It is my priviledge to watch, on a regular basis, men becoming fathers, and it is such a beautiful thing! I see their tireless, loving support for their partners in labor, their joy and tears as they watch their baby's being born, sometimes they are the first hands to catch their baby on the way out, and their tender caresses of their newborn baby placed in their arms. Many have never held a baby before, but this one is theirs! They instinctually bring their baby to their chest in the most protective, gentle way and shower all their love and kisses on this precious baby's head. You can't underestimate the power of this moment! Happy Father's Day!
I had the honor of attending the birth of Keris and Stuart's first born, an adorable boy named Aston Davis, so I was thrilled when Keris was pregnant again and asked for me to be their doula and photographer for the birth of their little girl, Helen Adria. Keris was induced for her first birth, but she decided to wait a little longer this time and let Helen pick her birth day, and she did! Labor started gradually and Keris did a great job of distracting herself during those early contractions, and when they started getting more intense but we still spaced out a little, they waited a little longer and labored at home. They told me to wait too, but I knew things might pick up and go pretty quickly. Sure enough, her contractions were soon under five minutes, and they headed to the hospital, and I left to join them, but on the way there they just kept coming on faster and faster. When they got checked in she was already 9 cm! I arrived shortly after and Keris was laboring on the bed on all fours, but doing a great job and still laughing with Stuart in between contractions.
Just a few contractions later, she felt like she needed to push, and Helen pretty much came flying out! Aston was 9.5lbs (and Keris is very petite) so she pushed for a few hours with him, but Helen was much smaller, and even though she had a nuchal hand, she came out much quicker.
One of the special things about this birth was being able to witness the birth pause, in which the birthing mother takes a brief pause to gather herself and make the great transition from birthing her baby to the first step of mothering, picking up her baby on her own terms. Since Keris was still on all fours, she requested a minute to breathe and rest before she turned over to pick up her daughter and bring her to her chest.
The birth had happened so quickly, that there was still so much shock and surprise mingled with the relief and great joy as she welcomed Helen in her arms.
It was such a joy to see the love between Keris and Stuart flow over as they both began to bond with their precious new daughter.
And before long, Keris's mom brought Aston came to meet his new little sister. He wasn't quite sure what to think of this new addition.
A little later, Keris had some quiet time to start breastfeeding Helen, and she was a champion nurser!
And then it was time to transition to their postpartum room and try to get some rest and settle in with their new baby.
Congratulations Keris and Stuart! It was such an honor to serve you at the birth of both your babies, and see your beautiful family grow. You have so much love for each other and for your children, and it is a blessing to share in your joy!
I have an amazing job that allows me to witness women becoming mother's. They pass through the fire to get to that point, but there is noting like the joy of a mother meeting her baby for the first time. I hope you enjoy this collection of those moments and, if you have children, it will bring back those memories of the first moments you spent with your baby.
Tricia and Eric were expecting their first baby, a little girl. They planned to give birth at Natural Beginning Birth Center. I came during the night when Tricia was in active labor, and she was laboring in the tub. She was well-supported with her husband, doula, and midwife at her side. She was such a peaceful laborer, and had a such a calm environment. She labored through the night trying many different positions.
Finally, with the morning light shining in, it was time to push!
She pushed with all her strength to bring that baby down. She tried several different pushing positions and techniques.
Finally, exhausted after pushing for many hours, it was decided that it was time to transfer to the hospital. This is such an emotional decision, but she was so lovingly supported and encouraged that she was making the right decision for her baby.
The hospital is across the street, so the whole birth team walked over with a determination to see this baby being born.
Her doula lovingly set up her hospital space, and she enjoyed a nap with an epidural before beginning to push again.
After pushing again for another few hours, it was time for baby to come. A doctor joined us and assisted with a vacuum to bring baby down the rest of the way.
After all her hard work, Hazel finally made her appearance and is in mama's arms. The new family rejoiced and dad bonded with his new little girl.
Radiant, yet exhausted, a full 24 hours later, mom finally achieved the fruit of her labor and had her baby girl in her arms. She worked so hard and was so brave and determined through all the changes in plans. The depth of love and strength of a mother as she works to bring her baby earthside is unplumbed.
Congratulations Tricia and Eric! It was an honor to document your story!
2017 brought some beautiful births, strong mamas, supportive partners, and adorable babies that it was my honor to capture. These are a few of my favorites. Enjoy!
2018 is already looking to be an amazing year. If you're due in 2018 and want a doula or photographer, book now!
Congratulations to Gaby and Alex on the birth of their son, Aiden James! This sweet couple were college sweethearts; now they're married and starting their family. Gaby was committed to having a natural birth out of the hospital, and she chose to give birth at Austin Area Birthing Center. It was a little before her due date when her water broke unexpectedly. Contractions began soon after but things weren't progressing into active labor. We tried some positioning and walking, and she was exhausted after a day of prodromal labor. She checked into the birth center, and we all tried to get some sleep before beginning the midwives induction routine of pumping, herbs, and castor oil in the morning. A few hours after that, things started to pick up and labor got intense and progressed quickly.
At the beginning of her labor, she did such a beautiful job of relaxing. I love her posture her with her hands open as she surrenders to each surge, letting it open her and bring her baby nearer.
With her eye on the prize, she found her focus to help her through each wave.
Her husband was such a great support to her, giving tender encouragement, and intuitively following her lead.
This is transition, and she needed to clear gaze of her husband to help her through. This look below shows so well the feeling of "I can't do this anymore, please help me." But with constant support and encouragement, she pressed on toward the goal.
Even as she neared the finish line, she was so composed and relaxed. I loved the way she folded her hands so beautifully in front of her.
Now for the pushing--such a powerhouse of strength and determination!
And finally, after so much hard work, baby is in her arms!
This such a beautiful, intimate moment as mom turns to her partner after the birth, with the expression of "we did it!".
This newborn baby knows his dad, and gazed so intently at him.
This beautiful golden hour as the new family settles in and gets to know each other!
Such a proud, gentle papa as he gets to hold his son for the first time!
Welcome to the world Aiden James! This beautiful healthy baby weighed in at 6lbs 14oz and 20 in. It was such a pleasure to serve this sweet couple and witness such strength, love, and beauty as they brought sweet Aiden into their arms.
Today, October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, so I am going to share a personal story. The statistics are that 1 in 4 women will experience this loss. Its an astounding number, and really I wonder if it isn't under-reported. There is a growing movement to bring this out in the open, out of the shadows, where it has been. It is an intensely private grief, but one that too many women suffer in silence, when there are in reality, so many who share this grief and who can support you through it. I was one of those who suffered silently. Like a lot of women, I didn’t want to announce my pregnancies “too early” in case of loss. My first pregnancy happened so quickly; it was our first month trying and I was ecstatic. It was the perfect timing, just as we had planned, so that I would ideally give birth just as my husband was finishing his spring semester of teaching and would have several weeks off to help out with the baby. I already had names picked out. I was already planning a nursery, for either a boy or a girl. I had already bought a maternity skirt I found on sale. I had already scheduled a tour at the birth center where I knew I wanted to give birth. We were dreaming big dreams for this little one. All in only about four weeks from when I had seen those two lines on a stick. But it was early, and we hadn’t told anyone yet, not family, not my best friend, certainly no happy social media announcements. It was a private, happy secret, until it became our private grief.
I was about seven weeks pregnant. It was October 6th, and we were on our way to visit my mother-in-law in San Antonio. We stopped at a gas station and I went inside to pee, and there was blood. I told my husband, and we turned around to go home. I was scared and sobbing and starting to cramp. I knew it didn’t look good, but I tried to be hopeful. We told my mother-in-law that we couldn’t come, that something had come up. I just couldn’t tell her what was going on. We hadn’t told her I was pregnant yet, and I didn’t want to talk about it or answer questions. Of course, that only left more questions. She knew something was wrong, something was going on, and for months, she asked about me if I was okay. And it never seemed right to explain. It was the weekend, so I couldn’t go see my regular doctor. I didn’t have an OB since I was planning to give birth at a birth center with midwives. No one had even confirmed my pregnancy. So I went into an urgent care clinic and waited and waited and waited to get in, only to have them tell me that they didn’t have an ultrasound and there was nothing they could do. I was told to go to the ER, but I didn’t want to do that. I was continuing to bleed. The next day we had our scheduled tour at the birth center and a consult with the midwife. I decided to go ahead and go. It was so surreal; I was being shown around this beautiful birth center with all the hopes and expectations of having an amazing birth there, all the while I was still bleeding, knowing that this beautiful dream was slipping away. The midwife was kind when I told her, but there was nothing she could do, no way to stop it. There was a little hope; sometimes women do bleed in the first trimester and the baby is safe, but I wasn’t under their care yet, so she recommended I see my doctor and schedule an ultrasound. With pregnancies this early, you need a vaginal ultrasound, equipment that they didn’t have.
I tried to get an appointment with my GP, but she wasn’t available. There were no openings for another day, and with another nurse practitioner, a man who I had never seen. I reluctantly scheduled it. Meanwhile, I had to go to work, to go teach my classes, as if there was nothing going on. As if I wasn’t still bleeding. I went in to the appointment, and I was scared and alone and just needed some understanding. This guy offered none of that; he was clearly uncomfortable even handling “women’s issues.” They did a pregnancy test, and it was negative. I was crushed. Even that last sliver of hope was gone. All our dreams were gone. Instead of sympathy, he questioned whether or not I had even been pregnant, whether I knew how to read a pregnancy test, or if there had been a false positive. Now I angry; this guy treated me like an ignorant child. I knew I had seen that second line; it wasn’t faint. I knew how to read the directions. I wasn’t holding it up to the light looking for an evaporation line. And a quick google search is enough to find out that false positives are extremely rare, ie. you’re taking HCG supplements.
I went to the ultrasound, which required drinking a ton of water and not peeing, then having someone insert a vaginal wand while pressing on your bladder. It’s extremely uncomfortable and invasive. And there was no sign of pregnancy, not even an increased lining. It was all gone, everything, nothing even to show for it. This life we had celebrated had vanished as if it had never existed. The NP continued to press the point that I had never been pregnant. Maybe my period had just been a month late . . . and I had imagined that blue line. I had been bleeding for three days. We walked out completely shaken. Not only was our baby that we had already come to love and dream about gone, but no one seemed to even recognize that she had existed (yes, I had already been thinking it was a girl), that this tiny life had mattered.
I should have reached out to others. My mom had had two miscarriages, my sister had had one and an infant loss. But I bore this in silence. How could I tell people I had lost a baby when I hadn’t even told them I was pregnant? I didn’t know how to start. I couldn’t find the words. Even my husband couldn’t really talk about it. It hurt him as well; he was sympathetic and he held me when I cried, but I felt so alone in this. I had no answers. What had happened? What was wrong? Did my body fail me? I’ve had a long, troubled history with accepting my body, and this seemed to confirm it. I spent several months tracking my cycles, I brought in my charts to my gynecologist. I noticed I had a short luteal phase, and I started reading about this. Maybe I had low progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy. I’d had one longer cycle, but I couldn’t bring myself to take a pregnancy test before my period came. Had I had an early loss and not even known about it? Maybe, she said, but everything looked good to her. She tested my progesterone, which only confirmed that I had indeed ovulated. She was the first one to hear my story, to believe that I had actually been pregnant, and it was recorded in my chart. She knew the feelings of losing a pregnancy, the fears, the jealousy of seeing other pregnant women, the need for answers, to somehow control the process. I was heard. Finally. It was several months later before I could tell my story to others, when I poured my heart out to friends, to my mom. But that one insensitive NP still lingered in my heart.
I started taking every supplement I could to increase my fertility, to lengthen my luteal phase; I tracked my cycles and my ovulation religiously. And it worked, I got pregnant again. This time, I immediately went to see my provider and she confirmed it. She listened, she heard my fears, she was sorry she hadn’t been able to see me last time. She ran labs, tested my progesterone since I was worried about it. It was borderline low, so she prescribed supplements. Whether it really helps is not is not known, but she knew I needed it for my own peace of mind. She ordered an early ultrasound and this time, we saw that tiny little bean with a heartbeat. But I couldn’t let go of my fears. Every time I went to the bathroom I was worried I’d see blood when I wiped. But my little bean grew; every test and ultrasound looked good. But the worry never really left. I had a beautiful, uncomplicated labor at the birth center I had toured before, and I finally held my rainbow baby in my arms a little over a year later.
After my second son was born I became a doula. Then a year later, I trained as a bereavement doula, and I have had the honor to support other families during their time of loss and grief. Because I know now, it is so much better not to go through it alone. To not grieve in silence. 1 in 4 have suffered this. We are not alone. Let’s break the silence.
I had the privilege of attending a really beautiful homebirth for one of my former clients. I had worked with Andrea and Hector two years ago at the birth of their twins. While she had been hoping for a natural, vaginal birth for them, she developed pre-eclampsia and went into pre-term labor at 30 weeks, so it was decided that a cesarean was the safest way for them to be born. They were such tiny babies, and had to stay in the NICU for 53 days. Andrea's older daughter was also born prematurely when she had pre-eclampsia the first time. These births were traumatic for her, and she desperately wanted to be able to avoid that if at all possible this time and have the homebirth she had dreamed of. She took especially good care of her health and diet this time around and when she reached 35 weeks, still healthy, she was released from her high-risk status and got accepted with Central Texas Birth Center for a homebirth. It was such a blessing as she reached full term, perfectly healthy. Andrea's labor began on Friday evening with light contractions that continued through the night and much of the next morning. By noon, they had picked up some, but they still seemed irregular and bearable, so her midwife decided to come check on her. To everyone's surprise she was already 8 centimeters! I came shortly after, and Andrea was doing well, breathing through her contractions and making everything look easy. It wasn't too long, and her water broke. She got into her birth pool and had about three intense contractions and then the baby just slid out before anyone was quite ready. Hector, who had been caring for one of their twins who had been sick, just made it into the pool and was able to catch the baby. Andrea kept remarking after the birth that "that really wasn't too bad." It was a beautiful, gentle birth, with a completely healthy baby who was born right into their arms in the comfort of their own home. It was such a joy to witness and document this birth for this sweet family and see them have the birth that they had waited so long to have.
Andrea and Hector waited to find out the gender, and when he was born, they waited till everyone had gathered to look and to announce that "Its a boy!" He was immediately welcomed by the whole family, two big sisters, two big brothers, and grandmother. His big sister had such a perfect response!
Yes, Phoeniks Ezra, you were indeed worth the wait! Congratulations to Andrea and Hector and the whole family! It was an honor to serve you in both of your births, and to rejoice now with you in the beautiful birth of this beautiful baby!
Congratulations Erin and Paul on the birth of their son, Adrian Leo! This was the second time I had the privilege of supporting Erin, and this was was especially special to me since she was my first doula client ever. She had a long warm-up period (that fortunately allowed me to recover from another birth I had just attended) and then a short, intense labor, making it to the birth center just in time to push and have a peaceful water birth. It was such a joy to see this strong, beautiful mother birth her baby and then introduce him to their daughter and snuggle with both her babies. It was such an honor to be part of the births of both their children and to serve this sweet family!
Congratulations Allegra and Shaune on the birth of Issac Henry, their second son! He weighed in at 7lb 14oz and 21 1/4 inches long. This was such a beautiful, triumphant VBAC as Allegra pressed through her doubts and fears with so much strength and courage and birthed her baby just as the doctor was saying that he needed to be born soon. It was so amazing to see this mama do everything she needed to for her baby! Not a dry eye in the room! It was such a pleasure to work with this sweet couple!
Thalia and Ernesto were overjoyed to welcome their precious daughter, Luna Leigh on July 24 at 6:05am. She weighed in at 7 lbs 10oz and 19 3/4 inches.
Thalia had such a beautiful positive spirit as she adapted with grace to each new challenge ahead of her. Although she hoped for a home birth, she came to accept that her daughter would have to be born in the hospital. And then when her water broke but labor didn't begin, she accepted the induction that she didn't plan on. But eventually, her body took over, and Thalia surrendered to the labor process and accepted the changes her birth plan took. But it was all worth it when her beautiful baby was laid on her chest.
Congratulations Thalia and Ernesto as they begin their parenting journey together!
It was a pleasure to work with you and to be part of your journey!
Congratulations to Marissa and Samuel on the birth of their daughter, Elianna Grace! This beautiful homebirth was a triumphant end to a long story. After a loss, Marissa and Samuel planned a homebirth for their first, who was breech and had to be delivered by cesarean, so determined, they decided to try again for the birth they dreamed of. But after Marissa's water broke, and several days of prodromal labor, that dream seemed to be slipping away. With lots of prayer, careful monitoring, and trust in the birth process from her midwife, Elianna finally decided to make her appearance. And she was born at home, in the water, and caught by her dad. Here is a slideshow that captures the beauty, hard work, loving support, and joyful birth of Elianna Grace.
Congratulations to Katlyn and Gustavo just welcomed their third son, Matias James, into their family.
This sweet couple was such a joy to work with, and Katlyn was such a pro when it came to labor. She had already had two natural births, and when faced with an unexpected induction and other inconveniences, like a faulty monitor that required constant adjustment and no hot water in the shower, she didn't let it stop her. She just kept powering on until she finally had precious little boy was in her arms.
There's just nothing like the rush of emotions when you hold that baby for the first time! This is one powerful mama!
And Gustavo was such a loving and supportive papa. He's already planning the next one!
Its somewhat to be expected that when it comes to birth, mother's get all the attention, and they surely deserve it. But today, on Father's Day, I want to celebrate the amazing dads that have supported the mother's of their babies in such loving, selfless, and caring ways. And seeing the moment a dad looks on his child for the first time is magic. Here are a few of those moments to celebrate the awesomeness of dads. Click through this slideshow to see some of these beautiful moments, when a man becomes a dad. See the loving support for his partner, the joy of seeing their little one for the first time, and the love that beams through in that first cuddle.
Congratulations to Iradis and Kyle on the birth of their son, Micah! Micah is their third child, and second son. He weighed in at 7lb 9 oz, a healthy beautiful little boy!
This is the look of pure joy as mama reaches down to touch her baby for the first time. This was Iradis's second VBAC, which she rocked without pain medication, as was her desire. Kyle is a pretty proud papa too!
Thanks Iradis and Kyle for the privilege to serve you and witness the birth of Micah!
I just love those first blissful snuggles!
Congratulations to Stephanie and Willie on the birth of their beautiful daughter, Sophie James! Sophie was an early Christmas present for her parents who were overjoyed at her arrival on Dec. 22 at Natural Beginning Birth Center. She weighed in at exactly 7lbs. Stephanie did an amazing job coping with her labor and was so relaxed through it all, and Willie was such a loving and supportive presence for her. It was such an honor to work with this great family!
Despite being a rather tumultuous year on the national scale, 2016 has been a great year here at Empowered Birthing, in fact the busiest year yet. I had the privilege of serving 19 families in 2016. There were 5 birth center births, 12 hospital births, 9 unmedicated births, 2 VBACs, and I had the privilege of witnessing two cesarean births (thank you St. David’s Medical Center for supporting doulas in the operating room!). But more important than numbers are all the beautiful families that I had the privilege to serve. At each birth, I watched fierce, strong mamas who worked so hard to bring their babies earthside, and loving partners who believed in them and supported them each step of the way. Every birth presents its own challenges, and each time I see these women look deep within themselves and find their strength to meet their own unique challenges. It is such a joy to behold!
I have also continued to grow in my knowledge and in the services I am able to offer my clients. In January I embarked on my journey to recertify as a doula. Instead of recertifying with my original organization, I have decided to join with DTI (Doula Trainings International). This amazing organization provides a wonderfully supportive community (we doulas need a lot of support from each other in order to keep ourselves replenished) and they provide of model of total inclusivity of all birthing families (whatever size, shape, or color they come in) that prepares us to meet the needs of all our clients and their unique situations. Moreover, they encourage us to be agents of change in the contemporary birth scene. All birthing parents deserve a respectful, compassionate, and evidence-based care! So it has been a pleasure to be part of this organization and be so fully in line with their philosophy. I attended a DTI training last January and became a DTI certified birth and postpartum doula in October. With the addition of my postpartum credentials, I have been able to offer more post-partum care to my clients. I have also begun my training as a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor in order to more fully support my clients in their breastfeeding journey. And as a sneak peek into this new year, I am hoping to increase the diversity of my offerings to include breastfeeding support, childbirth education, and photography. I am excited to share these new offerings with you in the coming months. I have also been elected to serve as the Secretary of CTDA (Central Texas Doula Association) and so look forward to serving the larger doula community in that capacity.
As always, I thank you so much for all your love and support. I had the privilege of serving three families who had been referred to me by lovely past clients. Please keep telling your pregnant friends and acquaintances. (And, I’m hoping to add a new referral bonus, so stay tuned!) I have also received some wonderful testimonials that I am pleased to share. Here are a few of these inspiring words that help me to keep providing better, more individualized support:
“During the birth, more than one time she helped me understand what was going on, to ask questions, and make sure that what they were doing was to my benefit, not to their convenience."
“Despite not having my ideal birth, I left the hospital with my healthy baby feeling empowered in a way, because I was able to advocate for myself despite feeling moments of vulnerability. I was able to handle the initial grief of an unwanted c-section because Jamie was by my side with empathy, allowing me to go home ready for the excitement of being a new mommy.”
“I was much more comfortable with ways to make my wife be calm and more comfortable through labor. Having a doula gave me more options than I knew existed to help my wife.”
“I think the prenatal visits are possibly the most important and most valuable part of the services Jamie offers. The amount of hours she dedicated to me and my partner before the birth was unbelievable. We were so lucky to have her support leading up to the birth.”
I always appreciate getting your feedback, including suggestions for improvement, so that I can better serve my future clients. And I love getting updates from you to see how you’re doing and how your little ones are growing. Please friend me on Facebook if you like; it’s a great way to stay in touch, and be sure to follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/Empoweredbirthingaustin/.
It is such a honor to do the work that I do: to be invited into your birth space, to witness the miracle of new life, and to encourage and support you in your journey as new parents. Thank you for your support of me so that I can continue to serve more families.
Have a blessed New Year!
It is such a honor to do the work that I do: to be invited into your birth space, to witness the miracle of new life, and to encourage and support you in your journey as new parents. Thank you for your support of me so that I can continue to serve more families.
Have a blessed New Year!
These beaming new parents, Sarah and Nick, welcomed their son, Eli Thomas into their arms on July 16 at 10:15pm at Natural Beginning Birth Center. Sarah did such a wonderful job through her long labor, with the loving support of her husband and patient midwife, and eventually all her hard work paid off and she achieved the gentle, natural birth she was hoping for. And she got this beautiful boy!
If there is one issue that stirs the hearts of doulas, birth workers, and birth activists of all stripes, it is informed consent. That presumes the existence of both information that is available and understood, and autonomy. That is, we believe women (and all birthing people) are capable and entitled to make their own decisions about their bodies and the baby they are carrying. But autonomy has a really troubling history in our culture. As far as the feminist movement has come in bringing women autonomy in their careers, in their sexuality, we still as a culture have a great distrust that women can make the “right” decisions regarding their unborn babies. Of course, this plays out in the in abortion debates: whose decision is it whether a woman maintains or terminates her pregnancy? We see it in extreme cases of court-ordered cesareans and women charged as criminals for suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth (yes, these are real). On the everyday level, birth activists get incensed around the language of permission that is so often used in birth and maternity care: “The hospital doesn’t allow you to eat in labor”; “my doctor won’t let me have a VBAC”; “If your baby hasn’t been born by 41 weeks, we will induce,” etc. ad nauseum. (See Birth Monopoly, "You're Not Allowed to Not Allow Me" ) All of this displays a deep distrust in women to make their own decisions. It is paternalismat its core: “don’t worry your pretty little head about this; the doctors, the scientists, the politicians (all historically male professions, even if they now admit women into their ranks) will tell you what to do.
Now enter the CDC’s recent recommendation that all sexually active women not on birth control from their first period until menopause refrain from all alcohol intake ever. The first I heard of this, it seemed laughable, like it must have come from an Onion article. But when I understood its reality, the anger set in. How dare they try to control the daily choices of women like this? How condescending! How paternalistic! And I am hardly alone in this feeling (See Birth Anarchy, The Atlantic, Salon, Forbes). I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt; they are actually concerned about preventing cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in unplanned pregnancies, and they just didn’t realize how tone deaf their message was. But this only represents the prevalence of the paternalism surrounding women’s reproductive choices. Women are reduced to potential baby-makers, 33 million potential baby-makers, that is, 33 million potential babies are at risk of FASD.
So what’s wrong with this sweeping recommendation? Let’s break it down. First is that such a generalization leaves an awful lot of people and scenarios out. What about women who choose to be abstinent and are therefore not on birth control: they could get raped right? Maybe they shouldn’t ever drink either. What about those who have same sex partners? Do they need birth control too? Apparently, they forgot about them, but I guess a lesbian might be raped as well. What about women who rely on their partners to use a condom? Are the men responsible? (Probably not) What about the times when birth control fails? What about women who would terminate if they had an unplanned pregnancy? Maybe all women should just not drink ever, right? Maybe they shouldn’t drive cars either; they might crash and endanger the baby after all. At some point, it just gets ridiculous.
And what about all the women who for medical, religious, or personal reasons choose not to use birth control. What about women for whom birth control is inaccessible? Every form of birth control has its own risks, not only of failure, but of more serious side effects, such as blood clots (ie. the pill) or ectopic pregnancy (ie. an IUD). Whether to use birth control requires an assessment of risk. The CDC’s recommendation fails to take this into account. The risk of fetal alcohol syndrome is real, but the research isn’t as cut and dry as the CDC’s recommendation suggests. The language is actually that there is "no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy" (my emphasis). This doesn’t mean even a single drop will cause harm, it does mean that we don’t know whether one drink is safe but five is not, and therefore it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some research has suggested low levels of alcohol is safe (see here) and other research points out the potential damage that even a little alcohol has on the developing fetus (see here). And this potential risk has to balanced against the risk of birth control itself, or we’re back to saying all women should never drink, ever. Risk is inherent. We will never get a state where there is no risk. So who gets to choose what risk an individual woman is comfortable taking with her body and her pregnancy?
This is where we come back to informed consent, especially the informed part. The CDC has an important role in educating the public and creating awareness around the issue of alcohol and pregnancy. So far, they’re doing a pretty good job. Almost all pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant know to avoid alcohol. We see the signs in the restrooms at every restaurant that serves alcohol. And with the exception of those dealing with addiction, compliance is pretty good. The CDC sees the need to further educate people who are not actively trying to become pregnant but might have unplanned pregnancies and who are still consuming alcohol. Then by all means, please continue to educate the public about the risks of alcohol use and pregnancy. And we certainly need work to make contraceptives safer, more affordable, and more available. But, most of all, let’s trust women to evaluate the risks and make an informed decision for themselves. This is where the CDC could learn from doulas. As non-medical professionals, we do not offer medical advice or recommendations, but we are experts at presenting evidence-based information in a non-biased way. We trust women and their partners to be able to evaluate that information and make the decisions that are right for them. If, as we believe, a woman is capable of weighing the risks of a VBAC and a repeat cesarean and making the decision that is best for herself and her actual baby, then she can also decide whether or not to have a glass of wine with dinner.
Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I witness it every time a new family lays eyes on their baby for the first time. I love what I do. I love being part of this miracle, of being invited to participate in the first moments that you have together. I love seeing your love, your joy, your strength, your determination.
It has been another wonderful year of serving families through Empowered Birthing. It has been my privilege to serve eleven families through their birthing journey in 2015, and another three families this year. I have witnessed a great variety of births: VBACs, twins, hospital births and out-of-hospital births, cesarean births, natural births, marathon births, and fast intense births. But in each one, I have seen mothers calling on their deepest strength to bring their babies into the world.
Through each birth, I learn more about the wonderful process of birth. I have also had the opportunity to expand my learning in more formal ways in order to expand the services I provide. In the summer, I completed my training as a Go Diaper Free Certified Coach. Through this program, I solidified my interest and learning about Elimination Communication (aka infant potty training). I have started a monthly support group for families practicing EC, and I am available for private consults as well. If you are interested in knowing more about this, I would love to share more. One of the most valuable workshops I have been able to attend was with Spinning Babies, which teaches us how to support optimal fetal position for easier and faster births. It really has revolutionized my doula practice. I was also able to attend a training with Susan Steffes, a specialist in women’s pelvic physical therapy, where we learned many ways to support women’s pelvic health through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I was also able to learn more about Postpartum Mood Disorders through a workshop with Postpartum Health Alliance of Central Texas. And just last month, I embarked on my recertification process with DTI (Doula Training International) as a birth and postpartum doula. I am very excited about my new connection with DTI, which more closely aligns with my philosophy. They are strong advocates for improving the maternity care system and for women’s (and doulas) autonomy, and committed to fostering a strong sense of community. I am happy to be affiliated with this organization, and I look forward to growing with them. I am also excited to begin expanding my postpartum services.
I love the work that I do, and it has been an honor to support each and every family that I serve. I really pour my heart into helping you achieve the best birth possible. I hope that you will share the love and consider writing a testimonial about your experience with me and by sharing with your friends about my services. Please keep in touch. It is always a pleasure to hear from you, see pictures of your babies, and help you with any parenting questions you may have. You are welcome to follow me on Facebook, both personally and my business page at https://www.facebook.com/Empoweredbirthingaustin/.
Happy Valentines Day! May you and your family be blessed with an abundance of love!