Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

5 Things Midwives, Doulas, and Postpartum Moms Love

Monday, July 6th, 2015

5 Things Midwives, Doulas, & Postpartum

As I was in the shower today, after two births in 24 hours–one in the hospital as a doula, the other at home as a student midwife–I was appreciating the perfect temperature of the water, the smell of my shampoo, and the utterly clean feeling I had when I stepped out onto the mat. I was positively luxuriating in my shower! I couldn’t help but compare it to the first shower I took after my babies were born. That first shower post-birth is simply divine.

This got me on a train of thought I hadn’t really contemplated before.

Midwives, doulas, and postpartum mothers share a sisterhood in more than just birth. There are five things we all love after a birth, whether it was our own or one we attended.

    1: Taking off the sweaty/goopy bra.
    Taking off the bra at the end of the day is magnificent enough. Imagine peeling off a sweaty, potentially goopy and wet bra! Birthing a baby is hard work, and so is attending a birth. (Not on the same level, obviously, but we often get very physical, sweaty, and wet too) Oh, the glorious freedom of a bra slipped off and tossed aside!

    2: That first shower.
    Letting all the mess of birth wash down the drain. The sweat of hard work. The fluids, vernix, and blood of the birth. Even some of the heightened emotions are shared. They are on different scales but are sourced in the same hormones. And yes, birth professionals tend to get a little baptized with the birth fluids too. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to get into that warm shower and just feel clean again!

    3: The first meal.
    Whether it’s steak and eggs, sushi, fried chicken, gyros, cheese and crackers, bananas and peanut butter, smoothies, or a fistful of Cheetos, it doesn’t matter. No food tastes as good as post-birth food.

    4: The first nap.
    Most births happen in the wee hours before dawn, so everyone involved loses some sleep. Combine that with a hit of high-inducing oxytocin, endorphins, and adrenaline, and you have a perfectly natural sleeping potion circulating in your blood. The first nap post-birth is the best! Even if it’s interrupted by a hungry baby, or a text from a client (we’re usually still on call), it’s still lovely to sleep. Mostly because we are in bed. It’s all about the bed. And the cool side of the pillow.

    5: Seeing your kids again.
    There’s something about a family coming together again after the birth of a new baby. After you’ve come home from the hospital, or your kids were brought back home from Grandma’s, being together as a family with a new member to induct is just plain special. Some of my favorite post-birth memories, when my kids were born, were introducing them to their new tiny sibling. Now, walking in the door from the latest birth, and being greeted by four sets of arms hugging me, and four voices saying “Yay! Mommy!!!” is such a blessing.

What is your favorite thing after having a baby and/or attending a birth?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

A Doula For The Dying: 5 Things I Learned at My Father’s Deathbed

Monday, May 18th, 2015

5 ThingsI LearnedAlmost three years ago, I packed up my four children and drove to Oregon to help care for my father. His melanoma had metastasized to his spinal fluid, and everything that could be thrown at it to kill it, had been. There was nothing left, but to wait. Probably only weeks were left.

His decline was gradual, over the course of about three and a half months. During that time, I discovered another purpose to my doula training and work.

The end of life is much like the beginning. It is mainly about waiting, comfort and support. There isn’t anyone who can do the dying work, except the dying. Those in attendance find themselves with not much to do but wait. At the most, we bring comfort through physical touch, slow conversations, and just quietly being present. It is so much like waiting while a woman labors. The main difference being that we are on the wrong side of the veil. We do not get to see our loved one birthed into the next life. It is all darkness on this side.

I have never been so grateful for my training as a doula. Everything I learned is very nearly directly applicable to the dying process. Here are 5 things I learned while doulaing my dying father.

1. Pain can be a normal part of the process.
Granted, the pain of death was not something I believe that we were ever designed for. It is often pathological, but it is also a natural part of dying. As in labor, it is a signal that something needs to change. Perhaps a massage will alleviate it. Perhaps a dose of morphine will help the man laboring to die to rest a little easier. Pain also allows and invites loved ones to minister to the dying simply by being present, holding a hand, or stroking the hair.

2. The same comfort measures used in labor often work well for the dying.
Massage. Gate control. Supporting the five senses. Medication. Acupressure. Essential oils. Music. Bathing. Hydration. Light snacking to their level of hunger if it exists at all. The dying, much like the laboring woman, do not need much food if any. It’s important to follow their lead. All these techniques we learn in our doula training are applicable to the dying one. Of course, some causes of death render certain massage strokes unbearable, much like transition may do in a laboring woman. It’s all about trying different things, and allowing the dying to accept or refuse it without taking it personally.

3. Holding space is the foundation for dignity.
We know as doulas that a mother’s pain level, or even the kind of birth she has will have little bearing on how satisfied she is with her experience. What matters most to her is that she is the decision maker and that she feels supported throughout the process. We as doulas hold the space for that to happen. We are constantly directing attention back to the laboring mother: “How do you feel about adding Pitocin to the plan? Would you like time to talk about it?” It’s the same with the dying. They often struggle to decide, and just need the space to settle in with what they want. This gives them the dignity they deserve as a human being while they go through an undignified, and often painful process.

4. Writing an end-of-life plan is much like writing a birth plan.
It’s written before the active dying really begins, much like a birth plan is written prenatally. It outlines the dying person’s desires, wishes, and medical decisions ahead of time, so that if and when they become incapable of decision-making, those who are caring for him can use it as a guide to know what he would most likely want to do. Unlike a birth plan, it is a legal document, and only power-of-attorney can override it. The principle is the same, though. And as a doula, upholding these desires came naturally to me.

5. Dying doesn’t look at all like what is portrayed in the media.
Birth in the media is always an emergency, there is a lot of screaming and hating of husbands, and demanding of drugs. It’s almost never clinically accurate or true to life. It is the same with death in the media. Death in the movies is always grand or gory or like watching someone fall asleep. Watching my father die was none of those things. There is no way to portray the sights, smells, sounds, or the heaviness of the room where the dying man lies. There are as many ways to die as there are to give birth. As beautiful as Dad’s final moments were, as dignified and peaceful as it was, I found death itself to be ugly. Just as I find birth to be beautiful, in spite of the “mess” and the pain and the noise and the smells. Death and birth are studies in contradiction. They are each a paradox. And both are sacred.

I loved being with my dad while he lay dying. I felt honored, privileged, and blessed to witness a man’s leaving of this world to enter the next. For Dad, to live was Christ, and his death was gain. Every time I enter the sacred birthing space of another woman, I am reminded of the gravity of life, and how important it is to have dignity at both birth and death. As a doula, I now know that I have the skill and compassion I need for either. If I weren’t a doula, or pursuing midwifery, I think I would want to be a hospice nurse. But that is an entirely different post for a different day.

Thanks for sticking with me. I know this is a tough subject, but it’s close to my heart, and it was time to write about it. How have you experienced death or birth in your life? Have you seen both? Are there other parallels you noticed?

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

Do’s and Don’ts in Labor & Delivery (a.k.a. Getting What You Want, Kindly)

Monday, April 20th, 2015
Created using canva.com

Created using canva.com

Birth plans. Epidurals. Natural Childbirth. Doulas. Induction. Cesareans. And more…

The list of decisions about birth goes on and on…

More women are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo in American maternity care, and are asking for something outside the norm for the hospital where they plan give birth. Naturally, this might make for some conflict between a birthing mother and her care provider and nursing staff.

Conflict.

There. I said it. Right out loud.

There might be conflict in the labor and delivery room when a mother is giving birth. I am not writing this post to tell anyone how to avoid conflict, but how to manage it in a healthy way, so that the birth experience is not characterized by the conflicts that arise, but by the solutions everyone involved is able to come to.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that may help you in the labor and delivery room to self-advocate effectively, while creating a human connection with the nurses and provider caring for you and your baby.

DON’T: Expect care providers or nurses to offer much in the way of comfort during labor.
It is not the responsibility of a care provider or nurse to make a birthing mother comfortable. Their first priority, and indeed, their entire job, is the safety of mother and baby. Period. Your comfort is a distant second to safety, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

DO: Hire a doula to offer you comfort and support.
Your comfort is the entire responsibility of your doula. Period. That is all that she is there for. Emotional, physical, and informational comfort and support are her expertise. You will not be disappointed if you lean on a doula for this need.

DON’T: Make demands.
This only causes a heightening of conflict. If you want something different than protocol, shaking your fist and demanding it is not the right tack. You might get your way, but you may not end up getting the best care if you treat the nurses as if they were there to grant your every wish.

DO: Ask for exceptions.
Think about it. How would you feel if a stranger came to your house, and began to dictate to you how to load your dishwasher, feed your kids, or fold your towels? You would be offended. This is what we do when we demand our way in labor. When you want something outside protocols, try this: “I understand that this is your normal protocol, but I need you to make an exception for me this time. Thank you.” This invites conversation and cooperation, and is less likely to put a nurse (who is technically your advocate) on the defensive.

DON’T: Be rigid.
Refusing to budge on the smallest things is unfair, especially when you are asking for things outside the box. Remember, you are a rare breed to these nurses. Asking them to step outside their norm is a big deal. Respect that.

DO: Be flexible.
Compromise is the name of the game. For example, here in Colorado Springs, a Hep lock buys you pretty much anything you want in most of the hospitals. It helps them to see that you are reasonable, and that you understand why they do what they do. It makes them far more open to your requests and out-of-the-box needs.

DON’T: Wait until you are in labor to make your birth plan known.
It is completely unreasonable to spring a birth plan on unsuspecting staff and providers. You can’t count on appointment conversations to be remembered, simply because of the sheer volume of patients a hospital-based provider might see in any given month. Not to mention the fact that you are likely to have a care provider you’ve never met catching your baby!

DO: Discuss everything on your birth plan prentally.
Write your birth plan early, in second trimester, and tackle one issue at a time in those 7-10 minute appointments. Discuss the benefits, risks, and alternatives ahead of time, and really make sure you and your provider are on the same page. If they are willing, have them sign it–this doesn’t make it a legal document, but it proves to the staff and on-call doc that your care provider is on board with all your requests.

In short, it pays to be kind. Always be kind. You never know what kind of day your nurse or care provider has had. You have no idea what is going on in the room next to you. I am not making excuses for bad or disrespectful or hurried care. I want to remind you that everyone in scrubs is a human being, just like you. There is rarely a reason to walk into a labor and delivery ward with guns blazing. Even if you had no other choice in your care. The ones providing it are just as human as you are, and if you can leave them feeling respected and understood, you are helping to pave the way for the next woman who wants out-of-the-box care.

It may be your birth, but it has ripple effects. Whether it’s for the positive or negative is, at least in part, up to you.

How do you handle differences of opinion in your care? What are the most diplomatic ways you have used to self-advocate without a situation erupting into WWIII?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

How To Find Moolah For a Doula.

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Image credit: primecoordination.wordpress.com


So, you’ve read the literature, or seen the infographics on the measurable benefits to having continuous, trained labor support in the form of a doula. (You haven’t? Oh. Well, then. Click HERE to read the best, most recent evidence, then come back here and finish this post.)

Based on that measurable evidence, you’ve decided that you need a doula, but are wondering how on earth you can afford one. You’ve seen that doulas are worth every penny they charge, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the pennies, right? Right. I know that feeling! I think we all do, in this current economic climate.

As I mentioned in my last post, doulas in the Colorado Springs area charge anywhere from about $300 up to $650 at the moment. Of course, insurance doesn’t consistently cover us yet, though there are reports of some insurances doing just that after claims are submitted by clients. It’s slowly, but surely happening. Still, that upfront cost is still there.

To start, I would like to cover the basics of what you must have for a newborn. (Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this.)

  • Boobs. With milk in them.
  • Something to cover & clean their behinds.
  • Maybe two weeks’ worth of clothes, depending on how often you do laundry, and how often your baby blurfs on you, or has poopsplosions.
  • Car seat. Must-have, if you ever need to go out and buy food or something.
  • Some sort of barrier between spit-up and your clothing.
  • Some sort of well-made babywearing device.
  • Small diaper bag.

Really, everything after that is gravy. Sure, there are a lot of very handy devices, contraptions, and doo-hickeys, but most of those are luxury items, that add up very quickly to hundreds of dollars or more. Of course, many of these items are covered by the ubiquitous Baby Shower. Everyone is eager to pick up your Target registry list and go crazy!

There are…

  • fancy nursery sets
  • cribs
  • high chairs
  • various swings
  • pack n’ plays
  • child-proofing devices
  • baby gates
  • teething rings
  • toys
  • floor mats
  • wall decals
  • strollers
  • blankets
  • socks
  • hats
  • specialized bath tubs
  • giant diaper bags
  • SO MANY THINGS!!!

Do you really need all of that? No. Most of those are created needs. They come in handy, certainly, but most aren’t needed in those newborn days before six to eight weeks postpartum. Oftentimes, it makes sense to put off getting most of these items until you know for sure it’s something you will use. Time will tell very quickly in that case.

So, instead of creating a registry for SO MANY THINGS! for your baby shower, might I suggest: Have a simple money tree, or card box set up, and ask people to contribute what they would have spent on stuff to your Doula Fund. Most people tend to be as generous as they can toward new mothers and babies, and will be happy to do just that.

In lieu of all the stuff, you will likely end up with plenty of money to pay the doula you would like to hire. You may even have some left over to pick up one or two items that you find you really would like to have. It’s a win-win!

Of course, that’s not the only way to go about it. I just think it’s often the easiest way. Still, there are other options.

Some other ideas to help you pay the doula you’ve chosen:

  • Bartering. Many doulas have need of the skills you or your partner possess. Offer a dollar-for-dollar trade, up to a certain amount, then pay cash for the balance.
  • Sell some stuff. Maybe you’ve already had a baby, and found you didn’t need that $400 jogging stroller, and barely used it. Perhaps your garage needs to be cleaned out. You may be able to scrape together enough to afford the doula you’d like to hire.
  • Make and sell some stuff. Do you sew at all? Crochet or knit? Make fabulous cakes? Jewelry? Do you paint? Photography? Put those skills to good use!

When all else fails, and you honestly can’t pull together the entire balance…

  • Hire a training, or newer doula, and work with her to pay her what you can afford.
  • Ask for a discount. Be specific. “I can’t afford x, but I can afford y. Can you do that?”
  • Ask for a payment plan. Again, be specific. “I can make payments of x amount, over 6 months.”

Most doulas are willing to work within certain parameters, as long as a client is upfront, honest, and is willing to put a financial agreement in writing. We hate to say no to someone in need, and most doulas will bend over backwards to help you make it work. We know that we have measurable benefits. We know that doulas are much more of a need than a luxury, especially in the current birth climate in this country. We want to help, but communication runs two ways.

You only have to ask.

It’s almost always feasible to afford a doula – you just have to get creative, be flexible, and find a doula that can work with you in your particular circumstances. Remember, you are trying to secure evidence-based, customized, continuity of care for yourself and your baby. It’s more than worth it. You will likely never regret spending money on a doula, because you are really investing in yourself and your care.

What ideas do you have for raising moolah for a doula? What have you done in the past — either as the doula or the client — to make it work?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

What You Need to Know About Birth Plans

Friday, September 27th, 2013

As a doula, I require all of my clients to put together a birth plan, discuss it with their care provider, and to provide me a hard copy. I make very few exceptions to this requirement. I believe firmly that a birth plan is a critical piece of the puzzle in good perinatal care.

As much as we want to believe that our prenatal care is individualized, it often is not. Even home birth midwives can get into a “this is how I always do it” habit, though that is far less likely. Still – I have learned to never take anything for granted when it comes to care providers.

I spend a good amount of time with each client in helping them form their own unique birth plan, and provide them with role-playing opportunities that teach them how to have open, honest, and clinical discussions with their provider about their individual needs. If I am hired late into the third trimester, that is almost all I end up doing prenatally – birth plan work.

It’s that important.

That said, I don’t particularly care for the term “Birth Plan,” and I use it only because that’s the common vernacular. I think the word “Plan” conjures up images of precise blueprints and/or legally binding documents. A birth plan is neither of those things, and the sooner we understand that, the better.

Instead, I believe that birth plans are tools designed to help you, your care provider, and any staff you encounter to communicate effectively about your individual needs and expectations regarding your care.

It provides a basic framework that helps your care provider and staff to better care for you, but it does not legally bind them to your every whim and wish.

Instead, a birth plan gives you and your care provider an opportunity to pursue individualized care together, and to be on the same page before you go into labor. It has the potential to build rapport, trust, and respect between you and your provider–a critical factor in enjoying a positive, healthy birth experience, no matter what the circumstances end up being.

For this reason, I really prefer the term “Birth Preferences,” “Birth Goals,” or even “Birth Desires.” Those make a lot more sense to me. When a birth plan is viewed this way, it is often much easier to mentally and emotionally process anything that derails those plans.

Birth is still unpredictable, and there are no guarantees, no matter how safe we have made it. The reality is that birth is like any major event we plan: There will always be at least one thing that does not go the way we expect it to, for good or ill.

Mommas get sick. Babies get sick. Babies get into funky positions. Mommas get exhausted. Heart rates get wonky. Side effects of drugs happen. Things stretch on longer than we thought, or go far faster than we anticipated.

Stuff happens.

Overall, birth is a safe and healthy process, but it has a lot of variables within a very wide range of Normal. Accepting that fact, and writing a birth plan with flexibility in mind is key to processing those funky things that happen during our births.

I find that the most flexibly written birth plans get the most respect from staff. They see clearly that my client has done her research, and has realistic expectations. Frankly, I find that my clients are more likely to get exactly what they want when their language is open and flexible.

I also find that when things get weird in a birth, staff and providers tend to bend over backwards to keep the spirit of the plan intact. They seem to view themselves as being on my client’s side, and try very hard to make it work within the parameters this particular labor has laid out for them.

My clients come out of these births processing all of it in a very healthy way. They understand that they don’t have to like what happened, but if they felt respected, understood, and as though their choices mattered, they are often okay in the long run. They understand that it’s okay not to be okay for awhile. They grieve the stuff they didn’t like, but are grateful for the support and good care they received within the circumstances their birth chose for them.

Care they might not have received had they not communicated clearly what they hoped for, ahead of time, via their birth plan.

So, when writing your birth plan, be careful about the language you use. Really examine how it comes across, and how you view your relationship with your care provider. Some basic tips:

  • Open with a sentence like: “We understand that circumstances may arise that preclude the following desires, but we expect to be fully informed before consenting to any procedure that may be proposed, and we appreciate your help in achieving a healthy and pleasant birth.” This lets them know you understand that birth has a lot of variables, and that you are willing to work with the staff.
  • Have a short introductory sentence or two explaining your overall desires. (Natural birth? Well-timed epidural?) The staff will automatically know what requests will go along with that, and you can eliminate a lot of specifics. For example: If you know you want an unmedicated birth, and state that fact right away, you won’t have to tell them you’ll want to move around, have dim lighting, etc…
  • Keep it simple. It shouldn’t be more than one page long.
  • Use bullet points and clinical language.
  • Tailor it to your provider’s practices, as well as the protocols at your place of birth. If you know they do rooming-in, you don’t need to request it.
  • Do your research. Take an independent childbirth class. Hire a doula.
  • Take your first draft to your provider and ask specific questions. “Under what circumstances might you do an episiotomy?” This helps you know if something needs to be added or taken off the plan.
  • Have a cesarean plan. Look up “Family-Centered Cesarean,” and choose your top 3-5 items you think might be important, and add those.

Be decisive and clear in your desires, but remember to stay open as well. Choose carefully your hills to die on, and let everything else go if it becomes necessary. Ask questions. Even if all you can think is to keep asking “Why?” That one word can gain you a lot more information when a decision becomes critical. Open your eyes, and walk forward confident in your desires, your ability to birth, and your ability to make good decisions for you and your baby.

You are already a good mother. Go for it.

I could write mountains of information on this subject, but this post would get too long. Did you write a birth plan? Why or why not? Do you feel your desires were respected? Do you feel it created a sense of cooperation with the staff who cared for you? Why or why not?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Birthy Weekend Links

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

This weekend is coming up fast! What plans do you have? I have family coming in for a five-day visit, I’m on call for a midwife, and I’m trying to put together some bouquets for my sister’s upcoming wedding. In the meantime, here are a few things worth reading this weekend.

Interested in reading more? “Like” my Facebook page, since I tend to share a lot more of these on my Facebook page, almost daily!

Happy weekending to you!

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History Of Infant Formula

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Before I share the article I’m about to link, I need to make a few things clear for you:

1) Formula, in and of itself, is not bad. Neither is it anywhere near what breastmilk is. That is not insulting, it’s simply the truth. Breastmilk is not the “best” option for feeding babies, it is the biological, expected norm. It is part of the normal, physiologic progression of the childbearing year.

2) I am NOT anti-formula, and this post is NOT intended to insult those who have used formula, or have used it in the past. In fact, breastfeeding is one of the things I knew very little about when I was feeding my own babies. I have used formula. For three of my four children, yet somehow I manage not to take offense when the risks of formula to babies are spelled out. I ask you to do the same.

3) The purpose of this post is to highlight the horribly unethical marketing practices of formula COMPANIES. Especially in the developing world.

Read this with an open mind, and try to understand that this is not a commentary on your parenting. You are still a good mother, no matter how you choose to feed your baby. But please remember that the majority of women in the world do not really have a “choice.” It literally means life or death for their babies.

Thank you.

Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History Of Infant Formula

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Intangible Reasons

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Image from imdb.com

My husband and I watched “Away We Go” last night. It’s a movie about a pregnant couple’s quest to find the place where they want to give birth and raise their baby. Along the way, they meet up with a lot of old connections to try and get a feel for where they belong. During the obligatory “hippie-tandem-nursing-birkenstock-wearing-freaks” scene, one line really stood out to me, and bothered me.

As filled as the scene was with exaggerated stereotypes, it wasn’t those that bothered me, because all of the families in the movie were portrayed in a way that was a bit over the top. (Except the infertile couple – THAT was one of the best movie scenes I have ever witnessed. Ever.)

John Krasinki’s character explains why he and his girlfriend don’t need a doula. He says something along the lines of “Doulas are for women who are clueless, or have a partner who doesn’t want to be involved, and since I am involved and educated, we don’t need one.”

While he is right in the fact that a doula can be a great asset to a couple who are “clueless,” the quote illustrates the common misconception that doulas replace fathers in the birth room. That if the father is involved and supportive, a doula is just an extra. It’s simply not so.

For one thing, “clueless” clients have more potential to drive a doula crazy! We try to teach our clients to take responsibility for their own births, and encourage them to educate themselves as much as possible about everything relevant to their situation. Some do, and some don’t. The hardest births to be on as a doula are ones in which a mother has not educated herself much at all, and has unrealistic expectations of both birth and her doula. That is a problem that is usually easily remedied. However, not really the point of this post.

Moving on. Sorry to slow you down.

The truth is that men in the labor room is a recent phenomenon. For eons, it’s been women’s work. Birth is what women do. And we do it well. We did not “need” our men in the birthing room – we could handle it pretty well, thankyouverymuch.

However, we began to want our men in the birth room, and welcomed them. Super-cool! We felt it only made sense for the one who helped create this child, be there to help bring him into the world. And we were right. Men should have the chance to see the women in their lives be so strong.

We then threw the baby out with the bathwater, and banished everyone else in favor of the men in our lives.

No one – and I mean no one – can replace the father, husband, lover in the labor room. However, neither can the father bring the shared connection all women have. They can’t bring the “girl power” women thrive on when they are laboring.

Birthing women need both.

For example, I had both my husband and my mother at all of my births (this was before I’d ever heard the word “doula” – my mom essentially filled that role). I could not have done what I did with either of them missing. It is hard to explain tangibly the reasons that this is so.

When I tried to explain it to my husband, I told him that when Mom said I could do it, she was the one I believed.

It’s not that I didn’t believe anyone else, it’s just that it was her energy, faith, and connection to me that helped me put feet to my own belief in my ability to birth. I believed my husband when he said he believed in me, and I appreciated his confidence, but when my mom looked me in the eye and said “You can do this,” something inside me responded, and I could not doubt that she was right.

That is why even the most educated, proactive, emotionally-healthy, bonded couple can benefit from having a doula – and I would even venture to say, needs a doula.

I hear it all the time from my clients: that they just believe me when I tell them they can carry on. They tell me that they love and appreciate the safety and security of their partner’s presence; the love that radiates from his eyes when he holds her hand or brings her water gives her a comfort that cannot be matched. She blossoms under such romance (which is exactly what it is).

But when the doula speaks, moms listen, and their faith in their own ability to birth is given wings.

The truth is this: She cannot do as well as she wants to do without either.

Nearly every client tells me, “I couldn’t have done it without you!” then immediately turns to her partner, “But I couldn’t have done it without you either!” Both statements are as true as true can be. I feel the same way about my mom and my husband.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this, and only you can decide if you are one of them. There are also many situations in which a mother doesn’t have a partner at all, or her situation varies from the norm in some other way. Her need for a doula who will walk alongside her, hold her hand, and support her unconditionally is even greater! I have supported several such women, and stepping into what is essentially a dual role is tough. I could never do that for all births!

My point is that just because factors, A, B, and C all line up for you does not mean that you don’t “need” a doula. Sometimes, it’s the most educated clients that need me the most when push comes to shove. (No pun intended.)

Never say never. Talk to doulas in your area, gauge your needs well, and make the right decision for you and your family. Don’t let anyone – especially a care provider or Hollywood – tell you that you don’t “need” anything when it comes to your birth. Only you can decide that. And take what the media says with an extra-large grain of salt.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Bikini Bodies at Six Weeks?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Image from linked article.

First, read this article, then come on back.

Now, I will grant that many celebrities simply have the genes to be in a size 2 at six weeks postpartum, and I want to be clear that this is not a knock against naturally skinny moms. Or moms who very literally worked their rear ends off to get back to skinny.

I think the point is that no woman, especially celebrities (whom I think may not actually live in the real world), should be bragging about her size. It’s unproductive, irresponsible, and reinforces the message that the rest of us will never measure up to their arbitrary, unrealistic standards.

I prefer The Shape of a Mother – a site where honesty and support for women of ALL shapes and sizes and colors rule the roost. A place where both skinny moms and not-so-skinny moms are welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany