I tried writing a year-in-review a few times and I always came up -blah-. 2016 wasn't a riveting business year. It wasn't chock full of births and complete recognition in the community. 2016 was a lot of behind the scenes networking and marketing. It was soul searching and lesson learning. I made some lasting relationships with fellow doulas and had clients turned friends, which I never expected when I started out. 2016 was slow for Baby Love and while for most of the year I wasn't a happy camper about that, I'm glad that's how it played out.
It taught me a lesson in patience. It taught me a lesson in sustainability. It showed me my goals, which look different than the typical doula's goals. If you watch online doula groups, success is defined by solidly booked calendars and recognition within the community. It always appears like a quick climb and instant gratification. I thought I wanted that. I don't.
I realized that success to me, for this season of life while I have my own young children, is a birth every few months with one per month, max. I hope to grow to that one-per-month over time. I hope to become known among the community as one of the local doulas, but I never hope to out-shine. This area has some amazing doulas. They are well respected, fully compassionate, and amazing at their job. I don't want to surpass any of them. My goal is to stand among them.
My goal is for word of mouth to spread and my branding to be recognized. My goal is for a slow climb in business. Right now I have two clients booked for 2017. I have a February and a June client signed on with me. My personal goal is to support four to six clients this year. That feels almost unattainable because I have only had three clients total to this point, but I'm putting it out there in the universe. Four to Six.
More than the material goals, I want to become more compassionate, more knowledgeable, and more understanding: particularly as it applies to doula work. I want questions come in from a client and for me to perceive what it is that they need in that moment: a listening ear, a heart, or advice. I hope to hone the skill of knowing if the information presented is frustrating, saddening, neutral or good for them. In pregnancy, the same news can cause a myriad of feelings in different women. Being able to truly hear my clients and respond specifically as they need is something I want to continue to improve.
I plan to continue to market and network and serve my clients well. I don't hope to become instantly successful. I don't hope to be busier than I can handle. I hope take on my second year as a doula and build my second step in the staircase of this business. 20 years from now I see myself supporting clients... this isn't a quick jaunt as a doula for me, or a stepping stone for something bigger. I have arrived: a doula I am and a doula I will continue to be. I want to slowly grow and create a strong, firm business over the course of time.
More importantly, I want to continue to love what I do. My heart is the core of my doula work and it will always be my center. Helping mamas and babies is where my passion lies... I feel blessed to have made this a reality and the ability to reflect back on a whole year and to look forward feels amazing. Thank you to my clients, my fellow doulas, and everyone who has supported my doula work (even those who still don't know what a doula is!) :) :)
Many blessings to all in 2017!!
In the doula world there is a lot of talk about your "target market"... i.e. which types of clients you are trying to attract. The spectrum extends from homebirth to hospital, natural to medicated, first timers to experienced moms and even can include an income level, or mom-type: "crunchy," "polished," etc.
In the beginning of my journey as a doula, I tried to figure out if I have a target market and if I do... what it is. I thought and thought and I tended to keep coming up empty. I thought maybe I was broken. Am I not a real doula because I don't know what I am looking for in a client?
That would be a big fat NO. I don't think I am alone in this either.
What I have noticed is that I'm not finding my market... my market is finding me and it doesn't come in one form of "mom." Every woman I have birthed with has been authentic, smart, kind, and real. It has nothing to do with income level or where they fall on the crunchy scale. It has nothing to do with birth preferences either. Quite honestly, I don't care how you plan to birth. That sounds rude. Let me explain...
I don't have an agenda. I don't have a need for a certain direction or plan for you. I have YOU. My goal is to support YOU in however that looks. Your decisions are your decisions. Your birth is your birth. I will support what you decide (as long as there is no endangering of yourself or baby) and help you think through your options if needed, but I won't make your decision. Whatever your birth plan or preferences look like, I mold to fit that and to support you through your pregnancy and birth exactly as you need.
Do you mind if I give a brief example? Check this out: I've attended 4 births births (1 prior to certification and 3 while certified). All were amazing. All were different.
One was a 1 hour 45 minute natural homebirth.
One was an unplanned c-section due to a breech baby.
One was a 5 hour induction with an epidural.
One was a 36 hour natural birth which was augmented.
Each birth was raw and beautiful. Each was empowering and emotional. Each had it's own story and merit and wouldn't have fit any other way. There was no single birth that was better than another. There was no birth that I felt I couldn't support.
I supported the mother. I supported the father. I supported birth. I gave physical support where needed. I gave emotional support where needed. I was gentle at times. I was strong at times. There were times where I took a back-seat and times when I was a strong presence. I did what I felt each mom needed for her unique situation, personality, and birth. Socioeconomic status, or birth preference or lifestyle had no bearing in the support I gave. Labor and birth strip a woman down to her core essence. Women are joined and united through birth on a primal level. In that mind-frame, I support birth and therefore, I support you. I support you, however "you" look.
It's your baby. It's your birth. It's your way. Target market may be a thing in the doula world as a whole, but for me... it's not. I've stopped looking. I connect emotionally with my clients, and if I can do that, I can support them. Period.
And if I can say one thing to all the women out there planning to have a baby: you do you. Plan your birth as you want it. Have who you want in the room. Go with a midwife. Hire an OB. Have as many or as few vistiors as you want. Have a natural birth... have a medical birth... have a long birth plan or go with the flow as things happen. Truly truly truly... your baby, your body, your birth, your way!
A year ago today, a doula was born. My first birth as a doula was one year ago and it was pivotal for me personally and professionally. One year ago today I had the privilege of standing by two parents while they worked to welcome their baby into the world. I was welcomed in newly trained and certified, without years of experience. They trusted me to be a resource, a support and a piece of their story.
Seeing this birth cemented a few things for me. For one, there is so much raw human spirit that is seen in birth. That alone is breathtaking. I've never seen anything like it before. Birth strips away all the airs that we put on daily. Birth brings out pure emotion and a raw beauty. There is no hidden agenda or ulterior motives. Birth is about a sole mission and very specific priorities. Birth is about bravery. Birth is about strength, but also vulnerability and humility. And birth is most importantly about love. Love between two people creating this life. Love between mom and baby... baby and dad. Love that transcends situation, circumstance, or trial. This love is pure and untainted. This love is electric.
The time during labor and birth transcends normal time and space. It's unique It's special. It's amazing. It's sacred and a true honor each and every time I am welcomed into that space. Each birth has been a teacher for me. Each birth has given me perspective and empathy. Each birth undoubtedly will show me something unseen before. As a doula I am learning and growing and serving and I'm humbled. I am thankful for this sweet baby boy who came into this world one year ago. I'm thankful for his birth and all those that will continue to come after.
This sweet boy is a blessing to his family and forever holds a space in my heart
Happy Happy Birthday little boy!
So I'm a seasoned mom, right? Five kids. I "get" babies. I'm a certified birth doula. So... Right, btdt. But I was reminded about those new mom jitters recently and I want to jot down a little for you. So, we are going through a big move right now. We are selling our house and moving to a bigger one that just may be our forever home. This move feels like a massive change and I find my mind running in circles: "What it something major is wrong with the house that we didn't find in the inspection?" "What if we move in and decide the old house was way better?" "What if we can't afford the new house?" "What if it's too much house to take care of?" These thoughts go on and on and on and on and on. I feel like a bride with cold feet.
Logically, I know it will be just fine. But there is still a fear of the unknown. That unknown throws me back to being a bride-to-be and especially a mommy-to-be and it makes me want to write this to you, expectant mama:
Dear first time mom,
I remember the excitement, but the uncertainty of adding a little life to our family for the first time. I distinctly remember being in labor and hitting a wall. I thought about how I longed to be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, swollen and uncomfortable, and baby-free. In that moment, that image felt glorious. Labor wasn't fun and I was a bit fearful of this tiny life being handed to me, forever and ever. Pregnant on my couch was safe, just like my trusty old townhouse is safe. The responsibility of something new is heavy, even when you have prepared perfectly!
So to your nerves and your jitters about labor and becoming a mom I will say this: you will do WONDERFULLY.
Say it with me: "I will do WONDERFULLY." Repeat as needed until you believe yourself.
I promise it is true.
I really do.
I remember that wonder. I remember that worry. I remember that weight.
But you can do it. You will rock labor and your mother's heart will lead you through those early days.
It's not always a cake walk, but all good things are worth the effort.
There will be sleepless nights. There will be new challenges. There will be parts that come effortlessly and there will be parts that you wonder why nobody warned you! There will be joys and there will be tears (darn hormones!). But I know this without a doubt: you've got this. I did it and I went on to add four more people to my mix after that first baby. Each time, it was an adjustment. There were points that I felt like I was treading water, just keeping my head above, and points where I held my head high and felt invincible. Regardless of how I felt at any stage, I always made it through and my kids always thrived. Yours will too.
Not to get religious on you, but bear with me... God entrusted this life to YOU. Your baby wasn't entrusted to me. That baby wasn't entrusted to your sage-advice-giving friend or well-meaning mother in law. That baby was entrusted to you. You alone are the one who knows what is best for that sweet baby. Let's be real: it may feel overwhelming to have unknowns ahead. I know. It can feel scary, but you've got this. You were made for this.
Be confident in your status as that baby's mommy. Prepare your heart and mind for the undertaking that is labor, birth, and motherhood. Did you get a doula? Get a doula. (Sorry, I had to) And enjoy the ride. I love watching new moms become seasoned moms... it's a beautiful change in spirit. It's your turn now. Take a deep breath, love that new little life and go get 'em, mama.
A doula who has been there herself.
I've been pregnant in the Summer all 5 times. I guess the only way to escape that would to be to have a late late Spring baby, which I have not. I've been first trimester pregnant once through the summer. I've been in my second trimester twice and I've been in my third trimester twice. I even had a Sept 3rd due date so I spent ALL summer in my 3rd trimester that time!
I wanted to share some tips on keeping comfortable in the summer... regardless of trimester and especially if this isn't your first and you are stuck enjoying outside with your kids! If this is your first baby some of these apply (picnics, outings, etc) but otherwise, enjoy the air conditioning and head outside on the mild days!
Pregnant ladies who cant sit in the AC all summer... here goes...
For me, the summer heat ramps up my nausea and fatigue of early pregnancy. Bllllllech! I'd rather stay inside. First timers, if you have no reason to deal with the heat: don't. If you have to get outside, my thoughts are this:
Ok, ok... I'm not trying to be all "life is sooooo easy for you, second trimester-ers" however, comparatively this is the time to float through on a happy-pregnancy-cloud. If your morning sickness lingers ::raises hand, I have sickness until 20 weeks:: see above and follow those guidelines. Once you feel like you are in your second trimester, then the pregnancy-cloud applies and you can roll with Summer a little easier than your early or later pregnant counterparts.
Even still, 90 degree heat isn't fun for anyone so don't be outside all day everyday, but man, pop on a fun sun dress and cute sandals. Throw your hair up in a messy bun and rock that belly!! Don't stay out too long and hydrate as you go, but personally, I LOVE a 20-something-week bump and a cute outfit to match. Feeling good... looking CUTE! Second trimester through the summer is the way to go.
I don't mind the heat when I'm super pregnant, which I think I'm the minority in that little Susie-factoid, but I do a few tips to keep pregnancy bearable when you are at your largest and the heat is at it's highest.
Those are my super-practical, non-fancy tips that got me through five pregnancies that spanned through the Summer in some form or fashion. Any other tips that you love... comment below!
I want to bust a myth that I've seen circulating recently.
I'm a doula, yes? Yes.
I support my clients in however they need, yes? YES.
But this myth suggests that doula support is only for one type of birth and happens in one one way.
Fact: My support will look different for every. single. client. I have.
Because they are individuals.
Because they have different views and priorities for their birth.
Because they hired me to support them. Period.
I've seen again and again the perception that a doula is for natural birth and none other. More so, it's portrayed as if she doesn't believe in anything else. The impression is that she scoffs at interventions or cecarean. That she's not helpful in any other type of birth. That the only place she's comfortable is a natural birth.
::cue buzzer noise:: WRONG.
Can I be real? I am there for YOU. Yes, YOU, regardless of what your birth plan looks like.
I have witnessed a natural drug free homebirth.
I have witnessed an induced birth.
I have witnessed a surgical birth.
I have witnessed a natural birth, turned intervention birth.
I have witnessed a standard length birth, a precipitous birth, and a marathon birth.
I have witnessed a woman transformed into a mother for the first, third, fourth and seventh time.
I have seen the myriad of birth possibilities in my short time as a doula & you know what?
Each and every one of them was absolutely beautiful.
Each birth had merit.
Each mother was a rock star.
Each birth happened exactly as it needed to and brought that beautiful baby earth-side.
And for each birth I was able to provide unique support.
None of the births I have attended have been the same. They have all been VASTLY different, but they had one thing in common... each of those clients asked me to walk along side them and support them and their spouse as they brought their beautiful baby into the world. I did so without judgement, without agenda, and with full compassion and understanding of their birth and their wishes. I supported them.
I plan to support each of my future clients as they need. I will see their birth plans through their eyes and adjust my support accordingly: throughout their pregnancy, through their labor and birth, and through their postpartum period. Birth is not a one-size-fits-all commodity and doula support, while certainly for natural birth, is not one-size either.
I support birth, in whatever form it comes, and more importantly, I support you.
I think all my doula colleges would agree.
For World Doula week there is a fun photo post going on and day 2 asks you to post your favorite quote. I thought about it and I don't have a favorite birth quote (yet), but I do have 2 quotes that I fall back on often.
"Be still, and know that I am God" is from Psalm 46:10 in the Bible. I found this quote when my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and I heavily leaned on it all through his cancer journey. He beat colon cancer, which is wonderful and I feel so blessed to still have my dad in my life. However that time taught me how precious and fleeting life is. I trust that if God brings me to something, he will guide me through it.
"Be still" has so many other meanings for me as well. When I think of that quote I think of the ultimate trust that I have in God, which I mentioned above. I also think of staying calm and mindful through any situation because freaking out doesn't often do anyone good. Also, in regards to birth this quote reminds me to trust the process and trust our bodies. When we trust our bodies to birth our babies and keep a calm mind, birth changes. There will always be medical and surgical births, but keeping a calm mind can prepare you to face any twist and turns ahead and keep a calm confidence in your body and the process of birth.
This one I love because it sums up how to live life. Happiness is a choice. There will always be hard parts of life, but you choose how to accept each day. Are you going to wake up and drag your feet and mope and complain? Or are you going to see the silver lining and the rays of light and choose to have a good day? It's not easy... this is something I have been personally working on, but I think this quote gives a swift kick in the rear and helps get my mind back to where I want it.
What are your favorite quotes?
Part 2 of 3
Birth can be a completely a beautiful, uplifting, empowering experience. Bringing a baby into the world is breathtaking. It is an honor to attend a birth and be a part of that experience. There are so many pieces that link together to form a birth story: the anticipation of this new life... the nervous excitement brought on by early labor signs... the power of an active labor contraction... the strength and beauty of a woman as she surrenders to her body and her baby... the concentration and force used to bring this baby earth-side... and the beautiful connection when mom meets her baby for the first time. It's nothing short of amazing.
However, if there is one thing predictable about birth, it's that it's unpredictable. Things can get tense, contractions can feel too hard, babies can go into distress, interventions can escalate, labor can slow, births can become emergencies, mom can feel alone, and plans can change. For any mom who wanted an calm, memorable, and empowering birth, but feel shortchanged by the less-than-amazing birth she got, I want to sat this...
First, I won't pretend to know how your labor went. Maybe one small piece of labor just didn't go how you planned or maybe the entire thing turned up-side-down. You might feel slightly irked or completely disappointed, angry, frustrated, and alone. When you think about your birth story, if part of it feels raw, or something just keeps pulling at you... your heart deserves to heal. Not everyone has a smooth and happy birth and you aren't alone if yours wasn't.
That sweet baby makes any trial worthwhile, but a healthy baby doesn't mean you don't deserve time and space to heal your heart if your birth was hard. Moms are often brushed off if they are left feeling less-than-thrilled about their birth. It's not wrong or selfish to have feelings that aren't rainbows-and-butterflies surrounding your birth. It's normal.
When you push those emotions aside, they will resurface. They will resurface again and again:
"Why did that happen?" "Why couldn't I..." "How didn't I see that coming?" "Why do I feel like this?" "What did I do wrong?" "But maybe if I..." "Could I have..."
They. will. nag. So what do you do with those feelings?
Welcome them in. "Come in, feelings. Have a sit-down. What's your beef? Let's discuss."
Bring them to the forefront, give them attention, space, and time. Validate their existence. Let them be processed so they can then be laid to rest. Think over what happened. Think over possibly why it happened. Think about how you feel about the things that happened. Let the pain come back a little... let it sting. Spend time with those thoughts. Be polite, welcome them in, let them have their time, and then politely excuse them. (kinda like an unwanted house guest)
Then, think on the positives. I think the key is recognizing the negative, while still seeing the good. "Ok, I see you, negative feelings. I know you are there, but you aren't the be-all-end-all. There is more than you here!" Then I like to sum it up like this: "Ok, fine. I didn't like this, this, this, and this. In fact, I didn't want that to happen at all."
"But it did happen."
Let that wash over you. You can't change your story. You can mentally kick and scream and protest how you wanted it to go, but you can't change it. However, you can heal and be at peace with your birth. Here's what will happen... you will realize that you did your best, you did nothing wrong, and you are likely stronger because of it. If you don't feel stronger, you likely gained understanding and compassion due to your birth experience and can now relate to another's struggles if a similar situation happens to them.
You don't have to leave this a completely inner process either. If you are a talker... talk it out! - your friend - your mom - your sister - your doula ... You have at least one of the four... text, call, or meet and talk about it. Lay it out there.
Give those feelings their time and then, when you are ready, set them into the back of your mind. They will stay there. They won't leave all together, but they won't sting. They will be the facts of what happened. The facts that brought your baby into the world. Your heart will heal, just as your body did, and that trauma will become strength and beauty in a way you didn't anticipate.
In one way or another, birth is always beautiful. Sometimes it just takes a little bit more processing to see the beauty in all situations. Give yourself time and permission to grieve a bit over the birth you wanted and the birth you had. Give yourself grace too. Be gentle with yourself... you did bring a whole human into the world, after all.
Part One: Dear Unplanned, Unexpected C-section Mom
Part Three: Journey to a VBAC
Part 1 of 3
Dear Unplanned, Unexpected C-Section Mom,
I know things didn't go the way you planned. I know you worked hard to have a healthy pregnancy. I know you worked hard to set yourself up for a beautiful birth. You learned. You asked questions. You did things "right." I know that things went askew ended up with a birth you didn't anticipate. Your emotions are raw and your body is healing. You heart has some healing too...
I've seen the stigma that is sometimes tossed your way... that a surgical birth is somehow less. I have seen you fight for validation of your birth and struggle with acceptance of lost plans. I've seen your bravery. Your isolation. Your pure love for your baby that was put to the test by birthing in a way that left you weak, with a road of recovery ahead while managing new motherhood.
I want to tell you something today. I haven't been in your position, but I have seen you and I want to tell you that absolutely, without a doubt, that your birth mattered. It didn't matter because you got a healthy baby in exchange. While that certainly holds so much merit, it is just a piece of the puzzle. Your birth mattered because it takes bravery to undergo a major surgery for the sake of your baby. It takes bravery to swallow your birth plan and forge ahead. It takes bravery to wake up each morning, while recovering, and reach for your tiny helpless baby with a smile on your face. It takes so much bravery to say that, if you had to do a section again for the sake of your baby, you would in a heartbeat. Your birth was sacrificial and so very real.
You took the path less traveled. You took a path that you didn't want to take. You gave up your vision of the perfect birth and bravely took a path that meant more pain, more courage, and more recovery. I have also seen beautiful vaginal births, but you deserve the pedestal, my friend. You deserve the praise. You likely didn't feel triumphant when your baby emerged, but scared. However, your baby's birth was valid, real, raw, and beautiful and here is why...
First and foremost, birth is birth. Regardless of how your baby came into the world, you became a mother, therefore, you gave birth to your child. Period. Secondly, there is beauty in dying to self for the sake of the greater good and you did just that. I applaud you and I admire you. That is not easy. You will always carry the scar. It's your battle wound; your sign of sacrifice and commitment and love. You will always remember your story and those memories will always be inscribed in your heart. Time will pass and all types of scars can slowly heal. In the future, you may not have more children. You may decide to have repeat C-sections. You may decide to walk the path to a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Regardless of how many children you have and what each birth looks like, I wanted to write this for one reason, in this precise moment:
I want to say thank you. Thank you for your birth and bravery. Thank you for your recovery, handled with grace as you learned to mother your new baby. Thank you for being a part of the motherhood tribe. Thank you for your deep sacrifice for your child before you ever looked into your child's eyes. Undergoing a C-section and healing from one is not easy.
I respect you and I admire you.
A doula with a dose of perspective
Part 2: Dear Mom Whose Birth Wasn't Rainbows and Butterflies
Part 3: Journey to a VBAC
I get it. Doulas aren't cheap. It's a luxury that you are paying for (a very beneficial luxury, but still). It is typically a big sum of money that you are giving out and for some, that price alone dissuades them from getting a doula.
Baby Love Blog
Here lies a stream of consciousness regarding, pregnancy, birth, babies, and my doula business...