Can I Give Up a Natural Birth?

Have you always imagined you’d give birth naturally, but are realizing now that, for whatever reason, natural birth just isn’t in the cards this time?

Maybe you have a medical condition that prevents you from having a natural birth – it could be placenta previa, or a breech baby, or maybe there’s concern over how well the baby could handle labor, to name a few common examples.

Is it ok to accept that a natural birth isn’t in your future?

Sure, you could stand on your head for hours a day, or do special moves in the swimming pool, or any of the other hundreds of suggestions for getting a breech baby to flip around – but what if none of them work for you? And what if you just don’t feel like trying yet another trick you heard worked for your coworker’s friend?

poolside lemonade
Set aside your worries – enjoy your time poolside!

 

What if the thought of one more positive visualization imagining your placenta moving out of the way makes you want to throw things across the room? Is it ok to just stop?

Can you feel good about accepting this change in your plans?

Absolutely.

If natural birth has always been your goal, it can be a hard mental shift to accepting that your reality may involve more medical intervention than you want. But you can do it. In fact, it’s ok to make that shift. It’s ok to embrace a new outlook, and look forward with anticipation instead of dread.

I’ll repeat, because it’s so important: it is absolutely, always, 100% ok for you to be at peace with your decisions.

Asking yourself the following questions can help you clarify your feelings. Part of our job at Doulas of Memphis is to help you work through the answers, and to support you every step of the way, so if you don’t know us already, let’s chat!

What is it about a medicalized birth that I’m hoping to avoid?

Is it a feeling of lack of control? Are you worried that you are somehow letting your baby or your partner down? Is it important to you that you still have a voice in your experience? Are you concerned that the medical aspect will overwhelm you with questions and details?

You might have a combination of answers to this question. Once you have explored all your answers, start to think about concrete things you can do to alleviate or even eliminate your concerns. Talk about your ideas with your doula and your doctor. We both want what is best for you, and can help you with your new plans.

What will it mean about me as a person or as a parent if I have a medicalized birth?

Worded slightly differently, you might come to an answer from a different angle: what will it mean about me as a person if I don’t have a natural birth? Hopefully, you are able to see that you are a worthy and valuable person and parent, regardless of the circumstances of your baby’s birth. You deserve to feel good about your choices and your experience.

Imagine yourself birthing your baby with confidence and clarity. What do you need this time to do that?

This is a great question to ask yourself regardless! Do you need education about your new options? Do you need additional support now and during the labor? Do you just need someone who “gets it” and won’t judge as you work through your feelings and make new decisions; someone who will remind you that you are enough?

The insight gained from your answers can help you start setting the stage for a positive birth experience, even if it isn’t the one you always thought you wanted. We would love to help you every step of the way.

Doulas of Memphis Running Man Challenge

It’s been a month of awareness here on the Doulas of Memphis blog! First it was hyperemesis gravidarum, then it was mental health, and now Multiple Sclerosis. Doulas of Memphis was called out by Concierge Doulas of South Florida to do the Running Man Challenge to raise awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is defined as:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms. The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors. People with MS typically experience one of four disease courses, which can be mild, moderate or severe.

When we got called out to do the Running Man Challenge, co-owner and Memphis doula Abby Powell was on vacation at the beach. Good news: the best doula agency in Memphis never goes on vacation!

Here at Doulas of Memphis, part of how we are able to be the best doula in Memphis is that utilize a sustainable agency model that allows us to balance work, family and fun. While one owner is vacationing at the beach, Doulas of Memphis can continue to run smoothly from home (thanks to co-owner Lindsey Hanna!) and we are able to serve our clients without interruption. Everybody wins, and we can make completely ridiculous videos for you to enjoy….like this one!

Postpartum Doulas, Nannies, and Babysitters, Oh my!

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Where were you when my baby was little?! I wish I would have known!” in response to my description of what a postpartum doula does. Clearly there is a huge need, but the  term “postpartum doula” still has a way to go before it makes its way into the public consciousness.  If you want to read about Doulas of Memphis postpartum doulas, you can click here, but I’d like to take a moment to break down the differences between a postpartum doula and some of its alternatives.

postpartum doulas
Postpartum Doulas, Nannies, and Babysitters, Oh my!

Babysitters vs. Postpartum Doulas


While postpartum doulas do occasionally step into a babysitting-type role, babysitting is not one of the primary duties of a postpartum doula. A babysitter is typically hired for temporary or short-term childcare where the parent is either absent, or at home and unavailable. The babysitter’s focus is solely on the care of children, not on household tasks or the well-being of the mother. A postpartum doula’s focus is on caring for and nurturing the mother. Sometimes that includes baby care or looking after older siblings, but not as a general rule and always in the context of the mother’s needs.

Housekeepers vs. Postpartum Doulas

Basic household tasks are well within the postpartum doula’s scope, but they are just that: basic. While a postpartum doula will do your dishes, cycle your laundry, give your counters and sinks a quick wipe-down, and help you deal with that one clutter spot that’s driving you crazy, we do those things because they provide relief for parents. Time normally spent on mundane daily tasks instead becomes time for self care, to connect as a family, and bond with their baby.

Nannies vs. Postpartum Doulas

The job description of a nanny overlaps the most with that of a postpartum doula.  Both a nanny and a postpartum doula assist with baby care, sibling care, and do simple tasks that keep a household running. A nanny might even stay overnight and assist with nighttime baby care, but that’s where the similarities stop.  Hiring a nanny is a long-term childcare and home management solution, and a nanny may or may not have any kind of certification or credentials.


Doulas of Memphis postpartum doulas are not only well-versed in infant care, but also in what families are going through physically and emotionally during the postpartum period. You can ask your doula questions about postpartum recovery, what’s normal, and what warrants a call to your doctor. Doulas of Memphis postpartum doulas are also trained birth doulas, which provides a framework in which a postpartum client can discuss her birth if she so chooses. Unless she has an outside certification or personal experience, a nanny does not provide breastfeeding assistance. Doulas of Memphis postpartum doulas are trained in assisting mothers with normal breastfeeding and are able to refer clients to additional lactation support if it is needed.

Much like a postpartum doula, a  night nanny (aka “baby nurse”) takes care of your baby during the night so that you can get the sleep you’ve been craving. The biggest difference is that the nanny is there exclusively for the baby, while the postpartum doula is there for the whole family.  Your postpartum doula can take over night-time bottle feeding, or bring your baby to you if you are breastfeeding. She is available to listen, validate, and help if things feel hard, and to answer those new mom questions that may be keeping you up at night.

Nannies do form relationships and care about the families they serve, a nanny’s primary concern is not the emotional well-being of the mother. For a postpartum doula, the physical and emotional well-being of the mother is top priority! Those mundane tasks aren’t mundane to us, and we do all of it with a desire to provide you with same the loving, attentive care that you give to your baby.

 

Spring is coming: Getting help with postpartum depression

lion-1145040_640The old kindergarten adage is true again this year: “March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.” We see it around us and feel it in the air that yes, spring is coming in all of its humid, rainy glory. I love a good analogy, and this changing season has me thinking about a time in my life when I thought winter was never going to end.

I should have seen it coming, but suffice it to say that with my firstborn I was the poster child for postpartum depression and anxiety.

We had only been back in Memphis for three months before my son was born. I wish I could say we adjusted well to being parents, and those first few months were magical, but that’s simply not true. It was isolating and it was hard. Really hard.

My baby was well-cared for and I adored him, but I struggled to do daily tasks. I would fly off the handle at the most insignificant things, couldn’t cope with the lack of sleep, and couldn’t seem to make it past showering and getting dressed. I’d sit on my couch with my baby and there I’d stay, until 5pm rolled around and I had nothing to show for my day. I thought it was “just stress,” or that “this is what those first few months are like…after all, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep, right?” I wasn’t crying all the time, so I couldn’t be depressed, right? My precious husband picked up my slack the best he could but while he was my safety net, there wasn’t anyone catching him. 

It was six months before I got help. Six months before I couldn’t take it anymore. Six months before my husband said, “This isn’t normal.”

I felt like I was losing my mind. I was overwhelmed and wracked with guilt. I was terrified of what people would think of me. Nothing sent me running faster than the Standard Southern Greeting of “How are you?” I didn’t know how to answer that question- what if they didn’t actually want to know? Even after I started counseling, it took me more than a year to feel normal again. There were pieces to pick up after months of going it alone.  As I was living day to day with a baby to care for,  it was hard to see any sort of growth. Some days I wondered if I would ever get better. If I would ever feel like myself again…who was I again, anyway? I couldn’t pinpoint a day where I magically felt better, but over time things didn’t seem so difficult anymore. The coping skills I learned in therapy became second nature. My relationship with my husband improved and I was doing a lot more giving and a lot less taking. That time was a lot like little glimpses of spring near the end of a long winter.

spring, postpartum depression

It may not always feel like it, but spring is coming. 

Maybe you’re in a season of your life where you’ve planted the seeds but can’t see the blooms yet. Maybe it’s still raining, raining, raining, and you can’t seem to catch a break. Some days are warm with tastes of sunshine to come, but others are dreary and gray. Nobody flips a switch and turns spring on. March has to come first, in like a lion and out like a lamb. Maybe it’s not today, but one day the flowers will come out. The grass will be green. The chill will leave the air. Spring is coming!

If you’re struggling right now, please know that there is help for you. Don’t wait! You may not hear about postpartum depression and anxiety while you’re out running your errands, but there are warrior moms all around you. You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. I’ll say it again: You are not alone! 

If you want to learn more about getting help with postpartum depression and anxiety, visit Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International. For dads, visit http://www.postpartummen.com. If you need help locally, reach out to us and we’ll help you get connected. 

If only I had a doula my last year of college (a ProDoula challenge)

This is part 1 of a two-part blog series titled, “If only I had a doula.” ProDoula, the certification agency used by Doulas of Memphis, issued a blog challenge to write about a time where we could have used the support of a doula.

Have you ever been more glad about something being over than about the actual thing you accomplished? That’s exactly how I felt about graduating from college. I play the French horn and have a bachelor’s degree in music performance from The University of Memphis. The program is intense and all-consuming. The smallest amount of credit hours I ever took was 15, and the most I ever took was 21. There is little time for anything outside of classes, rehearsals for the multiple ensembles you wind up in, the many hours holed up in a practice room. It’s an insular culture because it has to be.

Here's a photo from the amazing summer before everything fell apart.
Here’s a photo from the amazing summer before everything fell apart. My husband and I were goofing off on a tour :).

Stretch and grow

I managed to keep myself just above mediocrity until the summer between my junior and senior year, when I was accepted into an orchestral program at a festival. That summer, I blossomed as a musician and came back to my back-to-school auditions on fire and ready to wow my professors- and wow them I did! With my performance came a new set of responsibilities, and suddenly I was frequently being rotated into a position of leadership as principal horn. I’d found a whole new enthusiasm and fervor for my craft, and couldn’t wait to see what the year brought me. I began dating my now-husband and I didn’t think it could get any better. Until…

I woke up and couldn’t move my neck

Not long into the fall semester, I woke up one day screaming in pain. My neck and shoulders were on fire. It hurt to turn my head. I did something I’d only done once in my whole college career that day: I called my conductor and said I couldn’t come to rehearsal. I was devastated. That began the process of appointment after appointment. Doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and even a neurosurgeon…I felt lost, scared, confused, and desperate. I didn’t have the money to take a semester off and heal, so I pushed through the pain and did the best I could. My best wasn’t very good. I was surviving on Lortab, a strong muscle relaxer, and coffee, so much coffee. I probably shouldn’t have driven a car at all that year, but I felt like I had no choice.

I called in favors and extensions. I relied on the good graces of professors who cared about me. My horn professor was the most gracious of all, but I could see that he didn’t always know what to say or how to help.  My husband spent half his time with me, rubbing shoulders so I had a chance at going to sleep at night. Sometimes I look back and wonder why in the world he proposed to me that November, but I’m sure glad he did. My senior recital was pitiful and barely worth the passing grade. I limped my way across the finish line, degree in hand but no real hopes of graduate school or the career I had been working towards for the past 10+ years. I was hurting and I felt like a failure. At least I had my wedding to look forward to a couple weeks later, right?

How a doula would have helped me

My husband did the best he could to help me, but that year was hard on him as well. What I needed-what WE needed-was a doula. A doula would have told me it was okay to take time off for my health and helped me brainstorm ideas on where the money would come from. A doula would have sat with me while I cried so my husband could take some much-needed time for himself. A doula would have brought me a heating pad and a cup of coffee. She would have gone to the grocery store for me so I didn’t have to carry the bags back in the house. I’d like to think she would have typed my homework that I dictated to her since typing was one of the most painful things I did. A doula would have acknowledged how traumatic that time was for me and gently referred me to a therapist to process my feelings, and would have encouraged my husband to do the same. She would have been there for me when our first year of marriage was harder than anything I’d ever imagined (you can guess why). My doula would have told me that I was so much more than the horn I played, that my gifts were so much bigger than the box I’d put myself in. Oh, if only I’d known what a doula was back then!

My last year of college and my time with chronic injury is a part of my journey and while I would never do it again, I can’t say I’d wish it away, either. It’s what caused me to stop and look at what I really wanted, set me on a different path, and it’s ultimately the reason I wound up becoming a doula. Even with all that, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like with a doula there to support me. Can you think of a time when you could have used the support of a doula? Tell us in the comments!