Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sister Doulas

Guys! It is INTERNATIONAL DOULA MONTH! So just to let you know what I have been up to... It has been a long time coming, but I am excited to say that I am well on my way to being a DONA certified doula!

For anyone wondering if I just pulled this career change out of thin air... No. No I did not.

For almost my entire life, I had the goal of becoming a therapist. The majority of my friends switched their college majors or were undeclared for the first couple years. Not me. I was so happy that I didn't have to deal with that stress. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life.

I also still had room for elective classes. No clue how, but I did. And with those free spots in my schedule, I signed up almost exclusively for anthropology and women's studies classes. In fact, I only needed one more class in each subject to major in them as well. I took History of Rock senior year instead, but... no regrets. That class was fun as hell.

Anyway, what shocked me was how many of my classes in all three majors/minors overlapped with each other. In particular, my Anthropology of Childbirth, Motherhood and Cultures, and Ancient Art (believe it or not) classes had a huge impact on me. It was here that I first learned about the process of childbirth and breastfeeding (I mean I KNEW about childbirth, but the EVOLUTION of it) and the role of midwives and doulas.

A doula is a person who provides emotional and physical support to women and their support system during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Doula is an ancient profession. I will make it sound epic for you: Since the DAWN OF HUMANITY, women have been surrounded by other women, period. Not just during childbirth, but during life in general. It takes a village, right? But as time has gone on, our society evolved. Now, even if a woman has a very supportive partner, new moms often feel unsupported in general. It can be a scary thing to be pregnant, have a baby, and deal with nursing struggles when we are no longer surrounded by women teaching us about it and helping us throughout our lives. Many women don't even get paid maternity leave, or ANY maternity leave. And that supportive partner? Not a great chance that they will have paid leave to stay home and help.

So I was really afraid when I found out I was pregnant. I had no clue what to expect, because a lot of people don't talk about the weird/bad/TMI things, or what to really expect from labor. And Eric had no clue how to help me.

My mind was literally blown when I learned about doulas. It just seemed like common sense to have a fellow woman there helping you through the birth process. I was drawn to it, but I clearly did not pursue doula certification after college. I pursued my counseling degree, like I always planned. I loved what I did, so much. There was just something about it that wasn't right. I was never completely happy. I always felt like I was not maximizing my knowledge and ability to make a real difference.

I needed to take a step back and reevaluate my life, because being anxious 24/7 and not taking care of myself was not working for myself OR Eric. I started nannying for the best family. And I fell in love with my little buddies and made great, supportive friends for life, and immediately knew I wanted to pursue being a doula, like I should have done after college.

Technically, anyone could be a doula, but I personally feel like it is important to receive any education and certification out there. I don't know many people who will hire an uncertified person these days. DONA International is a very well-known and respected program. Plus, getting certified helps you network and build your own support system.  Self-care is so important in any helping profession.

I started the requirements and my search for doulas in the area who could give me advice.

ANNNND then I got pregnant with Mr. Rebel Bean.

I told Eric immediately that I wanted to have a doula to help us. He honestly thought I was out of my mind, obsessive over this new career path, and a hippie-dippie weirdo (maybe I am, but whatever). But then he met the doulas I chose, who are NOT weirdos 😂, who helped us have an amazing, anxiety-free childbirth experience, and helped us through a million struggles during our new parenthood, and he realized that having a doula was literally the best choice we have ever made. Especially when Jeni told him to go refill her tea as he started to panic in the delivery room. 😂 For real though, it was so helpful in the moment that our doula recognized his emotions, he was able to step out and regain composure, and I was still able to have support. And then, she helped HIM help ME. AND THEN, get this: He told us he was never going to complain to me EVER AGAIN when he feels sick or in pain! She is my witness to that moment!!! 😂😂😂

So here I am! Now that Atlas is done nursing, and I am feeling like I have a bit more freedom, I was finally able to register for the DONA lactation and childbirth workshop, taking one of my last major steps toward certification. I spent three long, tiring, amazingly interesting and fun days with a group of women who immediately bonded. We came from all sorts of backgrounds, but we all wanted the same thing: To help other women feel supported and empowered to make their own decisions on their journey through motherhood. We learned about anatomy, myths vs. facts, LOTS of positions and comfort measures (I now have a Mary Poppins bag with a rebozo, peanut ball, birth ball, shoulder pulley, massager, gardening pads, and pool noodle, if anyone needs any of these seemingly random things... nerd alert), business information, and medical issues. And we saw lots of babies being born in all different ways, so that was pretty much the best.

Please understand: This isn't about being "all-natural" or judging other people's decisions. There is a time and place for intervention. There are amazing doctors and nurses, mine included. I would repeat my hospital birth with my doctor in a second. What sucks is feeling like you got played, or got pushed in to something that shouldn't have happened, or not knowing who to turn to when you have questions about pregnancy/labor/new baby stuff. My hope is that I can help women trust their bodies and be excited for birth, whatever that may entail. This is about providing evidence-based information to help families figure out what works for THEM. It is about being there for people during the most intimate, powerful, and yes, sometimes scary, moments. And it is about helping connect women to resources, including other moms, who can help them get through life. I am forever grateful for the friends I have made because of my doula.

For the first time, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. For 10 years, I have thought about what it would be like if I had gone down a different path. Now, I am here. Yay!

Our group <3 Wish I lived closer to them. I was the only one from South Florida!

Oh, probably the best part of the weekend, if I'm being honest... Sizzlis and coffee from Wawa a block away, alllll dayyyyy

What was Atlas up to with Daddy while I was gone? See for yourself:

Eric even took him to Toddler class. I heard reports that Eric did a great job ;)

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