There are so many ways to support a laboring woman and the tools that people find valuable, vary from person to person. Take a closer look at some of what I have in my doula bag. These are some of my favorite ways to support.
The best ways to bring support to a laboring woman is with good old fashion emotional connectedness and information. However, I find that the tools mentioned above are highly useful and appreciated.
When I worked in Brooklyn, I had a direct supervisor and his name was Jerry Negron. Jerry was an older Puerto Rican man with thick jet black hair and a furry mustache to match. Every day he would ride in to work on his Harley Davidson Motorcycle and every afternoon he would ride back out. Jerry was a simple man whose main pleasures in life included long rides on his bike, hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. The fast-paced, ever-emergency-ridden atmosphere of the Day habilitation center where we served adults with developmental disabilities was too demanding for Jerry. He longed for retirement and ease and spoke of them often, with a smile.
Jerry saw potential in me as a younger and newer member of the agency and he treated me with favor. He would spend extra time explaining policies and made sure that all of my order requests for supplies were approved. He encouraged me to think about my own retirement and helped me to plan for it financially. Although Jerry, through his actions was encouraging of promotion and mobility, his words strongly urged against it. “The higher you climb, the more stress you will endure and this job is never worth the stress” he explained. In any difficult job, when you find someone who gets you, you hold on close. Jerry got me and together we sighed under our breaths and rolled our eyes expressing the same disconcertment towards the growing disorganization of the place we called work. More than a friendship, I looked up to Jerry as a father figure. He looked out for my professional well being and was concerned about my future.
After working together for several years, Jerry finally announced his retirement and as his sidekick, I was invited to be in charge of his farewell celebration. I ordered the largest greeting card Amazon could deliver, with the hope that he would recognize the size of the gift to represent the size of my admiration for him, although I never took the opportunity to state it explicitly.
We had a wonderfully bittersweet party for Jerry where we eagerly listened to his plans of future nature exploration and family reunions. Later that day, Jerry walked out of the building and I haven’t seen him since. I let him leave without a single way of contacting him. No phone number, no email address and certainly no social media.
What I do know is that Jerry loves his bike and so whenever I see a rider on the streets or on a highway I am enthusiastically checking to see if it’s him, but it never is. All I will tell him is that I’m well, I left the agency and am working towards living a stress-free life. I will thank him because his financial advice has given an extra cushion to my retirement plans that I would not have if it were not for him. I will ask him if he’s done the things he was most looking forward to and I truly hope he has.
You never know the impressions you can leave in someone’s heart even years after an encounter. I wonder if I’ve left a mark on his and if he ever thinks of me. For now, all I can do is keep looking for Jerry on the open roads, even though it’s never him.
Ever since I began my journey of self-actualization and a career as a Birth Doula, I have found myself emersed in a culture of pseudoscience which is also a culture that I don’t necessarily identify with. I don’t use tarot cards. I don’t get reiki massages and I don’t believe in the power of crystals, but so many of the people in my circles do. I entertain astrology because the coincidences amuse me but I do not believe that all (enter any subgroup here) is any one particular way. Not all black people are the same. Not all women are the same. Not all Capricorns are the same, as much as I joke about the opposite being true.
I subscribe to science and logic and I believe that I have found the same comfort in those subscriptions that my peers have found in pseudoscience. Even science has an explanation for the anecdotal benefits of pseudoscience and it’s called the placebo effect:
I try not to judge others who move in this world differently than the way that I move, so long as it isn’t harming themselves or others but I find great disadvantages and harm to believing in pseudoscience.
I believe it is limiting. If you only feel a sense of relaxation when you have an Amethyst crystal in your hand, then what happens when you lose that crystal or can’t find it? Now you’ve lost your sense of calm when in reality the power to be calm was in you all along. Crystals can be a great reminder of strength but I think more often than not, it’s used as a crutch and a replacement of real soul searching and digging. It may also be limiting because it isn’t encouraging you to investigate your self, your emotions or your trauma. If you think the problems exist outside of yourself, then I guess it makes sense to believe that the answers to the problems are outside of yourself as well. This is faulty though, because the problem IS in you, and so is the solution. Pseudoscience also may require that you need to buy something in order to possess this power which feeds into commercialism when again the power is in you already.
I’ve told my daughter since she was young that there’s no such thing as Santa. I was criticized for doing so and accused of stealing her innocence and adolescent joy but anyone who knows her can attest to the quality of her childhood. She views life through rainbow colored glasses, sprinkled with glitter and fairy dust. Her lack of belief in something made up had no negative effect on her experiences. Similarly, me knowing that crystals are like any other rock (albeit prettier, much prettier) doesn’t make my life any less magical. I see magic and beauty every day. I am awed by the relationship between God and science and I love seeing them work together.
If you believe that crystals will work for you, they will.
I don’t believe that crystals will work for me, so they won’t.
Looking at this, is the crystal actually working or is the power in you?
I think it’s more empowering to believe that you hold the key to your future, that you control your mood and your destiny, that you have influence over your own life rather than these arbitrary rocks. I think it’s dangerous to believe that these outside influences control your life because then when they’re broken you’re broken. When you can’t find it, you can’t find your self. It’s harder to find the power within yourself but once you do, it can’t be taken away. It can’t be bought or sold and it can’t be manipulated by anyone other than you. Isn’t that more powerful? Isn’t anything else detrimental to your spiritual and emotional well-being?
What are your thoughts on pseudoscience such as crystals, reiki or tarot cards? How have they shaped your experience of the world? I’d love to open up the conversation because I don’t believe that I have all the answers. I just know that what I believe, works for me.
I went from working very predictable and typical hours, to a job that is widely on-call. Some of the work I do these days can be pre-planned and arranged (such as prenatal, postpartum and overnight support) however the bulk of what I do is attend births and those are hard to plan around.
People have the notion that their baby will be delivered on their due date, but the truth of the matter is that due dates are just rough estimates based on the last date of menstruation. No one can accurately predict the day that their baby will be born even if they know the exact date of conception and your baby certainly isn’t keeping track. Babies come when they’re ready. Luckily we have estimated due dates because they give us a ballpark idea of when to expect the baby but knowing exactly when is near impossible (outside of scheduling a cesarean). Even once labor has begun, it’s hard to predict how long it will last before your little one arrives. Throw in prodromal labor (contractions that can begin anytime at term and last for a few days to a week) and Braxton hicks (“false labor”), and you’ll start to see the value in going with the flow.
As a birth worker, this has been a difficult transition for me. There have been times when I’ve received word that a client believes labor has begun but she isn’t quite ready for me to join her yet. I have sat on the edge of my bed, frozen, like a statue. Afraid to start anything (like cooking or cleaning) and afraid to exert any energy for fear that when it’s time for me to join I’ll be exhausted, or asleep.
The last time this happened, I knew I had to develop a plan to help myself cope with being on call, and here it is…
Live my life. If I was heading to the gym, or the store, or was about to start cooking dinner, then I will continue to do what I intended on doing. Being fully supportive to my clients doesn’t have to include putting my life on hold. When they’re ready for me I will put everything down, but in the meantime, I must go on as I normally would.
Don’t be afraid of being tired. I know for a fact that when it is time for me to join my clients, my adrenaline kicks in and I am filled with energy and ready to work! I know that since I am a doula full-time now I don’t have to worry about being rested for any other jobs and after the birth, I can come back home to sleep and recharge as necessary. I also stock red bull in my fridge now. This has more of a placebo effect than anything else. Knowing that it’s there gives me peace of mind, even if I never drink it.
Change my client’s ringtones. If I do fall asleep or find myself in noisy New York streets, a brash and startling ringtone will do the trick to make sure I never miss a call.
Schedule the classes that I teach online to be lighter around my clients EDD (estimated due date). I have already come to terms with the idea that sometimes I might have to cancel classes in order to support my clients, and by scheduling fewer classes in the first place I reduce my chances of having to cancel at all. Luckily my teaching job is pretty flexible and I can make up classes on the weekends or any other time, really.
Handling an on-call life has been a challenge for me, but I’m happy that I took the time to figure out how to best support myself so that I can best support my clients.
I began my journey in the Fall of 2015 when I stopped perming my hair. This was my second time attempting to go natural but this time I was more determined than before because I realized there was more on the line than I initially thought. I had become conscious about the images of beauty that I was portraying for my daughter. I was asking her to embrace her afro and natural curls while I was taming and stripping my own. She was the catalyst for a monumental change.
On my first attempt at going natural, I gave up a few months into the process because dealing with my roots was “too hard”. This time around, I believe that posting my hair intentions on Facebook in addition to Jayda as a motivator, were the factors that contributed to my sticktoitiveness. Not that anyone was keeping track or anything but it filled me with a sense of accountability.
I finally cut off the permed ends, Fall 2016 and since I am now approaching the three-year mark of having natural hair growth, I’ve compiled some before, in between and current pictures to celebrate the milestone. Enjoy!
Hooked on that creamy crack
Lots of braids, Bantu knots, and puffy roots
I didn’t go the big chop route which at the time felt like I was cheating myself from a full experience but the end result is the same: volume, health, and length.
I’m still learning my hair and figuring out what products, oils, and regimes work for it best. I am currently leaning towards Shea Moisture’s Low Porosity line and Argon Oil. I am mostly low maintenance. I have wash hour, not wash day and I do my best to deep condition when I remember. I’ve tried making my own hair masks with fruits and vegetables but the effort didn’t seem to match the results I was getting. I often find that doing less with my hair works just as well as doing the most in terms of helping me to achieve my goals.
Italy was everything I expected, wanted and needed! Going into the experience I knew that I was desperate for nature and the idea of a retreat was ideal. Visiting Italy had always been on my bucket list as far as I could remember. Before my brother or I were born, my mother spent years living in Italy and that is where she got the nickname: Baci, which everyone called her, friends and family alike. Her nieces and nephews called her Titi Baci and my daughter currently calls her Grandma Baci. I even have that name tattooed on my body, twice. In Italian, Baci means “kisses”. She was given the name by someone who I would later know as Big Judi.
I was excited to interview Big Judi for the interview project I’ve been working on and I knew I wanted to do so before visiting Italy. Big Judi came to my house the day before my flight. After noticing her marijuana socks, I asked her if she wanted to partake in any cannabis activities and with socks like those I was not surprised with her response. We lit up and began talking about how and where she first met my mom. Shortly after getting started, Big Judi asked if it would be ok for her to lay down and a bit later Rick drove her home. The interview itself wasn’t as concentrated with information as I would have hoped but we promised to get together again so that she could share more. Before she left, she gifted me with a small white pillow that was used at my parent’s wedding. I am thrilled to have received this just before my own wedding and plan to use it as well.
Big Judi may not have shared much yet but she got my mind ready in a voicemail she left, just as I was boarding my plane. Take a listen…
I was traveling with my friend Patria. In addition to wanting this trip for very personal and self-involved reasons, I was also happy to have time to spend with Patria, outside of wedding planning which is currently running my life and is the topic of most conversations I have with people. I considered this trip, among many other things to be a pre-wedding-friend-honeymoon.
The flight was smooth, as I slept nearly the entire eight-hour direct flight to Rome. After landing, Patria and I met with the retreat coordinator‘s husband and daughter who we would then share the 3-hour drive with to the tiny town of Piobicco.
As we more closely approached our destination, I began noticing the hiking trails off the side of the road that led into the forest. My eyes swelled up, this was exactly it! I got excited that this was going to be my life for the next 10 days. There would be no other responsibilities of wedding planning, or picking up and dropping off my daughter: just me, nature, yoga, meditation and my best friend.
The way Tanya leads yoga is different than anyone else. She gives writing exercises, visualizations, breathing and stretching along with traditional yoga poses. When you work with Tanya you will get a full body, mind, and soul work out and I am stronger for it now. The things I worked on have led me to be gentler to myself and more supportive as a mother and soon to be wife.
I am so happy that my path, which was always leading to Italy, crossed with Tanya’s and that I was invited to participate in this fantastic voyage!
Patria and I shared spacious accommodations with seven other ladies all from different walks of life. Each taught me something and lead to my overall experience. We spent a lot of our downtime discussing our childhoods, trauma and all the variables that shaped the women we are today. I have to admit I was taken back by the fact that many of these women who are somewhat older than I am still felt very impacted by their childhood. This brought me a sense of calm because it was then that I realized even if I don’t remember much of my mom, she raised me for eight crucial years, at a time when I was being shaped into the person I am today. This meant that I am effected by her whether I knew it, remembered it or not. I am comforted by this realization.
One of the most transformative parts was during a yoga session when I was reflecting on the things I’ve learned about my mom over the past year. So far I’ve interviewed my dad, who had a lover‘s perspective. My godmother, who had the perspective of a childhood friend. A woman who became close to my mom in the last years of her life and Big Judi who knew her somewhere in the middle and gave her the name Baci, which was a huge part of her identity. Here I was in Italy, where she lived for years and for the very first time I felt like I knew her and I missed her. Does it sound crazy that I never missed her before? I didn’t know her and I didn’t think I remembered her so how could I have missed a stranger? For years I was too afraid to engage in conversation about my mom because I was saving myself from deep sadness. That served and protected me then and now I am ready to feel.