Daily Stretches During Pregnancy

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Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

“Squat 300 times a day, you’re going to give birth quickly.”

Ina May Gaskin

My clients hear this quote and look at me like their doula has LOST HER MIND…

The reality about movement in pregnancy is that we want our body to be comfortable with the movements we use in labor and birth BEFORE we are moving through the process.

It’s kind of like downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)… if you’ve ever done yoga you probably remember the first time you attempted this pose. For me, the thoughts that moved through my head were…

“am I doing it right?”

“everything is soooooo tight,”

“oh boy, I just realized I’m holding my breath,”

“I don’t think I can do this much longer”

… I don’t want you to have to move through these same concerns while in labor! It is so important that we move our bodies NOW in ways that prepare us for labor. And if we plan to stretch and move our babies down and out, we should be stretching and moving our bodies in similar ways now.

I love using this example because we need to understand that exercise and movement in pregnancy is all relative. There is no magical exercise that makes us have a fast labor — there are so many factors involved with how our labors play out. If you’ve spent your entire pregnancy sitting behind a desk for 50 hours a week, you probably shouldn’t be starting a 300-squat-per-day regimen in your third trimester. If you’ve been doing CrossFit every day, you should probably focus on learning to relax your pelvic floor. It’s all relative to your lifestyle.

At the very least, we can familiarize our bodies with movements we might use in labor and learn exercises we can do now to encourage optimal positioning. I always suggest my clients check out the Spinning Babies Daily Activities:

(1) Take a brisk walk every day

(2) Forward Leaning Inversion

(3) Be mindful of your maternal positioning — are you sitting and moving in ways that encourages optimal positioning?

(4) Stretch your body

(5) Psoas Release

(6) Hip Openers

(7) Pelvic Tilts

(8) Rest Smart — use pillows when resting to encourage your baby to “hang in your hammock”

(9) Relax what is tight in general

You can read more on the Spinning Babies website about contraindications and detailed instructions. Don’t forget, it never hurts to talk with your care provider before trying new exercises or inversions!

mind-body connection in birth (and why it’s important)

How many times in your life have you heard the phrase “mind over matter”? That’s a frustrating phrase for many of us because it’s just not that simple. So many of us spend years of our lives trying to control our bodies with our minds through fad diets, rigid programs and self-help books, but for most of us they never work long-term. Why? Because that is not the way are were meant to exist. The mind and the body are not separate, and when we treat the body like it is nothing more than a meat bag that we can manipulate from the outside, we are misunderstanding its processes on a fundamental level. Not to mention, when does one-size-fits-all really actually work? Our mental state is directly related to our physical state. They are intertwined. I know you’re wondering how this has anything to do with birth, and I want to shout from the rooftops that this has everything to do with birth — so walk with me as I explore the mind-body connection.

Try something with me!

Let’s begin with a little experiment. I want you to choose an object in the room you’re in. Any object. I want you to focus on that object for as long as you can without your mind wandering to anything else. Just be with that object. Take in its essence — the depth of color, the smell — enjoy every part of that object for as long as you can without your mind wandering (and don’t forget to breathe in the process). Every time your mind moves to where the object came from, where you should move it, why you chose that object — any thoughts other than the essence of that object — redirect your attention back to the object.

Finished? How much time passed before your mind wandered the first time? A seasoned meditator might go for 10 seconds or so before they have to redirect their attention, but most of us can barely hang on for a few milliseconds before we have to adjust. Which brings me to this point: how much control over our minds do we actually have?

Consider how we respond to stress. Those moments of reactivity when stressful stimuli cause use to explode in a fight-or-flight frenzy or shut down completely. We feel silly and embarrassed afterward because we didn’t intend to have that response, but we were unable to stop in that moment, be aware of our autonomic response and consciously choose whether we should respond with reaction or with curiosity/understanding.

When we’re out for coffee with a friend who we haven’t seen in a while and we really want to be present with them in that experience; but we find ourselves interrupting their words with our responses in our own excitement, or thinking about what we are going to make for dinner, or that work project we are stressing about. What about those days where we are thinking about work on the way home and suddenly we are home and unsure how we made it from point A to point B? We want to be present, but even when we are focused on being present we are still unable to be here, now.

Most of us live our lives under the illusion that we are in control.

The truth is that on average we spend only about 5% of our lives in a conscious state. That means 95% of our lives are spent in a subconscious state of mind. During the first seven years of our lives our brains are in what we can call a download mode. From conception, every part of our development is based on reactive responses to outside stimuli. Even before birth we are downloading everything we come in contact with — our parents’ and loved ones’ behaviors and interactions, everything. The second major influence on our subconscious state is trauma. Our bodies like to hold on to traumatic experiences so that we can protect ourselves from experiencing those things in the future.

So wait, I’m telling you that 95% of the time we are functioning in a state of reality that is shaped by the perceptions of behaviors we learned in childhood and through our traumatic experiences. That’s some heavy stuff. But I wouldn’t be sharing it if there was nothing we could do to change it. And this is why mind-body connection is so important during birth… if we do everything we can to prepare our bodies for birth, but neglect our minds, what happens when we move through our first unexpected moment during our labor experience? Subconscious reaction. Depending on what we’ve downloaded through our previous experiences that means fight-or-flight mode or shutdown — and both of those reactions are what begins that fear-tension-pain cycle.

Birth is about surrendering our illusion of control and creating space for our body to do what it knows how to do instinctively — it’s about getting our subconscious reactions out of the way so that we can move through the passage of birth intuitively. Any childbirth education program will talk about the fear-tension-pain cycle and how education reduces fear, which minimizes the likelihood of being stuck in this cycle during labor, and this is so true. But that is only part of it. I have seen the most educated people overthink birth. I have seen people have the most straight-forward births and be traumatized, and I have seen people have the most physically traumatic births and walk away transformed. Yes, exploring our fears is part of this, but understanding how our minds respond to stress and learning how to bring awareness into the milliseconds before reaction occurs — THAT is a conscious, connected state that helps us flow through this rite of passage we call birth.

So how do we get to that point?

Well, like Pavlov and his bell, we train our brains. We teach ourselves to be mindful or aware of our bodies and our surroundings through repetition, just like we did in the above exercise — redirecting our attention to a focal point, also called Meditation. Now I know meditation can seem intimidating, but that is a huge misconception — anything unknown can seem intimidating. Meditation is only as complicated as we make it, and we must let go of our expectations and explore this topic in curiosity. Just as with anything else, there is no magical one-size-fits-all program or task that can save us from the work. The work is part of the process — it is what brings transformation. Exploring our bodies and minds in curiosity and awareness, learning what tools and techniques work for us in our day-to-day lives so that we can be aware and present — that is how we learn to navigate the 95% of birth that is in our heads.

Meditation is a tool that came to me nearly a decade ago while I was moving through processing trauma from a pregnancy loss. The benefit was earth-shattering for me. It turned my world right-side-up, and the beautiful things I learned about myself during the process of finding the right tools and techniques for me were so empowering. I never stuck with a solid practice, and only used this tool when I thought I needed it, but it worked for me when I did. Years passed and I found myself pregnant and prepared. I took an intensive childbirth education course, did ALL of my homework, made informed decisions, had all the support in the world through my birth experience, and I was still shocked that my trauma (the trauma that I thought I had already moved past) followed me through my birth. My sub-conscious (or reactive) state of mind responded accordingly and there was very little awareness as I slid down that slope and right into the fear-tension-pain cycle.

My daughter’s birth was the most transformative and healing moment of my life. I walked away from that experience needing to learn everything I could find on the psychology of birth. Why didn’t we talk about this intense paradigm shift more than through vague encouragement? Why did we focus more on the one-size-fits-all parts of birth than learning to personalize the most intense part of the experience (the psychological response to the physiological process)? I wanted to learn everything I could and shout it from the roof-tops. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be transformed through birth, because what we take from that experience is what will carry us through the paradigm shift that is postpartum.

After a beautiful, transformative birth I struggled, well wallowed, through early postpartum. I had supply issues and my daughter had tummy problems, and it took months and lots of tears before we worked everything out. One day while moving through that experience, I had a moment of epiphany. I could continue to wallow in this discomfort or I could lean into it, learn how to move through it and figure out what worked for us in this new life. And that was the beginning of my journey in self-care.

You see, before having a child I never prioritized true self-care. I didn’t have to. Bubble baths, glasses of wine, those were prioritized and documented with cutesy hashtags. Even with the amazing tools I had learned, that I knew worked well, I never used them proactively. I only used them when I had already surpassed my limits. The most valuable information I learned in the first two years postpartum was how to prioritize my self-care; how to create rituals and routines and how beneficial that sacred time is… and it has transformed my life. So-much-so that in the middle of my Pre-/Perinatal Educator certification I decided to train to become a meditation teacher as well. I wanted to be able to articulate and share the beautiful process of getting to know yourself on a mind-body level.

I’ve learned how to navigate so many tools of meditation and help others not only prepare for both the physical and psychological aspects of birth, but how to navigate the mind and truly transform the postpartum experience, for both parents. Because the entire family unit is affected by birth — physically and psychologically, and parents who walk out of birth aware and transformed are more equipped to help their child through their own seven-year download. Birth and postpartum may be the most difficult rites of passage we experience in our lives, but what if I told you we have the choice to walk through these experiences fully aware and conscious, transformed and equipped with the right tools and mindset to be present in early parenthood?

Join me…

I’m so excited to announce that I will be launching my childbirth education course, Birthing Consciously, later this summer. I can’t wait to share all the knowledge I’ve been building over the past three years, and I’m over the moon with excitement to share a variety of personalized tools and techniques that will not only prepare both parents for birth, but equip you to walk into early parenthood empowered and aware.

If you’d like to follow this process and hear all about exclusive opportunities, giveaways and discounts I’ll be offering as we approach the launch of my Birthing Consciously program, join my email list here and follow me on social media. I’m so excited to share and learn together as I move through this process!

Matrescence and Mindful Living

The walk through postpartum… It’s difficult for everyone, some more than others. The lack of sleep, learning your newborn’s language, the transitions your own body is moving through — it may seem like forever, but mama it is only temporary. Many of us learn intentional self-care and direct communication of our needs through necessity. We reach our breaking point and realize that what we are doing is not working and we need a better method. 

It takes longer for so many of us because of the messages we are given in our society. We praise our new mothers for being out and about in early postpartum, or for losing all the baby weight so quickly. The standards we hold ourselves to as new mothers are unrealistic and degrading when we truly understand the depth of the postpartum experience. Self-care equals a glass of wine or a new pair of shoes. Mental health is so often considered taboo that we are never given the proper tools to become resilient adults, and we wonder why our rates of postpartum anxiety and depression are higher than ever… We tend to ignore, fight against or mute our discomforts instead of leaning in and learning what that discomfort tells us. Our bodies are constantly communicating our needs to us, we only need to find the awareness to understand. 

The important lessons and tools we have the potential to learn in postpartum are integral to moving through life, especially parenthood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare during our pregnancies. Creating a mindful existence brings our thoughts into an inquisitive state, and when we see the world with curiosity we are less critical of ourselves and others, and we flow more easily with the tides of our lives. Here are a few lessons that I learned as I moved through postpartum. 

Give yourself alllll the grace.

So many of us walk out of pregnancy with high expectations. But there is nothing that can prepare us for some of those early postpartum moments. We can only ride the wave and remember that the sleepless nights, the fluctuating hormones, they’re only temporary. Just like our transitions in labor, we must learn to take things one moment, one breath at a time. 

Create rituals that bring you sacred pause.

My life before motherhood was very structured. So much so that in early postpartum I fought against the flow of matrescence with everything I had. I wallowed until I realized that continuing on that path wouldn’t make things better. You see, I had never really had to prioritize self care. I was a workaholic before becoming a mother, but I never anticipated the depth of the fact that  the most important work I would ever do, raising my daughter, was a never-ending responsibility. Self-care was no longer an option, it was a necessity. It sounds so simple, but when we prioritize the care of our bodies and our minds and create routines and rituals to make these processes special, we set the groundwork for a life of intention and overflowing gratitude. 

Prioritize what is truly important to you.

This was a big one for me. As a recovering perfectionist, I still struggle with this… It was so difficult for me to realize that I could not do everything. Breastfeeding was a full time job. My daughter demanded to be worn or held at all times. Yes, I did work my way into finding a flow that worked for me and my family, but I also had to surrender to the fact that it was ok to let things like laundry or dishes wait temporarily and prioritize my self-care. Because if we aren’t functional it affects everyone around us, and if we flourish, so does our family.

Nourish and move your body.

Loving on yourself doesn’t always mean what feels good in the moment. We all know that our comfort foods might mask our feelings temporarily, but making intentional choices about what we put into our bodies can make all the difference in our physical and mental health. When I decided to invest more energy in preparing and eating wholesome foods, I was pleasantly surprised at the immediate affect on my mental health. When I prioritized time to go on a walk around the neighborhood or do some yoga in my basement, my anxiety noticeably decreased and I felt more grounded on a daily basis. “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. I promise if you can commit to one week of prioritizing these things, the difference will be so dramatic you won’t want to stop. 

Breathe.

I read somewhere that we all need to meditate for at least 30 minutes per day. If we don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes we should meditate for at least an hour. Again, “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. When I first started meditating I was extremely intimidated. But I found that we have so many tools that simplify the process… in moments where I feel like my mind is too busy to meditate, I reach for guided meditations like this. But I do it daily, no matter what. It is part of my morning and evening rituals because I have noticed a significant difference on many levels. Our lives begin and end with the breath, and when we prioritize time to focus on our breath, quiet our minds, and become aware of our bodies, it creates room for growth and healing on a physical and emotional level. Studies show that meditation reduces inflammation, brings greater levels of self-control, and is anti-aging.  There are so many benefits, why wouldn’t we try it? 

It takes a village.

The most important thing I want you to know is that we are not meant to do this alone. This was my greatest lesson. Even with the best family support I could have hoped for, there were resources in my community that I was too proud to reach for… I wanted to figure it all out myself. But the truth is that every baby and every postpartum experience is different. We aren’t meant to figure it out by ourselves. It’s impossible, which is why we have so many amazing whole-body focused providers who specialize in postpartum doula support, pelvic floor therapy, chiropractic, lactation, maternal mental health, and so much more… it takes a village to raise a child. And it is ok to need help. We build some incredible relationships when we are able to reach out in our own vulnerability, and we equip ourselves to help others on similar paths.

More than anything, be kind to yourself. All of these life-changing efforts I mentioned above came over time. It was a gradual shift in mindset. Don’t expect to implement these all at once and change your life overnight — that’s not what this is about. Remind yourself that motherhood is a lifelong journey, and the deepest valleys make way for the most breathtaking moments. There is no book, there is no perfect. We don’t magically wake up as the mothers who made raising us look easy. Matrescence is not a mother made, you are becoming… 


“The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterward. It is the year of travail — when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of you heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”

JOY KUSEK

Surrender and Trust the Process

In birth, everything is connected…

⁣⁣⁣The first time I heard the words “pelvic floor” was from Dr. Rice in my 11th grade vocal performance class at Fine Arts Center. It was 2004, late winter — sometime after Valentines Day, and I was sharing that I had attended my first ever yoga class and was fascinated at the level of body awareness that I had never experienced before then. He grinned and responded that yoga was great for the pelvic floor, and so was meditation.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Not long after that, in April I experienced true surrender for the first time in my life. It was a pivotal point for me in my adolescence. I had a serious stage fright block, and this class required me to sing every day in front of four other students who were older and had more training and vocal maturity than I did. That day, after much coaching — LOTS of constructive criticism and pushing me to my limits — I was emotionally spent but fully committed to moving past this block. I closed my eyes, shut everything out but the music, and my soul became one with the song I was singing. 𝗪𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐭 𝐢𝐭. We all knew what I had experienced — 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, and that moment was extremely empowering and transformative for me.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣You see, something I’ve always loved about singing is the energy work. In order to master your instrument, not only do you learn to manipulate your pelvic floor in all kinds of ways — physically and psychologically, through visualization, etc… but you must learn to intertwine yourself with the story and the emotions of the song. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘱𝘵𝘩𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘤.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣If you listen closely, or if you have a trained ear you can actually hear that surrender, and the result is 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥. You can 𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘦𝘦 the energy of the sound and emotion moving through the air and exchanging with the audience. A vocalist who has experienced this sensation will never forget it.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣I always knew that voice was a calling for me, but I never could have imagined that it would pull me in the direction of birth. And I never really understood the depth of how connected the voice is to birth until I experienced and felt it first hand. In fact, everything I learned in the ten years I studied vocal performance I have been able to apply to my work in birth. 𝘙𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘹 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘫𝘢𝘸, 𝘴𝘰𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦, 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘬, 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘳 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦. Birth is just a lot more intuitive than singing. Our bodies already know how to do it. For most people, 𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬 engage the pelvic floor. But no matter what we cover and how we prepare, no sound is more productive or transformative than the sound of letting go. I can hear it in your voice when you stop worrying or caring about how you are perceived, 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘪𝘯𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Understanding your pelvic floor and how those muscles interact with your body; cultivating the body awareness that is necessary to understand how to engage and relax those muscles; studying the breath and understanding how it affects every aspect of our existence, especially our movement through birth — these are all things that we can do to prepare our minds and bodies for the moments of surrender in our births.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Some of us flow better with the unknown than others. Personally, flow has never come naturally to me in any aspect — my husband jokes that if you watch me dance for two minutes that fact is obvious. I attribute it to the long, strong, never ending drip of Pitocin at my own entry into this world. But for me, this work is a continuous reminder of the importance of surrender to the cycles of this life. The more I study the body and how interconnected everything is in the process of birth, the more fascinated I am. And I find that most people walking through pregnancy feel the same. Resistance stems from fear, and we are hardwired to fight against discomfort. Understanding how our bodies work help us surrender our minds as our bodies take control during our births. 𝘞𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘸𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨.

Hiring a Doula

I am a firm believer that doulas come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of us choose to certify, and some of us don’t.  I know some doulas who are not certified, but hold more birth knowledge and experience in their little finger than many of us do in our entire bodies. I have seen doulas who took an online certification course (with no in-person training or experience required) and tout that they are experts in their field. Believe me, not all doula certifications are created equally, and certification is not the only way to pursue this work. Some doulas prefer to gain their experience through apprenticeship and community involvement rather than going through organizations like DONA.  There is no perfect path to becoming a doula.  What makes us doulas isn’t a title, it is the heart that drives our efforts to support families and bring positive changes to our communities. 

So what do you look for in a doula?  How do you know that you are getting the quality that you expect in your experience?  Research.  Just as a business owner would look at a resume, check references, and have some email correspondence with a new recruit before an interview.  Check out their website, look at their reviews on multiple platforms (Facebook, Google, and Doula Match), look into the organizations they are associated with and ask around your local birth community to see if the doula is well recognized. 

I clicked around on my certifying organization’s website and found a few lists that might be helpful when beginning this process.  Those lists are in bold and the links to more information are cited at the end of this page. 

Wondering what you should look for when hiring a doula? Here are a few key points that parents consider.

  • Training
  • Certification status
  • Experience
  • Availability
  • Services offered
  • Conversational compatibility
  • Fees
  • General instincts about having the doula in your home or private space

Another common theme that comes up during interviews is the list of questions that we see in so many mommy-blog articles.  “10 Questions to Ask Your Doula in an Interview,” and so on… Don’t get me wrong, questions are a great tool to help you narrow down which doulas you want to meet with, but the most important purpose of an interview is connecting.  Most reputable doulas list their training, experience and philosophies on their websites.  If they don’t, or they don’t have a website, this is a great time to connect pre-interview through email.  You would be surprised at how well you can connect with someone before you meet them face-to-face, and I don’t know any doula who isn’t willing to answer questions or offer a list of references ahead of time through email correspondence. BUT, more than anything, don’t forget that the interview is allllll about connection.  It is important that you feel comfortable inviting your doula into your home and into some of the most intimate moments of your life; otherwise, things can be just plain awkward during your birth. So yes, a few prepared questions or talking points are great to bring to an interview, but remember that the interview is about connection… and a long, tedious list can be more distracting than helpful in finding the right doula for you. 

Questions to Consider After a Birth Doula Interview:

It’s a wonderful opportunity to choose a doula to be a part of your birth experience! Sometimes, you just know that a particular doula is the one for you, and sometimes you need several interviews to find just the right person (or people, some doulas work in teams). These questions might be able to be helpful as you choose a doula who is the right fit for your family.

  • How comfortable was I with the doula/s?
  • Did the doula/s communicate well with me and my family?
  • Do I feel confident that the doula/s will be able to work collaboratively with my birth team?
  • What was the doula’s level of knowledge? Did one seem more knowledgeable than another? Did I feel that my questions were answered thoroughly?
  • Do I feel comfortable having this doula (these doulas) in my home?
  • If there are unexpected situations, or if I need support early in labor, do I feel confident that this doula (these doulas) can offer what I’ll need at the time?
  • Who is the right doula to nurture and support my family through this process? Did I feel a connection?
  • What does my overall intuition say?

To recap, when hiring a doula, do your research.  Not all doulas are created equally.  Learn about them and find what drives their work before meeting them.  Understand how they gained their knowledge-base and what organizations they associate with. If you aren’t able to answer the important questions through your own research, begin a dialogue via email or text. Go into your interview looking for connection, take note of how you feel, whether or not the doula will flow well with your vision for your birth, and more than anything listen to your intuition. Because any good doula can agree with me that our goal is for you to have a beautiful birth experience, and connection plays a huge role in how well-supported you feel during your birth.  You’re likely to be in a room with your doula  for a very long time.   Feeling comfortable is key.  And if you don’t feel that magical doula connection you think you should feel, I promise we won’t have our feelings hurt — we probably know another doula who might be the perfect match for you. 

The lists included above were found on the DONA International website:

What to Look For When You Hire a Doula

No is a Complete Sentence.

Let’s talk self-advocacy…

Lately I’ve received a lot of messages, and have seen questions on social media, where a pregnant person is asking for research and data to argue a point (or prepare to argue a point) with their care provider.  This was a huge mistake that I made during my pregnancy and my hope is to address this as simply as possible so that I can help others avoid unnecessary anxiety.

If we trust our care provider and are on the same page about our wishes from the very beginning, the likelihood of disrespect and confrontation is much lower.  This is why building a trusting relationship with our care provider and keeping an open line of communication is so important.  I find that there are two common reasons why many of us find ourselves in this defensive position: 

  1. We never really researched and interviewed care providers to be sure that we were on the same page.  So many of us continue with our OBGYN as usual when we become pregnant without considering whether they hold the same values that we do about birth.
  2. We’ve had a previously traumatic experience and have an underlying distrust of care providers. Unchecked, this can lead to iatrophobia, which is a fear of doctors that can cause anxiety and panic. 

No is a complete sentence.  It’s that simple.

Arguing your opinion is counter-productive and unnecessary. No is a complete sentence. Your care provider is there to answer your questions and provide information and support, NOT to convince you of anything.  But we are all human beings, and sometimes personal bias creeps into the equation, even when we have done everything in our power to create and maintain a healthy relationship.  So how do we prepare for those circumstances without living in fear or anticipation that it will happen or that we will have to fight or argue our point? 

There is a reason why this is such a common concern.  As humans, our immediate response to confrontation is fight or flight.  When perceiving a threat, we always react in one of these two ways, but just as I mentioned in this post about facing our inner tigers, sometimes all we need is to find our inner truth and know how to respond confidently.  Because some tigers feel very real but are only in our heads.  We have the choice to react or respond

So what do we do when we are feeling pressured or unheard by our care providers?  How do we respond without reacting?

  • First, take a deep breath bringing your attention back to the breath helps bring you out of that fight-or-flight reaction and grounds you so that you can respond appropriately.
  • Ask any questions you may have, but if you already know your answer, “Yes” and “No” are both complete sentences.
  • If you don’t feel heard, calmly reiterate that you understand your options, you’ve made a decision and you don’t wish to discuss it further.  This normally gets the point across.
  • If you still don’t feel heard, ask the provider to make a note in your chart.  Whether you are saying “no” or you feel that symptoms aren’t being addressed or taken seriously, a care provider will almost always pay closer attention or take a more serious look if asked to document the encounter. 
  • If you have done all of the above and the provider continues to disrespect your personal choice, calmly dismiss yourself and find a new provider. 

I want to stress that finding a new provider should be your very last resort.  And that brings us back to finding a provider you trust with your choices from the very beginning.  The provider-client relationship is the most important part of your pregnancy.  Just as I advise all of my clients to interview 2-3 doulas before making a final decision, I also suggest they interview multiple providers at the beginning of their pregnancy.  If you’re not sure about how to interview a care provider or what questions to ask, I have a printable PDF that can help you get started.

If you’ve experienced previous trauma and need more thorough communication throughout your experience, consider choosing a smaller practice where you have a better opportunity to get to know your provider during your pregnancy.  Tell your care provider that you have had negative experiences before and that communication and understanding are important to you.  Hypervigilance is a sign of anxiety, and if you find yourself in the position where you trust your provider, but are inclined to prepare for every possible situation where trust could be breached, this is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.  If we don’t unpack our trauma, it will follow us into our births, especially if that trauma is care provider related.  Hire a doula, find a therapist who specializes in pregnancy and postpartum, and face your paper tigers now so that you can better recognize them as they are when you are in labor.