What is a Doula?

You sit laptop in hand ready to surf the web and discover everything you need to know to have the best birth experience. Your hand finds your belly, where new life is beginning to grow. You imagine 10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes, but who’s nose will this baby get? You find yourself reading the word doula quite a lot. “I had a doula at my birth, and she made me so much more comfortable!” one woman boasts online. “My doula met me at my house as soon as I wanted her support!” another shares in excitement. “My postpartum doula came to my house after baby was born, and talking to her made me feel so much better.” These stories leave you with some questions about doulas. What’s a doula? Do you need a doula? How do you even say the word doula? Maybe you’re having a planned cesarean, will a doula even support you? I have a few answers to those questions.

First, there are actually two different types of doulas. Postpartum doulas, support you after baby is born. Labor doulas support you during pregnancy and after, but they get the most face time at your birth. Labor doulas are the most common kind of doula, but the benefits of having a postpartum doula are catching on quickly.

A labor doula will provide you with nonmedical and unbiased support you during pregnancy, birth, and shortly after. A doula is there to help you feel as comfortable as you can, during an uncomfortable time. They simultaneously support you physically through comfort measures, while tending to your emotional needs. A professional doula will take a client who is planning for any type of birth. Natural, medicated, cesarean, epidural, induction, multiples (yes twins, triplets, and beyond), lotus birth, your birth.

If you so desire, a doula will be happy to educate you on your options, and help you come to a decision that makes sense for your individual family. If you chose no extra education, that’s perfectly fine as well. Your doula is prepared and knowledgeable about the hospital your birthing in, what’s standard there, what your doctor and/or midwife is like, and with the many of the other questions and options you’ll have during pregnancy.

Some people believe that hiring a doula makes you have a more positive birth outcome. Although many people do report that their doula felt like an essential, it’s important to recognize that a doula has no control over how your baby decides to come into the world. Your doula can not, and should not attempt to fix any problems that arise. She supports your changing plan to the best that she can, makes your comfortable, and may help you process what is happening.

There are some statistics people like to use to explain what doulas do. One study showed that when births were attended by a doula, they saw less use of pitocin, increase in spontaneous vaginal birth, decrease in the use of pain medication (think epidural), decrease in cesarean, and a few others. These statistics aren’t anything a doula can promise, additionally they continue to stigmatize epidurals and cesareans. Many women desire an epidural, and planned cesarean, and that’s ok. When you hire a doula it should be because you want extra support during your birth, not because you want a specific type of birth. At the end of the day, you’re the one who is having a baby, no one can do it except for you.

That’s right, a doula can not promise you any type of birth. This is why it’s important for a doula to support all births. The unbiased support may lead to some powerful work, but sometimes babies have different plans. A doula certainly can’t promise a positive birth experience, but being open to a changing birth plan can. Having a doula who supports that change can be very important.

A doula shouldn’t be advocating for you or any single type of birth. Like I said earlier, unbiased support. Say a doula is advocate for natural birth. Even if that’s your plan, plans change, and you need a team who supports changes. You have a voice, and they can remind you to use it. Advocating for you isn’t going to make you feel in control. You will feel empowered when you are making the shots about your birth, not when someone else is speaking for you.

A professional doula is going to let you keep your experience as your own. They don’t share your story, or pictures without permission, and they never interject their emotions onto your experience. Being a doula leads you to some heart work, and part of that heart work is taking your own emotions out of the picture, it’s better to reflect the emotions of the new parent/s and their team.

A doula is so many things, and isn’t so many things at the very same time. It’s never too early, or too late to hire a labor doula until your baby has been born. A postpartum doula will happily support any parent with a new baby. Maybe now you have a better grasp on what a doula is. 

If you live in the San Diego area, and are looking for support reach out to us. Southern Pacific Doulas is happy to provide San Diego families with the best support.

Being a Dad

I think it’s the strangest thing. Our society seems to have some strange opinions on fathers and fatherhood. As Ali Wong said on Netflix “It takes so little to be a great dad…” We talk about pregnant women as if they are already mothers, which they are in many ways, but we ignore the other half who created this life. Or even worse than ignore them, we bash them.

When fathers meet the bare minimum we see them as attentive and involved. When fathers exceed the minimum requirements of parenthood we praise them highly, for doing something that they should already be doing.

One phrase I especially despise is when someone says that a dad is babysitting.

That’s degrading. A mother never babysits her children, she parents them. Fathers do the exact same thing. They aren’t weekend or date night sitting on moms’ night out. They are parenting their children.

Sometimes people pass judgment on stay at home dads. Some people might think or even gossip out loud “Doesn’t he want to provide for his family?” He is providing for his family. He is providing his children with a stay at home parent, a consistent caregiver who they can bond with intensely. They are providing their child with a fantastic childhood, filled with memories of cool explorations with their dad. Once again, they are parenting their child.

Someone got the strange idea that men can’t be teachers unless they have ill intentions. That accusation is so absurd. Teaching kids is so much fun.

Who can deny that seeing the world through the eyes of a child is magical?

What does your gender identity have to do with enjoying being silly, playing in the dirt, and enjoy children? I’ll tell you what- absolutely nothing. Some of my favorite teachers were men.

In fact my absolute all time favorite teacher was a man. I remember how passionate he would get during certain projects, and how much he wanted us to succeed. He encouraged us to be individuals and to involve our passions into our work. I enjoyed his class so much because he wanted to make school fun.

Dads are so awesome. Moms are so awesome too. When I see a really loving and attentive parent I think it’s so awesome. It’s awesome because I know that entire family is going to be happier.

At Southern Pacific Doulas we love dads.

Our doulas want to involve both parents as much as they want to be involved. There are times where your doula may need to doula the partner who isn’t giving birth. We want to include both parents every step of the way. You can count on us to include moms, dads, grandmas, uncles, siblings, friends, whomever your birth team consists of.

Our doulas make sure everyone is as included in the process as the pregnant person wants them to be.

National Love Your Horse Day

It’s national love your horse day! I have countless reasons for why I love, and am eternally grateful for my horses. If you don’t already know, I own 3 majestic wonderful horses. They are all so unique, and the lessons they each have to teach are so valuable.

Roxy is so genuine, and just a fantastic creature. We call her the best horse in the world, and she truly. Roxy loves to have a job, and she always wants to make you happy. She makes anyone look like an amazing rider. Roxy teaches me to bring that out of other people. If I can be your scaffolding, and help you to realize that you are amazing, I’m happy.

Nova is more reserved. She is the most sensitive, and talented animal I know. Nova always wants to understand why you’re asking things of her. She is very good when she decides she likes something, and very obstinate when she decides she doesn’t like something. She’s a great judge of character, if you’re too aggressive she just shuts down. Nova teaches me to move slower through life. She teaches me to stop and enjoy the view, to really take in the world one breath at a time. She teaches me to be more patient, and kinder.

Kodiak is an absolute joy. She makes my heart smile. She was born into my arms, and is a constant source of happiness for me. Kodiak is a baby. Babies can be a lot of work, no matter the species. I went through phases where Kodiak would rear and strike at me, but I mostly saw a super sweet cuddly baby horse who LOVES scratches. Kodiak teaches me to stay strong during outbursts. Not to take anything personally, and to always position myself in the safety situation.

Can you see how the lessons my horses teach me transfer over to all aspects of life? These lessons are especially helpful as a doula. I can make you realize that you shine all on your own. I can move at the speed you need me to. I can stay consistent and calm amidst chaos.

Every horse I meet has a lesson to teach me. I plan to meet lots of horses, and learn lots of lessons from each one. I love them all for it.

Why I Became a Doula

Why I became a Doula

I can give you an elaborate story about how I found my calling in life. How I’m pushed to support others. How my life’s mission is to bring joy to not just parents but all of San Diego. But you already know that. Just be being a doula it’s so obvious that I feel compelled to support those who need it.

 

There are so many reasons I became a doula. There are so many fabulous parts of my job. From seeing a couple become a family, to seeing a new parent well supported and empowered. I love my job, it’s truly a labor of love that fills my soul.

Although I love babies, my love for little people is not what lead me to become a doula. Although I love being a business owner, I could have opened any type of business.

I chose a doula agency because I love parents. I love seeing parents making empowering choices.

I became a doula because I love seeing mothers feel supported.

I became a doula because I love seeing fathers feel supported.

I became a doula because I love providing that support for them.

I became a doula because I love helping parents find their network, or being their network.

I became a doula because I love seeing parents make confident decisions.

I became a doula because I love seeing that first empowered decision turn into more.

I became a doula because I love seeing how confident parents raise confident children.

I became a doula because I love seeing happy families.

I became a doula because I love San Diego.

I became a doula because I love supporting San Diego businesses.

I became a doula not because I love children. I became a doula because I love supporting families. Seeing parents be the very best parents that they can be, and supporting them through their journey is amazing. It’s what drives me to be the best doula I can be.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Maybe as if you’re a little girl wearing your mom’s pearls, and high heels to a PTA meeting. You sit at the table, sipping tea, and listening to other parents. But you’re scared that someone will see you. “Hey I recognize you!” You sink into your chair, high heels slipping off your child-size feet. “Yeah you!” She says pointing, suddenly all eyes turn to you. “I recognize you from the park, where you play with my son on the swing set!” Bang! Suddenly everyone knows. You’ve been spotted! Everyone knows that you’re just faking it. You aren’t really an adult, you’re just a little kid, and you certainly don’t belong here.

Except you do belong. Because you aren’t a little girl. Those high heels fit you fine, because they are yours. The pearl necklace actually sits quite elegantly against your neck. And, no one is pointing. Instead they seek your counsel. “What do you think about having a bake sale?” Someone wants your input.

Sometimes parents find themselves feeling like they are faking it. Everyone else around them seems to know exactly what to do all of the time. These perfect mothers go home to spotless homes, and children who clean their room, brush their teeth, and love brussel sprouts. Thier partner shares housework evenly, and these woman even has time to read a book in a bubble bath many nights a week. The worst part? This woman can wear white for an entire day.

Meanwhile your children run around like wild banshees, you haven’t even found time to sweep the floor in a week, you have spit up stains on your shirt, you’ll be lucky if you get your kids into the bath, let alone yourself.

But the other woman isn’t really that perfect. She is supported, and she might be faking it a little bit. Maybe she has a meal service who cooks for her. She probably has a house cleaner too. Those two tasks alone give her enough time for self care. And that clean white shirt she wears? She just swaps out the spit-up shirt before she gets out of the car for PTA meetings.

So don’t feel like the little girl playing dress up. When you don’t have the answer, or you need help, find it. Build your support network. Make friends. Find meetup groups, or events for kids your same age. Ask Ms. Seemingly-Perfect “Wow, what’s your secret to making motherhood so fun?” No one has to walk through life alone, find your support network. Remember, you can always bring a few shirts so you can feel clean all day long too. The extra laundry might be worth it.

Labor Go!

If you have experienced prodromal labor I do not envy you. Prodromal labor is early labor that can last days or even weeks. Early labor can be so fun and exciting, it means you’ll be meeting your baby soon! However, when those irregular contractions happen for days it may become far less exciting.

The mild contractions can make mother uncomfortable. They happen while she tries to sleep. Imagine being very pregnant, and unable to sleep. Not so fun. Many mothers will be looking for way to get labor moving.

Sure you could walk on the curb, use nipple stimulation, or other lotions and potions supposed to rev up your labor. Or you could do something possibly even more awesome.

You could play Pokémon Go! This does 3 things to get labor moving.

  1. It distracts you!

            Early labor contractions are typically not challenging to work through. If you can give yourself something else to think about, it may distract you from that discomfort. Pokémon Go maybe just enough distraction to help you focus on something other than your contractions.

  1. It gets you moving!

            Many women find walking to be their favorite ways to get labor moving. The stretch can feel good, and open up your pelvis to allow baby to prepare to be born. So take a walk around the block in search of that elusive Abra. How do you catch Abra? I’m not sure, but I think you should try until labor gets going, or you do catch them all!

  1. It’s fun!

            Games are fun! Especially free and lighthearted ones. This is the beginning of your baby’s birth story. Why not have some fun during your early labor?

So pull out your phone and start walking! You’ll either become a Pokémon master, or you’ll be a little closer to meeting your baby- both of those are pretty cool!

In all seriousness, prodromal labor is nothing to joke about. Although there is no remedy, there are several techniques you can use to make you more comfortable. Talk to your provider about yoga, chiropractic, therapeutic rest, or ask what they recommend.

Free Doulas are Icky

Everyday people are taught a lie. These people are expecting women, fathers to be, and the friends and family of those couples. Since nearly everyone knows someone who is pregnant-that is almost the entire population. Every single day people are taught that it’s ok to find a doula to come to your birth for free.

This is bad. It’s bad for the doula. It’s bad for the expecting woman. It’s bad for the other professional doctors, nurses, and midwives. It’s just all around bad for everyone.

It’s bad for the doula because she will get burnt out. Her family will suffer. Her work will suffer. Her family will suffer because they will miss her. She may be paying for childcare, and she’s certainly paying for parking and gas. She will not be able to give you 100% of herself, because she’s sacrificing her own time for no reward. Well maybe she is getting a reward. Maybe your birth is giving her nothing but the ‘feel goods’.

That’s gross. Do you want someone getting personal satisfaction from witnessing the birth of your baby? Some doulas get so much personal  enjoyment out of births that they become Oxytocin Vampires. They literally feed off of the Oxytocin you and your baby create, giving themselves a ‘birth high’. That’s one reason why it’s bad for the family- it’s just icky. This is your birth story. Only your friends and family should gain any emotional satisfaction. The nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas, or any other assistant should recognize the passionate work they do supporting you, but they should not be getting off from attending your birth.

Another reason it’s bad for the parents, free Doulas aren’t always reliable. When no money is exchanged, they can’t afford to pay backup. If you hit active labor at 2am, and your doula says “my husband doesn’t get home until 8am, I’ll head over after that so he can be with my kids.” you’re going to feel abandoned, because you were.   If there is a transfer of money, that equates to accountability. If you pay someone a living wage for a professional service, they are going to show up. Because they are professionals they are going to support you. If they are too tired, or unable to attend your birth for some unforeseeable reason, they are going to have reliable backup. This backup doula will be as amazing as the doula you hired. They will not be found by posting in a face book page “I have a mom who just went into labor! Who’s available to meet her at the hospital right now?”

The consistency of seeing the same professional doulas is good for care providers. Doulas makes connections with care providers. They see the same care providers over and over. The doctors and midwives see the doula do the same amazing job with each client. If you don’t pay your doula, you aren’t getting a professional, and it’s only the professionals that truly care about building bridges. Knowing care providers allows your entire birth team to work together, and that gives you a better birth experience.

There are doulas who believe doing free births is similar to the ‘probono’ work a lawyer would do. Here’s a key difference: a lawyer is helping you solve a problem. Pregnancy is not a problem, it does not need solving. Yes, support is awesome, everyone should have support during pregnancy and birth. However, your baby will be coming out whether I’m there or not. Having a doula can improve your birth experience, but it is not essential to the process. Even low income or struggling families don’t need doulas. Chances are they need diapers, wipes, food, bottles, formula, breast pumps, not a onetime luxury service.

If you are a doula who truly wishes to help these families- start a nonprofit. Run a diaper drive. Volunteer your time at an established nonprofit, or shelter. Do not give families a one-time service because they aren’t prioritizing a doula, give them the tangible items they need.

No one needs a doula. Having a doula is awesome though. Everyone who wants a doula will make the choice to prioritize for that service. When something is important to you, you make it happen. There is never a reason for a doula to ever attend a birth for free. There is never a reason for a family to skip a professional, and use a lesser service. Moral of the story: Free Doulas are Icky

Speaking Up

When faced with injustice or tragedy I’m the type of person who stays silent. I just feel like the awkward part of me emerges. This part of me that doesn’t relate, or doesn’t understand how to say the right thing. So out of fear for saying the wrong thing, I say nothing. I think that feeling resonates with a lot of people.

Recently a woman, someone I consider hilarious, inspiring, and awesome, posted on a public forum that she was scared to do her job. Essentially, she feared how clients would treat her based on her dark skin. I posted a simple message:

“This is a perspective I know exists, but I’ve never seen anyone actually living it. I’m sorry for your struggle, and I’m sorry that you would feel unsafe because of the color of your skin. It isn’t ok, and it isn’t fair.”

A seemingly simple message. Well someone corrected my message. She told me that she was calling me out. She said the way I phrased my statement was one of condescending sympathy. At first I was paralyzed, my intion was absolutely not to belittle anyone. That is never my intention. And then I was mad. How dare she twist my words? As I recently discovered, and continue to recognize, anger stems from other deeper emotions.

I wasn’t mad, I was scared. I was scared that when she called me out it would keep others from lending their support. I was scared that her critique of my post would keep me from speaking out against injustice.

I never once felt like I said the wrong thing. There probably was a better way to say it, but my message was crystal clear- everyone should feel safe in social situations. So I responded to her saying essentially just that. She may mean well, but calling out someone who means well rarely does any good.

The people of color liked what I had to say. Can I also note that saying people of color makes me feel icky? It makes me feel exclusive. Maybe I’m naive, but can’t we all just be people? People who strive to make the right choice, and be kind, or at least decent, to each other. Is there a PC way to say ‘people with dark skin’? I know African-American is off the list because not all dark skinned people are from Africa, but I don’t actually know what to say and that makes this topic all the more challenging.

Anyway- the people who I was lending support took it. They said that what you say isn’t as important as what you stand for. If you are like me, and you stay quiet because you don’t know what to say work past that. It’s important that we all stand for social justice.

I also feel like I never know the whole story. How can I have an opinion without all the details of the event? Maybe they did have prior records. Maybe they were reaching for their gun. Maybe they were a dirty cop. Maybe they did just make a poor choice. At the end of the day I don’t actually want to pick a side on these issues. I’m uncomfortable talking about police brutality, and I’m uncomfortable talking about Black Lives Matter.

I absolutely hate making statements because I don’t want to make the wrong one. But maybe if I talk more it will become more comfortable. Being able to comfortably have constructive discussion about social justice is important. I think it is important to work towards being more inclusive. Be more accepting. Spread more love, regardless of who you have hate for. If you’re like me, continue trying to say the right thing even when you don’t know how.

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Junior.

Half of the Year

Wow. Are we really already half way through 2016? Suddenly it’s July first. Did you know that July first is the halfway point of the year? 182 days behind us, 182 more ahead (well 183 counting today).

What did you do this year? Did you have a baby? Did you get married? Buy a home? Adopt a dog? Find a new job? Discover a new part of yourself?

I’ve done some of those. I’ve had some tremendous triumphs, some soul searching, actually lots of self discovery, and I experienced some struggles too. I like to reflect, and project. 2016 is a huge year for both.

I look back on what I’ve done, and it’s exciting for me. I’m proud of myself. In 2016 I brought something new to San Diego, a doula agency. This doula agency. Southern Pacific Doulas has become the poster child of my 2016. Everyone around me hears about my business a lot. Birth, support, parents, child, and baby snuggles are the focus of my life right now.

I hope you did at least half as much soul searching as I have done. I know I’m more empathetic and slower to judge. My doula training has taught me to see the world through a new lens. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I try to really think deeply about what drives other people’s actions. At first we may think it’s out of hate, but in 2016 I’ve been trying to see that hate is just a cover up of other emotions. I think this has been a guiding principle for me through the first half of the year.

Try this in your life. When someone is projecting hate ask yourself “What struggle are they going through? How can I support them through this?” It’s so much more satisfying to be humble.

I look forward to the remaining 182 days because I see success. I see growth- personally, and professionally. I’m attending more training, and a huge ProDoula conference. I’m looking forward to more adventures. I love adventures. I’m looking forward to seeing where Southern Pacific Doulas goes. I see the good I’m doing, and the support I’m giving San Diego. I love getting to support more than mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and family. I love supporting San Diego. Real local businesses like my own. Businesses with people you can call and actually talk to the owner.

These entrepreneurs are the heart and soul of what make San Diego so amazing. I can’t say it enough, I love getting to be part of the amazing culture we have here.

My projections for 2016 are limitless. Although half of the year is already behind us, I see the remainder shall be the better half. That’s saying a lot, because so far 2016 has been a pivotal life changing year for me. 2016 July- December, I’m coming for you. I’m ready for the curve balls, the easy parts, and the hard stuff too. To everyone watching and supporting Southern Pacific Doulas thus far, I love and appreciate you. I can only imagine the greatness coming to me during the next, better, half of 2016. My wish for you, is that you spend 2016 empowered, humble, and open.

Be open to the greatness that awaits you, and the journeys you’ll find yourself experiencing.