Who is Richmond Doulas: Mady Berryman

Doula Spotlight
Mady Berryman
”I believe that birth is one of the most significant and sacred times in a mother's and a child's life.”

Type of doula: Birth

Certifying/Training agency: DONA International

Business Name: Tender Heart Doula

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
He loves how happy it makes me and fully supports me!

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
Yes! This work would be more than difficult without the emotional support of my husband.

What drew you to doula work?
My entire life I have been interested in things pertaining to pregnancy, birth, and infants. I believe that birth is one of the most significant and sacred times in a mother's and a child's life.

What are your future goals with doula work?
I am working toward being certified as soon as possible and one day I hope to also look into becoming a postpartum doula.

Do you have any advice for women who are just starting out in birth work?
The doula community is strong and supportive. I think I can speak for all doulas when I say that as doulas we strive to lift each other up. So if you ever need anything there is always someone there to back you up.

Do you do anything besides doula work? (Like teach classes, etc.)
I nanny and I teach a class of toddlers at my church.

If you weren’t doing doula work, what would you be doing instead?
I would be nannying. I LOVE working with kids!

Favorite birth affirmation:
You are safe, this is what your body was made to do.

Birth hero:
My trainer, Amy Bookwalyer. She is an incredible and inspiring woman!

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To breath under water. I am my happiest in water and always wish I could stay under longer.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
Most of all I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Career wise, as a child I wanted to be a veterinarian and then as a teenager and young adult I want to be a labor and delivery nurse.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
100% Chocolate!

Dogs or cats?
I love dogs almost as much, but I am a cat person.

Favorite seasons and why:
Summer is when I spend time with family and enjoy the beautiful ocean!

What is the best part of being a doula?
Knowing that you made a difference for that mom and that you were able to help make her experience that much more special.

What’s in your doula bag?
My two most important things are “The birth Partner” by Penny Simkin and my peanut ball.

Favorite pastimes:
Hanging out with my husband or going to the beach.

Labor doulas-do you join mom at home to labor with her? Or meet at the hospital? And why?
I would be willing to do either based on my clients needs.


Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Thorpe

Doula Spotlight
Sarah Thorpe
"I had my first child and her birth and the postpartum experience that followed changed me forever. I want to use my story and education to help other families through those times."

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Type of doula: Postpartum
Certifying/Training agency:
Childbirth International
Business Name:
Nurturing Birth and Beyond
DoulaMatch
Facebook
Years in business:
1
What is your fee? $25 per hour, packages and gift certificates available

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
He believes it is what I was born to do and jokes that he is almost a doula himself with how much I tell him from my education, ha!

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
It’s crucial. Doula work is largely emotional work so I can’t imagine pouring my heart out to families without someone refilling that love.

How many children do you have? Two!

Do you have any certifications or degrees? I am a bachelors prepared RN and CPR certified

What drew you to doula work?
Ten years ago I never thought I would do birth work… then I had my first child and her birth and the postpartum experience that followed changed me forever. I want to use my story and education to help other families through those times.

What are your future goals with doula work?
Certifying as a postpartum doula and childbirth educator.

Do you do anything besides doula work?
I am an RN and also hope to start teaching childbirth education classes soon!

If you weren’t doing doula work, what would you be doing instead?
Continuing my RN career or childbirth educator

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
Teleporting… I hate long car rides.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
A Nurse

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate, for sure.

Dogs or cats?
Always dogs.

Favorite seasons and why:
Spring! Nothing is as exciting as feeling the weather start to warm up after a long dark winter.


Top 10 Things I wish I Knew About the Newborn Period

By: Gloria Miles

Typically, parents look forward to the birth of their child. There are apps to see how the pregnancy is developing, but also includes an air of “countdown” within its tone. At the end of the pregnancy, especially the last month, waiting can feel excruciating.

All that being said, the newborn period is wrought full of surprises. After daydreaming of tiny baby feet, little onesies, and being able to hold one’s little baby…it’s no surprise that for many there are surprising elements (and some not so pleasant ones) in the postpartum period.

Here is what I wish I knew before the birth of my first child:

  1. It’s okay to not like your baby.

    I know that sounds weird, maybe even mean. But it’s true. I think this is important to realize. Some nights, when you’re sleep deprived, baby isn’t latching well, your nipples hurt, your baby is crying, when this whole parenting gig is feeling overwhelming…it’s okay to look at that sweet baby and not like him or her. It’s okay to wonder what you were thinking. Great parents need breaks. Great parents need sleep. Great parents need to walk away from their baby for a few minutes to grab a breather.

    The newborn period is hard! This is a huge period of change. It’s important to recognize when you need help. My suggestion: hire a postpartum doula! They really are a godsend.

  2. Prepare to be late…to everything.

    Leaving the house for the first time seems overwhelming, it is overwhelming, the very first time. Suddenly, you have to remember a diaper bag, maybe bottles and formula, you have to safely strap the most floppiest, squishiest thing into a car seat. Give yourself a lot of grace and time. And just realize you’ll be late to a lot of things in the future.

  3. Get used to bodily fluids.

    Pee, poop, spit up. You’re basically a human wet wipe. …you get used to it. Somehow it’s a little less gross when it’s your own little human getting it on you. Or you’re too tired to care.

  4. Baby teepees don’t work…
    Someone gifted me these little baby teepee things that were supposed to be placed over a baby’s penis. The purpose was so there wasn’t any accidental baptism of the parent with infant urine. Those things slid off my kid’s penis almost as soon as it was placed on there. My suggestion? Use a wash cloth and place it over the area. Or just refer back to number 3. Also, change boys from the side. Then at least the changing table will get it.

  5. It’s lonely.

    It’s a little lonely, for both parents. I think it’s important to prepare the partner for the newborn period as well. Postpartum doulas can also help support him or her during this period of transition. It’s a little isolating when a partner goes back to work and suddenly there’s just you and baby. It’s also lonely for the partner in that they “lose” you for a bit. A family of two has become three, and the third requires so much time and attention. Eventually, a new normal will come, but in the beginning, partners can sometimes feel neglected.

  6. The newborn period is a season.

    This season of your life is temporary. The first month or two is usually the bumpiest.

Who is Richmond Doulas: Heydi Marshall

Doula Spotlight
Heydi Marshall
"Keep going. Try whatever works for you and baby."

Services Offered:
Postpartum Doula (CAPPA), Baby Care Specialist
DoulaMatch
Years in Business: 1
Clients served: 2 (and growing!)

Heydi is the fifteenth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

What do you love most about doula work?
I love coming along side of parents, especially moms, to encourage and educate them in their roles. And of course I love loving on the babies!

What is your least favorite aspect about doula work?:
Wanting to spread myself too thin and say yes to every job opportunity.

Favorite thing to do when you are not on call?:
When I’m not working I most enjoy taking care of my family and home! Other things I enjoy doing are reading, walking & checking in with my parents & friends.

What does your partner think about your doula work/job?:
My husband is very proud of me for doing something that I enjoy and that is so natural to me. I love hearing him explain to people what I do.

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?:
It’s absolutely important! Because I know my husband is 100% supportive of me and my career I can go about my days and nights with higher levels of confidence in myself.

How many children do you have?:
Three children; a 13 year old daughter and 2 sons ages 4 & 2.

What is the most difficult part of parenting regarding being a doula?
I’ve discovered that being a doula means having my phone on me a lot more than normal and being on my phone or computer more often. I’m learning to balance that while giving my kids my full attention & eye contact during our times together. 

Do you have any certifications or degrees?:
Not yet but definitely working on certification. I look forward to the process and the wealth of information I’ll learn.

What drew you to doula work?:
My desire to help women be the best moms they can be. I love encouraging women. I love serving them and providing support to whatever needs they have. To me it’s very meaningful and rewarding work that doesn’t feel like work!

Do you feel that your own births colored your doula experience?
Most certainly! From the support that I lacked but also and most importantly, the support that I received during all my children’s births encourage and bring meaning to my role as a doula.

What are you future goals with doula work?:
I plan on getting certified and grow in experience. I would also love to work with young, single and/or minority moms.

Do you do anything besides doula work?:
I provide childcare to several of my friends’ children. Another way I enjoy helping moms.

Birth hero:
All moms are heroes! But I do have to highlight my own mom who had a prolapsed uterus and other complications almost taking her life with her first child. She then went on to have a total of 9 children (one C-Section). She is definitely my birth hero!

If you could have one super power, what would it be?:
To teleport! It would be the best way to travel!

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?:
For many years I wanted to be an astronaut or scientist.

Chocolate or Vanilla?:
Vanilla

Dogs or Cats?:
Both but dogs if I had to choose.

Favorite season and why:
I love them all! Fall I enjoy because I love the beautiful colors of leaves especially in the mountains.

What’s in your doula bag?:
Calendar/planner, books, snacks and a lot of other little things that I think I need but don’t use…yet.

Number one book moms should read before giving birth:
Oh goodness, I don’t have a book to recommend yet! Is there one such book that can prepare a woman…?

Best breastfeeding advice you offer:
Keep going. Try whatever works for you and baby.

Best labor advice you offer:
It’s a mind game; tell your body what you need it to do and be amazed.


Who is Richmond Doulas: Amber Brook Pearson

Doula Spotlight
Amber Brook Pearson
"My body is strong and capable. My body and baby know exactly what to do."

Business Name: Amber Brook Doula Services, LLC
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services Offered: Birth and Postpartum (DONA)
Number of births attended: 4

Amber is the thirteenth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
I’ve been happily married for 7 yrs, been together for 10 years. My husband has been very supportive and proud of the work I do.

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
Having my husband support me and seeing a smile on his face when I come home from work is priceless. It’s always important to support your partner in life; having a personal cheerleader is the best!

Do you have children?
2 step children, boys, 17 and 19

Do you have any certifications or degrees? Former Certified Nursing Assistant and former Certified Patient Care Technician (dialysis).  

What drew you to doula work?
I have always had a passion for babies and caring for others. When I heard about doula work, I just knew in my heart that this was my calling.

What are your future goals with doula work?
Besides being a birth & postpartum doula, I would love to add on being a Lamaze teacher and a lactation counselor. Trainings are lined up in my future!

Do you have any advice for women who are just starting out in birth work?
Take one step at a time and don’t get overwhelmed.

Do you have a favorite birth you attended? What made it special?
My favorite birth was the birth of my niece, Morgan Lucia. It is my brother’s first child. He is 45 years old, and watching his emotions was the best feeling a sister/doula could experience, a bond that was very special to me. It was a fairly easy labor too; one push and she was ready!

Have you had a very difficult birth? What made it difficult?
Supporting one of my best friend’s labor and birth. It was an unexpected stillborn baby.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
The power of healing.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
L&D Nurse

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Vanilla

Dogs or cats?
Cats. I have 3. But I love dogs. One day I’ll have one!

Favorite seasons and why:
Fall! I love the weather, crisp air. I love wearing jeans and a cozy sweatshirt. I love watching football with my husband and I love everything pumpkin! Also, my wedding anniversary is in October!

Ideally, you’d love to do doula work until:
Until I retire! I am finally able to fulfill my passion and I want to do nothing else!

What is the most difficult part of being a doula?
Holding my emotions in. If I see someone crying, I tend to feel deeply and tear up as well.

What is the best part of being a doula?
Having unlimited time spent with clients. Of course, adoring their precious baby! Being my own boss has been a dream as well!

What’s in your doula bag?
Rebozo, flameless candles, oils, hand stress ball, hard candy, heating bean pad, birth affirmations, notes, snacks for myself and my love…etc.

Hobbies:
Gardening, cooking, traveling, music (concerts), reading, working out, decorating and I love to organize   

Favorite pastimes:
Going to the movie theater once a week. When I was younger and single, this was my favorite Friday night event!

Labor doulas-do you join mom at home to labor with her? Or meet at the hospital? And why?
I want to support my clients in any way I’m able to. So if she wants to do most of her laboring at home, then I am right there beside her.

Postpartum doulas-do you do daytime or nighttime support? Or both?
I am able to work both shifts. My boys are grown, so I have more flexibility.

How do you avoid burn out?
I believe in self love. So I enjoy massages, pedicures, chiropractic adjustments. Treat myself to a new outfit, etc…I haven’t felt burn out yet. This is only my first year!


A Breastfeeding Veteran: This Should Be Simple...Right?

By: Gloria Miles

As the days ticked down to D-Day, I was slightly apprehensive of how breastfeeding would go.  My worries were more about going back to work.  My mother had nursed her children, a lot of my family had done it, though only for a few months.  I read all the recommended books.  I watched the videos.  I thought I was set. 

Yet, I looked at the free formula samples that came in the mail and from the hospital and wondered if I should just supplement. Just in case. I'd worry and fret over my petite newborn. I'd have little support. I was dual-military, meaning both my husband and I were active duty.  I had to learn how to nurse my son, establish a supply, and pump enough for the first days of daycare. 

Those early days were hard. My son was a sleepy baby, something I blamed on the epidural after the fact. I remember crying, wondering how I was going to get enough milk for him when I returned to work.   

But I made it. I was determined and I did it! I had to change my goals and supplemented with formula and donor breast milk for daycare (I could really only pump about half of what he needed on the average day).  But at home, he was exclusively fed from the breast and I was very happy with that.  He'd nurse for two years.  

Then, baby number two came along and breastfeeding was a breeze! It was so easy! His latch was amazing. I was more experienced, I thought. He gained weight easily, was content and efficient. I was a pro!

No pain. No discomfort. No worry. Just a chunky baby. 

The author nursing her son, Cayden, to sleep. 

The author nursing her son, Cayden, to sleep. 

 

Fast forward several years, a job change (I'm now a doula and student midwife!), and lots of experience, and you'd find me sitting with a very heavy pregnant belly. I wasn't going to go back to work right away. I DEFINITELY wasn't going to be going back at 6 weeks postpartum to 12+ hour days. 

Breastfeeding was going to be easy. In fact, that was one of the only things I didn't worry about at all. (Being pregnant at 30 vs 21 is hard, y'all....)

I was even going to have my fiancee home for 2 weeks. 

Easy peasy. 

But then I had her. 

She latched on fairly quickly after birth. We were set up the "right" way. I was at home, undisturbed, naked baby on naked mama...and her latch was awful. And continued to be awful.

Oh, my goodness, in all of my presumptions, I never thought I'd have to fight to breastfeed her. 

My nipples hurt, the after pains were incredibly uncomfortable (I would probably even throw in painful), and she wasn't gaining like she should have been. 

One would assume a birth worker and experienced mother wouldn't have as many missteps as I did, but one would be wrong. 

Eventually, at three weeks old, I reached out to my community and found some amazing donor mamas who helped me give my daughter enough milk to finally have her gain weight. There were many signs that she was having trouble and it took me a while to figure it out. I should have reached out to my midwife more, I should have asked for extra help earlier. Maybe my supply would have been better.

What I learned, though, was that every baby is different. Something that I tell every mom, and something I had to "discover" myself.

So, as a first time mother or veteran mama, here is what you can do if your breastfeeding journey isn't going as planned:

1. Every. Baby. Is. Different.

Yeah, I know. I'm saying it again. But it's so true! One baby may refuse the breast after being offered a bottle. Another might be a champ at going back and forth between bottle, breast, and pacifier. Some babies might come out with amazing latches. Others need to work on it. Or are sleepy babies. Or you had a cesarean and that interfered with breastfeeding. Or it didn't. Or you had an epidural. Or none. Or. Or. Or. So many factors go into it. Sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes it does not.

2. Tongue or lip ties.

If you suspect a tie, ask a professional. Get your baby seen by an IBCLC, not just your pediatrician. And remember that there are exercises that need to happen with baby's tongue after a clipping.

3. Be gentle with yourself.

When I was nursing and supplementing with donor milk, I had just finished giving her a bottle. I felt so defeated and like my body was failing my baby. I knew every ounce I was giving her was an ounce my body didn't need to make. She was asleep and content, but I had to lay her somewhere in order to go pump and "stimulate" my breasts to make more milk. Instead, I held her and cried.

Remember that it's not all or nothing. Whether you're supplementing with donor milk or formula, you are still providing baby with nourishment and love. Love yourself as well.

4. Go back to the basics.

I don't care if you're an IBCLC with 30 years experience (hyperbole, I know), if you are postpartum, your job is basically to rest, nurse, be pampered, and that's it. Take care of yourself, take care of baby. You don't need to remember years worth of schooling or experience. Don't be too proud to pull up a YouTube video on how to latch a newborn. It's okay. It's totally allowed. Plus, no one will know. ;)

5. Find out what your resources are: online and out in your own town. 

Save this blog post! Below you'll find a lot of online resources and hopefully they'll be a great starting point. 

How to latch on a newborn: YouTube Video

Kellymom.com

LaLeche League

***The La Leche League also usually has local chapters.  You can easily Google ones in your area.  Sometimes just having peer support is a game changer. 

There are amazing videos on Dr. Jack Newman's website on newborn latch to pumping to building supply. Click here to see more. 

Don't be afraid to reach out to your midwife or ask about a local IBCLC. Some may even visit you at home! 

Additionally, most birth and postpartum doulas have basic breastfeeding education and training and can assist with common problems.  Ask your doula (or potential doula) how she can help with any problems (or just helping you start out well) after the birth.  Some may even be Certified Breastfeeding Counselors.  Also, all doulas will refer you out to someone who will be able to help with more complicated issues (like a suspected tongue tie).  

If you prefer to talk to someone: 

1-800-994-WOMAN

La Leche League: (650) 363-1470

Nursing Mother's Council: (650) 327-6455

You can also visit your local WIC office for more help. 

And now it's time to chime in. Any additional tips and tricks you've learned along the way with your breastfeeding journey? Or do you have questions you'd like to ask? Comment below and don't forget to share this post! 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Should Children Attend the Birth?

By: Gloria Miles

There's probably nothing sweeter than a newborn photo aside from a sibling holding their newborn for the first time. The excitement of a new baby, the awe of what just happened, and the bonding that occurs whether a few minutes or a few days after the birth.

The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

When I was pregnant with Thalia, my boys were 7 and 9 years old. They were so excited and were hoping for a sister. How lucky they were that she ended up being a girl! Initially, they both wanted to attend the labor and delivery. I was okay with that decision. Little by little, however, they changed their minds. First, my oldest decided he wanted to be invited into the room when "all the hard stuff" was over. And my second eventually decided he'd play video games until I started pushing. Knowing that I do best with very few people in the room and knowing that lots of noise bothered me, I decided against having them there. What also cinched the deal was that I had weeks of prodromal labor before the birth of Thalia. In essence, we were given a few "practice" labor trials with them in attendance and I found that they really did not like seeing me uncomfortable. More than that, they would try to "help" and I found it almost intolerable. I would assure them I was okay and go hide so they wouldn't see me until after the contractions would stop. The day (well, night) of the birth, my oldest was invited to a sleep over and my second was picked up by the babysitter after I told him I was in labor. The very next morning, they both arrived and were pleasantly surprised.

What was initially planned was not at all what happened. So how do you decide whether to let your little ones attend or not?

Things to Consider:

1. Location

Will you be delivering in a hospital, birth center, or home? Obviously a home birth means that you are 100% in charge with who can attend, but hospitals and birth centers may be a bit more strict. Ask your provider about the policies. How many people can attend? Are there age limits? Sometimes staff can be a bit wary of very young children. Other times there can be limits of how many people there may be in the room at any given time. 

2. Number of People in the Room

The number of people in the room when someone is laboring can affect her very much! Most women do best with minimal participants. I even know a few people who say that every person adds an extra hour to the labor. How high will the body count be within that room when children are added?

3. Yourself

Going off of point number 2, how well do you do with extra people? Will you do well having your children in the room with you? Will you worry about them when transition comes around? Will you worry about what they will think or feel when they see you in discomfort or pushing? Conversely, perhaps having them around you will make you feel like all your loved ones are safe and accounted for. Do you feel energized when the room energy is high?

4. Your Children

Their age and maturity level are both things to consider. The most important part is: Do they want to be included?

A two-year-old will act a lot differently than a 12-year-old. Consider how they normally act when you are in pain, uncomfortable, or need time alone.

The exciting part of labor is the "pushing" part. Other than that, the rest is--to be quite frank--boring. Will your child (or children) want to watch TV or play games while you are laboring?

Do they want to be a part of the labor process? How will they do in a 4 hour or labor or a 20 hour labor? Will they likely nap during? What if a nap is skipped (for your smaller children)? What about snacks and other meals? What if they change their mind about attending after labor has already started? Do they have a place they can "escape" to?

5. Emergencies

Even if you are planning a home birth, things can go way off plan. Suppose you are transferred to a hospital? Or, suppose a cesarean is deemed necessary some time during your labor? Do you have a back up plan for the children? It is highly recommended to have a babysitter who is ready for a phone call saying that child care is needed, even at 2 in the morning.

 

In a home birth, having someone who can stay with the children in the event of a transfer is important. This may or may not be their other parent. However, keep in mind, that if you want your partner with you during a transfer, they cannot be the caregiver of the children during labor. Remember that midwives, doulas (unless otherwise asked and agreed to), nurses, doctors, and other attendants cannot keep an eye on your little ones.

6. Caregiver for the Children

Aside from the small possibility of a transfer or emergency, children should have a caregiver present whose sole job is caring for them. First, should your child change his or her mind about attending, now they have someone who can either bring them to a different part of the house or who can take them home. Second, this person is the one who can deal with any potty breaks, food, or drinks your child may need or want.

Having a dedicated caregiver for your child or children ensures that you will not have a support person (like your partner or doula) deciding between helping your child or assisting you. It allows everyone to be able to focus on their job and to feel calm.

Ultimately, the decision is between you and your children (with the caveat that a hospital may not allow children under a certain age or may ban children altogether). There is no right or wrong way to birth. It is just important that you feel safe, loved, and respected.

The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

For my family, it turned out that sleepovers while I was laboring was the best thing. They didn't feel they missed anything, because they were able to see me after I was comfortable in bed and their sister was just a few hours old. They do not regret deciding against attending. I also felt calmer being with just my partner, my midwife, and her assistant. It was much more intimate for me and I didn't have to worry about them, either.

However, I have attended births where siblings attended and it was beautiful. Brothers were able to cut cords, sisters were able to dress and weigh the newborn. In every way they were invited to participate, there was excitement.

Like anything else with labor and birth, having plans and back ups are important. I hope this helps you choose the best fit for your family! Did you have your children present at the birth? How was the experience? Any tips you would recommend for others who want their children present? Comment below!

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Meconium: Tips and Tricks for the First Few Days of Baby Poop

By: Gloria Miles

Everybody poops. They even wrote a book about it! Clearly, this part is not a shocker. What can be a shocker are those first few days of baby poop.

It's baby poop. Newborn poop at that. How bad can it be?

First, let's talk about what it is: meconium is the baby's first stools. It's made up of amniotic fluid (your baby was swallowing amniotic fluid for weeks before he was born), lanugo (fine hair that used to cover your baby...the earlier your baby was born, the more he still has on him), mucus, bile, and other cells that were shed. Basically, it comes from everything that was swallowed prior to baby's birth.

It's black (well, really it's greenish-black), sticky, tar that will not scrub out of anything. Okay, it does scrub out, but it takes a little bit of elbow grease. And I'm not talking about some meconium (mec for short!) not scrubbing out of a receiving blanket. That stuff holds tight to that sweet little baby bum as well.

Do you know how many wipes I wasted the first few days of my first child's life? My wallet still weeps at the memory.

Okay, so what can you do to make this little chore a little easier?

  • Oil your baby's bum!

    Seriously. Slick that little baby booty down with any oil you have handy: olive oil, baby oil, coconut oil (though that might not be as convenient as a liquid oil), whatever is easiest. What this does is create a slippery barrier so that poop slides right off with one wipe.

    You can carry oil easily in a spray bottle or a little tupperware container in your diaper bag (not that you should be traveling much those first few days). Easy peasy!
     

  • Use wash cloths, not baby wipes.

    Some people find it easier to wipe with a soft wash cloth and warm soapy water, rather than a baby wipe (or wipes). This is a great tip for when you forget to oil your baby down.
     

  • Skip the cloth diapers for a few days.

    Use regular disposable diapers until baby's bowels start processing the food he is eating. In a few days, you'll find that your baby's stools start changing color. Breastfed babies will have stools that start getting greener and eventually will turn  yellowish-orange seedy mixture that is super easy to wipe up and wash off of cloth diapers.

    Note: I realize that some women actually use cloth from day 1 and have no problems with it. However, these women use sorcery and probably fold fitted sheets like champs. If you're like me, don't feel guilty about skipping the early days of cloth diapers.
     

  • Don't change diapers.

    You're bleeding, leaking breast milk, a little sore, and trying to sleep when you can. Delegate diaper changes to your partner, family members, and/or friends. (Or a postpartum doula!!)

    This is probably the best "hack." I highly recommend this one. You'll get your chance to change a thousand diapers eventually. Pawning off a few changes won't hurt anyone.

I hope these tips make diaper changes a bit more convenient. Parenthood, especially the newborn period, is all about finding short cuts where possible! Let me know if you used any of these tips and how they went for you! Or add your own short cuts to the list down in the comment section. 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Making The Most of the Day: Fun, Educational, Indoor Activities for Kids

By: Jenny Wise

Photo by Voyagerix/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Voyagerix/iStock / Getty Images

Bad weather can have a major effect on kids who would rather play outside. It can also leave
parents at a loss on how to entertain their children in a fun and educational way.  Whether from heavy summer rainstorms or winter snowstorms, a child stuck indoors can mean boredom and frustration for everyone in the household, especially if school is called off for a day or two.

Fortunately, there are several places you can look for fun activities no matter your child's age or interests.

Search the Net
Technology has certainly gifted us with the ability to make life easier. The internet offers tons of ideas when it comes to helping kids find something to do when the weather gets rough.  Look up nearby museums or indoor play areas.  Or search for drawing tutorials. There are options for every grade level.  

Find a New Instrument
Learning to play an instrument can have numerous benefits for kids:  improved math and reasoning skills, boosted social skills, and focus. Many schools offer music classes where kids can choose an instrument to play, but if your child’s school isn’t one of these, look for an online class that will teach the basics. You can buy or rent your own instruments online at a good price. Talk to your child about what his interests are and look for the right piece. Saxophone, clarinets, trumpets, and flutes are all great places to start.

Learning Sites
There are several websites that are tailored specifically to a child’s learning and organized by age and grade level. Use these sites to keep your child occupied with fun games.  Watch him learn about spelling, math, science, and more while playing games. Consider what he’s already interested in before you suggest a specific site. Look for one that will give him more information on the things he enjoys, such as dinosaurs or cars.

Create some Art
Most kids have a creative side to them, and it’s important to foster that creativity so your child
can rise to his true potential. Look for drawing tutorials and provide him with paper and various
forms of media so he can experiment. Crayons, watercolors, finger paints, and colored pencils
are the most popular tools for young children. You might also want to create a place for him to
work, such as a space in his bedroom with room to keep all his tools.

Get Them Moving
Since many kids burn off energy running around outside, it can be hard for them to sit indoors
with no way to release it. Look for ways to get them moving, such as a dance tutorial on
YouTube. Push back the living room furniture to give them room to get active. Not only will
this help your child burn off excess energy, it will also keep him healthy.

Get Experimental
Science is one of the most popular subjects for kids these days, in part because there are so many fun experiments you can perform at home with ordinary household products. Look for some online and help your child learn about chemical reactions, like this one, which will allow you to create your own lava!

Making the most of any day is important, as it teaches your child how to look for fun even when
their plans don’t work out. Look for the best sites and apps that will help your child get through a bad-weather day without complaint -- and bookmark them for next time.

 Jenny Wise is a homeschooling mom to four children. She created Special Home Educator as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families.

If you have any contributions that you would like to submit to the website, please email rdoulas@gmail.com. 

Best Advice from Richmond Doulas: When Babies are Over Five Years Apart!

Written by: Gloria Miles
Contributions by: Richmond Doulas Members

So you're expecting! Congratulations!  Except this kind of feels like starting over because the age gap is a little more extreme than most.   So what does Richmond Doulas advise regarding this type of age gap? 

Cristina Evans:  I have a twelve year age gap between my youngest and oldest children! I think that an age gap can be both fantastic and a challenge. I love watching my kids with my one year old. I loved that they got to see me pregnant and talk about things regarding pregnancy and childbirth in a positive way. I love that they get to watch her grow and will remember her being little and will be able to teach her things as well.

They were incredibly helpful during postpartum. The gap and this work allowed me to think of all the things I wanted to do differently or try that was new (or more available) since they were born.

It’s also challenging at times. The family dynamic totally shifts. Your sense of independence that you start to regain as your children get older is gone again for awhile (man, oh man, do I miss not needing a sitter!). You have to adjust to the new pace of things. Your baby gets dragged along to everything because you’re a busy family now.

Eventually she will be the only child in the house (in only 5 years!). She may not have a close relationship with her siblings because they’ll be gone already and basically a whole different generation from her. Most people aren’t going to have such a big gap but these are just some of the things from my view of life at the moment.

Erica Angert: My two older kids were 6 and 8 when we had our third, and it's been kind of magical for me. A lot of that is that I've raised two kids past baby, toddler, and preschool age so I really had a chance to think about what would work best the third time around.

The things that used to make my husband and me really anxious or angry or worried when our other kids were little seem so simple and normal now. It all just rolls off our backs and we're much calmer about dealing with the tough milestones and behavior things.

It has also been beautiful to watch my oldest have such a sweet relationship with his baby sister from day one. He was old enough to really understand how to treat babies and has been very responsible and helpful. Both older kids definitely notice the change in lifestyle, though, like having to be quiet during her nap time, not being able to play a family board game or watch a whole movie or ride roller coasters all together, but I have felt like those things are temporary and it's already starting to get better now that she's 2.

Gloria Miles: One of the best things regarding an age gap this big is that the older children are much more able to help.  My children are 11, 9, and 1.5 years old.  It's nice to having older children that can watch a toddler while I wash dishes.  Or having a child who--sometimes--will change a wet diaper.  Plus, it's beautiful to see them playing together and trying to teach her things.  

Some people have asked if it feels like starting over...and it doesn't.  It feels like starting with experience this time around, rather than with a million questions.  

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

The Importance of Birth Stories

By: Gloria Miles

 

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

It's so important to me to remember the stories of my births.  The details may be a little fuzzy after some time, the events might not be recollected in exact sequence, but the important parts are all there.  I do enjoy sharing them, especially with my children.  

I believe that everyone who has given birth should share, in part, their stories.  At the very least, to those who are important to them: their partners, their close friends, children.  This benefits the listener but also the person telling the story.

Before we had textbooks, before we had blogs and seminars and classrooms, we taught each other by storytelling; sometimes by songs.  This act of passing along wisdom and lessons through storytelling has been going on since we could speak and across cultures.  

Why share birth stories? 

Birth stories are part of this culture, believe it or not.  However, most are in the form of fictional stories spread through television or movies that are erroneously displayed as this terrible event that must be endured in order to meet one's baby.  Others are more dramatic and shown on the evening news as an event that could have gone so wrong! And yet, miraculously, everyone is somehow fine. Learn more at eight!

Birth stories from real individuals, shared in a safe space, can be a way to educate everyone who may give birth in the future to their first or even fifth child.  Every birth is different. Every story is different. Every experience is different. Sharing birth stories adds to the normalcy of this biological act.  Most birth stories are lovely but uneventful.  When pregnant, it's important to be reaffirmed that this is a normal, biological experience that one is equipped to handle. Normalizing labor and birth is important. 

Some people want to give birth in a manner that is very different from their mothers, from their friends, or from the disapproving individual on social media.  If this happens, it's even more important for that person to hear of labors that went along the lines of what that individual was planning.  For instance, if one chooses water birth, it's awesome to hear all of the water birth stories.  If one chooses to give birth in a birth center, then hearing all of the birth center experiences can be affirming and uplifting. 

Of course, this is also true for those who need a cesarean or who may be higher risk.  Sometimes fear comes from simply not understanding or knowing what is to come.  Anxiety and fear can be eased what will happen is explained. 

Not every birth story is bright and happy. 

Sometimes labor or the birth or both ends up being scary, traumatic, or simply traumatizing.  Perhaps the epidural didn't take and the experience was not what was planned.  Perhaps the birth center water birth ended up being a hospital transfer.  Nothing "terrible" has to happen in order for the individual to feel disappointed in the experience.  

And yes, sometimes terrible events do transpire during the labor or birth or both.  We've all heard the stories of a patient being abused by the hands of those who are supposed to be helping this laboring individual.  Sometimes a birth does not have a happy ending.  These births, while very difficult to share, should still be allowed to be shared with whomever the individual wishes and in a safe environment.  This can serve as a way to process what happened.  It can help heal.  Bottling these stories up within oneself in order not to scare or offend can be very harmful.  

I sometimes feel as though these birth experiences are muted and not allowed to be shared within the same walls of others and I wish that would stop.  I left a Facebook group once that was supposed to be a safe and open place to share experiences of "natural" births and the owner would chastise anyone who used words like "painful" or "scary" or the like.  A birth story was shared that ended with, "I think any mother will understand. Birth is the best and worst experience ever [because it hurts]."  The group owner congratulated her and asked she refrain from discussing the pain more or to edit her story. 

Validation and processing

I think it's important to validate every feeling.  My second labor felt uncomfortable but I was surprised at how little it really seemed to hurt.  I remember walking into the hospital and hoping I was actually in labor.  When I was admitted, I was nine centimeters with a bulging bag.  With my third, she was a whirlwind of a birth and labor was so intense--and yes, painful--that pushing was a relief, an experience I hadn't felt before. These are my experiences.  As I sit writing all of this, about eight months pregnant, I wonder how my fourth experience will transpire.  And yes, even with the variety of discomforts, pain, and elated emotions, I am planning another home birth.  

It's important for us to process our experiences.  This is how we learn from ourselves, this is how we heal, this is how we grow.  

The good of it all. 

However, as birth stories are spread, as people share, and as others listen, it will become obvious that for the majority, labor and birth is simply part of life.  Most are satisfied with their experiences, most are proud of what they accomplished, and most will remember these events for the rest of their lives.  This means that sharing these stories, all stories, will show a pattern of how normal this is, of how it's okay to daydream about the day, of how there's not really much to fear.  And for some, sharing their stories will be part of the healing process that's crucial and necessary for their own mental and emotional health.  

Before childbirth education classes, before doulas, before books and websites with advice, there were just stories passed from one generation to the next.  This is how childbirth education was taught.  This is how support began.  

Want to contribute? 

Please email your story to rdoulas@gmail.com if you would like to share.  You can share with your name and pictures, with no pictures, or even anonymously.  

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Rainy Day Fun

By: Gloria Miles

Rain seems to be in the forecast until about 2050.  Okay, so perhaps not that far out, but Richmond, VA may be competing with Seattle, WA.  Our current season is Wet.  First there's clouds, then lightning, then pouring down rain.  Rain trickles to a stop, puddles start to dry up, and a light shower to make sure no one is complacent with their umbrellas. 

Farmers must be rejoicing. 

Parents may be feeling a little stir-crazy. 

Not to worry, though, below is a list of things to do around the Richmond area, your home, or even just the backyard. 

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

*ANY AGE/ANY TIME. Sometimes indoor play is the best kind of play.  This is mostly free except for material costs: Get construction paper or large sheets of paper that will allow you to trace the upper body or entire body of your child. Let your child color it as he or she wishes. Cut out the profile and post it up as wall decorations. 

*ANY AGE/ ANY TIME. Window paint is super fun for children of most ages. Write messages to the rain or sun on the windows. Enhance the gray clouds with some bright images courtesy of your 4-year-old. It's all up to you!

*Toddlers/Monday, June 4th: Yoga with the Tots! at My Birth. 

*11 and under/ Mondays: Children Museum of Richmond: the CMoR will offer FREE admission to military, first responders, veterans, law enforcement, and their families. 

*3-5 YEARS OLD/ Monday, June 4thHenrico Public Library will be making sassy summer snakes. FREE. 

*Tuesday, June 5th: 11am.  Pottery Barn Kids, Short Pump Mall.  Kids can enjoy some of their favorite books read aloud. FREE.

*May 25th through Labor Day, admission to the Mariner's Museum and Park will be reduced to $1 per person to engage as many people as possible because through the world’s waters, through our shared maritime heritage, we are all mariners.

*ALL AGES/TUESDAYS: Every Tuesday, during the months of June, July and August, children ages 16 and under are admitted free with paying adult. Learn 18th-century history, explore the gardens and grounds, see our ninth president’s birthplace and walk the same floors as our founding fathers. Children’s activities included. Adult admission is $12.

*ALL AGES/ANY TIME: Host a movie night at your house for you and some friends. Rewatch a classic or pick up a new one from Redbox. Pop some popcorn, let the kids help with snacks, and enjoy!

*ALL AGES/ANY TIME: Provided there is no lightening outside, put on some rain boots and go splashing in the puddles! I feel like too few people take advantage of all the fun that is right at their fingertips. Afterward, warm up with some dry clothes and board games. 

Great indoor places to visit (costs vary) for when the kids are stir-crazy and you need some inspiration: 

Children's Museum of Richmond

Science Museum

Jumpology

Peak Experiences: A Rock Climbing Gym for all ages (recommended for 7 and older)

Monkey Joe's

And now your turn: What are your favorite go-to activities or places during the wetter summer days? 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Who is Richmond Doulas: Bri Grocholski

A Birth Story

The Third Degree

This is the story of my natural birth in a hospital setting that turned into a medical birth.  My goal is to educate and encourage women to birth on their terms.  Please consider your provider and the location of your birth!

A note from Richmond Doulas...such a huge thank you to Cori for sharing both of her birth stories and the inspirations and wisdom she drew from both her births. It's our dream that women could enter any hospital, be treated by any care provider and receive compassionate care, but until birth culture changes in the U.S., choosing your care provider, as Cori puts it, is time well spent. Here is some more information about choosing a care provider.

Delivery Day

I woke up with contractions around 7 a.m.  They did not subside after an hour like they had the few days before.  I kept busy all day to distract myself but knew it would be the day to meet our baby! 

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I felt a gushing sensation around 2:30 p.m. - My water broke!  I called my OB and let Donna Westcott, my doula know. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible to make sure I received as few interventions at the hospital as possible. 

Finally at 4:45 we decided to drive to the hospital.  Contractions were much more intense and getting closer.  I continued to breathe through each contraction visualizing the pain going through my body and out my toes.

Contractions were painful but purposeful. And things seemed to be happening so much quicker than I thought they would.

At the Hospital:

My first nurse was a bitch… She wanted to hook me to the monitor immediately; she did not want to undo it so I could go pee. She did not care that I felt nauseous, and she said it was still hospital policy to check me to see if my water actually broke because so many people mistaken it for pee leaking!

Finally, the hospital OB came in but seemed annoyed.  He looked over the birth plan and scoffed at a few things: He said we would only delay cord clamping about a minute and reassured me there would be no episiotomy.  His biggest concern was the possibility that my baby was close to 9 pounds.

He left the room for a while and when he returned he was determined to check my cervix. He was impressed with how far along I had gotten. Again he made me feel unimportant and even though I was determined to birth naturally he seemed like he would rather do C-section to get it over with.  He did not offer pain medication, which I appreciated.  But he did insist on checking me more often than I felt necessary.  The last time he checked me, I peed on him. (he deserved it.)  They also would not let me out of the bed to walk around or unhook me from the monitor.

I remember transition…It was painful.  I also remember that being the only point at which I said: "I can't do this."  Donna, said you can and you are!  Donna’s soothing and calm encouragement was so nice to have throughout the birth!

Before I knew it was time to push… My biggest regret is not waiting for my body to tell me when to push. 

This is the point it became a medical birth and my nurse and doctor were screaming at me to push for ten seconds!  The nurse held my leg and I was lying on my back… They did not know when my body was contracting. I was pushing when they told me to.

I remember a sense of relief during stage two; like my body was doing all the work, there didn’t have to be any actual pushing.

Where it all went wrong:

I should not have been on my back and I should not have pushed for a count of ten, my body was not ready for that! I should have used the positions I practiced.  I should have spoken up and birth the way I had planned.  I should have breathed my baby out.

In a medical birth, the doctor does not listen to the woman… (*A woman’s body is amazing and knows what to do. Let your body do its job!)

Time really escapes you in labor. Pushing didn’t seem to last long.  I remember a burning sensation when the baby was crowning, Donna told me that was normal.  The doctor did not talk me through the birth.  I am so grateful for Donna being there and coaching me through. The OB was more into making sure I pushed hard enough.

After an additional push baby slid out onto the table. (A baby girl was here!)

The doctor was not seated, did not catch my baby, and did not have adequate towels underneath me.

I was numb from that point on.  I suffered a third-degree laceration and had postpartum hemorrhaging (maybe my body was being nice and didn’t want me to remember the pain and it was my body’s adrenaline reaction to go numb.)

But this is where I question if counter pressure on my vagina and perineum and assisting the head and shoulders through would have helped.  I really should have been more determined to ask for different positions during pushing.

The OB tried to partially repair me in the delivery room with no success.  I had a hard time staying still and he continually yelled at me to stop moving.  I only held my baby girl for a couple minutes on my chest before the doctor had packed me with gauze and took me out of the room on the way to the OR. 

The doctor did not explain what had happened. He did not use the word tear or hemorrhage. He just said I had no choice but to get a spinal block and come to the OR.

My husband was left in the room with Donna and a baby who was a few minutes old.  No information was shared with them except that I had to be taken out of the room and they could not be in the OR with me.

In the OR:

The anesthesiologist was pretentious.  He actually said “see this isn’t so bad” when putting in the spinal tap, “you could have done this in the first place.”

In the OR, there was still no explanation of what happened. Dr. G, the OB I had been seeing in the office for prenatal visits, arrived to help repair me.  She did not acknowledge me.  I was awake and aware during the repair and continued to ask them questions: How is it, is it bad, what does it look like, what are you doing?  They ignored me and did not speak to me directly. 

A nurse assistant held my hand and talked with me the whole time (she was so sweet).  Another nurse brought me a phone so I could tell my husband I was still alive and that everything would be okay.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it back to the room, with a catheter and no feeling in my legs.  The OB informed me he ‘lost’ a sponge (gauze) that he packed me with when I was hemorrhaging and to make sure it wasn’t still inside me he ordered an x-ray. 

After the x-ray, I finally got to hold my baby and try to nurse her!  She did not have a good latch.  It had been three hours since she was born and hunger had set in. 

Breastfeeding was uncomfortable and I could not feel my legs.  I also still did not really know what had happened… I was disappointed Dr. G. never came in to check on me after I made it back to the room. (So much for being her patient.)

I held my baby all night.  I continued to try and nurse her with little luck.  Instead of sending in a lactation consultant or a nurse who could help me get a latch, one nurse gave me a nipple shield.  (Hindsight is 20/20, the nipple shield may have saved my breastfeeding journey! But it led to many weeks of stress and anxiety that I could not feed my baby without it- Why couldn’t I be coached on getting a better latch instead of using an artificial nipple?) 

In the morning, two nurses came in to help me out of bed and into the bathroom where I passed out and they had to use smelling salts to wake me!  I returned to the bed weak, helpless, and groggy. 

Eventually, I moved to a postpartum room.  Those nurses barely came into check on us.  One did come in to give the baby a bath but did not welcome my help with my child…

Discharge Day:

A well respected and favorite OB discharged me.  She told me three things: 1 Here are your prescriptions for Oxycodone and ibuprofen, 2 you can sit in a bathtub or sitz bath a few times a day for swelling and pain relief, and 3 you need to make an appointment to see this specialist in a week.  (At this point I still have not been told what actually happened, she had the perfect opportunity to show some sympathy and do her job, yet nothing, she didn’t want to be bothered either, I was not her patient….she lost my respect.)

I was so scared to leave the hospital! I cried, a lot. I did finally take a shower but still felt numb, weak, and terrified.

The First Days Home:

I don’t remember much except that I was helpless.  (A feeling I do not do well with!) I did not take the oxy but did take ibuprofen for pain and swelling.  I was uncomfortable and spent a lot of time in bed trying to nurse.  I would cry every time she nursed.  I would look down at this perfect little human and knew that I loved her but could not express that love with words.  I continued feeding her and holding her. But all I really wanted to do was leave.  

The Specialist:

A week later I went to see Dr. S., an urogynecologist.  She was wonderful! Smart, direct, and caring.  Finally, someone explained what had happened, she even had an illustration.

She informed me I had an infection in the laceration and listed what we would try to do to fix it.  Surgery was a last resort. My instructions were to sit in a sitz bath at least three times a day, take a whole concoction of antibiotics and drink Miralax to make sure all my stools were super soft! (gross, I know)

I had follow-up appointments weekly.  The only time I left the house was to go to the doctor.  I continued to be devastated and uncomfortable. I blamed myself for the tear and the infection.  I continually thought about what I should have done differently. Not pushing the way I did, not laying on my back, also what did I do to get this infection? Did I deserve it somehow?

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The Last Resort:

Finally, at five weeks, post-partum, Dr. S. said we needed to go in and surgically remove the infection and repair the tear.  I lost it.  I was so nervous.  I was hoping to go my whole life without any major surgery…

I had two options for hospitals.  I will not go back to the hospital I delivered my daughter in for as much as a hangnail. So I chose a different location.  The surgery was scheduled for the next day. 

I was not prepared to leave a five week old at home without me.  I had no bottles or formula.  No milk pumped.  I barely had the hang of breastfeeding (I was still using the nipple shield).

I had total faith in Dr. S. to get me repaired and keep me safe.  But major surgery is still frightening. 

The surgery was successful and Dr. S. informed me it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be, the infection also was localized and not systemic and she repaired the other trauma to my vagina.

My recovery nurses at this hospital were so sweet and compassionate.  They helped me set up the breast pump and kept all my milk frozen for me.   

I continued to see Dr. S every other week until I got the all clear to resume all normal activity two and a half months postpartum!

The New Normal:

It took me months to feel completely comfortable in my skin (squatting scared me, I felt like I would just rip into a million pieces). At about eight weeks postpartum, I had breastfeeding down!  I nursed my baby lying down, standing up, one handed, with a pillow, without one! 

I continued to have feelings of anger and grief.  I still blamed myself but was mad at the hospital OB.  I didn’t know who to blame.  

I changed to a more positive outlook shortly after.  I realized it could have been worse (I could have died; it could have been a 4th degree tear going through my rectum completely)

The whole experience made me stronger and I couldn’t love my daughter any more than I do! 

Baby #2

I had a lot of anxiety after finding out we were pregnant with baby #2.  I feared that I would tear again, get an infection, and not be able to take care of a two and a half year old and a newborn. 

I told Donna we were expecting as soon as we found out because I knew I wanted her to be there.  She was an amazing resource and coach the first time around!  One of the first things we discussed was what provider I should use.  It didn’t take much convincing to know I should switch to a practice with Midwives. 

I broke down in tears at each Midwife appointment. I was so nervous to birth again.  They comforted me and really encouraged me to be positive. (I read positive birth affirmations daily and those positive thoughts made me believe and trust my body going into my second birth)

The pregnancy was uneventful and healthy and I enjoyed spending quality time with my oldest while she was the only one.

I thought labor was fast the first time…

On the way to the hospital my water broke in the car.   Upon entering the hospital we were met by Donna and my midwife.  Both were so happy to see us.  They were both encouraging and calm and no one was annoyed to be caring for us.  It was a positive experience from the moment we got there!

I birthed my son about twenty minutes after getting to our room.  I was coached and talked through the whole birth.  The nurses were welcoming to both Donna and the midwife.  Everyone respected each other’s position in the room. 

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I labored in positions that were comfortable to me and I was not yelled at to push harder.

My son’s entrance into the world was calm. 

My vagina was in one piece. 

I felt empowered because my body did what it was supposed to do. His birth was a completely different experience because of my caregivers and I am grateful for that.    

My advice to any soon to be mom, veteran or not, is to choose your provider wisely, research birth positions and use them, but also be ready for anything!

XOXO,

Cori

 

An Exercise: Being Strong in Labor

This exercise was created by Virginia Bobro, formerly of Birthing From Within and Pam England. Check out Pam England's new book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth, or a local Birthing From Within class for more juicy exercises. This exercise was adapted by Cat Ennis Sears, BFW mentor, for the RD Blog.

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When you're pregnant, a lot of things can alert your worry muscle. Maybe you've heard birth stories from others, things you'd like to avoid, and you are thinking of how you would want things to go differently. Maybe you're worried about your support options, logistics, or needing medical support that you were hoping to avoid. 

Sometimes, we get into a state of avoidance. We put our fingers in our ears (positive birth stories only, please!) with the hope that blocking out the thought of unwished for events will prevent these things from occurring. While it's true that fear is not helpful in labor and birth, and adrenaline can decrease natural birth hormones that make labor safer and more efficient, the act of total avoidance (trying to avoid fear at all costs) paradoxically arises from a place of fear. And completely avoiding the thought of unwished for events does not decrease the likelihood of those events occurring, but does increase the likelihood that you will be unprepared for those events, should they occur.

A positive visualization of how you would like your birth experience to go, without qualifiers and without "if's" and "but's" is the first step toward trusting birth. It's important to know what your ideal birth would look like, what you are hoping for, what your dreams and goals are. Visualization is a powerful tool that evidence suggests actually changes our brains, and can in fact change outcomes.

So go ahead and visualize your ideal birth, without qualifiers, without "if's" and "but's."

Next, I invite you to go one step further in your preparation for birth, and visualize not only your perfect birth, but visualize something unexpected happening. And (this is the important step) don't stop there: visualize how you and your support people will cope with that unexpected event. Visualize yourself being strong and present, giving birth in awareness, being there for the moment, no matter what happens. What, specifically, would help you cope with something you were hoping to avoid? Is it a prayer, is it holding your partner's hand, is it closing your eyes, playing a specific song, or just focusing on your breathing? Close your eyes and see yourself doing that thing.

Birth is unpredictable. Our bodies are fallible. And if something unwished for does occur, it does not mean you did something wrong, or weren't prepared enough, or should have done this or that differently. You can truly trust birth and postpartum when you know that you have coping resources you can pull on, should an unwished for event occur. This is a deeper kind of trust.

Being Strong in Labor

With your partner or support person...

Each of you fold your paper in half twice (once horizontally, once vertically) so the fold-lines make four quadrants. 

In the first quarter: Draw the first image that comes to mind when you think of being strong in labor.

The second drawing: Draw being strong in a long, prolonged labor.

The third drawing: Being strong in a cesarean birth.

The fourth: Being strong in... [choose a situation that is personally powerful to you, something that you are working to avoid]. 

Share your images with your partner.

Did anything surprise you? Was there anything you hesitated to draw? Did not want to draw? The takeaway is that we are often much stronger than we realize. And, in my mind, all of this is already within us. In some ways, this is an exercise in intention.

 

Poem: An Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers

There are so many ways we try to "get it right" as parents. Let's just start with love.

Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers
This work was compiled and edited by Juji Woodring with contributions from Alejandrina in AZ, Lia from South Africa, Alisa from Texas, Charlene, and Tamara D., with thanks to Oriah Mountain Dreamer for inspiration

image by RVA local doula and birth photographer,  Joyful Birth Services

It doesn't interest me how many
prenatal books you've read,
I want to know if you hear your
child whisper to you
when you lie awake at night.

It doesn't interest me who you are
or where you came from,
I want to know if your authentic
mother warrior will awaken
when you birth your baby with all
that you have.

It doesn't interest me if you have a
birth plan or where you plan to
give birth.
I want to know that you will meet
your birth with an open mind and
open heart.
I want to know if you can fully
embrace the path you must
journey to birth yourself as a
mother.

It doesn’t interest me if you birth
in silence or as a lioness roars.
I want to know if you are willing to
do whatever it takes to birth your
baby, regardless of how you look,
how you sound, or what others
may think. I want to know if you
are willing to journey to your
depths and through the unknown.

It doesn't interest me how many
stitches you get,
I want to know how you are
moving in your body.
I want to know if you can take
each movement of your achy
dripping body and know that it has
done a marvelous, miraculous
thing.

It doesn't matter to me how you
feed your baby.
I want to know if you are willing
to nurture your baby
from the depths of your soul and
with unconditional love.

I want to know if in the dark of
night,
you can raise your tired bones and
weary spirit and do what needs to
be done to care for your children

I want to know if you are willing to
give up your judges and ideals of a
perfect parent and surrender to
your heart and belly
to love your baby until you ache.
 

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Yesterday, Shea heard his brother's heartbeat. He said, "my brother," and put his hands on my stomach. He smiled shyly and wanted to hear the heartbeat "again." I'm so excited for them to meet each other.

Nathaniel Ashe Sears, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, born December 19, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.

He holds his tiny hands up to the glass and says, “There, Mommy, I want to eat there!” Inside is a pool hall, completely inappropriate for a toddler. “No, Shea, just one more door down.” I drag him into Ipanema. I don’t know it yet, but active labor will start in less than 12 hours. I wanted to take Shea out for dinner, just me and him, knowing that the time of his being an only child is getting shorter. I am having near constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that don’t stop when I sit down, stand up, walk, lay down, take a bath, drink water, or anything. They are just constant, lasting for 2-3 minutes with a 30 second break in between and it’s been that way for 2 days. It’s exhausting but I try to ignore my too tight abdomen as I pick Shea up and carry him through the door of Ipanema. I am expecting to go past my due date on this one too, and I don’t take any contractions seriously. Only if they are deep low, and getting longer, stronger, closer together. I decide, only then will I pay attention. Thinking back, I realize how almost heroic it is that I went out for dinner alone with a two-year-old while I was in actual early labor.

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Christian: A Birth Story

By: Gloria Miles

Every mother, every child, has a birth story. This is mine; this is the story of my firstborn, the story of transformation into motherhood. Birth, motherhood, all of it, transforms people into clearer versions of themselves. I learned things about myself through the pregnancy, labor, and the days that followed. I was stronger and more vulnerable, impatient and more stubborn than I thought I was. 

Labor began hours after I thought it had. I was sitting playing a card game with my husband and his friend as gentle contractions moved through my abdomen. I could feel them coming and going, but I didn't focus on them. 

Later that night, I couldn't sleep. At this point I'm not sure if it was discomfort or excitement or both. I advise women to go to sleep when contractions begin, but I know that most first-time mothers will ignore the advice. I was also the excited first time mother who could not possibly sleep with the thought of holding my brand new baby on the horizon. Of course, actual labor was hours away, and the actual birth wouldn't occur until later the next day. 

At the hospital, I was contracting away, but the first vaginal exam gave me bad news. I was only four centimeters, almost fully effaced. The obstetrician told me I had a choice: pitocin or I could go home. 

I chose pitocin. How could I go home? 

I had heard terrible things of pitocin, especially how severe contractions could get with it. With bated breath, I signed consent forms and a bag of pitocin was hung next to the IV fluids. I smiled broadly at the addition and looked at my husband. "Are you ready?" 

He laughed and told me, "I hope so." 

Six hours later, I was fully effaced and only at a five. The pitocin had strengthened the contractions, but they were very tolerable. The nurse stated it was time to break my water. I didn't want to, but I felt that since I had agreed to pitocin, that what followed needed to be agreed to as well. 

Two contractions after my waters were ruptured, the pain intensified in the center of my pelvis. My eyes grew huge and I looked over at my husband for help. The pain is still something I can't really explain. I squirmed on the bed, not knowing I could have stood up or walked around, even attached to the bags of fluid. After an hour, I was in tears and begging my husband to find the anesthesiologist. 

Mercifully, the anesthesiologist walked into the room ten minutes later.  The epidural was placed and my husband almost passed out after seeing the needle. He was carefully led to a couch where he sat for a few minutes to recover. I didn't care at all. The medicine ran through my back, my abdomen, my thighs. It felt warm and wonderful. I started drifting off and fell asleep. 

I was woken up a few hours later by a nurse. Another vaginal check. I was at a nine! Party time! I didn't realize that it would be a few more hours before I'd be ready to push. It took almost another hour to reach ten centimeters and then even more time for baby to "labor down." 

When the nurse stated I could begin pushing, I was energized. It was time to meet my baby! The first forty-five minutes or so, I pushed with intensity and for as long as I could hold my breath. The next forty-five minutes was much harder. I had napped for a few hours earlier, but aside from that, I had been awake for a day an a half. I hadn't eaten as per hospital protocol. I was very tired. 

"I can see the head!" my husband proclaimed.

I looked up at him, hopeful. 

"Yeah! When you push, you can see," he paused and held up his hands and made a small gap that could probably fit a quarter, "about that much. And then it goes away." 

I wished that I hadn't had the epidural. Then, I could have kicked him. 

This kid is never coming out, I thought. 

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was only for an hour and a half, but I worked hard that entire time. 

"Do you want to feel the baby's head?" the nurse asked. 

I paused, reluctant to feel such a small area and discourage myself.  When I reached down and felt around, though, I felt so much of the baby's head.  The term is crowning and the nurse was buying time for the OB to arrive. I looked at her and grinned. He was almost here! I actually was moving my baby.  The worst part of having had such a heavy dose of epidural medicine was that there was no feed back of my progress. I could not feel anything aside from a general pressure that felt like it had always been there. 

The doctor walked in at that moment and smiled at me. "Looks like we're having a baby!" she exclaimed as she put on her gloves. "Give me just a second and to sit...and alright, go ahead and push with the next contraction." 

At this point I could tell when to push due to the tightness of my abdomen.  A few more pushes and she asked that I stop pushing.  

My husband told me that it was the weirdest sight, the doctor grabbing his son's head and (from his perspective) pulling until the body was somehow dislodged. 

I felt the strange relief of a body sliding out and heard a loud cry. I didn't even look, I collapsed back and closed my eyes. The cord was clamped and he was placed onto my chest. The abrupt placement of my baby and rough toweling roused me and I looked down. Dark gray eyes looked around and he cried again. I wanted to bat the women away. 

Leave us alone.

The pediatrician entered and looked at my baby while the obstetrician delivered my placenta. What a strange and hectic time! He immediately declared my son too pale and wanted him under the warmer. After some negotiation I bought about ten minutes to try skin-to-skin before resorting to the warmer.  He left.  By the time he came back, my son had pinked up and was beginning to root.  This satisfied the doctor and I was left alone. Well, as alone as someone in a hospital can be postpartum. 

My husband and I gazed at our first-born.  We thought he was perfect, cone-head and all. I couldn't believe that I could create such a beautiful creature. I didn't realize how perfect little newborn toes and fingers were, how delicious they smelled, and how arduous a process it could be.  It couldn't always be that involved, could it?  I let that linger in the back of my mind until I became pregnant with my second. 

The birth of my first was such a learning experience for me. I love it also, because it is the day that I met one of the first people that have changed my life in such a profound way. I didn't realize that while a mother is a teacher, a child teaches more; I'm still learning. 

 

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Guest Post: The Six Words that Changed Everything: AKA Why I Became a Doula

Guest Post: The Six Words that Changed Everything: AKA Why I Became a Doula

When I found out I was pregnant, it was not by surprise. That’s what conceiving via intrauterine insemination (IUI) will get you—thinking about nothing but getting pregnant every minute of the day from the moment you decided you were ‘ready’ to have a baby 2 years ago (those of who have been through infertility can understand this new kind of crazy).

What was a little bit of a surprise; however, was that once I was given the clear from our fertility doctor to move on to normal prenatal care, the choice of provider was up to me. Wait, you mean there are choices? My go-to plan was to find an Obstetrician (OB) who my friends and family recommended. But then I learned of a friend’s experience with a Midwife group, and that’s when everything changed.

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