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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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Important information for every woman, whether you have given birth by cesarean or vaginally, whether you have had no children of many. Hysterectomy is the most common non-obstetrical procedure for women in our country. Approximately 600,000 are performed each year in the U.S. 1 in 9 women will have one. It’s time for us to focus on our pelvic floor health.

August ICAN of Knoxville Meeting — Pelvic Floor Health

Please join us to hear our guest speaker, Autumn Synowiez, OT, speak to us about our pelvic floor health. Whether you are planning to get pregnant, are pregnant, or have birthed your babies in the past — we can all benefit from good pelvic floor health. Those with diastasis recti, perineal repairs, and cesareans will especially benefit from this information.

Meetings are FREE, however we gratefully accept donations for our local 501c Non Profit Chapter. (suggested donation $1-$3)

Partners and children are welcome for most of our meetings. We respectfully ask that if your child is needing a quiet moment that you step out if needed.

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What Would You Tell Ina May to Include in a Book?

I stumbled across a fabulous podcast with Ina May. The interviewer did not have a natural birth and felt as if there was missing information in Ina May’s books — at first I thought this was going to be simply a critical viewpoint of Ina May.. but it’s not.

If you have ever struggled with disappointment or a feeling of failure because you didn’t have the candle lit, in a birth pool, 100% intervention free birth — please listen to this.

At the end you are given options of how to let Ina May know what you would like included in her current or forthcoming books.

 

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Q&A With A Mentee

For over a year I have been offering a mentorship program for newer doulas. Please enjoy this Q&A with one of them, Emily Gentry.
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Q:  Can you tell us a little about yourself and your services?
A: I have two great kids, an amazing husband, and tons of support to chase my dreams of being a doula from our family. I had two really amazing, empowering births which was a huge factor in becoming a doula. The services I provide are birth and postpartum planning assistance, labor support, postpartum doula services, babywearing education, mother’s blessing celebrations, and cloth diapering education. I also work with a local photographer to offer discounted rates for maternity, birth, and newborn pictures.
Q:  What made you want to be a doula?
A: When I first started, it was because I had a very strong desire to see women be empowered by their births. I had two amazing experiences with my births and I really wanted to help other women feel like I did. I believe that child birth is a crucial part of becoming a mother and how you feel about your birth can have either a positive effect or negative effect on the first few days, weeks, months, or even years of motherhood. For me, being empowered by birth meant achieving a completely natural childbirth. As a brand new doula, it was my opinion that the worst that could happen was that a mother would end in a C-section. That opinion quickly changed when the very first birth I attended as a doula ended in an emergency C-section. The mother understood that having a cesarean was the safest option for her and her baby. She was still empowered with her birth even after MY worst fear came true. Today, I still want women to view their birth as an empowering event in their journey into motherhood. But empowerment for women varies as much as favorite flavors of ice cream. Each woman is different, each birth is different, but each desired outcome is the same. Each woman deserves to be empowered by their birth, and that is why I want to be a doula.
Q: Who did you train through?
A: I trained through DONA International.
Q:  What inspired you to become an apprentice versus striking out on your own?
A: I actually tried striking out on my own when I was young and naïve and thought that I knew all the secrets to being an amazing doula. Like I said in an earlier answer, that perspective changed rather quickly after my first few births. I realized real fast that being a successful doula meant more than having achieved a natural child birth or two on your own. My experience with child birth is not the same as what everyone else experiences. I can still draw from my own experiences and help my clients. But using that alone really limits how I can connect with my clients. Even after training I still felt that I had a lot to learn and who better to learn from than someone who has been doing it for 16 years! I wanted to see first hand what it looks like to be a veteran doula and learn as much as I could so that I could better serve my clients.
Q:  What would describe as your birth philosophy and main area of interest?
A: My birth philosophy is that every woman deserves an empowering birth as defined by her. Some women are empowered by having a cesarean. Some women are empowered by achieving a natural child birth. Some women are completely happy not knowing what they want. My philosophy can be summed up by my business motto: “Supporting Women, Supporting Labor”. I support women in what they want out of their labor and child birth. My main area of interest is definitely hospital births. I feel like that is where women need the most support for their child birth choices.
Q: What has been your favorite thing so far about being a birth professional?
A: Honestly, my favorite thing so far is the look and feeling of a mother and her partner after birth while they are getting those first precious snuggles with their baby. The way she smiles as she is looking into her baby’s eyes, smelling their sweet little head, nursing or feeding her baby for the first time and just soaking in her perfect prize. It’s a feeling that is contagious. No matter how tired I might be from supporting a laboring mom, after that baby is born there is rush of adrenaline and suddenly I’m very awake!
Q:  Where can people find out more info or contact you?
A: The best way to contact me is by email or Facebook. My email address is blessedassurancebirthdoula@gmail.com and my busness page www.facebook.com/blessedassurancebirthdoula
Thanks, Emily! We know you are going to help so many women and families with all of your services and your desire to become a CNM (certified nurse midwife). I look forward to watching this journey unfold.
All Rights Reserved, 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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“Why Didn’t You Just Become A Midwife?”

It’s an innocent question people ask me frequently when they find out I am a doula. “Don’t you want to deliver the babies?

No, actually I do not. I understand there are plenty of doulas who are on the path to midwifery or who will decide they want to become a labor and delivery nurse, OB/GYN, etc, but I am not one of them. While I can’t speak for everyone I can tell you the reasons why I am firmly committed to being a doula.

  1.  I have the unique role of supporting the laboring mother for weeks. Weeks, you say? How is that possible? Well, when a woman is close to her estimated due date there will be those signals and signs that labor is impending. As a doula, I get the texts and phone calls about a mucous plug coming out, or a night of contractions. Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable signs and instead I offer words of encouragement and reminding her to trust her body as to when it will be time for baby to be born. Of course a midwife will be seeing the mother during these weeks as well but usually in a prenatal appointment office setting. When it is time for baby to come I often come to the home and help decide when it is time to go to the hospital or birth center, or call the home birth midwife.
  2. The odds of me having two women in labor are incredibly slim. I am able to focus fully on the mother, partner, and their particular birth experience. When on call midwifery schedules and nurse shift changes, I am still there and this birth is my only concern at the moment.
  3. Speaking of only concerns — my only concern is supporting a mother and her partner. I don’t have to chart. I don’t have to worry about other patients in another room laboring or waiting for me back at the office. I don’t watch the fetal heart rate monitor — ok, well, I do, but it’s not my concern and liability to do so. I don’t have to code certain procedures or happenings for insurance and liability purposes. If something is happening that is veering from your ideal birth experience, I can suggest alternative methods that follow your birth plan as closely as possible.
  4. After the baby is here I am the one to snap photos, help you breastfeed, make you a peanut butter and graham cracker snack (with postpartum punch to wash it down!), get your cozy socks on your feet, find your chapstick, congratulate your partner, and tell you how awesome you are. Of course there are midwives and nurses who do the same amidst their other tasks (stitches, anyone?) but your comfort is my primary concern, not if you need repairs or assessing blood loss.
  5. I have spent many years, almost two decades, learning how to be the best doula I can be. I’ve done workshop after workshop, read hundreds of books and professional articles, attended hundreds of births, learned and learned through study and experience. I’ve invested in education and tangible tools that maybe your hospital doesn’t have (peanut balls, rebozo, heating pads). I am a very experienced and qualified doula. I am not more than a midwife.  I am not equal to a midwife. I am not less than a midwife. Any comparison is silly.  We do not share the same role even if a few things overlap during your pregnancy and birth. And I firmly believe that doulas are crucial components for the way our society births.

Yesterday I was chatting with someone I had just met. She asked me why I didn’t become a midwife. I simply said, “Because I love being a doula.” Later in the day I met with a potential client who told me she definitely wants a doula for her current pregnancy, because last time she had a midwife and as much as she loved her she regretted that she had mistakenly thought she didn’t need a doula. That doesn’t mean the midwife wasn’t amazing, caring, thorough, professional — as a midwife. Midwives and doulas aren’t the same even though we are both working for your birth experience to be a positive one.

Obviously I am only speaking for myself. I have doula colleagues who have gone on to become a midwife because they do want to deliver babies and do well woman visits and provide a far larger range of care. I applaud them and congratulate them on their serving women and families in that capacity. I, however, will remain a doula and know that it is a vital role.

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All Rights Reserved, 2015, Knoxville Doula, Kimberly Sebeck