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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Waiting Game - Part Two

I know that 9 months can seem to fly by until the last week or so - then each day seems to drag waiting for that first signal of labor.  Not only is the expectant couple in anticipation but so are their family and friends, workmates and neighbors.  Everyone it seems needs to check in and see if there are any signs of labor.

But the waiting game I was thinking about today is in the life of a doula.  It starts with that first phone call or e-mail or text that says "today might be the day".  If it is not an urgent message, then the doula has time to figure out how to rearrange her day - is there mail to be sent - messages to be returned - appointments to be rescheduled - backup to be alerted - laundry to finish - etc, etc.

It may seem that this waiting time can be very productive - but in fact - it is usually not time well spent. Sometimes it is much harder to be by a phone waiting for the signal to head out - than to be sitting in a labor room.  Why?  Because when you are at home - you really don't have a sense as to how strong the contractions are, how the family are handling them, if they are in the hospital already - what is the medical team presenting to them?  You don't know if you'll have time to make it to the store - keep an appointment - or take a nap.

Being on alert can be exhausting.  Have you seen runners in a race at the starting block - in that tense starting pose - waiting to hear the starting gun go off?  Sometimes that is how a doula can feel - when will I be needed?  How long will I be needed?  Will things suddenly change before I get there?  What is happening now - when it has been several hours since you've had an update. Are there suggestions I can make over the phone - or reminders of signals to watch out for that labor is progressing?

The hardest job of a doula - is being on call - but not in the midst of the labor.  However, I will say that ask any doula if they would like to have another job?  And they will answer quickly - NO.  We love our job - the waiting game is just a way for doulas to develop patience, which is needed for birth.  Thanks for listening - now it's back to waiting for that phone call to head out.....

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Quiet Confidence

Recently I heard from a mom that I had worked with more than once and what I remember the most from her births is her "quiet confidence"....so I have tried to encourage other families to imitate that feeling.

What do I mean by "quiet confidence"?   When she entered the hospital, she felt secure in her knowledge of her baby inside her.  Not that she didn't follow medical direction in most cases, she wanted a safe birth.  But when a decision had to be made with her medical team - if she safe and wanted more time for things to progress or to decline an exam - she felt confident in expressing her feelings.  She did not argue - she just expressed how she felt - and the medical team in the end respected her choices. Obviously in an emergency situation, she would have proceeded with the medical recommendations. But these were not time sensitive choices.

The birth was peaceful and safe - and everyone was happy.  But there were a few times that she quietly declined an exam or starting a procedure because she felt inside that things were changing and her baby was moving closer to the delivery.

I try to encourage families to share in the discussion of decisions - not from a medical standpoint which is generally not their expertise - but from a sense of themselves and their babies.  When they feel quietly confident to at least share in the conversation, the decision feels better to everyone.  And in the end, they need to trust their medical team to provide a safe delivery.

So when you are facing  a decision in labor, share in the conversation with a quiet confidence and you should feel better about the direction of the birth.  That is - if the baby cooperates!  My hope is for families to have a safe, peaceful birth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Cost of a Doula

Recently, several families have mentioned after a birth that having a doula was definitely worth all the money spent.  One mom said a doula is worth her weight in gold.  In today's market, that's quite a lot!

A birth is a lifetime journey that leaves a lasting memory on families.  So if that memory can be smoothed out, supported, ending up in a great memory, what is that worth?  A baby is worth the journey - but the journey imprints your memory also.

So what is the memory most families have when they have doula support - usually a good one.  That is why I started doing labor support - to help one family at a time leave with a great memory.

I have found over all the years, that even the most reluctant dads who are concerned about the cost of a doula, have felt it was worth every cent after the birth.  Why?  What does the fee cover?

A doula's fee can range from a donation to several hundred dollars.  Each doula is unique in what she offers for that fee. But I feel the biggest part of the fee is that a doula has to live her life on call.  It is a difficult way to live but if you really love what you do - you are willing to sacrifice your time and scheduling for that family who needs your support.  We never know what doctor's appointment we will miss, family dinner, sleepless night, missed vacation, leaving a movie early....I missed a root canal three times due to births.

The fee covers the prenatal support - a good listening ear when there is emotional support needed, suggestions, referrals, preparing for the birth - all part of a doula's role.

The birth itself - some have taken a few days - being ready to run when the family has a need - phone support 24 hours a day - and physical support during the birth.  That is part of a doula's role.  We want to support the laboring mom and the laboring dad - and sometimes the laboring grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, etc.

So when you are considering a doula - it is important to consider the cost. But please don't let cost stop you from having a doula.  There are so many caring, energetic, responsive women wanting to provide labor support - find one that will be a good fit for you!