Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I wrote a guest post for the DC Area Moms Blog on postpartum yoga and body image.
“Totally worth it.”
That was what Dan said when I asked him recently what he thought about hiring a doula. If you’ve read Elliot’s birth story, you know that it did not go entirely to plan, and that there were a few curveballs even beyond what you might expect from an induction. And through it all, I relied on my husband and he relied on Jenny.
I know that there’s still a feeling among pregnant women that a doula is only for women who are planning an unmedicated birth and want to avoid allopathic medical interventions, but I wanted to talk a little about my experience with hiring a doula without being fully committed to unmedicated birth. Yes, I prepared using Hypnobabies and would not have been upset to have a totally unmedicated birth, but I also know myself, and know that I do not deal well with discomfort. And from our first consultation Jenny and Rose of Silver Spring Doula made it clear that they were here to support my birth, however that may go.
Silver Spring Doula consists of doulas Jenny and Rose, who have together attended more than 200 births as doulas. They also both have children of their own. Rose is a certified Hypnobabies instructor and actually was the one who pointed me in that direction when I expressed that I wanted some way of coping before getting to the hospital. She’s also a bereavement doula and was particularly helpful as I went through a pregnancy after loss. Jenny is a former actor and singer and I’ll admit, I gravitated towards Silver Spring Doula simply because Jenny’s bio spoke to me. Also, our cat likes both of them.
I will admit that I did not do much research or due diligence in choosing a doula, which is strange for me. But, as I mentioned before, Jenny’s bio clicked for me, and when we met Rose at our initial consultation, I was sure these were the doulas for us. We did our community prenatal class with Jenny and had Rose as our primary contact doula for our private prenatal visits, but Jenny was the one who attended my birth (I very narrowly avoided having the backup doula, which would have happened if I’d gone into labor on Christmas Day). Throughout my pregnancy, Jenny and Rose helped me feel more comfortable and gain confidence that I could handle what was coming. And they lent me the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials, which was absolutely key in my physical comfort in the last month or so of pregnancy.
Fast forward to the hospital. I’d been doing my Hypnobabies study, and Dan had gone over his Hypnobabies material and read The Birth Partner. We felt pretty confident and prepared for my induction. The first night was easy, and we decided we’d wait until I started pitocin to ask Jenny to come to the hospital (we were texting with her the whole time). By the time she got to the hospital, my water had broken and my contractions had intensified and I was already beginning to think it was time for an epidural.
Jenny came in and chatted with Dan and me about how I was doing, and made sure I had had enough to eat (I didn’t really have any desire to eat anything besides the approved clear liquids, but I did eat a lot of homemade gelatin). We talked through getting the epidural and she hung out with me and helped calm me down during contractions. Dan definitely picked up on what she was doing differently because when she had to step out during the actual epidural placement, Dan took over and mimicked a lot of her techniques.
Then she came back in and suggested I get some sleep while I had to lay flat. Once I was able to get back up, she helped me into a side-lying position that would still encourage Elliot to descend.
And then the epidural started to fail.
I first noticed that my left hip was starting to feel more uncomfortable. We thought maybe it was that the medicine was pooling on my right side because of how I was laying, so Jenny helped get me flipped over. When that didn’t work, she went to work advocating for me. Now, most of my friends’ epidural stories are of the “epidurals are magical” variety, but one friend of mine had a not-so-magical epidural experience, complete with nurses who refused to believe her when she knew something was wrong. Well, Jenny was my advocate while I was too busy coping with the now-increasing pain (they’d hit maximum pitocin while I was still feeling the epidural, so when it wore off, I was at almost twice the dose of pitocin from where I’d been when I first asked for the epidural). Dan was free to sit with me and help keep me calm through contractions while Jenny stayed on the nurses about my pain.
I honestly don’t know if we could have convinced them to redo the epidural if we hadn’t had Jenny there. They were certain that I just needed more medicine in my line because it’s very common for epidurals to wear off, but not so common for them to fail like mine did entirely.
Then, almost 36 hours after I’d gotten to the hospital to begin the induction, it became apparent that Elliot still wasn’t descending and I was stuck at 8cm dilated and -2 station. Jenny sat with Dan and my doctor and me as we discussed my options. She agreed that it wasn’t too early to consider the c-section because she’d seen the heart rate decelerations Elliot was having when I tried to lay in any position that encouraged him to descend.
Unfortunately, Jenny was asked to leave before I came back from the OR, but she kept in contact via text and came to visit while I was in the hospital to see how I was doing. And she came by the house for our postpartum visit the week we got home from the hospital. She even helped Dan and I figure out the stretchy wrap, thus starting our babywearing journey, and suggested that I look into getting a ring sling to help keep him off my incision.
She’s continued to keep in touch via email and has been a great source of support through all stages of my journey into motherhood. I hope that by sharing my experience with her I can convince others that a doula is not a frivolous expense, even if you’re having a medicated, hospital birth. I would argue that a hospital setting makes a doula even more necessary, as it was helpful to have someone who had experience with birth whose only job was making sure Dan and I were comfortable and supported.
NB: This is not a sponsored or paid review. I have not been given any incentive to write this post other than my own good experiences and all thoughts are my honest opinion.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have noticed that Dan and I often wear Elliot, especially for walks, or around the house. What started as a passing interest during my pregnancy turned into a full-blown necessity when it became clear that Elliot loves to move and I was not strong enough to carry him around in my arms as much as he wanted. Since Dan and I have both gone through a few iterations of babywearing carriers, I thought I’d share our experiences and talk a little bit about the styles we each prefer.
We started out with stretchy wraps, as many parents do. We were fortunate enough to be gifted both a Moby and a Boba wrap from some generous friends, and our doula helped us figure out how to tie the wrap during her postpartum visit. Dan was immediately excited about wearing the baby because it usually fell to him to walk Elliot around the house while I was recovering from my c-section. I was less enthused by the stretchy wrap because I couldn’t really handle anything around my middle without it causing pain for many weeks.
So I got a ring sling. The ring sling was amazing because it puts absolutely no pressure on your abdomen, and, once I had a friend show me how to use it, I still find it the quickest way to get Elliot up and into a carrier when he’s being fussy around the house. I purchased two linen slings from Sleeping Baby Productions and I would absolutely purchase them again (I bought one, loved it, and bought a second when she had a sale on because I wanted a backup for when my first was in the wash).
But my favorite way of wearing El for longer periods of time, such as our daily walks, has got to be the woven wrap. It is, of course, one of the more expensive ways to babywear, but I found a beautiful 100% cotton woven wrap from Little Frog for under $100, shipped from Poland. I use this wrap in a simple front wrap cross carry for all our outdoor walks now. The wrap is supportive enough that Elliot doesn’t try to kick out of it like he sometimes does with the ring sling, it distributes his weight evenly across my back so I don’t end up with a tweaked back, and the woven material doesn’t sag or stretch out as we walk. And they’re super gorgeous.
We both decided that we don’t love the stretchy wraps. The stretch makes tightening a bit more forgiving, but that also means that they sag and feel less supportive. I once went on a walk with El in the Moby wrap and by the middle of the walk, his wiggling had stretched out the wrap to the point where I basically had to carry him home. Dan decided he prefers a soft structured carrier. We got him a Boba 4G, which he wears around the house in the evenings. Since we’re different sizes, I let his carrier be his (plus, I tried it once, and I’m not a huge fan of it).
So those are our favorite babywearing methods. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more carries with my woven wrap as El gets bigger and more developed. And maybe I’ll treat myself to another woven wrap sometimes (or ask for one for Mother’s Day!).
When I was about six weeks out from my c-section, I tried to start up my yoga practice again, but found that my body had changed more than I’d expected. On the first day of March, nine weeks postpartum, I decided I was going to get back into my yoga practice and I made a deal with myself to try to practice every day of March.
As the month went on, my practice flowed and changed like my body and my feelings about myself. I didn’t quite manage every single day, but I made a good start. In restarting my practice, I’ve started re-forging my relationship with my body and myself, and I wanted to share my thoughts as I move forward from this new beginning, through my yoga practice. So I’ve decided to start a monthly Yoga Diary to document my new yoga journey.
This month, I mostly focused on rebuilding my practice and listening to what my body needed on any given day. At first, I started falling into a sort-of schedule of a more vigorous vinyasa-based practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with more restorative practices in between. But as I battled illness and dealt with two of Dan’s work trips, I found myself coming back to my original plan: to listen to my body. Some days I didn’t feel up to a vigorous practice, even though it was Monday, and other days I was ready to move more because I’d been sick, even though it was Tuesday.
I also had to find modifications for my postpartum, post-surgery body. Backbends are still a bit too intense on my lower abdomen, and I’m not doing full planks down to the floor. But on the whole, I feel a lot more confident in my body since restarting my practice (more on that later this month!).
My favorite pose this month has been viparita karani, or legs up the wall pose. I end most of my practices with this gentle inversion. On days when Elliot won’t nap consistently, I will sometimes set him to watch while I practice and if he gets fussy towards the end, I’ll hold him on my belly while I lay in my final pose. We can connect quietly, while I feel the tension release from my lower back and shoulders.
This month has also been about learning how to fit yoga practice into my current life. While I’m the type of person who thrives on routines and schedules, we don’t really have a schedule for Elliot, so I have to take my time when I can, usually during naps, or occasionally when he sleeps later than I do. I have to let go of my preconceived ideas of what “counts as practice” and allow myself to consider ten minutes of poses while on the floor with him my daily practice. I have to find time for myself and make time for myself by asking Dan for his help when he’s home. It’s been an exercise in self-care, more than just physical exercise.
Next month, I’m curious to see how returning to work at the end of the month affects my practice. I might not be able to practice every single day, but I’ll definitely work on ways to make space for yoga during my work day.