Keep It Moving–Doula Tuesday

When labor starts, contractions are light and mamma has lots of energy. She is upbeat and if at home, she flits around making sure everything is ready for her new little one to arrive. As things progress, contractions intensify and she slows down.

There is a natural rhythm to her pattern of moving, pausing, moving again. When contractions require all of her focus, she may find a place and stay there. The rocking chair, the couch, her bed. It takes so much energy to stay on top of the waves that she may not want to shift positions or move.

If she is settled in, it can take a lot to break in to her world and convince her to get up. It is really beneficial for women to move during all stages of labor. Baby is moving with the contractions, turning and shifting, looking for the one way her head will fit down into the pelvic opening. She’ll make it on her own eventually, but it helps if mamma will move as well.

As mamma walks, sways, kneels, the pelvis rocks, tilts, and opens in ways that encourage baby to make her descent. If we can keep mamma moving, we can keep labor progressing.

Practical tips are these: mamma needs to move or change positions every hour, and get up to go to the toilet every hour and a half. These are not hard and fast rules, but they are a guideline to keep in mind while supporting labor.

If labor is taking place in a hospital setting, even if mamma is tied to the bed because of monitoring or an epidural, we can keep her moving. If you haven’t seen or used a peanut ball, these tools open so many doors for positioning in bed. Mamma may not be able to get up to go to the toilet, but it is important if she is under anesthetic with an I.V. to remember to ask for her bladder to be emptied for her. She may not feel the fullness of her bladder, but that does not mean it isn’t in need of relief. Voiding makes room for things to keep moving.

Check out the videos below for tips on moving in labor and the use of a peanut ball.

Working together to move labor along.
ReFreshing!

Steadfast Heart Doula

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Don’t Kill Them, & 4 Other Essential Parenting Rules

My 5 Simple Rules for Parenting

When my first child was born, I read the books and followed the developmental charts like they were blueprints for a nuclear power plant. I didn’t want anything to explode, and knew that if something went wrong it would be a) the most terrible-awful-horrible thing ever, and b) as the mother, it would all be my fault. 13 years and two more kids down the line, I can tell you that children are way less fragile and more resilient than we could have imagined when we drove them home from the hospital at 15 miles per hour.

Everywhere you turn someone else is telling you what you absolutely have to do in order to raise healthy, happy children. They’ll scream, threaten, cajole, and manipulate your emotions to get you to follow their advice. We all want the best for our kids, right? So why is it that many of the opinions we hear completely contradict each other?

My years of experience and seeing my kids survive (so far) have brought me to a place of simplicity when it comes to parenthood. Feel free to investigate all of the parenting options out there, but I’ve boiled my personal rules of parenting down to just 5.

Parenting Rule #1: Don’t Kill Them

This is a vital piece of advice if you want them to live to adulthood. This includes things like feeding, clothing, and providing for their obvious physical needs. It also covers the very real temptation that might arise around the age of “I can do it myself” and re-emerge when the eye-rolling starts. Take a deep breath. If you don’t kill them, they will probably grow up and have children who also go through these maddening stages. Don’t we all want to see that day?

Parenting Rule #2: Do Your Best

Mismatched socks on their feet, their clothes wrinkled, and you don’t know if that jacket has been cleaned since they dripped ice cream on it last month? If that is the best you can do today, great. They are covered, and trust me their teacher has seen worse. Some days my best includes locking the bathroom door with the fan on so that I can’t hear them when they whine at me outside the door. Five minutes of solitude in the toilet just might help you follow Rule #1. You aren’t going to be parent of the year every minute of every day. Give yourself a break and just determine to do your best with what you have.

Parenting Rule #3: Love Them

I know you might be thinking this rule should probably be #1, but realistically I think not killing them wins for purely practical reasons. Love your kids. Love them sticky or clean. Love them hair combed or with rats nests. Love them with their precious gifts of art you couldn’t decipher if you were a master of cryptology. “Is that a dog? Oh, it’s mommy. Thanks, sweetie.” Just love them. Love covers over a multitude of parenting mishaps, and it will most likely help them not become psychopaths. It’s true.

Parenting Rule #4: Trust God

There are so many things in your children’s lives that you have absolutely no control over. You can’t keep them from every danger, or every bully, or every dumb idea they might decide to try out while your back is turned. If you are going to raise children, you need a higher power.

Parenting Rule #5: Everything Else Can Be Worked Out in Therapy

You know that all parenting theory is just that, theory. Someone has a good idea, it looks great on paper, but then in practice it just doesn’t work for your child. Besides, look at how much has changed in the years since you were a youngster. Could we ever have predicted that our kids wouldn’t know how to dial a phone? (I mean a real phone, selecting Grandma from the contacts list does not count.) So much will continue to change in our world, society, and in the understanding of young minds. You are bound to mess up. Besides, therapists are nice people and we should want to support their industry.

As parents we are under so much pressure to be perfect, but none of us were raised by perfect parents. (If you write to tell me your parents were perfect, I don’t know if we can be friends.) All of us are here, walking around as (mostly) productive members of society. Give yourself a break from perfection based on someone else’s theories. You will be a more peaceful parent, and your kids will need less therapy. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Keeping it simple
ReFreshing!

An open heart in the face of grief

Pregnant women experience spotting all the time, and everything turns out fine. The voice of denial did it’s best to keep panic at bay. I struggled through prayers of bargaining, and anger at my body for the biggest betrayal I’d ever experienced. All the stages of grief cycled again and again, but I always came back to denial in those early days.

Not denial of facts, but denying myself the experience of emotions I was sure would overwhelm me. My heart was locked down tight.

What else could I do? I had just announced to my church elder board that I was pregnant the week before. I had responsibilities at church on Sunday. My family of three was headed out of state on Monday to our Pastor’s Retreat, which I still felt strange attending as just an associate pastor.

I didn’t have time to fall apart. I didn’t want to feel all the pain, and loss, and grief. Other people needed me to be strong. And it felt as though God wasn’t answering my prayers. I wasn’t particularly interested in anything He had to say, either, so I guess it was mutual.

The bleeding continued as I packed the car, as I preached in church, as we took family pictures of all things. One of the Elders, a woman, noticed something was wrong and asked me if I had lost the baby. I nodded. She cried. I didn’t.

We went to our Pastor’s Retreat, I pasted on a half-smile and determined not to talk to anyone about anything serious. Keep it light. Skim the surface. Bury it deep.

I’m not sure why it was that I wandered out into the common area during our free time. Husband and toddler napping, I thought I would try to journal a bit. As I sat, a woman I’d never met struck up a conversation. I don’t know how it happened, but I told her everything. Not sure what to expect, I certainly didn’t think she’d tell me that she had also suffered pregnancy loss, three times.

It was a comfort, knowing I was not alone, that life really could continue. When I went back to my journal, there was a prompt in my spirit that I needed to grieve. I desperately did not want to do any such thing. The impression was unmistakable “If you do not grieve this loss, you claim that it had no value.”

When we value things and lose them, we grieve. We may not like it, but that is the way life is. By refusing to grieve, we deny that what was lost had value. By refusing to be affected, we deny that what was lost had any impact on our existence. I could not allow that. This tiny life had lived for such a brief time, the only impact it could have was on me. I would not rob this life of meaning.

So I grieved. I opened the doors of my heart and let the pain in, and let the pain out.

And it was worth every tear, and sob, and sigh.

Brené Brown says that we cannot selectively numb our pain. When we shut down we shut out everything, including joy. It is better to live with an open heart and some pain than to live without pain and also without joy.

This pregnancy loss happened in May of 2005. I had a subsequent loss in August of 2005, and another over Memorial Day weekend 2011. Each loss was its own journey through pain, acceptance, and healing. I had to choose every time to open my heart and feel the loss when by my own habit and nature I would have avoided and stuffed those feelings down deep.

If you are experiencing grief, or if you never gave yourself permission to grieve a secret loss, give yourself permission to open your heart. You will not heal with it closed off, and you will find that joy is dulled and life loses it’s color. It will hurt. But it will not hurt forever, at least not with the same sting.

I still feel sad when I think of the losses we experienced, of wanted babies. It does not overwhelm me, though, with tidal force waves of grief. I have walked on, and I have delivered two healthy babies since that first loss, for a total of three. I have had 6 pregnancies, and 3 live births.

Not everyone’s story ends like mine. I have a beautiful friend who is expecting baby number 8 in June, she has her own stories of loss. I have a brave and wonderful friend who, unable to conceive, has chosen adoption. I know families who have chosen not to have children, those who have chosen adoption over producing biological children, and those who are still charting their course. Wherever you are on this journey of life and family, I hope you choose to walk bravely forward with an open heart. You may experience loss and grief, but you will also encounter moments of exquisite joy that you may have otherwise missed.

An Open Heart
ReFreshing

Responsive Presence

When a doula walks into a room, she may be quiet, she may be boisterous, but she is always observing.

A doula will tune in to your breathing, then breathe with you.

A doula will tune in to your movement, then move with you.

A doula will tune in to your mood, then feel with you.

When she breathes with you, you begin to breathe with her. She moves you into a deeper and smoother pattern without a word. Simply breathing next to your breath.

When she moves with you, you begin to move with her. She directs your movement with a touch, with eye contact, with hands on your hips. She dances with you.

When your doula feels with you, she projects peace and confidence. Confidence in you! You begin to feel it, too.

Suddenly, you are calm, dancing, and confident that you can do this. You can climb this mountain. You can breathe through this contraction. You can birth this baby!

A doula does not ask you to trust in her strength, she helps you find your own. Through her responsive presence, she finds you when you feel lost and walks you back from the edge. She knows the magic of hip squeezes and peanut balls, but mostly she is simply there. Simply present. Observing the room, feeling the mood, and adding just the right nudge to move it all in the right direction.

Being an active responsive presence.
That’s ReFreshing

Steadfast Heart Doula Services

Support without judgment, Doulas at their best!

Ever get the feeling that everyone has an opinion about everything that you do? Exercise, eating choices, your job, parenting, and yes even how you give birth are up for public criticism. I have good news, there are people out there who will listen to your thoughts, concerns and help you make the best informed choices for you!

I am speaking of course about Doulas! Doulas are not people to tell you how you should do what you do. We are there to help you explore all of your options and can help you find resources with good information, and evidence-based conclusions. When it comes to birth or postpartum care we can help you figure out what is right for you and how to have the best chance of achieving your goals!

Do you want to give birth with little to no intervention? We can help you find coping mechanisms like meditation, movement, water and positioning to reduce pain without medication.

Do you want to plug in to an epidural with the first contraction? We can help you answer questions like: how early is too early? will an epidural slow down my labor? should I try narcotics first? what other options are out there?

Are you scared about some aspects of labor and delivery? We can help you find information so you know what to expect and how to cope.

Using a midwife? We are cool with that.

Giving birth in a hospital? We think that’s great.

Home birth? More power to you.

Sometimes people think a doula will push the partner out of the picture, but a trained doula knows better. We are there to support the partner and help them be involved to the extent that they are comfortable. Some partners want to be in there, holding hands, chanting mantras, full-on coaching. Other partners need to be involved in less intense ways. Some moms don’t have partners, or their partners are not going to be present for the birth. Whatever the partner involvement, doulas can help make the experience more satisfying for both mom and partner.

You can find a doula to help you, regardless of your hopes and dreams regarding birth.

We believe that every woman should be supported in labor so that she can make informed decisions that are right for her, increasing satisfaction and reducing the risk of trauma.

Support without judgment.
How ReFreshing!

7 Questions to Help YOU be your own best advocate!

If you are like me, it can be hard to know what to say when your doctor or other professional asks if you have any questions. The truth is we often don’t understand enough about what is happening to know what to ask. That is why we are talking to a professional! Here are some questions to help you learn the things you need to know in order to make the best choices for you.

7. Ask for more information–“What else can you tell me about this procedure?”
Sometimes when talking with an expert, they may assume we know what they know about their field of expertise.

6. Ask for more time–“When do I need to make a decision about this?”
Not all decisions have to be made right now, or even today, or this week. Find out your time frame and ask when you need to decide.

5. Ask for clarification of jargon–“You used a word just then I am not sure I understand, can you explain it to me in plain English?”
Related to #7, you and I may not understand the words those experts are using.

4. Ask for a second opinion–“I want to make sure I get more than one perspective on this, who do you recommend for a second opinion?”
If you don’t think what they are describing applies to you, or if you feel that the person you are consulting is not relating well to you, go see someone else. You are the consumer, you are paying for a service. Don’t feel bad about getting a second opinion.

3. Ask about alternatives–“What other treatments are available? Is there something else we haven’t tried?”
Maybe there is a treatment, or a process that is unavoidable for your situation. Ask about alternative ways to gain the same benefit.

2. Ask about risks–“What are the possible side-effects?”
Often, all we hear are the benefits. Don’t forget to ask about the risks in the short term and the long term.

1. Ask why–“What specifically are you hoping to achieve with this therapy?”
Especially when pressed to make a decision quickly, ask why this is the best option for you and your situation. Maybe it is, but maybe it is more beneficial or convenient for the professional.

Don’t say yes unless you feel it’s best!

My Doula Heart

My first thoughts after giving birth to my oldest child were “That was amazing! I want to do that again! I can do anything!” I was so empowered, I truly felt that I could move mountains.

I know that not every woman has that experience, and as I talked with other moms who had struggled I knew that I wanted to be a part of the solution. Looking into becoming a labor support professional, a doula, I realized there were too many road blocks for me to pursue that dream at that time. But my heart had been awakened, and it wanted to serve.

kathrinas-birthday-2My first child was born in 2003 and it took nearly 13 years for life to swing around to where I could attend a doula training. In that time, though, I had been longing. I had checked in over the years to see if there was a training near enough, within my budget, at a time when I could attend. I read books, and articles, and blogs on birth. I even served my first laboring mother two years before I attended training.

46-baby-feet-3By the time the stars aligned and everything fell into place, I was ready to jump in with both feet. This year I have had the privilege to attend two more births, serving two brave, strong, and capable women as they brought new lives into the world. I got to encourage their partners in providing support to the women they love. I took beautiful photographs of those passion-filled, life-drunk moments filled with fresh tears and smiles of victory.

6 Cry Black and WhiteSome are uncertain about this beautiful process, but for me it stokes an inner joy for the parents and their new loves. I love birth! And I love that the women I serve will walk away knowing they are courageous and strong.

My doula heart beats for those moments.
ReFreshing

Steadfast Heart Doula Services