“Attached at the Hip”: 10 reasons why I ‘wear’ my baby!

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Alright, I’m just going to be honest here. I used to be a staunch member of the “I Believe Attachment Parenting Parents are Nuts” club. In the few years preceding my first baby, Attachment Parenting (AP) was becoming a very popular parenting practice among particular groups of families. When I became pregnant with my first baby (my Angel Baby), I had made up my mind before the pee dried on the stick that I was going to be a working mom who raises my baby to be independent, yada yada. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to test out my plan with that baby; however, my plan and my beliefs held steadfast when my oldest daughter arrived in 2008. I vaguely remember carrying her in my good ole’ Baby Bjorn on approximately 3 1/2 walks around the neighborhood as a newborn. I vaguely remember attempting to breastfeed her a few times here and there. I vaguely recall her sleeping on me in our bed on two occasions (primarily because I was so sleep deprived I fell asleep before I put her in her crib), and to be honest again… I vaguely remember holding her on just a few momentous occasions. Now don’t get me wrong, I held my baby! BUT when I held her I was doing it because it served a purpose. I held her because she was too little to be put down, or because I needed to feed her a bottle, or because we were walking somewhere where the stroller wasn’t convenient. I did not do skin-to-skin with her, nor did I do baby massage. Bath times were a “hurry up and get this done because we have too” kind of event, and I let everyone hold her and keep her from me for long periods of time because I felt obligated too. I really didn’t breastfeed much (although I did pump my little heart out for 3 months in order to bottle feed her breastmilk). Even with all of these things I didn’t do that I wish I had, I continued to look at AP parents with judgement and criticism.

When my son came around in 2010, I had grown more used to the idea of wanting to “baby” him a little more than I did my daughter but I truly feel that stemmed more from his medical issues than a desire to parent a different way. For some reason, I held onto the belief that I should not spoil my child and that I needed to do everything I could to raise them to be independent and to maintain my independence at the same time. Again, most of my memories from his infancy were related to his medical trauma and very few from just being close to my baby. Let me tell you all something…. you can never get that first year back.

Fast forward to 2012 when I began my training as a labor/birth doula. After being exposed to a whole new viewpoint regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, I came to the realization that I had missed out on soooooo much. Over the next 5 years of working in the birth and postpartum field, and familiarizing myself with infant development research in my doctoral program, I decided to QUIT THE CLUB!!! I was sold on the Attachment Parenting model and most of their philosophies. I say most because you don’t have to be a perfect match to be an AP parent. You are allowed to just practice some!

Now, I’m not going to say that I am a 100% over-the-top all-on-board Attachment Parenting parent; however, I have seen the positive impact this parenting style has on the mother-infant dyad with regards to bonding and attachment and I was more than thrilled to have another chance at this parenting thing when my youngest daughter arrived this past October. I am very aware that there are extremist’s when it comes to this style of parenting and I don’t totally agree with their ways; yet, I have no right to judge them. Also, there are extremist’s in every parenting style practice. So while I may not be the mom who breastfeeds my ‘baby’ until they are 4 yrs old, or the mom who kicks her husband out of bed for 5 yrs so the kids can bed-share with her, or the mom who completely devotes my entire life to my child…I AM the mom who NOW remembers millions of moments of holding, breastfeeding, and caring for my baby girl and THAT is more than I could ever ask for. If you are an avid “I hate Attachment Parenting” supporter, I hope my reasons will help you at least ease up on your stance. If you are an avid AP supporter, I hope you appreciate my progress and don’t judge me if I’m not fully in the deep end of the pool. I’m doing the best that I can. Hell, I’m doing a thousand times better than I did the first two times. Most importantly, I am ‘doing’.

I’m not going to sit and discuss every single practice of AP. There are some I do and some I don’t. The one thing I’ve done with this baby that I didn’t do with my first two is to ‘baby wear’. I wear her everywhere! I use a variety of carriers, in a variety of positions, and for a variety of reasons! So here are MY top 10 reasons for choosing to babywear my little one:

  1. Closeness- That’s it, plain and simple, she is close to me. I am her momma and I can protect her easier, and respond to her needs quicker when she is that close to me.

2. Breastmilk Production- Wearing your baby close keeps the hormone Prolactin up

which increases milk production!

3. Breastfeeding Convenience- Ok, I fully disclose that this is challenging in the

first few weeks but once you get the hang of breastfeeding while babywearing it is a

lifesaver!

4. Convenience- You can go anywhere! No hassle of having to get the stroller in and

out of the car and then maneuvered around tiny little spaces (let’s face it…it’s 2018

and department stores still haven’t figured out how to widened their spaces and

move god damn clothing racks out of the way!). You are hands free. You can eat (no

really, you can. It is possible for moms to eat believe it or not!).

5. No People Zone- Yep, that’s right. I’m selfish and I don’t really want other people to

touch my baby or reach out and grab her. When I’m wearing her it’s a way of telling

people “no thanks”, I’m the only one snuggling her today! (P.S. this isn’t just to keep

strangers away… it’s ok to have times when you don’t want family or friends to hold

them either).

6. Naps On-The-Go- I don’t know about you but my little one will not nap simply by

being held, and rarely in the car seat. However, as a newborn she would knock out

for many naps while I went about my business.

7. Social-Emotional Regulation- Distraught newborn, stranger danger fears, cranky,

etc. Babywearing has helped me tremendously with these issues and more! When

your little one feels you close to them, they have an easier time with social-

emotional regulation, as they feel comforted by feeling mom, hearing her heartbeat,

and feeling/hearing her voice and voice vibrations.

8. Tummy Hider- Yup, I said it. I’m not ashamed. Sometimes those carriers and wraps

serve the purpose of hiding that fantastic flab most of us earned from pregnancy.

Score. Mom life is grand.

9. Bonding and Attachment- You can’t deny it. Babywearing fosters positive feelings

of bonding with your baby and helps build secure attachment. My bonding

experience with this baby is so amazing and something I missed out on with the

first two. Carrying your baby on your body really impacts your relationship with

warm and fuzzy feelings and that is HUGE!

10. Baby Visual Exploration- Babies are able to feel safe visually exploring the world

around them from the security of being attached to mom (literally).

These are just some of the reasons why babywearing has become one of my favorite Attachment Parenting practices. Some of you may also be wondering what type of carriers I use. I have numerous and I use different ones depending on what I am doing. My collection consists of the Baby K’Tan, Ergo (regular model), Baby Bjorn (original model), Infantino Front Carrier, Sukurabloom Ring Sling, and a handmade Ring Sling. I also have experience using a Moby Wrap and Ergo 360 with some of my doula babies. Hands down my favorite carriers are my ring slings… for all stages of infancy and toddler hood. I don’t like to leave home without them!

So now that I have admitted I was a closed-minded freak of a parent who remembers nothing of their first two children- I will share some photos of me babywearing my 3rd baby…. the “spoiled” one who gets to love on me whenever she wants and be as close to me as much as possible!

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“Pineapple Express”- My Daughter’s Birth

I bet you are wondering why I promised to share my daughter’s birth story months ago and I’m just now getting around to it right before her 8 month birthday? Well, here’s your answer… I am a mother to 3 children… that’s all I got folks… I’m simply the mother to 3 children and have ZERO time to get anything done (trust me, my dissertation committee can verify). But, better late than never is a popular phrase for a reason, so here it goes!

As you may recall from my previous blog post I was barely surviving the last month of pregnancy due to my Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Not only that, I had spent months of doctors telling me I was high risk and would potentially deliver very early. So imagine my frustration when my due date of October 5th came and went! Jerks. I know, I know. I should be happy my baby cooked as long as she could and all of that crap. Well, whatever. Deep down I was thrilled my baby stayed put for as long as she did; however, deep deep down I wasn’t thinking rationally and I wanted her out. H.G. kind of turns you into a monster and there isn’t much you can do about it. Ask any women who has lived through it and they will tell you how much it impacts their thoughts.

Anyway, on the evening of October 8th I laid in the bottom of my shower for the one millionth time that pregnancy. The shower was my only safe zone. I felt about 10% of relief from the misery and I was able to let my brain escape from life for a bit. I used this time to try to connect with the little Pineapple growing inside me, for meditation, and relaxation. For some reason on this particular night I had decided that I had made it that far and would continue to make it through. I was suddenly and unexpectedly just “ok” with being miserable, “ok” with the sleep deprivation, “ok” with missing my due date, and “ok” with being pregnant in general. Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, it took me nearly 10 months to be “ok” with being pregnant. Again, blame the monster for this thinking before deciding that I was just a terrible human being that didn’t appreciate the miracle of pregnancy. If you puked 30+ times a day for nearly 10 months you would find it hard to be excited too. Anyway, for some reason on this night I had no desire to be in my shower safe zone. After my realization that this pregnancy was doable and that it was all worth it, I decided to head back to the battle zone (otherwise known as my living room couch), and just deal with nausea and sleep deprivation as peacefully as I could. By 10:45pm I had settled into my nightly routine of watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on repeat (thank god for Netflix!), and playing Yahtzee on my phone. Throughout the entire pregnancy I was never asleep before 3am. That was my sweet spot for feeling slightly better. However, on October 8th I feel asleep around 11:15pm, feeling content with my pregnancy and my ability to keep trudging on.

At 12:15am on October 9th I opened my eyes and sat straight up on the couch in shock. Contraction. Yep, definitely a contraction. My two previous labors came back to me in an instant! I did what every mom does at that point and busted out my contraction timer phone app. As I played Yahtzee I began tracking my contractions not too concerned as I know that early labor can last hours or even days. I had plenty of time so I made myself comfortable and mentally started planning at what point I would wake Jason, call my doula (shout out to my sister here!), call my parents etc.

By 4am the contractions had become strong enough that Yahtzee was no longer an option and the entire cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was so irritating I couldn’t stand listening to them (keep in mind that I am a ridiculously huge fan so for me to say that, it must have been getting serious). Contractions were 7 mins apart and strong enough that I felt the need to get up and move. I live more than an hour away from the hospital, and with this being a 3rd baby, my OB wanted me to head in at around 5-8 mins apart. I woke up Jason at 4:05am and told him he should get in the shower and start getting his things together because we were probably going to have to leave in 2-3 hours. He calmly got up, called the family and started to get ready.

At 4:10am, all hell broke loose. By 4:15am, my contractions were 1-2 mins apart and lasting 45 seconds. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything. We ripped the kids out of bed, told them their baby sister was on her way, and practically thru them in the car. We didn’t even have time to wait for grandma to get there to watch them. Off to the hospital we went. Or flew. I still can’t figure out how we didn’t get pulled over. I’m pretty sure the tires were not touching the ground and the car had grown wings and a jet engine. This was literally the only time in our married life that I had no plans on yelling at Jason for his driving. We managed to make it to the hospital in record time (no joke people). My oldest daughter walked me into the E.R. while Jason and our son parked the car. The E.R. staff tried to sit me down and asked me to fill out a mountain of paperwork and answer more questions than on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. 1 minute after arriving I told the nurse I felt like pushing and I was promptly wheeled to L&D (this didn’t stop them from billing me $3,000 for an E.R. visit…WTF). We arrived in L&D and the nurse checked me and stated I was fully dilated but we were going to try to wait for my OB. He came in a short time later and determined that not only was the nurse wrong, she was like, really wrong. I was only 1 cm dilated; however, my body was acting like it would deliver any moment. As it turns out, I had scar tissue from a prior cervical procedure that was holding my cervix closed. The OB tore the scar tissue open (yes, you read that right and no it wasn’t painless), and left the room. I got my epidural soon after, which only numbed one side of my body. The other side felt every single ounce of pain. I mean seriously. What the actual f***. As if I hadn’t already had a completely shitty pregnancy and now I don’t even get to enjoy the delivery with relatively no pain?! Ugh. Too late anyway, I was fully dilated (for reals this time) within less than an hour. The time had finally come for this god forsaken pregnancy to end (yeah, by this point my whole “confident and content” pregnant self from just a few short hours before had completely vanished)! I went from “I can totally do this a few more days” to “I’m done. Get her the f*** out of me.”

The OB made it just in time for the first push. The NICU was supposed to be in the room for delivery due to Meconium in the amniotic fluid but they never made it and I sure as hell wasn’t waiting for them. On the 3rd push my little Pineapples shoulder became stuck. I fought like crazy to get my little girl out. I DID NOT come this far, through that much misery, to loose her during childbirth. I didn’t even care that half of my body felt like it was dying… I put forth every ounce of effort, dislodged her shoulder, and pushed her out.

On Monday October 9th, 2017 at 10:12am, the H.G. monster died (for the last time, hallelujah!) and I welcomed my sweet girl, Malaya Leilani, to the world. She weighed 7 lbs 1 oz and was 19 1/2 inches long, with pointy little elf ears and a nose squished to the side. She was worth literally every single second of that pregnancy. Every single pill I had to swallow. Every single time I got sick. Every single drop of I.V. fluids. All of the weight I lost. All of the meals I missed and all of the time I missed from my life. 2017 was nearly a total loss, but this little girl made it all worth it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My sweet girl, “I love you in the morning, and in the afternoon. I love you in the evening, and underneath the moon!”

 

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum: a 284 day long nightmare

In The Life of a Doula has been on a bit of hiatus for most of 2017. I didn’t do much doula’ing this year and here’s why…

You know those awful nightmares that you cannot wake up from or when you do wake up and fall back to sleep you end up right in the same place you left off? That has been my life for the past 10 months. One very long nightmare that I could not wake up from no matter how hard I tried.

Let’s start from the beginning. In January 2017, at a little over 3 weeks pregnant, my husband and I found out we were expecting our 4th child (note: our 1st pregnancy ended in a loss at 8 weeks). We were shocked, excited, and completely terrified due to our prior pregnancy experience. You see, while my first pregnancy only lasted a little over 8 weeks, I already had begun to experience morning sickness. That pregnancy was followed by two more pregnancies in 2008 and 2010 (our daughter and son), both of which gave me my first taste of what Hyperemesis Gravidarum (H.G.) could be like. I experienced severe morning sickness with both pregnancies, including hospital trips, continuous vomiting, weight loss and a variety of other symptoms. I thought those were the worst two years of my life….. until now. So while we were happy to be expecting a 3rd child there was an innate fear in what was to come. We both knew the statistics… only about 2% of all pregnant women experience true H.G. and those 2% will generally endure it with every subsequent pregnancy; typically getting worse each time. I decided early on that I was NOT going to be that person. This time I was going to suck it up, eat healthy, exercise, continue to work, and enjoy my pregnancy the best I could. I was absolutely not going to let H.G. run my life for another 9+ months. Go me!

Five days later ……… I was in and out of consciousness, vomiting nearly 40 times a day, completely dehydrated, and without food for more than 24 hours at a time. H.G. won again. There was nothing I could do to stop it. This is the monster of all nightmares and it should never be compared to typical morning sickness. No amount of saltines or ginger can help H.G. Trust me. By week 7, I was begging to be taken to the hospital. I spent 9 hours in the Emergency Room with several doctors confirming that my baby (embryo) was ok but they had no idea what to do with me. They pushed every anti-nausea medication they had….. nothing worked. They pumped me full of fluids… and I was dehydrated again within 12 hours. They offered to admit me for how many ever days it would take for me to feel better; however, my family wouldn’t be able to visit and I would have to be fed through tubes. I chose to go home and be miserable there. I regret that decision very much. After returning home, I spent the next  9 weeks living in hell.

I have just a trace of memories from that time-frame. I slept an average of 1-2 hours a day and spent many hours a day with my best friends… the porcelain throne and a trashcan turned vomit bucket (thanks to my mom and husband). Life was a blur. I do not recall spending any time with my children. I do not know anything that happened in the world or my family-life. So what do I remember? Well, I remember thinking I was going to die. I’m not being dramatic here, I truly felt like I would die on numerous occasions. I remember wishing I would die. This is scary, trust me, I’m aware. I didn’t share this with anyone. I’ve never shared this with anyone. Even when my doctor asked if I felt I was depressed I still managed to somewhat fake it and say “not really”. The truth though…. I remember lying on the bathroom floor at 8 weeks feeling like I just couldn’t keep going and I remember looking up at my bathroom counter which had a line of prescription medication bottles (nothing but a bunch of anti-nausea pills etc), but I distinctly remember thinking “if I just took all of those, all of this would go away.” I also remember immediately thinking of my baby and knowing that that wasn’t an option. I had to go on, regardless of how long it lasted. I had to continue to endure this hell so that he/she had a fighting chance. Now consider for just a moment that while my family and friends knew I was miserable, looking at the surface of my behavior and actions they probably had no idea these thoughts were going on in my head. Hell, I barely even knew or acknowledged they were going on. With H.G. you feel completely crazy, like you’ve lost your mind and should be institutionalized. When living in the moment it is incredibly hard to see that it is a temporary situation that WILL eventually dissolve into nothing but a horrible memory.

Now that I’ve made you all depressed right along with me, I will jump ahead a few weeks to when I started to slowly come out of my darkest moments. Around 10 weeks I began to force myself to venture out of the bedroom and out of the house. Mainly because I was tired of my mom having to force feed me drops of water and of my husband staring at me looking completely defeated because he wanted to make me better and knew he couldn’t. I had finally found a decent medication regimen consisting of Benedryl every 4 hours, Zofran every 8 hrs, Prevacid twice a day and Tums as needed. I was experiencing weird food cravings even though I had no desire to eat. I was so weak from weight loss and lack of nutrition that my muscles were non-existent and I couldn’t stand up straight for longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. I decided sun was the answer. Good ole natural Vitamin D. My family laid blankets and pillows on our deck and I would sleep completely flat on my back for as long as I could handle it. After, I wandered back into my rabbit hole and back into the misery of H.G.

By week 16 I was able to somewhat function like a human being. I lived with severe nausea about 90% of the day, and visited my best friend (insert sarcasm) about 10 times a day, BUT overall I was doing a lot better. By week 19 I could actually socialize and participate in short activities. This week was a turning point for the H.G. and also the same week we found out our little Pineapple was a girl!!! Somehow, just knowing “she” had an identity (and a name!) made my perspective on recovery so much more motivational. I was no longer trying to survive for myself and some stranger living inside of me; I was now surviving for Malaya Leilani, my daughter. It was also during this time we learned that our sweet girl had brain cysts and was at risk for Trisomy 18. At that point, I was more focused on her health and I found ways to ignore the H.G. Luckily, the cysts disappeared and her genetic testing came back without cause for concern. Malaya was going to be ok as long as she kept growing.

Some women only experience H.G. for the first trimester. Unfortunately, I am not one of those. I suffered my entire pregnancy right up until the moment of my first labor contraction. It got easier to deal with the symptoms and I slowly returned to a more “normal” lifestyle (even attempting to work again which only lasted 5 weeks). But overall, I was still miserable, very depressed and feeling hopeless that it would never end. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare so badly but just couldn’t figure out how. I struggled with nausea, vomiting, weight loss, restless leg syndrome, intense itching, heartburn, severe back pain, SPD, hip pain, dehydration and lack of nutrition. I had severe insomnia every single night of the 284 days and never slept more than 5 hours a night, typically averaging 2-3 hours. I was living in total agony and emotional chaos.

My “perfect” healthy pregnancy I planned to have had gone completely out the window. It was a long lost thought and a dream I would never be able to fulfill. After 284 days (4 days past my due date), I came across a blog from another mom who wrote about surrendering to a miserable pregnancy and allowing it to completely consume you. Essentially her argument was that constantly fighting and challenging a monster you don’t stand a chance of winning will just result in depleting you of every resource your body and mind has. She was right. I was exhausted. I was broken. I was done fighting. At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant I decided to surrender to H.G. and just let it be. I accepted the fact that I had to live through it, that there would be an end in sight, and that I never have to go through it again.

That night I went into labor and woke up from the worst nightmare I’ve ever lived…..

Stay tuned for the story of my sweet girls’ birth and know that I am in a significantly better place now knowing it is all over!

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Finding Peace in Destin, FL: CAPPA Conference 2016

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Welcome to Destin, Florida!!!!

This past October, my sister Kelly and I, made our way from sunny California to an even sunnier Florida to attend our annual conference with our certifying agency CAPPA (Childbirth & Postpartum Professional Association). One thing we can do to keep up our motivation to learn, expand our business, and prevent burnout, is to participate in our association conferences. Who wouldn’t want to do that in a place as beautiful as Sandestin Beach in Destin, FL?!!!!

Our adventure was not lacking in chaos as we traveled three flights where we encountered horrendous turbulence, a fake-out landing (you don’t even want to know), and an extremely entertaining taxi ride from a lady I can only describe as ‘feeling comfortable enough to tell us her ENTIRE life story!’. However, as we arrived at the Sandestin Beach & Golf Resort we felt right at home with our doula sisters, in a setting more peaceful that I can explain.

Our conference experience was pleasantly mixed with learning, socializing, networking, and experiencing Florida in true tourist fashion. We attended workshops on the impact of marijuana use by expecting and breastfeeding mothers, dynamic parenting education for millennial parents, perinatal addiction and neonatal abstinence, and much more! I had the pleasure of meeting my professional idol, Jan Tedder, the owner of HUG Your Baby, a program I recently certified in as a parent educator and an amazing education tool for parents and professionals alike.  We reconnected with our trainer/mentor and made many new friends and doula sisters. As a way to help build the bridge of friendship among all of us professionals -and as a way to allow us the ability to let it all go and enjoy ourselves for one night- CAPPA hosts a social get-together for us all to talk, dance, drink, and enjoy other like-minded professionals. This year our party theme was ‘tacky tourist’, a very fitting theme to the iconic Floridian tourist population. All of the ladies donned their best flamingo outfits, fanny packs, and wild hats; then spent the evening letting loose and shaking off all of our hard-work from the current year!

On our downtime, Kelly and I took advantage of the AMAZING beaches with sugar white sand, turquoise water, and beautiful people enjoying the sun. We were able to sneak away to Baytowne Warf- the cutest village town I’ve ever seen- and explore the rest of the magnificent resort property.

Unfortunately our trip came to an end. The conference wrapped up, doula sisters went their separate ways, and Kelly and I headed to the airport. While it is always sad to leave our conferences and head back to reality, there is also the exciting announcement of next years conference location. Soooooo…..we said goodbye to Destin, Florida and we will see everyone at CAPPA’s 2017 conference in Portland, Maine!!!!

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A Mother Will Move Mountains

20160625_132444 Photo Shared with Permission

Welcome to the world Baby Girl B!

I was lucky enough to be present for her world debut just a few weeks ago and I am so grateful for the experience. Baby Girl B’s mama is one of the many strong women I have volunteered with at a local maternity home for women in recovery. When I show up for my first meeting with clients there, I often have a little trepidation. These women are in the midst of jumping over some of the tallest hurdles of their life and I never quite know how they will feel about me…a total stranger suddenly popping into their life and getting more than personal. I always give them the benefit of the doubt and try to be as gentle and understanding as I can when explaining to them my job and why they have been asked to consider having me be a part of their pregnancy journey and birth. As normal I went to meet this particular mama with awareness of the possibility that she would choose not to have my support. I was quite surprised. Baby Girl B’s mama is a spunky, strong, independent woman who was not only open to the support but really trying to grasp every bit of pregnancy and birth knowledge. I was instantly so proud of her and once again, I was hit with the confirmation of why I chose this profession. This was the last time I would see this mama before the call to go to the hospital came in.

I got the phone call at 3am one morning from the mama who sounded a bit uncertain (as to be expected) and a little confused as the nurses told her to contact her doula because she would be delivering her daughter any minute. Let me remind you that I live 45 minutes away from the hospital and had been asleep when the call came in. I got myself ready in record time and fought the urge the drive 100 mph to get to the hospital sooner. Half-way through my drive I had accepted the fact that I was going to miss this delivery. Upon getting to the hospital I made it through security (I honestly don’t even remember what I told them or if I gave them the correct name for myself OR my client) and I wound myself through the maze of the hospital. Typically, once you reach the Birth Center floor you must then stand at the intercom and patiently explain your reason for being there in middle of the night, all while being stared at by the camera pointed directly in your face. This situation was very different. I pressed the intercom button and a nurses voice stated, “Hi! We are ready for you, come on in!”. I’m guessing I was either the only person they were expecting to arrive at that god forsaken hour or it just happened to be my lucky day!

Upon entering the birth room I found my client patiently lying in bed, breathing through a contraction and fighting the hardest fight she’s ever had to fight. I stayed by her side for the next hour and was amazed at her strength. She mentally prepared herself for every next step and was calm, cool, and collected. After just a short period of time she looked at me and said she needed to push. The nurse verified that her baby was ready to meet her mama and I gave her one last statement of encouragement. Baby Girl B almost decided the obstetrician was not important for her arrival; however, the OB rushed in right at the last minute. This mama was doubtful of her ability to correctly push her baby out since this was her first child. For those who are not aware, this can be a common challenge certain moms face and they need to be coached in effective pushing techniques. Thus, the OB and I were already prepared to provide her input and encouragement. We were pleasantly surprised when this mama put forth every ounce of effort in determination of delivering her baby without intervention. She was a pro and did every single thing on her own, for her and her baby. Baby Girl B arrived the most adorable little thing and the look in her mama’s eyes said it all. I stayed for a while after the birth to keep them company, answer her recovery and baby related questions, and to snap some pictures for her since she had no one staying with her. I was able to capture some of the most precious first moments between a mother and her daughter and I am so humbled by the experience. This mama overcame a lot of adversity to get her daughter into this world as safely as possible. She is living proof that a mother can move mountains for the well-being of their little ones. Unfortunately, I will likely never know the outcome of this little family but I will never forget them and I wish them the best of luck in their life together!

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All photos posted with permission.

“The Baby Lady”: Supporting the Valley, One Family at a Time

20160723_214518 I have lived in the Santa Ynez Valley for more than 20 years and will always call this place home. This is where I choose to raise my children and I hope that they will always appreciate everything this community has to offer. When I became a mother in 2008 I realized the lack of resources specific to new mothers and their families. This observation was more pertinent when I had my son in 2010 and he was born with special needs. We had to rely on our friends and family for support with understanding our newborns, and all parenting advice thereafter. While friends, family, and the internet can be helpful it would have been amazing to have professional support and guidance as well. As my friends began to have families of their own I often heard them mention a need for more resources for growing families here, further supporting my original thoughts. At that point I decided the only way to make that change, was to be that change and bring professional parenting support to our families of the Santa Ynez Valley.

With a Masters Degree in Psychology- Marriage & Family Therapy, and experience counseling expectant teen moms and families of very young children, I decided to go a more hands-on route and provide in-home services. Four years ago CuddleBug became a reality and I have been providing a variety of pregnancy and newborn related services to local families ever since, and lovingly received the nicknamed The Baby Lady! I have earned this special title by spending countless hours sleeping in my clients home so that I can be there when their baby wakes, helping families practice safe-sleeping and getting sleep routines and family schedules set-up. I have come to love the families I work with and the babies all hold a special place in my heart. I have seen parents of twins learn the key skills of being parents of multiples, I have taught new mothers how to give their newborn his/her first bath, and I have walked fathers through changing diapers and learning to swaddle! As a parent educator, I enjoy helping families adjust to their new life, whether it be me standing at their bedside as their baby comes into the world, or stopping by last minute to help someone with their babies feeding issues. My clients are the reason why I love my job. The families are the ones doing all of the amazing work and I’m simply there to offer education and motivation as needed. When it comes to parenting, there are always challenges. No family should have to face those challenges alone. Even when there is a good support system in place; simply having the ability to call someone professionally trained to encourage you can be a life saver for some new parents!

My desire to support valley families’ does not stop here. I am currently working on my PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development specializing in Developmental Disorders and Mental Health, so that I can continue to provide a wide-range of services. My dream for the near future is to open a family development center in the valley which will include a retail store (because we all know there is no where to purchase baby necessities!), a parent-education center, and an indoor infant/toddler sensory gym/playground. My goal is to have a place where every family can find the support they need and have a place they can feel comfortable coming to for all of their pregnancy and parenting needs. As a proud member of the Santa Ynez Valley, I will continue to give back and do anything to help valley families grow and flourish.

Brandi Kulikov (The Baby Lady), M.A., PhD Student

Certified Labor Doula, Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn/Infant Care & Development Specialist, Certified HUG Your Baby Parent Educator, Pregnancy Fitness Educator, Childbirth Educator

 

Protecting Your ‘Doula Family’- Setting Boundaries

Being a doula means sacrificing a lot of your own life. It’s a choice you make from the very beginning and if you can’t do that, you can’t ‘doula’. Before the signature ink even dries on your first client contract (birth or postpartum), on-call anxiety seeps into your blood like ice water. You immediately start to sort out your feelings of pure excitement and panic looking ahead in your schedule and mentally planning which days you pray that woman does not go into labor. Anxiety aside, it’s an adrenaline rush unlike anything else you’ve experienced. Now don’t get me wrong here. By the time you are a seasoned doula you don’t even blink at the idea of planning a huge event near a due date AND you sometimes even forget when due dates are approaching (yes, it happens). It doesn’t matter if you are new or have 20 years experience; when you are a doula your whole family is a doula. Schedules are often re-arranged, births happen early or late, postpartum families realize they need you more than they thought etc. This effects everyone in the home and even spreads into the lives of your friends, extended family, babysitters and so forth.

While a doula’s job is to be on-call and available whenever; I have established very specific boundaries as my own personal rule. I tell clients up front which days I will absolutely need to send a back-up and they can decide if they want to take the risk or not. While I am at my clients’ side for everything I must remember that I too am a mother of young children. My children absolutely must come first. I will not miss seeing them open their presents on Christmas morning (I might be laboring with a client come afternoon but I will without a doubt see my kids’ faces when they see their presents under the tree at 6am), I will not miss their birthdays (it might be a party faster than you can imagine, but I will watch them blow out their candle and make their wish) and I will not miss certain school events where my presence is important to them (kids are only little and cute for a short time; so those holiday performances where they pick their nose and sing….I will be there, even if for just that 1 hour). Life can be too short sometimes and you never know when this might be the last Christmas morning you have with them or the last birthday they celebrate. I know this is a terrible thought and I must seem like such a Debbie-downer (my friends can all attest to my pessimistic attitude) but I’m just being realistic. I don’t ever want to look back and have to say “I missed my child’s last birthday because of my job.” It just isn’t worth it. Many doula’s will completely disagree with my feelings. They are true to their doula word and respond to all calls for service. Good for them. That is their choice. I will not make that choice. My clients and I have the discussion during our initial meetings and they chose to either accept my boundaries or not. To date, I have never had a single client decide they would prefer me miss something important in my families’ life just to be with them. They all say they would be the exact same way in my position.

The moral of my story is…being a doula is not easy. It’s time consuming, challenging and causes you to miss out on numerous other activities. It stresses out the whole family and your children learn to be juggled among care providers at a moments notice. With this noted however, it is all worth it. There is nothing like seeing it in action and the anxiety is typically what keeps us going back for more, oddly enough! Living In the Life of a Doula is an amazing experience but definitely not for everyone!

Here are my two reasons for setting boundaries…….. my little CuddleBugs.

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Building the Bridge, Closing the Gap: The Doula-Nurse Relationship

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Brandi & Kelly taking professional doula photos with Kendall Ashley Photography

As a professional doula working with clients delivering in a hospital setting, you must find a way to make peace with the nursing staff. This may be more challenging at certain hospitals but the real question is why? Nurses do not go into nursing automatically disliking doula’s (at least that’s what I hope)– they learn to have concerns about doula care because of unfortunate incidents they have experienced involving doula’s. Nurses do not give doula’s a bad name…doula’s give doula’s a bad name. Sadly, all it takes is for one doula to behave inappropriately while working in a hospital– and the entire nursing staff may develop ill feelings about the title of our profession. I know most of us strive to build this bridge between doula’s and nurses; however, there will always be a few who either intentionally or unintentionally portray our profession in an unfavorable light. Most of us can sense this feeling upon immediate contact with nursing staff or have heard it whispered among the doula community about which hospitals are doula-friendly or not. My thought is– hospitals in general have no reason to dislike doula’s. The care they provide is immensely helpful to the Labor & Delivery floor and they free-up time for the L&D Nurses to do other important tasks. So let’s get this straight…hospitals do not NOT like doula’s. That feeling our spidey-senses sometimes picks up on is simply a localized feeling of concern stemming directly from the one unit within the hospital in which we have the most contact with. Now we ask–what should we do about this feeling? What is our role as doula’s in helping to remedy the situation? The answer is simple– build the bridge and close the gap in the doula-nurse relationship.

     How do we do this? First off, when someone says a hospital is not “doula friendly” or when you use that phrase yourself– follow up with a positive comment such as “but we are working on changing that!” Don’t fall into the 3rd party trap yourself of hearing the nurses don’t like you (doula’s); thus, you automatically dislike them back. This sets the tone for poor rapport building. Second, if you experience negative feedback from a particular nurse about her experiences with a doula in the past; try to help her see (via your actions) that not every doula is alike! And remember…just because you have one experience at a birth that was negative, doesn’t mean all future births will resemble that. When you leave that client and walk out of the hospital– leave the negative feelings behind and start fresh upon entering the hospital at your next birth. Make sure the nurses can feel your respect for them. Let’s face it, they know way more than we do even if we don’t want to believe that. Let them know you would like to learn from them and show an interest in any of their special tricks of the trade they are willing to share! Ask questions when you need clarification so they can see your willingness to admit you do not know everything and that you want to be informed so you can better support your clients. Make sure you find an appropriate time (hopefully while mama is catching a quick power nap) to let them know about you, your training, your experience and areas of specialties. Let them know how to reach you in the future if they have any questions or have a client who they think could benefit from your particular area of expertise. Be careful not to make this sound like an opportunity to brag– but at the same time help them understand how serious you are about your passion and your profession. Attend any training’s at the hospital regarding Obstetrics where administration will allow doula’s to participate– this affords you the opportunity to build relationships outside of the hospital room and without a client to be thinking about. And most importantly, thank them when everything is said and done– even if it was not a pleasurable experience. A Thank You can really go a long way.

     We may not be able to fix all doula-nurse relationships; however, it is our responsibility to actively participate in building the bridge and supporting positive relationships with the people we work closely with. To date I have a very positive and functional relationship within my local hospitals and its L&D nursing staff. I try my best to see the upside of every conversation I have with them and I hold great respect for nurses and all medical staff. We are essentially all working toward the same purpose– to support a laboring woman who is working hard to bring new life into this world.

Free Doula’s? Yes! Absolutely Not!

CIn the doula world, free services are often a hot topic of discussion. The real question is, why? Well for one arguments sake free services is giving away professional services that SHOULD receive compensation in order to support, encourage and increase value within our profession. Maybe this argument is correct. I agree that a doula should get paid and/or be compensated in a way that thanks her for her dedicated work, empowers her to continue her professional development and encourages others to join the profession. I feel payment is also a way of helping the client feel they have contributed to their doula’s professional status and held them accountable as being a client respectful of their doula and their willingness to open their schedule for them (not too mention be called away from their lives and families at the drop of a hat, usually at 3am)! So, yes in general, I do agree. However, as most things in life go….. there are always exceptions! Let’s talk a little about new doula’s working toward their certification. Are they professionally trained and educated by this point? Yes! Do they deserve compensation for providing a service? Yes! Unfortunately, as with many other professions (doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors etc) you often have to be willing to give back to your community a little while learning the actual hands-on portion of your job. So if a new doula can snag a client willing to pay….awesome! But it shouldn’t be frowned upon for them to be willing to work for free either. Let’s face it…. they are learning; thus, the services will not be as grand as a well-seasoned doula. As a client, I would have no issue letting someone “practice” their skills on me and allowing them into a very intimate family experience IF I knew I wasn’t going to have to pay an arm and a leg. If I am going to pay a large chunk of money for support, I would expect it to be from someone with more experience. Just my two cents as a potential client for a newer doula. Now let’s talk about the forbidden other side of the argument. Do I agree that all doula’s should be able to volunteer their services without backlash from their doula community? Absolutely! First off, it is their business and they can handle it how they want. Secondly, just because they give a free service does not mean it devalues other doulas (that is just absurd). Lastly, one of the doula motto’s we all love to throw in peoples faces is the infamous quote “every women deserves a doula!”. Well duh! Here we go using this all over the place, trying to encourage every women to hire a doula and yet we seem to forget that not everyone can afford a doula! Luckily, there are some doula’s out there who are willing to go against the whispering behind her back (or worse, the straight to her face, “I can’t believe you are devaluing our profession” comments!). These doula’s are able to help these wonderful mother’s who simply can’t afford one otherwise. I am one of these doula’s and always will be. What do I ask of my free clients in return? Simply to enjoy their motherhood experience and their new baby. I ask them to do their best to be a good mother and provide for their child. Because I charge my clients who can afford, I am able to work as a volunteer doula at a maternity house for homeless women. These women are genuinely appreciative of my services and will d
o their best at parenting because that is all I ask in return for my time. Will all of them be successful? No. But the few who will be, will always be enough “compensation” for me. Being a doula is about compassion and it’s time we all start being compassionate toward one another. Social media is swamped with ‘mom shaming’ and that is always painful for the doula world to hear…yet…we continue to ‘doula shame’ one another. Let’s show a little compassion to one another and to our clients, especially those who cannot pay for us or who are willing to allow us to train and not be a perfect doula at their birth. It really shouldn’t be a hot topic at all.

Miss K’s Birth

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I was lucky enough to have a good friend from grad school due with her first child at the same time I needed to start going to births. She and her husband are family to me and I was very proud to be involved in their birth process. While I was excited, I was also terrified. No one wants to “mess up” and ruin someone’s birth of their first child! Luckily, she had another friend who was an experienced doula that was there to let me shadow her and get a feel for the new world I had ventured into.

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I worked with this family from the very beginning. I was a friend during their struggle with fertility issues. I cried when her mom called to tell me my children were going to have a new cousin and I knew the gender before the parents did, as I hosted a gender reveal party for them! Seeing them cut into that pink cake and look at each other with pure tears of joy, was one of the best feelings I had ever had. All of this made being their doula that much more special!

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I got the call they were on the way to the hospital while I was sitting at work at my “real job”. Yes, that’s right, by this point I had gone back to work for the Court. When you have a family, you have to make a living and it would be awhile until my new business would take off. I met them at the hospital shortly after they were admitted. Little did I know that I would spend nearly 40 hours with my best friends while they brought their first child into this world. I have never been more proud of anyone. We changed positions continuously, labored in the tub, massaged her, and most importantly, talked to her.

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We made sure she knew we were all there for her and that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. I watched her struggle and then power through. I watched her want to give up and then find her strength to keep going. She was amazing. Her husband, to this day, is the most supportive father I’ve seen in the birth room. He was by her side every second (except when I forced him to take a nap) and he was never anything but positive and encouraging. I firmly believe that she only needed him to support her during her exhausting labor; yet, it was still amazing to be there and share that with them.

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After what seemed like an eternity in the birth room (I apparently thought it would be a great idea to stay awake for the ENTIRE time…..rookie mistake), it had reached the time to push. As I watched my tiny little niece (and first doula baby) come into this world I was amazed, fascinated, completely addicted to birth and most of all…an emotional wreck! I held it together as best as I could, given I was now a professional; but all it took was one look at her dad’s face, looking at his daughter for the first time and I stood there, drowning in tears, right along with the rest of the room.  Miss K, my ‘niece’ was born on April 12th, 2013 and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life. I may not have known what I was doing at all during that birth, but being a doula was going to become a huge part of my life from that point on. I was officially ‘an experienced doula’.

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