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.

Doulas are for Partners too…

One of the most common conversations that I have when I first meet a client is about the partner. So many partners are intimidated by doula support because they are worried that the doula will 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 them during the birth. This is a common misconception. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Partners, there is no one in this world who knows your partner better than you — and no one can touch the level of emotional support you will be able to provide. 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘤𝘺 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘥𝘶𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘳. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

But I hear you asking, “if I’m the best source of support for my laboring partner, what value does a doula bring to our experience?” ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

The answer is this: 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐲, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐝𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐚 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐛𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐲. Your doula has seen countless people birth babies. We offer unattached support— we are not emotionally intermeshed in your experience, and there is so much value in having a support person who isn’t attached to an outcome, or upset to see their loved one in so much discomfort. It allows us to keep a clear head so that we can best support the family through the process of birth. We have had a lot of training that helps us better understand how and when to help, and to be honest, sometimes the partner needs just as much support as the birthing parent. Birthing babies is hard work!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ I included the featured image of this post because it specifically shows how hard the entire birth team works to support the birthing parent. It truly takes a village, and everyone involved will play an important role in the process.

As a doula it is my job to support the birthing parent 𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐫 during birth. It is common during labor for a partner to want to help, but not know how to support the mother through the intensity. This is where the doula steps in. Your doula can help you better support your partner and give you more confidence in your role, as well as offer breaks so you can take care of your own needs. Doulas are there to work as a team with the partner (NOT replace them) so that the birthing parent is given the best, most well-rounded support possible.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣𝘐𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘢𝘱𝘦𝘳, 𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘳 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘺𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘩. Your doula will help you and your partner understand the long list of options that are available to you, and how each option will impact your experience. They will help you find the tools that will best prepare you to advocate for yourselves. It takes a village to bring a baby into the world. A good doula will work with you and your birth team to help each part of the process transition as smoothly as possible so that your family can have a beautiful experience. And partners, we flow with the energy of the room. 𝗪𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐣𝐨𝐛 𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐫, and we will support you both, in whatever way you need.⁣⁣⁣⁣

Becoming a Dad

Did you know that both parents’ brains physically change between the periods of pregnancy and postpartum? While mom experiences changes beginning immediately, your brain will begin changing around the sixteen week period and will continue for up to two years. Thus begins the magical period of your dad superpower development. Studies show that while the core of mom’s brain changes (the area involving care, nurturing and risk detection), the outer sectors of dad’s brain change (the area involving thought, goal orientation, problem solving and planning). This happens for a reason! Biologically and psychologically, moms have a lot going on in the first few years after conception. To put it into perspective, her hormonal changes are so strong that they are causing your body to have a hormonal reaction that changes your brain. That is intense. The good news is that you can use your awesome new brain growth to help mom move smoothly through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Here are a few ways to do that!

Before Baby is Born

Support her emotionally: This is the most important thing you can do. Pregnancy hormones can be a crazy experience, and between physical and emotional changes/discomfort, some mamas can feel unrecognizable to themselves during this immense transition. A woman’s estrogen levels during pregnancy are equal to taking 100 birth control pills per day. Remind her that what she is experiencing is normal and that she is amazing for making these sacrifices to create life and grow your family. Be patient with her. Tell her she’s beautiful. And more than anything, remind her that all of this is temporary.

Learn about the process with her: Outside of supporting her emotionally, trying your best to understand the physical and emotional changes she is experiencing, and being active in helping her prepare for her birth will make a huge impact on both of your experiences. This will give you the opportunity to better understand her experience, understand her birthing wishes and rights well enough to advocate for her if necessary, and physically and emotionally support her during her birth. I cannot over-stress the importance of educating ourselves about our bodies.  An intensive childbirth education course is an invaluable part of the experience. And if a class is just something that will not work for you, I have so many reading recommendations. Reading together can be a new way to bond through the experience.

Attend care provider visits as much as you can: During checkups you will be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat and hear about his/her development first hand. This can help you feel a stronger bond with your baby during the pregnancy process and is another way to help your partner feel supported.

Support her nesting process: Nesting is some serious stuff. We are biologically hardwired to begin preparing the “nest” for baby, and there are so many aspects involved — lists of things you will need. Do what you can to help her prepare physically and emotionally for baby’s arrival. It is just another opportunity to bond during the pregnancy experience.

During the Birth

Birth is one of the most beautiful and difficult things that we do. As the birth team, we will all be doing a lot of work helping mom through the process of birth, and your job is the most important. You know mom better than anyone in the birthing room. Let her know that you think she is a magnificent goddess for doing the work she is doing. She will need to hear those things and see your awe. Hiring a doula and taking a childbirth education course will help you learn more about how you can physically support your spouse, but the best thing you can do during this birth will be to help her see that you believe in her and to help her keep the oxytocin flowing. What’s all this about oxytocin, you ask? Oxytocin (a.k.a. the love hormone) triggers The Endorphin Effect: it stimulates the production of beta-endorphins, which are 18-33 times more powerful than morphine. That means that your love can actually improve her pain management. That’s pretty amazing, right? But how do we create oxytocin during labor? I’ve included some ideas below.

Laughter: fill your brain with funny stories that you know will make her laugh before the big day. You’ll know when to use your jokes, and they’ll likely keep a good vibe in the room as well as encourage labor progression.

Creating a calm environment: this will be something that your doula will help with… lighting, candles, music etc… your doula will be the one making sure that happens, hopefully without notice. But I like to stress this importance because you will play a huge role in maintaining that environment. As her birth partner,  you will be her voice when she is unable to use it. If things seem crazy at any point don’t hesitate to ask for a moment to yourselves — and you bet your doula will be making that suggestion and clearing the room if you guys need some space.

Kissing, nipple stimulation & sexual intercourse: try treating the early labor experience (if it’s not late at night when you should both be resting/sleeping) as a romantic date night. Light some candles, turn on some relaxing music and profess your love to her. It could possibly help her progress faster, and it’s also a great way to pass the time.

Making sure she is eating and drinking: mom will be working very hard to open and release her baby, and eating and drinking may be far from her mind. Studies show that even hunger, which also causes the body to go into a “fight or flight” response, can stop labor from progressing. This is something we can work together to keep up with. I just like to make note of why it is important.

During the Postpartum Period

The early postpartum period can be crazy. This will be the biggest paradigm shift you experience in your lifetime. And if this is not your first child, you already know this, but you will still experience a period of transition while you integrate a new member into your family. Mom will be experiencing a hormone flush like no other while healing physically from her labor experience and creating a maternal bond with your new baby while she and baby learn their breastfeeding relationship. There are so many things you can do that will help her in this process.

Be sure she is eating, and drinking plenty of water: there are some things I mentioned above (like emotional support) that will be universal through the entire process. Being sure she is given plenty of nutritious food and water will be at the very top of your list along with the others. Breastfeeding is hard, and is a full time job. She will need reminders to take care of herself, and will greatly appreciate not having to think about it. Create several breastfeeding stations around the house (and keep them filled) for her so she never has to think about finding food. Get her a giant water bottle. She will use it.

Keep the peri bottle flowing: The best thing my husband did for me during my early postpartum period was maintain the peri bottle tea. We used a healing herbal tea in my peri bottle and having warm tea in my bottle at a moment’s notice made a huge difference in my comfort levels, and in my healing.

Pay close attention to mom’s emotional health: ask her how she is really feeling, and give her “touch breaks” whenever you can. The postpartum period can be the most difficult part of the entire experience for some moms. January Harshe couldn’t have said it better:

“Because the truth is this — the first few years postpartum are going to pull you so far away from who you used to be — and then they’re going to put you back together as the person you’re meant to become.”

Patience and empathy is so important during this period. If you feel like she is (or both of you are) in over her head, reach out for help. You will be her sounding board during this period. If you feel like things are too intense for too long, voice that. There are so many resources. Your doula can lend an ear and offer suggestions, and finding a support group with others who relate to your experience can make all the difference.

Give her some me-time: When mom isn’t nursing, give her an opportunity to do something for herself. When you have a tiny human attached to your body, regular touch breaks are a godsend. As a new mom, me time is food for the soul.

The most important thing you can do at this point is listen to your instincts. You’ve spent nine months bonding with your partner on an entirely different level. Your doula will have educated you and your spouse about the postpartum period and you will be physically prepared. You will know what to do. And if you ever feel lost, talk about it. There are so many resources. Your doula and childbirth educator will be great points of contact in the coming months. Just remember through the entire process, the more you connect and support your partner throughout your entire experience, the more prepared you will both be as you step into parenthood.