Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Preparing For Postpartum: Not Your Typical Baby Registry

We all know the scene; a room full of women - some young, some old - gathered in celebration over the new life that is growing in the mother-to-be's bulging belly.  There are normally soft pastel decorations, and cake, and lots of talk of babies and labor and pregnancy.  With slight variations in decor and guest lists, this is what you'd expect to see at a typical baby shower anywhere in the country.

One of the exciting things about expecting your first baby is being turned loose in the baby store with your scanner gun.  Armed and ready, you and your partner will troll the isles ready to add ALL things baby to your registry.  This way, you can be prepared for when your baby arrives.  The question is, however, how beneficial is it really to be gifted 6lbs of burp cloths and 1,000 newborn onesies?

The postpartum period is often the most overlooked hardship new parents face.  The excitement of the impending birth is over.  Friends and relatives have "showered" you with all the odds and ends of baby supplies, leaving you with heaps of clothes and diapers and gear to wash and sort through.  Your family has come to see the new baby and have since left.  Now, you and your partner are left alone to work out how to care for this new, tiny, perfect ... screaming being on your own.

So how can you best prepare for this time in your lives where you will need the most support, and yet where the majority of new parents are found most lacking in it?  The solution is simple; change up your registry.  Instead of asking for outfits and teethers, have guests sign up for postpartum help like vacuuming or laundry days.  Request a simple meal that can be easily frozen and then re-heated in lieu of a cute card.  Register for a birth and/or postpartum doula and ask guests to consider donating the amount they would have spent on a baby gift towards their fee(s).  Instead of games, set up a meal-prep station where guests can help you fill ziplock bags full of healthy meals and snacks that you can fill your freezer with.

The purpose of a Baby Shower is to "shower" the expecting mother with love and support and to help prepare the parents for their new addition.  What better way to do that than to ensure the mother is supported just as much after  her new baby comes home as when she is expecting?

Postpartum Registry/Game Suggestions:

Baby Snuggle Coupons

Need It:
Construction Paper
Clothes Line/KitchenTwine
Clothes Pins

Make It:

Using brightly colored construction or card paper, cut out rectangles about the size and shape of a dollar bill.  On one side on the 'coupon' write, "Good For One Baby Cuddle!".  On the other, write a simple task the person 'redeeming' the coupon needs to complete before getting to hold the baby.  (Examples: vacuuming, let Mommy take a shower, do the dishes etc.)  Hang the coupons on the clothes line using the pins and let guests pick and choose how they would like to "use" their coupon!

Meals In Lieu Of Cards

When sending out the invitations, ask guests to consider bringing a simple meal that is easily frozen/reheated instead of a card.  Be sure to provide important nutritional details, if needed (like dairy-free or vegetarian) and to have a list of quick and easy recipes available for guests who ask for suggestions!

Postpartum Sign-Up Sheet

Need It:
Poster-board or Large Sheet of Construction Paper

Make It:
Using a ruler, mark evenly-spaced horizontal lines across your paper.  Number them.  Let guests know that there is a Sign-Up sheet hanging up for those willing to volunteer to help with household tasks once the baby is home.  Provide a list of suggestions either on the sign-up sheet or on a separate paper. (Examples: make a meal, let Mommy take a nap, scrub bottles, do a grocery run etc.)

Register For A Postpartum Doula

Instead of registering at a baby store, register with a doula!  Provide the doula's name/business name and ask her if she would be willing to create "Gift Cards" for your guests if they contact her directly.  If she would prefer you handle all of the details, ask guests to consider gifting the amount they would have spent on a baby item towards the cost of your doula services.  You can provide a link on your invitations to your favorite online article explaining all of the benefits of having a postpartum doula (or tell your guests directly if they ask).  

Meal Prep Assembly Line

Need It:
Gallon-Sized Freezer Ziploc Bags
All The Ingredients For Several Big Recipes
Mixing Bowls/Kitchen Tools

Make It:
Instead of your typical baby shower games, make a meal prep train!  Find one or two simple recipes that can be thrown in a ziploc bag and put directly into the freezer, then thawed or thrown right into the oven when you're ready to cook them.  Plan on purchasing enough ingredients to double or triple each recipe.  Print out several copies of the recipe(s) in a large, legible type.  Set up prep stations where guests can perform one or two steps of the recipe with ingredients, tools, and a copy of the recipe with the step they are to complete highlighted.  (Example: Station 1 the guest chops all of the veggies, Station 2 the guest measures out all the spices/liquids, etc.)*.  Have one guest in charge of labeling the ziploc bags and ensuring all the appropriate ingredients get into each one.  You if you doubled or tripled your recipes, you could have up to 8 meals ready to freeze by the end of the party!
*NOTE: For really simple recipes, you could devote one prep station per meal and then just let guests take turns at each station.  

For Cloth Diaper Moms

- Instead of a game, set up a few stations where guests can stuff and fold your cloth diapers and other baby clothes/blankets.
- Register for a diaper services.  Ask guests to consider gifting one month of diaper services in lieu of a baby item 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Crash Course Guide On Doulas For Expecting Fathers

What is it that the doula do?

Simply put a birth doula is professional labor coach.  A doula attends the mother during her labor and delivery, offering emotional and physical support.  She has specialized training and experience with the entire labor and delivery process (natural and medicalized), and is devoted to serving new mothers and their families to achieve the birth experience they desire.  

We promise we will NOT replace you.

Your doula is not interested in replacing you in the delivery room.  Your partner is going to need reassurance, comfort, and love from you to make it through her labor and delivery and the doula's job is to step aside and help you do what you do best; being there for her when she needs you.  Your doula will be your guide, and like a good jock strap she is going to provide you with enough support to get you through this!  She may take the lead for a bit now and again when she sees you need a break or are unsure what to do, but a large part of her role is to show you what to do and how to do it so that your partner remembers how amazing you  were in helping her have an incredible birth.  

We're like the "Phone A Friend" option, only better.

We all know you have been there for your partner the past nine months, helping her rub coco butter on her swelling belly and massaging her aching feet.  We know you went with her and cringed through watching that infamous video; the grainy one that has emotionally scarred so many men in childbirth ed classes across the nation.  You've also likely read every book on pregnancy and childbirth and babies that your wife handed to you over the past year in preparation for this very moment, so when those first contractions hit and you instantly forget everything we promise we will not judge you.  Your doula is going to be right there by your side gently reminding you about how to time contractions, what it means when a care provider murmurs your wife is "at 0 station and 60% effaced", that it is in fact normal for an incredible amount of fluid to gush out when the sac finally ruptures, and will calmly guide you over to help "hold a leg" when the moment of truth arrives.  

Here's your hall pass.

The one thing expecting fathers tend to appreciate most about their doula is the fact that they can take breaks during their partner's labor.  Having a doula allows you to be able to go to the bathroom, take a quick nap, go grab a bite to eat, or simply take a break from the excitement in those long hours leading up to delivery.  A doula also offers peace of mind to those who like to have a plan laid out if there is an emergency - fathers can safely and guilt-free leave their partners in the trusted care of their doula while they are able to go with the baby after delivery if an issue arises.  

We'll hold your hand, too. 

It may seem like all the focus is on your partner (because it is), but your doula is aware that you are going through a big life event as well.  Don't be shy about letting her know if you have any concerns about what's going on in the labor and delivery room.  She understands what you're going through and will be happy to help make sure your are getting the same answers and reassurance your partner needs to make informed choices during her labor.  Your doula is also acutely aware that not every guy is going to be able to put on a brave face through all of the more graphic parts of the labor process.  It isn't easy to suddenly see the person you love most in this world go through what can only be described as one of the hardest (but also one of the most incredible) things of her life.  Your doula is there to help reassure you that even though things may look and feel scary, it is all part of the normal birth process.  

We will not burn sage or start a drum circle in the delivery room (unless you ask us to).

While TV and social media have pegged doulas as all being the stereotypical New Age Flakes, most of us are actually pretty "normal" individuals.  Just like everyone else, doulas come from various backgrounds and have differing life-styles and values.  It is true almost all birth workers (individuals who work within the birth community) tend to have a more holistic and natural approach to things but the beauty of a doula is that she sets all of her personal beliefs aside and supports her clients choices and decisions 100%.  Hiring a doula does not mean you suddenly need to start drinking home-made kombucha and listen to Peruvian pan-flutes set to whale song during your morning commute to work, it simply ensures you have someone devoted to making sure your and your partner's wishes are honored as you bring your child into the world. 

The buck stops here. 

Your doula works for you and you only.  She does not answer to your care provider, nor is she an employee at the hospital or birth center who has to adhere to their rules.  Her sole focus is on your partner and you.  This is important as it allows your partner to know without a doubt that your doula is there supporting and honoring her wishes no matter what.  You can trust that your doula will give you honest, open answers regarding care options and will always list the pros and cons of any intervention offered.  She will not become frustrated with your questions and will not judge any decision made.  Your doula has made a commitment to your partner (and to you) that she will honor and respect your preferences, provider suggestions and hospital policies be damned.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

5 Things Your Doula Would Like You To Know

1. Ask us where WE would want to deliver.

Doulas are placed in a unique position in the birth world.  We often get to stand silent witness as different obstetricians, nurses, hospitals, and yes even midwives question (or worse, flat out ignore) a mother's choices in the delivery room.  We have seen it all, from beautifully supported births down to horror stories where the mother's consent is violated repeatedly.  Doulas have to be careful about how and what they say in regard to hospital and care-giver practices when speaking with their clients, however if your doula says she will not attend births with a specific provider or at a specific location there is probably good reason for that.  The same goes if she tells you that she would deliver her own baby with a specific provider or hospital/birth center.  

2. Pictures, or it didn't happen.  (Does your doula really want to see your mucous plug?)

We all know how excited you are for something to indicate you're approaching the start of labor.  It's been a long ten (yes, it's actually technically ten) months waiting for that first contraction to hit, marking the moment when you finally  get to meet that precious little bundle.  Trust me when I say your doula is just as excited as you are.  We live and breathe birth and we LOVE it when our clients go into labor!  However, a picture mail in the middle of the night showing what you think may or may not be your mucous plug cradled lovingly in a wad-full of T.P. is not always the best way for us to share in your enthusiasm.  Certainly let your doula know if you think you passed your plug - she may even request a pic! - but consider saving the image for your pregnancy scrap book unless she asks you to send it her way.  

3. There is a doula out there for every individual, and we want you to find the right one for YOU.

Take your time interviewing doulas before making your final decision.  Just as you are a unique woman with specific life style choices and preferences, doulas come from all walks of life as well.  You should feel a kinship with the doula that you choose - a "click".  While it is true that you do not have to even have met your doula before labor for her to positively impact your birth (studies have shown that just having a doula sit in the room with you greatly impacts birth outcomes), for you to get the best experience possible it is worth holding out until you find the perfect doula for you!  As doulas, we want you to have the best birth possible and we know that means that we are not always the perfect fit with potential clients.  We will not be offended if you ask us for referrals so you can interview other doulas in your area!  

4. No, we won't deliver your baby.  No, not even 'accidentally'.  No, really.

Seriously.  This is a big no-no.  The role of your doula is to provide informational, emotional, and physical support for you during your labor and delivery process.  A doula DOES NOT perform any medical tasks and is not properly trained (or prepared) to deal with emergent situations that could potentially occur during a normal birth.  Yes, doulas have a great deal of knowledge and training about the birth process.  And yes, we trust the body's natural ability to have uncomplicated deliveries 99.9% of the time.  However, we do not have the training or skillset to handle medical emergencies.  If your doula tells you she is comfortable delivering your baby for you, please understand that she has over-stepped the bounds of her profession and is no longer acting as a 'doula', but as an unlicensed midwife.  

5. "Student" and "In-Training" doulas have value, too.  

There seems to be a popular thought out there that women can get a "steal of a deal" by hiring a student doula or doula in training for their births.  So what exactly is a student doula?  This is a term often used to describe an uncertified doula who is working towards certifying with a particular organization.  There are many  certifying organizations available for doulas to choose from, all with different requirements for certification and guidelines they expect their doulas to adhere to.  It needs to be mentioned that doulas are not required to be certified.  A doula who is going through her certification process may have attended zero birth prior to starting or may have been attending births for 20+ years and decided it was worth affiliating herself with an organization.  Generally speaking, a student doula has completed her "hands-on" training requirement prior to seeking clients, but that is not always the case.  So, what does this mean in regards to the overall "value" of your doula's services?  Experience, of course, does count and certainly has it's value which is why most doulas who are certified and/or who have attended more births charge more.  However, a student doula also has value.  Consider the fact that your doula, whether she has 700 births or 2 births under her belt, is devoting her time to you for the entire length of your active labor through your immediate postpartum period (up to three hours after you deliver).  For some women, this means upwards of 18hrs total of labor support.  This does not include the time your doula will spend with you prior to labor, being on-call for your delivery (which means they are unable to make any other commitments or solid plans during that time-frame), or the time spent with you during any postpartum appointments.  Regardless of whether a doula is certified or not, she can have a very positive impact on your delivery (as mentioned before, studies have shown the benefits of just having a doula in the room with you). Please keep all of these factors in mind before you start "bargain hunting" for doula services.  Normally the fee your doula charges has been agonized over - doulas do this work from the heart and are not out there trying to rip anyone off - and she is charging what she needs to be able to stay in business.   

FAQ's About Doulas

What is a Doula? Doula is an ancient Greek word that roughly translates to "a woman who serves." In modern times, the term doula...