Doula support in Chicago Suburbs

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The Best-Laid Plans, Guest Blog

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -Translated from “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns

I never expected to have a c-section (let alone two of them for that matter.) It was not a part of my carefully planned and neatly typed birth plan. 

My husband and I had attended birthing classes and I even took a course on breastfeeding. I did research and read an endless number of articles about what to pack in my hospital bag, how to manage labor pain, how to make your own at “padsicles” at home, and I talked to friends about their birth experiences. I knew the “Top 10 Things No One Tells You About Giving Birth!” spoiler alert, number 1 is always that there is a very good chance you will poop while giving birth. I came from a medical background, I had worked in a hospital, assisted in surgeries as a surgical tech and had even been present for births and c-sections while in my clinical internship. I was ready. At least I thought I was. 

It seems silly to me now that I never gave any real thought to the idea that I would have a c-section. In my obsessive-compulsive planning for the birth of my first son I had prepared for everything except that. It was a possibility, of course, but one that I waved away like those side effects they list at the end of medication advertisements. 

“That won’t happen to me.” I assured myself.

My reasoning? No one in my family had had a c-section, so why would I? My own Rock Star momma had 3 very “normal” uncomplicated, natural vaginal births. Prior to the birth of my son, my older sister also had 2 very “normal” uncomplicated, natural births. Why would I be any different?

It was so incredibly naïve of me to think that I would be the same. No two people are alike and by that fact alone, no two people enter this world in the same way. It seems so clear to me now- thank goodness for that clarity because that hindsight was a blessing when I prepared for my second son. That is motherhood (parenting) in a nutshell. You have no idea what you don’t know until you know that you don’t know it. You can read all the books and make all the plans, but life often has other ideas.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men…”

I won’t get into all of the details of why I had a c-section because honestly, they don’t matter at this point. What’s done is done and I cannot change any of it. The long and short of it is that when my first son was born an emergent (not emergency, I’ll explain in a moment) c-section was preformed after a “failed induction.” Now, emergent means that though my life and the life of my child were not in immediate danger, the situation needed to be resolved quickly to ensure that this did not become an emergency situation. 

Though I had a happy outcome, the birth of my beautiful son, the ordeal that my son’s birth had become, left me with more scars than just the one on my belly. 

AJ’s birth was a traumatic experience fueled by the feeling that I was not in control of anything that was happening. For a Type A personality like me, control is everything, when you take away that power, fear and anxiety take up residence. I was terrified and angry, so very angry that my body simply “would not do what it was supposed to do.” I had been so determined that my husband and I could do this on our own, that this would be an empowering and special moment for us as a couple and as parents. I never stopped to consider that things would not go according to plan and that we would both need extra support. Instead of feeling empowered, I pushed away those closest to us who could have helped support through the events of that day. More than likely I would have still needed to have a c-section but had I approached the day with a different mindset we could have had a much better experience. 

My long, strenuous labor and the actual surgery left me absolutely spent. I had reached a level of exhaustion I did not realize was possible. On top of the exhaustion, I had expected pure euphoria after my son’s birth. Wasn’t the whole room supposed to have a rosy glow? Where was the joy and what was wrong with me that I didn’t feel it?

Even after I had been handed my beautiful baby, I was still reeling from the day’s events. All my feelings of disappointment and shame over not having the “perfect natural birth” mingled with my joy of becoming a mother. I had expected all the negativity to just melt away once he was in my arms, but it didn’t. Instead of having a rosy glow the day had an ominous cloud hanging over it, one that I would become very well acquainted with in the coming months as my post-partum depression took root. I truly was overjoyed that I had finally become a mother, I was holding my sweet baby and counting his little toes but I also mourned for the birth that I had dreamt about. 

Even now, I can still feel a guilty tugging at my heart when think about how I felt that day in comparison to how I think I should have felt. I felt like less of a woman and less of a mother because I had “not really given birth.” I felt like a failure. “You failed,” sang in my head like chorus while the internet trolls joined in with their own nasty lyrics, “easy way out,” “should have tried harder,” “didn’t actually give birth.” Online Mom groups that I visited for support were rife with negativity and judgement. I was too scared to seek out other moms in real life, fearing they would hold the same opinion. 

I want to pause and take a moment to say this because it is truly the most important piece of information in this post and it is something that I am still working to fully realize, whether you have/had a natural birth, induction, c-section, or any possible combination of them YOU ARE A MOTHER, YOU ARE ENOUGH, and you most certainly did not take the “easy way out” by having a c-section, induction, an epidural or using pain medication. Trust me, there is nothing “easy” about recovering from a c-section or about being a parent for that matter my oldest is now 2 and half and some days are still just about surviving until bedtime. 

There are people out there who like to act as if having a child a certain way earns you extra credit and that any other way is simply wrong. Don’t buy into that. You can have a beautiful birth and have it be a c-section or an induction; it can be at home, in a hospital, or in a pool or in a box or with a fox etc. What makes the difference is the mindset that you go into it with and the support you have around you. 

I am a planner, “Hello, I’m Type A have we met?” so when we found out we were expecting for the second time, I started planning, again. This time I was determined to have a better experience. I did not want to be scared or make fear based choices. I wanted everything to be different; in my hyper organized mind a better plan meant a better outcome. This isn’t exactly how things worked out BUT all my planning and prepping was not done so in vain. Though I still had a c-section the second time instead of the VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) that I had so desperately wanted, I had/have gotten myself to a much healthier frame of mind which has allowed me to coup with my feelings instead of being consumed by them. 

It was an incredible amount of self-work and took a lot of support to get me  into a healthier mindset, so much so that I feel that it deserves its own narrative where I can really break down what I did and who helped me. (For the record, I’m not “cured” I still see a counselor because motherhood is hard and I am a work in progress.) Though I was still sacred and anxious, I had one Hell of a panic attack before it was time to go, I felt better prepared because I had confronted my feelings and fears about that day BEFORE it arrived instead of having to sort through that mess of emotions on the way to the operating room. 

I truly feel that this made all the difference. 

When that long awaited moment arrived and the doctor announced that my little one was “here” and I heard that tiny little cry, I was so very present in that moment. It could not have been more perfect. It didn’t matter that I was in an operating room instead of a delivery room; I was there in that moment with my husband as we welcomed Hudson into our lives. 

That is what I mean when I say that you can have a beautiful birth experience even if you have a c-section or an induction, if you can be present in your joy, that’s where you’ll find the beauty. You can’t plan out your entire birth from start to finish; it doesn’t work that way. You are setting yourself up for a huge disappoint that can leave a stain on the entire experience if you try to. What you can do is consider the “what if’s,” confront them, and move on. If you are able unburden yourself of the anxieties surrounding your little one’s birth before they make their grand entrance then when that moment arrives and they are in your arms you can be fully present inside of lost in your own head. 

When I look back at the birth of my first son, my only regret is that I let myself get in my own way. I let my head tell my heart what it should be feeling instead of the other way around. I still have some guilt over it and probably always will but it no longer plunges me into the throws of depression. It is an incredibly bitter pill for this Type A planner to swallow that no matter how much you plan for something, control is more or less an illusion.

We can’t make the universe yield to our will or control what happens to us but we CAN control how we react to what the universe doles out. So go ahead and make your plans but do not be shocked and shaken if the fates have something else in mind.

 

Ways Work-at-Home Parents Can Balance Home and Family

 

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Working from home while juggling parenting responsibilities can be challenging. When you’re a full-time parent and a professional, some things tend to fall to the wayside. Here are some ways you can regain control and maintain a better work-life balance despite the chaos.

Focus on Efficiency in Your Workday

Spending extra hours on the clock isn’t going to cut it. Aim to get things done as efficiently as possible.

Outsource What You Can

You can’t do it all—and asking for help can make things easier. Outsourcing household tasks can free up your time for more important things.

Give Kids Extra Entertainment

Having an arsenal of kid-friendly entertainment is essential for smooth workdays. Offer up a range of options to keep kids busy.

While many parents are working from home these days, it can be tough to perfect work-life balance. Fortunately, with these resources, you can make some headway when it comes to cutting the chaos and keeping a level head. You might even find that this new balance affords you more time to spend and enjoy with your family.

Western Suburb Birthing Options

 

Sherman Hospital:

1425 N. Randall Rd
Elgin, IL 60123
Midwife Care Available
Perinatal II+: Level 2 with Extended Capabilities: Hospitals with extended neonatal capabilities provide an intermediate level of care to pregnant women and more complex care to newborns when required. These hospitals do not have a neonatal intensive care nursery. Still, they do maintain a special care nursery that is covered by a neonatologist who is specially trained to treat newborns requiring special care.
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 24.7%
Primary C Section Rate: 12.0%
VBAC Rate 18.3%
Exclusively Breastfed when leaving: 70.49%
COVID-19 Support Policy: Updated 7/3
From an Advocate Aurora Health representative on 4/30: “Delivering mothers may be accompanied by a doula in addition to one support person (e.g. spouse or relative).” This policy is in place throughout the Advocate Aurora Health system. Doulas and families can follow-up with any concerns or questions by sending an email to: https://www.advocatehealth.com/contact-us/

Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital:

300 Randall Road
Geneva, IL 60134
Classes: Breastfeeding, Carseat Installation, Breastfeeding, Newborn Care, New Dads
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 29.6%
Primary C Section Rate: 16.3%
VBAC Rate: 11.9%
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate at Discharge: 71.4%

COVID-19 Support Policy: Updated 7/1

From the Northwestern Medicine website:

All visitors or companions must be 18 or older. Inpatients at the hospital

  • Two designated visitors at a time are allowed between 10 am and 7 pm for patients not being treated for COVID-19.
  • Patients in the New Life Maternity Center can have one visitor.
  • Visitors must be identified by the clinical team during the registration process.
  • Visitors must be masked at all times, including in the patient’s room.

Outside of visiting hours (10 am to 7 pm), visitors are not allowed except for the following:

Central Dupage Hospital:

25 N. Winfield Road
Winfield, IL 60190
Perinatal Level III: “Hospitals provide an intensive care approach for high-risk women who are vulnerable to complicated pregnancies and for at-risk newborns. They provide sub-specialty care for both high-risk pregnancies and for newborns at-risk, and are equipped with neonatal intensive care units.”
Many Classes for Pregnancy and Preparation: In-person classes are on hold presently
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 30.1%
Primary C-Section 15.4%
VBAC Rate: 10%
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate at discharge 64.5%
COVID-19 Doula Support Policy: Currently allowing doulas to attend with proof of certification as of 7/21/20.

Elmhurst Hospital:

155 E. Brush Hill Road
Elmhurst, IL 60126
Midwife Care Available, Waterbirth Available

Perinatal Level II+: “Hospitals with extended neonatal capabilities that provide an intermediate level of care to pregnant women and more complex care to newborns, when required. These hospitals do not have a neonatal intensive care nursery, but they do maintain a special care nursery that is covered by a neonatologist who is specifically trained to treat newborns requiring special care.”

Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit:
“This kind of nursery has a clinical team who takes care of:

  • Babies born before 32 weeks who weigh less than 1,500 grams.
  • Babies of any age or weight who are critically ill.
  • Babies who need equipment to help them breathe to stay alive.
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 21.9%
Primary C Section Rate: 14.3%
VBAC Rate: 20.8%
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate: 84.2%
COVID-19 Update:
One support person. Edward-Elmhurst loosened visitor restrictions on June 3. The policy for L&D and postpartum is still as stated below, however.
From the Edward-Elmhurst Health website (Visitor Screening and Restrictions)
Please see the revised Visitor Policy . . . and watch for more information as we broaden our visitor policy over the next several weeks. Please note these exceptions to the visitor policy:

  • Our pediatric patient population, including general pediatrics, PICU, NICU, and the Special Care Nursery (patients under the age of 18), may have two visitors (parents only).
  • Patients in the Mother-Baby Unit may have one partner.
  • While in Labor and Delivery, patients can have one partner or support person who may spend the night.

Hinsdale Hospital:

120 N. Oak St.
Hinsdale, IL 60521
Midwife Care available,  Waterbirth available
Perinatal Level III: “Hospitals provide an intensive care approach for high-risk women who are vulnerable to complicated pregnancies and for at-risk newborns. They provide sub-specialty care for both high-risk pregnancies and for newborns at-risk, and are equipped with neonatal intensive care units.”
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 25.4%
Primary C-Section Rate: 14.3%
VBAC Rate: 13.2%
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate at Discharge: 70.5%
Hinsdale has updated their classes to include many virtual class options. See class listings here.
COVID-19 Support Update:
As of 7/3.One visitor, no exception for doulas. From the AMITA Health website, “I will be giving birth at an AMITA Health hospital soon”:
For the health and safety of all our patients and staff, AMITA Health hospitals are allowing no visitors (with very few exceptions) until further notice.
Patients arriving for childbirth or cesarean section are allowed one (1) support person to accompany them to the unit. That person will be identified upon admission. Once the support person is screened and receives an ID band, they must stay with the patient throughout their entire stay at the hospital. They will not be allowed to leave the unit or move about the hospital.

  • Bring all items with you at the time of admission, including what you will need after the baby is born (car seat, etc.)
    • If you’re missing or have forgotten anything at the time of admission, you will be allowed one opportunity to retrieve items from home
  • Do not leave the unit for any reason during your stay; you will not be allowed back in until the delivery of the baby
  • The support person will receive three (3) guest trays of food daily

Edward Hospital:

801 S. Washington St.
Naperville, IL 60540
 Perinatal Level III – Level III perinatal care is provided by hospitals caring for high-risk mothers and newborns and women requiring care usually provided at a level I and level II perinatal care services. These hospitals operate NICU’s and can receive transports from other hospitals. Level III hospitals and RPCs shall return a newborn to the sending hospital when the condition has been stabilized, and return is medically appropriate.  Must transfer infants who require specialized services such as high-frequency ventilator or ECMO.
Overall Cesarean Section Rate: 30.9%,
Primary Cesarean Section Rate: 18%
VBAC Rate: 12.5%
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate: 83.7%

COVID-19 Support Update:
One support person.
Edward-Elmhurst loosened visitor restrictions on June 3. The policy for L&D and postpartum is still as stated below, however.
From the Edward-Elmhurst Health website (Visitor Screening and Restrictions):
Please see the revised Visitor Policy . . . and watch for more information as we broaden our visitor policy over the next several weeks.

Please note these exceptions to the visitor policy:

    • Our pediatric patient population, including general pediatrics, PICU, NICU, and the Special Care Nursery (patients under the age of 18), may have two visitors (parents only).
    • Patients in the Mother-Baby Unit may have one partner.
    • While in Labor and Delivery, patients can have one partner or support person who may spend the night.

Burr Ridge Birth Center

7000 County Line Road | Burr Ridge, IL | 60527
A freestanding birth center scheduled to open at the end of 2020. Providing care from first periods through menopause and beyond, the Burr Ridge Birth Center will provide a “home-like environment.” They plan to have all manner of support available for those looking for low-intervention birth experiences who value a “high touch, low tech” birth. They plan to have tubs available for a water birth and plan to offer nitrous oxide for pain management.

Criteria For Picking 4 Essential Baby Products

I was able to look out the window today and enjoy the sun and breeze coming through. I was high enough to see down into the bird’s nest. I’ve never paid much attention to the next because usually, the birds are out of it, chirping and hopping from branch to branch. Today though, I caught just the right moment, where the bird landed and reached down only to be met an instant later with the gaping beak of one of its hatchlings. For the next 20 minutes, all I saw was that bird taking flight, then quickly returning to feed her little birds, over and over and over. 

Sometimes, it is helpful to remember that the stuff that goes along with parenting are all extra. What is essential for your newborn can all be taken care of with what is on your body: comfort, food, safety, and warmth. Those little birds can’t do anything but open their mouths, and all they know is that their parents will come back and feed them while they wait in their cozy nest. 

But, we aren’t birds, and we aren’t all extreme minimalists. So it makes sense to explore some of the comforts and technology that can make the first weeks and months easier for us to bear when we are learning how to be a new parent ourselves. This post isn’t a list of specific products.  However, it’s about what we’ve learned after working with families for our years of service. We have learned a few things after seeing many ways to navigate the first weeks and months of life with a newborn. 

 

Thoughts on “The Chair”

We have held a fair amount of babies. We have also spent a fair number of overnight hours in nurseries watching sleeping babies. We have opinions about chairs. 

Some of the characteristics that are helpful in a baby-holding chair are: 

  • The hight of the back. Sit in the chair, and see how high the backrest comes up. Can you lay your head back and have the chair meet you at a place where it is comfortable? 
  • The armrest location. They can’t be too close to your body, because there needs to be room for little legs, little arms, or your arms to be in that space. Plus, some extra distance between the armrest and your body means you can bolster with pillows, which allows for even more support, or position options. 
  • The armrest height. If the armrests are too high for you, they won’t be comfortable, and they will knock your baby on the head more times than you want to admit. Also, if they are too high, when you are doing a cradle hold or football hold, there is no room for your elbows to splay out as needed to hold your baby/breast in position. If they are too low, there is no reason for them to be there at all. But if you had to pick too high or too low, go with too low because, again, there are pillows.
  • Depth of seat. Again, sit in the chair and see if your bum can reach the back of the chair, AND your knees can extend past the end of the cushion. A seat that is too long means you will have back pain, and may not be able to reach the floor comfortably to push against it to rock (if it rocks.)
  • A chair that rocks (or glides) is very nice for self-soothing, and stress relief.
  • A chair is not necessary. Your “chair” could be a spot on a couch or your bed. In these instances, we hope you have more pillows than you think necessary to use as you see fit, a table or stand nearby for anything you may want to put down, and a light that can be very dim for night feedings. 

 

Thoughts on Diaper Bags

Diaper bags are supposed to be a tool that helps you, not frustrate you. So if the diaper bag – be it a bag sold to you for that specific purpose, or a bag you love that you now use as a diaper bag – doesn’t help you and using it is harder than it should be, get a different bag. Try something else. 

Some of the characteristics we like about useful diaper bags:

  • Having a “general space” and small “specific space” is great because life is unpredictable, AND you know you are going to need diapers, wipes, and extra clothes. Having access to space where you can reach in and get out a “thing” – which we don’t know yet if this will be a pacifier, a lovie, a burp cloth, or a snack for you – without going through a sipper or complicated snap is 100% a feature worth having. 
  • Consider your lifestyle and get a bag that matches, don’t change your life to match your diaper bag. This can help when thinking about crossbody strap vs. backpack, vs. tote. All of these are great for different reasons. 
  • Can you throw it in a washing machine? Or can it be wiped down? 

 

Thoughts on Babywearing Devices

Babywearing is not new. It has been around for as long as humans have been around. But there was a blip of time when babywearing was low-class or uncivilized, which we can see now was privilege in action. The resurgence of mainstream babywearing in the last 20 years, or so, has meant there are now many brands of babywearing devices to chose from. 

Some characteristics we like in a babywearing device: 

  • We want the carrier to be safe for your baby. So make sure directions are followed in every way
  • There is a lot of personal preference here, and it makes sense to see if you can try on baby carriers to see what you like. 
  • Infants need a different kind of carrier than older, stronger babies. We like infant wearing because of the increased skin-to-skin, temperature control, reduced stress for parent and baby, and less exposure from nosy people wanting to pop their fingers and face inside strollers. 
  • Babywearing an older baby or toddler is also great, and our concern is you have a device that will protect your back. It may make sense to re-invest. 
  • We like carriers that can be washed because babies spit up, bodies sweat, and milk can get funky. 

 

Thoughts on Noise Machines

White, brown, pink, or other white noises are incredibly soothing to babies. Having a tool that creates this sound is unnecessary, but it may make the difference in you getting a 20-minute nap or a 2-hour nap. 

Some characteristics we like in a noise machine:

  • It is a tool that can be used in any environment to help soothe your child. Meaning you can be in different places, and recreate some of the same sleep scenarios that your child recognizes. 
  • For the reason above, you may want to look into a noise machine that can be charged or run independently of a wall plug. 
  • If you are not out with your baby much, don’t worry about the above suggestion. You can use an app on your phone if it is needed. 

Placenta Encapsulation – Is It Right For You?

Placenta Encapsulation is one way you can continue to use your placenta after the birth of your baby. If you are like many people giving birth in the Chicago area, you may be surprised you are even considering doing ANYTHING with your placenta – but being pregnant can change a lot of things, including one’s curiosity for, perhaps previously uninteresting ideas.  

The placenta is an incredibly important organ. It filters, nourishes, and is your baby’s lifeline until being born. It is also an important generator of hormones that impact you, the pregnant person. The organ is known to produce prostaglandin, which helps the uterus contract after birth, and oxytocin, the hormone that enables secure bonding connections and love feelings, and much more. Another placental hormone that is connected to wellbeing is a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is linked to stress reduction and is usually housed in the hypothalamus. However, during pregnancy, large amounts of CRH are produced by the placenta.  

While there is little scientific study or evidence to support placenta encapsulation, there is a strong history of anecdotal success. Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners use the placenta as a medicine to balance out “the extremely yin or cold state of the postpartum period into a more yang or warm state,” says Heng Ou, author of The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.  

Placenta consumption has been in use publicly in the US since the 1980s (and before, but privately) when American women started talking about their choices and experiences. Since that time, there has been a sharp increase in popularity and increased options for consumption.  

Some prefer to consume the placenta raw in small amounts, like a smoothie to help cover the texture and taste. Encapsulation is now popular for its easy-to-take form of pills that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until gone.  

Encapsulation is the form of processing we specialize in at Holistic Family Doulas. We prepare your placenta with steam before dehydrating. Then, we grind the placenta into a powder that we measure into pills. We do this for ease and to help reduce the risk associated with bacteria and bloodborne pathogens.  

 

Some Reasons To Consider Placenta Encapsulation: 

Not everyone has the same reasons for choosing placenta encapsulation. What we know from serving Chicago families is they are interested in this service mostly for benefits in milk production, energy, and postpartum mood disorders. 

There is some reason to believe that by taking placenta supplements after birth in a gradually decreasing way, your body can benefit from the hormones that are thought to remain in the placenta. Along with them, your body does the work to start reproducing these hormones naturally again. This same gradual method of consumption is also connected to mood stabilization. 

While there is no guarantee you will respond in the positive ways others have when taking placenta supplements, the investment in using this postpartum healing tool is worth any possible gain. At the same time, any adverse side effects can be ended quickly by merely stopping any further use of the pills. However, if you have a difficult postpartum recovery, you can not go back and generate another placenta. There is a short window to decide to save your placenta.

 

Some questions you may ask: 

If you are at all interested in placenta encapsulation, finding a reputable placenta specialist is important. This industry is not regulated and does not have standard guidelines that need to be followed. If only for that reason, it is good to have a conversation with the person who will be handling your placenta and make sure they have the training and experience to safely treat the placenta. 

  • Where did you train as a placenta encapsulator? 
  • Have you taken a bloodborne pathogen safety class?
  • What personal protection equipment (PPE) do you wear when encapsulating?
  • How do you reduce cross-contamination between clients? 
  • How do you want me to communicate once I’m in labor?
  • What do I need to do after the placenta is born, but before you start encapsulating?

 

Possible negative experiences and risks associated with taking placenta pills: 

It is wise to mention that some have had adverse reactions to taking placenta pills. Even if in a capsule, there is still the possibility of an unpleasant taste. For this consider taking the pills with orange juice to neutralize the flavor, and have the additional benefit vitamin C

There are risks if your placenta specialist isn’t aware that some placentas should not be serviced. If an intrauterine infection occurs before or during labor, that placenta should not be encapsulated. While steaming does eliminate the bacteria that comes in contact with the outermost layers of the placenta, a placenta is rich with blood and consuming the pills from an infected placenta causes risk or re-infection. That risk extends to your infant if you are breastfeeding. This risk should be discussed before encapsulation ever begins. If information of infection is shared with us, Holistic Family Doulas will not produce pills from this placenta. 

And while many people take placenta pills to help with milk supply, some people are affected adversely, and their milk supply suffers a drop. The placenta has traces of progesterone, which negatively impacts your body’s ability to produce prolactin, a necessary hormone for milk production. 

What are the outward signs you should stop taking pills? 

  • fever
  • headache
  • cold or flu-like symptoms
  • or just feeling “worse” when you take them

 

What you get besides pills when you work with Holistic Family Doulas

One of the perks of working with us is we have experience and knowledge of the postpartum healing period and not just encapsulation services. When you work with us, we are bringing all of our expertise to our interactions. We can help with early healing questions, your newborn’s behavior insight, or help with knowing what is normal and expected. But more so than the information we have is our desire to help you be cared for thoroughly. We appreciate the care and consideration you take when looking for a placenta specialist, and we honor that trust with every part of our process. 

Is placenta encapsulation for you? That is a question only you can answer. The placenta will have already done an incredible amount of work once it comes time to store it for processing. We know placenta encapsulation is only ONE way to honor you and your incredible body. 

The Importance of Poop

With so few ways for your baby to communicate, any information can be the focus of a parent’s attention.   Which is why poop becomes such a big deal!   But very few people find poop interesting. So when parenthood comes, it is an unnerving and disgusting process to be initiated into the world of this topic.

After the bewilderment, there are some comic elements to having so many conversations about poop. Bathroom humor is said to be the lowest form of fun, but it is universal – if you have a baby, you have to laugh with the sheer disregard of their farts, poops, spit-ups, and belches. They are little noise machines! And even more comical, is the point that you are excited about those sounds!

Proof of a well functioning digestive system can get taken for granted. Any parent who has worried about constipation its horrible side effects are not embarrassed by their excitement for loud and rolling diaper deposits. The alternative is a stopped-up baby in pain, who can’t get comfortable, and probably isn’t sleeping. All that matters is helping them get through until they can find some relief.

So what are we talking about when we mean a well functioning digestive system? It’s the frequency and consistency of your child’s excretion is in the normal range for their age.

Most first time parents don’t know what is normal for a newborn, and sometimes normal poops can cause a bit of concern.

Poop Changes The First Week:

Day 1

On the day your baby is born, their digestion track is getting a wake-up call. All waste is removed through the placenta while in utero. Day one is the beginning of their bowels waking up and working out. Sometimes a baby poops while in the uterus. This is called meconium.

The first poop your baby excretes is thick, blackish in color, and a very hard to clean off their little buns. This first kind of poop has acted as a plug, and now that your baby is born and hopefully taking food by mouth, the first few poops will be resting in their body as they were growing.

Day 3-4

At this point in your child’s life, their poop will have noticeably changed from black to a dark green color. This is a healthy transition, and proof their body is taking in nutrition. If your baby is being fed by your body, this is also the time when it is common for mature breastmilk to come in and replace colostrum.

Day 4-5

By this point, your child’s poop will have turned to a yellow color, regardless if they are fed breastmilk or formula. Some formulas will result in a deep mustard color, which is also normal. The consistency can range from a seedy texture to more watery.

When keeping your baby’s diaper diary, it can be confusing if you should “count” a poop as a poop. As in, a minimal amount of poo is present but is visible. A general rule most providers follow is any bowel movement larger than a quarter “counts.” Breastfed babies will generally make 3-4 poopy diapers every day.

Other diaper findings:

In the first day or two, it is normal to find orange or red color in a baby’s urine. Sometimes some crystals work their way through the system, and it irritates the vessels along the way.  Orange or red appearances in your baby’s stool are not regular and can indicate illness, injury, or an allergy, and you should call your doctor.

Sometimes, a baby’s stool will turn the color depending on the variance of their diet. This is more common after solid foods are a part of their diet. It is usual for stool consistency and color to change with the introduction of solid food. If there has not been a shift in diet, a change in stool color can be a sign of an allergic reaction.

If your baby is not pooping, it can be a cause for concern. Some ways to help your baby is to gently stretch their legs back and forth, “pedaling” them from a straight position to bent. You can also rub their tummy in a clockwise direction to help stimulate their bowels externally to help waste move through. Sometimes giving your baby a warm bath can help their muscles relax enough to allow a bowel movement. Gripe water can be helpful, or gas drops, such as Mylicon, if the other suggestions produce no results.

If the above options don’t help and your baby is still struggling, consult your doctor and ask about alternatives.  It could be as simple as offering some food high in fiber if your baby is at a healthy stage. It could also be something more serious. Long term constipation can result in fecal impaction, which is incredibly uncomfortable and may require help to remove the impacted stool.

First Weeks Home After Birth During a Pandemic

Walking through your door after making the drive home from the hospital is a surreal moment. You did it. You had a baby! 

Now what? 

First things first, take a breath. 

Two people are healing from birth, you and your baby. Your priorities feel like they shift from moment to moment, depending on who is awake and who is unhappy about it.

  • While you have a minute to think about it, what do you need today?
  • How is your body feeling?
  • When was the last time you ate or drank water, or went to the bathroom?

You focus on your baby’s needs, but no one benefits if you neglect your care. Ideally, someone is also focused on you. You may feel overwhelmed and unable to focus, so being able to rely on someone for help, for big or small things, is a part of healing too. 

But when you were thinking about what life would be like after you gave birth, you could imagine these sorts of needs and even the stressors. What is harder to imagine is how to heal when COVID-19 impacts everyone and everywhere. 

Tasks like going to the grocery store are no longer straightforward, quick errands. Going to the first pediatrician appointment holds new risk. Having the in-person emotional and physical support of friends and family might be impossible.

Here is what some other families in the Chicago-area have done to help new parents during COVID-19: 

Be Confined together:

Some Chicago families are choosing to be proactive and go through the stay at home order with other people. If there is space, going through two weeks of quarantine before the birth means that extra support is on hand.   And the first weeks you are a small community, instead of alone. The benefits are huge.  More hands to make light work of every task, and the ability to take all necessary precautions. 

Family and Friends take over Food Transport: 

Meal trains are nothing new in the world of caregiving.  However, with more people home and looking for activities to keep their own families connected they are taking on new importance.  Porch drop-offs and visits through windows and doors allow for connection, and again, increased safety for your family. 

And if delivering prepared meals isn’t a good option, families have taken over the shopping and transport of groceries. Removing the risk of being in high contamination locations is a tremendous gift to a new family. Grocery pick-up and drop off, and the odd run to the pharmacy for cravings or supplies is a new way to show your love. 

Working with dedicated support professionals, like doulas and newborn specialist: 

If you are not able to have the care you planned from family or friends in the first weeks, doulas are still an option for help and support during COVID-19. Doulas work with immunocompromised populations every day and are seasoned at taking necessary precautions and limiting exposure for our client’s well being. 

Having help during the day or night is not something you have to do without. 

Here are some questions you’ll want to be sure to ask if you are looking for hired help during this time:

  • What precautions does the doula take upon entering your home? 
  • How many families does the doula work with at a time?
  • What/if any training has the doula taken?
  • What safety measures does the doula use while working with your family?

How Do You Know You’re In Labor?

The final weeks of pregnancy feel like they each have 18 days in them. They last forever. Your mind has a hard time thinking about anything but the fact that you won’t be pregnant soon, and you are curious if THIS moment, oh wait! This moment will be the last one where you feel this way as a PREGNANT PERSON!

There is so much anticipation! You can’t help it. Experts tell you to try to find distractions and to rest as much as possible. (It’s true! Ask me how I know!) But on the other side of those distractions are the same worries and anxious feelings.

“When is labor going to start, and how will I know if it’s labor?!”

Most people don’t know they are in labor – they think they are in labor. Especially if they have never been in labor before, having a contraction can feel to some like a massive cramp that catches their breath, to a slightly uncomfortable poke in the ribs. Every labor is different.

From a professional standpoint, labor is contractions that get longer, stronger, and closer together. If that isn’t happening, then you most likely aren’t in labor.

But just like everything that has to do with children, there are always exceptions!

  • There is prodromal labor.
  • There is Precipitous labor.
  • There is “back labor.”
  • There is “false labor.”
  • There is early labor, active labor, and transitional labor.

So when you ask how do you know if you are in labor – the answer is complicated!

 

Prodromal labor is labor that feels real in every way. The contractions are consistent, they require your attention, and over time they zap you of energy and motivation. But prodromal labor is labor that goes on for an extended period with no cervical change. Often, this type of labor also plateaus. This labor often feels discouraging and requires a robust support team to help you work through it.

 

Precipitous labor is labor 3 hours or less from start to finish – including pushing! This labor is intense. All of the physical changes that happen for others over 12 or 24 hours happen quickly, and those who have experienced claim that it was not something they felt any control over. Instead, it feels like their birth happened to them.

 

“Back Labor” is a term laypeople use to describe labor pains that occur mostly in the lower back or upper tailbone area. This feeling may be evidence of a baby’s position being slightly unfavorable. Position changes can help, as can direct counter pressure to the spot of pain. Back labor, if at the start of labor, may not be identified as labor right away, as many pregnant people complain of back pain in their third trimester.

 

“False Labor” are contracts that come and go, with no sort of pattern or consistency. It can also be where contractions ARE consistent, but that they do not persist past a few hours. It is not uncommon for people to have contractions during the night but then have no contractions throughout the day, only to have contractions again the next night! We want you to know that in no way are these contractions false! But they are part of early labor, and they sound like they are, it’s not time to get too excited. It’s early yet.

 

Early labor is the contractions that are the beginning of your labor. They tend to be up to 30 seconds in length, where you can breathe and talk regularly through them, and they cause little to no discomfort. They can have spread out the frequency from 10-25 minutes apart, or no consistent pattern. As you get closer to active labor, your contractions will still not take your breath away. They can happen every 5-10 minutes and produce cervical change from 0-5 cm dilation. It is easiest to identify early labor AFTER you have delivered when you start to see your actions and feelings in a new light!

 

Active labor is the phase where your body is working through the cervical change from 6-8 centimeters. Your contractions will be noticeable and more intense. They will come every 3-5 minutes or so, and last about 45-60 seconds. You will focus more intently. Distractions no longer being welcome, jokes no longer seem funny, and you may find rhythmic movements and sounds to be helpful. You may want to find a low lit space and calming energy to be near you. If you enjoy hydrotherapy, this is the time to use the shower or bath to help you release tension with each contraction, and breathe deeply through each contraction.

 

Transitional labor is the hardest, and typically the fastest phase of labor. Your contractions will come every 2-3 minutes and last 60-90 seconds. Transitional labor is the last centimeters of cervix getting out of the way for your baby. The intensity is again heightened as you have less time to rest between contractions. This is a point of enormous vulnerability for the laboring person and can be when they feel weak and discouraged from continuing. Having support through each contraction with positive reinforcement, affirmations, and help with position changes or pain relief is needed now more than ever.

Even with these descriptions of labor, there is still a wide window where one phase can blend with another. As you get closer to the end of your pregnancy, we encourage you to let go of expectations of what should happen and pay closer attention to what is happening. If what is happening is popcorn and a movie, we want you to enjoy it. Because when you are in labor to the point of meeting your baby, there is no way you won’t know it’s happening.