Doula ripples

February 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

“Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth” -(Hodnett and colleagues 2011)

Jennifer just asked this question on my Birth Faith facebook page wall: “My friend’s OB told her that hiring a doula was ‘dangerous.’ What would you tell her?”

Good grief.

I’ve shared in a previous blogpost (Why hire a doula?) what a doula’s presence can do for a woman’s birth experience using my own experience and stats from scientific research. Let me reiterate that research quickly.

Gathering and analyzing the results of 15 studies, a team of researchers found that, compared to women laboring without a doula, women who labored with a doula were:

• 26% less likely to have a cesarean section
• 41% less likely to have a vacuum extractor or forceps delivery
• 28% less likely to use pain medication or epidurals
• 33% less likely to rate their birth experience negatively
(Hodnett E, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003. Issue 3. See DONA).

But did you know that the benefits of having a doula’s assistance don’t end at birth? There are significant ripples that can impact a woman, her baby, and her relationship with her baby’s father. 

Oozing oxytocin

October 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

IMG_4273Several weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house while she was babysitting a newborn.  This little one started to cry not long after her momma left.  Try as she might, my friend couldn’t console that little baby.  She wouldn’t take the bottle her mom had left either.  Eventually, my friend turned to me and said, “Do you want to try?” So I took that little baby. Within moments, she was calm.  Soon, I was able to get her to drink some of her bottle, and she fell asleep for a bit in my arms.

I don’t think my friend was doing anything “wrong,” and I don’t think I was doing anything “right.” But it was apparent that this little one could tell a difference between us. Knowing what I know now, I’d say she could smell and feel that difference. I’ve often heard and read that babies prefer the smell of lactating women to non-lactating women. I’m a lactating mother. I (or, more accurately, my boobs) smell good to babies. But I don’t think it was just the smell of my milk that calmed that little one.

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has been studying oxytocin longer than most. In her research, she discovered that injecting male rats with oxytocin would create a domino effect of sorts. The other rats in the cage could smell the increased oxytocin levels among their cage-mates and their own bodies responded by releasing more oxytocin. They also became more calm as a result.  I’d say it is reasonable to assume that we, too, respond to the oxytocin levels of the people around us. (Via Hug the Monkey)

Happy birth day, Mom

October 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I started writing this yesterday (my 31st birthday!). Some of you may remember reading about my mother-daughter history. My mom and I have gone through a lot over the years in our relationship and our personal lives. In the past year, especially, we’ve had lots of ups and downs. But, I’m happy to say, I think the deepest “downs” in our relationship are behind us. And I feel really good about our future. Healing comes little by little, but it comes. And it feels really good.

I think it’s easy to forget, on our birthdays, what our mommas went through on this particular day we are celebrating.  So, today, I want to honor the woman who (despite darkness and difficulties surrounding her) gave me life 31 years ago.  I hope that my arrival was a bright spot in that darkness, Mom.

A few days ago, I was suddenly struck with the thought: “What if Mom died?” It was like my life flashed before my eyes (the past and the hypothetical future) and I realized what a huge blessing she is in my life… how much she does for me, how much her presence in my life means to me, what an effort she makes to ensure that I know she cares and wants me to be happy. I’m getting choked-up just thinking about how much in my future life would feel empty with her absence.  I’m so glad you’re alive, Mom.  I’m so glad you’re a part of my life.

Secret weapon

October 4, 2011 at 6:24 am

Now that’s a “weapon” I could get behind…

 Breast milk launcher!

Mom’s Granola

August 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I have fond memories of waking up to the smell of freshly toasted granola.  I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten granola better than my mom’s. And most of the people I’ve ever made it for agree and ask for the recipe. Many of you requested the recipe when you emailed asking for my Treasure Box questions, but last night (as I was making granola with my husband) I got thinking I should just post it here on the blog!  Why didn’t I think of that before?

I would do the same with the Treasure Box questions, but there are a LOT of them and I can’t remember all their sources (they came from lots of different websites). I just don’t feel good about getting traffic from stuff I cut and pasted from other websites without giving them credit.  When I originally created the list of questions, it was just for my own personal use, so I didn’t bother keeping track of where I got them.  Oh well.  I’m still happy to email my list to any and all!

I think I could also call this granola “HELLO-MILK Granola.”  The weeks when I’m eating this granola, my let-down and milk supply are typically much stronger, even too strong!  Makes sense since oats are supposedly a galactagogue and the nuts and seeds are packed full of nutrients.  It’s worth trying, if you’re struggling to keep your milk supply up.  If it doesn’t work, at least it tastes good.

Baby shower basket essentials

August 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm

After ten years as a momma, I’ve learned a thing or two.  For instance, I’ve learned that a lot of the things on most soon-to-be parents’ baby registries (and in some of their carefully decorated baby nurseries) are non-essential.  There are really very few things most new parents/babies need, and some of the best essentials aren’t really available for baby shower presents (boobs, for instance).  It has been a while since I attended a baby shower for a first-time momma, but next time I’m invited, here’s what I wish I could afford to load into a pretty basket for her, though I’ll probably settle for just one or two items from the list…

1) Emergency Birth Kit

As I posted back in January, even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present.  You’d never be sorry that you had birth supplies on hand.  I know I was glad I had a kit for the car when I drove to my midwives’ office in labor last time! I’d also include a print-out of the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ Giving Birth “In Place”: A Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth.


August 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Sometimes things just don’t happen the way we expected. In fact, this is true so often for me that I wonder why I even bother predicting how things will go! For example…

Harder than I ever expected

  • Establishing breastfeeding.  Shouldn’t something so “natural” come naturally to us?  Holy cow. So hard the first time.  So many contraptions (nipple shield, syringe, pump, etc.) to get us going.  But it was so worth the agony of those first days/weeks and easy peasy with babies #2, #3, #4.

Reducing childbirth pain?

June 30, 2011 at 6:08 am

It has never been easier getting from 0 to 9 centimeters as it was for me during my fourth birth. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was at 7, 8, 9 centimeters.  I’ve thought a lot about that fact over the past four months, wondering… what made the difference? I can really only speculate, but these changes might at least partially explain the reduction of labor pain I experienced:

1) Prenatal exercise

I was in much better shape starting out this pregnancy than I have ever been in my previous pregnancies.  I continued running approximately three mornings a week until about halfway through my pregnancy.  Then I walked and hiked to keep myself active, though not as regularly.  As I’ve shared before, prenatal exercise has so many benefits, including: reduced need for pain relief, decrease in maternal exhaustion, and shortened labor.  It may not be safe for all pregnant women, but I was grateful to be able to exercise through my pregnancies and grateful to have midwives who urged me to keep running and walking.

The Science of Parenting

April 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

In February of 2010, I heard about The Science of Parenting by Dr. Margot Sunderland (director of education and training at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London) in a Canadian news article with the headline ‘Crying it out’ may damage baby’s brain. Now that’s a heavy headline, eh? I was definitely intrigued, so I decided to dig further into this.

My initial reaction to the book was: it looks and feels like a text book. Lots of pictures, sidebars, bullet points, etc. The tone of the writing also reminded me of a text book–one that was giving you basic information without personality or fluff. But I was sort of disappointed because the book repeats phrases like, “There is a mass of scientific research showing…” but it only speaks in very general terms about what those studies actually show. I guess I expected a book called “The Science of Parenting” to delve more deeply into the science of parenting.

You are what you think

April 23, 2011 at 5:15 am

Another one from the archive, an August 2009 post:

I was sitting at the table eating dinner the other day, and my baby boy started acting like he was ready to nurse. I started thinking about taking him over to the couch to meet his request, and BOOM my milk let-down. I’d wager most nursing moms have experienced this chain of events hundreds of times.

That experience got me thinking. All I have to do is think about nursing my baby and my body responds within seconds. The salivation reflex is similar. You start thinking about something delicious and BAM… your mouth is ready for it with a gush of saliva.

And that got me thinking about how interconnected our thoughts and our biological processes are. Our thoughts can create almost instantaneous physical reactions! How amazing is that?! And how frightening too. It all depends on what you are thinking about.

Surrender, part 4

March 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness.  As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance.  Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them.  Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed.  Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).

But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4…  and my head was still firmly on this planet?  I’d never experienced anything like this before.

After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming.  In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions.  Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain.  Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts.  Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates.  This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates.  So, nipple stim we did.  That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.

Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs.  Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby.  She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long. 

Building a better bond

February 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

It is now officially my “due date.” I’ve never been pregnant this long before. My other children came 9 days, 5 days, and 10 days early. All of my mother’s six children came either 9 days or 6 days early. I’m not certain, but I think all of my sister’s kids came early as well. I was under the impression that the women in my family “cook ‘em fast.” So my husband and I have been quite surprised to see this pregnancy continuing as long as it has. But I’m totally OK with that. I’ve learned some important things over the past week, and I feel I have God’s and my baby’s wise choice of timing to thank for those valuable blessings. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

You may be aware from prior blogposts (Pitocin on the Brain, On loving baby slime, Mothering my children, healing myself) that bonding with my freshly-born babies has been a struggle for me in the past. With each child, the bond has come more quickly, but it has still never happened as quickly and strongly as I would like it to. My past experiences have led me to believe, at times, that I’m not capable of experiencing that instant “love at first sight” some parents speak of. But it doesn’t keep me from fantasizing about experiencing it. Especially when irrational fears creep up in the recesses of my consciousness filling me with doubts that I’ll even be able to love this new baby at all.

Emergency Preparedness

January 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Regardless of what type of disaster may strike or how severe it is, there will always be pregnant women in need of special assistance. Pregnant women are among those most at risk in disaster situations, in part because severe stress can trigger premature labor, but also because so many women are forced to give birth under precarious circumstances. When hospitals may be over-flowing with sick and injured survivors, roads or transportation inaccessible, and electricity likely unavailable, women who would otherwise have given birth at the hospital will have to seek alternatives.  It is also a possibility that hospitals will only have resources for the most high-risk pregnant women, leaving low-risk mothers to give birth with little or no assistance from staff.   Even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present.

Robbie Prepas, a certified nurse-midwife, saw many such births first-hand during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  She delivered five babies in the New Orleans airport, twins in an ambulance, and provided impromptu care to hundreds of pregnant and postpartum women, checking fetal heart tones, etc.  She explains, “There were no policies or procedures in place to care for pregnant women or mothers and their babies after Katrina.  We even lacked such basics as diapers, formula, baby bottles and clean clothes” (“Disaster Preparedness for Mothers & Babies: Getting Prepared”).  Midwife Mary Callahan, CNM, MS, also assisted in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, providing midwifery services to displaced women in a large shelter and assembling emergency birth and prenatal kits for use in other area shelters (“Chicago Midwives Travel to Baton Rouge”).   While we may be fortunate to cross paths with a doctor, midwife, or paramedic with birth supplies in an emergency childbirth situation, we can’t be certain of such luck. Given all of the possibilities, the best course is to have plans and supplies in place so that we can meet our specific needs in emergency situations.

What’s this?

January 12, 2011 at 12:28 am

Here’s a little comic relief for you.  Remember how I mentioned that my toddler is really into baby dolls lately?  Earlier today, he saw one of our baby dolls on the counter and wanted it.  I saw a plastic baby bottle lying next to it and handed it to him with the doll, partly ’cause I was curious what he would do with it.  The look on his face when he looked at that baby bottle told me I had better run and get my camera.  So glad I did.

Uh... what the heck am I supposed to do with this, Mom?

Nesting and Prolactin

January 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

On Monday I started “nesting.”  A sudden urgency to prepare for the arrival of baby #4 hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first project I tackled:  pulling out all the gender-neutral baby clothes and blankets and washing them (even though they were already clean).  I also threw our stash of cheap washcloths for the home birth into the load as well. Later we got the last few supplies we needed from our home birth supply list.  And then I started cleaning my bathroom (the room I anticipate spending most of my labor in).

32 weeks (Christmas Day)

I couldn’t help wondering, as I busied myself, is this “nesting” thing just a logical consequence of my realizing how little time I have left before my baby arrives, could it simply be that I’m motivated by the New Year and its attendant resolutions, or is there really something within my body chemistry triggering my need to ready our nest? There’s no question that the nesting instinct exists within the animal kingdom, but what about within us? Is the human nesting urge for real? Are we, too, being governed by instinct as we prepare for our babies’ births?  Questions like those always get my blogging juices flowing.

I hoped to find some scientific studies of the nesting instinct among humans, but my search brought up mostly studies among animals.  For instance, one of the first things I found was a really old study suggesting that nest-building in rabbits is triggered by a change in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. 

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