Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!

Please pardon a brief  interruption to my “professionalism for doulas” series. I like to repost this every year as a reminder to ladies to make sure that you count your breastfeeding expenses when you do your taxes. That means pumps, storage bags, nursing bras, nursing pads, etc. Don’t forget!!! Click here to read more:

Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!.

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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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Choices in Childbirth- Before You Write Your Birth Plan!

Happy 2013, everyone! While my blogging is much less regular than I’d like it to be, I am still happy to come and post as I can. I hope that your holiday season was peaceful and cheerful, and that you have started the New Year with new vigor and fresh perspective.

Today, I’d like to touch on a topic that is particularly relevant to me today as I am pregnant with #2: developing a decision making process for planning your birth.

I’ve often tried to make the case for making a birth plan ahead of time, but many women may not know where to begin. How do you know what your preferences are? What factors may change your original ideas of the perfect birth? And then how will these apply to your birth plan? Let’s break the process down into five steps that you can follow prior to planning your birth.

pregnantwomanlaying

1) Research what is healthiest for you and your baby.

Check out some great reads on evidence-based practices in birth. (You can look at my resources page for starters, though it’s certainly not a complete list of all the great information out there.) If you have a question about a specific practice in birth, you should take some time to go on Google Scholar and search for information on it. It’s not that hard! Though you may not have access to full medical journals without paying for them, you can almost always read the abstracts from certain studies. They will give a summary of the study’s findings, and it’s usually pretty understandable. If you don’t know what something means, look it upYou can read and understand the majority of studies out there on birth practices, even if it takes a little extra research. (Make sure you double check your findings with a knowledgeable care provider- sometimes checking with two different care providers of differing perspectives can be enlightening.)

2) Figure out what your personal preferences are.

The Birth Book by Dr. Sears has a great section on developing your own birth philosophy and making some general birth choices. Here are some good questions to get you started:

  • How much do I want to be involved in the decision making process, and does my doctor support my preference?
  • Do I want to be an active participant in my labor, or would I prefer it to be managed by the hospital staff?
  • Do I prefer to go with or without pain medications? How much do I want to feel? What type of medication is right for me?
  • Who do I want present at the birth? How much control do I have over this in my planned birth setting?
  • Do I have strong preferences on any of the hot button birth controversies (e.g. episiotomy, birthing position, delayed cord clamping, etc.)? If so, is my care provider/birth place supportive of my preferences? (If you don’t know what you’d like, look up information on it to help you decide.)
  • Where and with whom am I most comfortable laboring and birthing?
  • Is there anything that I would be extremely disappointed about if it did or did not happen? If so, what can I do to maximize my chances of achieving my desired outcomes?

3) Discuss options with your care provider.

Next, take your research and your preferences to your care provider. Always double check with your provider on things before making a medical decision. Find out if you have any specific medical needs or concerns that would affect your choices for birth. Then talk about it! See if the two of you jive or not. Make sure you have a trusting, mutually respectful relationship. You should be trying to get the most from your care provider’s knowledge and experience, and he or she should be trying to accommodate your preferences as much as possible within medical possibility.

4) Do a reality check.

As your due date approaches, do a reality check. If you want a lovely natural birth with no wires or needles but are facing induction due to health concerns, you may need to step back and reevaluate your plan. Likewise, if you plan on getting an epidural at 2 cm and feeling nothing but have a history of quick, intense labors, you may need to prepare for the possibility of not having time for pain medication. You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you blindly expect that things will go a certain way when you have clear indicators to the contrary.

5) Be flexible.

As I always stress, realize that unplanned surprises can always come up. Plan a Plan B. Plan your worst case scenario birth. What would you do in that situation, and how would you feel? How could you make the best of it? Think about these things now so they don’t undermine you if they do come up later.

Now that you’ve thought through these five steps, you are well on your way to making decisions for your birth. Make these decisions before you write your birth plan to ensure that you are well informed and prepared. Then sit back and enjoy the ride!

Photo Credit

It’s Been a While!

Hi folks,

For those of you who are regular readers, I’m sorry I dropped off the face of the earth for a while- we’ve had a lot going on though!

Here are a few updates of what’s been going on in our lives recently:

We bought a house! And though it’s got great bones, it needs some love as it’s a little rough around the edges. We’ve been sanding, spackling, priming, painting, putting up light fixtures, and trying to figure out where to put everything. It’s still a wreck, but we are accomplishing projects one by one.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. and that means lots of traveling, singing, going to concerts, supporting friends at different events, figuring out how to gift everyone without breaking the bank or focusing too much on the materialistic version of Christmas.

And lastly…

I’m pregnant with baby #2! Some of you may know this already, but I’m making the news blog official. I am 14.5 weeks along now and almost entirely out of the sick stage of pregnancy. I’m also popping way sooner with this baby that my first:

belly comparison2

Baby is obviously not as high up yet this time, but that makes sense because my uterus isn’t that high up yet. But wow, I am certainly pre-stretched and ready to go! I may be quite the sight to see by the end of this pregnancy.

This is just a short post to give an update… I will get back to blogging as soon as time allows again! If I’m not on beforehand, Happy Christmas to you all, and have a very wonderful New Year! 🙂

How Will a New Baby Impact Your Marriage?

Disclaimer: As I discuss the state of your marriage with a new baby in the house, I fully realize that everyone has their own unique situations- some of which can be quite difficult. Please take these ideas as suggestions that may help, but not as law. I also realize that some women may find themselves in the midst of an abusive situation with a new baby, and in that case, your initial course of action should be first to ensure the safety of mother and baby through getting help and a safe place to stay, and then deciding what you should do regarding your relationship. This post is not directed towards your situation. I am not a counselor, just a mother and a wife sharing from my own experience.

Me and my hubby, sans children, back when we first were engaged.

Many people will discuss finances, sibling relationships, space in their house, and new car purchases when considering a new addition to the family. All of these are important issues to think through. However, I think that it is most important to consider how a baby will affect your marriage. While there is no real way to know what its like until you get there, talking through your possible reactions will help you to prepare for how you will approach the troubles that often accompany the transition.

For example, with a newborn in the house, you will be utterly exhausted. You will be frustrated sometimes because you don’t know what your baby wants. You will be disgusted because your kitchen counters are covered in crumbs, the dishwasher isn’t loaded, and the diaper bin is overflowing. You might think that only you can soothe your baby and that your partner is doing it all wrong- or you might think you can do nothing right and push all responsibility to your partner! You may feel near breaking at certain points, and perhaps experience the meaning of the phrase, “at your wit’s end.” If you have other children, this may complicate the issue further, or they may be a great help to you. The problem is, you don’t know which of these challenges will be yours- but you are pretty much guaranteed to have at least some minor obstacles to overcome.

Why is it important to keep your marriage strong when you have a new baby? First of all, because you vowed to one another that you would love and care for one another- for better, for worse, for as long as you both shall live. Now is not the time to take this promise lightly. It’s also important because you each have unique roles to fulfill as parent, and your child will benefit greatly by having both of you consistently involved in his life. May I add that your marriage- strong or weak- will be an example to your child for years to come. You can also be a great help to each other during this uncertain time, and may be surprised how wonderful it is to rely on each other for help and encouragement, rather than tearing one another down day in and day out.

I suggest discussing this topic in the preconception/TTC period (or through pregnancy), because just by talking about these struggles beforehand you may alleviate some of the stress  as it happens. Ask yourself some of the following questions now:

  • How do I react when I’m tired? Sore? Overwhelmed? Frustrated?
  • How can I exercise self-restraint when I really just want to be miserable?
  • How might my husband/wife feeling right now?
  • How can I help my husband/wife when he/she is feeling this way?
  • How can I show patience and caring? How can I show love even when I don’t feel like it?
  • How will I remind myself not be self-righteous or to accuse him/her?
  • How will we reasonably and realistically share responsibilities for the baby, home, and work?

As a Christian, I try to think of what type of character qualities I should be developing, even in the midst of an unfamiliar or stressful situation. “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galations 5:22-23.) I find this verse a particularly fitting reminder to me for when there is a new baby in the house.

What do you need to keep in mind when you are striving towards keeping up a good marriage while you’re also trying to be a good mom or dad?

That you will make mistakes. You will reach the end of your rope, and then you will recover again. That you won’t be perfect, and neither will your spouse. That you can forgive. That you will have some regrets. That you start each day new.

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3:22-23)

While parenthood can be stressful on your marriage, it is not something to be feared. It is a journey to be embraced and traveled joyfully, for it shapes you and your family deeply and permanently. It is an opportunity to grow in ways that you would not have had the chance to do had you not had children.

Let parenthood grow you and your spouse closer together, not apart. It is an unparalleled privilege to experience a strengthened marriage through a difficult time.

What helped you keep your marriage intact during the first few weeks, months, and years with baby? Please share your wisdom!

 

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

First Bites Book: A Review and Giveaway

I’m thrilled to introduce to you Hilary Kimes Bernstein. She is a mother of two, a Christian, and an experienced journalist turned blogger at Accidentally Green. She’s just released her first e-book entitled First Bites: How to Instill Healthy Eating Habits In Baby’s First Year. And I am excited to have the privilege of reviewing a copy First Bites– and to give one copy away to a reader!

Bernstein gives a wonderful overview of various considerations when it comes to feeding your baby well from the very beginning. The chapters are divided in such a way that you can easily flip to the section most pertinent to your family. For example, you can read chapters on   breastfeeding vs. formula, or find suggestions for snacks to feed your toddler. But if you’re up for it, you can read the entire work for information on all ages and stages of feeding your family. Her book is an accessible and user-friendly read for moms weeding through their baby food options.

So what exactly does Bernstein cover in her book? First, she examines some of the physiological facts and undeniable health benefits of breastfeeding. Formula, of course, is not left untouched- why it can be a good thing for some mothers, the possible dangers of formula, and cost comparisons.  Different types of formula, formula recalls. A biblical model of feeding your babies.

What about when your baby gets older? Bernstein certainly doesn’t overlook the transition to solid foods. She addresses common questions and concerns, such as, When is the best time to introduce solids to my baby? Is there any difference between store-bought baby food and homemade? How do I make my own baby food?

What about processed foods? Added colors and flavors? Which foods are most dangerous? And what about organics? Bernstein sheds light on some real food issues that are important not only for your kids- but for everyone.

Perhaps my favorite thing about First Bites is Bernstein’s flexibility. She understands that every baby is unique- and therefore every baby will have his or her own unique feeding schedule and preferences. She provides evidence based information on breastfeeding over formula feeding, but she is also certain to add that she is in no way trying to judge a formula feeding mother. She also reassures parents: If you can’t make every healthy choice every single time, don’t fret. She gives realistic advice on making small changes, one step at a time.

While firm on evidence-based feeding, Bernstein realizes that every family will have their own distinctive challenges in their quest to nourish their babies. This is a big deal, especially when breastfeeding vs. bottle, organic vs. not, and allowing the occasional junk food or not can turn into major mommy wars. Thank you, Ms. Bernstein, for addressing baby-feeding issues with both truth and grace.

Want your own copy? First, enter here to win a free copy of First Bites. If you don’t win it this time, then be sure to visit the website for First Bites, where you can purchase your own copy for $9.99. Added bonus? From October 11th to December 11th, 2012, $4.50 will go to World Vision with every sale to help feed hungry children around the world!

I hope that First Bites an enjoyable and helpful read to you. Remember to enter to win!

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