World Doula Week 2022

Happy World Doula Week!

WDW provides an opportunity to celebrate the profession, empower doulas to continue to improve the health and well being of birthing women, infants, and families, and shine light on the immense benefits of having doula support throughout your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences (read more about those benefits on the WDW website here). We celebrate each year from March 22nd to March 28th. World Doula Week 2022 shareables

After two doula babies in the last 8 days, I think this year’s WDW will be a pretty quiet one for me. An opportunity to reflect on the work that I am so fortunate to do. To be invited into families’ pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum experiences is such an honor. I get to be present for some of the most joyous, most challenging, and most intimate of times for new families. A privilege I will never take for granted.

And a big cheers to my fellow doulas this week! I am so happy to work along side so many other awesome birth professionals.

Welcome, sweet Caroline!

Caroline Rose came earthside with an overnight rain in mid March. She was our second homebirth baby and my first time fully experiencing the fetal ejection reflex (FER).

We were team green this time around and affectionately began referring to this little being as Baby Purple. Purple’s official estimated due date was 3/11 which I thought was fun because who doesn’t love a little rock reggae baby. EDD rolled around and I actually began experiencing mild contractions. I was so excited- I was going to have another due date baby! March 11th came and went and so did those contractions, lasting about 20 hours before completely fizzling out.

I was really disappointed. I spent the entire next day preoccupied and anxious for my second little one to come. Late that afternoon my husband Chad, sensing my discontent, told me that I needed to “let it go and let our baby do its thing.” After a bit more loving attention and coaxing I eventually I did just that, I let go of my disappointment and my anxiety surrounding the big question of when. To be sure I was in a better mood I made a deliciously heavy meal of extra cheesy stuffed shells, salad, and homemade bread from a friend.

A few minutes after Caroline joined us earthside

On the evening of March 13th I put Annabelle to bed as usual. As I was about to find out though, this evening was not usual. My water broke on my daughters bed just as I was slipping out! It was a little after 11pm. Thank goodness for the mattress peepee protector we put on a few weeks earlier. I did not experience this with my first, my water must have broken in the shower, and this was new and extremely exciting. Before I could even strip my wet bottoms contractions started, intense and quick! I called Chad upstairs to help me get cleaned up and downstairs… hopefully without waking our sleeping Belley.

When we got downstairs we contacted our midwife who informed us that she, unfortunately, was attending another birth. I won’t lie, I was definitely a little apprehensive at the thought of not having our intended support present. But, since things were progressing pretty quickly there wasn’t much time to wallow in those sorrows. Our midwife got in contact with her backup, Deanna, who called us within 10 minutes. Thinking that I had some labor to work through I told Deanna to be on standby and that I would call her when we would like her to come over.

Immediately upon hanging up the phone my contractions again increased in intensity and frequency. I went into the zone, I was laboring on the birth ball, breathing, moaning, moving, with Chad behind me squeezing my hips with each contraction. Recognizing that we were much closer to meeting our second child than we anticipated Chad suggested that we call Deanna back. It couldn’t have been much more than a half hour since we were first in contact with her.

I continued to labor on the birth ball as Chad prepped a few things and my sister-in-law quietly arrived to keep an eye on Annabelle. Although I couldn’t be bothered to exchange many greetings, I remember feeling so thankful for her presence. Soon after Deanna arrived and quickly began setting up her supplies.

Soon I felt that familiar, uncontrollable urge to push while laboring on the birth ball. With the help of Chad I moved into the same bedroom that we birthed Annabelle in. I felt most comfortable on all fours while working to bring about our second, Chad at my face and Deanna behind. Deanna was quiet; she possessed a calming, silent sense of reassurance for me. I felt much more aware this time around, compared to my first birth. I could feel my baby moving through me during this pushing stage and my waves were working to move my baby out without much added on my part consciously.

My body pushed for about 15 minutes before delivering the baby’s head however, the next set of contractions did not bring about their little body as it did the first time I birthed. The following set was not successful either and although I was aware that this was playing out a bit slower than we all wanted it to, I was not overly concerned. Deanna calmly suggested that I switch positions slightly, bringing my right leg into a lounge like position. I was resistant to the change in position, even that small change seemed like a lot of work. But, with that shift and a bit of help from Deanna my next set of contractions brought the rest of our baby.

It was a girl! I turned over and laid back in bed, Deanna placed Caroline on my chest. We basked in the greatness that was our newest little one; she lay on my chest, content and ready to nurse. After waiting about 35 minutes for the placenta to be delivered Deanna suggested I help things along by standing (assisted by Chad) and out it came.

Sisters. Grandparents. And some pretty intense post birth contractions.

Chad went upstairs to get Annabelle, who was happily awake and playing with her aunt. Despite it being 3 o’clock in the morning, 2.5 year old Annabelle hung out with us as I nursed her sister for the first time, got cleaned up, and Deanna performed the newborn check. Finally around 5am my big girl drifted off to sleep next to the baby and I. I was unable to sleep like Chad was suggesting I do, I was too awake with the overwhelming feelings of happiness, gratitude, and sheer love for my two beautiful babies.

I reflected on that whirlwind of a birth, a little over 3 hours from the time my water broke to Caroline’s arrival, before finally taking the sweetest nap ever.

It’s official… I am a Hypnobabies ® Hypno-Doula

I am super excited and very proud to announce that, as of September 2020, I am officially certified as a Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula!

The web-based Hypno-Doula training was thorough! I worked through the materials in about a weeks time, taking notes, drawing pictures, and listening to my own Hypnobabies®  tracks along the way. Another week of working through the exam and I was ready to submit my 21 page (oh my gosh!) final. I was thrilled to receive my results a few weeks later, I passed with a 99% and had my Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula certification in my inbox.

Even with 6 years of birth ed classroom and direct support experience, the Hypno-Doula training provided a wonderful opportunity for me to dive deeper into my understanding of the Hypnobabies® approach to birth. Hypnobabies® works to shift the common birth paradigm, teaching it’s students (and support professionals) that birth is not something to fear or step back from but, a miraculous and powerful experience for birthing individuals and families to exult in.

I am so happy to have trained as a Hypno-Doula. I’ve experienced the peace and beauty of Hypnobabies births both personally during my second and third births and professionally as a doula. I look forward to working with more Hypnobabies families and sharing in the joy and effectiveness of the Hypnobabies program.

Feel free to check out my official Hypnobabies® Hypno-Doula website listing. And reach out if you are curious about the Hypnobabies® approach to childbirth.

Tips for achieving a natural birth

So, you want to have an unmedicated, natural birth. Here are a few things that I think you should take into consideration in order to help make this important goal a reality.

Who am I, by the way- if you’ve come across this page I’m assuming you know a little bit about me; I’m Alyssa! I am a childbirth educator, a doula, and a fierce advocate for informed, respected, and supported birth. Natural birth, however, is my jam! I was trained originally in The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth and am a mother that has birthed all three of her babies naturally (and with a tremendous amount of joy!). I appreciate all that physiological childbirth can offer birthing individuals and the immense benefits that more respect for this process could offer a maternity care system that is failing birthing folks quite miserably right now.

Anyways, back to the list. How to have a natural birth:

  1. Commit to a natural birth. A natural birth isn’t typically something that a birthing person just happens into. The desire to birth without intervention and with as little interference in the process as possible is one that takes determination and commitment to see to fruition. Take time early on to explore the reasons why it’s important to you to birth naturally; these reasons will serve as motivation, seeing you through the natural birth process, even amidst challenges that might arise prenatally or throughout labor and birth.
  2. Attend a natural birth class. A good natural birth class will be comprehensive in nature, preparing your mind and body for this birth. Birth classes will help you build a foundation of knowledge that elucidates the birth process, offer you (and your partner) practical skills to handle the progression of labor, and arm you with the information necessary to make informed decisions throughout your birth experience. Birth classes will allow you to relax into your natural birth plans, helping you to feel more confident in your knowledge and abilities. I’m partial to Bradley Method natural birthing classes as you get all of this and even more, in a community-building group setting. You are together with your classmates and instructor for a series of weeks, allowing you to get to know each other, learn from one another, and really dig into the birth process and the relaxation techniques. For decades, well over 80% of the birthing folks/families that have taken Bradley classes go on to have unmedicated, low-intervention, vaginal births.
  3. Choose your provider and birth place wisely. Make sure that you are seeking care with a provider or practice that not only supports your desire to birth naturally but, has a practice philosophy and record of care that encourages low-intervention, physiological birth.
    • consider midwifery care as the evidence shows that midwives are the safest providers for low-risk women. They typically, as standard practice, provide the type of care that supports the natural birthing process.
    • if you are healthy and low risk, consider birthing outside of the hospital; are there freestanding birth centers near you or licensed home birth providers? Much like individual providers or practices, birth places can vary in how well they facilitate and support natural birth.
  1. Consider hiring a doula. Did you know that hiring a doula as part of your support team will increase the likelihood of you having a spontaneous, vaginal birth and lessen the chances that you will utilize pain medications, request an epidural, or undergo a cesarean?!
  2. Practice, practice, practice! I’m sure you’ve heard birth compared to a marathon, it certainly requires dedicated preparation, practice, and endurance (of both the mental and physical type). What might this look like? Get out for a daily walk; in the last month or so of pregnancy really hone in on what helps to relax you mentally and emotionally. As you approach birth day it will be beneficial to set aside time each day, even just 10 minutes, to ground yourself and breathe slowly and mindfully. Laying out a yoga mat, practicing some birth prep exercises, and ending with a few moments to rest, breathe, and perhaps sit with some birth affirmations, a guided meditation, or just focus on your rhythmic abdominal breath is a great way to calm your mind and prepare yourself for birth.
  3. Faith over fear! It can be easy to get carried away with “what if…” type of thoughts and, most often, these what ifs are negative and fearful in nature. Prepare as best as you can and then choose faith over fear, surrendering to the beautiful unknowns of birth. Following the tips above and honoring your intuition throughout this process is the best way to ensure that your preferences for this birth experience will be honored. From there you must have faith! Faith in your body to birth this baby without intervention, faith in your baby, who is also an active participant in this experience, and faith in the team that you brought together to support you through this remarkable journey.

Faith and fear both demand that you believe in something that you cannot see. You choose!

Bob Proctor

Birthing our first baby at home, Annabelle’s birth story

We welcomed our first baby in the comfort of our home. This was something that, by about half way through our pregnancy, felt so absolutely right for our family. There’s lots that I can credit for this departure from the norm- time spent with an awesome family that I babysat for who birthed their babies at home, our Bradley Method®  birthing classes; but more than anything a steadfast and peaceful resolve within my own heart that home was where this birth was meant to be. The following is the story of our first homebirth, Annabelle’s birth day.

“… more than anything a steadfast and peaceful resolve within my own heart that home was where this birth was meant to be.”

That Sunday evening my husband, Chad, and I took a long stroll around the neighborhood, as we had throughout my entire pregnancy but, this time, I was a day away from my due date and feeling pretty fab. And as they had throughout the entire second half of my pregnancy, a well-intentioned neighbor commented on how pregnant I was and that I looked ready to pop. So endearing, right? I matter-of-factly told said neighbor that my due date was the next day but that I certainly wasn’t going to have my baby then. Half smiles exchanged and Chad, the dog, and I continued on our walk. 

Well apparently I need to give middle aged men more credit for their birth telepathy because I woke at 3am, on baby’s due date, with contractions. Having no bathroom on the upper level of our home, I had definitely mastered the half-sleep stair climb over the last several months. That early morning, I made about a half a dozen trips up and down our stairs under the pretense that I just had to make a bowel movement. I finally let go of those urges, conceding to just go in the bed if it really came down to it (don’t worry, I didn’t). I finally relaxed in bed next to Chad, and let the contractions do their job while I rested. We planned a homebirth and I was in communication with my midwife from the time that I woke with the contractions. A little after 6am, I felt the urge to get moving again so I woke my sleeping husband, telling him that he was going to get the day off of work. I got out of bed and headed downstairs. Chad followed me down and quietly called the midwife. 

I paced the house and worked through my contractions which were coming about every 3 minutes at that point. As Chad prepped our birth supplies and birthing space I prompted him to get into the shower with me. Together we labored in the shower, Chad holding my entire bodyweight while I surrendered to the contractions. In between contractions he used the removable shower head to massage my back. The hot water felt incredible as it jetted out onto my lower back and bottom. I quickly washed my hair and scrubbed my face, convinced that my mop needed to look nice for the birth of our baby.

Looking back, I assume that my water must have broken while we were in the shower. There was no movie-style scene outside of the tub with amniotic fluid spilling everywhere so, it must have been contained in there at some point during my shower.

I began to feel a little grunty (read pushy!) while we were in the shower so, with the water beginning to get cold anyways, we got out. I quickly found my way onto the toilet. At about the same time our midwife arrived, she calmly and quietly asked if she could check me and swiftly began setting up her supplies just on the other side of the wall, in the spare bedroom. I labored on the toilet for a while, breathing and groaning through the contractions. Chad was directly in front of me, sitting on the edge of our bathtub; he was my anchor, stabilizing me, breathing with me, and gently encouraging me. His calm presence kept me composed and in the moment, allowing me to work through the intensity of the sensations that I was experiencing. 

I labored on the toilet for a while (20-30 minutes in total, I would guess) before relocating to the bedroom. I should add that I was quite reluctant to move but did so at my midwife’s insistence since “we {didn’t} really want to have a baby on the pot.” I sat up in the bed with my husband directly behind me and began actively bearing down with my contractions to help bring our daughter earthside. I took the time between contractions to completely melt into my husband’s lap, my head on his chest and body limp between his legs. 

After about 25 minutes of pushing I was certain that I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt helpless. Chad and our midwife gently encouraged me and within 15 minutes I delivered my daughter’s head. With the next contraction the rest of her body slid out of me. Annabelle was place on my tummy and I pulled her up towards my chest; we sat as a brand new family for the first time, taking in all of her beauty and the utter astonishment that was our birth journey. All I could manage to get out of my mouth, over and over again, was “my sweet baby!” I was absolutely overcome with joy, relief, excitement, and love. 

Annabelle stayed on my chest for about 20 minutes after birth. Chad cut her cord, which was completely white and lifeless at that point, and then she was wrapped up in a blanket and given to her proud, new father. Annabelle was cozy with her papa as I delivered my placenta (which, to my surprise, felt oddly satisfying) and got cleaned up in a quick sitz bath with the help of the midwife. Annabelle was happy and healthy, passing all of her newborn assessments with flying colors and weighing in at 8 pounds and 2 ounces and 19.5” long.

The next few days were absolute bliss. I recovered, breastfed, and bonded with our sweet Annabelle in our family bed in the front room. Chad was home with us and split his time between cuddles, food prep, and laundry. A few family and friends would sneak in occasionally to lay eyes on our new little one, each one offering help around the house and leaving with huge smiles on their faces. Our wonderful midwife came back almost daily for a week to offer her loving guidance and support.

I will forever look back on this experience with immense joy. We were loved, supported, and well-cared for throughout. Annabelle made her entrance into the world in the most peaceful and loving way that I could have ever imagined. For that I could not be more grateful.