If I’m hiring a midwife, why do I need a doula?

I’ve often been asked, “if I’m hiring a midwife, why do I need a doula?” To me, asking a midwife why you would also need a doula is like asking a schoolteacher why you would also need books. No, you wouldn’t absolutely have to have books in order to learn. You could use the Internet. You could listen to stories your teacher recites from memory. But, you would be limited to your teacher’s perspective.

World Doula Week 2015A birth doula is like a library of tools for labor support that goes beyond the clinical skills a midwife or a doctor can offer you. Labor support is her specialty. That’s the whole reason she’s there. A midwife is there for your safety. That’s her primary role. Yes, she does also provide labor support, but that’s secondary to your safety. Doulas have unique skills to help you progress, feel more comfortable, and support you emotionally, spiritually, and physically, so you can have the best possible birth experience.

For this blog post, I’m referring to birth doulas. There are other kinds of doulas, too (LOVE THEM!). More on other doulas in a future blog post…

Doula work is HARD! It requires a strength that is almost impossible to put into words. Doula work and midwifery work are not the same. Sure, some doulas become midwives, and some midwives also do doula work. Our skills overlap in some areas. But, the roles are very different and require very different skill sets.

In addition to support for the mother, doulas are support for the mother’s partner. That, to me, is one of the biggest benefits of having a doula at a home birth. I’ve heard partners express concern that the doula will somehow replace him at the birth or diminish his role. Nothing could be farther from the truth! A good doula will help the partner so he can be the best possible support person. Sometimes, a little direction (“maybe try a little pressure here on her back”) or suggestion (“some labor aid might be good”) can be priceless when you’re going on very little sleep and are wondering what to do next. Sometimes, a break so the partner can get a catnap can help bring some fresh energy back to the room. Laboring women benefit from endorphins to help them get through the labor; laboring dads don’t, but they can hire a doula to help them out!

A mother talks about her home birth experience with her doula:

11069562_10102134401309617_319468984_oMy doula taught my husband how to help me. She went so far as feeding him lines from the other side of the door where I couldn’t see her. That was what he and I needed. I needed reassurance from him and he didn’t know what to say. After our first birth with a doula, my husband said he didn’t want to have any more babies without her involved.

An experienced doula shares her own experience in having a doula serve her at her birth:

I had doulaed a few moms but had our first 5 children with only my husband. When our 6th came along a friend asked me if she could come to our birth and help as our doula. We decided to have her come, even though my husband was just perfect for me at our births. He is a man that NEVER shows emotions and says very few words. After that birth he said with GREAT EMOTION as he swung around and threw his hands in the air, ‘that was GREAT!!! I am NEVER doing that again with out a doula! It totally took the monkey off my back!!!’ We had a doula for the last 4 births. I loved it and he did too.

Doulas at home births can help in so many ways. Whether it’s taking pictures, cooking meals, making cold compresses, fanning mama when she’s hot and sweaty, giving a pep talk, massaging away a leg cramp, getting the birth pool ready… whatever… doulas are an important part of the birth team.

And, of course, whenever you plan a home birth, you do need to plan for the possibility of a home birth transfer to the hospital. It does happen sometimes. Your midwife will be with you as a support person, and depending upon the situation with her backup doctor it can be a really positive experience. But, experienced doulas are very accustomed to supporting women at hospital births. In fact, they may be better at supporting you at the hospital than many home birth midwives are (don’t throw rocks at me please, sisters!). Doulas just see a lot more hospital births than we do, have more experience with a wider variety of hospitals, and, for many reasons, are likely to feel more comfortable working in a hospital setting than we do.

This week was World Doula Week. Birth Outside the Box featured at least one doula every day this week on our Facebook page. A total of eleven of our local doulas were featured this week. In addition to what Birth Outside the Box did, there was a blog challenge and a flurry of other activity all geared towards increasing awareness and towards honoring the work these incredible doulas do to support families. It was nothing short of amazing to see the outpouring of love for this profession. Clients commented about their skill and about how much their presence meant to them during their births. I hope these doulas felt boosted by this affirmation that their work is important and worth the sacrifices they make in order to serve their clients.

Here is a sampling of the local doulas our area is blessed to have serving our families (listed in no particular order!):


Kaylie Groenhout

Kaylie Groenhout, Doula: Carte Blanche Doula Co.

Kaylie Groenhout, Doula: Carte Blanche Doula Co.

Carte Blanche Birth Co.

Birth can be awesome, intense and transformative. My hope is for pregnant women and their partners to find their collective inner voice and author their own birth story.

Families ought to be respected, honored and loved during the birth process, not treated as patients along for the ride. I help mothers and their partners explore their options during pregnancy so they can make whatever decisions are best for their family. As your doula, I support whatever those are. I believe in you, your body and your baby.


Bergen Howlett

Two Rivers Childbirth

I have been a doula in Loudoun county for more than four years. The challenges we faced after our first daughter was born brought to stark attention the gap of postpartum care in our country and I felt called to became a postpartum doula to help fill that gap. Last year I trained as a birth doula to better provide continuity of care to my clients. I firmly believe in a family’s right to welcome their children in whatever setting they choose. I love supporting my clients at local hospitals and birth centers, but I have a true soft spot for homebirth families. In fact, in 2011, when I noticed a lack of childbirth education designed specifically for homebirth families I wrote my own with the guidance of local midwives and teaching is one of my greatest joys. There are few things better than watching a new family blossom and grow right before my eyes. I love reminding mothers and fathers of the strength and intuition they already posses.


Shannon Klee

Wise Path Birthing

Shannon Klee, Wise Path Birthing

Shannon Klee, Wise Path Birthing

I was blessed to discover, early in my Mama career, that birth can be a peaceful, quiet, and epic experience…lots of hard work, sure, but not always the terrible horror that the movies make it out to be! My first birth was totally unmedicated, and I would not have chosen to do it any other way. Of course, when my second child was born surgically, I also discovered that medical interventions can be wonderful and lifesaving! My job as a doula is to help you discover what your best birth looks like, and support you and your partner in giving you your best odds at achieving that. I serve the entire northern Virginia area, and want to be there for you as you birth at home, or at your chosen birth center or hospital.


Jen Clancy

Jennifer Clancy: Birth Services

Jen Clancy

Jen Clancy, doula from Jennifer Clancy Birth Services, and her beautiful family.

We know the value of supporting mothers in pregnancy. Nutrition and emotional well­being are the two of the top factors that determine the success of pregnancy and level of confidence in parenting one’s child. As a doula and student home birth midwife, I learned quickly that outcomes are more favorable when mothers were optimally healthy. I saw first hand in my own two pregnancies how much impact my diet, environment and lifestyle choices had on my gestation length and health of our babies. My confidence grew when I listened to the needs of my body and spirit as a new parent; allowing inner balance and healing to take place. I believe every new mother desires to achieve not only a healthy baby, but a healthy woman who feels successful and supported. Teaching child birth classes and providing doula support, counsel, prenatal health coaching, encapsulation and birth pool rentals enables me to help other families identify and reach their own personal and family health goals during their childbearing years. My goal is to continue work towards credentialing as a Certified Professional Midwife while helping to sustain a community of birth professionals who promote time honored and evidence based practices with the families at the helm of informed decision making.


Emily Smith

Doorstep Doula Birth Services

Emily Smith: Doorstep Doula

Emily Smith: Doorstep Doula

You are Unique! Emily Smith provides personalized support for your birthing year and beyond! Meet Emily L. Smith- Professional Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist:

I have more than 17 years of experience working with women, babies, and children, beginning as an au pair and nanny, then training as a labor doula in 2008. I soon expanded my skills as a trained hypnodoula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, placenta encapsulator, and Blessingway consultant. Contact me at www.doorstepdoula.com or doorstepdoula@gmail.com, 719-373-3069.


Mari Stutzman Smith

Celebrated Birth

Mari Stutzman Smith, Doula, Celebrated Birth

Mari Stutzman Smith, Doula, Celebrated Birth

Mari has always enjoyed working with people. Even as a young child, she knew her passion included serving individuals and helping them when they needed it the most. Mari has been a part of organizations and missions that have kept her serving around the world. She has traveled from Australia to Central America and throughout the USA helping others. It wasn’t until she became pregnant with her first child that she realized a calling to become a doula. Throughout her pregnancy, Mari focused her energy and resources into getting informed about her birthing options. Naturally, she hired a doula and experienced first hand the benefit of having an advocate and rich resource during her birth journey.

Mari is doula trained and certified through toLabor. She has attended over 100 births and has been working as a full time doula serving Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. for over 5 years. In the past, Mari has taught childbirth education classes. Mari is knowledgeable about birth, experienced in interpersonal relationships and excited to share in your birth journey.

Other passions include spending time with her family of 5, traveling, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, supporting local/organic farmers in providing sustainable food, and environmental accountability- both globally and individually. Mari has a B.S. in Marketing from George Mason University and has long-term aspirations of attending Midwifery school.


Tara Beth Olson

Tara Beth Olson, Doula

Tara Beth Olson

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2003. In 2007, after the birth of my second child, I became interested in birth work and decided to become a doula. In addition to homeschooling my four children, I have worked as a birth doula since 2008. I believe birth is a transformational moment in the life of a woman and her partner, and that a woman should be supported in the way she wants to birth. I also believe pregnancy and labor should be supported with evidence-based care. With support, mothers can trust themselves to make informed decisions about necessary, or desired, interventions. I help my clients learn relaxation and meditation techniques they can use during labor and delivery. Through education, planning, and practice, we build trust in each other, in your birth team, and in your body’s ability to birth.


Nicole Bruno

Sacred Journey Birth Services

Nicole Bruno, Doula

Nicole Bruno, Doula: Sacred Journey Birth Services

I graduated with a degree in Music from the University of RI. In preparation for the birth of my daughter I took a Bradley Method class and that is what launched me into the birth industry. I certified to become a teacher and in 2012 began working as a doula. My business model is continuity of care, from pregnancy through postpartum. My mission is to help local families attain their birth vision and gain confidence as new parents through support and education. My purpose and role in your birth and postpartum care is to leave you feeling empowered about your choices and happy with your experience, even if medical needs arise. In my spare time I enjoy being with my husband and my 4 year old daughter, as well as our 4 cats.


 Tiffany Shank

Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany Shank: Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany Shank: Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany supported her mother’s VBAC birth in 2007, this birth sparked her passion to support women during pregnancy and childbirth. Tiffany has an enthusiasm for supporting each woman’s birthing philosophy. She is considered an amazing asset by all the families she has served over the past three years. Her wish is to help each family educate themselves about their birth options and to give birth with confidence.

Tiffany trained as a Doula and Childbirth Educator in 2012 and immediately began supporting women in her community. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her amazing husband and one year old daughter.


Jenn Whitaker

Jenn Shane Whitaker, Doula

Jenn Whitaker, Birth Doula

I’ve always known that birth was something I was passionate about, but it wasn’t until the birth of my first two sons that I realized that passion could be turned into action. After the birth of my first son, I knew there could be a better way. His induction resulted in a Cesarean I feel never would have happened had I had the right support and knowledge to help me make different choices. My second son was born at home with midwives and the two experiences could not have been more different. The two births together made me realize I could help other women achieve their best possible birth experience, with the safest and healthiest outcome. My third son, born at home in the water in June 2013, made me appreciate my calling as a doula even more! I’ve kind of “done it all” now!

I believe that every woman can have a positive birth experience when she feels empowered in her decisions. Just like no two labors, babies, or moms are alike, there is no one way to give birth. Whether it’s a hospital, home, or birth center setting, I am here to help women make the best choices for herself and her family, as well as provide her with my support before, during, and after the birth of her child.

Before becoming a doula, I worked in the corporate world as a Web developer for various government agencies in the area. I spent nine years as a contractor before staying home to be with my boys after the birth of my second son. Becoming a doula has been great for me to both follow my passion and tap into the adult socializing aspect of an office job–with less traffic. Sometimes.

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from James Madison University, and I am trained and certified with DONA International. I am currently studying to become a Hypno-Doula through Hypnobabies. I attended a Homeopathy for Doulas training with Dr. Diderik Finne in January 2012, and am now offering Homeopathy services for before, during, and after labor and birth. I also offer the use of TENS units for pain management in labor. My clients have been loving their TENS units!


Tara Campbell Lussier

Begin Within Birth

Begin With BirthI am a mother, wife, birth doula, yoga teacher and holistic nutritionist in the Northern Virginia area. I started Begin Within Birth to combine my loves of everything about birth, bellies, babies, and the childbearing years. I gave birth to my twins in August of 2009, and they became the best part of me. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I comprehended how much love my heart could hold. I needed a lot of support with the pregnancy, birth and postpartum/nursing time with my twins, and am forever grateful to those that helped me during this most important time. When we became pregnant again, I looked forward to a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean. In February of 2012, I gave birth at home, and achieved that dream. I then went on to have another home birth VBAC (HBAC), in September of 2014. We are blessed to have four beautiful chidren and words can’t express how grateful I am for them every day.

I feel that as a birthing woman I have had a wide range of birth experiences to draw from… From my first birth, a cesarean at 36 weeks due to preeclampsia, to a long and arduous vaginal birth, and finally to a short and blissful birth. I am passionate about meeting you wherever you are on your birth and motherhood journey.


 Marina Kessenich

Transitions Doula Services

Transitions Doula ServicesI am a DONA trained, Madriella certified, and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Doula as well as a Birth Arts International trained childbirth educator with a passion for supporting families from all walks of life through their journey to becoming parents. In addition to those services I am also currently working towards my lactation educator certification through Birth Arts International.

As your doula my goal is to assist you emotionally as well as physically throughout this wonderful and powerful time in your life. I hope to help you and your partner feel confident and secure in your choices before, during, and after the birth of your child. I especially encourage open communication between a woman, her partner, and her care provider. All women are entitled to seek the birth that feels right for them.

For a woman to experience the best birth possible I believe it is important for her to be in a place where she feels safe and comfortable, therefore I support and have experience with both in and out of hospital births. I am familiar with a variety of different childbirth education courses such as Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, Lamaze and many, many more.

I am a doula because it is an amazing privilege to spend my life helping other women; because I believe birth is simply incredible; because I myself could have used the support of a doula during the birth of my own daughter.

As a Childbirth Educator my goal is to help you prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for childbirth through a dynamic, thorough, and informative series of classes. I do not teach any one correct method of giving birth but instead help couples to equip themselves with the knowledge and self awareness they need to seek the birth experience they feel is right for them.


Jocelyn Bataille

Mama to Mama Doula Services

Jocelyn Bataille: Mama to Mama Doula

Jocelyn Bataille helps a mom by using a Rebozo

I found my way into doula-hood after the birth of my second son, and I greatly enjoy serving this wonderful community of mothers. Birth is such a pivotal moment in life and I feel so privileged to be able to help families enjoy the birth of their baby. At Mama to Mama Doula Services, LLC, you will receive the most premiere doula care in Northern VA.

Aside from my passion for birth-work, I also enjoy reading, traveling, running, and good conversation over coffee. I am also heavily active in volunteer opportunities in the community.

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Siblings at birth

Preparing Your Kids For Your Home Birth

Siblings at birth

Photo courtesy jacie lee almira photography

One of the great things about home birth is that it is a family-centered event. A new family member is welcomed into the “community” of your family, allowing all of your family members to participate in welcoming the baby to the family. While older family members know and understand how babies are born and have some idea about what to expect during the birth, younger siblings may need some preparation. I believe it is impossible to prepare a child for the possibility of every sort of thing that happens at a birth, but I do believe that laying a foundation of knowledge and healthy attitudes about birth will go a long way towards making it a positive experience for the sibling, as well as easing the transition from expectant to new family.

Does Your Child Want to Be There?
The first thing to consider when thinking about having children at your birth is whether your child wants to be there. If the child truly does not want to be at the birth, forcing the issue isn’t going to make it a positive experience. Younger siblings may not have a preference, but older siblings may have very definite ideas about whether they want to be a part of it. This is especially true of teens. If your child has strong feelings either way, those feelings should be taken into consideration.

Do You Really Want Your Child to Be There?
Next, consider whether you want to have your child at the birth. Just because your child can be at the birth, doesn’t mean you should have your child at the birth. Will you be able to relax and feel uninhibited if your child is there? Will you feel like you need to take care of your child’s needs if she/he is there? There is a reason why midwives often say mothers go into labor after their older children go to bed. It is hard for mothers to relax enough to go into labor and birth a new baby if they feel like their other children need them.

Photo courtesy of Jacie Lee Almira Photography

Photo courtesy of jacie lee almira photography

Who Will Care For Your Child During the Birth?
Finally, who will care for your child during the birth? Even if you plan to have your child at the birth, someone (other than you and your partner) needs to be tasked with being in charge of taking care of your child’s needs during the birth. If you have several children, consider having more than one childcare helper. Caregivers should be people who are not attached to the idea of being there at the moment of birth in case your child needs to be taken out of the room. The caregiver should be prepared to leave if your child wants to, not trying to convince your child to stay so she can watch the birth. Your child’s caregiver needs to understand that she/he is “on call” 24/7 during the approximately 5 week period surrounding your due date (3 weeks before, 2 weeks after), and needs to be ready to drop everything in order to be there for your child. Your child’s caregiver should be someone she/he is familiar with and enjoys being with. It is a good idea to take time to educate this person about home birth, natural childbirth, etc. so they know what to expect. Make sure he/she is familiar with your routines, where things are in the house, knows how to use your child’s car seat, and can change diapers (if applicable).

Preparing your child for the birth

  • Read age appropriate books about birth. My favorite is Welcome With Love (also known as Hello Baby), by Jenni Overend. Another great book is I Watched my Brother Being Born: Including Children At Birth by Anne Vondruska. Other favorites are Mama Midwife: A Birth Adventure, What’s Inside?, and Baby on the Way.
  • Talk about the process. Look at still photos of births and explain what is happening.
  • Watch birth videos. Be sure to watch the video first so you can guide your child through it when you watch it together (“Hear how the mommy is growling like a bear? When our baby is born, mommy might make sounds like that too”). Start with movies that don’t have close-up shots of the baby crowning or of blood. Once your child has a basic understanding of what happens at a birth, you may want to try some videos with close up shots, but try to not focus on that part as much.
  • Practice making labor sounds together. One way to do this is to practice while doing your pelvic rocks or while sitting in the bathtub together. Talk about how you might spend some time in the water or on your hands and knees and making a lot of noise. See if your child can make noises too. Keep it lighthearted and make it fun.
  • Talk about good blood and good pain. Explain that you’ll be working really hard and that it might be painful, but that you’re safe and that pain is part of the work you’ll be doing. Explain that you might bleed, but that the bleeding is good blood — you’re not bleeding because you’re hurt. Talk about the placenta and how it looks like a piece of meat and how meat is bloody.
  • Talk about how you’ll be working really hard. Show them videos of people doing hard work — weight lifters, marathon runners, etc. — and show them how when you’re working really hard you sweat, grunt, and yell, but that it is OK.
  • Include your child in your prenatal appointments. Let him/her listen to the baby, help take your blood pressure, and help measure the baby.
  • Show them another newborn so they understand the new baby will not be an instant playmate.
  • Talk to your child about what the baby will look like. Explain vernix and the umbilical cord.
  • Let him/her pick out a present for the baby.
  • Think about what your kids might want to do during the birth.
  • Buy a disposable or digital camera for him/her to use.
  • Fill a backpack with special things they can use during the birth — some ideas are a CD player with headphones, snacks, coloring books, a new box of crayons, a new video, etc. Whatever you choose, make it something very special and set it aside to use ONLY at the birth.
  • Give your child a job if she/he is old enough — cutting the cord, putting on the first diaper, dressing the baby, measuring the baby, helping with the newborn exam, photographer, videographer, announce the baby’s gender, etc.
  • Plan to have your child help bake and decorate a birthday cake with their caregiver while you’re in labor.

What Mothers Say…
Everyone’s experience of having their older children at their home birth is different, just as every child, every family, and every birthing woman is different, but here are the thoughts of some women, in their own words:

Siblings at birth

“I remember crying when she grabbed my hand, just because it was the sweetest moment. I’m so very glad she was there.”

“A. was (almost) 4. I had great help but I wish I had designated a person to take care of her and only her. She was a little too much sometimes during the tougher parts of labor. And she fell asleep right before I delivered so she didn’t even get to see the best part:)”

“S. was home with us. She was originally going to go to daycare but came home the previous day not feeling well and by the time I was in active labor it would have been a hassle to have someone take her. She played her recorder for me during contractions, brought me bath toys for my birth pool, and was by my side with her Papa and Aunt as E. emerged. She was a good supervisor of the birth! The only part she didn’t watch was delivering the placenta. We got the book “Babies Don’t Eat Pizza” for her to explain about a sibling joining the family. She was nearly 3 at the time so I don’t think she fully grasped all that was happening. We just let her go with the flow. It was important that my mom and sister were there to help keep her occupied and busy during the slower parts of labor and to reassure her that everything was okay when I was moaning through contractions. In hindsight I’m so glad she was there and a part of the experience. I’m excited for her to experience her brother’s birth this July. It will be more meaningful since she is older.”

Kelly Brown“My home birth was so fast and in the middle of the night that my 4-year-old and 1.5-year-old slept right through it!! (I’m just glad you made it there in time! :)). My MIL was there just in case they woke up and I figured if they were interested in coming in they were welcome to.”

I wanted my almost-3 year old there, but my husband didn’t and my parents offered to take him, so the decision was kind of made to veto my wishes. Which sucked. Even worse, I had the baby early enough in the day that they could have brought my older one back down before rush hour, but they refused. So they didn’t meet until the baby was 19 or 20 hours old and that made me sad. Also, since my oldest had never slept anywhere but home, he had had a tearful bedtime the night before. It’s the only unhappy part of my second birth (accidental waterbirth with no intentional pushing and only 7 hours since my water broke – lovely!)”

“My kids came in after my youngest 2 were born. Loved getting to see the baby so soon. Loved having me at home. A beautiful experience all around, both times.”

“Here’s a quote from my son M., age 6, when asked what he thought about his sister’s birth, ‘It looked like a bocce ball coming out of your privates.’ ”

“For my third birth, we had both of our older children there. It wasn’t planned that way, but that’s how it happened. It was a very long, difficult labor but the children were able to take care of themselves for the most part. My oldest kept complaining that I was too loud and he didn’t want to hear my “dog moaning” (that’s what he called labor noises, lol). I wish I had a doula for that birth just so I would have known the children were being taken care of and I could focus more. For my fourth, the other three were there until about an hour before she was born. It was in the middle of the night, though. My oldest was very encouraging and I remember him saying ‘you’ve got this, mom’ during some hard contractions. My advice would be that if you want your children there, make sure you have additional support for them and for yourself.”

Older siblings welcoming new baby.

Older siblings welcoming new baby.

“I can’t imagine birthing without the other kids at home. I always have 2 people here to tend to them and 2 for me, in addition to my husband and the midwives. If I need them out of the room during parts of the labor, I just say so, but they have been there for the last 3 births as baby came. It’s a moment of wonder and amazement that imprints on them as much as it imprints on us as the parents. I am tickled that my 9 year old tells me she remembers her 7 year old sister’s birth. What a special bond for them!”

“My older kids were not interested in being in the room when the younger siblings were born. They had their own parties together if they weren’t sleeping and were perfectly content to meet the new little one after she was born! We never expected them to “witness” the birth, it was relaxed and up to them.”

“An older sibling who witnessed her brother’s birth told me years later that the experience helped her not get pregnant as a teenager because it made clear what it meant to have a baby.”

“I was unable to find childcare when baby #3 came along, so I was somewhat prepared for the kids to be underfoot during my home birth. But they slept right through it, and in the moment, I was really glad. I think it would have been hard for me to stop parenting and focus on the task at hand.”

“I watched 5 of my siblings be born at home starting when I was 13. From what I remember mom just warned us about the sounds she would make. It was great for me to see what a normal birth looked like and prepared me to not be afraid when I had my own.”

“My two older boys were 6 & 4 when their brother was born, and they were great at the birth! We watched videos and talked a lot about it, leading up to the birth. They were so excited when they woke up to find me in labor and the whole team at our house.”

“When S. was born, J. acted like it was a great big deal to look away from her Lego project to see the baby slide out. “Other things to do, more impressive.” When our youngest was born (footling breech), S. walked in as she slid out (he was 3 1/2). My husband said, “Sit down right there and be quiet.” First and only time he heard such a command and actually followed it. Later, when asked what he saw, his reply was, “I walked into the room and, PLOP, the baby fell right out of Mom’s vagina.” Right. I don’ t think our children were traumatized. But they were well-prepared and knew what to expect.”

“I was down on all fours rocking back and forth. A. was roaming, coming in and out and helping her dad get everything ready (baby boy was a week early). Well, when she walked in and saw me on all fours she exclaimed “Horsey” and ran and jumped on my back mid contraction which as you can imagine was not exactly good timing. My husband was able to quickly help her down before her “horsey” turned into a bucking bronco. Needless to say, we laugh about it now but that was one thing we were not prepared for and to be honest at 2.5 years old I guess we didn’t anticipate how she might take some of the different birthing positions and sounds. So maybe even to run through those ahead of time so kids have a reference point and know what Mommy is doing. She also was very upset hindsight by the afterbirth process. I felt like our approach was so natural and didn’t consider how she might view it because we saw it as such a natural process assuming she would too. For a while after I think she was very scared and hesitant around me because she was confused about that process. I am sure that varies from kid to kid as each is very different but at 2.5 I think in hindsight if she could have not seen that part she would have been just fine. She does however proudly tell everyone still to this day that she got to make her brother’s belly button.”

From a midwife: “I’ll never forget at a home birth that I attended… After the birth and golden hour were past, the four year old sister of the new baby came bounding into the bedroom and leaped up on her mother’s bed. ‘MOM!’ She exclaimed, ‘I didn’t know you could do THAT!’ IT WAS PRICELESS! … 10 year old brother, sitting at dining room table with me after the birth, while I was charting… I asked him, ‘So what do you think?’ He paused, thinking… ‘Well,’ he said, ‘It was cool and gross and amazing all at the same time! I think…. I think I handled it pretty well! I did good!’ PRICELESS… I’ll never forget those kids!”

From Kim’s perspective:
I’ve been to a lot of births where the siblings have been present. For my own home births, having my children at their younger siblings births was a very positive experience. Parents often ask me if their child is old enough or if I think it is a good idea if their child is at the birth of their new baby. There really isn’t any way to know with 100% certainty how it will go, but if the child has a good support person, and if the family is open and speaks positively about what to expect at the birth, I feel like even very young children can do well. It really is something each individual family needs to decide for themselves. Sometimes, if you think being present at the actual moment of birth isn’t the most ideal situation, bringing the kids back to meet the new baby shortly after the birth can be a good compromise. However you do it, the most important thing is that it be a positive experience for you and your family.

Your Midwife’s Postpartum “Must Have” List

Baby SleepYou spend months thinking about preparing for your birth, but not much time is usually spent thinking about those first few days and weeks after baby arrives. Of course, most people have a pretty good stash of baby clothes, diapers, and fairly useless baby gadgets (thanks to the baby shower), but there are a few very practical items you might want to consider having on hand that may make your postpartum time a little bit nicer.

Good Nutrition

OK, this isn’t something you can just add to your baby registry, but it is something you should be thinking about and planning for prenatally. Plan to freeze nutritious meals ahead of time, and make up menu plans and grocery lists so people can pick up what you need an prepare good food for you while you’re resting with your baby. After your baby arrives, you’re going to need even more food than you needed when you were pregnant! Your body needs about 300 calories more per day when you’re nursing than you did when you were pregnant. This doesn’t mean you should just eat a bowl of ice cream every night and call it even. Your body is going through a period of recovery after the birth of your baby. The area where your placenta was implanted is an open wound, and it needs to heal. In addition to that very large open wound, you may have some trauma to your perineum or vaginal tissues that needs to heal. Wound healing requires plenty of protein, and vitamins A, C, E, and zinc. I generally recommend at least 100 grams of protein and 2000 mg of vitamin C for the first 6 weeks postpartum, and I recommend continuing your prenatal vitamins, probiotics, and essential fatty acid supplements as well.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter

As a mama who has nursed plenty of babies myself, let me tell you that the best way to deal with sore nipples is prevention. Other than proper positioning and latch on technique (the MOST important things to avoid soreness), a good nipple salve can be extremely helpful in preventing soreness. La Leche League recommends Lansinoh, which is a great product, and some mothers swear by it, but I find it to be sticky and uncomfortable to apply to sore nipples. Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter is an amazing product. It goes on smoothly, protects, and moisturizes. I’ve recommended it to a lot of women, and they’ve all raved about it. It is my #1 must-have item for postpartum. I recommend applying it after every feeding for at least the first two weeks.

Hot Water Bottle or Heating Pad

This is great for after pains, sore muscles, or to warm up the co-sleeper or bassinet (if you use one) before you put baby into it. There’s something really comforting about hugging a hot water bottle, but if you like an electric heating pad, the kind without the auto shut-off feature is really nice. Those are hard to find anymore. Just be really careful to keep it on a low setting and be sure to only use it when you’re awake.

Traditional Medicinals Smooth Move Tea

Sometimes, getting your bowels moving after the birth can be a bit of a process. Things can be a little sluggish, and then there’s the fear factor, especially if you have any stitches. Postponing the inevitable isn’t going to make it any easier. It’s important to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, eating good non-constipating foods, and following your body’s cues rather than trying to avoid them. If you haven’t had a bowel movement within 24 hours after the birth, it might be good to give your body a little boost with some Smooth Move Tea. A nice strong cup of this stuff will usually get things moving within about 8 hours.

Depends

No, I’m not saying you’ll be incontinent after the birth! But, for the first day or so, your bleeding may be a little heavy, and the Depends Briefs are a great way to avoid leaking onto your bed during that heavier bleeding time.

Tucks Pads

Sometimes, when you’ve pushed out a baby, hemorrhoids become an issue, at least temporarily. Even without hemorrhoids, your perineum is likely to be a little sore after the birth. Tucks pads help reduce swelling and provide a gentle way to clean after using the toilet.

Abdominal Binder

After the birth, your stretched out abdominal muscles need some time and support to come back together. Sometimes, wearing an abdominal binder can this process and also provide much needed back support. There are several different ways you can go about doing this. You can just use a Rebozo (large piece of fabric tied around your belly), try Bengkung Belly Binding (beautiful!), or choose something more utilitarian like an Abdominal Binder that is used after abdominal surgery. All of these options accomplish the same purpose, but in different ways.

Postpartum Basket
I always recommend moms spend at least 2 days in bed after the birth. I’d love it if moms would take more bed rest, but 2 days is a good start. If you’re going to spend 2 days in bed, you’re going to need to keep some things nearby. Most moms find it hard to ask for help, so they either end up doing too much too soon, or they do without. I recommend putting together a basket of things you’ll want to keep nearby that you’ll want to have for the first couple of days after the birth:

  • Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter
  • Nursing Pads
  • Spit up cloths (I used prefold diapers for that)
  • Thank You cards
  • TV remote
  • DVDs (or a Netflix Instant View subscription)
  • Book/Magazine that has nothing to do with baby, birth, or breastfeeding
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
  • Tissues
  • Tylenol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Thermometer
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Hairbrush/Scrunchie/Whatever you need to make you feel like your hair looks decent
  • Makeup (if that makes you feel good)
  • Baby Book
  • Journal
  • Pens
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera (assuming your phone doesn’t have one)
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Water bottles

I asked my clients what they felt helped them most during their early postpartum time. They came up with many of the same ideas I had, but they had some other suggestions:

  • “Extra peri bottles, one for each bathroom.”
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray.”
  • “Comfy, baggy button-front shirts. In my case, the ones that are too worn for my husband to wear to work.”
  • “Breast pump for dealing with engorgement.”
  • “Phone number of my LLL Leader and midwife to call with feeding questions.”
  • “Pillow and blanket on each floor of the house so mama can nap whenever baby naps.”

My best advice is to think about what you would want to have that makes you feel comfortable, well-fed, relaxed, and supported. The most important jobs you have during your early postpartum time is to rest, heal, nurse, and bond with your baby. Everything you prepare ahead of time should support those goals. The only thing I wish I had done more of during my early days after my births was to take more pictures. Babies grow so fast! In just a few short weeks, your baby will change so very much, and you’ll want those pictures so you can remember that transformation.