Category Archives: Just Me

NEW Blog Series at Preparing For Birth!

Working with the women at Preparing For Birth has been a joy and a source of growth and challenge for me. Desirre Andrews (owner, operator, and midwife extraordinaire) has encouraged me to jump into the workings of the office with both feet, and to give voice to whatever I’d like to try. I finally decided to come out of the corners and really give more of myself to this wonderful group of women and clients who have come to mean so much to me.

I decided I would start blogging regularly for PFB, tapping into the brain and heart power of my fellow doulas and educators. While I put the words to paper–or, rather, to keyboard–the message comes from all of us at Preparing For Birth, in the hopes that our unified voice would bring to light new perspectives on various issues in the perinatal world.

First up: A blog series debunking some common myths people believe about childbirth education. A sample:

MYTH #1: “I’m having a homebirth, and my midwife will do all my education.”
Home birth families often see childbirth classes as an extra, rather than a valuable and necessary tool to help them have the birth they are hoping for. The most common objection they have is that they will be able to get all the education they need from their midwife. While midwives do educate their clients to some extent, this perception that they can (or should) cover everything is a myth, for several reasons.

To read the whole post, click HERE.

What do you think? What would you like to see me write about here, at Birth In Joy?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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Filed under Just Me, Pregnancy & Birth, Preparing For Birth

This Is Hard.

I can no longer describe myself as a stay-at-home-mom. Of course, I am still home the majority of the time, but I am definitely working more now.

Slowly, my business is building and increasing. I have at least one client a month through July, and a few births a month with Desirre as her assistant. Also, I am still teaching as the only educator at Preparing for Birth. That work will have some relief soon, as one of our other doulas is pursuing her childbirth education certification too. She’s student teaching under me right now.

Needless to say, I’m officially a Really Busy Mom. Adding work hours has been tough. Tougher than we thought it would be as a family, but we’re working out the logistics pretty well. I am so grateful that my husband is not just grudgingly supportive, but encouragingly so. He has really stepped up to help on the days I have to go in to work, or get called to a birth.

In addition, with my mom living here for now, we have had some welcome relief. She cannot help but pitch in and do things that need doing around here. She is a beautiful gift. She would make a great postpartum doula.

I know that I am called to this work. When doubts creep in, someone always comes along to remind me of the truth of my calling in birth work. They usually don’t know that’s what they’re doing, but it is.

God is faithful, and is holding me up in this journey.

This is hard, but I am glad I am here.

What has been worth it in your life, in spite of difficulty? Why?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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Really?! Fear Slows Down Labor?!

It’s been awhile, birthy world! Thank you for your patience. I’ve had quite the interesting summer so far, how about you? Anyway. Today’s post.

Go ahead and go read this short article before you proceed here: Fear Makes Labor Longer, Study Finds.

Image found at seamlessbrand.blogspot.com

So, they’ve “discovered” that fear slows down labor. Really?

This is something women have known innately for thousands of years, and something that natural birth professionals have been preaching for decades.

We cannot make labor happen faster than it should. However, there are things we can do to slow it down – and harboring fear is one huge one. It’s called the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. A phrase coined by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, a pioneer in natural childbirth.

Essentially, it works like this: Mom feels the pains of her first contractions, and fear creeps in that she will not be able to cope when it gets harder. This raises her stress hormones, which ready her for flight, and she tenses up. At the peak of her contraction, her carried tension leads to a greater sensation of pain, and she again begins to fear what comes next. She fears she will not be able to cope, and the cycle begins all over again. Not much fun, I’m afraid.

How do we break that cycle?

1) Hire a doula.
I address a mother’s fears by listening to her, and helping her work through them verbally ahead of time if at all possible. This can even be done in labor. Even small fears have the potential to become big ones in the right environment, so never dismiss any fears you have as “silly.” Address it, work through it, and let it go as best you can.

2) Take an evidence-based childbirth class.
In class is where you can find all kinds of practical tips, tools, and techniques (hooray for alliteration!), for coping with any kind of pain or discomfort you may have during labor. It’s a chance for your support person to learn how to best help you, and you can prioritize ahead of time what techniques you would like to try first.

Also, the more you know about the basic anatomy and physiology of normal birth, the less likely you are to fear it. It kind of takes away all the mystery, and sheds light on an aspect of your womanhood you may never have really understood before. I know that very understanding was a huge help to me as I labored with each of my children.

3) Consider home birth.
No, really. Do it. Look into it. Especially if you have a strong aversion to hospitals and doctors normally. What better way to minimize fear than by being in your own space? Where everyone caters to your needs in labor. Where no one crosses personal boundaries “for your own/baby’s good.” Where you have the most control over the environment. Midwives almost always offer a free consultation, and it never hurts to ask questions! (Visit my home birth & midwifery link at the top of the page if you have more questions.)

4) Learn effective stress management techniques.
These don’t just work for labor – they work for life. They are practical things you can even teach your young children to do when they are feeling stressed. We all know that stress can make us sick, so learning to do this is paramount to all of us in the crazy-fast-paced world. Incidentally – many of the basic relaxation techniques taught in childbirth classes are great stress management tools!

Among many other tools, you can use prayer, physical relaxation techniques, massage, warm compresses, breathing, essential oils, and herbs.

Once the cycle is broken, and you are relaxed, your labor will progress much more quickly and bearably. You may even enjoy many parts of it! It’s not as overwhelming when you know that it is all perfectly orchestrated to bring your baby earthside as safely and effectively as possible. Eliminating fear from the equation allows a better cycle to work: Rhythm, Relaxation, & Ritual cycle (Penny Simkin).

Well, it’s not so much a cycle as it is a principle at work.When you are able to get into a groove of some kind, to find your rhythm, you are able to relax more effectively. You will create little rituals that mark time and space for you in a place where time and space mean almost nothing. It sends you to your primitive brain (a.k.a. “Labor Planet”), and helps you handle your labor as you were intended to handle it: one contraction, one rest period at a time.

When you are relaxed well, you are able to handle everything your labor brings forward. You can crest your contractions like waves, accepting them and holding realistic expectations of your own ability to continue working as long as you need to.

A woman relaxed in childbirth is a woman of power, strength, and faith.

A woman relaxed in childbirth allows her labor to work as quickly and efficiently as it was designed to. There is nothing to slow it down when fear is out of the way.

The beauty of it is that it also has a physiologic effect on your labor! Women, relaxed and uninhibited, will MOVE in labor. They will move a lot. And every movement of mother encourages the baby to move, which in turn encourages the cervix to move, which encourages mom to move, and on we go. The beautiful cycle of relaxation and courage!

Embrace it by educating yourself and taking nothing for granted.

If you have had children before, what was the one thing that helped you cope with each contraction the most? What led you to try that? What fears, if any, did you confront in your childbearing year?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

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Filed under All Things Doula, Childbirth Education, Homebirth & Midwifery, Just Me, Pain Management Techniques, Pregnancy & Birth, Recommendations

New Happenings!

Image from: homeandgardenideas.com

My business is beginning to thrust up little green shoots of growth, and I am deliciously excited with the doors that are opening for me in this privileged line of work! My responsibilities in my work grow, and I find myself considering each and every commitment in my life, my list of priorities, and my dreams as a birth professional in a new light as I experience growth and learning through change.

It seems to be a bit of a bumpy ride, but like birth, it will all be worth it in the end! The hard work, prayer, and rearranging I am committed to in order to keep growing is a lot to digest, and is a little bittersweet. It means that my life will not be the same. That’s great though – it was time for a change!

This summer will be a time of transition for me, as I begin to phase out a lot of personal outside commitments, and focus on more family and birth work commitments. By the fall, there will be a lot more birth work, if all things go as planned, and I am working hard to make small, daily changes to give my work a greater chance to thrive.

I cannot do otherwise. Every time I turn around, I’m receiving “random” confirmation from the God I serve that “this is the way, walk in it.” It’s exciting and scary and new and so very, very right.

One of the changes I am implementing is committing to real-live, genuine office hours as a part of Preparing For Birth! They are short, but they will be expanded come fall. These hours will allow me to keep my word to a few friends who need me over the summer, but still initiate the growth in birth work that is on the horizon.

I will be in the office from 1:00pm to 5:00pm every single Tuesday. I will reserve the mornings for home visits and postpartum work, while the afternoons will be open to interviews and prenatal office visits. It’s also a time that anyone who would like to can stop by, borrow a book, ask a question, pick up supplies, register for classes, etc… Preparing for Birth is growing, and I get to be in on it!

Another change is that, in addition to being a private practice doula, and a contracted educator, I will also be offering my doula services under contract with Preparing for Birth. There will be benefits to my clients whether I am hired under the Birth In Joy name or the Preparing for Birth name – I feel strongly that this will be the best way for me to give greater access to my services to a wider range of women and their families.

Also, I will become the official “librarian” for Preparing for Birth. Over the next few weeks, I will be collecting and cataloging all the books we have at our disposal, and implementing an easy system for our clients and students to check out books and videos. To be honest, this sounds fun to me. My natural bookworm tendencies has me excited about this!

As I sit in the office, typing this post, I smile. I know that there are challenges coming up, and there will be some inner conflict as I work to change some deeply ingrained habits, but I know that I am strong to meet them, by the grace of God. I’m sure that there will be a few stumbles as I unlearn a lot of things, and open my heart and mind up to learning new things, but I am also sure that I am not alone. I have an incredible community of support, and I am truly as excited and happy as I am nervous about it all.

I cannot wait to see those small green shoots grow into lovely shade trees – perhaps kind of willowy – stable and richly green in season. I am willing to work and wait, water and weed, protect and persevere to see it all come to fruition. To rely on the grace and wisdom of Jesus as I walk.

I can do this.

I was made for it.

Grace & Peace,
Doula Tiff

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Intangible Reasons

Image from imdb.com

My husband and I watched “Away We Go” last night. It’s a movie about a pregnant couple’s quest to find the place where they want to give birth and raise their baby. Along the way, they meet up with a lot of old connections to try and get a feel for where they belong. During the obligatory “hippie-tandem-nursing-birkenstock-wearing-freaks” scene, one line really stood out to me, and bothered me.

As filled as the scene was with exaggerated stereotypes, it wasn’t those that bothered me, because all of the families in the movie were portrayed in a way that was a bit over the top. (Except the infertile couple – THAT was one of the best movie scenes I have ever witnessed. Ever.)

John Krasinki’s character explains why he and his girlfriend don’t need a doula. He says something along the lines of “Doulas are for women who are clueless, or have a partner who doesn’t want to be involved, and since I am involved and educated, we don’t need one.”

While he is right in the fact that a doula can be a great asset to a couple who are “clueless,” the quote illustrates the common misconception that doulas replace fathers in the birth room. That if the father is involved and supportive, a doula is just an extra. It’s simply not so.

For one thing, “clueless” clients have more potential to drive a doula crazy! We try to teach our clients to take responsibility for their own births, and encourage them to educate themselves as much as possible about everything relevant to their situation. Some do, and some don’t. The hardest births to be on as a doula are ones in which a mother has not educated herself much at all, and has unrealistic expectations of both birth and her doula. That is a problem that is usually easily remedied. However, not really the point of this post.

Moving on. Sorry to slow you down.

The truth is that men in the labor room is a recent phenomenon. For eons, it’s been women’s work. Birth is what women do. And we do it well. We did not “need” our men in the birthing room – we could handle it pretty well, thankyouverymuch.

However, we began to want our men in the birth room, and welcomed them. Super-cool! We felt it only made sense for the one who helped create this child, be there to help bring him into the world. And we were right. Men should have the chance to see the women in their lives be so strong.

We then threw the baby out with the bathwater, and banished everyone else in favor of the men in our lives.

No one – and I mean no one – can replace the father, husband, lover in the labor room. However, neither can the father bring the shared connection all women have. They can’t bring the “girl power” women thrive on when they are laboring.

Birthing women need both.

For example, I had both my husband and my mother at all of my births (this was before I’d ever heard the word “doula” – my mom essentially filled that role). I could not have done what I did with either of them missing. It is hard to explain tangibly the reasons that this is so.

When I tried to explain it to my husband, I told him that when Mom said I could do it, she was the one I believed.

It’s not that I didn’t believe anyone else, it’s just that it was her energy, faith, and connection to me that helped me put feet to my own belief in my ability to birth. I believed my husband when he said he believed in me, and I appreciated his confidence, but when my mom looked me in the eye and said “You can do this,” something inside me responded, and I could not doubt that she was right.

That is why even the most educated, proactive, emotionally-healthy, bonded couple can benefit from having a doula – and I would even venture to say, needs a doula.

I hear it all the time from my clients: that they just believe me when I tell them they can carry on. They tell me that they love and appreciate the safety and security of their partner’s presence; the love that radiates from his eyes when he holds her hand or brings her water gives her a comfort that cannot be matched. She blossoms under such romance (which is exactly what it is).

But when the doula speaks, moms listen, and their faith in their own ability to birth is given wings.

The truth is this: She cannot do as well as she wants to do without either.

Nearly every client tells me, “I couldn’t have done it without you!” then immediately turns to her partner, “But I couldn’t have done it without you either!” Both statements are as true as true can be. I feel the same way about my mom and my husband.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this, and only you can decide if you are one of them. There are also many situations in which a mother doesn’t have a partner at all, or her situation varies from the norm in some other way. Her need for a doula who will walk alongside her, hold her hand, and support her unconditionally is even greater! I have supported several such women, and stepping into what is essentially a dual role is tough. I could never do that for all births!

My point is that just because factors, A, B, and C all line up for you does not mean that you don’t “need” a doula. Sometimes, it’s the most educated clients that need me the most when push comes to shove. (No pun intended.)

Never say never. Talk to doulas in your area, gauge your needs well, and make the right decision for you and your family. Don’t let anyone – especially a care provider or Hollywood – tell you that you don’t “need” anything when it comes to your birth. Only you can decide that. And take what the media says with an extra-large grain of salt.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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Filed under All Things Doula, Childbirth Education, Crunchy Parenting, Just Me, Miscellaneous, Pregnancy & Birth, Specially For Dads

Enough

Image from global.wonderware.com

I cannot always be everything to everyone, but I can sometimes be something to someone.

It’s okay with me that I cannot be the right doula for every mother. It’s okay with me if they choose another doula. I often ask potential clients if they are interviewing other doulas, and if not, I ask if I can give them some recommendations. After all, I would never encourage a client to hire the first care provider they meet.

Just as I encourage clients and potential clients to interview multiple care providers, I encourage them to interview multiple doulas. It’s only right to do so. Every doula brings something different to the table. Different strengths that will complement a client’s weaknesses. Different experiences that are in line with the experiences of different clients.

It would be the height of arrogance for me to view the interview process as a chance to “sell myself.,” as if I can guarantee that I am the best possible fit for all women, all the time. I’m already “sold” as a doula — after that, it’s a matter of the client’s needs, cultural/religious preferences, and simple personality.

I’ll frame it this way: Doulas are like those puzzle pieces that all look alike. You know, when you’re putting together the cloudless blue sky in a landscape? Or all the grass? We all are part of the same section of the puzzle, and we all look alike on the surface. Many of us have similar scopes of practice, similar philosophies of birth, and similar servant hearts. But – we are not as alike as we look!

Many families have a piece missing from their birth team that fits us exactly. The best way to find out who fits in that spot is to try a few different pieces. The good news is that it often doesn’t take talking to more than two or three of us before a family finds a good fit.

Heaven forbid a client ever hire me simply because I’m the only one they talked to. Sure, that sometimes happens, when we click really well, but that’s not the norm. Heaven forbid a student from a childbirth education class hire me, simply because I was their teacher. I really do feel better about a client deciding to hire me after they have talked to at least one other doula, and their gut tells them they feel right about hiring me.

I may not be able to be everything to everyone, all the time.

I can, however, be something really special to someone. I can make a difference, one mother, one baby, one family at a time. I can be the piece that completes the puzzle.

And that, to me, is enough.

Grace and Peace,
Tiffany

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Some Say I Am Brave

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. To me, that’s like saying I’m brave for having a big wedding. No matter how involved the planning, we all know the real work of marriage starts when the wedding is over.

So it is with birth. Our childhood, our growing up, and our pregnancy is the training ground. Birth is the opening ceremony. Motherhood is the marathon.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. Others would counter that choosing a hospital birth is brave.

I say choosing to become a mother is brave, no matter where you choose to bring your child into the world. I say learning to make fully informed decisions — guided by a beautiful hybrid of evidence-based information and your intuition — is brave.

Doing this often means going against the flow of society in general, and the tide of modern obstetrics in specific.

It means navigating endless resources, asking questions, and taking time to figure out answers. It means identifying, confronting, and processing fears, anxieties, and stressors that hinder you from being able to fully trust your body and your chosen care provider. It means letting go of a process we have very little control over, when all is said and done, and forming realistic expectations about your birth based on your unique emotional health, health history, and risk factors.

It means being able to tell your well-meaning loved ones that you appreciate their input, but that you are choosing a different way than they did. It sometimes means being willing to give up your ideal for reality — whether that entails a homebirth transfer, an unplanned cesarean, or an accidental homebirth.

The location of your birth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you got there.

Navigating the road on this journey isn’t as simple as using GPS systems to decide where to turn. It’s less like a road trip, and more like a sea voyage. You may have all the tools in the world in your boat, but unless you use them, the horizon looks exactly the same no matter which direction you look. Sure, you can guess which direction is the right way to go, but you can’t really know unless you have a destination in mind, and you’re able to use the tools around you.

It’s up to you to pick up those tools and make use of them. No one else is really in that boat with you.

It’s up to you to be brave.

Where do you want to go?

Do your homework. Take nothing for granted. Never say never. Then, when you know where you want to be, pick up the tools you have and get yourself there. No one else can (or will) do this for you.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth.

What really made me brave was my willingness to open my mind and look beyond the status quo at all the options available to me. That was the hard part. What continues to make me brave is looking four little ones in the face each morning, and loving them in spite of the challenges that mothering them presents.

Some say I am brave. I say that all mothers are brave; some just have not figured it out yet.

When did you realize your bravery as a mother? In what moments have you been brave as a mother?

Pick up good books. Take an evidence-based childbirth class. Know where evidence-based information resides on the internet. (It’s not typically at BabyCenter, just FYI.) Ask questions of your care provider every appointment. Hire a doula. Look outside your box. Interview providers you might not have considered. Confront your anxieties and fears about birth – with professional help if you think you need it.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

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Filed under Birth Stories & Inspiration, Care Providers, Homebirth & Midwifery, Informed Consent/Refusal, Just Me, Motherhood, Pregnancy & Birth

Bikini Bodies at Six Weeks?

Image from linked article.

First, read this article, then come on back.

Now, I will grant that many celebrities simply have the genes to be in a size 2 at six weeks postpartum, and I want to be clear that this is not a knock against naturally skinny moms. Or moms who very literally worked their rear ends off to get back to skinny.

I think the point is that no woman, especially celebrities (whom I think may not actually live in the real world), should be bragging about her size. It’s unproductive, irresponsible, and reinforces the message that the rest of us will never measure up to their arbitrary, unrealistic standards.

I prefer The Shape of a Mother – a site where honesty and support for women of ALL shapes and sizes and colors rule the roost. A place where both skinny moms and not-so-skinny moms are welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

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A Glimpse of the Homebirth Difference

A client of mine had her home visit from me this morning. It coincided, on purpose, with the 36 week homebirth visit from her midwife. I cannot say enough how lovely the experience really is.

My client was asked many pertinent questions about her physical and emotional health; her stress levels and what she’s doing to cope; her nutrition, hydration, and rest; and what she was hoping to have on hand at the birth for her comfort. Everything from essential oils, to where the birthing pool would be, to checking the availability of all of her supplies was covered. Then, oh joy! the midwife listened to the baby, and we got to stand in silence and awe of the precious sound.

I was delighted when my client allowed me to palpate her belly, under the supervision of the midwife and intern midwife, to get an idea of baby’s position.

Everything about this appointment was professional, warm, friendly, thorough, and centered on the mother – my client.

For a whole hour of her day, my client got to experience attention and love being centered on her and her baby. She got to be loved at the beginning of her busy day.

It was beautiful, and I can’t think of a single hospital experience — no matter how kind and warm the nurses are — that equals the time devoted to my homebirth clients. What a privilege to be a part of the journey of those who choose this “road less traveled.”

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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Birth Professionals are People, Too.

In light of my last post, which highlighted what things I might do differently if I were to find myself with child again, has got me thinking. Not posting, but thinking.

When I open up and share about the struggles I had with breastfeeding, CIO/Sleep training, and other decisions, I often see a look of surprise on the face of the person I’m talking to. I assume the surprise I see stems from their knowledge of what I do as a birth professional.

I think people must think that, as a birth professional, I must have gotten it all “right,” or that I’m some sort of cape-wearing supermom. “You, of all people, had trouble with that?” I see a bit of skepticism in their eyes.

I would like to just take this moment to say that I am no different than the mothers I serve. I am real, human, and I don’t know everything. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have it all together all the time. In fact, I often find myself struggling with questions of what I ought to do.

At no time do I want anyone to think that, because of my level of knowledge about birth and all that goes with it, that I somehow must have a better handle on things than anyone else. I hope this thought never crosses anyone’s mind: “Of course she can do it. She’s an expert!”

Heaven forbid! I “did it” before I knew all that I knew now. In fact, I only knew a fraction of what I know now when I was birthing my babies. My knowledge was pretty limited, and that is part of why I struggled with certain areas.

As a birth professional, I speak of what I know with passion, honesty, and confidence born of both experience and education. But I didn’t learn it all at once. It has taken time, more education, and more experience.

Birth professionals are people, too. We all have our own stories, mistakes, and triumphs that we want and need to share with other women on this journey. There is nothing “special” about us that makes us more able to birth our babies (or whatever) than any other woman. Every woman has that capability – even if she needs a cesarean. She is capable of coming into motherhood on her own terms, as an empowered, knowledgeable, strong woman.

Give your doula, childbirth educator, or other birthy friend the room to be human. You may find you learn more from her experience than from her head knowledge.

I share my story as honestly and accessibly as I possibly can. I hope that every time you read my blog, you come away encouraged, empowered, or a little more knowledgeable.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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