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Birth Doulas Postpartum Doulas Pregnancy UDA Membership Uncategorized World Doula Week

World Doula Week

By Dezarae Weyburn

Lindsay Dougal, doula, offers laboring mother support.
(Photo by: Mandy Hawkes)

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.

Raquel Alfaro, postpartum doula, cares for baby while parents rest and recover after cesarean birth.

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!

UDA Annual Conference
(Photo by: Nathan Caulford)

Need a doula? Find one now.

Learn more about the role of a doula here: What is a doula?

About Dezerae:

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!

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Birth Doulas Diversity Postpartum Doulas Pregnancy

Spirituality and the Doula

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 Within book 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.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may enjoy the book The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth, which is a compilation of essays and birth stories exploring the intersections between birth and the LDS faith.

The book Mother Rising provides a how-to guide for creating a Mother’s Blessing ceremony.

This blog post has ideas for simple additions to a traditional baby shower to foster greater feelings of support and connection for expectant mothers.

The article 10 Practices To Experience Childbirth As A Spiritual Journey provides straightforward tips for spiritual birth preparation.

More About Heather:

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:
www.sacredthresholddoula.com
tolley.heather@gmail.com
801-472-6540
Facebook & Instagram @sacredthresholddoula
Categories
Birth Doulas Exercise Parents postpartum Pregnancy

Benefits of Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga

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:

Anatomical/Body Changes:

  • Blood Pressure Alterations
  • Internal Organ Displacement
  • Increase of Mucus Production
  • Increase Blood Volume
  • Weight Gain and Distribution throughout your Body

Emotional/Mental Changes:

  • Hormonal Changes
  • Social Responsibilities of Being a Parent
  • “Pregnancy Brain”

Research performed by the Mayo Clinic suggest that yoga is safe and has many benefits to moms and their babies such as:

  • Improves Sleep
  • 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.

About Destiny:

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.

Phone: 801-361-9785
Email: shaunteahealthandwellness@gmail.com
Website: www.shaunteahealthandwellness.com
Facebook: facebook.com/shaunteahealthandwellness
Instagram: @shaunteahealthandwellness, @destinysolsen

                 

Categories
Birth Doulas Diversity Parents postpartum Postpartum Doulas Pregnancy

When Baby Dies—A Guide for Doulas

By Lindsay Dougal, CD(BAI), RYT

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 

 

 

References:

1. “Facts about Stillbirth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Aug. 2018. Web. 23 Oct. 2018.

<https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/stillbirth/facts.html>.

2. “Infant Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Mr. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infant-health.htm>.

Categories
Parents Pregnancy

Chiropractic Care in Pregnancy

By: Dr. Lawrence Hauptly

Why Chiropractic?

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:

Family First Chiropractic and Wellness Center

746 E Winchester St., G-10, Murray, UT 84107

(801) 281-1688

www.utahfamilychiro.com

 

Categories
Parents postpartum Pregnancy Uncategorized

Planning for Darkness: My Journey Through Postpartum Mental Illness

If you’ve ever had a baby or are in any way involved in the parenting community, it’s more than likely you’ve heard about postpartum mood disorders. Whether it be your own personal battle or one that you’ve seen in others, it has come to light recently as a growing issue in our communities. It is costing children their parents, mothers their children, relationships their spark. It robs us of the bonds nature gifts and for some, it is an occurrence too frequent.

My name is Natalie Sacks. I am a mother of four beautiful, bold, and adventurous children. I am a step mother. I am a wife; and because of my experiences, I am a mental health advocate. I am The Mental Mommy.

My story is one of trauma and triumph, loss and discovery, failure and growth. Once a single teenage mother, I was thrown into the world of responsibility and learned quickly how to push everything down and barrel through each day. I fought hard to give my daughter the life nobody thought she could have. Before her second birthday, I had gotten married and had my second child. I had also become a step mom to a bright, intelligent, but troubled little boy. Each day was a struggle and I was not okay. I did not know it then. I didn’t give myself the option to break. I had too many people to prove wrong. I look back on pictures of my children and home, and see the chaos. Before long, I was pregnant again. Pregnancy number three presented a new set of challenges. I was too sick to function. I couldn’t even care for myself, let alone my small children. I hated my baby. When we found out we would be having another boy, I was crushed. I didn’t want to be pregnant ever again but I wanted to give my husband a daughter of his own so badly. It wasn’t until the last few weeks of that pregnancy that I finally accepted my son and allowed myself to love him. When he was born, I fell instantly in love with him. I had several days of bliss, but one morning I woke up and could not stop crying. I sobbed and sobbed until my face was sore. I asked my midwife if this level of sadness was normal, to which she replied it was and it would pass soon. Six weeks postpartum, the sadness had not left. I continued to cry at the drop of a pin. I was tired, so much more tired than I should have been; even with a newborn and two toddlers. I finally sought out treatment for the incredible fatigue and was also prescribed a mild antidepressant. After a week, I could not handle the side effects. I was not able to fall asleep at all and it was becoming a serious crisis. I was losing my grip on reality. It was a scary time. The doctor told me to just go see a therapist instead. I felt so defeated. But I persisted and called to schedule an appointment.

This is where my life began to change.

I began to learn about my mind. Why this thought pattern was toxic and where it came from. I was paralyzed from the fears that surfaced; the traumatic memories of my past. Week after week I opened my brain a little bit more and let the poisonous suppressed thoughts out. One day at a therapy appointment, as I sat struggling with the crushing isolation and desperate feelings of wanting to belong, I thought about the term “it takes a village to raise a child.” It dawned on me, just how deep that phrase goes. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to SUPPORT A MOTHER. Our culture is so broken in that we expect parents to resume their normal lives and routines just moments after welcoming a human being (or multiples!) into the world. This is the most unrealistic, unfair, and downright unhealthy dynamic! So I began to respect myself and my needs. I started to work on myself more than ever and I was finally feeling like I was functioning! But that was shot down when I found out I was pregnant with number four.

The first two trimesters were spent in and out of the emergency room, on home health care for fluids, and sleeping on the bathroom floor. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is what nightmares are made of. Finding out we would be having a little girl kept me going, but we wouldn’t be taking anymore chances and opted to take permanent measures to avoid another surprise baby! Towards the end of the pregnancy, armed with the knowledge of how my mind works and the risks we were facing, I decided to create a plan for my family; just in case the darkness creeped in again. I designated one person outside of my home to be the one that could make that call if I needed medical help. I talked to my husband and he agreed to take a bulk of the daily tasks for as long as his career would allow. The time came and the birth of our daughter was more than I could have ever hoped for. It was beautiful, healing; but forty-eight hours later, the switch flipped. The crying began. My baby that I had waited so long for, was impossible. She cried endlessly. I wanted to love her but I just didn’t feel that bond. Things took a turn for the worse when I began having horrific thoughts of harming my children. I withdrew them from all activities, avoided driving the car at all costs; I was so afraid of myself.

Thankfully, the one that had agreed to help just in case, followed through. I was too overwhelmed to help myself, so she called and made me an appointment with a doctor to get help. As the darkness began to lift from my mind, I was able to see just how much of a crisis I was in. Had I not been prepared, I am almost certain the outcome would have been different. I found out just how important it was that I decided to choose someone other than my spouse to be on the lookout, as he too fell into a deep dark depression shortly after I did. He hid it, trying to protect me. He wasn’t in a place to help me, and I was too far down to see it.

I understand now more than ever just how much is lacking in the maternity care system when it comes to the mental well being of both parents. We are closely monitored by medical professionals for months during pregnancy, but that is suddenly cut off six weeks after delivery. Why? We can do better. We need to do better! Until the medical world catches up, there are options. Talk to someone about your worries. Even if you’ve never experienced depression or anxiety in your life, get acquainted with the signs. Arm yourself with knowledge and put a plan in place. Whether you are having your first or tenth baby, it is always possible. Take extra time to feel human after your baby is born. Whether that be taking a shower, doing your makeup, painting your nails, or getting takeout from your favorite restaurant. Make sure you have a primary care doctor, especially if you are planning an out of hospital birth with a provider not able to prescribe medications. And finally, don’t be afraid of the help you may need. Medication is a scary step for some, but it is okay to need it for as long as it’s necessary. There are options that are safe while nursing, too. Therapy is another fantastic route, and it holds much more value than people realize.

If you know someone struggling, please reach out. Bake them cookies, bring them dinner, or just sit and let them talk to another adult for a while. Remember that their anxiety will not always allow you to clean their house, babysit while they nap, or even step a foot in the front door. And that’s okay. Just knowing that someone is there is a relief of it’s own. Together we can bring back villages, because we owe it to mothers, fathers, and their beautiful babies to do just that.

Mommy. Step mommy. Fur mommy. Wife. I am the face of an invisible illness. My life is beautiful, my mind is disfigured. I am a survivor of traumas, an awareness spreader, an open book of truths. I am blunt, real, sarcastic, and the only thing that keeps me going is laughter. My spirited kids are my world! This is just a piece of my life as a mom with a mental illness. I am learning and re-learning each day. Welcome to my journey.

Categories
Birth Doulas Parents Pregnancy

How To Have An Empowering Out Of Hospital Birth Transfer (just in case!)

By: Candace Roper

 

Planning for a hospital transfer might seem like the last thing you want to think about when expecting an out of hospital birth. That’s what I thought when I was having my first baby and planning a home birth. Then, at 39 weeks, I found myself giving birth in a hospital, well-prepared to have a natural birth, but unprepared for any other possible scenarios. After an 8 hour unmedicated labor and 3 hours of pushing, my posterior, asynclitic baby was delivered via cesarean section. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I could not tell my birth story without crying for over a year. I was heartbroken and defeated, definitely not empowered. I experienced terrible postpartum depression, although I didn’t know that’s what it was.

Out of hospital birth transfers are the exception, not the rule. Most transfers are due to long labors or maternal exhaustion. Rarely, a transfer due to a medical emergency may be required. I believe it is wise to consider all possibilities, and then focus on the outcome you are planning and hoping for.

My second birth was another homebirth transfer, this time after a long and unproductive labor.  That birth ended after 58 hours with many interventions, but because it was a vaginal delivery, I still felt somewhat vindicated. My third baby came 6 years later and was another attempt at a homebirth. This time I was able to stay at home, birth my baby vaginally, and get tucked into my own bed after all was said and done. It was an amazing and empowering experience, but certainly not a walk in the park.

When it came time for my fourth baby to be born, I planned another homebirth. My birth was quick and intense, only two hours of active labor before I began pushing. I pushed for about three hours at home before transferring to the hospital….again. I asked for and received an epidural, the OB attempted a vacuum delivery, which was unsuccessful. I decided that it was best for this baby to be born by cesarean.

My fourth birth, was much like my first birth, from the outside. Natural labor, extended unproductive pushing phase, stuck baby, posterior presentation. On the inside though, the two were not very alike at all. With my last birth, I knew I had made the best decisions that I could. I knew that I had tried everything. I knew that I had not failed. I knew that I was strong. I felt supported, happy, content, and even empowered. Here are the steps that I took that I believe made the difference in my experience being a positive one.

Get Educated

Taking a childbirth class might be the single most important thing you can do to empower yourself when preparing to give birth in any setting. When looking for a childbirth education class, make sure you find one that covers things you might need to know if you ended up in the hospital.  Your class should prepare you with the knowledge of obstetric hospital procedures and interventions, their risks and benefits, and their alternatives. Knowing your options can keep you from being overwhelmed if you find yourself navigating a new environment and medical jargon. Learn about epidurals, pitocin, and even cesareans. Learn about when these interventions are beneficial, when they are not, and how to tell the difference. Learn about Family Centered Cesareans.

Hire a Doula

Hiring a doula for your out of hospital birth may seem like just another luxury expense because many home and birth center births can cost more out of pocket than in network hospital births. But, in the case of a hospital transfer, your midwife and care providers will facilitate the transfer, give the hospital your medical records and labor notes, and may stay with you, but also may not. Your doula will stay with you and will be an invaluable familiar face in the midst of change. In the case of a hospital transfer, a doula will provide the security of true continuity of care. Your doula will know you personally, your hopes and goals for your birth experience, and can help you navigate the hospital environment and stick as close to your birth plan as possible.

Make a Plan B Plan

When creating your birth plan, consider the possibility that hospital transfers do happen. It’s not a bad idea to create a Plan B (hospital transfer) birth plan and even a plan C (cesarean) birth plan. If you find yourself in those situations, what would be most important to you?  Perhaps skin-to-skin with your baby after birth and delayed cord clamping. In the case of a cesarean, skin to skin in the operating room is an option you can ask for, and an hour of skin to skin once you are in postpartum is so essential for bonding with your new baby, but often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the hospital.

It is possible and wise to plan for the potential of all outcomes, and to do so as early in your pregnancy as possible, so that you can write those plan B and C plans and then set them aside, and choose to focus mentally on preparing and planning for the birth experience you want to have.

The Power Of Positivity

It is common these days for pregnant and birthing women to listen to or write affirmations, positive, affirming statements like “Each wave brings my baby closer to me.”  Affirmations are a powerful tool that can help the brain focus on the positive. Repeating affirmations actually wires the brain, strengthens the connections of positivity.  Positive words actually change your brain. Once your original plan has been changed, thinking positively is often difficult or completely overlooked. When I found myself in the operating room for the second time, I was bound and determined to stay positive. I knew the science behind affirmations, and I was going to use them to my advantage. I repeated to myself in my head things like “My body is already healing. This procedure is going smooth and perfectly. My baby is strong and healthy.”  I can’t convey in words how much of a difference these affirmations made in my mental and physical healing.

Postpartum Doula Support

Thankfully, I had already hired a postpartum doula before my fourth baby was born. I had no idea just how amazing having the support of a postpartum doula would be. Each day she came to my home, she asked me how she could support me that day. She complimented my mothering and offered advice and education on anything I had questions about. She folded my piles of clean laundry. She made sure I got a nap and a shower. She entertained my toddler and even wore my baby in a sling while she took care of things around my house. She made me snacks, tucked pillows under my elbows while I nursed, and even fed me bites while my hands were occupied with my little ones. Having someone to just take care of me, or finish the things on my to do list that were nagging at me, helped me to be able to heal, rest and process my experience. I had very minimal postpartum depression when I had a postpartum doula to support me, compared to very severe postpartum depression with my other three babies.

Allow Yourself The Space To Process

If your birth takes a turn for the unexpected, it is absolutely necessary to allow yourself the space to process what happened and how it felt for you. It is wonderful to turn to your midwife or doula, get their take on what happened and why, so that you can understand it from a logical sense. Then, take space to mentally process your experience, and write about it in your journal (or just on a page that you can destroy later if you aren’t the journal writing type).  Talk to a trusted friend or loved one if you feel the safety to do so. Look for a compassionate birth professional, therapist, or support group if you feel that would be more appropriate for your situation.

And most of all, know this, birth is birth. Every type of birth is beautiful and profound. You did not fail, your body did not fail. Giving birth is an organic process and can’t be carefully planned, any more than an amazing sunset or thunderstorm can be planned. But, there are beautiful moments that deserve our focus, the first time your newborn looks into your eyes, the first time you feel their skin on yours, they way they look just like your partner. Take the time, whenever you get your first opportunity, to spend as much time as possible with your new baby skin to skin.  Whether that’s the first hour after birth, or after an extended stay in the NICU. If you focus on the beauty of making tiny humans and marvel at the amazing, and sometimes wild process that is birth, surrender completely, and at the same time, own the experience that was your birth. You can choose to have a positive yet unexpected birth, and that can be better than okay.

 

 

 

Candace Roper is the owner of Centered Birthing Doula Services LLC.  She is the mother to four amazing people. She enjoys teaching women and their partners how to have empowered births, supporting birthing women as part of a doula team, and offering breastfeeding counseling and postpartum doula care to new families.  You can find more information about her classes and services at www.centeredbirthing.com.

Categories
Outreach Committee Parents postpartum Pregnancy

Is My Baby Ready for Solids?

Is My Baby Ready For Solids?

The golden rule used be introduce baby to enriched white rice cereal and/or Karo syrup (yes Karo syrup) sometimes as early as 2-3 months. Perhaps you have even been told by your pediatrician or mom friend to put a little rice cereal in your baby’s bottle to help them fall asleep. If you’ve been told this by a friend a Doctor you are not alone.

 

In reality, a 2010 study found adding rice cereal to an infant’s diet shortened the length of time a baby slept during the night.  Researchers also began to notice a correlation between starting solids early and a depressed immune system along with a multitude of digestive issues in those babies.

 

Dr. Nathan Wall, pediatric Chiropractor in Draper, Ut writes,

Introducing solid foods is a very impactful step in a child’s life. This step stands to influence many other systems in their body for quite some time, two of which are the gut and immune system. Having practiced for years in the pediatric world, I can say that too many parents are misinformed and confused when it comes to this process either by poor information from their other health care providers or even by current trends.

I sometimes have to deliver the hard news to parents that just because a child can grasp food and bring it to their mouth, this does not mean that their neuro-gut-immune system is organized or even primed for such an introduction.

I want parents to understand as Dr. Kelly Brogan puts so eloquently, “Food is not just fuel, it is information. Literally, it puts the form into your body.” So, when a parent gives their child a bowl full of rice cereal (empty, nutrient lacking, simple carbohydrate) what form are they building in their child?

 

The American Academy for Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both agree babies should avoid solids until at least 6 months old (no juice, no cereal) For many babies 6 months is the minimum age to introduce solids and many babies benefit from waiting closer to 8 months before solids are introduced. It can difficult to determine when a baby’s gut health is ready for solids and so many parents and providers look for developmental milestones as a gage for adding solids into their child’s diet.

 

Before reaching for a jar of baby food or a bite of bread from your plate, ask yourself these questions:

 

 

  • Can baby sit up well without support?

 

Sitting up without support doesn’t mean can my baby hold his or her head up while sitting in their Bumbo chair. Or sitting up while sitting in a baby bouncer or walker toy. If you set your baby on the floor can they sit up well unassisted for an extended period of time?

  1.     Has baby lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue?

If you give your child a small bit of avocado or sweet potato does their tongue push out against their teeth or does their tongue stay back allowing them to properly swallow their food? Babies will naturally have foods they like but watch their tongue to effectively make this judgment call.

 

  1. Is baby ready and willing to chew?

Some children have teeth sooner than others. So don’t let the appearance or nonexistence of baby teeth sway your mind on this milestone.

 

  1. Is baby developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger? Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

A great way to judge this milestone is to set small objects in front of your child. This could be diced sweet potatoes, peas or a favorite toy. Notice how your child uses his or her hands to pick up the object. Do you try a pick them up using their entire hand or do they reach for those small objects effectively with their thumb and forefinger?

 

When Baby Isn’t Ready for Solids

If you’ve gone through these questions and your 6 month isn’t quite meeting these points there is no need to push for solids. I remember with my first child I was a little eager on the solids. Around 5 ½ months without testing to see if my child was actually meeting these milestones I began to introduce solids. Interestingly during those first few months of solids, he had an increase in diaper rash, undigested foods in his diapers and began to become more cranky and hard to soothe as an infant. In contrast with my daughter, we waited a few weeks longer before trying solids and looked at her developmental milestones, not just her age. Unlike her brother, she was digesting foods better and didn’t have the same diaper rash concerns or crankiness. Coincidence??? Perhaps, but now knowing the research that supports delaying solids it makes sense to me.

 

Table Food, Purees & Where to Begin

Just walk down any baby food aisle and the whole process can seem overwhelming, baby food processors, special food puree tools etc. I reached out to Karen Folcik, Utah local, mom of two and author of the award-winning book Happy Tummies- A Cookbook for New Mammas to see what her suggestions were. Folcik shares,

 

When your baby is ready for solids, there is no need to go out and buy any special foods or equipment for your little one. You can just feed your baby what you already have at home! Most family dinners can easily be tailored to fit your little one’s nutritional needs, and studies have shown that babies are less picky when it comes to new foods when they are allowed to eat foods prepared for the whole family. It’s as easy as simply removing baby’s portion before adding salt or other spices, then mashing, pureeing or shredding their portion of the meal.

So, if you are making chicken for dinner, baby can have some chicken! If you have bananas or avocados at home, you can choose one of those, they make great starter foods for babies. The key is to choose mild flavors that will be easy for your baby to digest, and then serve it in a way that is suitable for a little one who doesn’t have many (or any) teeth. For instance, for bananas, which are a favorite starter food of mine, you just simply peel, mash with a fork until its completely smooth, then serve a tiny bit on your (cleaned) finger or a soft baby spoon. Nearly all fresh, natural foods are suitable for babies, as long as they are cooked properly, if needed, and are served in a way that baby can eat it without a risk of choking.

 

For more resources on introducing solids, recipes, weaning your baby, baby led weaning, making your own baby food and more, feel free to visit these pages.

 

Le Leche League- Local chapters throughout the U.S on supporting parents from breastfeeding to transitioning to solids and weaning.

Kelly Mom– Archive of articles on when to introduce solids, offering water, evidenced-based research on optimal time and more.

Baby Led Weaning– Blog articles and recipes for those who choose or want to incorporate baby led weaning into their transition to solids.

 

From the Author:

Alyssa Moulton is a Certified Hypno-doula who loves supporting her clients from pregnancy through the postpartum time. If you were to describe her in three words she would say calm, empowering and authentic. She is passionate about helping each client feel empowered and supported in their birthing decisions. When not serving as a Doula, Alyssa loves teaching youth and adult cooking classes from Healthy eating and meal planning to homemade pastries and baking themed birthday parties and loves seeing her student’s learn new skills and feel empowered in the kitchen! She also hosts a bi-monthly Mom’s Circle in Herriman as a way for Mom’s to connect, grow and live in community with each other.  Interested in learning more? Contact Alyssa at Daybreakdoula.com

 

About our contributors:

Karen Folcik is the author of the award-winning Happy Tummies: A Cookbook For New Mamas, which shares recipes for homemade baby food using everyday ingredients you already have at home. Karen Folcik has her Master’s in Social work and was a child and family social worker for many years before deciding to stay home full time after the birth of her first son. She lives near Salt Lake City with her wonderful husband, two awesome children, and one rambunctious cat.

For more information about how to start solid foods, how to feed your baby for the first time, and recipes for feeding your baby foods you already have at home, check out Karen’s book, available on Amazon, and online wherever books are sold.

 

Dr. Nathan Wall is a family Chiropractor with a strong emphasis in pediatrics and prenatal care, as well as significant training and experience working with children with neuro-developmental disorders. His focus is on the proper function of the nervous system as it relates to the coordination of the body’s natural physiological functions. He strives to enable his community to become empowered with their own health.

Categories
Birth Doulas Diversity Parents postpartum Pregnancy

On Birth, Diversity, and “The Last Man on Earth”

It was just after 8 o’clock. We finally got the kids down to sleep after a long, chaotic day, and I decided it was time to unwind with a mindless episode of The Last Man on Earth. Do you know it? In a nutshell, it’s a comedic tale of a rag-tag group of people who band together after a virus wipes out the rest of humankind. Sounds hilarious, right?

Well, in this particular episode, Carol (a pregnant, eccentric woman with lots of heart) wakes up with a look of shock on her face as she peers down at the bed in front of her. She turns to her husband, Tandy, and mutters, “we’ve got company.” The camera pans back to reveal a newborn baby contentedly wriggling on the bed in between her legs—she had given birth in her sleep without feeling anything!

Another character, Erica—an Australian woman who had given birth to her own daughter after a long, painful labor only a couple months before—seems a bit miffed that Carol didn’t have to experience any of the discomforts of labor and birth. When it’s discovered some hours later that Carol has another baby (twins?!) awaiting birth, Erica is heard wishing Carol some discomfort—“just enough to respect the process”—this time around.

Yet another character, Melissa—a woman in her prime and in a committed relationship with another survivor, Todd—has absolutely no desire to have children of her own. She and Todd later take a young boy with no surviving family members under their wing.

Why am I rambling on and on about this episode, you may be asking yourself. I guess it’s because this episode—in its funny and often wildly-inaccurate way (checking dilation with a flashlight, anyone?)—illustrates so simply the diversity present in birth experiences, family planning, and even family structure. The sharing of stories and experiences is an inevitable part of pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and womanhood. It is through sharing experiences that we are connected to women all over the world and through all ages.

I remember shortly after the death and (still)birth of my second child at almost 40 weeks gestation, I wanted so badly to talk about his birth, just as I had with my oldest (living) son. I wanted to share how I labored for just over four hours and reached deep within myself to find that primal instinct necessary to bring my son’s body into this world. I wanted to laugh with my friends about the tidal wave of amniotic fluid that soaked my midwife and husband when my waters burst while pushing. It was hilarious! But not many seemed to want to hear it—whether because they genuinely couldn’t handle the grief underlining the story, or because they were concerned it would hurt me too much, I’ll never know (though I suspect it’s probably a combination of the two).

Ashley Thalman Photography

Our diverse experiences as people are valid; they are what make us human. Just as Carol’s and Erica’s pregnancies and births differed dramatically, and Melissa’s desire to have children was not what people might expect, we all have different wants/needs/realities. Through sharing our stories and listening to the stories and experiences of people unlike ourselves, we broaden our own perspectives and paradigms shift. It is when we seek to understand, learn from, and accept others’ points of view that we all benefit.

This process of listening, sharing, growing, stretching is not always—if ever—an easy one. It requires sacrifice, determination, and willingness. It requires vulnerability and empathy. It is my hope that this column on diversity—posting the fourth week of each month—allows each of us a safe place to own our stories, and start looking outside our own life experiences, beliefs, and biases to start on a path of connectedness. As Brené Brown puts so beautifully in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “to love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

Who’s up for the challenge?

Categories
Birth Doulas Business Events Exercise Nutrition Parents postpartum Postpartum Doulas Pregnancy

Loving your postpartum body

                                Loving your postpartum body

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!
Meagan Heaton
Birth Doula, DONA
https://tinyblessingsdoulaservices.com