A Conversation

Yesterday I arrived early to the studio so I could do a little knitting. A boy who appeared to be between 5-7 years old sat nearby, looking. At one point I got up and then came back to find him sitting somewhat near where I had been.

“Did you want to sit here? I can move to the couch.”

He shook his head.

“Are you sure?”

At this point, his father looked up from the newspaper and said “I think he was interested in watching you.”

“Fantastic! You can do that. Want me to show you what I’m making?”

The kid lit up. It was awesome. He had been shy with me before the invitation, but when I showed interest, he had tons of questions.

“Are you sewing?” Not sewing, I’m knitting. That led to a fruitful conversation about the differences between various fiber arts.

“Is that hard?” Not exactly, because I’ve been practicing for so long. I asked him if he played a sport, and when he said he played soccer, I said “You probably weren’t as good as you are now when you first started, right?” He shook his head with a rueful grin. “It’s totally the same thing. When I first started knitting, I wasn’t very good. But I kept practicing and learning new things, and I got better and better!”

“What if someone made a mistake every minute while they were working on this?” Well, they’d be learning a lot! One of my favorite things a former boss said to me was that mistakes good things because they are a chance to learn. She actually said she welcomed mistakes. That was an incredibly freeing thing for perfectionist, authority fearing young professional to hear. I told him about my “learning scarf” -the first thing I ever knitted (incidentally, don’t choose a scarf as your first project)- and how it started out really uneven and bumpy and ended up looking really good towards the end. You can actually see my progression as I learned how to knit.

I’m not sure where this is going exactly, except to say that I loved getting to foster that curiosity for just a few minutes. I miss interacting with children in that way.


Birth Stories: Samuel

Valerie, of Atlanta Mom of Three,  found me through my dear friend Mary Susan’s blog, Oh Bless Your Heart  and volunteered to share her birth story. This is her third birth and her first all natural, unmedicated birth. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to share her story!  This is from her blog post about his birth which can be found here. She wrote it as a letter to Samuel.

Want to share a birth story? Click on the “want to share your birth story” text to the right! I fervently believe that sharing narratives about birth demystifies and normalizes it, empowering women to make educated choices as a result. Now, without further ado, Valerie:

My little baby is turning ONE tomorrow!! And so I have, of course, been thinking about his birth. His was my first all natural childbirth. With Maggie and Joshua I had an epidural (as well as pain meds with Maggie). I knew I didn’t want to go that route again. By the time I felt Samuel kick for the first time (around 17 weeks), I had read and researched enough to know that I wanted to have him without medical interference or pain management of any kind. And wasn’t I smart to do it with my third baby (since he was bound to come fast)? ;)

I wrote this to him a few days after we got home from the hospital.

On Thursday morning at 10:30 I had my 39 week visit with Katie, one of my midwives. She offered to sweep my membranes and we both felt that it couldn’t hurt, since it would really only “send me over” if my body was truly ready. She checked my cervix first and found that I had dilated since last week from 3cm to 4cm- I was so excited! She did the sweep and we crossed our fingers.
We got back home at noon and I hadn’t felt anything but a few braxton hicks. I had lunch and did some things around the house. At 2:15 I reclined on the sofa and took about a 45 minute nap. I woke up to a moderately painful contraction, which gave me a tiny bit of hope that maybe something was going to happen. For the next little while I stayed on the couch having these contractions. Because of all the braxton hicks I’d had this pregnancy, I wasn’t timing them, just observing. Short– I knew they were too short to be labor contractions. Too close together too soon– labor contractions are supposed to get closer together over time. Manageable– No way were these intense labor pains, more like strong menstrual cramps.
At 3:30, I started timing them. They were indeed short: 30-35 seconds long, and 3-5 minutes apart. I decided that I would call your Aunt Natalie just to be on the safe side since they weren’t letting up no matter what position I got into, and they were still hurting. I asked her if she would come over for dinner, that way she’d be here to stay with your brother and sister if we did need to go to the hospital or just have a nice visit if we didn’t (I still felt unlikely at this point, but I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling I had that I make sure she came over anyway). She said she could be over by 5:00.
When I got off the phone I called your Daddy. I didn’t want to get him too excited so I didn’t say anything about the contractions or about my sister coming over. He said he was on his way home from work. Oh my goodness, I was so relieved!
My contractions were still the same, short and close together. I didn’t know what to do at this point. Should I take it easy or do some walking? I posted this question on my due date club message board, but as soon as I posted it, I realized I didn’t want to wait for responses. So I popped in my Leslie Sansone power walking dvd and started walking! I fast walked (plus sidestepped, knee-lifted, and kicked), with remote in hand. Every 3 minutes I had to pause it, sit on the couch and breathe through the contraction. Total, I exercised for 21 minutes at which point I had to stop because it was getting too intense (This took me a little over 40 minutes to do because of all the breaks).
Daddy got home and I told him what was going on, so he took a shower and got ready in the event that things progressed. Natalie arrived and by this time I was hurting worse with each contraction, and they were more like 45 seconds long. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most painful), they were like a 4.5. At 5:30 she left to pick up dinner for the four of them. While she was gone the pain picked up significantly. By 6:00 I was squatting/kneeling while hanging my arms from the kitchen counter and semi-moaning through the pain, which was now about a 6 on the pain scale. She got back and they all ate. I had two small pieces of buttered french bread , because now I knew for sure that I was in labor and I would need the energy. At 6:10 the contractions were so intense that I was instructing Daddy to load the car and “We need to leave NOW!!” I called the doctor’s after hours number and told them quickly what was going on. We kissed your brother and sister goodbye and I assured them that this was not a false alarm and I would soon have you-their new little brother!
When we got in the car at 6:20, one of the midwives called me back and I told her we were on our way to the hospital. She heard me have a contraction while on the phone and I’m sure it was very evident that I was really laboring. The ride to the hospital was both short and long; short because I was so distracted by the contractions (which were now only a minute or two apart and about a 7 on the pain scale), and long because I felt like things were happening too fast and I just wanted to be there instead of giving birth in the car! The last few contractions that I had before getting there actually made me begin to cry when they were done. That was a weird sensation because I didn’t feel sad. I guess it was an overwhelmed cry.
When we arrived at the hospital I knew for a fact that I couldn’t walk (and I have NEVER felt that before) so Daddy pulls up to the door, runs in and comes back out with a wheelchair. He gets me out, helps me into the wheelchair and goes to park the car. As soon as he pulled away, another contraction hit hard and I had to brace myself with the arms of the wheelchair and moan/deep breathe through it. Well, when it ends I look up and see a man, looking very concerned walking toward me from a group of four people (all equally looking freaked out). I then realize how it must look: dropped off in full-blown labor, and the guy drives away! Haha. So he comes over and asks me if I’m ok and and I say “No, I’m in labor, but I will be ok. My husband has just gone to park the car.” He looks at me like he’s wondering if it’s true! Well, here comes Daddy walking toward us and I see relief on the man’s face. Lol
Daddy quickly takes me into the hospital and we turn the corner to where the ALWAYS empty elevators are. But there are, like, seven people standing there waiting for it! What?! The elevator doors open and everyone gets on. There is one spot left. As we are walking toward the door to get on too, a woman with a cart of some sort starts to walk faster toward it (as if to beat us there!) Daddy goes “Sorry lady, woman in labor here!” and gets us on instead. Go Stephen!
While going up three floors, I have another contraction in a FULL elevator. If I hadn’t been hurting so much (an 8 at this point on the pain scale) I might have been embarrased-but I assure you, I was not.
So we get to the maternity floor. Doors open and I kid you not, it was full of people when it is normally very light. I am STARED at and then, of course, another giant contraction! It was like the parting of the Red Sea in there with nearly every person watching us go by! Lol
We get to the nurses station and they very quickly put us in our room which had been prepared since the midwife called about us coming in advance. I get changed into a gown, and she checks me (in between contractions) and I am 8cm dilated! No wonder the pain is an 8, right?! My arm band says we got there at 7:09 pm. I let them hook me up to the monitors but I couldn’t stay on my back for long because it was just too intense and I needed to feel like I had some control. They put the squat bar on the bed for me and I was able to kneel on the bed and grip the bar (and hang on it between contractions). The contractions were now very, very close together and a 9 on the pain scale. I started having the very real thought that “I cannot do this!” Which, I then remembered reading means you are almost done!! So after each one, I would think it and then I would remember that I AM doing it and that I’m almost done. At 7:30 she checks me again and I am a 9 with an anterior lip (meaning just a tiny bit more of the cervix needs to go). I stayed in the position I was in at the bar for about ten more minutes and then I start feeling the need to push . I ask her to check me again because I want to push, but do it safely. She checks and tells me to go ahead. I waited until the next contraction and pushed. Your head came down fast and it really burned, but as soon as the contraction ended, you went back in a little bit. I pushed one more time in that position, but then my legs were feeling really uncomfortable and everyone helped me onto my side. This felt much better. I grabbed the sidebar to brace myself and with the next few contractions, I pushed. I was making progress. A few more and then my water broke. Then the doctor encouraged me to push again with the next one but to continue holding the push for longer if I could. So that’s exactly what I did. I gave it everything I had and out came your head! She had to manuever one of your shoulders a little but then she asked me to push again. The rest of you came out! You were born at 8:08 pm- 59 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
The doctor placed you on me immediately following the birth. You was an 8/9 using the afterbirth rating system they go by. They suctioned your mouth and nose and you began to cry loudly. Daddy cut the cord. After holding you for a few minutes more, a nurse checked you over in the baby warmer with Daddy standing right there with you. I delivered the placenta (wow! was that thing big!) I had requested no episiotomy in my birth plan, and I did end up tearing; she said it was a second degree tear, so I had to get stitches. When she was finished with me, and the baby nurse was finished as well, I was handed little Samuel Frederick. You weighed 7lbs12oz and measured 20 inches long. I nursed you for the first time and it went great; you latched right on.
All in all, it couldn’t have gone much better. The timing of Daddy and Aunt Natalie being there was perfect! My labor and delivery was very intense but I am so happy that I was able to have the natural childbirth that I wanted, and you were brought into the world with no drugs whatsoever. The only thing I wish could have been different is that we had been there in time for me to receive antiobiotics for the GBS. Because we weren’t there in time, you and I had to stay for two days instead of one. But, on the other hand, it was very nice to spend so much of my time at home where I was free to move how I needed to without any interference while laboring.

Thank you again, Valerie, for sharing your birth story. I am so glad that Samuel came when he did and that you and he fared well!

Hooray, Oxytocin! 

So, here is the lowdown: Stress hormones=stalled labor. Oxytocin (the love hormone)= more productive and less painful labor. Let’s talk about it in further length:

According to The Doula Book, Oxytocin:

  1. strengthens uterine contractions
  2. allows proper muscle function
  3. helps longitudinal muscles “expel” the baby
  4. makes the lower uterine muscles stretch, open, and relax to release the baby
  5. Increases pain threshold (so the pain of childbirth is actually less)
  6. brings in drowsiness (so mom can actually sleep in between contractions, hopefully)
  7. causes some relaxation and calming
  8. helps mom bond with the baby after birth

(p. 74, 75)

Sounds awesome, right? How do we get some of that amazing love hormone coursing through our bodies? Through relaxation. That’s right, the best thing you can do for yourself during labor is try to be calm (this goes back to the previous post about your rights. Send those who are causing you stress OUT!) Use self hypnosis, breathe, have your partner or doula massage you, use aromatherapy, dim the lights, do what helps YOU focus on your body and the amazing things it can do.

Stress hormones, however, cause

  1. the upper uterine muscles to stop contracting
  2. lower uterine muscles to tighten, holding the baby in.

WHY? Well, think of it this way: If you were a mom giving birth in, oh, say, a war torn village under siege, or whilst on the run from attacking vikings, would that be a very good time for you to unleash your bundle of goodness and light into the world? Nope. You need to run. You need to hide. This is biology’s way of taking care of us.

The problem is that in this fast-paced world, we’ve forgotten how to be in touch with ourselves. We’ve forgotten how to calm, how to be in the moment. And we’ve been fed media images of scary birth with people screaming, distant or fainting partners, and emergency-like situations. This is not how it has to be. In fact, if you consider how long a birth is, can you imagine screaming constantly and being as stressed out as those actors on camera for that long? Sounds more exhausting than birth itself.

Oh, one more thing about oxytocin. It has a cousin, called pitocin. Sound familiar? Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin. It is often used to cause labor to progress more quickly (read: on someone else’s time table). The Doula Book notes that pitocin

  1. cannot reach the pain-relieving part of the brain (because it only stays in the bloodstream)
  2. causes stronger contractions
  3. usually results in the need for more pain meds

So, as doulas, we support mom by helping her feel calm, relaxed, and cared for. We also help the partner feel calm, relaxed and cared for so that the partner can take care of the mom and protect her from too many interferences that might cause a stress reaction.

Care providers in general should work to make sure that the atmosphere is conducive to a calm person. Dimming lights, the ability to play soft music, reducing the number of people coming in and out of the room, and also monitoring their demeanor towards the mother are all ways they can promote the production of oxytocin and empower the mom to focus on birthing her baby.


Hello everyone!

My name is Kate and I am certifying to be a doula. This blog is linked to my practice, Little Lights Doula Services. Though I am not yet certified, I can still practice as a doula, and I want to take all of you on my certification journey with me.

One of the things I need to do for certification is make a list of resources in the community. My goal is to not only list these here, but talk about my interactions with them, the services offered, and how that fits in with your family needs (none of these posts will be sponsored, nor will I suggest a resource whose services I feel are sub-par or detrimental to their clients). I’ll try to have their categories show up in the category cloud on my sidebar. In addition, I’ll make a “Resources” post and update it with links to each resource blog post I list.

Another part of my certification process is reading several books from a variety of categories. I’ll post significant passages and my thoughts here, as well as suggestions for other doulas in training. (Hint: check the publishing date. It’s important the research data we read about is up-to-date, published preferably within the last five to ten years.)

In addition, I hope to post helpful information about community events and opportunities, organizations, classes, and tips for helping yourself during pregnancy and labor.

As always, if you are looking for a doula, please contact me! My website is www.littelightsdoula.com