Support Is Comforting

Nothing Feels Better Than Support

One of the best things we can do for another person is to support them in their choices.

True support involves active listening, considering all of the options, remaining fair and impartial, and not trying to coax someone into making a choice because it is the choice that we would personally make.

You Are A Trusted Confidant

The thing that a family most wants when they are pregnant, in labor, or learning about their need baby is support. They want to hear your stories and experiences. Your friend trusts you to give them feedback and advice. They trust that you aren’t going to tell them terrifying stories. And they trust that you are going to make them feel better, alleviate their fears, and assure them that their experiences are normal and valid.

Different People Need Different Types of Support

Every single person on this planet is unique. Each person believes in a different way of doing things. Everyone gets to make a choice that is right for them in the moment.  Can you remember a time when someone was pressuring you to make a choice, but they weren’t actively listening to all of the elements of the decision because they were too hung up on their own experience or emotions? Being able to actively listen is a huge asset.

Honest Support Is Real. It Does Not Create Fear Or Unrealistic Expectations

When your best friend is expecting her first baby and is sitting with you at brunch and asking you questions, you are in a place of extreme honor. You are her confidant. You are the one who gets to hear about how she’s pretty sure she peed herself last night. If you are the friend that can assure your friend with both the beautiful and ugly side of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, you are one of the most beautiful people ever. If you can tell her how it felt to have your vag stitched back together but that it really was worth it to see your baby for the first time, you are a true friend.

Be A Cheerleader

New parents don’t need other people to question their choices. They don’t need to be overwhelmed with the “wrong” way to do literally everything. They need one (or more) people to be cheering encouragingly from the sidelines.  And sometimes that looks like this:

YOU ARE NORMAL.

PARENTHOOD LOOKS GOOD ON YOU.

I’M SO PROUD OF YOU.

YOU AREN’T GOING TO FAIL.

YOU’RE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY, AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

LET ME FEED YOU.

LET ME WASH YOUR DISHES.

I’LL SIT WITH YOUR BABY WHILE YOU SHOWER AND NAP.

YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID.

YOUR BABY, YOUR RULES.

 

Rebozo: Using Fabric To Aid In Rhythm And Comfort In Labor

What Is A Rebozo?

A rebozo is traditionally a shawl that has origins in Mexico. It is a very long garment that is used in their culture for a variety of tasks such as head coverings and to carry little children. In recent years, more and more families are choosing to use a long piece of fabric to aid them in labor. When a family knows of this tool and wants to use it, it is common for it to just be called “Rebozo”. In 2014, I completed a course with Gena Kirby that instructed me on the use of the rebozo for labor. In 2018, I am more mindful of referring to it as  “comfort measures for labor involving fabric” in order to respect the culture it has origins in.

 

The Measurements

After years of experience with using this fabric with clients in labor, I feel that the nine foot measurement is the easiest for versatility in labor. In addition to length, the wider the fabric is, the better. For many families the traditional rebozo is what is utilized. Other options include folding a top sheet length wise, or using a stretchy woven wrap that will later be used for baby wearing. (If you’re unfamiliar with all of these, a Moby wrap is a stretchy long fabric that can easily be worn by a parent who attends to wear their baby. It comes with instructions so that you don’t feel like you are doing fabric origami.)

As A Form Of Intimacy

When your baby was conceived, chances are high that there were only two people involved. If more people were involved (surrogacy, embryo adoption, etc), then it was a conscious decision between you and your partner that you were ready to add to your family.

There’s a level of intimacy that exists between the two of you that should be honored and celebrated during the birth of your baby. It’s very common for their to be medical staff, family, and friends around on the big day of your baby’s birth. That can feel overwhelming at times.

Together, you can use a sheet or a long piece of fabric to make a tent over your heads. So that each of you is only looking at your partner. This activity creates the feeling of being in a tent or a cave, with just the two of you and baby. It sounds silly at first. I thought it was silly when Gena  asked us to try it. But there was something magical about the entire rest of the world falling away.

As a second form of intimacy, most women like the way it feels for their partner to bounce the fabric along their body, like a subtle and very gentle massage.

 

As A Form Of Support And Comfort

When a woman is in labor, it’s very common for her to move around. Moving around is an amazing asset during labor. She is very likely to do positions that could be better supported by her partner or birth team. Squats are an example. By wrapping the long fabric under her arm pits and holding the ends securely behind her, you are able to offer her support so that she’s less dependent on the strength of her body and feels more secure. In most positions for labor that involve the fabric, there is a support person that is holding the other end. Which, symbolically, it like the partner and the mother being tied together and working toward a common goal.

As A Tool For Pushing

A long piece of fabric can be woven through the bedposts if the woman is pushing in a bed. It will give her something to pull on, sort of like having a handle, as she pushes baby down. Some hospital beds also have a squatting bar. The fabric can be woven around that bar and then mother can reach forward and pull on the fabric in front of her. A support person can also hold one end while standing at the foot of the bed, and the mother can play “tug of war” with that person while she pushes.

It’s very difficult to try to describe in a blog a tool that involves position changes for labor. If you’re in Houston, and you’d like to learn more about these techniques, I’d love to do a birth consult with you.

 

 

 

Quiet Time: The Benefits Of Silence As A Woman Works To Birth Her Baby

Talking Is In My Job Description As A Doula

When a family hires me to be their birth doula for the birth of their new baby, they know I’m going to talk to them. In fact, they encourage it. “Words of affirmation and encouragement” is pretty high on the list of services I offer. It would be strange if I didn’t talk at all. But there are times during labor and the birth of the baby when it is best to be silent.

Silence During Contractions

When a woman is in the middle of a surge or contraction, she is hyper focused on the sensation she is feeling. She is mentally working through that contraction with her body and her baby. If she focuses on anything external to that process, it needs to be the knowledge that everyone in that room is there to support her. It’s impossible for a woman to even understand the full extent of a conversation that is happening around her during labor. She’ll remember later that someone made her laugh, and someone else craved pizza, but she won’t remember the order or the details. If a person is speaking directly to a woman in labor, during a contraction, it needs to be a moment of silence to let her work through that surge, or to offer moment by moment support that is focused on her goals in that moment – to get through the surge. In the breaks between contractions is the time to ask her, “Are you comfortable?” “Would you like some ice.” “Steve is in the waiting room, and he made every one Team Baby shirts.”

Silence During Pushing And The Birth

It sounds kind of woo-woo, but the moments leading up to the birth of her baby are the most connected a woman is ever going to be to her body. And it’s sort of like a rite of passage. Our bodies really know how to give birth. By the time the baby is being born, whether vaginally or cesarean, the woman has done all of the hard work to get to the point where baby is ready to be born. In that moment, allow her to feel the power of her body. Allow the silence to be heightened by the sounds of her baby crying for the first time. The second that her baby leaves her body, all women have one single thought. “Is my baby okay?” Let her have that moment of knowing that her baby is here.

Give The Family Space

When the baby has been born, I step back. I stay in the room, but on the perimeter of it. Maybe I was holding a leg or a hand. I was close. But when that baby is born, that is not my space anymore. That is the space for those parents and that baby to get to know each other. When prospective clients ask me, “How do you help the dad in labor?” What I always respond is, “When you think of this story in five years, I want you to remember that I was there and I helped you. But I don’t want you to have a lot of memories of looking eye to eye with me. I want you to have a lot of memories of getting through labor looking eye to eye with your partner. I want it to be a dance that you do together. You just know that you were enveloped in a bigger system that cared about making your birth experience feel secure, safe, and as comfortable as possible.”

 

My Recent Experience With A Midwife

Recently, I was the doula at a home birth with a midwife. That midwife was amazing. Just being around her, you could tell that she’s been a midwife for a long time. She understands not just the medical aspect of birth, but cares about the whole woman. She can look at a smile or a grimace and just know where in labor a woman is. I’ll be honest when I say that I think transition is a big deal. A natural and normal event, but a big deal in the laboring woman’s mind. That is the part of labor when women feel like they cannot have their baby. And they stop wanting to. They want to shut labor down and go home. And that’s the point where I feel, as a doula, where I’ve got a woman most. That’s the time for, “Baby is coming. I know you don’t believe me. You don’t have much longer.” So, there I was, sitting on the floor next to the birth tub, holding the mother’s head in my hands and wiping stray hairs from her face. And I was encouraging her and telling her that she was doing great. And the midwife looked at me and said, “Talking adds time to labor. Silence shortens them.” I’m obviously an advocate for silence. So I stayed silent, and held that mother, and learned an even further lesson in letting that woman have an extra moment in her own mind. Still present with her, still supporting her, but letting her bask in the power of her own mind and body.

Sacral Pressure As A Tool For Comfort And Pain Relief In Labor

Sacral Pressure Doing Labor Is The Best Labor Support Trick Out There

There is a lot that a woman is going to remember about her overall birth experience. There’s the emotional component of finally getting to meet her baby and all of the emotions she had in getting to that moment where she hears her/your/their baby cry for the first time. There’s the physical aspects of trying to get comfortable while experiencing the surges (contractions) and the pressure (pain) that goes along with that. And there’s the mental aspects of knowing how hard she has worked to get to a point where she trusts her body, her baby, herself as a parent, and you as a coparent and/or support person.

 

One of the factors in her memory is going to be how her support people helped her get through labor through being present, feeling safe to her, encouraging her with words, and doing physical tricks to help alleviate some of her pain.

Sacral pressure and good hip squeezes are worth remembering.

 

What The Heck Is A Sacrum?

The sacrum is a triangular bone of fused vertebrae that sits exactly in the middle of a person’s pelvic structure. It is situated between the hips. On most people, you can physically see the sacrum. It is right in the middle of the low back, and right above their crack. (I’d love to use technical terms here, but you’d still be like, “What….?”)

Why The Sacrum Comes Into Play During Labor

When a woman is pregnant, the baby grows above her pelvis inside of her uterus. In order to be born, a baby utilizes the muscular system of it’s mother’s body, as well as the physical bone structure of her body.

Her cervix is the Gandolf “You Shall Not Pass!” that keeps her uterus and her vagina separate. During labor, the cervix moves (I feel like this is a separate blog), the cervix dilates, and the length of the vagina shortens. As the contractions in labor apply pressure to the uterus that push the baby down into the pelvis, the sacrum moves to allow baby’s head through the pelvis.

Essentially, the back of the pelvis moves, as if it is hinged. In many cases, the part of the baby’s head that hits the sacrum is the back of it’s head. The back of the baby’s head is made out of bones. So, bone against bone. Does that make you flinch? As the baby comes in contact with the sacrum, it creates an intense feeling of pressure from the inside of the woman. And that pressure feels like pain. By applying pressure to the sacrum, you are providing “counterpressure”.  And she loves it.

How To Apply Sacral Pressure

When you think of sacral pressure, it’s common to think she just needs her low back rubbed. Especially if you’ve never done this before. And there are some women that do like that. But with sacral pressure, you’re giving her sacrum the full extent of the strength you have. There’s multiple ways to accomplish this. You can put the palm of one of your hands into her sacrum, and put your other hand on top of that one and push. Or use a closed fist to apply pressure. You can also use a tennis ball and push the tennis ball into her sacrum. The way to find out if it is working or not is to ask her when the next contraction is over. “Is this helping? Do you want me to do it lighter, or harder?”

 

Your Options Are Endless

Your Birth Options Are Endless

I could invest hours in this blog. And it would never do it justice. When you think about your options for day to day living, did you know the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day? We call that decision fatigue. It’s almost as if while you’re making one decision, that decision itself has eight other decisions that tentacle off of it like a mind-eating octopus. (See also: 2018 Halloween Costume Ideas)

So, it stands to reason that if just by existing you are thinking 35,000 thoughts a day, you’re also doing that while pregnant, in labor, in postpartum recovery, and while you’re parenting. 35,000 thoughts relating to that is a lot.

And it’s common during this big life transition to hear the thoughts of everyone else around you all of the time. For instance, if you’re here, you’re either going through this new transition, or you’re an internet stalker (Hi guys!). So now you’re subject to my thoughts on the matter as well.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you.

I want to share three main ideas with you when it comes to make decisions for you pregnancy, labor, and parenting journey. Those three main ideas are that (1)Fear is a liar. (2) BRAIN (3) You’re In Control.

 

Fear Is A Liar

Fear is a liar. Have you ever done anything you were afraid of doing? Looked under the bed when you were five? Made a risky decision relating to your career? Told someone you had feelings for them, and didn’t know what was gonna happen?

When you experienced fear, and acted on it anyway, what happened? It obviously didn’t kill you. Because you’re here. Reading this blog.

Fear is normal during pregnancy, birth, and parenting. There are many “Oh shit!” moments. And someone, somewhere, is going to tell you a story that makes your face contort. How do you combat the fear?

You do research. You trust your intuition. You take birth & parenting classes. You filter out the people in your life that are constantly negative and sending you anxious vibes.

Fear of a thing is often worse than the thing itself.

Let’s take ear piercing as an example. The expected pain and apprehension of the piercing is worse than the pain itself. The nauseous butterflies in your stomach feeling starts long before the earring is anywhere near your ear. And then all of a sudden you have some new bling. In this case, your new baby is going to be your bling. And there is really no bling more exciting than the way your baby smells, the cute noises they make, and the fact that it’s a baby. Like, who doesn’t love babies?

Use  BRAIN

In doula terms, some very clever person a long time ago gifted us the acronym BRAIN for informed decision making.

 

Benefits – What are the benefits of this decision?

Risks – What are the risks of this decision?

Alternatives – Do I have other options?

Intuition – What is my gut telling me about these options?

Nothing – What happens if I don’t make any decision?

 

Real life example: Two years ago, my husband and I were forced to decide if we were relocating to Houston to follow his job. He had been with them almost 20 years. It paid the bills well. But they sold his office. I had a doula practice in Dallas. It was alive. I had some clients. But it wasn’t thriving. Were we going to move? If we did, was I going to create a new doula practice? Stay at home with our son? Get a different job all together? Here’s the short analysis of my BRAIN

Benefits: I could create something entirely new. And from a business perspective, I could have a better foundation since I had created another business before. Relo itself was like free falling, so I assumed I wouldn’t really have anything more to lose if I was already losing it all.

Risks: I had to experience business start up costs all over again. Was I about to lose money? A lot of money?

Alternatives: My alternatives were to not launch again in a new place. To stay at home. To get a different job. But I realized that I’d be really bored at home cleaning the same stuff over and over again. I like to keep busy with traveling to clients and building content. And I didn’t like the idea of working 9-5 in a corporate environment with a two hour commute each way every day.

Intuition: Having a doula agency had briefly been a blip on my radar, but I knew it was going to involve funding and time. But I thought of moving to Houston as the chance to go big or go home. If I was going to go down after so long in the industry, I was going to go down in a fire. Now, as opposed to being in a fire, Houston Central Doulas is ON FIRE (in the best of ways) thanks to our clients and the behind the scenes orchestra that keeps it going.

Nothing: If I had done nothing, I would sit around all day wondering what could have been.

 

Try BRAIN if you want to take some of your 35,000 thoughts through a filtering process.

 

You’re In Control

You’re always in control of your pregnancy, your birth, your recovery, and parenting.

There will be times that you feel pressured to make a specific decision. But even when up against people in a place of power, you are entitled and deserve to make your own decisions for the health of you and your baby.

You’re entitled to decide who gets to be around your baby, what products you buy, and how your daily routine plays out. It’s okay to say, “No” even when you hurt someone else’s feelings. And it’s okay to say “Yes” when you are passionate about something that goes against “norms”.

In most cases, pregnancy, birth, and parenting are adventures you’re only going to embark on a few times in your life. And for many people, it’s a one time deal. Having a baby is momentous. You want to think back to having a baby is one of the most awesome times of your life. To know that you were in control. You want to know that you love your story. You want to be present in all of those moments as they happen.

For the rest of your life, you want to remember what it felt like to be kicked from inside. What it felt like emotionally when you heard your baby cry for the first time. What it felt like to hold them. The first time they say, “mama” and/or “dada”. And you can be present and mindful moment by moment when you feel confident in the decisions you’ve made. Which may mean research, or talking to friends & family, or classes. It could be a lot of things. But the work is worth it. I promise.