I was due with Jude in early June 2014. He was my second, and I delivered his big brother at Lifecycle Women Care in Bryn Mawr. During his brother’s birth, I arrived at the birth center fully dilated and was told it was time to push, so I didn’t get to labor there or wait for my body to have an urge to push. Going into my younger son’s birth, those were the focus of my birth hopes - I really wanted to labor in the tub, and I really wanted to wait to feel the urge to push.
My son was due on June 4, 2014, and I woke up that morning feeling “weird”. Nothing I could describe but it was noticeable to me. That evening, I began to feel crampy, but no contractions. My mom was in town for the birth and was driving me a little crazy asking if I felt anything, so I kept my crampy feelings to myself. Around 12:30 am on the 5th, I began to have actual contractions. My husband checked me* and I was slightly dilated. I labored in bed for a while, relaxing between contractions. Around 3:30 in the morning, we called our friend to come watch our son, called our doula Jessica, and decided to head to the birth center. We arrived there around 4:30, and I was dilated to 8 cm. I immediately got in the tub, and was so relaxed. I was falling asleep between contractions in the tub, so soothed by the smell of Jessica’s deodorant .
I started to feel “pushy” in the tub. I really did not want to get out of the tub, so the midwife and I agreed that I would labor through one pushy contraction in the tub. After that contraction, I got out of the tub and felt a contraction coming as I moved out of the bathroom and towards the bed. The midwife got me a birthing stool to stop to take a break during the next contraction, and my son was born during that contraction on the bathroom floor. We moved to the bed, amazed that he was here and that it had gone so smoothly. I was so grateful to my midwife, and doula Jessica for such a dream birth. I’m now I expecting my 3rd and hoping for a similarly dreamy birth
*Her husband is a doctor.
This blog post was originally posted 2/23/2018
It is such an honor to be invited to the birth of a baby. Whether you are the soon to be grandparents, aunt or best friend, to be there for such a special time in the expectant family's life is truly special. With that great honor also comes the responsibility to help keep the birth environment safe, secure and one that will allow the pregnant person to labor the way needed and desired. The people around the laboring person can have a huge influence on the labor, the birth and the entire experience. There are so many things you can do to help the family during this time and there are somethings that, even though well intentioned, might discolor the experience for the new parents.
Let's break down what it means to be a good support person. First, understanding that your title is support person, whether the laboring person has a doula or partner or both you were invited for some sort of support. If you can understand that you are half way there. You aren't there to simply watch, birth is not a spectator sport, you are an active participant. Please talk to the pregnant family before the birth and ask what role do they see you playing and how can you be the best comfort and support. Ask if they are taking a childbirth education class and maybe you can join them. While you are chatting also talk about the birth plan, what are their hopes and dreams for the birth and respect their choices. You may also find that you might need to help them advocate for themselves or remind them of their choices. If you feel you can not respect their choices or at least can't stay silent with your opinion maybe you could wait in the waiting room until after the baby is born.
So you are at the birth place, you are wearing your support person badge of honor and the laboring person is experiencing a significant amount of discomfort, what do you do? You support and encourage, not pity. Sitting there, staring at the laboring person with a sad face and telling them to just get the epidural when you know that not what the family's wishes are is not good support. You are basically telling them to give up their dreams. Yeah, birth can be hard, it can be uncomfortable but the family already knew that. When things get tough that's when your job as support person kicks into effect. You have the power to change things with a few words. There are tons of great things a support person can say but the easiest is, YOU CAN DO THIS! Telling them that you are proud of them, that they are strong, that you love them. These encouraging words are better than gold and can really change things from feeling like throwing in the towel to feeling rejuvenated and confident.
The labor is now progressing but you are starting to get a bit tired, nervous, anxious and that can effect the expectant family. The laboring person can pick up all sorts of energy while in this raw, laboring state. Just as your positivity and support can be contagious and bring the family up, bad vibes can bring a person down. You should prepare yourself that labor can be long. If you are feeling worn out just step out of the room and give yourself a breather, grab a coffee and something to eat and go back feeling renewed. Sometimes taking a walk outside, or a few minutes of meditation and you can support the laboring person better. Make sure you have things you need to be comfortable, a sweater, a toothbrush and snacks. If you feel that you are too anxious to be proper support either during before the labor begins because of your own personal experience be honest with the expectant family. They will appreciate you not wanting to alter their birth environment and you might be a better support to them that way.
As a doula we try to anticipate a laboring person needs, all support people can help by looking for the needs of the family. If the birthing partner looks tired see if they would like to step out and get a bite to eat. Sometimes the partner feels obligated to stay but they need support too. Giving them permission to go and have a breather will allow them to come back a little fresher and able to support their partner better. A support person can model breathing to the laboring person, suggest position change or make sure she has a drink or lip balm if their lips are dry. If they need a hair band or lotion get that for them with out asking. Trying to read them and get them what they need so they don't have to think, keep them in Laborland and focused on what they need to do. If they are having a contraction try not to bother the laboring person with questions or touch. If you are told to stop talking, touching, or anything else just stop and don't take it personal. There are so many things going on in a pregnant person and it is hard to sort that all out in labor. You many be doing some back rubbing that is awesome one minute and then its annoying, its ok, just stop and don't resume unless asked.
This is also a great time to tell you that this experience is the expectant family's experience that you were invited to be part of. The news of the labor and birth and all details that go along with that are the family's to share with the world. This is the most fun news to spread and it should be the person who had to work the hardest that gets to announce it. The worst thing is telling someone about your new baby and they say, "I know, your mom told me!" Supporting a laboring person is a huge honor and responsibility, its a full time job there will probably be very little time to spend on your phone or laptop anyway. If you want to share the special news with anyone make sure your have the permission of the new parents and NEVER announce it on social media before the parents.
After the baby is born the family still needs you. They might even need you more now as they navigate parenthood. There are so many ways you can offer support after birth, from picking up some groceries to dropping off a meal to just hanging out with baby while the exhausted parents nap or shower. A support person is so special to the family, you will always be part of their birth story. You can say you have know their baby since they were 1 second old! What a terrifically special person you are!
When you’re a first-time parent, you need all the help you can get. Blessed breaks from grandma and grandpa and casseroles from the neighbors are surely welcomed, but they’re not the only place you can turn for guidance. Your phone is also full of tools to get you through the crazy first year with your little one, and we’re here to highlight some of the best ones!
4 Best Apps for New Parents
If you’re only using your smartphone to zone out in your pediatrician’s waiting room and send SOS texts to your postpartum doula, you’re not making the most of the miniature computer in your pocket.
As a side note, take care to keep your phone charged and your data on point. You don't want to run out of power when your little one is mysteriously crying up a storm and you’re looking for answers, and you certainly don't want to rack up overage charges because you've been frantically Googling croup symptoms all afternoon. Keep a device charger handy in your diaper bag, and look to prepaid mobile plans so you always have data and have one less thing to worry about
This app is a must-have for breastfeeding moms, especially when your maternity leave runs out and it’s time to head back to work. Milk Maid is a pumping app that lets you easily manage your breastmilk stash by recording pumping volume, expiration dates, and usage. You can even track your fresh and frozen breastmilk inventory across multiple locations so you know exactly how much to drop off the next time Grandma babysits. The Milk Maid app is only available for iOS users, but Romper notes there are other pumping apps you can try if you’re on Android.
Baby Tracker - Nursing
Milk Maid is great for pumping mamas, but what if you’re exclusively nursing? That’s where the Baby Tracker Nursing app comes in! Mom Junction points out this app lets you track breastfeeding details like the length of your nursing sessions and which side you nursed on last. It even has formula feeding features for mothers who are supplementing with formula.
The best part? This app has a handy night mode that dims the screen so you can track nighttime nursing data without disturbing your little one.
Glow started out as a fertility app, but these days it’s so much more. If you’re in search of a full-featured tracking app, Fortune says Glow Baby is a must-try. In addition to breastfeeding data, Glow Baby lets new mothers and fathers track their baby’s height, weight, and developmental milestones, as well as less-glamorous data points like bowel movements and body temperature.
With a $3.99 a month premium membership, users gain access to tools that let them compare their baby’s data to others and connect with fellow new parents using the app.
Sleep Baby Sleep
Tracking apps are great for parents who want cold, hard data on their baby’s development, but what if you just want some help getting your baby to sleep? Whether you’re trying to lull your infant into a midday nap or desperate to get your baby back to sleep in the middle of the night, Sleep Baby Sleep is here to save the day. With six white noise options designed just for infants and one-click functioning, this is exactly the app you need when you’re half asleep and wishing your baby were too.
The first months as a new parent can be utterly anxiety-inducing. From wondering if you’re producing enough breastmilk to whether your baby’s diaper contents are normal, there are a ton of questions your smartphone can help you answer without pestering your pediatrician every few hours. While you’re sure to feel like Wonder Mom eventually, these apps will get you through the early days with grace.
Image via Unsplash
Josh created diaperdads (diaperdads.org) to not only give credit to all the superhero dads out there, but give them some helpful tips to navigate fatherhood, diapers and all.
This blog was originally posted on April 9, 2019.
Cesarean Awareness Month was started by ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) to shine a spotlight on the number of cesarean births in the United States. ICAN also wanted to bring attention to the lack of access women have to VBAC supportive medical care. In 2016 the cesarean rate in the U.S. was 31.9%, going down from 32% in 2015 but still not where we need to be. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a target of 10-15%. Research shows that most pregnant people want to deliver vaginally and half of the Cesareans performed are not medically necessary. So, what's up?
Being overweight, diabetic, or advanced maternal age can make it more likely for someone to have a Cesarean. However, many studies are pointing to the choice of birth place, specifically which hospital you choose that is responsible for your chances of an unnecessary Cesarean. Cesarean rates vary in each state and from one side of a state to another. You can check the cesarean rates at the hospitals near you or ask during your hospital tour. Your choice of medical provider can affect your chances too. Ask your medical provider what their cesarean rates are and if you don't like the answer or they don't want to tell you, switch providers. Low risk pregnancies are also good candidates for birthing at birth centers or at home. For some people it may not be possible to change birth location or medical providers but there are many other things you can do to reduce your chances of an unnecessary cesarean.
Staying home during early labor is one great way to avoid unnecessary interventions at the hospital that could lead to an unnecessary cesarean. Taking a childbirth class, reading books or hiring a doula can help you to know what to expect in early labor so you don't go to the hospital too soon. Depending on your distance to the hospital you can most likely stay home until your contractions are 3-4 minutes apart, one minute in duration, with that pattern lasting for one hour. This is sometimes referred to as 4-1-1 or 3-1-1. Talk to your care provider about what point you should head to the hospital. The longer you are at home, comfortable in your surroundings the more relaxed you may be which is great for labor progress.
If your due date has come and your are not in labor, that's OK too. Don't rush to induce just because you are past your due date. First timers, if left alone to go into labor naturally, are likely to be pregnant for about 40 weeks and 5 days. If it isn't your first rodeo, the average is around 40 weeks and 3 days until baby time. Due dates are an estimation date, not an expiration date. Some people go before their due date and some after, only 10% go past 42 weeks. Your body knows what it’s doing. Once things kick into gear you can expect that labor can be long, especially for first timers. You can educate yourself so you know how labor progresses so you can expect that it may take a while. If you are doing well, and baby is doing well and progress is being made, that's great! A low risk person with a progressing labor, even if its "slow" is no reason for medical interventions.
"You are so big!" is not a complement to those in their final weeks of pregnancy. It is also not a reason for a Cesarean. It is important for all people to eat healthy but for those pregnant proper diet and average weight gain is important to avoid complications. Pregnant people in the U.S. do gain more weight than is recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). You are building a human and your body is working really hard and if you can keep it down, yes eat! The concern is excessive weight gain that can lead to complications and the increased risk of Cesarean. A big belly on you is not the only risk, a suspected big baby is also no reason for an induction and rarely for cesarean delivery. Just because your belly is as big as a beach ball doesn't mean your baby is huge. The methods used, including ultrasound, at the end of pregnancy are not accurate ways to determine baby's size. In my personal experience I have seen these guesses be incorrect. There have been cases where the guess was 2 lbs more than baby's birth weight!
Even if you have taken a childbirth class having a knowledgeable support person there with you during labor can make a real difference. A doula is a trained birth assistant who can provide physical and emotional support throughout labor and delivery. Research shows, people who have continuous support from someone who is not a friend, a family member, or hospital staff have shorter labors and are less likely to need interventions. As a doula and a momma I know the importance of support during that time.
Cesareans are major abdominal surgery and are definitely not the easy way out. The recovery time is 2-4 weeks longer than a vaginal birth and there are so many potential complications to a Cesarean delivery, damage to internal organs, blood clots, internal bleeding and infection to name a few. There is also a lower breastfeeding success rate for families of Cesarean birth. Some reasons for a Cesarean include, placenta previa, baby's position, multiple birth, Diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure. When a Cesarean is medically necessary it can save lives but many are not necessary. Educating yourself, knowing your options, making a good choice of provider and hospital are all ways you can avoid an unnecessary Cesarean.
If you do have a Cesarean its OK to feel however you feel about it. This blog and the idea of Cesarean Awareness Month are not to make anyone feel any one way about Cesareans. I have worked with families who needed a Cesarean, were happy with the outcome, support and hospital experience. Some families do choose to have subsequent Cesareans rather than VBAC. Your birth experience is just that, yours. It is the hope of this blog that some information can possibly help decrease some of the unnecessary Cesareans happening in the U.S.
This blog was originally posted September 8, 2017.
Everyone should have a group of friends that they feel at home around. There are so many shirts and mugs and hand-painted pallet wood signs beckoning us to Find Your Tribe. According to Merriam-Webster there are a few definitions of the word tribe but basically your tribe is your support system, your comic relief, your shoulder to cry on. Your tribe is your friends and their friends that you know you can count on for a coffee date or to grab a beer, to watch your kids or to borrow a fancy purse because why would I own a fancy purse! These are the people who have enough in common with you that you can talk for hours but enough differences that you are interested in them and never bored.
As a new mom, many years ago, I was lonely and aching to make mom friends. None of my friends had kids and I really felt like I was the only one thinking crazy things and feeling overwhelmed with motherhood. My childless friends were there but not really there. Over time I met more people with whom I connected with on different levels, lots of them even knew each other and the tribe grew. I became a member of a tribe of birth workers as well and consider them my sisters as we all share a passion, not just a career to help families during pregnancy and childbirth. These groups of friends, family, colleagues, clients and like-minded people are now the tribe I learn with, laugh with (and sometimes at), grow and celebrate with.
Each person in my tribe holds a unique place in my life and in my heart and I hope that I can be half the friend to them that they are to me. I am a better person, woman and mother to have these people in my life. I encourage everyone to appreciate your tribe and be grateful for all the moments you share. If you feel that you are tribe-less, look no further, the Two Hands Birth Family will be your tribe. Tribe Found!
Warning, I use the word poop a lot in this post.
Ew! You can poop when you push? This is what many people’s response is to hearing there is a possibility of pooping when you push. My response as a childbirth educator and birth doula is YES, you might, but there is almost a 100% chance you will have no idea it’s happening. Here are six things to know about when it comes to passing a bowel movement and pushing a baby out.
1) You are already very familiar with bodily fluids from your pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth involves a significant amount of bodily fluids. There can be bloody show, which is when your cervix begins to soften and dilate and you can see blood when you wipe or some left in your underwear. There is oftentimes a mucus plug weeks, days, or hours before labor begins, which looks like a giant booger that can come out in one piece or many small bits. If your water breaks during labor, this is probably the nicest bodily fluid because it is clear and sweet smelling (if it has a green/ brown tinge or a fowl odor, call your provider immediately), however, this is the largest amount of bodily fluid. It can fill a whole box of pads in a short amount of time. I recommend shoving a chux/puppy pad between your legs, or investing in some Depends from CVS. And chances are during pregnancy you had an increase in cervical mucus and dribbles of pee that you may have had to wear a panty liner for. I say all this to preface that you most likely are familiar with the influx of fluids that happens when you are pregnant.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets chat about why you most likely won’t notice you have ‘let it gooo’ while pushing out that beautiful head of hair from your nether-regions.
2) There is a lot of commotion going on in the birth room. When you are spending your mornings in the bathroom after a cup of hot coffee you have nothing else going on except scrolling through your friend’s stories on Instagram, or maybe ignoring your toddler on the other side of the door. Pooping is your main goal, especially if you have been stopped up from pregnancy hormones. When you are pushing a baby out, there is a LOT more happening. Whether you have a beautiful tranquil birth suite at a birth center surrounded by twinkly lights, a home birth packed with your family and friends, or a hospital birth with student nurses and fresh residents - there is an unmistakable buzz when it is time to push. If you are in a hospital, there are bright lights and all of a sudden there may be twice as many people in the room. People are chatting and cheering you on and if you are bearing down to push and a little poo slips out, you won’t be able to tell.
3) There is a lot of pressure and it is hard to tell the difference between baby descending, and having to poo! You are feeling intense pressure from your belly button through your pelvis and down through your bottom. Your pelvis is widening and your baby is descending! When baby is low you may be asked by your nurse if you have the urge to go to the bathroom, or you notice it yourself and say, “I need to poop!”. Waiting for the urge to push, feels very similar to the urge to poop. Why does this happen? When baby is low in your pelvis they are actually pressing on your colon. It is hard to tell the difference between having to poop and baby being very low (around +1 station).
Your doctor or midwife may suggest to use the same muscles you would use while pooping to help push baby out. When going number two you have to relax in order to pass your bowl movement. Sometimes it is hard to relax when baby is descending because it hurts and is an incredibly odd sensation! Even with an epidural, it is a whole new feeling, you still feel pressure and have to work on getting baby down.
4) Birth has a unique smell. It’s not something that I was aware of until I attended my first birth. It’s not talked about. All the blood, mucus, and amniotic fluid leads to a very distinct smell in the birth room - it is not bad! Just something most people have never experienced before and a little poop is barely detectable in the big scheme of things.
5) Your body has done a lot of prep work for the big day. A potential sign of oncoming labor is your body “clearing out”. It’s when you are sitting on the toilet for what seems like forever. By the time you are pushing, you most likely haven’t had much of an appetite AND your body may have been slowly getting rid of the last bits left in your colon before labor. So if you do poo while pushing, it will be so minimal, again, you won’t notice, and it is not a giant dump you take after Thanksgiving.
6) Those awesome birth attendants whisk it away before you even know it’s there! The last reason you won’t notice anything besides a baby is coming out is because of the incredible invention of chux pads! Whether a nurse or midwife’s assistant is standing there, someone will slide the dirty pad out from under your bottom and just slip a new one under in the blink of an eye. There may already be a stack of new ones under the old so they just pull the dirty one away and all is new! They are doing this frequently without number two because again, of all the other fluids coming out.
If you are having a water birth (it really decreases the uncomfortable pressure you feel in your bottom) then the little turds will either sink to the bottom or float to the top - again - you won’t be able to tell they are there! BUT - someone will scoop them out. In most birth kits you order for water births, they actually come with a fish net to scoop them out, how clever!
I hope you didn’t mind this crass post about pooping - but I think it is important to know because it is a worry for many clients I have had. If you have a squeamish partner who has never seen you poop, that’s okay. Just have them stay up by your head when you are pushing and have them support you from up there, that is okay!
Most important thing to remember - if you are pooping, that means you get to meet baby VERY SOON - yay!
Maybe you are someone who wants to be proactive and prepare for breastfeeding during your pregnancy. You are committed to the idea of breastfeeding and want to be sure you and your little one get off to a good start, that's amazing! Good for you, Mama! You might start asking others for advice or personal experiences. You might be Googling and following online groups and forums to see what others are doing or have done. While any advice you receive, whether it is solicited or unsolicited, is typically meant with the best of intentions, it isn't necessarily always good or evidence based advice.
So here it is - someone, somewhere may just end up recommending that you toughen up your nipples in preparation for breastfeeding.
And here I am to ask, beg, PLEASE- please do not rough up your nipples. Not only is it a myth that this is even necessary, there are potentially harmful consequences in trying to desensitize your nipples.
Nipple stimulation is a wonderful tool during labor to help bring on and strengthen contractions. During the course of a normal pregnancy, you may not put yourself into labor by roughing up your nipples, especially if your body and baby are not ready. However, if you are someone who is at risk for preterm labor, use extra caution for this reason.
Just like the rest of our skin, our nipples produce oil which protects and lubricates. This oil has a unique scent that helps your little one to find your breast and latch after birth (if you haven't already, look up the newborn breast crawl!). Not only will you be removing these important natural oils, you may also experience soreness and cracking nipples. Isn't that what you are trying to avoid in the first place?! With self inflicted sore and cracked nipples, it may be even more difficult for you to know whether you are having breastfeeding discomforts that should be explored with a lactation professional.
So what are some best practices for prenatally setting yourself up for breastfeeding success?
Arm yourself with knowledge and support. And please---don't rough up your nipples.