Working Together

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.

birth team, doula, nurse, OB
The Whole Birth Team

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!

Labor and Delivery Teamwork Leads to Fewer Cesareans

Mother Interview: A Beautifully Healing Birth

vaginal birth after cesarean VBAC birth storyName (Age): Charity (34)
City: Dexter
Birth Location: St. Joseph Mercy – Menon, Miller & Midwives

 
SRS: When did you decide to hire a doula? Was it always in your plan, or was there a moment when you decided?
Charity: With my first I wanted and planned for an unmedicated birth but ended up having a c-section due to him being breech. So when I became pregnant with my second, just 5 short months after my first was born, I knew immediately I wanted an unmedicated vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)! I knew hiring a doula would greatly increase my chances of that VBAC.
SRS: ring sling VBAC newbornWhat was the single most helpful thing a part of your birth team did for you while you were in labor?
Charity: Have confidence in me that I could have an unmedicated VBAC! 

SRS: Did you seek out a specific care provider when you knew you wanted a VBAC?
Charity: ​I didn’t seek out a specific care provider as I was already with a midwife.  I did take a class with Beth about VBAC’s which was extremely helpful!​
SRS: What two things do you wish you would have been told before you were pregnant?
Charity: Your baby only needs YOU! Be confident in yourself as a mother.
SRS: What do you wish no one would have said to you while you were pregnant?
Charity: You’re pregnant again? Wow, that was quick!
SRS: What is the most indispensable thing that you have needed as a new mom?Charity: Help with everyday household needs!
siblings meeting birthSRS: What were you not able to do while pregnant that you couldn’t wait to do again?
Charity: Sleep on my belly!

SRS: What was the biggest surprise with the immediate postpartum time?

Charity: How quickly I adjusted to having 2 little ones. And how much easier nursing was the second time around.
SRS: What other life event should have a “doula”?
Charity: Death.
 
 

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

Embracing Doulahood While Waiting for Motherhood

U of M hospital doula
Me and my doula bag. 3:00 am at Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital
Often times when people learn I am a doula they assume that I have children of my own. There comes a point in interviews with potential clients where the question of my personal labor/pregnancy/baby  experience comes up. Until recently I have felt sheepish about admitting that I am not a mother yet (as if it is something to be admitted to). Maybe it’s because I am afraid of not meeting people’s expectations.  At the same time, I am not embarrassed that I’m still waiting to become a mother, nor do I think that it diminishes my skills as a doula. I don’t feel that becoming a mother would automatically make you a great doula (though lots of doulas are fantastic mothers), just as experiencing loss doesn’t automatically make you an effective grief counselor.
Top of the Park, doulas, Ann Arbor
Doula non-mom, doula-mom and sleepy doula-toddler enjoying an evening on the town.
There are many doulas who are mothers and who find doula work through motherhood. It makes sense. Sitting in my doula training, many of the women in the room had come to the training as a result of a wonderful birth experience with a great doula who inspired them. Sadly, others had found their way there through traumatic birth experiences and were motivated to never let another family go through the same. I had neither. I didn’t even know anyone who was pregnant at the time. I was there because I have always felt pulled toward work that allows me to walk with and support others as they navigate major life transitions. I thought this doula thing might be my way to do just that. It has been.
I’m very intentionally not a mother yet, but I love being a part other people’s journey toward motherhood. I mean the whole journey: the dreaming/visioning, the multitude of choices,  the drama of labor and birth, and the finagling that comes with adding another demanding person to your family. Right now not being a mother is allowing me to fully be a doula. I can drop everything and go to a birth without worrying about childcare. I have all my mothering energy and time to devote to my clients. I have skills now that I can use today to help ease the transition to motherhood for other women; a cool head, an open heart, a calm presence, and an ever deepening well of knowledge about the childbearing year. I can “hold the space” for mother and partner as they make decisions about how they want to go through labor and birth. I can offer alternate sources of information, coping techniques, and a nonjudgmental ear.
I really look forward to being a mother some day, but in the mean time I have the privilege of working with families as they bring another tiny human into the world.
Doula, date night, ann arbor
Me and my honey at the Moth Mainstage. Enjoying being “just two” for now.