Archive for the ‘Birth Stories & Inspiration’ Category

Pain’s Message

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

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“Labor will hurt. Probably a lot. But whether this is negative is another matter… A laboring woman can be in a great deal of pain, yet feel loved and supported and exhilarated by the creative forces flowing through her body and her ability to meet labor’s challenges.” ~ Henci Goer

Pain in general is not a good or bad thing, in and of itself.

Pain is simply a message from our body to our brain that something needs to change. It tells me when to move my hand away from a hot surface. Pain tells me to lie down and rest for awhile. It tells me to take a bath.

In labor, pain is part of that creative process moving through my body. It does more than just tell me to get moving.

It empowers me to take what control I can in an otherwise uncontrollable event; it places me squarely on the crest of each contraction wave, where I can ride it out in some measure of peace. It tells me to seek comfort – in a warm bath, in the arms of a loved one, outside in the sun, in a dimmed room with soft music, in the motion of walking, and even in the simplest relief of emptying my bladder.

Pain signals the release of huge amounts of endorphins, bringing me to the brink of ecstasy as I feel the baby slip out of my body and into my arms.

Pain experienced in loneliness or perceived isolation is excruciating. Pain experienced in an environment of peace, comfort, and perceived safety is empowering and moving. It is life-changing and educational. It is powerful, intense, and sometimes indescribable.

The pain of labor is not suffering.

In life, as well as in labor, I find that it is often only through pain that I can experience pleasure at its fullest.

The agony and the ecstasy of labor and birth often go hand-in-hand. They are experienced in the same moments. Even at the height of a contraction, there is knowledge in my mind and heart that I will soon forget my pain at the joy of my child being born into the world. In my face, one can see unbounded joy, awe, and underlying it all – the pain of motherhood that never really goes away. We carry it with us as we agonize over every mothering decision.

Motherhood and its inherent pain is a baptism unlike any other on earth.

Being immersed to a depth we did not know we had, to emerge in the clear air of a role we somehow know without being expressly taught.

Pain in labor is what teaches us, and proves to us beyond all doubt that we have what it takes. We can rise to any challenge.

“You can’t scare me. I’ve given birth!” is our rousing, unarguable cry!

The pain of labor and birth, no matter our experience of it, or how we choose to manage it, tells us in a voice of authority: “We CAN be mothers.”

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What is/was your experience with pain in your labor(s)? How did you use the various tools available to you (everything from natural methods to medication is welcome to be mentioned here) in order to meet the challenge of your labor pain? Would you change anything about how you managed your pain? Why or why not? Did you experience a painless birth?

Grace & Peace,


Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

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You’ve heard it before: “We all make mistakes.”

Nowhere does this hit home quite as hard as it does in motherhood. When we finally, fully realize that we really are human. That we are not invincible after all. That we really don’t know everything. That, for the most part, our mothers were right about everything.

I cannot count the number of times I have collapsed, weeping, sure that I had ruined my children for life. Again. The number of times I’ve called my mother, apologizing for ever being three years old.

My mom is always quick to remind me that she didn’t live a mistake-free existence either. She just made different ones. Well, mostly different. I find myself making some of the same ones she did, and Mom is always the first to sympathize with me and point out the funny side.

We learn from our parents’ mistakes. We learn from their victories. We learn from those everyday moments we can’t quite recall, but make up the very foundation we end up standing on. We bring our own bricks to add to that foundation, both solid ones and ones that have a few chunks missing. Somehow, our kids seem to thrive and do well in spite of the gaps.

I’ve taken the opportunity to step back and take a look at that foundation as well as I can. To take it all in at once. I’ve noticed something.

There just aren’t as many gaps as I thought there were. I know for a fact that some of the bricks I’ve laid were positively crumbling apart. Yet, that’s not what I see.

By the grace of God and through the help of my own personal “village”, all those places I fall short have been filled in. The gaps are largely gone.

No, my children will not grow up to be perfect. But they’ll be pretty much okay. They have a safe place to land. A sturdy foundation to build their own families on, and a chance to see their own gaps filled in the same way mine have been. I hope they don’t make the same mistakes that I do, and I hope that their own, new mistakes are ones they can find forgiveness for easily.

I guess the point of this rambling post is this:

I have discovered that there is no shame in making the everyday mistakes of motherhood. No shame even in the bigger mistakes we often discover only through hindsight. There is only potential for continued growth and learning. Potential for others to come in and add to our good, covering over the places where our weaknesses have left holes. Potential for our children to learn from us.

Potential to do better, because we know better.

Grace & Peace,

Something is Better Than Nothing.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

As a birth professional, a big part of my job is walking alongside women and their partners during the childbearing year by educating them about almost every aspect of their pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum period.

I meet women where they are, not where I think they should be. Often, not even where she thinks she should be. Ask any mother, and she can give you a whole laundry list of things she thinks she can do better. Her mind is filled with “if only’s.” Part of my job is to encourage her to grow and change in ways that will benefit both her and her baby.

However, I’m not the one walking her journey. I’m just with her for a relatively short period of that journey. I get glimpses and snapshots of her and her life, not the big picture. I do not have the power to make decisions for her, and even if I did, how can I really know, at the deepest levels, what is truly right for her and her family?

In pregnancy, labor, and birth, there is not a definitive “right” and “wrong” for many decisions that come up. There are things that are good, things that are better, and there are things that are usually best, but even those can be subjective. There are no guarantees.

So, as an example, take a smoking mother.

We all know that smoking is harmful to anyone, and there is no known “safe” level for nicotine in an unborn baby. We all know that it’s wise to quit when we are carrying a child. Of course, we would love nothing more than to see her totally quit the habit, for her health and for her baby’s. However, we also know how horribly difficult it can be to cut off a nicotine addiction.

How horrified are we when we see an obviously pregnant woman smoking? How much do we look down on her poor choices, and feel a righteous indignation that “we would never do something so terrible!

What we are missing is the other side of that coin.

How do we know, on the surface, that this isn’t the first cigarette she’s had in weeks? How do we know she’s not working her butt off to quit, but is struggling just like anyone else? How do we know she’s not eating really healthy foods, staying hydrated, and doing mild workouts to stay as healthy as she can?

When will we get to the point when we realize that something is better than nothing.

If that woman were my client, I would assume she knows the dangers of cigarettes to her unborn child. I would assume she feels badly enough about smoking as it is, and that what she needs from me is encouragement to do what she can with what she has at that moment, just like the rest of humanity.

I would remind her that everything she is able to do well, is enough. That something is always better than nothing. That smoking one less cigarette everyday does make a difference, and shows that she is trying.

Even if I did know exactly what would be right for this mother, should that change the way I see her as a human being? May it never be!

As a doula and childbirth educator, I have come to realize that I might be the only person this woman ever meets who does not look down on her. Who treats her with respect and dignity. Who believes in her ability to make good choices for herself and her baby. Who will cheer her on and encourage her in every effort she is able to make, and will ultimately help her to empower herself to continue in her personal growth beyond the ending of our professional relationship.

It’s a valuable lesson I think all individuals would do well to learn. To look beyond what is seen, to the heart, whenever we can. And, when we can’t, to leave well enough alone and refrain from judgment. It’s one I am grateful to have learned early on in this birth career of mine.

This posts is an offshoot from a seed planted by my mentor and friend, Desirre Andrews, who has taught me to think outside the box more than anyone else I know.

Grace & Peace,

The Most Important Piece.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I have birthed four children, all of them out-of-hospital. My oldest was born in a free-standing birth center after 37 hours of labor, including two to three pushing. My second was born in my own bed after eight hours of labor, and a few minutes of pushing. My third and fourth were also born in my own bed after just a few hours of labor. All attended by midwives.

So many things played a part in my success in having four natural births. My good health, my husband’s support, my education, my friends, and wonderful care providers. Not one of them holds a candle to my mother’s role, though. Throughout all four birth experiences, there is one steady factor that stands out above the rest, and for which I am most grateful: My Mother.

I am thankful for my mother, who refused to share her own difficult birth stories with me, knowing it could influence my own perception of what I could or could not do. I didn’t learn her story of my own difficult birth until several years later, when all my own children were born. She believed in me, and let me know it.

I remember asking her, point-blank, if she thought I was crazy for the choices I was making. Her answer? “Not at all. You have to do this however you feel is right.” And she meant it. She never once questioned my decisions, or even gave a hint of trepidation, because it wasn’t there. She just supported me, and defended me to others in our family who were questioning me. On top of that, she shielded me from their comments. I never knew that most of my extended family thought I went off the deep end for choosing to birth out-of-hospital.

I am thankful that she was there for me – in a very physical and emotional way. She came out to D.C., all the way from Oregon, to help, even though Levi and I had told her we didn’t really want her at the birth itself. She had told her employer that she was coming out to help me, and if she had a job when she got back, fine. If not, she didn’t care, because this was more important to her. She still had her job when she got back home – all four times she came out.

I remember that as we were getting into the car to go, I demanded she come with me, instead of staying home to wait. “I can’t do this without you!” I remember nearly crying as I asked her to come anyway. She did. (A huge kudos to my husband here too, who didn’t say a word in protest, even though he had really wanted it to just be us. The kind of control my support team gave me was phenomenal.)

I am thankful for the support she gave me in labor. At about the 24-hour mark, things were really slowing down, and I was so discouraged, and so very, very tired. My mom kicked everyone (even the midwives) out of the room, lay down on the bed with me, and gave me a motherly talking-to.

“I’m sitting here, watching you trying so hard to be quiet and breathe [I’d learned the Bradley Method], and laying in the same position on your side. You’re HURTING, Tiff. If you need to yell, YELL. If you need to cuss, CUSS. If you need to walk or shower or whatever, DO IT!!! This baby won’t come if you won’t let it – stop trying to be ‘good,’ and just do what YOU need to do. Who CARES what any of us think???”

Well, it went something like that anyway.

Needless to say, it gave me the second wind I needed so desperately. I wanted to get outside, so I threw on a skirt I’d brought, and we all took a walk around the block in downtown Alexandria. The sun was shining, my mom was holding my hand, and I couldn’t help it. I began singing. I don’t remember which song, but everyone knew it, and sang with me. And God touched me, reminded me I could do this, that He had created me for this, and that He had already equipped me with the same strength He gives to ALL women – the strength to birth.

I am thankful that Mom believed in my ability to breastfeed my new baby, even though it hurt at first. She never told me that I had so severely damaged her nipples, as she tried to learn with no support whatsoever during my own newborn days. Nary an ounce of bitterness did she carry from that time. She knew and accepted that my path was my own, and supported me completely.

She allowed me to learn and grow and make my own mistakes. Never once did I feel that she thought I should do something different. Never once did I feel like she thought I couldn’t do it. Never once did I feel like she wanted me to choose the same path she did.

Mom & Durin at the birth center.

Mom was the epitome of what it means to doula – to serve. She catered to every need of mine, no matter how miniscule. She may not have the education and training a labor or postpartum doula has, but she didn’t really need it. She knew the job. She knows how to serve wholeheartedly, and that’s what she did for me. Mom showed me the depth of her love for me by supporting me the way she did. I may not have gotten information from her, but I got the emotional and physical support I needed to succeed – and sometimes, that is far more important than all the education in the world.

Because of her, I was able to rest and learn to breastfeed for at least two weeks after every baby. Because of her, innumerable practical needs were met for me, relieving so much of the burden too many new mommas carry on their own. Because of her, I learned that I don’t always have to “behave.” Because of her, I learned the depth of my own God-given strength, because she had it too. Because of her, I learned what it means to truly support someone.

I look around and marvel at this glaring lack in so many women’s lives. Many women have wonderful mothers, who want to be there for their daughters, but cannot come and support them the way every woman needs so desperately during this time. I know every situation is different, and it just makes me all the more grateful for the example of support given by my mom. I only hope to live up to it as I serve my clients.

It is this heart to support women that drives me. I know that I am a poor substitute for a supportive mother, but I strive to get as close as I can.

I am thankful for my mother – for it is she who made my birth experiences amazing. The most important piece of my already wonderful support team.

Already Mother

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Birth is an adventure only experienced by most women a few times in their lifetime. Make it count – no matter what your medical needs are. Get educated. Participate in the decision-making. Be a mother to your unborn baby, because you ARE, already, Mother. ~Tiffany Miller, CLD

This thought came to mind this morning as I was dinking around on Facebook. I have found that I dearly love the community I find there, among doulas and mommas alike. Even more, I find myself with an overwhelming desire to offer up encouragement wherever I can, and I often get random little thoughts like the one above. I usually think to myself, “I should actually write on my birth blog about this,” but never seem to get to it.

Well, today I’m getting to it, because I’ve decided that my role here is probably going to be less about information-giving, since that niche is already so well-filled. I’m good at sharing information, just not particularly good at writing about it. What I am good at, however, is encouragement. So, here goes.

So many think of motherhood as beginning at birth. When I stop to really think about it, though, I have come to the conclusion that a mother is born the minute the pregnancy test turns blue. (Or pink – not to leave anyone out!) That very moment, decisions come to to the forefront of the mother’s mind.

Decisions to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs in all forms. (Well, nearly all.) Decisions to “eat better,” even before she knows what her body needs to build a healthy baby. Decisions about work, commitments, care providers, and paint colors.

I remember, with my first pregnancy, feeling distinctly that I had been initiated into some sort of secret society of women called “Mom.” I remember telling friends who had yet to experience it that it felt “weird.” Indeed, it did. Before I was even showing, the community of women around me made me feel as though I carried some sacred charge, which turned me inward and made me wonder if there was more to pregnancy and birth than standard-issue, American OB care.

It triggered me to read, to talk to all kinds of mothers, and I began to question the status quo. I became very active in my care, interviewing midwives while being seen at a wonderful hospital. (At least, it felt wonderful to inexperienced me – I don’t know if it actually is wonderful, a.k.a. “Baby & Mother-Friendly”.)

I began educating myself. A voracious reader, I read every book I could get a recommendation for. I began to actively make choices surrounding my care and upcoming labor and birth. I listened to stories, and formed an idea in my mind of what I wanted my birth to be like. I strove to achieve that idea. My expectations were somewhat high, but not unreasonably so. They were tempered by caution and a strong sense of awe surrounding the as-yet-unknown birth process.

When my son was placed into my arms at the moment of his birth, I unconsciously realized that I had been Mother from the moment I knew of his existence.

I was already doing the Things a Mother Does. Making decisions for my child, based on what I believed to be best for him and our family. Some of those decisions I would change. Others I will be glad I made until the day I die!

Decisions made on behalf of my children during pregnancy are no different than the decisions I make today, though my oldest is now seven years old.

If you are carrying a child now, especially for the first time, and you are asking questions and trying hard to do what you believe to be right, then you need to know something:

You are your child’s mother NOW. If you are doing your best, then you are already a good mother. Do not abdicate those decisions to your care provider, even if he or she has earned your trust. Your care provider, mother, doula, mother-in-law, or whoever else is involved will not be the ones living with and carrying the consequences (good or otherwise) of your decisions.

YOU will.

Because you are already Mother.

Why Joy?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain, because she knows her time has come; but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21 (NIV)

I have received several different reactions when people hear the name I chose for my business.

What does it mean, to me, to birth “in joy?”

For my own personal journey into motherhood, it meant birthing out-of-hospital, surrounded by midwives, my husband, and my mother. It meant having absolute freedom to let my body do what God created it to do. It meant feeling everything, accepting and surrendering to what pain might be necessary to bring each precious child into my arms. It meant being surprised by the sex, and having my husband announce it. It meant having my mom sharing my journey as only a mother can. It meant being in awe of the awesome privilege I now share with billions of other women around the world in becoming a mother.

Many assume that I desire this same exact joy for all women I meet. In one sense, I suppose that is true. I do, very much, desire that every woman who births her baby experience the forgetfulness of joy that is such a huge part of my memory of each of my four births.

I do not, however, expect each mother to apply the same decisions I made for my births to their own. I have no agenda other than education and support, with the ultimate goal in mind of helping women come to a sense of accomplishment, joy, and thankfulness in and for their birth experiences – no matter what the experience looked like outwardly.

Even if a planned normal birth ends in a necessary cesarean, I want that birthing family to come out of it ultimately satisfied and empowered by the knowledge that they did what was right for them and for their new child. There is very little moral value in many of the decisions to be made surrounding birth. Epidurals, cesarean sections, and natural vaginal births are all morally neutral. There is no black and white here – unless you count certain practices surrounding those things, but that is a whole different topic.

As much as I desire to help birthing families achieve this sense of ownership in their births, I can only do so much. I can inform, encourage, teach, and support. Then, I must stand back and let women and their families go for it. Then, when they turn to me with questioning eyes, my job is to stand firm beneath them and hold them up. Only they can truly know if each decision was the right one for their situation.

“Birth in Joy” best reflects what my goal is for each family I serve, no matter their outward circumstances. I desire to use my knowledge, my heart, and my hands to minister faithfully to women during their childbearing year. There is nothing better than seeing a woman, radiant with the hard work of labor behind her, gazing lovingly into the eyes of her new child and exclaiming to all within hearing distance: “I did it!”


Thursday, December 17th, 2009

This week, I attended my first meeting with the Pikes Peak Regional Doula Association, and will be an official member after next month’s business meeting. I also just signed on with the local Birth Network chapter, and will have a listing in their 2010 resource guide for Colorado Springs.

I am really excited about joining PPRDA! I’ve met several of the doulas, and hope to join the mentoring program, so I can learn from all of the wise women who belong to this organization. I’m also incredibly thrilled about the opportunities for Continuing Education Units (CEU’s), since I’ll need to obtain at least 15 in the next three years to maintain my labor doula certification.

The reality of all of this is finally hitting me. Pretty soon, I hope to be attending at least two births a month, and teaching independent childbirth courses. I especially can’t wait for the opportunity to teach at the local pregnancy center. After all, this is one of the top three reasons I have for becoming a doula in the first place.

In the meantime, I have an over-abundant number of links I want to share with you, but I decided to limit it to five tonight.

McRoberts Manuever

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Try to guess the weight of the baby before they announce it at the end. You will be amazed!

In Honor of Labor Day

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I doubt I’ll be able to post much of anything with my Grammers & Papo here for a surprise visit. Totally awesome. 🙂

So, to keep you entertained, I decided to post this little meme I found over at Rocks In My Dryer. It’s a neat little meme all about labor. The kind where nine or so months of your life culminate in your falling in love with someone you have never met, and has done nothing but sit on your bladder and punch you in the ribs for the last half of those nine(ish) months.

Enjoy! And participate! Even if you don’t have a blog…post your answers in a comment.

How long were your labors?

  • Turbo: 37.5 hours
  • Cuteness: 8 hours
  • Sunshine: 3-4 hours
  • Little Dude: 3 hours
  • How did you know you were in labor?

  • Turbo: Contractions started getting regular, and kept me awake.
  • Cuteness: Contractions kept me awake.
  • Sunshine: I felt “weird” at bedtime, then couldn’t sleep because contractions started.
  • Little Dude: I just “knew” at bedtime, and sure enough, the contractions started not long after I lay down.
  • Where did you birth?

  • Turbo: At a birthing center in Virginia.
  • Cuteness, Sunshine, & Little Dude: At home in my bed.
  • Drugs?

  • Not for pain. I used water, movement, massage, counter pressure, rice socks, music, and a lot of vocalizing. Levi said I sound like a cow. 🙂 With Turbo, since my labor was so long, I was at a higher risk of hemorrhage, so my CNM gave me an injection of Pitocin in my thigh to ward that off just after I birthed the placenta.


    I am so grateful that there was never an instant of concern over the safety of either my babies or myself to indicate the need for one, though I am so glad it would have been available if I or my babies had needed it. 🙂

    Who caught?

    We had a wonderful CNM for the first two births when we were stationed in D.C., and she helped Levi catch each of them. For the last two, I had THE BEST Registered Midwife anyone could ask for, and Levi was also in on the whole catching thing. Awesome!

    If you want to play along with this meme, just cut and paste the questions into your own blog, and leave a comment so we can find you! Or, if you don’t have a blog, just leave yours in a comment here, so I can read it!

    Thanks so much!

  • Weekend Update

    Friday, June 12th, 2009