Sustainable LunchBox: Built Bag and BentGO Box (Review)

I learned quite quickly the importance of self-care as a doula. If you are not well-rested and properly nourished, it becomes difficult to support families for an extended period of time. With that knowledge came the need for a convenient, and sustainable, way of carrying nutritious snacks to births. Enter the Built Bag and BentoGo.  

My wife and I recently threw away all of our old tupperware in the hopes that it would force us to use only metal or glass food storage containers. Unfortunately, I have yet to find the perfect metal/glass container to hold my meals (I may be on to something, will let you know).  In the meantime, my BentGo All-in-One Stackable Lunch/Bento Box in purple has been incredibly useful, not to mention, adorable. My BentGo contains two levels and three compartments for food. I'm still learning how to make quick healthy meals in small quantities (to fit into the box), but it's been fun to prepare food for it thus far. The main downside is the smell of plastic but after baking in the sun for 24 hours, it seems to have dissipated. 

My Built Bag, officially named "Gourmet Getaway Mini Snack Tote" holds my matching BentGo box. It's made of neoprene which means it can expand to hold a substantial amount of food and folds into a smaller size when not in use. It's also machine washable which is great for sanitizing after each birth. I purchased this Built Bag at a cute gift store in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but they can easily be found on Amazon or on the built store for around $15.   

To complete the lunch bag, I throw in the amazing Klean Kanteen I've been using for 4 years now.  

I hope this helps you find a more sustainable solution for bringing food to your next birth!  Stay tuned for another post on what to pack inside your BentGO box. 

Bridging The Gap: Racial Disparities In Health Care

This past week, I had the honor of co-organizing the workshop series: Bridging The Gap: Diversity and Cultural Competency in Health Care with the NYC Doula Collective and Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Bridging The Gap was designed to push practitioners and students to strive for competent health care practice by considering the social pressures and expectations intertwined with the realities of different communities.

As part of the workshop, I presented a segment on a topic that hits close to home, Racial Disparities in Health Care. Here is a brief summary of that workshop: 

As the role of racial diversity is amplified in society, it is increasingly important for holistic health care providers to be adept at interacting with patients from all backgrounds. The goal of this session was not to define racial diversity but to create a space to share our experiences. In this workshop, participants are given space to navigate the reflections, emotions, and assumptions that surface around race in the field of medicine. Attendees walked away with methods for actively recognizing and assessing racial biases. 

If you were unable to attend the workshop or would like resources to develop your knowledge around Racial disparities in Health Care, take a look below. It is my hope that this workshop will continue to develop, and health practitioners interest to provide holistic, and socially/racially conscious health care will grow.

If you are interested in learning more about this workshop or bringing it to your school or community, please contact me


The Boston Women's Health Book Collective. (1998). Our bodies, ourselves for the new
   century.
 New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bridges, K. M. (2011). Reproducing race: An ethnography of pregnancy as a
   site 
of racialization. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Morgen, S. (2002). Into our own hands: The women's health movement in the United States,
   1969-1990.
 New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Nelson, A. (2011). Body and soul: The Black Panther Party and the fight against medical
   discrimination.
 Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Hand Expression of Breastmilk

Until recently hand expression of milk has been an under-utilized skill in our institution. But there are many benefits of knowing how to express milk from the breast without the use of expensive or cumbersome pumps. 
- Stanford School of Medicine 

Here is a wonderful video that shows you how to hand express. You can also check out the Stanford School of Medicine website for another great example. 


5 Things About Your Doula

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There are always meme's going around on social media sites and, while I almost never fill them out, this one caught my interest: It asked you to share 5 things about yourself in various categories. I thought I would switch it up a bit and make it doula focused. Here it goes. 

Five things I need on a daily basis to be a great doula: 1. My phone to receive my clients calls/emails and connect with my doula mentor; 2. My Klean Kanteen water bottle to stay hydrated no matter where I am; 3. A warm nice shower or bubble bath to keep me relaxed and ready for anything; 4. Kisses from my dog, Joplin in the morning; 5. And loving words from my partner to inspire me throughout the day. 

Five birth books I recommend to others: 1. The Birth Partner; 2. Spiritual Midwivery; 3. Breastfeeding Made Simple; 4. Birth Stories; 5. The Midwife of Hope River. 

Five adjectives that describe me as a doula:  Patient. Compassionate. Grounded. Nonjudgemental. Intelligent. 

My five favorite foods to eat before a birth: 1. Miso Soup (with loads of fresh veggies) and Gluten Free Crackers; 2. Roasted Cauliflower with Organic Cheese; 3. Rice, Bean and Veggie Burrito; 4. Egg and Soliders; 5. A Fruit Smoothie. 

Five life instructions I want to share with you: 1. Trust in yourself. You are stronger than you know; 2. Have patience in the process; 3. Tell your family and friends that you love them every single day; 4. Don't be afraid to take risks; 5. Laugh a lot. 

∆ Affirmations For Birth ∆

For many families expecting a baby, the biggest challenge is often overcoming the fear of childbirth. Sometimes, inspiration and empowering words can help you have the beautiful, calm and intimate birth experience that you want. 

Here are some of my favorite birth quotes and affirmations. Use the ones that feel right for you and your birth.


 Image Source: SacredPregnancy.com

Image Source: SacredPregnancy.com

BIRTH QUOTES


“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. “ - Marie Curie

“The same movements that get the baby in, get the baby out.” -From Birthing From Within

“The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power.” -Heather McCue

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly” - Patrick Overton

“Let me let you in on a little secret, your cervix is not a crystal ball. It cannot predict when you will start labor. It cannot predict if you will deliver before, after or even on your due date. The cervix can do many wonderful things, but let’s not give the cervix more credit than it is due. A cervix cannot read the future.” -Maria Pokluda

“Muscles send messages to each other. Clenched fists, a tight mouth, a furrowed brow, all send signals to the birth-passage muscles, the very ones that need to be loosened. Opening up to relax these upper-body parts relaxes the lower ones.” – William and Martha Sears

“The knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on the acceptance of the process.” ~Suzanne Arms

“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” – Sheryl Feldman

“When I say painless, please understand, I don’t mean you will not feel anything. What you will feel is a lot of pressure; you will feel the might of creation move through you. Pain, however, is associated with something gone wrong. Childbirth is a lot of hard work, and the sensations that accompany it are very strong, but there is nothing wrong with labor.” – Giuditta Tornetta

“Birth is an opportunity to transcend. To rise above what we are accustomed to, reach deeper inside ourselves than we are familiar with, and to see not only what we are truly made of, but the strength we can access in and through birth.” – Marcie Macari

“So the question remains. Is childbirth painful? Yes. It can be, along with a thousand amazing sensations for which we have yet to find adequate language. Every birth is different, and every woman’s experience and telling of her story will be unique.” –Marcie Macari

“My baby is healthy and innately knows when to begin labor. My body knows how to birth by instinct. My mind has released all fears and trusts birth. I am enjoying this process and growing through it all.” - Mrs. BWF

 

BIRTH AFFIRMATIONS

  • I surrender with confidence.
  • I have grown this baby; I will push her out.
  • My job is to simply relax and allow the birth to happen.
  • My body has a wide open space for my baby to descend.
  • My body is indeed beautifully and wonderfully made
  • 300,000 women will be giving birth with you today. Relax and breathe and do nothing else.
  • I will breathe slowly and deeply to relax my muscles and bring oxygen to our baby.
  • My body is opening wide to let my baby out.
  • My body is not broken. I can do this.
  • Soon I will meet you, baby.
  • I am a strong, beautiful woman. I accept myself completely, here and now.
  • I am completely relaxed and comfortable.
  • I trust that my body knows exactly what it’s doing.
  • I visualize my baby moving gently through the birth canal.
  • My baby is happy and healthy.
  • My courage and patience will send my baby into my arms.
  • My baby is born with pure pleasure.
  • I have courage, faith and patience.
  • I am in complete control of what is going on around me.
  • My body will give birth on it’s own time.
  • I give birth in safety and solitude.
  • I follow my instincts and give birth in the way I desire.
  • I am ready and prepared for my birthing experience.
  • I visualize myself handling everything beautifully.
  • Everything is going right.
  • I feel the strong waves of labour and know that everything is normal and progressing.
  • I relax my mind and muscles.
  • Keep breathing slow and even. Inhale peace, exhale tension.
  • Keep my mind on acceptance and surrender.
  • My body will give birth in its own time.
  • I love my baby and I am doing all that is necessary to bring about a healthy birth.
  • I am ready and prepared for childbirth.
  • I see myself handling everything beautifully.
  • Each contraction produces a healthy, positive pain that I can handle.
  • I deserve this wonderful birth! 

What A Family Needs After Birth

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I stumbled upon this wonderful piece by Gloria Lemay Birth Blog on the things families should ask for in the postpartum period. Too often, new parents are expected to say that "new parenthood is wonderful."  And it is most of the time, but there are moments when you need a little help. I always encourage families to ask for help when its needed - from cooking and cleaning up the house to simply holding the baby so that you can pee. When someone says, "let me know if I can lend you a hand" they really mean it because a. they want to see this new bundle of joy and b. they care about you.  So, when your next friend or family asks, "How can I help?" tell them:
 

1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.

2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____).

3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away.

4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.

5. Come over at l0 a.m., make me eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean my fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Don’t ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.

6. Put a sign on my door saying “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”

7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.

8. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.

9. Come over and give my husband a two hour break so he can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other r & r that will delight him. Fold more laundry.

10. Make me a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.

These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. They also can’t devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote 4 hours. If you let 10 people help you out for 4 hours, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There’s magic in the little prayer “I need help.” 

Source: Gloria Lemay Birth Blog

I Do It For You

She is the one
who
without hesitation
comes to my aid &
my defense.

She is the one
who believes
my side of the story
First;

She is the one
whose heart
is open.

She is the one who loves.

- Excerpt from She, by Alice Walker (written for Gloria Steinem's birthday) 

 

If I am not meeting you at a prenatal, at the birth of your baby or helping you get settled into your home, I am sitting at my computer - phone by my side - making sure that you have all the answers that you need. I love being there for you, hearing the stories of your life, and listening to your hopes and dreams for the future. But most importantly, I am forever honored that you have invited me into your life, into your home and for this special moment in your journey as parents. I am grateful to be your doula. 

DancyPantsDisco: A Generic Carrier Comparison

Finding the right baby carrier is so important, especially in a place like NYC where few people have space to store large strollers and walking is the way of life. 

Dancey Pants Disco has a new amazing blog post detailing her journey with baby carriers.  

 Source: http://instagram.com/p/iaT64zLSXc/

Source: http://instagram.com/p/iaT64zLSXc/

She writes: 

For our baby shower, we were gifted an Ergo and a Moby wrap. When Odin was three months, we were given a Maya Wrap ring sling. When Odin was a year, we were chosen to be a part of the Sling Diaries and were able to get a few ring slings from Sakura Bloom. At a year and a half we invested in a toddler Tula. Along the way we have played around with a few woven wraps, but most of it has happened recently and I feel with my experience, that we will most definitely use the woven wraps more with the next one. Wrapping a toddler who is more than half my height and a fourth my weight has proven difficult, but still very comfortable once finished! I only wish we had invested in a woven from the beginning so that my experience would be much more thorough. We've also recently been able to try a Mei Tai and I feel very much the same about it, although the Mei Tai is a little easier and quicker for wiggly toddlers. I'll include a photo of Odin in the Mei Tai and one in a woven at the end of this post! 

 

For reviews of more carriers, visit: http://bit.ly/19nBLOH

Outside Post: What the FU*K is A Doula?

There is a hilarious post by Penny Lane circulating the doula world. It's a bit vulgar (I admit, I flinched a few times at the curse words), but a very accurate description of the work that we do as doulas. My favorite part is, "Like unicorns, we [Doulas] are fucking rare and magical creatures." So, if you are looking for a good laugh, read this

 

What the fuck is a doula?

Some dictionary defines "doula" as "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and  physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth". Yeah, that pretty much nails it. Yay, the end!

But really, hold the fuck up a second. Doulas are the shit. And I'm not just saying that because I am one.

Doulas are so passionate about what they do, that they'll work their asses off without complaint for what very well could only be a couple bucks an hour. They are there for you 100% even when they have their own shit going on. Most complete extensive training and continuing education to be awesome at what they do. They make it their very serious personal goal to help you have the very best birth outcome possible; one that you'll look back on happily and proudly. Doulas fucking know their shit, and they do their best to make sure you make healthy decisions that you won't regret like that time you smoked that...never mind.

 From the moment they are hired until after your baby has been born, they are officially your birth bitch. When you call them during dinner with a frantic question ("I just pissed myself at Rite Aid, is that normal?!?"), they pick that goddamn phone and answer you. Because they care that fucking much. Because they LIVE for this kind of shit.

No, really. We do.

This woman you have hired willingly puts herself "on call" for you for what could be an entire month (or more), during which she never strays far from home, has to be able to run out the door fully dressed and smelling decent within 10 minutes flat, and practically begs for7:30 am Sunday morning telemarketer wake-up calls because she never, ever turns her ringer off.

Not to mention that she has to remain sober at all times. Even though she may have two or three rabid offspring under the age of five and a borderline unhealthy relationship with $6 Target wine. 

Your doula will help you write your birth plan and make sure you actually know what the fuck a "saline lock" and "telemetry unit" are before you go in there and make a fool out of yourself (and her). She will help you outline your preferences and wishes for your labor and birth, even if they aren't choices she would make for herself, without judgement. She'll also guide you through making the Big Ass Decisions so you don't fuck up and do something stupid.

Your amazing rockstar superhero doula angel will stay with you through your entire labor, even if it's days long. She will stay by your side while your baby daddy lies there oblivious and snoring and you work hard at bringing his mini-me into the world through your vagina. She will reassure you and build you up and tell you you're a goddamned birthing goddess when you're feeling done and nobody else has anything encouraging to say. She will say "yo, hold the fuck on a second" and give you a heads up when Doogie Howser M.D. tries to sneak something into your IV, or grabs his scissors and attempts to go at your vagina all Wolverine-style because it was NOT ON YOUR MOTHERFUCKING BIRTH PLAN.

In the midst of all of this, she will likely end up with at least two (and probably more) of your bodily fluids on her. And that's okay, because she fucking cares about your birth that much. She cares so much that even though she's probably super emotionally invested in you, she will hold it the fuck together if things go awry because she knows you need her to.

After your bundle of joy has vacated your womb, your doula will help you breastfeed. Isn't that so completely badass of her? Even if it's the first time and you have no clue what the fuck you are doing, she will not leave until she feels like your baby has the whole "sucking on a titty" thing down.

And if that's not enough...she will continue to be your bitch via phone for at least a few weeks, and come visit you once or twice to listen to you go on and on about how blissfully awesome not sleeping is AND  hold your brand new Shark-O-Matic 5000 while you go shower the infant feces off of you. You'll reflect on your birth experience and never once hear the words "you had a healthy baby and that's all that matters" pass your doula's lips. We doulas HATE that fucking shit. She will be understanding, empathetic, and she will L-I-S-T-E-N with love and compassion, and without negativity or criticism. She'll basically be the opposite of that vapid bitch you call your mother-in-law.

And if you're still not convinced about how fucking cool doulas are...here, have some statistics:

o   50% reduction in the cesarean rate
o   25% shorter labor
o   60% reduction in epidural requests
o   40% reduction in oxytocin use
o   30% reduction in analgesia use
o   40% reduction in forceps delivery

All by just having a badass doula by your side. Like unicorns, we are  fucking rare and magical creatures.

Knocked up? Get yourself a doula.

 

Henna Belly

One of my expectant mamas sent me this beautiful picture of her henna belly. Not only is she stunning, the design she selected to honor her body and baby is incredible. 

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Henna art was traditionally done to protect the child. As the Henna Caravan website states

Lawsonia Inermis or henna is a small bush that produces a red dye that has been used cosmetically and medicinally for over 9,000 years. Many countries including Morocco and India have traditions of applying henna during the third trimester of pregnancy. Henna is believed to protect and bless the mother and child from any evil or malicious spirits that may be near during delivery. The red coloring of the dye and protective images used in the patterns guard against the evil eye and are thought to protect the pair during the child's difficult passage into this world.

 

Thank you to Stephanie for sharing these amazing photos!

Why Invite A Doula? Partners and Doula's

Some partners are certainly hesitant to hire a doula, often due to the belief that they can handle everything or, out of fear that a doula would take over their role. From my experience, partners who initially fear having a doula are grateful that one was present afterwards. A doula can be there to take care of the 'housekeeping' tasks, thus allowing the parent to remain by the mothers side. A doula can show a partner how to use different comfort techniques or, she can physically help with the massage leaving the partner to encourage the mother in the way he/she knows how. Furthermore, the doula offers constant presence and a knowledge a childbirth that can be very reassuring to both mother and partner during labor. 

Here is a great list of reasons why partners (the article uses the term, 'dad)' should consider working with a doula.

 

Dads and Doulas
5 Reasons Dads Should Demand a Doula * by HK Weiss

When my wife told me that she wanted a doula, I was hurt. I truly thought with our first baby that I’d be able to be the end all be all for my wife. She showed me the research. She let me meet some of the doulas. I still wasn’t convinced that it would be the right choice for us. I subscribed to the “If you weren’t at the conception, you shouldn’t be at the birth rule.” My wife wound up vetoing me. Here are the reasons I’m glad that she did:

1. A doula can spell you.
I really thought I’d be able to stay awake for a big event like childbirth. Who didn’t pull an all nighter in college? Bathroom breaks? Ha! I mean, if I could ride my bike for hours, drinking lots of water and not needing a bathroom break, surely I could wait a few hours while my wife was in labor, right? Wrong.

Thirty hours into my wife’s first labor and I was toast. I’d been up walking with her for what seemed like days as labor began. We’d come to the hospital and there wasn’t any sleeping for me. I was physically tired and mentally shot. The doula really helped me out. With my wife’s blessing, that 30 minute nap I caught helped me to refocus and be back on my game for the big event. And we won’t even talk about how much fun my wife made of me for my small bladder. Needless to say, having the knowledge that my wife had someone else with her while I scarfed down food, went to the bathroom and grabbed a few winks kept me sane.

2. A doula remembers what she learned in childbirth class.
I paid attention in childbirth class. I’d hear enough horror stories to realize that there was a huge, comprehensive final exam for this course – childbirth. But when push came to shove, no pun intended, the knowledge went out of my brain. Those early hours of labor I couldn’t remember if we were supposed to eat or sleep, which positions were good or not so good. Thankfully, when the doula arrived, she saved my skin and made me look like the good guy. My wife never really realized that it wasn’t my idea that she try certain positions, but that I’d been privately coached by our doula.

3. A doula knows the questions to ask.
When we arrived at the hospital, everyone was bombarding us. Questions were flying from all directions. I was busy trying to help soothe my wife, who was not happy with the bumpy car ride to the hospital. Our doula stepped in and gave them all the information that they needed. Magically doors opened and we were offered a prime birthing room.

Our doula also was very helpful in getting information. A nurse or a tech would come in and ask us if we wanted something, like a procedure or a medication. I had no clue. (See above where I forgot my childbirth class information!) Our doula would very calmly ask questions of them and of us until we had enough information to make the decision that matched what we wanted. It was never pushy or mean, just questions. She even reminded us that we could take some time alone to make a decision. That turned out to be a real blessing.

4. A doula speaks the language of labor.
Our doula was an amazing translator. I’d ask a simple question like, “How’s the baby?” And the nurse would respond with something like, “The EFM indicates that there are no decels during periods of stimulation.” I’d give her my biggest smile and nod, like I knew what she was saying. Once she left the room, I’d ask our doula, who would carefully explain each part of what had been said. She also helped us decipher what AROM was as well as second stage.

5. A doula keeps you calm.
Hard. Labor was so hard. And that’s just how it felt to me. Thankfully, when the going got tough and my wife was in hard labor, it was difficult for me to keep anything in my brain. I forgot everything from childbirth class and all I could think of was “Surely this isn’t normal!” Our doula would smile at me from across my wife on the birth ball and as if she had read my mind, would mouth the words “This is normal.” Her calm smile helped me focus again on loving on my wife and keeping her calm. She showed me how and where to touch, she modeled how to behave quietly and efficiently and she made me the star in my wife’s eyes.

When I first heard about doulas, I thought of them as birth interlopers. Now I don’t know how anyone could manage to give birth without one. Our doula really helped bring me together with my wife as she gave birth. My wife remembers my constant support and never failing love or knowledge. She remembers the doula as a nice person who did some stuff in the background. We won’t give birth without a doula.

Out of Love...

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I have never felt more gratitude and warmth than helping families on their journey to parenthood. It's not just about the (adorable) babies - it's about being a witness to the immense amount of strength and love that people share with one another. 

And sometimes, you get sent these little reminders of just how much you mean to a family, and how much they mean to you. 

 

This photograph was posted with permission.
 

Doulaing The Doula: On Self-Care

Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.
— Lucille Ball

A birth doula's main role is making sure expectant parents have the information, resources and physical support they need to have a wonderful birth experience. For a doula, that usually means traveling to prenatal meetings, being on call for 4-6 clients a month, staying with a family throughout the labor and birth of their child and meeting them in the postpartum period. 

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It is truly an honor to do this work, and it takes a lot of emotional, mental and physical strength. In order to be fully present, it is important that doula's also take care of ourselves. I've come up with my own self-care routines that I thought I would share for others. 

BEFORE A BIRTH

Scheduling and Routines
I try to keep up a routine as much as possible when I am not at a birth. That means waking up and having breakfast with my partner, walking the dog, following up on email and then meetings, etc. 

Sleep
I really try to make sure that I am at least in bed by 11pm. If I get an early morning call from a mom in labor, I can easily put on some fresh clothes, grab my doula bag and hop into a taxi feeling ready to go. 

Clean Home and Healthy Food 
When coming back from a long birth, it's nice to have a space that truly feels like home. For me, this means having a clean apartment, fresh flowers and a refrigerator stocked with healthy but easy to prepare food. I've personally given up going grocery shopping and started ordering local/organic food from Fresh Direct. It makes me happy and saves a lot of time. 

Working Out 
I try to work out at least 3 times a week. Plus, it's an added bonus that I go to the same gym as de Blasio - makes for fun 'celebrity' sighting. 

Friends and Family Days
I always schedule one day a week to do something new and interesting with my partner and our dog, Joplin. I'm also lucky to live a few train stops away from my mother and a few blocks away from all of my oldest friends. Whenever I need motherly love or want to hang out, I give them a call.  

DURING A BIRTH 

I don't have the best self-care practices when I'm at a birth. I usually only eat luna bars and have a hard time taking naps, both of which I don't recommend. I do, however, drink a lot of water, wear comfortable clothes and dansko clogs, and try to get at least a few minutes of fresh air. 

COMING HOME FROM A BIRTH 

Keeping A Routine 
It's so important to have a routine that keeps you happy and healthy when you come home from a birth. No matter the time of day, I always put away my doula bag, hop into a nice warm bath or shower and put on comfortable clothes. If I am coming home in the late morning or afternoon, I will continue with all the meetings I had scheduled and then go to bed early. If I come home in the middle of the evening/morning, I will sleep until my usual wake-up time and then continue with the day. I don't like to take too long of a nap or else I find that my schedule gets wacky.

Massage/Acupuncture/Moxa
I am fortunate enough to have a partner who is a. Always attentive to how I am feeling emotionally and physically and b. Becoming an Acupuncturist/Herbalist. If I ever feel any aches or pains after a long birth, my partner is there to give me an acupuncture/massage session for free! 

Take a Vacation
As a professional whose main job is to be available and present for others, we want to schedule in a lot of births but, it's important to also take a break. Doula's can't just take a weekend off or go a few hours outside the city when we are on call, so give yourself at least month off every year to simply relax. 


What do you do to take care of yourselves before, during and after a birth? Please share your suggestions so that more doula's can take care of themselves in the way that they deserve! 

How-To Latch CheckList

Ananda Lowe, co-author of The Doula Guide, created a how-to latch checklist for her clients who are having a difficult time with breastfeeding. I think she includes some great basic reminders (i.e. skin-to-skin, tummy-to-tummy), but if you are still struggling to breastfeed or are in pain, please feel free to each out to me. I can put you in contact with a lactation consultant in your area. 

5 Breastfeeding Tips That Made Life Easier For Me. By Genevieve MamaNatural

1. Skin-to-skin – important!

2. Tummy-to-tummy – important!

3. Baby directly faces nipple – follow the “angle of the dangle.”  (Nipples may point forward, up, down, or to the sides.  Line up baby with your anatomy, which may be different than the placement you’ve seen someone else use.) 

4. “No pillows or Boppys” is best, allowing for fullest range of motion

5. Do not remove baby’s hands from mouth or breast.   (Baby uses hands to locate nipple and to stimulate mouth, and will remove hands on her own)

6. Support baby’s neck

7. Do not touch back of baby’s head

8. Do not position baby as far out as the crook of your elbow; move baby closer to the center of your body

9. Position baby so his jaw is well below the nipple.  Baby will tilt head back, then mouth will align with nipple

10. Place your hand far behind nipple and areola

11. Wait for baby’s mouth to open very wide – important!

12. Hug baby in close to you, so his mouth can take in breast

13. In case of nipple discomfort, use micro-adjustments.  Move baby a centimeter to the left, right, above, and below nipple, until you find the placement that is not painful.

14. If baby’s lips are tucked inward around the nipple, you can use your finger to gently flip the lips outward

15. Do not tolerate pain with latching.  Gently insert finger into baby’s mouth to break suction, and start again.

16. If latching involves struggle, hold baby to breast when she is not frantic, such as upon waking.  Stop “trying” and simply hold baby tummy-to-tummy and skin-to-skin.

17. Wait for baby to discover nipple on her own, usually within 5 to 30 minutes.

 

 

Monthly Series: Resources for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenthood

In the age of digital media, it seems as though everyone has a website and is blogging. The overload of information can be overwhelming for birth workers or expecting/new parents. For this reason, I have decided to feature my favorite websites and journals related to birth and parenthood each month. 

NovemberSeries2.png
As a doula, I spend a lot of time researching the latest evidence-based studies on pregnancy, labor and birth and the postpartum period as well as blogs from fellow birth workers, birth activists and moms. For the month of November, I decided to start with my favorite evidence based websites.  

* * * 

Evidence-Based Birth
Giving Birth Based on Best Evidence 

The Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence for Health Care

Midwifery Today
The Heart and Science of Birth 

Childbirth Connection
Up-to-date evidence based information and resources on planning for pregnancy, labor and birth and the postpartum period.  

What are some of your favorite evidence-based research sites?  

My Friends Empowering Birth Story

I had just completed my DONA doula training when one of my nearest, dearest and oldest friends, Bethany, asked me to be her doula. As with most relationships, we've had our ups-and-downs, but we've also been through some of the most painful (the passing of friends and family members) and joyful (love, marriage and career achievements) moments of each others lives together. And so, there was no question that I would attend the birth of her beautiful cookie to be. 

 Morgane and Bethany in Cambodia. 

Morgane and Bethany in Cambodia. 

When we began talking about Bethany's hopes for her birth, she was a tad skeptical of epidurals and hospitals but certainly felt like it was the best option for her. Being a doula, I don't judge how and where people give birth and so I supported her throughout every decision she made. However, as Bethany's due date came closer - and after an amazing birth education course with Tanya Willis - she realized just how much she wanted to avoid having a medicated birth and decided to switch to a midwifery practice in Princeton, New Jersey. 

Sadly, the hospital was a bit too far for me to guarantee my presence at her birth and so we set her up with another doula. But, Bethany took control of her birth experience and gave birth to her cookie just as she wanted - surrounded by love and support, in a peaceful environment and without an epidural.

Bethany allowed me to share her beautiful story with you all. So here it is:

My Birth Story 

A number of people have asked me to share my birth story, so I decided it would make for a great blog post to send to folks that are interested in my experience.

For all first time mothers, childbirth can be a really scary experience – we’ve heard so much about it and watched so many movies, but we just have no idea what it will be like. Every woman remembers their childbirth experiences and unfortunately, most of the women who have negative experiences are much more likely to share them with pregnant women than ones who have positive ones. Before I gave birth (yesterday!) a lot of women shared their horror stories, but few shared anything remotely positive.

When we first found out we were pregnant back in January or February, I assumed I would go for the standard U.S. childbirth experience: an epidural, a hospital stay, an OB and none of that hippy shit. My high school best friend became a doula and I warned her that was the experience I wanted, so if she wasn’t on board, I would try to find another doula. I’m not sure I even understood why I wanted a doula, perhaps because I had read up on what they did when she told me she was becoming one.  I began seeing an OB practice in SoHo and everything was going swimmingly – the pregnancy, while miserable thanks to extreme morning sickness that never really abated, was going perfectly. Around 20 weeks one of the OBs in the practice pushed me, hard, to take some sort of childbirth class, something Seth and I weren’t in the mood for and certainly didn’t want to pay for. I asked around on Facebook for recommendations and on a local listserve in my neighbourhood for recommendations and via the listserve, over and over moms raved about a particular instructor, Tanya Wills, who taught Bradley Method classes. I had heard of Bradley from a friend, Abby, who is a huge advocate of it and actually began teaching classes after her childbirth experience. Abby was so gung-ho, though, I was kind of convinced she had joined a childbirth cult (sorry Abby!), so I didn’t take her recommendation as seriously as I should have. No other women seemed to have opinions nearly as informed as she did.

Our first class with Tanya I warned Seth not to join the Bradley cult. We were still going to get an epidural, even though the Bradley Method focuses on natural childbirth. I had heard there was enough good information for medicated mothers that it was still worth it, which was the only reason we took the class. After the first class, we were members of the Bradley cult, and halfway through the cycle of classes we were 100% committed to having a natural birth.

What made us join the Bradley cult? In our first class we talked a great deal about medicine in the United States and how warped it’s all become. Doctors practice as much CYA (cover your ass) as they do medicine these days – they have to thanks to lawsuits and schedule constraints. We discussed skyrocketing c-section rates and how childbirth has evolved in society over the last hundred years. By midcycle, we were discussing why that is – how one intervention (medication of any kind to speed up labour, an epidural, etc) often cascades, leading to increased chances of more interventions, each more drastic than the next, ultimately leading to major surgery: a c-section. Even when these interventions don’t lead to a c-section, many of the methods used to assist in delivery can be extremely unpleasant, to say the least. Our instructor brought props with her, most notably a vacuum extractor, a device secured onto the top of a baby’s head while s/he’s inside the birth canal which is then pulled by the OB in order to drag the baby out of the cervix. The chances of a doctor having to use one of these devices skyrockets when women have an epidural. Seth absentmindely grabbed it and affixed it to the inside of my calf and started pumping. While our instructor was talking, I suddenly screamed out in pain as Seth secured the suction cup around my skin. Panicked by my yell, he began to pull, trying to get it off my leg. WIth every pull, I yelled more, something I would never do in public or in private, and with each yell, Seth got more apologetic and frenzied in his attempts to get it off. Finally, the air seal was broken after about three or four tugs. Our instructor laughed and thanked us for the demonstration. That, she said, is what the baby feels on the top of their very soft skull as they emerge from the womb. That is their first experience with the outside world. From that moment, Seth and I looked at each other and wordlessly decided we were on the natural childbirth boat full-on. I barely paid attention the rest of that class, I was googling alternative care providers. We were determined not to deliver with my OB practice in Manhattan. For my last several appointments, I had expressed my desire to at least try for a natural childbirth. Every time I did so, my OBs said “sure, but how do you feel about an epidural?” A very worrisome sign that they weren’t as on board with the experience I wanted.

We quickly settled on Princeton Midwifery, as we had just moved to New Jersey somewhat unexpectedly. Their offices were inconvenient from our apartment and especially from our office. We decided to try to switch as late as possible so that we would only have to go to a handful of appointments before my delivery. We had gone so far onto the natural childbirth boat that we were looking for home birth midwives that were covered by our insurance, but had no luck finding any that had openings and our insurance absolutely refused to budge on covering their services anyway. Princeton Midwifery delivers at Princeton Medical Center at Plainsboro (yes, Dr. House’s hospital), and the facilities are brand new: the hospital was built a year ago. We would have a private room for post-partum, Seth would have a place to sleep and there was even two jacuzzis for labouring women to use. From our first meeting with Peggy, one of the midwives, we knew we had made the right decision. She was totally on board with the kind of birth experience we wanted, and we spent over an hour chatting with her and got the best vibe from the office and from Peggy.

On Friday night, October 11th, I went to bed early after Seth and I finished Shabbat dinner. At 11:15 I woke up to go to the bathroom and thought on my way back into our bedroom that I had peed more then than I had in months, thinking it strange my bladder could be so full while pregnant and just two hours after I had gone last. When I got into bed I realized that I was still leaking and so I ran into the bathroom. As I did so I thought “I can’t stop this leaking. I don’t think this is pee. Oh my G-d this is my bag of waters.” I came back into the bedroom and woke Seth to tell him – he didn’t necessarily need to know, I wasn’t having contractions, but how many times in life can a woman have that dramatic “my water just broke” moment with her husband? Seth, bleary eyed, said “oh okay. so what now?” I told him “I guess we wait for contractions to start.” And with that, he was back to sleep. I went outside into the parking lot and got a random elderly neighbour who was coming home from work to turn my cell phone on (it was Shabbat) and he called my doula. My doula told me to sit tight, get some sleep, and keep her updated. At about midnight I started to have contractions and at 1am, I woke Seth and he packed a bag for the hospital while I puttered around, mostly freaking out. At 3am we went back to sleep and at 8am I was disappointed to realize that while my water was still leaking, the contractions I experienced overnight had ceased. I called my midwives in the morning and they told me that the hospital’s policy was to let me stay home with a broken water for about 18 hours – if contractions didn’t start by 5pm we would have to come into the hospital to try to medically induce them, something we desperately didn’t want. The midwife on call, Grace, suggested we walk around to try to inspire my body to go into labour and to call back in the late afternoon to update her. Seth and I walked for over two hours over Shabbat, all over our town, and while I was having contractions, they weren’t strong and were totally irregular. At 2pm I called Grace back and negotiated to come into the hospital after Shabbat was over around 7pm. At 5pm, our doula arrived and tried using natural ways to induce labour, none seemed to work. After Shabbat ended Seth and I got in one car and our doula got into another and we were off to Princeton hospital. The mood in the car was extremely dejected. Seth and I had this picture in our minds of what the birth would be like, and even before it began it was going wrong. We had imagined this car ride to the hospital so many times, me in transition, screaming like a madwoman, and instead, we were calming discussing the situation as if we were going to the movies. It was a surreal experience and we kept having to remind ourselves that we were on the hospital to have our baby.

We walked into the delivery room and calmly set down our bags and met the nurse who would labour with us all night long, Ellen. She was incredibly warm and to our shock and delight, had already read our birth plan and was totally on board with trying to help us maintain as much of our birth plan as possible, despite the circumstances. Grace arrived a few minutes later and we discussed our options. She told us that she would be putting a chemical on my cervix called Cervadil which would hopefully ripen my cervix and kickstart labour. She was honest though: it almost never worked for first-time moms. It would, however, buy us an extra 12 hours before hospital policy mandated the use of pitocin, a chemical which makes contractions come on, but at a price: it amplifies the pain and intensity of contractions to the point where most women can’t function without the use of medication. Using pitocin, to us, meant that the likelihood of using an epidural was greatly increased. Grace inserted the Cervadil, told us to go to sleep and wake up at 7am to order breakfast. She would be starting the pitocin at 9am. We sent our doula home. I put on my face mask and rolled over to go to sleep. This picture is of me right before I “went to sleep.”

 Bethany at Princeton

Bethany at Princeton


Around 10pm, I woke up to go to the bathroom, about 30 minutes after the Cervadil went in. I experienced several contractions in the next 30 minutes. By 10:30 our nurse Ellen came racing in the room: her monitors told her that my contractions were 2 minutes apart and a minute in duration. How could I already be in active labour, less than an hour after I wasn’t in labour at all? She told us she had never seen such a thing. She called Grace who immediately told her to take the Cervadil off of my cervix so that it wouldn’t be hyperstimulated. We called our doula back and by the time she arrived, around 11:30pm, I was in the shower, hysterically crying with Seth pressing on my back. As I got out of the shower the power of one contraction rocked me so hard I fell on the floor of the bathroom, naked, on my hands and knees grabbing Seth’s pant legs, screaming.  Ellen came into the room and suggested that I sit on the birthing ball our doula brought and try a few positions to figure out a way to manage the pain better. I moved into the delivery room, sat on the ball, and propped myself up onto the bed and asked Seth to try accupressure points on my back, a coping mechanism our birthing teacher Tanya taught us, a technique I had decided would be utterly useless to me in labour. The pressure points brought immediate relief, and so I thought of the other utterly ridiculous things Tanya told us about. What else was she right about that I doubted at the time? I began to picture myself somewhere else while trying the best I could to relax my entire body, every single muscle, especially in my face. I sat on the birthing ball next to the bed, rocked back and forth, and kept my energy totally focused on total muscle relaxation. I pictured myself in random other places in my life: teaching fractions to my students in Cambodia, on the Maid of the Mist boat in Niagara Falls with my mother and step-father, anywhere but where I was. Incredibly, it worked. I managed the pain so well through my contractions that Seth and our doula noted that they didn’t even know when I was contracting after Ellen removed the monitors. I sat in a totally calm state, rocking back and forth, sometimes humming my way through contractions from about midnight to 4am, with Seth and our doula (but mostly Seth) alternating using pressure points on my back. To my shock and delight I was still able to be polite even while in labour, saying thank you to Seth over and over for being such an incredible, supportive rock. At around 4am, our doula noticed that my face was starting to scrunch, as if I was pushing. I told her that I was pressing down, not to push the baby out, but that when I did so, I felt amniotic fluid flow out, which felt incredibly relieving and so I was pushing that out during contractions. She ran to get our nurse who suggested to change positions. They were worried I was pushing too early and that the birthing ball position had done the most it could to help my labour along. I was only 5cm dilated (I was 3cm dilated when the Cervadil came out at 10:30 and barely 1cm dilated when it went in an hour before) and Ellen predicted I would dilate 1cm an hour until I hit that magic 10cm number, at which point I could start pushing.

I moved onto the delivery bed, which was propped up all the way. I went onto my knees and was upright, leaning against the bed for support.  I spent about half an hour in that position, which moved me back into uncontrollable agony-mode. Between contractions I was experiencing more relief than I had on the birthing ball and even fell asleep during one break for all of 45 seconds, but the contractions themselves were almost unmanageable in their fury. I got it into my head that everyone had become convinced that I couldn’t manage and that someone would order an epidural, if they hadn’t already. I kept crying, begging not to have a needle in my spine, telling them I didn’t want any drugs. As bad as the contractions were, I was still petrified of a needle in my spine. Seth and our doula were pretty confused about why I was begging not to get drugs, but for some reason, I was convinced they thought I was at a breaking point.

I got out of bed and began to slow dance with Seth, a technique that had been working for us in the very initial stages of labour. In retrospect, this was transition, not that any of us realized it at the time, because it came on so suddenly. I was warned by everyone, every book, every birthing expert, that transition was when women really lose it. I spent transition hugging Seth, kissing and smelling his neck, telling him how much I loved him. He was absolutely incredible and I was so thankful in that moment to know that even though I was in agony, he was right there with me.

By 4:45am, I was grunting. Ellen came running into the room, heard the sounds of pushing, and ran back out to call Grace to tell her that I was bearing down. We spent the next twenty minutes with three people telling me not to push as we waited for Grace to arrive. This was probably the hardest part of my labour, fighting the urge to push, which actually felt like the urge to poop. It felt like I had explosive diarrhea and someone was telling me to hold it in – an impossible request. Grace walked into the room at 5am to the sounds of me screaming “I just want to poooooooooooop.” She walked us all over to the delivery bed and I begged her to let me push when the next contractions came on. I knew that only an hour had passed since I was 5cm and was frightened that she would think I hadn’t dilated 5cm in the last hour, a highly improbable scenario. To my sheer delight she told me to do whatever I wanted, to listen to my body and if it was telling me it was ready to push, to listen. I stood next to the bed and pushed through a contraction, which was the best feeling in the world. As soon as it was over I jumped into bed and Grace arranged Seth next to me so that he was holding my right leg high in the air as I laid on my left side. The next contraction she also told me I could push and amazingly, she agreed that we were ready to deliver the baby. Soon, nurses were in and out of the room and people were setting up warming trays and equipment for the baby. Seth and I couldn’t believe it. We did it, we were at the pushing stage and at the end of the road. The next hour I pushed and felt our daughter move forward while I pushed through contractions and then recede back inside of me as contractions subsided. It was incredibly frustrating knowing I was stepping forward two inches with every contraction just to step back one step afterwards. During one contraction, noticing I was starting to feel dejected, Grace took my hand and put it down to feel our daughter’s hair as she came forward while I pushed. It was enough to inspire me to keep pushing. I felt a full head of hair and I really wanted to just see it already. Soon, she was crowning and the phrase “ring of fire” passed through my mind. This is the terminology everyone uses to describe the feeling as the head emerges from the birth canal. During our birthing classes I was most afraid of the pushing and ring of fire stage, but strangely, it was the absolute best part of the entire labour. It was such a relief to push and even the burning sensation that accompanied crowning was a relief. It felt like when you’re getting a good burn on at the gym (which, let’s get real here, a feeling I’m barely familiar with). All while pushing I was talking, telling jokes and laughing. I shared the story of the circumstances of how she was conceived with the entire room, which made Seth tense up with total discomfort, which I felt as he held my leg. Everyone laughed and soon, another contraction stopped me from telling further details, to Seth’s utter delight.

For the next few minutes, Grace helped me slowly ease her out of me, telling me to push a little, then stop, push a little, then stop. She was applying ointment and trying to help naturally stretch my muscles to prevent any tearing (and it worked, I had none, I didn’t get a single stitch, which is rare for first-time mothers). Before I knew it, I felt her head and almost immediately after, her shoulders emerge from me and in an instant, I saw a nurse struggling to pull this slippery, squirming little purple creature onto my chest. I immediately started screaming “I have a daughter!” and just like that, I did. She was born at 6:35am. She was on my chest, still connected to me through the umbilical cord, which was still pulsating. She stayed on my chest for the next hour and when we initiated breast feeding she, incredibly, immediately latched on. Grace cut the cord (after offering to let me or Seth do so) after it stopped pulsating, something that isn’t standard in most hospitals but absolutely should be. In doing research into best practices for childbirth, delayed cord clamping came up time and again. Standard hospital policy (to immediately cut the cord, while still pulsating) was once again not always the best policy.

During this time I naturally delivered the placenta as well. Most doctors administer pitocin to do so, even if moms hadn’t received it at all during the labour, however Grace told me her policy is to just let it come out naturally. I kept asking Grace how and when I should push it out, if I would feel the urge or if it would just slide out without my pushing. I didn’t feel anything else inside of me and as intuitive as delivering my daughter had been, delivering the placenta was equally unintuitive. I’m not sure how I ended up doing it, I think I gave a slight push, but soon, an enormous organ passed out of me and I yelled “that was the biggest dump I’ve ever had to take and I didn’t even know I had to take it!” It was an incredible relief to deliver the placenta, which was strange, considering I hadn’t even felt it inside me moments before.

From during the pushing stage to the next hour afterwards, I was crying, already thanking Grace and Ellen for helping Seth and I achieve the birthing experience we wanted. I texted Tanya, our Bradley instructor within hours to thank her for teaching us the techniques to achieve it as well. In less than an hour after birth our daughter was awake and aware enough to breastfeed successfully, something most babies during medicated labours are not able to do. I was able to step out of bed on my own and go to the bathroom within an hour as well. No IVs had to be brought along and I walked there on my own two feet. We were able to leave the hospital a day earlier than hospital policy. During my postpartum recovery period I took extra-strength Motrin three times to help ease the cramps in my uterus as it receded. When Seth’s parents came to visit less than 12 hours after she was born, I was up, walking around, laughing and talking. I felt fantastic and still do 50 hours later (which is how long it’s been since I gave birth as I write this). I credit our unmedicated birth for that completely.

And that is the long answer to the question “How was your birth?” My answer is: incredibly difficult but ultimately absolutely incredible.

The Truth About Motherhood

 

 

Whether as a young adult, or during pregnancy, most women hear the stories of how their friends "instantly became mothers" the moment their child was born. We are taught to believe that there is an immediate connection and understanding between mother and baby. No one, or at least very few, discuss the feeling of a 'lose of self' that new parents might face, during pregnancy or after birth, out of fear they will be viewed as 'bad parents.'

While giving birth is natural, motherhood or 'becoming a mother' doesn't always appear magically. It is a learning process - discovering who your new baby is, her personality, figuring out how to navigate shifting relationships with your partner, and learning how to find the balance between your independent, autonomous self, and being the constant for your child.  

So, what do you do? How to you manage the transformations and, what resources are available?  You may think about hiring a postpartum doula who can provide physical, emotional and informational support for both you and your partner through the transitions into parenthood. Journaling is another great way for putting together your thoughts in a safe place.  Perhaps most importantly, I encourage new moms to share their birth and postpartum experiences with friends, family, and doula's, for I promise you are not alone. 

Here are some resources additional resources that I recommend:

Books 

Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood by Naomi Wolf 
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Kaper 
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
The Year After Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger

Websites
The Longest Shortest Time: The Truth About Early Motherhood
Motherhood Uncensored

Groups
NYC Doula Collective (Birth and Postpartum Doulas)
Brooklyn New Mom Support Group




If you would like information on a topic or reach out to me and I will share the knowledge. Or, if you have any resources that you liked, please share them with us!