The hit 1995 teen movie Clueless is celebrating it's 20th anniversary, and I just can't help my two reactions:
1) 20 years! As If!
2) Cher might be a mom! (and in fact Alicia Silverstone is a mother)
There are some iconic terms that were born because of this movie. In fact, it was bemused this morning on NPR, that an entire generation was liberated from the baggy pants and flannel shirts of the early 90's grunge BECAUSE of this movie. (Oh, don't worry...it's back)
So let's revisit some of these, shall we? With a labor and delivery twist?
As if: No way!
Partner: I'm really tired. I think I'm going to go home and come back when you are ready to push the baby out.
Mother: As if!
Audi: I'm leaving (likened to "I'm outty.")
Partner: Where are you going? I think it's too early to leave for the hospital!
Laboring Mother: (walking out the door to the car, breath, breath, breath) I'm Audi. You coming?
Buggin': Totally freakin' out.
Mother talking on phone to doula: Hi Ariel! Contractions are picking up and we are on our way to the hospital. Can you meet us there? My husband is totally buggin' and there is a lot of pain in my back I'll need some help with.
Ariel: No problem. See you soon. We'll get everyone comfortable. Drive safe.
Keeping it real: Being realistic and honest
Mother: Ariel, I know the doctor is keeping it real, but I think I need more time before we try something else. What do you think?
Ariel: Why don't you talk with your team an see if we can have an hour or two to try some position changes and revisit their suggestions if there is no change. If they say no, then there is probably a medical reason they can explain.
Whatever: I don't care what you say
Nurse: Okay. Sorry to bother you. I know these contractions are really tough but I'm going to get this baby back on the monitor. I'm just going to find a better spot. (start moving fetal monitor)
Mother: (finishing up a contraction, breathe, breathe, breathe ) Whatever.
Not quite to the delivery room yet? Don't worry. Go have a boinkfest with your Baldwin, or get caught Jeepin' and you could be soon!
Regardless if you have watched this movie or not, you won't have to feel clueless in labor!
Authored by Ariel Swift
When Did I Plant that Seed?
I got another look into my 3 year-old as a 25 minute tantrum progressed and ended yesterday morning.
Like most mornings, after we wake up, we make a direct bee-line to the bathroom. I usually outline what the next 45 minutes will look like. It moves seamlessly through that plan and we are on our way.
But not yesterday.
"Hey Harp. When we get done going potty, we're going to get dressed, eat oatmeal, get our rain boots and coat on, then grab our bag and go to school. Deal?"
No. No deal apparently because then she flipped out.
Mommy! Moooooommy! Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. MOMMY!
I try to get her to say a different word - or any word more descriptive for what she actually wanted. I tried different clothing options. I tried offering her princess skirt. We could paint. We could color. We could have a race!
Nothing. Just tears, and a broken little heart, and I had no idea what was going on. As she is collapsed in the hallway, I walk to my room to get dressed myself and tell my husband, "She is very three this morning."
She follows me to the kitchen, I make her oatmeal. All the while, still tears, still "mommy."
I get down on her level.
I scoop her up.
We rock in our chair.
I put her down.
I pick her back up.
Still all the while, mommymommymommy......
I sit her on my lap and start feeding her spoonfuls of oatmeal. She eats willingly, one small bite after another, although still with tears.
Just as the bowl of oatmeal is done, I put the spoon down and she immediately stops crying.
"Mommy, I was so sad."
"What were you sad about?"
"I was sad because I didn't want to hurt your feelings to tell you I wanted cold cereal, not oatmeal."
After more snuggles, hugs, and a few tissues, I tried to explain that she doesn't have to worry about hurting my feelings. That she gets to have all her feelings right when she needs to have them. That she can get mad, frustrated, annoyed, happy, excited, and sad with mommy and that's ok. I will still be her mommy and I will still love her and help her with all of her feelings.
Mommy gets help with her feelings and she gets help from mommy.
Sometimes You Need Upfront Unemotional Support
Labor is not like my daughter's breakfast preference - but you don't have to keep anything inside when you are going through birth. As a laboring woman, you get to have all of your emotions. If I am your doula, I can't be offended. My feelings can't be hurt. My role is to be right there with you when you have all of those feelings and tell you it's ok.
Some families choose to bring a doula onto their birth team for this exact reason. A family member may be able to come and support, but the mother or father would be too concerned about that person's influence.
Would they be able to focus on the work that needed to be done to get their baby out? Maybe. Maybe not.
The fear of voicing anxiety of disappointing someone can be so strong that it keeps women's labor from progressing. Knowing you have support that isn't invested emotionally in the outcome of your birth means you can put your attention where it should be - on you!
If this resonates with you let's talk about how you don't have to eat the oatmeal if you don't want to...especially if you want the cold cereal. It is perfectly fine with me either way.
And today, Harp said loudly, "I want just cereal today mommy!"
Those words were so great to hear.
What is it like to be held hostage to a silent expectation? What feelings come to the surface?
Have you ever kept something to yourself because you were conscious of how it would make others feel?
Authored by A Swift Doula
Making choices takes a lot of energy.
What I'm talking about is being proactive. Being forward thinking. Investing time into planning instead of wasting time reacting.
I have talked a little bit about reacting and responding, and some of the differences in a post last December about decisions in labor. It can be hard to feel prepared for something that you didn't know would happen, so having the B.R.A.I.N. tool ready can be a huge help!
But that's the game of life right? We never really know what is coming next in the big picture, so we do the best we can. We budget our money, we allocate our energy, we prioritize our schedules.
And then we have kids.
And nothing is ever really child-proof. Time ceases to operate as we thought. Emotions are fickle. We are caught unable to plan for dinner, let alone the week, month, or next 18 years.
There is so much time for planning when you are pregnant. There are parties, books being read, thoughts about going-home outfits, car seat selection... all that time will feel luxurious compared to what happens after your baby arrives.
There is a term that circulates: baby brain. It is the feeling of having lost one's ability to think logically, or remember events or facts once your baby is born. Some of it comes from being woken up every 2 to 3 hours. Some of it comes from being bewildered by this new little love in your life, and some of it is complete unexplainable.
(Some moms tell me they feel like part of their brain was actually sacrificed and given to this new human. They hope their old self will come back!)
The eerie passing of time, the new responsibilities, the reality of your expanding family can make all the plans you had fly right out the window. Responding turns into reacting. And events regress into meeting the needs that now come hour by hour.
This is hard for many parents, but this is totally normal.
What I hope for new parents is that when there are able hands near to help, and that the loads will feel lighter instead of heavier.
Sometimes visitors who are trying to be helpful end up being a burden or making a bigger mess. Sometimes family that is there to support instead inflicts judgement. Sometimes there is no one else.
When you are in your planning stages for you expanding family, keep in mind that a person you can count on to help ease your load is a postpartum doula.
Your postpartum doula can help with new infant care or help nurture your family with meals. Your postpartum doula can support your breastfeeding journey and help you get sleep. Your postpartum doula can listen to your concerns and help you feel better prepared for what is next.
A postpartum doula will not do one thing - and that is make your new normal harder for you or your family.
I invite you take some time, while it is in so much abundance, and consider if bringing a postpartum doula into your after-care plan is a proactive step you can take to help with all of the unexpected situations a new infant brings to your family.
You are everything your new baby needs. A postpartum doula can be there to ensure you feel up to responding to your new role.
Question: Have you used a postpartum doula? What was the more unexpected benefit? What would you share to families thinking of this service? Share your advice!
Authored by A Swift Doula
I'm in a new phase of Repeat Everything
People joke that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, but I'm not sucker; it's not insanity - that's parenting.
When I was chatting with my non-English speaking infant, she would gurgle, and I found myself saying over and over, "Tell me all about it!"
When my daughter was walking and still not talking, there I was saying the words over and over, "Do you want more? More? More?" until my word was linked to the few baby signs she was learning.
And now, fast forward, my 3-year-old understands me. She speaks to me. We have conversations that make us both laugh, like this one from bedtime last night:
H: (whisper) Shhhhhhh. Mommy, it's time to sleep.
Me: (whisper) Ok, Harper.
H: ....Fffffffffffffff..... (followed by both of us laughing)
Me: Is your butt going to go to sleep too?
(Both of us crack up laughing)
Me: (whisper) Oh sorry....shhhhhhh.....
Harper: Mommy stop. I'm the leader of the shushes.
Me: Okay Harper
(We don't repeat that over and over. I promise. But sometimes a fart joke needs to be made...)
Putting toys away, getting dressed, the plan for the day...over and over and over. And it's not that she doesn't hear or understand, it's that there are so many distractions in the world for a 3-year-old.
Pro Tip: Distractions aren't all in the physical world, so watch out for fun conversations coming out of left field. EX:
Me: Harp, c'mon, in your seat. Let's get buckled and go.
H: Mom, where are we going?
H: But Mexico is much more exciting. Why don't we there first?
(Yes, why don't we! ...sigh... )
Me: Do you know where Mexico is?
Harp: On the map. My fingers can go there fast. Look at my nail polish! My auntie did it for me!
Inevitably, carrying a pile of laundry to her room ends up being an obstacle course. "Hey mommy! Come look at this new trick I can do!"
Picking up books turns in to drawing pictures, playing with Lego, and jumping on her trampoline. "Hey mommy! Look at this new jump I just learned!"
Doing the dishes together is not really doing the dishes. "Hey mommy! Look at this splash I can make!"
And she's off again! My little swiftlet indeed has the attention span of a bird. And all of it is fine and part of life, and honestly, part of the joy in being three. Plus she is stinking adorable, so yeah...
Repeating myself is part of her learning process, and me being patient (even when it's really really really hard) is to her benefit.
Bringing this Back Around...
I don't just repeat myself to my daughter.
There are a few times in life when people need calm, patient understanding. For women going through labor, being in the moment is a way to both help contractions do the best work they can, and for a woman to connect with her experience. It does no good to imagine all the contractions that need to come before the baby arrives.
So we take it one contraction at a time.
One breath at a time.
And often, taking a deep, low, long breath is very difficult to remember. So I say, over and over and over,
"Breathe. Good. Just like that."
It's not that a laboring mother has the attention span of a 3-year-old. It's that labor is hard. Pain has the incredible ability to make us lose focus.
So I say again, "Here one comes. Big breath in, and slowly let it out. Good. Breath in, and out." Until that mom is able to get into her rhythm and starts to respond to silent cues from how we touch, how the room shifts, how her partner hubs her back, how we all start to breath together.
It's a cycle, you see. It keeps going.
After her baby is born, she tries again and again to help her little baby understand the world. Her baby is stimulated from the entire world! And mom is there to bring it back down, help that little baby focus, and teach some very incredible things.
Thoughts wander. The brain is exercising. It is a great incredible thing to witness in my toddler.
But in labor, wandering thoughts, unexpected distractions, and fear can make the experience feel harder than it already is.
So let's bring it back down...
Pull that focus back...
Your thoughts want to fly up with a gust of excitement, but you have a tight hold at the bottom, slowly winding up that string, around and around and around...and you bring it back to your center...back to your baby...
Breathe all the way down...
Good...just like that...
Authored by A Swift Doula
Happy Father's Day.
Today is bittersweet.
This last December, we lost an incredible dad in our family. My husband's father passed after a long battle with cancer. At his funeral, my husband read one of his father's favorite poems, and I want to share it with you all, as it is a lovely and inspirational.
Thank you to all who sent photos for this Father's Day Photo Contest! Our family is feeling the sting of a new first without our Papa Gus, so being brought into so many of your lives where joy, love, and family are reflected so beautifully...thank you for sharing. It is lovely to have a view into what life looks like in your world.
And To all those who have lost a dad and are feeling that void today, know you are in my thoughts as well.
If - by Rudyard Kipling
All the photos below have been shared with the expressed permission of their owners and are not for use outside of this post. Special thank you to Chelsea, Stephanie, Jennifer, and Cathy!!!
Cathy writes of her husband, "In addition to being a high school science teacher, Kiel volunteers at the Field Museum and Peggy Notebart Nature Museum. He is working towards becoming Illinois' first male doula and believes that investing his time into our children and his family is the highest priority. This is a picture of Kiel. It sums him up perfectly: a nature loving, not traditional, devoted father. I am proud to be his wife!"
Ever wonder why women have their first check up after delivery at 6 weeks?
There is so much change at birth. A new baby, a seemingly deflated body, emotions, sleeping patterns, responsibilities...
What happens at a 6 week appointment?
Typically, it takes 6 weeks for a woman's cervix to return to fully closed. What may take hours, days, or weeks to open, does not return like a springy rubber band. Care providers are concerned about bacteria, infection, and healing. At 6 weeks postpartum, they perform an exam and see if it is safe to use things like tampons, and have penetrative sex.
That question comes up a lot...when can I have sex after I have a baby? But that is another blog post for another day...
During the transition phase of labor, a woman is reaching the point where she is as open as her body can be. Her cervix is dilated to 10 cms. She may be vocalizing and her voice is open and round. Her pupils may be dilated, and her blood is pumping through her veins and arteries in response to contractions that are getting longer, stronger, and closer together.
Her body literally makes space for passage. Her cervix slides to the sides and graciously ushers a baby down to meet his or her new world.
After you! Oh please...go right ahead. They are expecting you!
It makes so much sense, when you think of openness, that rules, boundaries, and plans, don't really fit there. Think of some often used phrases:
Welcome with open arms.
I am open to anything.
Keeping options open.
Walking in with eyes wide open.
In transition, when a woman is physically open, do not be surprised if plans get thrown aside. If words she's never said come out of her mouth. If emotions are all over her face and she seems unlike the woman who walked into the hospital, you're right. She is changing right before your eyes.
But what is fascinating to me and I never tire of hearing about it, is the openness that continues once a family returns home.
A woman is learning about her new body. She is adapting to the needs of her child. Her family is learning about the new person that is now a Mother.
Feelings are bigger for a while.
New skills are being learned.
New needs are being anticipated and most of all, a New Normal is in its infancy.
6 weeks will be both an eternity of moments and then vanish in an instant.
There may be questions that can't wait until that 6 week appointment. There may be needs that can't be met by the arranged support you had before delivering.
There may be times when the openness can feel too open and a woman needs help to close again. To be surrounded again by support and kindness. To be cared for with love and assurance. To be given help for things she isn't yet ready to take on again.
All this to say, there are people who are trained to help in this period, and indeed longer, if a family needs it. As your postpartum doula, I am available to support the closing just as I am able to support the opening.
Authored by A Swift Doula
Ever get smacked in the face with a lesson? One of those awakenings that is both blunt and truthful. One which, after you notice it, you can't help but be smacked over and over with the day-to-day situations where you never noticed before?
For me it's apologizing. Or was.
I was at a party last fall where I was called out by a friend (in a nice way) who made me realize I am/was a habitual apologizer. I would say "I'm sorry" in situations that were just plain unnecessary.
We have a language where hundreds and hundreds of other words could be used, and I was editing down to an apology. I know I'm not the only one here that can identify with this.
Mostly I know because I work with people who do it all the time. New moms. (I would say parents, but I don't really have moments with male parents where this comes up.)
And moms are saying it about things that require no apology. At all. Like feeling pain while in labor. Or needing to feed their baby...again.
All of the things mentioned above are real situations that have happened, and I would bet all are common for many other doulas as well. Some women prefer to be extremely private, so for them it IS completely odd and horrible that a visitor would be in her home and see this part of life.
But guess what. I'm a doula.
It's not a statement I make often, but in reality I've seen a lot of vaginas and touched a lot of breasts. The world of birth is not a scary or grotesque world for me, and the state of your living room, your baby's temperament, or your manner of dress are not judged.
You don't get points deducted for having unopened mail or a sink full of dishes. In fact, how about I do those dishes real quick for you...No...it's fine...just relax! Tell me how you're feeling. How was last night?
One of the things I talk about with my clients is how to prepare with realistic expectations of the postpartum period. Not just with their own bodies, but with guests and family too.
If it is important to you to have a clean home and a spread ready to go whenever guests may arrive, let's talk about ways I can help you prepare for that so you personally won't have to take over the brunt of that work AND the work of being a new mom.
Sorry Not Sorry
Hashtags can be cheeky, silly, expressive, annoying, or whatever....
But I have fully embraced the #sorrynotsorry hashtag. It was a step in my recovery, if you want to call it that.
Just because I was made aware of my habit of apologizing didn't make it easy to unlearn it. It took practice. Quite a lot actually. Months of it.
But it has been a wonderful change. Freeing. And I can see this as a positive change both for me and my daughter. I want her to see me using an apology at times where it holds meaning and value. I don't want to cheapen the phrase through overuse and inappropriate timing.
I won't pretend that I understand your personal relationship with the phrase, "I'm sorry." But I know in birth and recovery for the 6 weeks after (or more), there is a new normal where the feelings and tasks that used to be easy are no longer easy.
There are no apologies necessary for that change. It is not your fault. It just is.
I'd love to hear from you reader! Do you have a #sorrynotsorry moment you want to share?
What was early recovery and postpartum like for you in your home?
Did you feel guilt and if so, what for?
Authored by A Swift Doula
Hyde Park is a treasure on Chicago's South Side. Between the sparkly glimmer off Lake Michigan, and the Hogwarts-like architecture - it all feels magical.
My love affair with Hyde Park began right along side my love affair with my husband. He lived here, grew up here, and was happy to introduce me to his favorite places and people that had a tremendous amount of pride for this place.
Then I moved here. I moved my family and my business to an area that I had never lived or worked in before. As I started to learn about the Chicago birth world and culture, I was introduced to a new perception of Hyde Park. The Doula Perspective, I'll call it.
In talking I learned that many doulas had refused to take clients that were delivering at the U of C Medical Center. Some doulas that lived on the south side and did take clients in the past had stories and experiences that gave them little confidence in the "necessity" of certain protocols and of the staff that worked there.
It wasn't long before I had my own client in labor at the U of C, and I was eager to experience this "horrible" place for myself.
My experience and the experience of my client was...absolutely amazing.
My next client, also incredible.
The next three clients, all satisfied and happy with the care they were given. In some cases, even extremely thankful for the specialties that were available and used once their children were born.
The positive experiences are piling up.
Money and Politics...What was going on?
As I went looking into the history of this very vocal doula perspective, I found some willing to talk, and some articles documenting events.
The Chicago Tribune wrote a piece in 2003 called "U. of C. weighing costs of midwives" that shared some of the nuts and bolts numbers that the U of C was dealing with. Increased malpractice insurance along with a care structure that couldn't support more clients meant that there was an increasing deficit that surrounded the existence of the midwife group that practiced there.
It was decided the Midwives would be let go.
The community was not happy. There was a protest. There were more articles written, this one from the Chicago Reader.
The community did not feel respected or valued.
So after all that, I can understand where some of the hostility was coming from.
Natural Birth, Vaginal Birth, Healthy Birth, Happy Birth - All possible
Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? 12?
It's not a hard question. No, you aren't.
I wasn't around in 2003 when the University made their decision to end their Midwifery practice.
But it is now 2015, and while many are still not satisfied with the University of Chicago Medical Center for its past decision, many families ARE incredibly happy with the care they are receiving now.
The Generalist Group at the University of Chicago is doing great things. The current Medical Director for this group is Dr. Ken Nunes. I encourage you to get to know him and his team.
Of the handfuls of hospitals where I have served clients, there has only been one team that has invited me in, unsolicited, to talk with the doctors about what a doula does. My local hospital, the U of C, was open and willing to work with a local doula to help their community and clients.
I love working with Midwives, and I love supporting clients where ever they choose to have their babies. (My own daughter was caught by a midwife in Normal, Illinois!) Some of the hostility towards the University of Chicago comes from those activists that see the removal of the Midwives as jumping down a rabbit hole where healthy, positive maternal care ceases to exist. And it just isn't the case today.
Families that give birth at the U of C Medical Center are in great hands and have birth options. It is whispered (or shouted depending on who you talk with) that moms can't have "natural" birth at U of C. But vaginal, unmediated birth is possible at this teaching hospital. I've seen it. Many times.
There are some that choose to have their birth at the hospital in Hyde Park because of insurance and some because of location. And some, specifically because of the doctors who work there.
It's disconcerting that people who have looked into doula care and experienced such a strong negative opinion from doulas (many of which haven't taken clients recently from this hospital) are coming away from those meetings more unsure of the doctors they selected.
Doctors are concerned with healthy mom, healthy baby. Doulas are brought into this relationship because we care for the mind and bond between mother and baby. Part of the healthy mind part is not planting seeds of skepticism in a woman who likes her doctor.
It is a disservice to women to think they are unable to make the best choices for themselves and their pregnancy. If choice and options are things doulas are in favor of (and a good doula will say yes, choices and options are great) perhaps judging where a woman has her baby should also be included in the list of unsolicited opinions surrounding a woman's birth that are unnecessary to voice in a professional working relationship.
Fear mongering from doulas who have not had the chance to experience care at the U of C in recent years need to realize they are out of date and a disservice to this profession and their clients.
Come to Hyde Park. Meet the doctors at the University of Chicago. See for yourself what great care you could receive here.
Authored by A Swift Doula
Photo Credit: Rick Seidel
June is here and I am ready to celebrate Dads! I want to see the dads in your life dadding it up. Doulas love dads too!!!
Send me original photos that show a dad you love in action. They can be with kids of any age, or doing a thing that makes them incredibly helpful. In today's world, the word Dad has so many definitions, and this is inclusive of them all!
Please send photos for submission to Ariel@aswiftdoula.com by June 20th in order to be considered. Along with the photo, send a caption that gives a little information of what or who is in the picture. No more than 100 words please.
Should your photo be selected, it will be featured on A Swift Doula's Blog on Father's day along with your short caption.
Let's show off some incredible Chicago Dads!
NOTE ***By sending photos into this contest, you agree that the images you submit are your own and A Swift Doula Blog has permission to post them. Also, by sending photos for this contest, you agree that permission has been granted by those in the photo to be posted publicly on the internet.***