Maybe it was a friend or family member, maybe it was you— that snapshot taken right after baby was born, mom’s long hair flowing over her breast, cheeks pink, eyes bright, lashes tinted with mascara. A gorgeous photo of a mother with her new baby.
Sometimes the look is staged a bit, sometimes a mother’s natural beauty is shining through. Whether makeup is on your list of what to pack to the hospital, or you just can’t take a bad picture, I don’t fault anyone for taking a gorgeous photo on one of the most momentous days of their lives.
I just know that that person isn’t me. And it might not be you, either.
Labor is hard work. It’s often compared to a marathon, but it’s way more intense than a marathon. Marathons take place during the day; the previous night you’ve eaten a solid meal, and you go to bed early to rest up for the strenuous activity ahead. You don’t always get that luxury in labor. It can creep up on you after a long day on your feet, in the middle of the night and last well into the next day— or for several days. You can’t just take a break and walk for a while in labor. You can’t quit, walk on over to the nearest pub, and try again next race. You are in it, fully committed, until you reach the ultimate finish line— the birth of your baby.
So it’s not a surprise that not everyone can pull off the perfectly coifed after-birth look. Nor does everyone want to.
I’m not particularly adept at beauty routines. I didn’t start wearing makeup until late into my twenties. Most days my hair air-dries into frizzy waves, n’er a blow dryer in sight, unless it’s below freezing outside. So, after my 18-hour and 12-hour labors, after nights without sleep, face puffy and dotted with wonderful pregnancy-induced melasma, my after-birth pics aren’t very pretty.
But when I look at them, I see power. I see joy. I see a woman who, despite feeling afraid and vulnerable and more exhausted than I had ever been before, persevered and freakin’ birthed a baby. I am proud of myself when I look at those pictures. I am glad I have them— ALL of them, even the ones that few will ever see— because they show what I did, what I endured, what I rocked.
They aren’t necessarily pretty, but they are pretty powerful.
I am a certified labor doula and profesional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
How can I help you feel powerful during your birth?
During my first day of doula training I knew what I wanted to name my new business. I didn’t spend a long time thinking about it; the name just popped into my head. True to my personality, I began to dissect the reasons why that name wasn’t right, and I forced myself to think of other business names.
But I kept coming back to Elevated Birth— or rather, it would not release its foothold on my mind. I listened to my intuition, accepted my new business name, and took the proper steps to make it official.
As I worked to build a website, design marketing materials, and “hang my shingle” so to speak, I chose the following words to explain what I could offer to prospective clients:
“Know your options. Feel supported. Elevate your Birth.”
But what does this really mean? The role of a doula is to educate and support; it's what doulas do.
What these words speak to, is the importance of YOU in our relationship.
Know your Options
I don’t teach childbirth education, not yet anyway— although that is on the horizon. I can help explain different physiological processes in birth and I can provide details on various procedures and interventions.
But when we discuss your options in pregnancy and childbirth, we go a bit deeper. We talk about how you may feel about a particular choice. How does that option align with what is important to you and your partner? What could we try, to avoid or prolong the need for a particular intervention? What kind of discussions could you have with your care provider to negotiate your options? How can you process a change in plans? What does and doesn't work for you?
We also go into detail about how your choices can affect not only the birth process, but also your postpartum experience. Questions arise and they are answered as thoroughly and as personally as you need. Information is tailored to get you through birth so that the needs of you and your partner are met.
Perhaps during our discussions you realize that your priorities and preferences have changed. That happens. Maybe during labor an unexpected situation arises— you have someone in the room to guide you through the decision making process. You know your options so you can decide what is best for you, and with that knowledge comes confidence in your decision making.
Birth is very much a physiological process. But it is just as much an emotional one, and the physical and emotional go hand in hand.
Physical support in labor takes on many forms. Depending on how your birth is going and what your preferences are, I am going to recommend certain positions and environments over others. When there is a change, I’m going to recommend something else. I’m always watching what’s going on, assessing your needs, and thinking of the next step or goal. I’m bringing your partner into the process, or maybe I'm recommending they take a break. You are both supported.
What emotional support looks like to one person is different than what it looks like to another. Some people need more gentleness and some need higher energy. Some need both but at different times. What you may need can also change from one moment to the next. I use the example that I can be rubbing your neck in labor and it is just what you need, and literally the next second it is the last thing on earth you want. It’s okay— you are accepted as you are.
That’s another form of support. I am not judging you; in fact, I’m embracing you! No matter what you choose for yourself, how you birth your baby, how you cope with labor, or how you and your partner interact or don’t— I’m here for you. I’ll help you. And I’m happy to do it.
Elevate your Birth
This has so many meanings. It’s both an action and a result. YOU are the principal player in elevating your birth; I am just the facilitator.
You elevate your birth when you make the effort to prepare for it. Birth is not something that just happens to you. You are giving it the eminence it deserves by educating yourself, surrounding yourself with support, and preparing your own body and mind for it.
Your support team will elevate YOU. Your partner and I will support you as you need, from holding your hands to holding space. We will lift you up so you can be free to let go.
Others will see your birth as elevated. You know what matters to you, so others involved in your birth are more likely to see you as an autonomous being and treat you with the respect you deserve. Your positive birth experience may inspire someone else to fear birth less, or to consider new options or attitudes about birth.
Your birth may elevate the way you see yourself. When you feel positively about your birth, it shows in other areas of your life. You may approach non-birth issues with more strength, grace, and confidence. The way you see yourself as a parent or as a partner can be impacted by the way you see yourself in birth. You can use what you learned in birth to help you in business, interpersonal relationships, with coping skills, and so much more.
Your birth experience is a part of your life’s journey. Choose to elevate it.
Today I received my notification that I am a certified labor doula with CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association). This was never the plan.
I majored in Forest Science and minored in Philosophy in college. Strange combination, I know-- but each subject intrigued me. I followed my interests and figured I would find my way.
The way found me.
My first job out of college was working for a biotechnology start-up, planting mutated versions of a little flowering weed called Arabidopsis thaliana. Often I would sit alone at a sterile hood (laboratory work station), just me and little seedlings in Petri dishes. I missed people.
My husband's job necessitated a move, so I left the laboratory and tried my hand in marketing for a non-profit organization. The work required the creativity I was craving to utilize, but was limiting in growth. My next position found me working in product management for a large international automotive supplier. I could construct a spreadsheet with multiple embedded formulas like nobody's business, and I worked with a great team of people-- but it was hard for me to get really passionate about auto parts.
I was at this company when I became pregnant with my first child. One day a co-worker who had just had a baby asked if I was going to have a doula at my birth. I had never heard of a doula, but I was interested. My husband and I interviewed and hired her doula (also her best friend), and then hired her again for the birth of my daughter a few years later.
It was at my daughter's birth that I made a turn toward birth work. Without telling you too much of my story, I'll reveal one fact: the on-call doctor, who was the doctor I had at my first birth, whose bedside manner I didn't care for, whose practice I left when I became pregnant the second time, didn't make my daughter's birth. I didn't have a rapid labor. She was just inexplicably not there.
For over an hour, fully dilated, I was told by the nurses that she would be there in 15 minutes, and not to push. I lost track of how many times I heard "15 more minutes." I was fatigued, after over 24 hours without sleep. My legs were shaking and starting to cramp. The pressure in my pelvis was too great. I was ready to push out this baby and trying to mentally keep it together because I was told I couldn't push. For so, so, so long.
It was my doula, who had already brought comfort to my anxious husband with her presence, who had seamlessly integrated with him and my mom to support me, who had suggested everything I had needed, like getting in the tub and putting hot towels on my back and squeezing my hips and soft words-- she got me through that intense challenge of mind and spirit, as well. Without her, I could have suffered real emotional birth trauma. Instead, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I knew I wanted serve others in the same way. So a few years after my daughter was born, I took her labor doula training through CAPPA. I took on my own clients, and in the background, worked toward my certification over the past two years.
There were many reasons not to complete my certification. My father got sick and died early last year. My kitchen flooded the year before that and we took on an unexpected and expensive remodel. We moved to a new state. It's not even a requirement to work as a doula. And more.
But it meant something to me. So like with my daughter's birth, I pushed through. I hope that my clients will see this certification as another sign of my dedication to this work and to their experience, that they will have someone there to help them push through as well.
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.