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Archive for the ‘home birth’ Category

We are pleased to welcome Tracy Wilson Peters, CLD, CLE, CCCE , to the Mother’s Advocate blog. Co-author of the soon-to-be released book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever, Tracy has been a lifelong advocate for families and babies. 

“The main concern of those around pregnant women or for people who care for a pregnant woman should be to ensure their emotional wellbeing.” ~ Michel Odent

Who are the people closest to you? Did you know that the people who are around you the most are influencing the personality and development of your baby? New science has shown that every relationship that you have impacts who your child will become. A mother’s feelings deeply affect her baby. In fact, the baby learns about his world by the feelings his mother has. When a mother has a feeling of happiness, this triggers a hormone release that the baby also feels. The same thing happens when a mother feels stress. Chronic stress is non-supportive for your health and your pregnancy. Hormones associated with depression and anxiety, such as cortisol, can reduce blood supply to the placenta and induce premature labor. So, who is in your life really matters!

Pregnancy offers a great opportunity to take steps to decrease stress in your life. Emotions and attitudes are contagious. Every encounter that you have on a daily basis can be measured on a scale that goes from nourishing to toxic. Who are the people in your life that nourish you? Who are the people in your life that drain your energy? It may not be possible to eliminate all of the people in your life that cause you stress, but you can begin to create healthy boundaries by creating a circle of support. This circle should include people who are supportive and loving in their interactions with you. Your inner circle may or may not include family members. Your circle of support should be comprised of people who you can call on when you need help, have good listening skills, won’t judge you, and can offer you emotional support. This inner circle is a sacred place. Who in your life do you want to be in your circle of support? Is there someone that you have been allowing in your life that you need to step back from?

It may help you to take a few minutes and make a list of the people that you interact with on a regular basis, including family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors – anyone that you spend a significant amount of time with. Next think of each person holding your new baby. What feelings come up for you?  Try to tune in to the feelings that come up during this visualization. Are changes needed?

Some things to keep in mind when creating your inner circle of support:

  • It’s OK to say no. There are moments when we say “yes” to others, and, in fact, we are saying “no” to ourselves.
  • You can love someone and still keep them at a distance.
  • Shifting who you surround yourself with does not mean judging others. Nobody has to be wrong for you to make decisions that are right for you.
  • You can change your circle of influence and love those not in it from a distance.
  • It’s not about being judgmental. It’s about being where you feel comfortable.
  • You are your world, so if you change, the world changes.

Mothers who foster a healthy internal relationship often have nourishing relationships with the people in their lives. You are at the center of your circle. You must take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally, in order to have healthy relationships with the people in your life. Taking time to love yourself will have a positive effect on everyone in your life. When you create healthy boundaries with the people in your life, you will be giving yourself and your child a great gift: the gift of self-love and the knowledge that you can move through your world making conscious decisions about who and what is right for you.

Pregnancy is a time of change. Change isn’t always comfortable but it is a necessary part of life. Your new life with your baby will undoubtedly bring many changes in the relationships that you have.  Your relationships will change because you will change. Becoming a mother will provide many opportunities for growth.  As you move into motherhood trust your instincts. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and you will be able to give your very best YOU to your new baby.

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living” – Author unknown

Author, Tracy Wilson Peters, CLD, CLE, CCCE

Married for over 19 years and mother to two amazing sons, Tracy’s experience raising her own children led her to a love for supporting expectant families. This passion encouraged her to found CAPPA, Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association. Tracy serves as both the CEO and as a faculty member for CAPPA. CAPPA is the largest childbirth organization in the world. Internationally known as a pregnancy expert, she has authored numerous articles, and appeared on many television networks, including FOX, CBS, and NBC.  Tracy has worked with expectant women and families for nearly two decades, attending hundreds of births as a professional labor doula and teaching classes to more than 3000 families.

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Dr. Linda F. Palmer is an author and speaker specializing in nutrition of pregnancy, lactation, and childhood, and in infant health and bonding.  She joins the Mother’s Advocate blog this week to discuss the many benefits of natural labor.  

Natural labor is not simply something for mothers to endure; the process provides key mental and physical benefits for mother and baby. When not interfered with, natural labor helps to protect the fetal brain, prepare his lungs, and build his immune system. When uninterrupted, hormonal interplays provide imprinting and attachment between mother and baby, protect mother’s mood, and initiate instinctual parenting behaviors.

Oxytocin and the Mother

Oxytocin is a feel-good, bonding hormone that acts throughout our lives in response to togetherness and especially to skin-to-skin contact. Oxytocin’s strongest employ by far is during and immediately after birth. Its release during labor provides the contractions needed to expel the baby. As mother’s body feels the vaginal passage of the child, further oxytocin surges are stimulated and much higher levels now remain in the brain.[1]

This exceptionally high brain oxytocin just after birth provides for a powerful imprinting between mother and newborn as they smell each other and gaze into each others eyes. Remaining quite high in the brain for an hour or more after birth, oxytocin provides mother and baby with feelings of trust, calm, and well being, while also causing a little impairment in memory so they forget some of the discomfort experienced. When not impaired, this hormonal high also sets the stage for successful initiation of breastfeeding. The first nursing attempts then lead to continued oxytocin release. When occurring shortly after birth, this serves to help shrink the uterus, preventing hemorrhage.

This entire oxytocin experience acts in mother’s brain to initiate affectionate maternal behaviors,[2,3] helping first attempts at nursing to feel quite natural and teaching mom to want nothing more than to hold her baby and respond to his cries. While brain changes occur during pregnancy and in response to later physical contact, especially nursing, this post-birth window created by natural labor leads to some valuable reorganizing of receptors in mother’s oxytocin and stress responding portions of her brain.

High oxytocin in the female brain has also been shown to promote preference for whatever male is present during its surges,[4] (one good reason for dad to hang around after the birth).

Interrupting the Body’s Plan  

Pitocin is an imitation oxytocin used to induce or enhance labor. This synthetic agent does not cross mother’s blood-brain-barrier and hence artificially induced mothers miss out on a large part of oxytocin’s bonding, calming, mood elevating and amnesic benefits. If anesthesia is used during labor, there is no maternal oxytocin response to the vaginal passage, hence the mother misses the rest of her opportunity for the beneficial brain effects, and her maternal behaviors are not naturally switched on.[5] Cesarean section without labor fails to produce any of this extraordinary oxytocin experience, while labor before C-section provides a portion.

When a baby is born highly drugged, he is less able to partake from the oxytocin-provided benefits of calming, bonding, and drive to breastfeed.

Preventing mothers from these potent oxytocin surges in their brains can lead to increased risks of postpartum depression and poor bonding.[6-9] It has been found that the oxytocin levels secreted during nursing remain low for at least two days following a C-section, with a notable increase in mother’s anxiety level and decrease in her breastfeeding success.[10,11]

Many other hormonal interplays occur during labor, and most are affected by interventions in the natural process. Endorphins, the body’s own natural pain reducers, increase steadily throughout natural labor, however, use of Pitocin prevents their increase.[12] Maternal stress during labor, generally caused by a lack of continual, compassionate maternal support, causes heightened release of stress hormones. This alters mother’s stress handling for some time and raises inflammatory factors associated with the development of postpartum depression.[13]

Protecting the Baby

Mother’s oxytocin crosses the placenta into the fetal brain during labor, silencing the brain so the child is less stressed by the birth process. In addition, the brain is made to be less vulnerable to damage from periods of reduced oxygen or blood sugar. Even if Pitocin can enter the fetal brain as well, any natural regulation of appropriate levels would be absent. It is known that excess uterine stimulation typically seen with Pitocin use creates dangerous episodes of oxygen depletion in the fetal brain. Maternal protection of the fetal brain is not bestowed by Cesarean delivery without labor.[14,15] Mother’s body also supplies very important sugar to baby’s brain during labor. This provision is often impaired, however, when mothers are restricted from food and liquid intake during the birth process.

Baby receives certain antibodies from mother during the last term weeks in the womb but the majority of this transfer occurs during labor.[16] The lack of antibody transfer may be one factor in the reality that infants born via low-risk elective cesareans have a tripled death rate in the first month of life, versus vaginal births,[17] though the lower success in breastfeeding after Cesarean is likely a larger factor.

The hormonal changes of natural labor help to quickly clear fluids from the fetal lungs through a process of absorbing fluids out of the lungs, along with some mechanical clearing from the contractions themselves. When labor is artificially induced, infants suffer from breathing distress more than twice as often as with spontaneous labor.[18] In Cesarean section without labor, an infant is 4 times as likely to suffer respiratory distress.[19-20] This impact on the lungs is evidently long lasting as babies born via C-section are shown to suffer from allergies twice as often as those delivered vaginally.[21]

Striving for the Healthiest Outcome

All is not lost if the birth process does not go entirely as planned, yet birth choices affect a momentous first chance for attachment and breastfeeding success. Natural delivery determines a major cornerstone in preventing infant illness, while boosting mother’s parenting satisfaction. A child is born seeded with specific potential (nature), yet parenting choices (nurture) will greatly influence whether these latent abilities will come to fruition.

1. K.M. Kendrick et al., “Cerebrospinal fluid and plasma concentrations of oxytocin and vasopressin during parturition and vaginocervical stimulation in the sheep,” Brain Res Bull 26, no. 5 (May 1991): 803-7.
2. G. González –Mariscal et al., “Importance of mother/young contact at parturition and across lactation for the expression of maternal behavior in rabbits,” Dev Psychobiol 32, no. 2 (Mar 1998): 101-11.
3. J.A. Russell et al., “Brain preparations for maternity–adaptive changes in behavioral and neuroendocrine systems during pregnancy and lactation, an overview,” Prog Brain Res (2001): 133-38.
4. T.R. Insel and T.J. Hulihan, “A gender-specific mechanism for pair bonding: oxytocin and partner preference formation in monogamous voles,” Behav Neurosci 109, no. 4 (Aug 1995): 782–9.
5. F. Lévy et al., “Intracerebral oxytocin is important for the onset of maternal behavior in inexperienced ewes delivered under peridural anesthesia,” Behav Neurosci 106, no. 2 (Apr 1992): 427-32.
6. J.E. Swain et al., “Maternal brain response to own baby-cry is affected by cesarean section delivery,” J Child Psychol Psychiatry 49, no. 10 (Oct 2008): 1042-52.
7. H.J. Rowe-Murray and J.R. Fisher, “Operative intervention in delivery is associated with compromised early mother-infant interaction,” BJOG 108, no. 10 (Oct 2001): 1068-75.
8. K.D. Scott et al., “The obstetrical and postpartum benefits of continuous support during childbirth,” J Womens Health Gend Based Med 8, no. 10 (Dec 1999): 1257-64.
9. I.D. Neumann, “Stimuli and consequences of dendritic release of oxytocin within the brain,” Biochem Soc Trans 35, Pt. 5 (Nov 2007): 1252-7.
10. E. Nissen et al., “Different patterns of oxytocin, prolactin but not cortisol release during breastfeeding in women delivered by caesarean section or by the vaginal route,” Early Hum Dev (Sweden) 45, nos. 1–2 (Jul 1996): 103–18.
11. E. Nissen et al., “Oxytocin, prolactin, milk production and their relationship with personality traits in women after vaginal delivery or Cesarean section,” J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol (Sweden) 19, no. 1 (Mar 1998): 49–58.
12. A.R. Genazzani et al., “Lack of beta-endorphin plasma level rise in oxytocin-induced labor,” Gynecol Obstet Invest 19, no. 3 (1985):130-4.
13. K. Kendall-Tackett, “A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health,” Int Breastfeed J 2 (Mar 30, 2007): 6.
14. R. Tyzio et al., “Maternal oxytocin triggers a transient inhibitory switch in GABA signaling in the fetal brain during delivery,” Science 314, no. 5806 (Dec 2006): 1788-92.
15. R. Khazipov et al., “Effects of oxytocin on GABA signalling in the foetal brain during delivery,” Prog Brain Res 170 (2008): 243-57.
16. S. Agrawal et al., “Comparative study of immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M among neonates in caesarean section and vaginal delivery,” J Indian Med Assoc 94, no. 2 (Feb 1996): 43–4.
17. M.F. MacDorman, “Infant and neonatal mortality for primary cesarean and vaginal births to women with ‘no indicated risk,’ United States, 1998-2001 birth cohorts,” Birth 33, no. 3 (Sep 2006): 175-82.
18. J. Lee et al., “Evidence to support that spontaneous preterm labor is adaptive in nature: neonatal RDS is more common in “indicated” than in “spontaneous” preterm birth,” J Perinat Med 37, no. 1 (2009): 53-8.
19. A. Ramachandrappa and L. Jain, “Elective cesarean section: its impact on neonatal respiratory outcome,” Clin Perinatol 35, no. 2 (Jun 2008)::373-93, vii.
20. S. Farchi et al., “Neonatal respiratory morbidity and mode of delivery in a population-based study of low-risk pregnancies,” Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 88, no. 6 (2009): 729-32.
21. M. Pistiner et al., “Birth by cesarean section, allergic rhinitis, and allergic sensitization among children with a parental history of atopy,” J Allergy Clin Immunol 122, no. 2 (Aug 2008): 274-9.

Dr. Linda Folden Palmer is an author and speaker specializing in nutrition of pregnancy, lactation, and childhood, and in infant health and bonding. She is dedicated to raising awareness about how powerfully early parenting and healthcare choices can influence a child’s mental and physical outcomes.

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This week we are thrilled to feature licensed midwife Maria Iorillo as she discusses the transformative power of birth. 

When I became a professional midwife 23 years ago I had an idealized version of transformation and how wonderful birth is. I just thought that birth was groovy and becoming a midwife was a wonderful way to change people’s lives. I didn’t have much experience with midwifery and hadn’t had a child then, either. 23 years later, I think I can finally answer that question based on what I’ve seen – it’s no longer just a philosophy.

I’ve seen it over and over again, women and their partners are telling me the same words after they have a really good, satisfying and empowering birth experience.  They say, “that was the most incredible moment of my life”, “that was the most powerful moment of my life”, “I feel so different”, “I feel so changed”, “I never knew that I was so strong, I never knew that I could do that”.

Pregnancy and birth are a process of growth and self-awareness, that’s where the transformation comes. Especially the first time; this woman who has never been through birth before comes out the other end as a mother.  Birth prepares us for everything that comes after. Suddenly, a mother is thinking, “I can do this – I can change a diaper. I can deal with a crying baby, I can work through the challenges that lay ahead of me because I went through pregnancy and labor and now I know how strong I am.”

I will also say that someone asked me recently to describe my birth philosophy. It was a great question. My birth philosophy is simply that women deserve to birth with respect and kindness and honoring.  The baby has the right to be born gently.  I believe that this kind of birth support is what allows transformation to take place. If you encourage each women to honor her own unique experience of birthing – then birthing is the teacher. We don’t have to add anything to that.

Just honor birth for what it is.  That’s where we learn about ourselves, that’s where we learn about our partners, that’s where we learn about our community, we learn about our babies.  You learn so much just being in the process.  Just being present in it.

Women are smart and they can make their own decisions. It’s important that a mother can honestly say, “I was never manipulated along the way”, “I was never pressured into doing anything that I didn’t want to do”, “This was my experience, I own this, I own the way that I went through this experience.”

Maria Iorillo, Licensed Midwife Catching babies at home and assisting hospital births in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986.

This is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Mindful Mama and is re-printed with permission from Mindful Mama.

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There are several cultures where childbirth is understood to be a rite of passage. Beliefs surrounding this transformation are important because they inform the way in which women give birth.

The first culture that jumps to mind would be the Kung of the Kalahari Desert, where young men and women practice rituals that bring them into adulthood.  The most significant right of passage for the Kung men is to hunt and kill their first large animal. For women, the right of passage is giving birth. The Kung is a very subtle tribe who don’t honor bragging.  For example if a young man comes back from a hunt and boasts about making the big kill they will be ignored.  Instead they will quietly start passing out meat, indicating that they accomplished this feat.  For women to gain the same kind of honor, they go off on their own to give birth in the bush without saying anything to anyone. Once the child is born, they very quietly come back and start nursing their baby under a tree.  At this point everyone notices and comes by to congratulate her.  She is then honored for her stoicism and her warrior like abilities in her right of passage.

Another great example is Japan.  Most births still take place in the hospital, however there are maternity homes with live-in midwives where women go for pre-natal care and birth.  The Japanese and the midwives who work in these maternity homes have a specific saying about labor pain; they call it “metamorphic”.  They say that going through labor is a metamorphosis because it changes the woman into a mother the way that crawling out of the cocoon changes the caterpillar into a butterfly.  They adhere to an old story that states if you help the caterpillar out of its cocoon it will die.  It has to emerge by itself in order to survive and to be strong.

Japanese midwives approach birth with great patience.  They believe that the struggle and pain of labor helps the mother to grow and transform herself. The mother must look deep down inside herself and find out who she is.  The baby also needs the struggle of being born; the work is what transforms both the mother and the baby into separate beings with the power and the strength to go on and to be the mother-baby pair that they need to be.

The babies muscles will get exercised during birth which will prepare the baby to be ready to breastfeed.  This will also enable the baby to be aware of the smells and hormones needed to latch on.  If it’s born by cesarean section for example or if there are drugs at birth the baby’s consciousness will be reduced as well as the flow of necessary hormones.

The mother’s metamorphosis releases massive doses of oxytocin while she’s in early labor. Late in labor a flush of adrenaline gets her on a high and gives her the power and strength to push the baby out. Right after this stage comes another flush – the biggest flush of oxytocin she’ll ever get in her entire life.  This will transform her and the moment of suffering, pain and pushing.  If you watch women’s faces at this moment there’s a suffusion of joy and ecstasy in their expression.  Then the milk lets down, the prolactin comes and the hormones all work together to make the caterpillar turn into the most beautiful butterfly.

This excerpt is part of a video interview with Robbie Davis-Floyd and is being re-published with permission from Mindful Mama.

 

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There are a lot of scary myths surrounding childbirth, which can cause women to become afraid. Fear triggers the “fight or flight” response and can shutdown the birthing process. Laura Shanley discusses the importance of overcoming fear and provides insightful tips for mothers who are preparing for birth.

Fear, Stress and the Birthing Process

Did you know that your face turns white when you’re afraid because the body thinks the blood and oxygen are needed in your arms and legs to fight a perceived danger? This is part of the “flight or flight” response. If we feel that we are in danger, blood is drained from the face and other internal organs; digestion shuts down. This is why you can have stomach problems if you’re in a constant state of stress and fear.

There’s a book called “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers” – that really explains how well our bodies would function if we didn’t keep triggering fight-flight.  Because of fear and stress, we keep sending blood and oxygen away from our digestive organs, our sex organs, etc. If we were not on high alert all of the time, then our bodies could function at a much higher level. This is true every day of our lives, but is especially important during pregnancy and birth.

Our natural, physiologic response to stress and fear can actually make birth traumatic, causing a host of problems. This begins building long before a woman conceives. Our society focuses way too much on the different things that could go wrong in birth. We should spend more time focusing on how well our bodies really will function when we are in a relaxed state.

Overcoming Fear

For me, overcoming fear was a spiritual process.  I know there are women that have given birth to healthy babies without having spiritual beliefs, but I found strength and courage through the realization that there is a larger consciousness. I also believe that the human body was created intentionally; That we aren’t just a mass of chemicals that accidentally came together – that there is great intelligence to creation and we can somehow feel that within ourselves.

My advice to other moms?

1.    Ask for direction and inner help. Look within yourself for guidance and direction – trusting that it’s there.

2.    Simply believing that courage is available actually makes a big difference in your birth outcome.  Affirmations can be very powerful in this way.

3.    Pay close attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day.  For example if you start feeling anxious during the pregnancy ask yourself “what was I just thinking about?”

4.    Surround yourself with positive thinking people.  If you go see a friend or family member who is continually telling you about the danger and possible complications of birth, I would say that you have the right to not be around that person.  Often times, these people are trying to convince themselves and others around them of their decision, and their remarks have nothing to do with you or your birth experience.

5.    Research. Read positive birth stories. This will help to remind you that other women have stood in your shoes, and they’ve succeeded.

6.    Pay attention to your dreams. I had a dream about how I should give birth to my son standing up, which I had never thought of because I was on my hands and knees for my first birth.  He ended up being born breech (vaginally). This opened my eyes to the idea that dreams are just another resource.  Do not discount your dreams, intuition, impulses, emotions, etc.

LAURA KAPLAN SHANLEY is an author, freelance writer, speaker and childbirth consultant widely recognized as one of the leading voices in the natural-birth movement. Her expertise is frequently sought out by television and movie production companies, as well as media outlets around the globe. She has been featured in media outlets such as ABC News, “20/20,” “The Doctors,” BBC, Discovery Channel, Disney, The New York Times, Reuters, and The Washington Post, among many others. In addition, she works with women on a one-on-one basis, providing them with childbirth education and emotional support before and during pregnancy. She is a frequent speaker at childbirth conferences, providing her unique perspective and inspiring insight. Laura maintains a website dedicated to natural childbirth, www.unassistedchildbirth.com, and has published articles for an array of news outlets. During her free time, Laura enjoys hiking, writing poetry and spending time with her four adult children and one grandchild.  

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Ani DiFranco has written hundreds of songs, played thousands of shows and is no doubt an icon for strong and fearless women. This is why we are thrilled to share her thoughts on birth, motherhood and strength in this interview:

MA: Tell us about your decision to have a home birth.

Ani: Birthing is a very unique and profound event, and my choice to have a home birth was not because I’m independent (or something), it’s because essentially I’m an animal and I’m very affected by my environment. I’ve always got my feelers out and I know that the animal in me is very easily intimidated – I know this from making twenty records in awkward situations where I don’t feel comfortable, and then you have to sing and then there’s that moment when you’re not really in your own skin.  I didn’t want to give birth to my baby like I had given birth to some of my records thinking “help I’m alone among strangers in this alien environment”. The hospital environment would have been really counter-productive to me.

In retrospect I think that my midwife actually had a perception of me that I was very independent and knew how I wanted to birth because that’s my M.O., but having babies was something I had never done before and I had no idea how I wanted to do any of it.  I’m really happy that I did it at home, even though it was long and extremely challenging for me. In retrospect I think I would want more guidance.  No matter who you are, giving birth is going to kick your ass – in one way or another.

MA: So how did you get through it?

Ani: You know I think that I went into it with a lot of expectations about the power and the beauty and the transformation, and then when the labor really picked up, I was just scared and in pain. Then of course it was powerful and beautiful and transformative.

I think that one of the things that hurt the most afterwards was not my broken tailbone but my ego. I thought birth would be easy for me somehow and the fact that birth was (really) hard made me feel like “maybe I’m not as strong as I thought. Maybe I’m weak”. So, I had to go through an ego recovery process and address those feelings and my misconception of my role as a woman and myself as a part of nature.

MA: What’s it like to be a mama?  

Ani: It’s really something the way the babies teach us to nurture – to be nurturing and to transfer that sort of love and respect and caring to everybody’s babies. We’re all somebody’s baby and I think that everything we need to know about being mindful mamas our babies will teach us eventually, whether we want it or not.

Ani DiFranco has written hundreds of songs, played thousands of shows, captured the imaginations of legions of followers, and jammed with folkies, orchestras, rappers, rock and roll hall-of-famers, jazz musicians, poets, pop superstars, storytellers and a martial arts legend. Ani started her own music label Righteous Babe Records and because of this decision she’s been called “fiercely independent” (Rolling Stone), “inspirational” (All Music Guide), and “the ultimate do-it-yourself songwriter” (The New York Times).

This interview has been republished with permission from Mindful Mama

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Do you wonder how comfortable your husband will be with your doula? Good news: this week we brought back Micky Jones, an LLL Leader, doula, lactation trainer, conference speaker, IBCLC, Hypnobabies instructor, and author to guide you through her doula “cheat sheet” for Dads. 

“I’m just not sure if he’s going to be able to handle it. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to hire a doula.” If I had a nickel for every mom who said this during an interview for doula services, well, I would have a lot of nickels. Moms often wonder if their birth partner will truly be able to fulfill the role set before them in childbirth classes or birthing books. So much to remember. So much pressure for someone who is also deeply invested in the well-being of this special baby and mother.

The presence of a doula can free a father (or other close emotional support people) to experience and enjoy the birth without needing to be a perfect “birth partner”. I suggest that the partner also must be free to be present, vulnerable and primal.  One dad might get in the birth tub with his partner and catch the baby while another might sit in a chair in the other side of the room and just try not to loose his lunch. Both can benefit from the encouragement of a doula’s support.  It is the right of the couple to determine the level and type of involvement he should give. Insisting that all fathers participate in a certain way is just as judgmental as assuming all women should birth in a particular way.

Obstetrician, Michel Odent has suggested that the influence of the father’s participation during the birth is far more complex than we have considered. In a Midwifery Today article from 1999 entitled, Is the Participation of the Father at Birth Dangerous, Odent raises questions including’ “Does the participation of the father aid or hinder the birth?” and, “Can all men cope with the strong emotional reactions they may have while participating in the birth?”.  Most of us would say, “Of course!”

But after witnessing the interactions between many couples during birth and postpartum, I believe we have put fathers in a position they were never meant to be in.

Make no mistake, I believe in women AND men attending childbirth classes. The father/birth partner needs to gain information, understand how the mother plans to labor and discuss options during pregnancy in order to be very connected and in agreement concerning plans for the birthing. Information given ranges from anatomy to the stages of labor to the smorgasbord of interventions and choices available today. That’s a lot of information to tuck into one’s brain cells. Not to mention that this is a pretty big day for dad too as he rides his own roller coaster of birth.

So, how can a doula help dad? Here are just five of the ways the support of a doula can free dad to offer support in a way that is comfortable and effective.

  1. Doulas live, breathe, eat and sleep all that stuff from childbirth class you (dads) can’t remember. Doulas who have been through training and certification have a basis of information about pregnancy, birth and newborns that is more than most men know or want to know about birth. While a really smart doula knows her main job is to just “hold the space”  (provide emotional and physical support to mom) and assist her in gathering information from her care providers. A doula has a knowledge base of “birthy stuff” that takes the pressure off dad (and mom) to remember it all.
  2. Doulas give dads a teammate. Birth is often compared to a marathon. It is important to keep the birthing mother hydrated, fueled and even rested periodically during her birthing event. Same goes for dad. Dads need to eat, drink, stretch, take naps and refresh themselves during labors that last more than a few hours. A doula gives dad someone to tag to come in the ring when he needs to bow out for a break. Dads often feel tremendous relief leaving mom with the support of someone who he knows will not leave her side and will support her choices.
  3. Doulas allow dads to perform super-human feats they could never achieve on their own. Okay, perhaps I’m overstating a bit but have you ever tried to be there for a mom to lean on while simultaneously providing counter pressure to her hips? It’s pretty much impossible. With a doula, one person can be there for mom to lean on while another person can provide massage, counter pressure, hold warmth or cool on her back while she sways. A doula/dad team are able to put into practice a lot more of the techniques and tips learned in childbirth classes.
  4. Doulas help dad know what she really means when she asks, “Do you think it might be time to go to the hospital?” Babies often like to get things started in the middle of the night. When mom rolls over for the 5th time to nudge you and whisper, “Honey, I think my contractions are getting closer together!”, you will want a doula to call so you can gauge whether or not to get up or attempt to close your eyes and pray there won’t be a 6th nudge. While a doula can’t tell a mom that she is definitely in her birthing time, she can offer her professional opinion as to what mom’s current signs might indicate. A doula can help get past those, “Holy macaroni, this is it!” feelings and relax knowing that someone experienced with birth is supporting them as a couple.
  5. Doulas let dads relax and enjoy the birth of their baby.  In Hypnobabies, the childbirth class I teach, birth partners are given a special CD that helps them feel relaxed and confident during the birth. Occasionally, dads are resistant to listening to this. It’s as if they don’t feel as if they have the right to be relaxed and confident during the birth. Having the continuous support of someone who knows and understands birth, can help dad relax and let the process unfold. Dad is free to get in sync with his partner, be there for her without worrying and experience his emotions.

It’s important that mom AND dad have the support they need during labor and birth. And trust me, with the help of a doula you will both be able to handle it!

Resources

Odent, Michel, (1999). Is the Participation of the Father at Birth Dangerous?  Midwifery Today, Issue 51, Autumn.

Micky, a team member with 9 Months & Beyond, LLC  http://ninemonthsandbeyond.com/ (hyperlink) in Nashville, Tennessee,  has experience as a breastfeeding mother, LLL Leader, lactation trainer, conference speaker, and IBCLC. Her mother-baby experience includes a degree in child development and family studies, teaching as a Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor, being a certified birth doula with two organizations and DONA Approved Birth Doula Trainer. She also trains for the COPE Program with Commonsense Childbirth based on the JJ Way developed by  Jennie Joseph, LM.

Author of, Keep the Fires Burning: Conquering Stress and Burnout as a Mother-Baby Professional (available at www.ibreastfeeding.com ), Micky is passionate about encouraging other professionals to understand that who they are is more important than the work they do. Learning to value themselves is a vital part of being able to serve women and babies for years to come.
Micky is also the wife of 14 years to her amazing hubby KC and the mother of three energetic school-age kiddos. She wanted to become a doula as soon as she found out what the word meant and had a doula for two of her three births.

How did you build your support team?

 

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