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Happy World Doula Week!
(I'm not running a sale.)
I'm happy this week is here, this doula and many of the doulas of Nola Nesting have had a very busy month and we are definitely deserving of a week . . . .of call? Yah, most of us are on call for some beautiful expecting families so we have our phones on us 24/7, every commitment we make is followed by a 'so long as I'm not at a birth,' and we our packed bags are never far. We work hard for our clients even when they don't know it. We are thinking about you and gathering a holistic picture of you in the days preceding your labor. We answer our phones when you call us in the middle of the night and help remind you what's normal, to cherish this time and to honor yourself in the last days of pregnancy.
We help you connect with your partner. It's been said I've saved a marriage. Now, I really hope that's not true, but we are there to support you in a way that you deserve to be supported every day of your life, but unfortunately probably are not because of our busy schedules and responsibilities. We are there for you - pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Although we may try to catch a nap while you labor, you are our priority and we work hard to care for you and honor your wishes. Our hearts are with you and they sing when yours does and they cry too with yours sometimes, but we help you find a positive place and keep going. We help you navigate breastfeeding and the early days of parenting.
We give of ourselves mentally, physically and on a very personal internal level full of emotion and intuition.
Doula week is a week to celebrate us. I will celebrate my doula friends and thank them for all the support they give me. The doulas of Nola Nesting are the most amazing women and I am infinitely blessed to know each of them. I will celebrate the doulas who have made change in the birthing world and all of us who only want the absolute best for women! Through birth work and activism we are with you even when you don't see us. So, I won't be reducing my rate in celebration of my work. A sale only devalues what we do, and what we do is priceless. I'm thinking this is more akin to Teacher or Nurse Appreciation week! Gifts aren't necessary and are not expected, but we do absolutely love to hear how you are doing and see pictures of your growing babies, and we won't be discounting ourselves in celebration of . . . ourselves.
Interested in becoming a doula? Well, then here's a chance to win a discount you don't want to miss out on! You could win a chance to come to Birth Boot Camp DOULA training for 33% off!
Nola Nesting is proud to welcome back Courtney Jarecki from Homebirth Cesarean International (HBCI). The May 31st workshop, Speaking of Cesarean, is designed to provide tools, practice, and information for first-time students as well as those who attended the full-day workshop in January.
This workshop is focused on how birth professionals can have prenatal conversations with clients about difficult subjects like unwanted interventions, cesareans, NICU, planning for a challenging postpartum, and much more. After this workshop, participants will be able to improve the quality of care they provide their clients, regardless of birth outcome.
This hands-on and interactive workshop asks participants to:
- Go deep in exploring your own discomfort and biases when working with clients.
- Evolve an understanding about your spoken and unspoken beliefs around childbirth.
- Skillfully build a foundation of trust and open communication in prenatal care.
- Role-play how to navigate conversations with clients who don’t want to talk about unwanted outcomes.
- Asses client’s risk for suffering trauma during or after a difficult birth.
- Prepare clients to build postpartum support during prenatal care.
- Discuss and evaluate the responsibility of the mother and birth partner’s role in preparing for a range of birth outcomes.
- Understand how your client’s own birth may impact and influence her child’s birth experience.
When: May 31, 10:30-2:30
Where: Nola Nesting Lounge, 3248 Severn Ave (Inside of ZukaBaby)
Registration: $75 / Early Bird $50 if before May 1
Click here to register. Space is limited.
About the Facilitator
Courtney Jarecki has worked as a doula, childbirth educator, and a homebirth midwifery apprentice, but her path forever shifted after the birth of her daughter. In recovering from her 54-hour home labor, hospital transport, and cesarean, she soon began creating a new model of understanding for planned out-of-hospital births that end in cesareans, now known as homebirth cesareans (HBC), a term she coined.
She is the author of “Homebirth Cesarean: Stories and Support for Families and Healthcare Providers” and “Healing From a Homebirth Cesarean” (Incisio Press, 2015), books for mothers, families, and birth professionals. She is also the executive director of Homebirth Cesarean International (HBCI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she co-founded. HBCI works to broaden the conversation and education around homebirth cesareans, through the support of mothers, families, and birth professionals.
In balancing her writing, teaching, and leadership activities, she is the mama to Lazadae, wife to Dave, and alpha-female pack leader to hounds Satchel and Maji. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Professional Doulas do a lot of things. We drop our lives with a phone call, work with very long periods between meals and often with no meals at all, can take a nap anywhere, have both a clinical and sacred understanding of birth, our work is both physically and mentally demanding, and we have learned to manage all of this with very little or no sleep. But I think the most important skill a doula can have is the ability to establish an intimate relationship quickly. As I teach in Birth Boot Camp DOULA, it is this relationship, it is the heart I bring, my faith in your ability to birth that will enable me to support you in the best way possible.
Unless you're in my childbirth class, we've probably spent a total of 5-6 hours together, including our interview, before I join you in labor. Our meetings were casual, our time spent discussing your pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. You were excited, anxious, nervous, hopeful and glowing with your round belly. When you call me to your birth, you are your raw self. You are exposed and primal, powerful and vulnerable. You are likely naked or in some state of undress. If you are uncomfortable being in this laboring state with me present, then I am an intervention who is in the way of your labor. That is not good. This could stall or slow labor.
We do carry a 'bag of tricks' as some of my clients have called it. Really, there is nothing particularly magical in that bag and if I forgot it at home I can still do my job. This is because I bring you my heart and this relationship that we build is love. I have to make myself vulnerable to you in a way very similar to how people fall in love. My own oxytocin levels are high and are rising as you progress through your labor. Oxytocin is the love hormone.
I read this article that has been circulating on facebook and I thought to myself, "THIS! THIS is how we do it!" If you haven't read it, here's the synposis:
- two strangers enter a room and sit near one another.
- they ask one another a series of questions of an increasingly intimate nature.
- they actively listen to one another.
- they hold eye contact for a prolonged period. Then, they fall in love.
(And as the author discusses, this experiment can be repeated in a bar - how New Orleans is that?!)
Now, here's the doula synopsis
- We sit together at a coffee shop and talk about your birth, my profession and you ask me questions about my role
- We sit together in your home, discussing an increasingly intimate number of things. I am sure to make eye contact.
- I listen to you and work to gain an understanding of who you are, your wishes and how I might best support you.
- I join you in labor and at some point, we have prolonged eye contact.
The rest is labor history.
You see, they are very similar. In the article it is noted that both individuals were open to participating and to love. This is not very different from us. You seek to be supported, unconditionally and wholly, through your labor and birth and I am making myself available to you.
I loved reading this article because this is one of my favorite parts of my job. When this happens the best way it can, you feel supported and cared for even if your labor and birth are different than what you had wished and how you envisioned it. When this happens in the best way it can, I will never forget your birth because it is in my heart and I am genuinely so proud and happy for you; I look forward to seeing pictures of your baby grow and it makes my heart happy when I run into you around town and see you as a mother and father.
I also think that this exercise, similar to how it is done at the bar, can be a very powerful thing for couples to do when preparing for birth. Take the opportunity to share eye contact and really focus on one another. Talk about nothing and let it build to sharing your intimate feelings and experiences, especially those concerning your pregnancy and birth. It may not be over a beer, and you're no stranger to one another - but doesn't everyone love falling in love?
One of the most common questions I'm asked in interviews is what I bring to a birth. What you find in my bag might disappoint you. It's all pretty normal stuff. In fact, you probably have much of it around your house.
What I want you to know is this: You aren't hiring me for the tools in my bag, because what I bring goes beyond my bag.
Birth brings you to places in yourself you have not been. Others may question your journey, you may doubt yourself and your way may seem unclear, but I know that you hold within you the wisdom of the women before you, power you are just beginning to discover and a mother's intuition.
We are so excited to welcome Courtney Jarecki to New Orleans! Louisiana has the highest cesarean rates in the nation - and this means as birth workers, health care providers, mental health care providers, lactation consultants, and all others who support new moms we already know how severely unexpected birth outcomes can affect new moms. This workshop is an opportunity for us to learn more about how to best support women planning homebirths who transfer for a cesarean as well as women planning unmedicated births whose path brings them to medical management with or without a cesarean.
We invite all those who work with expecting and postpartum moms to join us in this workshop and open our hearts and minds to how we can best support all mothers through all births.
When: January 10th, 10:15-7pm
Where: New Orleans, 4011 Baronne St.
Birthing with dignity and power, from home to operating room.
Homebirth Cesarean (HBC) is the name given to planned out-of-hospital births that end in hospital cesarean.
Facilitated by the author of the book Homebirth Cesarean: Stories and Support for Families and Healthcare Providers, this workshop is for all birth professionals who want to learn to fully support mothers, families and themselves through traumatic births and cesareans.
The information, insights, tools, and strategies shared have been gathered from over 200 interviews with homebirth cesrean mothers, partners, midwives and birth professionasl from around the world on:
-What birth professionals can do to prepare clients who are reluctant to engage in the topic of cesrean birth
-Assessing a client's risk for suffering trauma during or after a difficult birth experience
-How to broach the transport conversation during labor and prepare the family to make the physcial and emotional move to the hospital.
-Supporting the partner through a difficult birth
-How birth professionals can care for themselves during difficult births
-Caring for the cesarean mother and partner in the hospital and at home
-Postpartum Mood Disorders (PMADs) and PtSD after a traumatic birth
As background, from 36.5 to 40 weeks (3.5 weeks) I’d been having hours of contractions each day. Sometimes light and Braxton Hicks, sometimes strong enough to make me have to pause and breathe through them. But never closer than 10 minutes apart and no lasting pattern.
At 5:30 am on September 2nd (my due date, which was also Labor Day) I wake up out of a sound sleep to a contraction. This has happened before in the last few weeks, though this one was particularly strong. So I assume it will be more of the same and get up, start making a list of things to do during this session of contractions (iron curtains, file some paperwork, shower, return a few emails), idly writing down the times when the contractions start.
And realize by the third contraction that these are a very different beast. By 5:45 the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and strong. My husband, Jai, was downstairs, and when I called for him (which I debated not doing, thinking “this can’t be happening this fast!) I think he broke some kind of land speed record racing up the stairs.
By the time 6 am rolled around I couldn’t walk during the contractions and they were 3 minutes apart. Jai insisted we call our midwife, Emmy but I resisted because for some reason I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how fast this is going. Jai, of course, wins this discussion in 30 seconds and we call. A contraction hits in the middle of the phone call and I had to lean over and hang on to the bed to be able to talk through it. Emmy suggests we call our doula, Amanda, to come check on me (which I heard as check me which caused some confusion later on) because it sounded like I was in active labor.
Hello, my name is Brandi and I’m the woman who woke up in active labor but kept trying to pretend she wasn’t.
While we wait for Amanda’s arrival I decide I want a shower. It would be nice to say it was because I thought the water would help (it didn’t) but really it was because I had just enough presence of mind left at that point to want to look nice when all these people (Amanda, Emmy, and two assistants Kisha and Nikki) arrive. Yeah, by the end of my ~10-15 minute shower I was cursing this idea and holding onto the shower curtain rod just to get through each contraction. The last contraction had me kneeling on the floor of the tub, where Jai found me. He helped me up, I finished rinsing, then stepped out. Jai handed me a towel and was offering me clothes to choose from (I had set aside 2-3 tops and 2 skirts for labor). It was nice to feel clean and fresh during labor, but this shower definitely wasn’t my best idea.
From here I remember bits and pieces. At this point I was already turning inward between some contractions, so what was happening around me wasn’t registering at times. For me, a huge reason I could labor this way (I realized later) was because I felt completely safe and comfortable with my surroundings and the people supporting me. There were no strangers, no surprises in my external environment. Just rooms I was familiar with, equipment I had practiced on, and people I knew not only wouldn’t judge me or fight me but rather supported my needs and decisions. I could relax, ignore the outside world, and focus on laboring because I knew everything else was taken care of.
After the shower I went to the nursery, where we had set up some places for me to labor—a birth ball, chair, and yoga mat. Amanda arrived around then, about 6:30 am, while I was swaying on the birth ball and Jai was rubbing my shoulders. I think I tried to offer her something to drink or eat—as if I was going to get up off the yoga ball, go downstairs, fix her a drink and walk back up the stairs while in active labor (ha!). I think she chuckled at me and politely declined, telling me not to worry about her. That marks the last time I was concerned/aware enough of the outside world to be a polite hostess for the rest of my labor.
Funny side note—Jai put on an episode of the NPR radio show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” during this part of the labor to help distract me. Several days later we listened to it again with Hypatia and there are whole chunks of it I, and to a lesser extent Jai, had absolutely no memory of.
For a while, this was the status quo—me on the birth ball, swaying, Jai rubbing my shoulders, us listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” When contractions hit I would moan through them, low and deep, sometimes leaning back into Jai. Eventually that position didn’t feel “right” anymore. By this point Jai had figured out that our plan for early labor (mainly distraction in the form of funny stories he had stored up, tv shows, radio segments, etc.) wasn’t what I needed. Instead of distraction, during active labor I needed to focus. I wasn’t conscious enough to articulate that, but he picked up on it without me saying a word and switched gears. Looking back, that was pretty amazing of him.
Amanda picked up on the fact the birth ball wasn’t right for me any more and suggested I move to the yoga mat. I ended up on my left side, with Jai in front of me and Amanda behind applying counter pressure. Jai was stroking and massaging me, talking to me, reminding me that each contraction was one less contraction. (Earlier in my pregnancy the thought of thinking of contractions like X-1, X-2, X-3… really resonated with me.)
This was where I just fully turned inward between contractions. I wasn’t worried about the contraction that had just passed or the pain coming with the next contraction. Instead, my mind and body were fully a peace and I was able to just …relax. I knew Jai would be there to talk me through the next contraction, that he would be massaging my shoulders or hands, stroking my belly. That Amanda was experienced and would offer suggestions to make things easier. That my midwives were watching out for my baby. I could trust them, rely on them, and just let go between contractions.
I swear I fell asleep for the brief minutes between some of the contractions!
Eventually I felt the urge to push, around 8:30 am, but it felt too soon. That scared me out of my relaxed state, especially because I thought the midwives weren’t there yet. Amanda reassured me it was okay to push, so I did. A few contractions with pushes later, just as the midwives are coming into the room, my water breaks with a loud POP. It gushes out, getting on my legs and skirt, and a pillow I had between my knees. I have a momentary thought about needing to clean up the mess I’d just made, but quickly forget about that when someone suggests I move to the bathtub.
Jai helps me get up and while it is only a few steps to the bathroom, I have to pause while another contraction hits to lean on him. I end up laboring on the toilet for a few contractions, then people help me get into the large tub. Jai climbs right in after me.
The water is very soothing and it doesn’t take me long, once I find a comfortable position, to sink back to my relaxed state between contractions. Especially because Jai brought my eye mask with to block out the light (great idea! Highly recommend a mask to help focus and stay relaxed). I even managed to retain some of the mental relaxation during single contractions (definitely not the physical!). The times where two came right on top of each other were extremely difficult and painful in the moment, but once they were done and my last moan had died away I would sink right back into being relaxed. That relaxed state seemed endless, it felt like I spent most of my labor in it, but the reality (apparently, I wasn’t aware of it at the time) was there was less than a minute between contractions and they lasted at least that long.
This relaxed state means that what I remember of my birth is bits and pieces, fragments of what actually happened. Thankfully, Amanda picked up our camera and photographed throughout my labor, birth, and delivery. Previously I had been pretty firmly against graphic photos during birth. I am so glad I’d never mentioned that fact to Amanda, because those photos chronicled my journey—both what I remember and everything I wasn’t aware of. It was like a wonderful gift of this special moment in time.
At times Nikki or Kisha would have me shift to listen to the baby’s heart rate. Internally I would get so upset they were making me move and pulling me out of the nice relaxed state. I wanted to yell at them to “Leave me alone!” in those brief moments when they came after me with a fetalscope, even though they were quick and gentle and soft-spoken.
During the next few hours I ate a honey stick (delicious!) and was given Echinacea (vile!). Shifted positions in the tub several times, from back to side to hands and knees. Now, afterwards, I’m amazed Jai’s hands didn’t cramp up from all the massage he did. Amanda pushed on my forehead (it really does help!) so much it was sore the next day.
At one point I thought I couldn’t do this any more (probably transition, but not being checked means I don’t know). It hurt too much, I was tired, and she just wouldn’t come out! But that was when Nikki told me to reach down and see if I could feel my daughter’s head. At first I didn’t want to, the idea scared me a little. Plus that would require not going into my relaxed state between contractions and I really liked it there. Finally, though, I reached down and realized…my daughter had hair! She was right there and she had hair I could feel!
In the end I pushed for about two hours. If you had asked me right after the birth I would have said it felt like I had been pushing forever but would have guessed perhaps just an hour. At the very end I got out of the tub, toweled off and slowly made my way to the bed, where I ended up on my side.
I could feel her head coming out and was pushing, pushing, pushing but the rest of her didn’t want to come out. I heard something about the cord being wrapped around her shoulder and Emmy suggesting I flip to all fours, that the position change would help her come out. What I didn’t realize then, because everyone was so calm, was that this was a fairly serious issue. For me, what I experienced was a simple “just flip over so the baby can come out easier”—no panic, no fear. So I stayed relaxed and focused.
Flipping did the trick. The first push after flipping onto all fours, my little girl’s head popped out and Nikki shifted the cord. Her shoulders came out with the next push, then the rest of her in one or two more pushes. Jai caught her, holding her for a moment, then placed our daughter on my back. We hadn’t discussed that, he just felt it was the right thing to do, to give me a birth pause but still connect to my daughter and it was perfect.
At 12:10 pm on September 2nd, 2013 (her due date) Hypatia Rose entered the world, born into her Daddy’s loving hands. Less than 5% of babies are born on their due date, let alone almost exactly at noon on Labor Day, so she is our amazing little statistical anomaly.
A few moments later, Hypatia was passed under me, I turned over and she was placed in my arms. Propped up against our head board, I held my daughter for the first time. She was sticky and squishy and beautiful. Because of the cord issue she was purple/pale at first but quickly started pinking up, let out a few cries, but mainly snuggled against me, skin-to-skin.
We laid like that, letting the cord finish pulsing, for some time. Jai joined us and we just relaxed as a family together. After about 20 or 30 minutes I felt the urge to push again, so I (reluctantly!) handed Hypatia off. The placenta slid right out and at the end of everything I had only a slight abrasion, no stitches needed, that healed very quickly. I actually got up and out of bed and walked to the bathroom on my own soon afterwards, surprising everyone with how good I felt.
When it came time to weigh Hypatia, Jai was the one to hold her up in the sling. She came in at 8 lbs 10 oz. and 21.5 inches long. We snuggled some more, then the midwives prepared a bath for me. After that Jai and I bathed Hypatia together, dressed her, and came back to a clean, freshly made bed (Amanda even threw the old sheets in the laundry!). Jai made sure he had on a t-shirt with a picture of a tie “so she would recognize her Daddy” because dress shirts and ties are all he ever wears. At some point in all this Hypatia latched on like an expert and our breastfeeding journey started. But that is a story for another time.
Never having given birth before, I went into this with very high hopes but realistic expectations. This birth, my husband, and my birth team surpassed all of those hopes, transforming a very painful, stressful event into a moment in my life I treasure and remember with joy. Not just the birth, but the labor itself. My birth into motherhood and my daughter’s birth were a beautiful family experience.
When your pregnant with a babe that isn't your first making plans for baby means also making plans for your children during the labor and birth. Becoming a big brother or sister is an important transition for a little one and a Sibling Doula can help make it seemless, impacting the familial balance and sibling relationship forever in a meaningful, loving way.
Children do not bring to birth the society fed fears and concerns that we do. Their honesty, open hearts and age-defying undestanding of it all is a beautiful thing to be witness to. With the right support and care children are able to fully experience and share in the experience of their sibling's birth, whether they are present for the birth or nearby eagerly awaiting the moment that they can first meet their new baby.
Franki Batten is both a Birth Doula and Sibling Doula. As a Sibling Doula, Franki spends time getting to know these pint sized memebers of the family during prenatal visits that are all about them and their new role. When mom is in labor Franki is there to care for the child and help them participate in the birth of their sibling as is appropriate for them and their family. Sometimes this means making a card for mom and the new baby, working on some crafts at home while mom labors in the hospital, or being with mom and offering her a cool towel for her head.
Gatherings of women often get an unjustly bad rap - the stereotypical hen house image full of clucking, pecking, and feathers flying. Strong, assertive, expressive women are frequently (mis)labeled as "catty" and "bossy," amongst other things. This typecasting begins early in our daughters' social development with groups of girls who are just learning to navigate friendships, be it with girls or boys. I’ve already heard this in reference to gatherings of girls in my daughter’s social interactions, and these loaded words are never used to characterize boys' social behaviors. The thing is, these words do not define my experience, and I find it to be presumptuous, rude, and a very prejudicial and unfortunate way to see the world. I would tell my daughter “it’s unkind.”
The women who share in my life have been and are powerful, uplifting, and empowering. I didn’t view my grandmothers as "catty," but as loving, warm, and generous. I have amazing childhood friends, female ones, that I respect and love. Sure, there are girls I didn’t get along with, women I don’t like, and the same goes for boys and men - but it has more to do with personality and less (well, nothing) to do with gender. I could not be the mother I am without the women, the friends I cherish, mothering alongside me. As an owner of Nola Nesting, I work closely and interdependently with other women. I have so much admiration and love for these women and for all they bring to not only Nola Nesting, but to our clients. They are creative and inspiring, giving and healing women.
As childbirth educators and doulas, we celebrate the power and strength of women, their ability to transform and bring life into this world in a way done by innumerable women before them, a way the predates by millenia the medicalized model of childbirth and the categorization of pregnancy as a condition to be treated and cured. We see women at their most vulnerable and at their most fierce, and I feel nothing short of awe each and every time. I love families at births. The privilege of witnessing a person fall in love with their partner (again) and new baby is one of my favorite parts of birth, but supportive women bring a special energy to labor and birth. The women at my births were tender and held wisdom in a way my very loving, supportive, and nothing-shy-of-amazing husband could not.
To bring Birth Boot Camp to New Orleans, I attended a training in Dallas last month and was surrounded by women I had never met before. These were strong women who were there to learn more about supporting other women and families, and everyone was beautiful, loving, and supportive of one another. I truly enjoyed being in their presence and I left feeling energized and full. In our busy lives it’s not often that we get to gather and just enjoy the company of other women, each uniquely teaching and learning in our turn.
I am grateful for the women in my life, for the way they nurture and encourage me, for being sounding boards, for love and support. These are the relationships with women I want my daughter to see. Whatever she does in her life, whether suffering a broken heart, celebrating a hard-earned victory, pondering life’s meaning, or bringing a baby into this world, I hope she has a support network that includes women who love and celebrate the woman she is. And of course, should she decide to become a mother, I hope she has a doula!
(Disclosure: This blog post was edited, as is much of my work, by one of the profound women in my life. My sister-by-another-mother - one of the most courageous and witty women I'll ever know.)