How I learned to stop worrying and love my intuition

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As part of a career exploration class I was part of in highschool, I took the long version of the Myers-Briggs personality test which gives a four letter code (not that kind of four letter code!) to explain one’s personality type.  I was (and still am) an ENFP…Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving (vs Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging).  What was most outstanding about my results was, of the thinking vs feeling questions, I scored for feeling on 99 out of 100.  (Most trait results for the test are much less skewed because most people are much more balanced!)  For me, this test really showed that feeling and intuition were a huge part of my self.

Soon after that, I got the message that my way of being was inferior to a more practical or pragmatic approach, that feeling made me weak and unreasonable.  Because I have a tendency towards depression and anxiety, being so in tune with emotions (my own and others’) often came with a high price as well.  So I worked hard to build up a shell of  cold hard reason against the world.  As you can imagine, this didn’t work very well.  Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve had to learn from in my life came from ignoring my gut and doing what I thought I should do or what sounded reasonable and right. 

Around the time I gave birth to my first son, I finally realized that this false way of trying to live my life was affecting my health, my sanity, my effectiveness, and my authenticity.  I began to give myself permission to get back in touch with my inner voice and I have been on a journey since then to learn how to respect, honor, and follow that voice towards the best choices for my family and for me.

The more involved I have become in the wonderful world of birth and breastfeeding, the more excited I have become about the phrase “evidence based”.  At some point, I had to ask myself why I, an ENFP, was so enamored with all of these studies and statistics.  And the answer was that more often than not, the evidence backed up what my intuition already told me: that birth works best when left to progress naturally, that this whole process of making and birthing and feeding babies is perfectly designed and should not be messed with.  Many an article comes through my news feed which could be filed under the heading of “Stuff We Didn’t Need a Study to Tell Us”. 

But then, what about those studies that don’t back up my feelings or squarely contradict them?  In those cases, I am learning more and more to continue to trust my gut.  So far, my gut has not steered me wrong.  I can not say the same for reliance on statistics.  If there is a question between what an Authority has to say about something regarding my health or my child’s health versus what my inner wisdom tells me, I am going to choose my own voice.

mothersAs a childbirth educator, I hope to build my classes around this very idea that information and intuition need not be at odds and my goal is to help parents gather the evidence along with a solid trust in their own authority. 

Numbers can be twisted to work for the biases of a reviewer or reader.  Study methods can be flawed.  Our human ways of understanding and relaying science are often more of an art!  Truth can be up for auction to the highest bidder.  For all of these reasons, it is important to carry within yourself the ability to make a choice based on what feels right to you and not just on what sounds most fancy or convincing on paper.

In the process of giving birth, we are truly animals.  Clinging to statistics and “reason” can be detrimental to our ability to progress.  We birth with our bodies and our hearts, not our heads.  I want to empower women to trust the voice of love within their deepest selves.  It is that voice which always knows what is right.

Shame Shame!

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A group of men and women marching with strike ...

A group of men and women marching with strike signs (Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University)

Here in Louisville, labor unions often hire a couple of workers to stand in a conspicuous location holding a giant yellow sign that reads something like “SHAME SHAME Business Name” and a brief description below such as “Labor Dispute”.  I notice these signs but I often wonder if they actually make any difference.  Do the corporations being targeted actually feel any shame due to these signs?  Does the average passerby ever question the cause for the signs, let alone boycott the “Shamed” businesses?  What’s the point?

 Then I had the thought that maybe the importance of these signs lies in what they represent for the unions of people who sponsor them.  Perhaps they are simply a way for these workers to say “I matter.  I don’t deserve to be treated this way.  I am shining my little light in the big darkness.”

 

In the spirit of the Giant Yellow Shame Shame Sign, I offer the following open letter to our current culture:

 Shame on you for making women feel like our bodies are defective.  Shame on you for telling us we aren’t strong enough to give birth without drugs.  Shame on you for telling us doctors know better than we what is best for us.  Shame on you for telling us pregnancy and childbirthing are illnesses that need to be fixed and cured and managed.

 

Shame on you for telling us our pelvises are too small to allow our babies to fit through or our cervixes are incompetent or our uteruses are so weak that they will likely rupture.  Shame on you for telling us our bodies are too old to grow a healthy baby at the very age our lives have just made room for one.  Shame on you for telling us our bodies don’t know the proper time to give birth, that we need you to set the date or start the process.  Shame on you for telling us we need someone else to pull the baby out, suck the baby out, or cut the baby out.

 

Shame on you for telling us our chests and arms aren’t warm enough to nurture our babies immediately after they are born, that your fancy warming machines are superior.  Shame on you for scaring us out of keeping our babies close when they need us by telling us they need your medical training more than our loving presence.  Shame on you for telling us we can’t trust our intuition about how often or how long to hold, cuddle, nurse, and nurture our children. 

 

Shame on you for making us think we can’t make enough milk.  Shame on you for telling us to worry because we only pumped an ounce this time or the baby only ate two ounces.  Shame on you for telling us that artificial baby milk is the solution, that plastic contraptions are the solution, that giving up is the solution because we’ll probably never get it right anyway.

 

Shame on you for giving us dirty looks when we breastfeed our children in your line of sight.  Shame on you for telling us we should cover up or go to the bathroom or just stay home to do “that”.  Shame on you for telling us it’s gross or attention-seeking or inappropriate for your children’s eyes.  Shame on you for making us think a machine is superior to our baby for removing milk from our breasts and a bottle is superior to our breasts for feeding our baby. 

 

Shame on you for telling us the milk our bodies make is causing our babies to cry because they are allergic to it or it is too gassy or not nutritious enough.  Shame on you for telling us the milk we make is not as good as artificial baby milk or even “just as good as” artificial baby milk.  Shame on your for telling us we are making our babies too dependent or clingy or manipulative or spoiled by feeding them from our bodies and holding them when they ask for us.

 

Shame on you for telling us our bodies ought to look supermodel perfect 6 weeks after we give birth.  Shame on you for telling us the importance of our bodies lies more in how they look to the outside world than in the wonders they can perform for us and our families.  Shame on your for failing to notice just how perfect and beautiful and powerful our bodies are right now, as they are, no changes needed.

 

 

(Please note that I am not judging any woman who has made any choice listed above.  And I am also not attempting to say there is never a need for any of the things listed above to be used for good.  What I am condemning is the breakdown of women’s confidence, not the proper use of science, medicine, and intervention.  So please, no comments telling me, “But, I really didn’t make enough milk.  I really did need formula.  Stop picking on me.”, etc.  I support every woman’s choice to do any or all of the above.  My hope is only that we are given the opportunity to make those choices from a place of informed empowerment.)

What happy clients have to say

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The following “reviews” and stories are shared with permission from past clients.  These comments are written in the client’s own words with some editing for sake of clarity or length.  Many thanks to those who shared these special memories with me.

Emily C., daughter born December,2011 After meeting a couple of other very nice and experienced potential doulas, we decided on Jenny Claire right after our first meeting. As a first time mom, I was not particularly good at doula shopping as I had a hard time with this abstract notion of me actually giving birth to a baby — How did I know what the experience was really going to be like, what I really wanted, or whether I would like this stranger when I was lost in laborland? What made me realize Jenny Claire was right for us, besides her knowledge, passion, (and) sense of humor, was that she was confident, organized, and down to business.

I had wanted a doula to help us know what was happening with labor, how to maximize laboring at home, know when to go to the hospital, etc. And then also to remember the labor positions and stuff that we had learned in birth class. But all of that went out the window since it happened so fast.

What I remember that (Jenny Claire) specifically did that was especially helpful: *Listened and directed us that it was ok for us to go the hospital as sometimes labors DO progress that quickly, even for first timers.

*Asked if it was ok with me that they had put in the IV (not that I cared anymore, but I thought I would). *Directed D on counterpressure “Don’t stop!”

*Empathized from first hand experience and told me and D that “It’s really just terrible right now”. Instead of trying to fix it. (I think that helped the most.) *Telling me to relax the top half of my body and just push the energy out my bottom. Also to keep holding on to the push as I took another breath. *Took pictures!

I can’t think of anything I wish (Jenny Claire) had done differently or better.”

Chris M. (father), son born February, 2007 “As first time parents we were so thankful to have JC present at our son’s birth.  Her calm presence & helpful suggestions served to be extremely valuable.  She definitely made the experience more relaxed…(and was) by A’s side the entire time.  Not only did she help us understand all our options but also was a great support before and after the birth.  We are genuinely grateful for her shared knowledge and wonderful friendship.” 

 

R.L., son born December, 2009 “Regarding the ‘Unshakeable Jenny Claire’: The memories are still fresh in my mind, particularly of the ceaseless support you offered me while I was laboring.  I was so grateful that you were attentive enough to hear every command I managed to bark out so that I didn’t have to repeat myself ever.  I recall you holding me up when I was temporarily driven to my knees and letting me squeeze your finger as tightly as I needed.  The photos you took of C as he was held up for us to see are treasures we’ll always cherish.  Your presence was a huge comfort to T as well.”

L.D., daughter born January, 2010 “Words cannot express how thankful we are for having chosen you as our doula!  A’s birth was an amazing experience that we’ll remember fondly for the rest of our lives.  Your presence had such a calming effect on M and I and we are so glad we were able to share the joy of her birth with you.  We would be honored to recommend you to future clients.”

Emily S., son born June, 2012  “Having Jenny Claire as our doula was one of the absolute best decisions we made in terms of planning our birth.  She has a huge wealth of knowledge and experience, and offered a great deal of educational and emotional support.  She is laid back, compassionate, easy to talk to, in addition to having the courage to tell it like it is and advocate for you when you need it most. During my pregnancy, I had some issues with an anxiety disorder, and she was there for me 100% – I felt like I could tell her anything – and she could direct me to the appropriate resources for getting the help I needed.  During our labor, she was our rock.  She continually reassured me that my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do, and that truly helped me let go and allow for the process of childbirth to take over, just as Mother Nature intended.  Both my husband and I are eternally grateful for her.  We had a beautiful birth, and I believe it was greatly due to having her along with us in our journey.  Any woman and mother (and father, for that matter) is truly blessed to have her by their side.”

Barry S., (Emily’s husband) “I was initially skeptical of the need for a doula at all, as I suspect many men are. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that having a doula is as much if not more a benefit for the partner as it is for the mother. I was anxious, afraid I wouldn’t know what to do or wouldn’t be able to offer the help my wife needed. After one meeting with Jenny Claire, I felt so much better…I would have help, and help I could trust. Jenny’s confidence before, during, and after the birth was incredibly reassuring, and as the labor continued I began to appreciate that more and more. If it weren’t for her, we would have either been laboring alone or with an understandably less calm family member. In short, a doula is a must, and Jenny Claire’s services are worth their weight in gold. There is no doubt in my mind that I want her there for the births of any children we have in the future!”