I Am Your Doula. I Bring You My Heart.

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?  

Amanda Devereux is founder of Nola Nesting, a Doula, Birth Boot Camp Instructor, co-creator and trainer of Birth Boot Camp DOULA and mom of three breastfed babes.

What does a doula bring?

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.

Amanda Devereux is founder of Nola Nesting, a Doula, Birth Boot Camp Instructor, co-creator and trainer of Birth Boot Camp DOULA and mom of three breastfed babes.

A Sibling Doula. The Perfect Support When There's Another Babe on the Way

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.

Juliet crafts with Franki while mom labors nearby.

Juliet crafts with Franki while mom labors nearby.

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.

Juliet meets Ava.

Juliet meets Ava.

One of the most rewarding parts of laboring with our second child was having our 2 year old daughter, Juliet, present. Our sibling doula, Franki, with Nola Nesting made this possible. We met with Franki on a couple of occasions in preparation for Eva’s birth; her calm sweet demeanor just captivated Juliet... they were instant friends. As an already experience doula, Franki was awesome at our birth. She kept Juliet involved by encouraging her to count while mommy pushed. Franki talked to Juliet about the sounds mommy was making and why. She put a positive twist on what may have been a worrisome situation for a toddler. Since Juliet enjoys coloring and crafts, Franki captured Juliet’s attention through these activities in our labor suite while waiting for baby to arrive. It was so sweet to experience Juliet’s excitement and curiosity as she watched her sister being born. She was able to bond with Eva (“Baby Eba” as she affectionality calls her) immediately after birth. A week later, Franki visited and brought a folder containing the art projects from that day along with an outline of events from her and Juliet’s perspective. I am so glad that we found Nola Nesting and Franki to enrich our family’s birth experience.
— Anne and Adam, parents to Juliet and Eva

Whether at home or in the hospital, a Sibling Doula allows you to concentrate on the hard work of labor with the confidence that your older child is well-cared for and ready to welcome their new sibling.

Read more about Sibling Doulas here or contact us for more information.

 

Are You Prepared for Your Best Birth?

I've been watching a bit of this cute mom's youtube channel. She has a great sense of humor and is fun to watch, but when I saw this video of her second babe's birth, well, I just had to jot down some thoughts. . . .

First off, let me just say this - aren't they a sweet family?  What a cute little baby and big sister!  Like any birth, this one had me shedding a tear.  Congratulations to them on their new addition and to this mother for breastfeeding their sweet babe in the NICU.  

Wanna know what else I see?  A family that really could have used the support from a comprehensive childbirth class and a doula.  How so you ask?  Here goes!

1.  Rather than arriving at the hospital early, the information and confidence gained in a childbirth class like Birth Boot Camp and having a doula would have enabled them to stay home longer, hydrate and rest.  Laboring at home helps to decrease cesarean risk by limiting interventions and allows a woman to make greater progress in labor by feeling safe and comforted.   Our bodies and brains have only one way to interpret lights, noise and distraction during labor - risk.  When our primitive selves perceive it is not safe to have our baby in this time/place birth does not progress.  

2. Movement!  This beautiful laboring mom finds that she feels better standing and then later we see her in the bed again.  Lying in bed is a terrible labor position as it restricts movement and is very painful.  When women move in labor they help their baby come down and are more comfortable.  With a doula present dad would have been encouraged to walk with her and help relieve her discomfort using movement and touch techniques.

3.  The Epidural!!!  An epidural that doesn't work is the WORST!  This is why EVERYONE, even those planning medical pain relief during labor, need childbirth education.  Really, my heart goes out to moms that experience an epidural that only works on half or not at all.  When you have only prepared for an epidural and don't have the support of a doula and skills learned from a class to help you labor, this is torturous - far far more painful than a natural birth with support and education.

4.  Oy!  An infection.   Now, who knows why this sweet mom had an infection or why she ran fever.  We do know that epidurals and fluids can cause a maternal fever and that vaginal exams and artificial rupture of membranes (breaking your water) increase risk of infection.  She also said she hadn't slept in quite some time and was likely dehydrated.  It's hard to stay well hydrated at the end of a pregnancy.  Again, a doula and class would have helped her be informed (potentially decreasing vaginal exams, the need for an epidural and interventions) and stay hydrated.

This mom is no wimp.  She brought her child into this world full of love and desire (and with a half-functioning epidural! ouch!).  I do not know her or any details of her pregnancy and birth that are not shared in this video.  Congratulations, Elle and family!  Give us a call if you'd like some more support next time around!


Amanda Devereux is founder of Nola Nesting, a Doula, Birth Boot Camp Instructor, and mom of three breastfed babes.

More New Orleans Birth Options are the Best! (a new midwife in new orleans)

So, here's the big news . . .

there's a new midwife in town!

How exciting is this? It wasn't long ago that hospital midwifery was virtually unheard of in our crescent city, homebirth midwives were only found by carefully listening for the whispers of others and VBACs were rare at best.

We were invited to meet Alison Clark, CNM and chat with her about her new home with Crescent City Physicians at Touro's Family Birthing Center. She has been practicing in Mississippi and is thrilled to be growing some roots in New Orleans. She's looking forward to supporting women in using water to labor and birth, encourages movement during labor and also offers pre-conception care.

Midwifery offers women care that includes a philosophy that

birth is normal.

This is different from the medical model of care ascribed to by physicians (although we are super lucky to have some amazing physicians in our area that have a great perspective of birth). Every woman, baby, pregnancy and birth is different and will have differnet needs. Options are what women need. Women deserve the ability to have a conversation with health care providers and choose what route, what provider, is best for them. In a city that is often (sometimes) endearingly slow, we are rapidly seeing more birth options and this is beautiful progress!

We are thrilled to have Alison Clark's midwifery practice in New Orleans and are looking forward to meeting the other midwives joining her. And we were VERY happy to hear that whether you are planning a natural birth or a medicated birth (epidural) she is available to support you. While cesareans are out of scope for midwives, this midwife will be supporting VBAC moms!!! (can you feel our excitement?) You heard me right ladies, bring on those healing births! She is bringing holistic care to women, is supportive of her clients inviting Nola Nesting Doulas to their births, loves Birth Boot Camp and she's working with some great OBs to offer women the care they need should medical reason arise.

"I look forward to working with Nola Nesting and providing childbirth options and being part of normal healthy birth designed to the mother and baby's natural abilities."

"I look forward to working with Nola Nesting and providing childbirth options and being part of normal healthy birth designed to the mother and baby's natural abilities."

Alison Clark, CNM

3600 Prytania Street, Suite 30 New Orleans, LA 70115

504-897-7700

Dancing For Birth in New Orleans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (New Orleans Prenatal Fitness)

I am so excited to bring a new class for moms to our area. It is Dancing for Birth and it is an excellent way for women enjoy themselves while learning about birth and postpartum. This class has never been offered here but is currently assisting women with labor preparation and adjusment to new motherhood in other parts of the country and all over the world. It is part belly dancing, part childbirth education and part just plain fun! This class is designed to help women get in touch with their inner wisdom and celebrate birth. No dance expereience is needed!!! Just a desire to learn about birth and a willingness to move your body. The confidence in birth and the mind body connection that come from this class can help prepare you for labor. New moms can even bring their babies to move with us, just make sure you have a sling. Babies love the bounce and rythm of the many world dances that inspire the Dancing For Birth moves. Doulas are welcome too! During class we will discuss many movements for aiding optimal fetal positioning and comfort. Doulas may learn something new or find revisiting some of these moves inspiring. I hope to see all of you dancing soon!Classes are currently being offered at Destination Maternity on north Causeway Blvd. And the first class is always free. -Erin

The Nurture of Women (or Redefining the Hen House)

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.)

 

Amanda Devereux is co-owner of Nola Nesting, a New Orleans doula, Birth Boot Camp Instructor, and mom of three breastfed babes.