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learning birth stuff

Making

In the months and weeks leading up to your first baby’s arrival, it can feel like your to-do list is a mile long and there are 5,000 baby supplies that you MUST have and what do they do and where do you put them? Add to that the emotions and unpredictability of this major life change and it can feel like a bit … much.

Somewhere on most people’s lengthy list is taking a childbirth class. Maybe you are hoping for a certain kind of birth or maybe you just figure you should know a little more about what the hell’s going to happen on the big day or maybe your friends suggested it. In any case, you find one, pay up, and hopefully find it useful.

On an online message board for parents, someone was recently seeking advice about which class to take. Some people replied with strong recommendations, but most thought that the classes were a waste of time, that anything they learned flew right out the window once labor set in. This caught my attention as I now offer childbirth ed and I sure don’t want anyone to feel they’ve wasted their time and money. New Yorkers are busy as fuck and have no time for bullshit. This is why I chose to train with Your Birth Experience. I wanted to be able to offer clients something tailor-made, worthwhile, a perfect fit for anyone’s budget, availability, and questions. Something that cuts through the crap and offers the best information to support them through their birth experience.

While every course is individualized, it’s still helpful for me to hear what worked and what didn’t for others. Whether you took a class or not, it would be great if you could take and share this survey! You even get a chance to win an amazon gift card! My clients and I thank you for your help.

CLICK HERE FOR SURVEY AND CHANCE TO WIN! Good luck!

stacking the odds

Like life, there are no guarantees in birth.

I knew I wanted a “natural birth.” I didn’t know exactly WHY I wanted that, or WHAT it meant exactly, or that it would be such a BIG DEAL to want that. I had a lot to learn. I knew that birth could be unpredictable and potentially complicated, but I wanted to do everything possible to increase my chances for a positive, healthy, natural birth.

The way we approach birth says so much about our personalities, families, cultures, and histories. Maybe you asked friends and family about their experiences (or you didn’t have to ask because they bombarded you with stories and “advice”), maybe you jumped in and forged ahead following your gut, maybe you went solely with advice from a trusted midwife or doctor. Maybe, like me, you read 101 books and solicited advice from online forums and a few select friends.

One of my trusted friends gave me the first of the many birth books I’d read, The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. She’d had a positive natural birth and found the book helpful. I also highly recommend it, and found it very accessible and practical, good for anyone who wants to, well, give birth with confidence.

As someone who needs facts and data, I liked how they built the case for the best things you can do to have a healthy birth. Drawing on the meta-analyses of the respected Cochrane library, they distilled and simplified the data into their six healthy birth practices. Visit their website for more information on each practice, including short videos.

Following these practices are no guarantee, but they greatly increase your odds of having a birth that’s positive, safe, and healthy for you and your baby. For me, following these steps worked well. I knew I couldn’t control it all, but I wanted to feel in control of the things I could. Just like life.

One key step that isn’t mentioned here (but is addressed in the book) is to do your best to find a midwife or doctor and birth location that you trust. Ultimately, you’ll be working with your care provider to make decisions and having a trusting relationship will be critical. Good luck!

Lamaze_6HealthyBirthPractices_Infographic_FINAL

 

 

handled

rachel mom veil

In 2002, I was planning a wedding and looking for the perfect dress. I went to all the main places in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. I finally found one I loved at a wonderful boutique shop, but the price was … high. Very high. Like $3K high. My very generous parents were covering the wedding and told me not to worry about it, they were happy to be able to pay for it. But it felt so gross to pay such so much for a dress to wear for one day.

So, I kept looking. I met with a dress maker and corresponded with another seamstress to see if they could make something similar. I felt embarrassed and silly but my mind kept coming back to that dress. I really did love it. My parents continued to insist that I just get it, but I felt extremely anxious about the whole thing. Who knows how many hours I spent hand-wringing about it. I finally rationalized the purchase deciding that I would sell it through eBay or consignment after the wedding and at least be able to reimburse some of the funds to my parents.

When all was said and done, the dress cost over $4K. I still felt bad, but went ahead. I loved the dress and am so happy I got to enjoy it for that day.

After the wedding, we went on our honeymoon for nearly 3 weeks. When we stopped by my parents’ place for a night on our way back to New York, after catching up on our trip, my mom got a tragic look on her face and told me she had some bad news.

Mom had taken the dress to a bridal specialist cleaner to do a professional cleaning and storage set up while we were away. When she called to see when she could come pick it up, they kept putting her off. Finally she just went in and asked to see it. They acted all weird and mortified but finally brought out the dress. The dress looked like it had been attacked by Cinderella’s stepsisters, run over by some monster trucks, and used to clean a few public bathrooms. It was bad. No one knew what had happened.

Mom was furious on my behalf. My new husband was so upset that I wouldn’t get to wear it again for more photos (dude, once was enough). But I was THRILLED. The cleaners were insured, and I had saved every receipt. We were able to submit them and my parents got back every dime. And I got to enjoy a dress I loved.

I just love how things work out like that sometimes, don’t you? It’s like it’s all being handled.

The dress designer was Peter Langer. I’d never heard of him before, but I still think his stuff is gorgeous. Someday, I’ll have him design all of my gowns. 

 

lessons

There's a crack in everything.That's how the light gets in.

Twenty odd years ago in my early twenties, I experienced the breaking up of a friendship that was the most deeply traumatic experience of that kind that I’d had before or since. It was a painful lesson that no matter how much you love someone or how good you are to them, it just might not matter at all in the end. If they have some other shit to deal with, and think they cannot deal with said shit with you around, or maybe believe that the shit is attached to you somehow, it can be quite easy for them to cut you out. And you’re sitting there completely bewildered, stunned, crushed. Neither your heart or mind can grasp why or how someone can turn like that.

For over a week, I cried myself to sleep alone in a hotel room. I was between apartments and was meant to stay with this friend until my new lease started but it quickly became evident that this was no longer possible. I could have stayed with other friends, but felt like way too much of a disaster. I needed the alone time, too, to try to start to make sense of what had happened and to grieve.

On one of those rough nights, I decided that I would no longer make decisions based on fear. It hit me that choices made out of fear wouldn’t save me, help me, protect me. They wouldn’t help me grow, to be a better person, to have a happier life. Choosing to be with someone because you’re afraid to be alone, or choosing to keep a shitty job because you’re afraid of taking a new risk, or choosing to stay in a city you hate because the devil you know… nothing good will come of this. From then on, I would make decisions based on love. Love for another person or myself or for adventure or for the planet, whatever it was.

In the years since, I have come back to this frequently. When I find myself at a crossroads, I make myself pause and really consider what is driving me to lean toward one choice versus another. If I find that underneath all of the logic and rationalizations and practicalities and intellectualizing is a big ole mountain of fear, I know that isn’t the correct choice. I know I have to go the other way. Maybe it’ll have to wait a month or a decade, but eventually I will have to go the other way. I thought I could cross this lesson off the list years ago…

Recently, however, I’ve been reminded of this as well as some other lessons I’ve been learning (and relearning) along the way. Some of us (like me) believe that saying that life gives you a lesson over and over until you figure it out already. I was smacked hard with the realization that while I know these lessons in my head– FEAR kept me from implementing them at critical moments. Life was all, LOL, let’s try this again, sweetheart. And now I’m like, oh fuuuuuuuuuuuckkkk. Right. I know this. Dammit. Ok. Try again. Learn again.

Some of these other lessons include trusting my intuition, being honest with myself and others– trusting that we can handle the truth because if we don’t, nothing good can come. In fact as I’m writing this, I’m realizing it all comes back to FEAR. Fear is why I didn’t follow the many lessons I’ve already learned.

Ok. Trying again.

what’s in a name?

rose reading room nypl michaelms flikr creative commons

 

People ask me all the time where the name “postmodern childbirth” comes from. I’ve probably been asked 3 times in 5 years, and I think 2 of those came from the same person. I thought it was time to finally answer this burning question.

I was in academia for a long time. Too long. (Hmm, that might be a theme with me– overstaying my welcome. But I digress.) One day while working in the beautiful Rose Reading Room of the main branch of the New York Public Library, I was daydreaming about being done with my studies and able to pursue doula work. I was reading yet another postmodern theorist and trying to figure out what the hell it had to do with my research. And while there are some postmodern writers who I truly enjoy (what up, Zygmunt Bauman), and I generally like the concept, there are many who are just spewing pretentious nonsense. It’s a real life version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I had started doing some doula work and wanted a name for the business. I didn’t want something place-based; it wasn’t interesting to me. I didn’t want to go the whole beautiful birthing belly radiant lotus yoni mother earth; it’s been done. Really done. I was trying to think of something unique and meaningful to me. It was one day, painfully slogging through yet another tome of dry academic blather, that “postmodern childbirth” came to mind. It was a nod to the world I was eager to escape, and also an acknowledgement that contemporary US women are, in fact, figuring out how to birth and parent in a postmodern world. I liked it.

Now both of you who have been dying to know the answer to this compelling mystery can finally sleep easy tonight. You’re welcome.

As for the elephants– I have always had a deep love for elephants. They are incredible creatures. I knew all along that I would incorporate them somehow. My talented friend Nicole Truelock designed my logo and color scheme.

photo courtesy of Michael M.S. via flikr creative commons

 

a kind word

bird-313613_640

I walked to the back of the elevator, heading up to my office. A flustered young woman came on after me, pushing the button to her floor impatiently. The doors closed and we dutifully faced forward and didn’t speak.

Her back was to me and I noticed a small simple tattoo of a bird hidden behind her left ear. I debated for a few seconds if it would be weird to comment on it, if she’d rather be left alone. The lyrics from an old country song popped into my head: A kind word never goes unheard, but too often goes unsaid. Cheesy but true.

“I like your little bird tattoo,” I said, pointing at my ear.

“Oh!” She reached up to touch it, but never met my eyes. “Thanks. I sometimes forget that it’s there.”

We reached her floor and the doors opened. As she got out, she paused to say, “Thanks again. You helped me to feel a little bit better.”

I’m usually a huge fan of elevator silence. But I’m glad I spoke up this time.

OMFG is it winter break yet?

give her the

Only about 2 weeks to go. My family is lucky in that our work and school schedules allow us some real downtime over the holidays. We are so looking forward to seeing friends, no morning or evening rush, hanging out together doing not much of anything. Oh, the new Star Wars, of course. The grandparents have already given my kids everything Star Wars (merchandising! where the real money from the movie is made!), so a very merry Christmas to you, J.J. Abrams!

How’s your holiday shopping going, anyway? You know the whole thing about going for experiences over things, right? You don’t want your thoughtful gift to be konmaried right out of the house come spring cleaning.

The gift of a doula is the best gift I ever gave myself. It’s one of the most thoughtful, loving, nurturing experiences you can gift to the expectant parents on your list. The onesies are so cute, the tiny booties and softest blankets, the high tech strollers… but the postpartum doula is the one who will make sure the new parents are fed and rested. That the laundry isn’t piling up. That they are remembering to take care of themselves while everyone around them is asking about the baby. That they aren’t alone in the middle of the night and the baby won’t stop crying and they are too tired to see straight. A postpartum doula helps them figure out how they want to parent, the best approach for their family at that time. A birth doula cares for the family before and during that most intense and unique of human experiences– bringing a baby into the world, be it naturally, medicated and assisted, or surgically.

Every person, every family is unique in what will be most helpful to them. A doula can adapt to their needs to assist them in the best way possible. Pretty much the best gift ever.

decorative gourd season

abundantly grateful

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves– just incredible. The cooler weather, very welcome. Tall boots. It also means another year is nearly done flying by, which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me anymore.

I’m feeling big changes in the air. Time will tell if that comes to pass or if it is just wishful thinking.

I’m looking forward to a short week— extra time with friends and family. Special foods. Not having to rush into rush hour. Getting ready to help families welcome new babies in December. We just started putting out our Hannukah and holiday tchotchkes but you can bet I’m keeping the decorative gourds out for now.

Next week, I’ll get to make a fun announcement. I’m excited for what this will mean for future clients. Good things.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday! And as you review your gift list, consider gifting doula support to the expectant parents in your circle. I may be biased, but honestly there is no better gift. We’d be happy to work with you on gift certificates or a wish list.

falling into postpartum

apple postpartum

I’m looking forward to working with clients as a postpartum doula. The role is quite flexible depending on your needs, but the focus is on supporting the mother (whatever that might mean to her) during the first 3 months with a new baby (also known as the “fourth trimester”). Set aside your other concerns so you can bond with your baby, learn each other’s patterns, and adapt to your new normal. A postpartum doula will also help you figure out your parenting style, so you feel more confident as you step into parenthood or a bigger family. Let’s talk!

is this thing on?

esenting

Well, looks like it’s about time for my annual blog.

Earlier this year, I became obsessed and re-fired up for life as a doula. I took a postpartum doula training in June so I could add that to the services I offer. I’m planning to take a placenta encapsulating training as soon as possible. (a vegan…. learning about placenta prep… that’ll be interesting.) And next I want to take a breastfeeding counseling training, too. ALL THE TRAININGS!

I’m am thrilled to be re-opening this part of my life and can’t wait to work with some families through labor and the newborn phase. Who’s in? I’m looking forward to working with you.