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

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

What’s a Doula?

Maybe we need another name, but it can be difficult to think what else we would call ourselves. Professional Emotional and Physical Support in Labor and Delivery Assistant seems a little long. Sometimes we may shorten the description to professional labor support, but what does that entail? The word Doula means “female servant” from the Greek, and really refers to the role a Doula plays in serving and supporting other women.

What a Doula does.

A Doula is a person (typically a woman but there are male Doulas) who has special training in the physical and emotional aspects of childbirth as well as strategies and techniques to help a laboring woman and her partner have the kind of birth they desire. Doulas meet with their clients typically 2-3 times before the baby’s birthday to get to know the preferences of the laboring person and help to form a birth plan.

Doulas provide uninterrupted labor support during labor and delivery, helping couples ask good questions about their options from medical care providers. The Doula brings a copy of the birth plan, takes notes on procedures and keeps a timeline of the birth. Doulas are there to support emotionally, suggest changes in position or activity to reduce pain and help labor progress.

After the baby is born, the Doula will stay with the new mother for a predetermined amount of time (typically 30 minutes to 2 hours), possibly taking pictures or helping the new family move to a recovery room. Doulas also check in with the new family at home in the first few weeks postpartum. They will listen to you tell your birth story and talk to you about common postpartum topics like breastfeeding, baby care, and caring for yourself.

Doulas charge a fee that depends on the services they offer and the area or clients they wish to serve. Doula fees range from $250 to well over $1000. There are affordable ways to hire a Doula if you have a lower income. Some Doulas have a sliding fee scale, or may work for a non-profit, or a hospital.

What Doulas don’t do.

The Doula is not a doctor. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform medical tasks. A Doula should not suggest medical interventions or administer medications. Doulas are not your voice, they help you to find your voice. The Doula you work with may ask you a question about your comfort level with a procedure if it is something you have talked about previously, or they may ask you if you have questions for your care provider, whether an MD, OBGYN, Midwife or your labor nurse. Doulas are there to empower you to advocate for yourself.

What Doulas might do.

There are Doulas who have special skills or training that they bring to the labor room as a bonus. Some Doulas are trained in massage. You may find a Doula who is also a photographer. It may be that your Doula is a yoga or other fitness instructor. Some Doulas also serve the other children in the family. Other Doulas are available to serve the family postpartum for an hourly fee.  From time to time, a Doula may also be a trained nurse. In that case, they will probably identify under a different title of monatrice.

I hope you have a better idea of who Doulas are and what they can do for expectant mothers and their partners. Maybe we need another name, or maybe we just need to increase awareness to the point that everyone knows what a Doula is and how Doulas can help you have your best birth.

Healthy Pregnancy and Birth,
How Refreshing!

Love Is a Servant

Today I served a couple as a doula at their baby’s birth. Mom was a champion, and dad loved his wife and baby. It was great, and I would do it again tomorrow! Labor was induced and I wasn’t sure that it was what I would have chosen in their shoes. But as a doula, my job is not to make their decisions for them, but to support them as they walk through their experiences making their own choices.

Having typed that, I am left to ponder how this is really our role in life as we walk alongside the people that we love. Love serves. Love may have opinions. Love may even offer those opinions in caring advice. But love does not insist on its own way. Love takes on the role of a servant, supporting and persevering as the loved one moves forward making their own decisions.

When things do not work out, our role is to be there for the clean-up and the debrief. Our job is to listen as our loved one sorts through the broken pieces and seeks to figure out what went wrong. Love doesn’t say, “I told you so.”

And surprisingly, even if the choices are not what we would prefer, many times everything works out just fine. Then Love rejoices!

Love is a servant. When we truly love, we are servants as well.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end

–The Message, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

That’s ReFreshing!