By Ash Spivak
Illustrated by Louise Reimer
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 7, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
HELLO! START HERE.
HI! WE’RE NAT AND ASH, TWO BIRTH DOULAS WHO STARTED from the same place as most of you, knowing nothing about childbirth except for… cue GIF of a flailing crazy pregnant woman. So the idea of passing an actual human being through our vaginas was petrifying, to say the least.
But considering that millions of babies are born each year in the United States alone and that each and every one of us arrived here by the process of birth, it got us thinking: Why is it that we all know so little about childbirth? And, why are we all so terrified if it’s so common?
So we started digging. And what we learned blew our minds: that we can just chill as our bodies grow tiny baby fingernails, that the uterus can grow to the size of a watermelon and then shrink back down to the size of a pear, that breast milk constantly changes its composition to fit the unique needs of the particular baby’s health and developmental stages… The more we found out about the intricacies of the body’s inner workings and defense mechanisms, the more enamored we became. And the more we explored and saw firsthand where all of our fear and misunderstanding around our bodies comes from (stay tuned!), the more it fueled our need to write this book.
The transition of pregnancy and childbirth is entirely transformational for each and every single person and partner that goes through it. But because it is so “ordinary,” we often forget that it’s actually extraordinary. It’s a huge deal.
Having now supported hundreds of families through their pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences—and Nat having done the deed herself with Ash as her doula!—we’ve put together this book as a culmination and curation of what we have learned along the way. This resource was created to help you build confidence in yourself so that you can let go and release into the craziness that is the perinatal journey. It’s our goal to equip you with the tools and support to listen to your own unique, extraordinary power, to ask for help and set boundaries, and to not give a shit about the “shoulds,” “should-nots,” and “must-dos” that constantly flood pregnant people and partners.
What works for you may look very different than what works for your friend, your sister, or even your doctor or midwife. But you really and truly know best. Our hope is that this book helps you trust that.
With love and a muscle arm emoji,
Ash + Nat
P.S. One last thing: Throughout this book, we tried our best to include a wide range of birthing people and scenarios, but we recognize that depending on your circumstances, some of what is outlined in these pages might not always be an option for you. That’s the thing about each of us being so unique! If you’re a single parent, we see you. If you’ve experienced loss or trauma, we see you. If your baby is breech, we see you. If you’re carrying more than one baby, we see you. If you or your baby have health factors that make you high risk, we see you. If you’re giving your baby up for adoption, we see you. You all matter. Our hope is that even if everything here doesn’t resonate with you, there will still be helpful bits and tools for you along the way.
WHAT IS A DOULA ANYWAY?
We know there’s a lot of confusion about what we as doulas (pronounced do-la) do, so let us clear it up for you.
A birth doula is a nonclinical coach that provides emotional, advocacy, educational, and sometimes spiritual support during pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum period.
Because we are actually with clients for so much of their labor (you won’t see most clinical providers until later in your labor, and even then, if you are birthing in a hospital, you may not see them until it’s time to push) and we are not bound to institutional policies, we have a unique vantage point on this process. Basically, we get access to the stuff no one else sees!
Doula support looks different for everybody, but some examples of what a doula can do include:
Help you navigate conversations with your care provider about your pregnancy.
Help you cope during early labor before you are with your clinical provider.
Help you decide when to go to your birthing place during labor.
Help you avoid unnecessary interventions.
Help you find ways to encourage the baby to descend through the birth canal while you have an epidural.
Provide hands-on support, like massage, during labor.
Assist with lactation once the baby is here.
Allow for your partner to take a break.
Help you process your birth experience and adjust to parenthood in the postpartum period.
People often ask us if—since we’ve seen so much—we would still want a doula for our own births. We may be biased, but our answer is always, “We’d take two.”
Common Myths about Doulas
A DOULA AND A MIDWIFE ARE THE SAME.
Nope! Midwives are clinical providers, which means that you’d use a midwife instead of an OBGYN. While there are different requirements per state, licensed and certified midwives have either gone through nursing school or years of clinical training. Midwives can catch babies in hospitals, birth centers, or your home. You can have a midwife and a doula, but they are definitely not interchangeable! See here for more on the differences between midwives and OBGYNs.
DOULAS ARE FOR HOME BIRTHS ONLY OR FOR “ALL-NATURAL BIRTHS.”
In our practices, 90 percent of the births we support take place in hospitals. And while we are certainly specially trained to help people achieve nonmedicated births when the labor and baby are cooperating, many of our clients come to us already certain that an epidural—or in some cases, cesarean surgery—is the right choice for them. Doulas support you doing you.
MY PARTNER IS VERY SUPPORTIVE, SO I DON’T NEED A DOULA.
Doulas don’t replace your partner. In fact, our job is to make it easier on your partner and take some of the pressure off them. Remember, this is a very emotional time for your partner too—even if they don’t show it!—and if this is their first child, they’ve never done this before either. Our job is to normalize the process, allow them to take a break or get a sandwich without leaving you alone, and assist with the logistics so that they can actually be a better partner.
DOULAS ARE A COOL ACCESSORY FOR THE RICH.
Actually, research shows that having a doula provides real benefits1 for your birth, including:
more likely to rate your childbirth experience positively
less likely to need Pitocin
less likely to have a C-section
less likely to use pain medication
more likely for your baby to have a higher 5-minute APGAR score (this is an initial measurement of your baby’s health)
The cost of having a doula can range from nothing to thousands of dollars. Many work on a sliding scale, and sometimes you can get your insurance company or flexible spending account (FSA) to cover some or all of the money. You can also ask friends to contribute to the cost of a doula on your gift registry if you plan on having a baby shower. For those for whom cost is truly prohibitive, there are programs that offer no- and low-cost doulas, so be sure to do an online search for what is available in your area. Typically, doulas are ready to rally to support those in want and need. Just ask!
TO BEGIN, LET US FIRST SAY, HOLY SHIT, AMAZING JOB! Being pregnant isn’t always easy. And though hopefully there are lots of special moments throughout, you certainly don’t get enough recognition for all you have to go through to get here and be here. Dude, look what you are already doing—you’re freaking growing a human! We bow down to you.
But we recognize that the perinatal period can also bring up a lot of stuff. The stakes are so high, and it touches on everyone’s biggest fears: giving up control, change, loss, and the unknown. (When’s my labor going to start? How long will it last? What will it feel like? What will my baby be like? Will they have all their toes?) All the while your hormones are going crazy, and you have to lug around another human everywhere you go!
So while having a baby can be wonderful, a blessing, yadda yadda yadda, it is also very normal to feel utterly afraid, anxious, and like, How am I going to do this?!
We want to invite you to approach this time as an opportunity. While this may be one of the hardest and most uncomfortable things you ever do, all this baby growing allows for some incredible personal growing along the way.
We all arrive at this transition with different experiences, histories, traumas, triumphs, circumstances, and bodies. We are each the sum of all of these things.
And our babies are the sum of their own bodies, experiences, and circumstances in addition to all of yours—which is why you are so equipped to help them navigate their new world!
No two people can possibly have the same collection of experiences. So it is actually impossible for your birth or your baby to be the same as anyone else’s—not your sister’s, or your mom’s, or the woman at the grocery store’s (especially hers!). And since each of our collections is unique, that means it’s also impossible for all of those standards, musts, must-nots, and must-haves surrounding pregnancy to work perfectly for you or your baby. You get to filter what feels right. You get to create your own story. You get to forge your own path as you go along.
For some, this freedom is exciting and exhilarating! And for others, it can feel intimidating, overwhelming, and hard to know where to begin. Which way do you walk if there is no path laid out in front of you? How do you make it through the unknown without directions?
While we can’t predict what will arise on your path, we do know that your path will likely be different from what you are imagining and it will likely be changing all the time. Focusing on the path alone seems almost silly if it’s not within our control and is constantly changing anyway. But what we can influence is how we move through it.
And we have a secret to share—do you want to know the best thing about not having control over the perinatal period? The pressure is off! Of course we want to influence as much as we can, and to set ourselves up for success, but there is actually only so much we can do. Sigh of relief.
So how do we not stay so focused on “the path”? How do we stay agile and flexible, while also valuing the need to stop and pause along the way to check in and ensure we are making decisions based on what is actually true for us at each moment?
So glad you asked!
We each have a compass inside to help us navigate and find our way. What do we mean by “a compass inside”? You’re about to find out! This section is all about helping you tune in to that compass and ensuring you have the appropriate support you need throughout the process to trust it. Because you don’t need to do this alone! Forging our own paths is hard. We need people to let us ugly cry when we’ve had it, make us laugh when we fall on our face, and let us pass out on their couch when we just need a damn change of scenery. And we need to make sure we have the clinical support to help us avoid unnecessary roadblocks whenever possible.
Before we dive into the specifics of pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, we want you to really learn to listen to your own instincts. To do that, we’ve put together some exercises in the following pages. You may be tempted to skip over them. We totally get it, but this is the part where we ask you to trust us and give them a try. While one exercise may not resonate, another may allow for a whole slew of dots to be connected for you.
And just a heads-up: You will be exploring your personal and family history here, so if at any point you feel that it is too much, stop and take a break. That’s you tuning in to your own compass! If you sense that something big may come up for you, please wait to do the exercise with someone who can help you process what you are feeling.
TUNING IN: LEARNING TO LISTEN TO YOU
Let’s begin with a framework for how you can tune in.
Meet the compass inside you, or your “four directions” to help you navigate your perinatal path. (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.)
It’s cool if this sounds totally cheesy. It is. But it’s also a powerful framework, so stick with us as you learn about this tool!
First things first. How do you tune in? Easy! You simply pause, close your eyes, breathe, and check in with each of your four navigators for guidance. (We’ll walk you through those below and give you excercises in the following pages.)
Now, we are all very familiar with the Head. The Head helps us solve problems, strategize, discern, ask questions, and speak. You’re using it to read this book right now! But not everything, especially during the perinatal period, can be understood or processed through the Head alone. Our Heads take in so much information each day from social media, the internet, day-to-day activities, friends, family, the stranger on the train, popular culture and can talk us into and out of just about anything—I could do this, no I should do that, or maybe it’s best to do both—making it hard to know what is actually true or real for us, within the context of our unique collections.
With all of those factors playing together, you can see why it’s nearly impossible for our most familiar pilot to cut it on its own in this terrain. That’s why you have your Body, Emotions, and Gut to help. These are powerful copilots, yet so few of us have been taught to trust them as a navigation tool or have even been shown that it is safe to do so.
Our experiences become part of us and the collections that we carry. And each of these experiences, particularly the negative or traumatic ones from our childhoods as well as the acute traumas in adulthood, can “calcify” inside of us, blocking us from being able to know what we truly want or need—or trust that we are capable and deserving of getting it. While these blocks originally formed to protect us from getting hurt again, it doesn’t mean they are still serving us today in their current shape or size. But these blocks can change! They can become smaller, lighter, or more permeable to outside influence. They can even transform into influential permanent fixtures inside of us, sprouting new parts that become fresh sources of fuel—our power plants that allow for brand-new possibilities.
But in order for our blocks to shift and transform, we must be able to tune in and find the ones that need nourishing, or at least notice where they live inside of us and get the support we need to work with them.
How do you start tuning in? How do you let your Body, Gut, and Emotions start guiding alongside your Head? The first step is simply to try!
One of the coolest aspects of the perinatal period is that you’ve already started doing it. And your baby is helping you! You feel when your baby kicks, which makes you more aware of your Body and in turn builds trust that your Body is growing those feet as you watch Queer Eye. You are letting your Emotions take over as you cry at that ridiculous commercial. And perhaps you’ve gone with your Gut and called your provider once or twice because something just felt off, or perhaps you’ve started to have magical feelings or dreams about your baby, noticing new synchronicities around you.
In other words: You’re already using your compass!
The following pages will help you continue to build your ability to tune in: to remember you and baby are in this together and to help your Head be a bit less noisy so you can actually hear what your Body, Gut, and Emotions are saying. They will also help you locate where some of your blocks live, give you tools to work with them, and ensure you are setting yourself up with the support you need for this transition.
C’mon let’s go!
LET THAT BABY GUIDE YOU
We often think it’s our job as parents to show our kids the way—and it is. But they are also our biggest teachers. When we don’t have the answer or aren’t sure what to do, baby may actually be able to show us, if we are willing to listen. After all, babies have their own compass, and their Body, Gut, and Emotions don’t have a fully developed Head to hold them back yet!
Here’s an exercise that will help you continue to trust that your baby has innate wisdom for you to learn from and you guys are in this thing together—all the way!
BREATHING WITH BABY
Read this whole exercise through first, and then close your eyes and give it a go.
Close your eyes, put your hands on your belly, and take nice, long, deep inhales and exhales. If you feel your baby move, say Hi!
Focus on the sensation of the air passing through the rims of your nostrils as you breathe.
Start to trace how the oxygen travels from your body to baby’s body and back out of your body.
• Imagine the oxygen’s path. You can watch the oxygen travel as light, a color, or liquid. You can feel it move through you as heat, moisture, or a tingling sensation, or you can hear it as sound. Choose whichever resonates most for you.
Follow the oxygen along this route:
• It passes through the rims of your nostrils and into your throat. It is then filtered for you by your windpipe. The good stuff is passed on to your lungs, then into your bloodstream to your uterus, through the placenta and cord, and into baby’s belly where it will circulate through baby’s bloodstream. Then all the carbon dioxide—the stuff baby doesn’t need—travels back out the cord, into the placenta, through the uterus, back into your bloodstream, to your lungs, and back out the rims of your nostrils.
Take a few deep breaths while tracing the oxygen, and as you inhale remember that oxygen is nutrient-rich. It is exactly what is helping your baby grow and thrive. And all you need to do to help your baby grow and thrive is inhale. You’re doing it!
As you exhale, recognize that you are ridding both you and baby of the stuff you no longer need—your waste. The only thing you have to do for this to happen is exhale. It’s that easy!
As you are breathing with your baby in this way, feel free to ask a question, send a little message, or just say What’s up?
You can do this whenever, wherever, to tune in and connect to your body!
WHAT IS YOUR BODY TELLING YOU?!
Connecting with your baby is a great way to connect with your Body. After all, your baby kind of forces you to, ready or not, as your Body has already jumped into the driver’s seat to grow that baby anyway.
We know listening to what your Body is telling you can be scary, since most of us have a zillion reasons why we have a complicated relationship with it. But here’s the thing about the Body (and why we are starting with this point on the compass): If you can learn to trust it and feel safe in it, it can actually help you build up your connection to your Gut, as well as ground you when your Head or Emotions feel too strong or out of control.
So we need to build back up that trust so your Head feels safe letting your Body take the lead. How? Start listening and practicing! The following exercises were designed to help you do just that.
NANCY DREW-IN’ IT
Throughout the day, check in with the sensations that arise in your body. (We even suggest going so far as recording them.) How do certain places affect those sensations? Certain vibes or the decor of a room? Certain people? The time of day? The food you eat? What are the sensations you feel when you know you are angry, sad, excited? What sensations do you feel when you like something? What goes on when you don’t like something? And go the other way too—if you feel a sensation in your body first, ask yourself: Where are you? Who are you with? Can you discern what is causing those sensations to arise?
It’s different for everybody, but here are some of the ways your Body may talk to you:
Warm or cold sensations
Tightness in chest
Releasing fluids (blood, tears, saliva, vaginal fluids, milk)
A pit in your stomach
Needing to go to the bathroom
Butterflies in your stomach
Aches or pains
Restlessness or bouncing of legs, fingers, hands
Facial and/or eye twitches
Tension in the jaw, shoulders, neck
A feeling of spaciousness inside, an opening or a feeling of flowing
Feeling very light or like you are floating
Feeling like your body is very heavy
Feeling stuck or frozen
Speaking on your vocal cords (vocal fry)
Speaking especially softly, loudly, fast, or slow
Of course, some sensations will be directly related to your pregnancy (thanks, baby!), but you’ll likely still be surprised by the patterns you find. Take note!
Now that you have an idea of the language your Body uses to talk to you, let’s explore your relationship with your Body. Find a private, quiet place to do this one, and get a pen and paper ready. Read through the exercise below before you begin.
Find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take nice, long inhales and exhales.
Keeping your eyes closed and breathing deeply, begin to scan your body, starting from your head and ending at your toes. To scan your body, call to mind each individual part of your physical self, both internal and external—head, jaw, shoulders, throat, lungs, uterus, stomach, cervix, legs, toes, etc.
As you scan, take notice of what pops up for you as you address each part. Look for any colors, images, people, smells, body sensations, thoughts, or memories even if they seem irrelevant. Note any resistance and any parts you wanted to skip over.
If you feel any resistance at certain parts or tension, see if you can use your breath to help release it by sending a long, audible exhale in the direction of the tension.
When you are done scanning, open your eyes and write down any emotions, sensations, or points of interest that came up for you. Once you’ve reflected on your scan, ask yourself the following questions to find your blocks:
Did you have resistance to this exercise overall? Was sitting and being with your body difficult for you to do? Were you able to be still?
Did anything surprising come up?
Is the language you used to describe your parts, thoughts, or memories positive, negative, neutral?
Which body parts felt strongest? What did you celebrate about yourself? Where are your power plants?
How much of the language, imagery, and ideas that arose:
• come from a place of judgment?
• are actually true to you today?
• are actually not about your
- On Sale
- Apr 7, 2020
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Running Press