(Photo by Meg Wintory)
“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.”
(Photo by Meg Wintory)
Doula Domino Kirke on why your birth providers are so important, and how to choose them wisely.
(Blog posted in its entirety from NYT Parenting.)
As far as I was concerned my midwife was going to have my baby for me. She was God’s gift to birthing. She had so much confidence, and trusted the birth process so intensely, that I fell instantly, wildly in love with her.
This was an age-old habit for me. Show me an older woman who knew her place in the world, who told me she knew better than me, and I was putty in her hands. To say I have mommy issues is an understatement. My mother is a shrewd businesswoman. She’s sexy, critical and the most intimidating person you’ll ever meet. I cowered around her until my teenage years, then developed blood-curdling rage towards her. Around the same time I was diagnosed with manic depression. I was the first daughter, the first pancake. I didn’t know who I was if she wasn’t looking me up and down, checking to see if I measured up.
At 25 I became pregnant and needed other people to sign off on just about everything I did. I didn’t trust an intuitive bone in my body. Pregnancy became an invisible cloak I hid inside with lofty ideas of who I would become once my baby arrived. I felt safe pregnant, in a container made just for the two of us, and our potential.
I met my midwife late into my pregnancy. I left my first midwife’s care after she advised against a home birth. She said my relationship wasn’t stable enough, and with my history of sexual abuse, was skeptical I could sustain the intensity. How dare she!
In a storm, I found a cowboy. I was in awe of her ego and her stories of grandeur — the same way I was in awe of my mother. I was experiencing transference, when the feelings and dynamics from childhood relationships are applied to authority figures in adult life, or, in this case, to medical professionals. In the birth world we have a saying: we birth the way we live our lives. Now that I’m a doula I see it constantly — but at the time, I wasn’t capable.
I didn’t want my mother or any family members in the room during my labor. Little did I know she’d be there anyway; my midwife activated and occupied all the same spaces. There in my charming one-bedroom apartment in the middle of January I labored as a little girl, no one there to remind me how old I actually was, or what I was even doing there. Although my mother was across the East River in her own home, her tentacles reached in and grabbed us all.
After 24 hours of labor I felt my midwife’s disappointment. I was her last client before her vacation, and I couldn’t have the baby fast enough. The tension between us was thick and felt by everyone, especially the sweet young doula who also struggled with her authority. Doulas are there to support birthing parents, while midwives provide medical care, yet my doula broke like I broke, and was of little help to me.
After laboring at home for nearly three days, my fever rose. I was whisked to the hospital and diagnosed with a uterine infection, resulting in an emergency cesarean.
The experience inspired me to become a doula. I knew there was so much more I could have received emotionally during my labor. My partner at the time was terrified and exhausted, and my doula wasn’t in her power. What I truly needed was a nurturing presence to counter all the old energy that occupied my system around my childhood caregivers.
It has helped heal me to become that presence for others. These days I train doulas, and we teach them not to bring their baggage to the most important moments of someone’s life —because it’s not about them. We are there to listen and watch, and to help our clients meet their goal, whether it is a hospital induction without fear or a loving home birth. The relationship is a two-way street; when we meet our clients, we want them to pay attention to how they feel about us, too.
We encourage our clients to treat their doctors and midwives the same way, and to ask loads of questions: Do you follow evidence-based birthing practices? Do you differentiate between high- and low-risk pregnancies? If yes, how? If I am considered low risk in my pregnancy, will you want to manage my birth? If so, what can I expect? What is your cesarean birth rate?
[Doulas can be for everyone. Read our guide to choosing a doula here.]
When they ask these questions, we encourage our clients to note how their midwives and doctors respond to them. Do they make eye contact? Is their tone harsh or punishing? We want them to not only observe their medical caretakers, but their own feelings as well. Are they upset by their doctor’s harsh tones? If not, why?
One client of mine complained about her doctor every time I saw her. He’d rush her, give her evasive answers about procedures and protocols, and speak down to her like a child. When I helped her realize her feelings around it, she said, “But how do I ask for things if I don’t know they are missing?”
She wasn’t wrong. It’s challenging to make these connections to your past, and difficult to ask for things you didn’t receive in your most formative, vulnerable years. A provider who doesn’t set off every warning bell in your body will be a game changer for your birth experience, no matter the outcome of the delivery. Even if you have little choice of your doctor or midwife for financial or insurance reasons, there are volunteer doulas — so with effort, you can find a caretaker that makes you feel seen.
We don’t know what we deserve most of the time, but I’m telling you, you deserve better. Get louder, get bigger and surround yourself with extraordinary love when choosing your birth team. It might be the first time you’ve ever done such a thing, but I promise it won’t be the last. You can challenge your past. You can rewrite the play.
Pregnancy and childbirth bring a lot of changes to a mother’s life. This goes without saying. Your body changes. Your family increases by one. Your brain changes. Your heart changes.
I found, that with these changes, something else happened: people felt like they could comment on my body.
I know. Pregnant women are beautiful. And there is something so exciting about a woman on the verge of becoming a new mother. I find myself smiling at pregnant moms or moms with newborns. And I enjoyed being smiled at when it was me with the large belly or the wee baby in a sling.
The reaction is automatic. I want to say: “You look GREAT!”
Some better things to say would be: “How are you feeling?” “You seem so happy/calm/excited!” “How about this weather?” Even “That’s a cute shirt.
I also felt beautiful when I was pregnant. And in many ways I loved hearing “You look great.” But it also somewhat diminished how I felt. I felt vital and strong and happy and nervous. I loved my taut belly and my growing breasts. I secretly hated the stretch marks that took my once smooth, white belly and zigged it through with dark purple.
And people did say I looked great. And one family member good-naturedly told me my butt was getting big. (Which actually really hurt my feelings, despite the fact that I enjoyed my bigger butt.) But comments on butts aside, I liked hearing how good I looked.
But the postpartum period is problematic. Look at how we treat celebrities. We all marvel at how quickly they get their “pre-baby bodies back.” No one needs to say that it is unrealistic to expect anyone to present with washboard abs mere weeks after delivering. And even if I know intellectually that that is an impossible standard and that surely no small amount of photoshopping or working out or dieting or styling helped achieve that enviable postpartum look, it doesn’t change the fact that women’s bodies are routinely objectified.
(click link at the top to read blog on mothering.com)
The holidays are almost here. The next months will be filled with twinkling lights, delicious food and the gathering of friends and family. This is a joyous time, but it can be a stressful one, too. If someone in your life has recently become a parent, they likely have a few extra concerns on their minds. From keeping the baby healthy to figuring out their new normal, they have a lot going on.
I know you love them and want the absolute best for them and the baby. It’s just that sometimes when there’s a new baby, it’s hard to remember what we should or shouldn’t do; because #allthesnuggles
(Click link at top to read the post on mother.ly)
As it turns out, I am closer to an endurance athlete than I ever imagined. That’s not my opinion, that’s what six researchers found in a study published by Duke University that focused on finding a limit to human endurance. Apparently and shockingly, pregnant and lactating women live in the limit zone. What the what?!?
(Click link above to read the article)
The third stage of labor is everything that happens after the baby is born, the part of childbirth that doesn’t make it to the movies. The delivery of the placenta, the most taboo part of childbirth, encompasses the third stage of labor.
Compared to the rest of labor, the third stage of labor is the shortest and easiest of all the stages. Labor is over, your baby has arrived, and now everything is over. Or is it?
(Click link at top to read on motherrising.com)
One day, three weeks before my baby’s due date, I started feeling bouts of teeth-clenching pain at about eight in the morning. By 11, I was settled into a hospital room, marveling at how effective my epidural was, but terrified about giving birth.
Within a few hours, the medication wore off, and I felt the uncontrollable urge to push. (For those who have never delivered a baby, imagine the feeling of an urgent bowel movement, times 10,000.) My doctor, however, had left to see other patients. The only people in the room with me were my partner, a labor and delivery nurse, and a medical student. The nurse asked me matter-of-factly if I could try not to push until the doctor returned. I panicked. Of course I couldn’t not push—my baby was coming. Perhaps noting the look of terror on my face, the med student quickly grabbed a pair of gloves and a mask and positioned himself below me. The nurse muttered something about having to do additional paperwork, but readied herself as I started screaming about it being “go time.” Seconds later, the med student handed me my daughter.
(Click link above to read this piece on vice.com)
Before I had my daughter, I wasn’t particularly interested in mother’s milk. Now I’m literally awake at night thinking about it.
To produce breast milk, mothers melt their own body fat. Are you with me? We literally dissolve parts of ourselves, starting with gluteal-femoral fat, aka our butts, and turn it into liquid to feed our babies.
Before and after giving birth to my daughter 10 months ago, I was inundated with urgent directives from well-meaning, very insistent health practitioners, parenting book authors, mommy bloggers, journalists, and opinionated strangers that “breast is best.” The message was clear: In order to be a good mom, I had to breast-feed.
But breast-feeding is more than being a good mom. And breast milk is much more than food: It’s potent medicine and, simultaneously, a powerful medium of communication between mothers and their babies. It’s astonishing. And it should be—the recipe for mother’s milk is one that female bodies have been developing for 300 million years
(Click link above to read this great article by Angela Garbes)