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Affirmations: My Body is Strong and Beautiful

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So much of the process of feeling prepared for birth is about having trust in and love for your body: how it has served you in practical and pleasurable ways, how it has conceived of and lovingly grows your baby, how it was perfectly designed to give birth.  There are so many ways to build body-trust and body-love.  Here’s a list of just a few of my favorites:

-get a massage (from your partner or from a professional massage therapist)

-take a bath

-go for a walk

-stare lovingly at your gorgeous, glowing self in the mirror

-work up a sweat exercising

-make love

-take a nap

-eat a nourishing meal with mindfulness

-rub your favorite scented lotion or oil all over your juicy self

-have a belly casting made

-get your belly decorated with henna

-visualize your ideal birth

What are some ways you practice love for your body? How did that self love “pay off” for you?  (Yes, YOU are beautiful!)

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birth, doulas, pregnancy, preparation for birth, Uncategorized

Red Flags: 3 Signs Your Care Provider is Not a Good Fit for You

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(Please note: for the purposes of this list, I use they/them pronouns to refer to care providers in order to make the language open to all possibilities.)

  1. You feel anything less than SEEN, HEARD, AND RESPECTED in your visits.

You deserve to be treated as if your time, concerns and questions matter.  Do you have time to ask your doctor or midwife all of your questions or do you feel rushed?  Do you feel satisfied and confident with the responses to your questions or are you met with disapproval for asking them? Examples of “red flag” responses to questions might include: “I’m the one who went to medical school.  Why don’t you let me decide that?” or “You don’t need to ask so many questions.  I’ve been doing this for a long time,” or “You think you want a natural birth now but just wait!  You’ll be begging me for the epidural when you’re in labor.”

If someone so readily dismisses your desires or insults your values in a prenatal visit, this is not a good sign that your wishes will be respected in labor.  (A related sign of disrespect is the use of the word “let”, as in “I don’t let my patients go over 40 weeks.” You are the consumer and this is your body.  Your care provider’s job is to provide you with information and recommendations based on their education, experience, and the evidence so that you can make the best decisions for you.  It is NOT their job to decide whether or not you are allowed to do anything!

 

2. They do not practice evidence-based care.

You deserve care that is based on what the best evidence shows is safest and healthiest for you and your baby, not just care that is most convenient or routine for your care provider.

A care provider’s rates of interventions (such as induction, episiotomy, or cesarean) tell a story about the sort of birth they routinely attend and the mode of care with which they feel most comfortable.  If these rates are not within recommended guidelines or if your care provider tells you they are unwilling or unable to provide statistics on these things, then it’s red flag time.

An independent childbirth class can help you understand how to find and use evidence, and how to ask questions about your care in the moment.  Some wonderful resources for researching evidence include:

http://evidencebasedbirth.com/

http://www.improvingbirth.org/

http://www.childbirthconnection.org/

Responses like, “This is just how we do it in this practice because we’ve found it works best,” or, “Sure, I’ll let you do whatever you want as long as the baby isn’t in danger,” don’t answer the actual concern or show a willingness to make a real change in the way of practicing.  Look for specific details on how they plan to support you in having the safest and most satisfying birth for you, and a willingness to work on a solid plan with you for following through.

Outside of a provider’s statistics, the stories you hear from others about care received from them can also help paint a picture of their routine of care. I’m not suggesting you change care providers based on one negative story.  Doctors and midwives are human and therefore, like all of us, have bad days and make mistakes.  But if there is a pattern that develops in several stories, it can be indicative of a mode of practice or birth philosophy.  It’s unrealistic to think a care provider will suddenly begin behaving differently than their history suggests they have consistently behaved in the past.  When asking for feedback about a care provider, pay attention to the stories coming from people who value the same sort of birth you’re planning (whether or not they had this sort of birth).  Your local ICAN chapter may also be a good place to learn about care providers who are a good fit for your birth preferences.

 

3. You have a bad feeling.

Trust your intuition.  Even if you can’t put your finger on a specific reason, your inner wisdom has something to tell you. Those feelings coming from your gut actually play a valuable part in smart decision making!

 

Your choice of care provider has a big impact on your birth outcome and birth satisfaction.  You and your baby deserve the best possible care at this important time.

If, after reading this list, some red flags have been raised, here’s are some posts about exploring the idea of switching to a new care provider.

http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/how-change-your-care-provider-during-pregnancy

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/choosingapractitioner/a/changingdoctors.htm

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Your childbirth educator, doula, local birth support network, or ICAN chapter can also be great resources for making this decision. 

Have you had experience switching care providers in pregnancy?  Were you glad you made the switch?  Did you have an experience that made you wish you had listened to your gut and made a switch?

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Affirmations: Pregnancy and Birth are Normal and Safe

In all of my classes and workshops, we spend time learning about and exploring how to use positive affirmations for building confidence and self love and for reaching goals.  I have had sets of beautiful affirmation cards printed and laminated which can be purchased at a class or by contacting me.  I truly believe in the power of these little jewels for changing the landscape of our hearts and minds.  I would like to share a few of these here on the Dandelion Birth Blog for inspiration.  To see more, be sure to sign up to “follow” the blog.

 

The first one I’d like to share with you is the cornerstone upon which my “birth philosophy” is based (if I were forced to come up with one).  As Ina May Gaskin says, “Your body is not a lemon.”  It’s a powerful truth.  Is it one you believe?  Is it one you live in your own journey?  How does it feel to embrace this truth?

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(For a clearer look, click on the picture.)

 

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Presenting…The Confident Mothering Workshop

Have you ever been in any the following situations?
You are at the pediatrician’s office for your child’s 3 month well baby visit. Your pediatrician is recommending something that just doesn’t “feel right” to you but you don’t think you ought to disagree with him. You’re scared that you’ll make the wrong choice under pressure.
OR
Your mother-in-law has spent the last couple of hours caring for your child. When you arrive to pick him up, you notice that she has completely ignored some very specific instructions you gave her about his care. You feel enraged but bite your tongue because you wonder if you might be making a big deal out of something that really isn’t.
OR
A friend just heard you casually mention something about your parenting which is different from her own methods. She is making little snarky comments that sound like she is just joking around but actually make you feel doubtful, angry, and hurt.
OR
You are out at the store with your child. He starts throwing a tantrum because he wants something he can’t have. A total stranger gives you the stink eye. You feel like you must be bright red because you are burning up with embarrassment. Your vision is blurry and your mind is racing and you feel like would do just about anything to get your kid to be quiet RIGHT NOW, even if that something is totally out of line with the parenting principles you want to practice.
OR
You just had a new baby and you feel totally unprepared and freaked out by EVERY. SINGLE. DECISION. you have to make, from what kind of diapers to use to how much you should hold him, to how many layers he should be wearing and on and on. You are so nervous that you’ll make the wrong choice about something or that you’re just not cut out for this parenting thing.

Based on my experience as a parent and a human being, I would venture to guess that pretty much every parent out there has felt all of these things in some form at some time or other. So, why is it that some moms seem so confident and “on top of things”? Do they know some secret?
What if you could learn some skills that could help you to feel that sense of confidence? What if you could learn how to really trust your own wisdom as a mother and could find freedom and joy as a result? What if, instead of struggling with doubts about yourself and your choices, you could stand strong in knowing you are doing a great job?
I will be the first to tell you that the greatest challenges I have ever faced have come out of seemingly small moments like the ones listed above. These are the sorts of moments that bring out feelings we never knew in such intensity. Moments that shine a cold light on questions we never wanted to face. Moments that make us feel like we are being tested. And often, like we are failing that test.
I remember once seeing a woman at the grocery fighting with her son while I, too, was struggling just to pick out groceries and put them in the cart while keeping my own sons out of trouble. The other mother and I made eye contact and smiled at one another. I made a joke to her about motherhood being the fast track to enlightenment, whether we want it or not. She and I had a moment of connection there as we both realized the truth of this and laughed together.
Now, I’m not calling myself enlightened. But I will say that I have had some amazing teachers over my parenting journey and the four best ones are my sons. Motherhood has truly been an opportunity to open my heart and to let go of some ego and admit just how much I have room to learn. Some days, the best I can say is, “I kept them all alive and fed today.” But, some days, I fall asleep realizing a real breakthrough occurred that day, that a thing I had been trying to make part of me was suddenly sticking. And with every one of those good days, my confidence has grown. Again, I’m not saying I have it all figured out. What I am saying is this: I have been lucky enough to have some beautiful lessons given to me by some brilliant teachers, and I want to share these lessons and the feelings of confidence, freedom, and joy they inspire with as many mother as I am able.
Towards that end, I have created the Confident Mothering workshop. Some of the goals of the workshop are to help each mother who takes part
-Learn to listen to and trust her own intuition. (What is intuition? What does it sound like? Do I even have any? How do I know I can trust it?)
-Filter out other voices that shake her confidence in her choices or don’t contribute to her wellbeing. (Whether these voices are real or imagined.)
-Respond when others disagree with her choices or beliefs as a parent. (Without feeling defensive or confrontational.)
-Develop her own mothering wisdom “style”.
-Enjoy parenting from a place of freedom and joy.

This workshop takes place over the course of two Tuesday evenings together in an intimate setting. We will also have a private facebook group for participants to offer one another support after the face to face meetings so that we can continue to learn and grow together. We’ll use creative tools and techniques to bring on some real “AHA!” moments that will open the way for transformation…
From doubt to confidence
From guilt to freedom
From fear to love!


What have you got to lose? Don’t you deserve to enjoy your journey as much as you can?
The first session of this exciting workshop will take place on February 25th and March 4th. All participants must be registered at least a week ahead of time. For further info about registration, click here.

Update: I will be holding this workshop again May 18 & 25, 2017. Register today!

pregnancy, preparation for birth, trust your body, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant!? Now…I have a million questions!

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Upon discovering she’s expecting, a woman may have a variety of emotions: excitement, panic, joy, confusion, fear, anticipation, grief, relief, or a combination of these and more.  Along with a host of emotions, pregnancy also brings with it a slew of questions.

Questions about her body and what she can do with it…

-Will I have morning sickness?  Can it be prevented?

-Do I have to stop eating all of my favorite foods now?  Do I have to start eating anything special?

-What supplements and vitamins am I supposed to be taking?

-Can I stay on my workout plan?  Is exercise safe?

-Is it normal that my breasts hurt?  Is it normal that I ALREADY have to pee all the time?

-Why am I so hungry?  …or…  Why does food sound so gross to me?

-Is there something wrong with me if I don’t feel happy all the time?

 

Questions about her baby…

-How big is he or she now?

-How do I best take care of him or her?

-How will I know if s/he’s healthy?

 

Questions about her relationships…

-Will I be a good mom?

-Will I have the support I need from my partner?

-Why do I feel the need to be “mothered” so much right now?

-Is life as I know it over?

-Who can I talk to about my concerns?

 

Questions about sex…

-Is it safe to have sex?  Will it hurt the baby?

-Why do I want to have sex all the time? …or…  Why do I have no libido whatsoever?

-Will my partner still be attracted to me as my body changes?

-How will I feel about my body as it changes?

 

Questions about her prenatal care and birth…

-Is my current OB/GYN the best choice for my prenatal care?

-How do I pick a care provider?  Where do I even start?

-What’s a midwife?  Why would I choose one?  How do I find one?

-Do I want to give birth in a hospital or at home?

-Do I need all the tests I’ve read about?

-Will I be able to handle childbirth?

-What the heck is a doula?

 

Where does a pregnant woman turn for answers and reassurance about all of these questions?  Even if she has already chosen a prenatal care provider, her first visit may not be scheduled for several weeks.  Visits with a care provider may seem too rushed or she may feel too nervous to ask all of her questions.  Some questions may feel too “weird” or “gross” to know who it’s safe to ask.  Childbirth preparation classes are usually geared towards expectant parents past about 20 weeks gestation.  There are so many books on the shelves, it’s hard to know which one is a good choice.  That copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that was passed along to her only makes her feel more nervous and unsure.  The questions just keep adding up…

I remember well how it felt when I was first pregnant with my first son.  I had very few friends in a new town, and even fewer of them had children (and even fewer of them had had the sorts of births I wanted for myself).  I didn’t know where to begin finding the right care provider.  I had read about midwives but, how the heck was I supposed to find one?  They weren’t in the phone book!  Did I just pick an OB and hospital closest to my home?  I had so many expectations and hopes and dreams and wondered if they were normal or realistic.  It was a lonely time in many ways.

As a doula, I am often not contacted by clients until they are over halfway through their pregnancies.  By that point, they may have missed out on crucial information that could have helped them feel healthier, more confident, and more prepared for a satisfying birth; I often feel like we are scrambling to fill in the gaps.  I have seen a real need for a way to get important information to pregnant women sooner so that they can really ENJOY PREGNANCY!

Out of my experience and the many questions I heard from pregnant women was born the blueprint for a class.  Healthy Pregnancy is designed to help women feel informed, empowered, and confident.  I truly believe that a healthy, confident pregnancy sets the stage for a healthy, confident birth (which can set the stage for a healthy, confident start to parenting).  I want to give that gift to as many expectant mothers as I can!  Like all of my classes, this one is interactive, fun, and tailored to the needs of the individual students.  It’s a great way to learn more, ask questions, set your mind at ease, and maybe make some friends!  Not bad for a few Saturday afternoon hours.  (Plus, goodie bags and healthy and delicious snacks will be provided… what more do you need to know?)

To learn more or to register, check out my website Enjoy the ride!

 

birth, birth stories, postpartum support, pregnancy, preparation for birth, trust your body

Birth Matters!

In the summer of 2006, I was lucky enough to be chosen for a role in Louisville’s Birth Care Network’s local production of Birth the Play. The play is comprised of 7 women’s birth stories with 7 actors playing all the characters within each story: family members, partners, doctors, nurses, etc. Part of the powerful narrative of one woman’s cesarean birth story is her consternation at how often she is told, “…but you had a healthy baby!” when she tries to express her grief at how her child was born.
At the time I was taking part in this show, I was very pregnant with my second son. My first birth had hit me face-first with surprise, dismay, fear, disappointment, and many other emotions that I didn’t quite know how to heal. Whenever we would rehearse the scene with those lines about “…but you had a healthy baby!” I would wonder if that was something people actually said to women who talked about their births honestly. It seemed like such a silly and dismissive and ignorant thing to say.

The more I have worked in the birth world as a doula, childbirth educator, and breastfeeding peer support person, the more I have heard that trite line trotted out to mothers and it never ceases to amaze me that it can be anything besides a line in a play. I have many theories about why people like to use that line so much: they’re genuinely trying to find the silver lining and make the mother feel better, they are in denial about their own birth experience and the feelings they don’t want to face about it, they just aren’t thinking about what’s coming out of their mouths…etc.
But let’s look at what’s really being said behind those words…

If a woman has a birth experience that is unexpected, scary, or traumatic in some way (and that’s really only up to her perspective, not anyone else’s), she may feel any or all of the following:
Sad
Angry
Confused
Betrayed
Like a failure
Abandoned
Lonely
Frightened
Traumatized
Depressed
Bitter

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Her feelings about her birth may affect her ability to bond with and enjoy her baby or to enjoy life in general. Her feelings may make it hard for her to connect to other people who just don’t seem to understand. She may feel jealous of other mothers whose births she perceives as having been “easy” or “perfect”. She may not want to talk about her feelings for fear of being judged. She may feel alienated by all of this.
If she does find the courage to say something about how she is truly feeling and is met with “…but you have a healthy baby!” what she is really hearing is this:
“Your baby is the only part of this story that matters. You do not matter. Your body does not matter. Your feelings do not matter. Birth does not matter.”
And I am here to tell you that none of that is true. Of course every mother wants more than anything in the world for her baby to be safe and healthy. But that hope is not mutually exclusive of everything else having to do with her birth story. In fact, all parts are connected: mother, mother’s feelings, mother’s body, mother’s experience, baby’s health. Every piece of the puzzle affects all the others.  And to tell a woman that her feelings and experience are invalid is just the sort of thing that sets us up for our current rates of postpartum depression in the United States, for an epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following birth  (Postpartum Traumatic Stress Disorder?), and for a culture of disconnect and “dis-ease” (as in, the opposite of health).
So, what do we do about this?

For mothers:
Find the support you need. There are people out there who are willing to listen to your birth story and the feelings you have about it with no judgment. There is support for you. Contact a local birth network, your doula (or, if you did not have a doula, find one in your area who can point you in the direction of local support), your local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter, a therapist, or a friend who is a good listener. Look for a postpartum wellness group on facebook. Join a positive new moms group or playgroup. Don’t stop reaching out until you have gotten what you need to process and heal. It is possible.

For others:
Watch this video .  And please, never tell a woman that the only thing that matters about her birth is her baby. Listen quietly. Hug. Bring meals. Let her cry. Let her feel her feelings. Help her find support if you feel it is more than you can do to help her by yourself.
Some of my favorite resources:

Home


http://www.parentingscience.com/childbirth-trauma.html

And, one very concrete way you can work on processing your story and move towards healing is to take part in an upcoming “Unpacking Your Birth Baggage” workshop with me. In this workshop, we will work in a small group to look at the feelings we have from our birth experiences (or about an upcoming birth…read more about the workshop here) and figure out how to own our stories in a confident, freeing way rather than being held back by them. The process is powerful and so is the chance to be in a safe place with supportive women. The workshop package includes ongoing support via a private facebook group and other chances to contact after our face to face time has passed. I believe so strongly in this process and want to share it with as many women as I can.  In order to give women the specific type of experiences they need in this process, I will be offering two separate workshops: one for expectant mothers who are holding doubts, fears, and confusion about their ability to give birth; and another for mothers who have had traumatic or unexpected birth outcomes and need a safe place to process them and move on into parenting with freedom and joy.  The next workshop is set for March 11 and 18 and is intended for Mother’s who’ve given birth before.  To learn more details or to register, visit my website.

Know this: You matter. Your feelings matter. Your experience matters. Your birth matters. BIRTH MATTERS.

Sending you a hug,
Jenny Claire

Photo credit: Jana Glass, Looking Glass Photography

birth, birth stories, postpartum support, pregnancy, preparation for birth, trust your body

Take a Journey to Joy…Unpack your negative baggage!

Walking path - downhill
Walking path – downhill (Photo credit: Dey)

Unpacking Your Birth Baggage
Imagine you’re about to embark on one of the most important journeys of your life. You’re not exactly sure what is ahead on this trip but you know it will have some challenges and surprises and will hopefully end with an incredible reward. You know lots of other women who’ve travelled to your intended destination. Some of these travelers talk about how painful, scary, and arduous the journey was; others have told you that they found the trip full of joy, empowerment, and revelation. You don’t know what to expect!
As the time nears for you to take off, you check on the suitcase you’ll be taking on the trip. When you try to lift the suitcase, you find it’s impossible to get off the ground. Then, you realize it has already been packed for you by your mother and all of your other female relatives, several movie and television producers, the advertising executives at many major baby gear manufacturers, a few co-workers, and a woman in line behind you at the grocery last week. You open the suitcase to find it contains nothing but rocks, bricks, an anvil, and a 40-year-old travel guide to your intended destination.
You realize none of this makes sense for a journey as important as the one you’re about to begin. This is your trip and only you should get to decide what you’ll pack and what sort of adventure lies ahead!

Each of us enters into birth and parenting with “baggage”. The secret is realizing that you have a choice about what baggage you continue carrying and what baggage you toss behind you as you move forward. The “Unpacking Your Birth Baggage” workshop will help you go through the process to explore what sort of baggage you’re currently carrying, to decide what tools and insights you want to be carrying to help you achieve your desired journey, and to make steps to help you pack the sort of bag that will serve you well along the way. What sort of trip do you want to take? How do you want to feel while you’re travelling? The choice is yours and I would love to be your travel agent in helping you plan the journey that will bring you the most joy and satisfaction.

This workshop is for you…
-if you are pregnant for the first time and have lots of anxiety, fear, questions, and confusion about birth and wonder if you can “handle it”.
-if you have had a previous birth experience that left you with sadness, anger, trauma, grief, confusion, or doubt which you just can’t seem to heal from or let go of.
-if you want to take ownership of your birth and parenting journey wherever you are right now in order to enjoy it fully moving forward.

This workshop will take place over the course of two weeks in an intimate setting with a small group of other women also looking to achieve freedom and confidence on the birth and parenting path. You will be given ongoing support for the process after our face to face time together as well, via private facebook group and personal consultation.

I have had the privilege of helping many women through this process and have seen astounding, inspiring results. I am excited to offer this experience to as many women as I can.  As with all of my offerings, if cost is an issue, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss options.

 

We’ll meet at Mama’s Hip to do this great work together, two Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30. A $20 deposit is required to hold your spot in the workshop, payable via PayPal or check. Registration details are available here. Register today to claim your spot; spaces will be limited to ensure an intimate group for open discussion. Don’t miss your chance for this empowering experience. I can’t wait to get started helping you unpack your birth baggage so that you can Pack Your Bags for a Journey of Joy!  Contact me with any questions.

Note, updated April, 2014: The May session of this workshop will be the last one offered until September at the earliest.  If you are anxious to explore this process, don’t miss your window!

birth, pregnancy, preparation for birth

Prepare for Birth the fun way!

 

During one of the “Prepared for Birth” classes I was teaching recently, one of the expectant mothers said, “This is fun!” while participating in an interactive learning activity. Those kinds of moments are the most exciting for me as a teacher because they tell me that what I’m trying to give my students is hitting home for them. We all learn better (meaning, actually retain and can use what we learn) when we’re having fun. My classes are designed to be FUN for that very reason!

Keep Smiling #49.
Keep Smiling #49. (Photo credit: dawe2k5)

When you think of childbirth classes, do you imagine sitting in a chair for hours and listening to a boring lecture? Do you wonder what the point is when you could just read a book to get the same information?
Not all childbirth classes are created equal. There are some that are just about one “expert” talking at a room full of pregnant people and their partners. Classes like that are the reason childbirth education gets a bad rap in some circles, unfortunately. Lucky for my students, I have learned some great tricks from some awesome educators and I have made it my goal to constantly research and create new ways to make the information I’m sharing really come to life for my students.
I believe the tools you gain in my classes can carry over to your life past labor and birth which is why I design them to be:
InterACTIVEstudents work together, learning from one another, moving around the room, using different learning styles, adding their own input and questions and needs to the discussion.

Dynamicno class series is exactly like the one before or the one to come. I tailor each series to the students and partners in the room. My focus is on meeting each expectant person where they are and helping them discover their own strengths for getting the birth they want (and for discovering what kind of birth that is). The class material shifts as the questions and concerns roll in and there is always plenty of “wiggle room” for adding further information as needed.

Creativewhether you learn by moving, drawing, listening, talking, speaking, growling, sculpting, dreaming, watching, or laughing, there are components of the class for you! We all learn better when we are engaged and interested, which is why I work hard to avoid boring classes!

Connectingthe activities in class will help you deepen connection with your partner, your baby, your intuition, your strengths, and your classmates. You will leave each class feeling empowered to make your best choices for your best birth and for your parenting journey.

Are you ready to laugh, squat, dance, roll, color, and grow your way into a joyous and loving birth experience? (Oh, and I didn’t even mention the chocolate or the play dough!)

Sign up for an upcoming series and take the fun track to getting “Prepared for Birth”!

doulas, preparation for birth

There IS an “I” in BRAIN

Many childbirth educators, doulas, and healthcare advocates like to use fun and memorable acronyms for reminding clients and students about the process of informed decision making.   Some educators send their students to the BAR to learn about the Benefits, Alternatives, and Risks of different tests and interventions.  Others encourage plenty of BRAN in the diet, adding the N for “Not now/Never”.  But, here at Dandelion Birth Services, where Information and Intuition go hand in hand, I prefer to teach my students and clients how to use their BRAINs!  That means, as a good birthcare consumer, you’ll check in with your self and your care team on the following points before making a choice about a procedure:

B What are the Benefits?

R What are the Risks?

A Are there Alternatives?

I What does my intuition tell me about this?

N Can we wait on this?  Can it happen Not now or Never?

Brain Art

The “I” for Intuition is a very essential part of the process.  We each deserve evidence based answers in order to make healthy choices.  But evidence only takes us so far.  After all…  “I” am not a statistic.  “I” am not a research study.  “I” am not a percentage on a chart.  “I” am the one with the unique perspective of head, heart, and experience inside me.  “I” am the parent of my child.  “I” am the best expert on me.

So, take the time to research your options and understand the science behind them.  But don’t leave out the very important step of listening in to what your inner voice is telling you.  Do you know how your intuition speaks to you?  Is the voice quiet or strong?  What are some ways you’ve found to help you get in touch with your intuition?

doulas

Why I do it

People often ask me, “What made you decide to become a doula?”  My answer rolls off my tongue pretty easily, rehearsed and oft-repeated.  It’s a quick summary of my first birth experience sans doula compared to my second birth experience and all the ways a doula’s presence enhanced and improved it.  While this is definitely part of the reason I “chose” this field of work, it isn’t really the reason I keep doing it.  Let me start by ruling out a few things which are NOT on my list of reasons…

  1. I don’t do it for the convenient hours.  You could go into labor at 3:00 am during a week when my baby is teething and I haven’t slept in days.  You could go into labor when I’m in the middle of a birthday party for my child or when it’s time to open the Christmas presents.  You could go into labor on the one day when none of my friends or family members are able to drop everything and come to my house to babysit.  Being a doula doesn’t fit neatly into my “free time”.
  2. I don’t do it for the money.  In this area, the average doula fee is around $600.  Considering I’ll be spending 12-50 hours actively with you, not counting driving time, time responding to phone calls or emails, and time I spend researching special circumstances or conditions applicable to your situation, this doesn’t end up being as much as it might sound.
  3. I don’t do it for the power and influence.  Honestly, I don’t want any!  My job is never to make you feel like I have the “right” answer about what you should do in any situation.  My job is to present you with evidence-based information about your options and then to support you as you make your choices. And my joy is in helping to build your confidence in your own decision-making.
  4. I don’t do it for the insurance, sick days, vacation time, or any other benefits packages.  Many doulas are creatively brainstorming on ways to cooperatively pool our talents and time towards mutually beneficial arrangements for this sort of thing, but for now, in this town at least, it hasn’t happened yet.

And now for why I DO do it.  The answer may sound trite but it is true.  I do it for LOVE.  I do it because I love you.  I love pregnant people.  I love mothers.  I love babies.  I love life.  I love choice.  I love empowerment.  I love raised consciousness.  I love families.  I love community.  I love love.

Since I started the process of trying to put this answer into writing, I’ve had the lyrics to an Ani Difranco song stuck in my head almost constantly.  The song goes:

I do it for the joy it brings, because I am a joyful girl.

Because the world owes me nothing, and we owe each other the world.

I do it cause it’s the least I can do.  I do it because I learned it from you.

pregnant african american woman

Now, it’s true that there is a HUGE amount of joy in this line of work.  I mean, come on, I get to see people welcoming babies into their lives on a regular basis!  What’s more joyful than that?  But, it isn’t all joy.  There is doubt and fear and sorrow and grief.  There is anxiety and pain and suffering and depression and a lot of mess and inconvenience and letting go.  For me, and for my clients, and for their families.  But, at the end of the day, all of that is part of the beautiful package.  I am honored when folks allow me to join them in the valleys of their experience as well as on the brightly lit hilltops.  I take very seriously my role as advocate and listener and support-person and bridge to the community of resources at those times, and I carry it out with as much love as I do during the joy-filled times.

This job often feels like the embodiment of the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Where there is despair (let me sow) hope,

Where there is darkness, light,

Where there is sorrow, joy…

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

To be loved as to love…

For it is in giving that we receive.”

And therein lies the truth.  I do it for love, but it’s not selfless.  Because I receive SO MUCH from the job of serving women (and, you’ll recall the word “doula” is actually Greek for “servant”).  I am honored at the opportunity to be part of a family’s most sacred moment.  I am inspired by the strength and courage of parents birthing and becoming.  I am overcome with joy at each new baby’s entrance into the world.

When you become my client, I take you into my mind and my heart.  I think about you and your birth and your baby from the time you hire me until months and years afterwards.  Outside of this form of connection we have, we might never have met and might not even have liked each other!  We may totally differ in appearance, background, philosophy, politics, manner, and a million other things.  But, because you choose to allow me this honored place on your birth team, you are in my circle of love.  And that continues to be true even if we never meet again after our postpartum visits.

Time and time again, clients say to me after their births, “Thank you so much!  I couldn’t have done it without you!”  To all of you, my answer is, “Thank YOU!  You could have done it without me.  But I am so glad I was here.  It was an honor and a blessing.”

Thank you, to all of the folks who make me a doula.  You are beautiful, glowing, brave, and inspiring.  Thank you for being the reason I do what I do.

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