One minute they are in your body, the next minute they aren’t. It’s pretty insane when you think about the moment of birth, when the baby who grew from a speck of cells inside of you, is now an individual, still very much dependent on you, but now distinctly their own--although tiny--person.
Experienced parents will tell you that babies are born with a particular personality, and that looking back, traces of that personality were evident as early as birth. Some strong-willed tots emerged from the womb with mighty wails from their freshly-initiated lungs, and more pensive kids met the world with a quiet awareness. It’s one of the greatest lessons I personally have learned as a parent— that there is so little about my children that I can control. They are who they were when they were born.
Still, newborn babies share many common characteristics. The various newborn reflexes that have been identified are the same in babies the world over. Many of these reflexes are designed as survival mechanisms, or to facilitate finding and latching onto the breast.
Newborn sleep cycles, those initial smiles and coos, the surprisingly tight grasp of a baby’s hand around your finger (or strand of hair— ouch!) We take classes during pregnancy and read books to prepare ourselves for life with a newborn, but often most of our learning comes from on-the-job training. They teach us how to be their parents.
And there are some things the books don’t tell you, or even if they did, you may have glossed over. So here are five newborn facts you may not know, that may help you as you meet and learn to care for your new baby:
1. Babies sometimes take a while to breathe. When babies are born, it can take about ten seconds—sometimes longer— until they begin to breathe with their lungs. Because the umbilical cord is still attached to the placenta, which at this point, is still attached to your uterus, your baby continues to receive oxygen through the blood that is traveling from the placenta to your baby. As soon as the umbilical cord is cut, the placental oxygen supply is cut as well. (This is one reason why parents and care providers choose to delay clamping of the cord, so that baby receives as much blood from the placenta as possible.)
Babies can appear blue or purple in color for minutes after birth; once their bodies are fully oxygenated, they begin to “pink up.” Parts of their bodies, especially their extremities, can still appear bluish after birth, but this usually improves after their circulatory system begins to mature.
2. Babies benefit from the breast even before your milk comes in. Your breasts don’t begin to fill with milk until around 2-3 days after birth, sometimes even longer. However, babies benefit from latching onto the breast as soon as they are born, if possible, and then every few hours after that.
At birth (and sometimes during pregnancy), you produce colostrum, a concentrated form of early breastmilk that contains antibodies and nutrients. Even though it may not seem like they are getting much from the breast, colostrum is usually all your baby needs until your milk comes in. Plus, the very act of sucking at your breast puts in your baby’s “order” for milk later on. The more your baby latches on, the more your body gets signals to produce milk. So if you intend on breastfeeding for any length of time, have someone help you get a good latch going and get lots of nursing practice!
3. You may want to opt out of that first bath. Not yours— a nice, hot shower after labor can feel like heaven! I’m talking about your baby’s first bath. Many hospitals have changed their policies to delay bathing newborn babies for at least 24 hours, or not at all. Here are some reasons why you may want to wait to bathe your baby:
4. Newborns are noisy. Your baby's cries can feel like the loudest sound on earth. But newborns are noisy when they sleep, too. They grunt and grimace, whimper and yelp. All while they are sound asleep. While it is important to respond to your baby's cries and offer immediate comfort, you may be unintentionally waking a baby who is actually asleep!
If your baby is due for a feeding soon, look for cues like rooting or sticking their hands in their mouths. These are more reliable sign of hunger than the noises you hear when they are actually asleep. If you co-sleep with your baby, you may find that you become more quickly familiar with the noises she makes, and begin to anticipate your baby's needs before she begins to cry.
5. Newborns learn with their hands. You may look back on photos of you as a baby, hands covered by cotton drawstring baby mittens, and assume that mittens are a must for your baby registry. This thought is confirmed when your baby’s dagger-like nails are already scratching up her cheeks with red marks just days after birth. Or maybe you feel she needs mittens to keep her hands warm.
However, baby development experts now advise to ditch the mittens. Babies learn by touch, and when their hands are covered by mittens, they miss out on valuable tactile learning time. Instead, use a baby nail file to shorten and smooth out their nails, and allow them to explore their new world through their sense of touch.
So let those baby hands free!
I am a certified labor(birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Need help preparing for birth or need help with your baby? Let's talk!
At some point in just about every baby shower, the mother-to-be opens her gifts as the attendees ooh and aah over adorable outfits, the latest innovations in baby gear, and preciously impractical baby shoes.
There are diaper cakes, and Costco-size boxes of diapers and wipes; those who have already had babies remark that even all of those diapers will last just a few weeks.
There are generously-loaded gift cards, and practical items like nipple cream and wash cloths. Occasionally there is a present for the pregnant person as well, like a gift certificate for a pedicure or a prenatal massage.
What isn’t gifted very often, however, is what very well may be needed the most: support. Not hugs and encouragement, although these things are wonderful to give. The support I’m referring to is the in-the-trenches, middle-of-the-night, time-intensive, utilitarian, hands-on support that anyone needs when going through a major life transition.
Often a family member or friend can do a couple of these things once or twice. Sometimes these needs can be met consistently by one person. But all too often, new parents are left on their own to figure it all out. What if they didn’t have to?
What if in addition to the dozens of outfits the baby may wear just once, each person attending the baby shower committed to bring a home-cooked meal to cover the first month after the birth? Or to go grocery shopping once a week? Or what if they each contributed toward a postpartum doula fund?
What if someone who was able to contribute a larger amount purchased a couple night’s worth of sleep in addition to the fancy new stroller?
Or what if a few friends pitched in to cover a portion of birth doula costs, so the expecting couple are able to labor and birth their baby feeling supported, emotionally safe, and confident? Perhaps then the sleepless nights and disorganized house wouldn’t feel so overwhelming?
That in-the-trenches support that is so needed, and that a doula is trained to provide, cannot be wrapped in beautiful paper. It can’t be seen, or always understood, even by the expecting couple themselves. But it can be felt, and it is always needed.
Whether it’s given by a professional like a birth or postpartum doula, or a family member or friend with the heart of a doula, the support that keeps new parents fed, rested, and feeling secure is always needed, as long as it’s given in a way that respects their autonomy and preferences.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Many of us did not have this kind of support when we had our babies. And we survived, right? Well, some of us barely did. Some of us had a really, really, hard time.
And is surviving the standard for new parents who are nurturing and growing a tiny human being? Shouldn’t those we love who are in that position thrive in their new role instead of just survive?
Expecting parents: Ask for the boring gift of support. Be specific in what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Gift givers: Go ahead and buy the newborn tutu. But also be boring. Get in the trenches, and if you cannot, give the gift of someone who can, like a doula.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Did you know that you can add Elevated Birth doula services to your baby registry?
We now offer gift certificates in any denomination ($50 minimum order).
Visualization is a proven tool commonly used by professional athletes, corporate leaders, speakers, and marathon runners that is free, effective, and powerful. It can also be used by anyone birthing a baby, in any setting, in any position, for any type of birth. It's one form of childbirth preparation you can do just about anywhere.
Visualizing a specific action has been shown to activate nervous system responses that are similar to actually performing that action, impacting your heart rate, blood pressure, and hormones. Visualization can help you stay calm and focused in a challenging situation; it can reduce physical symptoms of stress and anxiety and promote feelings of relaxation.
Consider this tool a “mental rehearsal” for your birth. You can visualize the entire process, from imagining yourself feeling the earliest labor signs, to arriving at your birth place, to pushing out your baby and bringing her to your chest. Or, you can focus on just one thing, like your cervix opening up or your baby descending.
Whatever you choose to visualize, keep the following tips in mind:
Practice throughout your pregnancy. You won’t get the benefits of visualization from trying it out once or twice. Make the time to practice your visualization often throughout your pregnancy, so when you are actually in labor, it is familiar to you and easy to go back to when you need it.
Get creative. Some people find it helpful to imagine their actual uterus pushing baby down with each contraction, or to imagine their baby’s head pressing against their actual cervix, thin and ripe.
Others prefer to imagine something more abstract or metaphorical, like a flower opening, or waves crashing. Some may find an image of themselves passing through a barrier representative of “moving through” contractions, and in turn they become an active participant in their labor rather than a passive onlooker. And some choose to visualize something completely unrelated, like their favorite vacation spot, or some other peaceful location.
Personalize your visualization so that it works for you.
Break it down into steps. Whatever you choose to visualize, break it down into small steps. For instance, if imagining a flower opening, you might visualize each petal of the flower slowly unfolding until you can see the center. If imagining ocean waves, visualize the wave building far from shore, gathering momentum until it crests and then falls against the rocks; see the ocean spray, the bubbling foam, maybe even sand crabs scurrying around as the water is pulled back into the sea.
If your visualization can be broken down so it lasts roughly 60-90 seconds— the approximate length of a labor contraction— you will find yourself with a tool you can use to manage each surge.
Write it down. Write down the steps of your visualization to help break it down, and to get a clearer picture in your mind’s eye of what you will “see.” Pay attention to detail; incorporate your other senses, imagining what you might smell or hear if you were actually at the ocean, or in a field, or even in your place of birth.
Incorporate affirmations. Think about how you want to feel as you visualize, and tie this into any birth affirmations you may utilize in labor. You might think of your affirmation, or even speak it aloud, as you work through your visualizations.
As author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer says about the power of affirmations,“I use the inner mantra I am, seeing myself as already having arrived at what I’ve placed in my mind.”
During your labor, you might think or say aloud, “I am strong,” “I am open,” “I am calm,” or any number of phrases, while you are actively using your visualization.
You can use visualizations to distract yourself from any pain or discomfort you may experience, even outside of labor. Afraid of needles and about to have blood drawn? Consenting to a cervical check or having your membranes swept? In the OR having your baby by Cesearean? Having an IUD placed?
Go to your visualization to distract your mind from your physical discomfort, and bring you back to a more peaceful state.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
As a doula, I can remind my clients of their visualizations and affirmations and help them have a supportive, positive birth experience.
Baby, it’s HOT outside! It’s about that time of year that people are over summer, and are looking forward to sweaters and pumpkins and changing leaves. With today’s high of 108 degrees, I know I am!
This heat might feel worse to you if you are pregnant. You are carrying more weight than you normally do, your feet might be swollen, and you just can’t get comfortable at night. If you are early in your pregnancy, the heat can exacerbate the drowsiness that dominates your first trimester.
So here are some tips to surviving this heat, my pregnant friends!
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! With baby pressing on your bladder, you may feel like you are always in the restroom, but that is no reason to hold off on drinking water. Staying well hydrated is important to prevent complications like low amniotic fluid, birth defects, and premature labor. Constipation, a common pregnancy woe, can worsen if you don’t stay hydrated. Eating foods with high water content, like watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, celery, radishes, bell peppers, and grapefruit can be helpful as temperatures rise. You can also avoid foods with caffeine, which acts as a diuretic and removes water from the body.
2. Enjoy the A/C. When temperatures soar, avoid strenuous exercise, which increases your body temperature and makes you sweat out water. Instead, put your feet up and enjoy the air conditioning. Before long you’ll be on your baby’s schedule, so when it's this hot outside, exercise your ability to relax!
3. Embrace the positives. If you’ve read my blog posts, you know that I’m a fan of “flipping the script.” What is a positive way of viewing a difficult or seemingly negative situation?
Try to get on board with this positive thinking about having a baby in the summertime:
Stay cool, everyone!
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the Greater Treasure Valley.
Whether you are due this summer or winter, it's not too late to hire your doula!
Who will be invited to your birth?
This question can be a loaded one for expecting couples. The amount of stress and anxiety around who should be at your birth can be overwhelming.
Can you relate to any of the following scenarios?
You’re not sure if you want your mother in the room, but she’s your mother, so shouldn’t she be there? And if she’s going to see her grandchild’s birth, it’s only fair that your mother-in-law should be there, too, right?
You really want one sister to be with you but your other sister will be loud and obnoxious while you’re trying to concentrate on labor. But how do you explain that you want just your one sister in the room?
You don’t want anyone in the room except your care provider, your partner, and your doula. And both sides of the family are making you feel guilty. What should you do?
Here are some things to consider to help you make a decision on who will be invited to your birth space:
1. Identify the most important person in the room. The person having the baby, the one whose usually-clothed body parts will be exposed, who is experiencing one of the most physically and emotionally challenging events of their lives, is the ultimate decision maker. Some couples will negotiate who will be allowed to visit during or after labor, and the partner’s need for emotional support can definitely be a part of that discussion. But if the laboring person has a strong desire to include or limit a particular person’s presence, it’s important for that to be respected.
In birth, it’s imperative for the laboring person to feel safe and supported. The hormones involved in labor are directly affected by whether or not this is the case. When it’s not, it can impede labor progression. An unhealthy emotional state can have physical implications for both the pregnant person and the baby.
We want oxytocin to flow in labor— this “love” hormone has a hand in contracting the uterus, breastfeeding, and in creating attachment with baby, and its production is supported when the person in labor feels safe and supported.
Also keep in mind that some survivors of trauma, or those with severe anxiety, are managing more than just their contractions when they are in labor. Creating a birth space that puts their emotional and physical safety at the forefront is necessary for their own well being.
2. Build your birth team mindfully. Approach the decision from a standpoint of value instead of a “should.” A “should” comes from an external pressure or rule. Someone who brings value to your birth space is a true part of your birth team.
Your care provider and assistants bring their medical expertise to ensure you and your baby are physically healthy. Your doula brings knowledge about birth, comfort measures, and continuous care, to ensure you are emotionally and physically supported in alignment with your goals and values.
Think about the other people you and your partner are considering allowing into your birth space. What function will they serve? Will they bring joy, humor, welcome distraction, a shared bond? Or will their presence bring anxiety, discomfort, intrusion, negative energy, or doubt about your personal choices?
Anyone who is making you feel guilty for not including them in your birth is not acting like a teammate; they are not adding value. They are imposing their “shoulds” on you. As I recently wrote in my blog The Should’s of Pregnancy, make sure you are acting on your own core values, and not someone else’s.
3. Know the why’s. When you have information, you can make informed decisions. Once you know that labor can be impeded by an unsafe or uncomfortable environment, because of the hormones at play, you can make a decision about keeping out people who make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
If initiating breastfeeding is important to you, and you know that it can be a challenge to learn how to latch your new baby, you may limit visitors for a few hours after birth so you can get uninterrupted practice.
If you know that you the wound inside your body after birth is roughly the size of a dinner plate, and you want to focus on resting after birth, then you may opt to limit the number of visitors you receive at home.
4. Consider timing. Sometimes, you welcome or can tolerate one person’s presence in early labor but you don’t necessarily want them there while you are pushing. Or, you may feel there are several people who would bring you positivity throughout your labor, but having them all there at once would be too distracting.
It’s okay to require flexibility from those you may want to include in your birth. It’s okay to impose rules, and it’s okay for you to change your mind at any time during labor.
5. Practice setting boundaries now. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to pregnancy and parenting. Whether you are making decisions on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, medical decisions for your baby, bath products, types of diapers, who can hold baby, who can watch baby, who can visit you postpartum and when, where baby sleeps, etc. you will no doubt come across somebody close to you with a differing opinion. Sometimes those people can be outright disrespectful of your choices.
Who you allow into your birth space can be a new parent’s first act of boundary setting, and it can be uncomfortable. But after your baby is here, there will be many more opportunities where setting boundaries is necessary, for the well being of you and your new family. Why not practice now, and take steps to ensure you have a more positive birth experience?
Even when you set boundaries, not everyone will respect your decisions. So here are some tips to fend off unwelcome visitors during labor, or when you are home after the birth:
You are entitled to a birth environment that will allow you to feel loved, supported, and safe, and to include or exclude anyone who doesn't contribute to that environment. Think about how you want to feel in labor, what you need to recover postpartum, and surround yourself with those who will help make that happen.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa and the greater Treasure Valley.
Have you thought about who will bring value to your birth team? If that includes a doula, let's talk about how I can help you feel safe and supported as you birth your baby.
“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.”
William S. Burroughs
I encourage my clients to take childbirth education classes as they prepare for the birth of their baby. The more you know about the physiology of birth, and what you can expect at each stage of labor, the less fear there is surrounding it.
Where you have your baby can also affect what what you experience— the procedures, care routines, people you will interact with, and what decisions you may have to make, can vary depending on whether you give birth at home, at a birth center, or even at different hospitals.
The amount of information you learn can be overwhelming. In the prenatal meetings with my clients, we sift through this information to find out what pertains to them specifically, based on their goals and how they want to feel during labor and birth. I help them identify what limitations may be present, and how to best work around them. I get to know my clients and their values, and what techniques, both physical and emotional, that will work best for them.
This is where childbirth preparation goes beyond childbirth education.
Preparation for your birth is unique to you. Sometimes, it’s unconventional and maybe even a little strange. I’ll use my own experience as an example: When preparing for the birth of my daughter, I watched every episode I could find of a show on A&E called “I Survived.” The show profiled people from all walks of life who had endured horrible events, like attempted murder, natural disasters, near-death experiences, and trauma, and how they survived those experiences. Their outlook on life was usually gratitude, and a newfound strength. My mindset was that if these people could survive those horrific events, and still have a positive attitude, then I could make it through labor!
That might not be the best form of prep for everyone, and that’s kind of the point. What preparation for birth looks like for me, will likely look totally different for you!
Here are ways others have prepared for their births:
What have you used to get through a physically or emotionally challenging time? Laughter? Visualization? Music? The deep breathing you learn in yoga or meditation? Do you value knowing the hard facts?
You can tap into your own experiences, your own strengths, in labor. Use what has worked for you, or what speaks to you, to prepare in a way that is as unique as you are.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
How can I help you have a more positive birth experience, that is focused on you and your unique needs?
Most people give birth vaginally, and the majority of birth plans focus on wishes and goals for a vaginal birth. Some desire very strongly to avoid a Cesarean birth, choosing to exhaust all other options before deciding that surgical birth is their best option.
But roughly 1/3 of the time nationally (and 18.1% of the time in Idaho according to cesareanrates.org), whether due to a medical emergency, complication, or other circumstance, people find themselves giving birth in the operating room.
The circumstances of your pregnancy and labor, how prepared you are for the procedure, who is there to support you during the surgery, and how your wishes are respected during your Cesarean birth, are all things that can affect your birth experience. Even when the unplanned happens, you can still have a positive birth!
So even if a Cesarean birth is your "worst case" option, it can be helpful to plan for it anyway. Here are some things to consider, and ways a doula can help you plan for the unplanned:
1. If you are familiar with the steps of the procedure, you won’t be caught off guard. Policies and procedures can vary by hospital and care provider. Will you be alone at any point? How many support people can accompany you? Is it commonplace to have your arms strapped down? What medications will you receive? What will it feel like, sound like, smell like? Will you be able to see and touch your baby right away, or even initiate breastfeeding in the OR? What can you expect after the surgery?
Your doula can help prepare you for what to expect, and help you formulate questions for your care provider. Some policies and procedures are negotiable, and having a discussion with your care provider ahead of time can make for a more positive experience. She can also help you create a Cesarean birth plan to accompany your standard birth plan.
2. You may have more options than you think. Some of what happens during a Cesarean birth is dependent on the reason for it. If it’s a true medical emergency, you may not have as many options as if you had an “urgent” or even planned Cesarean.
In a true emergency, you are likely to be put under general anesthesia and the baby born within minutes. This is a small percentage of Cesareans. Usually there is a lot more time, and more variability in the experience. You may have a choice in:
3. Your postpartum needs may be different. Do you have a support system at home that can also accommodate your needs after a Cesarean birth? Will you need extra help moving around, breastfeeding, someone to make you meals, someone to help out with the baby? Your doula can be a great resource to plan for what additional support you may need, as well as provide referrals to specialists. You can opt to hire the support of a trained professional in your home, like a postpartum doula.
4. Your emotional needs may be different. This is where a doula can really help to listen, provide a supportive presence, validate your experience, and if needed, help you find additional resources so that your emotional recovery is treated as importantly as your physical recovery.
Planning for a Cesarean birth when you desire a vaginal birth isn’t thinking negatively, or setting yourself up for one. It’s preparation for one outcome, out of many. It’s the first aid kit in your backpack as you hike up the mountain. It’s a mental exercise.
And it’s something you can do with a supportive, knowledgable, compassionate person on your side, looking out for you no matter what happens or how you give birth— your doula.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Feel confident and prepared no matter how you give birth. Let's talk about how I can help!
It’s one of the top sources of anxiety in pregnancy . . . . . . POOP.
Whether it’s the constipation that arrives well before you have any sort of baby bump, or the fear some have about pooping in labor, there’s a lot of attention paid to poop when you are pregnant.
So let’s talk about it! Here's what you need to know about poop in pregnancy and childbirth.
1. Constipation is common. The hormones released throughout pregnancy, especially progesterone, make food move more slowly through your intestinal tract. You are able to absorb more nutrients for your growing baby, which is a good thing. The downside of this slower digestion is constipation. It can start in the first trimester, when you’re not even showing, and last throughout your entire pregnancy.
Constipation can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Straining to poop can in turn cause hemorrhoids, which can be downright painful.
Some things that can relieve constipation include:
2. Diarrhea toward the end of pregnancy can be exciting! That’s because it is one of the signs of early labor. Up to several days before you feel your first crampy contraction, your body may clear itself out in preparation for birth. Be sure to stay hydrated if you experience diarrhea, and keep yourself nourished by continuing to eat. You will need your strength for labor.
Note: If you have a fever or suspect that your diarrhea could be caused by food poisoning, then be sure to consult your care provider.
3. You will probably poop a little while you push. This is a big concern for some people. They get really anxious about the thought about pooping while they are pushing, and having their partner and birth attendants see it happen.
First of all, yes, it happens. It happens all the time. Your friends and relatives, celebrities, that put-together mom at school drop-off, your great grandma-- they probably pooped while they pushed out their babies, too.
And trust me, nobody in the room cares. The birth workers have seen it many, many, many, many, many times before. It is a total non-issue. They will just discreetly wipe away any poop, replace the Chux pad if necessary, and continue on.
In my experience, your partner doesn’t care, either. At this point, you are actively pushing out your baby, and your partner will be laser-focused on the baby, and on supporting you. They will be concerned, and excited, and hopeful, and probably won’t notice there is any poop at all, especially amidst what is infinitely more attention-worthy at that time-- like your baby being born. And when that baby is laid upon your chest and you hear those first cries, the last thing on anybody's mind will be whether or not you pooped a little.
Second, pooping during pushing is a sign that you are pushing effectively. You often hear birth attendants tell their patients to “push like you’re taking a huge poop.” Those are the muscles you need to engage to push out your baby. It’s a positive thing when you poop!
Third, if you are still really, really, stressed about pooping in labor, talk to your care provider about administering an enema in early labor. For some people, this gives them peace of mind about not having to think about poop at all.
4. Postpartum Poop. The first poop after birth can also be anxiety-producing for many. Your vagina has gone through a lot, and your perineum can feel sore as well. You may still have hemorrhoids, you may have minor tearing, or perhaps stitches.
If you had a Cesarean birth, pooping for the first time can also be uncomfortable. After a Cesarean, your first poop might take longer to arrive than with a vaginal birth. The muscles in your abdomen will be sore after surgery, which can make that first poop a not-so-fun experience.
Some care providers will prescribe a stool softener after delivery to make those first few bowel movements easier. Some will require you to have a bowel movement before you can go home, especially if you’ve had a Cesarean (true with any major surgery).
Staying hydrated after birth can help keep your stools loose. Waiting until you really have to go, and avoiding straining ,can be helpful as well.
5. Your poop situation will improve! The more you are able to rest and heal postpartum, the better you will be able to recover from birth. Eventually your poop won’t be such a source of tension in your life.
Your focus will shift to your baby’s poop, which will provide months (and years) of interest, antics, and discussion. If you don't talk much about poop now, just wait until you have a toddler. It's one of their favorite subjects.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa and the greater Treasure Valley.
Do you have anxiety about anything in pregnancy or labor? Having a doula might help!
I’m a big planner. When my husband and I went to Europe years ago, before we had kids, I researched for weeks to find the perfect hotels and activities within our budget, the trains that would take us from town to town, and how much money we would need for food per city, per meal, all laid out in a tidy spreadsheet that automatically adjusted based on that day’s exchange rate.
Fast forward a few years later when we were expecting our first child: I knew that the baby could come as early as 37 weeks, and still be considered “at term,” and so I was prepared for his arrival at 37 weeks. All the baby gear was purchased, the newborn clothes were washed, the diaper changing station was stocked. Months before, we had taken all the classes— childbirth education, breastfeeding education, new parent preparation, and we had our doula booked. I was ready to have this baby.
Over a month later, I was still pregnant. What I was NOT ready for, was the waiting.
After a positive pregnancy test, one of the first things we learn is our estimated due date. One of the things we tend to ignore is the estimated part.
Due dates are not an exact science. The website Evidenced Based Birth gives a whole explanation of how due dates came to be, but in a nutshell, determining your estimated due date based on the first day of your last menstrual period was a technique created in the 1744 in the Netherlands, refined in 1812 in Germany, and then revised again in America in the 1900’s. This method doesn’t take into account the fact that not every woman has a 28-day menstrual cycle, that ovulation can occur earlier or later in a cycle, or that implantation time can vary.
Even if you’re aware that going past your estimated due date is normal, it can still be frustrating to be “overdue.” You might be feeling uncomfortable, as your baby is nearly his or her full size and pressing on both your ribs and your bladder at the same time. You might not be getting much sleep, as you wake up several times a night to pee, or you just can’t find a comfortable position to lay in.
It can be especially frustrating when your family and friends view your estimated due date as an expiration date, and bombard you with texts and phone calls. When’s the baby coming? You haven’t given birth yet?! When are you getting induced? You look ready to explode!!!
These comments and inquiries are NOT helpful.
So if you find yourself pregnant at 40+ weeks, here is what to do when you are "overdue:"
1. Assume that you will go to 42 weeks. The mind is a powerful tool. Neuroscientist Robb Rutledge studies human happiness and developed a complex equation to predict happiness in a given situation. According to this New York Times article on his work, “How happy you are depends in large part on your expectations.” So if you expect your pregnancy to go past your estimated due date, you are less likely to be upset or frustrated when the bun in your oven needs a little more time to bake. And if your labor begins near or before your estimated due date, you may be pleasantly surprised.
2. Tell your family and friends that your due date is actually two weeks later. Granted, this is an extreme measure. And if you’ve already announced your estimated due date to your family, to your co-workers, and on social media, it may be ineffective. Just know that there are other ways to share your good news in early pregnancy. You can announce that you are expecting a baby “in October,” or “late fall,” as previous generations once did. If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you experienced the barrage of inquiries with your first baby, then fudging that due date might not sound like a crazy idea after all.
3. Indulge. See all the movies you won’t be able to go see when your baby is here. Take all the naps. Go out to a fancy restaurant, or any restaurant that doesn’t have a kids menu. Get your nails done. Get a massage. Catch up on that show on Netflix you’ve been meaning to watch. Do whatever you want to do, while you have the time and energy to do it. It may be a while before you are in charge of your schedule again, so take charge of it while you can.
4. Take time to savor these last few days with your older kid(s). Taking care of other kids can be exhausting when you are pregnant. You just want to lie down for a few minutes, but they are suddenly resisting naps. They may seem more clingy or needy, and you wonder how on earth you will take care of both a toddler and a newborn??
Flip the script. Your little kid will be a big brother or sister in just a few days or weeks. You won’t have as much time to color together, or get on the floor and play with blocks, or take a walk to the park. Hold their little hands, which will seem huge after your new baby is born. Listen to their stories and field their incredible questions. Allow yourself to enjoy your older kid(s) in this moment, because everyone’s life is going to get a little shaken up when the new baby arrives.
5. Devote some time to postpartum planning. We focus so much on pregnancy, the baby shower, decorating the nursery, and the birth, and tend to neglect preparing for the postpartum period. We often think, “It will all work out” and “We’ll manage” without realizing that a little bit of planning can make a world of difference in how we feel after baby is here.
While binge watching A Baby Story, you can:
6. Check in with your doula. Your doula can be a great source of informational and emotional support when you find yourself past your due date. If your care provider is bringing up induction as a possibility, your doula can help prepare you for the process, or let you know about possible options or alternatives that you can discuss with your care provider. She will let you know that you are supported, and that she is there if you have questions or need reassurance.
7. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a skill that can be honed with practice. To be present in the moment, able to acknowledge and accept your feelings—good and bad— without judgment, you free yourself from allowing your emotions to control you. Being mindful can positively affect the way you live your life in general, but in the world of birth and parenthood, its effects are significant.
In labor, you can use mindfulness to accept the pain and discomfort you are feeling, and then let it go. This can help immensely with labor progress, with how you react to unexpected challenges, and how you end up feeling about your birth experience.
As a parent, you can practice mindfulness while you figure out breastfeeding, when you have to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to your baby, or when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store.
So during pregnancy, as you wait for labor to commence, be mindful of what you are feeling. If you are tired, achy, sick of the constant text messages, fearful, or just ready to have this baby, acknowledge what you feel. Accept it, and let it go. Consider it preparation for your new life as a parent.
8. Find the good. What’s good about being “overdue?” Maybe you realize you do get some extra time with your partner as “just the two of us.” Maybe you get to attend that one last social event you weren’t sure you could make. Maybe your best friend from out-of-state will get to be there for the birth, after all. Maybe you know that when labor does start, you will be so thrilled you will welcome contractions instead of fearing them! Find the good in your situation and embrace the wait.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Line up your doula now, so that if you go "overdue," you have the support you need!
I am an avid podcast listener. One of my favorites is a podcast called “Death, Sex & Money.” In one episode, host Anna Sale interviews actress Ellen Burstyn. Ellen shares that now that she is in her eighties, living alone, she has finally allowed herself “Shouldless Days,” days where she does only what she wants to do and nothing she should do. She turns away from the inner critic who faults her for not doing what she should, and instead listens to what she truly wants and needs.
I often think about Ellen Burtstyn’s "Shouldless Days" and think to myself, "Is it easier to do this when you’re in your eighties, without the responsibility of little mouths to feed and hands to hold? Is it easier to do this as a financially successful famous actress, living alone in a lofty New York apartment?"
And my answer is, "Of course!"
But that doesn’t mean that we need let the “should’s” dictate everything in life. By choosing to not act from a “should” mentality in every instance, you allow room for self-compassion, a turn to joy, and you prioritize self care.
Just stopping to question the “should” helps you to decide what to keep and what to let go. Sometimes you agree with the “should.” It aligns with your core values. You begin to edit out the unnecessary, the harmful, the confusion, and the waste that does not serve you and your family.
There are many opportunities to practice this in pregnancy and postpartum. You are faced with so many “should’s.” With a new tiny human to prepare for and care for, the stakes seem even higher on figuring out what you should do.
Should I birth in the hospital?
Should I find out my baby’s sex?
Should I get genetic testing?
Should I get an epidural?
Should my mother-in-law get to be in the room when I give birth?
Should we circumcise our son?
Should we host visitors after the baby is born?
Should I be able to keep the house clean?
Should we co-sleep?
Should I introduce a bottle?
Should I go back to work?
Should my baby be sleeping through the night by now?
Should I be back to my pre-baby weight?
To be truthful, the “should’s” never end. Whether you are expecting a baby, have a newborn, a toddler, or a teenager, there will always be someone (maybe yourself), telling you what you should do in any given situation.
Before you automatically oblige, pause. Are you also listening to the voice of self-compassion? Are you taking care of your own needs, as well those of your baby and family? Are you making room for joy? Do you need help? Do you need more information? Is there another way? What does your intuition tell you?
Amidst leaking breasts, a non-stop nursing baby, a clingy toddler, and a pile of laundry, if you can’t swing a Shouldless Day, try a shouldless pause. A breath. A chance to let go of what doesn’t serve you. A turn to what brings you joy, even a trace.
Maybe it's advocating for yourself in labor. Maybe it's saying "no" to a visitor. Maybe it's ordering pizza that night so you can sleep a little bit longer with your baby. Maybe it's asking someone else to bring the meal.
Question the "should's." Listen to what answers follow.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
What "should's" are you facing in pregnancy? How can I help?
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.