FAQ: placenta edition

Recently, I texted a placenta encapsulation client who had started her capsules a few days prior to see how she was feeling and if she had any questions. Here’s what she said:

Rachel, I can tell such a BIG difference in hormonal waves this time versus last time. Thank you so very much. I’m recommending it to all of my pregnant friends, it’s seriously a game-changer! Thank you!! —Julia

It made my day to hear that she was finding it so helpful and reminded me of why I became trained in placenta encapsulation—to be able to offer another option for support during the postpartum weeks.

While you can read more on the services page, here are some other common questions about the process:

Which process of encapsulation do you offer?

We offer the traditional method, based on traditional Chinese medicine. The process includes gently steaming the placenta with ginger and lemon prior to dehydration in order to kill bacteria. Additionally, this method is designed to help ‘balance’ the placenta after childbirth. This gives clients peace of mind as it’s considered the safest method for consumption.

Why do you process in my home?

As a ProDoula trained placenta specialist, safety and professionalism are my priorities. The guidelines we follow far exceed industry standards. Some of the benefits of having it done in your home include:

  • You have no doubt that the encapsulated placenta is in fact yours as it is the only one in your home and you brought it directly home yourself. You also know it was kept and handled properly.
  • There is zero risk of your placenta being exposed to any unfamiliar bacteria or cross-contamination that may interfere with healthy postpartum recovery or pose other health risks.
  • You get a very quick turnaround as you can start taking them literally the moment they’re finished!
  • You witness the careful sanitizing process and other precautions first hand.
  • I can support you best in person. I’m trained and passionate about supporting you during this tender time, and in person is where I can check on you, answer questions, and offer help most directly.

But, like, will it be gross and stinky?

Not at all. Everything is fully cleaned and sanitized in your kitchen before and after processing each day, leaving not a clue as to the day’s activities. The brief steaming process is when an odor may be released, and this only lasts about 15 minutes and everything is very well-ventilated. I’ve never had a client comment on it, in fact. If you still feel squeamish, it’s easy to avoid the kitchen while I’m there.

How and when do I contact you? When do you start the process?

Please contact me by phone between the hours of 9am – 9pm within 12 hours of the birth of your baby, so we can discuss scheduling. Ideally, I like to begin within 2 days of the birth, so your capsules can be ready by day 3. Some clients will have a neighbor or relative let me in even if they aren’t home yet, but it’s up to you if you’re comfortable with that option.

What do you need from me?

All I need from you is the placenta itself and access to a stove, sink, and outlet (overnight) for the dehydrator. When I’m your placenta specialist, you can feel confident that my equipment and supplies are fully sanitized and ready for your encapsulation. I bring everything with me. Don’t even worry about cleaning up the kitchen before I arrive, I’ll take care of it while you and your family rest!

What do I do with the placenta until you get here?

The placenta must be placed in a cooler on ice or in the refrigerator within 2 – 4 hours of the birth. If we can’t begin encapsulating within 3 days, you can put the placenta in the freezer. It can be frozen for up to 3 months.

What if my family and friends are unsupportive?

Like everything around birth and parenting, this decision is a personal one and may not be for everyone. Choose what is best for you and hopefully they will come around to respect your choices even if they don’t fully understand them. The finished product looks like any other vitamin or supplement so even the nosiest of visitors won’t be suspicious. It’s really just up to you alone and no one else’s business.

How long does the process take?

The entire process takes about 24 hours, with the actual in-home work lasting about 2 hours a day for two consecutive days.

How do I take the capsules?

We share some suggested guidelines for consumption, but ultimately encourage you to follow your body’s cues and individual needs.

What other placenta-related items do you offer?

  • cord keepsake— All clients receive a complimentary cord keepsake. This is the umbilical cord dried into a special shape, which many clients enjoy keeping with other newborn mementos.
  • blood print— We can do a basic blood print of your placenta on high-quality archival watercolor paper. The pattern is reminiscent of a tree and a special reminder of the connection with your baby. Some may choose to leave it plain or enhance it with paint or colored pencil, framing it for the nursery.
  • tincture— A tincture is a highly concentrated alcohol-based liquid that can be a useful boost at stressful or anxious times such as weaning or returning to work, or for other emotional lows. It takes six weeks to mature, but can be used indefinitely after that. It should last a very long time, since only a few drops are used at a time.
  • salve—The salve is a handmade preparation of oils slowly infused with herbs and placenta powder, strained and set into small tin for personal use. It is made with organic ingredients and no preservatives, exceptionally rich and healing for the skin. It should be kept in the fridge and used within 1-3 months. 

 

Contact Us to learn more!

 

placenta encapsulation package
The finished product! Cord keepsake, handmade placenta capsules, and consumption guidelines.

vegan “chicken” biryani

This is a super easy and delicious one-pot meal. I found it when going through old recipes the other day. Another plus is that you probably already have most of the ingredients on hand. It’d be a great postpartum meal for a friend home with a new baby, or for anyone on a chilly night. Enjoy!

 

vegan chicken biryani

Vegan “Chicken” Biryani

adapted from Cooking Light, January 2009

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 package vegetarian “chicken” pieces for cooking (like Beyond Meat, Tofurkey, Quorn, or Gardein). Tofu (drained, pressed, cubed) would work well, too.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala or curry powder of your choice
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • one 15 oz can chopped tomato, or 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked basmati rice (or whatever white rice)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (or whatever raisins)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low sodium veggie or “no chicken” broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (if you have and like)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • one lime, cut into 4 wedges

 

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add “chicken” to pan; sauté 3 minutes.
  3. Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 3 minutes.
  4. Add ginger, garam masala, cumin, salt, and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.
  5. Add tomato, rice, raisins, and broth; bring to a boil.
  6. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender.
  7. Stir in cilantro. Plate, and sprinkle with almond slices; serve with lime wedges

(I’m sure you could use brown rice, but you’d probably have to simmer the rice for 40 minutes.)

ho ho ho, ho!

I’m excited to have a little holiday giveaway for an expectant NYCer (or USAer!)!

Here’s what’s included:

This is a fabulous, useful, and unique collection for anyone about to welcome a baby to the family. To enter you must be in the continental US and leave a comment below so I can reach you to send the prize to you or your friend! You’ll be asked for your email when you comment. One winner takes all. Winner will be drawn on December 21. If winner cannot be reached within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected. Please share and good luck!

In other news, our placenta encapsulation sale is ongoing, and consider asking for or giving the gift of doula support this year.

I hope your Hannukah, Christmas, Solstice, Yule, Festivus, Kwanzaa, and any other holiday you may observe, tolerate, or reject, are joyful and peaceful. Be kind to yourself and others. Keep it simple. May 2018 bring good things… maybe some of the goodies above for a start.

give her the

cardamom coffee cake

I’d been meaning to make this for a while. We have a neighbor who’s been unwell and once upon a time he told me how much he loved cardamom. I love cardamom, too, so when I finally got around to making this, I made a double batch. I took the leftovers to the office, and it was a hit! So, for my colleagues and everyone else, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

vegan cardamom coffee cake

Cardamom Coffee Cake

adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

ingredients- cake

  • 1 cup nondairy milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

ingredients- crumble

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and/or hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup nondairy butter, melted or canola oil

method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish/cake pan.
  2. For cake, combine the milk, oil, and vinegar in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Add the milk mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the baking dish.
  3. To make the crumble, in a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cardamom, ginger, salt, and nuts. Add the butter or oil, and use your hands to thoroughly combine it with the dry ingredients. Spoon it on top of the batter in the cake pan, covering the entire area.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool slightly, serve warm or at room temperature.

Some notes:

  • For a stronger cardamom flavor, I grind up cardamom seeds in a coffee grinder right before adding to the recipe. I was tempted to add a drop of cardamom essential oil, but wasn’t sure if it would be too much. Let me know if you try!
  • The original recipe is for a cinnamon coffee cake, so just replace the cardamom with cinnamon if that’s your preference.
  • The Joy of Vegan Baking was just put out in a new edition for its 10th anniversary! Everything in it is delicious.

maybe not so gross?

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.
laboratory-2815641_1280
The bloody woman at the top isn’t preparing your placenta, but neither is this scientist. 

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.

Learn more here and take advantage of the October 2017 sale!

muffins n burgers

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.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

adapted from the classic The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 medium sized ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease muffin tins.
  2. In medium size bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, mash up the bananas. Beat in the sugar and oil. Stir in the water and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Mix in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, and nuts if using.
  4. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full (or evenly between them) with the batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yields 12 muffins, or 24 mini-muffins, or one 9″ cake or bread.

NYC Boppy Give-a-Way!

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.

nyc boppy give away 2nyc boppy give away 1

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 for each social media follow— including your handle so I can double check! Twitter (@InfoChildbirth), Facebook, Instagram  (@postmodern.childbirth), Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest!
  • 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).

summer sale! (2)

Good luck, and stay cool!

the doula as luxury

When you hear the word “luxury,” what typically comes to mind? Probably things like:

luxury

And when you think of necessity, maybe things like:

basic-needs

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:

important

Many will also see access to medical care, education, and a feeling of safety and security as human needs or rights.

quality-of-life

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.

lana-archer-doula-pregnant-baby-birth
Lana Kane handles her impromptu doula, Sterling Archer.

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.

To view the full report, click here.

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:

  1. 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)
  2. a calling, labor of love (if you truly love what you do, money is irrelevant!) 
  3. 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)
  4. 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.

4. And it’s important to check our egos. No one is irreplaceable, certainly not a doula. In Lamaze’s 6 Healthy Birth Practices, support is the necessity, not a doula.

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.

 

Further reading:

Midwifery and International Maternity Care—Marsden Wagner on how to improve birth outcomes in the US and globally

Birth by the Numbers—excellent collection of reports and short videos on birth statistics in the US and globally.

Recent podcasts on the importance of saying no and setting boundaries, and the push-back we get when we prioritize ourselves:

Flatbush Doulas owner Yael Yisrael talks to doulas about the importance of paid work:

Doula Ariel Swift on being a Scapegoat Doula

 

[cover photo: Goldie Hawn as the quintessential ‘rich bitch’ in the movie Overboard! (1987)]

C is for Cookie

That’s good enough for me… 

 

I cannot make or eat cookies without this song in my brain. Thanks, Sesame Street!

vegan-cookies-peanut-butter

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.

vegan-cookies-silpat

Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Adapted from the recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

yield: about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups white whole wheat flour, sifted (or all purpose flour)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer (equivalent of 1 egg)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 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)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or use nonstick, or silpats.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Whip the egg replacer and water together (by hand in a new bowl, or with blender or food processor) until thick and creamy.
  5. 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.
  6. Use your hands to gently roll chunks of batter into pieces about golf-ball sized and place on cookie sheet.
  7. 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.
  8. Try not to eat all at once, although who can blame you, really.

are you experienced?

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!

Further Reading:

5 Better Questions to Ask a Potential Doula

Attunement vs. Experience

*The question comes up about 6:35 into this episode of the Savage Lovecast.