Tuesday, February 11, 2014


What are the expectations of a family facing childbirth?

For some moms - it is the hope that she will not have to feel much of the labor and that she will have the time to get an epidural in fairly quickly.   With some it is the hope that no interventions will be needed and the birth will proceed unmedicated.

Some have a breech baby at 37 weeks - expecting the baby to turn - or others expecting to schedule a surgical birth.

Especially for a first time couple - expectations can be high.  And with some families - can feel very rigid - concerned that if something doesn't go as expected, there will be a domino effect into difficult decisions.

Because birth is an unpredictable process, expectations can easily be unrealized.   Perhaps the due date is passed and an induction starts the labor.  Perhaps a mom's water breaks with no labor following.  Perhaps the baby gets into a difficult position causing a slower labor.  Perhaps the day the labor starts, the favorite doctor is not on duty, etc, etc.

So is it a bad idea to have expectations for a birth?  No - a vision or goal is always a good idea when facing childbirth.  I think it is very helpful for a family to envision how they would like their labor to proceed.  Having a vision can cause a family to have more patience in allowing labor to happen or can encourage a family to include a support team such as a doula for the birth.

But having a "frame" around the vision that is very inflexible or solid can cause expectations to be unrealized and therefore  a family may have a bad feeling about the birth later - an unhappy birth memory.  What can you do if expectations are not realized?  Check out my next post.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Showing Gratitude

I have a friend who used to tease me that I was always waiting for the "I couldn't do it without you" speech from a family I had helped.  Well - maybe just a little - but there are so many ways to show gratitude.

From the doula's perspective, we can show gratitude for being invited to a birth by being respectful of the room.  Keeping our area cleaned up - keeping our voice soft when it needs to be - keeping ourself still when the couple is working well together and don't need any extra hands.

We can show our gratitude by being responsive to their messages as quickly as possible, making them aware when we will not be available. But trying to be available as soon as they have a need.

And don't forget to let the laboring mom know how amazing she is - and the supportive dad how much help he is providing.  Commendation is such an important part of a labor.  

From the laboring family's perspective, they can show their doula gratitude by keeping them informed, giving them updates regularly.  You can show gratitude by being willing to listen to suggestions and being open to trying them.

I'm always appreciative of a thankful note - or knowing that the family is telling others the value of a doula.  Many doulas are listed on websites that require references and jotting a few lines down about your doula that she can use is very helpful.  Some moms have taken the time to write a letter of recommendation.  Some dads have written comments that  I could post on my website for other dads to read.

I think the best sign of gratitude is inviting me back to the next birth - when I know the family has valued my help enough to bring me back, I'm so very grateful.

Lastly, in some cases families have given a nice gift or additional funds to the fee and these are unexpected but lovely signs of gratitude.  Please know that these are never expected and not required, but when they come I can feel the gratitude from that family.

What made me think of this topic?   Three years ago I was brought into a first birth late in the pregnancy.  I think the dad felt noncommittal at first about what my role would be in their birth. But halfway through the process, he was sold on the value of a doula.  Their son arrived safely and the family was grateful.  Now every year on the "anniversary" of that day, I get the nicest note from the mom and a $50 check.  The latest one arrived yesterday.  I feel humbled by her gratitude and grateful that so many families have invited me into their birth experience.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Traumatic Markers

Birth memories can contain traumatic memories to some families.  So a certain date can carry a traumatic marker in the family's thinking.

When you hear a date like September llth - does it leave you with a smile or a sigh?  The same can be true when a family is anticipating labor.

Whether the date will carry the memory of losing a favorite aunt - a mother - or even tragically a child, the family may be very concerned that labor and birth will fall on that date.  One family years ago worried about an entire month. Or the date one spouse discovered a terrible secret, etc.  There can be so many reasons a certain date leaves a pain in your heart.

What can be done - many times we can't change the date the birth begins, but we can change how we look at it.  Could we rewrite the feeling we have about that date - loss of a favorite aunt can be now replaced with the birth of a dear child.  The child doesn't "replace" that person, but the feeling about the date can be changed.  It takes focus and effort but how you perceive that date can be changed. It may also take time for the pain to soften.

But in anticipating the birth of a child, try not to focus too much on the date that baby "should" or "should not" arrive but rather be excited to see what date the baby picks! And you'll have a date with a great memory and feeling.