Oh, Hi. I'm Tracy. Nice to meet you.
It's been a hot minute since I blogged. It's been written on my calendar as a to-do, in tiny increments (such as last weeks task: brain storm blog ideas) for weeks now. But, in reality, the thing that gets me typing is passion. Because, let's be honest, I have a LOT more to say about the things that "get my goat", as my husband would say, than I do about the topics I have written down on my calendar.
What's the proverbial bee in my bonnet? Someone said something untrue about me. Ok, so maybe not directly about me. It was about doulas. Someone, (in somewhat of an authority position) essentially said that doulas were a waste of money unless you have a spontaneous, natural birth. (If you could audibly gasp for effect here, that would be ah-maz-ing. Thankyouverymuch.)
Guys, this is so untrue. So much so. Sure, there are some rogue doulas out there who may only be about that bass, and who are only supportive of natural, unmedicated, spontaneous birth and nothing else. But, the majority of us here in the Huntsville/Madison area don't fit that bill. We care for our clients, and in our caring strive to provide support that matches what our clients desire. We are so much more than just a tool for unmedicated birth.
Sure, a majority of my clients choose to have an unmedicated birth. But, some of my clients choose epidurals. Some of them know they want an epidural before they ever go into labor. Some clients are undecided. Some have planned cesareans. Some have planned inductions. Some clients have inductions and birth without pain medication, some do not.
I created a graphic to represent my clients from last year. As you can see, I had a wide range of clients. 53% planned an unmedicated birth, 12% planned a medicated birth with an epidural, 6% had planned cesareans births, 6% had unplanned cesarean births, 18% had an induction without an pain medication, and 6% had an induction with pain medication.
So, what do I do at "medicated" births? The same thing I do at non-medicated births.
The concept that only natural birth clients are to be supported in their choices by doulas is Boo-Hockey (any FRIENDS fans?) My main goal as a doula is not a natural birth. My main goal as a doula is that you feel supported in your decisions and that you walk away from your birth feeling like the freaking amazing rockstar that you are.
In full disclosure, I imagined this post to be so much more than it is going to be. This blog post has been sitting on my "to-do" list for a month now. But, writer's block is a real thing. Even for a doula who only occasionally blogs. So, in effort to move on, and move foward, here's an imagery tour through acupuncture with Neeley Center for Health. (A big thanks to Dr. Neeley for the warm reception to our introduction.)
I love the idea of having a doula at my birth, but my husband isn’t on board. How do I explain to him that you won’t be taking his place?
Several years ago I made a handy infographic on this very topic. You can see it below. This is a topic that comes up fairly often, and not just in reference to dads, even though that’s how I originally made the infographic. Partners, moms, sisters, best friends. They all want to know if a doula is going to replace the need for them in the birthing room (if they have been requested to be present). While common, I do want to clear up that misconception. A doula does not take the place of anyone! Not the father, the partner, the sister, the nurse or the care provider. Every one of the people there has a part to play. The doula is an additional support.
If this infographic doesn't help, point him to families who have previously used a doula. Ask your friends to advocate for you! I've heard from several clients whose partners were hesitant to hire a doula, only to rave about having said doula after the birth. Find someone your husband personally knows to help paint a better picture of what a doula does.
Help a sister out! Let me know in the comments how your doula helped, not replaced, your partner (or you if you’re the partner) during birth!
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about when our rainbow baby, Isaac, started kindergarten. (We always called him our keeper baby.) I wrote about how overjoyed I was that he was going to Kindergarten because that meant he was thriving. I remember how I didn't cry for him. He was excited and I felt so blessed to have him growing up!
Well, if Isaac was our keeper baby, Eliza is our Bonus Fry. ("It's like Jesus is up in Heaven 'give 'em an extra fry.'"- Jim Gaffagin.) Eliza's that surprise fry in the bottom of the bag. That special, unexpected, last minute addition. She brings much joy to our family! She's my girl, and the only one of my kids that spent alone time with me (all of my other kids had younger siblings. She is the only one who stayed home alone with me during the day during her preschool years.)
That girl, our bonus fry, she started Kindergarten today. Given the choice, I'm fairly certain she would've skipped all days of pre-K to hang out with me. She's the only one of our four that didn't want to go to Kindergarten. She repeatedly asked if she could just go "a couple of days a week." She loved our "mommy and Eliza days" and was content to run errands with me on her days home.
I knew today would be sad, this ending of an era of littles at home. The unofficial closing of a chapter of babyhood in our home. This weird "growing up" of our family. But, I was underprepared for the emotions I had (and still have.) Completely. Fully. Underprepared.
Y'all, it was a doozy.
I needed someone today.
Someone to tell me to breathe, possibly in my nose and out my mouth.
Someone to tell me to release the tension I was holding.
Someone to roll some lavender on my neck. Or maybe some stress-away.
Someone to hold my hand and tell me it is ok to cry, especially when my baby girl looked over at me, in the crowded, noisy gymnasium and said "mommy, don't leave me. I'm scared."
Someone to pray for me as I prayed for my girl, since my voice didn't want to seem to obey my commands of "do not show her you're crying, too."
Someone to remind me that I can do hard things, I can do this, as I watch a single tear run down her sweet cheek.
Someone to remind me of God's promises- how He loves her more than I could ever love her.
Someone to lean on as I walked her to her class to say goodbye.
Someone to smile with me and just be near me as I released a giant sigh of relief when she hugged me goodbye in her classroom, with no tears.
Someone to guide me to my car, then sit with me in my, abnormally quiet house as I reflect on my morning.
Do they have "my baby is starting kindergarten" doulas?
They totally should.
"I ain't worried doing me tonight.
A little sweat ain't never hurt nobody.
Don't just stand there on the wall,
everybody just move your body."
-Beyonce, Move Your Body
I love working out. It’s the number one thing I missed most post foot surgery, and one of the reasons I was determined to modify things to somehow work it in. I wanted to move my body. Moving my body helps me stay healthy, and happy. It helps me process my thoughts, and it’s my therapy.
Thankfully, after twelve long weeks, I can finally try to start running next week. Yes, I said “thankfully.” And I'll add a "praise Jesus and Amen."
I know. I know. I would’ve been annoyed by me and that statement years ago, too. But, you guys, there’s something special that comes from pushing yourself. Not just the endorphins, but a sense of pride in my accomplishment. I’ve had to change my goals and my views of accomplishment from time to time, like after foot surgery, but it’s always there, no matter how big or small. And,y'all, it’s such a gift.
So, taking that knowledge about me, it’s really no surprise that I am firm believer in staying active during your pregnancy if possible. It isn’t just about the endorphins, or a sense of accomplishment, or even the therapy. There’s so much more. But, more on that in a bit.
For a while, pregnant women were told that exercise can lead to pre-term labor. A lot of women were even told to stop working out all together, not based on their personal circumstances, across the board. You certainly weren’t supposed to add anything new. So, sucks to be you if you didn't think to start working out BEFORE you got pregnant, because you certainly can’t start now.
The good news is, we know better now. This systematic review says, “Aerobic exercise for 35-90 minutes 3-4 times per week during pregnancy can be safely performed by normal-weight women with singleton, uncomplicated gestations because this is not associated with an increased risk of preterm birth or with a reduction in mean gestational age at delivery”.
There’s been more time to study exercise and pregnancy and what we know now is that exercising is not just ok, it’s good for you. You can even start during pregnancy. (ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic workout. If you are just starting, they recommend starting with 5 minutes a day, then increasing that by 5 minutes every week, until you can stay active up to 30 minutes a day.)
Here’s why it is beneficial, (check out this list according to ACOG):
Mayo clinic also adds:
These are all good reasons to move your booty. Bu, y’all, let’s just stop here and talk for a hot second about that underlined, italic’d, bolded one there. May reduce risk of cesarean delivery. (Reducing the risk of cesarean is a big deal in my world, I don’t know about yours. Well, maybe I do. I’m guessing it’s a big deal in yours, too.) In this study they found “Women in exercise groups had a significantly lower risk of cesarean delivery.” Significantly.
That right there is enough for me to sign up for a gym membership, or even just stick in my sweatin’ to the oldies VHS if I was pregnant.
Does it shorten labor? Well, some studies say it does. It would make sense. If we’ve prepped our body to do something physically hard it would be easier and faster than if we went into that hard work without training. Using a marathon for analogy, you could probably walk a marathon with little to no training, but you’d probably be a lot faster if you ran and prepared and trained beforehand.
I have anecdotal stories, too. Personally, my fastest labor was with the child I stayed active furthest into the pregnancy. I've also seen similar labors while observing my clients. I can’t tell you how many of my active clients pop those babies out like it’s hot. (Of course, I can’t promise you the same results. If only, right??)
What’s your experience been with staying active during pregnancy? Did you find it helpful? What types of activity did you do? Let me know in the comments. Just for fun, check out Move Your Body by Beyonce down below.
sources to check out:
****Disclaimer*** I’m not a doctor. I am not giving you medical advice. You make your own decisions. Always ask your doctor before starting an exercise program, etc. There are reasons and indications to not exercise during pregnancy. Check out ACOG’s list for those here.
I remember thinking, when I was a younger mom with only one or two babies, that everyone else had it together but me. That I was an anomoly in my inability to "get my crap together". I often felt alone and struggled to not compare my mothering to others, and likely not the true picture of their mothering, either.
I felt shame when I missed appointments, or showed up to birthday parties a few hours late (One time I showed up like 4 hours late because I had transposed the times on my calendar). I felt overwhlemed. Drained.
The first few years, I blamed it on the closeness in which we had our children. They weren't irish twins, but I basically still had a baby when my second baby was born. (If they're still in diapers, can't talk, and take two naps, they're a baby!) I thought my lack of orgniziation, my scattered brained thoughts, and my constant tiredness would all magically disapear once my kids were: 1. sleeping through the night. 2. or maybe once they were in mother's morning out 3. or in elementary school? At some point, I'll get it together.
But, I've come to the conclusion that I will never.ever.ever. have my crap together. I'm 11.5 years in, and it just isn't going to happen. As we progressed from two kids to four, then sleeping (mostly. Someone come tell my five year old that she is supposed to sleep through the night now. Thankyouverymuch.) mother's morning out, to three out of four kids in elementary school I realized it didn't get easier. In fact, I feel like it has gotten harder. More activities, bigger kids, bigger problems, more DRAMA (oh, gracious! The drama of preteen girls and boys!)
I am so the epitamy of "crap not together." I still miss appointments, forget, or come on a different day all together. You guys, just a few months ago, I showed up to my doctor appointment an hour early! I sat there talking on the phone and wrote down the time as they told me their opening and I STILL wrote it down wrong. I yell at the kids when I don't want to, especially in front of neighbors I don't know, (apparently that's my thing now. Don't ask.) I cry all.the.dang.time. I cry when I am talking to customer service workers when I feel like I can't explain myself. I feel overwhelming stress, I forget school notes, and don't look at homework folders. I give kids the wrong medicines, forget to put the right amount of sugar in sugar cookie frosting, send texts to the wrong people, even think I've thought I've emailed someone and never actually do.
And today? Today I cried in the clearane aisle of TJMaxx (where I found this mug, perfect for today.) Feeling overhwelmed when my out-of-town husband texted me to tell me his work trip was likely going to be extended.
But, I also know that I am not alone. I know most of us don't have our crap together. It's something that I can laugh with friends about now. Knowing that it is normal. Knowing that most of us are in this together. Knowing that it is what makes me relatable, it allows me to be vulnerable. It allows me to admit when I've made mistakes in other areas of my life. Maybe we need to, collectively as mothers, lower our standards on what is abtainable by one human being. Maybe we need to realize that we, as mothers, cannot do it all all of the time.
It doesn't matter if you only have one fresh, tiny newborn, or you have 6 grown kids. It is ok to not have it together. It's ok to feed your kids cereal when your husband is out of town. It's ok for your kids to pull clean clothes straight out of the dryer, where the clothes have been sitting for the last four days because you haven't had a chance to fold them and put them away. It is ok to take your kids to school in your pj's and slippers. It is ok to cry in the clearance aisle at TJMaxx. Don't ever let someone tell you it's not.
I'm trying to shift my focus. I am trying to look at it as a gift, and not a curse. If I had it togther, would I as easily acknowledge my need for grace? It is a question I have been pondering lately, and one that leads me back to Christ. My identity is not (or shoud not be) found in "Best mom who has it together". My identity is found in the One who DOES have it together. And, I'm so thankful for that.
My last post was to let you all know that I had completed my training to become a Hypnobabies Doula. Well, in today's post, I wanted to give you a sneak peak into what a Hypnobabies birth actually looks like! (My first Hypnobabies client has graciously given permission for a few photographs to be shared here on my blog.)
So, what does it look like? It looks like this.
Relaxed. Peaceful. Restful. Calm. Serene. This is what active labor looks like with Hypnobabies.
It is so beautiful, isn't it??
I recently started a new job working for a friend part time and I love it. I get paid in clothes (or money) and I absolutely love being able to look at all of the pretty things, play with a mannequin while taking pictures, and visit with my friend. These things are all what I was hoping for when I got the job. What I wasn't expecting, though, was the pay. I mean, I knew how much it paid per hour, etc. But, when I got my first paycheck, then the second, I realized that I make more money there than I do doing birth work.
Which, guys. This is not okay. Like, not even a little okay.
We hear a lot about self-care. Especially in the birth world. Even MORE so with birth workers. I've read time and time again how it is important for birth workers to take time for self care after each and every birth. While I do take time for self-care, my soul has still been tired with my business. Its the stress of being on-call every day for months at a time. Worrying about missing my kids' birthdays or halloween or performances. The stress of worrying about my clients needing me when I'm in Nashville for appointments for my daughter. The stress of scheduling a client then my family member getting pregnant and me missing their birth. The stress of clients having to fight for the birth they desire/deserve. The stress of watching mothers suffer and not cope (which is rare, but it does happen. And when it does, it is so hard.) The stress of catching up on sleep or house work or even doula work when I get back from an all-day/night birth.
I hope I don't have to tell you how much I love my work. God changed my life through birth, and I am reminded every birth how He is in control. I am reminded how He uses me as His hands and feet to love on my dear clients. But, I think he's been showing me that every choice has a cost. Even good decisions. I have to constantly reassess what the cost is to miss my baby's Thanksgiving feast at school. Is it worth it?
But, God has asked this of me. He never said following Him would be comfortable or easy. In fact, one could argue that it will likely NOT be comfortable or easy. Right now, it has to be worth the cost. God has placed me here and I will continue to try to do what he has asked of me with the best of my ability until I feel like He is leading me somewhere else.
I have been working, somewhat furiously, on a new addition to my doula services! I just received word this week that I am now a Hypnobabies doula!
I am so excited to be able to offer support to those clients who are choosing to use Hypnobabies during their births.
If you'd like to see my listing on Hypnobabies, you can find it here.
If you have any questions about the Hypnobabies program and the services I offer, please contact me: email@example.com
In an effort to keep my children alive while swimming this summer, but also simituniously putting my sanity on the line, my little two kids have swim lessons this week. Back to back.
My kids take private lessons, so we pack a lunch, head to the house where lessons are, and while the first kid is swimming, we eat lunch under a beautiful, large oak tree. Then, the kids swap out, and whoever went first eats and the second kid swims and we hang out under the tree.
it's June in Alabama. So, sometimes, most of the time, it's almost always hot. Yesterday, we sat under the tree, sweating our tushies off. We didn't really feel bad about it. We had a great lunch. My oldest and I even got up to walk a little because it was hot and thick and, plus, Fitbit steps. But, again, it wasn't too bad, no one even complained about the heat. We made some memories.
Today, however, it's breezy, comfortable, even enjoyable. We marveled at the wind, sprawled out in the sun, even, and we laughed and had a great lunch.
Neither experience was bad, just different. We had a lovely lunch both times, even if we were a little sweatier the first day.
It's still the same tree, the same routine, the same lunch, the same kids, the same ants and bugs and it's even still June. But, it is different today. We notice, more, how uncomfortable it was yesterday only when we compared it to today.
It reminds me of something a mentor doula of mine said to me once. Not exact words (it's been a while and a few kids) but to tune of "just because you make different choices for another birth doesn't negate your good feelings about a previous birth". I love this truth. Love it.
Because, y'all, I can't even tell you how many times I hear or read stories from women who start to feel bad about a previously good experience due to outside forces (or people) or new knowledge. Heck, I was one of them!
My first vbac was one of the.most.amazing. events in my life. But, yet, there's no way I'd chose the same things now that I did then. But, that doesn't take away how amazing it was! It just makes it different, and me more knowledgeable.
So, second, third, fourth time mommas, I'm talking to you. It's ok to have good feelings and memories from your previous birth while wanting something different for this baby! Your first birth doesn't have to be traumatic for you to want something better next time, use a doula, or make different choices either! If your previous birth was a great moment for you, embrace it! Be thankful for it! Tell it to others!
In in the meantime, we have swim lessons again tomorrow, too. I have to admit, though, as much fun as we had on Monday, I'm kind of hoping for another windy day. And that's ok.
Tracy Abney is a certified birth and bereavement doula serving Huntsville, Madison and other parts of north Alabama.