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!
Confession time...I didn’t want to hire a doula.
And I didn’t - not for my first two births at least.
I couldn’t understand why I would want a stranger in my hospital room seeing me in pain. It seemed too vulnerable to me, and frankly, I could not see the benefit.
Fast forward a few years, and we were expecting our third child. At the time I had been working as a doula for a year, and I was much more informed about childbirth as well as the role and the benefits of having a doula.
But to be honest, I still didn’t want one.
Luckily, the organization that I used for my doula certification trained me extensively in using a reflective process to look at situations. I was able to dig deep into my resistant feelings of hiring a doula, and I finally realized that it was my pride that made me reluctant. I didn’t want to give up the idea that I could do everything on my own and that asking for help would make me seem weak.
Thankfully, I was able to look back at my first two births and realize that during those births, I could have really benefited from some help. I swallowed my pride, and I hired a doula.
I am so glad that I did!
Every birth is different and hiring a doula does not guarantee any certain birth outcome. However, I have had the experience of birthing with and without a doula, and I can identify at least 3 differences in my birth experience with a doula attending.
I am glad that I hired a doula for the birth of my third daughter. And a few years later when we were expecting our fourth daughter, I made sure to call my doula early on in my pregnancy. I finally, personally, knew the benefits to having a doula on my birth team.
Looking to add a doula to your support team? Join us at our next Meet the Doulas of Iowa City event or reach out to any of our member doulas for a consultation.
What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is a trained professional for who offers informational, emotional and physical support throughout your pregnancy, labor, and birth. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform any clinical tasks. As such, doulas are also not a replacement for a care provider such as a midwife or obstetrician. Doulas provide knowledge and resources as you explore your options for labor and birth and will assist you in creating a birth plan. Doulas can teach and provide you with comfort measures for pregnancy and labor, such as positioning, relaxation, visualization, and other pain coping techniques. Doulas provide a calm, caring presence and a familiar face during the uncertainties of birth, especially in cases where you do not know who will be on call when you give birth.
What services does a birth doula provide?
Everyone's birth package looks slightly different, so it's important to talk through the details with the doulas you interview and carefully read through their package description and contract. Typically once hired, birth doulas meet with the birthing person or couple several times throughout pregnancy to get to know them and their wishes for labor and birth. Your doula is available via phone, text and/or email when questions arise and is a great source of emotional and informational support throughout the many changes that take place during pregnancy.
Doulas are also a great referral source for local resources and typically have networked to create relationships with many providers in your area. Once your labor is established at home or the hospital, your doula will join you when you feel like you need additional support. The doula remains with the birthing person/couple throughout labor and birth, and typically until 1-2 hours after baby is born to help the family adjust to the immediate postpartum and assist with breastfeeding if that's one of the family's goals. Usually a birth doula will also have one postpartum follow-up visit in the client's home about 7-10 days after the birth to check in, make sure things are going well, assist with feeding if needed, and refer to any outside resources.
What are the benefits of a doula?
Doulas serve many purposes, but for me personally, the primary doula purpose is to have that constant support during labor and birth which can be full of unknowns. You typically won't know which nurse, resident, midwife, doctor, etc. will be on call when you give birth, and over the course of a longer labor and birth, these providers will change shifts so you may have multiple different nurses and midwives/doctors. I know, for me, I feel much safer and more secure knowing there will be at least one person beside me who knows me, my partner, and my wishes for birth.
Experienced doulas can also be very helpful since they are usually familiar with your birthing location's staff, procedures, and protocols and can help educate you in advance and also during birth when you have questions. Doulas work together with birth partners as a team to support the birthing person, and can tag in and out to offer continuous support while also taking care of personal needs such as eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom.
Doulas provide a key role of holding space for the birthing person, especially during a long and/or difficult labor and birth. They provide compassion, empathy, and unbiased support when difficult decisions have to be made and when things don't go according to plan. Doulas help remind you of your goals and priorities, but are completely nonjudgmental when things change.
You may see research or statistics that indicates the presence of a doula will lower your chance of having an epidural, cesarean, and/or other interventions, but I personally don't like to make that claim because sometimes those interventions are wanted and/or needed, and that's totally okay. It doesn't mean you have failed or your doula has failed - doulas are there to support you however your birth unfolds.
Your satisfaction with your birthing experience is usually more related to your involvement in the process and decision making than the outcome. To loosely quote January Harshe of Birth Without Fear, the goal of a doula is to make sure you know your options, that you feel supported, and are respected.
Looking for a birth doula? Join us for our next Meet the Doulas event or reach out to one of our member businesses directly to set up a consultation.
It's baby's first fall - hooray! I love the change in seasons, and try to savor it with my little ones. Here's a short bucket list for your first fall with a little one in the Corridor. If baby is a wee one, most of these may be enjoyed with babe snugged in a carrier. If babe sits independently, swings, slides, and exploring with natural materials can add a new level of fun to your time together. As always, do those activities that work best for you and babe at this particular stage with your little family!
Visit an Apple Orchard
The apple orchard is another great way to spend a fall morning or afternoon. Wilson's Orchard in Iowa City has lots of fun events throughout the fall and you can end your visit with a trip to Rapid Creek Cidery for a meal. If you prefer to head north, Allen's Orchard in Marion is another great U-Pick option!
Hike a Trail
The Corridor is home to some really lovely dirt, grass, and crushed stone trails to get you out in nature. From the Cedar Cliff Trail in Mount Vernon to Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City to Morgan Creek Park in Palo, we really have wonderful options close by no matter where in the Corridor you live. Want to get hiking with other families? Check out Hike it Baby Iowa City and Hike it Baby Cedar Rapids, both local branches of the national nonprofit Hike it Baby.
Take a Fall Stroll
Want to keep it stroller-friendly? You're in luck because the Corridor has some lovely paved paths, too! For a simple stroll, you can enjoy a walk around the neighborhood. For more more Fall colors, head to Clear Creek Trail in Coralville or Tiffin, Terry Trueblood in Iowa City, or Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids.
Fall Sensory Play
The crunch of leaves, sticks, and grass are all new and fascinating for baby. Once sitting solidly or crawling, a pile of leaves can bring delight to even the littlest of explorers.
Have a Picnic
Enjoy your meal while baby lounges on the blanket. If old enough to enjoy solid food, pack a booster seat and share your meal. This is the perfect way to finish off a trip to an orchard, pumpkin patch, or trail.
Explore a Playground
If baby is sitting solidly or mobile, fall is a great time to begin exploring some playgrounds. If weather is temperate and surfaces aren't too hot, crawlers may really enjoy a chance to climb on equipment. Swings and slides can be fun, too. And, the fall is a great time to find some playgrounds that will surely be on your bucket list next year! Check out this list for some fabulous options in the Corridor.
What is your favorite part of baby's first fall? Share in the comments below!
Check out all these awesome upcoming classes for expectant parents as well as free events where you can meet and chat with Doulas of Iowa City member businesses. We hope to see you soon!
October 5 - Dream on: the Art and Science of Infant Sleep
Nested Mama Prenatal & Postpartum Doula Support
A prenatal course designed to set up healthy expectations and habits surrounding infant sleep.
Taught by Johanna Tomlinson, PhD, MCPCD, MBE, MCE
November 3 - Meet the Doulas
Doulas of Iowa City
A free, open-house style event where you can chat with the member business of Doulas of Iowa City.
November 4 - Planning for Postpartum Workshop
Nested Mama Prenatal & Postpartum Doula Support
A prenatal workshop designed to strengthen your partnership and prepare for a better postpartum.
Taught by Johanna Tomlinson, PhD, MCPCD, MBE, MCE
**Save a combined $30 when you register for this and ICBS's November 10 childbirth education class**
November 10 - Birth: The Process, the Pain, and the Positions
Iowa City Birth Services
A one-day comprehensive childbirth education class - evidence-based and judgement free.
Taught by Hannah Sandler, CLD (CBI) and Emily Piette, CLD (CBI)
**Save a combined $30 when you register for this and Nested Mama’s November 4 postpartum planning course.**
Fall TBD - Breastfeeding from the Beginning
Beloved Bonds Birth & Bodywork
Breastfeeding your newborn from birth through the early months.
Taught by Kimberly Hendricks, LMT, CLC, CD
As always, don't hesitate to reach out to our member businesses directly with any questions. Private classes and consultations available. You'll find a full listing of our members and services here.
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.