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!
“Mom guilt. Consolation prize. Not a natural birth. Easy way out.”
These are all phrases I have heard women say when “C-section” is brought up.
What the actual heck?!?!
Do we, as a society not realize exactly all that goes into a surgical birth? Because I truly believe that if we step back and look at all that goes into a c-section (and all that comes out too) we would have more respect for the process and the women who give birth this way.
Allow me to shed some light on the often unforeseen realities of this surgery.
It actually IS a major surgery. MAJOR. They literally take your uterus out of your body. But then it’s life changing! You get a baby at the end!
I dont know of any other major surgery where they basically give you a prize.
The recovery is no-joke. Things that many take for granted such as carrying my older child, driving and walking up stairs are out of the question for the immediate recovery period. It makes for a good excuse to take it easy!
And if you forget to slow down, your body will tell you but heads up! You probably won't like it.
Your arms will be stretched out to the sides and possibly strapped down for the surgery. Laying down on the operating table totally exposed with your arms stretched out. It is a weird feeling.
You may get extremely nauseous or vomit. This is completely normal and completely awful.
For the record, puking while having to lay on your back sucks. The anesthesiologist typically is right next to your head through the whole procedure and usually pretty on top of helping you through that with suction and a vomit bag.
They are your new best friend.
You will notice pressure and tugging as they are performing the surgery. The anestheia doesn’t numb you from feeling pressure and during this surgery, there is a whole lot of it!!! It can be extremely uncomfortable.
Let me rephrase that… It can actually HURT!
Some area hospitals have the option for a clear drape so you can watch the procedure. If this is your thing and you can handle that at least.
If you have a support person in the OR with you and pick the clear drape, make sure they’re able to handle that as well. They will see much more than you will and I promise that your medical team doesn't want your support person suddenly becoming a patient right alongside you.
An alternative to this is to ask your medical team to drop the drape when the baby is delivered. This may be a good “happy medium” for everyone.
Your baby will be born relatively quickly (5-10 min) but the repair takes much longer (30-45 min). They seem shocked that the baby is out so quickly and then wonder what is taking so long when they are still in surgery for the repair.
In an urgent or emergent cesarean, they deliver the baby VERY quickly and general anesthesia may be used.
The OR is often very COLD. It’s a sterile environment and everyone but you is covered in sterile gowns and hair nets and gloves and basically a ton of layers.
Everyone but you.
So, as the patient on the operating table, naked, you may feel cold. You may even shake. Hang in there! If you took a birth class and practiced any coping tools for contractions, this is a great time to put those to the test!
Think long, slow breaths, visualizations, scents (if your local hospital allows this) or music.
Coughing, vomiting, laughing sneezing etc. can feel like your insides are trying to come out after the procedure. Things like holding a pillow over the incision can help mitigate this. It will get better!!!
Bowel movements are something that you may have taken for granted prior to surgery. Many women experience constipation post surgery as their bowels had to be heavily manipulated in order to get the baby out.
Most likely, your provider will prescribe something to help with this. My advice? Listen to your provider! The last thing you want is to be constipated.
You will still have postpartum bleeding just like you do after a vaginal birth. I wish the surgery could totally spare women from this but it unfortunately doesn’t. You still deal with the dreaded month long (sometimes more, sometimes less) postpartum period.
So, to everyone who thinks a C-section is the easy way out, think again!
These women who have gone through a C-section are warriors! This means of giving birth is still tough and intense and a big deal!
Let’s stop mom-shaming around the means in which we all give birth already!
You with me?!
If only babies came with a manual. Am I right?!
For real though. Couldn’t we get a little more help with this whole newborn parenting gig? It can be overwhelming leaving the confines of that birth center with all those knowledgeable medical professionals and head into the great unknown on our own home!
Should I wake her up? Is she breathing? How do I know how long to let her sleep?
Is she crying because she’s hungry again or is she tired? Should I swaddle her or take her on a car ride?
Why is she STILL crying?!
The early days are trying. Sleep deprivation while getting to know an entirely new human that is 100% reliant on you for EVERYTHING can be so brutal! So, we’ve come up with a list of 10 things that may help you navigate this time.
Newborns cry. A lot. It can be stressful but it’s important to remember that crying is their only form of communication until they are able to smile and coo around the 4-6 week mark. Keep it all in perspective. This time is fleeting and the last thing that new parents need is for their adult relationships to suffer.
Remind your partner (if applicable) that they are still you’re first priority. It’s so easy to get caught up in the constant needs of your new baby and forget about your other relationships. Reminding each other how you feel can make all the difference.
Feeding can be such a challenge, regardless of how you do it. What works for you and your baby is not going to be the right choice for everyone else. Try to keep in mind that you are this baby’s parent for a reason and take your needs into consideration and reach out for help! We have awesome lactation consultants in Whatcom County and Skagit County who are ready and willing to help you!
Whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed, bottle feed with breast milk, bottle feed with formula or another mode of feeding, find the support you need to help your feeding time be as relaxed as possible. Set up stations with snacks and water bottles around the house.
Often times, as soon as you sit down you will realize what you need. If there are stations already set up, chances are that it is within reaching distance.
The Endless "To-Do" List
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Do dishes when the baby does dishes. Am I right?! Sleep is so challenging for most new parents and simplifying it to saying “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is such a joke.
There are endless tasks that would stare me in the face as soon as my baby fell asleep and ignoring those things just simply wasn’t an option. What worked for my family won’t work for others but may help. We made a list of our top priorities.
One list included tasks that had to get done EACH DAY. Then a list of the things that had to get done ONCE A WEEK and so forth. This put it all in perspective for us and I was able to relax a bit more and actually recover from giving birth!
The Sleepless Nights
It is normal for your newborn to sleep (nearly) all day and party all night. Remember those parties your baby would throw during pregnancy right as you finally found that comfortable spot in bed? When you were pregnant, they were rocked to sleep as you went about your day and then woke as you settled down in the evening.
Newborns have to adjust to a new normal. Well, lots of new normals but this is a big one. This can be very frustrating for tired parents but it will shift eventually.
When changing a newborn’s diaper, bicycle kicks are your friend. If you’ve ever been around a newborn, you may have noticed that as soon as they got that fresh diaper on, they pooped immediately.
Rather than taking that dirty diaper off right away, expose the baby to some fresh air then cover them back up and do some leg pumps or gentle tummy rubs and wait a minute or two. This may save you a few diapers.
Set up changing stations around the house. Having some diapers and wipes easily accessible makes diaper changes a little less of a task. Remember, changing pads are not 100% necessary 100% of the time. An old hand towel or changing pad liner can become a great barrier between the baby and the surface you are changing them on.
“My baby hates the car and everyone talked about how they are supposed to fall asleep in the car.” I’ll just say it, if this is you, I am so sorry. I had two babies who HATED the car. They would cry so hard that they would be dripping with sweat once we got to our destination.
Some tricks I learned were rolling down the window (when weather allowed), dressing them in cool clothing so they didn’t get too warm, and driving on those road bumps. I am sure we got several people thinking we were crazy, but this helped!
The First Bath
Sponge baths will be just fine until the umbilical cord stump falls off (which is quite a smelly process by the way) as it is important not to get it wet. A wet washcloth with a small amount of baby-friendly soap will do the trick. Then follow up with a good lotion as newborn skin can be quite dry.
Don’t forget to get in all those sneaky folds as that is the prime location for breast milk or formula to get stuck and will get stinky real fast. Some of those locations include the groin folds, under the chin, the armpits and behind the ears.
When the time comes to do the first bath, make sure the water is warm but not too hot. Test the temperature on your inner wrist. If it is too warm for you, it is way too warm for your baby.
Try laying a warm, wet hand towel or washcloth over your baby’s exposed body. This will help them stay warm and enjoy their bath time.
Learn a good swaddle technique. Babies are super restricted for space during pregnancy. Swaddling them reminds them of this.
For those Houdini babies, try a swaddle technique that tucks their arms in a pocket before wrapping them up. There are many different ways to do it, and each baby is going to need something slightly different.
They may hate it as your are wrapping them up, but soon enough, they will give in and probably fall asleep. Good luck! P.s. We teach a great swaddle technique in our birth class!
At North Cascade Doulas, we love this stuff!
We exist to support local families as they navigate the unforeseen joys and challenges that come with bringing a baby home.
As birth doulas in Bellingham and the surrounding areas, we aim to see our clients supported through the ups and downs. If you have questions, we have answers! We will walk alongside you through your unique pregnancy, birth and postpartum story.
Contact us today to learn more about birth doula services in Skagit Valley and Whatcom County or local childbirth classes. We would be overjoyed to get to know your desires for this season and how you desire to be supported.
If you’ve shared your pregnancy news, most likely you’ve been told congratulations more than you can count quickly followed by either some pregnancy and birth horror stories or advice.
People love giving advice and we all learn this oh so quickly during pregnancy, birth and parenting.
I’d love to say it will soon stop but this is only the beginning. The hope is that you’ll get used to it or learn some slightly snarky responses ;)
We don’t want to add to the mounds and mounds of advice so we thought we would share some more helpful information…
15 pregnancy symptoms that no one told you:
If you’re pregnant and have not experienced some or all of these things, you’ve been warned now!
In our birth class we cover these pregnancy symptoms and ways to ease the discomfort associated with them.
Skagit Valley! We have been listening and are now teaching our birth class in Mount Vernon! Check out our services page for our upcoming class schedule.
The hope is that you don’t deal with all of these issues, but if you do and have a way that you have worked around it, let us know your trick in the comments! We’re always looking for new ways to help our clients deal with the struggles and discomforts of pregnancy.
It's 10pm and you just crawled into bed for the night. After a full day of work, the back and forth of what to eat for dinner, and a Netflix binge of This is Us, you've had a good cry and are ready for bed.
Bed. It's such a lovely thing. But by the time the end of the third trimester comes, sleep feels like somewhat of a novelty. You climb into bed and after an hour long battle of finding that comfortable position, you FINALLY fall asleep.
20 minutes later you wake up to a strong, rhythmic cramping sensation. This is what they all talk about! This may be labor!
When does labor start? How do I know when I am in labor? What is the difference between labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions?
These are the million dollar questions.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was SO READY to be done around week… cough* cough* 6 when I was uncontrollably throwing up all day every day. This lasted until around week 22 of my pregnancy. My hypermesis graviderum, also known as HG, finally let up (this is a diagnosed medical condition during pregnancy that is essentially morning sickness on steroids).
If you’ve known someone who has dealt with HG, they basically resemble a superhero. Going through that (and I didn’t have it nearly as bad as others) is quite possibly the worst thing ever.
Once I hit 22 weeks, the summer heat started to creep in. I spent the bulk of my third trimester pregnancy in the peak of summer’s heat. Yuck.
There is PLENTY of sweat that already happens while pregnant, but add a whopping dose of 90-100 degree weather, a touch of humidity and no air conditioning and it sends just about anyone over the edge!
Then we rounded the corner toward the home stretch and once I hit my due date I had real contractions!
If you’ve ever heard this term, I’m assuming you’re either a birth professional or you’ve personally experienced it. And if you’ve personally experienced it, you know how exhausting it is and what an emotional rollercoaster it creates.
Prodromal labor sucks. Here’s the big question that (nearly) every woman dealing with false labor asks…
How will I know when labor actually starts?
These prelabor or false labor contractions are believed to tone your uterus and prime it for labor. How cool and yet annoying is that! Am I right?!
During that time, I thought my water broke twice on top of thinking I may be in labor several times. So I went into the hospital twice only to get sent home feeling quite defeated and as if I’d be in labor forever!
I dealt with that false labor for 7 LONG days until the real thing started. I still recall my first real contraction. Oh boy it was intense!
Labor contractions take your breath away.
There was a distinct shift in intensity I experienced once my labor took shape. I was able to time my false labor contractions but they did not take my breath away.
With a majority of the women who I’ve worked with as their birth doula, this is also the case. They are able to delineate between labor contractions and braxton hicks/false labor contractions once they have experienced their labor contractions.
Over time, labor contractions will become longer in duration, stronger in intensity and closer together.
This means that over a couple hours, you should notice that the contraction pattern is changing. To time a contraction, start a timer once you feel it begin. Then stop your timer once the tightening has diminished.
The duration of the contraction is exactly as it sounds. It is characterized as the time elapsed from the start of the contraction to the time that it ends.
Intensity is characterized by how you experience the contraction relative to other contractions you have felt. Be careful not to over think this as we dont want you obsessing over what the contractions feel like. Some women feel overwhelmed in the earlier stages of labor and begin to doubt their ability to make it through labor. Keep in mind that your body will continue to progress in various ways, including providing you with endorphins (our bodies natural pain killer) as you experience more discomfort.
The time in between contractions is calculated as the amount of time that passes from the start of one contraction to the start of the next contraction.
We highly recommend doula support as we are trained to recognize the onset of labor and can assist you in knowing when to contact your care provider or when to go to your chosen birth location. North Cascade Doulas is excited to support any birth center birth or hospital birth. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today!
We go more in depth into this information around what the onset of labor looks and feels like in our childbirth education series. If you would like to join us, check out our current schedule of classes offered in Whatcom County and Skagit County.
How did you experience the onset of labor? Was it gradual? Was it obvious from the first contraction?
Are you currently pregnant in Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, or Birch Bay? We provide labor doula care all throughout Whatcom and Skagit Counties!
But the search can be overwhelming. Where do I even start? What is a doula? Do I need a doula? What does a doula cost? Will these doulas even call me back? And the list goes on….
Let's break this down.
A professional labor doula has trained with a reputable organization and has the expertise they need to care for families and their support team through pregnancy, labor and birth. They maintain current liability insurance, CPR certifications, and have a current business license.
Do I need a doula?
A labor doula provides support to the entire birth team. Your partner has someone there if they need to go to the bathroom, to remind them to eat and drink. We fill in the gaps. Whenever you need support, We’re there!
What many people fail to recognize is that your care provider is there for your medical care and that is their first priority. They also care about you and your team’s well-being, but when it comes down to it, they have charting to do and most likely, other patients. Your doula is your knowledgeable, unbiased, constant person.
"Your doula is your knowledgeable, unbiased, constant person"
Agenda driven, opinionated doula? Not here! There’s enough judgement already in the mommy-shaming culture we live in. We are not about to add more opinions or judgement to your plate.
Your labor doula has a vast knowledge regarding labor. She knows what all the beeps from the hospital machinery are. She has unique insight on helpful positions to get into regardless of your desires around pain medication.
She stays with you through nursing shift changes or transfers if you are having an out of hospital birth. Your doula knows what your mucus plug looks like and can spot the difference between early labor and active labor. She can offer insight on when it may be time to go to the hospital or your chosen birthplace.
So… If you find yourself pregnant, it’s time to hire your labor doula.
You won’t regret it.
But this doula is expensive?!! Well, you get what you pay for. Some doulas are hobby doulas while others devote their career to this work. If you desire to have multiple children with the same doula present, your best chances at finding this doula is through hiring a doula who charges a respectable fee.
High quality doulas:
This means you will:
North Cascade Doulas provides unparalleled labor doula support in Bellingham, Ferndale, Birch Bay, Lynden and Skagit County and guarantees that all of those boxes are checked. You can be sure that you are in good hands with your doula team from North Cascade Doulas.
Call or email us today to schedule a free consultation!
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 provide care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Postpartum Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
Our doulas have experience in a variety of areas, such as:
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / hypnobirthing / 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 / Maple Falls / Everson / Stanwood