What do I do?
As everyday as pregnancy and birth are, they are also a cosmic mind-bend and probably (probably) the biggest life change that you will ever go through. It’s also shockingly misunderstood by our culture in general, and 9 months isn’t much time to figure it all out. Enter the doula: a professional whose expertise is in precisely this huge thing that you’re doing! Pregnancy is the best time for information and resource gathering, and I can help with that! I can help you understand your options (you’ve got them!) and put your finger on what matters to you in this experience, and I can give you tools to communicate it with your care provider and make sure that they’re the right person for your job. I have all kinds of comfort measures and stamina-preserving tricks in my doula bag to support your body and spirit in labor, and I can help your postpartum body and spirit recover like they need to. I can get you through the moments when you want to give up or when your birth doesn’t go according to plan, and I can listen to your story with ears that will hear your power, grace, and love. I can joyfully honor and hold space for the sacred aspects of birth and your own spiritual practices. Your becoming is your project: it’s your life, your family, and your work to do, and a doula can help you do it the way you want to.
What do I not do?
I am a support professional, not a medical professional. This means that I don’t perform exams or procedures, monitor vital signs, or prescribe or administer treatments or medications, including herbs. Instead, I have a list of very good providers of all kinds that I can recommend, and I can provide up-to-date information on your options. I don’t give advice, but I do give information. I don’t speak for you, but I do what I can to facilitate you speaking for yourself.
How I Do What I Doula
It’s Your Story
What’s a successful birth? One that the parents feel good about. As a doula, my job is to help parents clarify and articulate what matters to them as they go through this transition, to help them put those needs, desires, and dreams into a plan for birth and beyond, to advocate for that plan if needed, and to help them to have an experience that they are proud of even if things don’t go according to plan.
Giving Good Information
I commit to providing information that’s based on up-to-date research and scientific evidence, but this is not the end of the story. We are participating in a practice that is far, far more ancient than Western science and medicine: having babies in hospitals is a fad, and looking only to people who wear white coats for all the answers is also a fad. Science can only ratify knowledge that applies in a repeatable way to the majority of people, and this gives it some pretty wide blind spots. Modern science gives good information, but that does not mean that it should have a monopoly on knowledge. It is valid to also look to sources that operate on different criteria: generational knowledge and anecdotal evidence are valid. My advice for working with any source of knowledge: take what works for you and leave the rest.
Becoming a parent is something that no one else can do for you, and this makes it a powerful agent of growth and transformation. I am here to provide information, technique, and a helping hand as you transform yourselves into the parents that you want to be.
How I Do Postpartum
I ask my clients to observe the traditional (across many cultures) practice of “lying-in” for the first 40 days after baby is born. This practice is our birthright as people inheriting the traditions of our ancestors, the right of bodies who just made new persons, the right of people becoming parents. It is a practice of 40 days of resting, nursing, snuggling, and playing in bed with your baby and partner, when they’re available, while your people take care of you. This means that childcare for your older kiddos, meals, chores, errands, etc. will all be taken care of so you have nothing you have to do but be with your baby. This, of course, is the ideal. We do not have universal maternity leave in this country so not every new parent can observe this period as they should be able to, but I will help you rally and educate your people so that you can do as much of it as possible. During this time, I provide meals designed to nourish the postpartum body so that your recovery can be as robust and healthful as possible.
Once the period of lying-in is up and you’re ready to start making your way back into the world, I help you to add the joys and responsibilities of your life back in at a pace that will help you to maintain and build confidence in your ability to be a parent while re-entering the other roles that your life calls for.
Why Do I Doula?
A birth that shows us our power in an undeniable way is our birthright. You have the right to all of your bodies’ capabilities, and the ability to make a person and bring them into the world is a tremendous source of power to which you have a right. It’s also what is safest. When no one else is trying to manage our bodily processes, when care is about working with the flows of labor, when caregivers trust that the birthing parent’s body has the intelligence to get everyone through safely, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That said, making a new person and bringing them into the world is an extreme event: the unexpected does happen, dangerous situations do arise without warning and so I will not support a birth if there is not a midwife or doctor present. But the evidence-supported truth remains that the safest birth is the one with the fewest possible interventions.
We are all that our babies need. What changes when they are born is that they are outside of our bodies instead of inside, and that means that they experience their needs for food, warmth, and touch for the first time. But the need is the same: it’s their parents. That’s it. And that’s true whether the baby came from your body, that of your partner, surrogate, or someone else: so long as there are no complications, all your baby needs is you, a safe place to sleep, and food (and you can very well be those two things, too!) The rest is extra. There’s nothing wrong with the extra things, but it’s so easy to forget that they’re not what’s needed. The more deeply we can believe that, the more deeply we can believe that we are enough, the better parents we’ll be.
Human milk is one of the most awe-inspiring miracles in this whole making-humans thing. Your milk is perfectly customized for your baby in terms of nutritional content, microbiota, and immune support (you give your baby antibodies for EVERYTHING you or your baby comes into contact with through your milk, did you know that? Nuts). It triggers Human Growth Hormone as well as oxytocin (the hormone of love), and suppresses the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for stress) and it does these things for the body/breastfeeder, too! And most incredible of all: this is your baby’s normal food! All of these amazing things that come from human milk are not bonuses or the cherry on top, they are the basics of what babies need to get the start they need. It’s also incredibly practical to not have to wash zillions of bottles every day, think about packing a bottle or where you’re going to get clean water when you’re out and about, the immune support means that you don’t have to take as much time off work for colds and ear infections, and it makes it so much easier to get a fussy kiddo to sleep. Donor milk (which can be inoculated with your own custom, magical microbiota!) and formula are acceptable alternatives if parent’s-own milk isn’t an option for some reason, and I’m more than happy to support a family who needs them, but all things being equal, there’s nothing like your own milk.