Window into a Workshop

Have you ever wondered what attending a doula workshop would be like?  Here is a sneak peak into what happens in one of my Birth Arts International (BAI) Doula workshops.   

People attending the workshop range widely in experiences and beliefs surrounding birth.  You may be sitting next to someone who has had 6 homebirths, on your other side someone who has never given birth, and across from you someone who hs had a c-section.  The workshop is a place filled with openness, curiosity, and respect for all birth experiences.   Although no one is required to speak, we will share stories of birth and pregnancy and dig in deep to gain wisdom from each other as well as discover things about ourselves.  Each student is also a teacher as they share and gain perspectives together. These will be valuable on each person’s journey to becoming a doula.

IMG_4118Supporting birth requires a strength of body, mind, and spirit. This workshop recognizes that there is far more to doula work than a simple back rub or knowledge of birth.  There are many layers to doula work and at BAI we encourage each doula to make it their own and bring their own energy and style to their work.  Chances are if you are interested in becoming a doula, there is already something inside of you stirring that lead you to this path.  We help you harness that and follow it to fruition. We do this in many ways during the workshop and continue after through our unique BAI curriculum. Attending a workshop allows for the space to explore deep within yourself and find the pieces you will need to remain strong and grounded when you begin your practice.  A doula is often the calm during the storm.  It is a very intimate and sacred job.  Families are allowing you into the most important and private moment of their lives and counting on you to provide support and encouragement no matter what twists and turns take place.   We will do interactive activities to support this and being able to do them in a group of people on the same journey has great value.  There is a camaraderie and many students stay in contact to support each other after the weekend is over.  There is also an option to join our online group for BAI students to connect to our doulas all across the world.

 

img_3139While the mind is a powerful part of doula work, we also will spend a good amount of time learning to use our hands.  I will demo several comfort positions and techniques and we will all practice them so that you are confident in your ability to provide physical support in labor.  There are many tools that are used by doulas.  I will share what things I pack in my own doula bag as well as sharing how to use a rebozo (a traditional tool from Mexico) for birth and postpartum.  We will explore using birth balls in both round and peanut shapes.  You will leave with the skills to help encourage a speedy and comfortable labor.   Many expecting parents have read research showing that doulas decrease the cesarean rate.  These tools and positions are a large part of that statistic.  

The workshop can also be a healing experience.  Some students come from a place of birth trauma or fear, perhaps from stories of the birth that their mother experienced bringing them into the world or their own experiences of birthing their own child.  There is space in our weekend to speak about birth stories and we encourage processing these hurtful memories so that healing can begin.  Doulas who are still processing things that happened in the past may be too shaken to be ready to attend a birth.  We recognize this and the workshop is a safe place to begin healing and listen to your own wisdom for a time when you are ready to begin attending births.  This process can continue after the workshop with the support of our online classroom and connection to Global Director, Demetria Clark.  

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I absolutely love teaching workshops.  Getting to know my students and hearing their stories is an experience that I feel privileged to be part of.  As a trainer, I appreciate staying connected to my students after the workshop and watching them grow as doulas.  The BAI community is one that always supported me when I was a student and newer doula and it feels great to be able to offer that support to others as a trainer.

If you have ever attended one of my workshops please feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to hear your perspective.   If you have any questions or want more specific details about the workshop please do not hesitate to contact me.  See my current workshop schedule here.

Modern Mother’s Day

As a doula I have the special privilege of seeing the truth in pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.  Families will share things with me that they keep hidden away from the rest of the world because they know that I am coming from a place of support and free from judgement.  That truth is something that most people keep tucked away, they bury it deep down inside them and rarely share it with anyone, even themselves. Parenting is not only hard work, but it can feel overwhelming. The thought that you might be swimming upstream forever as the days and nights blend together in a broken sleep cycle.  Our modern culture tells us that we must not only do it all, but look good and enjoy every moment.  Snap back to yourself and be ready, chipper and active no later than 6 weeks postpartum.  The truth that is hiding in all this, is not that this is incredibly hard, we know that though it’s rarely spoken out loud  The truth is that it’s actually impossible because we were never meant to do this alone.

Did you know that the latest statistics show 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum mood disorder, and 1 in 10 men. The researchers actually believe it’s higher than that but we aren’t catching everybody because many remain silent.   We are expecting so much from new parents and offering very little support.  It seems that our societal demands on families have increased while the support networks have significantly decreased.   When our ancestors raised children they were living in a society that came together to help each other.  Extended family often lived in the same area and “the village” really was a thing.  Help rarely needed to be asked for, it was just expected that everyone would come together to support the new parents. There was a great connection between everyone, a connection that is very different than the one our current technology creates.  This connection was real and raw, you saw all the parts of someone, not just the joyful moments.  There was no Instagram filter to make the dried spit up on your shoulder less noticeable.  Your community knew your struggle, but also they stepped in to support. Rather than a push to “get back to normal” they had a priority and respect for rest and healing.  Sadly, the village is mostly gone and replaced by networks, wires, filters, and glorifying the over scheduled life.  

If you are that parent who is striving to appear as if you have it all together please don’t feel bad about this.  I’m not trying to shame anyone, but the truth I know as a doula is that you aren’t alone and I wanted to you know that.  I have seen the most beautiful Facebook family and I know that they are having their fair share of tears, struggle, guilt, and loneliness.  I want to create the possibility that we let things go and try being real. This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage you to listen to the part of yourself that is screaming “this is so hard” and follow that truth by asking yourself what you really need.  Maybe you don’t know what you need, in that case just listen to yourself, talk to a friend, write in a journal, but give that feeling some space.  Don’t tuck it away and bury it under a filter and a smile.  

There are new parent support groups and warm lines that you can call for peer-to-peer support. You don’t have to be depressed or have a diagnosis or mood disorder  to call these numbers, they are for any new parent who could benefit from talking to someone.  

Asking for help (even if it’s just a listening ear) is so important. When we do this we are modeling to our children that they too can ask for help and communicate their needs and feelings. When you ask for help this also creates an opportunity for someone else to feel needed and useful, as well as the opening for them to be vulnerable with you or someone else.  When we ask for help we are creating real connection. This helps everyone involved become more attached and secure.  As that security deepens within us it allows us to create stronger bonds and support with our children.

Think of it this way, There is a tree that is being watered and nourished just enough to stay alive.  Someone comes along and hangs a swing on one of the branches, someone else starts to build a treehouse on another branch, and another decides to climb it.  That tree is going to have a very hard time continuing to stand upright.  It looks really sturdy to all the people building and swinging and climbing it, but the tree knows that it’s roots aren’t getting what they need. It silently stands knowing all the while that those roots aren’t deep enough to sustain the life that is climbing all around it and that tree is going to fall over.   

The more you ask for help and take care of yourself the more you nourish your roots and feed your soul.  You aren’t alone in the struggle of being a modern mom, and I encourage you to listen to yourself and challenge the expectations of the modern mother.

 

For Support in Lane County Visit www.wellmamaoregon.org

For Support Anywhere visit www.postpartum.net

ACOG & SMFMDoulas! Just what the doctor recommended.

Did you know that this week the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) issued a joint statement: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery recommending doulas?  See excerpts below:

Increasing women’s access to nonmedical interventions during labor, such as continuous labor and delivery support, also has been shown to reduce cesarean birth rates.”

Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.”

“…the presence of continuous one-on-one support during labor and delivery was associated with improved patient satisfaction and a statistically significant reduction in the rate of cesarean delivery.”

Given that there are no associated measurable harms, this resource is probably underutilized.”

You can read the full statement here.

This is something that doulas have known for years but it is wonderful to see that the medical world is noticing positive results from having us present.  Many area Obstetricians recommend their patients to our care and with this new statement I expect many more to follow.

When doulas and doctors work together towards improving maternal health outcomes incredible things can happen.

Tips for Doulas

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum then I know that you don’t really have much time to read this.  Maybe you are thinking of becoming a doula but unsure if you can make it work with your family, or maybe you already are a doula and have been wading through the guilt and meltdowns as you are gone for hours.   I want to share some tips with you that worked for my family and I encourage everyone to comment and leave your own tips because we can learn so much from each other.   I recognize that each child is unique and the very word “spectrum” entails a wide range of unique delights and challenges.

  1. Weekly calendar of each days plan-  You can include the name of the person they will be with or the place they will go.   If your child doesn’t read then you can have a picture of symbol assigned to each person. Make sure it’s large enough to see easily and in a room where they can easily access it.  Lots of spectrum children are very visual and being able to view it as often as they need to can calm them down.  Not knowing what is coming up next is a common cause for anxiety.
  2. Verbally tell them each morning- You wrote down the plan on the calendar, but a reminder in the morning before they head to school, or at breakfast before you start your day.  Just a quick, “remember that today is Auntie day, so if my client calls me then Auntie will pick you up from school.”
  3.  Share the Plan- Be sure the other family members in your home know the plan so they aren’t forced to come up with a different plan in your absence. You may not be able to answer your phone or receive a text if the labor is very intense when they try to reach you. (This tip is from my husband who may have dealt with more than one meltdown from changing the plan because I forgot to tell him what it was.) 
  4. Special Treats- I am not above bribery.  This could be a treat while you are away, like watching a favorite movie, ordering pizza or favorite food, perhaps a special fidget or weighted pillow that only comes out when you are away.  The point is that they can look forward to this treat happening once you do go to the birth so they aren’t dreading you being called to the birth.
  5. Reliable Childcare- We all know that when plans change it can end in enormous and long meltdowns.  Be sure that you have care arranged from someone who isn’t going to flake and also someone who knows how to care for your child’s unique needs.  This may mean that you are paying an on-call nanny, or perhaps you have rock solid friends who you trade with.  I wouldn’t recommend relying completely on your spouse if you plan to doula as a career because they can only miss work so many times before it’s a problem.   Think you can’t afford childcare?  Guess what, you aren’t charging enough.  Raise your rates so that it doesn’t cost YOU to attend a birth.  Even doulas who are working toward certification can charge for their services.  (You may be able to get care through state services if your child has an official diagnosis of ASD.) 
  6. Self Care- You know that on-call nanny I mentioned above? Maybe you use her for an extra hour or two for yourself (or a date with your partner) the day after a birth.  Being the parent of a child with autism can be both emotionally and physically draining.  Guess what, being a doula can do the same thing.  Be sure that you are taking time to fill yourself back up after a birth.  Chances are good that you will be hyper right after the birth (even if it was 24 hours long) but once the adrenaline runs out of your system take some time to recharge.   Maybe you skip the nanny and instead your kid binge watches Dora The Explorer while you have a cup of tea and read a book.  Whatever you have to do to make some self care time happen, it will be the thing that keeps you able to continue doula work for years and years.

 

This may seem like a lot to do just to go to a birth but try not to get overwhelmed.  The thing is, that parents of kids on the spectrum actually make incredible doulas.  They are already used to tuning in to another person’s needs, a person who may not be into verbal conversation.  During labor, many people go into that instinctual part of their brain and are no longer up for talking or answering questions.  You will need to tune into them, to see their needs rather than hear them.

Many kids on the spectrum are overwhelmed by their own emotions and have trouble making since of them or knowing what to do next.  If you have ever seen someone in the transition stage of labor then you may have seen anger, fear, sadness, and many other emotions emerge and often this can be overwhelming and scary to the person experiencing it.  “Why am I crying, I am sorry, I don’t know why this is happening.”  I hear it often at births, and you most likely already have skills to help them through this to accept the emotions and even the tears coming out of them.  Meltdowns and Transition are very similar, a loss of control and overwhelming emotion.  Your personal experience of being a parent is going to be such a benefit to your clients.

I hope this was helpful to you. Please leave comments of things that have worked for you or your child as you pursued your career as a doula.

 

Who Are You Wearing?

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OK, so maybe you aren’t going to the Oscars to accept an Academy Award.  Maybe you are just going to Target to have social interactions with other adults,  pick up some diapers, and look at all the pretty things.   So, why am I asking who you are wearing?  I’m not talking about what clothing designer you are wearing.  I’m talking about wearing your baby!

woven-wrap-1407192_1280Wearing your baby can make your life a lot easier (not to mention it also can reduce infant crying, create a healthier baby, and reduce postpartum depression.)  Imagine, two hands to push that red cart (or one hand on the cart, the other  holding a Starbucks cup.)  Sure, you could lug that infant carseat out of your vehicle and into the store.  You know the one that weighs 10 times as much as your actual baby?  It’s always great to work those biceps but the truth is that your baby would prefer to be snuggled close to you.  Especially in loud, bright, busy places.  You won’t have to worry as much about enthusiastic strangers leaning over to greet your baby in their car seat.  That can be really nice perk in the flu season.  Some seasoned parents can even pull of feeding their baby while wearing them and shopping or doing other tasks.  Don’t worry if that sounds overwhelming, you can start at the basics and decide if you want to level up your baby wearing skills.   So, what do I mean by baby wearing?  Well, there are many options available to parents today for how to wear their baby.

Carriers: The options come in a variety of price ranges from around $30 – over $200.  If you are crafty you can find DIY instructions online to make most types of carriers and then the key is just finding the right fabric.  If you are buying a used carrier be sure that the carrier meets the USA safety standards and hasn’t been recalled.

You have five types of carriers to choose from

  1. Wraps – Various lengths and fabrics, good for carrying infants – toddlers. You can carry your child on your hip, front, or back so it is very versatile but it does have a learning curve as the long length of fabric can be a bit overwhelming at first.  (This was my favorite option for my kids once I got the hang of it.)
  2. Ring Slings– Made of nylon or metal rings with a long fabric looping through. These are adjustable so as baby grows you won’t need a different size.   One end of the fabric is longer and called the tail and can be used to cover your baby, or an older child can hold the tail as you walk along.
  3. Pouch Slings- These are the easiest to DIY.  A simple loop of smooth fabric that you can pop on and off for quick use.  It isn’t as supportive to your body as other carriers and so your shoulder may get tired if you are wearing it for long periods of time. These are sized specific to your child and so they will be outgrown.
  4. Mei Tai- This consist of a panel of fabric with two shorter strips of fabric that tie around the waist and two longer straps that go over the shoulders.  Ideal for babies and toddlers, front or back carrying is most common with these.
  5. Buckle Carriers– These are a great option for family members who want to wear your baby but don’t want a lesson.  They snap on easily and provider support by going around the waist and shoulders much like the Mei Tai.  You can carry infants to toddlers depending on the brand.

Each has their own advantages and I highly recommend finding a local baby wearing group where you can test them out for yourself and get a lesson.  These meetings are usually free and a great way to meet other parents.

Most doulas are also a great help on figuring out how to use your carrier so be sure to ask them.  Practicing prenatally with a doll may be a lot less intimidating when you are first starting out.


Resources:  Babywearing International Eugene/Springfield Babywearing Network

References:

Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648
“Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.

Why I love Birth Arts International

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Years ago when I was looking into becoming a doula I quickly realized that I had a lot of options on organizations to certify with.  I spent a long time researching each organization to find the one that was the right fit for me.  It seemed that there were many excellent choices but after carefully looking at my options it was clear that Birth Arts International (BAI) was the perfect one for me.

The very name, Birth Arts International, the ART of it called to me.  The fact that this was going to be more than a job, that it went deeper than that because there was something in me that was moving me towards this career. I felt that it required tapping into parts of myself in order to truly do the work of a doula.  I knew that I would be going into the most intimate of times with families and that this journey was an artistic one that would require flexibility, creativity, and trust in the process.

The next thing that spoke to me was the autonomy that BAI allowed for.  I was interested in learning even more ways to help and heal people and as long as I was properly trained, I would be able to bring those skills to births without breaking rules on scope of practice.  This has allowed me to study other interests of mine including aromatherapy and craniosacral therapy and I  have the ability to bring in more things to my practice if I discover something else that I am curious about.

Once I became a student I was instantly sure that I had chosen the right place to be.  There was such a warm and supportive feeling from the student group.  Demetria Clark, the Global Director of BAI was always available to answer my questions and encourage me along the way.  There has been new material, webinars and worksheets added for students often and as new information becomes available BAI has always been quick to share and discuss it. This could be anything from a new comfort technique to help our clients, the latest ACOG recommendations, or things that help us build our business in the ever changing world of technology and social media.  In every aspect of building a doula career, from having the skills I need to knowing how to market them, I feel like BAI has been there to show me the way.

Another reason that I choose BAI was because I wanted to feel very solid in my skills and though it was a little intimidating, BAI came with a rigorous workload (with a flexible schedule.)  At the time when I was looking at programs, I noticed that BAI required more work than other organizations.  I would have to read more books, do more assignments, and even attend more births to become certified. My certification would not expire though, so once I was finished that couldn’t be taken away from me.   Despite having had my own children at this time I still felt like I knew so very little about birth and I wanted all the education that I could get.   I am glad that I didn’t let the intimidation of the work load stop me because I grew so much going through the curriculum. Reading the books, each one showing me more to a world that had previously only had one level.  As I worked through the writing assignments and was challenged to explore how I really felt about birth and nature something began to happen to me.   I began to grow roots working through that curriculum.  Deep roots that I draw from in my work now, these roots help me trust birth, help me believe in the person who is birthing.  When I am in a tough situation with a client, when things seem to be taking a turn for the worse, I can breath and draw strength from the roots that grew through my journey with BAI.  Those roots still grow deeper even now, as I am still part of that community, only now as a trainer.  I still learn things all the time though, we never really stop being a student and I am always seeking new knowledge and understanding.

I am so thankful that I made the decision to train with BAI and even more thankful that I have the opportunity to share BAI with aspiring doulas.  It has been such a great community to grow in and perhaps it’s not for everyone but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Shadows Covering Joy

anxietyAs an expecting parent you may have heard about the baby blues, the emotional roller coaster that comes in the immediate postpartum days.  There has also been more talk lately about postpartum depression.  Today, I want to shed light on something else.  What if you aren’t feeling sad,  but instead you are constantly on high alert, constantly worried that something bad will happen?  Maybe your heart races, you feel dizzy or nauseous. Sleep disruption and loss of appetite.  You can’t sit still as your mind races.  You could be part of the 6% of pregnant parents  or 10% of postpartum parents who suffer from anxiety.  Some have anxiety alone and others have it paired with depression.   This can occur during pregnancy, or even months after the birth of your child.

If you are expecting a child and wondering if you are at risk, risk factors include a family history of anxiety, previous depression or anxiety, or a thyroid imbalance.   If you know you are at risk you can be proactive and join support groups early or have family or friends help out and keep watch for symptoms as they may notice before you do.

For some parents, in addition to generalized anxiety, they may have more specific forms such as Postpartum Panic Disorder.  This is a form of anxiety where you may feel very nervous and have reoccurring panic attacks.  When a panic attack is happening people may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, claustrophobia, numbness and tingling of extremities.   The attacks can come and go in waves and feel very scary but they can not hurt you.  This is of course something to talk to your doctor about, and  I highly recommend seeking out therapy for coping techniques and reduction of panic attacks.

Another form of postpartum anxiety is Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It is estimated that 3%-5% of new parents will experience this.  It includes repetitive and intrusive thoughts or visions that are very frightening and disturbing and come to mind randomly. Often parents don’t mention the thoughts that go along with this disorder because they fear judgement from others.   Research has shown that these thoughts are anxious, not delusional and have a very low chance of being acted out.

The good news is that things do not have to stay this way.  Your entire parenting experience doesn’t have to continue down a worried and anxious path.  It is time to take it seriously and reach out for help.  Locally, in Oregon we have WellMama. They offer support groups and a warm line where a trained professional will call you back.  Therapy can also be extreamly helpful but be sure to go to someone who works with postpartum anxiety. Ann Tepperman, is someone in Lane County who has experience.  To find groups in other areas of the US and Canada you can visit Postpartum Progress.  If you are feeling overwhelmed you can send me an email with your location and I will help you find resources.

Just remember that these fearful thoughts, and even scary visions do not make you a bad parent and you won’t feel this way forever.

 

Maui in March

I am looking forward to bringing a Birth Arts International doula training to Maui.  They have a wonderful community for mothers and I was thrilled to  connect with The Mauimama, a local Maui magazine and write an article for them.  To read Five Ways Doulas Improve Birth please visit The Mauimama

I am looking forward to growing the birth community in Hawaii.