Finding and choosing a doula

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My very first doula babies are turning one, and I am just loving being a guest at their very special birthday parties! How much they have grown and changed in just twelve months; as have I as a doula and childbirth educator. After being a doula for over a year now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the doula-client “fit” and how best you can go about finding the right person for you. That special someone who combines professionalism and experience with a warm heart and gentle hands. These are some ideas:

Finding a doula

Probably the best (and easiest way) to find good doulas in your area is to ask around. Ask your friends and colleagues first. Did they use a doula and did she add value to their birth? How so? If you don’t know anyone who has used a doula (not uncommon in this part of the world), ask other pregnancy/birth professionals. Most gynaes don’t know or recommend particular doulas, but your antenatal class teacher, chiropractor or homeopath might be able to make a referral. You can also ask on local Facebook forums or use Google. Hopefully, this process will net you the names and contact details of at least two doulas in your area that you can then go ahead and organize an interview with.

Choosing a doula

All good doulas will offer a free no-obligation meet and greet for you and your partner to get a chance to chat to them (and for them to check that they can offer you what you are looking for). Before you set up a meeting, make sure that they are actually available around your due date, and that they work with your gynae/midwife.

When you meet a prospective doula, you may want to ask her some of the following questions:

  • What are your qualifications and experience? How long have you been a doula?
  • Are you a mother yourself?
  • What kinds of births have you attended?
  • What do you love about being a doula?
  • Do you have any other related skills (as some doulas are also massage therapists or lactation consultants for example)?
  • What are the logistics of hiring you? What are your fees, what does that include and do you have a back up doula?

More important than what she says though, is how she makes you feel. Does she listen more than she talks? Does she take the time to understand what your hopes and fears for your birth are? Do you feel calm and at ease with her, or does she make you feel nervous? Do you get the feeling that she knows what she is talking about? Does she seem over-eager or desperate (eek, always off-putting!). I truly believe that the interpersonal fit between you, your partner and your doula is far more important than the number of births she has behind her.

Getting the most out of your doula

Remember that while your birth doula will certainly be at your birth (or her back up doula will), she is on hand from the time you hire her to long afterwards so USE her. Most doulas will welcome calls, e-mails or texts at anytime during your pregnancy. They may be able to recommend other pregnancy or birth related professionals or classes in your area, and many also have a lending library of great childbirth and pregnancy related material. They can keep your spirits up when you are feeling nervous or despondent and can help to provide you with evidence-based information if you are facing a medical decision, or creating your birth plan. After your birth and the postnatal visits in your package, they will happily offer advice on breastfeeding and newborn care, and refer you to a medical professional if it sounds like you may need more specialized help than they can give. They may hold mother and baby meet ups where you can meet other moms with babies of a similar age or even offer specialised paid classes on a number of subjects. Doulas love staying in touch with their clients so enjoy the very special relationship you will share and get the most out of it.

A good doula is one of the best investments you can make in your baby’s first year. Choose wisely.

If you are looking for a doula in the Durban area, I still have openings this year from mid-October. I work with homebirth clients as well as moms birthing at Hillcrest, Crompton, Westville, Parklands and Umhlanga.

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Legacy

Piano lessons

My little girl has just started piano lessons. Somewhere in the mystical dance of DNA that happens at conception, she inherited her dad’s sense of rhythm and love of music. Although I have absolutely no musical ability, my family line is not without talent. Both my grandmothers played musical instruments; and in fact the piano that we have in our home now was inherited from my paternal grandmother. My daughter has a family legacy of music, and I am so grateful that she has such a source of joy that she can tap into for the rest of her life.

There is great wonder and pleasure to be had as your children reveal themselves to you – whose nose is that; doesn’t he sneeze just like your uncle? We look for the good things, but sometimes it is clear that our little ones have also inherited a nasty temper or a genetic physical weakness that is less delightful. It is not always certain either what is DNA and what is environment. Both my kids shout when they are cross which very sadly is a direct reflection of the way I handle myself when I have had enough (I’m working on it!).

When it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting, it is so important to understand the legacy that has been passed down through your family; that has seeped into your sub-conscious along with your mother’s scone recipe and your father’s talent for telling a story. What messages did you receive as a child about birth? What was said about your own birth? Did you hear stories about how “you are so lucky to be alive – you almost didn’t make it!”? Or perhaps your and your siblings’ births were never mentioned at all; a taboo subject. What about breastfeeding? Did you grow up feeling that breastfeeding was something a little shameful, or did you just accept that babies were fed at the breast and that was the way things worked? What about parenting? Were you nurtured at home; did your parents make their love for you apparent? Or did you grow up in a restrained environment, where physical affection was not encouraged?

As we grow up, we often vow not to repeat the mistakes of our parents, but as we ourselves become mothers and fathers, these subconscious ways of thinking and being are so deeply engrained that they may be hard to shake. So what’s a mindful parent to do?

The first step is truly understanding the legacy that you have received. I firmly believe that almost every parent does their absolute best and acts out of love; so we need to treat our parents’ mistakes with grace and understanding of the tremendously difficult task that raising a child is. Then we need to be curious about what other ways of thinking about this thing – whatever it is – there are in the world. Yes, birth can be scary. In fact, it can be lethal. Mothers and babies can die. But is there also a possibility that it can be deeply spiritual and empowering? Can we hold the paradox? Can we let go of our deeply entrenched subconscious rules about what it is and isn’t, and allow for the possibility of something positive? When you are mindful about what you have inherited, you also have the power to change it…and most importantly to change it not only for yourself, but for your children and their children in turn. And that, my friends, is the most powerful legacy of all.

Go-to breakfast

Smoothies

I go through stages when it comes to breakfasts. I went through a strict Paleo stage, which had me eating giant fry-ups of bacon, mushrooms and other veggies at 6am. While delicious and filling, these meals took a bit more effort than I like to expend in the early morning. Onto the smoothie stage…which is where we are now. Smoothies are such a wonderful way to get in a whole lot of fruit and/or veggies plus a protein serving early on in your day. A big smoothie with two bananas can carry me through to lunchtime and the inherent sweetness means you probably won’t be craving chocolate at 10am (no guarantees if you’re pregnant – that’s another story!). Here’s my favourite recipe at the moment:

250ml milk of your choice (I use a mixture of coconut and rice milk)

1-2 ripe bananas

1 big tablespoon frozen berries

1 big tablespoon nut butter (a good quality sugar free peanut butter is fine)

Any powdered superfood or supplement you may want to add – e.g. glutamine, green powder, probiotics etc.

Blitz and you’re done! Sugar free, gluten free, dairy free if you wish and full of goodness.

(It’s been a busy year over at Gentle Welcome but I do have doula vacancies from January 2017. Initial meet and greets are free, and I would love to chat to you about your birth wishes and how I can help. I also offer HypnoBirthing classes, birth story sessions and private mother-to-mother coaching sessions.)