Giving birth is one of the most intensely powerful physical and emotional experiences a woman can go through. Labour and birth themselves are intense, as well as the transformation of a woman into her new-found role as a mother.
Our North American culture does not always seem to honour this process or transition. Historically, women were able to rely on a community of other women to support them throughout this experience. Today, women generally are expected to carry themselves through pregnancy, birth and postpartum with minimal support or nurturing from other women.
Enter the Birth Doula. The word doula is a Greek word meaning “female slave” or “woman’s servant”. In the birth world, a doula is a woman who provides familiar, knowledgeable emotional and physical support to a woman prenatally, during labour, and postpartum.
The support a doula provides allows women to remember their births as more positive, blissful experiences, feeling honoured, heard, comforted and supported throughout.
Here are 5 ways a doula can make your own birth more blissful:
1. A doula is focused on your emotional and physical needs 100%. Your doctor or midwife is a medical professional, trained to ensure you and your baby stay healthy. We’re lucky to have them as safeguards for birth, there to intervene if things don’t go as smoothly as they usually do. Because their role as medical professionals is their number one priority, they are not able to provide continual support as you cope with the intensity of contractions during labour. Your doula is not a medical practitioner, and does not have this responsibility pulling at her attention. This allows her to put all of her energy into making sure you are as comfortable, relaxed and taken care of as possible.
2. A doula can do the left-brain work. During prenatal classes and in birth books, you learn about different labour positions, comfort measures, specific things to try for certain situations that may come up during birth. You may also have heard that it is important to allow yourself to go inward, switching to the more meditative, right-brained mentality and focus on letting your body do its work. It is difficult to stay in that meditative, focused state if you are constantly reaching into your “left” brain to think of all the things you could be trying. You doula can do that thinking for you, making gentle suggestions for trying a new position, reminding you to have a sip of water between each contraction, getting you to the washroom once an hour to make sure your bladder is empty and there’s lots of room for baby to move around. She will also have a few tricks up her sleeve for dealing with especially intense labour or discomfort. This allows you to stay focused inward, steadily focused on coping with each contraction.
3. Doulas provide continual and familiar support. If your are birthing in a hospital setting, there will be nurses around to check in and monitor you between visits from your doctor or midwife. An important thing to point out is that hospital staff work in shifts! Labour can be a long journey, and in your time at the hospital, you sometimes go through one or two OB's and multiple nurses. Your doula will likely be your only support person that you and your partner became familiar with during pregnancy, and will stay by your side through the entirety of labour. Your doula knows you, knows your birth vision and knows what you’ve experienced so far in your birth. This steady and familiar presence offers a feeling of safety that is so important to minimizing your stress level during labour.
4. A doula takes stress off your partner. We are lucky here in North America to live in a time where fathers are invited into hospital birthing rooms. It wasn’t long ago that women birthed without any familiar support in hospitals, left only with doctors and medical staff. However, men have traditionally never been a part of birth, and in our culture, people barely talk to women about birth, never mind men! Because of this, it is a lot to ask of the father to be your sole support person during birth. Doulas do not replace the father’s role in your birth experience. They simply remove the pressure on dads to remember their crash course in labour and birth over the last few months. Between holding mom, taking steps to minimize her discomfort, making sure the whole birth team is nourished and hydrated, asking the right questions of medical staff, and suggesting techniques for keeping things moving along smoothly, there is no shortage of support to give mom. Having a doula to aide in some of these tasks makes birthing a more blissful experience for both mom and dad.
5. A doula will make sure you continue to feel supported after birth. You’ve had your baby. Now what? As you settle into your new role as a mother, your doula will be available for breastfeeding support, emotional support and to help you find any postpartum resources to make the entry into this new part of your life as smooth and blissful as possible.
Having a birth doula to support you during birth is one of the easiest ways to create a sense of calm trust in the process. The biggest enemy of birth is stress, which interferes with progress and can slow or stop contractions altogether. Having a doula by your side providing continual emotional and physical support during your birth makes it so much easier to create a blissful birth for you, your partner and for baby.
Jessica Austin is a Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her doula practice - Birth Takes a Village - has a mission "to promote a gentle and informed birth culture". You can also find Jessica on Facebook and Twitter.
I for one wish I had hired a doula for my birth. Don't get me wrong, I had "textbook" pregnancies and wonderful births both times. As well, my doctor and the rest of the hospital staff, as well as my husband, were all amazing during my labour and birth and I wouldn't change a thing. However, a doula is there to support you in a different way and I would definitely opt to have that support if I were to have another baby. Jessica's five points really resonated with me. It just makes sense. How about you? Did you have a doula? If so, what was the best thing about having one? If not, will you have one "next time"? Please share your experiences below.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure isn’t curing anything. This is an organization I used to really support. I have a history of breast cancer in my family and the two naturally met. But the more I’ve learned about Komen, the more upset I’ve become at the way their organization works.
This isn’t going to be an exhaustive list of everything I find to be wrong with Susan G. Komen for the Cure [Komen, herein]. I’m going to touch on a few of the more egregious points and some of the things I’ve learned most recently. A lot of people have rosy Pink glasses on when it comes to Komen; today, I’m asking you to suspend whatever you believe about this nonprofit and think critically about them. If you walk away still liking them, that’s fine. But I hope people will at least be open to the idea that this organization isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Komen and KFC
This obviously has tons to do with curing breast cancer, right?
Yes, as in that KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Or in its more recent, PC form, “Kitchen” Friend Chicken.) What’s a nonprofit that’s fighting breast cancer doing partnered with a fast-food chicken chain? Good question. The NY Daily News article sums it up well:
“‘So, in effect, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is helping to sell deep-fried fast food and, in so doing, help fuel unhealthy diet and obesity across America, an odd plan given that diet and obesity certainly impact on both the incidence and recurrence of breast cancer,’ Freedhoff wrote [on her Weighty Matters blog]. And suggested that a possible alternative would have been for KFC to just hand over a check for breast cancer research to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.” [bolding mine]
The reason KFC didn’t just give Komen a check is obvious: that wouldn’t sell chicken. KFC needed to be pinkwashed and have the unspoken but very much implied endorsement of Komen. Because surely Komen wouldn’t endorse something unhealthy, let alone something that plays into higher breast cancer rates, right? Right?
Racing for the Cure… but what about Prevention?
Everybody knows about Race for the Cure. Kudos to the marketing machine that is Komen, because people know their brand. But while they’re busy marketing Race for the Cure and the miles-long list of pinkwashed stuff that they co-brand and profit from, you know what they’re not marketing?
They’re not marketing the thing that normalizes a woman’s risk for breast cancer: breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding doesn’t reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It’s the biological norm and what female bodies are hard-wired to do. So when we take steps to repress that natural and biologically-expected process, we’re increasing risk. The body is missing out on the changes that happen through the stages of lactation and because that’s been circumvented, risk increases. We don’t fully understand lactation or breastmilk, so it’s impossible to compensate for what happens between childbirth and repressed lactation.
In more common, mainstream terms: breastfeeding reduces risk. In more accurate terms, not breastfeeding increases risk. It’s not a guarantee or a sure-fire mode of prevention, but it’s a big deal. It’s a known factor. So if we know this, why doesn’t Komen talk about breastfeeding as a way to reduce risk?
…the Cure is not enough; we need both treatment AND prevention. And that means awareness and action beyond the monthly self-exam for breast cancer, regular visits to the doctor, and yearly mammograms (which are more properly classed as detection than prevention). It means an unrelenting focus on ensuring and educating about real food (whole, unprocessed, organic, fresh and local at best), clean air, clean water, toxin-free products for home and body, and exercise among other things, and it includes emphasizing the miracle milk that jump starts it all! The evidence is clear that breast tissue is less susceptible to aberrations if you exclusively breastfeed: Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk (a whopping 59%!!) of breast cancer in women who have a family history of the disease and at least a 28% reduction for those without one (me). And it lowers your breastfed baby girl’s lifetime risk getting breast cancer by 25% ! Sadly, millions of people have never even heard of this. Public service campaigns are often outmarketed by industries that are driven by the need to increase profits for shareholders, not by an interest in advancing health.
Business Depends on Not Finding a Cure
To answer the question I posed at the end of the last section, why not talk about it? Maybe because their business model depends on the existence of cancer. Maybe not; maybe there’s another reason or a whole litany of them.
Regardless, at the end of the day, Komen (and all its payees) are left without profits or a Cause when breast cancer is cured. Maybe not immediately, but that’s the deal. There are lots of health problem-related charities in the same boat, so I’m not knocking the entire model. I’m bringing it up here because Komen is particularly rich and stands to lose more than the average nonprofit. There’s a mini-economy surrounding Pink Ribbon sales and a lot of people stand to lose a lot of money when breast cancer rates decline and it’s no longer the Cause du jour.
Hope in a Bottle: Cancer Patients Should Smell Nice
What celebrity nonprofit is complete without their own fragrance line?
Komen released their perfume, “Promises,” earlier this year. Not surprisingly, it’s made with stuff I wouldn’t want around my healthy family, let alone near a cancer patient. Breast Cancer Action sums it up well:
It seems hypocritical that Susan G. Komen for a Cure would create a perfume that contains potential carcinogens while simultaneously claiming to fight “every minute of every day to finish what we started and achieve our vision of a world without breast cancer”? That’s what Breast Cancer Action thinks, too. No amount of shopping for pink ribbon products will rid our world of the breast cancer epidemic. [early bolding mine; end bolding theirs]
Why create a perfume with known potential carcinogens in it? Because it will SELL. Because selling is what Komen does best. They took that perfume on QVC and I’m sure they made a mint; nevermind that there are ingredients in their perfume that are known to be harmful. I guess that’s just not important to Komen for the Cure.
It leaves me wondering: Would Nancy Brinker, CEO of Komen for the Cure, have given this perfume to her sister, Susan G. Komen? Would she have given it to her during her illness? Would she give it to her now, had she survived? What would Susan think of the mass-marketing of products being the focal point of an organization claiming to be devoted to curing her disease?
A few days later, I found myself on the LunaPads website reading blog posts and such, and when I navigated to their home page, I was greeted by this gem:
"Thanks to Lunapads and The DivaCup, upwards of 1 million disposable menstrual products are diverted from landfills monthly."
It made me smile as I remembered Suzanne, Co-Founder of LunaPads, recounting how she and her hubby sat on their couch reverting, if only for a moment, to their inner geeky, "bean counter" persona (her words) to crunch some LunaPads numbers and come up with this riveting statistic.
And then I remembered Elena's post on PR in Your Pajamas...
The study stated that 900 babies and $13 billion in health care costs could be saved if 90% of moms exclusively breastfed for six months.
$13 BILLION in health care costs.
I was inspired to crunch some numbers of my own and this is what I came up with...
"Thanks to PumpEase, four babies' lives and almost $70,000,000 in US health care costs have been saved. Not to mention those thousands of babies who've received their mamas' milk (while their mamas worked, played, or just relaxed, since they didn't have to hold onto those pump flanges!)."
I calculated the health care figure FIVE times. Surely it can't be THAT much money!?! I read it out loud. And then I read it out loud again. And then an overwhelming sense of pride washed over me. We ARE making a difference to the health of moms and babies. We ARE saving US Health Care millions of dollars. We ARE enhancing mothers' breastfeeding relationships with their children. WOW!
What is YOUR bold and outrageous statement? You don't have to own a business; write one about YOU. I highly recommend this exercise to open your mind and think outside of the box. Please leave a comment below...
The following is the email that I received, unedited...
Dear PumpEase folks
I just came across your advertisement for your pump. As a childbirth Educator, breastfeeding advocate and educator, and mother of four breastfed children, I find the picture extraordinarily harmful to breastfeeding women.
Postpartum women are sensitive the enormous changes that their bodies go through. As I am sure you can appreciate, growing a baby for nine months is a huge endeavor. After birth, the body must not only recover from birth, but make the slow and subtle changes back to its pre-pregnancy state.
This picture of a woman, who is presumably postpartum since she has the hands free pump attached to her, definitely does not have the body of a woman who has just given birth. The corset and size of the woman's waist are completely misleading( is she a size 3?) further promoting the media stereotype that resume their pre-pregnant bodies immediately after birth.
The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra. The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain. For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.
Not only does this picture not represent what the postpartum women is going to look like, but in all honesty, it's pretty cheesy. Your ad did get my attention, but I would not recomment your product in my classes.
And my response...
Good day Xxxx,
I apologize for the late reply - our assistant got married and went on her honeymoon for two weeks, and as a result we got quite behind.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feedback on PumpEase Organic, especially since it's a product that is extremely helpful to breastfeeding moms whom you support.
The colleague who lent us the corset that you see in the image, who is a leading corsetiere in North America, works with many new moms to help them return to their pre-pregnancy figure. She has had women come in as soon as one week after giving birth. In Victorian times, postpartum women were wrapped in a soft cotton corset with ties down the front to help the new mother get her figure back. Corsetry supports the back, slims the waist and improves the posture.
In fact, postpartum belly-binding/compression has been in practice therapeutically for thousands of years and is still evident today. Women are routinely told, by both hospitals and birthing professionals such as yourself to purchase a “compression garment” and to wear it “as tight as you can stand it” immediately postpartum to help return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size, decrease bloating caused by water retention and support the legs & back. There is information on Belly Bandit’s site about the safety of this practice including how it can support Caesarian Section incisions. Therefore I’m not sure why you feel the need to fault moms for doing something to boost their own confidence, if that's their choice. It's like criticizing a mom for covering up when she nurses in public; I say that whatever helps moms' confidence, goes.
We do not feel that we are giving the wrong message to new moms at all with this image. We feel we’re doing something positive for body image by not using a stick-thin model (as evidenced by our model Talysia’s upper arms and wider hips). Talysia is, in fact, an average size 12, with a waist measurement of 29-½”, not a "size 3" as you stated in your email. She is also a mother. Having said that, women come in all shapes and sizes and their bodies react differently to pregnancy, even from one baby to another.
Further, we are not suggesting that women don a corset after birth any more than we are suggesting that women dress-up as a pin-up girl or as Holly Golightly as seen in our other marketing images. In fact, moms LOVE our images, with most finding them very empowering.
I should also correct you in your statement: "The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra. The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain. For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.”
I have many testimonials on my site attesting to the fact that PumpEase works wonderfully for larger breasted women AND supports full 6-8 ounce bottles. And again, I can attest to this personally as I pumped 10 oz of milk with no problems whatsoever. I was a D when nursing and do NOT have “perky” boobs by any means. I was also using the Petite version of our product (as this was during our prototype stage). We now have a wider version of PumpEase which provides even more support.
We designed PumpEase solely to help moms extend their nursing relationship with their babies. Our customers include moms pumping for their toddlers and preschoolers as well - not just newborn babies. If you look around our site, I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you’re ever in Vancouver, you should visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on. You will find that they are very comfortable, easy to wear and wonderful for your waistline and posture. I know, as I’ve worn one myself on several occasions.
Wendy Armbruster Bell
After I received this email, I contacted Melanie to help me with my research. We had previously discussed my interviewing her about maternity and nursing corsets both because I love the History of Costume (one of my favourite subjects in school) and because I find it very interesting to hear about the nursing apparel from other eras and thought some of you may too.
So without further adieu...
And if you'd like to learn more about historical costume you need to attend one of Ivan Sayers' lectures. Ivan Sayers is a fashion historian who specializes in the study of women’s, men’s and children’s fashions from 1650 to the present. Sayers has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of historic clothing in private hands in Canada. He is the founder of the Original Costume Museum Society in Vancouver.
So what do you think about corsetry? Corsetry while pregnant? Corsetry while nursing? Do you find this as fascinating as I do? And what was your first reaction to our marketing image? Did you think it was inappropriate? Empowering? Silly? Leave your comments below - I'd love to hear all about it! And if you're ever in Vancouver, be sure to visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on. Remember my warning however - they are totallyaddictive!
I recently had the pleasure of meeting chiropractor Dr Debbie Wright of Thrive Chiropractic Wellness Centre at my most recent Reachd course (I recommend all of their SEO courses by the way). She was sitting across from me and after I mentioned PumpEase™ hands-free pumping supports during our "what do I do and why am I here" introductions, she asked me for my business card. She explained that she has many, many patients that suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
I suffered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome after (not during) both of my pregnancies. They were very different experiences: with my first daughter, I got it in my left wrist pretty much as soon as she was born; with my second daughter, I didn't get it until 1 year postpartum, however, I got it in both wrists and I still have problems today (and my youngest will be turning 2 on January 2nd). I remember asking my GP about why pre and post partum women suffer from CPS, and even though his wife had suffered so badly that she had to have the surgery on both wrists, he couldn't really answer me.
I asked Dr Debbie "why" and she explained it so clearly and logically to me that I asked her to share her knowledge with all of you. Watch her in action below...