Growing up, our church didn't observe lent with fasting (That I recall. They totally could have, and I just didn't notice. They fasted other times, I just don't remember it being tied to lent.) As an adult, I never really observed lent with any type of fasting, either. This year was different for me.
As some of you may know, I fasted from social media this year during Lent. I would love to say it was my decision, but really, it was all God. I had a very traumatic series of unfortunate births, that started to crush me and my spirit. The last one was right before Lent began, and God gently nudged me in the direction to protect my heart because it was tender and raw.
It turns out I thought I would miss social media more than I actually did. In fact, a few times I got sucked in (my son's track information is only posted to FB, so as the season progressed, I had to get on more frequently to check things) I was immediately reminded why I was on the break in the first place. There are so many wonderful things about social media, like niche communities and private groups. I don't want to take away from the goodness. But, I don't think anyone would argue that sometimes social media is a trigger.
I know when I posted about my hard doula-year originally, a few people thought that it was physician related. It was not. I want to make that clear. Not the clients' fault, not the hospitals' fault, not the physicians' fault, not the nurses' fault, not the doula's. These events were not anyone's fault, which made them harder to process in some ways.
First of all, everyone is ok physically now. That's important. All of the babies are adorable and sweet. Without sharing too much client information, think really serious, life and death stuff. Months of these kinds of births. Crazy births. I have never seen most of these things before, in my ten years of doula'ing, and it was back to back to back.
When I say that my heart was raw, guys, it was RAW. Like someone had taken a Brillo pad and scrubbed my bare skin kind of raw. The rawest of raw. There was so much trauma around a lot of these births, for my clients, and for me. Hearing your client scream while they cut her open to get.her.baby.out.now is not something you can just forget. It doesn't fit into my neat little emotional processing box of "that was hard, but I'm totally fine."(Unless we're talking about how Ross was fine. Because, if so, then yes. I was fine.)
During my SM fast, I found time for some other things that I had had sitting on my to-do or to-read list. I read a few books. I practiced handstands almost every day (it's on my wish-list to do an unassisted handstand before the end of the year. They're still pretty ugly at this point.) I watched a new series on Amazon (Orphan Black! Oh-Em-Gee. The lead actress on that show is ah-mazing.) I made an appointment with a therapist (But, bummer, guys, they haven't called back. I'm going to have to call them. It took me about 6 weeks to even contact them in the first place.)
I also have been studying Daniel with my church- watching God's story unfold through Daniel's life. Really reading about who Daniel was and who God is. During the study, I've learned how God used Daniel's life and circumstances to draw people to Him, especially the crappy situations. It has been such a powerful picture of God's sovereignty.
While I can't say that I've fully processed my hurt and trauma, I can say that God has taught me a few things in the early stages of the healing process. The biggest takeaway- God is sovereign, and we are not. We cannot truly control anything. Not that I would've said I thought I could before this. But, we do try to achieve some sense of control in almost everything we do.
I can make plans, I can attempt to take control, but, in the end, it is God, my creator, that really has the whole world in his hands. He opens wombs, he orchestrates support systems, he breaks me down in order to be built back up in Him. He uses my brokenness for His glory and invites me to have a small part of that story.
I still don't know how God will use these stories, these births, but I can assure you the grief/pain/trauma for my clients is not pointless. Yes, there's still a lot of trauma and grief I have to work through in addition to past traumas and grief. No social media fast alone is long enough to do that. But, this gave me a good place to start. Like hypnobabies tells clients to do, it created a bubble of peace and it helped me relax and release and heal a tiny bit.
***One resource that I got mid-fast was a book on grief and mourning, authored by some of my favorite people who happen to be clients. In it, my friends write beautiful stories of God's comfort. (One hit me so hard that I told my friend that it was written just for me.) Buy one for yourself, buy some for gifts. It truly is an awesome book. ***
The Book Of Comforts: Genuine Encouragement for Hard Times
I think there was, for a while at least, a misconception that nurses weren't on "our" side. ("Our side" being doulas, birthing parents, the natural birth community, VBACing parents, etc.) At the same time, possibly, a misconception that doulas weren't on theirs. That our jobs were somehow in opposition to each other.
But, you guys. Nothing is further from the truth. I could NOT possibly love our nurses any more than I do. Over the years, I've gotten to know some of the most talented, overwhelmingly smart, caring people who are in this profession, specifically on the L&D units. I have nurses who I trust to not only share my dear clients with but to share some of my joy, trauma, and my grief and hopefully, they can say the same.
Nurses work hard to keep birthing families safe and healthy, but at the same time have a tremendous desire for their patients to have the birth they envisioned. They think through every scenario, help put patients in wedges to get the baby in position, start IV's with a patient on the toilet, get birth or peanut balls just right, stack blankets and pillows, massage backs, reposition monitors 1,000 times. I have seen it break their hearts when my clients, their patients, have to have a drastic change in plans.
They work tirelessly, hardly pausing to take care of themselves. Charting, taking care of patients, at times catching babies, consoling grieving families, then going home, exhausted, to take care of their own families, dealing with their own grief, their own losses.
I don't really have a point to this blog post except to say that I appreciate you, my nurse friends, even if we've never met. You are such an alley, a vault of information, protector, and confidant. You are such a strong pillar for your patients. You are caring and loving. You are my friend!
things would go according to plan.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for acceptance instead.
I wish I could give you
what you need to heal the parts of you that are broken.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for your broken heart instead.
I wish I could know
what the future held,
to protect you and those you love.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for those you love instead.
I wish I could give
parts of me
to help fix parts of you.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for healing instead.
I wish I could promise you
the future you wanted to have.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for your future instead.
I wish I could take away
the hurt you posses.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for your hurt to lessen instead.
I wish I could carry
the burden of the doubts you have.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for your doubts instead.
I wish I could protect you
from the brokenness of this world.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for them instead.
I wish I could give
you a deep, internal peace.
But, I can't.
I'll pray for peace instead.
I can't promise you anything
but I'll pray to the one who can.
(I'm not even sure if I'll hit publish on this post. I just needed to process things a little- type my feelings out to have them be "real" and not just in my head and the pit of my stomach.)
It is fairly well-known to anyone who knows a doula that we live an "on-call" life. It isn't a typical "on-call" schedule. It isn't one day at a time, or a weekend. It is long-term.
We RSVP to events with a phrase "if I'm not at a birth". We rarely carpool, in case we have to make a quick getaway. We keep our phones on us during the day, and right next to our heads at night. We answer all unknown number calls at night. We answer texts immediately, or as soon as we can. We don't go to events too far away without scheduling backup. (I can't speak for all doulas on this, but I don't even have a glass of wine with dinner when I'm on call. It makes me too sleepy.) We schedule vacations 10 months in advance, or we plan them with spontaneity after a client births. We go to bed early, because we never know when we'll be called in the middle of the night. We say "no" to activities that may go later into the evening because of that. We cancel plans or appointments last minute (one time I had to cancel a dentist appointment three separate times because I kept having a birth on the new appointment date!) We may miss kids' birthdays, special holidays, or school events. There are very few guaranteed aspects of birth, except for it's unpredictability.
It's quite literally a constant way of life for a birth professional.
I've recently found myself in an unexpected extended time of "off-call" due to the unpredictability of birth. I wish I could say it is a "quiet" time, but in reality, my off-call schedule is nothing but. Off call is the time where I catch up on regular life. I schedule appointments, I finish projects, I do all of the things I've neglected when there's 5 births in 3 weeks. This week 4 of our family's 6 members have Dr. appointments, with one in Anniston. Next week, every.single.one. of our four children have a Dr. appointment, with two of them up in Nashville. Off-call typically is also a time to meet with clients, so I try to get prenatal scheduled during the times when I have a more predictable schedule.
It isn't all work, of course. There are so many wonderful "off -call" things I enjoy. The good news is that I can have a glass of wine, or a cocktail at Buti-glow (which, by the way, was SO. MUCH.FUN!) I can leave my phone on the counter in the kitchen while my family takes a walk. I can go on hikes without worrying about if I have phone service. (I still am available for my clients, of course but it isn't the same level as immediate access. In reality, I am always a tiny bit on call when I have ANY clients.) I can take a short get away with a friend and just focus on relaxing, and fun, and conversations. I can paint the entire downstairs without being worried that I'll have to leave in the middle of painting a wall. I can fly down to Florida over Thanksgiving to visit my family. Really, I can live like a non-birth professional for the most part.
I'm loving the on-call life at the moment and cherishing it. Before long, I'll be back to carrying my phone around like a tiny baby, back in the on-call saddle, anticipating the arrival of new life, and I'll love it just as much.
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.
Tracy Abney is a certified and insured birth and bereavement doula serving Huntsville, Madison and other parts of north Alabama.