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Friends & Family At Births

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This post might not be popular with some people, especially if you are a family member or friend who finds they resemble some of these descriptions. However, I work for my doula clients to make sure their birth experience is one they can cherish and this needs to be said:

If your pregnant daughter, friend, niece, granddaughter, cousin (or any imaginable relationship) requests that you not come to the place of birth while she is in labor — respect her wishes.

I can hear the excuses now. But we want to be there. But we want to see baby be born. But we want to be the first in the family to hold the baby. But she is my (insert relation). But the partner is (insert relation). But, but, but.

She said she didn’t want you there. Actually, she probably didn’t say I don’t want you to be there. She probably said something polite and nice like, please respect our privacy. I will be working hard to bring a child into the world. We would like our privacy. We will call you once we want you to come or once baby has arrived. It may take a long time and we don’t want you hovering. Please respect our privacy.

Please listen and respect her wishes. Please know this is an important day and if she has made any attempt to ask you to not intrude on her privacy and concentration, she has thought long and hard about how to convey this to you without hurting your feelings.

Let me tell you what happens in some scenarios when people don’t listen to and respect a laboring woman’s wishes. At worst, you can cause her labor to stall or completely stop or contribute to a dysfunctional labor that can put her at risk for interventions she has been wanting to avoid. This is especially true when a woman is attempting a natural birth, but it can happen even with an epidural for pain relief. On a less serious level you are disrupting her concentration and possibly creating a memory she would rather not have attached to the day her baby and your (insert relation) is born.

Why do I sound so harsh about this? Because after 16 years of being a doula I can tell you I have seen some family members behave in peculiar ways. Yes, I understand you are coming from a place of love and concern but it boils down to people making choices to disrespect what a laboring woman has requested. Here are some scenarios I have witnessed:

  • A laboring woman tells her family she is going to the hospital to be checked out and she will give them an update. Upon her arrival, she finds there is a room full of family eagerly asking private details she may not want to share and interfering with the staff assessments. Her labor stalls or stops and she is sent home, only to return a few hours later and this time to keep it to herself.
  • Despite clear instructions and a sign on the door that the laboring woman does not want visitors, family members continue to come in because they “just have to know what is going on.”
  • Family members falling down and wailing on the hospital floor when they hear a woman requires a cesarean for safety, disrupting the precise and necessary care from the medical providers.
  • Family members physically grabbing me and shaking me for updates.
  • A laboring woman finally getting a break from her labor either via a natural spacing in her contractions or some medicinal pain relief and taking a well deserved and needed nap only to have family members barge in wanting updates even though they had been told she is napping.
  • Family members bringing cheeseburgers and fries into the room of a laboring woman who hasn’t eaten in 12 hours.
  • Family members threatening to sue the staff if the baby isn’t here soon.
  • Family members accosting all staff, doulas, partners, and even the woman if any of them come out of the room and going so far as to be standing in the hallways eavesdropping with their ear against the door.
  • Family members making comments that they have never seen such a large belly, telling her to get an episiotomy, random myths and outdated advice, asking her why she is trying to go natural, telling their own birth horror stories, or one of the worst, saying I just don’t know what I would do if you or the baby died.

Are you thinking this is fabricated? It isn’t. This actually goes beyond a case of bad manners. These sorts of behaviors can be dangerous, especially if there is a medical situation going on. When an emergency cesarean is needed, staff needs to move fast. As a doula, I move out of the way and let them do their job when something becomes medical. Family members falling down in the hallway is hindering the staff and the well-being of mother and child, and possibly even other mothers and children. People expressing their love and projecting their fear by voicing that the process is taking too long or they are bored or that something negative will happen to the mother and baby is not only not helpful, it is harming the process and the persons you profess to love. Showing up at a hospital when you have been asked to wait for instructions is crossing a boundary of respect and can make a woman feel like she needs to hurry up. Speaking of, many family members actually say, can you hurry up and have this baby? I have had women hiding in their bedroom or hospital room and sometimes locking themselves in a bathroom simply to find the privacy she desperately requires.

Each woman is different on how she views the need for privacy during labor. In the early stages of labor, a room full of chatter and excitement may be helpful for some and unhelpful for others. As active labor begins, most women prefer a quiet and private environment. There are times I will step out and allow partners to work privately during labor. There is a reason nurses, midwives, and doctors do not sit and stare at their patients. We know that disruptions are disrupting, it is as simple as that. Childbirth is not glamorous and is usually messy. We have not arrived at a point in our society where it is acceptable or comfortable for women to ooze bodily fluids in front of others. Would you want someone to watch you moving your bowels? No, you would probably try to wait until you had a private moment and birth is much the same. Women need to feel supported and one way to support them is by listening to their wishes. If you have been asked to respect their privacy, please listen.

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As the mother of an adult daughter, I have often wondered how difficult it would be for me to know she is in labor and to have been asked to not participate in or view my grandchild being born. I understand it must be hard. I understand that our society has created much fear about birth. I understand that Hollywood makes it seem that a woman’s water releases/breaks and we have a baby born at the hospital mere minutes after a screeching ambulance races her there.

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That’s not how it works. That’s especially not how it works for first time moms. Average labor time is approximately 15 hours. Average pushing time is 2 hours for first time moms.The placenta may take several minutes or longer to be birthed after the baby.  Unless you live many hours away, there will be time for you to arrive. After a baby is born we want mom, partner, and baby to have a minimum of one hour for bonding and breastfeeding and that is after the clean up, physical assessment of baby and mother, and any repairs. Your loved one just birthed a baby into the world and needs that time to de-escalate and bond with and nurse her baby. You could be notified the moment the baby is born and if you live locally would still have time to be waiting to see the baby.

The baby will not grow 2 heads or horns or grow up and go to college before you get there. I promise. And you might be able to bring that new mama a wonderful favorite meal on your way to visit (don’t forget daddy or partner!).

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If you are anxious, excited, nervous, antsy (and who wouldn’t be) I have a list of suggestions for you.

  • If you are crafty, work on creating something for baby
  • Go grocery shopping or cook freezer meals for the new family
  • Clean their home (with permission of course)
  • Walk their dogs, do any errands they may need
  • Write a letter to your loved one(s) and the new baby arriving
  • Go shopping for last minute essentials or just for fun
  • Assemble any baby items that need assembling (swings, bouncers)
  • Make every attempt to send peaceful and positive thoughts, prayers, and vibes
  • Trust that her request for privacy is in her best interests and what she needs

If you simply must be at the place of birth, find the waiting area and occupy yourself with something and wait for more information. Family members can be a wonderful source of encouragement. I am in no way advocating that family and friends be kept out of the loop or prohibited from being at the birth if the mother wants their support and company. I have seen mothers, sisters, cousins, best friends, brothers, fathers, mother in laws, etc., be a positive and useful source of support and encouragement– but please be invited.

Kimberly Sebeck, AKA Knoxville Doula, 2016

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A Glimpse Into Postpartum Work

I have been doing quite a bit of postpartum doula-ing lately. More clients request my birth services but I really enjoy being hired to do postpartum work, too. Sometimes people are not as familiar with what a postpartum doula does, or doesn’t do.

My services are really quite flexible and dependent on what each family needs. Some moms have me come over and basically “pick my brain” about feeding the baby, newborn care, postpartum recovery, infant milestones,  etc., and that consumes the majority of my block of time. I choose to come over to a home for a minimum of 3 hours but it can certainly be longer. Other moms understand how important rest is and feel safe and relaxed enough with me watching over their new baby so they can go take a blissful long nap, with maybe a shower thrown in. Other families want to soak in every second of the newborn period with their baby and I do errands and simple household tasks. I also attend doctor visits like the first pediatrician appointment or a postpartum visit for the new mom.

I don’t do heavy cleaning. It’s far less expensive to hire a housekeeper than a postpartum doula. I do light tasks: loading the dishwasher, laundry, running errands, sterilizing breast pumps and/or bottles, putting together infant gadgets like monitors and swings, making a snack for mom or starting a meal for dinner. Speaking of dinner, I actually love to cook for my families especially if I am going to be there for a good amount of hours for the day. I give them a list of recipes that I am familiar with and good at and let them send me to the store or give them a list of ingredients to pick up. Imagine how good it sounds to have a knowledgeable person come over to answer newborn questions, perform household tasks, and then be able to enjoy my now famous chicken and dumplings or a refreshing summer salad. If the partner has already returned to work they can come home and focus on bonding and family time instead of working all day and then coming home to a list of things to do.

Frequently the question comes up of: what will we do for 3 hours? Once I am there and a mom sees how wonderful and valuable a postpartum doula is they often request more hours in a day. It might seem awkward at first to have someone in your home but that feeling quickly dissipates. I can be the person you confide in when you’re having some “baby blues” or postpartum mood disorders and I have the resources of where to get help. I can be the person who helps you ease into motherhood without any judgment. I can give suggestions about trying to get enough sleep, how to soothe sore nipples, and also dispel some of the misinformation given out by family, friends, and online sites. Having trouble figuring out your K’Tan or Moby? I will help you practice so you feel confident wearing your baby. Those sheets you have been sweating in, bleeding on, and leaking breastmilk into? I can change those out for fresh ones.

I will help you find your way to being the best parent in the manner that suits your lifestyle. One day you will be the one telling me what the baby needs and that is exactly how being a postpartum doula works. I work myself out of a job as you grow into parenthood and recover through the fourth trimester.

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All Rights Reserved, Knoxville Doula, Kimberly Sebeck 2016

www.knoxvilledoula.com

 

 

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Women are Strong and Amazing

Really.

Last night ICAN of Knoxville held a “Birth Story Night”. Several women showed up to share their birth experiences, and despite the differences, one common thread showed through:

Women are strong and amazing.

We had birth stories of home birth ending up in transfer to the hospital and being a cesarean birth after cesarean, twins birthed vaginally, placental abruption requiring transfer from a birthing center to a hospital but resulting in a labor without an epidural, short labors, long labors, disappointments, triumphs, and so on.

I valued hearing every single story and detail. I valued seeing a room of women bonded together in their shared love for their babies and partners and themselves. I valued watching the expression on their faces as they described how they made a decision about where to birth, or an intervention, or a complete change in their original birth plan. It was quite apparent how much thought and heartfelt participation was involved in their decision making process.

Repeatedly, the phrase, “If I had known….” was used. My thoughts on that are we can’t know every single scenario that might take place, nor can we know what would have happened had another option been chosen. We make the best decisions with the information we have at the time... and try to make peace with the decision and potentially learn something for next time, or to share with a friend or family member.

To all of you, thank you for sharing such intimate details of your life and my hope is that you felt supported, encouraged, and empowered. Pat yourselves on the back, look at yourself in the mirror and congratulate and celebrate your amazing strength and obvious love for your children.

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Avoiding Traumatic Birth

We’re hearing a lot about traumatic birth lately. It’s always been around, but more women kept quiet about it or maybe didn’t realize there was any other way to give birth. With the explosion of the internet and social networking, women are discovering they had unnecessary, potentially or actually harmful, and often traumatic interventions and events on one of the most important days of their life — birthing their child.

Know your options!

Did you know that in the Knoxville, TN, area you have genuine options to help avoid a traumatic birth? Some are:

  • Natural Childbirth Classes (not hospital sponsored ones, but true learning experiences, such as Bradley or Hypnobirthing)
  • Doulas. Antepartum, birth, and postpartum doulas are available — and our numbers are increasing to give you options
  • Home Birth Midwifery
  • Free-standing Birth Centers
  • ICAN of Knoxville (International Cesarean Awareness Network) local meetings for support, education, and information
  • Knoxville Birth Network meetings, a division of Birth Network), also for information and support
  • Chiropractors and massage therapists (along with other professionals) trained to optimize pregnancy and birth

These are a few of the options available to help you avoid a traumatic birth in the first place, or recover and heal from a previous one or ones.

The question is: Are you taking advantage of these resources?

Every week, I get numerous emails or phone calls from women who say, “If I’d known inducing for non-medical reasons would have led to a cesarean section”, or “I thought about taking a class but didn’t find the time”, or “I thought about using a doula but we didn’t”, or “My doctor said I couldn’t VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), so I just scheduled another surgery” or “My doctor said my pelvis was too small/baby too big/ why even try labor”… and on and on.

The emails make me sad for many reasons. They make me sad a woman didn’t get the birth experience she wanted and deserved, but they also make me sad that the useful and wonderful resources available are not being utilized. This is not to say it is a woman’s fault if she is suffering from birth trauma–not all births will go the way we desire them even after making the most concerted efforts. However, if you’re on the fence about seriously exploring your options, your chances of ending up unhappy with your birth experience are going to be far greater.

Interview some midwives, interview some doulas, take childbirth classes. In the U.S., women regrettably educate themselves more about buying a car, or a purse, or finding a good daycare than they educate themselves about the birth of their baby. Interview different OB/GYN’s and hospitals, even. Don’t take your neighbor’s or sister-in-law’s recommendation just because they “liked” their OB/GYN or because he or she was “nice”. Ask questions. What is their cesarean rate? What is nursery and newborn policy? I cannot list here all the interview questions to ask different birth professionals, so research what you desire and make sure your birth team is in line with your desires.

If you have not yet seen some eye-opening films, take the time to do so. The Business of Being Born, Gentle Birth Choices, Pregnant in America are all good starting points. Have your significant other read, “The Birth Partner” by Penny Simkin, a book I advise all of my clients to read. Look into different information about doulas, which can easily be found on well-known and reputable sites such as DONA, CAPPA, and The American Pregnancy Association. Attend one of the often free meetings held by birth organizations.

We’re here to help you have the best birth experience possible.. please take advantage of what’s offered and make the time, make the investment so you don’t later send an email saying, “if only…”. Perhaps there will still be something you didn’t like or that was traumatic during your birth experience, but you will have the satisfaction and empowerment of knowing your options and having done your research. No one can tell you what is the best scenario for you, your baby, and your family. Invest in knowledge.

Resources:

www.pennysimkin.com
www.knoxvillehomebirthservices.com
www.cappa.net
www.ican-online.org
www.dona.org
www.birthnetwork.org
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=170751447099
www.doulamatch.net
www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com
www.waterbirth.org
www.icpa4kids.com
www.knoxvilledoula.com
www.bradleybirth.com
http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/havingadoula.html

All Rights Reserved, 2011, Kimberly Sebeck, CLD, CCCE, Knoxville Doula

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Dying in Childbirth

Be open to transformation.

Be open to transformation.

Many women fear dying in childbirth. Their family, spouses, partners, and friends may carry this fear for them, too. In fact, if you ask most women why they choose to go to the hospital to birth their baby, they will say, “In case something goes wrong…. you know…”, delicately skirting their fear of dying in childbirth.

Most people in my generation grew up with the theory that hospitals are a safer place to give birth. We heard stories from our parents, grandparents, and news media addressing the subject of women dying in childbirth. We heard how cesarean sections (surgical birth), forceps, medication all saved babies and mother’s lives.  In fact, there are some situations where medical intervention was necessary and potentially saved a life. Many did not — but gave the illusion of safety.

However, what if women were to consciously, pro-actively,  and fully acknowledge there is a part of them that will die in childbirth? Life cycles generally involve a death, or transformation in order to reach the next phase of the cycle. At conception, a sperm and egg form into what will become a baby. When we plant a seed, it grows into a plant. In the seasons, leaves die and fall to the ground, winter comes, and eventually, spring marches forth with new life. Many religions consider  baptism to be a “dying” to a former way of life.

Becoming a mother through pregnancy and childbirth does involve the death of some things. Your body changes in ways it never has before. Breasts become capable of nourishing a baby.  Organs are transformed and shifted around in the body for the new growing life.  Bonding begins before ever lying eyes on your baby.  Major emotional, hormonal, and physical changes occur.

This involves, in a sense, a dying to who you were before pregnancy and birth. A woman’s focus will be riveted towards her pregnancy and baby. The focus shifts from herself, or her work, spouse, etc., to the little person who will now hold her heart.

It is easy to transmute this fear of dying to your former life and ways into a fear of physical death through birth. Most of us have grown up in a society where good parenting is emphasized and we fear that if we acknowledge there will be changes to our personality and focus, that somehow it demonstrates a lessened or sour desire for children. We may fear we are a bad parent if there is any question, doubt, fear, anxiety about bringing a life into the world and then caring for it. Being a good parent and loving our baby does not have to eschew all acknowledgment of the changes that will take place. It can be as simple as juggling diaper bags, nursing, and a car seat in order to run an errand vs. hopping in the car by yourself. It can be as serious as caring for a child with disabilities.  Acknowledging these changes and the emotions that are attached to the changes can ultimately help a woman to have a more peaceful and tranquil pregnancy and birth.

Fear of the unknown. Honor the feelings by journaling, talking to family and friends, a counselor, educating yourself,  meditating, praying — they will not be as scary or consuming when you are familiar and ready for your emotions, even if it is fear.

Happy birthing.

All Rights reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula 2010

http://www.knoxvilledoula.com

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Pregnant? Thinking about a Doula or Childbirth Class?

I know no less than 20 pregnant women who are due in November and December of this year — each week I receive several inquiries as to using my labor/birth or postpartum doula services, as well as taking  prepared childbirth classes from me.  If you fall into the category of expecting a baby sometime this year and are considering hiring a doula, taking a class, having a breastfeeding consultation, or any of the other parenting services I offer, please contact me for a free consultation.

I commit to only 2-3 childbirth doula clients a month, in order to provide the best care and service.  Once I am booked for the month, I am full.

My consultation is free, we can meet at your home or mine, or a local public area, such as a coffee/sandwich shop.  If you are not sure of the benefits of having a doula, this is a great time to learn and ask questions, as well as start becoming familiar with one another. I can give you a schedule of upcoming classes, or schedule a private class for you and your partner. If you are a first time parent, or new to the area, I can provide you with many local resources, such as a birth setting that fits your desire, newborn photographers, cloth diapering shops, and more.

I serve the greater Knoxville area, and under certain circumstances, travel as far as Chattanooga, Johnson City, and other outlying areas.

Ten years of experience and helping hundreds of families has made me love what I do even more! Let’s talk!

You can reach me at beautifulbirths2003@yahoo.com or (865) 705-7734.