How to use a rebozo during labor

I love the rebozo! I first learned about the rebozo and how it can help during labor during my first doula training back in 2011. I fell in love immediate, and I knew I had to have one accompany me at births from that moment on. I’ve taken an amazing workshop with Gena Kirby to learn more about the history of the rebozo and how to utilize her services to help me assist my clients during labor.

Yes. I just referred to my rebozo as “her.” She is my companion and helper during births. Her presence at births is so sacred to me. I believe she brings the strength and power of all the people whose births she has witnessed to each and every birth she attends with me. She is amazing, and I truly love her.

I introduce all of my Birth Boot Camp students and doula clients to the rebozo, and I would like to introduce her to you as well! Here are just a few ways you can use a rebozo during labor.

Belly Sifting

Rebozo belly sifting alexa

This is the very basic move when using the rebozo. Sometimes I think of this position as Rebozo 101. With belly hanging down, either in hands and knees position, or leaning over something, wrap the rebozo around the belly. Spread the fabric out evenly over the belly so that it feels comfortable. Gather up the ends of the rebozo and pull up until you hear her say, “Aaaaaahhhhh.” (she may not actually say that, but the point here is to try to take some of the weight off the belly so that she gets a break from holding the belly up) Start slowly moving your hands up and down, alternating which hand goes up and which goes down. You are trying to jiggle the tummy back and forth. This can be done very gently and comfortably. Try to sustain it for a minute or so, or until your forearms get tired. Then slow down the jiggling and stop. Try again in a few minutes.

Hip Squeeze

Rebozo double hip squeeze

This is a lovely-feeling move that can be done using the rebozo. Instead of wrapping the rebozo around the belly, wrap it around the hips. You might need to fold it lengthwise a few times to make it thinner and easier to work with. From underneath the belly, wrap the rebozo around the hips, cross one end over the other over the back. Squeeze as hard as is comfortable and try to tie a knot. Or, if you have a doula or other supportive person around, you can each take an end and pull. This can provide some amazing hip support.

rebozo me and gena kirby
I took this amazing rebozo workshop in 2012 with Gena Kirby. I was pregnant with my second baby at the time and this hip squeeze was divine. As you can see, this particular version of it took two people to pull off.

Knee press

Rebozo knee press

This position can be done with or without the rebozo in a variety of positions. I am sharing this because this is an example of how the rebozo can enhance just about any position. It can either provide relief to the tired arms of the support person or give more power to the position by using different angles.

To do the knee press using the rebozo, wrap the rebozo around the pregnant person’s back as they sit in a chair. Sit on the floor, and pull on both sides of the rebozo. Place your heels into the pregnant person’s knees. Try to push the knees straight back. This position can help relieve hip or back pain during labor.

Knee press with dad
This is the knee press without using the rebozo. As you can see, someone’s arms may get tired after awhile. Adding the rebozo can give some extra support.

Dangle

rebozo dangle from door

Wrap the rebozo around the support person’s shoulders, the hospital bed railings, or a door. Allow the pregnant person to dangle while holding onto the rebozo. The pregnant partner can either dangle slightly or drop all the way down into the squatting position. The rebozo can help the support person use body weight to help support rather than relying on arm strength alone.

rebozo dangle comparison
The rebozo can add some extra support for the support person in this position.

Motorcycle

rebozo motorcycle
I actually did not have the chance to grab my rebozo for this birth, and I had to use a scarf that I happened to have in my car. I missed my rebozo dearly because this scarf did not have the grip that my rebozo has. It was sliding across her body and my hands were not as close to her hips as I like them to be. It was still a fun(ny) experience though. Photo credit: Joanna Booth Photography

This is my favorite move to talk about during classes and always makes students and clients laugh. I have affectionately dubbed this move “the booty thing.” With the pregnant partner in a hands and knees position, drape the rebozo over their butt. Gather the ends as close their hips as you can. The goal here is to make sure that the material does not slide across the body. Instead the movement comes from moving your hands up and down in an alternating fashion. It will remind you of riding a motorcycle, hence the name. Most of the partners in my classes end up making motorcycle noises as they practice this position.

These are just a few basic positions that can be done with a rebozo during labor. You can learn more about how to perform these moves, as well as the best time to use them, during my childbirth and comfort measures classes. I am also happy to bring this knowledge and my rebozo to your birth as your doula.

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How to have an AMAZING induction

For one reason or another, you are scheduled for an induction of labor. You’ve weighed the risks and benefits of having an induction, and you have decided that this is the best decision for your family. Even though you know this is the right choice, you may be feeling pretty apprehensive. After all, you’ve been on the Internet. You’ve read all those articles about how horrible Pitocin is, and your friends have volunteered their own induction horror stories. You may be wondering if you have ruined your chances at having an amazing birth. I’d like to offer some encouraging words and say, “No!” You can have an induction AND have an amazing birth.

Below are a few ideas on how to have an AMAZING induction.

Comfort Measures

You learned about all kinds of comfort measures during your childbirth class. Put them to good use! You already know that contractions with Pitocin are usually stronger, longer, and closer together. It will help to change positions frequently in order to help your baby find a great position and also to keep your mind focused on other things besides contractions. Use the tools available to you. Try the birth ball. Try various positions. Try getting into the shower or tub if you are at a birth location where this option is available. 

Touch

Touch increases your own naturally occurring oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes contractions. Pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin. Back rubs, snuggles with your partner, and any kind of touch that makes you feel loved and safe is going to increase your naturally occurring oxytocin. Having more of your own oxytocin flowing may mean less Pitocin is needed in order to create the strong contractions necessary to bring a baby.

Environment

Dim lighting, calming music, comforting scents, and positive people care all create an environment conducive to having an amazing birth. Some people compare the birthing environment needed to generate the most oxytocin-friendly atmosphere to a date night. Think about your favorite and most intimate date night. What was the environment like? Trying to recreate that environment helps bring feelings of safety and well-being, which helps the oxytocin to flow.

Rest

I am a huge proponent of resting as much as possible during labor, especially early labor. I also like the idea of restful work. You can still do all of the positions you learned about during your childbirth class, but try doing them in the most restful position possible. For example, placing a peanut ball between your knees while taking a nap in the bed can help you get rest AND open the pelvis to give your baby room to move down. If labor has been taking an especially long time, you can discuss with your care provider the possibility of turning the Pitocin off during the night to shower, eat, and rest. That little break may be just what your body needs in order to be ready to start again in the morning.

Options

The goal of an induction of labor is to mimic a spontaneous labor as much as possible. There are many ways to achieve this. Discuss with you care provider the various options available in order to achieve the goals you both desire. For example, you may have the option of increasing Pitocin in slower intervals that usual to create a more gentle experience. There are many methods for inducing labor, and they vary between care providers. Communicate with your care provider to decide together on a plan of action that can help you have the best experience possible.

Pain meds

As with every birth, the decision to use pain medication is a personal choice. Just because you are planning an induction does not mean that now you HAVE to use pain medication. Plenty of people have given birth without pain medication even though their labors were induced. However, there are times that pain meds can mean the difference between a vaginal delivery or a Cesarean delivery. They can also mean the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic experience. Remember that pain meds are a tool in your toolbox just like the suggestions already mentioned. 

Support

Surrounding yourself with adequate support can help you have an amazing induction. Choose people who believe in your and your goals. Support can come in the form of your carefully-chosen care provider who wants you to have the birth you desire, and experienced doula, family, and/or friends. Surround yourself with people who help you to feel encouraged, confident, and safe. Your birth team needs to include people who believe that you will rock an induction!

Positive thinking

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking during labor. Try to have a list of affirmations handy for those times when your resolve begins to waver. Surround yourself with positive people who can remind you that you are amazing and strong and have what it takes to do this. Having an induction might take longer and be harder than a spontaneous labor, but you can do it anyway. You’ve got this!

 

10 Reasons to Hire a Birth Photographer

One of the biggest and just about only regrets I have about my births is that I didn’t have a birth photographer at any of them. I hired one for my last birth, but things happened so fast she wasn’t able to make it. Hardly anyone made it to that birth in time.

I love working with birth photographers, and I really wanted to have one for my births. I wanted to have a record of the wonderfully hard work I was doing bringing my babies into this world, and I didn’t want to have to rely on my horrible memory. I know everyone has different reasons for hiring birth photographers, so I asked around to see what people had to say. Here are ten reasons to hire a birth photographer.

1. To preserve one of the most special days of your life

“People hire wedding photographers so they can capture the moments of one of the best days of their lives. I think birth photography is the same concept. A birth is full of love, and it’s something for which you’ve been hoping and planning for months. It all becomes such a blur, and being able to look back at that beautiful day in photos is a priceless gift.”

Meagan Bender, Houston Birth Boot Camp Doula

“I got a birth photographer because the births of my children are the most important moments of my life and I needed to have those moments forever. Everybody plans their wedding for months and get a photographer. To me, the births of my children were even more important than my wedding.”

Elsa G., Keen Doula Care client

Birth Photographer: Ethan Avery Photography, Houston, TX

2. To capture all of the amazing moments in birth

“There are so many beautiful moments in birth. The love. The strength. The power. Those moments should be captured. When I was pregnant with my first baby, my midwife encouraged us to video and photograph our birth. She told me that I never have to look at them, but I want to I have them. She was right. I have a million times. Those photos are so special to me.”

Cheryl Amelang, Katy Birth Boot Camp Instructor

3. To be able to share your child’s birth with them

“I love my husband and love our wedding day. But hands down, my birth photos and video are my biggest prized possessions. I cherish them. My kids love being able to watch the videos and see their pictures. Those moments are so special.”

Andrea Felton Brannock, Forth Worth Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Doula, and Instructor Trainer

4. To fill in the blanks of your memory

“So much of labor I had my eyes closed. After my first I wished I had pictures to fill in the blanks of my memory from when I was so internally focused I didn’t know what was happening. With my second we had pictures, and it was so special to see how my husband was supporting me even when I wasn’t physically needing him that moment. It helped me to better remember the timeline of my labor and birth. It’s absolutely worth the investment!”

Rebekah Lewis, North Central Texas Birth Boot Camp Doula

5. To capture the love of your support team

“Birth is beautiful and magical and when I’m in labor, I’m not able to fully appreciate the beauty until Baby is in my arms. I wanted a photographer to capture some of the hardest work I’ll ever do. I also wanted to capture some of what my hard working birth team was up to. I’m a little busy while laboring and not capable of fully appreciating the love and care they are so generously giving to a laboring woman.”

Melissa N., Keen Doula Care client

Birth Photographer: Joanna Booth Photography, Houston, TX

melissa birth team smaller

6. There may not be time for anyone else to take pictures

“If you have a fast birth, you may not have time to get photos or for your doula to get photos. We left the good camera at home due to a fast birth and rushing out the door. It’s nice to have someone there who only has one job and has expertise in capturing these moments (even in dim lighting).”

Andrea Powell, Houston Birth Boot Camp Instructor

7. To see how you REALLY look during birth

“I feel like moms have screaming and panic in their heads when they give birth – and when they see the photography, they can see what the rest of us see – the peaceful, calm, controlled woman that gave birth to their baby.”

Beth Dickerson, Dallas Birth Boot Camp Doula

8. To ensure you receive good quality pictures and videos

“If you want photos of your baby’s birth, you need to hire a birth photographer. Your husband, your doula, and your friend who is a photographer are all poorly suited for this job.

Dad’s priority is to support mom and be present for the birth of his child – being behind the lens inhibits both of those responsibilities.

Your doula, especially in a fast birth, may not be able to take birth photos.

A photographer who is not familiar with on-call life may leave you to go to work, or care for a sick child. If they are not familiar with birth, they can add tension and fear to your birth space.

A birth photographer is worth their weight in gold. And they charge accordingly. Ask if they have on-call childcare, a backup photographer, and backup equipment. Ask to see their portfolio – it should include and entire birth.

Jillian Hilton Blakeman, Birth Boot Camp Instructor and Instructor Trainer

 

10 reasons to hire a birth photographer

9. So you won’t regret NOT hiring one later

“Literally, my biggest regret from my birth is not hiring a photographer. There were so many blanks and it happened so fast. I wish I could have had more to look back on when remembering my birth.”

Brooke Harralson, Keller Birth Boot Camp Doula

10. You’re meeting one of the loves of your life

“Because it’s rare to have the opportunity to capture meeting one of the loves of your life.”

Alexa Gumm, Atlanta Birth Boot Camp Instructor and Doula, Lead Birth Boot Camp Doula Trainer

 

 

How to pick an AMAZING care provider

One of the most important things you can do to increase your odds of having the birth you want is to pick a supportive care provider. Your care provider is the most influential member of your birth team and has the most impact on the outcome. This will be a very important relationship throughout your pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. Below are my best tips for picking an AMAZING care provider.

1. Ask for recommendations

Ask your friends for recommendations, especially the ones who had the type of birth you want. Ask them why they chose that person. Get online and ask for recommendations. Ask your childbirth educator or doula for recommendations. If you don’t have a childbirth educator or doula, many of them are online and happy to provide recommendations in local pregnancy and birth-related social media groups. Doulas are in a unique position to provide some really honest feedback since they work with care providers in all settings. They have the inside scoop on OBs, midwives, birth centers, and hospitals. They know who the amazing care providers are even if they haven’t personally worked with them. Childbirth educators hear about their students’ births and remember the care providers that were amazing as well as the not-so-amazing ones.

2. Google

Do some online research for care providers. Look for reviews about the people that were recommended to you. Just remember that the best person for you might not be the first person on the list. Many amazing care providers are not the first to pop up with a Google search. Dig deeper than just the first page of search results. Many hidden gems, and even the perfect care provider for you, might not be on the first page of Google. They might not even have a website. My midwife is an example of a care provider who doesn’t really have a website or online presence but who is an amazing midwife. She has a great reputation in the birth community, and I found her through several friends. In my opinion, personal recommendations carry a bit more weight than Google searches, but if you find someone through an online search AND they come highly recommended through your friends or doula? You’ve got a great start.

3. Start interviewing

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of care providers, it is time to start meeting them. There are plenty of lists of interview questions out there, but your goal is to find out if they have similar ideas about birth as you. Do they support the birth that you want? What do they think about your goals? Can they support you safely? Do they have the necessary equipment and policies in place that are needed to help you have birth you want?

This is the time to really dig deep to find out how they can help you have an amazing birth. Notice how they respond to your questions. Notice how you feel as they are answering. Do you feel safe? Rushed? Embarrassed? Stupid? Educated? Respected? The way you feel around this person is an important factor in making your decision.

4. Intuition

As I mentioned in #3, it is important to trust your intuition when selecting your care provider. Does this person feel like the right person for you? My husband and I met several midwives, but I knew even before interviewing any midwives at all which midwife I wanted at my birth. My husband walked out of our interview with her and said, “She’s the one.” We hadn’t even met all of the others yet. We met with them just to confirm our intuition. They were all wonderful, lovely, and competent midwives, but our intuition told us that one particular midwife was “the one.”

Me and Sandra

5. Decide

Once you have considered your options, it is time to decide. Many factors might come into play, such as cost and insurance, but all things considered, decide on the person who seems like the best choice for you. This person may not be someone your friends chose, but they are the best for you. Keep in mind that just because they felt right at first, if at any point things start to feel wrong, there is always time to change care providers. Trust those feelings. In Birth Boot Camp class 3, we discuss “red flags” to keep in mind as you are interacting with your care provider. This is the class that some students discover a change is in order. I have even had clients change care providers DURING LABOR. As long as you are still pregnant, it isn’t too late to change care providers.

Choosing a care provider is a deeply personal yet highly important part of having the type of birth you want. I hope these tips help you find the perfect care provider for your AMAZING birth.

 

Sex after Baby: Will we ever have sex again?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: Keep reading. 

Toward the end of nearly every Birth Boot Camp series, I ask the students to write down their most pressing questions about life after baby. Without fail, I receive at least one little piece of paper with the question, “Will we ever have sex again?” Most of the questions I receive are about sex and sleep. Most expecting parents want to know if they will ever be able to do either one of those treasured activities again. I hope that I can share a little bit of what I have learned over the years about sex in order to alleviate some of the fears surrounding this topic.

Disclaimer: I am not a sex therapist. I kind of wish I had decided to be one when I grew up, but alas, it is not to be. However, it is one of my favorite topics. It helps keep me in business. Most of my students and clients are in committed heterosexual relationships, so my comments will be run through that filter. Sexuality is as varied as there are people in the world, so please understand that the things I share are not absolutes and will not apply to everyone. As with all types of advice, take what you like and leave the rest. My goal in writing this article is to encourage rather than inform.

Below are a few nuggets of wisdom that have helped my husband and me over the years as we have worked on improving our sexual relationship after having our three babies.

Communication

You’ve heard it once, and you will hear it again. Communication is super important in a relationship, and especially about a topic as important as sex. Keep the lines of communication open. Share your feelings with one another, especially the uncomfortable feelings. Lean into the discomfort. Have those hard conversations. Try to stay calm and respectful when having conversations about sex. One of my favorite parenting books ever is And Baby Makes Three by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. This book is about preserving your relationship after baby, and I recommend it to everyone. If it is hard to make time to read, the Bringing Baby Home workshop is amazing and is based on this book. Couples learn how to communicate with each other during this workshop. The more my husband and I work on improving our communication with each other, the better our sexual relationship becomes.

Understanding

Not much makes me feel like I can just take off running and start flying like when my husband finally understands me. And I can tell not much makes him feel better than when I finally understand him. Trying to really understand where your partner is coming from during this time will help fuel connection, which helps increase desire. If you really want to make sure that you have sex again, work on understanding your partner.

For Him:

Dads, try to understand how much your partner has sacrificed of her body and soul to grow, birth, and nurture your new baby. She was willing to put her life on the line to bring a new baby into the family. We are blessed in this day and age to have wonderful technological advances that help most people come through the birth process alive. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t traumatic for many people. The trauma of birth can dramatically alter the rest of someone’s life. Even when a birth goes perfectly well, it changes people. You can’t go through a pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and not be a different person.

Once your baby has arrived, a lot is expected of you. It might seem unfair that you are the one that has to take care of her while no one is taking care of you. Try to remember that everyone’s work load increases with a new baby. Your partner has no choice but to take care of the new baby. Biologically, the baby is going to want more of her. Her body, her smells, her heartbeat, and her hormones are all geared toward keeping that baby, your baby, alive. Your job now is to keep her alive. And not only alive, but to help her thrive. She will remember how you made her feel during this time. A woman who feels loved and cared for will (usually) return the favor a hundredfold. A woman who feels pressured, overwhelmed, and unloved… well, there’s no telling how she will respond. She might come after you or she might retreat into herself. Either way, it won’t fuel her desire to connect with you. Try to think about things you can do to fuel her desire to connect with you.

And speaking of hormones. They. Are. Everywhere. It is going to take a long time before her hormones level out. Many women are at the mercy of their hormones and really do try to do their best with what is happening. Educating yourself on what exactly is happening in a woman’s body after a baby is born is helpful for understanding why certain things are happening.

Note about hormones: Keeping track of my cycles and understanding how desire fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle as well as having a basic understanding of how sexual desire works has really helped us in this part of our relationship. One of the coolest books I’ve read about this topic is called Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski, and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans on having sex.

For Her:

Moms, try to remember he is making sacrifices too. It is going to be hard for him to fill your shoes. You gave birth to a freaking baby. He can’t really top that. But he is learning his new role of parent, and trying to do things he has never done before. He is sacrificing his spare time, his ability to just get up and go like before, his time with you, his hobbies, sleep, and money. Yes, you are too, and then some. But what I am trying to say is that, yes, you are making so many sacrifices. But try to remember that so is he. Except for the pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding part, he is making many of the same sacrifices you are. Unless he is a complete abusive jerk, to which, none of this article would even apply.

For Both:

To moms and dads, you are both making tremendous sacrifices for each other and for your family. A little recognition and appreciation from each of you to the other one goes a long way to fueling desire.

Patience

It is so important to have patience with one another. You are going to mess up on the whole communication thing. One of the most important things in determining how your communication turns out is how often you are willing to repair your mistakes when you make them. It’s okay to mess up and mess up often. Keep working on it. This is new territory for everyone involved. It doesn’t matter how many babies someone has had. This is the first time you’ve had to be a parent with THAT many babies. This is the first time you’ve had to navigate THIS particular postpartum. Try to remember the love that brought you together. This is starting to sound like newlywed advice, isn’t it?

Boundaries

Every couple has to decide what is and isn’t allowed in their sexual relationship. Most care providers recommend halting sexual activities for awhile after a baby is born to give the woman’s body time to heal. This period of time can vary from person to person. Some people are ready to resume sexual activities at two weeks, some are eager by their 6 week check up, and some just can’t imagine doing the deed again for a very long time. So many factors come into play here. A little creativity can be really helpful.

I think every couple at some point is going to have to come face to face with unmatched libido. What are your boundaries surrounding when one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t? What are your boundaries surrounding a prolonged and perhaps necessary period of abstinence due to health, travel, or other reasons? Is it okay if one partner seeks sexual gratification from sources outside of the relationship while the other partner is unavailable for whatever reason? Don’t just assume that you know the answer to these questions. And it is also okay to change your mind later if you didn’t quite understand how certain things would make you feel once complicated with postpartum hormones and a new baby thrown into the mix.

Having a new baby is wonderful but comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to sex. Sex can be such a wonderful experience, but it can also complicate relationships. But there is hope! Almost ten years and 3 kids later, my sex life with my husband is better than ever. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, challenges, tears, and epic misunderstandings. But we keep working on this beautiful part of our relationship. We definitely had sex again, and so will you. Communication, understanding, and patience go a long way in ensuring you will have sex again.

 

How to Keep a Clean House When Your Kids Are Little

Throw it in the trash.

 

But seriously. How does one keep a clean house when there are little ones running around trying to undo everything that you try to do? I feel anxious when my space is messy, but I feel guilty when I spend all day cleaning and neglecting my children. There has to be a way to have kids and a clean house, right? RIGHT?

My house isn’t perfectly clean, but I am able to keep it at “breathable levels” much of the time. It isn’t easy, and it took awhile to come up with some sort of system. But I think I’ve finally discovered a few ideas on how I can keep my house clean-ish even though there are small children living in my home.

1. Ask for help

Sometimes my anxiety about the mess reaches “Code Level Red Mama Is About to Lose Her Mind.” Quite literally, I will jump up out of my seat, and exclaim, “I am about to lose my ever loving mind. We need to clean this house, and clean it NOW.” And my family jumps into action. Sometimes things get so out of control that I just can’t do it on my own. I want to be superwoman and do everything by myself, but I really need my family to help me keep my sanity. I am still trying to learn how to ask for help BEFORE I get to “Losing my mind” levels, but I am a work in progress.

2. House Blessings

I discovered FlyLady when my first child was little. When it comes to advice, I like to follow my own best advice about advice: Take what you like and leave the rest. FlyLady can be super overwhelming, but I do love a variation of her house blessing days. On Mondays I like to catch up from the weekend, and on Fridays I like to prepare for the weekend. This is where I tidy up all of the rooms, and I run the vacuum in high traffic areas. It doesn’t have to be perfect vacuuming. Just where people see and walk.

3. A Load a Day Keeps Chaos Away

This is another FlyLady principle. Chaos stand for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I try to do at least one load a day on most days, but just like everyone else, I don’t always accomplish this. Sometimes I have to do the old Louisiana tradition of having Mondays be wash day. There was a time I even cooked red beans & rice those days. I’m trying to eliminate white rice these days, but sometimes devoting a day to laundry is still part of my repertoire. I’ve forgotten about laundry in the washer and have had to re-wash loads more times than I care to admit. I think I’ve finally come up with a system that works for me. You’ll find one too.

4. Pick one thing

Sometimes all I can do is accomplish one housekeeping thing a day. Sometimes that is all the floors. Or laundry. Or dishes. Or the kids’ rooms. But some days I just don’t feel like cleaning. I give myself grace and allow myself to just accomplish one thing that day. And sometimes that might be many days in a row. And sometimes, I tell myself I only have to do one thing, but that inspires me to do more. But really. What is your one thing today?

5. Try a cleaning schedule

This one kind of goes together with #4. I used to have a cleaning schedule, and I am not quite sure why I stopped. I’ve been mulling over doing it again. It went something like this:

Monday- Front Bathroom/Kids’ Rooms

Tuesday- Back Bathroom/Master Bedroom

Wednesday- Living Room

Thursday- Kitchen/Dining Room

Friday- Floors

I was pretty lenient with myself on the schedule thing. If I had to miss a day because of a birth or having to be away from home for awhile, I’d just pick it up the next week. No biggie.

6. Set a timer

Cleaning is boring. I play games with myself to try to make it more interesting. My timer usually gets set to 10 minutes, and I try to clean as much as I can in that amount of time. Once the timer goes off, I’m done. I usually hate leaving a job undone, so that motivates me to get it done as quickly as possible. Plus it is a mental game. It’s only 10 minutes of my life, so then I get to do something I like to do. Like read. Or something. Maybe. The only downside is that I can fill up an entire day of “Just 10 minuteses” until an entire day gets away from me.

7. Purge frequently

This is a life-saver. I hate clutter with a fiery passion. Hate. It. I purge the kids’ toys more frequently than anything else, but if it doesn’t get used in my house, it probably won’t be living in my house for very long. FlyLady taught me it is okay to throw things away, and I totally do. The only big tip I have for this is to not let your kids see you doing it. If you KNOW they really don’t give a crap about the thing you are about to throw away, suddenly it will become their most prized possession EVER if they see you throwing it away. If they do give a crap about something, keep it. If throwing things away on the sly like that isn’t your cup of tea, I have also told my kids that it was purge time. I told them to pick 20 toys that they wanted to give away to other kids who didn’t have toys. They did fine that way too.

8. While You’re At It

If you are in your bedroom and need to go to the kitchen, go ahead and grab those few cups on your nightstand…while you’re at it. If you are in the kitchen, and you need to go to your bedroom, grab those books that belong on your nightstand that somehow made their way to the kitchen counter…while you’re at it. While you’re waiting for some water to boil and you have nothing else to do, go ahead and unload the dishwasher…while you’re at it. Multitasking at its finest.

9. Let the kids help

Now this is going to take some practice. Many years of practice. Kids have this magical way of making things take way longer than they need to in the name of “helping.” My kids love to help me clean. So I fight the urge to bite my own arm off and say yes. I take advantage of their natural desire to help Mommy while it is there. It also teaches them exactly how to help. In my family, everyone helps. If we had a motto, it would be “Everyone helps.” Even my two year old grabs a towel to clean up his own spills. He can’t talk or wipe his own butt, but he can take his dishes to the sink when he is done eating. Even without asking sometimes. He knows how to throw his garbage away. He knows the way our family operates. Everyone helps.

10. Embrace the season

Yeah, I had to go there. I’ve had to learn how to accept that my home is a living entity. It grows messes and gets cleaned. There are ebbs and flows to the rhythm of our messy life. Our home reflects the goings-on of our family’s life. Sometimes we are super busy and stressed, and our home reflects that. Sometimes we are super chill and relatively stress-free (summers), and our home reflects that, too. I’ve had to learn to tolerate some constant messiness and embrace the idea of “breathable levels.” That’s the minimum amount of clean that my home needs to be in order to feel comfortable being in it, and we live somewhere right around there.

5 Ways Doulas Have Changed in the Last Six Years

It has been over six years since I began my journey as a doula. Much has changed in such a short amount of time. Six years ago in Houston, there was no Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Now it is one of the hospitals where I attend most births. Six years ago, I began a list of VBAC Friendly providers. Very few are still on that list. Some don’t even attend VBAC patients anymore. Six years ago, I had one child. Now I have three.

1. Doulas were “pit bulls.”

Six years ago, doulas were hired to be advocates. Doulas were hired to be protectors of the birth space. Planning a VBAC? Hire a doula! Don’t trust your provider? Hire a doula! Want a natural birth? Hire a doula! I read an article by a well-known midwife that said that we needed more “pit bull doulas.”

I am not, nor have I ever been, anything resembling a “pit bull doula.” I admit that I was intimidated by the prospect of speaking for clients, advocating for clients, protecting clients from bad care providers, and being a “pit bull doula.” I thought I was a bad doula, maybe not cut out for this work, when I just couldn’t be that kind of doula.

2. Doulas were advocates.

I learned how to be an advocate at my very first doula training. It was not really about standing up to care providers as much as it was about teaching our clients how to stand up for themselves. It was about helping them to understand that they are allowed to say no, and they are allowed to ask questions. They are allowed to collaborate with their care provider, even switch care providers if necessary, in order to receive the very best care. After my training, I shared with one of my friends that doulas are not actually supposed to speak to the care provider on behalf of our clients. She asked, “Well, how do you advocate for your clients, then?”

It was a fair and valid question. And it was one for which I didn’t have a good answer. Yet.

I learned that instead of trying to change a care provider’s mind about the way birth should be done, a person should find a care provider with which they already share the same birth philosophies. I learned how important a good care provider is for achieving the birth that you want. I learned that if a person is afraid of asking their care provider questions, it is a better idea to find a care provider with which they feel comfortable asking questions. I learned how to help clients communicate with their care providers without inserting my own agenda or biases. I learned that I didn’t have to stand up to care providers, and in fact, that doing so was a bad idea!

3. Doulas focused on improving birth outcomes. 

I saw the conversation change from “doulas improve birth outcomes” to “doulas are not responsible for birth outcomes.” Overall, very few people hire doulas, so we are affecting very little change in the birth world. Our change comes one family and one birth at a time. Yes, we are changing lives. Yes, we do a valuable work. But we are not putting a dent in our broken maternity system. It is going to take those who are giving birth to stand up for a better system.

4. Doulas fought for change.

I’ve seen the conversation change from “doulas are birth advocates. Doulas fight for better birth practices” to “the birth room is not the place.” Some have even suggested that doulas shouldn’t be seen at events like birth rallies or peaceful protests because that implies an agenda. Doulas are supposed to be without an agenda. Doulas support ALL births.

5. Doulas burned out a lot. 

I’ve been hearing more and more about sustainability in doula work. Doulas have discussed ways to make this work something we can sustain for many years. I’ve seen practices change from charging one flat fee no matter how long a doula is needed to incorporating “12 Hour Language” and charging an hourly rate for anything over 12 hours of support.

I’ve seen new doulas being expected to provide free births until they are certified to new doulas starting out charging a living wage.

For several years, I observed all of these changes, and felt alone in my thoughts. I wasn’t sure that I was actually doing the right thing by not standing up to care providers, by not having an agenda, by not being a “pit bull doula.”

Then I discovered Birth Boot Camp. I became an Instructor in 2013 and a DOULA in 2014. I found my tribe and a philosophy I can get behind. Like finding the perfect care provider, I have found an organization that thinks like I do. And I feel like a weight has been lifted. I have seen many changes in my short time as a Birth Boot Camp Instructor & DOULA, but I am excited about these changes. There is more to come, and I can’t wait!

Change is good, but change can be difficult. I am proud to be part of an organization that helps me to stretch and grow, but also supports, encourages, and uplifts me. I am excited to see what the future holds!

 

Natural Childbirth as a Spiritual Experience

I’ve been pondering the reasons people choose to give birth naturally. There are as many different reasons as there are people making the decisions. Some of the most common reasons that people give me are: healthier for the baby, healthier for the birthing person, desire to avoid a Cesarean birth, dislike of epidurals, desire to experience birth as a rite of passage, desire to be an active participant of birth, desire to birth in awareness, and a desire to give birth how God intended. 

I’d like to focus on this last point during this post. Many of my clients are of the Christian faith. I, too, am a Christian. I don’t market myself as a Christian doula, but I do live in Texas. Odds are, I will work with many clients who believe in God in some form or another. Being in one of the most diverse areas of Houston has allowed me to work with people of different backgrounds. I have enjoyed all of the families I have worked with and what they have taught me about themselves, birth, and life. I am happy to support all people, not just Christians.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we are referred to as Mormons. Even though our church is known for its extensive missionary program, I do not advertise my religion during the course of my birth work. I am happy to talk about it if I am asked, but I won’t otherwise.

I am sharing this information because it has been on my mind lately, and I felt it was time. Originally, I decided to pursue a natural birth because I was scared of the epidural. Many people tried to reassure me that the pain would be enough that I wouldn’t care. I asked my friends all the time what giving birth was like and especially about the epidural. I was still under the impression that getting an epidural was required. I didn’t know you were allowed to make your own choices in the hospital. I didn’t know that birth centers or home births existed. I thought one day I would have to have my babies in the hospital and that I was required to have an epidural. I was terrified.

One day my husband mentioned that he didn’t want me to have an epidural because he was afraid I would be the 1 in a million that would be paralyzed from it. By then, I had come to an acceptance of it and said, “When you are the one giving birth to the baby, then you get to decide.” Funny how it still hadn’t occurred to me that I had options! Not even after saying that.

Fast forward a few months, and I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. As luck would have it, I was working with a woman who happened to be a doula. She recommended great midwives. I took her childbirth class. I became enamored with the birth process. Preparing to give birth became a spiritual experience for me. I prayed a lot. I read positive birth stories. I had a great birth.

I left that first birth feeling closer to my Heavenly Father than I ever had before. I felt incredibly thankful that the birth had gone so well. I learned at one of my many trainings that people enter a deeper state of awareness called delta when they are giving birth. This state is also known as “courting the divine.” Entering the depths of Labor Land has been three of the most profoundly spiritual experiences I have ever had. I have called upon Heavenly assistance while preparing for each and every birth.

After my second birth, I was able to review the book The Gift of Giving Life. I wished I’d had the opportunity to read it before the birth, but it made for a special journey during my postpartum period. That book is geared toward LDS women, and I was delighted to finally find a book that combined birth with my faith.

I have also enjoyed reading another book geared toward LDS women entitled The Sacred Gift of Childbirth. Reading this book was part of my journey of becoming a Sacred Gifts Doula.

I had such a quick birth with my third baby that he was born before the midwife arrived. I was terrified and began making my peace with God. I thought my baby and I were going to perish right there in my shower when my baby was between worlds. Heavenly Father sent an angel in the form of my doula at the exact moment I uttered my prayer, “Help me!” She placed her hand on my back and said, “I’m here.” My fear of death immediately disappeared, and I focused on the work of giving birth to my baby.

I was full of gratitude to my doula, my husband, and to my Heavenly Father. I still think of my doula as my angel who saved my life.

I have never experienced giving birth in any other way than without pain medication. After my first natural birth and that incredible birth high, I was hooked. I couldn’t imagine giving birth any other way unless it became medically necessary. I know that the way someone gives birth is a deeply personal choice, and it can be a profoundly spiritual experience no matter how someone decides to have their baby. For me, however, my three natural births have given me the deepest spiritual experiences of my life.