"The Fourth Trimester"- by Kimberly Ann Johnson Book Summary Report

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"The Fourth Trimester"- by Kimberly Ann Johnson


CONTENTS of

forward, introduction, and my own birth and postpartum experience


* "Motherhood is a process of becoming, transforming, and responding, which develops over time and begins in pregnancy."

* "Woman Code": a guide for women to navigate the inevitable hormonal turbulence that comes with puberty, periods, pregnancy, postpartum, and peri-menopause, so women everywhere could know what I discovered in my research, that foods, not pharmaceuticals, are the way to restore balance and reclaim your vitality, and that an ongoing relationship with your body and organizing your self care around the innate cyclical patterns of your biochemistry is the only way for women to live their healthiest, happiest lives."

* "healthy mother is best for baby"

* "When I was preparing to go through my own pregnancy and postpartum, I knew I needed to assemble a team of support, stock my freezer and pantry, create space in my career for rest, and monitor myself and symptoms closely."

* "For some reason, there is a silence about birth injuries and how to truly care for ourselves during this time."

* "Even just one hundred years ago here in the united states, there was a practice of "lying in," which simply meant supporting women as they rested in the months following birth."

* " We currently think that what is a necessity is a luxury, and it's time that we reclaim this knowledge for ourselves and for each other, so that rather than feeling depleted, frazzled, and fragile, women can emerge from the transition to motherhood stronger, happier, and more whole."

* "When we are surrounded by a web of support and information, we are free to explore what works for ourselves, our babies, an our families."

* "Sexological Bodywork is a progressive, holistic, field that includes the treatment of sexual and reproductive anatomy in its scope of practice."

* "In Thailand there is a center that hired out massage therapists and herbalists to new mothers. The healers went to women's houses every day for forty days with special recipes, herbs, and wraps to help them assist them through the transition to motherhood. I recalled India, where new mothers return to their own mothers' home after giving birth to be fed, sponge bathed, and kept calm as she got to know her baby."

My Experience with Birth # 14: Back up Doula

I recently moved to Portland Oregon and since then have partnered up with a few Birth Doulas who could potentially use me as their back up Doula just in case they cant make the birth they have been preparing to support. Luckily I did this as soon as I moved here because just recently I was called to a birth to support a mama and her partner (whom I had never met) at OHSU. The mother had studied up on Hypnobirthing practices to incorporate during her labor. I was called early afternoon from a Portland Birth Doula to help support this family. The original Doula couldn't attend this birth because she was experiencing early pregnancy nausea and had recently found out she was pregnant herself!

I was very happy to step in and attend my first birth in Portland, Oregon. I was excited to attend a birth at one of the many Portland Hospitals. I’m always curious what each hospital protocol will be in regards to the service they provide for new mothers. Some hospitals are more strict on maintaining and sticking with their “hospital protocal”. Other hospitals are lenient and willing to be flexible in meeting the mother’s birth wishes. I’ve heard through the grape vine that Portland Hospitals are more “granola”/ “hippie”/ “natural”/ with a “hands off approach”. Providing an atmosphere aligned with the mothers desires around her birth. That tall tale was pretty much on point from what I experienced at this last birth.

While driving to the hospital, I needed to get my mind and my heart into the right space. I wanted to come from a place of definitely wanting to show up in this type of heart felt work as a Birth Doula. I was and still am hungry for births here in Portland and my desire to serve was strong. I hadn't been exhausted by previous births and felt like I was going to be able to show up in a powerful way. I wanted to show through my intention and with full body expression that I felt honored to be attending this birth and to walk this brief but powerful journey with this mama and her partner. As I stepped into the room, I was greeted by a warm and open father excited to meet me. I was excited too. I met briefly with the laboring mother’s mother. I immediately pulled up a chair next to this new mama to be and watched her labor through one contraction before chiming in. I let her know that I had attended several hospital births prior and that I was comfortable in this environment. 

Next, I let her know that this is her moment to really surrender to the birth. To completely let go, relax deeply, and allow all sensations to move through her. She seemed in very positive spirits and open to my suggestions. I reminded her that her body would continue to open as she rests between her surges if she chose to keep laying in her hospital bed. I guided her breathing the entire labor except during the pushing phase. We breathed together for 2.5 hours. I encouraged her to start and finish each surge with a big cleansing breath to allow her abdominal muscles to expand and relax around the baby so that oxytocin could continue to flow. This type of relaxation allows the body to feel safe so as to continue opening in a rhythmic manner. I learned technique through Hypnobirthing classes. We didn't want her body to react to the surge and close up from fear or tension. But rather open and expand while the surge would build and eventually ebb out of her body.

I would put my hand on her face to remind her to soften the muscles that were clenching to allow as much relaxation and letting go as she could handle. I encouraged her to use her voice louder and louder so her throat would stay open. Open throat equals open cervix, as many birth professionals would say. She took all of my suggestions. She incorporated them and allowed herself to surrender so much so that she was ready to push her baby out within 2.5 hours of me arriving to her room. I was amazed! Toward the time her body was opening from 7cm to 10cm, she gave her safe word to receive an epidural. Inside of myself I felt as though by the time they signed papers, got her sitting up comfortably during heavy surges, inserted the epidural needle, and allowed her body to fully receive the epidural effects, she would be ready to push. I lightly encouraged her to not receive it but that I honored her wishes. I knew she could last a couple more surges but it was not my place to be pushy. She had already done so well and I knew she had the fight within her. Most mothers ask for pain relief between the 7cm and 10cm time of cervical opening. Even if they were dead set on not receiving pain medication of any sort during labor. I don't blame them. It’s hard work and the sensations can feel really scary. 

So I left immediately. I was told to return in half an hour. I went down to the cafeteria and was called back almost immediately. I got a text from the father saying that she is pushing and baby is almost here! I scrambled back up to the labor and delivery floor and re-entered into the room. She was in the pushing position and I asked him what happened. He told me that as soon as I left and they had her sitting up, her water released all over him. Once that happened her surges came on stronger and her body opened to 10cm to push the baby out. No time for an epidural. Instead she took Nitrous gas during the pushing phase. I was happy to be back and happy to see the mama working hard and fast to birth her baby. She pushed her baby out in 15 mintutes. I couldn't believe how fast everything had taken place.

I commend that mama for fully trusting me and surrendering to her birth. To breath her baby down and out using Hypnobirthing techniques. OHSU hospital staff stayed out of the room most of the time during her labor so as to not get in her way and cause her more distraction. They only came in to check her briefly and to catch the baby. They honored the family’s wish of delayed cord clamping. Literally waiting 5 minutes or more to cut the cord! I was so grateful! I was relieved to work alongside staff who are mother and baby centered. This mama was even high risk with Lupus and would be encouraged to receive Pitocin if the labor patterns were sporadic. But her labor patterns were even and I was only at the hospital supporting her for fours hours total which included the extra hour I spent with her postpartum. I was so happy to help coach and facilitate a method of birthing that felt aligned with the mama and her partner. I am grateful for the experience and for being a part of something so primal and natural.      

My Experience with Birth # 13: Birth Story

I met my clients through a Hypnobirthing teacher referral a couple months before their estimated due date of May 31st 2018. We met at Mother’s Market & Kitchen for a quick bite and for a chance to meet face to face. The excited and hilarious couple were very eager to meet their baby but weren’t quite sure about hiring a Birth Doula or not. They had a lot to think about. I was personally very excited to learn that this mama is a practicing Birth Doula herself and that her partner has the pleasure of coming home to mama to discuss the various births she has been to throughout their relationship. If this was to be a good match, it would be my first Birth Doula client! We all got along really well with our personalities and humor aligning. After some time and thought, I got the fabulous news that I was to be their Doula!

I could tell that they had a beautiful relationship with each supporting the other. I felt that the strength I sensed and the humor I got to partake in would be a great buffer for any discomfort or worries during the labor itself. Our one and only prenatal went really well as I learned what they were hoping to experience during the laboring process. We worked as a hilarious team as mama made light of the situation with the different sensations and emotions coming up for her during this pregnancy. It was an honor to see clearly the process of how pregnancy can look for an individual who is so well versed on birth herself. It opened my eyes and my heart to the intricacies of pregnancy. And how it’s not always as easy or beautiful as it may seem to be. Mama tapped into her inner strength every day during her pregnancy to flow with what came up. Luckily she had her daily rock, her partner, who was a true support and loving force for mama. She was in good hands due to her mental strength she was building within herself every day, her many various past experiences as a Birth Doula, her partner, and her family. This Doula client relationship felt more hands off and that in itself was a learning experience for me.

The day before mama’s due date, her water released mid evening. Powerful surges came on shortly afterward. She texted me to let me know and that her partner would let me know when she would need me. Her partner called me at 3a.m. on May 31st asking me to come over because they needed some help. I arrived at 4:15a.m. with her partner debriefing me on what was happening upstairs in their home so I could be prepared for what was to come. He told me that an assistant midwife had already arrived and checked mama’s progress. She was 1 cm dilated but in excruciating pain and the other midwife was on her way. The birth tub had overflowed once he left the house to let the assistant midwife in through the front gate. And lastly that mama didn’t want to be touched or spoken to during her surges. I was a bit shocked and overwhelmed by the news but came upstairs to check on mama and to make my first connection with her.

As he said, the atmosphere was a bit tense with an air of uncertainty. I initially watched what was unfolding in front of me so I could get an idea of how to best support her. I felt very sensitive to her needs of no touching or no words spoken. So I fell silent and stayed that way most of the evening. Not being the normal care I offer, I felt a little unsure of the other skill sets I could bring forth. We tried getting her into the birth tub which ended up being too hot and stimulating for mama. She wandered around the apartment and stabilized herself during each surge. Once the other midwife came in, she advised that mama get into bed so she could check her and maybe stretch her open to 2 cm. During this time, I stayed silent and just assisted with whatever the midwife, her partner, and mama needed from me. Her partner was so patient and clearly 100% there for whatever mama needed from him even when she needed him to be doing 3 things at the same time! Because she didn’t want to be touched or spoken to during surges, her partner stayed by mama’s side, holding her hand when she would allow him, touching her back, and speaking the right encouraging phrases to her. I sat back and waited until each surge would ripple out of her body and then make my move to help her completely relax between the uncomfortable surges coming on quick and strong. That’s all there was to do. Be present, wait, and encourage relaxation during her down time.

The midwife assessed the situation for the next hour or so and decided that based on mama’s progress and the intensity of her early labor contractions, that she should be transferred to a hospital to receive an epidural so she could relax and sleep. Mama was right on board with this decision and felt it to be best as well. We slowly helped her transition into clothes, into the car, and up onto the 5th floor of the hospital. Once administered, it took a while for the anesthesiologist to assist mama with an epidural. She was having a hard time with the news of the long wait and we did our best to help her relax when her surges would leave her body. She responded to the intensity of her strong surges and the long wait with, "you guys...! This is really hard work", then fall back into a surge hiding her face in a pillow or underneath a wet towel. Finally, I was asked to leave as they prepared her for the epidural. I was in the waiting room for about 2 hours chatting with her parents and updating them on all the news. Once mama received her epidural, her body yawned open to 9 cm immediately. Her body was able to relax and open. There was no more resistance from the pain, so her body opened quickly. She had experienced 12 hours of intense labor surges before receiving her epidural. She had been so strong and brave during that time!

Shortly after the anesthesiologist left, mama and her partner were joined by her mother, father, her photographer, Sarah, and me. Her mother gently brushed out her hair and re-braided it to look nice for the rest of labor and for pictures I’m sure. I took some photos of this moment and massaged mama’s legs to provide circulation to her lower body since she couldn’t move it. We chatted and had a couple of laughs as we debriefed about what we had all experienced back at her home earlier that morning. Sarah checked the lighting for the photos that she would be taking during the pushing phase and shortly afterward we left so mama and her partner could rest.

By 2p.m. on May 31st, mama had the “okay” to push since she had been complete for about an hour. The birth photographer, Sarah, myself, mama's mother, and sister joined in the room to watch and encourage mama during the pushing phase. She kept saying that she couldn’t feel anything and that the pushing phase felt fake. Like it wasn’t actually happening. She also kept saying that she already loved her baby so much and that she is ready to meet and hold her baby. She made the very best of the circumstances that come into fruition during her labor! She kept a great attitude and a strong willingness to keep going and to flow with what was next. The pushing phase lasted less than half an hour. Her partner and her nurse stood close by to hold up mama’s legs and to offer the best support a mama could ask for. Her mother, sister, and I stood back and cheered her on. Reminding her that she is doing it and that this is her body pushing the baby out even if she couldn’t feel anything. That her body just made all this effort to labor her baby and now it the time to meet this baby girl.

Mama pushed her baby out quickly and her partner had the unbelievable opportunity to catch his baby girl and place her onto mama’s tummy. The cord was thick, pulsing, and healthy! Baby, mama, and papa all cried together shortly afterward. It was such a beautiful victorious moment for everyone in the room. So sacred and special! This Doula had her baby! Baby was born at 2:25 p.m. on May 31st, 2018 weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces measuring 20 inches long. Bets were made about the weight of the baby and Sarah had the closest guess. Mama, being born in May, really wanted to have a May baby and she got her wish! Congratulations on a healthy baby girl. You both poured so much mental/emotional energy, devotion, time, and love into this 10-month experience for one another and for your individual selves. 

My Experience with Birth # 12 "Birth Story"

I met my new clients at Mothers Market in Costa Mesa for the first time to interview with them. As we sat with one another, I could tell that they were passionate about having a vaginal birth in the comfort of their own home. I was very excited to be interviewing with them because they were very much aligned with my practice and the care that I offer as a Birth Doula. All three of us shared a passion for herbs and holistic methods of caring for the body. When I got their approval message to be their Doula, I set up our first prenatal! Our first prenatal went well as we became more acquainted with one another. They had taken the Bradley Method birth course, so they were well versed on what to expect. I felt as though with my knowledge of the Bradley Method course, I could support them even more since their understanding of birth was aligned with the course I was currently taking. During our three prenatals I was able to go over how to comfort mama and what to expect from a laboring woman. I emphasized to mama how important it was to let the whole body go completely limp during each wave while breathing deeply into her baby. I worked with them on using the rebozo for sifting the baby’s position for better alignment and how to use it for comfort and relaxation. I became familiar with their lovely home and how each of them functions and feels comfortable within their home. Mama discussed with me that her partner has trouble with maintaining balance and strength in his body after a long day. I felt I needed to lock that information in so that I could be a more physical support for her during her labor. She also shared with me that she wouldn’t want any candles lit, no music on, dim lights, and very little talking during her labor. I told her we could accommodate that atmosphere and that I felt comfortable in this environment.

One day before her 40 week guess date, mama’s water released around 3:20 a.m. on May 3rd, 2018. She woke up with a start from the dead of sleep! She jolted straight up and woke her partner with the news. Immediately her contractions began at 4:00 a.m. At 7:30 a.m. the next morning I got a sweet call from her partner about the wonderful news. He told me her surges were strong and consistent and that they might be needing me over very soon. When I got the call at 9:00 a.m. to head over I was ready to go! I arrived at 9:30 a.m. and made my way upstairs to check on mama. She looked good. She was relaxed and her labor had stalled. We sat down and talked for a little while discussing how normal it is for labor to stall especially when someone new comes into the labor and birth space. I told her that her baby was in great health and that she just needed to keep walking calmly until the surges picked up again. Shortly after our conversation, her surges picked up. Her partner was a very excited and supportive partner for mama. Sometimes too excited. Mama asked him to talk less and ask less questions because she had to go inward to concentrate. In the meantime, I called their lovely midwife, Melanie, and discussed what was occurring at home. She guided me to tell the partner to start setting up the pool for mama. While he set things up, I supported mama through her surges. She did AMAZING! She would always go completely limp and breathe deeply.  Once the tub was set up, mama sent both of us to TraderJoes to pick up food for after the delivery of their son. I thought this was a great idea and encouraged her partner and I to get some fresh air and sunshine since it was a beautiful day outside. I told him that it is good for mothers to have alone time during their labors to focus inward and to not be a watched pot. We grabbed some food and headed back home.

Mama was excited too. She walked and paced down stairs while she prepared lentils for me and the midwives who were to come later. She was trying to keep busy and less focused on what was happening until she couldn’t any longer. I told her that I felt as though she was focusing too much on my comfort and my hunger levels so I suggested that I would leave again to the nearest park until her surges came on stronger and harder. I felt intuitively that this would be the best thing to do because she felt watched even from me. I left and took a walk outside. 15 minutes later her partner called to tell me her surges were right on top of one another. I figured she was about 6 to 7 cm dilated at this point due to the timing and frequency at which her surges were coming and going. I headed back quickly to find mama in a good rhythm. I told her partner to call Melanie so that she knew this would be a good time to come over. Her partner and I switched on and off with supporting mama and breathing with her. She stayed limp the whole time and started her first laboring ritual. She would first lean against a wall as the surge built, then find one of us to lean on until it ended. With her next surge she would try leaning over the birth ball while I applied the double hip squeeze. She would get up, sway a bit and start over again. The midwives were great company. They listened to baby’s heart tones and reassured the new parents that their baby was healthy and happy. We had mama get into the birth tub to relax and to start working with her body’s pushing sensations. She had a new ritual in the birth tub. She would sway, splash, and bob her head forward. After she was in late first stage she consistently bobbed her head. Every woman’s rituals is different and beautiful and amazing to encounter. She kept repeating (whispering) “God, help me, someone help me”. But we reminded her that she can only help herself. She has to do this work herself. We are here to support her but she has to understand that this is her work. Her right of passage.

After the birth tub, we took her to her room to labor and work with her pushing sensations on her bed. Melanie beautifully described how to start sending that energy down and through her vagina. We had her push on the bed with her partner supporting her while he sat behind her. She would push in this position for a bit and then get onto hands and knees while remaining on the bed. She would push in hands and knees and then lean back, relax her whole body, and smile until the next wave. We had her squat and push on the floor too. While she was squatting and pushing on the floor, we used a rebozo around my shoulders and upper back so mama could grab a hold of the rebozo to support her weight. While this was happening, her partner watched from behind and rested a little. After this position for quite some time we had her get on all fours and push in this position. We encouraged her to use the strength that she has never tapped into before and utilize it. Mama never complained, cursed or yelled out. She dove right into the whole experience, let go and kept breathing deep. I was so incredibly proud of her. We all were!

Finally, the time had come when baby’s head was crowning. Her partner got right behind mama to support her weight and I stayed in front of mama to support her as she beared down, hard. Baby came out head first with a tiny hand up by its cheek. When the baby slipped out, mama fell back against the bed and her partner to catch her baby. She was in utter shock! We all were. It’s always amazing to see a baby being brought onto this planet while gazing into the faces of new parents experiencing birth for the first time. Mama finally exclaimed, “can I look at him?”. We didn’t even realize that she couldn’t see him because she was holding him tightly into her breasts. She brought her baby forward and looked at him for the first time and was surprised by how adorable he looked. They are happy new parents to their baby born at 10:43 p.m. weighing 8lbs, 5oz, measuring 20 inches long on Friday May 3rd, 2018. Congratulations you two! You worked incredibly hard and diligently to have the birth of your dreams. It was an absolute pleasure working with individuals so aligned with my own truths of being and relating in this world. I wish you all the best in the next phase of parenthood. 

My Experience with Birth # 11: "Birth Story"

My client's met me about a month before the delivery of their baby boy. Mama was working toward experiencing a vaginal birth since this was going to be the only child she would have with her partner. They both wanted to have a healthy low risk pregnancy and laboring process. I told them that I could help them along this journey! Mama formed a strong birth team that included herself, her partner, their very good friend, and me. Everyone was on the same page and completely supported mama in her birth wishes. We had 4 extensive prenatals before the upcoming birth. Information, ideas, knowledge, and friendship were shared in each meeting. With every visit to mama's OBGYN, she understood her pregnancy to be quite healthy and baby to be healthy and happy too. Therefore, they could continue with allowing labor to occur spontaneously.

As time got closer and closer to mama's due date, excitement, worry, anticipation, and antsiness set in. I reminded mama that both baby and mama were healthy and that her baby boy knows when he is ready to come earth side. Mama felt aligned with this guidance and chose to wait by showing a great deal of patients and trust toward her new baby boy. While the couple eagerly waited and put everything together for the day her body decided to go into spontaneous labor, mama experienced a full week of prodromal labor. Her body was learning to open. Slowly and beautifully it did! I came to check on Theresa’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being the day before her waters released. Everyone was in good spirits that day! Luckily their good friend was there to spend time with mama when I arrived. I had all three of us go outside to talk about releasing any emotional past traumas that occured in mama's past. We formed a sacred woman’s circle to honor this mama as a new mother and to bring a sense of safety into her heart.  I did some mild body work and adjustments on mama while her partner made lunch for everyone. It was a very connecting time for everyone.

The next day in the afternoon, mama's waters released and she felt as though she was definitely in early labor. Her doctor told her she was 4cm dialated with 50% effacement. What good news for a first time mother! The couple went on a good walk after dinner and noticed that mama was starting to progress more into her labor. The family contacted me to let me know of the news and that they felt that tonight would be the night they would finally meet their baby boy. I reassured them that they should call the hospital to let the hospital staff know that mama’s water’s released and that she might be coming into the hospital shortly. I told them that if they wanted to stay at home to labor for a while it would be a good idea to check her temperature every half an hour and to pay attention to baby’s movements. Instead they chose to go to the hospital an hour and a half later to check on mama’s progress. It was late into the evening when they called me to come join them. I showed up around 11pm at St. Joseph's Hospital. Everyone was in great spirits and hugs were exchanged immediately. While mama’s surges got closer and closer together and becoming stronger and stronger, everyone worked with her to assist with her breathing. Her birth team walked with her, helped her reposition, nourished her, laughed with her, talked with her, and moved with her all throughout her labor. The room was set up beautifully with candle lights and the overhead lights were either dim or off.

As mama was nearing completion, fetal heart tones were being monitored more and more showing an indication of fetal distress. The very helpful hospital staff and mama’s birth team worked tirelessly to help baby’s heart tones stay even. Mama was strong the entire time! She did not complain once! The only indication of discomfort coming from mama was how tired she was. All she wanted to do was sleep. Her body was exhausted from a full week of on and off labor patterns. There was so much love, concern, care, trust, and attention on mama. She was doing beautifully. Her strong spirit and fight came out during her labor and everyone was a witness to it. She stayed focused, hydrated, and relaxed throughout her entire labor. Mama had reached full dialation. When she began to bear down and push her baby out, the fetal heart tones indicated that her baby was having a hard time coping with labor. Her on call OBGYN came in to assist for quite a while to help baby come quickly. To see if the baby could handle the pushing phase. After working with mama and her birth team for quite some time, the decision was made that the next course of action would be a Cesarean. Her partner had everyone leave the room as he talked to mama about the next new step in the birth plan. When everyone came back inside, the birth team stayed close by mama's side while I explained to mama that she is a very strong mother who had come so far with a healthy pregnancy and labor while also reaching 100% complete dialation. She had done all that she could do and now her baby decides the rest of the journey. Once papers were signed and initialed, mama was wheeled off to receive her epidural and anesthesia. her partner and good friend joined mama in surgery and stayed by her side. Their baby boy came into this world weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces on March 28th 2018 at 8:49 am. Her friend took photos of mama meeting baby for the first time. Luckily both mother and baby were healthy and well after the Cesarean. 

I called this mama a day after the birth to see how she was coping with the change in the birth plan. She told me she had completely accepted it. That she had done her research, hired a doula, hired a birth educator to guide, coach, and inform her of everything she needed to know about birth. She felt that with so much knowledge and understanding of birth and how unexpected circumstances can occur, she was able to accept this outcome easily. 

My experience with Birth # 10: "Birth Story"

Mama's estimated due date was at the very tale end of March 2018. Mama and her partner hired a Doula for this birth because they felt as though adding a Doula to their birth team would be beneficial. The day of their first prenatal their Doula, Heidi, met the family and learned of their “Birth Plan”. Heidi found out that their daughter would be announcing the sex of their newborn. Together all four practiced comfort measures so that mama could be prepared for some hands on comfort during her labor.

That late evening heading into the early morning, mama's water released. This was about 20 days before her estimated due date. Everyone was shocked and rearranged plans to be there for her. There were changed flights, a new birth plan, a sudden urgency, as well as a feeling of trust that everything would be okay. Mama was in good hands with her birth team and family. Everything came together at the last moment. She waited 24 hours before her Midwife, Allison, made an educated call to have her induced at Saddleback hospital. Bags were quickly packed and prepared while shortly after, mama and her family headed to the hospital that early morning to await their newborn baby. The induction was successful and their Doula, Heidi, joined them later at 6pm when mama was ready to have her join and assist them. At that time mama was 4cm dilated. So Heidi packed everything up and headed over to the Woman's building at Saddleback hospital to join mama and her partner.

Luckily the staff at Saddleback Hospital were amazing. A nurse stayed with mama and her partner the whole time and coached and encouraged mama until her Doula arrived. Her Midwife felt as though mama was making excellent progress and proceeded to leave the room until the pushing phase. Mama and her partner worked beautifully together as a laboring family. Her partner was so loving and attentive to mama as she rode each wave. They stayed in the slow dance position while her partner held and consoled her. Heidi had mama breathe as deeply and calmly into her baby as possible during each wave. She was guided to release each wave down and out of her body. Heidi provided the hip squeeze while her nurse Cassie spoke encouraging words back to mama. Mama had the idea to use the Rebozo on the hospital bed to support her belly during each wave but it was a bit difficult to get the entire Rebozo around the belly due to EFM (electronic fetal monitoring). Instead Heidi pulled out her icey cold wash clothes to put all over mama's body. Around her neck, her lower back, and on her pubic bone to provide relief. While Heidi provided lower back pressure and massage, her partner stroked mama's back and put loving and consistent pressure on her head, and the nurse made sure the fetal heart tones were stable and normal. Mama was so strong the entire time! She yelled, bellowed, and roared through each wave to cope through the sensations she was experiencing.

Her pushing phase came quickly. Within an hour after Heidi arrived she started making pushing and grunting sounds which indicated that mama had to be repositioned for the last bit of labor. Allison then rejoined mama and her birth team. She helped coach mama to breathe more calmly and explained that she was close to meeting her baby. She reminded mama that she was strong and that she could do it. There were times when mama felt like this labor and pushing phase was too painful and she would yell out “no no no”. Heidi suggested that she yell out “yes yes yes” instead to welcome her new baby. At first mama was apprehensive but then started saying “yes yes yes”. The birth room was filled with positivity, energy, love, encouragement, and a sense of knowing that this was a powerful birth to witness. There was a strong birth team plus a strong mama all in one room. The energy was high! There were adorable moments when mama would softly whisper out “baby?” and Heidi and her partner would respond back in affirming tones that “yes, baby is almost here and you are doing great. You are about to meet baby!” And mama would then repeat “baby?” and again her birth team reassured her to keep going in order to meet her baby. The pushing phase was short, sweet, simple, and kind to both baby and mama.

Delayed cord clamping, instant skin to skin, the “breast crawl”, and the Golden Hour were all honored and respected at Saddleback Hospital. The staff made it easy for everyone involved. As these beautiful moments were taking place, Heidi snapped a bunch of photos for the family. Her daughter walked in shortly after and announced the sex of the baby with extreme joy and pride. "It’s a boy!" Her daughter took off her shirt to allow skin to skin with the baby. They named their baby after a grandfather and a loved family dog. Luckily mama’s mother was able to change her flight and make it down for the birth. She was emotional and called her partner to have him join the celebration over the phone. Breastfeeding and family bonding took off and Heidi left the family to be at 8pm. 

My experience with Birth #9

When I was first contacted by my client I felt an immediate connection with her story. She explained to me that she is in partnership with a woman who wanted to equally participate in the birth of their child. They share a lovely young boy who my client had given birth to 3 years prior. She set important standards for her up coming birth and wanted to know if I could adhere to them. She wanted a home birth. She expressed that she would appreciate to have me call her partner "partner" instead of wife. Her partner goes by "mama" and my client goes by "mommy". She wanted to have her young son attend the pushing phase of her labor and everything afterward. She told me she wanted to go off of her own unique intuition during this labor just as she had with her first birth. She had no prior childbirth education classes and felt she was strong enough to create an internal reality that could guide her on the intense journey of labor. I felt very excited to partake in a birth for a woman who painted such a unique journey to embark upon as a Birth Doula.

What made this arrangement even more unique was that she wanted to have her partner breast feed their newborn within the first hours of being born. Her partner had prepared her body for months to successfully breastfeed their newborn. Their partnership was equal in providing for the newborn and in being an equal part of giving birth to this new baby girl. She told me she wanted to have her birth team stay quite during her labor. She wanted to be guided through physical touch instead. She told me she would imagine a rainbow through each contraction. As the colors progressed from red to orange to yellow and green her contraction would build up reach its peak and then subside as the colors progressed in the rainbow. She wanted verbal ques from me to keep her on track with this visual.

I felt full confidence in her ability to tap into her strength during this labor. She expressed to me that her previous labor lasted three days. She expressed concern to me that she had a fear that it would happen again. The Midwives at South Coast reassured her that 2nd time births are quicker. Our prenatal went well as I got to know her family of three and the space where she would be giving birth. Her son was very protective as I offered a loving touch massage and a guided meditation to my client. He didn't want me to touch her and to have us stop. She calmly explained to him that this is the type of care I would provide as a Birth Doula. That I would be helping "mommy" during the more intense moments of labor. I wanted to set up a physical relationship with her before the birth so that way she felt more relaxed with my touch for when the day comes.

During the next few weeks before her labor we set up a very trust worthy Doula client relationship. She could text me and call me anytime and visa versa. Her baby was past the set due date and my client had wanted her baby to come sooner rather than later due to some life events that needed to take place. I listened to her worries, fears and stresses. I offered her advice to the best of my ability based on my belief of birth, labor, and life as a individual walking this journey of being a human. I told her that her baby would come in perfect timing and knows when it is the best time to be born. We don't ultimately have complete control and our baby's journey is their own. As time kept ticking along with no baby, several membrane sweeps, and alternative inducing techniques I kept dreaming every night of her labor. I went through her labor at least 7 different nights in my sleep before the day came. I felt a lot of internal pressure due to lack of sleep and unrestful stressful sleep. I also had the pressure of another mother who was also waiting to go into labor around the exact same time. It was the most stressful time for me as a Doula in my Doula career thus far. Luckily I had a back up Doula who recently joined the South Coast Midwifery team. She was on top of being a very good back up Doula. I couldn't thank her enough. Luckily I was able to attend both births with some wiggle room in between for sleep.

The day I got the call to come into her labor I was at South Coast Midwifery completing some Doula intern tasks. So I drove right on over to my client's house. She was in active labor by the time I arrived. She was doing beautifully with her breathing technique. We had a great birth team. Two Midwives, a Doula, her partner, and her two family friends who helped tremendously with filling up the birth tub and making it the perfect temperature. My client actually ended up needing the opposite care that she previously asked for. She wanted me to verbally guide her through breathing and to not touch her unless it was on her head while I scratched her scalp. And to put cold compresses on her for head to cool her off. She had her baby within four hours. She pushed and delivered in the tub while her son was there to watch the pushing phase. She had the birth of her dreams. Which is rare but achievable. She birthed in her birth tub, had delayed cord clamping, soothed her son to stay close to her during her pushing contractions, and had an immediate breastfeeding latch. Her partner had luck with the newborn latching to her as well. It all went so smoothly. I left within 6 hours of arriving. I was the last to leave to make sure they were cared for before heading off. I was relieved to experience such an easy birth especially with the stressful weeks leading up to such a perfect birth. 

My experience with Birth #8

I met my client and her partner through South Coast Midwifery. My client has a background of pagan spirituality. I was very interested in this belief system because I myself believe in the power of the earth and the animals living on it. Her partner is Catholic and her mother is pagan as well. I thought this was an intriguing family dynamic and I was happy to be working with someone so spiritual. For our first prenatal we met at a park to have a picnic to go over their birth preferences, labor positions, offer a guided meditation, and a loving touch massage. We got along great and my client asked for a second prenatal. Our second prenatal was thought provoking. We (my client, her mother, and I) sat right outside of the Birthing Center and discussed positive affirmations she could incorporate into her daily life before her baby arrived. My client discussed more about how she wanted to set up a pagan alter during her labor. I was fascinated by her belief system and told her that I'd love to help support her with setting up the perfect environment. During that prenatal we had three hawks flying above us and encircling us and the Birthing Center. We saw it as a very good sign and all of us left happier that day.

When I finally received the call to come to her house, it was late at night but I was ready for the hours of work to come. She had a special pagan candle lit in her room and all the other lights were off. My client didn't want to be touched during contractions but only spoken to and for me to breath with her. We kept cold compresses on her body because she was very hot and sweating a lot. She told me she didn't feel the surges in her abdomen like you are supposed to but only in the tip of her cervix. I stayed in close communication with the Midwife until we arrived at the Birthing Center. My client's bag of water had broken and her surges seem to express that she was in transition. Being two minutes apart and lasting a full minute long. The Midwife I was in contact with didn't think she was in transition and I couldn't understand why. My client kept telling me she was ready to go to the birthing center and felt it was right to go. Every woman knows when it is best for them to transfer to the birth place of their choice. When my client's surges became too uncomfortable we left for the Birthing Center. My client had so much adrenaline flowing through her that her whole body was shaking uncontrollably. We couldn't get on top of the shaking. I remember my client, walking up to the Midwife who was waiting for us at the front doors of the lobby, shaking so badly with her arms and upper torso. It was a sight to see. When she was checked she had dilated 1 centimeter in all those hours of being in labor. I was shocked since I thought she was in transition. What happened was that her cervix was swollen and would not be able to open without intervention. She had to be transferred to the hospital to be given an epidural to help reduce the incredible swelling that was taking place inside of her. She had to relax in order to reduce the swelling. I didn't understand how that could happen to a woman's body... The Midwife suggested that the baby's head wasn't laying completely flesh on the cervix but rather bumping up against it trying to make contact to help the cervix efface and open. This situation could cause the cervix to swell. That was her theory. It's hard to know why things like that happen to some women. All you can do is make an educated guess.

Once we were settled into Hoag Hospital, my client was able to calm down but her shaking didn't stop. We all rested as best we could as we waited for the epidural to take effect in reducing the swelling. I massaged my client's legs to help with circulation since a mother can't move with an Epidural. We drank hot tea, ate food, rested, changed her resting position in bed every hour, and chatted for hours to keep her mind relaxed. Later she developed a fever and she had to have a round of antibiotics administered to get rid of the fever. As she continued shaking I decided to give her jaw, head, and face a massage to help her teeth from chattering. Immediately my client's face and body calmed down. I should have been doing that the whole time! Because of the fever she devolved, the fetal heart tones expressed fetal distress. The pattern continued this way for awhile so the OBGYN decided that a cesarean would be the next step in delivering her baby. This was going to be my first cesarean client. I felt bad and her partner looked distraught. My client handled it the best. She was willing to accept these new circumstances. But my client had doubts that her body wasn't good enough or strong enough to give birth to a baby. I reminded her that each baby has their own journey into this world and that it isn't our fault for not being able to give birth the way we would have hoped for. All you can do is your best to prepare as much as possible before hand. The baby decides the rest. My client had prepared the best that she could all throughout her pregnancy. She had a successful cesarean birth to a beautiful baby girl!

When it came time for my postpartum visit, we had a pagan equinox dinner celebration! We shared food and stories. Afterward I spent several hours coaching my client on breastfeeding and how to swaddle and hold her baby. I had so much fun guiding her into the very beginning stages of motherhood. I had her partner pay attention to my guidance so that way he could help her once I am no longer there. I appreciate the bond we formed and the care I was able to offer her. It is a blessing that women have the care of hospitals and hospital staff for emergency and high risk pregnancies/labors. This birth begged for a reflection on my end. I judge hospital policy's to have women labor on their time clock. Normalizing labor to be a 12 hour process when in reality a normal labor could be several days long. But in this case I felt as though this was the right choice for these set of circumstances and I am grateful for the alternative care western medicine can offer high risk women or high risk pregnancies. 

 

My experience with Birth #7

I met my client about 2 to 3 months before her due date. She originally wanted a home birth but then decided against it because it was too hot during the California summer months. South Coast Midwifery Birthing center was her 2nd choice. She planned to have a professional photographer at her birth. This was relieving to me because I could focus on her 100% instead of taking photographs as well.  We had great prenatal visits with one another and I got to know her and her partner well before her summertime labor. I found out during our prenatal that my client is a yogi, has a solid relationship with her breath, and has a high tolerance for pain. I felt that she was very capable of birthing her baby vaginally without the use of medication. I met her family, her birth photographer, and spent some time with the Midwives at South Coast who would be part of her birth team.

When the day arrived, my client and her partner came into South Coast in good spirits. She was handling her contractions very well. Almost too well. As if they didn't bother all that much. She had a difficult time progressing. We tried the breast pump for several hours to no avail. I helped her stay focused on her breathing, maintaining a good intake of fluid/food, and kept her going back to the toilet to empty her bladder. I gave her counter pressure and massage through each mild surge. When she was checked later by the chief baby catcher at South Coast she felt as though my client would need to be transferred to the nearest hospital for pitocin. Her cervix wasn't dilating and was swollen. My client expressed disappointment and felt agitated by the circumstances. Despite these circumstances she had a solid spirit about transferring and knew it was best for the baby.

When we arrived to the hospital, the Midwife, hospital nurse, and I got her her settled into her new room. The care and service we received from the staff at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach was fantastic. The care was very different from my first hospital experience. My time spent at the hospital for this birth opened my eyes and heart. I felt as if life proved me wrong and showed me a different side. Every hospital is truly different in their care for new mothers to be. My client was hooked up to an IV to start pitocin. I told her that pitocin surges do not feel like regular surges. They are 10x more intense. Pitocin is synthetic oxytocin that they administer through an IV into a women's arms to help dilate and open the cervix. We practiced breathing together before the surges got heavy so that way we would be prepared for what would come later. I remember my client telling me that she wanted an unmediated birth with no epidural. I kept that in my heart and mind as the pitocin was administered.

She had me, her partner, mother, and sister in the room the whole time she was in labor. As the surges started getting stronger, she couldn't keep still and focused on calm breathing. So that idea flew out the window! Instead, I told her to get primal and wild. I told her it's time to let go and move as freely as she wanted to during her contractions. It's time to no longer hold it together. I encouraged her to make noises as loud and as often as she needed. That helped a bunch. She started moving around on the bed she was confined to.  She started out slowly making noises and moving so I said, "I need you to express more". I guided her breathing as she moaned and moved and rocked back and forth while sitting up in her bed. As the surges got more and more intense I could tell she was having a hard time and that these surges weren't something she had prepared for.

She then told her partner that she wanted an epidural and that she can't keep going without one. Her partner asked me, her mother, and sister to step outside of the room for a couple of minutes to discuss this further with her. I stood outside with her family and discussed the positives and negatives of getting an epidural and how my client really didn't want one. I knew in my heart that I needed face time with my client to speak to her about her decision. When her partner called us back in, I immediately went up to my client and asked her what she wanted to do. She said an Epidural. So I started to talk to her calmly as she was squirming through her rough synthetic surges. I reminded her about the positives and negatives of an epidural and how the negatives wouldn't allow for the birth she truly wanted. I let her know that she wouldn't be able to feel herself push her baby out because she would be numb from the waist down. The epidural might affect the newborn with initial bonding because it will also receive a dose of the epidural. Initial breastfeeding might not goes as smoothly if the baby is slightly drugged. And that she wouldn't be able to get out of bed after the birth because she would still be numb for an hour or two after the labor. As I spoke with her, she didn't keep asking for an epidural. I stayed with her less than a foot away from her face as she layed there and transitioned. I blocked everyone out of my peripheral vision and focused just on her and I. I told her to keep making sounds, to keep moaning, and crying. All the while I wiped her head with cool icy clothes, breathed with her, and coached her breathing. We had this intimate communication happening between us where she would cry out, moan, or whimper. I would koo back at her and tell her how amazing she was doing. I kept reinforcing her experience and how she was doing. We did this for a full hour. Time flew by and stood still at the same time. The next thing I realize, my client is grunting and making the first sounds of pushing. I felt so happy and realized that she must be complete! I asked her partner to call the nurse in so that they could check her dilation. She was complete and in the first stages of pushing. She pushed for less than an hour and the baby finally came!

My client stayed so strong and brave during the most painful moments she has ever experienced. She and her partner told me they couldn't have done it without me. That they had the birth they wanted because of me. I felt myself float! I felt like a professional for the first time in my new Doula career. I truly have the strength and potential I need to keep going along on this heart path. I felt so blessed to have been there for her birth and to witness her strength and trust in me as her Doula. 

My experience with Birth #6

I met my client and he partner through a Midwife referral from South Coast Midwifery birthing center in Irvine. They had decided on a home birth so I was excited to potentially have my first home birth experience. I met up with them at their home twice prenatally to build a relationship with them. The first prenatal consisted on understanding their birth plan, how their home is set up, and getting a feel for one another. We went over labor positions towards the end of the visit. My second prenatal was just with my client. I guided her through a visualization I found in a Doula book. This visualization focused on how smooth her home birth could look like, feel like, and be like. I wanted to send as much positive affirmation and intention for her upcoming birth. I reminded her to to text me when she goes into prelabor and to call me when she is ready to have me come over to support her during early or active labor.

The day she called for me to come over to assist her, she had only been in prelabor for a very short while before quickly transitioning through early and active labor. My client really struggled through her labor and didn't want to use her Hypnobirthing sound tracks. She felt confident, excited, and was in great spirits before her labor but unfortunately didn't fully understand the intensity of what labor could entail. A lot of women do not fully understand what they are about to embark upon. I do also understand that not all labors are as intense, long, or uncomfortable... You never know what cards you will be dealt so it is best to prepare as much as possible. Because she was experiencing a lot of discomfort and fear during labor I felt as though I stepped into a more confident Doula role. She experienced very extreme back pain and couldn't catch her breath properly through each surge. I guided her during every surge to relax her forehead, to breath through a loose throat, and to breath out through loose lips. That way she could maintain proper breathing during each surge. I guided her to always breath into her baby as well. She needed constant reassurance that she could keep going. She asked how long each labor phase would take and we had to remind her that there is no set time limit on any phase and that every birth is different. She needed back massage during every single surge which her partner graciously provided! I fed her at least 12 honey sticks. When we got her into the shower with her partner, the constant hot water stream relaxed and provided tremendous relief for her. We had her stand in the shower so gravity could work its little miracle on helping guide the baby further down the pelvis. I had great Midwife support and I felt very aligned with their care. We got her to contract and push in many different places and positions throughout her home but the best and fastest way was on the bed baring down. Pushing was very hard and painful for her because she couldn't receive any back support from her partner.

I took a lot of great photos throughout the entire labor. Some of the most beautiful photos I've taken of such a raw, intimate, and highly charged experience. After every pushing surge I fed her water. And if I forgot the midwife would remind me:) My client would push with so much power during every surge then fall back onto the bed to rest for a minute before the next wave came.

The experience was primal and intimate. I felt very honored and special to be a part of this home birth since it was just me and two Midwives delivering this baby. How cool! We cleaned up their house, put all the dirty laundry into their washing machine, took group photos of the new family, made the bed, and left in good spirits. It felt so good to set it all up and to break it all down. I went to go visit my client 4 days after she gave birth to see how she was recovering. Breastfeeding was going really well, enough diapers were being filled, and she had a great support team from family and her partner. The only suggestions I made to her were to take three 10 minutes sitz baths per day to help heal her vagina, to use pillows under her arms when breastfeeding, and to wear her baby as much as possible if she decided to go out for a short walk. 

My experience with Birth #5

I met my client through a Midwife referral list from the South Coast Midwifery Birthing Center. She was my youngest client being only 24 years old. I found out she was taking Bradley Method birth classes and had been working on the techniques she was learning all throughout her pregnancy. Our first prenatal was at a small little park in the middle of a round-about in Old Town Orange. I went over her birth plan, labor positions, and gave a loving touch massage. I felt as though her partner was going to be a more hands off support during her labor. We bonded well and it seemed as though she was doing everything she could to prepare to give birth successfully at the birthing center. During our second prenatal I wanted to emphasize with her that every woman labors differently and that she might change in personality a bit. I wanted her partner to understand that there is nothing to take personally during a woman's labor. I gave her a massage and a guided visualization. The visualization consisted of creating a safe space around the South Coast Midwifery birthing center and the staff (birth team). We went over the hip squeeze and massage that her partner could offer her in labor. I also found out that she was in prelabor and dilated 3cm. So i knew her birth was coming soon.

A week later she went into early labor in the early morning so I prepared her fresh watermelon juice and essential oil wash clothes. By the time she called me to come over she was already in a 311 pattern and we quickly rushed off to the birthing center. I initially guided her in taking deep breaths and to breathe into her baby. This seemed to help until we decided to leave the house. When we got to the birthing center she was already dilated 10cm and had experienced all of transition at home and mostly alone. I kept her in her practice of breathing out through open loose lips with a relaxed jaw and throat. When she got into the birth tub she felt as though she needed to poop so we guided her to go along with those sensations and push if she felt like it. I think she was afraid to push thinking she would just only poop. I kept encouraging her to breath calmly and to push with each new sensation to bare down. She gave birth in the water just as she had hoped. She gave birth within two hours of entering the birthing center and she pushed out her ROP baby quickly. We were shocked by her power and ability to push out a baby so quickly in this position. She only tore a little which was her biggest fear. But she seemed okay with the entire birth experience. She remained in great spirits while she was stitched back together and cleaned off by one of the nurturing Midwives at South Coast. During her breastfeeding time her baby wouldn't latch because it kept reverting back into a deep peaceful sleep. So the chief baby catcher gave my client some nipple shields to assist in breast feeding later. After the baby woke up from the initial 5 hours of restful sleeping, the baby started latching without nipple shields. I really enjoyed working with her because she truly incorporated her Bradley Method Birthing classes into her daily life as a pregnant woman. She integrated a highly nutritious meal plan and squatted all the time in her day to day routine.

When I visited my client postpartum, she was struggling with sleep because she wanted to be fully available for her baby to breastfeed. I suggested that she rest when her baby naps. She struggled with maintaining good back support while breastfeeding and I showed her that she could stack a bunch of pillows behind her back as well as under her arms. She expressed that she was dealing with a lot of nipple pain and tenderness. When I left her a few hours later, I purchased a super clean nipple cream for her that could be ingested by the infant without any side effects. Mother Love Nipple Cream is the best on the market as far as I know. 

My experience with Birth #4

I met my client and her partner through the South Coast Midwifery birthing center's referral list. I met with the two of them twice prenatally. The first time we met at a park, enjoyed a picnic supplied by my client, and went over their birth preferences. We covered things to expect during labor, how to prepare for some uncomfortable situations, and labor position changes. It was a really great prenatal because I felt as though we would be a great team and I felt aligned with who they were as a pregnant couple. The father was going to play a very important support role and he wanted my support through that. Everything about our interactions were very easy going and light hearted and I kept thinking about how amazing it is to be a Birth Doula. Later I set up a second prenatal 1 week before she went into labor to go over exactly how I would comfort her verbally and physically. This second prenatal really set up a good system for all three of us and we felt very good about this birth. All of us confident and excited! I gave her a loving touch massage so she could get used to my physical touch. I then guided her though a meditation to help set up a "bubble of peace" in my client's mind. Her bubble of peace was the birth center so I made sure to incorporate language that supported a positive birth experience at the birth center. We went over a couple more positions and spoke more together about how excited and ready we all were.

When I finally received the call to come over to their house for early and active labor I had a couple things prepared for her. I had an electrolyte drink prepared and made of fresh pressed watermelon juice, chia seeds, and a pinch of salt. I had honey sticks and frozen wash cloths with essential oils on them ready to use when things got heated. When I arrived, I immediately guided her breathing and used touch on her tummy to provide a sense of where she was supposed to let go and release her tension. This method worked super well and during every surge she expressed that receiving that support was great. All three of us went on a walk and continued with that pattern of support. Her partner was great! I couldn't have asked for a better partner support for a laboring mother. Our dynamic was a team effort. As she transitioned at home she stayed positive and we got her into many different positions. She threw up pretty heavily for a minute and so we decided to call the Midwife to let them know that her surges were a 311 pattern.

When we all arrived at the birthing center, my client was 9cm dilated. The Midwife couldn't believe how calm she seemed at 9cm. We were all excited and proud of our accomplishment! When she started pushing naturally everything changed. My client went very inward. She became wild and primal. I spent a good amount of time taking beautiful photos of the laboring process at the birth center because her partner was on top of guiding her verbally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Offering prayers up to God for support and guidance. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Everyone moves differently on this earth and I LOVE being a witness to it. Supporting your choices as a human but still standing firmly in how I choose to show up. I assisted the Midwives and spoke to my client when it was very important to do so. Pushing for her was difficult and long. The Midwives were afraid of maternal exhaustion. We had her drink and eat as much as she could take down. She threw up a large amount of liquid we gave her previously. Throwing up is completely normal in labor and shouldn't discourage you from eating. During the pushing phase, her partner and I had to confirm to her that she "could make it through to the final stretch of this birth marathon. She had to grasp at her internal strength and utilize it now". The pushing phase was intense for me since I couldn't imagine her struggling hard for so long. She is a very fit person who has performed marathons in the past. The room was tense as she became a bit wild, energetic, and determined to meet her baby. She went beyond her limits and strength and finished pushing late into the evening. The baby was born healthy and I stayed with the family postpartum for three hours.

I met up with the new family postpartum about 3 days after the birth. They were glowing and taking in their newborn really well. The mama was a changed woman. I remember walking into their bedroom and being stunned at how beautiful she looked after the birth. She was a new woman. I am so happy we had a chance to debrief and share both our sides of the story. I felt more confident as a Doula after this birth. I felt something shift inside of me. Maybe more confidence? Breast feeding was going really well and the support she had was perfect. The couple lives in a house with many other friends so there was a lot of love and support all around. A true friendship was formed between myself and the couple which impacted how well we performed together. 

My experience with Birth #3

I got referred to my client and her partner by the South Coast Midwifery Midwifes. I had a brief one hour interview where she decided I would be a great fit for her and her partner for labor support. The next day I had my first prenatal meeting at her home. I brought a sample of my electrolyte drink that I could potentially make for her labor. It was fresh pressed watermelon juice with a pinch of salt and a handful of chia seeds. She loved it and said she'd really appreciate having a bunch of it during the time of her labor. Next I asked her all the basic prenatal questions and asked what she would like to experience in her birth. After gathering all the appropriate information, I gave her a prenatal loving touch massage so she could get comfortable with my touch. Afterward, I guided her through a physical touch meditation. I guided her to relax at different points that I touch on her body. We connected beautifully! I was excited to be their Doula! I went over various positions with both the father and mother so the father could be more actively engaged during the labor. My client requested that I mainly support him so that he could support her the best he can.

A couple days later she went into labor. Again I had a special feeling she might be in labor or prelabor, so I texted her at 5:30am to check in on her. My intuition was correct! She had been in early labor for about an hour before I texted her that early morning. I couldn't believe how sensitive I can become with these mothers during this beautiful life event! I kept in contact with her all day and told her she could call on me anytime she wanted me. At 7:30pm she called me to join her at the birth center. By 8pm I arrived and quickly jumped into guided her breath and helping her stay focused on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern. Her partner told me she didn't feel like receiving physical touch unless her surge had finished. So I discussed with her that she could tell me "hands off" anytime she no longer needed my touch. That way I don't cross her comfort boundary. I did a couple hip squeezes, guided her partner to do partner slow dancing with her. All the while I helped guide her breath. I tried breathing with her but I felt as though my words were more effective than breathing with her. So I stuck with that. She was a great client! She constantly got into new positions without me asking. It was her second baby so she knew what to expect. She knew she had to keep moving, keep squatting, and keep walking. She told me she wasn't going to hold back and resist any pain. I wish all first time mothers could have this mindset. She labored in the tub and wanted to give birth in the tub but we had to get her out after awhile. We just followed the Midwife's instructions. I made sure to speak to the Midwife about her birth plan. I expressed to the chief baby catcher that my client wanted to squat out her placenta instead of it being lightly pulled out of her body once it was detached. The Midwife was open to the suggestion and everything went smoothly. She got to naturally push her baby out without active management. She got to squat her placenta out and she didn't tear. The father and the whole birth team did so well. A lot of the time there was only silence and being present in the moment. I felt uncomfortable during those times because I felt as though I should be doing something or saying something. I had to remind myself over and over again that its okay to just be present to what is. Because everything is going okay... That was my biggest challenge.

I took pictures for the family during the entire labor and even after the baby was born. I stayed with the family during the baby's vitals and until the baby was all packed up into the car. I was exhausted right after the baby came and felt in a daze about my responsibilities. Luckily the Midwife guided me on my next steps. I had exhausted myself with the anticipation of this birth and with prenatals/interviews all week leading up to this birth. It was all a great learning lesson for me.

I saw the family once postpartum where we got to recap on the entire experience. My client was a natural breast feeder so latching was easy for the baby. She told me I did perfectly as her Birth Doula. The only thing she would change about my services is that she'd prefer to have me as a Doula a lot longer before the her birth so we could develop a better relationship. It was amazing to work with a second time mother who felt empowered about how to birth her baby better the second time around. I felt really proud of her for stepping up to the plate and owning her birth.

My experience with Birth #2

Currently I am enrolled in a Doula internship at South Coast Midwifery in Irvine, CA. In this internship I am on a referral sheet for expecting Mothers who will either deliver at the birth center or at home with a birth center Midwife. I was referred to my client two days before she delivered her baby girl. The day she contacted me I suggested a prenatal visit. We got together that day with her partner at their home. They were preparing for a completely natural birth at the birth center using Hypno-birthing techniques. They encouraged a prenatal meeting that was more casual and friendly instead of something more professional. So I adjusted to their wants. I was very excited to hear that they wanted a natural birth and I trusted that they were going to stick with their plan. The mother had been practicing the Hypno-birthing technique a lot during her pregnancy. The couple seemed very prepared with food, supplies, mindset, and keeping a relaxed loving relationship. All three of us vibed really well! I made her a homemade electrolyte tea with chia seeds as an example of what I will bring for her during her labor. We discussed what sort of atmosphere she wanted to experience during her birth and I discussed that I would be happy to set up that environment. The couple really wanted me to share with them how her partner could be as best of a support for her during the labor. I showed them all kinds of positions for them to do together and for the mother to do alone as well. They were both very open and responsive to all my suggestions. I was very excited to see how her labor would turn out in the next couple of days since we all knew she was due very soon!

Two days later she went into active labor in the middle of the night. In the morning they drove straight to the birth center. At 8am they texted me and by 9am I showed up at the birth center. I set up her power crystals and spoke with the father a bit to get caught up on what has been happening with the mother. Everyone was in good spirits, including the mother. I found her in the birthing tub concentrating on her Hypno-birthing sound tracks. Throughout the birth I remained very close to her and kept my hand on her throughout the entire labor. I stroked her head and played with her hair, poured water on her back in the tub, massaged her back, breathed with her every surge, reminded her to stay with the wave of each surge and to release the ending of each surge with a cleansing breath. I had the pleasure of speaking with her extended family in the waiting room and reminded them that she would not like any other guests as she remains focused on her Hypno-birthing. The mother did so well! She kept a slow breathing rhythm the entire labor and even during the pushing phase. The midwife, husband, and I had her get into many different positions and reminded her to eat, drink, and pee. She kept a good balance of everything. She was so easy and pleasant. She was very internal and didn't say much to me but I had to keep reminding myself not to take it personal. After she gave birth she was very talkative once again and apologized to me for not saying much. I told her that was completely natural. Its is better for her to be internal and focused instead of pleasing everyone around her. This was her moment.

 All through the her labor and delivery I took photographs of the laboring family. This is one of my favorite things to do as a Doula! I get to capture the beauty I see. I stayed with the mother for 2 hours postpartum to remind her to help the baby breast crawl to the nipple and to take some time with her husband and baby for about a week after the birth. To not lift anything heavier than the baby and to rely on her husband to take care of house hold needs. Exactly one week after my client's labor I got together with her for a postpartum visit. I had her tell me about the challenges she faced during labor and what she enjoyed about her labor experience. I asked if she had plenty of support from her partner and if she was healing well from her perineal tear. She told me her bleeding was really reduced and that her baby was latching well during breast feeding. I was happy to see her in high spirits and that transitioning into parenthood was a positive experience for her and her partner.

My experience with Birth #1

I met my client at my job, Gracias Madre, about a year ago. When she became pregnant I was very excited for her and was about to start my Doula training at Natural Resources. When I finished my Doula training I decided to muster up the courage to ask if I could take part in this very personal and vulnerable experience with her. It was great that we had a report before hand.

I had 3 prenatal meetings with her before she was induced. In our first prenatal I asked about her first birth. I asked her if she had enough support and if there were any fears that she had for this birth. I let her know my role as a Doula as well. With the second prenatal meeting, I gave her some lavender essential oil mixed with Shea nut oil. As soon as she smelled it, her baby starting kicking in her tummy! She said it was the perfect scent for her new baby boy! This was exciting because I was just starting to understand and experiment with the healing properties of essential oils. I gave it to her for relaxation and massage during her labor. I showed her my developing Doula bag and went through all the items with her to see if she wanted me to use any of my goodies on her. She refused my Tibetan singing bowl. The sound was so hypnotizing and distracting for her. Good to know I thought! Everything else was fine. I showed her some supportive holds her partner could do on her during labor. I showed her different positions she could get into during labor to make it easier and more comfortable on her body. My last prenatal meet up consisted of me showing her my fully developed Doula bag. I also gave her a relaxing massage and asked her to let me know what pressure was best for her. I just wanted to see if she was comfortable with my touch in general. I asked about how she felt about being "late" in delivering her baby. She felt worried for her baby and told me that she was going to be induced later that week. I told her that her body was working really effectively and ultimately that her baby knows when it's ready to come out. I gave her all her labor options and the risks for each. She ultimately chose a hospital birth at SF General.

 After she was induced she went into labor two days later. The very early morning she went into labor, I had a dream about her being in labor. I woke up 2x laughing and feeling tingly and hot all over my body. The next morning she texted me that she had been in labor all early morning! I arrived at the hospital around 9am. She was having frequent surges. She advised her partner and I to pull her hair. She said it felt really good. At one point when we pulled her hair continuously she didn't feel the surge. As the surges came on stronger, I gave her some counter pressure on her lower back while her partner pulled her hair and her mom massaged her feet. She stayed at 6cm for a long time so they gave her some laughing gas and some narcotics to help the pain. Next they offered her an epidural for pain management. I was shocked because on her birth plan that the hospital gave her to fill out, she mentioned that she'd only like narcotics and to not have staff mention the epidural. Being a first time Doula, I didn't know how to show up as a strong advocate for my client. I didn't know how to communicate with the hospital staff about her birth plan preferences. She decided to take it because she was so scared at this point. This is the time I became internally upset at the staff and myself. I supported her decision non the less and expressed that she knew what was best for herself during her labor. After they gave her the epidural she was administered pitocin. She seemed happy with her decision and I had to remind myself that this wasn't my birth. Her labor slowed tremendously. So we waited it out. As we waited for her to fully dilate I massaged her lower legs to help with circulation in her lower body. I massaged her with lavender essential oil around her temples to help her unwind. She was able to dose off for a short while for a much needed nap. Shortly after her nap, she was fully dilated and the doctors suggested her to push immediately. They were encouraging active management (taking an active role in guiding a mother through the pushing phase). She ended up pushing about 10 to 20 seconds at one time. I remained positive through the majority of her labor. When I couldn't , I would leave the room. I left twice but returned always in better spirits and being able to fully support her new developing birth plan. I was able to capture all kinds of pictures during her pushing phase as the baby descended. I kept encouraging her that everything was all right and that her baby was healthy. When the baby came out, they immediately cut the cord even though we requested 20 min delayed cord clamping. My client also tore quite a bit. I think pushing before the body says it's time, causes unnecessary perinatal tearing. After the baby was born I stayed with the mom and immediate family after all other family members had left.

I stayed until she was transferred to postnatal care. I encouraged breast feeding and encouraged her partner to stay close to the baby during hospital procedures. Unfortunately they didn't respect her wish to have all procedures done much later after her delivery. As a first time Doula I was still unaware of how to properly communicate with hospital staff about my client's birth preferences. I was taking the entire experience in as best as I could while remembering everything I had learned in training. Experiencing a birth for the first time was new, scary, shocking, emotional, uplifting, and energizing all at the same time.

I visited her twice postpartum to ask how she was healing up. She had a ton of family and friend support. Her body was doing well and breast feeding was taking off. I only had two suggestions for her postpartum care. Taking a sitz bath as often as she could and allowing her and her partner take some time for themselves away from the baby if they needed a breather/break. I am grateful that I was able to support a friend as a first time Birth Doula. Even to this day we talk about her birth and how much it made an impact on both of our lives. This birth provided me with so much more knowledge and experience than I had before with a willingness to show up as a stronger labor support worker.