Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Professional Doula: Dress the Part

Calling all doulas- aspiring and experienced alike! Welcome to Part 1 of a short series on developing professionally as a birth doula. Come back in the following weeks to read more on how to better serve the mother, work with care providers, and develop a good rapport while you’re at it.

Part 1 of our series deals with how you should dress when you attend a birth. I’ll be the first to tell you that appearance isn’t everything, but it certainly can either help you or do a great deal of damage to your professional image.

Remember that every single job, whether it’s in a kitchen or a business office, requires its employees to dress in a certain way. Even if you have a strong sense of fashion, work may not be the time to express it fully. As self-employed doulas, we don’t have any boss to give us hints on our clothing, but that doesn’t mean you should just wear whatever you want. Let’s start with a couple of big no-no’s.

earthmother

Into natural birth, real food, and “green” living? Me too. But please make sure your apparel doesn’t reflect your inner hippie too much. As much as I resent it, showing up to a birth with long unkempt hair and a t-shirt with a “believe in birth” slogan will earn you nothing but disrespect and being talked about at the nurses’ station.

businesswoman2

On the other hand, you probably don’t want to arrive at a birth in a blouse and business suit. You will be doing hard, sweaty work that often goes for odd and long hours. So don’t try to impress anybody too much with fancy clothes. Now is not the time, and the staff understands that.

When you attend a birth, do not:

  • Wear ripped up, old, or torn clothes.
  • Wear heels or uncomfortably dressy clothing
  • Wear a dress or skirt. This will be rather difficult to work in.
  • Show cleavage.
  • Wear t-shirts or sloppy jeans.
  • Wear anything that would confuse you with staff- scrubs, etc. You are not medical and should not give that impression.

Please do:

  • Wear well-kept & neat clothing.
  • Bring extra hair ties. It’s nice to be able to get it back out of your face when you need to.
  • Wear shoes that stay comfortable for hours.
  • Bring a toothbrush and a full change of clothes. Face wash is always nice too. If it’s a long birth, you may need to freshen up at some point.

While there is no strict dress code for doulas, I find it best to maintain a well-kempt, clean & comfortable appearance. Usually for me this means comfortable dress slacks on bottom (easy to do when they have a maternity top!), or a pair of “dressy” black yoga-style pants. I have been known to wear nice jeans or khakis when I’m in a rush to get to a birth, but so far I haven’t had any complaints with that. On top, I usually wear a sweater, tunic, or casual blouse that will hold up to long hours of wear. Again, look nice, but stay comfortable.

Fellow doulas, let me hear from you! What do you wear? If you’re a member on hospital staff, what do you usually see doulas wearing to a birth?

Photo Credits: Mother Earth Photo

Businesswoman in Conference Room

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Toddlers and Mealtime: An Innovative Approach

In light of recently reading Hilary Kimes Bernsein’s book, First Bites, I wanted to share a couple creative approaches to mealtime that help out a lot with getting my wild child to sit down and eat something healthy. Here are a few ideas for starters:

1) Cauliflower Eggs

My son loves it when I saute some cauliflower in butter, then beat in some eggs and cheddar cheese. He doesn’t pick out the cauliflower because they are fairly well camouflaged in with the white-ish yellow of the eggs. (And I love them this way too!)

2) Green Smoothies

My midwife’s apprentice got me on to this- simply add in a generous handful of spinach to your fruit smoothie ingredients. Try this easy recipe:

  • 1 Cup Strawberries (or other favorite fruit.)
  • 1 Cup Yogurt
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 to 1 Cup Spinach (depending on your toddler’s taste buds!)
  • Try throwing in some flax seed oil, wheat germ, or other healthy add-in.

Blend and enjoy as usual! My almost 2 year old affectionately calls these “Tawbewwie Movies!” (Strawberry Smoothies :))

3) Shape Veggies & Dippers

Try cutting your veggies in different shapes using cookie cutters- or at least identify normal shapes as something more exciting. How about broccoli trees, zucchini stars, celery logs, etc.? Adding a nutritious dip (hummus, peanut butter, etc.) can make the meal more interactive and enticing for your learning toddler.

4) Plate Art

Make your child’s plate a work of art. It doesn’t have to be anything too time consuming. Try the common image of using two fried eggs as eyes and a slice of bacon as a mouth to make a face. Or making pancakes in the shape of a heart by pouring the batter into a cookie cutter. Or by making a design with the ketchup you squirt onto the plate for your child to dip in. 2 minutes of creativity on your part can make the mealtime a lot smoother for your child!

These may not be too innovative, but they sure help! What are your favorite tricks and ideas to getting your picky eater to chow down? Please share in the comments below!

Photo Credit

The Difficult Matter of Discipline

Today and tomorrow, I’m honored to be a guest blogger over at The Purposeful Wife. Rachel O’Neill is a stay at home mom to a precious daughter and blogs on Christian homemaking & motherhood- and I get to be her friend in real life! 🙂 Do be sure to visit her blog today, tomorrow, and every day for some really great posts. Here’s an excerpt for you:

“Discipline. That ominous word at which every parent inwardly shudders. The word over which many debates have started. The word on which entire parenting books have been written. The word that leaves us all grasping for a right way to raise our children…

…Countless books have been written on the topic- from strict ‘spank them immediately as soon as they step out of line’ authors and from ‘never tell them no because it might damage their psyche’ authors- and everything in between!

Our friends and families give us advice on it. Ladies at church chime in. The clerk at the grocery store is quick to offer her two cents. The waitress, the flight attendant, the neighbor, the preschool teacher. Everyone has something to say about how to handle your kid…”
How do you discipline? Read more and chime in at The Purposeful Wife today!

Guest Post: Life as an Exclusively Pumping Mom

Today’s blog post comes from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife. Rachel blogs on purposeful Christian womanhood, homemaking, marriage, and parenthood to a beautiful baby girl. Enjoy!

Maybe some women choose exclusive pumping as a means of feeding their baby.

For the most part, however, it seems that exclusive pumping is a fall back plan.

At least it was in my case.

My first choice has always been breastfeeding. I knew that it was good for both baby and me. My mom did it, my friends did it, why wouldn’t I do it?

Because my daughter came at only 27 weeks gestation, weighing just under two pounds. Oral feeds were not an option, and wouldn’t be for weeks. Breast milk was no longer an issue of preference, but of life and death.

The breast pump became my new best friend. I pumped- boy, did I pump! Round the clock, every two hours during the day, taking only a five hour break to sleep at night. I fretted and I prayed and I pumped, rejoicing as 2 ml a pump turned into 2 oz. a pump, then 4 oz.

Precious Colostrum, Warming in Baby’s Isolette

It was not the introduction to breastfeeding that I had dreamed about or planned, but I was thankful for this means of providing good food for my baby.

My daughter became stable, and once again my goal turned to breastfeeding. We began daily kangaroo care as soon as the doctors gave the go ahead. I held her against my chest for hours every day, turning her mouth towards my breast.

Unfortunately not much breastfeeding occurred. Lots of other good things were happening- my baby was growing, she loved kangaroo care, she was alert and thriving. Direct breastfeeding just wasn’t one of them.

After six weeks in the NICU, the doctors said she was ready to begin oral feeding. I continued to attempt breastfeeding during our kangaroo times. Sometimes she would suck and doze off, but mostly the nipple shield I needed to wear was just too big and awkward for her tiny mouth.

The doctors explained to me that although I was welcome to try exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding was the fast track to getting my baby home.

After seven weeks, I was tired. Tired of running around on empty. Tired of living in a hospital room. Tired of leaving my baby every night. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, tired.

So we gave her the bottle. I still worked with lactation consultants and attempted breast feeding, but almost all of her nutrition was breast milk via bottle. After a two month NICU stay, our baby came home. Life was bliss!

Our Little Girl, Bottle Feeding in the NICU

For about a month I continued my breastfeeding attempts. Because of my extensive pump use, even with a proper latch it was often painful. I would set her up to eat, a few minutes later she would doze off, and I would still have to feed her a bottle and pump. After weeks of this exhausting routine and zero progress, I quit.

I continued to pump and give her all the breast milk I could. Two weeks after her first birthday, I performed my last pump. Today my little girl drinks formula.

Pumping was draining. I felt literally chained to my pump- I couldn’t leave my house for longer than three hours. It was the first thing I did every morning, and the last thing I did every night. I spent on average six hours a day pumping and washing bottles and pump parts (35 hours a week- almost a full-time job!). My boobs hurt and I was spent.

When I told women about my plight, oftentimes they remarked on the probability of improper latch, lack of know-how, or lack of trying. This was indescribably frustrating- did they realize how many hours I’d spent attempting to breastfeed? That I’d worked with three different lactation consultants on numerous occasions? That I’d read the same books they had? That my situation had been extremely trying and unorthodox?

If you’ve found yourself in the same position, please know that you are not alone. The more I’ve met mothers of preemies, the more I realize there are many exclusive pumpers out there. We’ve been there, done that. We know the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration, the “if onlys…”. You are not alone.

If you were blessed with the ability to breastfeed your baby, that is wonderful! I sincerely hope to have this experience some day. Thank God, and be happy. When you run into a woman stuck in the boat of exclusive pumping, please be gracious and understanding. Assume that she gave it her best shot, commend her for her intense commitment to giving her best to her baby, and let her know that she is not alone.

Exclusive pumping is grueling. It is a serious commitment. It requires discipline, a lot of self-denial, and being spent for the welfare of your child. It is not the easy road, and it is very rarely a choice.

Our Healthy Peanut, One Year Later

The exclusively pumping mother needs all of the encouragement and support that can be given. Here’s to you, pumping mom!

What Goes Into a Doula’s Fee?

When people see a doula’s fee that is several hundred dollars, or even going into the thousands, they often wonder what in the world could cost so much about “supporting” them through labor and birth!

So what exactly are you paying for when you hire a doula? Your money goes towards…

  • Her training.
  • Her level of experience.
  • Her knowledge of pregnancy, physiologic labor, natural childbirth, medicated childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care.
  • Her constant stream of informational support throughout your time working together.
  • Her emotional encouragement and sensitivity.
  • Her physical support in assisting with comfort means during labor. (This can actually be fairly difficult physical labor for the doula- though granted, not as hard as the mother’s work.)
  • Her unbiased assessment of your labor and presentation of options.
  • Her unflagging commitment to help protect your birth plan, and her flexibility to help you in a new direction if you change your mind or need medical intervention.
  • An extra set of hands to take care of small jobs so you and your partner can focus on the birth.
  • Her communication skills- with you, your other support team members, and with your care providers.
  • Her time at prenatal & postpartum visits.
  • Her on-call availability 24/7, for 4-6 weeks, during your “due window.”
  • Her phone and email availability during your entire contracted time period.
  • Her hours of behind-the-scenes research on your behalf.
  • Her hours at your birth- often without any limits or breaks.
  • Possible prevention of other costly and undesirable interventions through use of natural comfort means, physiologic tricks for labor, and constant encouragement.
  • Her gas expenses in getting to and from appointments and your birth.
  • Her babysitting expenses if she has children of her own.
  • Her food expenses while she is at your birth.
  • Any supplies she brings for you and your family.

Although a flat rate charge of several hundred dollars can seem intimidating to you at first when shopping for a doula, remember that she can save you thousands more in other interventions- and more importantly, she can help you to make your birth what you hope it will be- a positive, calm, and blessed experience.

Many women are surprised to find that their doulas actually aren’t making much money at all. When I break down my fee into hours worked for a single family, I’ve made as little as $2.50/hour, and have never made more than minimum wage. (Granted, my fee is pretty cheap, but still- it gives you an idea of what many doulas are making.)

It really should never be about the money for a doula…  It should be about respecting your intelligence and ability to make informed decisions for you and your baby. It should be about giving you the tools you need to have the birth that you want. It should be about protecting the parents’ desires and the mother’s dignity. It should be about supporting and ministering to a family during a life-changing event in their lives.

It should be about all the love she brings to her work, and to you and your family. Period.

Photo Credit

How Co-Sleeping Strengthened My Marriage

“No surer way to keep romance out of the marriage than to keep a child in the bed!”

“Co-sleeping will definitely wear on your marriage after time.”

“You shouldn’t allow your child in the bed on a regular basis because your husband will resent you for it.”

Do these statements sound familiar to you? Do you resonate with them, or do you find yourself facing them? Let me tell you our story.

I planned never to co-sleep. I thought it was unsafe, and agreed with the insinuation that it would break down our marriage over time because of lack of “us” time. So, we started out with a cradle in our room, then moved our son to his crib in an adjoining room fairly early on.

This worked out well for a time. When my son was a newborn, he slept just about as much as he should have. 2-3 hours, eat, repeat. As he got older, sure, he slept a little longer, but he never really made it past that 5 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep.  We never let our son “cry-it-out” to sleep when he was very young- it just didn’t feel right to us.

When he was about 6 months, we tried controlled crying in an attempt to “sleep train” our son. This didn’t really work for him. He just would continue to cry until I came back, even if we stretched it in increasing increments- as many advisors suggested to us. When we were still all stumbling in a sleep-deprived mess a couple of months later, we resorted to drastic measures. (Maybe this no-cry-it-out thing is for sissies, we thought…) We tried a Weissbluth style cry-it-out-and-don’t-you-dare-peek-in-on-him-no-matter-how-bad-it-sounds-method. This turned out to be disastrous for both us and our son (despite our efforts to be consistent), and the crying never subsided or lessened after many tries, several nights in row, over 2 hours per night. (How long are you really supposed to let them go on like that, really?) When I would finally return to him, red-faced, hoarse, throwing himself against the crib walls, and seeming close to vomiting, I felt that this method almost bordered on abuse. We finally decided that our strong-willed little man did not respond well to this treatment. I resolved that I would no longer put him through that type of training, and that we would work with the situation however we could.

We were exhausted. My husband was working 3 different jobs and doing full time masters degree work online. He would get up at 6:30 and wouldn’t be done with his studies until 2 am, then he’d go do it all over again the next day. I would sneak into our son’s nursery when he woke up and try to settle him there in hopes to give my husband a chance to sleep. But my son wouldn’t settle quickly, so I would be up for about an hour with him each time- still every 2-3 hours, mind you- trying whatever method I knew to get him back into his crib.

Over time, I realized that I wasn’t functioning during the day properly. I was in a fog. I was grumpy and irritable. I was crying much more than usual. I was eating constantly to keep up energy. I felt like I couldn’t have guests over because I was too tired to keep up a conversation. I felt guilty, frustrated, and caught between opposing advice from my baby-training friends and my attachment parenting friends. Nobody else had this much of a problem, did they? Why couldn’t my son sleep in his crib? Why didn’t he lay down peaceably at night? I must just be doing something wrong, I thought. My son deserves better, my family deserves better.

The problem became all-consuming to me. And yet I was terrified to let our son come into bed with us to give us some sleep. What would people say or think? What if I hurt him? And worst of all, would I be one of those women who pushed her husband away over time because we never had a room to ourselves?

When my son was 10 months, I was up yet another sleepless night. Rocking, nursing, laying him down, sneaking out, only to hear screams again a moment after. Back at it again… and again… I realized suddenly when I felt myself jerk awake that I was nodding off in the rocking chair with my nursing son in my arms. I decided that staying in the rocker wasn’t worth the possibility of dropping him as I was falling asleep. I distinctly remember that first night when I picked him up, walked into our room, and made a conscious decision to bring him into bed and fall asleep.

Whether or not we had handled everything well up to that point is beside the question. The reality of the situation was that we were in survival mode, and we simply did not know what to do. But an amazing thing started to happen as we allowed our son to come into bed with us when he woke up in the night…

We began to get more sleep. All three of us.

As the fog began to lift from our brains, we realized a few things that we only discovered in hindsight.

One- I finally recognized that I had been experiencing a mild form of late onset postpartum depression. It was nothing compared to what many women go through, but it was very difficult on our family. Once I was able to think a little more clearly, I was able to talk about it better and find ways to help work through some of my struggles.

Two- I realized that my protests against co-sleeping were mostly culturally-based. I feared the pressures of many around me more than I considered the needs of my own family. I thought that I was trying to do things the “right” way by getting my son to sleep all the way through the night in his crib, when there really isn’t one right answer for every family.

Three- As for my fears of pushing my husband away, he actually laughed when I brought them up. He said that he liked having the family together at night, and that it didn’t bother him a bit! I realized that I hadn’t actually asked him about my concerns, and that those worries were mostly planted by other people! He was just willing to support me and help towards whatever sleep goals I had for little J. Besides, we actually had much more quality “us” time in the evenings when I was well-rested and feeling better. Being sleep deprived doesn’t really encourage anyone towards more intimacy or late night conversations!

So we formed a system. We’d put our son to bed in his crib. When he woke up, into our room he came, and if he had to nurse, I slept while he did it. If he cried, he’d usually settle right back down since we were right next to him. For the first time in almost a year, all of us were getting the most sleep possible. If felt great. It wasn’t perfect- of course, we’d still have rough nights, but it was so much better than before.

In summary, we felt like the decision to partially co-sleep really helped solve a lot of physical exhaustion and emotional struggles we were going through. It also helped us to strengthen our identity as a couple, because we had to make and defend a choice that was very different from what many of our friends supported. It gave us more energy and, therefore, more quality time together in the evenings.

So to those who may want to try co-sleeping but fear its effects on your marriage, I encourage you to give it a try and remain open-minded. It may help you- and it may not- but only you can know what’s best for your family. You can always switch back if it’s not working out.

If you’re someone who believes that co-sleeping only ruins marriages, I encourage you to think outside the box and realize that it may be helpful to many families. Try to soften your prophetic warnings, and be gentle with new parents as they find the arrangement that is best for everyone.

There is no right answer for every family, but there are possibilities to be explored. Be sensitive to your spouse, and listen to each other’s concerns. Find the arrangement that suits you best, and be flexible, as it could change at any point! And of course- no matter what sleeping arrangement you choose- always make sure that you are taking proper safety precautions.

What about you? What works best for your family? Please share!

Birth and Babies Across The United States

I’ve been a little slow keeping up on posts recently because my husband and I had the opportunity to complete a coast to coast cross-country road trip these past few weeks. It was amazing to see so much of our large country- from the Appalachians to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Atlantic to Pacific, Badlands, Rewoods, Yellowstone, Great Basin, St. Louis… there’s far too much to name here!

In our time away, I didn’t keep up on all the latest birth stories. However, that doesn’t mean that I was completely without birthy fuel the entire time! Here are a few of the ways I kept up with birth and babies, despite all the long hours in the car.

  • The further west we went, the more public breastfeeding we saw, and the less gawking eyes. This was refreshing and encouraging to me.
  • We saw breastfeeding activism alive and well! In both Kansas and California we saw several billboards advocating for breastfeeding and advertising free support and information.
  • In a consignment shop in California, there was a whole bin of used cloth diapers for sale. A whole bin! I can’t find them in a single store around my house! (And they were quite reasonable too- $5/cover, etc.)
  • We noticed that circumcision rates went down the further west we went. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I am not as heated about the circumcision debate as some are, and I cast no judgement on parents who choose to circumcise. However, it was nice to suddenly not be the only one with with an uncircumcised baby.
  • I had the privilege of talking birth with several women we stayed with. I always love hearing individual birth stories, and also getting to explore how different maternity care is in different locations. One woman from Vancouver explained that she got to choose a midwife who stayed with her whether she had a home or hospital birth, and if she had to transfer to OB care that midwife then became her doula. She could also decide at any point where she wanted to deliver. Midwives in her area were all non-nurse midwives, but their training was standardized and they all had hospital rights. Where are the American hospitals that encourage teamwork between “lay” midwives and OBs, I wonder? (Sigh…)
  • Women talked about hospital water birth, freedom of positioning in pushing, and being encouraged to try natural birth, to name a few topics. In my local hospital, supoprt for these choices is very difficult to come by. It was nice to hear that in some places women are being offerered some options.
  • Two of the women I talked with were VBAC mamas who were given fair chances to labor on their own. That’salwaysexciting to me!

This cross country trip gave me a chance to see trends in babies and birth that are quite different from that of my own area. How about you? What is birth like in your city? Are options available to you, or do you have to search far and wide to get the birth and mothering resources and support that you want? Thanks for sharing!