How Hard Could It Be?

When I had my first baby, it was the first time I had ever seen a newborn in person. I’d changed maybe two diapers, ever. In short, I was clueless.

My husband, John, helped his mom run her in-home daycare when he was younger. As far as I was concerned, he would be a diaper changing pro! The rest of the stuff like holding a baby, or soothing them, well, he’d probably remember it. Like riding a bike or something, right? Never mind the fact that he was a child when he did all this (seriously, what was I thinking?)

I had family in town. My own mother, in fact, lived just a few minutes away. And this was her first grandchild, so of course she’d be over all the time and would help fill in any blanks.

So Rex came out, we all got cleaned up and tucked into bed to rest, and suddenly, my husband and I were alone with a brand new baby.

I remember thinking it was a little bit ridiculous that we were expected to be able to take care of this baby without any practice or formal knowledge, completely responsible for someone else’s WHOLE LIFE. I mean, sure, people have been doing this since the beginning of time, but WE had never done it before!

I’m pretty good at rolling with whatever comes my way, so we jumped right in.

John was great at helping with diapers. We might have eaten more take-out than I cared to, but that was ok. My mom was happy to spend her free time with her first grandbaby. But she had to work, too. And eventually, John had to return to work.

Nights were relatively easy – John was home, even if I did feel bad waking him up to help me when I felt overwhelmed, knowing he had to work in the morning. Sometimes I woke him up on purpose, just because I was so irritated at being woken up yet again, and hey, this is his kid, too. (I love you, dear!)

Days were another story.

I was tired but unable to nap

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is impossible when you feel compelled to clean house and get the chores caught up. Or shower. Or eat.

I was bored out of my mind

Babies don’t make great conversationalists. Who knew?

I was jealous

My husband got to actually go spend time outside the house talking with other adults, even if they were just coworkers, and the only other place he went was work.

I was jealous that other people were able to take care of themselves, their children, and their homes, apparently without breaking a sweat.

I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable or confident

It took more energy than I ever thought just to pack the baby up and get him into the car, and nursing in public or dealing with a crying baby in public was just too much, so I never went anywhere. I used to be a smart, career-minded woman, an organized go-getter. How had this small person reduced me to this? Why didn’t anyone warn me?

I needed a postpartum doula. If only I had known there was such a thing.

Magical postpartum doula fairy
The postpartum doulas you hire won’t have wings, but you’ll swear they have magic sleeping baby fairy dust.

Abby says postpartum doulas are like a fairy godmother, and I have to agree.

Postpartum doulas are the women who have seen it all, so they are great troubleshooters when things aren’t going well.

They are the ones who let you sleep (or shower!) while they magically take care of the baby AND get some of your chores checked off, or get dinner started so your husband can relax, too.

The wonderful postpartum doulas I know are also the best listeners. You’d be amazed at how easy they are to talk to – so understanding, so loving and caring, and somehow they always leave you feeling content and refreshed. That’s way more than I can say for some of the friends and relatives that visited after Rex was born!

Postpartum doulas are more popular now than ever, and for good reason. Doulas of Memphis offers some of the very best doulas in the area, and they are worth their weight in gold.

Scheduling a consultation is quick and easy, and you’ll be so glad you did it.

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.

They don’t make doulas for this | Guest Post

So, you’ve received the news.

You need surgery on your right eye. It’s been turning inside and you’ve tried various prescriptions from multiple optometrists, but after nothing helped you went to an ophthalmologist and her expert evaluation was swift and sure.

You’ve had one surgery before, but it was very different than this one, years ago, and you can barely remember. However, after listening to the explanations you feel confident that this is what you need, though you admit to those closest to you that you’re scared and wish it wasn’t necessary. When you give your family the news, they’re very supportive. You tell them you get to go to the hospital and have a long nap and then get to stay home from school for a week.

Oh. Did I mention you’re only 7 years old?

This is the reality for my oldest daughter, Ella, right now.

At first, the news seemed quite alarming and incredibly ill timed. I am attempting to get a new business up and running, while selling my house and still keeping my family well taken care of. Now this? But as we inch closer to that looming surgery date, I’m coming to realize that it’s not about timing. I don’t have control over when things like this happen. All I can do is face them as they come, arm myself with knowledge when I’m able and trust my own ability to handle it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my few short decades on this Earth, it’s that humans are amazingly strong and incredibly adaptable.

I’ve also realized that there’s really no such thing as “good timing” when it comes to your child needing a medical procedure.

My training as a doula has actually helped me a lot in the last few weeks as I help my daughter through each emotion she faces about her upcoming surgery. So, in that sense, I’ve been glad of the timing.

With everything that’s happening in my life right now, I dearly wish to have someone to walk me through all of this. Someone who has been trained and is knowledgeable about the surgery.

Someone to talk to about the tumultuous emotions constantly changing and moving, but always hidden beneath the calm exterior.

Someone to listen, even if they say nothing, and acknowledge the difficulty.

Someone who won’t judge my tears or try to convince me not to shed them.

Maybe even someone to help with the day to day mechanics of keeping a household from falling into chaos.

And don’t get me wrong. I have a family. A very loving and supportive family. I have friends that I talk to on a regular basis. But, well…

They are all living their lives. They are busy. They have their own struggles. Some of them are caring for their own families and working their jobs. And let’s be honest, some of them don’t understand in the slightest what I am going through as a mom.

As my own unique person experiencing this in my own unique way.

Also, in my case, most of them are hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. My husband works full time (and then some) and I have more than Ella to care for. I a toddler and a preschooler who need me, a house to keep up, a family to take care of.

Let’s breakdown my reality for a moment: surprising news, intimidating change, doctors’ visits, happy family, lots of decisions… Sound a bit familiar?

I need a doula.

If you know of a Strabismus Surgery Doula, please send me his or her information… Yeah, there is no such thing. But feeling the desire, experiencing the need in my life right now, do you know what it really fuels inside me? My desire to help.

I cannot change my daughter’s need for surgery. So I will use these difficulties and challenges to grow as a person, as a mom and as a doula. Though the circumstances for my changes and the changes a new family faces are different, a lot of the emotions are the same. Being a parent isn’t all sunshine and daisies, whether you’re 7 months pregnant or your child is 7 and facing surgery.

The good news for expecting parents or new families is, there are people who literally make it their job to help and support them through those emotions and the difficult times (and even celebrate the happy ones).

We call them “doulas.”

 

Jen Southern is an affiliated doula with Doulas of Memphis. Her experiences with facing challenges with her own children have helped shape her into the compassionate, understanding, and empathetic doula she is today. 

We are all the BBC Interview Dad

If you’ve been on the internet at all today, chances are you’ve seen the viral video clip of the BBC Interview Dad who was interrupted by his small children while on a video interview with BBC One.

The general consensus is that it’s pretty hilarious, but read the comment sections and apparently BBC Interview Dad is now under keyboard scrutiny all over the world.

He “pushed” his kids away! His kids should have been more important than an interview! His wife (who is apparently also the nanny?) looks so worried! We should be worried for this family! He should have just picked up the kid and moved on! He wasn’t wearing pants! She closed the door and it obviously meant something!

BBC interview dad
Parents everywhere just trying to get stuff done. Solidarity, BBC Interview Dad.

Give me a break. Real talk, parents? We have ALL been the BBC Interview Dad.

Maybe you’re not one of the BBC’s expert on what’s happening in South Korea, but you’ve been the mom (or dad) whose children are perfect angels who play independently and quietly until the phone rings and suddenly MOMMY MOMMY MOOOOOOMMY I NEED A SNACK I NEED A DRINK HE TOOK MY TOY MY TOYS ARE DEAD TO ME AND I NEED YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION RIGHT NOW SO I’M GOING TO HAVE A MELTDOWN.

This is why we don’t answer the phone, btw. Can we just text instead? Pretty please?

Any parent who works from home knows the struggle of trying to be productive and balance kids who don’t always understand that mommy or daddy can’t play right now.

Working from home is awesome and fulfilling and it’s cool to not have to wear real pants all the time, but sometimes it’s HARD and the guilt is real. It’s a fine line, being “there but not there.” You’re hustling to provide the best for your kids and it’s cool that you get to be around them, but it’s not always conducive to productivity and concentration.

We’ve all been the mom whose kid does something unexpected (like interrupt Daddy’s BBC Interview).

We’ve all had that moment of “Oh CRAP!” and bolted across the house or the playground or the groceryto grab our kids and redirect them. I’ve been BBC Interview Dad’s wife on multiple occasions. Keeping the kids out of Daddy’s office is no easy task…in case you didn’t know, kids are FAST. Like, really fast.

We’ve also all been judged based on someone else’s brief glimpse into our lives, and if we’re being really honest, we do it, too.

The stares and whispers of “somebody needs to control their kid” during the inevitable grocery store or restaurant meltdown.

Being judged for how you feed your child, and you can’t win no matter what you do.

Insert any parenting choice here, and you get the idea. We’ve even got fun names for it like “Mommy Wars.”

It’s natural for us to jump to conclusions based on small amounts of information, but nobody likes to be on the receiving end of that kind of judgment and scrutiny.

This parenting stuff is hard enough without wondering what other people are assuming about us when they don’t have the whole picture.

Solidarity, BBC Interview Dad. Solidarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Word for Moms in 2017

Disillusioned with the concept of the New Year’s Resolution, there are many people who are adopting the idea of using one word as a theme or focus for the year. There’s a ton of appeal to this: it’s nonspecific, doesn’t involve empty promises, and emphasizes growth and self-improvement in a much more holistic sort of way. In addition to whatever one word you have chosen for yourself, here’s our word for the moms and moms-to-be out there: ENOUGH. Why did we choose it? Well…

one word

In 2017, we challenge you to see yourself as enough.

Not “good enough” in the sense of aspiring to mediocrity, but that you, just as you are, are enough. That you, yes you, are exactly what your family needs. You are enough as a parent. You are the best mom for your baby. You have everything you need to parent well. You don’t need to be “good enough’ because you ARE enough.

Say “enough” when people try to make you feel small.

You’re not small. You are wonderful and worthwhile. Your voice matters. You have great ideas. You matter and you’re important. If I sound like I’m quoting The Help, #sorrynotsorry because really and truly, YOU have value. You are more than your circumstances, you are more than your failures, and you’re even more than your successes.

Say “enough” to the pressure to measure up.

Other moms. Other wives. Other women. Pinterest. Whatever it’s tempting to compare yourself to and bemoan the fact that you aren’t quite there, say “enough.” You don’t need to measure up to someone else’s ideal or standard. Set goals and work for them because you love yourself, not because you think it will make someone love you or value you more.

You’re enough, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Asking for help, leaning on your village, and relying on others doesn’t change the fact that you’re enough just as you are. Being enough doesn’t mean you never need support from the people around you. It means that your worth isn’t defined by that need. We all get by with a little help from our friends (and sometimes a little help from a doula or two), and unrealistic expectations need not apply. You’re enough, mama. You’re enough, friend. You’re enough, sister. You’re enough, daughter. You’re enough, wife. Say it until you believe it, girl.

Our one word for you this year is “enough,” but we’d also love to hear what you have in mind for 2017! Share with us in the comments, and have a Happy New Year!

What infertility taught me about motherhood

I have never struggled with infertility or loss, and at times I have taken my womb for granted. I didn’t really think about it much, until one by one, I was surrounded by infertility, the 1 in 8, those with empty arms, and those whose journeys to motherhood were costly and came after many years and tears shed.

infertility

Infertility and the cost of selfishness

I remember when I was pregnant with my first, I was one of those people who just “didn’t get it.” I didn’t love pregnancy and when friends who were struggling to conceive would ask me how I was doing, I would blurt out how uncomfortable, in pain, and sick I was. I wanted so desperately for someone to notice and care about me, and in exchange for my selfishness I hurt those around me. One friend even took me aside to tell me how hurtful it was, and I still didn’t understand. I was indignant. Didn’t I have the right to feel how I did? I stammered an apology, but thought, “How dare she hold up a mirror to me!” Since that moment I have wished many a time with a broken heart that I could go back and say, “You are right. You are so right. I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have complained like that to you.” I wish I would have hugged her and cried with her, and gotten off of my pedestal of self-importance to meet her in her pain. 

It took me a long time before I was able to let go of being so absorbed in myself that I couldn’t see what was going on around me. I had such a complaining spirit. I loved my children, but I struggled with motherhood, with depression, with anxiety, with chronic illness and exhaustion. My pain was very real and valid, but I failed to see how the way I spoke came across as total disregard and ingratitude to those around me who would give anything to be struggling with MY problems if it meant that their arms could be full, too. I spent so much time fretting about getting pregnant again and not being able to afford it right now, as if a full womb was the worst thing that could happen to me, as if the blessing of another child was the one thing that was going to do me in.

Attitude adjustment

I watched a woman hold my baby and sob and it hit me: I will never know that pain. I will never know that emptiness, that deep, primal, guttural cry that comes when everything in you screams to be a mother, but no baby comes. I was convicted of my complaining, of the times that I resented these beautiful gifts. I looked at both my children with renewed gratitude that night. I hugged them, I kissed them, and I felt the fullness in my own arms and allowed myself to feel a little of the pain of others. I cried, alone, but with them and for them. Yes, my struggles matter, but I can choose places to put those struggles that do not add to the pain and compound the grief of others.

No, I don’t have to savor every moment, but I can choose to be grateful. I can choose a different perspective. I can remind myself that these temporary sleepness nights, the push and pull on my sanity that is being a mom, the times where I long for a moment’s peace… those are still gifts. They are my gifts and I can choose to see that my blessing far outweighs my burden.

If you are struggling or have struggled with infertility, I want you to know that I see you. That your pain matters. I see the sacrifice you make of your bodies, your dignity, your pride as you search for answers. May you always find safety with me, a warm cup of coffee, a place where I put myself aside and meet you as you are. You are loved and you are cared for. Thank you for what you have taught me about motherhood.

 

Coffee Affirmations (with free printable!)

Yesterday’s post focused on self care, and it’s no secret that coffee is high on the list of priorities for those of us who have little ones running around.  If you’re in the birth world long enough, you might come across birth affirmations, or sayings that you repeat to yourself to help reframe your thoughts about your birth.  Some people make lists, and others go all-out and make pretty banners to hang in their L&D room. That’s great and all, but once baby’s here our need for affirmation doesn’t stop there! If coffee makes your world go round, you’ll enjoy this free printable:

coffee affirmations

Click here to download the Coffee Affirmations Free Printable!

We love our coffee here at Doulas of Memphis,  so we’ve compiled a list of recommendations for where you can get great local coffee:

Our favorite coffee roasters:

J Brooks Coffee Roasters
Relevant Roasters
Ugly Mug Coffee

Our favorite coffee shops:

Cafe Eclectic (most family-friendly!)
City&State
Tamp&Tap
Avenue Coffee

Tell us in the comments which “coffee affirmation” speaks to you, or leave us another suggestion for where to go for great coffee! If your coffee is only going so far and you could use the support of a postpartum doula, contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

I’m not a lucky charm

lucky charm

Hearts, stars, and horseshoes…

Oh, wait. That’s cereal. If you were a kid in the 80s or 90s, you might remember rabbit’s foot keychains. They were supposed to be this sort of lucky charm, and it was even luckier if you had one in some bright neon color (at least that’s how it was on the playground where I grew up…what about you?). In my experience as a doula in Memphis, I’ve heard people speak of what we do in a similar way:

“Hire a doula, she’ll help you get the birth you want!”
“A doula will advocate for you so the things you don’t want won’t happen”
“I’m looking for a doula who has VBAC experience”
“My doula has been to tons of natural births”

If you are pregnant in Memphis or anywhere else and are thinking about hiring a doula as a sort of insurance policy to get the birth you want, I’d like to tell you ever-so-gently that as much as I’d like to be, I am not a lucky charm.

I get it, I really do, and I’d also like to tell you that the feelings behind that sentiment are valid. Humans are relational, and that doesn’t go away during pregnancy. We like safety, we like predictability, we gravitate towards people who have similar experiences and lifestyles. We want the best for our children, even in birth, and it’s natural to want to set up for success. A doula can help, but not in the outcome-altering way you might think.

If a doula isn’t a lucky charm, then what are you?

What is a lucky charm, if not a tangible reminder? Whether it’s a rabbit’s foot keychain, a penny, Dumbo’s feather, or a little trinket you carry around with you, a lucky charm is something we can touch and see to remind us to be brave, that we’re strong, that we’re capable.

That’s what a doula does.

I can’t guarantee you’ll get that VBAC, or a natural birth, or that things will go how you expect. But what I can do is be a tangible reminder that you are brave, strong, and capable. I don’t need to have had similar experiences to bring you comfort and support during your birth. It doesn’t even matter that I’ve given birth at all.  I don’t have a magic doula bag full of tricks- only my head, my heart, and my hands (thanks, ProDoula).

I’m not a magic wand, but I am present. You can see me, you can touch me, you can lean on me.

I’m not lucky, but I’ll hold your hand and remind you that you’re not alone. I’ll tell you that I believe in you, because I do.

I’ll look you in the eyes and tell you that you’re an amazing mom, that you’re making the best choices you can for your baby.

The love and care I bring as a doula transcends your experience because I’m not here for an experience. I’m here for YOU.

You don’t have to carry me around in your pocket because this is a time where you don’t have to carry anything. That time will come soon enough, but for now you have important work to do, and my job as a doula is to hold you up and help carry you. You don’t need a lucky charm- you need support, and that’s exactly what doulas do.

Why postpartum support matters

nest
Our society places a high value and emphasis on pregnancy and preparing for birth. We make elaborate pregnancy announcements with social media, throw gender reveal parties, register for and host baby showers, and renovate nurseries. We take great care to learn about birth, whether it’s through the experiences of others, the internet, books, or a childbirth class. We craft our nests lovingly in anticipation for the arrival of our little ones. But the reality is, aside from comments about how you should “sleep while you can,” nobody is preparing us for the reality of motherhood.

Reality: there’s nothing glamorous about motherhood.

Motherhood is beautiful, but it’s gritty. It’s raw. You’re recovering from birth and sleeping in the bassinet next to you is your heart outside of your body. The baby you’ve dreamed about is here, but maybe it’s not like what you expected. Every relationship you have has changed before your very eyes. Some of it’s good, and some of it takes time to grow into. For every posed newborn photo and smiling selfie there’s a restless night, not enough coffee, a nagging feeling of “Am I doing this right?” that manages to creep in uninvited. Visitors come, but it’s not always at a great time. Meals come, and while you love lasagna, you’ve had it 3 nights in a row and would kill for a salad right about now. You might have lots of family around, but they all did things differently and you’re left feeling unsure. Then it all drifts away and there’s you and this baby that is yours to love and care for. Not everyone experiences all of this, but if you’ve been there I bet you can find at least one thing that makes you go, “Mmmhmm.” Let’s all do each other a favor and acknowledge that this is deep water we travel into, and we all need help to stay afloat.

Planning for postpartum

So you’ve written your birth plan, taken your childbirth class, perhaps even hired your doula. You’re as ready as you can be for birth, but what about after baby’s here? That’s what all of this is about, right? Here are a few things to consider as part of your postpartum plan:
Visitors: Who will be visiting, and when? Do you have any special considerations?
Social media: Who will announce the birth? Who is allowed to post photos?
Meals: Will anyone organize meals for you? Do you have room in your freezer, or do you need to make space?
Household tasks: Who will help with household tasks? Do you have pets to consider?
Self-care: Who will be there to help take care of you? (Yes, you!) Do you have a strong support network or do you anticipate needing extra help?
Social network: Who can you call if you need to reach out? Who can your partner call if he needs to reach out? When can they be reached?

You don’t have to go it alone

The most important thing to remember about those early baby days is that you are not alone! If you don’t already have a strong support network, or you feel more comfortable asking for help from someone who isn’t as close to you, a postpartum doula can help! At Doulas of Memphis, our focus is on taking care of you and your needs as you adjust to a new baby. Our doulas are available to you both day and night, so we can customize our support to fit your family. Do you need more help in the morning or the evening? Are you desperate for a night of sleep? We’ve got it covered. We can take care of the little things so that you can feel rested, relaxed, and ready to take on the day.  Postpartum support matters because YOU matter!

To learn more about postpartum doula services and how we can help your family, click here.