With baby number four on the way, my husband and I started reminiscing about our past labors with our other three kiddos.
I was induced at 38 weeks with my oldest for pre-eclampsia, my middle came all on his own at 37 weeks, and my youngest (and at the time, we thought last) decided he wanted to make his own statement coming into this world by arriving at just 35 weeks.
With my third child, my water broke around 1 p.m., and I did not start having contractions until 8 p.m. The OB intended to start Pitocin (a medication to induce contractions) but was pulled away to an emergency, and in that time my body decided to kick start itself.
A mere two hours later my little Elias entered the world. During labor my contractions got more intense than the ones before, but when I was not contracting I felt fine and was even joking with my husband, the nurse, and some friends. Because my labor was progressing quickly, when I was about 7 cm dilated my doctor said, “If you want the epidural you better get it now because if we wait any longer there will not be time. There is just a little lip left on your cervix and when that is gone it will be go time, your body will rev up, and you will completely dilate very fast.”
With my other two kiddos, I got epidurals during labor. But this time I wasn’t in as much pain. Had he not scared me with the “now or never” approach, I probably would have declined pain medication with that labor. But, I was already in an anxious state of mind knowing my baby was coming too early and may need NICU time so I just gave in.
The story of my third labor still makes me disappointed every time I tell it, because I felt I could have continued to labor unmediated, but out of fear I let my doctor's commentary sway me. Now do not get me wrong, I was absolutely in love with him and would have him again if he didn’t move away. I think he was just giving me a harsh reality check that it was now or not at all for an epidural.
After we found out about baby number four, I did some research. I had never had a doula before but had heard about the benefits and how others had positive labor experiences with them. Previously, I never wanted a doula because I associated that term with midwife which I associated with home births. While that may be the way to go for some, for me, with my history, it was not an avenue I was willing to take.
But after doing research, I found out they are not the same at all. In fact, a Midwife has medical education while a Doula is a non-medical support person during labor. Doulas have training in understanding labor and its stages along with techniques and positions to help support you during labor, but they do not offer medical advice (whereas midwives are trained medical professionals). During my research I also learned many midwives will work in the hospital and are not exclusively for home births.
After sharing this with my husband and talking about it, we decided to hire a doula for my fourth birth.
As I say to potential clients, make sure you interview several doulas and pick the one you mesh with best. We found a local chiropractor that I ended up going to due to my severe SPD. After talking with her more and more, I learned she was also a doula. We got along so well it wasn’t long before we hired her. With her on my side, I felt that I would have the support I needed to continue to push through this labor and make my dream of a medication-free birth a reality.
My fourth labor with doula support left me convinced that everyone can benefit from a doula. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of support I felt from her. I went into labor at 35 weeks (again!) and due to some unforeseen circumstances, my birth plan went out the window (and that itself was very hard for me to grasp). She was there and helped keep me calm when I wanted to just run home and be done with it all. I was able to labor without pain medication even through Pitocin-induced contractions, and I am extremely proud to say that! I absolutely would not have been able to do it without her. (There were a few moments of despair on my end, and I will admit I did ask for some IV pain meds, but I was too close to delivery to receive them.)
Our interactions with our doula did not end there. She offered support postpartum as well, which I firmly believe is so important, and I preach it to anyone I can. Moms always put themselves last, and we cannot keep doing that. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our family too!
After everything she helped me through, combined with my love for labor and delivery, I chose to become a doula myself! I am beyond excited that I chose this path, and I just can’t wait to be that person to them that my doula was to me.
A version of this blog first appeared on the Divine Doula Services blog.
Looking for a birth or postartum doula to support you in this exciting time? Join us for our next Meet the Doulas event!
As a birth worker, families ask me in many different ways - Why are childbith prep classes so important? Not to sound like a broken record for those who have already asked me, but here's why I feel so strongly about them.
Picture yourself planning a big vacation. You may pick a place to go immediately or take time to figure out the best option for your destination. Once you've picked your spot, you figure out travel plans to get there, where to stay, make dinner reservations or schedule tours, etc. You may leave some of your vacation more open so you can relax or decide what to do once you are there. Heck, some of you may take a spontaneous trip and book a flight two hours before it takes off! However, for many of us, flying by the seat of our pants may sound more stressful than exciting.
Thinking through all the small details you attend to when planning a vacation can help you understand why taking a full-day or 6-week childbirth education course before baby comes is so beneficial for you and your partner. You both will benefit immensely by taking the time to learn more about the journey you will be going on to meet your sweet babe. Also, because most of us didn't grow up around birth, it may make us uncomfortable or fearful of the unknown.
It wasn't always that way. Many years ago (and still in some cultures today), giving birth was very much a community effort. Women helping women, men supporting the community collectively and so on. Our society has gotten away from birth as a community and family effort. As a result, we don't talk much about labor and birth, and we have so many unknowns when it comes to childbirth.
A version of this blog previously appeared over on the Stacey Schmitt Birth & Photography blog.
In our culture the word "postpartum" often leads to confusion, having become synonymous with the diagnosis of postpartum depression. However, postpartum is a when and not a what. That is to say, postpartum simply refers to the time after a birthing parent gives birth.
A postpartum doula, then, is a professional who has training and experience supporting families in the days, weeks, and even months after baby's birth. While different doulas define their postpartum services differently, many (including myself) consider their postpartum doula services applicable to anytime in the first year after baby's birth - as the complications from birth and challenges of parenthood don't stop at a certain number of weeks. A postpartum doula supports you as you heal from birth, gain confidence in your parenting, and meet the ebb and flow of life transitions with a new baby.
As I've written about elsewhere, our current culture seems to turn the postpartum period into a race back to "normal," lauding those who "bounce back" with praise. But, as traditional cultures demonstrate, there exists much value in treating the time after baby with care - nourishing and supporting the birth parent as well as encouraging and supporting the rest of the family.
What services do postpartum doulas offer?
Each doula defines her terms of service a bit differently, so it is worthwhile to meet with and interview several doulas to find the perfect fit for your family's needs, including daytime and/or overnight support.
While the specifics of support may vary, you can expect your postpartum doula to help you meet your needs for rest and tend to baby with confidence. This may include assistance with meal preparation, light housework, connections to resources, informational support, infant feeding support for breast and/or bottle, babywearing tutorials, and a nonjudgmental, empathetic ear to listen as you process your birth and this leap into motherhood.
You doula may also bring additional training into her work including breastfeeding support, infant sleep education, massage, and more.
While you can hire a doula at any point, reaching out to interview prenatally will give you the time to find the perfect fit and guarantee your spot on your doula's calendar. As with a birth doula, a postpartum doula doesn't guarantee a specific postpartum experience, but having the support you need to rest and heal can help you feel more empowered and cared for in the transition into parenthood.
What are the benefits of hiring a postpartum doula?
When you hire a postpartum doula prenatally, you can go into birth confident that you will have the support you need to rest and recover from birth.
If this is your first baby, you'll likely have lots of questions about whether or not baby's eating and sleeping habits are normal. Having an experienced doula can provide lots of reassurance about biologically normal infant behavior, especially in the 4th trimester when babies have an intense need to stay close to caregivers.
If this is your second or more baby, the whole family - siblings included - will undergo a shift as baby comes home. Your postpartum doula can help you manage your busy household or carve out some special time with older siblings.
If you choose to hire a doula for overnight support, your doula can help you maximize rest while meeting your feeding goals - handling diaper changes and additional soothing needs so you can rest as much as possible.
As with a birth doula, the nonjudgmental support of a postpartum doula - feeling heard and understood - can make all the difference in how you experience the challenges and joys of life postpartum. And, should you need additional support outside a doula's scope of practice to navigate those challenges, your doula will be ready with recommendations to trusted providers so you can get the support you need right away.
Looking for support in the days and weeks after baby arrives? Meet our member doulas who offer postpartum services at our next Meet the Doulas event or reach out to any of our postpartum doulas to schedule a consultation.
Our last Meet the Doulas of event of 2018 is less than a month away! For this meeting, we're so excited to offer a gift basket of amazing items and gift certificates from Doulas of Iowa City member businesses as well as other fantastic local businesses. Everyone who attends the Meet the Doulas on November 3 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Robinson Family Wellness will have the opportunity enter to win!
Want to meet our member doulas and enter to win this great gift basket? Join us on November 3 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Robinson Family Wellness!
When I tell people I am a postpartum doula in response to the "what do you do?" question that is so common in small talk between two people getting to know each other, most people follow up almost immediately with another question - What does a postpartum doula do?
If you've found way over here to the Doulas of Iowa City blog, I'm guessing you may have a bit more familiarity with the way in which postpartum doulas support families as they transition into parenthood with a new little bundle of joy. Skilled and experienced in the needs of postpartum recovery and newborn babies, postpartum doulas provide a cushion of nonjudgmental support.
If the conversation goes further and I share about day and overnight visits (that include physical, emotional, and informational support as well as partner reinforcement and encouragement as new parents learn to be their own advocates) the most common response is that the person who posed the initial question expresses a wish - a wish that they had received that kind of support in their parenting journey.
For many families, the thought to hire a postpartum doula doesn't cross their minds until they find themselves overwhelmed and exhausted in the early days and weeks postpartum. If that is the case for you, this is certainly the right time to reach out to a postpartum doula! Whether it is holding your baby so you can take a nap, troubleshooting breastfeeding, or joining you for night feedings with words of encouragement, a postpartum doula may be just what you need to take a breath and feel empowered in your journey.
If, however, you are reading this blog before your little one arrives earthside, you are in the perfect position to set yourself up for a more blissful and less stressful postpartum experience. By hiring your postpartum doula prenatally you guarantee your spot on a doula's calendar. For example, I take 1-3 postpartum clients per month in order to make certain I have the availability they need.
Inviting a postpartum doula - or anyone - into your nest after baby's arrival is an intimate thing. Taking the time to interview several doulas prenatally will help you make certain that you and your chosen doula are a perfect fit. Additionally, each doula may vary in the services she offers or how she structures her packages - thinking through those considerations now will make for less questions later.
And, many doulas offer gift cards or can work with you to include doula support on your registry. This is an awesome way for friends and family to lift up and support your new little family.
Now that you are considering hiring a postpartum doula, I bet you are wondering how to find one? Don't worry - I'm here to help with that, too! Coming to one of Doulas of Iowa City Meet the Doula events is a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and chat with a whole group of locals.
Can't make the Meet the Doula event? Reach out to any of our postpartum doulas today and set up a consultation.
10/1/2018 0 Comments
One of the best parts of bringing our member businesses together in Doulas of Iowa City is the chance to gather for continuing education from experts in our community as well as experienced member doulas. This month we had the opportunity to learn about massage before, during, and after birth from Kristin Bergman of Conscious Caring.
Here are just a few takeaways that illustrate what makes Kristin's "conscious caring" significant:
When we moved to her massage space, Kristin graciously allowed us the opportunity to hop on her table so we could feel her information as well as watch and learn. Here are a few specific suggestions she shared for massage before, during, and after birth:
Some key details to note about the fabulous services Kristin offers:
Want to learn more about Kristin and the fabulous services she offers? Head on over to Conscious Birth Iowa!
Thanks so much to Kristin from all of us at Doulas of Iowa City for this continuing education presentation and letting us share a bit on the blog, too!
The Doulas of Iowa City blog contains guest posts by Doulas of Iowa City member businesses. We are excited to share with you about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities and to help you connect to fabulous local resources.