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 This is a topic that comes up fairly often, and not just in reference to dads, even though that’s how I originally made the infographic.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.
I was featured in my friend's, and amazing photographer's, postpartum project (see here. If you haven't checked out the other stories, do that, too!) I was asked to submit my birth story, and had a rough draft typed up. But, in true month-of-may-hem-fashion didn't get the right copy to her in time. So, while the original post has my story, it doesn't have the details. It is truly a rough draft. Here's the full story I typed up.
There’s a home video we have of me, probably around 5 years old, sitting on a bucket, stirring mud in another bucket, pretending to make food for my family. The person recording asks, “who are you making the food for” and I replied “my four kids”. My husband and were (and are) high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was 15. We got married young, and knew that we wanted a large family. A doctor I saw shortly after we got married informed me that, because of some issues I had, it may take us a while to get pregnant. After we graduated college, we moved to Alabama and started trying to have a baby immediately. We were able to conceive our oldest, Olivia, the first month. Easy peasy. Unfortunately, her delivery was not so easy peasy. After months of contractions and dilation (yes, months!) I decided to get induced. My induction ended in a cesarean birth. It was a very hard birth for me, emotionally, and I felt so alone. Alone during the surgery, after her birth. Alone when I was in recovery, shaking uncontrollably, while my husband was with the baby, the nurse doing her own thing, and her not in a mood to answer my crying or questions. Alone. Scared. Broken. But, her delivery was the start of something special. I figured that there must be some sort of support group for someone who had gone through what I had, so I went to the library to get on the internet (this was the dinosaur age, in 2005, when we didn’t have home internet- or cell phones capable of using the internet.) I found a local ICAN group and went to a meeting. It was that group that not only helped me find my desire for a VBAC, but that started nurturing my desire to help women not alone and scared. I walked into my third pregnancy’s first prenatal (we lost a baby between from a missed miscarriage), told my doctor I was going to VBAC, and that was that. My VBAC baby, Austin, was born 16 months later, in the summer of 2006. While it is rarely that easy for other woman, (something I’ve witnessed countless times as a doula) it was fairly uncomplicated for me. About a year later, we were pregnant again. My husband and I both were in complete shock. We were dazed for a few days, uncertain if we could handle a very spirited 2.5 year old, a busy and verbose 1.5 year old, and a new baby. The uncertainty leveled itself out and we started to get excited. We always planned to have a large family, and wanted our children fairly close in age. We lost the baby. While my husband was out of town on travel, I miscarried our baby. The guilt was overwhelming. Crushing. I felt, subconsciously, I had some how caused the miscarriage, or deserved the miscarriage, because I wasn’t immediately excited when we first found out. The ache from that baby’s loss was intense. It also created this strong desire to plan to have another. To actively try to have another baby, because we were now READY. We had made a space in our hearts for our third living child, and felt empty with out him/her. We went on to lose 4 more babies over the course of the next two years. We transferred to an RE, tried various protocols, took supplements, injections, and ever pregnancy held my breath the pink lines showed up and didn’t let the air out until we lost the baby and my breath turned to sobs. If I could sum up those years in one moment, it would be this one: It was nap time for Olivia and Austin. I was laying in my bed, facing to the right, towards my curtains. My stomach was in knots, then revolting all together in nausea, then knots again. I had blood drawn that morning to see if my HCG levels were rising or falling. The previous two draws were showing slow growth, which was not hopeful for our baby’s life. I was in this in-between place of dread and grief and hopefulness. I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I remember begging God to save my baby’s life. I bargained. I pleaded. Then I got the call. My baby was dying. I felt alone. Scared. Broken. I curled up, in my bed, held onto myself, tried to disappear into my grief. I couldn’t breath. Couldn’t remember how. My sobs shook my entire body until I had no tears left, but then I somehow cried more. Throughout those years, I felt so broken. More broken than I had ever felt in my entire life. But, it was also in the middle of all of that yuck, muck, and suck that God spoke into my life more intensely about becoming a doula. (Which, if I’m honest, is so absurd that it could ONLY be a God thing.) It was hard. I was constantly faced with my grief over what I “didn’t have”. But, God is good and showed me that it was what He was asking for me to do, regardless if we had another live child or not. I took my doula training in April of 2009. Coincidently, or not, the same month we got pregnant with our keeper baby, Isaac. I slowly started taking clients. I can’t pretend that I got pregnant with him and everything was unicorns and butterflies. It wasn’t. It was a hard pregnancy for me. I was riddled with anxiety, all the way up until his birth, and beyond about his safety. If you’ve ever wondered how our emotional state affects labor, I would use Isaac’s labor as an example. My longest by far, longer than my first VBAC, and I was scared the entire time. I was so excited to have him here, after he was born, but so scared something was going to happen to him. I had nightmares about him dying. I had a ton of guilt of feeling so nervous when I had prayed so hard for a baby and God had given him to us. I started running as a way to deal with my anxiety. I had never been a runner before, but I loved how “measurable” fitness was for me when I first started. I could see my progress. It felt good to know that I could do hard things, even if it was a little bit at a time. I ran my first 5k, then quickly signed up for a 10k. Then I got pregnant with Eliza when Isaac was a year old. Unassisted. Zero complications. I actually ran through most of her pregnancy. (That girl came on her own time, quickly, furiously, wild and that’s pretty much how she’s been since birth.) I went on to run a 1/2 marathon, with an injured knee, and I am currently training to run a tough mudder this year. Somehow, somewhere, in the middle of my daily life, a husband, 4 kids, a new business, a new love of fitness, God was healing me. Healing my broken heart. Continuously mending my broken heart. I use my c/s scar as an example of how my grief has changed. If my grief was my scar- when it was first healing, every second, every breath hurt. It was a struggle to move without pain. To lean over, to climb stairs. As time went on, it got easier to move without intense pain, easier to do daily activities, but if I did a sit-up or a push up, it hurt, if I poked and prodded it, it hurt. Years passed, and the scar itself is still there. 11 years later, if I lean up against a counter too hard or something presses against it, there’s still pain. It will be with me as long as I live. (In fact, my bird tattoo is a memorial for our lost babies.) My business really took off after Eliza’s birth, as I was able to take more clients. I don’t know how to explain any of it, except to say it wasn’t me, and isn’t me. I pray that God uses me as His hands and feet to help women not feel alone, scared, or broken. Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good.”
Tracy Abney is a certified birth and bereavement doula serving Huntsville, Madison and other parts of north Alabama.