Friday, December 27, 2013

I have a shiny new website!!!

Come on over to and check out my new website.

I plan to leave this site up as a blog only for now and gradually will be moving all articles over to the new site.  Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 28, 2013

What is a Labor Assistant or a Doula?

Doula: δούλη 
From the ancient Koine Greek (Biblical Greek)
 -a slave, bondman, person of servile condition
- devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests; a servant, attendant

When talking to folks about doulas, I often hear the same questions, the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hiring a doula can make a huge difference in your birth experience, especially if you plan to give birth in the hospital.
Them: What's a doula?
Me: A doula is someone who assists you during labor. She will help you with comfort measures...
Them: Oh, like a Midwife?
Me: No. A doula doesn't provide any medical care. She is there to provide comfort...
Them: Well, my husband/ partner/ best friend/ sister will be there so I don't think I need a doula.

I have tried to come up with a more concise quick answer to the "What is a doula?" question, but I fail at it over and over.

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin*
  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section*
  • 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth*
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience*

So, what does a doula *do*?
The answer to this question can different for every woman and in every labor, but here are a few things she will do:

She will offer some education about birth and labor.
She will be a guide through your labor, birth and the first hours after your baby is born.
She will help your partner be present and active in the labor.
She will come to your house to labor with you there if you want her there.
She will stay with you for your entire labor (we do have to pee sometimes, though).
She will use your birth plan as a tool to remind you of your wishes.
She may suggest positions that can assist progress of labor, optimal fetal positioning
     or provide some relief from pressure or pain.
She will work with the staff to meet your needs.
She may use massage, accupressure, aromatherapy, relaxation techniques to help
     you along.
She may act as your DJ (keep your music going).
She may pick up your camera and take photos.
She may translate medical terms into layman terms for you.
She will help you get started breastfeeding.
She will help you talk through your birth in the first hours and days postpartum.

Here are a few things you doula will not do:

She will not make decisions about your care.
She will not speak to the staff on your behalf regarding medical care.
She will not take your partner's place.
She will not do clinical tasks such as blood pressure, cervical checks, etc.

I hope that clears it up a little bit.  I know, it doesn't help much with those quick conversations in the grocery store line.  What about you? Do you have a concise answer to the "What is a doula?" question?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Testimonials: Labor Support

Labor Support

I am now offering doula/ Labor Support services.

You can check my availability to attend your birth HERE at Doula Match.

As your doula, I would provide:

- An initial meeting in person or by phone to determine if we are a good match.
- 2 prenatal visits (In addition to these, I am willing to attend 1 office appointment with your care provider if desired).
- Labor support at your home and the hospital/ birth center.
- Assistance in labor positioning and tools for helping your labor's progress and your comfort.
- Emotional and physical support for you and your partner before and during labor.
- Assistance in finding the tools and information you need to make informed decisions about your care.
- Assistance in creating and following your birth plan.
- Amateur photography as needed (often, I will pick up a camera to record something lovely).
- A discounted rate for Birth Education classes ($10 off per 2 hour session).
- On call availability for 2 weeks prior to and 1 week after your "due" date (or until your baby is born).
- Assistance in establishing breastfeeding during the hour after birth.
- 1 postnatal visit during your first week home.
- "Anytime" phone/ text availability before and after the baby's birth.

As of now, I am not a certified doula.  Do not think that I am lacking in knowledge or experience. My training and 6 years of experience as a birth educator has given me many of the tools to assist a family in the birth of their baby.  I have attended several births in a doula capacity and have gained good experience that will go far in assisting you in your birth.

My plans for the future include Midwifery School and specific doula training may also earn a spot on the list at some point soon.  For now, though, my rates reflect the fact that I am not certified.

If you would like a reference, I would be happy to provide you with that!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Birthing Theo

For what it's worth: after having a 5 hour labor and a 2.5 hour labor I am requesting a good 7-8 hours for the next one. Faster is not necessarily better in matters of bodily function (baby making and baby birthing, for example). This birth tried me in ways I can't explain and I know I haven't done the story justice because, 6 months later, I am still reeling from the experience. Here is my best recollection (after talking with Brandon and watching the video)...

The Birth of Theodore Xenophon.
June 25, 2009 4:52 PM
8 pounds 10 ounces, 20 inches

I had a midwife appointment Monday morning (the 22nd). I was 39+weeks, and had already told the baby it was welcome to come any time. I was ready, the house was ready, and we were just waiting (uncomfortably, I might add). When I saw Nadene that morning, I decided to have her check me. I was not disappointed! My cervix was dilated 3cm (and she mentioned that she could easily stretch me to 4cm), it was 100% effaced and the baby was at 0 station. I was happy that my body had done so much of the work of labor already. Nadene and I discussed that (especially with my history of a 5 hour labor with our daughter) this baby would likely come very fast, and to be prepared for that possibility. At my request, she swept my membranes and encouraged me to walk!

I had a pretty miserable day Tuesday. I was crampy and sore from the membrane sweep and had moments of regret for having her do it. Wednesday was great! I felt wonderful and got SO much done! We had the carpets and kitchen tile cleaned, I did some cooking and baking, I did a little bit of cleaning and had a great nap.

Brandon had the next day off and I told the baby that Thursday would be a great day to be born! That morning, we took Eden up to the playground at the elementary school to play while I walked laps at the track. I was determined to “walk the baby out” that day! I walked until I ran out of water. It was already SO hot outside. I went and hung out on the swings with Eden. I had heard that swinging could also help bring on labor, so I swung!

We went home and had some lunch, put Eden down for a nap and I went to take a nap myself. I was only in the bed for a few minutes when I had some menstrual-type cramps. I looked at the clock and noticed the time (2:20 pm). After a couple of “cramps” I realized that they were coming in waves and I went downstairs to get Brandon’s iPod. He had just put the Contraction Master App on it and I was excited to try it out. I went back upstairs to get back in the bed and time my “cramps.” They ended up being about 3 minutes apart and lasting between 45 and 60 seconds each.

I let Brandon know that this may be the start of something and gave up on the idea of a nap. My friend Julie was on her way to deliver my “birth bracelet” made with beads chosen by my friends. She had just gotten the final bead and put it on the bracelet in my front yard. I confessed to her that I was pretty sure I was in labor. I put on the bracelet and called my doula. She encouraged me to call Nadene and told me she would get her stuff together in case I needed her to come soon. I talked to Nadene and she said to come straight to L&D. Honestly, I was a little bit surprised that she wanted me to come in, but relieved to have some affirmation that labor may have actually begun. Within minutes, my labor began to intensify. I called my mom to come get Eden (who was still napping) and called Sara (our doula) to meet us at the house. Labor continued to gain intensity and I was vocalizing loudly through the contractions by the time my mom arrived. Not wanting Eden to hear me or see me (though I think she was well prepared), I went into the kitchen to have a contraction and ran back in to kiss her goodbye. My mom quickly got her out of there and I immediately felt “pushy.” I told Brandon that we could not wait for Sara and we needed to leave for the hospital now.

We called Sara on the way to the hospital and told her to meet us there instead of the house. It is only a mile and a half to the hospital from our house, but it was rough. I was not coping well with my contractions while belted into the car. I had the feeling that they were bigger than me. When we got to the hospital, and out of the car, I felt like I got a better handle on them and we made our way in. The loser they sent from the ER to “help” us up to L&D is lucky I was beyond exerting myself physically for anything other than getting the baby out, because he needed his teeth knocked out (or at least that is how I felt at the time). I declined the wheelchair and he told me I had no choice! Um, no, I will not sit in your wheelchair. I will walk. His response, “It’s going to take forever!” So? He then proceeded to time my contractions and announce to me how long they were lasting and how many minutes apart they were. He seemed very disapproving when a couple of them only lasted 30 seconds. His comment, “Well, they are only about 30 or 40 seconds.” As if they couldn’t possibly be “real” or effective.

We arrived on the L&D floor (ER guy’s teeth intact) and I had the biggest, hardest contraction with 2 peaks that lasted 2 ½ minutes (thanks ER guy). At that point, I was thinking that this had better be the really super-fast labor we were all expecting because I was feeling out of control. Brandon and Sara (who arrived at L&D about the same time as us) said it didn’t show on the outside, but I was not feeling like I was coping at all. During the few seconds I had on the downside of a contraction (because there was no time in between) I tried to re-gain focus on the baby and breathe and relax my jaw and shoulders and the next contraction would carry me away from any thought at all, of anything. My mind was numb. At this point I was pushing with the peaks of the contractions.

Because I was pushing, Nadene had me get on the bed so she could check me. I was dilated 6cm, but she said when I pushed, I was 8cm. I had been fully effaced since my appointment the Monday prior, so Nadene encouraged me to push open my cervix. I got on my knees and had a few contractions. I do recall that the smell of imminent birth was strong. I also remember that Nadene was rubbing my feet and Sara was rubbing my back while Brandon was covering me in cold washcloths. The contrast of those things with the pain of the contractions was a special kind of bliss. Nadene had me move up the bed to get me more upright and let gravity help. I held the top of the bed frame (the back of the bed was upright) for leverage. At this point I still felt like I was going to be doing this for a while, but with the next push I felt the ring of fire and Nadene said that the baby’s head was almost out! So close! I panted through the next contraction because the burning was so intense. Brandon said that the baby’s head was halfway out for what seemed like forever and it looked “uncomfortable.” Ya' think? I thought that was funny… With the next contraction I pushed the baby’s head out and I was overwhelmed with excitement (partly to meet the baby, but mostly that the labor was done)! I pushed the baby out before that contraction was done. Brandon was obviously excited as he let me know (almost squealing) that it was a Theo! My first words were “I want him!” Nadene passed him to me between my legs. He was beautiful and I couldn’t stop kissing him! I kept saying “I am so glad that is over.”

Theodore Xenophon was born at 4:52pm after 2 hours and 32 minutes of labor (from my first “cramp” to holding him in my arms) and only 40 minutes after arriving at the hospital. He weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces and was 20 inches long. Praise the Lord for His miracle of life and for blessing our family with Baby Theo!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Testimonials: Classes

Alyssa & Brian E.

Dr. Laura Pendlebury
Henrico Doctors Hospital
Our classes with Amy were extremely informative and enlightening. She has an obvious passion for childbirth education and is quite effective at communicating. We believe after taking her class we were as knowledgeable as untrained people could be about the pregnancy and the birthing process. The books she recommended to us were useful both before and after the birth of our son. We planned a natural childbirth and she was a great resource for our birthing plan and preparation. When our baby turned breech, she gave us contacts and information to help us through the uncertainty. When we ended up having to have a c-section birth, but she was able to guide us through different questions we should ask and different things we might experience post-partum. Because of this (and extremely good care by our OB-GYN and nurses) we were able to have a very smooth recovery. She was (and remains) available for questions at any time.
Jeanette & Mike C.
Dr. Sumac Diaz
CJW Chippenham Medical Center
I had a private class with Amy for my pregnancy. She came to our house and helped my husband and I realize that although we were health professionals and though we knew a lot about labor and delivery we still did not have to succumb to the medical model of the process. Without Amy I would never have had the confidence to truly believe that a natural birth is something I could have achieved. She also provided great resource videos and handouts and encouraged us to get a doula, which was the best decision we could have made. I would recommend Amy's class to any family interested in natural birth.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Informed Childbirth has made some changes!

An Informed Childbirth is now being offered through private classes!

Private instruction affords you the opportunity to customize instruction, get to know your instructor, explore fears, and dive deeper into topics that are pertinent to your unique situation.

I can work with your tricky work schedule, meet you at your home and customize a class that meets your needs exactly! See the Tuition Rates and Registration page for more information.

I am looking forward to serving you and meeting your needs!!