Ah, October. Turning leaves, pumpkin spice ad nauseam, apparently also 80º weather this year, and decorations that range from cloying giant inflatable jack o’ lanterns and friendly ghosts, to horrific gore, terrifying clowns, monsters, and everything in between.
Horror which, unfortunately, some people also think of when they think of placenta encapsulation. I can’t blame them. The idea of ingesting a human organ would make the heartiest steak-lover a bit squeamish.
As a vegetarian and someone with a deep need for facts and data, it may seem at first to be an odd fit as to why I’d offer this service. So why do I? The copious anecdotal evidence makes me think there’s some there there. And while “other mammals do it!” is a totally lame argument, it’s worth considering here. It sort of shows a stroke of genius in nature—the new mother, tired from birth and needing to stay with her young, has a convenient nutrient-rich post-birth meal instantly, well, delivered. The fact that thousands of years of traditional Chinese medicine reveres placentophagia carries some weight, too. And, it’s compelling when 96% of women report having a good experience and say they’d do it again.
I feel better offering the service knowing that I’m doing it in the most careful, convenient, and respectful way possible. You don’t have to worry about a thing, and receive tidy capsules in no time!
The fact that the client’s placenta never leaves their possession eradicates the risk of cross-contamination, exposure to unfamiliar bacteria, and mix-ups. There is no doubt your placenta is in fact yours.
With the preparation happening in your home, you can witness the careful pre- and post-process sanitizing methods. Some people assume that their placenta is being taken to a pristine lab somewhere to be processed, when it’s usually just someone else’s tiny roach-infested NYC apartment. I won’t be subjecting your placenta to my roaches (my grubby kids, my leftovers in the fridge, other placentas). You’re welcome.
I don’t add any mysterious herbs or additives to your placenta pills, you’ll receive pure placenta. Other herbs and supplements can be taken if you choose, but that’s up to you.
The traditional Chinese medicine process of preparation (steaming and dehydrating), along with food safety and blood borne pathogen protocols, is also safest in terms of killing off any lingering bacteria and keeping everything as sanitary as possible.
I also liked the idea of being able to offer an additional service to clients. I love when we can work together in more than one capacity, allowing us to build a rapport on a deeper level so I can best serve your family.
I truly hope that someday we’ll have access to great gold-standard research and data on the benefits of placenta encapsulation for postpartum recovery. It has the potential to be a huge help to so many families. I feel so passionately about supporting families postpartum; it’s such a delicate time which our culture tends to devalue and brush aside. Anything that could help should be explored. Until we have that information, I’m glad to be able to offer this service safely to those who would like to give it a try.
There was a short-lived restaurant in Manhattan called Burgers & Cupcakes. It sounded genius to me, but guess it didn’t work out. Maybe they should’ve gone for muffins.
Last weekend, I had a rare burst of cooking energy. The burgers are an old favorite— I make a big double batch and freeze the patties so we have quick homemade veggie burgers at the ready. One big beet was plenty for a double batch. I pretty much follow the recipe except I had cashew butter instead of almond butter. For the beet-haters, I don’t find them too beet-y, so you may be ok. I took Isa’s advice and cooked them before cooling/freezing and that’s been much better. Another tip for busy folks— I cook the rice and lentils ahead of time, and then putting it all together is a snap on another day. This time day one was cooking rice and lentils, day 2 was shredding beets and assembling mixture, and day 3 (which was actually day 5 or something) was frying ’em up, cooling, freezing. Drawn out, but that’s the only way I get anything done anymore. Here’s the recipe for Isa Chandra’s beet burgers, and here’s a video of her making some, too! The recipe is also found in Isa Does It, which I highly recommend.
The muffins were new for us, but Jonah especially was an instant addict and I’ve already made a second batch. I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I reduced the oil and sugar from the original and it worked out great. I like to use the mini-muffin tins since it feels like you get so much more and it’s easy to grab one as a little snack.
Another steamy August in the city, melting on the subway platforms. Maybe you’ve been able to get away, maybe not. Ten years ago, I was 9 months pregnant with my first, lumbering for my one hour commute to an unhappy job, ankles almost as swollen as my belly. Never knowing if someone would offer me a seat (usually a woman would).
It’s a cliché, but of course those 10 years have flown by and in just 11 days, I’ll be the mother of a 10 year old. To say that becoming a parent completely changes your life is an understatement. And I know there’s much more to come with this adventure!
In honor of a decade of motherhood, surviving summer pregnancies, and the best city on earth, I’m offering this pretty Boppy Best Latch Breastfeeding Pillow to NYC residents! ($45 retail value) I love the modern navy pattern.
How to enter:
comment below and tell me why you love your NYC neighborhood! (I’ll bring the pillow to you or a friend in NYC if you win! Keepin’ it local!)
leave an additional comment if you signed up for the newsletter!
finally, leave a comment for each time you shared on one of the social media platforms and where!
Guess we’ll see how much time you want to spend clicking around for a free pillow. Comments may be slow to post, don’t worry. Enter by August 14, and I’ll randomly select the winner on August 15, my son’s 10th birthday.
But wait, there’s more!
ADDITIONAL SPECIAL SUMMER OFFER!
Book your placenta encapsulation services before Labor Day (the holiday, not your actual labor day, ha ha), and receive $100 off placenta encapsulation + one belly binding session! $497 value for $397! Fine print— contract signed and deposit received by midnight September 4, 2017; any due date is fine (e.g. book now even if you’re due in December).
When you hear the word “luxury,” what typically comes to mind? Probably things like:
And when you think of necessity, maybe things like:
Maybe also high on the necessity list are things like fulfilling work or hobbies, some form of love/companionship, and a connection with nature or something spiritual:
Many will also see access to medical care, education, and a feeling of safety and security as human needs or rights.
In the small circle of birth work, there is some debate around whether a doula is a necessity that every birthing person should have the option to have, or a luxury service which while certainly nice, is far from necessary.
I asked the husband, “Is a doula a need?” He laughed and said, “Please. Any doula who thinks she is a necessity needs to get over herself.” Ok, that’s one point of view.
Yet, this is how the general public would likely answer, too. I’ve recently heard doula as a punchline in 4 different contexts. There were doula cracks in an Archer episode (below), a Duracell commercial (“… like your doula, who wants you to have a dolphin-assisted water birth.”), in Oh, Hello on Broadway (Gil Faizon is a “Tony Award viewing actor” who moonlights as an unlicensed doula and has a raccoon girlfriend), and in the 2016 Ali Wong Netflix comedy special (“I hired a doula. You know what a doula is? A white hippie witch that blows quinoa into your pussy to Keyser Soze all the pain away.” Note: I have not learned this technique. Yet.)
It’s great that “doula” is making its way into the mainstream lexicon, yet clearly it’s still seen as a silly indulgent thing that other people do.
Archer: What’s your Bishop Score?!
Lana: How should I…? Wait. How do you even know what a Bishop Score is?
Archer: I got certified as a doula, which, turns out, is not that hard.
But really, which is it? Is a doula a necessity, a right? Or is a doula a luxury for the few who can afford one and a punchline for the rest of us?
My answer is YES.
No, this isn’t a cop out. In our either/or culture we often forget that sometimes BOTH possibilities are true. An oversimplified “debate” leaves out piles of nuance and information. As illustrated above, there is a lot of grey area between the extremes of luxury and necessity, and that grey area can vary a lot depending on one’s personal situation.
What are some good analogies? Organic food? I could say that everyone has a right to fresh, healthy organic produce. It’s good for your body and reduces your exposure to toxins. But is it really a necessity? Should organic farmers donate their food to those in need? Or maybe massage therapy? It can be therapeutic and healing to many, but is it a necessity? A college education gives you more options in life, but is it a necessity? A car can be a necessity, depending on where you live.
Ok, you say, BUT! Our healthcare system is AWFUL!! It’s a danger zone in there!!! Doulas are literally the only thing standing between a woman and a system designed to make her birth experience as terrible as possible!!!!
Our outcomes are shameful, just look up infant and maternal mortality rates by country. And what improves birth outcomes? The midwifery model of care and raising the status of women and girls. There are bigger things to attend to if we truly want to improve birth outcomes on a macro level. Doulas make a difference, but putting the responsibility to ‘save’ someone’s birth on a doula’s shoulders is unrealistic and unfair.
We know that doula support has many benefits, but they do come at a price and that’s where the necessity v. luxury question becomes important. Can we, as birth workers, provide support to all families regardless of their ability to pay? Is it reasonable to expect doulas to make themselves available to everyone, even for little or no pay? An unpaid or barely-paid doula is then paying to attend births, a significant investment.
The obstacles to quality doula support extend beyond the doulas themselves. As summarized on Birth by the Numbers:
Choices in Childbirth surveyed 111 doulas in New York City as well as held four focus groups. The cumulative findings of this research include:
Cost is the most significant barrier to obtaining doula services.
The doula workforce is small and less diverse than the population of New York City, with women of color under-represented as well as doula services in languages other than English, Spanish, or French.
Access to doula care in underserved communities is extremely limited.
Fostering collaborative relationships between doulas, maternity care providers, and nurses would improve the impact of doula care.
Establishing positive hospital policies would improve the impact of doula care.
Doulas need support for the work that they do, including models of doula service delivery that minimize stressors and difficulties.
When DONA (the oldest doula certifying organization in the US) was founded, their mission became “a doula for every woman who wants one.” That sounds wonderful! But the devil is in the details.
Whose responsibility is it to make sure that every woman who wants a doula can get one? This was never fleshed out and as a result, the assumption was that the doula should make the sacrifice to be available for as many pregnant people as possible. This likely happened for several reasons:
our views on money (money is inherently evil and taints any interactions it touches; birth and loving care should remain free of such base concerns)
a calling, labor of love (if you truly love what you do, money is irrelevant!)
our views on charity/giving/volunteering (being a selfless martyr is romanticized and venerated; women especially are expected to put others first), and that one’s training and profession should also be where they do their volunteering or charity work (you’re trained in this area so you should do it pro bono when possible)
our egos (it feels so good to be needed!)
Additionally, it was easier to shape the budding new doula culture, rather than the wider social norms and assumptions around birth and maternity care. Then immerse all of this in our sexist patriarchal world where female-dominated/nurturing professions, women’s work, emotional labor, and women’s bodies are not valued, and why invest in this sort of service?
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Money isn’t inherently good or evil. It’s a tool we use to exchange goods and services. And yes, it is a necessity. A pregnant person needs it to cover various medical and newborn essentials, and a doula needs it to compensate her time and professional expenses. Sure, it can feel good to do doula work, but warm fuzzy feelings still don’t pay the rent. Expecting doulas to work for little or free also promotes a lack of diversity in the doula community.
It benefits everyone when we treat ourselves, our work, and our time with respect and value. For better or worse, the main way to show value and respect in today’s world is with money.
2. Something can be your calling and you can be awesome at it and love it and being paid well doesn’t change any of that. These things don’t cancel each other out! This is an issue in the nonprofit world, too, and teaching. We have this weird assumption that if you are working to better the world, you should be content with low pay. This leads to resentment and burn-out of excellent talent. Everyone loses! Investing in great people is important and beneficial all around.
3. Volunteering—not everyone can afford to do it. It takes time and time is money. There are many ways to give back and you have to do what works for you and your family. Also, volunteering as a doula is unique. For example, if I volunteer at a homeless shelter a few hours a month, I can schedule it and make changes when necessary. Volunteering as a doula is very different—the demands of life on call, the unpredictability of when labor will start and how long it will last, prepping back-up and childcare, the intense emotional and physical toll—this makes volunteering as a doula a very different sort of commitment. Of course, it can be joyful. It’s still a tremendous undertaking.
So, how do we truly make birth better for parents and babies? Access to better evidence-based health care, growing the midwifery model of care, education, and access to contraception. More immediately, encouraging people to find a care provider and birth location that feels best for them, when options are possible.
And how can we make birth work sustainable for doulas?
good compensation—the ability to pay for business and personal needs comfortably and not burn out
a support network and positive relationships with other birth professionals
insurance reimbursement would increase access to doula care and help doulas make a living
different models of doula care, like hospital-based programs (e.g., working pre-scheduled shifts) or collectives and nonprofits such as Ancient Song or Operation Special Delivery, which are able to offer more affordable doula options to clients while still fairly compensating the doula for her work
The necessity for birthing parents is physical, emotional, and informational support for the birth experience. And one of the best ways (but certainly not the only way) to get this support is through hiring a doula—which is a luxury! As birth professionals, our goal should be to help create a reality that meets these needs without sacrificing our own health and livelihood in the process.
I cannot make or eat cookies without this song in my brain. Thanks, Sesame Street!
The boys wanted to make holiday cookies over the winter break, but we made these instead. We’d never made peanut butter cookies before. Jonah loves them, Leo does not. Clearly, there is something wrong with him. Oh, well. I tried. At least the cookies turned out perfect. I should know, I’ve eaten most of them.
¾ cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy; “natural” meaning it’s only peanuts)
½ cup nondairy butter
3 tablespoons nondairy milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup nondairy chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup peanut butter chips (or chopped peanuts) (optional)
Preheat oven to 375º F.
Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or use nonstick, or silpats.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Whip the egg replacer and water together (by hand in a new bowl, or with blender or food processor) until thick and creamy.
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, peanut butter, milk, and vanilla. Beat with hand mixer until well blended. Add the egg replacer mixture and beat until just blended. Add the flour mixture and blend in. Finally, mix in the chips/nuts, if using.
Use your hands to gently roll chunks of batter into pieces about golf-ball sized and place on cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until set and just beginning to brown. Do not overbake! Remove from oven, let cool on sheet for a few minutes before cooling further on wire rack.
Try not to eat all at once, although who can blame you, really.
I’ve been a fan of Dan Savage for decades, from back when he was just a fledgling sex advice columnist in the alternative papers (Kansas City’s Pitch!) truly opening the eyes of this midwestern girl. I still have the book he signed for me in 1999. I love that he’s taken on the podcast medium where I can still enjoy him on a weekly basis.
Recently* he had a call from a guy who was very interested in a woman but concerned that she was inexperienced sexually. Would she be clumsy and awful in bed? Would he have to spend his time teaching her? Basically, was it going to be an annoying waste of his time?
Dan’s answer was that experience doesn’t matter. Someone could be a bedroom newbie, or have a Guinness Book record number of partners, and it says nothing about your chemistry with that person. Experience and fit are not related. You either click and it’s amazing or you don’t! There is only one way to find out if you’re a match. If it feels right, take the plunge.
The same is true when choosing your doula. Experience doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if she’s worked with your doctor or midwife. It doesn’t matter if she’s ever set foot in your hospital or birth center.
As we were watching the World Series a few weeks back, I asked my husband what he thought—does number of births make a better doula? He didn’t hesitate and responded, “It doesn’t matter! I could step in and hit a home run as a rookie, or as a 38 year old about to retire. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been out there, it’s your approach to things.”
Other recent examples:
A friend who desperately wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) dumped a newer doula she loved for one with extensive VBAC experience at her provider’s urging. She got the VBAC, but her doula was annoying and pushy and took away from the experience more than she helped.
At the very first birth I attended as a doula, the nurse told me that I was one of the best doulas she’d ever seen.
A doula who has attended hundreds of births over the years recently told me, “I am no better a doula than I was at my very first birth.”
So why do so many of the “how to choose a doula” articles tell you to ask how many births the doula has attended?
Well, it is something to ask. It’s something that can be measured. Culturally, we’re more comfortable with numbers than amorphous things like emotions and chemistry. But why? What information does number of births tell you? It tells you how many births a doula has attended. That’s it. No more, no less.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
In fact, one of the first lessons I learned as a doula was to not bring the previous births I’d attended into the room. It serves no one. I usually forget which hospital I’m in or if I’ve met this doctor before. Why? Because this client in this moment for this birth—that is my focus. That is what counts.
However, there may be another reason these articles suggest these questions. In an outdated approach, doulas were taught and believed they were protecting women from doctors and hospitals, trying to help them “achieve” a certain type of birth seen as better. In this case, maybe number of births and experience with certain hospitals or providers would matter, since the doula would be trying to game the system or whatever. As you can guess, that is not my take.
So what does an amazing doula do instead?
works with you and for you, the client
facilitates positive relations with the medical staff
tunes in to and supports you (and your partner, if applicable) in having your best birth experience
checks her biases at the door to support you fully without judgement
makes sure you are getting the information you need, are physically comfortable, and coping well emotionally
Attunement—compassion, respect, emotional intelligence—this cannot be taught. (We can be taught how to better apply our ability to attune to the birth environment.)
Then how do you choose a doula? Meet her virtually or in person to see how you connect. Ask about her approach to this work and her training. Most importantly, do a gut check after your conversation. Did you click? Your connection is the single most important factor in choosing your doula. This will tell you if it makes sense to take the plunge in working together or not, whether she’s fresh out of training or has attended a hundred births. Good luck!
The most common remark I get when someone wants to describe me is “calm.” I’m constantly told how chill I am in any given situation.
So, it’s really weird that I’ve felt on the verge of a panic attack for the past week.
Like many of you, I’ve been gutted by the election results and struggling to make sense of it. It has been helpful to read articles and posts by others grappling with these questions. At the same time, the news fans the flames of panic with reports of Klan parties, white supremacists in the cabinet, Russia/FBI election tampering, and the steep increase in hate crimes, harassment, and sexual assault across the country. People trying to act as if it’s all normal and fine if we just believe enough. Media calling spades anything but, because the alternative is too horrifying. The emperor has no clothes.
Human capacity is equal to human cruelty, and it is up to each of us to tip the balance. —Alice Walker
The US has come far in many ways. It pains me to see how easily we’re willing to drop all of that. Activists work themselves to burn out for social justice, funders organize and spend billions to save the planet from our abuses, all for teeny incremental improvements. It’s crazy that we have to work SO hard for SO long and spend SO much, just to do the right thing. AND THEN, once a battle is won, we can’t even rest. It’s just so relentless and exhausting, tipping the balance. Dragging humanity forward just to be dragged back the moment our guard slips. No rest for the weary.
I *do* see the good slowly coming of this—speaking out about assaults, abortions, and experiences means more people will understand that these aren’t abstractions. People realizing we can’t rest on the progress we’ve made if we want to keep it. Remember the conservative legislator who suddenly supported gay rights when his son came out, and we were hopeful that he’d meet a woman someday? For whatever reason, it is really hard for some people to imagine and empathize with life and experiences beyond their tiny circles and speaking out and speaking up is one way to expand those circles.
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. —Edmund Burke.
Your silence will not protect you —Audre Lorde
Speaking up is scary. The alternative is worse. We need to keep letting people know when their words and actions are NOT OK. I will do this.
I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. —Anne Frank
If she can say that while tiptoeing around an attic to avoid concentration camps, that’s something. Ultimately, I agree. We’re implored to understand those in smaller towns and rural areas who are panicking since their way of life is dying. I get it. I get that people feel abandoned and forgotten and wanted to send a big FU to DC. The part that’s hard for me to get is the willingness to throw out all standards of decency, humanity, and American values in the process. And our short memories! 8 years or a generation. I get that humans aren’t rational, but I’m not sure how to operate in a world where facts don’t matter, we can say/do/believe anything just because we feel like it. (Also, is anyone curious as to why we city folk love diversity and the promising aspects of modern changes and education and science and a social safety net and so on and so forth? These values matter, too.)
When you’re going through hell, keep going. —Winston Churchill
So whatever. Here we are. For now, I’m going to reduce my time online significantly to protect my mental health and focus on other things for now like health, family, work, home, Luke Cage, decluttering, and certifications to complete. I’m here for you. I’ll wear the safety pin because I mean it and I will walk you to work or sit with you at lunch or whatever if that helps you feel safer. We’re discussing how to use our privilege to help those who are really going to suffer in the coming days/months/years. It’s the long term relationship-building and organizing that really help and I don’t have that in me right now, so it’ll have to come in different ways.
You’re pregnant. Your baby’s coming soon. You’re wondering how you’ll be getting any sleep with a newborn in the house, among countless other things.
The good news is: your mother-in-law* wants to come help! The bad news is: your mother-in-law wants to come help! [*or whichever big personality relative is about to descend upon you]
The thought of it is so stressful you’re ready to bury your head in a platter of macarons and eat your way out.
What can you do? Is there a way to get the sleep you need and maintain your sanity while not totally alienating your MIL?
When managing big personalities, there are some tools you can use.
1. Your partner needs to be the heavy and run interference. She or he is your personal security detail. If you’re a single parent, you may need a trusted friend to play this role—helping you strategize in advance how to manage the visit and distracting the intense relative when possible. Your bouncer needs to step in and protect your space when you say your safe word, like “get your mom outta here before I murder someone.”
2. Brainstorm tasks and activities that can be a useful distraction. What are her skills? Organizing a minimalist nursery? Prepping some freezer meals? Setting up baby gadgets? Running around the city for the perfect new carrier? Planning a bris? Finding the right balance between allowing her time with baby and keeping her busy with tasks she enjoys that make the most of her strengths will benefit you both.
Maybe MIL can hold the baby so you can get that all too important daytime nap in. Maybe she will help you hire a postpartum doula (similar to a baby nurse, but more mother/family oriented) so you can get more nighttime sleep in those early weeks. See if you can make the most of the things she likes to make the visit more bearable. See if you can find the win-win.
3. Practicing your best nod and smile will be helpful, too. “Thank you for the suggestion!” Repeat ad nauseam. The main key to managing big personalities is remembering: would you rather be right or be happy? Let it slide, as much as possible. Vent to your sympathetic friends later.
4. Take care of yourself. I know, it is a cliché and triple hard as you adjust to life with baby. But making sure you’re eating, getting rest, and otherwise honoring your needs as much as possible will go miles in terms of helping you survive a challenging visit.
Before you know it, you’ll be getting a fresh pedicure and breathing a sigh of relief to have your space to yourself again. A little planning will help you get through that initial visit during the newborn days, with the sleep and sanity you so desperately need.
Choose happy, choose your battles, choose a more peaceful way to get through the visit in the best way possible. It will be over soon and you WILL survive. And who knows, MIL may even really step up and surprise you. That would truly be some good news.
A few months ago in anticipation of teaching a new type of childbirth class, I created a survey and shared it across the land to ask parents why they had or hadn’t taken a class, and to find out what was most useful, what was lacking, and what was a disappointment for those who did take a class. I was concerned about launching a class amidst online forums full of parents saying birth classes were a waste of time (note: there are also many who loved their classes!).
The results were incredibly helpful and I’m eager to incorporate such useful feedback to make the class stronger and more relevant to what expectant parents most need and want to know. Many classes have been structured around what we think you should know. Since this is based on peer feedback, it’ll make a huge difference. This knowledge, coupled with the personalized Your Birth Experience (YBE) approach, builds a childbirth class perfect for busy New Yorkers.
There are so many choices out there— Lamaze, Bradley, HypnoBirthing, Birthing from Within, and various private instructors and hospital-based options. How do you know which class is right for you and why choose a YBE class with me?
This class is for you if you:
are busy (who isn’t?)
want to get clear on your personal wishes for your birth, versus what the interwebs and your family wishes for and believes about birth
want a better picture of what to expect in labor and how to best manage it
want to understand the various options that will come up through the birth process, which you prefer, and communicating this with your birth team and medical staff
want to leave the class with a draft birth plan to review with your doctor or midwife, and a plan for handling those early weeks with a newborn
The small group class is one 4-hour class with a follow up call for further questions. If 4 hours is still too long, you can always opt for a shorter private consult with a tighter focus on your unique concerns.
With a rare day off from doula work in New York City, I was running errands when I spied a package of shredded cabbage and had a sudden craving for coleslaw. Not at all seasonal (no pumpkin spice?!), to be sure, but since my cravings are usually for sugary treats, I decided to roll with it. I bought a package of the shredded veg (green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots), and did an internet search for coleslaw dressing when I got home. Five minutes later, I was satisfying my craving.