It's really wonderful that women are beginning to ask a lot of questions regarding their health. It's been a truly beautiful revolution to witness as a birth worker who wants nothing more than for people to "wake up" from the dream we've been sold for a very long time about what we are and are not capable of. And, we do believe that people should be taking more accountability for their health and well-being outside of the medical world.
However, I'm beginning to get concerned about the amount of "advice" that is getting thrown around on different social media outlets. Women asking questions and getting answers from other women with limited experience and knowledge outside of their personal experience can be dangerous. I can't help but see how this could be a really slippery slope, and, I'm also seeing it fail many women as well.
Being a part of an online group or network is not going to replace a true professional. I see many women who are getting advice that they could or would be getting from their doula or midwife (or other care provider) if they had made the investment in themselves, their birth and postpartum outcomes in the first place. You can not be "doula'd" over the internet. Not fully.
As a doula, I do know a lot of the answers to the questions that are asked online - and, yes, I see people being told inaccurate information a lot as well. But, I'm also seeing a lot of birth professionals hand out the answers for free! Now, we understand the desire to promote yourself and provide for the people, but, we can NOT give ourselves, our knowledge, or our profession away like this. I see these questions online and I think to myself "That woman should have hired a doula" - because had she been working with a doula for not only her birth, but, for her pregnancy as well - it's likely she could have avoided "X,Y or Z" in the first place.
Not that it it ever our job to give "advice", it's our job to fully and factually inform so women can be empowered to make educated decisions. "Advice" can get us into trouble - especially if it turns out to be bad advice. But, empowering people to make their own choices with all the information - THAT is safe....but, that's not what's going on here. Women are being given opinions and random Google articles written by "who knows" and taking it in as "advice".
Now, we want women to share their experiences, their stories and what did and did not work for them. We do think that is great!! We just want both sides to take this into consideration:
If we have learned one things from working with birth, it's that our state of mind really is what controls 90% of our reality. We have seen women "let go" and dilate or progress instantly. We hear time and time again, "really, as soon as I surrendered I: went into labor, dilated, had my baby, made more milk, etc.".
Self care is more important for caregivers than anyone else. Mothers are the life givers, sustaining our lives with theirs. Sometimes it's difficult to work in a reiki session, massage or manicure - but, with practice, meditation can become free, easy, and time efficient, which is perfect for busy mamas (and papas, too).
We have compiled this list of meditations available on You Tube and encourage you to set aside a minimum of 5 minutes per day to meditate and visualize.
This will help you:
TIP: Incorporate a scent (like lavender or something relaxing to you) when you meditate that you can use in your labor. Your mind will create a "trigger response" to that scent and sound of whatever you are meditating to and when you hear it in labor, you will more naturally respond to it by relaxing.
Our bodies mirror nature because they are nature. When our bodies reach full term and we are ready to go into labor, it can help to visualize yourself opening up as a flower blooms. When you are contracting it can help to listen to or watch the rise and swell of waves. Our minds are a powerful tool that can help or hurt our bodies ability to cooperate with the process of labor and delivery. By taking the time to eliminate our fears and anxieties and visualize ourselves doing exactly what our bodies were created to do we can help ourselves achieve our goals.
Check out these videos. Breathe. Visualize yourself opening like a beautiful flower. Connect with your body and let it know that you are ready.
"We would never force a rose to bloom..."
Since the beginning of humanity, women have given birth. We learned about birth through experience of both doing it and helping other women through it. Through the years, roles were defined. Midwives were the ones with the physiological knowledge of bodies and childbirth, they managed the safety of mother and baby. Doulas maintained a supportive role, doing whatever they could to comfort the mother in labor and help her through the experience. This is not new - it's as old as birth itself.
When people ask what we do and we answer "doula" we often get one of two responses - either "what's a doula?!" or "Is that like a midwife?". We then have the opportunity to enlighten people with this information, which is always a good thing. So, let's dig deeper into the differences between a doula and a midwife.
Knowledge/Expertise: Attends Home & Birth Center Births (CNM's @ Hospitals), Trained in the physiological aspects of pregnancy, childbirth & postpartum. Monitors Mother-Baby's health pre and postnatally as well as in birth.
First of all, let's talk about different kinds of midwives - a Certified Nurse-Midwife ("CNM") is an advance practice registered nurse who has specialized education and training in both nursing and midwifery. They deliver babies in hospitals, sometimes both home and hospital, though this is pretty rare. A CNM is someone who might be more laid back about birth, yet still has very medically minded training. S/he may have never seen a truly natural birth or a home birth.
A Home birth Midwife also comes in many varieties. "The CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) is a knowledgeable, skilled and independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). CPM is the only international credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital birth."
A Licensed Midwife (LM) is sanctioned by her state after she passes a test administered by the state’s medical board licensing division. Lay midwives in eight states – Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky , Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming – and in the District of Columbia are not able to legally become licensed midwives. So, a lay midwife could risk being arrested by attending home births. However, some states - like our state of Michigan - simply do not require a licence.
Then, there are "Lay midwives" (also referred to as traditional midwives, empirical midwives, or direct-entry midwives). They are not nurses; rather, they're women who have had direct training in midwifery through self-study, apprenticeship, a midwifery school, or a college- or university-based program that is separate from the field of nursing. Lay midwives are trained to provide the Midwifery Model of Care to healthy women and newborns throughout the childbearing cycle, primarily in non-hospital settings. Some lay midwives become certified professional midwives (CPMs) or licensed midwives (LMs).
In all of the differences of midwives, there are also difference in style. Some are very hands on, some very hands off, others will let you decide what is best for you. Some will repair your perineum if you tear, others you will need to transfer into the hospital for repair. Some will show up earlier in labor and sit with you, others prefer to be called in when you are close to delivery. The differences go on and on - so, this article is really written from a perspective of "is this her job or not". We know many midwives who will rub your back and spend more time with you - but, traditionally, this is not their role. The midwife, ultimately, is hired to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
Knowledge/Expertise: Attends Home/Hospital/Birth Center Births, Educational/Informational Support (providing information, options and community resources to people prenatally as well as in labor and postpartum), Comfort measures for labor and birth (ie: breathing, meditation, rebozo, massage, acupressure, position changes, distraction, etc.), Assistance with breastfeeding and postpartum recovery/comfort.
Just like there are many different types of Midwives, there are also many different types of Doulas. There are Birth, Postpartum, Antepartum, Adoption, Loss (miscarriage/abortion) and even Death Doulas.
A Certified Doula (CD) is someone who has been certified through training and requirements by some kind of educational program. There are MANY of these. Juliea of Crowning Lotus is trained through DONA, so, her "letters" are Juliea Paige CD(DONA). There are many different triainings out there, Crowning Lotus itself now being one of them. When someone is interested in becoming a Certified Doula, they will have to reflect on their own beliefs, ethics, styles, etc. and find a process that works for them - IF being certified is important to them.
Because Doulas do not take an active roll in your actual health care, they are not at all liable for the outcome of your health or birth. They do not require any sort of certification to work as doulas. Much of what a doula does can easily be obtained through independent learning and experience. When hiring a doula, you will also need to reflect on what is important to you as far as the knowledge and training your doula will have and need.
Again, styles, personalities, knowledge, approach - these all differ in doulas as well. Overall, however, the doulas role is one of support. She is there to ensure you know what your options are, to encourage you to make healthy decisions for yourself and your baby and then will support you throughout your labor process knowing you and what your preferences are. She is the person who will walk with you as a companion, as a person who provides you and your partner with comfort and peace.
The difference between doulas and midwives
Doulas don't do anything medical. They will not monitor your baby, take blood pressure, temperature, do vaginal checks, etc. It is not their job to catch your baby or to make calls regarding the health of you or your baby....as a matter of fact, the doula doesn't make ANY calls. She holds space for the mother to speak for herself. She will walk with you every step of the way, but will allow you to lead always.
The midwife's job is not to make you comfortable or to help emotionally prepare you for birth and parenting. You are hiring her to keep you and your baby safe. She will monitor and make calls regarding the health of you or your baby, she will do vaginal checks and catch your baby (unless you decide you or your partner want to do that). She will also deliver your placenta and monitor your bleeding and physiological adjustment after the birth as well as the baby's.
The midwife harbors the safety of the mother-baby.
The Doula provides comfort and support through the process.
Both roles equal in importance,
both in support of and benefiting from the other.
As you can see from the chart we created above, Doulas bridge the gaps in care that are provided by your OB OR Midwife*. While one is certainly not the other, all respectively have an important role in birth.
*Obviously, some midwives go above and beyond what their job is, but, we made this chart with the thought "this is or is not their JOB to offer this?" so you, the reader, would have only true expectations of any midwife. Overall, you want your midwife to be focused on your care, hiring a doula ensures that every facet of your needs are covered without putting too much on any one person - including your partner!
When expecting a child, whether it is your first or your sixth, you deserve to be informed and supported. We often hear about people who want a doula but are having a tough time justifying to themselves, their partners or their family the cost of this service. Many will try to find a doula who will work for free or at a very discounted rate, and the doula who participates in offering this are doing themselves, their profession AND the people they work with a massive injustice. Getting a doula is an investment, and when you are invested into something, you are far more likely to take it seriously and get the outcome you desire.
We can not speak for all doulas, their costs and what they do or do not provide their clients - so this article is written from our perspective and how we do things. So, let's break it down.
Investment: $180 prenatally - $600 Birth Fee ($780 total)
Cost to the Doula: $200. (at least) Childcare, Food, Gas, Handouts, Comfort Supplies (massage oils & tools, essential oils, tinctures, etc.) and Rental of our office space where we do prenatals, support groups, classes and events and even provide space for out of town clients to come and labor in before going into the hospital.
Value to the client: Having a doula greatly reduces the risk of having unnecessary and unwanted intervention, they often shorten the duration of your labor while also making the experience itself a pleasant and satisfying one for both you and your partner.
Why is this important?
First of all, having a healthy birth contributes greatly to a smooth adjustment into parenthood. When we are supported and able to deliver our babies naturally our bodies recover much more quickly and easily. Imagine having a wicked hangover and someone handing you a brand new baby that you have to care for - that's what medicated births are like. It sounds great in theory, right? Just induce when convenient, numb the pain or just get the baby "removed" from our abdomen at a pre-decided date and time...This is what our friends, family, peers and 'the system' are glorifying and perpetuating to childbearing women - yet no one seems to talk about the very real after effects and serious risks this poses to not only the birth but to the mother and baby postpartum. This is not to say that interventions do not have their time and place - but we should not be getting any of them because of fear, misinformation (or a complete lack of), or out of impatience...which contributes the most to the vast majority of interventions. Women who are having medicated births or end up with medicated births can still greatly benefit from the support of a doula.
Every intervention is a speed bump in your recovery - some bigger than others, but everything has an impact. Investing in a skilled, professional doula is by far the greatest method of putting the odds in your favor. She is not only going to educate you on all of this stuff, but, she will help you navigate through it in real time, too.
When we work with parents we are helping them prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for the birth AND parenting process as a whole. Because of how we work with people their births tend to go better, their body and mentality is prepared for and less afraid of birth itself. We help bring a mother and her partner closer together by helping them define how they will best get through this, while also providing them with the tools and knowledge they will realistically need to make it happen. If we have done our job right prenatally, she and her partner will easily work together through the birthing process and we work as an outside support - there to simply guide and encourage what they are already doing so well.
Aren't my care providers and nurses supposed to help me?
OB's and nurses are not natural birth specialists. When women get educated enough to decide they don't want to jump into a medicated birth, they also need to accept that they should not realistically expect medical professionals to help her achieve this. This is like a vegitarian going to a butcher for cooking advice. It simply isn't their specialty, and it's unfair to place this expectation on them. There is no part of the pregnancy journey where your education and support are built into. You HAVE to seek this out on your own. Period.
So many of the people who hire us are NOT first time parents. The first time, most people do not understand the value of avoiding interventions - or how difficult it will be to avoid them on their own. They trust the system and their care provider and do little to no independant research. They think "people deliver babies all the time - why would I need help through that?", yet - more often than not, something happens to those first time parents in their birth that they didn't want or that ended up negatively impacting them and they are left looking back on the experience wondering what could have been done differently. Often, what could have been done differently is they could have invested in that experience and hired themselves a doula.
What exactly am I paying for when I hire a doula?
When you hire a doula, you are supporting someone who has spend a lot of time and energy on learning about childbirth and parenting. You are paying for her education and experience, her expertise. Hiring a doula is like hiring a sherpa when climbing a mountain - she will show you the way but will never take credit for each step YOU had to take and the experience you ended up with.
A doula will spend a lot of time with you, a lot of time on her computer organizing information for you, she will do research for you, she is that person you can run to with questions or concerns and feel completely heard. If she doesn't have the answer, she will help you find it or will know someone who does because she is a plethora of resources. She has books you can borrow. She can suggest ways for you to feel more comfortable in pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
When it comes to being on call, she makes herself completely available 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after your due date. She often isn't able to have a regular job because of this, so, being a doula becomes her life and her only source of income. She goes to bed early, makes sure to stay within a 1-2 hour radius of home, doesn't drink too much, etc - all because she knows YOU might need her at any given moment. When you do need her, she is there. She will help you through your labor every step of the way, whether that takes 5 hours or 36. Your nurses will shift change, your OB AND Midwife will show up at the "grand finale", it is no one but the doulas job to support you ALL THE WAY THROUGH. When you and your partner are exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, she is still right there, supporting you both, guiding you through in your hours of greatest need. She takes time away from her family and life to provide this service because she believes in you and in birth THAT MUCH - to put a price on this is difficult, because ultimately - it's priceless.
When a mom and dad looks and her and says "We couldn't have done it without you" (which they do every. single. time.), she smiles and says "You did this, I was just here to hold space for you." She says this because it's true. We can not force people to hire us - it was THEM who chose to make this investment. A good doula will help you find your voice....but ultimately it is ALWAYS up to you to use it.
What if my partner does not understand the value of a doula, or we are struggling to afford it?
Unfortunately, the sticker shock of the cost of a doula and a partners lack of a full understanding of what we provide often keeps a woman from getting the doula she deserves. This is truly unfortunate because your partner deserves a doula, too! Sometimes it just takes some re-framing, setting up a free consultation can often provide your partner with a better understanding of how amazing - and important - these services are. This also provides them the space to ask questions about our role and inquire about payment plans and insurance reimbursement, etc. (Also, you can send him our link to "A Doula's Advice To Partners")
If you feel strongly about getting a doula, however, there are a lot of ways you can get the money you need to make it happen. For us, the only payment that is made upfront is $180 (which covers your prenatal care) and the remainder isn't due until after you have your baby. People can pay this in full or in payments as low as $50/month. Many people are putting a birth and/or postpartum doulas on their "registry", some are being gifted doulas from caring friends/family. We have seen donation sites set up to raise funds, people have bartered/traded services and or goods, etc. Doulas are flexible people for the most part - if you are struggling, talk to someone!! While we will not budge on what our value is (because we are all in the same boat, ultimately), we are open to working with people where they are at as long as they are willing to do the same for us.
The bottom line here is, women need doulas. We live in America - one of the lowest rated countries for infant and maternal care. If we want good births, if we want to start changing how birth looks for women and their babies - it starts with education and support. The question really comes down to - do you value that? What are you willing to do to make sure your experience is the best -and safest- it can be? Is this a worthy investment for you and your family? No one can answer that for you but you.
Recently the Zulu Birth Project was brought to our attention and we simply could not resist the urge to reach out to them. As Grand Rapids most diverse doula team, the idea of bringing the gaps between cultures and colors is near and dear to our hearts. Especially when it comes to birth, as we are well aware that women of color are at an embarrassingly higher rate of birth harm and injustices. We want to see this change and we are aware that change starts with trainings and community events such as this. It starts with us.
The Zulu Birth Project is a multinational initiative to reach across time and borders to share ancient birthing practices in support of mothers-to-be, their families and the birth workers who serve them. Zinzile Seepie and Tanya Parker, two awe-inspiring mothers, activists and advocates, have come together with their knowledge, experience and passion for women and families to do something about birth and how we care for mothers, for ourselves, and each other. They have created a tour where along the way they will not only teach ancient African traditions for birth, baby wearing and beyond - they will create a Global Community.
We want Grand Rapids to be a part of that.
We have reached out and have lovingly convinced them to make a stop here on the weekend of Aug 22, 2014 where we will hold a FREE community event at Centre Point, followed by the workshop on Aug 23-24, 2014 at Cedar Tree Birth & Wellness.
We're calling on YOU, our community, to help us bring these amazing women and their knowledge to Grand Rapids. Our goal is not only to take and provide the community event and training, but to use this training as a way to help us bridge the gap between mothers of different colors. We want to unite Grand Rapids in a whole new way, and we feel that through this community event and training we will have a unique and beautiful opportunity to begin laying down that foundation.
Here's how you can get involved and help us out:
Also, Each workshop, in support of Vicki Penwell’s Grand Challenge 2014, issues 1 full scholarship to a Birthworker of Color. Applicants can apply for this directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the Zulu Birth Project training will be offering:
What Participants Receive: