Reason #235 for Having a Doula

I knew before I was even pregnant that I wanted a doula at the birth of my child. I observed my sisters’ experiences with doulas and wondered why anyone, if they could afford one, would opt not to have a doula. While our doula gave me what I expected: support, gentle guidance, and confidence in myself during birth, she also wrote us a letter, the story of Mae’s birth, and I think a doula is worth having just for this. She is a living witness to your birth, both an outsider and an insider of that experience. She is removed enough, not the mother, father, or family, to really observe the birth, but she is also right there in it with you. I love to read her letter. It always makes me feel strong, and during those difficult first months, it reminded me about what really happened during Mae’s birth, and I didn’t allow all the “what ifs” to take over.

I meant to post this on Mae’s first birthday, but well, you know, things are busy with a toddler running around. So here are a few excerpts from our doula’s letter. I’m so thankful for it and her.

[I’ve taken a lot out in between paragraphs. These are just small portions. She documented all the details.]

Dear Sweet Mae,

It was early in the morning on Friday, February 14 when your Mommy realized you were on your way. She started feeling the belly squeezes the night before around 9 PM, but they didn’t get strong until the middle of the night, when she and your Daddy decided it was for sure that labor was starting and you would be coming soon. It was about two weeks earlier than your expected due date!…

Your Mommy tried several positions: On the birth ball, on the bed and then her favorite seemed to be on the toilet. The aches in her back were strong and by 11 AM the contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes and were lasting about 1:20 sec. The only things that seemed to help her back were pressure and heat…LOTS of heat! Your Daddy and I would take turns rubbing or running to the microwave to heat the warm pack they had brought with them.

Around 11:45 we decided that getting in the shower and letting the hot water shower her back would be helpful. Your Daddy was such a great support that he got into the shower too and helped Mommy through each contraction. They were such a wonderful team and I could see what a great support your Daddy was to her…

For the next few hours your Mommy worked really hard. She was feeling a lot of pressure and so we tried lots of position changes to try and keep her as comfortable as possible. She was a HARD worker and never made any comment on the labor being difficult, she just kept on going! We got her on the bed, kneeling and leaning over the back. We tried the birth ball, the toilet, and then back in the shower. Her back was very uncomfortable but she was so strong through it all and your Daddy was such a wonderful support to her, always by her side and ready for whatever she needed…

Many paragraphs later…..

It wasn’t too much longer, at 12:45 AM that your Mommy was fully dilated to 10 cm and was able to begin pushing! This meant that you would soon be here for her to hold and love. She pushed on the bed and then moved to where she seemed most comfortable, the toilet, and then back to the bed again. Your Mommy is a real woman of strength and determination. She pushed and pushed with all her might but your head was not coming in the best position for birth. At 2:00 AM Cheryl had come to the conclusion that birthing you in this way would probably not be possible. She discussed this with your Mommy and Daddy and it was decided that you would come into this world another way, by Cesarian section, an operation on Mommy’s uterus that would bring you out another way. Although this was difficult to hear and a tough decision to make your parents decided that this would be ok, they looked forward to meeting you now!

Little Mae, I want you to know that you are a gift and a blessing to your parents. Your mother and father loved you long before your actual birth day, which was evident in all the purposeful choices they made in pregnancy and for your birth. Your mother was a vision of strength and a true birthing rock star. She NEVER gave up and made informed choices along the way. And your Daddy was right there with her, encouraging her every step of the way. So, sweet Mae, although you are a true gift to your parents I hope you will always know what a precious gift they are to YOU. You have been blessed with two AMAZING parents whose love for each other was evident every step of the way. I hope you will always treasure them and know they are your shining stars that will guide you through life.

My Chatty Kathy

Mae has really been blowing us away with her verbal skills lately. How was she just a little blob of baby over a year ago? I can’t keep up with all her new words, so I thought I’d try and write them down, take note of what she can say right now.

Mae’s always known how to communicate. Those first few months, she could only communicate by crying, and she was REALLY good at that. She let us know every little emotion she felt by screaming, whimpering, and wailing.

Now, that need to be heard has turned into words. REAL words. She tell us what she wants and likes and observes. Since I make my living teaching people who to communicate and express themselves, this part of Mae’s development is thrilling for me. Here’s a list of the words she says and understands right now. I love that the list shows what’s important in her world:

Hat

Hot

Mama

Dada

Baby

Wolf

Cake

Thank you!

Meow

Woof

Moo

Quack

Snack

Hi

Bye

Tutu

Shoes

Ball

Apple

Flower

Tree

Baba (bottle)

Cup

Juice

Book

Fish

George

Bird

No!

All done.

Bubbles

Rock-rock

Hop, hop (when she sees a bunny)

Eastern NC Girl

There are many things about the south that I don’t want Mae to inherit, but a love of BBQ isn’t one of them. Today, Mae ate her first eastern NC bbq. #teamvinegar

And like her father and grandfather before her, she did it shirtless…



What You Should Really Register For

First-time moms, I know you’re not going to listen to me. I know you’re going to register for that pricey, bulky jogger stroller that you’ll never use, but humor me, please? Here’s my “pie in the sky” list. If we could register for what we really needed, this would be it. (Send this to your relatives as a hint).

What You Should Actually Register For:

1. Infant Motrin and Tylenol by the boat load. During the teething months (actually years), you go through this stuff like The View goes through hosts (who’s even on that show these days?)

2. A Postpartum Doula. Seriously, people. Hire someone, a professional, to come help you. Yes, your mom will be helpful, but she has to go home, at some point.

3. A cleaning lady. Those first few months, moving clothes over from the washer to the dryer is a triumph.

4. DIAPERS (in more than just newborn size) AND WIPES.

A throne of diapers!

A throne of diapers!

5. Grocery gift cards.

6. Money for your healthcare savings account.

7. Massage gift certificates. Breastfeeding and holding a baby 24/7 messes up your back. I’ve got permanent arthritis in my wrist from bouncing Mae. Moms need to take care of their bodies during those first few months.

8. An entire freezer of ready-to-go crockpot meals.

9. Netflix and HBO subscriptions to provide entertainment while you shush, hush, bounce, and pray your baby to sleep. (I watched every episode of The Game of Thrones without ever actually hearing anyone’s voice. Thank you, closed captions).

game of thrones

10. Amazon.com gift cards. How did women mother before Amazon? I think I received a package at least once a week during Mae’s newborn months. This is especially helpful if you live in a town without a Target!

So I know you are going to register for that wipe warmer, but maybe you can ask some of your close friends and family to get you what you really need. You won’t regret it.

The Best Moments are Unplanned

I’m the youngest of three girls, so my mom had her hands full. However, she always made time for just me. I remember more vividly than our trip to Disney and California, the quiet time, just before bed, that my mom would spend with me most nights. One of my favorite things to do was play with my mom’s hair. It was dark and curly, and I’d do everything from side ponytails to ballerina buns to an “afro,” teasing her hair into a mess. My mom never complained. She let me pull her head this way and that,  concocting all kinds of hair-dos.

This was also the time we would talk, about my sisters and school and my wild imagination. I remember feeling centered and calm during this time, after the chaos of the day. And I remember being in awe of my mother’s beauty, a level of admiration that only a child feels for a parent.

Ever since Mae was a newborn, I’ve taken baths with her. When she was a newborn and colicky, our baths were some of the only peaceful moments I had with her. And now that she’s one, I still take a bath with her about once a week. She’s so busy during the day now, waving and blowing kisses to strangers and taking everything out of every kitchen cabinet, that I don’t always get to pause and sit with her as much as I’d like.

Tonight, I had left a hair clip on the side of the tub. After we got into the bath, Mae, of course, picked the clip right up. I showed her how to use it, clipping some hair on top of my head. “Hat,” she said, which is what she calls anything related to the head or hair. And for about five minutes we clipped and unclipped my hair. And then she just started playing with my hair, giggling and smiling at her creations. She did for ten-fifteen minutes, never losing focus (also known as a little toddler miracle).

The days can feel so long, but so many moments I want to freeze and last forever, like that one. Her four-toothed grin, big brown eyes, and soft whispers as she concentrated on brushing my hair.

On the Surface….

This is a photo of me from a year ago. I woke up every morning having a panic attack. I could barely function. Postpartum anxiety controlled me. Can you tell? You never know what someone is battling. Be kind to each other. Love each other. #momsmatter

I’d like to run a series of these photos from other women. Send me your looks-are-deceiving photos.