Sunday, January 22, 2017

Postpartum Support

"I would love to rest after I have my baby, but I don't have any family around, so I have to jump right back into my daily activities."

"I know other moms need rest after having a baby, but I really need activity to feel good. I start exercising a couple weeks after my baby was born. I did fine with it." 

"I didn't make enough milk for my baby. I had to supplement when she/he was 2 weeks old."

We may have all heard these statements at one time or another. Maybe we said them even, ourselves. 

I know when I had my first baby, I was so pumped up to be done with being pregnant, I was on top of the world. I was sore, didn't feel amazing all the time, but I felt much better than when I was pregnant. I got up and made an apple pie a few days after giving birth. I wanted a pie, and since I felt good, I thought I would do it. 

When I finished, there was a heavy feeling in my legs and my lower abdomen. I felt like I was going to vomit. I finished the pie, and on wobbly legs made my way to bed without eating any. I was so sick feeling. 

I realized later, just because you feel great, doesn't mean you are great. Postpartum, when we take care of yourself, you will feel much better than you might otherwise.  

There are many good things in life, when we are in good or decent health. Exercise is one those things. It can improve your health many times. 
However, after a woman gives birth, no matter how fit she was before she gave birth, is not one of those times. 

Every single woman that gives birth has the same basic things that happen to her. Some women have more complications and others less complications. But we all have a uterus stretched out to about 38-42+ cm. We all have a placenta that is about the size of a small dinner plate at least attached to us. When we give birth, the uterus undergoes a dramatic seize change, the placenta is detached, which leaves a wound that has to heal. The uterus, suspended from our round ligaments, suddenly is decreased in size. Those ligaments need time to not have a heavy ball (the uterus), bouncing around on the end of them like bungie cables. 

  1. Take time to rest. Rest will help you to be able to get back to your activities in a healthy manner. If you do not rest, but expend energy into things like exercise, even basic daily activities, in those first ten days to two weeks, your body will have to draw from somewhere else. This means, generally the things that the body first believes to be expendable. Teeth, breastmilk,  and the like are not life threatening if it pulls from those. It believes you must be threatened, if you are expending that much energy after just having a baby. So, it pulls from your bones, your teeth, your milk can decrease or just not come in like it should. Remember to take the time to protect your lifelong health and rest for ten days to two weeks after birth. 
  2. Nourish your body. We can get caught in a trap of regaining our figures, right from the very get go after a birth. We are trying to replenish blood, fluids, make milk that is nourishing for our little one if we are breastfeeding, fight infection, make immunities for our new one, and give ourselves strength, just to wake up. It is a lot of work to grow a baby, both inside and out. Even if you are not breastfeeding, you have a lot of work to do to heal yourself. Give yourself good food, and enough of it. Green leafy vegetables, protein, whole grains, healthy fats and lots of fluids without caffeine and sugar are important. If you want to drop pounds, skip the sugar out of anything, but focus on good nutrition. Let your body heal from the inside out. If you are not taking the time to be nourished, you will not be able to recover. You will not be able to be the best mother to your child(ren) and take care of yourself. 
  3. Take Help. If someone offers you a meal, to do laundry, or says, "Let me know if you need anything." Please take them up on it. They may be shocked or surprised, but it will help you and you might end up with a closer friend. I know many people do not have anyone that will offer for that, which I feel is very sad, but I totally relate. I had babies without a community around that was helpful on a daily basis, and it is a lonely existence. I highly encourage you, in your pregnancy, to seek out your community beforehand so you have support after birth. If you do not have it in a community, hire some or see if there are resources you can take advantage of  that are not too extending financially. Do not take advantage of others, by expecting a maid service for nothing. But if you have no help, plan on hiring a housecleaner twice in the first two weeks. It will cost about $40-80, depending on who and how long you hire them for. I have seen housecleaners that charge $15 an hour even that do a wonderful job. But when all else fails, remember that your family will not die eating PB and J sandwiches every day, unless they are allergic. They will be filled and fine to do that for two weeks. They may complain, but it is okay to do what you can do and not do the rest. 
  4. Don't go back to normal. Normal is overrated. It is really not what you should be doing or planning on doing for at least 4-6 weeks. It is a process that you will work back up to. Give yourself time. Don't rush back to mommy and me class, going to the grocery store or if you are a church goer, back to church. Give yourself time. Check if any places in your area offer a click and pull grocery option. See if a friend can stop and pick up milk, eggs, bread, lunch meat and apples for you. It will not only protect you from the germs that are out and about, but it will tell people that you need help. You need their support and they can feel more free to offer it. 

Postpartum can be a difficult season. But with some planning and careful info on why you are taking care of yourself still, it can help you with your long term health goals. It can also help reduce the risk of postpartum depression or severe baby blues when we care for ourselves in this way.

This post, written by a talented blogger, also shares some good preparation for the postpartum period as well that you might find helpful. "Preparing for Postpartum"

I hope this gives you some hope about the postpartum season. If there was something that really helped you postpartum, would you like to share that with us? We would love to hear it! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

You get what you pay for...

We have all heard this saying! It is one of those cliches that we all know, yet some of us do not take to heart.

I hear on an almost daily basis, "I would love a doula, but I can't afford one." or "How can I get a free doula, I don't have money to pay for one."

In other posts, you see complaints on doulas that flake on a mother that is depending on them. While it infuriates me to see the name of a doula dragged down with such things, I do have to come back with "You get what you pay for."

Often a mother wants all the benefits of someone that will put their life on hold for you, be there whenever you call, stay through 24-48 hour labor if need be, be on call postpartum and through pregnancy with any questions, concerns, or needs you have without  paying for it.

For me, a doula, it is like no other service. We are expecting top notch service, but wanting to pay bottom dollar for it. Is it any wonder we are getting poor service when we are paying nothing for it?

We come out "guns blazing" when we get poor service, yet when doulas ask for a reasonable charge, the offense tends to come to the forefront. 

How can we fix this? 

I would say if you honestly cannot afford the service of someone else, discuss it with them. Instead of expecting the service to be offered for free, offer a service of your own in exchange. It doesn't have to be extreme, but giving something in return tells the doula you appreciate her time and service, yet your finances are not in trouble. 
It is totally fine to ask a doula for a discount, a trade, or deeply discounted service. But there comes a time when someone that works for you is worthy of a wage. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

9 Tips For a Happier Pregnancy

When in my mind I hear the terms "Happier Pregnancy" I see one of those stock photos of a pregnant woman, dressed in white, resting in luxury on  a sofa.  That doesn't quite fit with what the reality of pregnancy often is.

Pregnancy was not the easiest road for me. It was happy, because I was going to have a baby. It was difficult because of everything else that came along with that happy fact.

So based on my experiences, both as a doula, but primarily as a mother that has been pregnant four times, here are my nine tips.

1. Don't push yourself.

 It is so easy to revert to the norms of push until it burns that we have in our everyday lives. This especially pertains to exercise. Exercise is so healthy for you in pregnancy, but if it is hurts, stop. Pushing yourself when your ligaments are relaxing can result in injuries, excessive pain and other fun things to recover from. This is where some of the old wives tales can actually come true as well. Regular exercise that is encouraged by your care provider as being safe is excellent. But listen to your body!

2. Don't obsess about weight gain. 

 Period. Yes, you should not be gaining too much weight. You also should not be gaining too little weight. Remind yourself throughout the process that weight gain is normal and healthy in pregnancy. Low pregnancy weight gain used to be encouraged, until as far  I can find, in the late 1950's to early 1970's the ideas were studied as links to birth defects, issues with low birth weight babies, early babies among others were associated with the lack of pregnancy weight gain. Yes, it helped moms keep their figures, but at what cost?  On the other hand, it is not a time to go on a free for all. If you want to obsess about something, obsess about getting all the foods you need to nourish your baby and body.
Dr. Brewer has some good tips on a healthy diet.
There are other diet related tips that your OB or midwife may offer you.

3. Make sleep a priority whenever you can.
Don't plan evening activities. Plan on a nap time. If you have other little ones, tuck them in for a nap, either behind your legs so you can feel them if they move, or in a crib where you know they cannot escape. If they are not sleeping, this can be the time to utilize those electronics.
Lack of sleep can make you feel sicker during pregnancy, but also you need more sleep while pregnant as well.

Antique Chamber Pot 
(Hopefully not something you will need in pregnancy)

4.  Use pregnancy to your advantage
It only lasts nine months, even though it feels like a lifetime at times. However, use it to your full advantage. While you do not want to be a spendthrift, buy some clothing you feel pretty in. Pregnancy can be an awkward time, and you need clothing that fits well so you don't feel bigger than what you are. A pretty bra or underclothing that is comfortable can be hard to find, but worth the time it takes to look. Just make sure to take regular breaks for water while shopping and wear supportive shoes.

5. Forgo high heels...
Yes, I know they might be all you wear, but for your long term posture and baby positioning, in the long run, you will happier without them. Find some cute shoes that are flats. This will help decrease chances of swelling in your feet and injuries as well. There are plenty of cute shoes that have a low heel or are flats that you can wear for the nine months!

6. Listen to your care provider 
There are times when a care provider will suggest you take an extra vitamin like Calcium and magnesium, or she may suggest walks, eating a different diet. While sometimes it can be hard to understand, or you feel they are not doing anything good for you, listen up! They have your long term health in mind. It can change your pregnancy when you do actually listen to these little things they suggest.

7. Hire Trained Labor Support

I don't just say this because I am a doula, I say this because I have seen what a difference it made for my own births. I have heard every reason in the book why some people don't need one. But in the end, you really will not know unless you try. However, some people think all doulas are crated equal, when this is not true. The best ones have some experience, are knowledgable, but won't make your birth their own. They will be there for you, through whatever happens, for your partner as well, but walk you through the hard and good times. The studies prove that women that have a trained support person have a more positive experience when they are done, no matter the outcome.

8. Plan on saving money for the unexpected
This has more to do with the postpartum period, but saving money during the pregnancy for a little help after the baby comes will make you feel safer and happier during the pregnancy. Money set aside for even things like pizza delivery, extra gas expenses, housecleaning or other odds and ends will really be helpful and give you peace of mind throughout the process.

9. Don't spend a ton of money

Often new parents will have a long list of items that are must haves for a baby. During pregnancy, it seems like you just think they add up. Just wait! Get the essentials. Diapers, basic layette, car seat, receiving blankets and wait for most of the rest. Baby stuff has a way of appearing on the scene when you need it if you let people know. Often it is because they spent a ton of money on it and never used it, or hardly used it. For me, an essential was a swing. My babies slept in a cradle like swing, and didn't use the crib. I am too short for a Boppy pillow, I never used a pump or a bottle, but I did end up wanting a pacifier sometimes. I needed to spend money on a good bra for me, I never used my big stroller hardly, but I used an umbrella stroller all the time. As you have the baby, you see what you really need and what you actually just want.  This can give you more peace in pregnancy and help you to organize the house a little easier.

So, happier already? Are you seeing yourself floating on a pool with your beautiful baby belly glistening in the sun?

Whether you are on a couch or in the pool (which is a good way to stay cool and exercise in the summer while pregnant), I hope this post gave you some ideas to make pregnancy a bit happier!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

If I have a midwife, why would I need a doula?

This question is often asked to doulas.

If you ask the same question to a midwife, you may get a variety of answers.
In the birth room, everyone has a job. The midwife is the care provider. While midwives are sometimes great with support, their primary job is to make sure that nothing goes wrong medically with you or baby.

This means that if there is any type of extra special event that requires her full attention, that is often when you need the most support. Often, by no fault of even an excellent midwife, she needs to focus her attention where it needs to be. However, this can make you feel a little lost at times.

One of the positives that have been proven show that doulas help is continuous care. This means we are not distracted by your medical care. Our only focus is on you and being there for you.

We have no other job. We will often neglect our own needs to be there for you.

Midwives are some of the most wonderful care providers in the world. However, everyone has a role to play and they are not doulas. While some can act as a wonderful support person, if they are in the role of care provider, they often cannot turn off that switch and you miss out on the key parts of having a doula.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Key to Birth

We would all love to know what the perfect birth will be for us.
The uncertainty of birth often complicates our plans as well as others.

We see the medical field seek to add a semblance of order into the disorder of birth, much to the detriment often of mothers.

I read a quote recently that no matter how we birth, someone will judge us. The only thing we can do is educate ourselves on what is the best birth for us.

This is so true. Birth plans must be fluid. They change with the circumstances and the needs of ourselves and our babies.

There are times we have to embrace a plan that we didn't want for the safety of our babies. Often, our minds can tell us that this is a failure.

I would love to encourage you to think of it as a triumph. You are going into this experience of birth with a goal of giving birth to your baby.  You will do what it takes to do that. You wish to have the best mental health, physical health and each step will be carefully considered.

As the changes come up in your birth plan, remind your support before hand, "I wish to be reminded that I can ask for 5-15 minutes to think that over."

This helps stop a lot of medical bullying at the hands of care providers that do not even realize they are doing it. If it is an emergency, they will let you know then, but most of the time, they will realize they can give you that time.

So, what is the key to birth?

It is feeling supported, educated and therefore putting you in the drivers seat, instead of along for the ride. When you are in that driver's seat, you will handle whatever blocks come down the road as you have the steering wheel and the brakes.

Yes, sometimes accidents happen for which you will have to deal with at a later date. Accidents are called that for a reason. They are not on purpose.

Birth can be something you are in the drivers seat for. But remember your team that works with you. Your support team, your care providers and family should be along for the ride, encouraging you.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Trusting Birth?

"I am having a home birth with just my husband. I am so excited to have it just the people there when the baby was conceived. I trust birth."

The swirling juices in my stomach threatened to overflow into my mouth as I overheard this statement. I struggled to keep my knees steady, even as the room swirled around me. "It is not my business. It is not my circus, not my monkeys." I reminded myself as I maintained my composure and sought to keep smiling.      

Why such a strong response to a simple statement?

Home is a peaceful place to give birth. 
I personally love home birth. It can be one of the safest places to give birth with a trained care provider. 
It can also be the cause of PTSD, which is what the statement above triggered for me. 
I had two unassisted home births. As I stated, I love home birth. I was naive and frankly to be honest, stubborn in my ideal that it was normal to give birth. Why did I need anyone else to help me? 

I have observed, as a doula many births now. I know that not all unassisted births will have trauma related to them. But the statement "I trust birth." can make a mom that has experienced trauma feel like a lesser person. "Birth" this entity has somehow forsaken her and let her down. 

Our bodies were created to give birth. However, in this world, there are many variables that can cause a birth to not go according to plan. A baby may somehow not be in the optimal position. Nutritional intake may not be ideal. Small things which are often discussed at prenatal appointments will often be missed when a woman participates in "Freebirthing", "Unassisted Birthing" or "Unattended Birthing". 

This is where a midwife can come in. 

A midwife should not be a last resort, or looked at as an unnecessary expense. 
While often I have heard the complaint when they just go in and do the same thing every prenatal appointment and they never have any red flags. "Why should I bother? Can't I skip one or two? Is this really needed?" If you have nothing they are catching, that is a good thing. It is often because you are doing regular prenatal care that you are doing okay. The small tips the midwife or OB gives you, those prevent problems if you listen to them. 

I figured that since I was educated, I could do my own prenatal care. I took my blood pressure, checked my urine, measured my uterus. I couldn't listen to the heart beat, but if I had had the equipment, I would have done that as well. The problem was, I missed some major components of the whole idea behind having a trained care provider. I was well educated, but I missed what extent my hyperemesis had on my long term health. My lack of nutrition was apparent in my complications postpartum and in my babies. After my second son, at five months of age, I broke my foot. The bone refused to heal from the high demands I had put on my body. When I gave birth, my skin was fragile and shredded was a nice term as to what happened to my perineum. It was linked to the lack of nutrition and prenatal care. 

You would think some of those things were common sense, but when you are pregnant, your mind is elsewhere. I struggled, in spite of all my learning and knowledge to follow what I knew was right. 

I never want to swallow bile because I am relieving my birth experience again at the words of another. 
I share this story with you as privacy was important to me. I longed to be alone while giving birth. However, I learned that a great, trained care provider can give you that same atmosphere, while at the same time helping provide a protection if an emergency occurs. 

No one should have to live with the aftermath that I did. 
Be wise in your choices. Listen to the experiences of others to protect yourself. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Making Educated Choices

We often speak on making educated choices in pregnancy. What does this really mean?

We all know that parenting, pregnancy and anything related involves a myriad of options that face us. From the moment we see the positive pregnancy test, the options are slamming us in the face. <p>

Doctor or Midwife?

Early Ultrasound or skip it?

Unassisted Birth, Home Birth, Birth Center, Hospital?

And the tasks, tests, decisions are laid out for us as we travel down this new path. And, although I hate to be the one to tell you, the decisions do not stop with the birth of your child.

Before you know it, you feel like you have been through a butter churn. You have some nausea (likely from the new pregnancy), but also from the pressure surrounding you on all sides.

So, how do you make an educated decision?  Search the internet? Talk to your friends?

First, tread carefully. Too much info can be overwhelming. Start with determining what you think you want. Write it down.

Secondly, find a care provider you can trust. This is essential. OB/Gyn's, Midwives and other care providers go to school to learn about pregnancy and there are some amazing ones out there. They can help guide you to the right sources often.  The key is finding one you click with. When choosing a good care provider, you want to find some check lists that line up with what you want, what you think you want and then what you actually want! Clear as mud?

Yes, pretty much. 

When you are writing out and interviewing, often you will actually discover what it is you really want. The education process can be a hard one. When you visit your care provider you have chosen and she casually mentions that she prefers that all women get epidurals. She finds that it is less barbaric. You quirk an eyebrow, as you really would like a natural childbirth if possible. She laughs at you and says "That is what you think now!"

You go home, confused and wondering if you are totally off on even trying for a natural childbirth, and you are only 6 weeks pregnant. 
This may not be the provider for you. 

A provider and you may take time to click, but if they disregard your thoughts from the beginning, this is not a good sign. It tells you that you feel that working towards natural childbirth is important to you  and you want a provider that will listen and educate. If the provider explained, offered info on pain management in labor, and choosing natural childbirth, that would be having the option to make an educated choice.

This is only the beginning of making educated choices. A doula can really help you as well, guiding you to the right places to find the education you need. The support a doula can offer while walking through the process can make it feel like you are in the driver's seat throughout, instead of along for the ride.