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Reclaiming Postpartum–From a Husband’s Perspective

By: Jared Lim

Several months before the arrival of our first baby, my wife and I decided to take a birth class…or rather, my wife told me I was going to take a birth class with her. I was a little hesitant because I wasn’t exactly sure if the class would prove valuable.

Would we arrive at some junction in the birth where a question would arise or something would go wrong and the whole room would freeze, turn to me and say in sacred tones, “Remember what they taught you in the birth class.”

Or in the throngs of labor would we have a nurse burst into the room and yell, “The doctor was crushed in a stampede! Did anyone take a birth class?!”

It’s not that I didn’t support attending a class, but part of me figured that I would intuitively know how to be helpful during birth. After all, humans have given birth for millions of years without birth classes.

Well, we attended the birth class and it was amazing. We learned about the stages of birth, the biology, the anatomy, and my personal favorite–the most useful things for me to do at each stage of labor.

I realized that just because birth was natural, didn’t mean I naturally knew how to navigate it.

It wasn’t long before our baby girl arrived and it wasn’t long after that before my wife started recognizing some of the challenges that came with the transition into motherhood. She would have anxious feelings that our baby was going to be harmed or injured and she wouldn’t be able to prevent it. At night she would roll around but never find sleep. During the day she was exhausted. Her muscles were achy and she experienced pelvic floor pain. She felt alone and without friends. 

To be clear, my wife wasn’t diagnosed with anything major, this was all just part of the average postpartum experience.

In an attempt to feel better, my wife decided to attend a pelvic floor class. I remember when she came home, she was in tears. Not because it was bad, but because there were so many women there with so many questions and the leaders weren’t even able to get through half of their material. She was starting to realize that she needed much more help. I cried too when I heard the class was $90/hour.

I started to wonder, is my wife the only one going through this? What’s out there to help these women?

I decided to do some research, so I dropped a message on Facebook that I wanted to talk to any woman who gave birth in the last year and just hear about their experience. I spoke with one woman, then two, and before I knew it I had heard from over 200 women and collected hundreds of pages of insights into their experiences.

Let me share some of the things these women said.

“It’s terrifying. Sometimes you think you can do it but you just can’t and everything feels so overwhelming.”

“At work people used to tell me ‘good job’ when I did something right. But as a mother I don’t know if I’m doing it right and you don’t get any praise. I don’t know how things are supposed to be and sometimes I feel like I’m failing.”

“Sometimes I go to the park to try to find other moms to talk to. I’m just lonely.”

“I’m isolated. I’m not near family, my husband is gone all the time, I can’t do school, I can’t work. I lost my identity and everything that made me me is gone.”

Believe me when I say, if you sit down and read the pages and pages of stories I’ve collected, it makes you want to cry and hug every single one of them. These poor women thought that because the issues they were facing were common, meant they were the norm. It didn’t take me long to see a pattern: a lack of postpartum care. 

Just because the postpartum period is natural, doesn’t mean women naturally know how to navigate it.

Sound familiar? They were just like me! In the same way I assumed I could make it through birth by some divine instinct, these women all assumed they could make it through the postpartum period with their motherly instincts.

But look at what’s really happening:

And if that doesn’t astound you, half of all mothers with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder never get treatment

“But then it sounds like we should have some sort of birth class but for postpartum.”

It’s funny you should say that noble reader.

Shortly after this experience, I reached out to birth workers all across Utah and asked who wanted to help–and the response was amazing. Within weeks we assembled a team and put our heads together to help women reclaim their postpartum. We wanted to help women realize that the postpartum period isn’t something that can be navigated by instinct alone. 

Today, we help women create a postpartum plan, teach them how to prevent serious issues, and enable them to build a strong personal community. 

I believe that motherhood is a noble and beautiful calling and that we can do so much more to help women during postpartum. I hope more mothers join us and learn how to thrive during postpartum and not just survive. I hope we can revolutionize the postpartum period.

You can check out the full experience and curriculum here

PS: It’s a lot cheaper than $90/hour

-Jared Lim

 

 

 

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Black Lives Matter-A Message from the Utah Doula Association

Guest Blogger: Sara Hutchinson, CD DONA

The last few months have been filled with devastating news. 2020 in Utah will be remembered with the COVID-19 pandemic, earthquakes, and protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police officers. Our country and earth is in a place of unrest.

At the core of the unrest is systemic racism and racial inequality. Those of us who work in the birth world are acutely aware of the disparities for Black mothers and babies. In the New York Times Magazine article, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies are in a Life and Death Crisis” author Linda Villarosa states that “Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts, according to the C.D.C.” and “black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data.”

The racial inequalities during COVID are even worse. The latest data show that African Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people. New figures compiled by Color of Coronavirus provide further evidence that across the country African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.

Understandably, people of color are angry. The members of UDA are angry. People across the globe are angry. Black lives matter.

Families and businesses have been affected. The Utah Doula Association (UDA) is no exception. Following in the footsteps of many other individuals and businesses, the weekend of June 5th, the UDA posted a message of solidarity on their social media. The UDA acknowledged the indignities and dangers our Black sisters and brothers have lived with for generations, and committed to rebuild injustices and be ally champions.

The June 5th statement was rejected by a member of our community. She felt it was insincere, and that the UDA has a lot of work to do to remedy years of members feeling undervalued or unheard.

She, and some other members of our community who identify as doulas of color, asked the UDA Board for a meeting. On June 10th, the doulas and the board connected over Zoom. The doulas of color shared their perspectives, including the painful truth that they did not always feel safe, heard, or valued through the UDA. The board of the UDA listened intently.

The work of uncovering and addressing the UDA unconscious bias has now begun. Without this conversation, the white doulas on the board or in the UDA at large did not fully understand what it was like for the doulas of color. Even though the conversation was difficult for all who participated, it was a key to learning and growing.

As the best-selling, anti-racist writer, Ibram X. Kendi recently said  in an interview with Brené Brown (listen here):

“The heartbeat of anti-racism is confession, is admission, is acknowledgment, is the willingness to be vulnerable, is the willingness to identify the times in which we were being racist, is to be willing to diagnose ourselves and our country, and our ideas and our policies. And the reason why that’s the heartbeat is, like with anything else, the first step is acknowledging the problem. You know, we can’t even begin the process of changing ourselves, of acting in an anti-racist fashion if we’re not even willing to admit the times in which we’re being racist.”

Love, kindness, and compassion are an innate aspect of being a doula. It was extremely difficult to hear that some doulas of color have felt marginalized by UDA on that June 10th Zoom call. However, we know they spoke their truth. Everyone committed to listen and learn.

There is meaning and importance in diversity, equity, and inclusivity. The members of the UDA

Board have realized that they have a blind spot. Improvement will be made to strengthen the organization, but it will take work.

The UDA is committed to do the work.

A week later, the board met again and agreed on the following, which was posted on social media:

The UDA has been made aware that some members of our organization and our birthing

community do not feel safe or heard by the Utah Doula Association. We value ALL

doulas and seek to uplift the voices of ALL underrepresented individuals especially

Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. As a group of

compassionate advocates for birthing and postpartum individuals and families, we

commit to an intentional effort to remove barriers and create spaces of inclusivity. We

recognize that this work is ongoing. Over the next 12 months, the UDA will:

 

  1. Provide anti-racism education to individuals and the organization to understand both interpersonal and systemic racism, provide specific doula training to navigate racism in the labor room, and provide tools for full-spectrum doula work;
  2. Develop an Access and Inclusion committee, which we hope will include diverse and professional voices in equity and equality; 
  1. Reevaluate UDA processes and bylaws to promote equity;
  1. Foster more community and collaboration within the organization through social and professional gatherings.

Through these actions, the UDA hopes to create a space of inclusion and trust for those who have previously felt unseen within our doula community. If you have feedback for the UDA, please take a moment and fill out this form. Your identity will remain anonymous, if you choose. We appreciate you and value your opinion; thank you for speaking up.

Though the road ahead is uncertain, there is no doubt that through the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement diversity, equity, and inclusion will be on the forefront of every decision made in the future. We are grateful to all the doulas in the Utah doula community for their perspective.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

The UDA is on the road to better.

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3 Tips for Effectively Working from Home During Covid-19

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on in the United States, families are facing life-changing options when it comes to work and schooling. Should we start going back to work or continue to work from home? Should we send our kids back to school this fall or begin homeschooling for the foreseeable future? The choices and options are many, but if you are toying with the stay-home route, our guest blogger, Bianca Marie Roberson, a Maryland-based doula and business owner, has some amazing and insightful suggestions. Thank you Bianca!

Effectively Working from Home During COVID-19

By: Bianca Marie Roberson

Being a mother is not always easy. Certainly, being a mother who has a career outside of the home is a monumental endeavor. A working mom who has transitioned to maintaining her job remotely from home, while taking care of her family, is not an easy feat or for the faint at heart. Although challenging, it is possible, so do not fret! It is no wonder that being a mom is a superpower. The ability to effectively juggle work responsibilities, family life and squeezing in self-care routines requires dedication. It is necessary to find the balancing point of work and motherhood duties. Every situation looks different for every family, but there are commonalities of time management, planning and patience that can help every family. 

Here are three tips for leading an effective and productive workday from home:

Create a schedule– One of the benefits of working from home is the flexibility. Figuring out the best schedule that includes schoolwork (if required) for the children, physical activities, relaxation and family time can be a tremendous help. Try talking it over as a family and coming up with a schedule that all agree to and document it on the kitchen refrigerator.  

Once you have the family schedule in place,  it will be easier to find the best hours that you can insert to be productive at work. If you need to have a large break in the middle of the day for lunch and to get the little ones down for a nap, communicate that with your employer so that you do not have the extra stress of trying to do this without assistance. Will every day go like clockwork? No. Will you feel like you get everything done during the day? Possibly. The key to remember is that Rome was not built in a day and to have patience with yourself and your family as you all figure out what works for you through trial and error. Do it as a team and it can be done successfully. 

Be organized – Simply being organized can eliminate stress from forgotten virtual appointments, double-booking, lost homework, and many other stressful situations that busy moms battle daily. So, what exactly does be organized mean? It means, that a little planning can go a long way with helping you clearly identify tasks that must get done, the timing that they must get done with and a way to logically prioritize what needs to get done. Having organization within the home from a laundry system to a simplified bedtime routine can help with feeling empowered and productive throughout the day.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do spring cleaning, organizing the basement and maintaining a full-time work schedule all within the same week. Pace yourself and focus on the most important activities each week. Before long, you will realize that you are able to check off things on that ever-growing to do list. 

Have a dedicated workspace at home – The environment can help or hinder your productivity, so take a moment and observe your workspace. Is there enough lightening? Do you have a comfortable chair? Is everything within reach that is needed or do you have to constantly get up to retrieve items? Having a dedicated workspace can help reduce distractions, set your mood “office mode” and help you move from task to task quicker. Choosing where your workspace is located is one of the largest determining factor for productivity. Also, when you are working, let your family know the importance of your dedicated workspace as well as work hours. The combination of the two can help you remain focused and productive while working from your home.

~ Bianca Marie Roberson, MBA, MURP, PMP, FAC-PPM Senior Level

Founder of Blooming Mamas Wellness, a non-profit dedicated to the wellness of women in mind, body, and soul around the world. As a Women’s Health Practitioner with over 18 years of managing million-dollar public health programs impacting women and their families, Bianca Marie is on a personal mission to eradicate health disparities, promote health education and touch the lives of women along their motherhood journey as a Full Spectrum Doula and Motherhood Coach. You can learn more about her free trainings, weekly doula community chat and the Blooming Birth Workers Community at www.bloomingmamaswellness.com.

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5 Parenting Tips for Returning to Work After Extended Leave

Guest Blogger: Bianca Marie Roberson
                                                  of Blooming Mamas Wellness
We all know that the day will come. The day where you have to leave your bundle of joy and return to your work responsibilities. Whether you were on maternity leave, furloughed because of the COVID-19, or starting a brand new job, the day will come. But how can you do it with peace and not dread? Is it possible? It is indeed — with a little planning, preparation and tapping into available provisions.
After twelve weeks of maternity leave, I packed my bags (and there were a lot of them considering I had a lunch, snacks, laptop, and a huge hospital grade breast pumping machine) and drove myself to work. During the 30-minute ride, I probably called the daycare four times to check on my little princess and that was in between my barely controllable sobs. I kept asking myself, how did other mothers do it? How did they make it?
Then I called my mother and she gave me the best advice ever. She said “Every mother goes through it so you’re not abnormal and it’s up to you and only you to find it within yourself how to cope and manage this milestone.” She told me she was able to cope by driving home (I was kept at home with a nanny) to check on me during her lunch breaks.
So, what was it going to be for me? What was I going to do so that I didn’t lose my mind trying to be a working mom and away from my baby for nine plus hours a day? Through trial and error, I figured out my plan and routine and it worked! Over the years, I’ve shared it with other moms with slight modifications to make it solid for them, it has helped them with the “returning to work milestone” as well.
The biggest challenge is mindset.
It is possible to mentally cope with not being within arms length of your baby for hours at a time. It starts with minutes. Yes. Weeks before you return to work, start with your plan. Have your plan include you taking walks, running to the local grocery store, going to get a 30 minute manicure or simply taking a really long time lingering at the mailbox when you go get the mail. Do whatever you can to be away from your baby for a few minutes to start getting the feel of not seeing and touching your baby for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes and build your way up to an hour. Then, after some time, try to go two hours or more.
Over a couple weeks, I promise that you will feel less and less anxiety because you will know it’s only for a short period of time away and you will start to get accustomed to the separation. This is a process and it won’t happen overnight.  So, be gentle with yourself. Be creative and build into your returning-to-work-plan a way for you to have some alone time to avoid becoming a basket case on your first day back at work.
Preparation is key to being at peace and mentally ready to return to work.
Part of the struggle that most moms face is knowing that someone else is taking care of your baby. Are they doing everything right? Do they know where everything is that they may need throughout the day? Do they remember my instructions? Did I pick the right nanny, daycare or babysitter?
These are common and totally normal questions but rest assured. If you did your best research on the provider, were fully transparent in what you wanted from the provider and shared that you are only a phone call away, then day by day you will grow to be comfortable with trusting and leaving your little one with the provider.
Preparation can include everything from packing a daycare bag for the child, to packaging frozen breast milk for the daycare facility.
If you have an at-home provider, there is still preparation required to make sure you have enough diapers, toys, changes of clothing and other necessities readily available for use. Knowing that you have thought everything through and that you have done your best is all that you can do for peace of mind.
Provisions are something that many moms don’t consider or know how to access or how to require them. Provisions are what I consider to be the extra concessions that you request upon returning to work. Everyone has different work situations and environments but with a little pre-planning and discussion with your leadership, there should be an agreement that works for you.
 To help with the return to work challenge, maybe the below are concessions that could be made for you:

1: A flexible work schedule for the first few weeks after returning where you can telework, work remotely or simply arrive or depart later then normal.

2: Approval to bring a small camping fridge to the office and store under your desk so, after pumping, you can conveniently place the milk there instead of it being on display in the company break room.

3: Arrange meeting times and locations around your breast pumping schedule or around a schedule of you returning home to check on your baby (if that is what you require).

4: Access to the new mother’s room where you can pump or simply take a few minutes to FaceTime or call to check on your baby.

5: Acquire items that help you maintain peace while in the office, such as a small desktop waterfall if the sound of water relaxes you. Put out pictures of your baby so that you can glance at it and smile from time to time. Think of creative ways for you to feel connected and relaxed while at work.

Planning for your return to work, allowing time to complete the necessary preparations and deciding on what provisions you need will help you be mentally ready for that milestone.
With any change, it takes time so be flexible and gentle with yourself and come up with an arrangement that works for you and your workplace. Don’t be afraid or hesitate to exert yourself and your requests.
Having a baby is a beautiful accomplishment. Be proud of yourself and know you are a rock star!
~ Bianca Marie Roberson, MBA, MURP, PMP, FAC-PPM Senior Level

Founder of Blooming Mamas Wellness, a non-profit dedicated to the wellness of women in mind, body, and soul around the world. As a Women’s Health Practitioner with over 18 years of managing million-dollar public health programs impacting women and their families, Bianca Marie is on a personal mission to eradicate health disparities, promote health education and touch the lives of women along their motherhood journey as a Full Spectrum Doula and Motherhood Coach.

 

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Doula Voice: Demelza Danquist

Prepare Your Mindset for the Birth YOU Desire

Part 2

5 Tools to Master Your Birthing Mindset NOW!

  1. Make up your mind.
  2. Get educated.
  3. Speak it, see it, be it.
  4. Eliminate fear
  5. Repetition, repetition repetition.

Make Up Your Mind

What would your ideal birthing experience look like? You are a powerful, intuitive human who is deeply tapped into the needs and desires of this being whose body is growing inside yours. You have it in you to co-create the birthing experience that is best for you and this baby. To do this, it’s important to ask yourself some target questions:  Where would I feel most comfortable and at ease laboring and birthing? Who do I want to support me through this transition in our lives? What do I want? What are my needs? What is best for our family?

Get Educated

Childbirth education is an investment that can benefit you for the rest of your life! Almost daily, I find myself using the tools that I learned almost 6 years ago from the first HypnoBirthing® classes when I was pregnant with our first child. Breathing through difficult moments rather than reacting,  relying on positive affirmations and asking effective questions are just a few of these valuable tools. Learning what your body is actually doing during labor and how to work with your body to support your baby is invaluable. Knowledge and understanding eliminate fear and encourage surrender and curiosity in the birthing process. Learn about all of the options available to you and don’t give your power of choice away.

Speak It, See It, Be It.

Create a daily practice where you speak your personally crafted affirmations especially when you are doing “mindless” tasks, feeling fear creep in and right when you wake and fall asleep.Visualize with focus your ideal birth while incorporating as many senses as you can. Feel into all the feelings of what it’s like to have already experienced your ideal birth.

Eliminate fear

Fear=Tension=Pain. Birth is naturally powerful and filled with extraordinary sensations that may require all of your attention and focus to stay relaxed and calm. When one can stay in a place of calm, deep relaxation, and confidence your autonomic nervous system stays in the parasympathetic state which encourages the release of hormones 200 times stronger than morphine. When you are stressed, scared or feel unsafe,  those hormones go away and are replaced with catecholamines which are made by the adrenal glands and are useful with fight or flight responses. Staying calm and peaceful allows blood flow to go to the uterus, your baby and your opening cervix. Training yourself to remain in a peaceful state is crucial to achieving your desired birth.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.

Bruce Lipton suggests that two most effective ways the subconscious learns is via Hypnosis and repetition. Repeating new beliefs about birth and the experience you desire daily, and telling your mind something new while feeling excited about it, can change the mind and therefore change your experience. Work with your mind by giving it updated, specific, detailed, relevant information about birth, your body and what you’re capable of. Trust your choices and confidently move toward them in all that you say and do while believing with all your being that what you have chosen to create is possible.

“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change” -Marie F. Mongan

 

Click here to listen to a beautiful, relaxing, and connecting gift meditation from the author.

Demelza Danquist – SLC County 

About Demelza Danquist.

Demelza conceived her passion for empowered birth while pregnant with her first child in 2014.Through a dedicated and daily meditation practice, child-birth education classes and endless hours of reading she achieved a birth that was long, required all of her attention and completely pain-free. She knew that if she could do it, anyone could do it. She became a birth doula in 2015 and a certified HypnoBirthing® instructor in 2018. She is currently training to be a clinical Hypnotherapist to expand her scope and serve her clients more deeply to feel empowered through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

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Doula Voice: Demelza Danquist

Prepare Your Mindset for the Birth YOU Desire

Part 1

5 Clues to How the Mind Works 

*Disclaimer: Labor and birth can take on unexpected twists and turns at any time. Although I speak a lot about creating a desired outcome, I also urge people to be open to the deep surrender that is required in birth. Being educated and informed can prevent a lot of unnecessary interventions and can give one peace of mind that what you might be experiencing is okay and/or normal, even if it’s not what you planned for or desired. *

Can you remember being a child and wanting something so intensely that it’s all you thought about, talked about, and no matter what anyone else told you, you simply stuck with it? This childlike tenacity and determination is the stuff of pure creation and magic. Really, it’s not magic at all, but rather a law of nature like gravity. What you focus on will expand and be attracted to you and will therefore become your reality. 

Sounds easy right? 

Well, it can be when you know how the mind works and adding in some intention, focused effort, and childlike tenacity and voila.

Here are five simple clues to help you work with the mind instead of against it:

1: The mind does exactly what it thinks you want it to do and what it thinks is in your best interest.

       Let’s say for example you’re 15 years old, watching a movie   with a terribly portrayed birth and, while horrified, you say to yourself “I would die if I had to go through that”. Fast forward 15 or so years and either you will have a hard time getting pregnant or be terrified of birth when you do conceive.

2: The mind will always move you away from pain and towards pleasure. “If I have to go through that I will die, remember?”.

3: The mind only responds to the pictures you make and the words you speak to yourself.

4: Although events can have a great effect on us, it’s the meaning and interpretation of the event or scene that imprints in the mind.

5: The mind gravitates toward the familiar and moves away from the unfamiliar.

Okay, so what does one do with all this information? Well you could begin by asking yourself a few simple, yet key questions.

  • How do I speak to myself about birth?
  • What do I focus most of my attention on, and time thinking about?
  • What are the stories I am telling myself about birth?
  • What fears associated with birth do I hold onto?
  • Have I updated the commands to my mind based on my current desires and situation?

Get clear on the pictures and words you’re allowing into your mind space. Create powerful, positive affirmations that best suit your needs and repeat them daily like it’s nobody’s business.

Post them on your dashboard, mirrors, fridge, and anywhere you frequent daily. Read them, say them, feel them, be them.

Suggested affirmation: “I am staying calm and present/grateful with any twists this labor might take”.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series and a free guided meditation.

 

About Demelza Danquist.

Demelza Danquist – SLC County

Demelza conceived her passion for empowered birth while pregnant with her first child in 2014.Through a dedicated and daily meditation practice, child-birth education classes and endless hours of reading she achieved a birth that was long, required all of her attention and completely pain-free. She knew that if she could do it, anyone could do it. She became a birth doula in 2015 and a certified HypnoBirthing® instructor in 2018. She is currently training to be a clinical Hypnotherapist to expand her scope and serve her clients more deeply to feel empowered through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

 

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2020 UDA Networking Luncheon

Join us Saturday, January 25th, 2020 for our annual Networking Luncheon!

We will enjoy a delicious curry cook off (potluck) lunch!

If you don’t make curry, please bring something to go along with it instead.
Ex: rice, veggies, fruit, or dessert.

Where: 3790 Bluegrass Blvd, Lehi, UT 84043
When:
Noon – 3PM

Don’t forget to bring your business cards to exchange.

Tickets are $5/person!

This event is open to doulas AND non-doula members of the Utah Doula Association!!

 

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Community Partner Spotlight

Sarah Roberts with Yellow Kite Lifestyle Photography

What inspired you to become a photographer?

“I’ve always enjoyed photography and my parents gave me cameras when I was young. I was a photographer for my high school yearbook staff but then went on to study journalism in college and didn’t take many pictures. I received my first DSLR when my second child was born and loved taking pictures of him and his older brother. So it’s been a gradual process but I just love capturing beautiful things!”

What motivates your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?

“I love witnessing the sacred event of birth and seeing the empowering women who give birth. What sets me apart is my journalism background and unique way to tell a story.”

Yellow Kite Lifestyle Photography

What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

“I love documenting babies and women doing amazing things!”

What’s the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you about your products/service? 

“Sarah was absolutely fantastic! She took my birth photos, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out! She came to the hospital very quickly and was great to work with. She was super friendly, but was also great at disappearing into the background making having her there for the birth experience totally natural. I will cherish the photos she took forever.”

If you could have one photographer super power what would it be?

“It would be to take pictures with my eyes!”

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Intent vs. Impact

By: Meredith Ashton Cohen, CD(DONA)

Last month I attended our UDA Spring Conference with keynote speaker Dr. Courtney L. Everson, PhD. The topic for her Friday evening presentation was “Inequities in the US Birthing Landscape: Understanding Difference, Power & Discrimination” and one of the ideas she brought to our discussion was that of intent vs. impact. An example of this concept is: say I am walking down the hall carrying a load of books, I meet up with my friend and the books slip out of my arms and fall on her, hurting her foot. I didn’t mean for the books to slip out of my arms and I certainly didn’t mean to hurt my friend (intent), however my friend still ended up in pain (impact).

As we celebrate Pride Month in June, I bring our attention to the disparity between intent and impact specifically in regards to our interactions as cisgender individuals with our LGBTQ+ friends, clients, and colleagues. Sometimes our language and behavior around marginalized groups, i.e. refugees, people of color, and LGBTQ+, is very harmful (impact) even though we don’t mean it to be (intent).

The good news in all of this is that we can change it, we can narrow the gap between our intent and impact as we serve our LGBTQ+ colleagues and clients. As doulas we are a powerful player on the birth team, we can make the difference between a positive and disappointing birth experience for our clients. Discussed below are a few things we can do as doulas to bring our impact more into alignment with our intent to respectfully serve  LGBTQ+ communities.

1. Watch Your Language

The language we use when interacting with LGBTQ+ from our intake form through our postpartum visit creates a foundation of visibility and safety when inclusive language is used.  Here are a few things to think about:

Consider amending your intake form, do you include a gender question, does it have binary options, a range of options, or a fill in the blank? Do you include a place for clients to let you know their pronouns? Our intake forms are a place we can bring our impact in line with our intent to provide safety and space for LGBTQ+ folks to be respectfully seen and heard.

Also consider amending the language on your website, for instance:  you could replace or augment woman/women with birthing person/people, use  breastfeeding with chestfeeding or *bonus* talk about feeding options to include individuals who choose to bottle feed their babies, etc.

Pay attention to pronouns and if you have a question about which pronouns to use, ask! This is a simple detail that makes a big difference-for better or for worse. When interacting with queer or trans folks, let them take the lead. Pay attention to the language they use and if you aren’t sure, it’s okay to ask them. Also, be proactive in learning the terminology trans and non-binary people use around their bodies.

Language matters! Because people matter!

Resources:

2. Do Your Own Self-Work

  • Identify your assumptions and question them.
  • Be open to learning and humbly ask questions.
  • Develop cultural humility as a lifelong process, it is a critical skill for inclusive doula care.

It is a healthy practice to consistently push the boundaries on our comfort zone and expand our awareness of all communities, not just the dominant cultures and identities many of us occupy. Awareness with humility can narrow the gap between our intention to be respectful and individuals feeling safe, seen and heard.

With all this said, it is important to note that there’s a doula for everyone and we are not everyone’s doula. In our process of developing cultural humility, it is important to acknowledge and respect our inner boundaries and be clear on who we can/choose to support.

3. Expand Your Resources and Conversations

Know which providers, hospitals and birthing centers are open and supportive of LGBTQ+ birthing individuals. Consider researching and expanding your resource list to include specific contacts and resources that will meet the needs of LGBTQ+ clients and other marginalized communities.

Danie, a doula specializing in queer and trans families, shares in her article Working with LGBTQ+ Clients, “If there are not any resources indicating local care providers that are allies, call providers and ask. Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools in our kit. Of course we will not know everything and that is okay, but the more information we have, the more we can pass onto our clients.”

Another idea that Danie recommends is having conversations with hospital and other medical staff, she adds “…only if you’ve been given the go-ahead by your client–sometimes people may not feel safe or comfortable being ‘out’ in certain contexts. Explain that your client(s) are queer or fall somewhere on the trans spectrum and they wish to use a specific pronoun, or that they wish to have the way they feed their baby referred to as chestfeeding vs breastfeeding. These things, to cis (heterosexual/straight) people, may seem very small, but for people within the LGBTQ+ community they can mean a lot.” Again, language matters.

As doulas, we can make a significant difference in the perinatal care of LGBTQ+ and other marginalized clients, it begins with our willingness and ability to develop cultural humility and narrow the gap between impact and intent.

About Meredith:

Meredith Ashton Cohen CD(DONA), is a Birth Doula who specializes in supporting unmedicated births using Hypnobirthing techniques to create efficient and positive outcomes. She is passionate about educating and “holding space” for each birthing person, baby and birth partner to find connection during the pregnancy/birth process for a faster, easier, more comfortable birthing experience.

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UDA 2019 Spring Conference Sneak Preview

Spring is here, flowers are in bloom, and it’s finally time for another UDA Spring Conference. With hours of insight and wisdom to soak up from professionals, you’ll leave with a full cup and renewed energy to use your skills and knowledge in your own circle of expertise.

Keynote speaker Courtney L. Everson, PhD and applied medical anthropologist, will educate attendees on the opportunities and challenges that come with the growing interest in doula care. She will conclude with a call to action to re-birth doula care in innovative and sustainable ways as they shift the conversation and landscape in their local communities. We doulas are all about shifting the conversation about doula care for the better, so this is one you won’t want to miss.

Brett Einerson

Interested in learning more about elective induction? Brett Einerson, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Utah, is presenting on the 2018 ARRIVE study, which compared death and complication rates for elective induction during week 39 versus waiting until at least 40+5 weeks for induction. He will focus on the implications of this study on elective induction.

For all you boss babes, Charlene Bosworth will share her knowledge on marketing trends, SEO, simple branding, and Facebook strategies to help you take your business to the next level in 2019. Come prepared to learn how to better communicate your services and bring more success to your business!

President of Midwives College of Utah, Kristi Ridd-Young, is presenting on creating a culture that supports open dialogue, despite any power dynamics (whether involving doula, nurse, doctor, or midwife). Probably most (hopefully all!) of us will benefit from improving our skills for the next time we find ourselves navigating a highly emotional situation.

Whether you’re a newbie in the field or an experienced professional, the 2019 UDA Spring Conference has valuable info for you. You’ll leave knowing how to take better care of your clients, communicate more effectively with other professionals, and how to take your business strategies to the next level. Click here to snag a ticket before it’s too late!