“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth.”— Christiane Northrup
Bodhi Birth and Wellness is committed to supporting you in emotional and physical wellness, through pregnancy, birth and beyond, and in whatever way you choose. There are so many possibilities and options to wade through when delving into the medical world, and it is important that we educate ourselves and find proper support as we make these important decisions and move through transitions that will affect our entire lives. It is my passion to offer up-to-date, evidence-based information while supporting you through the beautiful labyrinth that is birth.
About Bodhi Birth and Wellness
I’M ASHLEY MAKAN, THE FOUNDER OF BODHI BIRTH AND WELLNESS…
Bodhi (pronounced “boh-dee”) is the Sanskrit word for “awaken” or “enlighten.” It is said that the Buddha meditated beneath the bodhi tree as he attained enlightenment. My belief is that as we move through birth and postpartum, we awaken into a new consciousness — that of motherhood. Creating life is one of the most beautiful and difficult things we do. Our brains actually change during childbirth, and continues to change for the first few years of postpartum. Birth becomes a hinge moment in our lives, connecting who we are now to who we will become. With proper preparation, support and care, this can lead to a magnificent and empowering transformation. Birth is beautiful in all settings, and evidence shows that no matter the circumstances, a birthing person who is appropriately supported during labor has a more positive remembrance of their experience. My hope is that I can help you orchestrate your hinge moment and that I can serve you in your journey of surrender, in whichever way you choose.
More About Ashley…
After two polar opposite experiences with the medical industry during birth Ashley was able to see how beautiful birth could be, and was fascinated by the lasting psychological effects that each birth experience holds over time. When she experienced the birth of her first baby earthside, she realized that with a little care, preparation, and a lot of support, anyone can have an empowering and transformative birth experience in any setting, which is integral to setting the tone for the sensitive postpartum period.
Ashley is proudly trained through DONA International, Stillbirthday, the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, and the School of Positive Transformation (a Positive Psychology focused meditation & mindfulness teacher certification program). She is inspired daily to help support and equip families on their journey through birth and beyond.
What is a Doula?
What is a doula? I remember the first time I brought up the concept of doula to my husband, he responded by asking me if it was more of that weird hippie stuff I’m into. This is something that we laugh about now as we look back on our daughter’s birth and remember how he and my mother would have gladly welcomed two extra helping hands that night. It takes a village.
The term “doula” is derived from the Greek word, “δούλα”, meaning “a woman who serves.” According to DONA International, a birth doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a [birthing parent] before, during and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” DONA certifying or certified birth doulas work with [birthing parents] and their loved ones to support their needs and desires during this important time.
Below are some specific examples of what doulas do:
- Support for the partner and family — If the partner or other family members have any questions or concerns during the prenatal period, the doula can educate and offer materials that will help the partner feel more prepared to support the birthing parent. It truly takes a village to bring a baby into this world. The doula’s goal is to work together with the partner and any attending family as a team to support the birthing parent in labor.
- Physical and emotional support — this can include physical comfort measures, such as use of ice or hot packs, using counter pressure and massage or acupressure techniques to help you relax your body, helping you focus on your breath and stay calm with guided meditation, keeping your playlist going to maintain the mood as well as any other small details.
- Aiding in areas your care provider may be unable — your care provider’s primary focus is on your physical health and safety (as it should be). A doula’s role in the birthing room is to help you and your attending family with any emotional or physical needs that your care provider may not be able to offer you during this important time.
It is also important to understand what doulas do not do:
- Doulas do not perform clinical tasks (cervical exams, blood pressure monitoring, fetal heart monitoring, etc…).
- Doulas do not make decisions for you. I can assist you in gathering evidence-based information so you can make an informed decision that best supports your personal birth preferences.
- Doulas do not speak on your behalf. I will fully support and advocate for your right to informed consent and bodily autonomy. My job is to help you find and use your voice.
In 2012, the University of Toronto published a paper in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. That report, which analyzed over 15,000 births, found that birthing parents with continuous labor support:
Have a decreased chance of a negative experience by 34% and higher satisfaction rates.
Have partners who participate in their births with higher confidence and levels of support.
Have a shorter length of labor by 25%.
Have a 31% decrease in the use of synthetic oxytocin.
Show a decrease in the request for medicated pain relief by 9%.
Show a decrease in the overall cesarean rate by 28%.
Show a decrease in the use of forceps by 40%.
Have increased success during the postpartum period (probably due to preparation and education in breastfeeding, healing measures, and recognizing the signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders).
Hodnett, E. D., Gates, S, Hofmeyr, G. J., & Sakala, C. (2013). Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 7. Art. No: CD003766. Pub 5.
Marshall Klaus M.D.; Phyllis Klaus, M. Ed; and John Kennell, M.D., The Doula Book and Other Studies.
The Importance Doula Support
“It takes a village to raise a child.”— African Proverb
It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to bring a child into this world. With my daughter’s birth, I chose not to hire a doula because I had done my research and I already had an amazing, supportive birth team. I remember thinking it would be a waste of money, and feeling like I didn’t want another stranger in the room where I was already planning to heavily limit visitors. And then the universe taught me a lesson about unattached support that ultimately led me onto a path I never imagined I’d cross.
My labor with my daughter was long. All of the information I had compiled, as well as the support system I had, made me feel secure going into the experience. I remember anticipating the labor with reflective emotion over all of the hard work I had already done. As soon as my early prodromal contractions began, most of that information went out the window. I was told to sleep while I could, but I was uncomfortable and so excited to meet my sweet daughter that I couldn’t sleep. We headed to the birth center at midnight and I was only one centimeter dilated. I was disappointed and embarrassed. We returned again at 7 am. I was only three centimeters dilated and was informed that the baby had moved into OP (occiput posterior) position, which was causing one of my biggest fears: back labor. That was the first moment I allowed fear to creep into my birth, and the infamous cycle of fear-tension-pain began… I was discouraged and exhausted by my irregular contractions, stuck in a subconscious, reactive state, and the midwife admitted me early hoping that settling in would help me be more comfortable.
My husband and mother worked together tirelessly from 7 AM to 1 PM, providing counter pressure to my lower back. All of our attempts at using our combined knowledge from the childbirth education course we attended, and a rebozo, in hopes of encouraging the baby into a better position, fell short. All other techniques we had been taught were lost in the chaos.
At 1 PM the midwife informed us that I had reached five centimeters and was officially in active labor. I was demoralized by this news. The knowledge that 1-5 takes longer than 5-10 was long gone from my mind. I had been up the entire night. My body was exhausted, and I let doubt creep into my labor for the first time. My labor stalled. My husband and mom encouraged me and reminded me of my birth wishes, that I could do this. But I saw my discomfort reflected in their eyes and I did not believe them. The fear cycle I had fallen into kept going round and round, and my disbelief began to spiral into panic. That was when my midwife stepped in.
“Remember, this isn’t happening to you, it is something you are doing.”
It was the most profound moment of my life — the second I realized that I was in a reactive state and I could change the way I reacted. I recognized the cycle. My family was doing their very best — and an amazing job — at supporting me, but because they were so close to me emotionally I was not willing to receive their encouragement. It took a near stranger looking me in the eye and reminding me that she believed in me, that she knew I could do this, that I was doing this, and that it was all about how I chose to look at it.
My labor picked up again and at 9:05 PM my beautiful girl was in my arms. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I was shocked that my body had proven to me that it could do this — I just needed to get out of my own way. I was in awe of the transformation, the awareness, the beautiful lesson that came with the birth of my child. It was euphoric. It was empowerment in its greatest form, and my life would never be the same.
I left my daughter’s birth mesmerized by the psychological passage that I experienced, and shocked by the fact that my traumas (that I thought I had already moved through and processed) followed me into my birth. And I couldn’t stop reading about it. That fascination is what brought to a path that I never imagined myself walking.
Reflecting on my birth, I realized the benefits of a doula in my situation…
Could my husband and mother have used more support and guidance during the time that they were working to help me through my birth?
Absolutely. With the added support of a doula, they would have had someone to be sure they were getting the breaks they needed to stay hydrated, go to the restroom, and rest their bodies. They would have had support. They would also have had the guidance and encouragement necessary to feel secure in their efforts.
Could a trained doula have been able to use their extensive knowledge of the physiology and psychology of birth to help me be more comfortable during my labor?
Definitely. There is sooooo much that we learn as doulas to help you during your labor. So much so that an intensive (6+ week) childbirth education course is STILL unable to cover it all. As a doula, it took me multiple trainings, many births, and years of experience to understand the physiology of birth enough to think critically about how to support each mother in the labor process. I am able to pull from this knowledge to give you and your birth team the BEST support for each moment of your birthing experience.
Not only that, most of us don’t want or need to become experts in birth to move confidently through these experiences. Someone once told me to outsource the things I wasn’t profoundly interested in to someone who was… that it would always bring a beautiful result. It was some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. Your doula knows birth intimately and we are equipped to give your entire team a beautifully supported experience.
Could a trained doula, who was less emotionally involved in my labor than my family have helped me get out of my head in a better, faster way, leading to a more positive experience and faster delivery?
Most likely. I believe I would have benefited from a consistent voice of encouragement that was objective and separate from my family (who had a difficult time seeing me struggle). Familial support in labor is so important, but doula support is a totally different type of support. My interests in the psychological aspects of birth are what led me toward this path of doula support and childbirth education. I can help with breath work and meditation techniques, physical support, and I also remain mindful of your thought processes and can help pull you out of cyclical thinking patterns that can hinder your progress. But more than anything, I can help you learn to understand your own subconscious thought patterns so that you can not only thrive in awareness of your birth experience, but in everything you do.
Would it have been beneficial to have someone who could enhance the mood in the room through managing a music playlist, controlling lighting for ambiance, and offering any support or encouragement necessary for me, as well as my family?
100% YES. There were so many small details (music, candles, visual affirmations, etc…) that were not implemented because my family was so busy supporting me in the chaos of my labor with an “all hands on deck” approach. As a doula, I not only support you physically and emotionally, I also maintain your chosen environment to the best of my ability. It is never my job to take over any part of your beautiful experience. I follow the energy and needs of you and your birth team and facilitate as many details as possible of your vision for your birth. Imagine the magic of your environment being exactly as you wish while you are laboring, without you even having to think about!
I believe that although my family in all of our hard work and preparation, was able to pull off an empowering and beautiful birthing experience for my daughter, our experience would have been greatly enhanced with the knowledge, encouragement, and support of a doula. It truly takes a village to bring a child into this world, and that village is much happier when a doula is part of the team.
For Care Providers
“It takes a village.”— African Proverb
Bodhi Birth and Wellness was founded with the African proverb, “It takes a village,” as the golden rule of service. I believe that doula support is just one small part of the care environment and that community and teamwork are integral parts of what we do. Working in harmony with all providers is not only my hope but an imperative part of making positive change and integrating client-centered support into our local medical community. Through respectful dialogue and community engagement, Bodhi Birth and Wellness is committed to establishing relationships and improving maternity care in the Upstate, which ultimately supports the initial commitment of serving women and families in our community.
To receive more information about how to make Bodhi Birth and Wellness’ services available for your patients: