Variation of Normal

There are too many stigmas, way too many ways to judge, and far too many moms feeling alone and under qualified, under prepared, and under appreciated. It’s time that we see every healthy, informed maternal choice, not as good or bad, but as a variation of normal. It’s time to learn from one another. It’s time to support one another. Instead of trying to impart your own thoughts on someone else’s decisions, learn from them why this is their best choice. Or, better yet, learn that you don’t have to know why it’s their choice!

Her induction doesn’t affect your birth. Her planned cesarean doesn’t mean you’re going to be cut on when you labor. Her natural birth doesn’t mean you can’t get the epidural you desperately need to get through your next contraction. Her home birth doesn’t mean she’s neglecting herself or her child. Her hospital birth doesn’t mean she’s inviting trouble into her birth. Your birth choice doesn’t make you stronger or weaker than any other person or any other choice. Your experience strengthens you, and makes you stronger than yesterday’s you. Be stronger and be better than those who judge. Show respect for your sister. Be excited to be in a community where we can learn from the wildly different versions of normal.

Know that the storm of labor and birth is between the mother and baby, and no one else can endure that storm for them. We can only support them through it, help them process it when the storm passes, and celebrate the outcome together. Let’s become a tribe of strong women cheering strong women! It’ll be our variation of normal.

“At Least You’re Both Fine…”

… Except you’re not “fine.” Alive? Sure! But life isn’t simply about continuing from one intake of breath to the next.

You see, when we try to make everything “okay again,” by qualifying or justifying changes to the birth plan, or by brushing the emotional side of birth and life under the rug, we’re stripping the mother of her right to feel the things she’s going through. We’re telling her that despite every bit of research she’s done, all the time spent on a birth plan, choosing the perfect midwife or OB, the right place of birth, the doula, the support system with her, the birth classes, all of it, despite it all, despite her longing for a beautiful entrance into this world, when she and her baby didn’t get the experience they needed, she should suck it up and keep going.

We need to understand there’s going to be a period of sadness, and of floundering. There’s a sense of loss, and of being out of control of your own body: as though your body betrayed you when you needed to count on it the most. We also need to offer an ear, not cliches, or empty words. There’s a ton of shaming in this world, and it feels as though no mother can make the right decisions for her child, but believe it or not, most moms do their best. They make decisions based upon their bodies, abilities, their knowledge, and beliefs, not yours.

So the next time you hear a mom say something negative about her birth experience, hold space for her. Listen. Empathize. Don’t speak. And don’t judge. I’ll say it again for those in the back: Do Not Judge!

You don’t have to agree with someone’s choices to support them. Their choices don’t have to be the same as yours. And when something goes wrong for them, even if that would’ve been your first choice, it wasn’t hers. Even if everything turned out with living mother and child, it was still hard, it was still a bad experience, and it was still scary. Hold space, and offer support, not judgement.

“What Do You Do, Again?”

Doulas don’t write your birth plan, or press their choices or beliefs on you or your birth: they can help you with wording, but not the decisions.

Doulas support you through labor, and help your support group also know what to do and how to help.

Doulas don’t make decisions for you: they direct you to evidence based care options.

Doulas aren’t your voice: they empower you to find yours through compassion and patience.

Doulas guide you and help find the position most helpful to you for pain relief and moving the labor along.

Doulas are there for you, physically and virtually, whatever time of day or night you need them.

Doulas respect your privacy, and don’t talk to others about what is going on in or with your body.

Doulas don’t leave your side while laboring.

DOULAS KNOW YOU CAN! And, as a member of your team, will help you accomplish it!

World Doula Week

March 22-28 brings us WDW! And on the very first day I was privileged to be part of a birth team, as a mother worked tirelessly in bringing her beautiful baby earthside! Two days before the due date, this magnificent mother has created memories forever etched into the minds and hearts of so many people. As I write this down, tears flow, and my heart is somewhere between bursting forth with love and hope and a melted puddle of emotion. This is why I trained for this: to bring about change in birth experiences. To help one woman at a time to feel empowered by her body, and confident in herself and her team.

(photo credit to: Robin Elise Weiss)

Thank you, all you who chose me to play a part in your birth story. Thank you, all you educators who work so hard, day in and day out, making sure mothers and babies have choices. Thank you, medical staff who chose evidence based practices. Thank you, all who took the time to read this.

Happy International Womanhood Day

Today (and every day) is a day to celebrate being a woman! As a woman, you have the ability to do what no one else can: bring forth life. Life can be difficult to navigate in this “man’s world,” and we can use a break. I’d like to share with you moms and moms-to-be a break in price tags.

If you’re looking for a pregnancy pillow, a nursing pillow, belly bands for your jeans, baby books, or board books, leggings or shoes for your tiny one, a breastfeeding bracelet, a nursing cover or two, some washable breast pads, and canopy covers for infant seats, click on any of the hyperlinks above, and at checkout enter the promo code DOULAWISE for your $40-$50 discounts. (See above sites for details.)

If you’re expecting, and you’re thinking of hiring a birth doula in the Louisville to Lexington, KY areas, I’m having a 25% discount for everyone who signs a contract with me for the month of March. Simply contact me at (502) 229-7512, mention this article, and set up an interview.

If you’re interested in birth photos or newborn photos in the Lexington, KY area, contact Esper at (859) 629-0074 and ask Olivia about her March special of 35% off!

Also for the Frankfort/Lawrenceburg areas, if you’re looking to get a fresh new look, or wanting a subtle change for your hair, contact Chelsea at (502) 330-3684 and ask about her International Womanhood Day specials.

And, as always, be kind to yourself!

One Year Later…

(photo credit:

It seems impossible for it to have been a whole year ago that I decided to make what I love to do into what I do to feed my family. Having been a DONA trained birth doula has been exciting, eye opening, and truly a privilege. My own births have given me so much confidence, an appreciation for the human body, a glimpse of life through the eyes of my own mother, and a deeper understanding of love. We all hear these sentiments spoken by parents.

What I hadn’t known going in was what it would do for my life and perspective to be a birth doula. To be a part of the support team of other mothers has enriched my life in and understanding of what it means to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself that honestly, has nothing to do with yourself. To witness empowerment, to feel the spiritual gift, the deep connection, the undying bond of parent and child; there is nothing to compare it.

For everyone who has been on this journey with me, thank you. For every mom who has called me to look for advice, I love your confidence in me, and I love you. For every baby born while I helped your parents through some tough moments, I’m honored to be a part of your story. For everyone who is to come into my office in the future, thank you for the privilege you’ve given me by considering me to be a part of your support system.

The Yearly

It’s not pleasant to be in stirrups, or to have a doctor and nurse staring at your yoni while you lay on a table half clothed, shivering under a sheet, staring at fluorescent lights. Or waiting for the doctor and nurse to finally enter the room, no one to talk to, and rereading the posters on the walls about the final stages of development of a fetus and iud selections. As unpleasant as it is, it’s super important to your health!

So, while we all know early detection is the best way to survive cancers, and prevent pre-cancer from developing into cancer, we don’t always want to think about how it may be living inside our bodies already. For anyone who has ever had an abnormal exam, yearly is best for repeat Pap smears, and every two years for women who haven’t.

As boring as it is, it’s worth that little piece of mind that comes from your Gynocologist office giving you the all clear!

That Feeling When…

…your head is full of knowledge and your heart is full of love…

When Jen Kamel advertised her VBAC Facts videos on Facebook, I jumped all over it! Being a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) mom myself, and having had several clients who either had or attempted a VBAC, I wanted to know all I could. I’m still neck deep in information to process, and loads to learn before I’m done with the initial course information, but I’m so excited to have gotten my hands on this, and soon to follow, my brain wrapped around these facts and policies.

My cesarean “meet the baby” picture.

Most important is to avoid the first cesarean, if possible, but oftentimes that’s not an option. When it’s not, it is imperative that moms don’t have their rights for a VBAC stripped from them even before they make it to labor. My goal as a doula is to help mothers have their ideal birth whenever possible, and now armed with this information, I feel much more prepared to share this with moms, and help them to go in prepared if/when they’re told for whatever reason they’re not a candidate for a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean).

My VBAC “meet the baby” picture.

The images above speak volumes on the difference between something being stripped from you, and being able to choose the path for yourself. In both of these pictures I’m greeting a baby about to be whisked off to the NICU for being born too early, and underdeveloped lungs. In the first you’ll see someone holding my son, “allowing” me to kiss him before they rushed him off. In the second, until her cord is clamped, and she is relying solely on herself to breathe, I’m holding her, and being able to count toes and fingers and smell that new, wet baby smell that helps the breasts produce colostrum. This is what mothers and babies deserve to have the opportunity to have. Even when you know there’s going to be an urgent situation once baby is out, baby and Mom have a crucial first moment of bonding.

This is what we doulas strive to provide for our clients: the voice, the knowledge, and the rights of both mother and child.

Nursing Newborns

Have you ever been warned that having a baby means there will be days you’ll feel so drained that moving off the couch to the bed seems like too much of a chore to be worth the warm blanket and familiar pillow? Or putting your feet on the floor is only worth the energy used when you’re certain it’s that or pee the bed? How about being told that hearing your baby cry almost literally makes your nipples crawl into your breast tissue in fear of having to be chewed on by a ravenous toothless (or not entirely toothless) human? No? Me neither! And I’ve had 7 of them! In all the pre-baby speeches I received about not sleeping, not having the energy to go to the few and far-between kid-friendly parties, no one thought to warn me about feeling “touched out,” the horrors of cracked nipples and still having to nurse/pump through the pain, the struggle and tears with wrong latches, lip tie, mastitis, and inverted nipples, or nursing strikes (when baby decides eating is for the weak and goes hours, or days, without latching or latching long enough).

With all the well-meaning, unsolicited advice I received, and still receive, no one warned me that my baby would at times want nothing more than to nurse for 24 hrs straight, and that it’s OK to do nothing but nurse that baby. I was never told about the mental leaps that babies go through that cause them to have terrifying meltdowns they’ve never shown before, and make you wonder if they’ve been possessed by the devil himself (though I’ve been told 36 different ways to cope with it by 40 different strangers and nearly all of them childless).

Having had a miscarriage before my first baby, I felt I didn’t have the right to complain about my swollen feet and itchy belly toward the end of the pregnancy, or to be upset when things weren’t going well, or that it made me ungrateful for my child when I wanted nothing more than an evening with just my husband and no rattlers, diapers, breast pumps, nursing sessions, or cries that interrupted the best part of the show, or punctuated the kiss that I’d waited all day to get. The truth is, we are human, and we gave birth to humans. It’s perfectly normal, and acceptable to feel overwhelmed, overly exhausted, and completely lost! If you think you’ve got it all together you’re missing something. Just ask any mom who has ever left the house on time or early with every kid dressed, makeup on, gas in the car, and the dog fed. She probably left all the lunchboxes on the kitchen counter, or the curling iron on, or forgot to leave the key to the shed for the lawn guy coming at 3pm, or (worst of the worst) left the diaper bag with 20oz of defrosted breastmilk sitting by the door.

Stop judging yourself! Love yourself and that baby. And refill your cup. Any questions?