By JOSIE PICKENS WriterAs far as I’m concerned, there is always country for Erykah Badu, whether she’s blowing us away with her genre- and spirit-shifting music, keeping it real by admitting what we all know about the state of hip-hop, or reminding us that reading is fundamental by clapping back at disrespectful detractors on social media. My favorite side of the entertainer, however, is when she speaks about doulas and natural birth. In an interview last year with Origin magazine, Badu opened up about why she became a doula:
“I kind of felt like, I like being the welcoming committee. I just continued to be present at different people’s births, and I started studying on my own, different techniques, and the variables of what being a doula is about. I learned to originally be like water, in the place that I was, so that I could be a container for whatever they need. I love being of service in that way. I’m an official doula, and I am working to get my midwifery license right now.”
I’m particularly attached to the natural birth narrative because I have “baby catchers” in both my maternal and paternal familial lines. I know that home births and midwifery aren’t for everyone. But I do believe the work of doulas is exceptionally important, a mostly forgotten aspect of the healthy pregnancy and birth story—a part that many Black women have forgotten are a significant part of our history.
So what is a doula, exactly? According to DONA International:
“The word ‘doula’ comes from the ancient Greek, meaning ‘a woman who serves,’ and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.”
Doulas are essentially “team mommy” personnel. Their only responsibility is to assist mothers with being comfortable, safe and aware during the birthing process. Also, because doulas have birthing experience and training, they ensure that mothers-to-be are well informed about all that happens before, during and after giving birth. (Trust me, as a mother who had a very difficult pregnancy, there is a lot to know. It’s overwhelming how much.)
Giving birth can be a difficult, frightening experience, especially for first-time mothers and mothers who experience complicated births. A lack of knowledge, and the nervousness and stress that comes during labor and delivery, can make giving birth extremely tedious and complicated.
An extremely interesting aspect of doulas and Black women is the perception that it’s a ‘White granola’ thing to do. At one point, most of the midwives in the U.S. were Black.
Having a doula hold a mother’s hand, interact with medical staff on her behalf, and help her breathe and push—all while providing patience, information and instruction—can definitely make the birthing process less difficult, briefer and safer. Less difficult births mean healthier babies and mommies, and that is the power doulas offer the world.
I thoroughly enjoy reading tweets from @thepbg (a.k.a. Cashawn Thompson) as she chronicles her life of caring for young children. Thompson is also a practicing doula. When I asked her why she chose to take up the practice, she said, “We are living in a time where a lot of pregnant women find themselves alone and without a partner during pregnancy and birth, for any number of reasons and personal choices. That doesn’t mean they don’t need support. Doulas provide educational and emotional support during pregnancy and birth, which is empowering and absolutely necessary. It sets the tone for how one sees herself in the role of a parent, how effective she can be and how she will eventually parent her child.”
Some may ask, if being a doula is such a benefit, why have Black women shied away from the practice?
Freya Morani—doula, breast-feeding educator and creator of rootmama.org—believes Black women have disconnected from their ancestral attachment to midwifery and doulaing. “An extremely interesting aspect of doulas and Black women is the perception that it’s a ‘White granola’ thing to do,” she says. “Black women don’t know their legacy of midwifery and birth assistance. At one point, most of the midwives in the U.S. were Black. We’re far removed.”
As a doula, Morani says she’s dedicated to serving Black families, particularly Black mothers, who are up to four times more likely than White mothers to die from complications during child birth.
Looking back, I wish I’d have enlisted the services of a doula during my pregnancy and birth. It might have alleviated some of the stress I experienced as a first-time mom. If I decide to give birth again, I’ll surely have a doula by my side.
Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/doulas-and-black-motherhood-888#ixzz2rtzBTTMy
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Ah, Johnson's Baby Oil.
It's iconic script and scent are what memories are made of. I remember when my nephew, Shane, was born. His skin had the distinct smell of baby oil and the silky softness, no doubt from the baby oil his Mama and my mother who often watched him applied to his wiggly body after a bath. Johnson's baby powder along with a good schmear of Vaseline was the routine of my aunt and my mother. No doubt, what her mother has done and her mother before her. It's what we always do and like many things we used to do, it turns out it's not so great for us.
Let's start with Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder. The ingredients seem simple and straight forward: Talc and Fragrance.The fragrance is made with almost 100 different chemicals which often include phthalates, a human carcinogen that may adversely affect human reproduction and development.
Next up, Talc. According to the American Cancer Society Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up of mainly the elements of magnesium, silicon and oxygen....In it's natural form, some talc may contain asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled.
Next up? Baby Oil and Vaseline
Baby Oil: again the ingredients are seemingly simple; Mineral Oil and Fragrance.
Mineral Oil -Most often, mineral oil is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil.
And Petroleum Jelly is simply Petroleum Jelly.
Petroleum jelly is a byproduct of oil drilling, and when you spread it on your lips, you end up eating it, which is essentially the same as drinking gasoline. Add up the amount of lip-gloss the average woman uses (and consumes) over a decade, and it equals 7 pounds. The European Union has banned many petroleum jelly products, and experts are concerned they could be linked to cancer. Women with breast cancer have twice the levels of hydrocarbons (substances found in petroleum jelly) in their breasts than women who haven’t had breast cancer. Steer clear of any products that list petroleum jelly or mineral oil on the ingredient list. ~~~Dr. Oz
As my partner and I plan and prepare for our own TTC journey I've been doing some digging into the major products that usually find their way onto baby shower registries and in the rooms of littles to see what's out there and try to figure out what I can do to make our house safer.
It's honestly how I started creating the products I already make-find ways to make the stuff that we normally reach for without parabens, artificial fragrances and synthetic ingredients.
I'm partnering with a friend to create some salves and have been researching petroleum jelly alternatives and baby powder alternatives that are made with everyday, natural ingredients-that work just as well.
Of course there are a lot of amazing products out there, with ingredients that you can read and understand so buy those instead of J&J!
Check out this blog entry for a list of ingredients another blogger found for her and her family. It also has a simple recipe for petroleum-jelly-free vaseline.
For the past few months I've been playing around with salve recipes and have finally come up with one that has the texture of Vaseline! Stay posted, it will be on my Etsy store soon.
by Jess Helle-Morrissey, MA, MSW, LGSW, LCCE, CLEC
Doulas serve a multi-faceted role in a birthing family’s life: supporter, encourager, normalizer, educator, guide. We rub backs, we squeeze hands, we stroke hair, we breathe, we hold space. We press cool cloths to a birthing woman’s head as she brings her baby (or babies) forth from the warm, wet womb to the bright spinning world.
One role that is often overlooked, but is perhaps most sacred to my own doula heart, is that of witness. As doulas, we witness over and over again that unique and unparalleled moment in a woman’s life when she becomes a mother. Whether it’s a first birth, or a seventh, a mother is born each time she births a baby.
When a woman has a transformative birth experience (and really, what birth isn’t transformative?), she deserves to be fully seen. And that role is often uniquely the doula’s. Partners are witnessing, but they are most often deservedly caught up in their own personal experience of the moment. Midwives, doctors, and nurses are present, but they have medical tasks to attend to. Doulas are able to attend wholeheartedly to that moment.
We witness the joy of birth. We witness mamas finding their true selves for the first time in their lives as they birth their babies. We see the look on a mama’s face when her baby is five minutes old as she tells us, “Everyone said I couldn’t do it, but I knew I could.” We witness the hilarity of birth – I’ll never forget one mama who turned to me after birthing her twins and exclaimed, “That was f*cking AWESOME!” We get to see the way a partner looks at the birthing woman in complete awe as she makes her way through contraction after contraction. We get to see him or her wipe a tear away as this new little person makes that first yawling cry.
We witness the disappointments, too. And when things don’t go as planned, we can remind her that she is strong because we have seen it with our own two eyes, and we have felt it in our own doula souls. And we remember in a way that she might not.
So as witnesses to those moments, we begin to help her reframe: Last summer, one of my doula mamas had a surgical birth after a long and difficult labor. In a case like this, it is easy to go to a place of dwelling in what went wrong. I go to my postpartum visit. We talk about all that happened, and I validate the disappointment. I sit with the pain. But I also tell her, because I need her to hear, “I have never seen anyone work so hard for so long. I have never seen anyone fight so hard for what she wanted. You. Are. Amazing.” And she begins to feel it is true because I have seen it and I know it to be true. She knows I was there. She knows I saw her fully. And as I write this, I remember her fierce birthing spirit as if her baby was born yesterday, and I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up a bit. Because I will never forget her strength, and the gift she gave me by allowing me in.
Above all, it is that sheer strength of birthing women – no matter how they give birth – that we doulas are witness to. The strength to carry on when it feels like all the reserves have been depleted. The strength to make a choice to go a different direction than we’d dreamed. The strength to joyfully claim a place in the history and lineage of birthing women.
And the repercussions of that witnessing can last a lifetime. I spent a good part of my own life feeling like I was not a very strong person. When I gave birth to my twin boys, I found strength I never even dared to imagine I had in me. Today, more than two years later, each time I see one of my two wonderful doulas, I still stand a little taller and feel that swell in my heart – “SHE has seen my strength! She knows the amazing things I am capable of!” A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But life-changingly, soul-stirringly profound for this mama? Most definitely.
So when you invite a doula into your life for some portion of the nine months of your pregnancy (and a couple months after), know that the benefits don’t end there. We not only witness, but we also remember. I tell my mamas, “If you ever need to be reminded of how incredible you are, call me and I will tell you as many times as you need to hear it to believe it.” So on behalf of all doulas, thank you to birthing families everywhere who invite us to witness your incredible journey. Thank you for giving us the best job in the world.
Re-posted from Gloria Lemay Birth Blog
After the Birth, what a family needs
Posted on October 28, 2008 by gloria
This is a cross-post of a cross post originally posted in 2001, but you know what? It's still relevant. I've changed the language so that it's more inclusive of the varieties of family structure and added a few more of my own needs at the end. Did I forget anything? What did you really need when your baby came home?
“Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born.” … “Just let me know if you need a hand.” … “Anything I can do, just give me a call.”
Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and counter tops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of “I’m fine, I’m doing great, new motherhood is wonderful, I can cope and my partner is the Rock of Gibraltar” is pervasive in postpartum land. If you’re too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s wanted and needed…
1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.
2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____).
3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away.
4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.
5. Come over at l0 a.m., make me eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean my fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Don’t ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.
6. Put a sign on my door saying “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”
7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.
8. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.
9. Come over and give my partner a two hour break so they can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other r & r that will delight them. Fold more laundry.
10. Make me a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.
Kavanah Doula Edits
11. Bring some groceries and put them away where you think they should go.
12. Change the cat litter boxes, walk the dog, feed the turtle. Be sure to give our animals a little extra love.
13. Go into our bathroom and make sure there's toilet paper and fresh towels
These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. They also can’t devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote 4 hours. If you let 10 people help you out for 4 hours, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There’s magic in the little prayer “I need help.”
First posted online August 2001
This morning one of my Mamas wrote a FB airing her 8 months of pregnancy grievances. Hot NYC weather, inability to roll over in bed or touch her toes which have swollen into little vienna sausages. Inspired by her, I've put together the following informational sheet about swollen feet and natural remedies. I've also been inspired to create either a foot soak or a foot massage oil for my Etsy shop. Stay tuned!
What causes swelling in pregnancy?
Swelling (oedema) is triggered by increased pressure in the veins of your legs, and by pressure from your growing baby on the big veins in your groin. Water retention adds to the problem.
Swelling is common. About half of all pregnant women experience swelling around their ankles, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy. You may find your fingers, face and lower back become swollen too.
The swelling in your legs usually gets worse as the day progresses, especially if you are on your feet a lot. Gravity makes the fluid build at the lowest point. Hot weather and being tired can also make swelling worse. You'll probably have oedema in your feet and ankles, and in both legs.
Call your doctor or midwife if the swelling:
• Moves up your calf and leaves an indentation when pressed, or is sudden or severe in your face, hands or feet. If this happens in your third trimester, it could mean that you have pre-eclampsia.
• Occurs only in one leg, particularly if your calf is red, tender and lumpy. These can be symptoms of a blood clot in your vein (thrombosis).
If your wrists and hand are swollen, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, which is when the swelling compresses the channel of nerves running up your arm.
Your swelling is likely to become temporarily worse in the first three or four days after your baby's birth.
As your body recovers after birth, all the extra tissue, blood vessels and fluid needed during pregnancy now need to be dissolved and expelled. This makes you pee a lot more, though your kidneys won't yet be able to cope with the extra fluid. Some of the fluid will build up in the tissues around your body until it can be passed out of your body.
How can I prevent swelling?
It may not be possible to prevent some swelling from developing. But you can prevent it from becoming severe. Severe swelling can make your legs painful and your skin tender.
Try to eat a balanced diet so that you put on a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. Your diet should include a small amount of lean protein such as meat, poultry, eggs, beans and pulses, with each meal.
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Aim to reduce how much salt, sugar and fat you have and drink plenty of water to help your kidneys to filter the excess fluid.
Some foods may help to maintain good kidney function and make you pee more (natural diuretics). These include celery, watercress, parsley (in small amounts), apples and citrus fruits. Onions and garlic may help to improve your circulation.
Try to avoid eating pre-packaged, highly processed foods that contain both salt and other additives, as these can make fluid retention worse. Opt for foods which are naturally rich in vitamins C and E.
Good sources of vitamin C include:
• Citrus fruits
• Dark leafy greens (Kale, Collards, Spinach)
• Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts
• Kiwi fruit
• Bell Peppers
Foods rich in vitamin E include:
• Sunflower seeds
• Cashews and almonds
• Leafy Greens-kale, spinach, mustard greens
• Swiss Chard
• Olive Oil
• Bell Peppers
Smoking may contribute to your swelling, which is another good reason to quit during pregnancy.
What tips can I try to ease swelling?
Rest as much as possible, putting your feet up above your hips by resting them on a stool. Try not to cross your legs, as this restricts your blood flow. Sit down when you can, and if your work involves standing for long periods of time, move about from one foot to the other to increase blood flow.
Ask your partner to massage your feet and legs gently, using both hands and working upwards from feet to knees, using a base oil such as grapeseed. However, if your legs are excessively swollen and the skin is very tight, this may be too painful for you.
Dandelion tea, an herbal remedy, may help to prevent fluid retention, but don't take this if you have a gall bladder condition. Always drink herbal teas in moderation during pregnancy.
Which complementary therapies could help?
Acupuncture may help. The theory is that it rebalances your internal energies and aids your circulation and kidney function. Osteopathy and chiropractic treat misalignments in your skeleton, which may be placing stress and tension on specific areas of your body, restricting your blood flow.
Foot massage may help to relieve your swollen ankles, and reflexology may ease swelling and the discomfort it causes. Choose a registered reflexologist who is qualified and insured to treat pregnant women.
Soothing tired, sore, achy feet can easily be relieved by using carefully selected aromatherapy oils in a footbath or as massage oil.
Best of all, these oils will provide you with an instant pick-me-up leaving you feeling invigorated and refreshed. Pure essential oils such as Litsea cubeba and Grapefruit (Citrus paradise) have excellent anti-inflammatory and calming properties and also treat swelling water retention, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, Ginger essential oil acts as a pain, eases aches and cramps also improves circulation. Cypress oil is particularly good for circulation and varicose veins. Lavender and chamomile oil may ease your discomfort and make you feel more relaxed.
Tips to Help Soothe Swollen Feet
There are a number of things that you can do to ease swollen feet during pregnancy and prevent further foot problems and these include:
• Take short breaks during the day and elevate your feet to relieve the pressure
• Stretch and flex your feet when you are sitting down
• Wear shoes that fit properly and avoid wearing high-heeled or tight shoes while you are pregnancy as they will constrict circulation
• Exercise regularly to ensure optimum health – practice walking every day
• Shop for shoes towards the end of the day as feet tend to swell as the day progresses
• Measure your feet often throughout your pregnancy as they will change in size
• If you suffer from over-pronation, use custom-made inserts in your shoes
• Wear compression hosiery to keep the pressure from fluids down
• Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation
• Eat healthy, well balanced meals and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention
• Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated, reduce swelling and improve circulation
• Have a relaxing foot massage to soothe swollen feet and stimulate circulation
• Soaking your feet in tonic water can help relieve swelling
Water Retention Massage Oil- safe throughout pregnancy to help reduce swelling
2½ tablespoons almond or coconut oil
½ tablespoon jojoba oil
1 Evening Primrose oil capsule (approx. 10 drops)
2 drops tangerine oil
1 drop lemon oil
4 drops cypress oil
4 drops lavender oil
3 drops geranium oil
This can be used throughout the pregnancy. Just relax on the sofa, with your legs raised on pillows. Apply this aromatic massage oil to your feet, ankles and legs, massaging toward your heart to help circulation. (The help of your partner would certainly be appreciated.)
Recipe from Young Living Oil website
I get this question all of the time and I would honestly say that the answer is definitely, yes, you would still benefit by having a doula at your birth. While it's true that you'll have the "hang of it" second time around, no two births are alike.
You'll know the difference between a contraction and a cramp. You'll know when you're in active labor and if you've given birth vaginally, you'll know what those sensations feel like. But, you're not guaranteed to have the same exact birth you had round two, three or four.
A doula's function for second (and third and fourth) births definitely shifts a bit, and perhaps on baby #2 a doula is more of a want rather than a need. That said, sometimes you do need a support person who will be by your side throughout the entire process. Your partner may need another person to help hold you while they catch some zzz's, grab a bite to eat, or pee. You may be faced with interventions that you didn't encounter the first time around and you'll need someone in your corner who is clear-headed and can explain things that can, in the heights of labor, seem scary and foreign. Not to mention that your OB or midwife may be different the second time around or perhaps you're birthing in a different hospital or birthing center than you did at your first birth.
Lastly, the benefits of having a doula don't go away after the first birth. Having a doula still decreases your the likelihood have having an unplanned c-section and increases the likelihood that you have delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin with your newborn, higher nursing rates and all of the other proven feel goods that having a doula brings.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.