Embracing Doulahood While Waiting for Motherhood

U of M hospital doula

Me and my doula bag. 3:00 am at Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital

Often times when people learn I am a doula they assume that I have children of my own. There comes a point in interviews with potential clients where the question of my personal labor/pregnancy/baby  experience comes up. Until recently I have felt sheepish about admitting that I am not a mother yet (as if it is something to be admitted to). Maybe it’s because I am afraid of not meeting people’s expectations.  At the same time, I am not embarrassed that I’m still waiting to become a mother, nor do I think that it diminishes my skills as a doula. I don’t feel that becoming a mother would automatically make you a great doula (though lots of doulas are fantastic mothers), just as experiencing loss doesn’t automatically make you an effective grief counselor.

Top of the Park, doulas, Ann Arbor

Doula non-mom, doula-mom and sleepy doula-toddler enjoying an evening on the town.

There are many doulas who are mothers and who find doula work through motherhood. It makes sense. Sitting in my doula training, many of the women in the room had come to the training as a result of a wonderful birth experience with a great doula who inspired them. Sadly, others had found their way there through traumatic birth experiences and were motivated to never let another family go through the same. I had neither. I didn’t even know anyone who was pregnant at the time. I was there because I have always felt pulled toward work that allows me to walk with and support others as they navigate major life transitions. I thought this doula thing might be my way to do just that. It has been.

I’m very intentionally not a mother yet, but I love being a part other people’s journey toward motherhood. I mean the whole journey: the dreaming/visioning, the multitude of choices,  the drama of labor and birth, and the finagling that comes with adding another demanding person to your family. Right now not being a mother is allowing me to fully be a doula. I can drop everything and go to a birth without worrying about childcare. I have all my mothering energy and time to devote to my clients. I have skills now that I can use today to help ease the transition to motherhood for other women; a cool head, an open heart, a calm presence, and an ever deepening well of knowledge about the childbearing year. I can “hold the space” for mother and partner as they make decisions about how they want to go through labor and birth. I can offer alternate sources of information, coping techniques, and a nonjudgmental ear.

I really look forward to being a mother some day, but in the mean time I have the privilege of working with families as they bring another tiny human into the world.

Doula, date night, ann arbor

Me and my honey at the Moth Mainstage. Enjoying being “just two” for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doula as Luxury Commodity?!

doula support

Women Supporting Women

There is a fallacy going around right now in the Doula community.  It is being said that Doulas are not needed, or deserved.  That Doulas are WANTED, and therefore are a luxury service.  I would beg to differ!  Women have been supporting women through childbirth for all time.  Sure, there wasn’t always a trained, non-medical, non-judgmental support person hired by families to provide, “physical, emotional and logistical support through the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum time”. There have been the wise-women, other mothers (who had also gone through natural, and well supported birth), sisters, sister-wives, midwives, the shaman, and so on and so on.  The wisdom of childbirth and mothering has been passed down through generations, and only relatively recently has birth become the often frightening, and disempowering, medical process it is today.  Women do DESERVE to be supported by their community of mothers and sisters and wise-women.  They do DESERVE to be informed, supported, confident, cared for, trusted, and empowered.  They may not want a Doula, they may want a Doula who is unavailable, they may want a Doula, who for some reason or another is too expensive for their budget.  We don’t always get what we want, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the support a Doula would provide.

doula, labor, support

Katy at Work

As Doulas we are trying to make sense of this contemporary version of women in community. How do we provide this essential service, this service that we feel is so missing from modern maternity care, and not lose ourselves in the process?  How do we support our families, as they support us, as we do this work?

I think there can be a better answer than only providing the service as a luxury (and charging as such).  I have to admit that I’m not sure what it is exactly.  The fact that the field is growing so rapidly at this point in time means that there are more and more women who know that this is important, who believe they can make a difference in their communities.  I know we can be more creative though.  I know that the problem doesn’t lie in women not deserving to be supported, and asking for support anyway.

Doulas, support, everyone deserves a doula

source unknown

So what can we do to create an environment where every woman gets the support and care she deserves, as well as allowing Doulas to make a living wage and support their families?  I really think there is a better solution to this than just saying “We provide a luxury service”.  Perhaps it lies in the fact that ALL women deserve to feel non-judgmentally supported.  Whether they believe that or not is a different story.  How do we teach women that they do deserve to be unconditionally supported?  How do we teach women to lift each other up, and give that unconditional support?  I think once we have an environment that is healthier and more supportive to pregnant and birthing women, the business side of this work will become a little clearer.  I hope so, and I guess I’m going to have to remain optimistic as I continue to do this work I love, and provide an essential service to the deserving women of my community.  In a way that feeds my heart, and soul, and family.

When the (doula) fruit is ripe…

Ann Arbor  flowers doula wedding

Beautiful farmer’s market flowers arranged by Katy!

It’s finally happening. My transition to being a doula has been a vacillating one, but it is time for me to make it a bigger part of my life. Starting in September I will be cutting hours at my nonprofit desk job in Detroit so I am able to spend more time doing this doula work that I love.

The backstory – When I first completed my training in 2012, I knew that I wanted to support women and their partners through labor and birth, but was having trouble figuring out the particulars. I already had a full time job, was living in an intentional community, and was freshly out of school. How would I balance my commitments to job, housemates, boyfriend, and sanity while also committing to 4 weeks of on-call time and prenatal meetings with birth clients? Longish story short, I decided to press the pause button on my doula dream; until a friend’s pregnancy pressed play again.

I had the honor of going to my first birth as a doula in June 2014, and it rocked my world more than I could have imagined. It was another cosmic nudge to make this doula thing work… but first I had to buy a house…plan my wedding to the love of my life…

New  Ypsilanti doula wedding photo

Bridesladies + Katy before the wedding.

Fast forward a year – we have a home, we got married, I’ve got an official doula mentor, I will have attended 7 more births by the end of August, and the nudging from the universe has gotten stronger and more persistent.

Katy and I started working together in January as mentor/mentee and already I feel like a smarter, savvier, more confident doula. However, I haven’t been able to give the time or energy to Sacred Roots that it deserves. Through conversations with Katy, Dave, and other trusted folk it became clear something had to give. I realized working full time and trying to doula full time would cause my work and relationships to suffer.  Around this time a part time position with my current employer became available, and I took the leap. I am over-the-moon thrilled to have more time to support families through their transition from pregnancy to postpartum.

A friend recently shared a bit of wisdom with me about fruit dropping when it is ripe, and I feel like the time for my doula dream is ripe and it’s about to drop!

Getting back in the game!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of updating here, and a lot has changed in my life.IMG_2268

I was living my dream of doula-ing full-time taking 3-4 clients per month, and loving life.  When I thought things couldn’t get much better, my husband and I found out we were going to be welcoming a new little soul into the world in August 2013.  Winter, Spring, and Summer were full of birth energy, both from my clients ( I attended 21 births during the first 2 trimesters!) and my own.

All the families I got to work with were wonderful, and the babies are, of course, amazing.  What a fun time.  I stopped attending births as I entered into my third trimester.  This was due to my growing belly making physical support harder, but also to start to move my birthing energy and knowledge inward.  To have some time to reflect on my own pregnancy and focus on my own little one.

After Zachary was born, I tried to jump right in again into doula work.  Leaving my baby proved too anxiety producing, so after a few difficult months of back and forth, I decided to step back and take some real time off with my new family.  While I did support a few repeat families, (which is so amazing!!) my summer was relaxing and spent doing a lot of self reflecting and working on myself.

doula, SAHM, mother

he’s amazing!

SAHM, doula, family, play

my family

What did I learn?  I learned that I absolutely love being a mother!  I learned that being a stay at home mom is very challenging, lonely at times, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  I also learned that I LOVE doula work and birth work way too much to stay away for long.  Supporting families as they welcome a new member into their arms is something that will continue to be my calling for the rest of my life.  Having the honor of being present for these transformative moments is something I am eternally grateful for.  I hope I continue to learn and grow as families trust me to hold their space.

Thank you to all of the families who have allowed me to support them over these past 3+ years.  I will forever hold each of your families in my heart!  Love, Katy

The Placenta Experience

This post was written by Courtney Blake, a local Placenta Encapsulator, mother, student, and friend.  Thank you so much for contributing to the Sacred Roots Community!

Greetings! I would like to tell you about my experience with Placenta Encapsulation. I have had a very pleasant post-partum period and believe that choosing to consume my placenta via Placenta Encapsulation is a very big reason why.

It really does make sense when I think about it!

The placenta grows as the baby grows and it holds all kinds of hormones and nutrients. Where do those nutrients go after my baby is born? Well, usually the placenta is discarded or used for medical experimentation. I chose to take my placenta home and send it off for encapsulation.

My older Sister had her placenta encapsulated and encouraged me to look in to it. Our mother had terrible post-partum depression with her last pregnancy (me) and my Sister wanted to try consuming her placenta as a means of avoiding post-partum depression. Because she claimed that it worked and she was glad that she consumed her placenta, I took the steps to have mine encapsulated as well.

After doing some research, I also discovered that placenta consumption could help to prevent excessive bleeding, iron-loss, help my uterus shrink back to its normal size, increase energy, help with insomnia, and help with milk production. Why isn’t everyone doing this?  I was sold!

Placenta Capsules

I did my research, contacted a somewhat-local encapsulator and spoke with my Midwives about it at several appointments. Because I was having a hospital birth, I knew that I would have to address the hospital staff as well. When I went in to have my baby, I made sure to show my birth plan to all of the hospital staff and I even attached a separate “Placenta Plan”, that basically requested that no chemicals be put on my placenta and that is was promptly put on ice and saved for me (cord and all).

I brought my own little cooler to the hospital and arranged for my Dad to take it home and then overnight it to the encapsulator for me.
The encapsulator received my overnighted placenta, encapsulated it using the Tradtional Chinese Method and shipped my pills to me within a few days.
I figured that the capsules would help me, but I had no idea to what extent. I was skeptical, but hopeful. I took my first dose and didn’t feel a whole lot different. But after my second and third doses, I could tell that they were actually helping.
After I had Alice, I had this “cry hour”. Well actually it was a “cry three hours”. I would weep from about 5p-8p nightly, until the placenta capsules arrived. Then I noticed that my “cry hour” went away, I had more energy and was actually, truly enjoying being a new Mama.

I was so grateful. I took the capsules for about three weeks regularly and then tapered off to when I felt I needed an emotional boost. I still have some left (my placenta was huge and yielded an unusually large amount of capsules) and I still take them for those occasional, “raw” emotional days. They never fail to help.

I want to share this with all the women I possibly can because I believe that placenta consumption truly does help women in so many ways.

Many mammals (cats and dogs) do it, and yes there is argument that they only do it to keep the birthing area clean, but the hormonal aspect and replenishing the body right away with what is just lost makes complete sense to me.

I have become so passionate about placenta consumption that I have started helping women consume their own placenta by becoming a placenta encapsulator myself.  For more information see my page.

First Blog Post

Hello! I am so excited to begin developing a relationship with my community and other birth professionals! Please feel free to start some communication! I am happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you might have.

We are hoping to create a space where we can have an honest, fun, and friendly discussion on health and nutrition, birth practices, women’s health, family matters, and home and house keeping (including your fun crafty stuff!)  Please post as you see fit!