Birth Regrets?

March 2013 034I usually talk in my classes about how ‘this’ is the only chance you’re going to get to birth this baby. Sure you may go on to have other babies, but you only get *THIS* chance to birth *THIS* baby. I also share with moms that because of this fact, the significance of this birth is infinitely greater than the significance of this birth is to your nurse, OB, midwife, etc.” – Louise Delaney

As I was writing my post last week about “bragging rights” in birth, I was also considering the role of birth regret. I’ve come to realize that just as each woman has moments of triumph in birth, almost every woman, even those with the most blissful birth stories to share, have birth regrets of some kind of another. And, we may often look at subsequent births as an opportunity to “fix” whatever it was that went “wrong” with the birth that came before it. While it may seem to some that most mother swap “horror stories” more often than tales of exhilaration, I’ve noticed that those who are particularly passionate about birth, may withhold or hurry past their own birth regret moments, perhaps out of a desire not to tarnish the blissful birth image, a desire not to lose crunchy points, or a desire not to contribute to the climate of doubt already potently swirling around pregnant women. I’ve already acknowledged all of my own moments of birth regret, but never all in the same post…so, here they are…

First birth: This birth was great and very empowering, but I also learned a lot of things I’d like to do differently the next time. Maybe “regret” is too strong a word, but there were things I definitely knew I wanted to change for next time. I regretted feeling pushed into several things I wouldn’t have chosen on my own, such as giving birth in a semi-sitting position rather than on hands and knees. I wished I hadn’t had quite so many people around me at the birth and I wished I would have just stayed home, rather than driving to a birth center. I regretting not asking to squat after the placenta to help the “sequestered clots” come out and possibly avoid the manual extraction I experienced which was pretty awful (I swear my uterus actually twinges when writing/thinking about it). I regretted having a pitocin shot after the birth, because I still don’t think I actually needed it and it bothered me for a long time that I couldn’t figure out whether or not I’d really needed it. I was also pretty physically and emotionally traumatized by the labial/clitoral tearing I experienced and desperately wanted to fix that next time! Interestingly, most of these regrets were clearly connected to other people and to events in the immediate postpartum period, rather than anything to do with the labor or birth process itself.

Second birth: With this birth, I see very clearly how I deliberately made choices to “fix” the things that nagged at me from my first birth. I gave birth at home, I had very few people present, I gave birth on hands and knees. I was extremely distraught to tear again in the same unfortunate and traumatic way. I’d been totally convinced before the birth that it was all related to positioning and I could fix it, next time. I regretted getting up and showering, etc. so soon after the birth and I wished for more postpartum care (noticing a theme here…). I wished I hadn’t almost fainted several times and still recall the feeling of my head snapping back as I almost went under. That said, I felt the proudest and most exhilarated after this birth.

Third birth: Aside from the obvious of wishing my baby had been born alive, I “fixed” some things from prior births in that I stayed down after the birth to keep myself from fainting. I regretted drinking Emergen-C after the birth. I regretted not being better informed about coping physically with a miscarriage. And, I wished I’d been better able to assess blood loss. I also wished I’d had an attendant of some kind, particularly for immediate postpartum care. I still feel traumatized from the memory of what felt like extreme blood loss during this birth. This was the most physically demanding experience of my life. Not just my birth life, my whole life.

Fourth birth: My biggest regret from this birth was having tried to use a hypnosis for birth program while in labor. I feel as if there were some pre-birth benefits from using the program, but it was not a match for the way I labor and birth and I actually feel as if using it had a negative impact both on my ability to clearly remember and to focus my energy. I did still tear in the same place and in what seems like some new ways as well. I never want to tear like that again. I hate it. I’ve reached my physical and emotional limit with experiencing that type of tearing and I feel like I still have some negative lasting effects. I also think I had some nerve damage that continued until about six months ago. What I “fixed” this time was having a living baby and rediscovering that I could in fact do this and there was nothing wrong with me. I loved that I caught my own baby. (Best. Moment. Ever.) I also had the immediate postpartum care I’ve finally learned I really, really need. I consumed a small piece of placenta postpartum, I drank chlorophyll (and not vitamin C), when I went to the bathroom and did not look down, so I didn’t get all fainty and woozy from seeing the blood, and my doula encapsulated the placenta and I loved it.

It is interesting to me to look at these feelings and situations in the same place. With my last birth, I finally “fixed” the postpartum and blood loss issues that haunted me, but I created new things to fix by experimenting with hypnosis rather than the active birth, birth warrior, Birthing from Within type of experience that truly suits me. I guess I will never fix the tearing situation (I still want to write about that someday!). I also notice how impacted I was and still am by the two births that involved major blood loss. This came up for me very viscerally in reading the current Midwifery Today issue about hemorrhage. While the topic is important and the issue is really informative and useful, I actually had to put it down by page nine because my uterus was hurting/twinging so much (low back too). I really don’t think it was only my imagination either. (This is one reason my work with birth is never going to actually include becoming a midwife!)

I’m curious to know…do you have birth regrets? Or, things that you used subsequent births to fix, overcome, or cope with? Do you see any patterns to your birth experiences like I see in mine?

The other thing this exercise brought up for me is the important of preparing for the birth you want during this birth. This baby is only born once. This birth only happens once. I have clients tell me sometimes while still pregnant with their first baby, “well, next time, I’ll try XYZ…” Don’t wait for next time, do it this time!

The first birth is the pivotal birth. Every birth experience that follows builds on that one. Our choices now are choices for the NEXT birth. The first birth doesn’t have to be either perfect or awful and earth shattering to make us think. We don’t have to choose differently than the first birth; but it’s the first one that gives us a place to begin experiencing not just birth but ourselves as mothers, women, people. We may not all have ground shaking, earth thundering thoughts but we have them. The experience belongs to us. We choose what to do with it. Choosing to do nothing different is still an influenced choice ~ made on that experience…

…What will YOU do to have a first birth that leaves you with few regrets or changes for your NEXT birth? Why not have the birth of your choosing, rooted in truth and your ability to know yourself and your baby now?…

via The Home Birth Experience: The First Birth is HERstory | Real women. Real options. Real birth..

These types of triumphs and regrets produce both birth professionals dedicated to helping others and also mothers who become so hurt and disillusioned with birth that they may actively reject the “natural birth” movement.

March 2013 049

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Pause

BirthontheLabyrinthPath_300x250-ad_1Last year I wrote about the birth pause, that timeless moment of inhaling after birth and exhaling into motherhood:

This moment when mother meets baby, earthside. Malloy notes that for many women, the moment of meeting is “hurried” by the immediate placement of the baby on mother’s chest. Many women are in a brief, transitional state almost like “birthshock” at this moment—it is the moment before the classic euphoria and “I did it!” hits. Mother often has her eyes closed and needs a second to breathe and re-focus on the world outside her deeply inner focus…

So, of course, when one of my Facebook friends posted the following thoughts last week, I asked her if I could quote her on my blog!

One moment that EVERY MOTHER remembers is the moment she first laid eyes on her baby. I am asking every woman to consider what that moment means to you and how she pictures it to be? Will it be in your home with dim lights and scented candles, and the loving arms of your partner embracing you both physically and emotionally at the moment of emergence? Or will it be in a brightly lit hospital room lying on your back while 6-10 strangers yell for you to push and stare at your vagina while you lay there feeling a bit helpless being strapped with cords to a half dozen medical devices?

Will your baby be touched first by your hands and brought up to your bare breasts as he fills his lungs for the very first time? Or will your baby be caught with a cold latex glove, lifted mid-air with glaring lights and strange sounds all around him? Will his oxygen supply and blood be stolen from his body with a quickly cut cord as he is swept away and rubbed by unfamiliar hands. Will he be swaddled so tight he cannot feel his mother’s warm skin when she holds him at her breast?

Think these are details that do not matter in the grand scheme of things? Think again… PLEASE! Because… BIRTH REALLY DOES MATTER. Know where and with whom you desire to give birth. Do the necessary research to make that happen! You DO have options, so do NOT let ANYONE tell you that you don’t. Birth matters. Make your decisions wisely. You WILL remember that moment! –Pamela Brott, Beginning at Home

And, then I read a great little post from Rebecca Wright about being a birthkeeper rather than “catching” babies:

As a birth keeper it’s not my place to catch babies. It’s my place to hold space. It’s my place to support the mama-baby dyad so that they birth in power and remain undisturbed as far as possible in this process.

One of my friends wrote an article some time ago about catching your own baby. She called it “squatter’s rights” and concluded with something to the effect of, “and then I reach down and catch what’s mine.” It gave me chills. Alaina is the only baby that I caught myself and it was the most potent moment of any birth. Sometimes I still can’t believe I did it.

And, on a related note, I also shared these two articles via ScoopIt:

Active birth positions for the hospital–Effective Birthing Positions | Taking Charge of Your Health

Some musings about mental comfort zones and birth–Planning a Childbirth: Is there a Comfort Zone and Should You get out of it…


Book Review: Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood

Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood
By Patrick Houser
Creative Life Systems, 2007
Softcover, 160 pages, $16.95.
ISBN: 978-0-615-23338-3

Reviewed by Molly Remer

I am delighted to see another contribution to a growing body of birth and fatherhood literature written for men. Unlike many fathering books I’ve reviewed, the Fathers-To-Be Handbook was actually written by a man! This man-to-man, father-to-father perspective is a valuable strength of the book.

Patrick Houser is the father of two boys, both born at home with a midwife. His second son, born in 1980 in Missouri, was the first documented water birth in the U.S. The author has been based in the U.K. for a number of years now and is the co-founder of a wonderful organization called Fathers-To-Be, offering resources and education for expectant fathers as well as to the childbirth professionals who work with them.

Fathers-To-Be Handbook is a quick read and is a small-size paperback; like a “pocket guide.” It is definitely meant to accompany other reading and classes. It does not have an index, but does have a helpful resources section.

The first several chapters of the book are about the experience of fathering—about becoming a father, your personal history with your own father (“fathering school”—what was your teacher like?), the importance of fathers, and the journey through pregnancy. The final four chapters address preparing for birth, giving good support, empowered birth, and fathering the newborn. The handbook is very supportive of midwifery, homebirth, and doulas. It also encourages fathers to have a male support person nearby the birthing room (or perhaps available for support by phone).

As the author states in an article included at the end of the handbook, “Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother’s body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature.” I deeply enjoyed an addition to birth literature that both honors the father’s experience and is rooted in a positive, healthy, celebratory approach towards birth and the inherent capabilities of a woman’s body.

Disclosures: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Amazon affiliate link included in image and book title.

Review first published at Citizens for Midwifery.

As dear as breathing…


“If women lose the right to say where and how they birth their children, then they will have lost something that is as dear to life as breathing.” –Ami McKay

“Mothers need to know that their care and their choices won’t be compromised by birth politics.” – Jennifer Rosenberg

Birth politics have been on my mind this week as I’ve come across various debates from within the birth profession about the regulation of midwives and the question of licensure, and then also the seemingly ever-present critiques of homebirth from outside the homebirth community. I don’t feel as if I have time lately to fully follow all the issues, but Citizens for Midwifery’s recent response to ACOG’s newest homebirth and maternal rights smackdown contains some important thoughts:

AJOG editorial rejects the ethic that autonomy is a fundamental human right

This article represents a serious attack on home birth and on patient centered care in the United States. The attack is based on poor research and runs roughshod over established rights to bodily integrity…

…not only does the article attack home birth, it also represents an attempt to “export” to the rest of the world a position that the obstetric profession, not mothers, should have the final decision on birth, at a time when that isn’t even legally defensible here in the United States…

…One contradiction stands out as the authors call for “safe, respectful, and compassionate” hospital delivery. No hospital birth can be truly respectful if the birth is happening in the hospital because the physician disrespects the woman’s right to an alternative and has rigged the system to eliminate access to all legal alternatives…

via Citizens for Midwifery

Related thoughts:

Maternal-Fetal Conflict?

The Illusion of Choice

“Woman-to-woman help through the rites of passage that are important in every birth has significance not only for the individuals directly involved, but for the whole community. The task in which the women are engaged is political. It forms the warp and weft of society.” –Sheila Kitzinger

Strong, Strong…


I woke up this morning with this quote running through my head and thinking of a pregnant friend of mine. Since her story is not mine to tell, suffice to say, she had a long and winding road to reach this point and this evening she gave birth at home after having had a cesarean with her first baby! Yay! I’m so excited for her and for their whole family. One part of me just knew she could do it and the other part of me still worried that I was being falsely optimistic. It has happened to me before—that I supported and encouraged and hoped with the mother and despite all those hopes and dreams and wonderful, careful, thoughtful plans, the birth still didn’t go as planned. I also believe that all births are acts of courage and that mothers, whether they push out their babies or not, have the capacity to dig deep and discover strength beyond anything they previously knew. However, just, yay. I’m so happy and excited and relieved for this friend of mine 🙂 The sculpture in the picture is the birth art piece I made after I actually gave birth to my last baby. She captures the pose in which I caught my daughter. My previous photo with this quote was of the pre-birth sculpture I’d made to address my pushing-the-baby-out fears:

Still figuring out the pictures with words app that I got. I love my nature spots in the woods as backgrounds, but they’re too busy and make choosing a text color that actually works almost impossible!

Childbirth is power in its purest and most natural form–it is wild and uncontrollable and takes us on a journey of surrender. Birth is about so much more than babies being born. It is about a mother finding her inner strength at her most vulnerable and powerful moment, which begins her unique and lifelong journey of mothering that child.”

–Brianna Kauer (in Midwifery Today, issue 103)

And, speaking of thankful birthy goodness, Thanksgiving is tomorrow and that reminded me of an earlier post about the rest and be thankful stage!

I also would like to mention that I have a Talk Birth topic on ScoopIt now. I primarily started it so that it could handily feed into my Talk Birth Facebook, while still leaving a more useable record for me to go back to/repost (things just kind of disappear off the page on Facebook and it can be hard to remember what the heck I’ve shared there if I then want to do a blog post about it). I was introduced to ScoopIt via LinkedIn when I started following a really well-curated topic about E-Learning and Online Teaching. There are very, very few birth-related topics on ScoopIt, so start curating one! It is fun and easy and, as I said, really handy for feeding content into your Facebook page or other media (I experimented yesterday with sending a post directly to WordPress and that worked too!)

I’m also thankful for several days at home to spend with my family and without a long to-do list. I have one final paper to grade tonight and then my calendar is pretty deliciously blank for the next four days! We can really use this. I need a stillpoint, a rest, and some time to spend on the fun things I want to do like wallow in piles of books and make fabulous new sculptures and go sit out in the woods and…and…and…

Thankful for all these people too! And, also thankful for fab new pictures from recent photo session with my friend 🙂

Children’s Book Review: We’re Having a Homebirth

We’re Having a Homebirth

by Kelly Mochel

Softcover, Stapled, 16 pages

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

We’re Having a Homebirth is a delightful new children’s book with a contemporary feel. The illustrations have a very modern, almost “manga” type appeal.

The book is a nice, positive, simple account of birth at home—it addresses each key issue children may be concerned with in very basic, friendly terms.

My boys, ages 6 and 3 at the time, cuddled up as I read it aloud and both enjoyed it very much. They especially liked the part about the placenta and cord-cutting.

The book is very colorful and half of the pages each have a different, eye-catching background color as well (the other half have white backgrounds).

I recommend this little gem to families planning homebirths and also for midwives to have available in their offices or lending libraries.

Small in size and fairly brief at 16 pages, We’re Having a Homebirth is reasonably priced at $6.50 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle version.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Book Review: Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart ~ A Midwife’s Saga

Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga
by Carol Leonard, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-615-19550-6.
Bad Beaver Publishing, $15.00, 363 pages, soft cover.

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

This memoir by experienced New Hampshire midwife, Carol Leonard, is a wonderful read. It is funny, compelling, exciting, and sad. I think it is the best midwife’s memoir I’ve ever read!

Spanning 13 years (1975-1987), the book represents not just her personal experiences and birth stories, but also chronicles the development of independent midwifery in New Hampshire and the birth of MANA and its emergence as an international presence.

Leonard is an engaging writer with a flair for the dramatic. The style of the book is present tense, so you get a sense of actually “being there” and the book reads with the pace of a novel.

The many birth stories in the book are riveting. She has her share of close calls and complications, as well as tons of strong, inspirational births. Her love of the work and of the women she serves shines throughout and I got a strong sense of the author as a deeply passionate and committed woman.

The book opens with her own birth story in a hospital in 1975, her only child, and chronicles her development into a midwife (a fascinating sub-story in the book is of the changes her local hospital goes through to make their maternity unit more mother-friendly). Be prepared for a sad ending.

The birth stories shared each represent an event or lesson learned. Leonard is a busy midwife (you get a sense in the book that she doesn’t have much time to take care of herself!) and she attends many births in her years of service. The births detailed here are carefully chosen for impact and purpose. (Side note: as an LLL Leader, I was saddened that her one experience with LLL [in the book] is a bad one).

More than a collection of birth stories or midwifery musings, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga, is a personal journey, as well as a spirited account of a larger journey occurring in the midwifery profession.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes

Review previously published at Citizens for Midwifery

Amazon affiliate link included in book title/image.


Today is my birthday and my mom sent me a guest post about my own birth!

Molly’s Birth Story (33 years later)
May 3, 2012

At the time of Molly’s birth in 1979, we lived in a 10 x 30, un-insulated building – a shack, really – and were completely off the grid. We used wood for cooking/heat, and kerosene and candles for light. We hauled in drinking water, and bathed in rain water. We had no phone, electricity, or plumbing and shared a vehicle. Many people were appalled at our decision to homebirth (fortunately, they couldn’t call us to yell about it!). Midwives were completely hidden and underground. I had two dear friends, both nurses, who agreed to attend the birth.

I was very close to term, and we were concerned that I would begin labor at home (with no phone or car) while Tom was away at work, so I spent those final days of pregnancy hanging around at the homes of neighbors and friends. Labor began while with neighbors, and continued to progress throughout the evening. It was a wild night – raging thunderstorms, torrential rain, and incessant lightning. It became apparent that this was true labor, so Tom had to leave me alone in our tiny home to go find a phone to call our support people. They arrived by midnight, and I continued to labor throughout the night, culminating in 2 hours of pushing and the arrival of a beautiful, sweet baby girl! I’ll never forget the surreal feeling of contractions punctuated by lightning and thunder. Towards the end, I was actually falling asleep between contractions and still remember the dreams I had…..

Unfortunately, I sustained a large tear, and was unable to push to release the placenta. We had to pack up, borrow a 4-wheel drive truck, and slip and slide through the mud to a doctor who had agreed to provide postpartum care if needed. I was curled up on the seat with baby Molly – this was before car seats were in use! I lamented having to go out in such horrible conditions. The tear was major, and took 42 stitches, making my days of postpartum recovery very difficult. Nothing daunted, I went on to have 3 more children at home – still off the grid, still with no indoor plumbing, but some of the time with a car and a phone for the last two.

This experience – having my first baby – was a transcendent transformation. I became a mother at that moment, and being a mother is still a defining element of my personality and identity. Molly grew to adulthood altogether too fast, and even though she stands before me now as a mother herself, I will never forget the infant, child, and teenager that she was. We’re inextricably linked, and while I marvel at our sameness, I also celebrate our differentness.

I had 2 favorite books that I read to prepare for a very rustic homebirth – Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin, and Special Delivery, by Rahima Baldwin. These books are still being recommended to birthing women, and while the climate of homebirth is certainly in transition, each woman must find her own path through the labyrinth of birth.

Who knew, when I was planning a homebirth all those years ago, that Molly would grow to be the birth advocate and authority that she has become? Perhaps my decision to homebirth had some sort of deep-seated and profound influence on her!

Happy birthday to an amazingly intelligent, witty, loquacious, creative, generous, intuitive, compassionate and productive daughter. I am incredibly proud of the woman you have become, and I love you beyond all reason.


She also uploaded a photo of me at 11 months–we think Alaina looks like me 🙂


I also had this nursing picture already saved on my computer:

Happy Birth Day to both of us!

Present day…

Today we had to take Alaina to the pediatric dentist in St. Louis to have her front teeth looked at. I thought the four upper front teeth all had decay, but it turned out to be a pretty best case scenario—she only had one actual cavity (some pitting and staining on three others, but not decay) AND the dentist said, “would you like me to just fix it now instead of you having to drive all the way here again from Rolla?” So, not only was the problem more minor than we feared, it is already ALL FIXED! Yay! So, I was able to go on and enjoy the rest of my birthday rather than fretting about her teeth or planning the follow-up visit for the “big work.” We did have a horrible 15 minutes while I held her on my lap and she screamed and cried and they did the work, but that is a tiny blip as far as things go and it was SO much better than the anesthesia route we did with Z (ambulatory surgery clinic admission, etc. Boo on that, especially because most of the work then chipped off—that’s what $5000 or so gets you!). After we got home she was extra clingy and very needy and mama’s girl-ish though, which makes me feel bad because I know she must still be feeling traumatized by the betrayal of being taken somewhere to, essentially, be hurt, trapped, and helpless 😦

After the dentist, we went to my friend’s house who lives in the vicinity. Another friend joined us and we had a little party with a nice lunch and cupcakes. My friend’s kids had blown up balloons and hung them up all over and there was also a great sign hanging in the tree:

I cried when I saw the cute sign! I really miss seeing both these friends on a regular basis, but I also feel thankful that they still live close enough to be within reach!


Recovered enough from tooth trauma to swing like a big girl!

On the way home we stopped at the pie shop for the Boston cream pie Mark ordered for us to enjoy with my parents:



Couldn’t resist taking a picture of the sweaty, wild hair of a traveling baby!

My parents came over bearing gifts and my favorite dinner of beef stroganoff and we also ate the pie. I’m tired, but relieved. I was also feeling weird to be 33 now and said something along the lines of, what happened and is Alaina going to be 33 soon too?! My dad said, “this can never be a long time ago…” and then reminded me that it was a Laura Ingalls Wilder quote:  “…They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago...”

Later, I laid in bed nursing Alaina to sleep and thinking about how my parents remember me as a baby—their baby—but I don’t remember being their baby. And, how this intimacy with Alaina will someday soon be only my memory, not hers (at least not consciously). How strange, because it is so total and so real and so right now…it can never be a long time ago.

A Virtual Mother Blessing for Molly Westerman!


I spy...a pregnant woman ready for some honor and celebration!

In 2007, I started blogging for Citizens for Midwifery and one of my favorite blogs was a little gem then called Feminist Childbirth Studies. The blog’s author, Molly Westerman, later became more public with her blogging identity and began writing her current blog, First the Egg, a feminist resource on pregnancy, birth, and parenting. I enjoy her thought-provoking writing, her insight into birth culture and politics, and the glimpses of her family’s life in a nonsexist home. She’s smart, funny, interesting, and she’s also pregnant with her second baby and due any time now! I think every mother deserves a blessingway or mother blessing ceremony and I’m pleased to hostess a virtual blessingway for Molly. There is a tight turnaround since her anticipated birth time is so close, so if you read this and think, “I’d like to do something…” immediately stop thinking and just DO IT!

During my last pregnancy, Molly offered multiple supportive comments in response to my various musings, anxieties and fears as a pregnancy-after-loss mama (even though she didn’t have personal experience with PAL, she did know the right things to say!) Her comments, particularly one about the fact that I was doing this, meant a lot to me. I’ve now followed her current very physically challenging pregnancy with interest and long-distance support/rooting her on as she prepares for the homebirth of her new baby this month. I’m happy to have the chance to offer her a little more encouragement and love through this virtual mother blessing.

Here’s how you can participate:

Email me with your…

  • Words of support, affirmation, encouragement for Molly–either written or recorded (think about what you’d say face-to-face at a ceremony and then, if you have a smartphone, use the handy dandy microphone tool and talk into as if you were speaking directly to Molly in a mother blessing circle. After your voice memo is recorded, choose “share” and send it to me!)
  • Favorite birthy readings/poems/etc. (again could be written or recorded)
  • Birth art (i.e. a picture of something you drew, or you can mail Molly an actual drawing–see below).
  • Beads or charms for a birth bracelet/necklace–if you’d like to do this, email me for Molly’s address and then mail it now, so there is a chance she will receive it before the birth. I figure that all postpartum mamas can use ongoing doses of birth power energy anyway, so even if it gets to her post-birth, that’s cool too!

As I mentioned, there is tight turnaround on this, so on Tuesday of next week, I will gather everything that has been emailed to me and send it to Molly as a “blessingway in your inbox.” 🙂


Getting closer and closer to birthing day...

If you are curious to learn more about mother blessings, click here to read other posts I’ve written about them.

Doulas at Homebirths?

What is a doula?

A doula provides non-medical labor support—all the good stuff like back rubs and encouraging words and suggestions for different positions to help with labor. She does not replace the father’s role, but “holds the space” for both mother and father as they take their own journeys/come into their new roles as parents. In my birth classes, I explain that I think one of the benefits of a doula is that it frees the dad up to JUST be the dad and to live his own experience/journey and not have the pressure of trying to remember all the birth “tricks” and book information.

But, why have a doula at a homebirth?

A lot of women planning homebirths do not feel as much of a need for a doula as do women in the hospital. The midwife is capable of providing many of the same functions as a doula, but she also has the monitoring tasks and baby tasks to take care of, while a doula is just there for YOU. Other things to consider when thinking about a doula for a homebirth are whether or not the midwife will be bringing an assistant and what her role will be if there is one–sometimes the assistant is available to fulfill some aspects of the doula role, other times she is observing or otherwise in training for other tasks. And, also consider how many people who want present at the birth–if you’re already having a midwife, an assistant, and say a mother or sister or friend there, adding a doula too may mean too much crowding.

A couple of months ago, I solicited feedback about doulas and homebirth for an article I was compiling for the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter. The full article is available here: Doulas and Homebirth. I had anticipated receiving a number of responses suggesting that doulas at homebirth are unnecessary, or redundant. After all, an emotional connection and secure trust is often the hallmark of what differentiates the midwifery model from the medical model. However, the responses I received were overwhelmingly in favor of hiring a doula for a homebirth. Personally, I very much valued the specific and customized postpartum care my doula provided to me after my last homebirth and I’ve concluded that a doula has the potential to offer something unique and precious to families, in whatever setting the birth takes place. I also think that the doula is the most likely member of the birth team to remain in contact with the family in the future. Perhaps it is because, even given the friendliness of the midwifery model, there is less of a “power differential” between mother and doula.

Personal experiences

The decision to hire a doula is a personal one, regardless of in which setting you give birth. My first baby was born at a birth center with the presence of a midwife, a doctor, my doula, a friend, my mother, and my husband. In hindsight, I felt like it had been too many people and that the doula hadn’t really been needed. For my second birth, at home, it was extremely important to me to have as few people present as possible. My husband, my mom, and my son greeted the arrival of my second son. My midwife arrived five minutes before his birth—just in time to catch! My midwife for his birth was so amazing, that I didn’t feel the need for any other professional care. I still miss her! My third baby was a second trimester miscarriage and he was born at home unassisted and just my husband present. Later, a friend who is a doula was very, very helpful to me with postpartum care/doula stuff. I really wished I had a doula there during his birth for emotional support and supportive physical care tasks (not medical support, but tea bringing and towel washing).

It is the little things that matter--here my doula puts warm socks on me following my baby's January birth (baby and I had special matching birth socks knitted by my mom)

And, finally, with my last baby, while I liked and respected my midwife I didn’t have the same warm bond with her and really wanted to hire a doula again, precisely because I was missing some of the emotional component I value so highly in midwifery care. It is really the little things that make doula care so special (see included photo!). When planning my last birth, I chose to hire the same doula as with my third birth, with the primary purpose being immediate postpartum help (“washing the bloody towels and bringing me tea” is how I define it).

Talk Birth in Labor…

And, speaking of my doula, I’ve been meaning to share this photo for a long time. When my doula had her own baby last April, amongst the wonderful photos that our mutual friend took at the birth, I was tickled to see this picture of my doula looking at my website while in labor:
I think this could be an advertisement for my blog 😉

You can read Summer’s intense birth story here and also be moved to tears by the stunning birth awesomeness of her video slideshow here: