A Thanksgiving Ode | My Second Time as MotherDoula

My second born daughter has given birth to her firstborn daughter.

 

 

Once again, I was given the honor of MotherDoula to support my next daughter through birth and usher her into motherhood. (Read more about my first time serving as MotherDoula to Indy here)

That Full Moon in October, the Hunter’s Moon, was no joke.

I called Hallie outside that clear night and suggested that if she wanted her baby to come, it might be helpful to show her belly to that magnificent full moon.  She said, “Mom, you’re just weird” and went back inside.

Two days later, Hallie felt a bit “crampy”. In that tricky mixture as Mother (do not hover) and Doula (responsibly assessing where she was at), I checked in just a few times throughout the day. “The same. Crampy”.  It’s important to mention here that my Hallie is a competitive athlete. I was pretty sure she would have a fairly high pain threshold but not sure what that would look like.

We all went to bed around 11 pm.  At midnight, Hallie appeared in my bedroom doorway:

“Mom?”

“Noopie?” (My term of endearment for all three of my daughters.)

“I’m not sure how much more of this I can do.”

Wait. What? There was nothing but crampy all day.  We just went to bed an hour ago. My doula brain was trying to work this out.

I asked Hallie to come in and let us work through a few contractions together so I could get a sense of where her labor was and see if I could help her get more comfortable?  “Mom. There is nothing comfortable about this.”

We tried the birth ball. She hated it. I encouraged her to try breathing with sound. “That’s not me.” Maybe getting into the tub will help. “I hate taking a bath.” I encouraged her to try not to brace but rather let go into the contractions. “What do you mean “don’t brace”? How am I bracing?”

I suggested as the doula and gently as a mother that maybe Hallie would consider just trying the tub for a few contractions to see if the warm water might help her find that space between strength and surrender.

We were in that candlelit bathroom for an hour and a half. All was calm and quiet other than the sound of running water. Hallie said she was ready to get out of the tub and feeling like she’d like to go to the hospital.  As I helped her dry off, I casually asked if she was feeling any pressure during the contractions, just to rule out for myself that she wasn’t that far advanced in her labor.

She was feeling pressure.  “Is that ok?”

All I could think of was if Hallie ended up with an unplanned homebirth on my watch, my daughters would NEVER let me live it down.

Hallie was 8 cm dilated when we arrived at the hospital at 3:45 am. She started to push instinctively not too long afterwards. The  charge nurse came in at some point to see just what was going on in Labor Room 11.

Charge Nurse: “She can’t push until the Doctor is here to deliver her!”

Brian: “By the sound of it, that train has already left the station.”

Me: “Well, her body is clearly telling her to push. And you and I both know she’s the one who’s delivering her baby. So, if Dr. C wants to be here to catch, now would be a good time to give him a call.”

This is California. It is 2019 and this shit is still happening.

Lennon Gould Douglass made her way in at 6:42 am on October 16th, in the wake of that full moon, just shy of three hours after we arrived.

Layne Redmond writes..

“All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries when she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born.”

This is my legacy, all that I have hoped for in my lifetime; mother to daughter, new mother to new daughter and grandmother to granddaughter.

For this, I am deeply, deeply thankful…

Follow Friday | Postpartum Resources for the “Longest Shortest Time”

The “Longest Shortest Time”…the best description EVER of life with your newborn, borrowed from the brilliant podcast of that name. I like to be really real about the highs and lows of newborn parenthood. It’s important that we talk about postpartum honestly so we don’t feel alone, judged and inadequate. The voices in our own head are tough enough, but let’s support one another; like one big sleepover (without the sleep). Here are some of my favorite places online that I hope will help carry you for even a moment through the longest shortest time. Plus a hug from me. I am just a phone call or text away if you need me.


1:  Postpartum Support International: They have a 24-hour confidential helpline with over 300 trained support professionals who will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement and connect you with local resources if needed, available in English & Spanish

“You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.”

Call: 1.800.944.4773. Text:503.894.9453. 

2: Healing Baby Bath | This video of a newborn bath given by Sonja Rochel, a baby nurse at the Thalasso Clinic in France, captures how she helps newborns transition from the womb to the world in the most healing way. After watching this, you’ll want to know what she says about how to do this safely at home with your newborn (or somehow magically appear moments after you’ve given birth).

img via fb.com.ThalassoBainBebe

“I take the time … for such a young baby so soon after birth, the memories of being in their mommy’s belly are still very vivid … and with the bath I want her to re-live those beautiful moments, and cherish them.”

You can read more about Sonia Rochel’s ‘Thalasso Baby Bath’ technique here.

3: Dr. Angellique Millette |  She is a gift to all of us around infant, toddler and child sleep. She is a trained midwife, infant and pregnancy massage therapist, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation educator, parent coach, and child and family, therapist. Oh, and she has her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

The biggest plus is that Dr. Millette is one of the kindest people I know. Sign up for her newsletter and check out her archived webinars on all sleep topics for instant help. I also LOVE this Hands To Heart Sleep Swaddle that Dr. Millette created based on her work.

BONUS: Watch & Listen

The Longest Shortest Time.” You won’t feel so alone when you listen. Especially the earliest episodes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Hillary Frank.

Reflections of Motherhood. This is your “virtual village” of mothers to mothers.

Follow Friday | About Breastfeeding

Last week I shared with you some of my favorite places online for all things birth-related – this week I’m focused on some support-full Breastfeeding Resources for all of you new and expecting parents. Breastfeeding is a duet that requires practice by you and your baby. Preferably without any “shoulds” and with all the nonjudgmental support you deserve.


1:  Waiting to Inhale; How to Unhurry the Moment of Birth by Mary Esther Malloy is a beautiful commentary on keeping birth for the parents.

Riley is born into her father’s and midwife’s hands.

“But just as we are now appreciating what occurs when we respect a baby’s ability to find its mother at birth, what I am seeing with Laura and other mothers is heightening my respect for and understanding of our own abilities as women to find our babies at birth. When we do not rush through the moment of birth, but honor the pause that marks the center of this sequence, what happens, in my experience, seems to be nothing less than a paradigm shift of equal significance.

For we are not only finding our babies, we are also finding ourselves as mothers, and finding our way into a new state of being.

2: KellyMom.com | All too often, breastfeeding sites are more dogmatic than I feel comfortable with.  I’m drawn to the lactation consultants who subscribe to the “let’s just feed the baby” non-dogmatic support camp. Kellymom is a great site for up to date, evidence-based information around all things breast and bottle feeding that just does that.  

3: Mamava | So proud of Mamava, a Vermont based company started by two women.  Download their app on your phone to locate one of these wondrous pods to breastfeed in a clean and private space.  Imagine that…

Img via FB.com/mamavaVT

BONUS: What To Watch | Here are a series of videos on Baby-Led Latching that offer an alternate perspective to the current “put the baby to breast immediately after birth”.  In these videos, you’ll see these most remarkable instincts and skills with which babies are born to find their way to your breast on their own, known as the “newborn crawl”.

Baby-led latching video by Milk Meg

Baby Led Latching video  by Breastfeeding for Parents

Scarymommy Newborn Crawl to Breastfeed video from the World Health Media Project

This video helps you see and hear how it sounds when your baby is swallowing so you can hear the “clicks”.

Peace on Maternity | Newborns and Dogs

From the time he was a puppy, I knew Peace had the perfect temperament to be a Therapy Dog and so many years ago, we certified as a Therapy Dog Team.

Peace, a certified therapy dog He loves his visits with the children on Pediatrics at UVM Medical Center. As soon as I take out his Therapy Dog bandana, he gets excited and heads for the door.  He knows exactly where we are going.  I have to give us at least twenty minutes or so just to get from the parking garage up to the fifth floor because so many people want to pet/hug/admire/love/take a picture of Peace as we make our way through the hospital.

He is an enormous Golden Retriever; weighing in at about ninety pounds (down from one hundred given his eleven years, size and proclivity to arthritis).  We say he is a Golden channeling “Newfie”.  If I had a dollar for every time someone remarks on how huge his paws are, I’d be inordinately wealthy.  The answer I’ve come up with to the question I get more often than not – “Why is he so big?” – is to say that Peace needed an extra-large body to house a heart as big as his...

It had been a dream of mine forever to pioneer a Therapy Dog Team on Maternity.  Where else would a Doula and her Dog want to be?  So, after some research around protocol and the support of the midwives and nursing staff, Peace and I began our visits to the Mother/Baby unit.

Once we announce ourselves at the Nurses Station, the staff come from everywhere to love on Peace.  Then we begin our trip down the hallway, knocking gently, opening the door a crack and ask “Would you like a visit with a Therapy Dog?”

Almost always, the answer is a resounding YES PLEASE! For the mothers who have delivered and miss their dogs they have left behind at home, Peace brings much-needed comfort.  For the first-time mothers who have left behind their “firstborns”, the dogs they have raised before giving birth, Peace helps them allay the anxiety around going home and introducing their human babies to their dogs.  They have the chance to practice right then and there, lifting their new babies for Peace to smell and nuzzle.  We visit with the mothers who are on bed rest for preterm labor, have experienced miscarriage and loss and recovering from surgery. Mothers have sat on the floor hugging him and sobbing into his fur.

Peace is always gentle and kind and knowing.

One Doc said it right; Peace is the best medicine in the hospital.

Doesn't it just make sense to have Peace on Maternity at every hospital?

Altered States…

I am now being invited to attend the births of my eldest daughter Indy’s friends.

Wow.

These are the same girls (now women) who sat at my kitchen table in high school eating homemade chocolate chip cookies while we discussed birth control and heartache.

Those who come to the house for Good Birth Class (instead of meeting online – I DO work with Millenials) now sit pregnant, on the very same couch they made out on. Talk about altered states…

Last month, I had the honor of helping to usher in baby Jack. Jack’s mama, Molly, has been Indy’s best friend from the time Molly was 18 months old. I helped Molly’s mother labor 27 years ago to bring in Molly’s brother.

Again, wow.

In the midst of all of this, I am keenly aware that we are currently living in an altered state…

What keeps me afloat in these unsettling times are the babies; the reminder of this continuity over millennia, of the repetitive renewal and infinite possibility that comes with each birth.

I need to say this. We need to protect our mothers and babies. We need to safeguard their health and their passage in our communities, our country, our continents and our cosmos.

Birth is sacred and it preserves our humanity. It is the key.

Peace on earth really does begin at birth. I see it there every time…

Let me know if you want to talk or have coffee. I am here.