What will my doula do?

I sit down for a lot of consults with potential families that go the same. “So… we’ve researched a doula, and we read what your description is. And we love your site and the vibe you give off. But… I guess I still don’t understand what you really do.” It’s true, there’s a bit of a mystique still around doula care, and a lot of misconceptions– many people still think that doulas are only good if you’re planning a twinkle lights style homebirth. And while I’m happy to support that– a doula can help ANY family, in any variety of scenerios.

For just a taste, I’ve started a quick list of some of the things I’ve done in the past year while spending time with my doula families.

 

Help you set up your birth space— hospital or home, I can get your comfort items ready, set the mood with candles or music, or make sure you’ve got the best pillow. For that matter- I can help you come up with a playlist that has just the right vibe for your labour. I’ve pumped up and switched out birth balls when they weren’t quite right, hunted down more pillows and blankets (for mom or dad), and adjusted lighting.

Help you decide if it’s really labour, or really time to go to the hospital. It can be super intimidating trying to decide if the signs you’re feeling are real labour. I often spend time on the phone or through text, talking about symptoms, feelings and instincts and helping mom decide what the next course of action might be. If it’s too early, I’ll help you come up with things to do in the meantime to keep your mind off of the contractions or to cope with the pain.

Help you transition from hospital to home. Moving from the comfort of home to the hospital can be a bit jarring to your system, especially if you’ve never been there before. I can help bridge the gap, navigate hallways, and even answer questions about parking.

Remind you about preferences that are about to become overlooked. Sometimes you get so caught up in the sensations of birth that you forget about things that were very important to you. I’m there to point out if your placenta is about to leave the room without you seeing it, turn on the music you wanted to listen to, offer up reminders about a position you wanted to try or to ask about delayed cord clamping. We talk beforehand so I know all the things that will matter to you.

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Answer questions when things get confusing. Medical staff can sometimes forget that their jargon isn’t second nature for you. Or you may have questions about recommended tests or options at different points during labour. I’ll help to clarify the confusing language, and figure out which questions you can ask your providers to get the answers you want.

Offer options- whether it’s pain relief, positions or next steps. When you’re dealing with intense contractions, sometimes it’s hard to remember all the comfort techniques you had planned. I’m there to offer reminders of things you can try- and we can even practice those during your prenatals. If natural measures aren’t working, I can help you BRAIN (Ask me about it!) your next steps in an informed and judgment free zone.

Help provide comfort to older siblings (or partners). It can be hard for your loved ones to watch you in pain, and harder still to be in the middle of labour and trying to provide comfort yourself to an overwhelmed family member. As a doula I’m able to give reassurance and explanations about the sights, sounds, smells and progress of labour to those with you, be it your partner or a little one. Sometimes all it takes is a quick reassurance  that all is normal, but I’ve also held hands, rubbed backs, had serious talks and even helped a loved one to a chair when they’re feeling faint. I support them so that you don’t have to.

Give your partner a chance to step out to grab a meal, or move a car. I remember back to my first birth and how relieved my husband said he was after our doula arrived. While I was buzzing on labour adrenalin, he hadn’t slept or eaten all night, and by that time he desperately needed a few minutes of fresh air and some nutrients. With my doula by my side, he was able to go take care of himself so he could continue taking care of me. I’m so glad to give this same relief to partners now as I know how much it meant to him!

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Help with early breastfeeding. Sometimes your labour goes perfectly according to plan but it’s breastfeeding that you struggle with. As an experienced breastfeeder and doula, I’m there to help prepare you ahead of time, and also postpartum to get your breastfeeding relationship off to the right start.

Remind you to do life during early labour. One of the easiest ways to get burnt out during your labour is to sound the alarm bells too early. I highly recommend that my clients stay aware of their bodies, but continue to “do life” during early labour for as long as they can. We’ll keep in contact during these hours so you can communicate how you’re feeling, but I’ll encourage you to ignore those contractions and rest until you can’t ignore them any longer. This puts you in a better headspace once true active labour begins.

And of course, provide physical support through touch relaxation, massage, position changes and more. While much of doula work is through the ‘heart’ side, I also use my hands to keep your body comfortable. Whether it’s strong counterpressure through hours of back labour, walking the halls with you through early labour, a foot massage after you’ve gotten your epidural or supporting you while you changing pushing positions, I’m your girl.

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Dads and Doulas | Winnipeg Doula

With Father’s Day almost upon us, I wanted to talk about one of the elephants in the room. One of the most common concerns when a couple is talking about inviting a doula to their birth, is what about dad? Doesn’t he feel displaced? What if he wants to be part of the birth, helping his partner through the experience? I hear stories from families where the birther wants a doula, but dad isn’t sure. He worries about being “unneeded” once they hire a doula.

Rest assured, having a doula present does not mean that the mother’s other support person, be it her partner or another loved one, is replaced. On the contrary, having a doula can help support the partner so they can better support the birthing mama.

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With my first pregnancy, I know my husband was hesitant to invite someone else into our birthing room. By just a few hours into labor though, he already expressing how thankful he was that we’d chosen to have a doula. While my husband remained by and large my primary support, my doula was our rock. She was there to offer tips or encouragement when I needed, and having her perspective was priceless. My husband knew me- he knew what things relaxed me and could read my facial expressions. My doula knew birth. Together they were an unbeatable team.

But she didn’t just help me. She was around to grab snacks and water when my husband needed. She was able to stay in the room with me when he needed to make phone calls or go for a walk. The birth room can sometimes be a stuffy place, and getting even just a few minutes of fresh air while knowing your partner is still supported is such a relief. My daughter is almost seven, but he still talks about how unburdened he felt as soon as our doula got to the hospital– he was still my support, but it wasn’t *all* on him anymore.

As a doula I see the same thing in the families I work with. Partners who are worried that they might not know enough or have the right words to say, gain confidence as they watch an experienced doula care for the birther. My favourite thing to see is when they start to copy things that they see me doing, providing the perfect combination to their partner. A dad who started the labour maybe just lightly rubbing a back learns exactly the right way to prov

ide counterpressure during contractions, or how to sway with the rhythm of her breathing. As he’s able to step into a larger role and feels more comfortable, I’ll take the opportunity to grab snacks or water, maybe grab lotion for moms back, or help her fix her hair. Sometimes one of us will be provoding physical support while the other stares into her eyes and talks to her. Dad and doula complement each other, always one ready to step into the role that mom needs.

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And when things get intense, as a doula I’m able to lend support to both partners– I’ll often provide physical support to the birther while explaining to the partner what is happening, reminding them that these sights and sounds may seem intense, but that it is all normal. Especially as you get close to the moment of birth, the hospital staff or midwives are often focused on the medical side of things– as they should be. This can leave both mom and partner feeling a little lost and sometimes scared. Having a doula there who understands birth and typical protocol can be incredibly reassuring when everyone around you is talking above you– not TO you.

I love working with families, and especially love seeing these strong dads become more confident as they support their partners. For more information about working with a doula to support both of you, head on over to my doula page.  If you have questions, send me a message! I’d love to hear from you. Happy Father’s Day!

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Do Life: The Best Early Labour Plan

While some lucky birthers find themselves starting labor with active contractions five minutes apart or less, most of us will have labors that ebb and flow in the beginning, contractions starting as mere annoyances, and slowly progressing into an active pattern. Ah, the joy of early labor.

Early labor can be long and drawn out, reaching 6-24 hours, especially for first time moms. Contractions during early labor can be anywhere from 20 minutes apart to about 4-5 minutes apart. Generally you know it’s early labor if contractions are progressing closer, but you are still able to focus on life, pausing only briefly during the height of a contraction. They may be 30-60 seconds long.

While there is important work being done during this time, it often doesn’t feel like it. Watching the clock can make time seem to stand still, so I recommend “doing life”. That is— continue to go about your day as you normally would, stopping just long enough for the contraction to pass, and then brushing it off and continuing on as normal. The longer that you can deny labor and keep doing life, the better headspace you will probably be in once active labor hits.

 

If you’re unsure what to do, some ideas are:
-take a long leisurely shower or bath.
-take a nap
-make food, or bake!
-play a game
-cuddle on the couch with a blanket and your favourite Netflix series
-clean your house- slowly though- don’t burn extra energy
-paint your toes!
-go shopping
-take a walk around your neighbourhood
-take a last set of maternity photos

If you think you may be in early labor, send a quick message to your doula to let them know— and then continue business as usual. Use one of the tips from this list, or pick something of your own. The important thing is that the activity keeps you comfortable and focused on anything other than your beginning contractions!

Once you find that you are having to stop and focus through your contractions, or they are five minutes or less apart, it’s time to call your doula (and your midwife if need be!). Start thinking about moving to your chosen place of birth if not planning a homebirth, and settle in to meet your baby!

5 Signs It’s Time To Contact Your Doula | Winnipeg Doula

Am I in labor? Is this real? When do I call my doula? Such common questions at the end of pregnancy!

Many birthers find that they have prodromal or “practice” labor at the end of their pregnancies for days or even weeks before starting to labor in earnest. This can be frustrating and confusing all at the same time! These warm up contractions help your body and uterus to practice and warm up, but generally do not work to significantly dilate your cervix (although some dilation and movement of the cervix can happen!). Don’t confuse that with meaning they don’t do anything-  prodromal labor is a good thing, even when it doesn’t feel like it!

Still, it can be confusing trying to figure out if it’s practice labor or the ‘real deal’. These warm up contractions may feel very real! The most common way to tell the difference is over time-- while “real” early labor contractions will get noticeably stronger, longer and closer together, prodromal labor will typically not get significantly closer together or longer. For most people they will happen for several hours and then fizzle out, starting again later or another day. This is a good sign that these are the important priming contractions-- but not a sign that true labor is starting.

In this case, I recommend trying to get rest, and remain positive- these contractions can give you a good chance to practice some of your relaxation techniques, but I urge you not to get caught up in planning for the birth yet! The best thing that you can do is to rest and keep your mind off of it.

So how do you know when it’s time to start preparing for the birth and calling your support people? Below are a couple signs that productive labor may be starting- and it’s time to alert your partner, your doula, birth photographer and/or midwife! Your doula will have different preferences for how you contact them, so make sure you ask! Often an email or text during overnight hours is preferred (or waiting altogether until morning), while during daytime you can use whichever method you prefer. For my clients, I tend to prefer a text or waiting until morning unless your mama sense tells you something may happen quickly! But as always, don't hesitate to pick up the phone if you feel you need me! 

 

1. If your water breaks

Whether a trickle or a gush, your water breaking can be a dreaded and exciting moment. It may not mean that contractions will start immediately, but it's a good sign! If your water breaks and contractions have not started, or they are still light, I personally treat this as a perfect time to grab some food and then climb back into bed. Getting some rest before labor starts in earnest is always a good idea! Not sure if it was your water? Amniotic fluid should be clear, and have a mild scent- not like urine. Some people say it is sweet smelling.

2. You lose your mucus plug and/or see bloody show

Seeing bloody mucuous on the toilet paper after you wipe can see a bit scary, but it’s also something to be excited about in the last weeks of pregnancy. This is a good sign that your cervix is starting to move and dilate! If noticable contractions have not started yet, they may soon. Just to keep you on your toes though- some birthers will lose their mucuous plug and not go into labor for days or even weeks. Still- it’s a good idea to keep your care provider and support people in the loop if this happens!

3. You start feeling like you have the flu

It’s a common occurance. You get to 39 weeks pregnant and it hits-- You’re achy, tired, your stomach gets upset and you may have loose stools or even diarrhea. This may feel like the worst thing in the world, and many people worry that they are now going to have to go through labor while sick, but it’s actually a common sign that labor is getting ready to start! One of the ways your body prepares for labor is by dumping hormones-- and some of these will cause your body to mimic signs of sickness. Again- this isn’t a foolproof sign, but it’s a good one to be aware of- especially if you’re finding yourself in the bathroom a lot. Many birthers state that the night before or hours before labor started, it was like their body got spooked and “emptied out”- that’s a strong fight or flight response there-- your body is preparing to do hard work!

4. Backache

Wait, how do you know the difference between regular sore back and one that signals labor? You can’t always. But if you notice a backache that switches from a generalized soreness into a concentrated pain that may ebb and flow-- this may be a sign that things are gearing up.

5. Contractions Pick up

Braxton hicks are frequent during late pregnancy, so how do you know when they’re the real deal? If you’re noticing contractions that are easily timable with an obvious start and end- labor may be starting! Early labor contractions will continue to progress longer, stronger and closer together, so it may take a few hours before you know for sure. If they’re coming at regular intervals though, even if still fairly far apart-- it’s time to give your support people a heads up! True labor contractions will also not let up with rest, position changes or increased water, and tend to include some back pain with them. Many birthers also report that their labor contractions felt like they wrapped more around the belly, as opposed to the low down menstrual cramp feeling of braxton hicks.

Feeling some signs? Maybe it’s your time! Don’t forget to get some rest, and contact your care provider and support people!

 


 

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Winnipeg Pregnancy Guide: Welcome Baby! A Visiting Guide | Winnipeg Doula

Adding a Winnipeg baby to your house? Overwhelmed about keeping up with visitors and expectations? It can seem like a daunting task to settle in with your precious newborn without having to add the worries about entertaining guests, or trying to navigate new feeding and sleep routines while someone else looks on.

Leading up to our first child’s birth, our own new Winnipeg baby, my husband and I were dead set that we didn’t want visitors– we were really craving that time to settle in as a new family of three, uninterrupted. We were worried that having a revolving door of visitors would make us more stressed out, and were also a bit concerned about dealing with all the (sometimes not so) helpful advice that new parents get. So we encouraged family and friends to wait a few weeks before stopping by.

As it turns out, we were pretty overwhelmed anyways, and probably could have used some helping hands! In hindsight, I wish we’d felt confident enough to encourage visitors– on our terms. I’ve learned a lot over the past six years, and we were incredibly grateful to have wonderful family and friend support after our next two births. Our visitors were amazing at coming at convenient times, never staying too long, and making sure to be helpful while they were here.

I’ve jotted down a quick list of ways to be helpful while visiting a new Winnipeg baby. Share it with your family and friends, Post it to Facebook, or use it for yourself if YOU are the new visitor. You want to be invited back after all!

Come at a convenient time

Dropping by unannounced is never a good idea in a house that has a newborn. Communicate with the family and ask what time is best for them. And be flexible– Sometimes what seems like it will be the perfect time ends up being 12 minutes after nap time has started and all those sleepy new parents want is to go to bed with baby. No one needs guilt on top of exhaustion.

Keep your visit short

Unless Requested otherwise! In those early days and even weeks, short visits are usually key. Give them a bit of adult interaction, swoon over the gorgeous new baby, and then get the heck out of dodge and let that family rest. However– some parents really find themselves craving this companionship, and may encourage you to stay. Read their cues! If they’re settled in and keeping the conversation flowing, it’s ok to keep chatting. But watch for signs of tiredness, hunger or anxiousness- sometimes it can feel awkward to deal with those new baby tasks when you’re worried about your guest. Which brings me to the next point…

Image courtesy of WordPress.

When In Rome… Let the baby eat

For a parent who is new to breastfeeding, it can be an overwhelming task. There is no covering up or being discrete when you’re still not sure exactly how to latch baby on properly. And the last thing they need to worry about is making someone else feel awkward. Take your cues from the parents- if they request privacy, this is a perfect opportunity to make yourself useful! Tidy the living room. Wipe down the table. Offer to make tea or a snack. If however, the parents don’t make a big deal out of it– don’t make it into one. Continue talking, make eye contact, and reaffirm that a baby eating is a totally normal and acceptable thing!

Make yourself useful

It’s important to acknowledge that everything with a new baby takes twice as long- if not more. Help out a little while you’re there. Help an older child put away their toys, offer to make the parents a cup of tea or grab a quick snack. Walk the dog or swipe a cloth over the counter quickly. If you’re close with the family or have permission, offer to empty their garbages or throw a load of laundry into the washer. It doesn’t have to be much, but these small gestures are so appreciated! Time spent visiting is often time when the parents aren’t able to get other tasks done- a visitor lending a hand quickly on their way out makes the visit less stressful.

Visit with the big siblings

One of the biggest sources of guilt for parents is often trying to spread the attention between a new baby and older siblings– be they human or of the furry variety! If you have time, try to acknowledge these forgotten members- take a pup for a walk or give them a good long back scratch. For human siblings, take a moment to talk to them about this new development, and make them feel special by reading them a book or playing a quick game. They will appreciate it, and so will the parents.

 

Any other tips you would add? What worked best in your household in those early newborn hazy days?

Embrace Birth Services has created this handy printable for those first weeks with your Winnipeg baby. Post it on Facebook, send it out with a birth announcement, tape it to your door.

 

Winnipeg Baby
Winnipeg Baby