A Thank You Letter to The Moms Who Have Invited Me To Attend Their Births

Dear Amazing Women,
You have made my life better.

Meeting you and witnessing the birth of your child, as well as the birth of you as a mother has altered my life in such a positive and profound way, and I will never be able to thank you properly.  You may think I did something for you, and I hope I have, but YOU have done more for me than you may realize.

You have shown me how powerful the female body is.

You have given me the courage to trust in my own body and see it as a very special and sacred thing.

You challenged me to get outside of myself and to be very present in the moment.

You have brought magic into my life.

When I left your birth (and I am talking to every.single.one of you) I felt MAGICAL.  It’s the only word.  What you did with your body and your mind and your female super powers was utter magic.  And that you would invite me in as a witness makes me feel so, so special.  Really.  You have altered my view of the world- made it so much better – and you have busted my heart wide open to take in the magic that is all around us.

I went to a restorative yoga class tonight and thought about what I wanted to say to you.  I want to hug you and thank you and prostrate myself at your feet because I am truly not worthy.  But I am so, so grateful.  Thankful.  FULL.

I thought about each of you during my practice and I sent you love.  Each time I attend a birth, I carry you with me.  When things come up at a birth that I learned how to handle at your birth, I think of you.  When I go to the hospital or drive through the neighborhood where you live, I think of you and I send you love.  I look at pictures of your beautiful babies and send them love.

Whether we are still in contact, or life has gotten a little too busy, please know that I hold you in my heart and I am absolutely in love with you.  Because you are super badass!

I hope you have an abundant holiday season!

Love, love, love,

Kate

November 22, 2012. Birth, Doula Stuff. 1 comment.

First Home Birth

Wednesday night I attended my first home birth as a doula, and something strange happened.  Strange for me at least.

Here it is:  I didn’t cry.

I generally cry at births, and sometimes even cry just talking about birth.  I find it a very moving and powerful experience, even though I am not the one giving birth.

But at this home birth, which was only my fourth birth overall, so it’s not as if this is “old hat” or something, instead of my brain going “OMG- THIS IS AMAZING!!  I AM GOING TO BURST WITH THE WONDER OF IT ALL!!!!” my brain went , “OMG- THIS IS AMAZING” and then immediately followed up with, “Oh yeah…duh…this is how it’s supposed to be…and how it’s been for hundreds of years.  Cool.”

Here’s the set up:

My client was having baby number two and although she had a great birth in the hospital for baby number one, she didn’t like the postpartum care.  All the machines and florescent lights, and the people coming in every two hours to wake you up and ask, “how are you doing?” when you were doing perfectly fine until they woke you up…it just wasn’t for her.  So she hired a midwife, and then hired me, and off she went!  She called me Wednesday night around 7pm and asked me to come over.  Her labor had started Saturday, but she had her bloody show earlier in the day and things had progressed.  So I made my way over and on a crisp night with a beautiful moon, we ventured out to take a walk up and down the street to kick it into high gear.  And boy did that work!  We started our walk at 8:15 and baby was out by 11pm!

About 10 minutes after we returned from our walk, mama’s water broke and things flew from there.  She went into herself, found her primal side, and on all fours in her bedroom, in the presence of her husband, midwife, midwives assistant, and her doula (aka: me), she pushed her perfect 8lb 8 oz daughter out.

And then she climbed into bed with her baby.

And baby latched on.

And mama ate a cheese stick.

(Other things happened in between and while all this was going on, but it was really that simple).

And today, in glow of the days after, it is the cheese stick eating, and the being in her own bed with her beautiful baby laying between her and her supportive husband, that is making my brain burst with the wonder of it all.

Home birth is not for everyone, and I don’t advocate it as something all women should do.  But if you are at all curious, or feel at all inclined to birth your baby at home, or a non-hospital setting, I implore you to do some research.  Visit a birth center and definitely interview some midwives.  If you live in the LA area, Davi Khalsa does a great talk called “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Home Birth” at Bini Birth.

**This post was shared with the permission of the couple**

November 13, 2011. Birth, Doula Stuff, LA. Leave a comment.

Watch a Live Birth

UPDATE:  Nancy had her baby boy last night and it was so beautiful!  She was really focused and I felt so grateful that she shared this moment in her life.  I found it fascinating to watch her process and really learned a lot.  Thank you Nancy!

______________________

So, there are TONS of birth videos online for you to watch- TONS!  Many are scary, some are dramatic, ALL of them are beautiful in their own way.  One thing I run up against in my work as a Doula is the fear women have about giving birth, and it’s mostly because movies and television have taught us that birth goes like this:

–  Mom is standing in the kitchen making dinner, 9 months pregnant.

–  All of a sudden, there is splash of water hitting the floor as her water breaks.

–  There is a lot of running around as mom and dad get into the car and rush to the hospital.

– By the time they arrive at the hospital, mom is screaming, she can’t walk, she is sweating, and screaming obscenities at her partner.

–  In a few more minutes, she is red faced, on her back in the hospital bed, and pushing out her baby.

–  Baby is delivered to her with eyes wide open, totally clean and pink.

Folks, this is not how it happens…EVER.  In fact, the number of women whose labors begin with her water breaking is small…I wanna say, like, 10%, but I am not totally sure that is correct, so don’t quote me.

Anyway, if you’d like to see a real home birth, check out this link.  Dr. Nancy Salgueiro is allowing us to sign up to see the homebirth of her third child- how cool is that?!

Here is what she says on her site:

Here’s what you will gain by watching my home birth live:

  • Be invited into a home birth
  • See how a woman behaves in labor
  • Create a new visual blueprint for what birth can be like
  • Watch how birth unfolds, you can never know what to expect
  • See a great support team in action
  • Witness how children experience birth (my 2 and 5 year old will be there)
  • Debunk the giant myth about birth being an emergency and why it’s untrue

So, go to this link, sign up, and you will be notified when her birth begins.  You will receive a link to the live feed and can see what real birth looks like!

I bet you’ll be surprised.

September 15, 2011. Tags: , . Birth, Doula Stuff. 3 comments.

List #15

Things I am Obsessed With

Nail polish

I was a loyal OPI user, but now I am leaning more toward Essie.

Finding a knitting project

I really want to find a project that is challenging, but something I can actually see through to the end.  With cooler weather heading our way, my hands are anxious to get the needles going.  I really want to do a sweater- like this one, which I found on Katie’s blog.  I have attempted sweaters in the past.  The first one was with my Sweater Club (yes, you read that right) through Arcadia Knitting, which I just learned closed down!  (side bar: it wasn’t the best knitting store in the city, but I’ll never forget the day Buck and I were driving around looking for apartments, had just looked at a great one on Paulina, but I was not thrilled to be so far north.  We pulled onto Lawrence, heading East and I looked out the window and saw the knitting shop.  It was all the sign I needed that this was the right place for us, and we lived happily there for 6 years.)  Anyway, my first sweater failed because the sleeves did not work- too short and too tight in the armpit.  I still have it, but have never worn it in public because it’s baaaaaad. The second sweater, a cardigan, just didn’t grab me and I got too frustrated to finish it.

Figuring out how to make a web page

Uggh, this is overwhelming and I want to cry when I think about figuring this out.  I bought my domain name, but just have no idea what to do next!  Suggestions welcome!

Tea

Friends, I am a coffee lover through and through, but a few times a year I get grabbed by the tea bug and it hangs on!  I am trying to establish a ritual with my mornings and evening, and I’d like it to involve tea.  When I stayed at Tara’s during Caden’s birth, I fell in love with this one.  My all time favorite is this one.  And I am on the hunt for something like this.  Do I currently have any of these in stock at my house?  No, but hopefully that is remedied soon.

Hoodies

Despite the fact that I only own 3 (blue, purple and gray), I have been forbidden by Amber to buy any others.  Annie may also have forbidden me.  But, I’m sorry ladies, I just love ‘em and may have to add another this season…or maybe something like this will takeover…

Lululemon Universal Wrap

Toms

My super great mama in law (Mama Jan as I’ve taken to calling her) bought me my first pair for Christmas and I LOVE them.  I need to expand the collection because they are PERFECT for me!  Lightweight, easy to get on/off, cute, comfy and flat.

These are the ones I have

These are pretty awesome

Lotion

I love lotion.  If you have some in your bathroom and I’ve been in there, odds are good that I stole a little to try.  I’m always on the hunt for another good one.

Making my “List of Luxurious Things I Want”

It’s currently a list in my iPhone and only has “Burberry lip gloss #1” and “Chanel Perfume.”  These are things that are so out of the realm of “me” or “my budget” or “my lifestyle” but making the list is kind of fun, even though it is unlikely to go anywhere.

Reading Birth Books

Currently I am in the middle of The Birth Partner, The Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth, and I’ll soon be starting Hypnobirthing.  Suggestions welcome!

September 14, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 52 lists, 52 weeks, Birth, Food, Knitting. 2 comments.

List #13

Things I Love About My Job

On a day like today, I am struggling to find anything I love about my Apartment Manager job.  If the list was “Everything I Hate About My Job” I would have a list too long for you to enjoy reading!

But here is something I have learned: when I start to feel frustrated and begin throwing walls up, that is the PERFECT time to start listing the positives because it busts up all those stubborn feelings.

And because I work so many jobs lately (actually, always), I am going to make a few lists.

Here goes:

Things I Love About my Job: Apartment Managing

  • The flexibility
  • Living in a large apartment with a view of palm trees
  • My new found knowledge about plumbing, painting, and repair work
  • All the hard working vendors I get to work with!
  • Meeting nice people
  • Helping people find a home they love

Things I Love About My Job: Babysitting

  • Holding babies
  • Hugs and kisses
  • When I am playing with Asha and she clarifies, “It’s just pretend Kate!  I am not really a unicorn.”
  • When Akira shows me how to do something new she’s learned at camp or school
  • When Charlie smiles
  • When Olivia puts her head on my shoulder
  • Singing silly songs
  • Teaching a little one something new
  • Learning something new from a little one

Things I Love About My Job: Doula

*Note about videos: you can stream The Business of Being Born on Netflix instant, as well as Orgasmic Birth.  Birth Day is a BEAUTIFUL birth featuring Naoli Viniver who taught me how to use a Rebozo.  Psalm and Zoya is a video showing the (unintentional) unassisted birth of twins, one of which was BREECH!  I don’t think it’s for sale anymore, but if you can see a copy- do it!

Okay, so, yes, that did help, and I do feel better!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

September 4, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . 52 lists, 52 weeks, Apartment Managing, Doula Stuff. 2 comments.

Picking a Doula- Part 1

I’ve been going on a fair number of interviews lately, which is really exciting for me!  I have met some amazing women and have more births to look forward to over the next few months.  Before each interview, as I am preparing my packet, I try to put myself in the shoes of the mom and consider what kinds of questions she will have for me so that I can be prepared with a thoughtful answer.  In an effort to learn more about where Mom is coming from, and to help any readers in their quest for a Doula, I asked Lisa to help me out.

The beautiful Lisa Deck from Before the Belly (my pseudo older sister) recently hired a Doula for her upcoming birth, and agreed to answer some questions for me about her process.  Now, I know every mom is going to have different needs, but Lisa is an “everywoman.”  She’s granola, but urban.  She’s natural, but understands the benefits of modern medicine and technology.  She’s open and smart and thoughtful.  Basically, she’s awesome!

Make sure you click on over to Lisa’s blog to read about her journey toward motherhood via IVF!

Kate:  When did you start doing your Doula research?

Lisa:  I started doing my research REALLY early, around 9-10 weeks.  This was on purpose.  I was trying to focus my energy somewhere positive during that scary 1st trimester when I had serious doubts about whether or not my pregnancy was going to “make it.”  This is my way of suggesting to the universe that it would.  It also gave me something to research on the internet other than early pregnancy symptoms.

How did you find out about Doulas?

My interest in birth started several years ago, long before I was married or planning to start my family.  I felt like a light bulb went off when I heard about how birth could be an empowering, beautiful experience rather than a scary medical procedure.  I started reading books and watching documentaries, much like I imagine you are doing now.  From what I learned, having a doula was a very important part of having a natural birth.

Why do you feel a Doula is important for your birth?

I feel really strongly that I want to try for a natural, unmedicated birth.  I also know that that puts me in the minority of hospital patients and that I will need a strong advocate to get where I am hoping to go.  Anything I can do to increase my chances of success, I’m willing to do.  And I also think the idea of having a woman experienced with natural birth, encouraging and guiding me, is such a comforting thought.

How many Doulas did you interview?

We interviewed 3 and all were awesome!  It was a really hard decision because I liked them all and could envision having a wonderful experience with each of them.

What questions did you ask them?

I asked a lot of questions.  🙂  I asked if she had experience with my midwife group and hospital where I planned to deliver.  I wanted to know if she would come to my house so that I could labor at home for awhile before going to the hospital.  I also wanted to know if she would be available if I went into labor prematurely.  One of the most intimate – and difficult – questions I asked was what her policy was if we lost the baby before birth.  I didn’t want to even imagine it, but I also wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t be locked into a contract we had to pay for if that happened.

Did you use a particular resource to find your pool of Doulas and the questions you asked them?

I did a lot of searching on the internet, reading yelp reviews and looking over the doulas’ websites.  I think I also searched mothering.com and other online communities to see if other people had recommendations.

Were there any red flags?

There really weren’t any red flags with any of the women I met.  I have a close friend who also interviewed a few doulas recently and she had a crazy/funny experience.  She and her husband went to the doula’s home to interview her, and when she opened the door, the doula put her hands in the air touching the top of the door and invited them to duck under and “birth” themselves into her home.  If that wasn’t strange one time, she made them do it again on their way out.  Here’s a tip: don’t do that.

How did you make your decision?

As I said, it was very difficult.  We narrowed it down to the two doulas we really clicked with.  One of them had a personality that reminded me more of me – warm, engaging and easy to talk to.  The other’s personality was a lot like my husbands – more cool, calm and collected.  I could really see the benefits of having either of them at our birth, and I really LIKED both of them.  But in the end, I decided it was the person who I could relate to the best that would be the person I was most comfortable with.  Besides, I already have one John, and one is usually enough.  🙂

What would you say to parents-to-be who are on the fence about hiring a Doula?

Well, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say once I go through the birth experience with a doula.  But I can say that I’ve learned that having a doula can reduce your risk of having a c-section or other interventions as well as helping you have a more empowering and satisfying birth experience.  I also know that having someone who really understands birth – what’s normal, what’s not, how to cope with pain, etc – is very comforting to me and John.  We have no idea what to expect, so it will be a relief, I think, to have someone there to gently guide us through the process.

**Check out this article from CNN.com.  It’s a bit dated, but it’s got great information about how to avoid a c-section (#5 is my favorite!)**

What are the top 3 things you think a new Doula should do or say at in interview?

One of the first questions I asked my doulas was “what is your role and how is it different from my husband’s role?”  I think that a doula should have a good answer for that.  Men need to hear that they are still going to be necessary if a doula is part of their birth.  Women also want to know that there is a reason to have someone other than their partner present.  I also like when people who are going to be involved in my birth ask me about myself and my story.  As you know, it’s taken a lot of effort for me to get where I am now.  I want my doula to know these things about me and care about getting to know both me and John personally.  On the flip side, I also want to know about her.  What her philosophy is or why she became a doula.  Anything that gives me insight to her personality.  Like I said, for us, it came down to personality.  So, it’s important to let who you are come through during an interview.

How is your pregnancy going?

Great!  I am in the “honeymoon” stage where I feel good again and not big and uncomfortable yet.  I have a cute belly going, but it’s not cumbersome.  I’m really enjoying everything about being pregnant right now.  And oh – feeling the kicks is the BEST ever.  I love it.

Any strange cravings?

Nothing terribly strange.  I had my first cheese steak sandwich (ever) which has become a new favorite.  I also have been snacking on pierogies. 🙂

Thanks so much for your insight Lisa!

If you live in the Chicagoland area and are looking for a Doula, contact Lisa and I am sure she would be happy to share her list with you to get you started.  Or you can visit www.dona.org to find a Doula near you!

August 31, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Doula Stuff. 1 comment.

I Found the Most Raddest Doctor on the Planet

And her name is Deborah Gleisner.

And she is a Naturopathic Doctor.

And I love her.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?  Besides, awesome, she (or he) is a doctor with an integrative approach to healthcare that takes the whole body into consideration to promote healing, disease prevention and overall wellness.  She gave me a binder with information and that is a condensed version of what it says.

The bullet points on page one say this about their practice:

  • First Do No Harm
  • Support the Body’s Inherent Ability to Heal
  • Identify and Treat the Cause
  • The Doctor as Teacher
  • Treat the Whole Person
  • Emphasize Prevention

For me, this is GOLD.

Not only is Dr. Gleisner a Naturopathic Doctor, but she is also a Midwife who does home birth, AND she does pediatric care!  So not only can I go to her for my general wellness, but also she can deliver my babies AT HOME, and then treat my babies when they need it!

Our visit was everything I have ever wanted in a visit: an hour of uninterrupted time where we talk about the 7-page questionnaire that I filled out (and actually enjoyed doing so) and then I had my exam.  She made suggestions, filled in gaps of information where I had them, and made me feel comfortable to talk about anything with her.  Now, I should say this: I really care about my health and love being in tune with my body. I also avoid doctors because I don’t like NOT being listened to, and I don’t want to put chemicals in or on my body.  She really listened to what I had to say, explained everything she was doing and why she was doing it, took my worries into consideration, and then talked with me about how we could work together to handle them.

As a part time Vegan, full time Vegetarian, we talked in length about my diet and how it will affect my ability to carry a baby, and be healthy in general.  She drew some blood to check my iron stores, vitamin D and wanted to see if I am anemic.  I got the results back today: my iron stores are low, as is my vitamin D, but I am not anemic- yay!  And her suggestions?  That I eat iron rich foods, get on an iron supplement if I like, and take some vitamin D drops.  She educated me about the difference in supplements, and in her handy binder there is tons of great information on promoting health through food, rest, and activity.

And she emails!

Overall, I feel really taken care of, and that was only the first visit.  I actually look forward to seeing her again, although I hope it’s only under positive circumstances.

If you are in the LA area and are looking for a great doctor, please call her.  She is in Hollywood now, but moving her office to Marina Del Rey sometime soon.

Dr. Deborah Gleisner

dragonflynaturalhealth.com

We drive the same car =)

August 26, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Birth, LA. 3 comments.

I Was Hired!

I was hired…by people who haven’t known me for 20 years…to…be at their birth…which is going to happen…AT THEIR HOME!!  Can you tell that I am excited?  CUZ I AM!

First there is the “getting hired” part.  That was thrilling! And let me share something with you: Interviewing to be someone’s Doula is WAY different than, say, interviewing to be the Marketing Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.  For the WFM interview, I needed to look as cute and professional as possible, and I had to talk about myself as much as I could, because that’s what you are supposed to do in the corporate world- sell YOURSELF.  But in the (beautiful) Doula world, listening is key, looking too cute can make a preggy mama feel insecure, and working from a place of “I want you to have the best person by your side, even if it’s not me” is ESSENTIAL.  This is not a selfish work we do.  It is truly my belief that I was put here to be a Doula and to Doula very specific women.  I don’t know who they are yet- we haven’t met (or maybe we have…)- but we will when it’s time.

Tara and Steve were my first clients, and Tara and I have been friends for over 20 years.  When she hired me, it was over brunch at her baby shower.  It was exciting and easy and SO special to me that she wanted me there.  There was no interview because we already knew each other!  And I certainly do not mean to diminish that experience simply because we do know each other, but there is something astounding to me that someone who doesn’t know me well would want to have me at one of the most intimate events of their life.  I am overwhelmed with the honor and I instantly put this family into my heart.  They will be my second birth and my first home birth (assuming nothing comes up before November) and that is so special to me.

The weekend that they hired me, I had been in a workshop about how to start a Doula business taught by the talented Tracy Hartley.  If you are a Doula in the area and need some guidance, go to her workshop.  I literally walked out of it Sunday at 5pm, drove to my interview, spent just over an hour with the family, and got the email the next day letting me know I was hired.  It was amazing!

And to tell you the truth, I walked out of the interview feeling a little frustrated that I didn’t say some of the things I intended to say.  And this wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own!  I just get so interested in hearing their story, their expectations and fears, that I forget until the end to talk about my services (which are a work in progress anyway) and then rush to get it out!  But I learned a really valuable lesson: listening is my strength and it will work in my favor as a Doula.  And thank GAWD cuz if there are two things I love in life (besides my husband and ice cream) its listening and helping people.

August 20, 2011. Tags: , , , . Doula Stuff. 1 comment.

I can DO

On the last day of my Doula Training Class Ana Paula had us sing a song.  I am not a singer.  In fact, I break into a small sweat and try to find an excuse to leave the room when group singing is suggested (which is rare, but in my theatrical group of friends, it does happen).  I do LOVE to sing, but only in the privacy of my car or bathroom.  In college it was required that acting majors audition for the musical every year.  It was the most humbling experience because I would watch the faces of teachers I respected start out looking so hopeful and melt into a frown of pity.  This is why it took me 29 years to do kareoke.

But having spent an amazing weekend in the hands of Ana Paula, I didn’t want to miss out on the last few moments I had in the blissful bubble of doula sisterhood, so I hunkered down and prayed that no one would judge me too harshly.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

“It is a brave thing I do

Making a wave for you

I am strong

I can do

What it takes so that you can come through”

Singing with my sisters is a memory I cherish a lot, and from time to time I play the recording I made of our group song and smile (don’t worry ladies- I am not going to post it online).

I love the double meaning of the line “I can do what it takes so that you can come through.”  I can do what mama needs to help her baby to come through the birth canal, but I can also do what it takes for mama to feel comfortable enough to “get primal,” as Ana Paula likes to say.  I can do all sorts of things to help her feel safe enough to forget where she is and just tune into her body.  I can DO, and that is my favorite thing about this work.  There is PLENTY to do at every step of the way, and even if that “doing” is just holding hands or blocking the door so mom can rest, I know there is value in that.

August 10, 2011. Doula Stuff. 1 comment.

What is Support?

Starting today, I am waking up 2 hours early to study Doula stuff.  There is so much to learn and I just need to carve out some quiet morning time when the phone isn’t ringing to make this a priority.  Because I want to.  And because I need to.

So, this morning Buck and I woke up early, I made a quinoa breakfast thing from the Trader Joes cookbook I am borrowing from Michelle (will share recipe this week), and we set about doing our work.

One of the first pages in my binder from my training class has a page that says this:

What is Support?

Support it unconditional.

It is listening…

not judging, not telling your own story.

Support is not offering advice…

it is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug…caring.

We are here to help women discover what they are feeling…

not to make the feelings go away.

We are here to help a woman identify her options…

not to tell her which options to choose.

We are here to disucss steps with a woman…

not to take the steps for her.

We are here to help a woman discover her own strength…

not to resuce her and leave her still vulnerable.

We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself…

not to take that responsibility for her.

We are here to help a woman learn to choose…

not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.

– Anonymous

I love this.

As a middle child and an older sister, I have trained myself to turn the other cheek, and to get the work done, and to fill in the gaps when they arise.  But I realize that this behavior isn’t always the healthiest for me, nor the most helpful for my partners.

“We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself…not to take that responsibility from her.”

What beautiful work this is!

August 8, 2011. Tags: , . Doula Stuff. Leave a comment.

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