It’s the question every first time mom wonders…
What is labor like? It's so natural to want to skip over labor and just meet that baby already but it's not so simple! Our hope is that this helps ease your anxiety through learning the practical side to labor.
You may have heard of the “Stages of Labor” but we are here to tell you what that actually means! Let me break it down for you.
First Stage of Labor
The first stage of labor is your body getting ready to give birth and is typically the longest stage of labor. There are several early signs of labor that all lead up to the big show. This first stage focuses on opening up the cervix. The cervix sits right at the base of the uterus and remains closed during pregnancy to keep the baby in. There is so much more that happens though.
Most people focus on “dilation” of the cervix but it actually does several things to prep for your baby’s birth. It becomes soft and effaced or thins. Effacement is reported in percentage with 100% being ready for baby and 0% meaning you have a ways to go before giving birth. It moves forward to more accurately align with the vaginal opening. Think a straight line rather than an “L” shape.
That first stage of labor lasts until your cervix is 10 cm dilated and ready for a baby to pass through. This means that all of the other components of cervical preparation like effacement, moving position and softening have also happened. So early labor, active labor and transition are all included in this first stage of labor.
Second Stage of Labor
Once your cervix is fully prepared for your baby’s birth and you are ready to push, you move into the second stage of labor.
The second stage of labor includes the time spent pushing and the birth of your baby! This is fairly straight forward but can involve a bit of anxiety for many people when they think about birth. Pushing can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. The length of this stage heavily relies on a few different factors including the position of the baby, if you have had a previous vaginal delivery, the shape of the pelvis and more.
Pushing and birth is often when we find parents incredibly grateful for doula support. We are able to step in and offer encouragement and physical aid as many parents are exhausted and running on their last bit of energy at that point.
Pushing is demanding on both the maternal body and the support team as there is a lot leading up to this point, one being a lack of sleep. We see empty water bottles and fill them, we find ways to help sustain physically demanding pushing positions to conserve that precious energy for both the woman and her partner.
We make sure that her support team is nourished and has time to use the bathroom. We take note of when birth is imminent and make sure everyone is present and has taken any needed breaks well before that time. We revisit your desires for your birth and make sure your birth team is all on the same page so you don’t look back with regret having missed those moments. Your doula sees the stress sitting above your brows and rub them away or talk you through relaxing between pushes. A doula supports you!
So you are enjoying those first moments of your newborn in your arms, maybe doing skin to skin with you or maybe just gazing into their brand new eyes. But you’re not done yet!
Third Stage of Labor
Did you know there is a third stage of labor even after your baby is born? There is! But it’s usually pretty short. The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta.
Most often, this happens within about 5-10 minutes of the baby’s birth and is fairly uneventful but other times it takes longer and a bit more effort to fully release. Some providers will push on your tummy to help the placenta release, they may slightly tug on the umbilical cord and other times it comes out all on its own. They may ask you to give a little push and after pushing a baby out, this feels like a cake walk!
Once you’ve delivered the placenta you’ve made it! All three stages of labor are complete and you get to soak in those newborn snuggles!
Prepare Well: Doula Support & Childbirth Classes
If you’ve decided that you’d like doula support for your birth, contact us and we will get you more information on our offerings and schedule a meet and greet with one of our incredible doula teams! They are eager to meet you and see how they can support your specific desires for your birth.
We also offer childbirth classes in Bellingham and Skagit Valley where we dive into more detail about these topics. All of our classes are taught by our doulas too! They’ve been there supporting families in the doula role many times and know what it is like so you can ask all of those burning questions about what labor feels like!
You’re 39 weeks pregnant and ready to be done. It’s been nine months of feeling those sweet and sometimes painful kicks, a bit of nausea, heartburn and lots of anticipation.
I’m pretty sure it is meant to be uncomfortable by the time we make it to the end of pregnancy. We are ready to do anything to get this baby out! And so we have the motivation, the determination and the will to go through anything necessary to meet this baby.
So much goes into this process of pregnancy, labor and birth!
You start to feel a little crampy on and off and don’t think much of it. It is the middle of the night after all. You roll over and once again, try to find that comfortable position to sleep in and realize you need to get up and pee.
That’s a lot of work. You pee a depressingly small amount, stand up and make your way to the bed. Another one hits. This time it’s undeniably a contraction. You feel crampy, it intensifies a bit then wears off.
So what now? Do you go back to bed? Do you wake up your partner in excitement? After all, you both have been waiting for labor to hit! When do you start timing contractions? How do you time contractions?
All of these questions and emotions begin to flood your mind.
There’s a lot to think about when you think labor may have started. We want to bring some clear cut steps and make it easy for you. So here are some answers to the big question…
I think I am in labor. Now what do I do?!
1) ALERT YOUR BIRTH TEAM! This could be your labor doula, your midwife or OB/Gyn or anyone else you would like to be involved in your labor and delivery. Then do everything in your power to GO BACK TO SLEEP! Labor can be a marathon and sleep is your best ally. The more energy you can conserve in those early hours of labor, the better off you’ll be at the end.
2) If you have tried and tried to sleep and just can’t, EAT A NUTRITIOUS MEAL AND STAY HYDRATED. Think about something you’d eat before a big workout. Nothing too heavy, but something with enough density to it that it will get you through.
3) RELAX and DISTRACT: If that means taking a shower, then do it! If that means baking a birthday cake, do that! The goal is to keep your mind off of your contractions as much as possible until you are no longer able to distract yourself from them. This is also the time to take that last pregnant belly photo if you want one before you meet your baby! Better sneak that in there now!
4) Once you are no longer able to distract yourself during your contractions, this is when you can start timing them. We recommend using the “Full Term App” on your iphone or android. This app will automatically tell you how long your contractions are, how far apart they are and give you an option to track the intensity of each contraction.
5) TRACK THEM FOR ONE HOUR: Please don’t get hung up on tracking your contractions. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and completely consumed by your contractions. That is not what we want. So we suggest tracking them for an hour and then putting it away until you notice a big change. Then you can track them again and contact your care provider when you are seeing the signs that they have directed you to look for.
Often, your OB/Gyn or Midwife will give you a metric like 5-1-1. This means to watch for when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, one minute long and holding this for at least one hour. These numbers vary based on a few factors, but this will be something that your app can tell you and will be a cue to go to your chosen birth location.
Timing a contraction using the “Full Term App” includes pressing “Start” when you feel the contraction starting and then pressing “Stop” once you feel it subside. We highly recommend this as labor tends to be consuming and this offers an easy solution.
If you would rather use a stopwatch and piece of paper, start your timer when the contraction starts. Mark down the time when you feel it subside. That first number is the duration of your contractions. Then mark down the time when your next contraction starts. The time that elapsed between the beginning of the first contraction to the beginning of the second contraction is characterized as the time between contractions.
If you are looking for a birth doula in Skagit Valley or in Whatcom County, we would love to chat further. We also offer birth classes in Skagit Valley and Whatcom County where we dive into greater detail around what to do when labor starts and how to time contractions.
Photo credit: Renee Bergeron of Little Earthling Photography
I am getting real with you all here. I want to shed light on my personal experience, and it might surprise you!
I consider myself a pretty normal person. I love Seahawks football, breaking out and having a kitchen dance party with my kiddos and husband, exploring the beautiful landscape around us in the PNW through hiking when I have the chance and just being real with my people on the daily.
But this little piece of me can throw people off...
I am a birth doula.
Most associate the job of “birth doula” with a different type of person. Something along the lines of hyper spiritual, hippy, and more. And my reality is I just don’t fit that mold and yet I still LOVE MY JOB!
So when I told my community I decided on an elective induction for my second birth, it caught some off guard. This came as no surprise to me.
The thing about it though is that I was confident and empowered with my decision. I was dealing with PTSD from my first delivery and knew that a more predictable birth would help both myself and my husband walk into this new birth experience with confidence.
And you know what?! I LOVED my induced labor and delivery!
I was empowered to make choices for myself and I did!
It was intense though!
Don’t for one second think it was easy. I am pretty certain that from the time I was in an active labor pattern to the time my son was born was about an hour and a half.
I describe it as a tornado going through my body. But it was exhilarating!
I felt so incredibly powerful and strong! My husband felt confident and grounded. We never doubted our decision to induce.
In the end, we made the right decision for us. We took all the evidence based information into account and proceeded using our best judgement that made the most sense for our family.
This experience has greatly influenced how I treat my clients in my birth doula work. Bellingham, WA is somewhat known as an especially liberal, hippy part of the Pacific Northwest.
Many people assume that all doula care flows right along with that and that they will be judged if they decide to accept medical intervention during their birth with a doula in Bellingham.
This is the opposite of my approach. I go into every birth with an open mind, keeping the mentality that no one knows what is best for my birth doula clients other than the birthing person.
No one knows her internal experience better than the birthing person.
I remain unbiased and support. At the end of the day, it’s my job and man was I grateful that I was treated this way by my birth support team during my induction!
If you are looking for unbiased, non-judgmental support in preparing for your birth, check out our services. We offer a two great birth classes in Lynden as well as two birth classes in Mount Vernon. Both are packed full of useful, evidence based information that will help you navigate decision making through pregnancy, birth and beyond!
Our birth doula services are a great option as well! It’s always a great idea to have someone who is on your team supporting you no matter what choices you make! Contact us today! We would love to chat all things birth with you!
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that people tend to tell you exactly what is on their mind without holding back.
People act as if a growing belly is a sign saying something like, “I want all of you thoughts, opinions and advice on anything and everything.”
Here's a list of some things people have said along with some suggestions for things to say instead. If you've said some of these things to a pregnant person before give yourself some grace, then sit back and take notes.
What people say vs what they should say
1. You’re huge! → You’re looking great!
2. Are you sure you’re not having twins? → You’re looking great!
3. You’re tiny! → You’re looking great!
4. You need an epidural! → There are so many ways to give birth. You’re going to do great!
5. You’re planning a natural birth right? → There are so many ways to give birth. You’re going to do great!
6. You need a (insert chosen gender)! → Congratulations!
7. You’re pregnant again?! → Congratulations!
8. Those kids are going to be too close in age! → How exciting!
9. When are you going to try for your next baby? → You’re growing a great family!
10. Make sure you have (insert chosen baby gear here). → Let me know if you’d like any tips or help picking out baby gear!
11. Get ready to feel like a cow from breastfeeding → Your baby is so lucky to have you as their parent. If you ever feel like you need more support at any capacity, let me know. I know of several great resources in our community.
12. You’re cloth diapering right? → Your baby is so lucky to have you as their parent. If you ever feel like you need more support at any capacity, let me know. I know of several great resources in our community.
13. Let me tell you about my birth… → Nope. Just keep your story to yourself for now. Comparison is never a good thing for a pregnant woman. If she wants to hear it, share it after she has her baby.
14. You’re naming them what?! → It sounds like a lot of thought went into that name.
15. You’re giving birth in Bellingham, WA? Don’t go with (insert provider’s name)! → There are so many great providers in Bellingham! You’re going to make a great choice!
16. You’re having your baby in Mount Vernon? You better go with (insert birth location)! → There are several great places to give birth in Mount Vernon. I am excited for you!
17. You are having a C-section?! WHY? → It sounds like you’re making the right choice for you and your baby.
18. You’re too young to be pregnant. → There is so much to look forward to with a new baby.
19. It's about time! → Congratulations!
20. You know formula is horrible for the baby right? → How are you doing? I am so happy for you!
Obviously we always want to remain genuine while talking to anyone. So if the positive spin on these statements don’t sit well, keep it to yourself.
There is plenty to think about while preparing for a new baby. Please don’t add to the stress. We understand most of these statements are well meaning but we never know someone’s internal battles.
What were some things that others said to you that caught you off guard? Have you said any of these statements? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
North Cascade Doulas is a group of doulas in Bellingham, WA who are focused on providing unbiased labor support, childbirth education and placenta services to our families. If you are looking for a doula in Skagit County or the surrounding areas, reach out today. You’re sure to only get the positive statements from us.
When Should I invite family and friends to come visit my newborn?
This is a question we get all the time and it is unique to the comfort level of every new parent. Often times, when someone goes into labor the first thing to happen is she thinks of who she needs to tell.
There are certainly people who need to know when labor begins. Some of these “need to know” category people would include:
→ your medical care provider
→ your birth doula
→ anyone taking care of other children or pets
→ any support people who plan on attending your birth
Sometimes there are other people who need to know when labor begins, but this seems to be a pretty comprehensive list of the NEED to know people.
Notice I said “need to know”???
Of course there is a “want to know” category as well, but these are people who do NOT need to know that you are in labor. These people are typically family members and close friends who will take all the updates they can get and jump at the chance to come see you and your new baby any hour of the day or night.
The thing to think about is how often you, your partner or your doula want to be attached to your phone updating these people.
Typically, people appreciate a predictable game plan. This means that labor makes this tricky as labor rarely plays by our rulebook. So, how do you want to manage communicating with the people who will be your baby’s first visitors?
Do you want to tell them as soon as you have the first signs of labor and let them know that you will update them when the baby is here?
Would you rather wait until you know labor is well underway and then send out one group text so that you’re not typing the same thing over and over?
How about creating a Facebook group page that you post updates to?
For those unsure of when they will want their family rushing in to meet the baby, think about setting strict expectations during pregnancy with these people. You could let them know that you are not going to be having any visitors at your chosen birth location and you will let them know when you are settled in at home and they are welcome at that point (or whenever you decide).
Then, if you determine that you would love for your favorite people to visit prior to going home, you can pleasantly surprise them with an invitation.
This way, you will not have an eager group of well intentioned family bogging down the waiting room while you are in the throws of labor and feeling any pressure from them.
But hey! If you want visitors to come to your birth location, that’s great too! Just make sure you clearly communicate any expectations you may have for them ahead of time.
If you are planning on a hospital birth in Bellingham, St. Joseph Childbirth Center only allows 5 support people per labor room. After you have given birth, the visitors are free to come and go but only during their visiting hours.
Make sure to check with your local birth location to confirm that they are able to accommodate your desires when it comes to people visiting you during labor or after you have given birth.
If you decide that your visitors need to leave either while you are in labor or after giving birth, a doula can be that person to give them the boot. Doulas are great at helping to buffer the tension in a room and support your desires in your birth.
We cover the topic of boundaries and so much more in depth in both of our birth classes in Lynden and Mount Vernon. Follow this link to sign up for one of our birth classes in Whatcom or Skagit County today! We would love to see you there!
With the release of the new iPhone 11 the camera is all the rage! I know, I just got one for that very reason (and there was a killer deal I couldn’t resist). But it’s true, the iPhone 11 camera is crazy cool!
So, the questions begin…
Will my doula take photos during my labor?
Do I need to hire a birth photographer during my labor as well?
It makes total sense.
A picture can say 1,000 words.
And when it comes to those special times in the life of a family such as birth, photos can mean everything!
In my experience as a Bellingham and Skagit Valley birth doula, the answer is… kinda.
I do my very best. But I say that with a huge caveat. I am your doula first. That means in a labor I am most focused on supporting you and your birth team. I want to see you well supported and your partner or other support people sustained. I am going to make sure you are coping with contractions well, that your partner is fed, that your mental game is strong and that your partner is not passing out from feeling overwhelmed by the birth process.
Then, if all that leaves space for a couple simple photos I am all about that. Although you will need to specify that you’d like photos and what you do want and do not want them to be involved.
How modest are you and what are your most important photos you would like? Sometimes I’ll leave clients with 50+ photos on their iphone and other times I don’t get more than 1 or two photos.
If you desire high quality birth photos, we highly recommend hiring a local birth photographer. There are several in our area that will be able to provide you with intentional pictures, much better than the exciting capabilities of the iPhone 11 can do.
In the end, our goal is to serve Bellingham and Skagit families through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum experience.
So if birth photography is not your top priority and you're okay with a few iPhone photos of your labor and delivery as time allows, hire your North Cascade doula team and we will do our very best to capture some photos for you.
Contact us today to learn more!
Introducing the idea of a new sibling to a child is a delicate task. Often times parents worry about when to do this and what to say. Here are a few things to consider when thinking through how to prepare your child for this transition.
1. Consider your child's age
The older the child is, the more information they can handle and the more time they may need to process the information. The opposite is also true.
Younger children need more simple language, less details and less time waiting in anticipation. If you’ve ever been on a road trip with young children, you’ve probably heard “Are we there yet?!”
Think of pregnancy in a similar way.
2. Give your child a concrete way to help them understand waiting
Something like, “Your little brother or sister will be here when we start seeing pumpkins at the grocery store” or “When we start wearing our warm clothes.”
Making something like a paper chain that they can remove a link on may also be a good option. The trick is that sometimes we can’t anticipate when the baby will make their arrival so adding in the caveat that the baby gets to surprise us is essential.
3. Books and shows are great resources
If you have a young child, there are several books that talk about pregnancy and the changes they can expect to experience with a newborn in the house.
Daniel Tiger Season 2 Episodes 1-4 address his little sister’s impact on his life and how that makes him feel. This provides a great conversation starter for young children (think toddlers up to around age 4 or so).
There are several books that debunk pregnancy, birth and having a new sibling in child-specific language.
My personal favorite book suggestions are: “I’m a Big Sister” or “I’m a big brother” by Joanna Cole, and “My New Baby” or “Waiting for Baby” by Rachel Fuller.
4. Provide an open invitation for conversation
Children often process information in waves. You may think that they comprehend something and then they surprise you in the grocery store with all their burning questions.
Try to engage in conversation and answer their questions as they come up as simply as possible. Think of it as sort of grazing rather than one big long lecture conversation.
Allowing them to take the lead and initiate conversation can be helpful for their processing.
5. Get out the baby gear well before the baby arrives
This may trigger more questions from your child and most likely prompt them to process further the changes that are going to take place.
If you’re going to use a crib, have your child “help” in an age appropriate way. For a very young child, you could have them bring you a measuring tape or box (regardless of if that actually gets anything relevant done).
For an older child, they may be able to turn a screw for you or hold a piece while you secure it. Not only is this time aiding the child in processing, it is also providing you both with quality time together.
6. Prep special activities to use when the baby requires all of you
Small bins that are only for pre-determined times can make a normally challenging time something to look forward to.
Some examples of activities to use for these times are legos, a special art project, I-Spy books, Polly Pocket toys or basically anything you wouldn’t want a baby to get into.
Make sure these activities are something the child can do without much help. Times when this may come in handy are during feedings, while you’re calming a crying baby or putting the baby down for a nap.
7. Plan for special 1 on 1 time with your older child
It is normal for your older child to feel jealous. Their world likely has been turned upside down from the arrival of a new baby. They now have one more person to split their parent(s) attention with and that is a tough reality.
Carve out time specifically for your older child. You may be surprised at how much that will do for both you and your child.
8. Prepare a small (or not so small) gift for your older child.
I am not sure I have ever met a child who does not like a gift.
When your older child meets your baby, you can tell them that the baby wanted them to have this gift. That distraction can be a welcomed ice breaker when the moment comes as it can be a shock for your older child.
We hope these tips are helpful!
Let us know how you prepared your older child to meet their new sibling! We'd love to hear your thoughts!
Simply put, no.
Even if he is a trained doula, it really blurs the lines. He is your husband. Maybe he is a trained doula. He can’t effectively be both your husband and your doula simultaneously for you.
One of the mainstays of the doula role is to offer unbiased, non-judgmental support.
I 100% agree that a husband or partner is able to offer non-judgmental support, but what about unbiased support?
After all, they are your partner! They have huge bias! And don’t get me wrong, that is NOT a bad thing, it just makes them your partner and NOT your doula.
Ok cool, so my partner can’t be my doula but I’m good. He is super supportive and knows what I need.
So why should I hire a doula?
Author, Kristina McMurtrey, is a passionate doula who aims to see families supported regardless of their unique way of navigating pregnancy, birth and parenting.
North Cascade Doulas provides care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
We specialize in :
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / multiples / breastfeeding / bottle feeding / formula feeding / NICU / PPD / PPMD / bed rest / high risk / low risk / advanced maternal age / miscarriage / IVF / and more.
Areas we Serve:
We serve Whatcom and Skagit Counties and the neighborhoods of Alger / Anacortes / Bellingham / Big Lake / Birch Bay / Blaine / Bow / Burlington / Clear Lake / Custer / Everson / Ferndale / Glen Haven / La Conner / Laurel / Lynden / Mount Vernon / Sedro Woolley / Sudden Valley