You Birth How You Live

https://parenting.nytimes.com/pregnancy/domino-kirke-doula

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.

CreditSarah Blesener for The New York Times

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.

YOU CAN NOW DOULA YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, FROM BIRTH TO DEATH

https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/what-is-a-doula/

For a growing contingent of moms-to-be, doulas have become just as essential to the childbirth experience as taking omega-3s and getting down with hip-opening yoga squats. There’s a good reason for that—studies have shown that by enlisting the help of these trained pregnancy pros, mothers are more likely to deliver healthy-weight babies and successfully breastfeed, while being half as likely to experience birth complications.

So what, exactly, does a doula do? “A doula provides a constant presence of emotional support, education, advocacy, cheerleading, and hands-on guidance for expectant mothers and couples as they approach and enter into the birth process,” explains Well+Good Council member and Mama Glow founder Latham Thomas, who says client Rebecca Minkoff refers to her as “a producer for your birth.” And if that sounds like the kind of ally you could use outside the delivery room—say, when it comes to your side-hustle or your dating life—many modern doulas are ready and willing to assist with that, too.

(click link at top to read the entire post on wellandgood.com)

A Doula’s Call For A ‘Culture Of Consent’ During Childbirth

http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2018/05/11/doula-culture-of-consent

I gave birth seven years ago in a Boston-area hospital where I generally consider the care to be excellent. I arrived near the end of my labor, my cervix almost fully  dilated. After an hour of moving freely around my hospital room, my midwife and labor nurse said, “It’s time for you to get into bed now.” And then they said, “Let’s have you get onto your back.”

Even though I had read the medical research that found that lying supine carries risks to a fetus — which is why pregnant women are advised not to sleep on their backs — I behaved like any woman in the suggestible state of labor: I did what I was told, though it went against my instincts and my preference.

(click link at top to read the blog post on wbur.org)

Jessica Biel Opens Up About Her Perfect Birthing Plan Gone Wrong

https://www.vogue.com/article/jessica-biel-emergency-c-section-recovery-natural-birth-psychology

“The birthing plan: Whether it’s set at home with a doula or in a hospital surrounded by family members, many expecting women have their perfect version in mind. And the location and company one keeps during delivery are just the beginning—with highly curated extras like pressure-relieving birthing balls and soothing “push playlists” growing in popularity. But the reality is that when it comes to child birth, there’s only so much you can control.”

(click to read link on vogue.com)

 

 

 

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/magazine/black-mothers-babies-death-maternal-mortality.html

The answer to the disparity in death rates has everything to do with the lived experience of being a black woman in America.

Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel. In one year, that racial gap adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies. Education and income offer little protection. In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education.

(click link above to read this powerful piece on NYTimes.com)

Prodromal Labor 101: What It Is, What It’s Not and How to Cope

https://www.motherrisingbirth.com/2017/11/prodromal-labor-101.html

Despite prodromal labor not being mentioned in the most common pregnancy books, you’ll still hear it frequently being discussed among friends, with care providers and in online communities.  Because of this discrepancy, it makes sense that there is confusion and frustration surrounding the topic.  In this post I hope to define prodromal labor, but more importantly offer onlutions and encouragement if you find yourself experiencing this frustrating phenomenon.

The reason why prodromal labor is not mentioned in pregnancy books is because it is more commonly known as pre-labor or even misnamed as false labor.  It seems as if our birthing culture uses these three terms interchangeably – prodromal labor, pre-labor and false labor.  This is so confusing!  If this has confused me, I bet I’m not the only one wondering what’s going on.

(click link above to read on MotherRisingBirth.com, an amazing resource…)

Planning for Postpartum: Help is Not a Luxury

http://www.mothering.com/articles/planning-for-postpartum-help-is-not-a-luxury/

The idea of a couple growing a family in isolation is new to human society. What we need, in the absence of our families and tribal support systems, is postpartum doulas.

Each of my postpartum experiences was different. For one I was largely dazed and happy, for another I felt upset and overwhelmed, and during one I was losing touch with reality. What they had in common was that I felt unanchored. Adrift. Lost in a sea of beautiful dreams and haunting nightmares that I felt obliged to keep to myself.

Surely this is just how it is. You struggle on, alone. Your triumphs are yours alone. Your grief and anger is yours alone. If you felt you could share, no one could understand anyway. Motherhood is a box.

For many of us, this is how it feels to enter into motherhood for the first or fifth time. You go to your box, sort yourself out, and occasionally over the next few months you’ll venture a peek outside, save up for a short staycation. But mostly, you are the box. You need the box and boy does the box need you.

Or not.

 

(click link above to read the entire article on mothering.com)