I'll admit it, "Doula" is sort of a buzz word in birth now. Almost as common as "When's your due date?" is "Do you have a doula?" For some a doula seems like a bit of extravagance, an expensive accessory for the rich. And for others a doula is something that only hippie-dippy folks have.
Both can be true, and more.
Ill give you an example. I have a friend, let's call her Chana. She's a Type-A, badass lawyer. She's no nonsense and gives the best side eye of anyone on the planet. Period. When I told her that I wanted to move to the country to raise chickens I never thought I'd see her eyes again, she rolled them so hard. So when she got pregnant and asked for my help finding a doula I was shocked. And when I got an email from her of her requests I understood she was one of those people who wanted the support, but none of the other "hippie" things. She had no problem with pain meds, she wasn't going to try to do something natural if she couldn't handle it and wanted a doula who understood that. She just had her second baby with her second no-nonsense doula.
While having a doula may seem like a new thing, it's actually quite old, as old as it's Greek name, perhaps older. When people gave birth they would be traditionally and historically be joined by family. Grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and close friends would join the birthing person, in many cases the birthing woman to give her the support she needed to bring her baby earthside based only on experience and instincts. As birth moved away from the home and into the hospital this tradition was lost, when we need it the most. And with hospital schedules that work on rotations and shifts giving birth can be a sea of unfamiliar faces. A doula is sometimes the only constant.
I've heard snide comments that doulas don't really stay for the entire birth, especially for long labors and I can say, in my personal experience as a doula, that I've never left a mother's side. The one exception was when my sister passed away during a birth. I've spent multiple evenings in hospitals, and my longest was just over 50 hours.
Check out this informational page over on Evidence Based Birth for more ways that Doulas can help in a birth.
It’s Black Breastfeeding Week and groups of moms, like the creators of the week, want to make sure people see positive images of black motherhood, especially while they’re breastfeeding.
Supportive communities, such as Black Women Do Breastfeed, Black Moms Breastfeeding Support Group and Mocha Milk Mommy’s Breastfeeding Support Group, are fighting to improve the concerning breastfeeding statistics that show that for years “black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration,” according to the CDC.
In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, The Huffington Post photographed nine proud breastfeeding mamas who share why they believe society needs to see more empowering images of black women nursing their children.
Today marks the 4th annual Black Breastfeeding Week and as a black doula, a black woman and a black woman who hopes (G-d willing) to be a black mother who breastfeeds, I am always so happy when this week shows up.
I sort of live for pictures of women nursing. Nothing can make me squeal or sign or go "Awww" like a photo of a bright eyed babe sucking from it's parent. And while I do love a video of a breast crawl and absolutely think that nursing infants are the bees knees, nothing makes my heart flutter like photos of toddlers nursing. Something about their expressive eyes, their long limbs, there giant milky smiles makes me so happy.
While there have been some serious strides in the way that our society views breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding, many parents that I've spoken to (or read about online) have experienced discrimination and ignorance around where and when it's appropriate to nurse a child and for how long. While there is extensive research on the benefits not only of nursing, but nursing children into toddlerhood, it's still very much considered a taboo.
Black Breastfeeding week was created to address the disparity between black women who nurse and white women who nurse. While sometimes difficult to get going, nursing is by and large the cheapest and most natural way to feed a baby*, so why aren't black women given the same "fighting chance" at this free nutrition than their white counterparts?
This is what the Black Breastfeeding Week Website has to say: " The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue..." It goes on to list these Top Five Reasons We Need Black BreastFeeding Week:
1. The high black infant mortality rate: Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. So when I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean. And it is not up for debate or commenting. This is the only reason I have ever needed to do this work, but I will continue with the list anyway.
2. High rates of diet-related disease: When you look at all the health conditions that breast milk—as the most complete “first food,” has been proven to reduce the risks of—African American children have them the most. From upper respiratory infections and Type II diabetes to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and childhood obesity—these issues are rampant in our communities. And breast milk is the best preventative medicine nature provides.
3. Lack of diversity in lactation field: Not only are there blatant racial disparities in breastfeeding rates, there is a blatant disparity in breastfeeding leadership as well. It is not debatable that breastfeeding advocacy is white female-led. This is a problem. For one, it unfortunately perpetuates the common misconception that black women don’t breastfeed. It also means that many of the lactation professionals, though well-intentioned, are not culturally competent, sensitive or relevant enough to properly deal with African American moms. This is a week to discuss the lack of diversity among lactation consultants and to change our narrative. A time to highlight, celebrate and showcase the breastfeeding champions in our community who are often invisible. And to make sure that breastfeeding leadership also reflects the same parity we seek among women who breastfeed.
As a quick note, when I first came to the PNW I was shocked to learn that there was only one International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the state of Washington who is a person of color. ONE WOMAN.
4. Unique cultural barriers among black women: While many of the “booby traps”™ to breastfeeding are universal, Black women also have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding. From our role as wet nurses in slavery being forced to breastfeed and nurture our slave owners children often to the detriment of our children, to the lack of mainstream role models and multi-generational support , to our own stereotyping within our community—we have a different dialogue around breastfeeding and it needs special attention.
5. Desert-Like Conditions in Our Communities: Many African American communities are “first food deserts”—it’s a term I coined to describe the desert like conditions in many urban areas I visited where women cannot access support for the best first food-breast milk. It is not fair to ask women, any woman, to breastfeed when she lives in a community that is devoid of support. It is a set up for failure. Please watch this video and educate yourself on the conditions in many vulnerable communities about what you can do (beyond leaving comments on blogs) to help transform these areas from “first food deserts” into First Food Friendly neighborhoods.
Posted August 19, 2014 in: 2014 by Kimberly Seals Allers
I'm so excited to help spread awareness about the need for greater support for people who hope to nurse their babies, especially shifting that focus this week on black women and our unique needs.
*I want to acknowledge that the term "breast is best" is hugely problematic and that for some folks, breastfeeding is not an option or not an option in the traditional boob to mouth style. I think that a fed baby is best and we all do it in ways that our best for us as individuals.
Back in March the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology released q study that confirmed what a lot of midwives and doulas (and yes many OBGYNs) have been saying for a while. Pregnant people need more time to push. In fact, the study proved that if women and pregnant people were given as little as one extra hour to push their rates of unplanned C-Section went down by roughly half. HALF!
According to the Huffington Post article about the study, while this information has he potential to radically change how people give birth in the U.S, it may not actually amount to concrete change. Author Catherine Pearson writes, while the study is small, it's "unlikely to fundamentally change medical norms any time soon, researchers say it offers a much-needed critique of potentially outdated standards."
Just how outdated are the standards you may ask, well the allotted time a woman is "allowed" to push was adopted in the late 1800s. “[The time recommendation] came from expert opinion from the 1800s,” said Dr. Alexis Gimovsky, a fellow in maternal fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, and an author on the study. “Since then, there’s really only been retrospective data used to validate that guideline.” In the 1950s, researchers looked over earlier data and found that women who delivered their babies within two hours had lower rates of infection and serious postpartum bleeding, for example. In 1955, another team concluded that most women without anesthesia give birth within two hours."
So what does this all mean? In my opinion it goes back to the idea of B.R.A.I.N, being armed with knowledge, and being confident that your body knows how to give birth.
As a review B.R.A.I.N is an acronym I suggest pregnant folks and couples start to using during prenatal appointments with your caregiver.Using it early on in pregnancy and frequently helps you get accustomed to the process of coming to your care provider with questions and being ready with responses that are best for you and your baby. Frequently using B.R.A.I.N also is great so that when something is suggested during labor, you're ready to ask:
B: Benefits - What are the benefits of doing this?
R: Risk -What are the risks of doing this?
A: Alternatives -What alternatives do we have?
I: Intuition/Instinct - What's your gut say?
N: Nothing - What happens if we do nothing?
I will close by saying that there are many reasons that birth visions fall off track and interventions and potential c-sections are how some babies are born. I like to say that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to give birth. And this evidence-based information about not rushing into pushing and giving you, the person giving birth, time to ease into pushing and to let pushing happen can result in the birth you vision.
I just uploaded my first podcast on Soundcloud! Be sure to check it out here!
I'm so excited to announce that I will be attending the Childbirth Educator Training at the Simkins Center this September! I'm also thrilled to be a recipient of one of their coveted scholarships because for focus and goal of providing doula and now Child Birth Education to women of color, the LGBTQ community and all families in the South Puget Sound area!
Starting in October I will be accepting clients for Childbirth Education and am booking births for November, December, January and February!
Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com for questions and to schedule a free consultation!
I am just back from a month-long, immersive Jewish studies trip to Israel! I spent the last month in deep spiritual growth literally elbow-deep in Torah! It was profound and amazing and truly magical! You can check out my personal blog for all of the details!
I will be back next week with updates on availability for the fall and winter, plus new products being made in my kitchen!
Are you expecting a baby this Fall or Winter? Then YOU NEED A DOULA!
I currently have openings for September, November and December!
Call or e-mail for a FREE Consultation!
Finding the right doula is all about finding a good match. Your doula should fit seamlessly into your life and the life of your family.
A lot of times you'll hear doulas say that we "hold space", which I think is pretty accurate. We're not there to be your cheerleader (although we will encourage you completely). We're not there to be your coach (although we'll make sure you have all of the tools you need to have the birth you envision). And we're not there to replace your partner.
Instead, we help you create, make and keep space. And finding someone who is able to do that in a way that is natural and feels comfortable is all about the Match.
Meeting a doula is sort of like going on a blind date. You have possibly scoped out their profile on a site like Doula Match. You were attracted to their skill set. You sent them an inquiry and they emailed back. The emails and the phone conversations felt wonderful and natural, and you got actual nervous butterflies in your stomach waiting for them to arrive to the initial consultation. And in the moment you met the chemistry just clicked.
I've had this feeling for all of my births and I can say honestly that it is one of the best feelings. And. Even after meeting with a couple or woman who is giving birth and even if everything feels amazing and we gel well as a team, I always encourage the couple or single person to go home and think about it.
Hiring a doula is not only a big financial decision, it's a big personal decision. Inviting another person into a birthing space is a big deal. That person, your doula, will bare witness to your birth and the expansion of your family. They will see you laugh and cry and roar. They will see you at your most vulnerable and your most powerful. I guess what I'm trying to say is that they will truly see you. Into the deepest parts of your soul.
Now think back to that initial meeting. Is that the person you want to share your soul space with?
For me, thankfully, the answer has always been yes. In fact, there has only been one time when it wasn't a good match between me and a mother. And it was me who decided that we didn't quite fit. She went on to have a lovely birth and found the right doula for her. And I went on to continue to do births as well and find clients who were a good match for me.
Like a good date, a good partner, a good melon - you just know.
The old saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. I think this is true, and as our society has moved out of villages and into big cities, this saying and the action of communal raising of children has been set aside. It's "proper" to mind ones own business and to be only concerened with the business of what happens within our four walls.
There are pockets of these villages tucked in our cities. Places where neighbors look out for one another's children. Where parents trust other parents in the rearing of children. And often times, in queer and progressive communities children being raised by multipe parents and parent figures. I imagine that these children, shown love and nurting not only by parents, but by their community are well-loved, well-adjusted children who turn into community-focused adults.
It is my belief that women and people who are pregnant and in early motherhood also need villages. Not just to help raise the children but to honor, support and love the person who has recently given birth. I encourage my clients to find their tribe and that is my tip for today.
It's been a while since I blogged. I'm happy to say that I attended a lovely birth two months ago. I have been busy raising a child with my friends who keeps me on my toes. It is amazing to see him grow into the little person he has become. I'm very happy to be dedicating the late summer and fall to birth and birth work, taking classes, attending workshops and marketing myself a bit more for families looking for inclusive, spiritual, parent-centered births. After August I will be booking births, so until then I want to re-focus on my blog and Tip Tuesday.
So, Finding your Tribe. What does this mean? As a Jew, the idea of a tribe feels very Torah (Bible) specific. We read of the 12 Tribes of the People Israel going to the corners of the earth. As a black woman I imagine the tribes my ancestors were members of before being brought to the Americas. And as an American living in the PNW, I think of the Native American tribes that are so close to me, yet so far away. And I think that's just it, as Americans disconnected to our tribal roots, the idea of a "tribe" may seem foreign or a bit like you're appropriating a culture. But when I say that a birthing person or mother should find her tribe I don't necessarily there should be ritual or dress or ceremony (although there could be). I simply mean, a group of women, parents, people who are there to support, love and listen to you.
These people aren't there to tell you what to expect, to warn you of the "horrors of birth" or to tell you what's right or wrong for you. Which means, selecting these sacred people may be a task. But they may be a great aunt who has always had a nurturing spirit about her. A friend whose child rearing you admire, another person who is also pregnant or a friend who has recently given birth. These are the people who you can talk to, or more, the people you can bare your soul to. They are there to not just listen, but to hear you say that you're scared, tired, feel like giving up. They are there to hold you up when it feels like a burden and they are there to hold your hand when you feel alone.
It's been my experience that after the initial flow of well-wishers and guests have slowed down, settling into parenting can be overwhelming, alienating, and a bit scary. Your doula has moved onto a new client, your doctor has new patients, your partner may be back to work, grandparents are back home. This is when you turn to your tribe and they will hold you up.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.