Archive for the ‘Birth Stories & Inspiration’ Category

With Woman

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

It is anticipation, flutters and quickening.
Life and growth and unparalleled beauty.
It is squeals and coos, wriggles and dimples.
Hanging scales with tiny feet peeking through.

It is knowledge and wisdom, training and practice.
Books and research, instinct and reason.
It is squatting and reaching, twisting and folding,
meeting a mother and her baby right here.

It is a never-off cell phone, interruptions at dinner.
Put off vacations, and birthdays on hold.
It is seizing the moment, because you’re not at a birth,
keeping scrubs in the car and bags packed and ready.

It is saying the hard things, in compassion and grace.
Holding hands and “I’m sorry,” grieving and loss.
It is sitting and waiting, listening and presence.
Letting grief take its course in her heart slowly breaking.

It is business and money, budgets and forms.
Paperwork piles, contracts, and records.
It is hiding the headaches and ignoring the numbers,
Trusting provision will come someday soon.

It is building a village, stone by stone every day.
Community, relationship, and opening doors.
It is connecting her with new like-minded others,
Helping her realize she is in no way alone.

It is hands and heart in equal measure.
Richness and fullness and life as reward.
It is working in joy, frustration, and love.
Being with woman is far more than a job.

What does midwifery care mean to you? 

Introducing…

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

My first CAPPA student to finish her certification as a CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator!

Meet Mariya Melby, CCCE.

I asked her to share her journey, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions. I can’t wait to see what she is going to do, and where she is going to take her certification!

Tell me about yourself and your birth work:
“I began my career in education. I completed the Boettcher Teacher’s Program through the University of Denver, earning my MA in Curriculum and Instruction and working in underserved schools for 5 years. I knew this career path was not the right fit for me and began exploring other options. I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training through the Samadhi Center for Yoga in Denver. I added on trainings in prenatal and postpartum yoga and began teaching while I was pregnant with my first child. I had a very unexpected birth experience that led me down the path of becoming a Certified Labor Doula through CAPPA. I began attending births and absolutely loved to support women and their partners through the process of becoming new parents. I found myself particularly drawn towards the work we would do together in our prenatal meetings, and realized that becoming a childbirth educator could meld my loves for education and birth. I attended Tiff Miller’s Childbirth Educator Training through CAPPA in Colorado Springs and recently finished the reminder of my requirements to earn the title of Certified Childbirth Educator (CCCE) through CAPPA.”

What is one piece of advice you would share with others who are certifying?
“Look through the requirements for certification and make your own timeline for finishing up each one. Even if you end up needing to readjust your plan, having one in the first place that you come back to will help to keep you motivated and on track. I suggest working right away on finding a mentor teaching for student teaching.”

What was the most challenging part of the process for you?
“For me, the most challenging part of certification was student teaching. It was a challenge to find a certified childbirth educator in my area who was regularly teaching classes and willing to have me work with her to complete my student teaching. Even though I am an experienced classroom teacher, I was nervous about stepping into someone else’s classroom. I really enjoyed my student teaching experience and once I finished that piece, felt really motivated to finish up the rest of the requirements.”

What is one thing that surprised you in your learning process?
“I am always, always learning more about birth. I receive questions that I don’t know the answers to and need to research or I will attend a birth where I see something new. And the learning has no end in sight—even the most experienced birth workers are still learning about birth as they go.”

I can’t wait to hear from more of you as you reach your certification goals with CAPPA!

Grace & Peace,

 

 

100 Things I’ve Learned in 100 Births

Monday, February 15th, 2016

100 Births blog post
So, my 100th birth happened last week, just before midnight on the 12th.

100 births since 2008. 44 doula births. The other 56 births were as a midwifery assistant and student. Those began January 29th, 2014–my late father’s birthday. The birth of a new life, and the birth of my midwifery journey. A significant day for me. Among these are two unplanned home births, in which I discovered I have what it takes to stay calm in unexpected situations.

100 births. Not counting the ones I missed by as little as a minute. I’m not sure how many of those there are, but there aren’t very many.

There is so much I have learned since I attended my very first birth as a doula in 2008. And there is still so much I need to learn. I am delighted, honored, and sobered at the distance I have traveled. Still more so at the distance I have left to cover.

How do I do it? The same way you do your life: One step at a time, one day at a time, to the best of my ability, with the help of others who have gone before, and the ones who walk it with me.

I will not turn away.

100 Things I Have Learned in 100 Births

  1. Just when you think you know birth, you are proved wrong.
  2. If it could go wrong, it probably won’t.
  3. But you should still keep your eyes peeled.
  4. Women are truly amazing. Every one of them.
  5. Babies are people too.
  6. And they deserve the same human dignity and respect as their mothers.
  7. Affirmations work.
  8. But they look different for everyone.
  9. The circumstances of birth don’t matter as much as how the mother is treated.
  10. Empowered women are formidable creatures.
  11. Midwifery isn’t for wimps.
  12. Being on-call is stressful for my family.
  13. I must be mindful of my priorities in ways many others don’t have to be.
  14. It does take a village.
  15. You have to choose your village wisely.
  16. My village kicks arse. Especially that portion made up by my husband and children.
  17. My husband and children have given me more grace than I deserve on this journey.
  18. Pay yourself first.
  19. You can’t control for what baby decides to do on the way out.
  20. Sometimes, perineal tears happen in spite of everything you try.
  21. A birth pool really is the Midwife’s Epidural.
  22. This job isn’t “fun.”
  23. Three o’clock in the morning midwife humor is fun, though.
  24. People will text you at six in the morning to ask why the sky is blue.
  25. You really have to know your “Why” for doing birth work.
  26. Your family has to know and believe in your “Why” as much as you do, or it won’t work. It just won’t.
  27. I want to be known as a praying midwife.
  28. As a doula, my bag of tools got lighter with every birth.
  29. Sometimes, my hands, my voice, or my presence were all that was needed.
  30. I am enough.
  31. Hard things are worth it.
  32. There is nearly always a learning curve to breastfeeding, even if you’ve done it before.
  33. VBAC is incredible.
  34. The medical reasons for interventions are real, and should be respected.
  35. The health reasons for natural, physiologic, unhindered birth are real, and should be respected.
  36. It’s okay to speak the truth in love instead of just saying “Whatever you want, dearie.”
  37. Healthy mom, healthy baby needs a new definition in this country.
  38. A healthy baby is not all that matters.
  39. How we birth matters. A lot. I didn’t realize how much until I began this work.
  40. Decisions based in fear are never good decisions.
  41. It’s not consent if you’re afraid to say “No.”
  42. I am stronger and smarter than I thought I was.
  43. But I still have a lot to learn.
  44. The day I lose my sense of awe and sacredness in the birth space, I need to quit.
  45. The day I think I have arrived, and have nothing more to learn, I need to quit
  46. Making cesareans more humane is good.
  47. Reducing the number of unnecessary cesareans is better.
  48. Formula is a medicine.
  49. Breast is not best, it’s normal.
  50. Boobs are not for sex, though they do help it along.
  51. Boobs are not fully developed until they have lactated.
  52. Breakfast is always appropriate.
  53. Humility is central to this work.
  54. Being teachable is absolutely necessary.
  55. Thinking outside the box is a skill that should be developed to its fullest.
  56. Becoming a midwife is hard.
  57. Like, really hard.
  58. And expensive.
  59. As it should be.
  60. Midwifery is an artisanal skill.
  61. It should never be allowed to disappear.
  62. When you hire a midwife, you hire her whole tribe.
  63. When you hire a midwife, you are choosing to birth local.
  64. When you hire a midwife, you are choosing to be responsible for your own care.
  65. Prenatal care is what happens between your appointments.
  66. Nutrition matters a lot more than we ever thought.
  67. Midwives have known this forever.
  68. Birth is made up of strong women doing very vulnerable things.
  69. Meconium happens.
  70. And sometimes, it really sucks.
  71. I have seen the worst, and I still want this.
  72. Midwifery isn’t a career.
  73. Midwifery is a calling, deep, strong, and undeniable.
  74. If I weren’t studying midwifery, I would want to be a hospice nurse.
  75. The end of life is very much like the beginning of life.
  76. Sometimes, the thing that shouldn’t work, does.
  77. You don’t always have to understand why or how something works, as long as it works.
  78. Pulsatilla is awesome.
  79. I love seeing a family hear their baby’s heart tones for the first time.
  80. I love watching men become fathers.
  81. Gentle loving touch is a big part of what’s missing from modern obstetric care.
  82. I don’t notice nudity anymore.
  83. Placentas are not always appropriate topics of conversation in mixed company.
  84. Circumcision is a rarely justifiable elective surgery. Look it up.
  85. Methods don’t work, except for a select few women.
  86. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
  87. Flexibility is everything.
  88. Never hesitate to speak out of fear of looking a fool.
  89. If the zombie apocalypse happens, I’ll still have a job.
  90. Birth is much safer now because of two things:
  91. Infection management.
  92. Hemorrhage management.
  93. Midwives know both. Really really well.
  94. Knowing your clients gives you good instincts.
  95. Your heart knows as much as your head, even if your head is late to the party.
  96. Sometimes, the only legitimate basis for a hard call is your gut. You have to trust it.
  97. Finding heart tones takes practice and patience.
  98. If I know what needs to be done, and how to do it, I should not hesitate.
  99. Midwifery is who you are, not what you do. You either have it or you don’t.
  100. I am a midwife.

There is so much more I could add, but I wanted this to be off-the-cuff, and not over-thought. It was important to me that it be in my brain’s real-time, and not artificially cooked up to be more or better than what I actually am.  It’s just very random thoughts off the surface of my brain. Some deeper than others, but all true.

What about you? How many births have you had or attended? What have you learned about yourself or about birth through them?

Grace & Peace,
Tiff

Grace Under Pregnancy: Responding to Horror Stories

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Created using Canva.com

Created using Canva.com


We’ve all heard the horror stories. The homebirth turned cesarean. The induction gone wrong. The horrible hemorrhage. Cracked and bleeding nipples. Breastfeeding sabotaged by circumstances. And more. There is almost a compulsion to tell these stories, and we are often left feeling a little dazed as we walk away.

These are valid experiences, but hard to hear. Even harder is our response. Smiling and nodding seems shallow and awkward. What do you say in such situations when it doesn’t seem like there is anything right to say? None of us want to be trite, or offer mere platitudes, but what else is there?

Some advocate for setting firm boundaries and asking that only positive stories be shared. This may work among our own circle of acquaintance, where people know us and can understand where we are coming from. However, that often doesn’t feel right to do with someone we don’t know well or have only just met. It just feels wrong to hold up our hand and stop someone from telling their story.

I would like to offer another option.

Listen to their story.

Then, validate their experience. “Wow, that sounds like it was really hard for you.” A simple statement that honors the fact that they have shared part of their life with you.

Go a step further and ask them one question:

“If you could go back and change anything about your experience, what would it be?”

No one has likely asked them anything of the sort. More than likely, they have only been told “At least you have a healthy baby, and that’s all that really matters.”

Imagine what that one question could do for someone struggling with a traumatic experience. Someone who has told her story dozens of times, only finding those who could one-up her story, or who spoon fed her “healthy mom, healthy baby” platitudes.

Imagine being the first person to open up the door in the wall between this precious woman and her own healing. Perhaps no one has confirmed her struggle. Perhaps she has not been allowed to grieve what she lost. Perhaps she has been expected to get over it, no matter how much it hurt, or how few answers she has about her circumstances. Perhaps her experience has only ever been marginalized, even by well-intentioned loved ones who are simply uncomfortable with trauma.

Imagine what you could learn from hearing the answer to such a question. The information that may be between the lines of her answer that can help you confirm or change the decisions you yourself are making. Perhaps her story will be the means of preventing your own traumatic experience, and make you better equipped to handle unexpected outcomes.

Imagine being the means of turning horror into healing.

How have you handled horror stories in the past? How might you handle them in the future?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Grace Under Pregnancy: Responding to Negativity

Monday, April 27th, 2015
Created using Canva.com

Created using Canva.com

We’ve all seen those blog posts listing all the hilarious, snarky retorts we can have at our disposal when well-intentioned people make comments about our pregnancy, parenting, or birth choices. There is definitely a place for a well-placed one-liner, but not everyone will see the joke. Those remarks are most often only appreciated in theory, not in practice. Of course, it often helps us to alleviate the stress of constant, unhelpful remarks. Who doesn’t need a good laugh after several “Haven’t had that baby yet” moments?

Granted, most of us just politely smile, nod, and walk the other way, keeping our irritated sarcasm to ourselves. We think sarcastic thoughts, or post them on Twitter, but we choose manners when we are in the moment. We none of us really want to be rude, even if we feel like it. We know that answering rudeness with rudeness often just escalates the situation.

Some people, of course, are just rude. It’s best to just walk away in that case. But, what can we do when we feel a strong need to respond in some way? Are sarcasm and snark the best approach? Sometimes, probably. Some people need the wake-up call. However, most people don’t realize that they’re being rude — however well-intentioned they may be — and grace goes a long way. You never know. You might be the one who helps someone treat the next pregnant lady a little better. Isn’t that worth biting back a stinging remark, then going one step beyond and extending grace?

So, what does responding in grace look like?

“You’re having a home birth? Aren’t you afraid of –insert random, rare emergency here–?”
Snark says: “You had hospital births? Weren’t you afraid of –insert random, common intervention here–?”
This kind of response is designed to shut down conversation, and while the person may deserve snark, isn’t a little kindness more powerful?

Grace says: “I appreciate your concern, but no, I am not afraid.”
There is no need to explain your decisions to anyone since you are the one who walks it out, but this kind of response may invite questions and conversation that could benefit the hearer in long run.

“Wow! You are getting sooooo HUGE!”
Snark says: “Thanks! So are you!”
While hilarious in theory, (I’ll admit, I chuckled) two wrongs don’t make a right. People really don’t know what to say, and aren’t necessarily comfortable with just a friendly silence.

Grace says: “Thanks! I’m so excited to be able to grow such a healthy baby!”
This can encourage people to view the full-term pregnant body as something beautiful, normal, and healthy, instead of just weight gain. They won’t expect the kindness.

“Let me tell you ALL THE HORROR STORIES surrounding my births!”
Snark says: “Well, at least you have a healthy baby, right?!”
This can add another layer of sorrow or regret to the woman who opened up to you, and can be just as hurtful to hear as her horror story was to you. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Grace says: “Wow – what a rough ride. If you could go back and change anything about your births, what would it be?”
Women learn in community. It’s why we write and read blogs, attend La Leche League and MOPS groups. Such things have replaced the old quilting bees. It’s also why we are compelled to share our birth stories, positive and negative. Perhaps, this woman has only ever been told she should be grateful, because her baby is healthy. Maybe no one has acknowledged her experience, or made space for her to process it. Maybe you have just been given the chance to help a fellow human being take one more step toward healing by your validation of her experience. Plus, you might learn something.

Kindness goes so very far when we see others as humans who make mistakes. Really, haven’t we all said insensitive things without meaning to, only to learn our mistake later? Can’t we all recall that one time we really blew it by putting our collective feet in our collective mouths? We all cringe at such memories, right? How beautiful was it, in those moments, when someone extended grace to us?

Well, why not make those moments a little less cringe-worthy in your turn by extending grace to our sometimes clueless fellow human beings? Maybe they don’t deserve it, but we all have undeserving moments. That’s the whole point of grace– it’s unmerited favor.

Remember: In the end, it is love that wins the day, not wit or cleverness.

What would you add? When have you responded with grace instead of sarcasm? What other comments can be hurtful, and what might you say or do instead?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Awe & Gratitude

Monday, February 9th, 2015

I have been putting together a scrapbook of pictures, cards, letters, and memorabilia from the doula clients who have so graciously shared such items with me. As the 8×8 book comes together, I find myself full of memories of each story. I have not forgotten a single birth. Not one. Each one is a treasure I carry with me wherever I go.

There is a weight to each memory. A weight characterized by humble, gritty, glorious women at their peak vulnerability and strength. Never is a woman so beautiful as when she is bringing new life into our small world. A brand new human being, who has never existed before, has been formed painstakingly, and brought with blood, sweat, and tears into the arms of his loving parents.

It is exquisite.

And I get to be a part of it.

My gratitude for this work will never wane. Sometimes, it is hard for me to believe that this is a path God has called me to so clearly. Unequivocally, with women is where I belong.

With women.

The root meaning of the word “midwife.”

Thank you for being part of my journey. Whether you are a client, a mentor, a colleague, or a member of my amazing family, I could not do this without you.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

A Little Birth Poetry.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Birth is amazing.

I attended three in the space of about 40 hours this weekend. Two butter births on a Saturday morning. Both filled with intense power and work, capped by peace when they were all over. The other a triumphant victory, and a step toward healing of a past rough experience.

Women are incredible.

There was the most spectacular sunrise on the way to one of the births. I have never seen one that struck my heart so deeply. The very sky seemed on fire. Too bad I was driving, and couldn’t capture it to share with you. A fitting beginning for the act of creation that is birth.

Though the baby didn’t enter the world with the dawn, the dawn greeted him anyway.

I was struck, as I watched each mama work hard to bring her baby to her arms in her own way. Each one unique. No two women labor alike. And thousands do it together everyday. What a marvelous sisterhood we share!

I was reminded, yet again, why I do this work. Why I am a doula. Why I want to be “with woman” as a midwife. This work is sacred. Beautiful. Insanely difficult. But so very worth it.

I rarely write poetry, but I hope these verses hit home. Each one represents one of the mothers I served this weekend. They’re kind of silly. Just haikus, but I had fun writing them. Enjoy.

Labor at sunrise,
Intensifying slowly.
Care, quiet, tranquil.

A hint, it’s coming.
Giant, crashing, clamoring,
“I can’t, but I did!”

Freight train rolling fast,
Can’t quite keep up, but she does.
Dad meets tiny pirate.

How did you spend your weekend?

Grace & Peace,
Tiff

Being A Doula

Friday, July 18th, 2014
Image credit: tumblr

Image credit: tumblr

Being a doula, for me, is not about changing hospital policy, or steering women away from “bad” providers. It is not about disseminating information to every client. It’s not about birth plans. It’s not about informed consent. It’s not about vaginal birth, home birth, or cesarean birth. It’s not about statistics. It’s not about rebozos, crock pots, or rice socks. It’s not even about making a difference or changing the world.

Being a doula is about laying aside my notion of what a particular birth ought to be, and instead surrendering to what it actually is. It is opening my eyes to the reality of each woman’s circumstances, and meeting her right where she happens to be.

It is seeing beyond myself, and stepping into someone else’s experience. It is opening my hands in service, in whatever way the mother sees fit. It is about humbling myself, and understanding that each birth can and will teach me something I did not know before.

It is about respecting the care provider(s) my client has chosen, simply because she has chosen them. It is about learning how to show respect and compassion to everyone in the room, even when I don’t feel like it, because it is the right thing to do. Many times, it’s about being an example.

It is about protecting space around a birthing woman and her partner, so all they see is each other. It’s about becoming invisible, so that the birthing woman can focus on what is most important.

It is about being with this woman, right here, in this moment in time. It is often about helping her surrender fully to this great work she is doing. It is looking her in the eye and lending her my strength when she runs out. It is opening a door when she hits her wall. It is about believing her when she expresses pain, and validating her struggle.

It is believing in her, even if no one else does.

It is about bringing a little bit of sunshine into this storm that feels so big, and reminding her that it will not last forever. Being a doula is a lot like trying to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

It is about love.

And I love being a doula.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

Book Review Friday: “Giving Birth” by Catherine Taylor

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Giving BirthGiving Birth by Catherine Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books which I wish I would have taken notes throughout, to better enable me to review it accurately. Her tone, her writing style, and the content were all excellent.

Her writing style is accessible, honest, frank, and open–the way a good journalist’s should be. Her descriptions of the various women she meets, the places she goes, and the births she attends as an observer or doula are vivid without being wordy.

I found myself moved to nearly to tears several times (I’m not much of a crier, so “almost to tears” is saying a lot) throughout the book.

It’s picture of midwifery as a profession, from Certified Nurse-Midwives to direct-entry midwives is respectful and unbiased. She shares the reality of the political landscape all midwives must work in, the challenges they face, and the little triumphs on behalf of women and their babies.

Even if you are not into birth, I would recommend this book to every woman – whether you plan to have children, have children already, or plan to never have children. It can speak powerfully to any of us.

View all my reviews

Some Say I Am Brave

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Image from http://www.vickidonlan.com

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. To me, that’s like saying I’m brave for having a big wedding. No matter how involved the planning, we all know the real work of marriage starts when the wedding is over.

So it is with birth. Our childhood, our growing up, and our pregnancy is the training ground. Birth is the opening ceremony. Motherhood is the marathon.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. Others would counter that choosing a hospital birth is brave.

I say choosing to become a mother is brave, no matter where you choose to bring your child into the world. I say learning to make fully informed decisions — guided by a beautiful hybrid of evidence-based information and your intuition — is brave.

Doing this often means going against the flow of society in general, and the tide of modern obstetrics in specific.

It means navigating endless resources, asking questions, and taking time to figure out answers. It means identifying, confronting, and processing fears, anxieties, and stressors that hinder you from being able to fully trust your body and your chosen care provider. It means letting go of a process we have very little control over, when all is said and done, and forming realistic expectations about your birth based on your unique emotional health, health history, and risk factors.

It means being able to tell your well-meaning loved ones that you appreciate their input, but that you are choosing a different way than they did. It sometimes means being willing to give up your ideal for reality — whether that entails a homebirth transfer, an unplanned cesarean, or an accidental homebirth.

The location of your birth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you got there.

Navigating the road on this journey isn’t as simple as using GPS systems to decide where to turn. It’s less like a road trip, and more like a sea voyage. You may have all the tools in the world in your boat, but unless you use them, the horizon looks exactly the same no matter which direction you look. Sure, you can guess which direction is the right way to go, but you can’t really know unless you have a destination in mind, and you’re able to use the tools around you.

It’s up to you to pick up those tools and make use of them. No one else is really in that boat with you.

It’s up to you to be brave.

Where do you want to go?

Do your homework. Take nothing for granted. Never say never. Then, when you know where you want to be, pick up the tools you have and get yourself there. No one else can (or will) do this for you.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth.

What really made me brave was my willingness to open my mind and look beyond the status quo at all the options available to me. That was the hard part. What continues to make me brave is looking four little ones in the face each morning, and loving them in spite of the challenges that mothering them presents.

Some say I am brave. I say that all mothers are brave; some just have not figured it out yet.

When did you realize your bravery as a mother? In what moments have you been brave as a mother?

Pick up good books. Take an evidence-based childbirth class. Know where evidence-based information resides on the internet. (It’s not typically at BabyCenter, just FYI.) Ask questions of your care provider every appointment. Hire a doula. Look outside your box. Interview providers you might not have considered. Confront your anxieties and fears about birth – with professional help if you think you need it.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany