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Author Archives: Inexplicable Ways

Doulas as pacers

Truth?  Sometimes I’m baffled by my work as a doula.  I’m confused by the mystery that my presence makes an impact.  Especially when I don’t *do* anything.

Take Julia’s birth.  I left Julia’s birth feeling like her three year old did more than I did.  I mean, really.  What did I possibly offer to that family?  And then later, Julia’s husband says I was worth every penny.

It made no sense.

Or Melissa’s birth.  I fanned her.  With a manilla folder.  That’s about all I did.  And then later, she says she couldn’t have done it without me.

It made no sense.

I read about the early studies on doula support.  In those double-blind randomized controlled trials, the laboring women had no idea that the extra woman in the room was a doula.  They’d never met before.  Yet, their birth outcomes were significantly better than the births that did not get the “extra person.”

It made no sense.

Nearly 8 years into this gig, I think I’m maybe beginning to understand how doulas work.

We’re pacers.

I’m reading an incredible book titled The Worst Is Over:  What to Say When Every Moment Counts.  I bought the book thinking it would help with my kids.  Norah has an anxious tummy and Cedar is ever catapulting from high places.  I never imagined how it might relate to my birth work.  But, of course, women in childbirth are in an altered state of consciousness just like people who experience trauma.  Childbirth is NOT trauma and not always even painful but the brain does go into an altered state.  Women in childbirth are often dreamy, time becomes hazy, thoughts may be confusing, suggestions plant deeply.  I already knew how important language is for birthing women but this book took it up 10 notches.  And it taught me about pacers.

So what’s a pacer?

You know how you modify your body language, voice, words to become more in sync with others?  It’s a normal part of communication.  Or sometimes a strong personality can change the entire mood of the room when that person is having a bad day.  The author describes pacing as “our natural human tendency to tune in to others nearby by matching our words and our behaviors to theirs.”

The author talks about the importance of pacers when people are afraid, hurting, in shock, etc.  Pacing builds confidence, healing, comfort, rapport, and cooperation.

supportHow does this work in childbirth?

Nancy is deep in the birth zone.  She is in an altered state of consciousness.  She is barefoot in the hospital shower–a state that would disturb her any other time.  Usually a very modest woman, Nancy is naked.  Her husband, in swim trunks, supports her physically in the shower.  What am I doing?  I’m leaning against the wall, offering a sip of water from time to time.  I don’t say a word.  But here is the non-verbal pacing that is happening:  Nancy locks eyes with me as she welcomes each surge.  My eyes are confident, grounded, and full of love.  She knows I’ve done this before.  My eyes tell her everything is normal.  What else?  My posture is relaxed.  I’m not carrying tension or shedding adrenaline.  As we lock eyes, I take a deep cleansing breath and release it slowly.  She mimics me.  I smile.

IMG_2632Sarah sits on her birthing ball leaning on her king-sized bed.  Her husband rubs her back.  Bon Iver plays in the background and the rain is falling outside.  There is nothing for me to do so I sit in the corner and knit.  Sometimes, Sarah looks over at me and I smile.  My calm, slow knitting reassures her that all is progressing perfectly and there is no rush.

Heather’s labor is showing signs that baby is not in an optimal position.  I show her a technique to lunge during her waves.  Her husband stands behind her providing extra support.  I stand in front of her and lunge with her.  We are exactly in sync as we lunge and lunge and lunge some more.

What makes doulas uniquely suited for pacing?

The doula’s focus is entirely on the mom.  Midwives are amazing pacers but they sometimes have other important tasks that may come first or interrupt:  monitoring baby, checking mom’s blood pressure, etc.  Particularly in those rare cases of emergency, it is vital to have a pacer who can remain focused on mom.

Dads, close friends, family members are not always the best pacers.  Why?  They’re emotionally caught up with the experience.  They should be!  I remember catching a glimpse of my mother’s concerned face at my first birth.  It did not reassure me.  Sometimes dad isn’t sure if what his wife is feeling is normal and his face can mirror it.  And the birthing mom’s spidey senses can smell fear and uncertainty.

Giving name to this intuitive process has helped to deepen my understanding of what seems so mysterious–how the presence of a doula-who-does-nothing can be enriching and often crucial to the birth.

A First Time Family’s Homebirth Story

I have a new birth story available for your reading pleasure. Tori and Eric were such a pleasure to have in my Hypnobabies class. They were nearly giddy about all things related to their birth.

I’m happy to share their birth story here.

You can also catch them in person at July’s Blessingway. They will be sharing their birth story with our community at 2pm on July 27 at Natural Baby. The event is free and open to everyone!

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New Birth Story

I am excited to share Moira’s birth story!  Moira experienced a completely comfortable birth using Hypnobabies.  I’ve never seen doctors and nurses behave the way they did at her birth.  She refused to be checked for dilation and she was so relaxed that her care providers didn’t believe she was very far along.  I had to physically go find a nurse (twice–she didn’t come the first time) because the baby was almost born!  Moira had the Hypnobabies sign on her hospital door and once everyone realized that she really was about to give birth, curious nurses quietly filed in to watch.  The doctor waited for the placenta to deliver before clamping the cord.  Later the doctor told me, “I just got caught up in the physiological process!”

Enjoy!

 

May 10 on 10

Ten pictures on the 10th:

10am:  Airbending–Norah’s current pastime

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11am:  First school day wearing her glasses.  Turns out Norah is far-sighted!  That explains why she has no difficulty reading billboards but all sorts of trouble reading books.  “Mom, the words are all blurry and my eyes are so tired.”  Doh.

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12pm:  Boo-boo.  It’s incredible how much blood results when a 3 yr old tries to sharpen her finger in a pencil sharperner.

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1pm:  Lunch

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2pm:  Strawberries, strawberries everywhere!

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3pm:  Bird study

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4pm:  Calling in the creepy door-to-door guys claiming to be ADT.  I took pictures of the three guys, too.  I wouldn’t let them walk up my driveway.

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5pm:  Waiting for her Daddy/Daughter Date

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6pm:  Story of my life.  Also, I need to dust.

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7pm:  Norah and her friend, Veda, at the musical production, “Oliver.”  Last show is tonight…GO SEE IT!

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New Classes and Doula Availability

Have you liked me on Facebook yet??  What are you waiting for?  Click here and then click “like” to  follow my business there.  My work is entirely dependent on social media and word of mouth.  Help a doula out.

I have another parents-to-be series for Natural Baby coming up in June.  Click here to sign up or to share with some expectant couples you know.  Six Monday nights to explore parenting and learning to listen to your instincts.  Class 1:  Learning to understand and soothe your baby.  Class 2:  Breastfeeding.  Class 3:  The first six weeks postpartum.  Class 4:  How babies (and parents) sleep.  Class 5:  Saving money and creating a mindful gift registry.  Class 6:  The first year of parenting.  If you can’t take an entire series, pick and choose the classes you want for 25.00/couple/class.

Registration is open for July/August Hypnobabies classes meeting Tuesdays beginning July 23rd in Greenville.  Email me for information (j_byers @ bellsouth.net).

I only have a few more doula spaces left this year.  I have space for 1 client in late June or July, 1 client in October, and 2 clients in November.

Thank you for helping me serve families!

Private Childbirth Classes in Greenville

Did you know I can come to your home for classes?

Reasons why a private childbirth class might be for you:

You won’t have to pay a babysitter.  Many of my private students schedule their classes during bedtime.  Or, her partner watches the kids while mom attends class in another room.  One couple I teach has the dad do the bedtime routine for the first hour of class and then join the mom for the second hour.

A group class is too far to drive.  Some of my private students hire me because they live in Saluda or Liberty or Pickens.  I understand.  I live far from classes, too!  Add up the cost of gas and a babysitter.  Maybe it equals the difference in cost between a group and private class.

You’re on bedrest or your immune system is compromised.

You or your partner are not comfortable in a group class.  While I pinky-swear that I make my group classes relaxed and non-threatening, I understand that some folks would rather talk about birth in private.

Your schedule is crazy or unpredictable.  I can be as flexible as you need with a private class.  Want to meet once every two weeks for a six session class?  No problem.  Need to reschedule at the last minute?  That’s fine.

Or it’s simply convenient.   Or you want to wear your jammies.  Or you want to learn by candlelight in the backyard.  

For whatever reason, know that this option is available!

April is Cesarean Awareness Month

Many bloggers have written incredible posts about the shocking cesarean rate, VBAC support, and resources for healing.

I’m not going to try to repeat what they have already so eloquently written.

I want to talk about the idea of family-centered cesarean birth.

I don’t attend many cesareans.  The ones I’ve attended lately are so vastly different from the ones 5 or 6 years ago.  Those involved babies sent to nurseries while mom was in recovery–sometimes alone.  Waiting family members snapped pictures of this new life while mom caught only a quick glimpse in the operating room.

Now, I witness something astoundingly different.  It is much more common to witness births in the operating room involving skin-to-skin contact, sometimes delayed cord clamping, moms with arms unstrapped, and recovery together as a family.  Baby is often held skin-to-skin with dad when not on mom’s chest.  Doulas are more frequently allowed to accompany the family for the cesarean.

Recently, one of my couples experienced a cesarean birth.  After pushing for hours in every position imaginable, their posterior baby (with a 15 inch head, mind you!) was born by cesarean.  Their medical team gave us all the time we needed to try every trick I knew.  The couple was disappointed but they remained empowered throughout their birth experience.

They won’t be showing up for the 18 month cry.

I want to share a few of the pictures from their cesarean birth.  The obstetrician called in to perform the cesarean was Dr. Danielle Harris.  She immediately agreed to their wishes for delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin.  The family physician who had supported them through the birth was Dr. Keith Stafford.  You know him on this blog as Dr. Polo Shirt.

Dr. Harris hands baby to Dr. Stafford who places him directly onto mom’s chest.  He doesn’t dry the baby first or take a detour to the warmer first.

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Dad steps in to help mom hold their son.  Mom’s arm is free to touch her baby.

Here’s hoping that more babies who must be born by cesarean will experience a gentle welcome like this one.

Huge thanks to my clients for permitting me to share a little of their birth experience.

Babylegs in the doula bag?

When my girls were wee babes, I thought Babylegs were just for little legs.  They looked so adorable.  And sometimes the legwarmers were the only thing I could get Norah to wear.

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We also used them as arm-warmers and in costumes.

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I thought I was pretty clever when I packed them to cover Cedar’s airplane seatbelt so she wouldn’t escape and cause mayhem.

Babylegs are pretty versatile.  But why do I pack them in my doula bag?

For hospital births, most women are forced encouraged to get a hep-lock.  The hep-lock provides IV access in case of emergency.  I haven’t met a natural birther yet who loved her hep-lock.  In fact, at many births, the birthing woman complains more about the hep-lock than anything else.

It’s usually placed in a spot that is uncomfortable during the poses a natural birthing woman chooses.  It might be in the bend of the wrist.  Sometimes it snags on things as the mom moves.  And it is very visible to the mom.

I’ve known more than one birthing woman to rip out her hep-lock and throw it across the room in a blaze of glory.

Babylegs are perfect for sliding over the hep-lock and keeping it out of sight/out of mind.  It keeps it from snagging on things.

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Has anyone else found creative uses for their Babylegs?

April is a happening month

Just a sampling of some local events:

April 6:  Movie Day at the Hughes Main Library.  Watch “Born in the USA” and learn about birth choice in SC.  I’ll represent the doula perspective on the Q&A panel after the event.  10.00 donation suggested.

April 8:  The Spartanburg Babywearing Group meets at Labors of Love.  11am

April 10:  Greenville Cloth Diaper Group has a monthly meeting at the Taylors branch library.  10am.

April 11:  EarthFest at Greenville Tech’s Barton Campus.  I’ll be there working a table for Upstate BirthNetwork.  Stop by and say hello between 10am-2pm!

April 11:  Prenatal Yoga at I Love Natural Baby.  5pm

April 12:  Parent and Toddler Yoga at I Love Natural Baby.  10am

April 12:  Parent and Baby Yoga at I Love Natural Baby.  10:45am.

April 13:  Come hear the sexy-voiced Michel Odent, MD speak about birth.  Sponsored by the Bellies to Babies Foundation and the SC Birth Coalition.  Info here.

April 13:  Cloth Diaper 101.  A free class to introduce you to cloth diapers!

April 15:  La Leche League of Greenville meets at I Love Natural Baby.  7pm.  Other meetings throughout the upstate.  Check http://www.llli.org to find the meeting closest to you!

April 20:  Thrive:  A Conscious Health Experience in Clemson.  Looks like such a fun day full of exhibits, kids yoga, and special speakers.  10am-4pm.

April 20:  The Great Cloth Diaper Change is happening at I Love Natural Baby.  Come break the record with your baby!

April 23:  Meet the Midwives event at Greenville Midwifery Care.  6-8pm.  Registration is online through our home page on website or you can email to GMCmidwife@ghs.org.

April 27:  Blessingways:  A Gathering of New and Expectant Families.  April is Cesarean Awareness Month.  Join the discussion.  2pm.

April 28:  The Fair Exchange.  This is the third year that I’ve organized this amazing event to raise $$ for a cause.  This year, we’re raising money for the SC Birth Coalition as they lobby to protect birth choices in SC.  Stop by and shop gently used baby clothes, cloth diapers, babywearing products, etc and buy some raffle tickets for fantastic prizes.

This month, I’m teaching three Hypnobabies series and will attend two births, two postpartums, three prenatals, and meet with a few new couples for the first time.

I thought this was a part time job?  I love it so.

Extraordinary Nurses

Many families worry about which nurse they will get during their birth.  The nurse is a wildcard.  We can pick our midwife or doctor.  We can pick our doula, our birth photographer, our childbirth educator.  We can pick our hospital.  We don’t get a choice in our nurse(s).

I’m so happy that nearly all the nurses I’ve worked with in the last few years have been amazing.  Occasionally, one nurse really stands out and shapes the birth in extraordinary ways.  Like Beth two years ago.

This time, I’m bragging on Mona.  I adore Mona at Greer Hospital.  She’s been a rockstar for many of my clients.  Mona played a big role in this birth.   And she caught the baby before Dr. Polo Shirt could arrive at this birth.

So I knew I could relax when I saw Mona walk into the birthing room.

monaWhat made her support so extraordinary at this birth?

  • She kept interactions with the mama at an absolute minimum.  Mama stayed in the tub and the door to the bathroom remained closed 99% of the time.
  • She used a handheld doppler for quick listens to the baby’s heartrate while mom was in the tub.  She also used a handheld monitor while mom was pushing.  My client didn’t have anything strapped around her belly.
  • She ran interference when the doctor preferred that the mom get out of the tub sooner rather than later.
  • She stalled when another nurse prompted that the mom needed a hep-lock.  The mama never did get that hep-lock.
  • She applied hot compresses on mom’s perineum when baby was crowning.
  • She patiently and quietly guided this first-time mom and then called the doctor in a few minutes before the baby was born.
  • After the birth, she didn’t fuss with the baby or try to talk to the mother.  She stepped back.  After an hour, she still didn’t fuss with the baby or suggest taking her.  In fact, when I left, mama was breastfeeding her baby and blissfully devouring her own lunch tray.

I love this nurse.  She is a strong and quiet presence.  If you give birth at Greer Memorial and Mona walks into the room, relax.  You’re in very good hands.

(Also, I hope she doesn’t kill me for blogging about her!)