Doula Life

The life as a doula isn’t all baby snuggles and happy tears. It can be long nights and 3am wake up calls when you need to quickly run down the logistics of being gone for the day.

The best parts are watching families be made, witnessing a long awaited vbac and seeing the amazement on a father’s face as his child is born.

Throughout the years on call, I often felt like I gave so much to my clients that they never realized. Missed birthday celebrations, cancelled appointments, sisters night out where I took labor support calls and endless hours of sleeping in hospital chairs.

The downsides of doula life were worth the highlights. Getting to know a client and watching their first, second and third child be born. Knowing their labor patterns and being there when they need support.

As I approach a new year, I decided my business will change. I will begin to once again put my family first. I will hold onto my beloved Doula clients and attend limited births.

My children have grown up as children of a childbirth educator and doula. They know Christmas comes once a year but if a baby has chosen the 25th, Christmas may come on the 26th. It’s time for holidays to have predictable dates. I want to make orthodontic appointments and field trips without needing the logistical support of wonderful sister doulas and partners.

If I have been your Doula in the past, I will be if you would like me to be in the future. As for new clients, I have wonderful doula partners who are still actively filling their schedules.

I am continuing my childbirth courses and adore teaching. I will be back to active doula hood soon enough.  I love my job as a doula too much to walk away forever. The season has changed and focusing on my own children has become a necessity.


Parenting without an agenda

It was only about two weeks into my life as a mother when I realized, “I’m so screwed.” I had no idea what I was doing. I was parenting without a plan or agenda.

I never hoped to make the world better by having a child. I didn’t even try to make my own life better by having a baby. He was on a mission to be the universal force in my world which would eventually teach me organization, efficiency and time management. Learning those life skills wasn’t the agenda I had when I became a parent.

My son was a force to be reckoned with.  That’s the nice way of saying he was a high-needs, colicky, screaming nightmare of a little person who rocked my entire world.

I had never known unconditional love in a tangible form before I birthed my son. I had never known the anguish of watching a child scream in pain and being unable to soothe him. I learned from him that sometimes just showing up and being there is more important than actually doing things “right”. My arms willing to rock him as he screamed was enough.

I had my baby without an agenda. I wasn’t going to raise him by parenting according to a rule book of attachment parenting or rear my child in the ways of sleep training and controlled feedings. I had no idea before I met him if I would nurse him. Little did I know that nursing him would be the one bond that healed the screaming and kept us as a pair for longer than I had imagined.

The universe gave a child to a woman who loved Sesame Street well into adulthood, who ate toddler food well into her 20s and a woman who probably agreed to have a child mostly because 12 weeks off of work sounded awesome. The reality was I had no agenda. I was a parent because I longed to meet a little person who was half of my husband’s politically correct genes and half of my “C” student by choice and sailor mouthed genes.

He arrived perfect. He arrived perfectly flawed. He arrived screaming and unable to be soothed. We both showed up without any agenda other than figuring out the world together.

Motherhood just finds some women. One friend said, “it hits some women like a brick wall.” Well, brick wall or not, parenting is something you don’t go over, you can’t go under – you just go straight through. The wall doesn’t get any lower regardless of the books you have read or the credentials you have earned.

I found that showing up without expectations wasn’t a bad thing. My world and my beliefs were continuously changed by this little soul who found me. All the ideas about the future were rearranged. My wants and dreams were morphed into my family’s wants and dreams. I became a mother.

My own dreams and hopes were still my own, but they danced behind my dreams and hopes  for my child. A deep and strong love is born when you have a child. Your love becomes fierce and your mind becomes focused. Even through tired eyes and an exhausted heart, I stared at nursling and dreamed of his life ahead. His agenda became my world. I showed up without an agenda or expectations. Parenting is cool that way….you show up and they teach you to love.

We don’t talk about more than just postpartum

In recent years, women have become empowered to make decisions about the birth of their child. We write birth plans and hire doulas – which of course, I’m more than a little biased in favor of.

As expecting couples, we educate ourselves and prepare for the future as best we can. The lists of recommended strollers and car seats are kept and reviewed. Moms often discuss the six to twelve weeks of maternity leave as if it is a lingering vacation where they can recover and get to know their baby. Spoiler alert: you may be sleep deprived and just recovering and learning how to breastfeed half awake.

And then, the reality of childcare sinks in like a blanket of dread. This particular dread comes with a sticker shock that rivals your wedding venue’s cost.

As women, childcare seems to be the last frontier of taboo topics. The cost, the stress of choosing the perfect place and the realization that you may need to delay having a second child solely based on the financial impact.

Its not “just” financial. The decision is highly emotional and comes with incredible weight. Rarely does a family take dropping a newborn off at a care facility with the levity of dropping off your family pet for the week.

As women, we seem to have put this topic in the same “don’t ask, don’t tell” bin as the feeling of looking down at your sagging belly during the first postpartum shower. Why? Is the conversation taboo because we don’t want to walk the line of the infamous “Mommy Wars?”

Let’s have the discussion.

Childcare is the hardest part of being a parent. Balancing the need to be yourself and have alone time without a baby strapped to you in a trendy carrier, no matter how many good mom points that wins you, is essential to being a happy person. You deserve to be you, solo, alone, with friends, without a baby in your arms and still feel emotionally at peace that your child is safe and content.

This scenario comes at a price. A price of checking your super mom cape at the door and realizing that another human  being has the same goal of keeping your child safe and content while you are away being yourself. It also comes with a hefty financial price as well.

Girls Nights Out are not the only emotional mom guilt causing experience regarding childcare. If they were, well, pass the mojito. It’s your career,  if you have chosen to return to work, or life has chosen for you to return to work, that can cause this guilt. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s scary, but sometimes your a better mom because of it. Sometimes, we may need Xanax and a hug I get through it.

As women, we seem to talk a lot about whether we went natural in childbirth or whether we  breastfed and forget to warn an expecting mom in a gentle way that even though the laws say otherwise, you may not be the same employee after you have had your child as you were before. You definitely won’t be the same six to eight weeks after having your baby, despite what FMLA insists.

Having vacation time for actual vacations  may be a thing of the past. That time will be used for ear infections, check ups, broken bones and hand foot and mouth virus (yep, that’s a thing).

You will be a good employee but, your heart may be somewhere else. Your fear will be that you have chosen subpar childcare. If you happen to be on a tight budget and can’t afford the premiere childcare center, your heart will ache with a feeling of”what if”.

I often said, “the worst part of having children was needing childcare.” I wanted Mary Poppins. I wanted to know my childcare provider would love my child the same way I loved him. In retrospect, I realize that this was a tall order.

I had wonderful care for my kids. I owe my care provider so much respect. I also feel we need as women to talk about it more.

Subsidies could help a single mother find better care and be more focused at work. Paid family leave would mean we could spend more time enjoying healthy kids instead of using all of our leave sitting in the doctors office praying the hacking child next to us won’t mean we need to be home sick in a week. At the end of the day, policies and subsidies may not eliminate the guilt and difficulty of removing a clinging two year old from your leg to head into the office.

Women, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your expecting friends to look early and hard for childcare. To expect to go through the stages of grief when leaving their babies for the first time. To also realize that in the journey of motherhood, finding out you are happy being a career woman is just as valid and admirable as finding out you want to be home with your children full time.

And as a final note, no one will ever take care of your child like you do. No one. If they are safe and content, they will appreciate the fact that you, alone, are their mom. And a strong, willful mother who loves and cherishes her child can be an example of a hard working woman too.

Talking about the decisions regarding childcare without judgment  is an important support for a new family. Birth plans are great – new family plans are almost better..










Due Dates: The hidden curse of pregnancy

When are you due? A pregnant woman typically hears this question in almost every conversation when meeting a new person or talking with a stranger.  The due date. The date the careprovider focuses on, your family anxiously awaits and the date you count down to in excitement.

What is a due date? Let’s be honest, it’s a guess. It’s a guess based on the best science we have on how long a human gestational length is for the median of women. Is it an exact science, nope. Is it an exact date, absolutely not. Is it the worst most depressing day when it passes and you are still staring down at your swollen feet over the hump of your overly active baby, most likely.

As doulas, we hear many first time moms who are convinced they are going early. How can I possibly get much bigger? Why wouldn’t I go into labor at 37 weeks, baby is mature then, right? Let’s clear up some myths and then help you avoid the inevitable feeling of, “AAAAAHHH” which happens when the text messages ring in every hour on the hour when you are 40 weeks and 2 days — and still pregnant.

The median length of gestation is 40 weeks. Median. Average. There are many women on both sides of that median, who are perfectly normal and their babies are perfectly safe and comfy inside still. In certain countries, they have now changed the average gestational period and due dates to 41 weeks. Are their babies growing differently or more slowly? No. The care providers are realizing 40 weeks is a guess and 41 weeks may be a better guess.

Doctors guess your due date. It’s an educated guess, but its a guess. You due date is based off of the perfect woman’s 28 day cycle schedule where one ovulates on day 14 and gets pregnant on that day. In reality, this is far from the average scenario that plays out. Many women can attest to having average cycles of 30 days or more and many many women can attest to those swimmers lasting for a few days before finding paydirt in a ready egg to fertilize.

When you are given the due date and the sonogram and the dates don’t match, women tend to choose the earlier date. Choosing the earlier date does not mean your baby will choose it too! Choosing the later date will allow you and your care provider the leeway that you may need in case your baby was actually conceived on the later date. Many unnecessary inductions have been carried out because the due date was up to a week off because women choose the earlier 28 day, perfect scenario date and their care providers don’t seem to feel the need to explain the consequences.

First time moms love to share their due dates with everyone. Why not? They are going to deliver early at 37 weeks, right? So, when the actual average pregnancy length of 40 weeks and 4 days hit, they have been answering the question, “Still Pregnant?” one million times which can be emotionally disturbing and downright depressing. Veteran moms tend to lie a bit about the due date or give the impression that the date could be anytime around the date since practice makes perfect and dealing with the calls once is enough in a lifetime.

Subsequent pregnancies do not mean going “early”. They do mean  your body has been in labor before and you do often get a break in certain parts of labor which are more difficult or longer in first births – but the timeline can often be exactly the same. Don’t bank on going two weeks early the second time either, it may be the same or more than your first in gestational length. Bigger uterus because of a previous pregnancy can sometimes mean more space for a baby to get super comfy.

Bottom line: Due Months are your friends!

When are you due? March. Just March. Not March 2nd, not March 14th, just March.

The other method, April..and surprise them with an “early” baby,

Breastfeeding: Bonding or trapped by your baby?

I’ll admit it. I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. Gasp! I’m a doula. I’m a naturally minded birth educator that believes a woman’s body is perfectly made for birthing and caring for her baby. I feel strongly against ignoring the natural instinct to snuggle your baby in the name of making a newborn “independent”.  How could I not enjoy the most maternal and primitive thing I can do for my baby: provide food and nurturing.

Well, breastfeeding for me was just plain difficult. I had a colicky 9lb baby who was born hungry and was never satiated. I was blessed with an abundant milk supply which, while wonderful for my ever hungry child, would cause my breasts to feel like balloons filled with rocks. They would leak so strongly that I would soak every shirt I wore even while wearing multiple pads.

i was miserable. I wanted to love it. I wanted to feel maternal. I wanted to bond. I didn’t want to cringe at the thought of having to sit in the rocking chair again for the tenth time in one day.

Then one day, i had a revelation. I didn’t have to love it. Feeding my child didn’t have to be an all encompassing experience of joy. It was food. I was trying my best to give him the best start.  Thats it. I didn’t have to enjoy the leaking porn star boobs. I didn’t have to set a goal of nursing until my little angel self-weaned. I just needed to take it day by day and feed my baby.

I decided I wasn’t going to feel trapped by the rocking chair anymore. I was going to take advantage of the quiet time and do something for myself. I starting reading while I nursed.  I planned vacations, I searched the Internet and stopped counting down the minutes until I could wean without being shamed by the moms group.

To my surprise, I began looking forward to the quiet breaks in my day. My boobs returned somewhat back to normal and so did I. My son grew out of the colic and I made my way out of my postpartum funk. I never had the nursing experience with rainbows and unicorns. I realize now, that is perfectly normal and definitely okay. We found our own way.

Feeding your baby is the most nurturing and parental duty you have as a mother. If it is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it is still a loving, nurturing act. Be kind to yourself as a new mother. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns.

Continue reading Breastfeeding: Bonding or trapped by your baby?

Water birth Isn’t Always the Birth Pinnacle to Reach

As much as the natural birth community and a million beautifully edited natural childbirth YouTube videos would like to suggest, a water birth is not the “gold medal” of natural childbirth.

Water is an amazing tool for coping with labor. As doulas, we highly recommend spending an inordinate amount of time during early and active labor in the shower, tub or birthing pool. The water and floating helps alleviate the tension and pressure caused by contractions for many moms. An amazing tool for coping has unfortunately been confused with the “best” way to give birth.

Unmedicated and low intervention birth has many benefits to both mom and baby. Having the unexplainable rush of endorphins and oxytocin as you hold your baby for the first time, knowing you have ran the marathon of childbirth and reached the prize at the end, is truly magical.  Somewhere, along the way, we forgot that although low intervention is better, it comes in many different variations and none of them are the most natural. They are all natural childbirth.

I have had more than one doula client insist on staying in the birthing pool, despite obvious signs that they are not comfortable in the water, but feel it’s the most natural birth. It is the goal which they have shared with their friends and have watched touted on the  videos as the most beautiful type of birth. We have traded one type of forced position and setting for birth for another externally driven expectation or culturally forced position for birth.

Your birth should be an empowering experience based on your needs and wants during your labor. What you believe will be comfortable during waves of labor, may not end up what helps you cope through them. Looking inward to find your perfect type of birth is the goal to reach for during labor. Having the strength and support to make informed, empowered and personal decisions about where to birth, how to birth and what tools you use to cope is what makes your birth experience positive.

Empowered birth comes in all shapes and sizes. As doulas, we support women have their best birth – not just the “natural” water birth we have grown to love in the birth community.

Birthing in Annapolis

After seven years of attending births in Baltimore and thirteen years as a Baltimore City resident, I moved to the Annapolis area. I began attending births locally at the medical center and two birth centers which we are blessed to have within 5 miles of downtown Annapolis.

The culture shock of transitioning from City life to suburbia was difficult.  Yes, that is “City” with a capital “C”.  I firmly believe “City Life” is a universal being and can be personified.

As any city person can attest to, a well knowing nod or shoulder shrug whilst muttering the words, “well, that’s the City” will pretty much excuse 99.9% of any shortcomings of civil services in thr 20 miles radius called, “Baltimore”. For some unknown reason the phrase also keeps a person like myself hooked to the beauty of Indian take away and a metal walking cart to schlep home from an urban farmer’s market.

The transition for my family was difficult. I miss the diversity of the “City”.  I miss the vibrant and unique community.

Even though my love for suburbia and a grocery store with a garage and elevator has been growing slowly, my love for the birth centers, local birth community and medical center has been a instant and “love at first birth” experience.

I birthed my babies in Baltimore with an amazing midwifery practice. I was a younger, naive newly pregnant woman and followed a friend’s recommendation to bypass the larger hospitals in the area and make an appointment with one of the only midwifery practices in the area. And a mother, baby and doula was born.

In the Annapolis area, the choices for midwifery care are amazing. The local birth centers offer wonderful respite from beeping monitors, hospital beds, white coats and the all encompassing, hospital smell.

When a client chooses the midwifery  model care, my heart sings a little happy jingle.  I have attended beautiful, informed, and empowered births with Ob/Gyn groups at the medical center. There are a few groups in the area who I absolutely love as OBs, but a dimly lit room, adorned with candles and a mom quietly lifting her baby from the water into her arms – well, my heart sings a little happy song.

So, if the OB births are empowered, informed and beautiful, “Why do you like births at the birth centers? Why the happy jingle?” Honestly, because a laboring woman and a supportive family which doesn’t need intervention, doesn’t need to refuse it. The stress of a birth plan or the need for advocacy for the normalcy of birth is lessened. And I love it. Save the energy for pushing and the marathon of newborn nights instead of using it for mitigating the policy regarding continuous fetal monitoring.

Birth is normal. We are blessed in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to have two freestanding birth centers offering a model of care which treats pregnancy and birth as normal until proven otherwise.

Is midwifery care for everyone?  No. Can you have an amazing  birth at the hospital with beeping monitors? Of course! An amazing, empowered birth is the one attended by a trusted care provider and supported by your trusted birth team.

I found my transition from the entity that is, “City life” to the quietness of the suburbs was made less stressful by being welcomed into an incredible, evidenced based  birth community.  A community allowing women to birth without the constant beeping sounds of monitors and the comfort of dimly lit rooms and lavender scents – and many times, a comforting tub.

Pregnant in Maryland? Check out the birth centers. Ask yourself, do I want to advocate for the things I truly hope for my labor or do I want to match my hopes and vision to my model of care? Birth is unpredictable and plans change – but policy and protocols rarely change because you have it written on a birth plan.

If you aren’t into birthing out of the hospital, you aren’t alone. I once had a client tell me she would tattoo the word, “epidural” on her chest so if she couldn’t say it, she could point to it.

She had an empowered and informed birth. It was one that matched her vision and was beautiful. The medical center is amazing and with the evidenced base practices in Annapolis, a low intervention birth is more than possible.

So, my point? Even though I readily shrugged my shoulders and excused many shortcomings with the words, “That’s the City”,  the shortcomings of antiquated interventions and protocols should not be excused. No shrugging allowed.

Two beautiful birth centers, one beautifil medical center with many evidenced based providers, just ask questions and be informed.

And as a doula, I would suggest being supported by a birth team that includes a local, experienced and certified birth doula…who may or may not be slowly transitioning into life which includes a drive way out front and a grocery store instead of a farmer’s market.