Lindsay Dougal is a certified birth doula who believes in the power of a strong support network for birthing women and their families. She grounds her practice in empowering women to remain informed of their options and pursue learning of evidence-based birth education. She believes it is the right of all birthing people to feel supported and heard in their journey to parenthood. Before becoming a doula, Lindsay received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Utah. She is also the lucky mama of three beautiful boys. Learn more about Lindsay and her services by visiting her website: lindsaydougaldoula.com.
If you were buying a car or home, getting married, or considering a new career, you would most likely do a good deal of research, to make sure your important decisions are wise and your information is accurate. The birth of a baby is one of the most important and monumental experiences a person can have. As such, it is deserving of at least as much study and preparation. In the excitement of adding a new person to their family, many parents often overlook the birth itself, only realizing in the final weeks of pregnancy (or at the start of labor!) that they don’t know what to expect or what to do.
Birth is one of the most natural things the human body can do. However, that doesn’t mean that it is always easy or that you will instinctively know what to do. While listening to your body is a must,learning all you can about your options, and different methods for relaxation and labor techniques can enable you to have a truly empowering birth.
A quick internet search illuminates so many different birthing methods and courses that it is easy to become overwhelmed. How do you narrow it down? What class is best for you? Follow these easy steps to help you discover your best fit for childbirth education:
Learn about different birthing methods. By understanding the different options available to you, you may find that you gravitate more toward a certain one or another. Whether you like the sound of an epidural or going med-free, using hypnosis or a tub, a C-section or induction, read about each kind of birth, and listen to your instincts. No one way is right for everyone, and birth is as individual as the amazing people who do it!
Decide what is important for you to learn. Some classes cover more information than others. There is a wide array of options, from weekend crash-courses, to 12 week comprehensive classes, and everything in between. Depending on how much depth you want and how much time you are willing to invest may determine what kind of class is right for you.
How much are you willing to spend? The cost of childbirth education ranges all over the map. Some few hospitals offer free classes that go over some of the very basic procedures they offer. Many doulas offer courses that are more customized to fit your needs. Many educators accept payment plans, and some even accept HSA or FSA cards, if you have them. When in doubt about your financial options, ask!
Conduct a class search. While a quick post on social media may yield some first-hand experiences from friends and acquaintances, there are databases specifically for birth workers you can search that will yield far more specific results. Two great resources are the UDA Community Partners search and Doulamatch.net. You can also ask for referrals on your local social media page, such as the Utah Birth Forum.
Contact potential educators. A peruse through their website may be enough to answer your questions, but sometimes it is beneficial to converse with a candidate over chat or a phone call to see if you connect well, and to gain a better understanding of their approach and personality. In some cases, you may even want to meet in person for a consultation, though not many educators routinely do this.
Attend a class. Once your ideal class has been selected, go all in. Bring a list of questions, be willing to participate, and soak up as much as you can. After you have finished the course, be sure to practice what you have learned, to keep it fresh in your mind. Be sure to follow up with your educator if you have any questions. Take it from me: educators love questions.
Share the wealth. After you give birth like the rock star you are, be sure to refer others to your class, so they can learn and have a positive experience as well!
With so many options to choose from, there is bound to be a great option for you! Knowledge is power, and taking responsibility for your care, and learning all you can about birth can prepare your mind and body to have a truly wonderful experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. Happy birthing!
Dani Reed is a professional doula and childbirth educator, serving Utah county and Salt Lake County. A mother of four, she is has a passion and drive for all things pregnancy, birth and parenting, and has been studying these things and their importance for over a decade. She plans to return to school when her kids are older to complete her nursing degree and become a Certified Nurse Midwife. You can learn more about her and her services on mindovermaternity.net
Our post this week comes from an interview with Heather Tolley, chaplain and doula. Heather has been an advocate of compassionate healthcare for over four years. She loves helping her doula clients have a positive experience with pregnancy and birth by cultivating confidence and providing individualized support.
Can you share about your path to doula work?
Heather: I got interested in women’s advocacy work while going to the University of Utah. I stepped into healthcare advocacy at St. Marks as a multi-faith chaplain in 2014, and completed my doula training the following year. I now work as both a chaplain in hospice and a doula.
I think many people are not familiar with the role of a chaplain, can you explain?
A chaplain is an advocate of holistic healthcare, which includes physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Care of the whole person helps the healing process.
In practice this can look like advocating for a patient or family’s needs/perspective, being a compassionate presence in times of crisis, providing emotional and spiritual counseling, and sometimes facilitating spiritual or religious ritual (prayer, blessing, scripture, mantra, etc).
Of course, doulas have long been aware of the strong connection between mind and body—which is why chaplaincy and doula work have so many similarities.
What does spirituality mean to you?
I personally hold a very broad definition of spirituality.I think it’s the feeling of connection to something beyond ourselves; for some that may mean a higher power or deity, for others it’s the mystery of love or nature, or a state of mindfulness which wakes them up to the present moment.
I believe everything is spiritual and that we don’t have to do anything to make a moment or experience spiritual. However, some experiences speak more to our souls than others and as humans we find ritual and ceremony to be helpful conduits for creating mindfulness of the sacredness that is always present.
Is approaching spirituality in conversation something that comes naturally for you?
Yes and no.
I have always enjoyed studying many faith perspectives and religions. I love seeing and discussing with others what is sacred through their eyes and what touches their heart. I love matters of the soul.
There is such a spiritual component in birth; the awe it inspires within us, the profound sense that the experience is more than the sum of its parts. I think the sacred profoundness of birth is what draws so many of us to this work, and that’s certainly been the case for me.
So yes, I love talking about all of these things.
But actually approaching the topic initially can be uncomfortable. I grew up in a family where spirituality and religion were rarely discussed, and usually with contention. I think there’s an underlying sense of guardedness in being asked about one’s personal faith in our society in general, and particularly here in Utah. Also, spirituality is an uncommon topic in most professional relationships. All of these factors definitely created a sense of anxiety within me that I’ve had to address because it’s much harder to serve people’s spiritual needs without bringing up the topic.
How do you overcome that initial discomfort and initiate these meaningful conversations?
I’ve found that most people appreciate having a space made within healthcare for the spiritual aspect of themselves, even if they choose not to in engage further discussion; so long as the offer is phrased in a way that creates connection and communicates a lack of agenda.
I’ll often state directly that I don’t have a goal or agenda other than a desire to get to know them better and to serve them from within their own spiritual/religious framework.
Another approach is to frame conversation as an additional dimension of support from a desire to provide holistic care; that I’m seeking to care for them as a whole person and that I recognize for many that means engaging with and holding space for their personal spirituality in addition to physical or emotional needs.
When you share that you are just checking in about something that many people find meaningful, and give clear opportunity to decline, people aren’t likely to be offended.
What are some ways that doulas can incorporate spiritual support into their interactions with clients?
Honoring spirituality can be as simple as mentioning being comfortable with and affirming any spiritual expressions they intuitively feel to express in birth, and that you’re open to discussing what those expressions might look like.
Other ideas include:
Including a question about religious affiliation on the intake form and then using the form as tool to invite deeper discussion with open ended questions
Work to not make assumptions. Just because someone doesn’t belong to a religious denomination or even theistic framework of belief, doesn’t mean spirituality isn’t an important part of their life
Invite discussion of the broader definition of spirituality; that which connects us to something greater than ourselves. What helps them feel connected to a greater whole? What rituals bring comfort? I’ve had friends and clients who don’t necessarily believe in a higher power but find meaning in the verbal expression of prayer
Talk about the sacred nature of birth and affirm the power of her own intuition and insights
When discussing resources for various areas of care, communicate availability of spiritual resources for birth
Learn about dream theory, to be able to engage discussion about any compelling dreams that have stuck with her, which can bring strong insights as she prepares for birth
Become familiar with Mother’s Blessing ceremonies, aspects of which can even be incorporated into a traditional baby shower for a more emotionally and spiritually fulfilling experience
Encourage her spiritual self care along with her physical and emotional self care
Express gratitude for whatever a client shares about their spirituality to foster feelings of safety and trust
Of course, I pick and choose from these options as appropriate for each client, with the goal to affirm them bringing the best gifts from the spiritual area of their life into their pregnancy and birth.
When does addressing spirituality become a priority?
Definitely with unexpected outcomes, or when a client is stressed or upset. Sometimes I’ll use conversation in prenatal visits around alternate outcomes to also talk about meaningful ritual, or vise versa. It helps to know in advance what a client and their partner would find meaningful or helpful in a challenging situation, so I can advocate for those “comfort” measures that might be forgotten by a client or their partner when under stress. For example, in many cases taking time for a prayer or blessing before c-section can be accommodated by medical staff.
What are some good resources?
Birthing From Withinbook or education classes, which offer “a holistic approach to childbirth that examines this profound rite-of-passage not as a medical event but as an act of self-discovery.”
The Sacred Living Movement website has a wide array of online trainings including Birth Journey, Sacred Pregnancy, Mother Blessing, and Sacred Postpartum. They also have several books.
Heather has a degree in Psychology from the University of Utah, and advanced training to support those for whom birth may feel more emotionally complex, such as those with a history of trauma, loss, or faith transition, single parents, or intended adoption. She also provides bereavement doula services.
She and her family live in Orem. She loves outdoor adventures, studying rock & roll history, and growing things, but her favorite pastime is laughing.
You can learn more about Heather or reach out to her through any of the following:
By: Destiny S. Olsen BD(DONA), PCD(DONA), RYT, TPYT
The sanskrit word yoga translates to yolk or union. The path of yoga is a path of union, union of breathe to the body, union of the mind to the muscles, union of the body, mind, spirit and ultimately, union of creation.
For those of you starting to think about having a baby, those who are pregnant or just had their little one—this practice of yoga can be quite profound and powerful during this time.
We are currently in a time when “ everyone is doing it.” Perception of yogis are no longer tied into funny outfits, hippies, religious freaks or people who sit in weird position for long periods of time. Silicon Valley business owners, musicians, artists, educators, garbage men, construction workers, students and mothers, to name a few, are all approaching yoga with the new idea of yoga being a part of a new health revolution—a revolution that physical exercise then leads to mental strength and longevity and vise versa.
We are seeing widespread behavioral changes through professional and educational settings that implement yoga—impacting bullying, relationships, coping skills, and even productivity.
We are cultivating through yoga nicer, happier people that aren’t being “yanked” around by their feelings or emotional insecurities because they are more aware and have the skills to manage when they get thrown off kilter.
Through yogic practices you can create a internal telescope where you are able to decipher how you feel, why you feel that way, and access the tools you have to alter or enhance these feelings.
So where did yoga come from? Yoga is a science of complete self realization that was channeled, intuited, and practiced by people who dedicated their lives to dissolving borders and boundaries within themselves. They then codified these practices into a system that could be understood, imbedded and applied by people from every walk of life. One of these systems developed is called the 8 fold path.
This 8 fold path is neither linear or circular—rather an ebb and flow between one or many of them all at the same time. They are,
Yama: Self of integrity or ethical standards within yourself and others
Non violence “I value all things and all people the same as myself”
Non harm “Do no harm to myself or others whether it be thought or action”
Truthfulness “I am trustworthy in my dealings with myself and others”
Honesty “I am honest with myself and others”
Non coveting “I have everything I need”
Self honoring “I value myself and others through holding acceptable boundaries”
Niyama: Practices that relate to our inner world
Cleanliness “I take care of my body through healthy food and habits”
Contentment “I am exactly where I need to be”
Self Discipline “I can have discipline to accomplish my goals”
Study of Oneself “I can self reflect on myself and my purpose”
Surrender “This karmic path will lead me where I need to go, I release control”
Asana: translated as postures. This is the fundamental face of yoga and for some lineages the medium through which the union takes place. However asanas only become yoga if it then leads to a spiritual union—not just flexibility and strength. Through the practice of postures we develop the habit of self discipline, self reflection and the ability to concentrate.
Pranayama: translated as breathe control, expansion. This limb is to not only gain control over our respiratory systems but to create a connection between breath, mind and emotion. Knowing how to master your breathe and using it to your benefit can only improve your experience through everyday life. This practice of breathe can aide with: control over emotional health and wellbeing, release of emotion and muscular tension creating more ease, better sleep, digestion and blood circulation. This is also a recurring focus through labor and birth “breathing your baby down”.
Pratyahara: translated as sensory transcendence. This is where we shift off the external world and stimuli-directing our attention internally. This practice is to take a step back to look at ourselves, learning how to become observant. As you become a parent less and less time is navigated to self reflection. Put down the distractions (i.e. phones, computers, tv) to tune into what truly matters to you.
Dharana (der-yana): concentration of the mind, aka meditation. This component of yoga is to focus your mind on one point regardless of internal or external focus. This act of driven concentration is to slow down our process of thinking as a whole.
Examples:Drishti points, birthing alters, are external. Drawing eyes upward and closed, envisioning baby in belly is internal.
Dayana(die-yana): Uninterrupted flow of concentration. Instead of having to focus you are now, just aware. Your mind quieted and complete stillness sets in. You move through life moment to moment.
Samadhi: This is ultimate peace. You connect to all living thing and transcend. This isn’t something that can be bought, rather practiced and earned.
So why and how is yoga useful during pregnancy? You’re changing a lot on many facets during this time, including these ways listed below:
Blood Pressure Alterations
Internal Organ Displacement
Increase of Mucus Production
Increase Blood Volume
Weight Gain and Distribution throughout your Body
Social Responsibilities of Being a Parent
Research performed by the Mayo Clinic suggest that yoga is safe and has many benefits to moms and their babies such as:
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Increases Strength, Flexibility, and Endurance for muscles that are needed for childbirth
Decreases: lower back pain, nausea, body discomfort, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath
Decreases the risk of: preterm labor, pregnancy induced hypertension and intrauterine restriction
Creates a community by bonding with other pregnant moms
Prepares you for other life changes of becoming a new parent or adding a family member
Gained skills for the Postpartum Period and Child Raising Years:
Creates a more mindful existence in your body, mind and soul
Aides in gaining tools for stress management
Builds a better sense of self-identity and personal power
Develops better habits for self discipline and concentration
In depth coping skills
Deeper bond between baby, partner, family and friends
This information is intended for a paying client or student. Please do not copy, share or distribute unless given approval and permission by SHAUNTEA, LLC.
Destiny S. Olsen is the proud owner of SHAUNTEA, a company focused on individual health and wellness. She has taught somatics since 2005 through yoga, dance and meditation. As a DONA certified Birth & Postpartum Doula she believes developing mental and physical health is essential to creating well-balanced children, happier adults and a well balanced lifestyle.
Destiny is currently taking on birth doula clients for the 2019 year. Check out her social media pages and the fliers below for more opportunities to learn more about yourself, your changing body and parenthood.
A sometimes hard truth to swallow is the fact that death is a part of life. Even harder to acknowledge is the truth that babies are among those who die. In the United States, 1 in every100 pregnancies end in stillbirth (fetal death after 20 weeks gestation)—roughly 24,000 babies every year.1 Another 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (fetal death before 20 weeks gestation). And an additional 23,000 infants die each year before their first birthdays.2
These numbers are scary. These numbers also mean that there is a great likelihood each of us will encounter loss in our work as doulas and birth professionals. Because we are scared or feel ill-equipped, we may inadvertently silence those experiencing loss. It’s understandable. Pregnancy and birth is an exciting time in the life of a family. From the minute those two lines appear, we are new. We have hopes and dreams for the future of our children and our families. We tend to keep things light and happy, as we don’t want to consider the possibility of not bringing baby home—of losing that future with that child. For the great majority of families, baby is born healthy and makes that beautiful trip home. But for many families, loss is the reality. Silencing these outcomes brings stigma and limits opportunity for support.
So, what can we—as birth workers—do to support families experiencing loss? As both a bereaved mother and birth and bereavement doula, let me offer up seven practical tips for supporting families experiencing loss:
First and foremost, hold space for the expression of grief: Feelings associated with grief may not be shared if the person does not feel safe and supported. Let the family know you are willing to just be with them. Words may be spoken, they may not be. It’s important to be okay with either of these expressions, and not expect a certain reaction. Simply having a calming presence in the room means so much to a family.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable: I’ll be the first to admit death is uncomfortable. Many of us aren’t exposed to death until much later in life, and don’t know what to say or how to interact with those who have lost. Remember, you will be uncomfortable for a few hours; the grieving parents will live with some level of discomfort for the rest of their lives. Don’t shy away from offering love, validation, and support.
Labor and birth support: Physical and emotional support during the birthing process is so important. Try to make the birthing experience as “normal” as possible by offering encouragement. As appropriate, remind the birthing person of their birth preferences and help them understand which parts of the birth plan can still be fulfilled. If imagery, visualizations, and affirmations are used, make sure they have a positive tone and reflect the situation appropriately.
Encourage parents and family to bond with baby: Memories made in those few precious hours or days will need to last a lifetime. Encourage parents to hold baby, and to allow other family members to meet and bond with baby. Maybe they were looking forward to reading a certain story or singing certain songs to their baby. They can still do these things. Offer to take photos of the new family. Facilitate the creation of keepsakes (hair clippings, hand/footprints, molds of hands/feet, etc.). They may not want to see them right away, but there will come a day when they do. The hospital may have resources to help with some of this, so check with staff to see what is and isn’t available.
Use baby’s name, and congratulate parents on the birth of their baby: Bringing a baby earthside is hard work and deserving of congratulations and commendation, no matter the outcome. It may feel counterintuitive to congratulate, but remember that this baby is a beloved member of the family. You may say something like, “Arthur is a perfect, beautiful boy. He is so loved.”
Attend memorial service and/or celebration of life: If the family invites you to attend the celebration of their baby, go. You are one of a handful of people who met and beheld their child. That—in and of itself—means so much. Having you at the service adds another level of love and support. Consider taking a card or letter sharing your beautiful memories of the day baby was born.
Connect the family to resources: Educate yourself on the services for bereaved families in your community—grief support groups, postpartum depression groups, counseling services, children’s grief support providers, bereavement specialists, etc. Families may not be receptive to this information right away. Respect that space and be prepared for when they are ready.
The death of a baby is a profound loss, and it is important we recognize the need for families to mourn their babies. The loss of a baby is the loss of a person and a future. Every person grieves differently. As we learn more about the experience of loss and work on our own feelings and emotions surrounding death, we become better able to provide meaningful support during birth in any trimester and in any outcome.
1. “Facts about Stillbirth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Aug. 2018. Web. 23 Oct. 2018.
Yes, I can easily claim this and say for sure, it is true! Through my own experience of practicing, using a jade yoni egg, and feeling how the stone qualities feel near me, and inside of me, I quickly realized the urgency and importance of helping other women learn about this. It’s a perfect non-surgical, prescription drug-free solution to many of today’s women’s health issues.
What is Jade Egg Practice?
Jade Egg (JE) practice is the use of a stone—GIA Nephrite Jade in this case and preferably for all beginners, as it is of utmost sacredness and importance to be wise with what goes inside of us—inside the vagina. There are acupressure points within the vaginal walls that when stimulated, can alleviate pain and blocked energy. It is VERY IMPORTANT to start slowly, introducing this to your body only when you are in a safe space and you and your Yoni are ready and naturally inviting the jade egg in.
These JE exercises—which are akin to kegel, but more intricate, directed and precise—strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. They increase a woman’s awareness and conscious connection to her root, also known as the Muladhara Chakra.
This is important because it helps seal and protect the body’s spiritual/cosmic/heavenly energy from leaking out. This powerful energy, also known as Prana (also meaning “breath” & “life”) can then be circulated through the body to nourish and balance the brain, glands, organs and whole body. These “secret squeeze” exercises also bring in more blood circulation to the entire pelvic region which brings healing and stimulates the movement of kundalini (primal energy located at the base of the spine).
I am a true advocate of using Jade for yoni egg practices, as this is the stone originally used in ancient China. This stone was chosen for its revered energy & its heavy, non-porous, thermal conductivity qualities. It is especially good for clearing stagnation in the kidneys and reproductive organs. Therefore, I recommend Jade (Nephrite Jade to be exact, and be sure it’s certified genuine, as there are many fakes) for Yoni Egg Practices. I say this because there are now many stones being carved into eggs.
Healing through JE Practice
Through these practices, hormones begin to come into greater balance, bladder control is increased (this is huge after childbirth), sexual abuse and trauma can be healed and released, genital sensitivity comes alive and returns where there is vaginal pain and numbness, and very importantly, heart and womb connect; which is paramount to overall well being.
It is this aspect of heart and womb/yoni connecting that I find particularly exhilarating because I know women will create a better world than the one we are now seeing being acted out in society and on a global scale right now. I feel that if we, as women, are empowered and heal our wounds, then we have a chance to create a better world for our children and their children, and so on, forever.
I am a native of Salt Lake City and am a devotee of nature and living in harmony with our Planet Earth. I learned of natural medicine and dietary choices as a way of health from my parents at a very young age. I have three children and have been working in the healing arts as a massage therapist for 24 years. I am also a yoga teacher and love studying and breathing (Pranayama), and exploring the inner world through meditation and Anusara Yoga.
I am a TreeSister (Treesisters.org) and believe my soul purpose is to help humanity through this time where a consciousness shift and drastic change in behavior is the only way we can survive. I work also with the Pachamama Alliance, to Change the Dream of the Modern World, into one where is is normal to give back to the Mother Earth.
I am available for private group instruction on Yoni Egg practices and have small/medium eggs for sale (for less that you’ll find online)! Contact me for more information and to request my services:
DID YOU KNOW? A pregnant woman needs more iron, protein, folate, and calcium in her diet than a woman who is not expecting. Calcium is a mineral that our bodies use to build our teeth and bones. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, calcium will be taken from the mother’s stores in her bones and given to the baby if she doesn’t consume enough. 1,000 milligrams of the mineral is needed for pregnant women age 29 and up; pregnant teens age 14-18 need 1,300 milligrams daily (according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). Vitamin D works with calcium to build bones and teeth, and many dairy products contain it also. Where can you get it? Kale, bok choy, leafy greens, milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified foods. Folic acid, also known as folate when found in food, is a B Vitamin. It is important in helping prevent neural tube defects, which are defects of the baby’s brain and spine. It is recommended that women begin taking 400 micrograms per day prior to becoming pregnant, and increasing to 600 micrograms during pregnancy. Where can you get it?* Leafy green vegetables, pastas, breads, enriched cereals, citrus fruits, beans. *Folate is difficult to get with diet alone. Therefore, most prenatal vitamins contain the recommended daily amount. Protein is important during pregnancy as it helps build the baby’s organs, such as the brain and heart. Most women get enough protein everyday. Even if the mother doesn’t consume meat, there are plenty of plant-based sources for protein. Where can you get it? Beans, peas, eggs, nuts, tofu, meat, poultry, fish. Iron is needed to make more blood. This supplies the baby with oxygen. 27 milligrams of iron is needed everyday during pregnancy. That’s DOUBLE the amount needed by women who are not expecting. Too little iron can result in anemia, a condition leading to increased risk of infection and fatigue. Vitamin C is needed to help increase iron absorption, and should be consumed at the same time. Many women choose to take an iron supplement while pregnant. Where can you get it? Meat, fish, poultry, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, Floradix Floravital liquid iron supplement. Remember that your goal should be a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dairy, and whole grains. Eating for two doesn’t mean doubling food intake. The average, healthy pregnancy requires only 300-500 more calories per day than the standard 2000 calories required by non-pregnant women. Fruits and vegetables add variety, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and not a lot of calories. Focus on getting 5-10 servings a day. Lean proteins should be eaten at every meal; 3-4 servings of dairy foods a day. Whole grains are an important source of energy, and they provide iron, fiber, and B Vitamins. At least half of a pregnant woman’s carbohydrates should come from whole grains. Great sources are oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. About Carrissa Carrissa Smith is a fertility, birth, and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, placenta specialist, herbalist, Reiki Master Teacher. She is the mother of 6 lovely children, and wife to a wonderful, supportive man. When she’s not ‘working’, she enjoys time with her family and friends. You can find her online at mothertobeservices.com, facebook.com/HerbanDoula, and @HerbanDoula on Instagram and Twitter.
After a while, a second nurse came in with a warm bottle for the baby. “Good, the family’s here,” she said. “It’s feeding time.” She handed the bottle to our nurse and then went on to the next baby.
Marie-Thérèse grasped the bottle tightly, and the nurse helped her put it into the baby’s mouth. “What kind of milk is this?” As with most children, Marie-Thérèse’s curiosity knew no bounds.
“Formula,” I said.
“Actually,” the nurse explained, “it’s mother’s milk– most of it a donation from the mothers whose babies are here. They usually express much more than their babies can eat, so they give it to the babies whose mothers are unable to nurse for one reason or another. Mother’s milk is the best thing we can give them; it will help them grow strong faster. Of course, the milk is gathered under very rigid guidelines, so it’s perfectly clean and safe. Because we’ve had so much success with it, our doctors have fought to keep the program in place.”
—Excerpt from Ariana: A Gift Most Precious by Rachel Ann Nunes
My first exposure to breast milk donation came from a book on tape I loved to listen to as a little girl. One of the character’s has a premature infant, and her four year old is brought up with the narrator to meet the baby in the NICU. At the time, I hadn’t given much thought to how babies were fed. I was the youngest, and while my mom babysat, I didn’t pay much attention.
Years later, when I became a mother, my full-term daughter was taken the to NICU as a precaution for a mild fever. I began pumping between feeding her, and by day three, I was making far more than she needed. With Ariana in mind, I asked the nurses if I could donate my milk to the other babies in the NICU, and I was shocked when they said no. I wondered if research had proven that breast milk was not as beneficial as they thought it was back in 1997 when this book was published. I shrugged it off and returned home with my daughter and husband the next day, not realizing that my breasts would continue to overproduce for the duration of our breastfeeding experience.
Even when I had my gallbladder out when my daughter was only six weeks old, I didn’t consider checking for donor milk. My experience at the hospital had made me feel as if that wasn’t done, so my daughter was fed from the sample cans of formula I had gotten from my hospital birth class. I was fortunate that breastfeeding resumed after surgery with little issue, but the oversupply hit again with force. I was constantly massaging out clogged ducts, hand expressing in the shower just to release enough milk to allow my baby to latch, and going through dozens of disposable nursing pads per day.
It was exhausting. I purposely started the weaning process when my daughter was eight months old, slowly dropping one feed at a time. At thirteen months old, on January 13, 2014, she nursed for the last time.
Exactly a month later, I found out I was pregnant.
Our second child was not planned, at least, not yet. I had intended to have a bigger age gap. I had intended to have my body to myself for at least a few months. I was dreading breastfeeding again, mentally tallying up the number of nursing pads I would need. I decided to research ways to limit supply. During this pregnancy, I learned about block feeding (link: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2013/10/9/block-feeding-dos-donts.html ), and I kept running across stories about milk sharing. I found them interesting, but decided to limit supply anyway.
When my baby was born, I immediately started block feeding. She nursed well and while I still leaked, it was nothing compared to the first year of breastfeeding! I settled into my postpartum period less than gracefully, and spent a lot of time online, trying to escape the dark claws of postpartum depression. During this time, I saw many articles about milk sharing. It felt like something I needed to do, so when she was three months old, I grudgingly began pumping in between feeds, restimulating supply. I grudgingly turned to galactagogues. Milkmaids tea, fennel, and oatmeal became big staples in our home. I pumped more often, and was able to save up about 40 extra ounces. I excitedly joined the local Facebook group for Human Milk 4 Human Babies. I got stuck at “pending approval” for three days that felt like torture! I cannot imagine how much longer it would have felt to have to wait that long to receive milk. I was finally approved, and immediately found a twin family to donate to. We agreed to meet but she was unable to make it.
I tried again with another mom, whose son was only a bit older than my little one. Natalie* lived about an hour and a half away, and I didn’t want her to make that drive for a measly 40 oz. Her son was due for surgery soon, and I knew that breast milk could help him recover. I promised to do whatever I could to get 100 oz or more before I contacted her again. I started pumping four times a day. The dishes were killer, but a cloud was starting to lift. My postpartum depression was easing slightly.
I managed to exceed 100 oz in just a few days, and excitedly texted her to let her know. Her husband drove up to pick it up and replaced the bags I’d used. It was such a rush knowing that I was helping someone.
My supply had definitely increased. My daughter refused to take bottles, so when I started working, I pumped 4-10 oz at work, and it went straight into the freezer for my “milk mamas”. On longer shifts, I sometimes came home with more than 20 oz of frozen milk. Pumping became an escape for me. As long as I got at least 6 oz each time I pumped, I stayed mostly sane and happy. My husband had to remind me a few times to be gentle with myself. Once, while pumping, I lamented that I had only managed to get 4 oz, and he reminded me that some women don’t do that in a full day, let alone in ten minutes.
Perspective was helpful, but the thing that helped most was getting to know one of the families I donated to. Natalie met me at Costa Vida the first time she came up. My girls loved her little boy, and I felt more love and sincere appreciation from her in one afternoon than I had in most of my postpartum experience. (Kids don’t exactly give positive feedback.) She explained some of her feeding problems, the bad advice she was given, and the fact that she was already pregnant again. Her milk supply had been lost quickly, but she was determined to change that with the baby she now carried.
I admired her. Her goal was simple: that her son receive some breast milk every day for a year. Some days that was two ounces, some days it was ten, but she was determined to give him what she could. Once upon a time, I judged women for bottle feeding/formula feeding. Natalie gave me perspective that I absolutely needed, and I no longer do that. It’s none of my business why a baby is fed formula or breast milk. It’s not of my business if a baby is formula fed in the hospital or not. As a human being, my job is empathy. My job is love.
I donated to a few more moms and babies, but I felt that Natalie and her son were ultimately the reason I had felt the pull to donate as acutely as I did. My tally ended up being 8 babies, 7 moms.
I wish that more families realized that a) donor milk is available and b) they can donate excess milk. Even for healthy, term babies, the World Health Organization suggests that breastfeeding should be the first choice when possible, then wet nursing or donor milk, and formula as the last resort. Without normalizing milk sharing, we deprive moms and babies of an option that offers tons of benefits. We also open up an opportunity for women and babies to be exploited, both by formula companies and people that stoop to selling “breast milk” mixed with water or cow milk as a way to make upwards of $4 an ounce. The safest way to milk share is to do it without an exchange of money or goods. Usually the only thing that changes hands is milk, new bags, and on occasion, lactation cookies.
I do plan to donate from the beginning if I decide to have another baby, and the research I’ve done has led me to want to donate both privately and to a milk bank. Private donation is selfishly more about me than it is about the families I’m helping. It is positive feedback and endorphins and friends. It is a way for me to feel like I’m giving charitably when I have so little to give at the end of the day.
Milk banks typically fall into two different categories: for profit and nonprofit. For profit milk banks are often owned by big name formula companies, and they compensate their donors. The milk is not given directly to babies, but is researched or made into “breast milk fortifier”. This is one of the ways that formula companies try to improve their product, and is a good reason to donate. My caveat is to be aware that for-profit milk banks occasionally have a minimum donation quota, which can be stressful.
Non-profit milk banks can be found through the Human Milk Banking Association of America: https://www.hmbana.org/. The nearest milk bank to Utah is in Colorado, but there are donation spots throughout Utah. Arrivals Birth Center in South Ogden has a donation center. The milk donated to these milk banks is homogenized (much the same as cow milk) and sold to NICUs for the lowest possible cost, although it still ends up costing $3-$5 an ounce. Because human milk is so good at eliminating risk of NEC (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/02/19/peds.2015-3123), it is usually rationed to the smallest or sickest babies. More donors could mean more lives saved. You can find more information about local Utah milk donation by visiting the Mountain West Mother’s Milk Bank website: https://www.mwmothersmilkbank.org/.
I urge everyone to open up dialogue about donor milk. Make it normal. We host blood drives in public spaces and nobody cares, but I mention that I’m a milk donor and people raise their eyebrows. Blood and milk can both save lives. I can’t wait until it is normal to share milk. Until women no longer feel like their only option is that can of formula in the cupboard when they have to go to surgery and leave their newborn baby at home. It can start with you.
Dezarae Weyburn is the fierce and proud mom of two amazing little girls. She found a passion for birth while pregnant with her first, and it just grew from there. As she began training and attending births, she became a staunch supporter of women and their autonomous decisions in pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. As a two time survivor of postpartum depression, she helps run the Powerful Postpartum Support Group (follow on Instagram @powerfulpostpartumsupportgroup) with a group of amazing facilitators. To learn more about Dezarae and her business partner and fast friend, go to newrhythmdoulas.com/about. You can also follow her on Instagram @doula.dez
As I look across the many birth forums and online resources for pregnant moms, I see chiropractic care being offered as a solution to many of the issues women are experiencing during pregnancy and the postpartum period. More and more women are realizing the benefits of consistent chiropractic care as they prepare for their little one to be welcomed into this world. As a family chiropractor that focuses on pregnancy and infant care, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can chiropractic help during my pregnancy?” To answer this question, it’s important to understand how a mother’s pelvis / body works throughout pregnancy.
What does normal look like?
When a woman is pregnant, growing a new life, an incredibly complex chain of events has to take place, with little room for error. To name a few, mom’s body has to provide the perfect environment, the correct amount of nutrients, and sufficient stimulation for baby to grow optimally. The amazing part of all this is that her body is perfectly designed to do all this, while also maintaining her health at the same time. This requires her body to follow a very exact and precise “program.” Like a detailed, choreographed dance, every part of a mother’s body works in unison with her baby’s developing body to produce health. This “program” is run by the mother’s nervous system. Comprised of her brain, spinal cord, and a network of approximately 46 miles of nerves, this master controller of the body keeps everything working and coordinated. Without this system running the program as designed, life would not be possible. With this system working as intended, true health is not only possible, but inevitable.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work this perfectly. Everyday stresses can take a toll on a mother’s system, overwhelming its ability to adapt to it environment. When this happens, her nervous system is not able to communicate effectively. It’s like the cell phone reception is weak between her body and her brain. Neither one knows what it should be doing, and so, her health and the health of her baby become compromised. Essentially, the “program” begins to fail.
Effect on Mom
“The potential for damage in pregnancy and the postpartum period to a woman’s neuro-musculoskeletal structure is great,” Varney’s Midwifery warns. As the communication of the nerves diminishes, one of the first things that is affected is the muscles of the lumbar spine and pelvis. Couple that with the effects of relaxin and other hormones, and it is very easy for mom’s structural alignment to be thrown off. Lower back pain, in and of itself, is a burden to a woman’s daily function and quality of life. However, the misalignment of the spine and pelvis have a far more crucial consequence. The nerves of the low back control all the organs of the gut, as well as the pelvis and legs. Besides pain in the pelvis, pubic bone region, S.I. joints, and in the low back, common symptoms of poor communication in these nerves include constipation / diarrhea, gassiness / bloating, cramping in the legs, and perhaps most importantly, it can interrupt the normal function of the uterus / reproductive system of the mother, and therefore, baby.
Furthermore, this misalignment is also going to affect the ligaments and soft tissues in the area. To understand this better, think of the uterus and pelvis as a hot air balloon…the uterus is the balloon and the pelvis is the basket. In the front, there are two ropes (the round ligaments), and in the back there are two ropes (the sacro-uterine ligaments) that connect the balloon to the basket. Now imagine if you twisted the basket. There is no other option but to have abnormal tension on one or more of these ropes, and most likely, the balloon is going to twist as well. This abnormal tension throughout the uterus is going to affect how much room baby has to move around and limit the ability to get into a good position for birth. It’s not uncommon for baby to be breech or posterior (or any other malposition) in these situations. All of this tends to lead to the last thing mom and baby want, longer and more difficult labors. This, in turn, substantially increases the likelihood of having various interventions during labor such as Pitocin, forceps or vacuum delivery, and Cesarean section.
Effect on Baby
One of the more overlooked effects of a mother’s pelvis being misalignment are the effects on baby. Medically speaking, birth trauma is when there is some overt injury to baby during the birth process (fractured collar bone, nerve damage like Erb’s palsy or Bell’s palsy, etc). In chiropractic, we classify birth trauma as any insult on spinal function, including misalignments and decreased nerve function. These types of injuries can be less obvious, and takes special training to be able to detect. The most common area affected by birth trauma is the upper neck region of the spine, right where baby’s brainstem is located. The primary jobs of our brainstems are the necessary functions to keep us alive: heart rate, breathing rate, sleep, and digestion. Babies that have malfunction in their upper neck region can have nursing issues, colic / excessive crying, acid reflux, torticollis, difficulty sleeping, allergies / congestion. Later on these kids can develop things like anxiety, balance and coordination issues, ADD / ADHD, and focus and memory issues. This is why I always recommend newborn’s get checked, to make sure they don’t have any issues with their nervous system function, and to start out life as healthy possible.
How does chiropractic help?
The main job of a chiropractor is to restore law and order to the body. By finding where the nervous system is not functioning properly and stimulating those nerves through a chiropractic adjustment, normal function and communication can be restored. Once the brain and the body are able to communicate effectively again, the body is able to heal all on its own. The normal “program” comes back online, and health is restored. The idea is simple, but that makes it no less profound. Whether you are a pregnant mom looking for a better birth or a parent of a newborn that is struggling to thrive, I recommend getting checked by a chiropractor.
To find someone who focuses and has specialized training with pregnancy and infant care, go to http://icpa4kids.org/Find-a-Chiropractor/ . Just as with any other kind of doctor, not all chiropractors are the same, and this site is a great resource to find some of the best doctors near you.
About Dr Lawrence
Dr. Lawrence Hauptly is a family wellness chiropractor that focuses on pregnancy and pediatric care. He has been involved in the birth world in one way or another, working alongside his wife who is a birth doula and childbirth educator, since the birth of his oldest son. He is Webster’s Certified (a special technique for pregnancy) and just over a year ago, Dr Lawrence joined the team at Family First Chiropractic, in Murray UT.
When he is not in the office seeing patients, Dr. Lawrence spends most of his time with his wife and three children (soon to be four!), taking in all the outdoor activities Utah has to offer.
If you would like to contact Dr. Lawrence, his contact info is:
You took a pregnancy test and found it to be positive. YAY! Congratulations! You’ve planned. You’ve read. You’ve researched. You’ve stressed and cleaned and celebrated. And you’ve listened, (somewhat) patiently and graciously, as everyone and their dog has given you unsolicited advice. Everyone seems to have an opinion on your body, your pregnancy, your birth, your baby, your postpartum, and everything else they can possibly think of. Despite all the mixed reviews and advice, you muddle through and make decisions about what’s right for you and your baby.
Now, it’s time for the big day! You have a plan, and you know your options. You are confident that everything will go perfectly, the way you have imagined. There’s just one problem: life is unpredictable. Birth is unpredictable. The care provider comes in and tells you that things have changed. They want to intervene or they suggest helping things this along. Now’s the time to use your B.R.A.I.N.
What is B.R.A.I.N.?
B – BENEFITS: What are the BENEFITS of this intervention/procedure? How can it help you and/or your baby?
R – RISKS: What are the RISKS of this intervention/procedure? What are the potential side effects?
A – ALTERNATIVES: What are the ALTERNATIVES to this intervention/procedure? What are your other options? What are the benefits/risks of those options?
A -ALONE: “A” can also stand for ALONE. This is where you ask for some time alone to discuss things with your partner or think about what’s best for you and your baby.
I – INTUITION: What is your gut/your partner’s gut telling you? Your INTUITION is stronger than most people might think. It’s important to listen to it!
N – NOTHING: What happens if we do NOTHING? What if we wait an hour to see if anything changes?
Give your care provider the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t trying to ruin your day or your birth experience. You chose them for a reason, trust them. That being said, trust yourself too. It’s important for you to work with your provider to come up with the right choice for you, your baby, and your situation. Using the B.R.A.I.N. acronym can be helpful in facilitating a productive and civil conversation with your provider while at the same time helping you to keep a level head in a time that could be stressful and even scary. You may find this acronym to be a useful tool throughout your pregnancy, birth, and even well beyond.
So, remember, no matter what comes up, always use your B.R.A.I.N.
Shellee is a birth and bereavement doula, placenta specialist, breastfeeding specialist, birth photographer, and owner of Utah Family Doulas. She’s also a student midwife and working towards her IBCLC.
Shellee is married to the love of her life and has three sweet kids and one more on the way. She loves reading anything she can get her hands on and is addicted to half-baked ice cream.
Shellee believes the perfect birth is one where the family felt empowered and in control of their birth experience, as well as the health (mental, physical, and emotional) of the whole family. You can find Shellee and the rest of her team at www.utahfamilydoulas.com.
Every June we celebrate Pride Month, giving space for LGBTQIA+ visibility and celebration of identity. Over 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQIA+ and somewhere between 2 million and 3.7 million kids under 18 years old have a parent that identifies as LGBTQIA+.
As birth workers, it’s inevitable that at some point in our careers we’ll work with clients who do not identify as straight. Keep in mind that, for many, gender or orientation might not be apparent and they might not be publicly or even privately “out.” It’s likely that we interact with individuals on a daily basis that have an identity on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
At the core of ally work is compassion and empathy, which are both traits that doulas already work hard to cultivate. By extending this focus to include being an ally, we can carry these practices with us everywhere, making us more aware of others’ experience and deepening our empathy. Learning how to be an ally is about self growth, committing to doing important inner work, and pushing ourselves toward the work of justice within the birth world and beyond.
So, as birth workers, what goes into being an ally? Here are 7 things you can develop, cultivate, and practice on your journey as an ally.
1. Learn about and practice cultural humility
You’ve probably heard the term “cultural competence.” The idea is to educate someone through a training or other method about a group of individuals who have a different experience of life and cultural context. You’ll find cultural competence trainings for working with refugee populations, people of color, and other marginalized groups. There are also trainings on competence for working with LGBTQIA+ folks.
This idea of competence isn’t quite enough, though. We have to bring a specific kind of attitude to our trainings and practices. When we are not a member of the group discussed in the training, we can’t ever truly gain all the knowledge and must commit to continual learning.
While it is absolutely important to take these trainings and learn as much as we can, it’s also important to cultivate a practice of cultural humility. This idea is about being teachable. We approach our clients as a humble person who can’t be the expert on another person’s experience of life. By approaching others with humility, our clients realize that we are there with the best intentions and are open to learning and being compassionate.
2. Understand that being an ally isn’t a title
Please, take all the ally trainings that you can. One thing that is confusing for many after taking these trainings, though, is that some people feel as though the training was enough for them to take on the label of “Ally.”
While it is always a great idea to identify as an ally, it’s equally important to make sure that it’s not a stagnant experience. Allyship is about incorporating cultural humility and realizing that we will always have to learn and grow in this role.
Being an ally is also about doing more than being. We have to show up, speak up, and be open to challenging our own assumptions.
3. Learn about and understand intersectionality
This is a topic being heavily discussed right now and it brings up lots of emotions for many people. But it’s an important one to explore, even as you have your own emotional reactions through the process. Stay present, be curious, and resist becoming offended or defensive.
Being an effective ally to others means always pushing yourself through those hard emotions and realizing that important work can’t happen unless you’re at least a little bit uncomfortable.
So what’s intersectionality? Entire articles and books could be (and have been) written about these topics. (I encourage you to check them out.)
The basic idea behind intersectionality is that individuals experience oppression at different intersecting points. So, for example, one individual may identify with the issues and experiences of poverty, solo parenting, being a person of color, and identifying as LGBTQIA+.
While each one of these experiences might be a significant challenge for anyone, it can compound the amount of discrimination and social struggle that a person experiences when they have multiple experiences that aren’t part of the social “norm.” It’s also important to realize that each of these identities influences the others. That individual’s experience is unique (which is where cultural humility becomes such an asset in our practices of being an ally).
4. Be willing to educate yourself
It’s tempting to ask an LGBTQIA+ individual all of those questions you’ve had floating around in your head for years. But resist that feeling and turn to education instead. It can be challenging to be part of a minority group that constantly deals with floods of questions (many of them quite rude). It’s exhausting to live through the experience and to then also have to educate others.
Take the time to answer your questions through workshops, trainings, and discussions with professionals. Always seek out knowledge and share that knowledge with others who also want to know how to be a better ally.
5. Ask questions, but know which questions are appropriate
While you shouldn’t expect an LGBTQIA+ person to be your educator, it is appropriate to ask certain questions in your consultations with clients, of course. But keep in mind that it’s important to show respect, to consider personal experience, and to compassionately understand an individual’s needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. But make sure that your questions are truly relevant to your job as a doula, not just a curiosity. Learn how to phrase those questions in as sensitive way as you possibly can. Know when to back off and how to let your client lead the conversation.
6. Wear humility on your sleeve and always be willing to apologize
One of the most important parts of being an ally is to realize that you’re always going to be learning and growing, so inevitably you’ll make mistakes. It’s important to learn the lessons from the mistakes while still being kind to yourself. It’s normal to say the wrong thing sometimes and important to make a mental note of how to do it better in the future.
The crucial part of making a mistake is to always apologize. It’s beneficial to admit the misunderstanding and to ask how to mend the situation. This can potentially turn a hard situation into an opportunity for your client to feel more empowered.
7. Educate others so they can be better allies too
One of the most important parts of ally work is sharing what you know with others so they can potentially become better allies too. Find respectful ways to share the information and support local educational events and trainings. Also be willing and diligent about updating and refining the information over time. Hold each other accountable and commit to creating safe space for clients.
By sharing in the burden of education, we can lift some of the burden off the backs of those who identify as LGBTQIA+. This can help to make society a more friendly and understanding space. It can also create more safety, reducing the trauma and danger that many of these individuals experience.
Being an Ally is a Life’s Work
Perhaps you’ve already noticed, but becoming and growing as an ally to LGBTQIA+ folks involves lots of personal growth and inner work. This, of course, extends to other areas in our lives and can benefit our work with our other clients, as well as our personal lives. Becoming an ally is a life’s work and should extend to other marginalized groups that you work with. By broadening your understanding of others’ experience of life, you can more meaningfully support them, help to create safe spaces, and set a standard in the doula world for compassionate practice.
There are several incredible resources available for those who want to learn more. Here are some great places to get started:
Sarah is a writer, photographer, doula, and college educator based in Cedar City, Utah. She’s been involved in the birth world since her daughter’s birth 15 years ago. A passionate advocate and activist, she also works on social justice projects focused on LGBTQIA+ and full-spectrum reproductive health support. You’ll often find her hiking in the red rock canyons of southern Utah, goofing off with her two teens, and dreaming of ways to build beloved community. You can learn more and reach out at sarahasaybraun.com and redrockdoula.com.