I Am A Doula

It’s so strange to actually say that.

I mean, yes I’ve been saying that ever since I started my BAI certification course and felt prepared enough to attend a birth.  But, really what I was doing was the whole “fake it ’til you make it” routine.  Going through the motions yet trying to be as present as possible at the same time.  Part of me felt like a poser.

Then a shift happened.

I don’t really know when but it did.  Maybe it was when I was with a family whose baby decided to make an entrance in a hallway just outside the elevator; or when I stood up to hospital policy because I felt it was unfair for a mom having an unplanned c-section to be alone, without a support person after dad when to the nursery with baby (I was able to go into the OR once they left!)  Maybe it was when I was able to calmly walk a mom through what was about to happen just before a herd of doctors burst through the door because baby’s heart rate dropped quickly.  Or even when I held an iPad in an OR so a dad serving our country overseas could be by his wife’s side via Skype while she had a c-section.

I set out on this journey thinking the hardest part of my certification requirements were the births I needed to attend.  I honestly never thought I’d be as busy as I have been.  I ended up attending 3.5 births in 3 weeks- I say half because the mom was sent home to labor since she was refusing interventions and baby decided to wait a bit more.  Then I had a week off before another baby came!!!!  Not to mention the births I attended in June, July, and Sept!

I’m incredibly thankful for the families who took a chance on a newbie doula and other local doulas who trusted me enough to call me in as backup with they were in a pinch.  Not to mention my amazing friends who have watched Atticus for me when I needed childcare.  Even Mark, who works 2 jobs and goes to school 3 nights a week, has been as supportive as he could possible be.

I feel like I can say it… and actually mean it now even if I don’t have a million letters behind my name.  I AM A DOULA.

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I Went On An Adventure

I thought it would be fun tell a story about an adventure I recently went on.  Privacy is very sacred to me so I may have changed some specific details but they don’t change the story. 
 

A few weeks ago I was hired by a family who live a small hike from the city.  I love to drive so I as super excited to explore the countryside of my gorgeous state, especially since I’ll get the opportunity to see the fall foliage.  I had a general idea where they lived, but I’d never been to the town or the even smaller town they actually live in.

Google Maps said it would take me about an hour and a half to get to their house.  I like to be conservative with time for a first meeting so I usually add about 30 minutes of travel time. If that means I need to hang out in a random parking lot for a few minutes, that’s ok.  I just don’t want to be super late due to traffic or anything like that.

I left my house 2 hours prior to our meeting.  I was armed with my paperwork, the books and DVDs they were borrowing, my very first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, and of course my phone.  About 10 minutes after I get out of town, the sky got really, really dark.  Then the rain starts.  We are talking sheets and sheets of rain.  So much rain, in fact, that all the cars and trucks came to a screeching halt on the highway  because we could barely see the lights in front of us.  I literally drove 20 mph down a highway that is usually 70 mph (or more if you live on the edge!)

The whole time I was creeping along, all I could think about was missing my exit.  I couldn’t see the signs and I was in the left lane because I was too scared to move over when the rain started coming down.  Once I got my barrings and the rain let up a bit, I started to imagine what it must be like to be a midwife out in the country.  Driving in the heavy rain or snow, or whatever weather condition.  You can’t just not show up to meet a baby when a family is counting on you.  Plus, babies tend to come with the weather is crazy.  That could be my life in a few years.

I get off at my first exit onto a state highway.  My phone (the map) said I was supposed to turn off on a certain road but I couldn’t find it.  So I just went straight eventually my phone would give me another route.  Yeah, then cell service cut out!  GO figure.  Going straight was actually the more direct route so it was a happy coincidence.

I was supposed to make a turn onto Main Street.  Guess what… no Main Street.  I turned around twice and yep… none.  So I took a chance and turned down the street where the town hall is.  In the 30 seconds of cell service I got, it learned I was on the right path.  I drove for forever and a day.  I saw cows and corn; houses and fields.  It was really quite nice.

I was constantly on the look out for their road.  This resulted in a lot of angry people passing me but oh well.  I barely see a street sign that *might* be theirs.  But the name is a little different.  So I drive past and keep looking.  Then I realized I’ve left the county.  Oooops!  I knew i’d gone, too far.  When I was turning around I had to resist the urge to collect the presumably stray dog (more about that later.)  I head back and decide to take the road I thought it might be.

I should probably mention I was driving a Prius.  The road was gravel and up hill.  Remember the massive amounts of rain?  Yeah I was pretty nervous.  The last thing I wanted was to get stuck and have to tell my clients what happened.  Mental note: if this is their road, I need to bring the SUV next time.

I didn’t see their house.  Not wanting to make a complete fool of myself by calling while driving down a loud gravel road, I headed back to the main road and waved my white flag.  I gave them a phone call, luckily for me I had a few bars of service in the spot I was.  Turns out, someone must have stolen their street sign a while back.  I’d passed it their road a few times in my search, too.  I’m glad I allowed that extra 30 minutes.  I arrived at their house on time.

While it was an adventure, I’m so glad I get to support this amazing family.  It was worth every moment.  I think we will make a great team.  I’m so thankful they’ve invited me on their journey to meet the new member of their family.  I’m excited about future drives because there is so much beautiful scenery I’ll get to see.  It was late at night when I was driving back.  I drove the entire way with my windows open, breathing the fresh air.  When I got home, I wrote very specific driving instructions in case one of my backups need to go for a visit.

Back to the dog:  I grew up in the middle of no where and dogs ran loose.  That’s just the way things are done.  So I’m sure this dog, which looked healthy, did have a home.   Could you imagine your doula from the big city showing up with a dog in her car that she picked up on the side of the road?  Better yet, having to tell her you know who the dog belongs to?  I do think if I ever become the classic country midwife like I’d like to bed I’d probably want to bring my dog with me to all my visits.  Why not, right?
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What Shall I Do?

I know I haven’t posted in a while.  I’ve been super conflicted as to whether to continue this blog or not.  The internet is so open that you never know who will find a blog or website.  I never know who will find this one.  I want to be open and uncensored, but at the same time I’m afraid that a potential client, employer, etc might find this and that could hurt my chances of being hired.

Do I throw caution to the wind and write about what I want.  If I’m not hired because of my beliefs or outlook then it wasn’t meant to be?  There are so few spots for apprenticeships that I might need to keep my own beliefs under wraps so I can have the chance to learn and then implement my own thoughts when I have my own practice?

I just don’t know what I want to do right now.  I only write about my study groups then it’s just like writing a review.  When I started writing this blog I wanted to tell the story of my journey, my thoughts, and my feelings.  Only saying some things and not others feels like I’m not telling the story.

Oh the decisions.

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The News

So I’ve wanted to keep things a bit mum until after the event because I didn’t want to jinx anything.  Hopefully by telling you now, I won’t have jinxed it either.

Yesterday, I met with a local midwife in regards to an apprenticeship/assistant position.    Mark and I have had many, many long conversations about how our lives as we know them would be turned even more upside down than it already is.  Atticus would need to go to school more often and we’d have to work out night time schedules.

We have it all worked out so that is good.  The pay I make from doula/placenta clients plus if I were to get this position I’d be paid a small amount per birth and that would more than cover Atticus’ school tuition plus paying our babysitters.

Having all of that covered, I went for the meeting.  I’m soooooo glad I did!  If anything, I’ve met another local midwife and her current assistants.  Not to mention they now know me!  I left some of my business cards in case they’d like to refer their clients to me.

The meeting went really well.   There were some nurses of various certifications applying as well as doulas who’ve been around for a while.  I did make the point that I’m “fresh” and can be taught exactly they way they feel I should be, rather than trying to building on knowledge or skills that they don’t agree with.  I told them about the workshops and the study group.  We talked a lot about Mark’s schedule.  I made it very clear that I’m very independent and that not seeing him for a few days doesn’t bother me.  Heck, we’ve been through 2 looooooong deployments.  Other than his paycheck, I’ve never really 100% depended on him.  I have childcare lined up that doesn’t involve him in case he’s away when I’d need it.  Also, we aren’t planning to have any more children for at least 2-3 more years.  I won’t be needing maternity leave or anything like that.

There are a few things that I think may have counted against me.  One being that I don’t have nursing training under my belt, but the other being religious beliefs.  I’m not religious.  Never really have been.  However, I’m not uncomfortable around people praying or anything like that.  Who knows if that’s a real mark against me.

Other than those things, most of the meeting was hearing all about their practice, call schedule, pay, dress code, that sort of thing.  If I were to get the position, I’d be paid per birth that I attend and on call for 2-3 days a week.  I’d be expected to be in their office 3-4 days a week unpaid.  It’s a   Honestly, I don’t care!  I want this so badly, I’d probably do it all for free!  It’s a demanding job and I’m willing to but my whole effort forth.

After the meeting, I was given a tour of the facility.  The first thing I noticed was the fetoscope.  It’s not every day you see one available.  Most OBs and midwives don’t use them and probably don’t even have it as a skill.  Personally, I loved trying the fetoscope out at the workshop I attended.  Personally, if I were a midwife today, I’d choose a fetoscope over a doppler unless my client asked other-wise.  As a mother, I don’t want a doppler used again.  (More on that at another time).  I’m sure I’m in the minority, and that’s ok.  Providing options is something that midwives are know for!

Even if I don’t get the position, I’m glad I went.  I think it will have been good for me in the long run.  It’s not every day you get to dress up in slacks and a blouse for an interview.  I mean, I know people do it everyday, but it’s very rare for me.  Plus, I’ve gotten to meet more members of the birth community.  I should know by the end of May if I’ve been chosen and then would start in June.

Fingers and toes crossed!

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All about hearing Gloria Lemay Speak

Last Wednesday I went to a meeting of the Nashville Birth Network.  Gloria Lemay was the guest speaker.  She has in town for the Trust Birth Conference so it was nice that she made some time to come speak to us.

First off, this was the first time I have attended a meeting.  I’m new to the birth “scene” so the only familiar face there was a fellow student from the study group.  I’m the type of person who sits in the back quietly.  I’m not very outgoing in a crowded situation.  A fellow doula sat next to me and introduced me to a few of the other doulas sitting near us.  It was so strange telling strangers “I am a doula!’ It’s like this whole gig felt real… again!  I was able to place my business cards out as well.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to due to a mix up of sorts with my membership payment (still not sure what’s up with that.)

On to the speech.  The first thing Gloria said to us was, “I used to be a law abiding citizen.”  If you haven’t done much research about her, she is an unregulated, traditional midwife.  She doesn’t fall under any type of organization.  Think “underground” of sorts.  She told how she went from being a stock broker to a doula to a midwife.

The topic of her speech was Gentle Birth Practices.  What she really spoke about was circumcision and C-sections.  I missed one of the statistics she mentioned about C-sections so I won’t share that part.  She said that 30 years about 85% of newborns were circumcised.  Today it’s down to 32%!  That’s HUGE!

Some of the other things she mentioned was the whole “what no one tell you” about circumcisions and sections.  For example, most older women with bladder leakages issues had at least once c-section.  That is because a woman’s bladder is attached to her uterus.  During the surgery, it has to be unattached then reattached.  This can cause issues over time especially in the case of multiple c-sections.  There is also scar pain that may never go away.  This affect a woman’s sex life if it’s painful for her partner to lay on top of her.

In the case of circumcision, she made some interesting links to things that would never have crossed my mind.  Did you know that until recently, the US had one of the highest circ rate in the world.  We also sell the most sexual lubricant!  That’s because the foreskin helps distribute the natural lubrication.  Take it away and you’ll need the bottled stuff.  Of course, she talked about the foreskin have more nerves than any other area in that region of the body.  When it’s taken away, so is sensation.  It’s the difference between feeling something tickle the palm of your hand vs. the back of your hand.  Imagine cutting off your eye lid.  Your eye would dry out and not be very effective.  The same thing happens to the glans of the penis when the foreskin is removed.

She said that if we (women) find ourselves needed extra lubrication during sex and our male partner isn’t “feeling” it as much, we should blame our mothers-in-law!  If we find ourselves wearing Depends we should blame our OB.  Gloria is a very matter of fact, almost militant person.  She doesn’t gloss over things and make them sound pretty.  She feels that having an intact penis is a basic civil right.  The only person who can make decisions about their genitals is the person they are attached to!  I agree with her.

Gloria has made a DVD that shows a few births that she’s attended.  She showed us the version that has her commentary added in.  On the DVD, she also has two sections about circumcisions.  I purchased a copy of the DVD because I’d really like to see those.  I haven’t decided if it’s something I’d loan to clients yet.

There were two things I didn’t like about event was the Q&A sections.  Sometimes someone would ask a question and she would go off on a tangent and not really answer the question.  It was almost like she was avoiding anything that didn’t fit into her agenda.  The other was that sometimes her bluntness went a little overboard.  She flat out told a mother that she was stupid and publicly berated her for having a medical procedure done.  Both the mother and her midwife (homebirth) followed appropriate medical protocol.  I felt so bad for the poor mother.  No one should ever be told they are stupid for seeking medical attention, no matter what the issue was.  No matter if you agree with her/care provider’s decision.

All in all, I really did learn a lot from her.  I’m still trying to decide if her speech really fit the title.  To me, “gentle birth practices” means more along the line of minimal interventions, using your instincts, and the like.  I’m not sure if I’d attend any of her online midwifery classes but if she were speaking at a conference I was attending, I’d probably listen to her speak again.

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Gloria Lemay!!

I desperately want to tell you all about hearing Gloria Lemay speak about Gentle Birthing Practices last night. However, my laptop is in the shop and typing on my iPhone will drive me nuts before I can write more than a few paragraphs. So, I promise that I’ll write about it first thing as soon as my computer is back in my lap.

Also, I have something semi exciting to share later, too! I’m not ready to talk about it just yet, but I will be soon.

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Guest Speaker in Town

I mentioned yesterday that I had something exciting to announce.  So here it is:

I’m going to hear Gloria Lemay speak this month!  Of course, if you aren’t a birthy person like me then that probably doesn’t mean much.  To me, it’s super exciting.

This year’s Trust Birth Conference is being held here.  She will be speaking/attending the conference and our local Birth Network is sponsoring an event prior to the conference.  She will be speaking about gentle birthing practices.  I know she will have some awesome things to say.

Gloria Lemay is a traditional midwife from Canada.  She lectures, teaches, and writes about pregnancy and birth.  I’ve read a lot of her blog entries and hope to take some of her webinars at some point.

I can’t wait to tell you all about the event!

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Things are happening!

Over the past week I’ve been shocked a few times!

It all started last weekend when I woke up on Saturday and had an email from someone inquiring about placenta encapsulation.  Then another Sunday evening!  Today I got an email asking about my doula services!  How crazy is this?!

I never expected to have so much interest so soon.  While I have a goal of one birth a month, I thought it would take at least six months or so before I got some solid interest.   I do have to wonder if part of this sudden interest without having recommendations is because I’ve said that I’m currently in training so my price is very low.  People like cheap especially when they are making a million other purchases for a baby.

Thursday, I had my very first prenatal meeting.  I think it went really well.  I know my client needs my help/support and I’m there for her.  I’ve loaned her some books that I think will also give her the courage she needs.

I was pleasantly surprised with myself during the meeting.  I was worried that no matter how much I tried to keep my own birth beliefs out of our conversation, they would creep in.  I just let me words flow from my heart and found that I was able to keep my own choices and beliefs to myself.  It payed off because she said I was the first person who hadn’t tried to push certain decisions on her.  I just told her she has to follow her gut and I’ll support whatever decisions she makes.  Happy mom means happy baby which makes for a happy family.  I can’t wait until our next meeting when we practice relaxation techniques, go over my “tricks,” and explore my birth bag.  We will also write her birth plan at that meeting.

I have something exciting to write about, but I’ll save that for another post.  Bet you can’t wait to hear all about it!

 

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Adding to the list

Lately I’ve been thinking about my list of goals.  I feel like I should be able to have more skills that I could provide to my doula clients, would help me as a midwife, but also possibly offer me more opportunities as a day job.  Then it hit me, I should also become a massage therapist!  I would learn more massage techniques to use during a birth, be able to offer a prenatal massage or two to my clients, but also be able to do prenatal massages for mamas who haven’t hired me as their doula.  I could even offer infant massages!  I suppose I could also work at a spa, too.

So how in the world would I do this, you ask?  Simple.  Ok, not quite simple- super expensive is more like it.  There is a school in California that is a two week intensive course.  We’re talking 13.5 hour days for the full 15 days!  When I leave I’ll have the right credentials to be able to become licensed in the state of Tennessee.  This school has the right accreditation!  But, it will cost a could grand in tuition, not to mention travel/lodging expenses and childcare back home.  The good news is that all the textbooks I need and a massage table are included in the tuition price!

It’s not feasible for us this summer because I’m on call, have at least one placenta to do, and well, money is tight.  But I might be able to do it next summer if I start saving the money now.  I’d still like to do the MW assistant course at The Farm either this summer or next.  It will probably be next because of the weeks that I’m on call.

Mark is all for the idea.  Next school year, he’ll be making a bit more money thanks to the VA so we might be able to put a little into savings so I can accomplish these two things.  Plus, I’d like to for my doula/placenta business to be a little more busy.

So for now, I’ll just keep trying to do my best to build my business and hope that happy clients pass my name along.  It’s slow going, but I suppose that’s how all thing are in life when you are trying to build something from the ground up.

 

 

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Study Group #5

This month the study group was a little different.  Instead of having us divided into two groups meeting for two hours the same day, we divided in half and met on two different days for four hours each.  I was in the second group and we met Sunday.  We were supposed to have the same guest instructors but I think they forgot to come!  The MW who usually teaches us ended up teaching us.  She’s a great teacher and even though she felt unprepared I left feeling well informed.

Our topic was performing GYN exams.  We started with an anatomy and equipment lesson.  We also talked about what we were looking for and what were normal/variations of normal.  She had two different pelvises for us to look at.  One was probably from a male skeleton and clearly wouldn’t allow for a baby to pass through it.  It was nice to see good versus very bad.  “Bad” probably isn’t the best word to use, but I’ve just spent a good 5 minutes trying to phrase that sentence better.  We learned how to take pelvic measurements,  find ovaries, all that good stuff.

Then it was time for a live demonstration.  We had an awesome model who let us watch her receive a complete GYN exam:  Breasts, pelvic, and PAP.  We also learned how do a wet mount slide to look for things like yeast and BV.

The last part of the day was performing exams on each other or on another model (if we weren’t comfortable having a class mate stare at our vagina.)  I went first.  Since I have a Mirena IUD and no modesty, I didn’t mind the whole class watching so they could see the strings.  I think there were 5 or 6 people all staring at my lady bits all at once.

I was crazy nervous about performing an exam.  But once I did it, it was no big deal at all.  I was constantly apologizing afraid that I’d hurt her but she said I did a great job!

I realized a few things during the whole process.  Firstly, having a live model is so much better than a dummy.  They can give you feedback and you are more aware of what you are doing so you don’t hurt them.  Also, I don’t think I’d trust a male care provider.  I’m not sure why, but I think part of it is that they don’t have vaginas or breasts and won’t have experienced the same things that we as women experience.  I know that’s a personal thing, but yeah.

Yay new skills learned!

 

 

 

 

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