The term “doula” is a relatively new one. Although the Greeks used the term “doula” to mean a female slave, or handmaid, it wasn’t until 1969 that the term was first applied to birth work.
In the half-century that followed, doulas went from completely unknown to a household name. With the formation of DONA in 1992, Ricki Lake’s documentary, “The Business of Being Born” in 2008, and the Facebook series, “Romper’s Doula Diaries“, people were exposed to a new part of the birthing world. There are now hundreds of doula certifying bodies and organizations. In addition to birth support there are antenatal/prenatal, postpartum, bereavement, abortion, adoption/surrogacy, and even death/end of life doulas.
Although doulas provide strictly non-medical support, science backs their efficacy. Studies show consistently better birth outcomes with doulas than without including shorter labors, less reported pain, fewer interventions and a higher rate of satisfaction with the birth experience. While serving prenatally or in the postpartum period, doulas are perfectly positioned to notice and provide resources for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety.
Doulas help bridge the gap by providing a unique support to their clients. Here’s what some local parents had to say about their experience working with a doula:
“For me I felt like a doula was a big support for the role of my spouse. As a woman you read and study a lot about labor and delivery, but I feel like my husband just wasn’t prepared. So having a doula out there to help him and help him to feel part of the labor and delivery was awesome. I also think an acting voice for when you are in full labor was super helpful along with the different types of calming and soothing techniques”. (Thompson)
“I don’t know how we did it last time. I really don’t think we could have done it without a doula. Why doesn’t everyone get a doula?” (Orton)
“Having a doula at my birth gave me the fortitude to push through all the opposition I felt. The thoughts that frequently come up of, ‘I can’t do this’ were negated immediately by the female companionship of an amazing supportive doula.” (VBAC mom, Nance)
“Having a doula brought a needed calm and supportive presence into my labor. Her attention to detail was spot-on and she came prepared with ideas and tools that eased my labor and made the experience one to remember.” (Zitto)
The Utah Doula Association (UDA) has over 150 members consisting of doulas and local community partners. The non-profit strives to provide a community of support, opportunity, and education to both doulas and families seeking a doula. Happy World Doula Week to its members and all doulas who are changing the world one family at a time!
Dezerae found her interest in birth while pregnant with her oldest. She attended her first birth as a doula in 2013. In addition to being a birth doula, Dezarae is also a trained bereavement doula helping parents during miscarriage and stillbirths. In 2015, she took a breastfeeding training through the World Health Organization and found a second passion in supporting parents in their chosen feeding method. Dezarae loves cheering for parents, especially when they feel like they can’t do it, and is honored to witness the birth of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and babies!
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:
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.
As the doula profession grows and more doulas are trained, the public becomes increasingly aware of what doulas are and what they do. The position of a doula is now often recognized as an important and integral part of a birth team. Through the professional services offered by many outstanding doulas, obstetricians, registered nurses, and midwives alike often refer their patients to doulas they have enjoyed working with. This is great news for those of us who work as doulas. The local price of a doula has also increased in recent years. While the rate for doula services varies widely by state and region, prices have continued to climb. In Utah we have seen as much as a 75% increase in doula fees in the past 15 years. This is also great news for doulas. Many doulas enjoy earning a decent wage while doing work they are passionate about.
What does this do, however, for women and families who cannot afford doula services? Currently doula services are viewed as a luxury item in our medical system. Insurance does not cover doula fees (a topic for another day), and many families who could benefit from the services of a doula are unable to afford paying a few hundred extra dollars at a time when additional expenses are already expected. Many doulas offer discounted services when situations of need arise. That’s the beauty of owning your own business—being able to listen to your doula heart and give back to the community. Many doulas feel drawn to certain populations such as teens, incarcerated women, single mothers, or refugees. While there is currently little to no financial benefit to serving these populations, this is very possibly where doula services can be most valuable.
The Utah Doula Association has continued to grow over a period of over 25 years—has striven to be fiscally responsible—and has been able to build up some funds beyond operating costs. Membership dues, conference fees, community partners, and our doula retreat are some of the main ways the organization had been able to grow financially. The board is always looking for additional ways to raise money so that, as a group, we can fulfill the mission of the UDA, which includes community awareness, continuing education, marketing for its members, and supporting at-risk, low-income, and under-served families.
We are excited to announce the Utah Doula Association’s new program for serving underprivileged women and their families while offering pay to doulas for their services. From funds raised through donations, memberships, community partner memberships, the retreat, and conference we have the funds to pay our doulas to help these underprivileged women have support through their pregnancy and labor. This year, the UDA board has discussed and approved paying $599 for 5 individual birth clients. We are piloting this program and hope to grow it next year. We are working with a local provider to seek women in need of services and we are open to assessing other situations in the community. Eligibility requirement for doulas serving in this program is that she has been a UDA member in good standing for at least two years. Fees will be paid through the treasurer of the UDA.
The client in need will be matched up with a qualified doula who is available around her estimated due date, has expertise surrounding the mother’s pregnancy situation whether it be high-risk, multiples, teen mom, etc., and has been a UDA member for at least two years.
We are happy to send anyone who needs doula support an application to see if they qualify. Situations will be reviewed by the president and president-elect and the board will be notified of each of the five paid births available this year.
The board has also approved funds this year to pay for postpartum doula services for a woman in need. We are so excited to be able to help fill this gap in care in our community and look forward to growing this program and be able to adequately reach out to those who need a doula.
Angie Rosier has been a doula since 2003 and has attended over 1,000 births. She lives in Salt Lake with her husband and 5 children and is the current president of the Utah Doula Association and owner at birthlearning.com.
The Annual Utah Doula Association conference is fast approaching. During this uplifting and educational event, we will hear from several experts on a variety of topics that will enrich and improve our birth-centric businesses. With many opportunities for continuing education credits, tips and tricks for improving our business skills and networking opportunities galore, the 2018 conference is bound to be the highlight of the year.
Dr. Shoshana Bennet
This year we will have the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Shoshana Bennett. Internationally recognized as a leading maternal mental health expert, clinical psychologist Dr. Shoshana Bennett has inspired and transformed countless lives worldwide through her radio shows, books, lectures, interactive tele-classes, consultations, and videos. Affectionately known as “Dr. Shosh”, she educates, engages, and empowers her audiences while discussing serious and often uncomfortable topics using humor, the latest research, solution-based protocols, and firsthand knowledge she gleaned after experiencing life-threatening postpartum depression.
She emerged from this personal nightmare to become a leading national advocate and pioneer in women’s mental health, establishing Postpartum Assistance for Mothers, which offers education and emotional support for women experiencing PPD and related disorders. Dr. Shosh also helped develop the official training curriculum for professionals and served as president of Postpartum Support International.
Dr. Shosh is an Executive Producer of the new award-winning documentary, Dark Side of The Full Moon. She is the author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies, Pregnant on Prozac, Children of the Depressed, and is co-author of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety. Dr. Shosh is the creator of the first PPD mobile phone app PPD Gone! She co-founded the newly launched Postpartum Action Institute to train community leaders and parent advocates.
Dr. Bennett has traveled extensively throughout the US and internationally as a guest lecturer and keynote speaker, training medical and healthcare professionals. She is well known for her popular Dr.Shosh.com Radio Show and has appeared as a guest expert on countless television and radio shows including 20/20, Ricki Lake and The Doctors.
Dr. Shosh will be presenting our keynote address Launching Happy Mothers – The Dos and Don’ts. Which will offer practical tips and strategies to address signs of mood disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
She will also be presenting a workshop entitled Moods during Pregnancy and Postpartum – What’s Normal and What’s Not? In which she will be teaching us about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and their symptoms. She’ll give us information we can use to comfort mothers suffering from postpartum depression and describe mental health information that professionals should present to all new parents.
And to give us practical advice on the business side of birth work, we will also have the pleasure of hearing from Joe Staples. Joe is a senior B2B executive (CMO/SVP Marketing for 18 years) with primary emphasis in SaaS, MarTech, and customer experience sectors. His expertise is in two areas: building a recognizable, differentiated brand and fueling the growth of the revenue engine. He prides himself in providing a good blend of strategy and execution.
Joe has led two successful corporate name changes and brand over hauls. As the CMdO of one company, they took raw brand recognition from 6% to 70%+. He has developed multiple award-winning ad campaigns (B2B Magazine, CEB, and Starch awards).
Joe understands the in’s and out’s of the revenue engine, from initial inquiry through to closed-won. He has built demand generation teams from scratch, implemented strong digital marketing campaigns, and has led a marketing team that delivered 90% of all sales opportunities for the company.
Joe received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Technology Marketing Corporation and was Employee of the Year at Novell Corporation.
Joe will be presenting “Simple ways to Make a Big Impact on your Business!” During his presentation Joe will give us things doulas can do (without spending a lot of money) to effectively market their services. These includeestablishing your personal brand, using storytelling as a marketing tool, developing good client testimonials, leveraging influencers as referral sources, and the importance of differentiation. Join Joe for a lively, interactive session that will include Q&A and group discussion.
To purchase tickets or for more information about the 2018 UDA conference click here
As I leaned toward my husband to get a hug my enormous belly made it a completely difficult reach. I joked to my husband, “I’m sorry, I know I promised I wouldn’t let this baby come between us.” That baby, who turned out to be a 10+ pounder, was definitely coming between us physically. Not going to lie, it was an obstacle for sure. But emotionally I think we have done a pretty good job of making sure our babies didn’t actually come between us.
Marital issues are probably one of the biggest concerns after a new baby arrives, whether it’s the first or fifth. Mom has to recover physically and hormonally. She has to process a birth experience that may or may not have gone well. Dad is also tired. He is stressed financially about providing for his family and he wants to help his wife adjust, but might get a little stir-crazy being home more than normal so he heads back to work. This makes mom feel more lonely and abandoned, and then dad feels like he can’t do anything right and is on-edge. In times like this it can be really hard to connect to each other intimately and you might start to feel that the baby is very much coming between you.
Over the years, and through my own five births, coupled with my experiences as a birth and postpartum doula, I feel like I have learned a few things about keeping your marriage intact while still taking care of the rest of the family. Evaluate how you are doing in each of these areas and make adjustments where needed.
Get support. I cannot express this enough. Get a postpartum doula, a housekeeper, a cooking service. Let your sister move in for a month (or make your mother-in-law move out). Let your neighbors come help. Whatever and whoever it takes, please get the support you need! Remember, when you let someone help you it makes them feel good too so there is no reason to feel guilt or shame in calling up your village! When you are supported and have the help you need to recover you can also give attention to your relationship with your spouse/partner.
Get rest. Everything is overwhelming and stressful when you aren’t getting enough sleep. I get so short tempered and snappy and of course everyone around me will mimic my mood. If you can get a total of 8-10 hours a day, even if it’s broken up into multiple 2 hour chunks, you will feel more like bonding with your husband.
Do a little something everyday to make each other smile whether it’s an extra long hello/goodbye kiss, a sweet note in a packed lunch, a check-in text to say, “I miss you,” or even just a snuggle on the couch. Small, daily efforts add up to bigger, deeper connections.
Have a scheduled date night once a week. Ideally, it would be the same night each week to make it easier to remember, but if you need to adjust for scheduling conflicts then do it. I love taking turns with the planning so you always know that you can count on something happening and you won’t interrupt the other person’s plans or assume the other person is doing it and then nothing happens. So write down on your calendar whose turn it is each week and stick to it just like you would stick to a doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t have to be going out, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Even something as simple as writing a cheesy love poem, finding a new “our song,” looking through old pictures together, having a dessert in front of the fireplace, exchanging foot rubs, or asking each other questions. This is your time. No diaper talk, no other kids, no complaining, just connect.
Communicate. You have to let each other know what is bothering you, what your needs are, what would be helpful, what would fill your cup. How many times have you resented your partner for not doing or getting something while you assumed they were reading your mind and knew what you wanted? Just be bold, tell them flat out!
Be intimate! But, but, but….the doctor says not until 6 weeks postpartum! It seems like there are two very distinct extremes hormonally after birth. You’re either going to be on the, “never, ever touch me again” side or the “I want you right here, right now, I don’t care that it hasn’t been 6 weeks” side. A few important things to remember: your placenta left a giant internal wound that you can’t see so you forget it’s there. Your cervix does not close as quickly as it dilated. There is a risk of infection and injury while that heals. You are also often extremely fertile after birth. Give your body time to heal and take precautions. That said, intimacy isn’t just sex. There are plenty of intimate things you can do to and for each other without going all the way. I shouldn’t have to tell you this; obviously you got pregnant so you know how stuff works.
LAUGH. This is probably the most important thing I could tell a postpartum family. You.Must.Laugh!!! Laughing is as valuable to your relationship as an orgasm is. Watch a comedy together, pull an unexpected prank, have a funny meme contest, whatever it takes to get the tears of laughter flowing. There are sooo many hilarious funny marriage talks on YouTube. Do something to bring on the giggles. Laughing is the best way to forget you’re tired, sad, ornery, lonely, moody, and feeling gross all around.
I hope these tips help you keep things going strong as you add a baby to your family. This is a really important time for you as parents, and as a couple, and making your relationship a priority will help you not only survive but become closer than ever!
Bio: Michelle is a certified advanced birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula based in Heber. She is also a childbirth educator as well as a homeschooling mother of five. She is an active member of her community and volunteers in several organizations including serving on the Utah Doula Association board.
It was 2011 and I was pregnant with my first child. Every week was exciting as I watched my body go through this incredible transformation. It was so crazy to physically see my body grow week by week knowing that that growth was my baby girl inside. I was one of the lucky ones and had a really easy first trimester. I didn’t get sick like I had heard so many talk about and I had lots of energy, which I was not expecting. I was happy and excited and couldn’t wait to be holding my sweet baby girl. I had always been very active leading up to my pregnancy, so going into it all I felt great about my body.
As month nine rolled around I had gained 42 lbs! My doctor didn’t seem to be super concerned but I was most definitely feeling it and really starting to see my body struggle with the extra weight. I started getting stretch marks at 38 weeks and they were BAD. I started feeling sad about my body and was really hopeful that I would deliver soon so I could avoid gaining more weight and getting more stretch marks. I also was looking forward to nursing because I would lose all the weight nursing (just like my friends did).
I delivered my baby 1 week and 5 days later and it ended in a C-section. I had a lot of water weight in addition to the baby weight I had gained. Standing in the hospital bathroom looking in the mirror I remember feeling disgusted with what I saw. “It would all be okay”, I quickly reminded myself. I was going to nurse now and all the weight would just simply “fall” off. Or so I thought.
I got home from the hospital and my milk quickly came in. I started nursing and the weight didn’t come off. “Okay fine I just had a baby. I guess I will give it some time.” But month after month of nursing I still hadn’t lost the weight. WHY wasn’t I one of those lucky moms? I’ve always heard about nursing moms who just lose the weight so easy. It just “falls” off they would say.
Well apparently that was not me. I started to struggle emotionally. I was not comfortable in my own skin. Not only did I have stretch marks and a c-section scar, I still had all of this weight that just wasn’t coming off. I found myself really starting to struggle with my physical appearance.
My motivation and will to change just stopped. I decided to purchase some new clothes because clearly I wasn’t going to be in my normal jeans like “most moms” anytime soon. It wasn’t until my baby was 9 months old when I realized, WOW I have been way to hard on myself!!!
It is natural in life to compare ourselves with others, which is exactly what I was doing. I was so used to my “dancer body” that was so tight and perfect but the second it changed I didn’t feel pretty or attractive anymore. I would get really sad and almost depressed.
I truly had to learn how to love my postpartum body. But I didn’t know how.
I was talking with a dear friend one day about how I had been feeling and how I really just wish I could get a new body. She asked me one question that changed everything.
How did you get those stretch marks and the scar on your belly?
Simple answer…I had a baby. “YES! Yes you just had a BABY. You grew a sweet baby girl for 9 months inside of you. You took care of yourself and grew a perfectly healthy baby girl.” She told me to be proud of my body and myself. Be proud of those stretch marks on my body, they tell the story of how strong I am and how my baby girl got here.
Simple enough right! I touched by belly and a light went on. She was right. My body and its new imperfections were beautiful just like my baby girl. My friend told me that my daughter and my body were a team and you worked together to create life. Yes, maybe some other moms won’t get one stretch mark or have a scar from birth, or they will walk out in their normal jeans and that’s okay. She said YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF. It was that day that I stopped rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror when I would get out of the shower. I also realized there was a lot I could do right then to lose weight and love myself again. I started going to a fitness class and eating healthier and it was amazing what that alone did. As I worked to get back to my postpartum weight I cheered myself on. I kept reminding myself I was strong, I delivered a baby girl who is beautiful and healthy and I was proud of that and all that my body did for me to get her here. I wish so badly that I realized this sooner but am glad I had my friend remind me.
I have had two other babies since and it has truly made a difference for me to cherish and LOVE my postpartum body and thank it for my beautiful babes.
I am writing this today to remind you all to LOVE your postpartum body. Remember how incredible your body is and all that it has done and gone through to get these tiny blessings here. Thank your body by giving back to it. Love all the imperfections because each one of them tells a beautiful story. These days there is a lot of pressure on us women to look a certain way. Remember not to compare ourselves to others because you are not them and they are not you. LOVE that body. Give back to it and tell it thank you for all its done!
For many Utah families, a holistic approach to health and wellness is a priority. Chiropractic care is an integral piece of the puzzle of health and wellness. Many mothers find that a Webster Certified chiropractor works wonders on sore hips, back, and sacrum. Many swear that it prepares the maternal body for normal physiological childbirth. So much so, that we find ourselves being asked by our clients: “How do I choose a Chiropractor for my family?”
Did you know that you can have your infant or small child adjusted as well? Families often tell us that taking their children to regular visits with a professionally credentialed chiropractor can help with breastfeeding latch, ear infections, colic, and many other childhood ailments. This video will show you just how gentle an experience this is for your tiny baby.
Just like there are different kinds of doctors dedicated to a myriad of specialties, the same is true for chiropractors.
This extra step in their education shows that they value your child’s health to the extent that they commit themselves to continuing education. These chiropractors are on the cutting edge of evidence based practice. Their aim is to give you piece of mind that they are fully prepared to gently care for your entire family.
Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd
We’ve all seen her—the mom who has her baby and two days later is back in the grind of carpools, shopping, and even laundry. We wonder how she does it. We secretly hope it happens to us. Our culture seems to value women who can “bounce right back” after childbirth and leaves little time for rest and bonding. But is this realistic? Is it even healthy? As it turns out, many cultures throughout history have embraced a time of “lying in” for women after childbirth, and the benefits may surprise you. Lying in is the sacred time after childbirth that allows the new momma to rest, heal and bond with her new baby.
Mothers who observe a period of rest after childbirth will probably notice a faster physical recovery. Their bleeding will stop sooner, and they will experience less pain in their perineum. They will also notice a faster recovery emotionally, as sleep can help with the “baby blues” that are so common as the hormones adjust after giving birth.
For breastfeeding mothers, lying in is a great way to establish a healthy milk supply and ensure that baby is gaining weight. Babies who lie in with their mothers are healthier overall, as their little bodies can more easily regulate things like breathing and heart rate when in close proximity to their mother. Finally, mothers and babies are much more closely bonded when lying in occurs, as it makes it easier to read the baby’s cues and learn to soothe and care for her.
It’s true that lying in can be difficult in a more modern society. Life keeps going at an incredibly fast pace, even after you have a baby, and there are lots of things that can’t be put on hold. But with a little preparation and help from those closest to you, you can create your own period of lying in with your new baby that will provide lasting benefits. Here are some ways you—as a modern mother—can observe a two-week period of lying in with your newborn.
Set up Your Space
It’s much easier to rest and relax when your space is conducive to relaxation. The first few days after birth should be spent in bed with your baby—nursing, sleeping, and bonding. Have someone with you all day if possible to bring you meals and take care of immediate needs. This could be your spouse, parent, or other close family member or friend. If you have other children, make sure someone is available to care for their needs as well.
Place items next to your bed that you know you will need. This may include a good book, feeding supplies like bottles/formula or nipple cream and a nursing pillow, diapers and wipes, snacks, a water bottle, a thermos with warm tea, and anything else you may find yourself using frequently. You may want to set up a similar “resting station” in another area of the home such as a living room sofa. Make sure you are near a bathroom that is well-stocked with postpartum recovery supplies like pads, bottom spray, and a peri bottle.
Clear Your Schedule
As much as possible, clear your schedule for the first two weeks after birth. This includes things like social events, volunteering, carpool pickups, and even church. If you have daily or weekly responsibilities, ask others to fill in for you for a couple of weeks. People are usually more than willing to help out a new mother. If you have other children, ask another trusted adult—such as your partner or a neighbor—to help get them to school and extracurricular activities.
Don’t agree to attend any events the first several weeks after giving birth. It’s okay to respond with a “maybe.” Let people know that you will try to be there if you are feeling up to it, but that your healing and bonding take first priority.
Stock Your Freezer
One of the best things you can do to prepare for a “lying in” period is have a freezer stocked with meals that are easy to prepare. You can choose to make these meals from scratch and freeze them yourself, purchase frozen meals from the store, or a little of both.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of making freezer meals all at once. One of the easiest ways to stock your freezer is to double your favorite recipes as you cook meals prior to the baby’s arrival and use half that night and freeze the rest. It doesn’t require much extra effort to double a recipe, and you end up with enough for another meal.
If cost is a concern, watch for sales on the frozen food items your family likes to eat, or ingredients for your favorite recipes, and stock up. Things that freeze well are soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, and slow cooker meals.
Another way to stock your freezer is to request meals from friends and family who attend your baby shower or ask what they can do to help after the baby comes. You can even request a “meal train” from friends and family. Someone close to you may be willing to arrange it, but you can also arrange it yourself by sending out a list of dates and having people sign up to provide a meal on each date.
It’s also a good idea to stock your pantry with dry goods you use often. This reduces the number of trips to the grocery store you will need to make after the baby is born. Make a list of your essentials and watch for a sale on those items so you can stock up without breaking the bank.
If your budget allows, consider hiring some extra help for the first few weeks after baby arrives. A postpartum doula is trained to work with women after giving birth. She can help with breastfeeding, errands, light housework, laundry, breastfeeding, caring for other children, and even meal preparation. Some postpartum doulas can come during the night and help care for your new baby so you can get extra sleep during that time. Postpartum doulas usually work on an hourly basis and cost anywhere from $20-$40 per hour.
You may also want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service for the first few weeks postpartum so you don’t have to worry about a messy house while you recover. Some women don’t mind a little extra clutter and disorganization, but some find that their physical and mental health are affected by the appearance of the home.
If you don’t have anyone that can come help you care for your other children, you may also want to hire a nanny or babysitter for a few hours each day so that you can have time to rest.
Enjoy Your Baby
Last of all, remember to relax and enjoy your tiny new baby! The newborn stage passes quickly—almost in the blink of an eye. Taking time to slow down and enjoy each moment will really make a difference in how you feel and your relationship with your baby. The first two weeks are critical to your baby’s development, both physical and mental. The more time you can devote to cuddling, fondling, singing, talking, and playing, the more your baby will make those important connections in the brain that lead to healthy growth.
It may seem difficult at first, but with a little extra planning and preparation, you can enjoy a two-week “lying in” period after your baby’s birth that will provide long-lasting benefits for years to come. Instead of focusing on “bouncing back” from childbirth as quickly as possible, do yourself a favor and use these tips to make your first few weeks after birth really count.
The day I heard about Emily Dyches’ tragic death was the moment I felt a call to do something. As I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed, I felt a powerful force connecting my heart to Emily’s heart, as if I knew her well. This was a clear cry from somewhere very real, a plea “to build villages,” to let moms and all women know that we are not alone, and there is hope.
Thankfully, we know that there are answers for those going through perinatal mood disorders like postpartum depression, perinatal anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Truly, healing is just around the corner, especially when we find a way to unite our hearts with those who understand. The aching desire that began in my soul that day was that no mom, no woman, should feel alone. Of course, Emily wasn’t alone. However, her family sensed that she would surely have benefitted from more awareness and better access to the most helpful resources, Emily has become a symbol of the need to build a village where women can invest together in healing.
A few years ago, Hannah* told me that she had finally reached out to someone who lived nearby. She told them that she couldn’t get through the day alone with the excruciating thoughts that were racing through her mind as she sat trying to nurse a sick baby, with a demanding toddler screaming to be fed as well. Unfortunately, the answer on the other end of the line was, “Welcome to motherhood, honey!” Sadly, this answer lacked the understanding that, though feelings of desperation are common, they are not normal or healthy. Amazingly, Hannah took courage again, this time trying to explain to her doctor how the voices in her head nearly caused her to crash on the freeway. His response was, “Anyone with a smile like yours must be doing fine.” Tragically, this doctor’s response demonstrated the ignorance of knowing that it is often the mom who looks the most “put together” that we may most need to worry about. It is very possible that she is putting on the make-up, the heels, and the smile in an effort to keep from collapsing, striving to maintain the appearance of independence, while her core is drowning. Thanks to recent awareness efforts around perinatal mood disorders, Hannah would probably be taken more seriously if she were to reach out for help today. Hopefully, someone would even have the preventative insight to ask how she was really doing. This would likely help to avoid terrible suffering and even tragedy by surrounding her with love and practical support, (such as nutritious meals, visits, and breaks from her toddler and baby).
Roberta* told me that she now takes an antidepressant through her last trimester of pregnancy because of former experiences with depression during pregnancy. Her doctor had also openly explained that this put her at risk for postpartum depression during pregnancy. She felt empowered to deal with this, as it was being addressed early on, and she had spoken to me as her doula about wanting additional emotional support. Throughout her last trimester and into the postpartum weeks, we discussed articles and books on the topic together, and I regularly checked in to see how her “self-care” was coming along. Was she staying hydrated, supplementing with Omega 3s, going for walks, and getting enough sleep? And when was the last time she had been able to laugh? Deliberately, we discussed Roberta’s plan for who would be there to help following the birth and how she and her husband could have time alone together each week. A few weeks after her precious baby girl arrived, things were going quite well until the day Roberta received a devastating phone call about the tragic death of her sister. I enfolded her in my arms as she broke down and eventually went into a sort of shock or numbness that wouldn’t begin to wear off until days following the funeral. She spiraled downward into sadness and anger and found it difficult to connect with her baby and older child. Often, she felt anxious around people and frequently experienced panic attacks, especially in social situations. Roberta’s closest friends and neighbors were aware of her struggles and offered support by checking in, taking over a few household tasks, and bringing in occasional meals. On one of her darkest days, Roberta bravely picked up her phone and began dialing numbers of friends until one of us answered. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, but I could tell she was at a breaking point and maybe in some immediate trouble. Calmly, I told her it would be okay and that I would be right there.
When I arrived, I found Roberta sitting in despairing darkness, on her lonely bed, with her quiet baby lying next to her. Between broken sobs, Roberta confided that she was fearful for her children and herself because of the thoughts that had been torturing her mind. I wrapped my arms around her again and assured her that these feelings were common with what she was going through and that it did not mean that she was a bad mom. It only meant she needed more help. When I walked outside of Roberta’s house, I saw her neighbor coming to meet me, and we called another friend to come and stay with Roberta until her husband came home. The three of us (part of Roberta’s “village”) planned who would check on her each day of the following weeks, and Roberta agreed to make appointments with her doctor and therapist to follow up on the best treatment. The days and months were long, but Roberta incrementally and steadily recovered, primarily because she knew she had a foundation of support that she could rely on.
“Joyfully, I look back on the day she posted a video of herself making her darling baby girl laugh as one of my very happiest occasions since I became part of the village building effort.” Tresa Haymond
Jacie* found herself far from home, living in the U.S., with a new tiny baby, married to an American whose culture, language, and home in a winter climate were completely unfamiliar to her. In South America, she had been surrounded by constant love and social interaction, but now she suffocated in an isolated apartment throughout the day, not knowing any of her neighbors. Several of my friends who were aware of her situation drove to check on her from time to time and offered to help with the baby. Gradually, they began to notice signs of depression and decided to ask if I could somehow help her. I was surprised that Jacie agreed to let me visit, as I was a stranger to her. I think she viewed me as a sort of counselor and a professional who could rescue her. I kindly explained that I was “a postpartum doula” and that I could help her find resources and be there with her as she became well. As she shared experiences of pain and fear, her heart opened to someone for the first time. It became apparent that Jacie had been through several traumas since the birth of her baby. I pointed out to her that she had many of the symptoms for mood disorders listed on my papers from the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative. I helped her locate a few therapists in the area that would accept her insurance. Fortunately, I was still with Jacie when her husband came home, and he was surprised that we were talking about such serious issues, as he had “no idea” that she had been struggling so severely. I gave the two of them an “assignment” to call their doctor. I also helped Jacie make a list of people she could ask for specific help and finally, I demonstrated ways to exercise with her baby boy inside through the rest of the cold winter, explaining that this benefits moms by producing some of the “happy chemicals” that our brains need to be healthy. One week later, as Jacie and I walked to my car after attending her first support group, she turned to me with a fresh light in her eyes and exclaimed, “I loved that so much! Thank you for bringing me here. I didn’t know that other moms feel the way I do. It helps so much to hear their stories.” That was another incredible moment when I witnessed the magical progress a village can bring about.
After hearing about this “village world,” Kay*, my best friend from high school, asked, “Where was this when I needed it?” My heart broke for her because I realized that I had been in my own world of going at it alone with my own babies, and I wasn’t available to be there or even see her need. Kay’s mood disorder came from getting next-to-zero sleep for about six months, and being completely at a loss of what to do with a more-than-fussy baby who rarely calmed down long enough to sleep for more than an hour at a time. Kay describes how she was raised to be “fiercely independent,” and how that became a trap for her after becoming a mother. Now that Kay is healing from this experience, she talks about how she wishes that she had known that there was such a thing as “Rent-a-Grandma” or a postpartum doula, who could give relief to sleep deprived moms. When I ask for what advice she would give to moms who are suffering emotionally, she pleads, “Believe that there is someone who wants to help you, and let them help you.” With tears in her eyes, she honestly expresses, “I would drop anything on my schedule to hold a baby for four hours so any mom can get some sleep and reset her brain.”
Today we may no longer have the village around us as we once did, but as women, sisters, and mothers, we are still villagers to the core. Therefore, building creative, consistent, and compassionate villages is our life and soul saving call. Emily Dyches and a multitude of women who relate to her story would agree: nothing could be more worthwhile!
*Names and circumstances have been changed to protect privacy. Go toVillageWITH.com to join our online peer support group, the second and fourth Thursday of each month at noon. You can also listen to podcasts of moms who share their experiences of healing from perinatal mood disorders.