“Midwife Means, with Woman”
I was 21 years old when I had my oldest daughter. I didn’t know what a midwife
was, I didn’t know what a birth center was, and I definitely had never heard of a
doula. What I did know, somewhere deep inside my developing spirit was that I
could probably have my baby without an epidural. I didn’t take a birthing class and I
agreed to an induction at 41 weeks. I remember the first few contractions after the
Pitocin had kicked in and after my water was broken. The nurse asked me “What
number would you give your pain”? I sat in the bed and shrugged my shoulders,
“I’m not sure, maybe a 5”? The nurse shook her head at me, “You are trying to do
this without any medication? You need to make it lower, because it’s going to get a
LOT worse”. The rest of that birth story goes like many other stories you might
hear, especially surrounding first time, young mothers. I remember my body
bearing down and not knowing what was happening. The nurse quickly escorting
me back towards the bed, I was told I wasn’t coping very well. I needed the epidural.
“Something’s happening!” I pleaded, “Something’s happening”! The fear was all
consuming, no one could tell me what was happening. No one was listening. With a
lift of my gown the nurse would see my baby crowning on my perineum, just in time
for anesthesia to stroll into the room. My spirit crumbled. I was alone.
Life went on for me after that birth. I moved back home with my parents and
went to school and waited tables. I did what I was told, what was expected of me. I
met my husband, we got married, and soon I was pregnant again.
This time was going to be different. I wouldn’t be so loud. I wouldn’t be so
extraordinary. I would do as I was told. I would obey the labor laws of the hospital.
For all of my son’s labor I kneeled on the bed, hands over the head, so I would be no
trouble when they hooked the monitors to my abdomen. I was quiet. I made no
noise. I hit the familiar feeling of chaos that starts transition, and I whispered to my
nurse that I thought I might be 7 cm. “Could you call my doctor, please”? I asked
looking downward. “She knows honey, you still have a while”. “Ok, last time I
transitioned kind of quickly…”, but she had already left the room. It was happening.
Again. No one was listening. Twenty minutes later, when I contained my guttural
moans as best I could, I asked if I could push. But I couldn’t stop. “Your doctor isn’t
here!” came the screams. The running. The fear. The resident. No one was listening.
No one was here. “You aren’t pushing hard enough”! My spirit retreated. I screamed
out as I shoved him out with one mighty push. Alone.
When I found out I was pregnant with my third baby, I considered home birth for
a while, but eventually conceded that I would deliver at the same hospital. With the
same nurses. Have the same kind of delivery. “It’s really ok”, I thought. I’ve done this
alone, I can do this alone.
I was 30 weeks pregnant when I would meet the Nurse Midwife that joined the
practice. The reconfiguration in the middle of my pregnancy didn’t faze me much. It
was the same nurses. At the same hospital. I knew a little bit more about midwives
by now, and went to my first appointment without fear but also without
expectation. “Yes my third baby,” I said. “Oh, I have an older boy and a girl”. The
clock kept running, but still we kept talking. “I want to go natural again”, I said,
wondering when I might get cut short. “Cool!” she responded, her smile warm, eyes encouraging. Our appointments were regular. My comfort kept growing. I confided
in her that maybe I didn’t want to bother with this natural thing again; maybe I
should just get the epidural. I was kind of tired- I don’t think I can do this again. I
don’t think I can do this alone. “You’re going to do it,” she told me. My spirit stirred.
The day she stripped my membranes, she handed me her cell phone number. She
wasn’t on call this weekend, but she would come if I was in labor. The days dragged
on, the cramping came and went, until it no longer quit. I sat in my bathtub generally
miserable, while making what I now know to be the most vague triage phone call
ever. “They haven’t stopped all day, but they aren’t evenly spaced at all”, I
complained. “Well, do they feel stronger?” she asked genuinely. “I don’t know,” I
cried. I was so tired. I couldn’t do it. She listened. She heard me. “Why don’t we just
go into the hospital, and see what you’re doing”. We gathered the older kids, took
them to a friend’s house, and when I still wasn’t at the hospital an hour after our
phone call, I got a text asking if I was still going. My spirit shook again. “On our
way”. The triage nurse called me 6 cm. I was laboring how I usually did, comfortable for the most part, and quiet.
My spirit woke up when I saw her walk into the room. “I just got here,” I thought. “Does she know I just got here? Why is she here?” My mind couldn’t fathom why my provider would be present at the hospital so soon. She sat near me at the end of my bed and looked at me curiously. “Are you having any
contractions now”? “Yes!” I begged. “Yes, this is always how I start. Once I hit 7, I’ll
go super fast”. She listened. She saw me. The story began.
The story of how I asked her to break my water, so no one could question if I was
in labor. How she asked twice to make sure I really wanted that. The story of the
nurse coming into the room to tie me to the monitors, and my midwife gently
grabbing the Doppler and listening while following my movement. The story of her
quietly setting up her delivery table while I leaned over the bed to labor. How she
wrapped my saline-locked IV so I could step into the shower. But then, I felt the
chaos begin. I knew what was coming. I knew it was terrifying. I didn’t want it. I ran.
I ran from the shower, I ran to the bed, I let my voice explode. “I’m scared!” I
shouted. “I’m so scared!” I was alone, but then she followed me. I only remember it
in streaks of light. Her hair flashed behind me. “I know”, her voice at the end of the
bed. She could hear me. My face buried into the side rail of the hospital bed. My body
started to bear down, “NO!” I shouted. That didn’t feel the same- it was sharp and it
shot through my body. Her hand on my leg, “there’s still some cervix there Megan”.
The fear, it built. I couldn’t stop my body, I couldn’t stop the force. “She’s coming!” I
yelled. “I really think she’s coming!” The fear overflowing, blinding everything else,
tears stinging my eyes….
Then, her hand on my hand. Her voice in my ear. “She probably is”. What came
next was the quiet. The peace. The surrender. The pause. Then finally, the push. My
spirit unfolded and blossomed. Then it bloomed. She was listening. I wasn’t alone. I
*Note: This post discusses sensitive topics such as pregnancy loss
We started trying just after I turned 30. For a long time, we didn’t worry that we were not getting pregnant. We weren’t really trying, we told ourselves. No rush, we told ourselves. And then finally, wonderfully, that big plus sign showed up! If you have ever looked down at a pregnancy test and you’ve been waiting to see that little plus sign (or digital “Pregnant”) then you will understand the feeling of being completely excited, overwhelmed by joy, and then fear, and for just a few moments it’s like your life stands still. You are pregnant. You are performing the sacred rite of creating another life.
It’s not glamorous, peeing on a stick. But the next few moments after that can be some of the best of your life. I felt like the Grinch when “his heart grew three sizes that day!” My heart exploded with a new feeling of love that it had never felt before. It had taken about a year and half, but I was pregnant. I rushed to call my OB, only to hear that I would have to wait another month for our first ultrasound, since they are typically done at about 8 or 9 weeks. It felt like an eternity to wait so long! How were they not just as excited and thrilled as I was at this miraculous event? I couldn’t wait for that appointment.
We arrived at the office and the tech took us back to the ultrasound room. The tech performed an external ultrasound (like you see in the movies with the gel on your belly) and then she didn’t say much. We stared at the screen and she stared at the screen. She excused herself and said she would send in the doctor. A doctor I didn’t know entered the room, apologized to me and told me the horribly crushing news that they did not detect a heartbeat. The OB I had seen at the practice previously was not there that day, so I was told this news by a stranger. It was the worst news of my life, in all honesty. Then the doctor asked me if I wanted them to perform a D&C procedure that day. What? What was a D&C? Why didn’t anyone ever tell you about this? I had no idea what she was even asking me. I felt like the whole thing was very clinical, which in retrospect I don’t think that was the best way to handle the situation, but I also understand she was just doing her job. She probably did not want to deliver this sad news to me, but she had to. We decided to go home to try and process what had just happened.
I was incredibly sad, and broken. I lay in bed and cried a lot that day and for the next few days. I was so torn up from that experience that I actually switched doctors. I got a recommendation from a friend and the experience - while still very sad - was handled with much better bedside manner. I decided to go forward with using Cytotec to induce a miscarriage. I was 10 weeks pregnant. The new doctor and I discussed how we would go forward, and right now there wasn’t any mention of fertility treatment, but if we could not get pregnant within one year we would revisit the issue.
We did get pregnant again, maybe six months afterwards, and I miscarried this baby too. Again the interminable wait until the first ultrasound and then the crushing disappointment almost did me in. We resolved to try again. What else can you do at that point? We so badly wanted children and it seemed like all I could focus on. But then in a couple of months I rushed to the hospital one day with excruciating pain in my lower left abdomen. I got an ultrasound at the hospital and the doctor diagnosed an endometrioma on my ovary, which is a small cyst of endometriosis. It was very painful, and I was referred to a fertility specialist at this time.
The fertility specialist looked through all of my files and did bloodwork. Surprisingly, they did not want to treat the endometrioma. The doctor said to me that it would hopefully resolve itself, as endometriosis can sometimes do when you get pregnant. But then he told me I had anticardiolipin syndrome (say that fast three times!) which is a blood clotting problem. Essentially, my body was clotting and shutting off the development of the placenta when I was getting pregnant. That, he surmised, was the reason why I had lost my last two pregnancies. My own body was treating the pregnancy like a parasite, through no fault of my own. Although the blood test had found what was wrong and it could be fixed, I was still devastated by the two previous losses.
I wondered so many times why this blood test was not performed on me after my first loss, or why in fact it was not performed on all women who are trying to conceive, just so that they don’t have to go through what I had been through. If it had, I might have had two children already! To this day it is one of the fruitless questions that passes through my mind. But we moved forward… We would keep trying to get pregnant, and when I had a positive test, I would come in for an early ultrasound and bloodwork to confirm the pregnancy. Then I would start taking blood thinners, which would prevent the clotting problem. This part was not fun, it meant I had to give myself a shot every day for the entire pregnancy. But at least it was a tangible way to fix the problem.
This time it was another 6 months and we did not get pregnant. The fertility specialist then suggested using Femara at the beginning of my cycle (you take a pill for 5 days) and then using the Ovidrel trigger shot so we would know when ovulation was going to occur. They do an ultrasound on day 12 of your cycle to see how many eggs you have and how mature they are, and you do the shot on day 13, 14, or 15. It’s more complicated than that but in the interest of brevity, that’s basically the process. I did Femara and Ovidrel for 3 months, and on the 3rd try, we were pregnant again.
I called the doctor basically the moment that I saw that positive test! We had an ultrasound at 6 weeks, and lo and behold, there was the heartbeat. We saw this little flicker on the screen and I had another one of those life-standing-still moments. It was incredible. I cried and smiled and laughed with my husband! We had a viable pregnancy this time! There was a baby in there, and the heart was already beating! It was truly a miracle. I began the blood thinner shots and my pregnancy went completely normally afterwards, although the anxiety and worrying if everything was ok with the baby continued. I luckily had a natural-birth friendly OB-GYN this time, we hired a birth doula, and my husband was incredibly supportive through the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy.
Nine months later, my son was born. We hadn’t found out beforehand so it was a surprise when the doctor said, “You have a son!” It was also a surprise when, eight months after my first birth, another little plus sign showed up. We hadn’t even been trying to get pregnant! I guess it’s true what they say, that sometimes it is easier to get pregnant the second time. Now we have two sons, and they are 16 months apart in age. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind of being pregnant twice and raising one and now two children. The journey through the losses of our first two babies, and through the loss of my Dad around the same time, was one of the hardest times of my life. But look at where we are now! A family of four, growing and changing together.
I got through the hardest times by clinging to my husband, my family, and my friends, many of whom had experiences very similar to mine. It helped to talk about it sometimes, and it helped to lay in bed and do nothing sometimes. One important lesson I came away with was that there is no right way to grieve. No one can tell you how you are supposed to feel when you lose a child. You have to get through it in whatever seems like the best way to you. To some is a societal taboo to even mention that you have had a loss, but it happens to so many families in all kinds of different situations. We can and should talk about these losses, not only to normalize the topic but also so we are able to love and support one another through it.
In memory of my two babies and my Dad, I got a tattoo one cold winter day on my shoulder blade of three forget-me-nots. Although it might seem like a funny thing to commemorate with a tattoo, it’s a bittersweet symbol of the losses but also a reminder to appreciate the joys that I have now. I cherish the memories with my Dad and often think about what advice he would be giving me as a parent. I look at my two children and think, “I am so lucky. Look at these two wondrous little beings that have been placed in my care.”
WHAT IS A DOULA?
The word Doula comes from Greek, meaning woman-servant; the term was originally used to refer to a woman, typically a family member or friend, who assisted another woman during labor and birth. The practice of women helping other women in labor is as old as humanity and crosses cultures far and wide, because it is intuitive.
With advancements in modern medicine and a switch to a primarily medical-model of birth, especially in Western society, the practice of having female friends and kinfolk attending births has gone by the wayside. Nowadays, you can’t just bring six of your closest gal pals, your aunt, your mom, and grandma Ethel into the maternity ward with you and call them doulas. If you are birthing in a hospital, there are restrictions for who and how many people are allowed in the delivery room. And even if not in-hospital, most women are no longer keen on a communal birth, because that’s just not what we are used to in our modern lives. However, there is a middle-ground between an attendance of strictly medical personnel or a gaggle of your aunts. The compromise is hiring a person whose job it is to be both proficient and comforting to join you for the momentous event of giving birth. That person is a professional doula.
The word doula has changed to generally refer to a professional support person who assists people during delicate transitions in their lives. The most widely known type of doula is a labor or birth doula, but there are also doulas for other major life transitions such as: postpartum, antepartum (for high risk pregnancies), abortion, miscarriage, adoption, and death. At the core of every doula’s practice is compassion. Their purpose is to give care. They are there for their clients emotionally and physically: teaching, coaching, calming, soothing, listening, and even advocating for their clients if needed.
While doulas are very well-educated in the medical aspects of their chosen specialties, they are not medical professionals. They will not give medical advice or practice medicine in any way. However, they will help you understand medical information if you need it, and they may help you communicate with medical staff if you want them to. They are by your side to fill in the gaps between the medical staff and your loved ones. Doctors, nurses, and midwives provide you medical care, your family and friends offer you their love as always, and a doula builds a bridge between these two worlds with knowledge, empathy, consistency, and strength.
What many people don’t know is that a doula is not there only to support the person going through the transitional life event, but also to support the partner and family of that person. A birth doula spends much of their time encouraging birth partners and giving them tools to help the laboring mother. Many birth partners feel overwhelmed if they have never been by the side of a laboring woman before, and they sometimes feel helpless while seeing their partner in discomfort or pain that they can’t “fix”. Doulas help give the birth partner confidence in their ability to support as well. That may be as simple as some encouraging words, or it could be suggesting how to massage their laboring partner, recommending they help their laboring partner change positions, or reminding them to hydrate and take care of themselves as well. It can be easy to feel at a loss as a birth partner, but a doula acts as an anchor in a storm, grounding all involved so they don’t feel so out of control. A doula does not replace a birth partner, but rather complements them to create a solid support team which is the best scaffolding for a positive birth experience.
You make the World Go 'Round
Here at Cincinnati Birth and Parenting Doula Agency, we see, honor, and celebrate mothers and partners every day of the year!
We are constantly in awe of all that Mothers and birthing people go through. As mothers we are not only expected to survive, but to thrive and to raise these little people who have completely changed us on the inside and out.
No pressure, right?
Some of us go through hell and high water to get pregnant in the first place or we jump through hundreds of hoops to adopt our children. We sometimes spend years of heart ache and thousands of dollars to have a child.
We grow these little people in our hearts, minds, and in our bodies. This part is still crazy to me and I've done it several times and see it all the time.
And then, so many of us endear hours of labor, eventually pushing our babies out into the world...while others of us go through major abdominal surgery in order to meet our babies.
When it comes time to meet our baby, we literally and figuratively say, ''I'll do whatever I have to do. I just want my baby to be okay.''
And then, the real fun begins...
We love them. We lose sleep for them. We question our own existence. We often go through blood, sweat, and tears to feed them. We worry about them. We stay home with them through flu season to keep them safe. We take them places to expand their world view. We spend our money on them.
We do. We do. We do.
We love them. We love them. We love them.
And for that, we all deserve on Mother's Day and every day of the year.
A special shout-out to:
Mothers who go through hell and high water to have a baby.
Mothers who are parenting without a partner.
Mothers who adopt their children.
Mothers who've love and lost their children.
Mothers without family nearby.
Mothers who don't identify as women.
Mothers who've experienced a traumatic birth or postpartum.
Mothers who have experienced Postpartum Mood Disorder.
Mothers who are mothering without a mother.
Mothers who are just getting by.
We see, honor, and celebrate each and every one of you.
Written By: Molly Murray
Molly Murray is the owner and founder of Cincinnati Birth and Parenting. Molly has been passionately serving families as a birth and postpartum doula in Cincinnati and N. Kentucky since 2012.
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Here you will find a list of things that our doula clients and members of the Cincinnati Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting Support group (found here) have mentioned were most helpful during their births or things that they wished they had brought along!
Many have found that it is best to have a separate bag for birth and for postpartum.. or one bag for the parents and another for baby. This is helpful so that when you first go into the hospital, you can leave the baby stuff in the car until you move over to your postpartum room.
We hope you find this list useful in preparing for your big day!
Birth Plan or Preferences
A short and simple one page birth plan is good. Many birth plans include things like ''minimal pelvic exams, intermittent monitoring, a saline lock as opposed to an IV, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin'' If you need help in knowing what your options are, find out more about our childbirth classes here.
Much of this list is applicable to both the birthing person & partner.
Comfortable Clothing for Labor and Post-Delivery
Comfort is key. The hospital does provide gowns and disposable underwear but you're welcome to wear your own clothes and some birthing people say that they feel more comfortable in their own clothes than in the hospital gown. In the same light, many people swear by those mesh underwear! You do you.
Tools for comfort in labor
These are things that some doulas keep in their doula bag but you're welcome to bring your own, especially if you're not using a doula.
Phone and Chargers Besides needing your phone for calling, texting, and updating your friends and family, you'll want to take pictures and may download apps for music in labor or a white noise app for sleeping. Don't forget the chargers.
Extra Pillows A couple extra pillows from home can help you feel a little more comfortable in labor, for husband/partner to sleep with and for nursing.
Extra bag for gifts and freebies - You will leave the hospital with more than you came with. Bring an extra bag for all the ‘freebies’ (i.e. diapers, wipes, disposable underwear, ice packs, etc.)
From Mom's Who've Been Through It...
Ditto on the energy drink (I prefer Body Armor, which they have at Target), energy chews, and healthy snacks. I brought my own hospital gown, and then switched to my button down PJs postpartum, and that’s all I wore until the day we left.
Last, but certainly not least... Don't forget to bring a doula!
Your doula can help you prenatally to know what your options are, at home, to know what stage of labor you might be in, when it's a good time to head to the hospital; she can help carry your bags, set up the lighting and music into your labor room. Overall, a doula is an extra (knowledgeable) set of hands when you need it most.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation to hear more about all that our doula group offers.
Happy First Day of April!
Just kidding about that new logo... that would be super silly.
Happy April Fool's Day from Cincinnati Birth and Parenting Network and Doula Agncy!
Happy Easter to all of our clients who celebrate Easter!
And especially a ''Happy First Day as Parents'' to our doula clients who delivered on the last day of March or will be delivering their babies into this world today!
We see, honor, and appreciate each and every one of you!!
Join Molly Murray as she interviews the very best birth and parenting professionals. Today's guest is Cincinnati Birth and Parenting Network member Amy Sullivan, a Certified Professional Counselor.
Listen in as Amy shares all about Postpartum Mood Disorders: How to identify them, where to get help, and healing your family as you recover.
A Research study for BREASTFEEDING women - Please share
Dr. Nommsen-Rivers, an IBCLC and research expert in human lactation reached out to us and asked if we would help spread the word on her current research study for breastfeeding women. If you qualify, please reach out to the UC Maternal and Child Nutrition lab office at (513) 558-7041 or if you have any questions.
Please consider this research study if:
• Your baby is between 4-10 weeks old
• You are currently exclusively breastfeeding (i.e. your baby only receives your own breast milk)
The purpose of this research study:
• To better understand why some mothers make plenty of breast milk and others struggle to make enough milk
• This research study lasts about 3 days
• You will complete 2 days in a row (48 hours) of at-home weighing of your baby before and after each feeding.
• You will come to the Cincinnati Children’s Schubert Research Clinic for a 4-5 hour visit that includes blood sugar testing and measuring your milk production
Benefits of Participation:
• You will be provided information about your baby’s growth, milk intake, and your milk production.
• You will be given a summary of your blood sugar and blood lipid levels
• You will be compensated up to $200 for your time and effort
• Please contact the UC Maternal and Child Nutrition lab office at (513) 558-7041 if you are interested in participating in this research study or if you have any questions • Principal Investigator: Dr. Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, RD, IBCLC University of Cincinnati, Department of Nutritional Sciences
Join Molly Murray as she interviews the best birth and parenting professionals in the area!
Our first show is with Cincinnati Birth and Parenting Network's Natahshia Conner, IBCLC and Health Educator.
What is the cost of a birth doula in Cincinnati or N. Kentucky?
6 years ago, when I first started looking for a birth doula, pregnant with my second child and wanting a supported birth experience different from my first, I kept hearing the word doula. I knew that I wanted to add one to my birth team. A big question I had then was, ''Will I even be able to afford a doula?''
I scoured the various doula directories looking for the most affordable but still warm and approachable looking doula. I eventually found an incredibly warm, compassionate and enthusiastic doula who was only charging a few hundred dollars.
I hired this doula right away. She spent time with me prenatally, answering a ''false alarm'' call a few weeks before my due date, and coming to the hospital for a looong birth, and then coming to my home once again after my baby and I were home.
When it was all said and done, my birth doula in 2012 made pennies on the hour.
Fast forward just a couple years and this phenomenal doula is no longer available or doing birth doula work at all. I have to wonder if the reason is that she wasn't making a fair living wage for all the work she was doing.
Who are we?
Cincinnati Birth and Parenting, LLC was founded by Molly Murray, a birth and postpartum doula and childbirth educator. Through this growing company, Molly connects parents with information, resources, and support while also staying committed to building up fellow professionals and connecting them with the people who need their services most.
Serving Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky including: Alexandria, Amberley Village, Bellevue, Blue Ash, Burlington, Centerville, Cheviot, Clifton, Cold Spring, Colerain Township, Columbia Tusulum, Covington, Crescent Springs, Delhi, Dry Ridge, Edgewood, Elsmere, Erlanger, Florence, Ft. Mitchell, Ft Thomas, Ft Wright, Green Township, Hamilton, Harrison, Hebron, Hyde Park, Independence, Kenwood, Loveland, Madeira, Madisonville, Mariemont , Mason, Middletown, Milford, Montgomery, Mt Adams, Mt Healthy, Mt Lookout, Newport, Northside, Oakley, OTR, Park Hills, Pleasant Ridge, Sharonville, Springboro, Union, West Chester, Wilder and all cities within 1 hour radius of Cincinnati, OH.
SUPPORTING FAMILIES IN: natural birth, epidural birth, cesarean birth, induction, gentle or family centered cesarean birth, multiples, VBAC, water birth, attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, bottle feeding and more!
Experienced with many birthing philosophies such as: Birthing From within, Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Lamaze, etc.
Cincinnati Birth and Parenting, LLC prides itself on continually working to be a diverse, inclusive, accepting, welcoming, safe space for everyone.