in the birth room, supporting you and your partner.
I have been so blessed to work with many amazing practitioners. I have also seen laboring mothers treated as though they were 2nd class citizens – stupid, and unable to think clearly or logically. When I’ve seen the entire birth team working together, the outcomes are beautiful. They might not always be ideal, and they might leave the mother with feelings of sadness or disappointment, but they don’t leave anyone feeling as though they were taken advantage of. They don’t leave questions behind. When the whole team works together – mother, father, doula, nurse, midwife and/or OB – the world the baby is born into is one of harmony and respect.
I consider myself a mother advocate, and perhaps even a birth activist *gasp*. I believe ALL women deserve to have supported, informed births – in whatever shape that takes for them. Women are strong, and in almost all cases can speak for themselves and advocate for themselves. However, in our culture, many people feel powerless as soon as they enter the hospital or doctors office, so while you may be a wonderful advocate for yourself, adding labor and white-coat syndrome to the decision making process should be taken into account. I also know, that in any setting, especially a hospital, many women will labor better when left alone in quiet darkness. I know the difference between reminding care providers about the mother’s wishes, and making decisions for the laboring family. It is NOT my place to make decisions, but I am perfectly qualified to refer to the Birth Plan to remind a nurse or OB what the wishes of the client are.
Respect is so important.
Respect for the medical team, who have spent their entire adult lives learning and perfecting the science surrounding birth. Respect for the mother, who’s innate knowledge of her body, baby, and boundaries is sacred and worthy. Respect of the supporting birth team. The partner, who loves and supports, yet is also nervous and only wants everyone to be safe. The Doula, who is present to make sure that the team can all work seamlessly together. Is the mother being heard, and does the partner feel safe? Has the doctor, who has seen a lot of trauma, (which can alter the way information is taken in and presented) spoken clearly and respectfully to the clients. Has ALL of the information been shared, so an informed decision can be made?
When a birth team works together to provide safety and knowledge to a birthing family, the results are profoundly empowering, while the opposite can be devastating to the mother’s self-esteem and trust in her instincts. A mother’s instinct, when allowed to have a voice, and when listened to, can set the stage for a closer mother-baby bond, a healthier relationship as the infant becomes baby, baby a toddler, and toddler a child. When a mother can trust her instincts, when she is taught that her instincts are valid, her relationships – especially with her children – can flourish in a real and meaningful way. Breastfeeding is better when babies and mothers are bonded. When a mother’s instinct to be constantly near her newborn is trusted, outcomes are better; less jaundice, better heart rate and breathing rate, better temperature regulation, better sleep, and better weight gain.
Having a less than ideal birth team does not mean you are guaranteed to have a less than ideal birth experience. Have a clear idea of what you would like, understand WHY you want what you want and then write a birth plan. Being able to advocate for yourself, and having open and clear communication goes a very long way!
Hello Sacred Roots family! It’s been awhile since I updated here, and I will share some about what has been going on with me lately in a near-future post! I promise!
In the meantime, I wanted to introduce Alyssa Bialy! I am super excited to be given the opportunity to support Alyssa in becoming a great doula and asset to her community as a birth worker. I met Alyssa in my Childbirth Education classes through Ypsi-Arbor CBE in the fall of 2018. After the birth of her son, she reached out to ask about the process of becoming a doula and what all it entails. Since then we have met a few times, and each time I am so happy to know that she is entering the world of birth. She is caring, conscientious, and full of the desire to learn and serve.
Alyssa and I will be working together as she gets her footing on her own. Through the next few months, I will be supporting her by being a source of information and a sounding board. A place she can reach out to if she feels she needs some support, which happens often as a doula, but especially as a new one. So without further ado, here is Alyssa’s short and sweet bio, and I hope to share more about how we are working together going forward!
Hello! My name is Alyssa Bialy and I recently joined the doula community after taking a DONA certified course with Jessica English. While I transition in to this new role, I feel grateful to work closely with Katy Gladwin, as my mentor. Her experience, kindness, and knowledge provides an excellent foundation to birth work.
I pursued becoming a doula because the bedrock of my life can be summed up in one word – love: love of family, nature, my dog, and cooking. I know that assisting a family through the birthing process, supported by a healthy dose of love, can significantly impact the mother, father, and child.
Part of life is engaging in learning, chances, and choices, which ultimately led me to a degree in secondary education. I now want to help empower families to make informed decisions about their birth experiences. Creating an environment of empowerment with emotional support as they go through this life changing, yet vulnerable, process, is how we can build strong bonds between babies and their families.
As I build upon the birth stories of family and friends, as well as my own birth experience, I am honored, humbled, and delighted to partner with other women and their families as their new child enters the world.
“All of the high level medical evidence is flawed because it only reflects what happens at institutions that are big enough to do research. I’d like to call this institutional bias or academic bias, but those titles are both taken by other concepts. For lack of a better term, let’s call it research hospital bias.” – Sarit Shatken-Stern
While my personal anecdotal data is of course a very small sample, I find it so confusing, and sometimes frustrating when the newest research provides “evidence” against what I feel is true in my bones. For instance the recent study that says a low-risk person less likely to have a cesarean birth if medically induced at 39 weeks. Our very own Lisa Kane Low, is quoted in this NRP article! She brings up an important point that while the risk does appear lower, the actual risk decrease is VERY low, and might not actually be in the mother’s or baby’s best interest, Especially if the mother is very fearful of a c-section, and that is informing her choices. Thank you Lisa for your insight.
This article Midwifery Today article touches on one of my issues with all this evidence coming out. I think it’s reasonable to think “If we mess up how mammals labor, it’s safer to mess with it even more”.
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.
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.
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!
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!