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pelvic floor 101

This is the first in a series about the female pelvic floor (PF). This is something I'm still learning about myself, but I find the information absolutely fascinating and wish I had known these things years ago. Its all too good not to share!

The female pelvic organs include the vagina, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum. These organs are held in place by muscles of the pelvic floor and there are many layers of connective tissue that also give support. 

There are some excellent images to illustrate all of this on this site. (Warning for the squeamish: In addition to black and white drawings, there are a couple of color photos of real female anatomy.) That link probably gives you way more information than you need, but I'm a visual learner and I find images like this really helpful.

The PF is important in not only providing support for the organs listed above, but also in maintenance of continence -aka- being able to control when you pee and poop. It expedites birth by resisting the descent of the presenting part of the PF, causing Baby to rotate forwards and navigate through the pelvis. Without a healthy PF, many women encounter a multitude of issues such as incontinence, sexual dysfunction and/or discomfort, complications in pregnancy and birth, even pelvic organ prolapse where the pelvic organs protrude in or outside of the vagina.

Again, this is incredible information I wish I had known years ago before even considering to conceive the first time around. Sure, thousands of women go throughout their pregnancies and probably most of their lives without knowing even a fraction of what I've touched upon here today and they turn out just fine. But. What if there's more? What if there were a few simple habits we could try to set in motion that could help us get a PF that bounces back from childbirth, sickness, sex and injury a little faster, a little stronger and a lot more functional? 

"Well, just what does a healthy pelvic floor even mean?" you might ask?

Stay tuned for part two in this series where I'll help you find answers to that question!

 

 

 

....You can watch her short video here.

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healthy snacks

Not only is it important to get adequate sleep each night, but the foods and drinks that you put into your body count too! The sleep thing is quite tricky once Baby arrives and unfortunately, mostly out of your control in those early weeks and months. So, what you eat becomes that much more crucial. Here are some suggestions for easy, healthy snacks to have on hand when your little love has been born. Enlist helpers to make sure these types of foods are easily accessible to you all hours of the day and night (nibbling on something small while Baby is up for feedings at night is totally approved!). Better yet, hire a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula to not only prep the snacks for you, but help you plan them out, shop for them and put them away in the kitchen! This is one of my favorite tasks as a doula and I'd love to help you in this way too!

The first several weeks after birth is not the time to focus on getting back to pre-pregnancy weight or worrying about your figure. Keep in mind that for nearly ten months your body changed drastically to conceive, incubate and birth a brand new human being so cut yourself some slack! Don't compare yourself to other mamas whose baby weight "just comes right off" after giving birth. Their body is different from yours, their experiences, their highs and lows, the ways their body metabolizes things, its all different than your body and it is only your body that you need to think about as you recover from birth.

Drinks

  • Blah, blah, blah. We all know "Water first to quench your thirst." but sometimes plain ol water is too boring for me! I like to keep a stash of organic lemons, limes and oranges on hand and squeeze a bit of their juice into my water from time to time. Our family also loves many of the sparkling waters from Trader Joe's that don't have any calories or added sweeteners. The carbonation is fun to switch things up sometimes. 
  • Smoothies can be a fun treat and can be an extra way to get protein, good fats and fruits and veggies into your system. 
  • Herbal teas like what Earth Mama Organics offers or teas such as red raspberry leaf, rooibos, stinging nettle, ginger or chamomile are great to have on hand.
  • You could also have soda, juice, coffee drinks or dairy products, but I'd advise drinking these in moderation. The caffeine in soda and coffee isn't always so easy on your system (or your baby's) right after birth and it might be better to introduce those slowly. Juice can have lots of sugar which will taste good in the moment, but makes your body work harder to stabilize your blood sugar levels and it'll often lead to some sort of body crash later on. In the first weeks with Babe at home, you don't need any added things that make your body crash - you'll do that all on your own! As far as dairy goes, this is also something that can be especially hard on your baby's gut and might cause you some bloating or bowel issues in ways it might not have prenatally. With anything, experimenting slowly is wise, keeping track of how things make you feel after you drink them.

Foods

  • Fresh veggies, cut up and easy to eat on the go. You could have some hummus, guacamole, salsa or baba ganoush on hand as a dip if you're into that sort of thing. 
  • Fresh fruit, cut up and easy to eat on the go. You could dip your fruit in a nut butter or Greek yogurt dip.
  • Nuts
  • Homemade granola
  • Cubes or slices of cheese with crackers
  • Granola, Luna or Lara Bars
  • Dried fruit like banana or plantain chips, dried apples or mangoes, etc. 
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Salad bar items. For some this would be a meal, for others, its a good snack option. Have pre-washed salad greens on hand with toppings you like stored in separate containers. Having everything washed, chopped and ready to mix together takes the "work" out of making a salad in the moment and gets lots of good foods in ya!

The list of healthy snack options could go on and on, but for now, I'll leave you with these. It really is important what you put into your body after you've given birth. If you ran a marathon, you'd be conscious of the foods and drinks you consumed right after the race, wouldn't you? Giving birth is the same type of physical feat for most women and your body needs to be handled with respect, wisdom, patience and care.

You're strong and powerful, Mama! Put foods into your body that can be described in the same way!

 

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5 healthy recipes for the postpartum period

A couple of years ago my family and I followed the Whole30 Program, pretty drastically changing our diet for the month. While we don't eat that strictly on a daily basis now, I do still stick to many of the ideals presented in the program and I often cook Whole30-compliant meals for us.

Recently, I've decided that when I make meals for new mamas and their families, I'm going to cook this way for them as well. Maybe they tolerate sugars, grains, dairy, etc. just fine, but by avoiding many of those ingredients, I ensure that they're getting meals that are nutrition-packed without the fillers so many of us often rely on in our cooking such as pasta, rice, or bread, to name a few. If you're one who leans on pasta, rice, etc. in your meals on a regular basis, more power to ya! And don't get me wrong, I ADORE some simple carbs way more than I care to admit! I just take the stance of trying to feed new mamas whole foods meals when I can.

Here's five of my favorite go-to recipes for my family and new mamas. For your convenience (and to save time typing everything out), I've included links for each recipe. They're all the same as what you'd find in this book, which would be a great thing to add to your cookbook stash!

  • Chicken Chowder - Note: This does not work well in a slow cooker. I learned that the hard way!
  • Chili - I add 1 cup of uncooked, diced butternut squash to this as well as a 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce. I cook it on low in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours and serve with slices of ripe avocado and occasionally, organic tortilla chips. I don't even miss the beans and pre-made chill seasoning packet that my mother used to make chili throughout my childhood!
  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Harvest Grilled or Baked Chicken Salad - In the colder months I cover a baking dish with foil and bake the chicken at 375˚F for 20-30 minutes or however long it takes to reach an internal temp of 160˚F.
  • Chicken Hash

 

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eat to feed your need

I highly recommend the book The First Forty Days - The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou. Not only is the layout and presentation beautiful and calming, but its chock full of great information, nutritious and out-of-the-box recipes, ancient traditions that have been passed on and helpful tips. I wish I had this book when I was pregnant so that I'd have had this information and new perspective on things as a new mother. 

I really like and this passage from the book:

"The matriarchs of China knew that the kitchen is where you heal the people you love. Using food as medicine was in their bones, and the ingredients they tossed in the pot weren't added just for their taste: They brought priceless benefits of greater vitality, beauty and longevity...
Furthermore, consuming speciality dishes for certain seasons of your life such as puberty, pregnancy or old age was pure common sense - as obvious as wearing certain clothes in January and others in July. In this Tao, or balanced way, of eating, your diet was chosen to address the body's shifting needs, balance out any extreme states, or replenish any lacks - not just to feed the sudden urge for, say, spaghetti and meatballs.
For the new mother, this meant meals rich in iron to rebuild blood, protein to repair tissues and support hormones, fatty acids to enrich the breast milk, vitamins and antioxidants to speed tissue healing, and therapeutic herbs and spices to counter inflammation or boost milk flow, if needed. She couldn't take a few pre- or postnatal vitamins and consider the job done - her daily meals and drinks had to truly do the job of nourishing and building her up...
The way you eat after giving birth can fuel, build, and heal you, and it is often the humblest food that does it best.

Start with good proteins to fuel you and help with milk production if you're breastfeeding. Eat light in the first two to five days after birth, gradually adding in more protein, good fats and slow-releasing carbohydrates. If you're not sure what slow-releasing carbohydrates are, see the link and excuse the obnoxious ads that are on the site, the info is good though! Ask others to help keep you fed and assist with meal/snack preparation because believe it or not, feeding yourself might not always be at the top of your priority list (but needs to be)! Or better yet, hire a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula to come in and help ease your load. The meal prep and having easy-access foods on hand is one of my favorite tasks as a doula!

Its also helpful to include a little bit of grain and beans into your diet after the first week or so after birth. If you live a grain-free life, then you'd skip that, of course, but if not, a little bit is okay to start with. Some mothers worry that beans and legumes might cause gas in the newborn and that is a legit concern. A newborn's gut is brand new and it is harder for them to break down and digest certain foods, but it doesn't mean that you as the mother have to avoid them completely. Introduce things into your diet slowly and consciously, making note of how it makes you feel and if your baby seems to tolerate it well. Give yourself two or three days with each new thing you add back into your diet. If you're paying attention, you'll be able to see right away if its a good thing to eat for you and/or your baby.

As much as possible, eating locally-sourced, organic foods is what's healthiest, but I realize that's not always possible due to your budget, access to local farmers, etc. Here's a list of what's known as The Dirty Dozen, the top foods that are the most contaminated that one should try to buy organic. The site also references The Clean Fifteen, foods that are safer to buy if they're not organic. Again, all of this in moderation and when/how you can afford it. Organic or not, if you're conscious of the good proteins, fats, etc. that you're consuming, you're far better off than many people who merely consume food just to consume it. 

In closing, another quote from Ou's book:

"... birth and mothering is not a one-size-fits-all experience - every woman has her own way of doing it and her own needs to satisfy... listen to yourself and select dishes and drinks based on what you feel your body or mind needs to be comfortable, vital and calm."

Stay tuned for a future post with suggestions for what foods and drinks you could enjoy in the days immediately following the birth of your little one. This is a lot of information, I know, but I feel it is so vital to women in our culture and something that is often overlooked. Like I said before, I wish I had known these things when I was pregnant. I sure didn't approach nutrition this way after giving birth. If I can influence even one mama to just think about doing things a little differently and with great intention after birth, I'd be happy.

 

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fed is best

Yes, I'm a Lactation Counselor, but I support the feeding journey and choices of all mothers, whether they're feeding from the breast or not.

A few years ago there was a big campaign that simply stated "Breast is best." The long and short of that is that it's true: breastmilk is typically what's best for a newborn baby and on into the first several months of life. The benefits of choosing to breastfeed or to pump breastmilk carry over for the mother as well as her child and its a win-win situation for everyone. A no brainer, right? 

Well, not always. 

For some women, breastfeeding comes with a lot of baggage whether its due to Baby not getting an efficient latch from the start which leads to nipple damage, plugged ducts or worse or if a women's milk supply doesn't come in enough to meet the demands of her growing baby. There's women who have flat or inverted nipples who might have difficulty with nursing or there are women who have been sexually assaulted in their past who have serious issue with their breasts being touched in any way. The list goes on an on for why breastfeeding simply doesn't work for some women or why they choose not to ever breastfeed in the first place. Its not my job to come in and pass judgement on a woman because of how she chooses to feed her child. It is my job however, to support her, educate her and get her connected with local resources that help her meet the needs of her baby, her family and herself in whatever way makes sense for her.

So ya know what I've started saying (and its not a saying that I originated)? Fed. Fed is what's best! Feed your baby a bottle of store brand formula every feeding of their infant life? Fine. Feed your baby a mixture of formula and exclusively pumped breastmilk? Okay. Feed your baby directly from your breast until they self-wean at the age of four. Sure. It doesn't matter to me, mamas. You feed your babe in the way that feels best for you and if you need support, I'll do my best to come alongside you and cheer you on. 

Oh! And the "fed is best" idea isn't just for how babies get their nourishment. The mamas need to be fed too! Its so important to get caught up in the day to day demands of life with a newborn amidst other daily tasks, that mothers often forget to feed themselves. Some women unintentionally make a habit of jumping right into their day without taking time to eat and before they know it, its 2:00 in the afternoon, they're hangry and they gorge themselves on whatever quick, usually not-so-healthy foods they can get their hands on. Mamas, you can do better! Take the mornings a little slower and make yourself a simple, but nutritious and energy-boosting breakfast. Set aside a little time the night before to prepare healthy snacks for the next day so you don't get to the point where you're hangry and you know you've got some tasty, easy options on hand. What you put inside your body as far as food and drinks are concerned is just as important as what you're feeding your little one. So be good to yourself too, it really does matter. 

Stay tuned for future blog posts with healthy snack ideas, recipes and more ways a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula would help make SURE you're fed!

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all about oxy

No, not that kind of oxy, silly! Oxytocin, aka "the love hormone"! (Because its slightly shorter to type out, I'm going to affectionately refer to it as "oxy" in this post though.)

I'm increasingly fascinated by this magnificent hormone that all men and women are both with. We all process it differently and experience it differently, but at the end of the day, we're all hardwired to love and be loved and it is this hormone that's responsible for it. Here's just a few of the fascinating things that I've learned about oxy.

A woman's lifetime peak of oxytocin is right after she gives birth just before the placenta is delivered. Its primarily for this reason, that immediate skin-to-skin contact of the mother and baby after birth is so strongly emphasized. Both the baby and the mother greatly benefit from the bonding hormone being so heightened and it is best to leave the duo uninterrupted for the first moments after birth, especially if the placenta is still in tact. 

Oxy stimulates and enhances labor contractions. As the baby moves down into the birth canal, pressure receptors in the cervix (the muscular outlet of the uterus) send messages to the brain to produce more oxy. The oxy travels through the bloodstream to the uterus which stimulates the muscles of the uterine wall to contract. Contractions intensity over time to the point that the baby is outside the birth canal (crowning) and when the stimulation to the pressure receptors fades, oxy stops and labor contractions end.

There's a massive swell of oxy that's released to the baby and the mother as the baby is being born. This is just one of the reasons why immediate skin-to-skin contact for mama and babe right after birth is so powerful!

Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream in small pulses and the more pulses there are, the more effects the body receives. When a mama is breastfeeding, oxy is flowing freely between her and her babe. The suckling baby triggers pulses of oxy to be released which aids in the milk releasing from the breast and into the baby's mouth. 

Studies show that oxytocin has a calming effect and can improve mood. It can lower your blood pressure and helps to block stress hormones. It can even help relieve inflammation and stimulate necessary metabolic functions like digestion and growth that might otherwise be slowed for one reason or another. Oxy is present in both females and males, in fact its active in all social interactions, especially positive ones where a person feels safe. It brings about feelings of relaxation, selflessness, bonding and love. 

I could go on and on about this amazing human hormone, but for now, I'll end the post here. Don't be surprised to see this topic pop up again - its just all so very fascinating and something that most of us take for granted!

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why you want a postpartum & infant care doula

In a recent conversation with a first-time expectant mama, the topic of what I do came up and she was very curious about postpartum doula work. She asked questions like:

  • Why would I want a postpartum doula?
  • Isn't it weird to have a stranger in your home helping with chores and running errands for you?
  • Do mothers have to entertain the doula while she's there the whole time?
  • And she closed with "Well, that's all good and well for other women, but to me, it sounds like a bit of a cop out so that you don't have to get back to regular life after your baby is born."

Touche, First-time Expectant Mama, touche. However, I don't think that having a postpartum doula is a cop out at all. In fact, there's ample research that shows that mothers who have some sort of consistent help at home once their baby arrives, are generally healthier, happier and in a better mental state than mothers who don't receive such care. The postpartum period is roughly the first three or four months after a baby is born and my goodness, so much happens in such a short time frame that mamas could use all the help that they can get just to keep their heads above water! And listen, I think this kind of care is invaluable in the entire first year of a baby's life so there's no shame in reaching out when your baby is four months, six months, even eleven and a half months old! 

I like lists (as you can probably tell from other posts) and so here's ten reasons, in no particular order, of why I think every mama might want a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula.

  1. Before we get too deep into the list, the bottom line is that you, Mama, DESERVE the care, support and advice of a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula. You've just incubated a person for the better part of a year and then you gave birth to him or her. That's a huuuuuge deal! Its not too much to ask for you to now receive some love and attention as you adjust to where you just were and what lies ahead of you now as a mother!
  2. Not only do mamas need care after birth, but so do their families. Partners, relatives who live in the home with them and older children all have a lot of adjusting to do when Baby arrives and a PPICD can help ease that transition a bit and provide nurturing support to everyone. 
  3. No matter how you choose to feed your newborn, it takes up a lot of your time and sometimes, it can be hard to remember to feed yourself! In comes the PPICD who will lovingly remind you to stay hydrated and eat meals and snacks throughout the day. She'll probably prepare said meals and snacks for you and help in feeding the babe. 
  4. Your doula is an expert in options. Whether you're trying to decide on the best baby gear to purchase or the parenting style that feels best for your family, your doula is there with answers and a host of ideas for you to choose from. 
  5. Having a new baby and trying to acclimate to how someone so tiny can change your world in such a huge way can feel isolating and lonely for some women. Your doula will be connected in the community and will help you get plugged in with other moms, play groups, even healthcare practitioners. She can help you find a chiropractor, massage therapist, counselor, or naturopath to help you create the postpartum care team that's just right for you.
  6. There are some physical no-no's after you give birth, whether vaginally or by cesarean, and few women allow their bodies adequate time to rest, recover and heal. Your doula will run up and down the stairs to get items for the baby or she'll carry the heavy laundry basket downstairs for you. She will run your errands and bring in all the groceries, she'll move the bulky totes of baby gear hand-me-downs to be sorted and she will do light housework so that you don't have to fuss with all the normal household chores. 
  7. While PPICDs typically aren't licensed to officially diagnose postpartum mood disorders, they are trained quite a bit in how to spot red flags. They will nonjudgmentally and tactfully help you and your loved ones get connected with professionals who can help you navigate through.
  8. Let's face it: Sleep changes once Baby arrives. You don't get enough of it, it is often interrupted by one thing (or person) or another, you might become a very light sleeper because you're concerned about every little peep that Baby makes. Your doula is a trusted extra set of hands that can care for baby while you nap and if you need it, she can provide overnight support so that you can get a decent night of rest. She can bring the baby in to you whenever it's time to eat if you want/need to be part of that and once that's done, she can work to get Baby back to sleep. Imagine it: There could be someone in your home who is there  - if for no other reason - than to give you the freedom to sleep whenever you want. Yes, please!
  9. You're probably familiar with giving young children time outs, but adults can benefit from them too. Maybe your "time out" is excusing yourself to another part of the house while Baby cries, knowing that your doula is more than up to the challenge and will keep your baby safe while caring for him/her. Or maybe you just really miss sitting in a coffee shop with a good book. You've got someone to watch your babe while you escape for an afternoon! Sometimes the time out looks like the most basic of self-care such as taking a nice, long shower or getting to do your hair make up for the first time since birth. You decide what it is that will fill you up and work with your doula to carve out space and time to make that happen. 
  10. Your doula is the perfect listening ear or shoulder to cry on as she offers unbiased support. There's a lot required to take of a newborn baby, but the mother needs to be cared for too.

For soon-to-be or first-time mothers out there, I don't mean for this post to make motherhood sound daunting or for this list to be a cause of stress for you. I believe in being honest about stuff though and had someone given me the head's up about even half of the things on this list, I think my debut as the mother of my children might have gone a little smoother.

Have questions about hiring me as your Postpartum and Infant Care Doula? Ask away, I'd be more than happy to help you get the assistance that you most need and desire!

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birth preferences

You might've heard people talk about writing their birth plans, but I approach this a little differently. For some women, getting caught up in all the do's and don'ts of their birth plan can become an added stress and if their birth doesn't go according to said plan, they struggle with feelings of failure, loss, inadequacy or a whole host of negative feelings. Instead, I work with clients to create a Birth Preferences List. There's no guarantee that the list of preferences that you lay out will be exactly how the birthing experience will go, but it can be helpful to think through what you do and do not want ahead of time. I encourage women to work on this with their partners and make anyone who might be present at the birth aware of the wishes. Having as many people on board as possible makes sure everyone is on the same page and will work towards a common goal.

I've narrowed it down to six steps to create an easy-to-read, clear and effective list.

  1. Keep it to one page. Remember K.I.S.S. - Keep It Super Simple! Use a basic font that's size 12 or larger, bullet points, and easy-to-follow instructions. The doctors, nurses, midwives and/or doulas who are present at the birth will have a lot of things on their mind when the day comes so making the list clear and to the point is in everyone's best interest.
  2. Put items in bold that are of most importance to you and narrow that down to five things. Sure, you're making this list because everything you put on it feels important to you. However, narrowing it down to the top five things that you really don't want to budge on is helpful. 
  3. Do some research on your birthing facility and know what their standard protocols are that have to be the same for each birthing woman. Don't go against that and don't include that on your sheet. If, for example, every laboring woman is required to have an IV in place and its clear that there can't be any exceptions to the rule, don't include anything on your list about how you'd rather not have an IV. You've done the research ahead of time, it is what it is, this one particular thing isn't something to fight over. 
  4. Be courteous and kind. Don't make the list sound like orders or demands and don't belittle the professionals who are caring for you. They know their stuff, they have lots more experience at this than you and they truly do want they same healthy, happy outcome that you want.
  5. Print a couple copies and have access to the document electronically, just in case.
  6. Be flexible. You might read that and cringe a little thinking "NO! I will not be flexible! I'm taking the time to research and really think through my desires and listing them out on this list is what I want, its what I should get!" All of that is true, however, you must keep in mind that this is a list of your strong preferences. Ultimately, you want a healthy outcome for you and your baby so if it becomes necessary to deviate from the list, you make it clear to do so on all accounts. 

Making this list shouldn't be overwhelming or stressful and should give you a sense of preparedness, calm and confidence as you head into the day that you'll meet your baby.

Working with clients on these lists is one of my favorite things to do so if you have questions and want help in laying out your desires, let me know!

 

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care providers: doctors or midwives

When a woman is pregnant and seeking prenatal care (and beyond), she has two choices for her type of care provider: A doctor or a midwife. 

So what's the difference?

Obstetrician Gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy. They've gone through four years of medical school, plus more as well as years in residency before certification from the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some work in private practice, others work in hospitals or clinics. In addition to assisting women throughout pregnancy and birth, they can typically also be your general healthcare provider. Many OB-GYNs are deep into the more medical side of how to do things and rely on lots of monitoring, testing, and at times, interventions and medications to insure that their patient and her baby get the best level of care. 

Midwives do things a little differently in most cases. They're trained to focus on wellness, rather than sickness or conditions (Some people really do think of pregnancy as a "condition". Isn't that absurd?!) Typically, they're big supporters of unmedicated birth with as few interventions as possible and they seek to provide care that empowers mamas to make the best decisions for what works for them and their babies. 

Did you know there's three main types of midwives to choose from?

  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

CNMs are trained in both nursing and midwifery. They are licensed registered nurses (RNs) who have gone on to a graduate-level nurse-midwifery program and they've received certification from the American College of Midwifery Certification Board. CNMs are licensed to practice in all fifty states and may work in private practice,  a freestanding birth center or hospital-affiliated birth center or in a hospital or clinic with nurses and physicians. (Some CNMs will assist in home births.) Like OB-GYNs, CNMs might serve as primary care providers for women and they can  prescribe some medications (specifics vary state to state).

  • Certified Midwife (CM)

Certified midwives don't have nursing degrees, but they attend the same graduate-level nurse-midwifery programs and take the same certifying exam as CNMs. They're legally permitted to practice in five states (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware and Missouri. It is only in New York that they may write prescriptions.

  • Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)

CPMs are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). It is not necessary for them to have graduated high school or college degrees and their training varies. Mostly, CPMs graduate from accredited midwifery programs or complete apprenticeship programs. All CPMs must pass written exams as well as skills tests. CPMs are the only midwives whose training requires them to have knowledge of and experience with home births and other births outside of a hospital setting.

As with anything concerning your body, you have choices. You don't have to go to an OB-GYN because that's the kind of provider everyone in your life has gone to. You don't have to go to a midwife because that's the norm you grew up with. Your body, your pregnancy, your baby, YOUR CHOICE!

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moms2b

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend my first Moms2B meeting in the Hilltop, just a few blocks from where I live. It was fantastic. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to learn so much more!

If you're not familiar with Moms2B, go check out their site to learn all of the wonderful ways they're at work in our community. To summarize their mission though, they're helping mothers in the eight "hot spots" of Columbus, as they're called, to tackle the horrific issue we're facing with infant mortality and death of a child before their first birthday. Hot spots are the parts of town where infant mortality has been the highest in our city. Moms2B works with mothers giving them tools and education to make healthy choices for themselves and their babies and the group is truly making a big impact in our city as fewer babies are dying from those neighborhoods! 

Each week members of the Moms2B team teach the same lesson at each of the eight areas around town where the meetings are offered. This week, the topic was safe sleep and safe food handling. Even thought I know about safe sleep practices, I actually learned a couple new things and to work through the lesson with a group offered new perspectives I hadn't otherwise considered. Heart-healthy snacks and a lunch are provided each week and for those who arrive to the group on time, a $5 Kroger gift card is given as incentive to be prompt, consistent and as a reward for the lessons they learn each week. Free condoms are always available and most weeks, someone from the staff will speak with each pregnant woman about safe sex, birth control, spacing out future pregnancies, etc. Sometimes there's been a donation of maternity or baby clothes that mothers are welcome to choose from and completion of the program is rewarded with a Pack-n-Play. Meetings are free of charge, childcare for other children is provided and assistance with rides to/from the meetings can be arranged. Any barriers that could stand in the way of a woman making it to these sessions has been considered to try and make it as accessible and rewarding as possible. 

The only requirement for participation in the group is that you have to be pregnant. The youngest mother that Moms2B has helped was 12 and the oldest was close to 50. Women come from a range of backgrounds and might struggle with keeping a stable job, addiction, homelessness, mental health issues, past incarceration and/or prostitution to name just a few of the hurdles they face.

If you're curious about how you could help support this fantastic outreach in Columbus, some of their most consistent needs are sleep sacks and Pack-n-Play-sized sheets, as mothers often don't have access to a washer and dryer on a regular basis. These items are very inexpensive and can be found in most stores like Target, Walmart, Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby and of course, Amazon. Sheets come in a two pack on Amazon for less than $12 and two sleep sacks are available for less than $17. I don't know about you, but I can totally find a few extra dollars to put towards the purchase of these simple items, especially if it helps contribute to the greater good of safe sleep practices and healthier outcomes for Central Ohio babies. 

Please, check out the Moms2B site to learn more about all the ways they're engaged in the community and all the great work they're doing to help mothers and their babies!

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my style of childbirth education

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was planning for a home birth and opted to go with the basic childbirth education that my midwife duo offered. I wasn't all that impressed with their style of teaching, but I already had a lot of knowledge on my own to supplement so I felt okay about things. I took it upon myself to research, read and ask around about the things I wasn't so sure about. I continued in this fashion the next time I was pregnant I and shared the things that I learned with my husband. 

Fast forward several years as I continued to leaf through books, read countless websites and learn more within the birth world. I spoke with other women about their childbirth education experience (if they chose to take a class) and I listened to their high points about the class/instructor... and lots of complaints. I started to think that there ought to be a different way of teaching expectant parents about birth. The thought of a mama-to-be and her partner being squished into a sterile hospital classroom with faulty fluorescent lighting, uncomfortable chairs, stale Folgers coffee and one course outline being taught to all students sounded sad and so impersonal to me. 

Enter: ProDoula and their approach to childbirth education. Their vision clicked with mine, there was finally a new option to choose from.

ProDoula provides the general curriculum that I use for my childbirth education classes, but I tailor the classes to meet the needs of each particular client. First time parent who wants to know as much as possible? No problem, we'll cover the entire curriculum on a schedule that fits into your life. Maybe its not your first child, but you want to do things differently this time around and you only want to cover certain topics? Of course! I'll give you a menu to choose from and we'll cover only the topics that you're interested in. Maybe this isn't your first pregnancy, but its the first time your partner has experienced pregnancy and you want to adapt a class to his/her particular questions? You've got it! 

Get the theme here? Your wish is my command and the options are many for what we can cover and when. Where do I teach? Oh, I'll come to your house, we could reserve a meeting room somewhere, or we could meet for lunch over a few weeks and go through the curriculum. The setting is up to you, the course is up to you. This pregnancy is YOURS and the information you receive before the birthing day should feel like yours too. 

If you have questions, I'd love to answer them for you. What do you want from your childbirth education experience?

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what is a doula, anyway?

When people find out that I'm a doula, they almost always assume that I'm a labor doula. This is probably because doulas are more well-known in the labor setting (if a person knows about doulas at all). However, that's just one type of doula work. What I am, a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula, is quite different. Here's a breakdown of what each type of doula does to support her* client. 

Labor Doula (LD): a professional trained in childbirth who provides continual emotional and physical support to a woman who is in labor. The main concern of a doctor or midwife is a safe delivery for the mother and her baby. Doulas are also concerned with that of course, but they provide nonmedical care. Typically, LDs will meet with their client a few of times prenatally to go over birth preferences/wishes, go over what the client expects of her as a doula, perhaps give some educational information about birth, etc. Usually doulas check in with the mother and her newborn a couple of times after birth too just to make sure everyone is recovering well from the birth. The doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. There are various certifying organizations where one can become a LD: ProDoula, DONA International and CAPPA, just to name a few. 

Some view LDs as "glorified cheerleaders" or superfluous, but these thoughts simply aren't true. There's much research that reveals that doula-attended births are often associated with better birth outcomes and women who receive this kind of continuous care are more likely to go into spontaneous labor, less likely to need epidurals and many other common birth interventions, and less likely to have negative feelings associated with their birth experience. And doulas - no matter which kind - are not only for the mothers! Fathers, partners and other family members can also greatly benefit from having the expertise and consistent care of a doula during moments of life that can tend to be highly stressed and hard to adjust to.

Postpartum and Infant Care Doula (PPICD): a professional who is trained in things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother–baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care. PPICDs help mothers and their families in the first days and weeks after bringing home a new baby.  The specific PPICD certification can only be obtained through a ProDoula training. 

I like to say that PPICDs take care of your life so that you don't have to! Once you've given birth, all you need to focus on is resting and recovering from the life-changing experience you and your baby have just been through, bonding with and feeding your baby (and yourself). I come in to take care of the rest like meal prep, running errands, light housework, help with older children, organizing all of the new baby gear, etc. I wish I had had a doula in the first few months after my children were born. Maybe my whole experience of adding them to the family would have felt drastically different as a result!

Have questions about doulas that I didn't address? Leave a comment and ask away, I'm happy to help you find answers!

 

* Doulas do not have to be female, but it is almost always women who are trained in this profession. I chose to use the her pronoun because I'm a woman!

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Jumping in: The why behind doing what I do

For the last several months I've had the desire to blog about the many topics related to birth that I'm so interested in and I figure that now is as good a time as any! Part of the reason I waited to start writing was because I wasn't sure what my inaugural post should be. Since I've crossed over that hurdle now, there's nothing holding me back anymore!

If you've clicked on the About tab on my site, you've learned a little bit of my story. However, there's even more of a WHY behind why I do what I do...

I do this work because it matters. I meet women where they are in some of the most fragile months of their life. Whether I encounter them prenatally or after their baby is born, I get to offer my unbiased support and expertise to try and make the transition into parenthood just a little easier. So often all a woman needs is someone to cheer her on and make her feel less alone. She needs someone to come alongside here and let her know that she's normal and give her the confidence to believe that she can do hard things. In the work that I do, I get to be that someone.

I see a major gap in how our society values and empowers women in the months and years from conception to early parenthood. Having your "Home Team" is vitally important in these stages of life. We've heard it said that "It takes a village to raise a child." and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I've been fortunate to be a part of a village for women in my life and I've got a tribe of supportive, loving people that make up a village for me.  If I can be part of that for someone else - even in a small way - it is my distinct privilege and honor.

And ya wanna know a little secret? I actually don't consider it much work at all. 

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New year, new logo!

My sweet, talented friend Chelsea was so kind and patient with me in the fall as I tried to bring my vision for a logo into reality and she far exceeded anything I could’ve created on my own! 

Here’s an explanation of why I chose what I chose: 

  • The pregnant mama is sitting in a very relaxed posture and seems alert and ready for what lies ahead, yet she’s calm. Her posture is open which is symbolic for how a woman must open in childbirth, but also how she opens in the months before and after that. 
  • The mama is surrounded by a laurel wreath (made of various interlocking branches and leaves) which has historically been a symbol of victory and honor. There are several reasons why I like the imagery and symbolism of the laurel wreath:  
  1. It can be used to represent nature and the continuation of life from year to year.
  2. In the past the wreath was been given to scholars and athletes upon completing certain tasks, a reward for crossing the finish line.
  3. The Laurus nobilis (the laurel tree) is an evergreen plant, native to the Mediterranean region. I like associating women and mothers with evergreens. Both are beautiful, strong creations that are able to endure many trials and environmental changes, yet remain firmly rooted and are constant sources of shelter and familiarity.
  4. Apart from being a symbol of victory, laurel leaves are also believed to be a sign of success, and prosperity. In some circles, they're also considered to be an emblem of rebirth.
  5. Laurel leaves have been believed to inspire creativity and help one awaken spiritually and become more aware of everything.

And finally, I wanted a symbol of peace to be included in the design, as that word and concept has been very special to me for many years. The violet is a floral symbol of peace and its soft purple color paired well with the cool teal that I envisioned for this design. It has been used to represent healing, loyalty, devotion, innocence, abundance, and providence (as they can be eaten, even the roots). 

As far as I'm concerned, pregnancy, birth and motherhood involve all of these points and so many more. I truly couldn't be more pleased with how this turned out and I hope that the public enjoys it as much as I do.

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