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My Physical Therapist is a Doula

Five years ago I injured my right shoulder.  I spent four years and three surgeries getting it fixed.  So, when my left shoulder starting hurting almost a year ago, I was afraid.  Afraid that I was starting down the same path.  It was for that very reason that I didn’t go to the Dr. for more than six months.

Fast forward….I have now been in physical therapy for about 3 months.  I had to change therapy practices and now I am very happy with my therapist, Greg.  He pushes me and is trying his hardest to get my shoulder into the best shape it can be.

On Friday I was having an especially hard day.  Pain is hard and my fear of the pain was making it so much worse.  It all came to a head when he was moving my arm and I started to cry.  It hurt so bad.  He believed me.  He knew it hurt, but he also knew that my head was getting in the way of my progress.  He knew that my fear from what had happened to my right shoulder was paralyzing me.  He told me that he understood how afraid I was.  I was crying the whole time.  Then he said the words that would make it all make sense to me.

“You are doing great, Erin.  I believe that you will get better. I just need you to believe it, too.”

How many times have I said that during someone’s labor?  How many times have I looked someone in the eye and said that I believed in them? They could do this.  I just needed them to believe it!

There have been so many times that I’ve been with a client that had a traumatic birth experience and they have fear about what will happen during their next birth.  We spend time talking about those fears.  I tell them that every birth is different.  I tell them that I believe in them.  I will be right by their side the whole time.  But they need to be the one that believes it!

Honestly, I was reminded last week how hard it is to get rid of our fears.  It takes hard work and letting our bodies heal.  Each story matters and each story is different.  Little did I know that it would take a PT appointment to remind me of that.  And I’m pretty sure that Greg has no idea that he is actually a doula.

When Your Birth Story is Not What You Planned

We all have a picture in our minds about what our birth story will be.  Who will be there.  Whether or not to get an epidural.    Labor at home or the hospital.  Where to give birth.  There are tons of different things that make up our “perfect birth”. In reality, birth is unpredictable.  Many things happen that can change our story.  And sometimes our expectations are not met and we can end up feeling disappointed.

 

So often we hear people say something like “At least you and baby are healthy” or “You can always have a different birth next time”.  I’ve been guilty of saying these things myself.  Sometimes we just don’t know what to say.  But the truth of it is that every birth story is important.  Each journey is unique and our feelings about that journey matter.

 

If this has happened to you, then I would like to tell you what you should be hearing.

“Your story is important.  I am so sorry that it didn’t go the way you wanted it to.  I know that your heart hurts.  It’s ok to love your new baby and still struggle with the way that you welcomed that baby.  You did the absolute best that you could do and it is no way your fault.  You are amazing for growing your baby and bringing this wonderful new person into the world.  HEAR ME…You are enough.  And you are a great mom.”

Now, what to do if you feel disappointed or traumatized by your birth.

  1. Love on your new baby.  Snuggle that sweet little person and tell them how much you love them.
  2. Find someone that you feel safe with and tell them your birth story.  This should be a person that you know will listen without judgement and hear you with an open heart and open ears. If you don’t have that person in your life, then call me 910-578-7629.  I would love to hear your story.
  3. Feel your feelings.  Like I said, it’s ok to love your baby and still be sad about your birth.  But stuffing those feelings won’t do any good.  Allow yourself to feel those feelings.  Be gentle with yourself.
  4. Do something for yourself each day.  Show yourself some love.
  5. If you start to feel more than just normal baby blues, please know that you are not alone.  Reach out to other moms, or me.  Someone.  PPD happens to all kinds of moms and it’s important to get help.

Your birth story is so important.  And how you feel about it is so important.  I hope that every mom knows that.  And if you don’t, call me and I’ll remind you that every birth story matters.

 

5 Things NOT to Say to A Pregnant Woman

So many of us have been there.  So many of us are still in the journey.  Pregnancy comes with lots of joys and challenges.  One challenge is the people who feel the need to say things we would rather not hear.   This blog is for them.

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  1.  “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”  That is just what every mom needs to hear…NOT.  She already feels fat and uncomfortable.  The last thing she wants is to know that someone else thinks she’s huge too.  What she really needs to hear is that she looks good.  A great thing to say instead is “WOW!  You look amazing!”
  2. “You haven’t had that baby yet?!”  I guarantee that she is very much aware that she is still pregnant.  She is so excited to meet her baby and the day can’t get here fast enough.  You are not the first person to say this to her, and you won’t be the last.  A much better comment would be “I bet you are so excited to meet your new little one!”
  3. “You look like you are ready to pop!”  This is even worse if she is only 6 months pregnant. And it goes along with #1.  Every woman wants to feel beautiful.  That gets harder the bigger she gets.  She would love to hear “You are beautiful.  Growing a baby is hard work.  Good job, mama!”
  4. “Birth is awful!  You’ll never guess what happened to me!”  No one goes to a bridal shower and tells their terrible divorce stories, so why do we hear so many scary birth stories at a baby shower?  Moms are already nervous about childbirth, this can make it so much worse.  Keep it positive. A great thing to say is “I’m sure you’ll have a beautiful birth!”
  5. “You’ll never be able to have your baby without an epidural, it’s just too painful!”  This actually can have several different versions, depending on how the mom is choosing to labor and give birth.  However she has decided to give birth, the best thing that we can do is be supportive of her and her choices.  A good thing for her to hear is “I hope you have the birth you want.  I believe in you!”

Pregnancy can be an overwhelming experience.  Even if you have done it before.  Their body is changing daily.  Their life life will never be the same after this experience.  SO, let’s let them know how amazing they are.  Let’s support them during this time in their life, because their pregnancy (and birth) story matters.

The Journey into Motherhood

The journey into motherhood looks different for every woman.  It even looks different for women with each of their babies.  My journey with Thomas (my 15 year old) was much different than with Sierra (my 13 year old).  Each pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is so special.  Every time a mom grows, births, and mothers her children, it will be unique.  It’s a journey that she should not have to walk by herself.  The people that come along side her are very important.  They will encourage, support, and love her.

Her partner is perhaps the most important.  Together, they will journey into parenthood.  Mom will go through lots of changes and knowing that she is loved and supported is meaningful.  This can look different for each person.  It might be foot rubs in the evening, listening as she is crying over what seems like nothing, helping her get comfortable even though it takes 10 pillows, or driving to the store to get pickles at 11 at night.  But it will always mean loving her, celebrating with her, and enjoying the journey day by day.

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Her family is another important piece of the team.  She will need their support, as well.  This means supporting her choices, even when they differ from the other women in the family.  It means staying positive and telling her that they believe in her.  It means celebrating the life that is growing inside her.

Women often don’t know the importance of a good provider.  Someone that listens to their concerns.  The right provider will have a similar view of birth as the mom.  They will support her decisions and if something happens that changes the plan, they will make sure that she and her partner understand what is happening.  The right provider will make a mom feel safe and she will trust them with herself and her baby.

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The doula is the final piece.  A doula will come along side the woman and her family.  She will be there to offer support in any way that is needed.  Mom will be able to call or text anytime.  She will talk with a woman about her fears, her excitement, and anything else she needs to talk about.  She will help the partner to feel confident in their role.  She is not a replacement, she is an addition.  The doula will “hold space” for the mom, helping her voice to be heard.  The right doula will help a woman feel confident, supported, and understood.

In many situations, one or more of these pieces might be missing.  She might be a single mom, or her partner might have to be gone during labor and delivery (as is often the case with military families).  She might have a rough relationship with her family, or have a provider that doesn’t always agree with what she wants.  One thing she can count on is that her doula will support her.  The right doula will know that every birth story matters.

5 Things Your Newborn Wishes They Could Tell You

You did it!  You grew a baby in your belly and you gave birth to your beautiful little one. You and your family are so excited to get to know this little one.  And your baby is getting to know you…and the world around them.  There is a lot going on in their little body.  Here are 5 things that your baby wants you to know (from baby’s point of view:)).

  1.  Skin-to-skin is one of my favorite things.  I love being close to you (and daddy).  It’s where I feel safest.  I know you and I know your smell.  I don’t want skin-to-skin to end when we leave the hospital.  My whole first year I want to be held and snuggled skin-to-skin.  It’s so good for both of us, and daddy too.
  2. The world is a scary place.  When I was in your belly, everything was muted.  I could hear your heart and your breathing, but now everything is so loud!  There are sights, smells, and sounds that are brand new to me. Even wearing clothes feels strange. It can be very overwhelming.  When it is, I just want to snuggle into you and go to sleep.
  3. Nursing is also one of my favorite things…and not just for eating. Sometimes I just want to be held and comforted.  Sometimes I don’t feel well and nursing helps me feel better.  Sometimes I am scared or tired and nursing will help me to sleep and calm down.  When I am nursing, I can smell you and hear your heartbeat.  It is very soothing.couch-baby
  4. I have no idea what a schedule is.  This newborn thing is hard (it must be hard for you too).  I don’t know when bedtime is, or when to take naps.  Sometimes I want to sleep for 4 hours, sometimes for 30 minutes.  Give me some time and I will settle into a routine (but it probably will still change from time to time).
  5. You cannot love me enough. I won’t get “spoiled”.  I promise that I won’t always need you as much as I do right now.  Eventually, I will want to explore my world.  I will have my own opinions and make my own choices, but right now you are the most important thing in the world to me.

The first couple of months of parenthood can be really hard.  Everything from nursing to learning what your baby’s different cries mean.  There will be days where you don’t think that you can take one more sleepless night.  But you will make it.  You only get these days with this baby once.  Cherish them.  Because your story matters.

 

What You Don’t Know

I talk to a lot of moms, both pregnant and not.  That makes sense, right? I’m a doula.  Pregnancy, birth, and babies are my business.  I love it all and I love talking about it!  However, one of my favorites is talking to first time pregnant moms.  There is something about that first time.  It’s all new and exciting.  And scary!  I’ve heard lots of moms say they don’t even know what questions to ask.  They don’t even know where to begin.  And often their husbands feel the same.  They don’t know what they don’t know.

It’s never too early in your pregnancy to start thinking about what is best for you and your baby.  There are lots of ways to approach your pregnancy and birth.  And lots of information about all of them.  It can be very overwhelming.  There are some great resources out there.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Birth Boot Camp (they have an excellent online childbirth class!)
  2. Spinning Babies
  3. Dr. Sears
  4. Evidence Based Birth

When you start to educate yourself, then you will start to know what you want.  Not what your mom wants, or your care provider, but what you want.  Everyone loves to tell moms what they should do and how they should do it, but this is your choice and your family.  When you know your options and what is best for you, then your voice will start to come out.i-believe-in-your-bodys-ability-to-have-your-baby-and-in-your-ability-to-know-your-body

Another thing that is important is to build your support system.  These are the people that you turn to with your questions, concerns, and fears.  It doesn’t need to be more than just a few people.  Your partner,  your doula, your provider, or other moms.  They just need to be people you trust.

My job as a doula is not to tell you what you don’t know (although, I do have a lot of knowledge to share), but to help you find the answers you are looking for.  I will come beside you and your partner and walk this journey with you.  I trust the decisions you will make.  I trust you to know what is best for your family.  I believe in you!  We will talk about your fears and concerns. I will listen when you are having a hard day or are sick of being pregnant.  I will encourage you to listen to your body.  I will support you in any way you need.  Why? Because  I love moms, dads, babies, families.  And I know that every birth story matters.

It’s Your Birth, You Can Have Who You Want To

It’s getting close.  You have spent 9 long months growing your baby and waiting to meet him or her.  Lots  of decisions have been made.  You’ve thought about the when and the where.  Family and friends are sharing in your excitement and can’t wait to meet your little one.  You’re grateful for all the support and love, but when the big day gets here, the question remains…who do you want to be with you during the birth of your baby?

This is a conversation that I have a lot with lots of clients. They generally have a good idea of who they would like there.  The thing is, they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  They  question whether or not to set their feelings aside and choose someone they  may not feel comfortable having at the birth.  This can leave a mom feeling confused and anxious.  So, how do you decide?

In middle Georgia, you are generally allowed to have up to 3 people in the delivery room with you.  One of those people is almost always your partner.  So that leaves you with 2 people.  If you have a doula (which I highly recommend), you are now left with one.  It’s one of the most important decisions you will make.  It can be the difference between a wonderful experience and one that leaves you feeling traumatized.

Here are some things to consider when you and your partner are deciding  who to have at your birth:

*Will this person be supportive of any decisions that you make?  So often, people bring in their own views of birth and can want moms to deliver “their” way.  It’s essential that everyone in the room is there in support of mom, her partner, and the baby.

*Does this person get along with your partner?  The last thing a mom needs when she is delivering a baby is for there to be tension in the room.  The support team should be unified.  The environment should feel safe and peaceful.

*Does the mom feel safe with this person?  Birth is hard work.  Mom needs to focus on herself and her baby.  When she feels safe and secure, she can  do the work she needs to do to bring her little one into the world.

Every situation is different, and there are lots of variables.  The important thing to remember is that this is your birth.  You get to choose who is there.  Feelings might get hurt, people might not always understand.  But, this is the only time you will get to give birth to this baby.  Make it what you want it to be.  Because this birth story matters.