THRIVE TV: Diastasis Recti

CALLING ALL MOMS!

This is important stuff.  And unfortunately, pretty common stuff.  Have you ever heard of diastasis recti?  It's essentially when the walls of your abdominal muscles are separated, which can happen most frequently after a pregnancy.  If you're not sure what it is or how to find out if you've got symptoms, it's all laid out in the video below.

It's important to know this stuff because if you do have abdominal separation, you want to be really careful about the types of exercises you do postpartum, so you don't make your symptoms worse.  When you're finished with the video, go to this link and grab a free PDF we created for you which outlines the test to determine if you have diastasis recti symptoms and includes our favorite resources for correcting and healing your abdominal separation.

THRIVE TV: The Flexible Straw

Weeeeeeee're back!

Today on THRIVE TV, I'm sharing a useful labor/birth tool, especially for partners! As silly as this video is--take this seriously, partners. You've got an important job to do so your baby mama doesn't get dehydrated. The less words you have to use while she's in labor, the better. The less she has to request things, the better. The less she has to MOVE, the better!

Of course, you've got to bring more than just a cup and a straw to your birth, so we're giving away a FREE printable hospital bag checklist. All you've got to do is click this link, download the PDF, print it out, and pack that bag!

And tell me... What material item could you have not lived without during labor or your hospital stay?

THRIVE Spotlight: Alexis Southward

I'm not sure if I've ever been quite as excited about anything as I am about having Alexis Southward on our team as our birth photographer!  I'm officially declaring the grainy, dark, blurry, old iphone photos of the moment you meet your baby not good enough!  So, we brought in the best.  And what's a better way to get to know her than to ask her to share all of the weird and fun facts about herself!  We have put the spotlight on all of our team members when they've joined us!  Click to read Catie's, Meisha's, Elisha's, Chloe's, and Maria's fun facts!

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  1. I currently have a zoo of 4 dogs, 2 cats, 2 ferrets, 2 guinea pigs, a Russian Tortoise and a tank of Dalmatian Mollies who I raised from Hatchlings.

  2. My Rescued Australian Shepherd, Astro, is my soul dog. Basically my soulmate, but a dog.

  3. I wholeheartedly believe in love at first sight. My husband and I have been together since the first time we ever saw each other.

  4. I am totally obsessed with Audiobooks. I am an avid bookworm, but since it's hard to read and take care of adult chores all of the time… I mostly listen to my books now.

  5. I am totally, unabashedly unashamed of my love for all things Harry Potter. 

  6. I LOVE Classic Rock. 

  7. My favorite thing to get at Island Creamery is a Coke Float with Wallops Rocket Fuel Ice cream. Spicy and sweet. It's heaven on Earth.

  8. I am a vegetarian. Except sometimes I eat crabs, because… crabs!

  9. I co-own and LOVE Little Dreamers Wellness Center in Berlin. It’s my happy place.

  10. My favorite age to photograph is the “terrible” twos… because when you finally get that smile, it's just everything!

 

If you're considering or intrigued by birth photography, give us a call and we'll be happy to answer all of your questions!

THRIVE TV: Doulas Aren't Just for Hippies!

...although if you are a hippie, that's cool, too.

On the second episode of THRIVE TV, I'm chatting with another THRIVE doula, Elisha, about her wildly different experiences as a doula.  She's supported women and families in scheduled cesareans; unplanned cesareans; home, birth center, and hospital births; unmedicated births; birth with epidurals (that were planned and unplanned); VBACs; and more!

Please share with us--If you've considered hiring a doula or hired a doula before, tell us your experience!

We're hosting a "Meet the Doula" night at our pregnancy group on March 24, 2018! We'll be there to chat, talk about all things pregnancy/birth/postpartum/parenting, and answer your questions about doulas.

Visit the Facebook event for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/220326691842587/.

THRIVE TV: The Magic of the Bedside Bin

Well, this was something else. Why is being on camera so flipping hard? I was extremely vulnerable. Nervous. A little embarrassed. But I knew I wanted to see if I could do it.

Then, I realized. Dude, that's how my clients feel in labor when I'm supporting them! If they can do that, I can make a flipping video and put it out into the world with hopes that it will help someone!

So, that's what we're doing. Today, we're launching THRIVE TV!!!!!! And we're chatting all about the magic of the BEDSIDE BIN.

 

Okay, now please make me feel like it was worth it! Share your postpartum item that you needed at your side at all times! And if you're pregnant or want to give the AMAZING gift of a pre-made bedside bin to a pregnant friend, click here to grab that free PDF with a list of all of the items you can add to your bedside bin!

Why I Wish I Had a Birth Photographer

They say your wedding goes by in the blink of an eye.  And it's true.  You spend all of this time preparing, writing vows, trying on dresses, interviewing and hiring DJs and bakers, DIYing your decorations, and tackling the pages-long list of things to do.  And then the wedding day comes and goes. And then it's gone.  Forever.  And you're married.  And THANK GOD you hired a professional photographer or videographer to capture the day that already seems so fuzzy in your memory just a few months later.

If you've ever given birth before, you know that childbirth is exactly the same.  And once again, whether the labor felt long or short, the details get hazy before you can even celebrate your child's first week of life.  As mothers, we're wired to tell and retell our birth story.  We want to know what happened from every angle and from every vantage point and we want everyone's perspective.  It's part of processing our experience.  

The birth of our baby is the most important day of our lives.  We want it to be ingrained in our memories forever as joyous and worthy of the most magnificent celebration. We want to remember how hard we worked and how relieved and elated we were when we finally held our babies in our arms.  Every year on the day of your child's birthday, you recall the story of how they came to be here on Earth and how important they are.  And each year, the story becomes less and less detailed.  

When I gave birth to my first daughter, Clara, I wanted a photographer, but there weren't any options on the Eastern Shore at the time that I knew of.  I had a long, slow, and relatively low-key birth experience, but yet it felt like the world stopped!  It was intense, insane, and beautiful.  When I came home with her, I couldn't even unpack my birth bag.  I didn't want the biggest moment of my life to be over.  It felt so new and yet so far away all at the same time.  My eyes were closed for most of the labor, but when she was born, she looked directly into my eyes and we stared at each other in silence for what seemed like forever.  I was in denial that such an earth-shattering moment could be lost in time and I would be only left with my quickly fading memory.  I eagerly talked to all of the people at my birth and wanted them to tell me all the little details I missed, like how in the car on the way to the birth center it was raining so hard that my husband couldn't see more than one car in front of him ON THE BAY BRIDGE.  I wished over and over that I could have had a photographer to document that whole evening so that I could use those photos to jog my memories in the future.

It sounds kind of funny to say now, but during my days of "baby blues", I was feeling really nostalgic about my birth and I just desperately wished I could experience it from the outside.  I felt so "out of body" throughout the whole experience that I had a hard time recalling details.  I just wanted to see my face when she was finally born and to hear what people said around me and to watch her look into my eyes from the outside.  And then, one night, I ACTUALLY SAW IT.  I had a very clear and vivid dream.  It was literally the video of my birth, taken from my left side, as if a camera really had recorded it.  I watched the video from the last few pushes.  I saw myself pull her up out of the water beneath me. I heard the noises I made.  I saw my face crunch up as I cried tears of joy and relief.  I heard her first weak cry.  I watched us lock eyes for what seemed like hours.  

And then I woke up.  And that was it.  And I felt like a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders.  And I finally unpacked the birth bag and did my laundry that day.  It felt so refreshing and like my birth experience was finally complete and I could move on to my new life and role as mother.

 the only photo i have of me in labor.  my doula was thoughtful enough to snap this on her cell phone (in the dark).

the only photo i have of me in labor.  my doula was thoughtful enough to snap this on her cell phone (in the dark).

When my friend April* hired a birth photographer, she explained that since it was her 3rd birth and she had been through labor and childbirth before, she knew that she needed something in print to give her inspiration during her postpartum time.  Her postpartum experiences had all been difficult, as the change of lifestyle and hormone transition took a toll on her physically and emotionally.  She knew that this time, she may be having her last baby, and she wanted this phase of her life to be remembered forever in beautiful media.  The day she received her birth photos, she sat and looked through them for hours while holding her warm, swaddled newborn.  And each day, when life began to feel overwhelming, she came back to her birth photos and video to remind herself of the treasure that was her baby's birth and what that special day meant for their family. 

That's why I knew it was important for our community to have a photographer dedicated to capturing these memories.  

Alexis Southward, THRIVE's birth photographer, will come to you in active labor, preserve the experience of your birth on camera without disrupting your labor or the space around you, and will return your professionally edited photos in an online gallery within 14 days, while it still feels fresh!  Professional printing, birth storybooks, and a slideshow with video clips and photos set to music are also available.  

To request a free consultation with Alexis, contact us today and we'll be in touch.  Our first 5 contracts will be offered a special "portfolio" discount while we build our photography gallery--save $200!

*Name changed for privacy

10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for the New Baby

You're having a new baby soon.  You hope your older child (or children) will be able to transition smoothly to having a new little one around.  As parents, we usually have concerns about whether the older child will get enough attention, how you will divide your time (and love!), whether they will be jealous, and whether they'll express those new emotions in new and unwanted behaviors.  

The good news?  Evidence shows that when you take dedicated time to help prepare your little one(s) for the new baby, children exhibit fewer anxieties, are better able to express their feelings, and parents are better able to cope with the new responsibility of an additional family member.

We've come up with 10 fantastic and easy ways for you to prepare your child for the new baby while you've still got time!  We often spend dedicated and carved out time during pregnancy to prepare ourselves, such as attending a birthing or parenting class, reading books, reading blogs, researching and shopping for baby items, etc.  But our children's worlds will be turning upside down too!  They need and deserve the same attention and preparation.  In addition to preparing your child for this new life change, it will give you some final opportunities to spend time together and bond.

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1. Read age-appropriate books about birth and having a new sibling.  

Take your son or daughter to the book store to pick out some books about having a new baby.  There are some fantastic books for toddlers as well as older siblings, too.  Read books about the birth process and talk to them (in age-appropriate language) about how the baby will come out of your body. 

2. Go through your child's own baby photos and videos and talk about the things you did together when they were a baby.

Children LOVE to see themselves as babies! Show them photos and talk to them about the blankets they used to love and how baby sister or brother will likely sleep with that same blanket, too.  Show them their own videos and talk about what kind of sounds and movements babies make.  Share with them how cute, cuddly, and adorable they were and how you can't wait for them to snuggle up with the new baby!

3. Visit friends with babies or infants.

Nothing beats the real thing.  Your child(ren) will have the opportunity to see how the baby eats, how they sleep, experience the "hush" in the room when the baby falls asleep, and understand how to hold baby safely.

4. Place an ultrasound picture in your child's room.

We all hope our kids will form an amazing bond and be best friends forever, right?  Why not start encouraging that now?  Put an ultrasound picture on your child's wall so that he can look at his baby sister whenever he wants.  When the baby is born, he may be sad to know that his sister sleeps in a different room, so he can still look at her when he misses her.  You can replace the photo with a real photo after she's born, if you'd like.

5. Take your child on the the hospital tour with you.

To a child, the hospital may be either completely unknown or a place for sick people.  It may ease their mind to understand where their parents are for a few days while the baby is coming or finally here.  Take them on the hospital tour with you if you feel like they're old enough to understand a bit and talk to them about where you'll be and what will be happening.  "This is the room where the baby will come out.  I'll be doing hard work in here and those nice nurses will be helping me!"  "This is the room where I'll go when your little sister is here.  We will rest after all that work until we're ready to come home.  You will come visit us in this room and see your sister!"

6. Let your child help you pack your hospital bag.

In order to help prepare your child for the time when you're away having baby, they can help you pack your bag. "We're packing pajamas because we'll be gone for a few nights while you sleep in your bed with grandma."  "This is your sister's first hat! Do you think she should wear this on the car ride home from the hospital?"  It will hopefully keep your child feeling involved and give them some ownership of the process and decisions, even while you're away at the hospital.  

7. Talk to your son or daughter about baby names and hear their input or opinion.

Kids can come up with the craziest names!  It's so cute to hear their opinions and ideas!  If your son wants to call his baby sister "batman", maybe he can call her that while she's still in your belly.  And when she comes out, we can all agree to call her a different name.

8. Let them help you decorate or organize the nursery and baby's items.

They can bring you clothes to fold from the laundry, help you organize the changing station, or bring you wipes and diapers. This can help them feel involved and like the "big brother" or "big sister" before baby is even here.  Hopefully, they will still be able to help you with those same tasks after baby has arrived.

9. Encourage them to talk to baby and feel his/her kicks.

Babies in utero are SMART.  They can hear us talking to them and like to kick our hands when we feel around, too!  Encourage your little one to talk to his/her little sister, tell her how she's loved and going to have so much fun when she comes out.  Let him feel her kicks and tell him that she loves him too and this is her way of playing right now!

10. Create a "countdown" to baby's predicted arrival.

Depending on your child's age: You may create a countdown chain to your due date and have your older children take off a link each day.  You can tell them that when the chain gets small, the baby could arrive anytime!  And when the link is all gone, you can celebrate your due date as a family and get them excited for the surprise arrival! If you've got toddlers or little ones, talking to them about the "season" or "big event" that will happen when baby is predicted to arrive may be a little easier for them to understand. "When it gets hot out and we have beach days again, you know your sister will be here soon!"  "Your little brother probably won't be here until after Christmas."

BONUS: Take a sibling preparation class!

Research has proven that taking a sibling preparation class with your child can ease the transition into being a new sibling and prepare your family for a smoother and less stressful beginning.  If you're on the Eastern Shore, I hope you'll join us for our FREE sibling preparation workshop on January 31st at Little Dreamers Wellness Center in Berlin.  Register HERE to reserve your spot.  We hope to see you there!

Delmarva Community Birth Stories: The Birth of Jude Thomas

We've started something here!  Our community is contacting us left and right and asking if they can share their stories.  Ummmm.... YES!  This was such a special birth for me.   Although now that I'm thinking about it, they're all so special.  Enjoy reading the story of the birth of baby Jude, written by his reflective and talented mother, Alaina.

Xo, Maria


“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment.”

Words from a favorite song at the time spoke to me months leading up to the conception of my fourth child and stuck with me through my pregnancy and birth.  My husband and I decided to add on to our family during a time when many likely questioned “what are they thinking having a baby right now?” We chose not to put our lives on hold and move forward, because God’s plan is never our own. I was in tune with my body’s natural rhythm, experienced in sympto-thermal charting, and was prepared to make it happen. I wasn’t prepared for the struggle of conceiving this baby. Being the fourth child, I assumed I would conceive quickly like my others. My “struggle” seems relative because it can in no way compare to what others have gone through, including those close to me. Nonetheless, it was a difficult time of confusion, sadness, and anger. I had this idea in my head of what was to come and a timeline prepared in my head, as is my usual style. As with most things, my timeline fell to the wayside and baby #4 was finally conceived in March 2016.

The birth of my fourth child was a culmination of my previous births and everything I had learned. It was an experience that allowed to me to come full circle and to feel I had actually conquered what I knew I did NOT want the birth to be. To accurately describe this birth, I need to go back to the beginning. The birth of my first child was rather traumatic for me, so my goal with the subsequent births was basically anything to avoid a repeat. My daughter suffered a significant trauma to her neck due to shoulder dystocia and I was not in much better shape. With my second daughter I chose a route that I thought I was “supposed” to go. I chose to be induced a second time and got an epidural immediately. My mindset was if I don’t feel anything maybe it won’t happen again.  It wasn’t until my third child that I realized what I experienced the first time was not “normal.” I had finally figured out that the way I thought birth was “supposed” to be was not at all accurate. I had learned that the trauma to me and my first daughter could have been avoided. I became more in tune to natural births, familiarized myself more with the trauma and came to learn so many things I had no idea about. With the birth of my third daughter I set out to have a completely different birth. I would not be induced and it would be a natural birth free from intervention. This baby would not have a shoulder dystocia and get stuck! Well, she did get stuck and I did receive pitocin after hitting that magical time clock after my water had broke before active labor began. Despite it not going exactly how I had planned, it was a major step towards a better birth experience with a different provider and different location. With my fourth I read and re-read countless books and familiarized myself even more with shoulder dystocia, determined to beat the odds that were stacked against me. I watched videos constantly of peaceful births, determined to have some quiet, introspective birthing experience. I actually wrote down a birth plan instead of just having ideas in my head. I practiced different exercises and positioning to avoid a possible repeat shoulder dystocia. I visited the chiropractor often, despite all of my midwife providers not acknowledging any correlation to adjustments, baby’s positioning, and shoulder dystocia. I had my plan in place. It would be perfect and peaceful and since it was my fourth it would be quick (HA!)

I knew at the beginning of this pregnancy that I wanted to hire a doula. I would be faced with many challenges and likely opposition given the extremely high risk of a third shoulder dystocia. Also, my babies were getting progressively bigger and having a cesarean was something I wanted desperately to avoid. I needed another person in my corner, someone to validate my decisions and not make me feel weak or feel strong-armed into something I was against. With all of my births I have always had my husband, mother, and mother in law present. To some this is a lot of people, but each had a very specific role that didn’t quite match up with what I would need from a doula. I needed my mother’s presence because she’s my mother. I think my first birth really terrified her so she generally took a back seat and waited patiently, offering support towards the end just enough to let me know she was there. This was what I needed from her. My husband offered physical support when I needed it, a hand to squeeze, and words of encouragement. I needed his presence more than anyone because he’s always been my rock and makes me feel stronger. But, he’s not so comfortable with birthing and always felt too out of his element to really learn more. I was comfortable with his feelings and did not pressure him into doing things he wasn’t comfortable doing. My mother in law, which is surprising to some, was the person that truly took an active role. In fact, she was a little offended that I would hire someone to take over what she thought of as her role. Okay, she was a lot offended. She has attended 12 of the 14 births of her grandchildren. She was with me for my previous three births. She was the one to coach me in my breathing and pushing. She was a calm presence, but also fierce. She has a strong personality, one that I knew would be confident in standing to protect me.  At the same time, she generally sides with the typical medical stance and recommendations which I felt may not quite suit my stance with this particular birth. My births thus far had been far from ordinary and uneventful, which was something she was not accustomed to. So I hired my doula Maria, someone to share my birthing thoughts and plan and wouldn’t necessarily side with the medical professionals unless myself or the baby were in true danger. It was difficult balancing the roles of the doula and my mother in law “doula,” but I feel like it worked for me at least.  

I had my team ready and I was ready. I chose to see the midwives in Easton for a second time and give birth at their hospital again. Despite the many changes I heard had taken place locally, the memories and sour taste in my mouth from the previous births were still there. I knew what to expect in Easton and felt my chances of having a midwife of a similar mindset was greater. I met with a few different midwives before I finally had an appointment to meet with one that I just knew would be of the same mind and be supportive of this birth, despite the risks. She had a wonderful reputation and I was hopeful. When I met her one of the first things she discussed was a scheduled cesarean and advised me to consider that route given my high risk of repeat dystocia. I was devastated. How could this be? None of the others had advised this and I thought for sure this woman would be the one to absolutely be in my corner. After leaving the office I immediately called Maria. I weighed my options of changing providers to Salisbury mid way through the pregnancy or continuing with what I felt was questionable support of the Easton midwives. I felt dismayed and defeated but chose to stick it out, feeling that in the end I at least had the support of my team. We would watch the baby’s size closely and revisit this later on if the baby seemed extremely large. In the weeks towards the end of the pregnancy I became much more aware of baby’s position. I could feel even the slightest angle of the head being not quite centered. I saw the chiropractor nearly every week and on a Friday, 2 days before the 41 week mark I noticed another shift in the baby’s head more to the side. Coincidentally the same side my others were stuck on. After an adjustment she used the rebozo on me to “shake the apples,” a technique among many I had read about and practically memorized on a website about spinning babies.  I felt baby move and shift.  At this time most would be growing impatient, but all of my children were born after the 41 week mark so I was prepared for that day to come and go.  It was in the early hours the morning after, around 3 AM on Saturday December 17th, that my water broke. As I did with my last child I tried to convince myself I just didn’t make it to the toilet fast enough. At 3 AM that seems totally logical, right? So I used the bathroom, got back in bed and shortly after got the urge to pee again, partially feeling like I was actually peeing but mostly just gushing amniotic fluid. And that went on for the rest of the morning until my children woke us up. I told my husband, “I’m pretty sure my water broke last night.” He casually asked if we needed to go to the hospital to which I respond no, because I wasn’t having any contractions. I called Maria later that morning and told her the same, that I thought my water had broke but I may have just been peeing but as I said it out loud to someone who’s way more familiar with births than me I realized just how ridiculous I was being. Of course my water had broke, I just didn’t want to acknowledge that this birth was beginning the exact same way as my last. This birth was supposed to be different! My water was supposed to break and labor would actually begin and I would barely make it to the hospital before I had my baby, or maybe even have my baby on the hour and a half drive. HA! I walked around the house, bounced and rolled on my birthing ball, and listened to my husband blare on repeat “Hey Jude.” After three girls, we were hoping for a boy. I guess playing the song on repeat was one last ditch effort. I rested at times but mostly went about the normal day taking care of the kids having intermittent contractions of little intensity. We had an ice storm the evening before and the Vienna bridge was closed, so even if I wanted to go to the hospital I couldn’t have. We decided later in the afternoon after the bridge had reopened to head to the hospital. Even though there was really no established pattern to my contractions we didn’t want to risk the roads freezing again that night.

When we arrived at the hospital my contractions were still not regular and the ones I was having were not strong at all. Déjà vu. We walked, laid, bounced, massaged, prayed, and waited. It was later that evening that the midwife informed me that the person on the next shift was an OB, not a midwife. It was at this time I felt like I spiraled into fear. I felt like with an OB present for this birth I was for sure going to have a cesarean. Also, my water had broke and that time clock I was on with the last birth was slowly ticking away again. Though I didn’t acknowledge this time frame myself, I knew it would become an issue with the providers. So I called Maria to come to my corner and mentally prepared as much as I could for a fight with this OB. My mind was quickly put at ease when my new nurse came in and it was the one I had and loved with the last birth, Stephanie. She was such a calming presence and in that moment when my baby was stuck she calmed my fears and managed to quickly get me into a position to perform the McRoberts maneuver all while keeping me from freaking out and continuing to coach me through breathing and pushing. She was amazing and with her I again felt confident that this could finally be the intervention free birth I was hoping for. Another person on my team! Maria arrived to probably the calmest and most uneventful birth. She suggested side lying with the peanut ball which is when the contractions began getting stronger and developing more of a pattern. I knew that given the history of shoulder dystocia the best position I should birth in was on all fours. I prepared myself by first getting on my knees and then laying against the back of the bed. I remember laying my head down between contractions and falling into the strangest sleep/awake cycle for brief moments. I could actually hear myself snoring and I was aware of voices around me, but I didn’t really care what they were saying. I would quickly be awakened by another contraction and eventually felt the urge to start pushing. Pushing in that position against the back of the bed just came naturally to me. It was where I wanted to be and could easily sway from side to side. I labored and pushed like that for what felt like an eternity, with Maria applying the most wonderful counter pressure.

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Eventually my knees became weak and I needed to try something different. The nurse brought in the squat bar. The thought of using this never entered my mind as part of my birth plan. I lay on my back between contractions and begged for a break. Like if someone could just press pause for an hour so I could rest I would be good to go. When each contraction began everyone would help hoist me up over the bar. The uneven bars were my favorite event as a young gymnast, but something tells me I probably looked a little less graceful with this bar! With the bar under my armpits, I held myself up and pushed through each contraction.

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I reached a point of sheer exhaustion and couldn’t hold myself up. I resorted to lying on my back, even through contractions, which is exactly where I didn’t want to be starting out. Lying on your back is the worst position for a potential shoulder dystocia. I felt like I was failing giving in to this position, but looking back it was where my body needed me to be. It was at this time that the OB checked me and noticed I had a “cervical lip,” a swollen portion of my cervix. The baby’s head was pushing against this lip causing it to swell, further preventing baby from coming out. She suggested Benadryl to help reduce the swelling and in order for that to work I had to stop pushing.  It was at this time she and the nurse also brought up pain medication to allow me get the rest I needed and to assist in refraining from pushing. I refused, then quickly said yes to IV meds, then quickly said yes to an epidural, and in my mind I was thinking “just cut me open” but thankfully I didn’t voice that one out loud. I was utterly defeated. Everything I did not want I was allowing to happen. In that moment where you have no idea where you are at in birth, how much longer it will be, and what exactly is happening your mind can wander in so many different directions. And oh how my mind strayed.

“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment.”

The Benadryl was administered and a bolus began in preparation for an epidural. This was by far the hardest part of the birth, lying there and having to breathe through a contraction without pushing. Is this even possible? Apparently it is but it wasn’t an easy pause button like I had hoped for. This was Maria’s shining moment. Though she was fully present, helpful, and supportive throughout the entire time, this was when I needed her most. She helped me to do quick breathing through each contraction. I’m pretty sure I may have broken a few of her fingers and melted her face with my horrendous breath, but she continued to breathe right along with me, right in my face to keep me focused and it worked. It was amazing, and wonderful, and horrible at the same time.

“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment.”

About 20 minutes after the Benadryl (I’m relying on other’s timeline here because my concept of time had escaped me long, long ago) I couldn’t breathe through the contractions any longer. I would start the quick breathing and would find myself pushing in the midst. There was no holding it back any longer. I was nowhere close to being ready for the epidural I had agreed to, but this was happening, the baby was coming and I was relieved that I wouldn’t be getting that epidural after all. The nurse or OB, I can’t remember because my eyes were closed, told me to stop pushing and I replied, or likely screamed I can’t, I HAVE to push. The nurse checked me and immediately gave me the ok, as if she could have stopped me anyway. The swelling was gone.  I wasn’t prepared to feel so nauseous at this time though. After each contraction and pushing I would get a wave come over me and feel it rise in my throat but nothing ever came. Then I felt the “ring of fire” which was amazing. I’m sure no one describes it as such, but it was amazing to finally feel something that I knew and understood. It was something familiar and a kind of measure of progress and timing. I knew what it meant, where I was in the labor process, and I knew that my baby was finally coming. I don’t have a concept of how long I pushed partially because I was so exhausted, but also because I didn’t really care to know. I didn’t want to hold myself to anyone else’s standards nor have unrealistic expectations based on others experiences. I just wanted to push my baby out without getting stuck. And on December 18th, 2016 at 7:49 am I did! And not only did this baby not get stuck, but it was a BOY! A gigantic 8 pound 8 ounce baby boy; the largest of my babies and not even close to the predicted weight at the ultrasound just a few days prior. The wave of excitement and disbelief was so overwhelming that when they laid him on me I did not notice his coloring. He was on my chest briefly when they brought up the clamp and scissors to cut his umbilical cord and I immediately said “no no no.” My birth plan had included delayed cord clamping, something I had not done with my others but really wanted to with this one. The OB simply said “no, I have to.” I had no idea what was happening, but knew something was not right. I didn’t recall his heart rate changing at any point in time, but I quickly realized there were no sounds coming from my baby. Maria held my hand and comforted me telling me “he needs help,” a vague yet comforting response. I lay there, attempting to watch but being fully blocked, waiting, and praying. I carefully watched my husband as he stood next to our son, trying to read his face for some kind of clue as to what was happening.

“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment.”

And then our baby cried and I saw the emotional relief wash over my husband and I could breathe again.

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This birth was anything but peaceful and introspective. It was not quiet, it was not quick, and it was far from what I had envisioned. Yet it was everything for me. There were hiccups and struggles, exhaustion and fear, but so much joy and hope in the process. I felt like I had conquered the odds that weighed so heavily against me. I had proved not only to myself, but to everyone around me (and hopefully some nay-saying medical professionals) that my gut intuition and the knowledge I gained from my shoulder dystocia research was all valid. The empowerment I wanted and needed didn’t have to come from a beautiful, peaceful birth that I had envisioned. This was enough.

After 15 years together, 10 years of marriage and 3 beautiful little girls, God finally gave us Jude. We had chosen the name Jude years ago as a nod to the Beatles and our love of all things 60’s. As our lives took a drastic turn from the path we had chosen, the name Jude came to take on a very different meaning in our lives. There is not a day in our lives that God has not already seen and though I never could have imagined the events that took place, God knew.  Saint Jude calls us to be faithful and persevere under difficult circumstances, giving hope to the hopeless and despairing. God has heard our prayers and blessed us with Jude during a time in our lives when we were in absolute despair. He blessed us with Jude when I was feeling completely hopeless during labor, wanting to hit the pause button and take a break, then crying for it to just be over. He blessed us with Jude as we prayed for him to begin breathing. Jude is our sign of hope that things will be okay, a reminder to remain faithful.  This may not be the road we have chosen, just as it was not the birth I had fully envisioned, but I know that God is with us on this journey as He was on December 18th.

“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment. Not a field or flower escapes his notice oh even the sparrow knows He holds tomorrow.”- Jason Gray, “Sparrows”

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Unmedicated Birth & The Two Things I Needed Most To Get It Done

I always love to have my own clients share their birth stories with our blog.  It's interesting for me to see their side of the story, all written down after careful reflection.  Even though I was there, I always learn something new when they share.  Something I didn't know they were thinking, or something that led to their decisions that I wasn't aware of.  Or something I said that I totally forgot!  

When Michelle sent me this, she said "use if for the blog if ya want!".  When I read it, I was in awe.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!  Xo, Maria


For months before I welcomed my little boy into the world, I spent time preparing for the momentous occasion. I watched video after video on YouTube, conveniently skipping over the ones that seemed a bit too “screamy” and intense, telling myself, “you won’t be like that, you got this!” and landing comfortably on birth videos where the mama serenely breathed her baby out into a pool of warm water in a seemingly effortless way. This was the way, I told myself, I will have my baby. I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, calling it my “birthing bible” and allowing its wisdom to guide me into the mindset that giving birth is a divine gift that women are given and that it does not have to be painful with the right set of tools. Birthing could be an orgasmic experience, Ina May said, and this was the way, I said to myself, I will have my baby. Determined to have as much control over my birth experience as possible, given that I was opting to birth in a hospital and not in the comfort of my home, I began stocking my own tool box with birthing essentials. In it, among warm socks, post-labor snacks, and a curated playlist, were the two things I thought I needed most to succeed in having the peaceful, pain-free birth I imagined: a well prepared support team and a strong state of mind.

 On the beach reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth...

On the beach reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth...

My birth team consisted of my husband, my mother, and my doula. I spoke frequently to my husband about how I envisioned my birth. We thoroughly discussed the bullet points of my birth plan. When anyone said to us, sneeringly, “no epidural? Good luck with that!” he was the first to jump in to defend the decision. He had my back, he understood my “whys,” he didn’t question them, and I loved that. He made me feel completely supported in my decision to have an unmedicated birth. Additionally, in all of the readings I had done about birth, there was a pattern of surrounding oneself with strong women in your life— for me, that was my mother. I knew that I didn’t need her to specifically do anything or fill any well-orchestrated role during the birth, but I knew that I needed her there. It was that simple. Thirdly, from the onset of deciding to birth in the hospital setting, I knew I wanted the support of a doula to help me stick to my birth plan in the case of possible opposition by hospital protocol, to provide a hand to hold and encouraging words in case my husband was caught up in an emotional moment, and to counter pressure the hell out of my hips when no one else could find the exact spot to squeeze. A doula has been there to support many women through this experience before me, and I absolutely needed someone there who knew the drill, someone who was a professional in this birthing bit, someone who was 100% on my side, someone who didn’t work under the hospital agenda, someone who believed in the beauty and transformative power of giving birth; I needed my Ina May. From the moment I signed the contract with my doula, I felt a weight fall off my shoulders—that no matter what happened during this birth, I wouldn’t have to do it alone.

With my power trio ready to go, I felt externally well-equipped.

My internal, mental and emotional preparation was much more of a winding journey. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to need to be able to serenely breathe my baby out while in a hospital bed. I continued reading birth stories, I spoke to women in my circle about their birth experiences, I meditated and envisioned what I wanted this birth to be like, I spoke to my baby about how we were going to do this thing together. I was picking up pieces of experiential wisdom from women, women I knew and women I had never met, who had been there-done that, specifically those who experienced unmedicated births. I had an arsenal of mental and emotional support tactics built up, unsure of which I would ultimately employ in the moment. I was confident, however, that between my satchel of essential oils, my learned acupressure points, and my birthing mantras, something would speak to me and guide me through. The three things that I ultimately called upon in the moment: 1. a personal mantra; 2. a labor ritual; and 3. the ability to let go of expectation. 

So how exactly did it go down? Were my support team and my strong mind enough to get it done in the way I imagined I could? If you’re wondering if I had a painless birth, the answer to that is a resounding #&%$ no! It was not painless, it was not orgasmic, it was more intense than any YouTube video that I skipped over could have prepared me for. However, in all of the intensity of contraction pains and the uncertainty of not knowing how long each phase of labor was going to last, perhaps driven by sheer exhaustion, there were moments of euphoric peacefulness that happened when I turned completely inward and allowed time and my surroundings to drift away from me. 

Because I had a birth team around me who I trusted implicitly to support me when it came to what I needed physically and emotionally (though I mostly ended up needing quietness), I was able to trust in what was happening externally and focus every ounce of my consciousness on what I needed to do internally get through the physical intensity necessary to birth my son. My husband was amazing. When the midwife on duty recommended Pitocin for the third time since my hospital arrival, my husband, completely exasperated, digging through my hospital bag, yelled, “where is the birth plan?! I don’t think this woman knows what we are trying to do here, and I need to tell her!” And he did! Later, when the intensity of my contractions started ramping up, he recommended I get in the shower, which I was adamant against at first. This  change of environment ended up being a welcomed saving grace for about an hour. He poured hot water over my arms in the shower while it beat down on my back and held my hand through contractions. He used techniques from our natural birth workshop, and he gave me the space to do what I needed to do. He demonstrated wholly what it means to be a life partner, and it has since strengthened our relationship in a way that I had not written into the context of my birth expectations. Member two of my entourage, my mom, got ice and water when I needed it and she was there, present, just as I needed her to be. Now that the birth has come and gone, I reflect on how important this role was for me, because she was witness to the entire process. When I need to relive a moment from the day, ask a question about how something happened, or just get a little verbal high five, she is a phone call away and always eager to hash it out with me. The only person more proud of what I accomplished than I am might be my mom. Lastly, there was the “closer,” my doula, who we called about 6 hours after I went into labor (without Pitocin!), when my contractions were becoming extreme and I had doubts in my capabilities to continue on, and about 5 hours before the baby came. By the time she arrived, I was pretty far into my own state of Labor Land, pretty turned inward, and pretty uninhibited outwardly.  I remember her sitting calmly next to me, not scared by the deep moans and wounded animal sounds I was making, and holding my hand. I asked her questions, like “how much longer,” and she sweetly said, “I don’t know, but you’re doing great.” She supported me in a way that was comforting but strong; she did not feel bad for me for the pain I was experiencing, she did not want to take that pain away from me like the people in the room who knew me and loved me and wanted to protect me. There were no “aw, I’m sorry”s, there were only words of encouragement, empowerment, and reassurance that an amazing gift awaited me. As I crushed her hand with mine, I knew that she and I were about to do something amazing together because we both believed I was strong enough to accomplish it, no matter how many times I said I couldn’t go on. To any woman interested in an unmedicated birth, do yourself a favor, and buy yourself a cheerleader (I mean HIRE A DOULA!). I am so grateful to my doula, and I would never have had such a positive birthing experience without her.

While all of these things were happening outside of me, inside I was calling upon the techniques I learned from women-past, scouring my mental catalogue for what was going to work for me. To handle the intensity of my contractions, I remembered the metaphor used by Ina May; that each contraction was a wave, and I just had to ride each wave out— easy, right? Being a beach babe, this metaphor resonated for me, and it became my mantra with each contraction, as it gave each contraction a clear beginning, and more importantly, a clear end. If someone was talking as I entered one of the waves, I threw up a hand and said “shhhh,” unable and unwilling to speak words. I closed my eyes and swayed from side to side, seated in lotus pose on my hospital bed. Upright and seated this way, legs crossed, was the most comfortable position for me for much of my laboring. This position and this motion became my laboring ritual that I came back to. I breathed deeply and I said to myself with every wave, “I am going up the wave, I am on top of the wave, I am going down the wave,” and I envisioned my body actively riding up the backside of a big wave, perched on the top of the wave, and gliding effortlessly down the wave. Between contractions, I continued to sway, often dozing off to sleep for the short minutes before another came and getting right back into the ritual partnered with the mantra. If I was awake between contractions, I would tell myself another mantra I had constructed weeks before I went into labor at the recommendation of a friend: “My body is strong, my mind is strong, my baby is strong.” Through the combination of a position that felt comfortable, positive self talk, and reliance on the wave metaphor, I was able to breathe my way through most hours of labor. 

The end of labor, the most intense part, right before you get to meet your baby, required something much more difficult for me; it required letting go of everything I expected to happen in order to allow it to happen. I strongly relied on the “process” of birth, and I took comfort in the notion that everything would proceed according to a well ordered plan— Nature’s plan, the miracle of birth. I should have thrown this heavy reliance on process out the window when my water broke and I didn’t go into labor for another 24+ hours (hence the Pitocin talk). I didn’t throw it out because I needed to trust the process in order to get through it. I trusted it to get me 4 cm and I trusted it to get me to 6, but when I heard “6 centimeters” after what seemed like forever, I wanted to give up. My support team assured me this was great progress, but to me, for whatever reason, it seemed like failure. How could I have progressed so little and given so much effort? This is when I asked for the last time “how much longer?” and again no one knew. How could anyone know? In this moment, I had to give in to this not knowing. Up until this point, I felt great control over the process— I had successfully avoided induction, I was handling my contractions like a champ, I was doing “birth" the way I had prepared to do it, but then I had to let go. So I did. In that instant, I felt weak, physically and emotionally. I wanted to cry but didn’t have the energy to waste. Giving into the unknown, this moment of “weakness,” was one of the strongest things I had to do. Oh, the irony! In reflection, never in my life have I, nor will I, experience feeling both the weakest and the strongest at exact same moment. After this relinquishing, it didn’t take long to get to the point of saying, “I’ve gotta push!”. My birth plan stated that I did not want to be coached on how to push my baby out. I overheard the new midwife on duty (the one who would amazingly deliver my baby) restate my birth plan to one of the nurses in the room. When I heard the words, I yelled out, “NO! Coach me!”. I learned the lesson throughout the process that I was adaptable and that I needed to let go of what I thought I wanted the process to look like. Ultimately, what I wanted most was to push my baby out was however the midwife recommended it be done to allow it to happen the fastest. Within a half hour, I was holding an 8 pound, 15 ounce beautiful baby boy on my chest while a room of supportive women (and my husband!) cheered for me and the miraculous thing I had just accomplished. 

As I write this, I have a perfect sleeping boy on my lap and a profound respect for my body and for every woman who has ever birthed a baby, no matter how she accomplished the daunting task. My reason for choosing an unmedicated birth was a selfish one— I wanted to experience the gift of child birth in all of its intense, unpredictable glory. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to execute birthing in the way that I wanted to, surrounded by my tribe of support. It is my hope that every woman takes immense pride in what her body is capable of doing, and that (if she wants) she has the capacity to build her own tool box, equipping herself with the tools necessary to birth exactly as she wants to, feeling empowered and like the rock star that she is.

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More than the Blues: Perinatal Mood Disorders

Today we are welcoming Jaime Coates, LCPC, NCC, on our blog to share her personal and professional story that led her to supporting with perinatal mood disorders.  We hope you find this informative and inviting.  Jaime is a sweet soul who is fantastic at her job and if you're experiencing symptoms that are "more than the blues", we hope you'll reach out.


If you are preparing for pregnancy, are pregnant and planning to deliver soon, or have recently given birth, you have probably heard the term, postpartum depression or baby blues. What is this exactly? How do you know the difference between the two?  You have probably wondered if you are at risk for developing these symptoms or might be experiencing these symptoms and not sure how to handle them.

Jaime Coates, LCPC, NCC

              I am a Licensed Clinical Therapist and currently provide mental health therapy at Seaside Counseling and Wellness Center in Berlin, Maryland. I have been working in the Behavioral Health field since 2009 and more recently have expanded my practice to work with the perinatal population. After becoming a mom two short years ago, the transition into parenthood was way more than I expected. My husband is the oldest of 6 siblings and frequently reminded me of how much work parenthood would be. I have been the youngest in my family and usually carry a determined and go-getter attitude, so I would always quickly respond with, “we can handle it, how hard could it be?” Transitioning to this new role as a mom was one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced. I enjoy sleep; I value sleep and believe it is extremely necessary to function appropriately. I was prepared for going to the hospital, I was prepared for the delivery, and I was prepared for being tired, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of exhaustion we would undergo the days after delivering a newborn. I wasn’t prepared for the changes in my body, the hormones, and the uncertainty. I wasn’t prepared for how hard breastfeeding would be, the newborn cries that made your heart ache or the difficulty with night time. I think I searched a million forums trying to find answers or reassurance that what we were doing or the way she was acting was ok. Long story short, this adjustment to parenthood was tough. I always valued and appreciated my parents, but this new role provided me with a newfound respect for parents, mothers and especially single parents; as I highly appreciated the support and help from my husband throughout this transition.

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As a mom, we can sometimes be perceived as these magical, strong creatures that can handle anything (which is true), however we also need some time to ourselves, time to heal, time to understand our emotions. It’s ok to feel the way we do, it’s ok to be tired, it’s ok to feel drained while going through these adjustments. It’s ok to take care of ourselves!

Moving into a private practice agency this past year, I became more aware of our local resources and supports.  I soon realized that there were not many, if any therapeutic services in our community with a sole focus on moms, parents or those interested in becoming parents and struggling with infertility.  A lot of women may be experiencing severe stress, anxiety or depression and are hesitant to seek help or support due to underlying fears or unknown judgments. A lot of moms don’t get the support or help that they need because they are nervous, scared, embarrassed or believe, “this could never happen to me.” One out of seven moms experience postpartum distress related to depression or anxiety, but yet there is still limited conversations about it. The more we talk, the more we help! Once one person speaks out on infertility or mental health issues or seeking parenting help, so many others join in with the same questions or share that they too have been in a similar situation. My goal is to raise awareness for perinatal health, for women and parents going through tough or challenging adjustments. I want to help expecting or experienced parents know that they are not alone and that there is professional help that can provide tools or resources for a happier, less stressful transition and lifestyle.

What is a Perinatal Mood Disorder?

              Perinatal is the term used to describe the period of pregnancy and the first year after the baby is born. It is important to remember that a disorder is considered when these symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily functioning and can occur in more than one setting.  Perinatal Mood Disorders include Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder as well as Postpartum Psychosis. Perinatal Mood Disorders can appear during pregnancy or days or months after childbirth. Even though the known term is “Postpartum,” symptoms and disorders can begin during pregnancy.

Baby Blues versus Postpartum Depression

The baby blues effects between 60%-80% of new moms. Symptoms for baby blues includes crying, feeling overwhelmed with this new role as well as feeling uncertain, some sleep deprivation and fatigue. These symptoms arise partly due to the extreme hormone fluctuation after giving birth. Baby blues lasts no more than 2 days to 2 weeks after delivery. Baby Blues is not as severe as postpartum depression, the timing of symptoms occurs soon after delivery and the duration is no longer than 2 weeks. Depression can include a prolonged period of sadness and crying, possible suicidal thoughts or ideations, appetite changes, sleep disturbances, poor concentration and focus, irritability and anger, hopelessness or helplessness as well as guilt or shame, feeling extremely overwhelmed, lacking feelings towards your baby, possible inability to take care of yourself, loss of interest in activities, possible anxiety, isolation mood swings or worthlessness. It is important to remember that a disorder is considered when symptoms are severe enough to interfere with one’s daily functioning.

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Helpful Therapy Services

              The world of Women’s health and wellness is ever growing and is starting to expand on the Eastern Shore. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms or changes related to perinatal mood disorders, difficulty with a pregnancy or becoming pregnant, adjusting to parenthood or are experienced parents going through life adjustments of high stress, mental health therapy can help.

I have recently received a certification of training in Perinatal Mood Disorders from the Postpartum Support International and have over 8 years experience working in the mental health field, dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other related mood disorders. I provide a safe and non judgmental environment to help clients discover their strengths with the use of client centered, solution focused, strength based and cognitive behavioral therapies. Therapy helps by meeting the client where they are at, and assists in building appropriate skills for the presenting problem. Therapy can provide education or act as a support and motivator by helping to improve symptoms of stress or sadness, communication skills, reduce irritability and learn how to maintain a healthy and happier lifestyle.

I understand how difficult it can be planning a pregnancy, the transition into parenthood or managing the different phases of your child’s life. With my professional background and training, I am here to support and help other moms or future moms and parents with these adjustments. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms or changes, please call me at Seaside Counseling and Wellness Center at 410.973.2525 or you can check out my website at www.jaimecoatestherapy.com or www.Postpartum.net for more information and to learn more about the different Perinatal Mood Disorders.  

“No Matter How Tall The Mountain, It Cannot Block Out The Sun.” -Chinese Proverb

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Birth Planning: Tips from a Doula

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As you're preparing for your upcoming birth, you are probably considering many options, like:

Should I use drugs for pain management?
Will I want to labor in the hospital bed or move around?
Are my IV fluids necessary?  Can I request not to have them?
And SO many more!

Just thinking about all of the "what ifs" and procedures in labor and birth can be exhausting and overwhelming.  But when it's time for the big event, you may find yourself uncomfortable, trying to make decisions while laboring, scared, and not able to express yourself.  These feelings are normal!  Which is why it's so crucial to be prepared beforehand so that you aren't left feeling confused, fearful, and overwhelmed on what is supposed to be the best day of your life!

When I was hired by my very first doula client, we spent a considerable amount of time planning and preparing for her birth during our prenatal visits.  I wanted to know exactly how she wanted to feel and exactly what her wishes were so that I could do my best to support her.  We crafted a simple birth plan that covered some of her wishes and her thoughts about how she would like her experience to unfold.  She felt prepared, excited, and ready to meet her baby.

Of course, birth is unpredictable, and life threw her a few curve balls.  The best thing about creating a birth plan is the process that you go through to create it.  You learn about common interventions, procedures, and other possibilities that could come up in the course of your labor.  You develop an understanding about what is normal and what is not, and you've already done the research to know how you might want to handle each situation.  You've set your intentions, but you're educated about ALL options.

When it was clear that her birth plan had to change, she had already done the work beforehand to accept that birth plans aren't set in stone.   We quickly designed a new "plan", which took into account her unexpected situation, but was still respectful of her wishes and desires for her experience.  

We arrived at the hospital and cautiously handed the birth plan over to the nurses.  I had never done this before, so I was a little worried about how they would react to the list of desires.  Guess what?! The nurse relayed to the midwife that they were about to have a natural birth and everyone quickly jumped into action to support her!  The nurse gave her an overview of what to expect in her situation as the labor progressed, the midwife grabbed a birth ball and turned off the lights in the room so my client could relax.  I could tell that there was a special energy in the room.  Everyone seemed excited to witness this labor in an unusual situation.  They gladly welcomed me and did their best to make sure that my client's wishes were met.

It was a beautiful, hard, humbling birth that started a little rocky and unexpected, and ended with a gorgeous baby in her arms and a happy mom who said that she would do it all over again! 

Over the past years, we've written our own birth plans for our own birth experiences, helped women write theirs in our childbirth education classes, and guided our doula clients in crafting their birth plans.  We've been able to see what works and what doesn't in each local hospital and with different care providers.  And my team and I have come up with a fantastic document that guides you through the process of designing the perfect birth plan.

From start to finish, you'll feel confident and secure knowing that you've considered every possible option and designed a clear and concise birth plan that perfectly expresses your wishes and how you want to feel during this most important day!

Download now! THRIVE Doulas 6 Tips for Creating the Perfect Birth Plan:

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What Do Amniotic Fluid and Tacos Have in Common?

She's 9 months pregnant and strolling the aisles of the grocery store picking up last minute things to make freezer meals before her baby comes.  Her water breaks and there's a big gush of fluid rushing down her legs onto the floor.  Contractions start immediately and she's panting and groaning through them.  Everyone rushes to get her in a car and the vehicle flies through traffic lights and stop signs to get her to the hospital just in time for her to scream her baby out.  EMERGENCY!!!

I hope you already know that it rarely ever happens that way.  And if you didn't know, I'm here to tell you: It probably will not happen like that to you.  In fact, only about 10% of women have their water break before labor starts.  The majority of waters rupture well into the labor process, and quite often, very near the end.  

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Now I bet you're wondering why the title has the word "tacos" in it, huh?  Well, if you've given birth before, you've probably experienced a situation where your care provider asks you if your water has broken yet.  If the answer was yes, they may have asked you a few questions about it.  Check those questions out now so you know what to look for next time and can be prepared to answer them!  If your water breaks, remember "TACO":

T (Time): 

What time did your water break?  Care providers will want to know how long your membranes have been ruptured.  In most cases, there are protocols for how long you can have ruptured membranes before birth.  The concern is an increased risk of infection, as your protective bag of waters is no longer surrounding your little baby inside.  If your water broke and you're not already in active labor, remember to limit the risk of infection by not inserting anything into the vagina, including tampons, fingers, having intercourse, etc.  Take showers instead of baths.  Remember, each time something (even a gloved finger from a care provider) is inserted, the risk of infection goes up.

A (Amount): 

Was it a huge gush of fluid that came out like a waterfall?  Or did you happen to feel a few small leaks here and there?  Could the leaks have been urine?  Have you had sex recently?  Could the leaks have been semen? Could the leaks or fluid be vaginal discharge?  Many women experience a lot of discharge in late pregnancy.  Those may sound like silly questions, but they all happen and that's okay!

C (Color): 

What color was the fluid?  Normal amniotic fluid is colorless and sometimes a bit cloudy.  Occasionally it is lightly tinged with small amounts of blood or mucus. Sometimes it has white flakes in it, which is just vernix that came off of baby's skin.  The reason why they ask this question is because sometimes the fluid can be slightly or heavily tinted with meconium. Sometimes, baby passes his/her first stool while still in utero.  This is common and very rarely an indication of a problem, but the care providers like to know because each hospital has a different protocol for how to respond to this situation.  In our local hospital, they invite a respiratory therapist into the labor and delivery room just before birth.  The respiratory therapist stands in the back and out of the way.  If the baby has trouble breathing on his/her own, the therapist is there to help, so the baby doesn't aspirate any of the meconium in the water.  Usually the baby is born, cries and breathes just fine, and the therapist quietly slips back out.  If you're concerned about this or would like to know the protocol in your own hospital, make sure to ask your care provider during your pregnancy.

O (Odor): 

What does it smell like? Yep, you gotta smell it to answer this question.  Either your underwear or a sanitary pad that you're wearing.  Most people describe amniotic fluid as smelling odorless, sweet, clean, or like semen.  I suppose each person thinks of it differently.  Here's why we smell it.  We want to make sure it doesn't smell like urine, which has a distinctive smell.  And we want to make sure it doesn't smell foul.  Foul smelling amniotic fluid can be a symptom of a uterine infection that you'll want to get checked out.  In most cases, though, you're just trying to determine if it's amniotic fluid or urine.

So, there you have it.  Tacos and amniotic fluid DO have something in common!  If you think your water has broken or are unsure, go through these little questions yourself so you already know your answers for when you call your care provider. 

Now, did I ruin Mexican food for you for the rest of your pregnancy?  I hope not.  If I did, just rearrange the letters and remember the word "COAT" instead!

The Birth of Eden

Local mom Amanda retells the story of the birth of her second child, Eden.  We're sharing this story on October 15, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.  Eden's story is powerful, real, raw, and beautifully touching.  I hope you can find some time in your day to remember baby Eden and send some good thoughts and prayers to Amanda and her family.


I’ll never forget the moment I found out I was pregnant with our second child.  I had gone in for my annual gyno appointment, expecting to discuss birth control options with my provider because our daughter was 7 months old and I was finally feeling human again. To my surprise, my bloodwork came back positive.  How could I be pregnant? Ok, I knew how I could be pregnant, but I was exclusively breastfeeding. Don’t the old wives say you can’t get pregnant while nursing? Aren’t the old wives educated medical professionals that bar out all acts of God with the collective wisdom of the ages?  After informing my husband (and subsequently reviving him), I sat down to sort through my feelings.  Fear and an overwhelming worry of how we would provide for two kids on one income and how I would mother two children under two all wrapped up in the promise of an even greater sleep deficit crept in first.  I did what any overwhelmed mother would do in this situation-- feed the child snacks and pray I make it to bedtime. After some ice cream and the metaphorical “bedtime”, hope arrived.  Excitement at the promise of a new life and all the potential love and laughter that would ensue filled my heart.  I would just embrace the chaos, and take it one day at a time, cherishing the small things.

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            A few months, a handful of doctor appointments, and one sonogram later, we were ready to announce.  It was December, and now that we had sonogram photos, we decided to do a Christmas themed announcement.  Our daughter held a stocking that said “Big sister” and a photo of our newest bundle to be.  The congratulations poured in over the next few hours.  Here we were, about to be a family of four. I still wasn’t sure totally how to feel. 

Three days later, on 12/13/14 I began to see spotting.  Immediate dread filled my heart.  I knew that blood, no matter how minute, was never exactly a good thing.  We called the doctor, but of course it was the weekend so I had to wait for a call back.  That was the longest 20 minutes I’ve ever experienced.  Again, my thoughts wandered to “How?” This baby was perfect 72 hours ago during the sonogram.  Perfect development, strong heart beat.  How could it have ended so suddenly? The on call physician told me that there was really nothing that could be done at this point, that my body was “taking nature’s path.” They said only to come to the hospital if I was experiencing hemorrhaging, and that it was probably best to just ride it out at home because my fetus was 6 weeks short of being viable.  They gave me no advice on what to expect next, so I tried to google without being sucked down the web-based medicine rabbit hole. 

After laying down in bed, I tried to come to some sort of peace with what was happening.  Spoiler alert: I’m still trying to come to terms with it, 3 years later.  As the bleeding increased, I migrated to the only place I felt I could be, the bathroom.  It was night, and I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the light to see what was happening.  I knew when it was over, and I sat there pondering if I could bring myself to reach down into the toilet bowl and hold my child.  I couldn’t.  I felt like a terrible mother.  Not only could by body not provide and protect this baby, but I couldn’t muster up the courage to hold him or her before having to just dispose of him or her because they were not “viable”.  I didn’t deserve this angel, and that’s why the opportunity was taken away.   My mind was a dark place thinking that somehow this was my fault. 

I went to the doctor the following day, where a sonogram showed my empty womb.  While the doctor tried to be sympathetic, I saw what she entered in my chart.  “Complete abortion” hit me like a brick wall.  I always felt like abortion was something you chose.  I did not choose this. I would not in a million years choose this.  There had to be a better term.  When it’s referred to it as a miscarriage, I feel like that defines the death of the child but not the birth.  The process IS birth.  I only really noticed that’s what it was because I had already had a vaginal delivery.  The waves of contractions, the overwhelming instant relief as soon as the baby is born are exactly the same.  I can’t speak on the variations of the degrees of pain, as it may be less for someone who experienced loss earlier in their pregnancy.  I was 18 weeks at the time but this was birth just the same.

Six months later, there were two pink lines.  Nine months after that, on Valentine’s Day, our rainbow baby boy was born [read that birth story here].  Full of love and laughter, escorted earthside by his angel sibling.  It was a healing moment for me physically because I spent my entire pregnancy expecting to lose him too.  The anxiety was a constant burden, and that was an unexpected side effect from this whole experience.

I lost a child, but I found a village. People sent their condolences, and hidden in quite a few more of those condolences than I ever expected were privately messaged stories of their own losses.  Because of the stigma, especially for older generations, I never knew how many mothers were in this horribly cruel club.  Losing your child is a pain I wouldn’t even wish upon my worst enemy.  Part of the healing for me was sharing in this web of collective grief.  I was not alone.  So many others understood my pain.  They felt the crushing guilt that I was feeling.  “Maybe if I had been better, healthier, more vigilant, etc.” was the general consensus, even though we all know we couldn’t have prevented it. You can’t keep the darkness from creeping in, but it’s comforting knowing that others came before you to help show you the light.

The village wasn’t all that came from this. I learned how my husband grieves.  During the loss, he was distant.  He kept saying things to assure me that I was fine and was trying to be optimistic.  We never spoke much about it.  A few months after, a teacher from my high school, who is now a genetic counselor, had posted a link to a research survey about how couples deal with pregnancy loss.  There was a questionnaire to be filled out separately by both the mother and the father.   This survey is finally what allowed him to open up and express his grief.  He tried to be the strong one for me, and I mistook his distance and nonchalance for apathy.  Our marriage grew from this new understanding, and I was able to tell him that I had silently named our baby.  Seeking out something gender neutral as my loss occurred two weeks before the anatomy scan, I had decided upon calling him or her Eden.  My paradise, lost.   

I learned a lot about myself as well.  I learned to be patient with my children because some are not so lucky.  I must be more empathetic to strangers, as they are the only ones who know what they are carrying around today.  I cannot be jealous of those that haven’t felt this pain because for some unknown reason I was chosen to shoulder this load and I will do it to prevent their pain.  Most importantly, I learned how to be kinder to myself.  There’s good days and bad days, days where I fail to notice the absence of our other child and days where the soul shattering emptiness feels like it will swallow me whole.  On days like the latter, I must take time to grieve.  One hearty, ugly cry at a time, I hope to be slowly reassembled.  The memories I make with the children I get to keep here on earth with me will fill the cracks and become the glue that holds me together.  Until we meet again, my angel baby, Eden.    


If you're living on the Eastern Shore and would like to share your birth story with our community, please email us at maria@thrivebirth.org.

The First Day

I would have 100 babies just so I could have the first 24 hours back again 100 times.  But then I'd have 100 kids and I'd have to give birth 100 times. #nothanks

The entire pregnancy you're anxiously waiting to meet this little baby.  Toward the end of pregnancy (or maybe throughout the entire pregnancy) you're growing uncomfortable and the physical symptoms are starting to take over.  You're excited, but you may be experiencing pain, sleeplessness, heartburn, morning sickness, pelvic pain and pressure, etc.  Then you have to move through an entire labor and birth experience, which may be short or long, difficult or not, possibly involve a major surgery, and is guaranteed to be a very intense mental, physical, and emotional experience.  

And then it happens.  The baby is here. YOUR baby is here.

And somehow, all that stuff melts away.  Time stands still.  The world stops turning just for you.  I've often thought that there could quite literally be a tornado directly out my window at the moment of birth and I wouldn't have cared less.  The largest rush of oxytocin IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE is directly after your baby's birth.  Oxytocin is a love hormone that is designed to facilitate bonding, love, and also stimulate uterine contractions to expel your placenta and stimulate the uterus's postpartum work.  This rush of oxytocin is why we can feel on top of the world after birth.  And that, combined with all of the other hormonal work, gives us the feeling of immediate relief, love, joy, ecstasy, shock, and everything else that instantly comes with giving birth. 

Not too long afterward, we begin to notice the aches and pains, but this time we have a baby in our arms.  You're hungry and thirsty, and you don't care how food and water gets to you but simply that it does.  There's no sweating the small stuff the day of birth.   

Because remember?  The world stopped.  There's nothing to worry about.  

It's such a strange and weird feeling.  To have a soft, squishy belly.  To feel for your baby and realize she's not there anymore, but instead laying beside you.  Everything is new again.  You go to the bathroom and quickly realize that everything is new there, too.  You are about to take a nap, and then remember you have another little human to consider.  You look in the mirror and aren't quite sure what you see. Your friends and family may be around, but you are almost on another planet.  Not in a bad "checked out" kind of way.  But more like you're only thinking of you, baby, and that birth.  Everyone else is just kind of "there".  

Your organs feel like they're dangling in free space in your belly.  They used to be all squished up in there and now they're making their way back to their original spot and it's a strange feeling.  This alternate reality?  It feels suspiciously good.  Is it possible to feel so out-of-this-world without drugs or alcohol?  The birth high is real.

You don't really jump back into any type of reality that's worth thinking about until the next day.  There's so much to celebrate! I could do the first 24 hours 100 times over.  They're so special, sacred, rare, and dare I say it?  So, so strange.  And I like to savor it.  And I hope you do, too. 

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^^^ Within the first hour of birth with my first daughter, Clara, who will be turning 4 this week.  I'm feeling super nostalgic about her birth, which prompted this blog post today.  XO-Maria

HELP! I'm in Labor and I'm Stuck to These Darn Monitors!

One of the most common questions we get from our clients and our childbirth education class members is "Will I be confined to the bed when I'm hooked up to the monitors?".  

The short answer?  Not necessarily!  

There are a lot of factors, but for the most part, when you're hooked up to the monitors, you will probably be able to move around at least a little.  We are going to share our Top 5 labor positions to try when hooked up to the monitors!

EFM, Electronic Fetal Monitoring, are those two strips that you see going across women's bellies in the hospital while they're laboring.  Each strip carries a monitor that transmits data to a computer for your nurses, midwife, and OB to read.  One sensor reads your contractions, so that the care providers know how frequently you're getting contractions and how strong they are.  The other reads your baby's heart rate, and the care providers use the heartbeat data before, during, and after a contraction to determine how well your baby is tolerating labor.  

In some circumstances, it is necessary to be monitored 100% of the time while you're laboring.  For instance, if you have certain medications or have received an epidural, your care providers will want to watch your baby's heart rate continuously.  However, in the absence of certain medications or complications of pregnancy or labor, you can request "intermittent monitoring".  Each hospital and/or care provider has different policies or procedures about exactly how long that can be.  But, a common one in our area is "20 minutes on the monitors, then 60 minutes off."  Occasionally your care provider may be okay with even less time, like simply monitoring baby's heart rate before during and after one contraction every 30 minutes with a doppler.  You'll want to talk with your care provider during your pregnancy to find out their thoughts and routines so you know what you can expect.  

Many of us know that movement in labor is not only helpful to achieving a more comfortable and often faster labor process, but it's also necessary for some women!  Our bodies may be telling us to sit up, stand up, rock, sway, walk, kneel, squat, or anything in-between while we're laboring.  Our best advice?  Listen to your body!  But, we recognize that it may be difficult when you're hooked up to a machine.  So, since the bands around your belly will be holding sensors that are connected to a wire which is only a few feet long, we've come up with some pretty fantastic laboring positions to keep you upright while you're attached to them.  

Sitting on the Ball While Leaning Over Bed

Ask your L&D unit if they have birthing balls.  Most of the ones I've been to do have at least one.  Or, you can always bring your own.  If you sit on the birthing ball facing the bed, you can raise the bed so that your head and arms can rest on the bed.  You'll be fully supported, you can rock your hips, bounce a bit, and most importantly, you're in a great position to rest between contractions.  Lay your head down on that bed with a pillow.  You can always have someone sit behind you to rub your back, rock with you, and keep you feeling stable and secure since you'll be on a round ball.  If you stay on the side that the monitors are attached to, you'll have plenty of space!

Kneeling on Bed Leaning over Back

When you raise the back of the bed up to a sitting position, you can actually use that back as a place to lean.  Kneel on the bed facing the back of the bed and lean your upper body up over the top.  You can add pillows under your upper body or knees for extra support.  You're still in the bed and attached to monitors, but you're upright, you have gravity on your side, and you can always adjust the bed if/when you get uncomfortable.  Your back is still exposed so if you're cold, you can wrap up in a blanket or you can get counter pressure or a massage on your back if you're having back pain.

Standing With Arms Around Partner's Shoulders/Neck

Women who alternated between upright and laying down positions in labor have a labor that is 50% SHORTER than women who stay laying down the whole time.  Can you believe this?!  It's proven to work and many times, women who are laboring actually need to be upright.  But sometimes your legs (and whole body) can become weak and tired from working so hard.  So, the hugging position while standing is perfect.  You're upright and letting gravity help you out.  You're connecting with your partner (or doula/friend/mother/etc) and raising your oxytocin levels, which are crucial to a progressing labor.  You can wrap your arms up around their neck and shoulders and let your knees relax a little.  They can hold your body weight between contractions so you can rest.  You can also turn around so that your back is to their front and rest/relax onto their body.

Squatting on Edge of Bed with Squat Bar

Most hospitals have a bar that attaches to the end of the hospital bed called a squat bar.  If you squat at the edge of the bed, you can use the bar under your arms or with your hands to help hold your weight up in a squat.  You're upright, your hips and pelvis are open, and you can be supported a little extra by your partner.  Sometimes the bar can make your underarms a bit sore.  Just wrap a towel and then a sheet over it and you should be fine.  Because it's often instinctual to birth your baby in a squat position, you can talk to your care provider about using that squat bar during the pushing and birth phase, too!

Side Lying with Leg Propped (Peanut Ball or pillows)

The reality is, sometimes you will want to lay down.  Either to rest, or because you simply feel more comfortable when you're lying down. If that's the case, that's okay!  If your legs need a little break, laying down can give you a chance to regain some strength, take the pressure of baby's head off of your cervix for a bit, and give you a chance to relax and maybe nap in between contractions before getting back up.  Laying down doesn't have to look like laying flat on your back, though!  If you're laying in the bed with the head of the bed leaned back a bit (so, not sitting straight up), you can roll over to your side.  You want to lay as far over as you can, so you're basically laying on the side of your big baby belly.  Ask your nurses if they have a peanut ball.  It's a large exercise ball that is in the shape of a peanut.  You place it between your legs and your top leg kind of swings over your body and the ball to rest on top of the ball.  If they don't have a peanut ball, you can use pillows between your legs or slide the little side table on wheels over and swing your leg over top of that, supported by pillows.  You may need the support of a few extra pillows either in front of or behind you to keep you feeling stable.  In this position, you can be still be attached to the monitors, rest a little, and still have your pelvis opened wide to give baby some space to continue doing his job and moving down!

 

Of course, one of the best things you can do for yourself before your birthing time is to hire a doula to join you.  You don't want to have to think about all of these things when you're in labor and try to remember these positions!  A great doula will be able to guide you to the most helpful and comfortable positions without disrupting the flow of your labor.  Contact us if you have questions about these positions or the policies about monitoring of the hospital you're planning to deliver in!

 

THRIVE Spotlight: Catie Pusey

We're over the moon about the newest member of THRIVE's Postpartum & Infant Care Doula team, Catie Pusey.  We want you to get to know the real Catie, so we are sharing some fun facts about her today.  If you want to read the other team members' spotlights, here are Maria's, Elisha's, Chloe's, and Meisha's


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  1. I have two yellow labs, three chickens, and a rescue duck who thinks she is a chicken! 

  2. I am a registered nurse. I have worked in the Operating Room for the past three years, spending most of my time in Orthopedic surgeries. 

  3. I am obsessed with the Outlander series & John Mayer... not that the two have any correlation.

  4. We do not have cable or internet at our house. HAHA and we are all surviving just fine :) 

  5. I'm really into creating family traditions with my family especially around the holidays ( I don't know why). I can't believe my husband actually goes along with the things I ask him to do. He is a good sport. 

  6. I have been known to stay up ALL NIGHT long to finish a book. I can't even let myself read lately because I have no self control...whoops. 

  7. I did one round of the Whole30 and it was the BEST sleep I have ever had. 

  8. I don't think anything smells as good as a newborn baby does. I dare someone to argue with that. 

  9. My dream vacation is traveling to Europe with my husband and daughter. 

  10. I somehow ended up on the Sailing team in college (I had never sailed before) and it was the best experience with the best people. 

Read Catie's bio here.  Learn more about postpartum and infant care doulas.  Contact us to set up a free consultation.

A Day in the Life of a Postpartum Doula

Maybe you've heard of a postpartum doula, or maybe you haven't.  It's still not a common concept on the Eastern Shore, but in other areas (like shared in this article), women are beginning to see the value in hiring help for those first few days, weeks, and months after their baby is born. 

If you're pregnant with your first baby, it's hard to envision what a postpartum doula could do to benefit your family that you couldn't really do yourself.  If you've already had a baby, you get it.  Newborn stuff is tough.  Many women feel like they don't know if they're doing everything right, if baby is getting enough to eat, getting enough sleep, crying a normal amount, pooping and peeing a normal amount, and why is it awake so much at night and not during the day, and why do my nipples hurt SO bad, and why is everyone coming over to bring me baby clothes and hold my baby while I'm exhausted, and why isn't anyone noticing the huge pile of dirty dishes, and gosh I wish they had brought lunch because I haven't eaten much since yesterday, and I certainly hope they don't notice that I haven't brushed my teeth and I smell like spit up.

A postpartum doula?  They are like angels.  They fly in at the perfect time, get you settled with whatever you need, and get to work.  They are the experts of all experts on everything postpartum and baby.  They can help you get a crying baby soothed all while making you a sandwich and showing you the best baby swaddle.  

Below is a real example of A Day in the Life of a Postpartum Doula...


8am:  The shift starts and the doula shows up right on time to the front door.  She gently knocks and lets herself in, as she's been asked to since mama doesn't want to get up with a sleeping baby to get the door.  

8:10am: It's mama's first day home alone with baby after her partner has gone back to work. She's relieved that she doesn't have to do the first day all alone.  The doula asks if she can make her something to eat for breakfast.  Mama wants oatmeal!

8:30am:  The oatmeal is warm and delicious, the kitchen is cleaned, and mama is having breakfast in her pajamas while baby is still asleep.  While she eats, the doula sits with her and they talk about how last night went and how mama and baby were basically up all night on and off while baby struggled to feed and get back to sleep.

9am:  They make a plan for mama to get some rest during the day so that she can have some energy in case the next night doesn't go so well.  The doula runs a bath for mama and baby to take together (at the mother's request).  They nurse in the bathtub and baby seems happy and alert now.  The mom is grateful that her doula is there, because it's actually quite difficult to get in and out of a bathtub holding a newborn while you're both all wet!  The doula wraps baby up in a towel and grabs a clean diaper and and footie pajamas while the mom gets dried and dressed.

9:30am: Mama settles into bed with a white noise machine and doula promises to wake her if baby gets fussy.  Mama gives the doula permission to wrap baby up in her Moby wrap to keep her happy while the doula gets a few things done around the house.  The doula is a pro at the Moby, so in no time, baby is snuggled up safely, they turn some music on, and get to work.

11am (1.5 hours later):  Baby has been asleep for about an hour in the Moby, dinner is prepped for that evening, the doula unpacked all of the baby gifts that were received in the last two weeks and threw the new clothes in the washer to be cleaned before wearing.  Mama wakes, comes out of her room in her clean clothes, well rested, and is happy to see that there aren't a multitude of gift bags and tissue paper laying all over the living room floor anymore.

11:30am: Baby wakes and the doula takes her out of the wrap and brings her to her mama.  The doula sets mama up with an iced tea, some chips and hummus, and a lactation cookie on the couch so she can nurse the baby.

11:45am: Mama and doula sit on the couch together snacking and chatting about how her birth experience was.  Mama comments on how nice it is to have someone to talk to about it who doesn't carry judgments about her decision to get an epidural.  She said she is a little nervous to share it with some of her friends who birthed without pain meds.  They talk about how mama is feeling physically, and she asks the doula if it's normal to still have some bleeding after two weeks.  The doula assures her that all of her physical symptoms seem perfectly normal for this stage of postpartum. The mom laughs that she feels totally comfortable talking about her vaginal bleeding and nipple soreness with someone she's only met once!

12:30pm: Mama asks her doula if she can help her with a swaddle before laying the sleeping baby girl down.  The doula shows her favorite swaddle and gently lays her down in the bassinet in the living room.  The doula turns "Parenthood" on Netflix on Season 1, Episode 1 because this mama has never seen it before! #insanity.  The doula grabs all of the veggies, fajita spices, and chicken that she prepped from this morning and throws it into the Crockpot so it will be ready around 5:30pm tonight for dinner.  She cleans up the kitchen from lunch and dinner prep and switches the laundry to the dryer.

1:15pm: Baby is awake and seriously screaming.  Mama tries to nurse her, but she's too upset to settle down and latch.  Mama walks her up and down the halls for what seems like forever, and just when she's about to lose it, the doula asks if she can try something.  The doula shows mama about the 5 S's from the Happiest Baby on the Block book.  The doula quickly swaddles baby back up, cradles her on her side in her arms, walks to the bedroom where it's darker, cooler, and turns the white noise machine back on.  She "shhhhh"s gently and close to the baby's ear, and swings the baby back and forth while gently patting her bum.  After a few moments, the baby settles down, the new mom's jaw drops (naturally), and they get set up in the bed to nurse again.  The doula turns the TV on in the bedroom to pick up where they left off in Parenthood.

1:45pm: The doula folds the new baby clothes from the dryer, places them in the dresser in the nursery, and gets mama a new glass of water, a chocolate bar, and some leftover pasta salad in a bowl and brings it to her in bed while they're still nursing.

2pm: Dad promised to come home from work early on his first day.  Just as he is walking in the door, the doula is gathering her things to head home. She says she'll see them the next morning at 8am and promises to teach mama all about how to wrap that baby in the Moby wrap!


Seriously.  Postpartum doulas are that awesome.  If you're expecting, now is the best time to have a free consultation with a postpartum doula to see what they can offer you.  If you're already home with a baby of any age and feel like you could really use some extra help, reassurance, and company, give us a call and we'll be there!

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The Magic Hours

Those first few hours after birth are so special and sacred.  You just experienced the most intensity that your body can physically handle.  Then you experience extreme joy, relief, shock, and euphoria, and it's all quite overwhelming.  The day that a baby is born is my favorite day.  It was my favorite for the births of my own babies.  It felt so surreal.  Almost like the world stopped turning, just for us.  Sometimes it's full of smiles and sometimes it's full of wide eyes.  And both are absolutely perfect.  

I have a friend who shared with me the story of her first birth.  Even though it was 7-8 years ago, one of the things that sticks out in her mind is the memory of how her OB disappeared after the baby was born.  No "congratulations" or anything.  Wasn't that just a really big moment?  The birth of her first baby?!  Surely it deserves a little more fanfare than that.  


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THRIVE's most popular service is placenta encapsulation.  I often get the experience of being invited into that sacred space during the magic hours.  It's quite the career!  

That moment, when you're picking up a placenta.  It's special.  And it's beautiful.  And not very many people get invited to join it.  Many people will live their lives and never experience the feeling in a room when a new life has just entered.  And I'll never forget that while I'm working.  And I'll never turn it into just "going through the motions" and treating it as a simple pick-up job.  Not only does it have an impact on the mother, baby, and family how they're treated after birth, but I would be truly missing out on something so special if I didn't take a moment to be present and soak it all in.

The importance and desire to share your birth story is in our DNA.  I often get to hear it when it's still fresh and raw.  I'm not a staff member who sees tons of birth every day and who says "Yeah, that happens all the time."  

I get to be the person who says "Wow! That's amazing!"

I get to be the person who quietly slips in, checks in with the mother to see how she's doing, listens if she wants to share, congratulates her, and leaves with a smile.  

We believe that all of our work is important.  Not just when we're the doula, attending the birth.  

We want to always leave the labor and delivery room making people feel better than when we entered it.

How to Have an Epidural Birth

We've shared doula tips for having cesareans, inductions, and natural births.  But what if you're planning or considering an epidural?  Most women do get epidural anesthesia--in fact, 95% do in our local hospital.  Why not be prepared?  Read on to learn how to have an epidural!


1. As always, know what to expect.

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Talk with your care providers, your doula, and/or other women who have birthed in the same place as you.  Figure out what their normal routines and procedures are.  They vary between hospital to hospital.  But, in a general sense, this is what you can expect.  When you request the epidural for yourself, your nurse will need to get the anesthesiologist.  The anesthesiologist isn't always readily available, so be aware that you may not get the relief of the epidural the moment you ask for it.  Sometimes, if you ask your nurses what the anesthesiologist's schedule looks like, they may be able to give you a general idea of when to get the epidural.  Something like "Well, she's available right now, but if you want to hold off for a little while, she may not be back for another hour or so since she will be in two more procedures." 

First, you'll be hooked up to IV fluids (if you haven't already).  Once you get the anesthesiologist in your room, he/she will instruct you to sit perfectly still.  I know.  You're in labor.  That's nearly impossible.  But they're pretty good at guiding you through the experience and moving quickly in-between contractions.  The best thing you can do is relax, stay perfectly still, and breathe deeply.  It may hurt more if you're tense.

Your mid to lower-back will be sterilized with an antiseptic, and you may be given a small local anesthetic to numb the area.  You may be asked to lie on your side or to bend over and sometimes bring your knees up to curl your body around your belly.  Then, a longer needle will be placed into the epidural space in your spine.  The needle is then removed and leaves a thin catheter in place, which is what the drug will be delivered.  The catheter is taped to your back so that it doesn't move out of place.  Some people describe this as quite painful and others say it wasn't so bad.  The key is to relax.

After just a few moments, the nerve endings will begin to numb and most people who experience 100% pain relief will report it by 10-15 minutes.  A urinary catheter will likely be placed shortly after the epidural.  

2. Decide if you want one early on or later BEFORE you get to the hospital.

The reason why I wouldn't just "wing it" is because you may get too many conflicting opinions when you get there.  One nurse may say to go ahead and get your epidural if you know you want one.  Your partner may say to hold off as long as you can.  And your mother in law might tell you to do whatever the nurse says.  You're in labor, so it's really difficult to think critically--and you shouldn't have to!  If you have a plan before you go, you can work toward those goals.  And if plans need to change, such is life.

When I polled friends, family, and clients about their epidural experiences, I was told by so many people not to wait and to get it right away!  And then an equal amount told me that they would either wait as long as possible or not get it again at all!  So, you have to decide what is right for you and figure out why you're making those decisions.

3. Learn the risks and benefits.

The benefit seems obvious: pain relief.  But it can mean so much more! Believe it or not, this doula won't tell you that the epidural is the devil.  If you've been in labor for 3 days, you may need the sleep more than you need the epidural!  Or if you're becoming fearful and holding lots of tension in your body and having a difficult time relaxing into your contractions, an epidural may help you relax enough to open up and help your body do this hard work.

Understanding that there are risks is important too, and when I hear from people that they regret their epidurals, it's most often because they experienced some side effect or risk that they either weren't aware of or didn't expect that it would happen to them.  This article provides an in-depth look at the evidence of risks for epidurals.

4. Take a quality childbirth education course.

The reality is--even if you want an epidural as soon as you arrive at the hospital, there will be time when you're laboring without one.  The admission process itself often takes an hour or so.  Sometimes labor moves so quickly that you're rushing out the door, and into a hospital bed, and a baby is ready to be born.  Sometimes, the epidural doesn't work.  Or it only works on one side of your body. 

So, it's best to be as prepared as possible for any scenario.  If you're on the Eastern Shore, we offer a class which is designed to give you the tools for moving through labor without an epidural.  Women who are planning epidurals or are open to them still gain so much information and tips about what to expect and how to move through labor with or without an epidural in a judgement-free zone.

5. Hire a doula.

Bring someone who is educated on the process of labor, birth, epidurals, and everything in-between.  For instance, did you know that you actually CAN still move with an epidural?!  It's tricky, but it's possible.  And research shows that labors are 50% shorter when the birthing woman alternates between upright and laying positions.  A doula is trained to help you move around with all of those tubes and wires.  And they're experienced in guiding you into positions that may be helpful for your labor to progress, all while helping to hold you up if you're numb.  Knowing what to expect and having someone there to support you no matter what is invaluable.  In the meantime, check out this article, which describes some of the common things that people don't expect with an epidural.

If you've had an epidural, do you have anything to add to this list?

Special Beginnings Birth & Women's Center: Thank you!

What a powerful experience I just had as an encapsulation specialist!  THRIVE had a placenta encapsulation client who planned a birth at Special Beginnings Birth & Women's Center in Arnold, MD.  I got the call that she had delivered her baby and was headed home in a few hours.  At most freestanding birthing centers, they send new moms and families home after just 4-8 hours!  I met her at her own home less than 10 hours after she gave birth.  I knocked quietly, expecting a tired mama and maybe sleeping baby.  But instead, I was greeted at the door by the baby's father and ushered inside to what seriously looked like a party!  Nearly 15 family members were gathered in a circle in the living room, resting on couches and chairs, celebrating this birth with beer and wine.  They all acknowledged me with a big smile and happy greeting.  And that's when I saw my client.  She was hanging out in a chair, looking radiant, and holding a precious sleeping brand new baby.  She leaped up and walked over to introduce me to their gorgeous daughter!  

She told me about her amazing delivery at Special Beginnings and how their midwives were fantastic.  She shared that she felt 100% prepared for her birth after she attended Thrive's childbirth education class.  She seemed so lively, excited, and happy to have her baby in her arms.  I stayed for a little while, chatting with her family and hearing all about how proud they were of her and grateful they were to her midwives and staff at the birth center.  Before her husband walked me out, he told me how amazing Special Beginnings was and how well they were treated.  They made it easy for the birthing family to keep their placenta and assisted their desired natural birth with compassion and skill.  He told me that they even complimented them for being so well prepared for labor.  He made my day when he told me that he learned all about supporting her from our class!

Every time I pick up a placenta, whether at home or in hospital, it's always amazing, special, and sacred to be in the presence of a new mother and fresh baby.  But this was the first time I walked into a party!  Thank you so much, Special Beginnings, for serving our community.  Thank you for making placenta encapsulation for our community easy and low-stress.  Thank you for giving them the opportunity to celebrate their new baby in their home surrounded by loved ones.  And thank you for offering options for our women and families!

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