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.


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!


Navigating the First Trimester

By: Gloria Miles

Congratulations! You were either trying or surprised, but you've tested and came back with a BFP (big fat positive).

BFP!

Due 2019!!

You're pregnant! You have so much to look forward to in the next nine months! I'm assuming that you are in your very first trimester (and that's why you've clicked on the blog post).

Sometimes women don't realize they are pregnant until much later. Very rarely women show up in the emergency room with intestinal distress only to find out they're actually in labor. (We've all heard the stories!)

Either way, we'll assume the first trimester. 

Now what?

The very first step (aside from figuring out how to announce it your partner, friends and family) is setting up your first prenatal appointment. Most providers advise starting care between 8-12 weeks of pregnancy.

Whether you are birthing in a hospital and wanting an epidural as soon as the party starts or wanting a hospital birth completely sans medications, have your heart set on a birth center birth, or at home with a midwife, prenatal care is very important. It all looks fairly similar and the standard of care will include blood work and an early dating ultrasound unless your health care provider states otherwise. 

Appointments in the beginning are generally set for every four weeks. After your 28th week it'll increase to every two weeks, and after your 36th week, it'll increase to weekly visits until your delivery. Of course, if issues arise during the pregnancy, extra visits may be necessary.

And so you're pregnant and have your first appointment set...and....you look about the same. Everyone is asking about due dates and looking forward to the end, even now, but life goes on about the same. Or does it??

What is going on with you right now?

Nausea/Vomiting

Not everyone will become nauseous during their first trimester, but morning sickness is a fairly common complaint. Really, it should be called all day sickness, because it can strike at any time. 

What can you do about it? Well, eating smaller, more frequent meals can help. My general rule of thumb is: if it smells questionable to you, even if it smells great to everyone else, stay away from it. Drink plenty of water and fluids with electrolytes, especially if you're vomiting. Eating blander foods may help: toast, peanut butter, salted or unsalted eggs, crackers, oatmeal, etc. 

Prenatal vitamins may contribute to the nausea. Check out reviews for ones that don't mess with women's tummies and ask your health care provider for recommendations. 

Sometimes morning sickness is bothersome enough that medication might be advisable.  Your health care provider may suggest over-the-counter supplements or prescribe something like Zofran to help combat the nausea and vomiting. 

The good news is that this typically passes by the 13th week of pregnancy. 

Note: Sometimes, but not as commonly, women will suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are throwing up everything and not able to keep fluids down, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

Constipation

This one is super fun, especially in combination with feeling bloated. Changes in hormones can cause changes in regularity. As with morning sickness, your body will adjust and you will go back to your normal schedule. 

What can you do about it? Taking a probiotic can help. Remember to take a probiotic with a prebiotic in it. If you do not, then the probiotic will not help, regardless of how many billions of strains it has. Most of the time, the ones who have both are in the refrigerated section of your health food store. 

Foods with natural probiotics are: yogurt, greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, dark chocolate (heck yeah!), pickles , honey, bananas, artichokes, and more. 

Eating food high in fiber can also help with regularity: lentils, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, kidney beans, wheat bran, oat bran, just to name a few. 

And, of course, like most things: water helps. Hydrate!

Bloating

You're pregnant, but you feel more fat than anything. That's pretty normal. Constipation can contribute to bloating.

Making sure to drink plenty of water and have an adequate intake of salt will help. It'll pass.  As always, if you feel something is off, contact your health care provider.  

Fatigue

Any pregnant mother can attest, the early weeks are brutal when it comes to fatigue. It's hard work making a baby! You may not look pregnant, but this first trimester is when the most work happens! You're busy creating a complex organism from two little gametes (sex cells). You're creating a heart, a spinal cord, lungs, a nervous system, eyes, skin...a whole being! Of course you're going to be tired! 

What can you do? SLEEP! I hear all you moms with littles laughing. I know how hard it can be to sneak naps in, but whenever you are able to: sleep. Tap in your partner whenever you can. Let housework slide a little. Be kind and gentle with yourself. It's just a season that'll pass by about the 13th week.  However, it can also reappear in the last trimester.

Besides sleeping you can also check your iron. This will be in your first prenatal blood panel. If you are anemic, this will also contribute to your sleepiness. You may be told to take an iron supplement. Ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations. Foods may also help keep your iron at a good level, such as dark leafy greens and legumes. Again, speak with your health care provider regarding their recommendations for your diet and/or iron supplements they may want you to take. 

Exercising During First Trimester

Exercise will help with energy. You can continue with the exercise routine you've already been following for the most part. High intensity workouts or heavy lifting may have to be cut back. Most importantly, follow what your body is telling you. 

If you are new to exercising, don't worry, you can start. Plus, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy are plentiful! It cuts down on fatigue, limits excessive weight gain, leads to a healthy pregnancy, helps with labor, gives you strong abs and back which will cut down on back and pelvic pain, and boosts your mood.

Unless a medical reason is given, most women can exercise during pregnancy. 

Great exercises, especially for beginners, are walking, swimming, and yoga. Running is fine and can be continued for as long as it's comfortable. Weight lifting can be continued by most, but just remember that relaxin, a hormone that relaxes tendons, will begin flowing through your body.  Lowering the weight and paying attention to good form is important.  Additionally, center of gravity will be shifting as your uterus expands which may mean avoiding certain movements. Also, some movements (such as planks) may have to be modified or avoided, because of your growing abdomen. 

As always, consult your health care provider.

Cramps

Some women experience cramps in early pregnancy. These aren't necessarily a symptom, but they're common enough and not generally a worry. Some women fear this means they may miscarry, but cramps on their own can be normal. 

The uterus is a muscle and every time it is messed with, so to speak, it'll contract. Sometimes these contractions will cause cramping. Reasons you may be cramping: you just had sex, you have a full bladder, or your uterus is growing. 

Note: If you are experiencing cramping and bright red bleeding or spotting, call your health care provider or go into the ER. 

This blog post should not serve as a substitute for medical advice and is purely for informational purposes. Every pregnancy is different. Trust your instincts and always check in with your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have, even if they are listed as "normal."

So congratulations and hopefully the first trimester treats your kindly! 

Remember, this will pass and the second trimester will be here before you know it. Comment below with anything you felt helped you get through the first few months. 

Staying Hydrated Even When Water isn't Appetizing

By: Gloria Miles

The hot, muggy days of summer are here.  While hydration is very important to anyone, it's especially important during pregnancy! Good hydration can keep individuals healthy and happy.  

During pregnancy, blood volume expands to about twice its normal volume.  Water is a crucial part of this equation.  Dehydration can cause a whole host of problems during pregnancy. 

The author at about 7 months pregnant. 

The author at about 7 months pregnant. 

The impact of dehydration

Dehydration can lead to: 

The benefits of hydrating well

Adequate fluid consumption helps:

I understand that I need hydrate, but I can't really stand the taste of water!

Some people have no problems drinking water, but others may struggle to get the appropriate amount of glasses down.  There are many ways to help with this.  Sometimes it's as simple as making the water very cold or adding ice.  But for some, the taste (or lack of taste) really bothers them. 

Tips to Increase Water Intake

  • Add some fruit or veggies! Add some lime or lemon juice, dilute a little bit of juice to add a splash of flavor, or stick some cucumber wedges into a pitcher of cold water. 
  • Use sparkling water to satisfy a carbonation craving without dealing with all the sugar of sodas. Add a splash of fruit juice if you need a little extra flavor.
  • Eat your veggies and fruit! Watery fruits and vegetables also count towards the day's water consumption.  Cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, celery, and grapes all have a lot of water content. 
    Note: Careful with fruit consumption if you have gestational diabetes or other complications that warrant counting sugars.  Always follow provider recommendations.
  • Carry a water bottle around with you.  Sometimes access is the best way to increase your consumption.
  • In a similar vein, leave water bottles around your home so that whatever room you're in, there's always some water available. 

I can't keep water down!

If you are someone who has a hard time keeping anything down, including water, please seek medical attention.  Similarly, if you have any signs of sever dehydration like dark yellow urine, very little urine output, signs of an infection, or any other concerning symptoms, please call your provider or seek medical attention.  Some women can suffer from conditions like hyperemesis which severely limits the amount of things, including fluids, that they can keep down.  This is much different than normal morning sickness and needs the oversight of a medical professional.  

 

Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

What are your best tips and tricks? 

And now it's your turn: What are your best tips and tricks for upping water consumption?  For myself, I love icy cold water.  I tend to drink that a lot more consistently than room temperature water.  I also really love watermelon and cucumbers, which I feel helps me hydrate as well.  During my winter pregnancies, I added soup to my list of ways to get water, but I shy away from this during summer months. 

Comment below with what helped you during pregnancy or just any other time in life! 

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.
 

Guest Post: Why Moms Make the Worst Clients, and Why I’ll Never Stop Training Them.

Guest Post: Why Moms Make the Worst Clients, and Why I’ll Never Stop Training Them.

I’ve been a Personal Trainer at a gym for over 8 years. After having my first child 4 years ago, I saw how different my body was and took a course in Pre and Post-Natal Fitness with the goal to help other moms through those changes. Little did I know Moms would become some of my favorite yet worst clients. See, Personal Trainers only get paid after they train a session with a client, and I soon saw my paycheck take a hit. Here’s why…

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Doula Spotlight
Cat Ennis Sears     
"There are no standard paths. Points of comparison do not exist. Each of us is so totally unique that our processes are bound to be like no other. Linear progress can be planned when you have a goal, when you have a map, but not when you explore the unimaginable unknown. The dreamworld of creation can make your reasonable mind dizzy with its changing grounds.  Nothing can control your intuition; this is its beauty and power. Life flows throughout it, ungraspable, unmeasurable." --Michele Cassou

Business Name: Birthing From Within Richmond
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: Childbirth education, certified birth doula, certified postpartum doula, acupressure
Years in practice: 4
Number of families served: ~31 births, ~13 postpartum families, ~40 childbirth education students (that overlaps)
What is your fee? $700 (birth), $25/hour (postpartum), classes $150-200

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

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How do you recover from a long birth?

How do you recover from a long birth?

It may be your first birth. It may be your tenth. But sooner or later, you will have that marathon birth. The thirty hour birth they tell legends about, the birth that you will be processing for weeks, the birth that balances out the shorter ones. This is the beauty and the difficulty of doula support: there are no shift changes. Your continued presence is so valuable to provide continuity to a family who is working long and hard to meet their baby through a rotating cast of care providers, nurses, position changes, comfort measures, and more. The family will be blessed to have you, and you will know you made a difference. But that doesn't make it any easier to recover, especially after the birth feelings wear off, and you're at home, tired, with a crazy messy house, maybe crazy children, and there's not enough coffee in the world!

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How do you recover from a postpartum doula overnight?

How do you recover from a postpartum doula overnight?

Guest post by McRae Brittingham of Aunt McRae's New Family Support. McRae is a postpartum doula, breastfeeding peer counselor and child passenger safety technician. Read more about McRae here
With input from Amy Washington, postpartum doula of Mom4Hire, & Erica Angert, postpartum doula of Erica the Doula, LLC.

This is a two part series. This week, we'll be talking about recovering from a long night as a postpartum doula. Next week, we'll tackle recovering from a long birth. If you want to learn about a day in the life of a postpartum doula, click here. 

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Birth Story: Brandy Buckel

Birth Story: Brandy Buckel

Brandy Buckel shares her inspirational birth story in this week's blog post. We thought it was beautiful to read! Thank you, Brandy, for allowing us to share your story with the world!

If you'd like to share your birth story on the RD blog, please email it to us at rdoulas@gmail.com, along with a few photos. We are looking for all kinds of birth stories to help normalize any kind of birthing experience in RVA!

Being a plus sized girl, when I was pregnant I was already overweight. I was 4'11 at 185lbs and wore a size 16. I didn't care about my weight when thinking about how I wanted to labor; it wasn't even an issue but I found out quick while at my first visit to the birthing center that weight DOES matter. I was told if my BMI hit 50 I wouldn't be able to labor at the center. I KNEW i wouldn't hit that but it still kind of hurt to hear.

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Parenting and Birth Doula Work

Parenting and Birth Doula Work
You mean, you just go to a birth when you’re called? What do you do with your kids? What about work?

For a lot of people, it’s not sustainable to just up and leave your job responsibilities and/or leave your kids with someone to go to a birth. Childcare and job responsibilities are the number one reason why there is such high turnover in doula work. Maybe as this profession grows, we’ll figure out other models that allow more people to enter and stay in this field—perhaps a pregnant person would hire a team of doulas who take turns being on call. But for now, most doulas work on the model of being on call 24/7 for their clients. On one hand, this consistency and certainty that the person you've built a relationship with will attend your birth is one of the reasons why, I think, doula presence can be so effective. But on the other hand, while being invited into a birth space is a sacred invitation, the logistics are not always easy to arrange. This blog post will explore how to make the logisitics of being on call 24/7 a little easier.

This is a two part blog post. Part One  will explore the resiliency of your children, and how to prepare and reunite with your kids. Part Two will explore different options for resources on where to drop your kids--other doulas, your friends/family/neighbors, your partner, paid childcare. Stay tuned and join the conversation!

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Hendricks

Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Hendricks

Doula Spotlight
Sarah Hendricks
 

Business Name: DouLife
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: ToLabor Birth Doula
Years in practice: 1
Number of births attended: 4 (with lots coming up!)
What is your fee? $550

Sarah is a kind and knowledgeable woman who brings so much to the birth community. She is dedicated and so passionate about this work. If you're pregnant, take some time to sit down with her and chat and find out if she has any availability for birth!

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

 

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What to Consider When Hiring a Doula

What to Consider When Hiring a Doula

So you're pregnant and considering hiring a doula. Maybe you knew all about doulas for months before you were expecting or maybe this is all new to you! You know that you're inviting this person into your birth space and those first few vulnerable and sweet weeks postpartum...what should you consider when hiring them?

What is more important: how many births they've attended, what kind of training and certifications they have? Or their personality and whether you vibe with them? Of course their fee has a lot to do with your decision. If you qualify for Medicaid and are located in Richmond, be sure to check out Urban Baby Beginnings to connect with a volunteer birth or postpartum doula. (You can self refer on their website).

If you're able to afford the standard birth doula fee of $500-1000 or postpartum fee of $25/hour, you can find yourself with a long list of potential available doulas! (If you have questions about the cost of a birth doula, check out this blog post where we talk about getting covered by insurance and other questions about what goes into a birth doula fees.)

We asked some of our members (many of whom entered the birth world by hiring their own doula for their pregnancies) what they think is important to consider when hiring a birth or postpartum doula. Here are their four major themes to consider.

As doulas, we consider being hired an honor, and we know that being invited into this time of your life is a very special decision!

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