Call me a Chameleon!

Call me a Chameleon!

chainimage-chameleon-colorful-lizardimage credit: chainimage.com

As I mentioned in a blog post on my professional Facebook page a couple of months ago; I heard myself referred to as “The Trauma Doula”. This is not because I inflict trauma upon my clients you understand (!) but more because I have chosen to specialise in supporting women (& their partners) in unravelling traumatic experiences and their impact on the journey of pregnancy, childbirth and the post partum period. So around and about Amsterdam I speak a lot about Birth Trauma, about VBAC, about Caesarean Birth, about sexual abuse, about domestic abuse and about the ways and means we have at our finger tips to support our hearts, bodies and minds in unpicking the thread that these types of trauma can weave through our experiences of these special moments in our lives.

Anyhow, I digress! Never having really had a “nickname” because Ilena doesn’t really rhyme so easily with other words;  (someone did unsuccessfully attempt to spread “Ilena the Painer” some 22 years ago) I decided that “The Trauma Doula” was also not really one I was keen to perpetuate within the Amsterdam Birth Network or the wider network of families and parents-to-be.

So it got me thinking….what would I like to have as my nickname or “trademark”? To mention but a few fabulous doulas in Amsterdam with nicknames; the wonderful Maartje de Bruijn-Bruning from MotherMe is referred to as “The Duracell Doula” due to her unwavering high energy support, my beloved and multi-talented mentor Jennifer Walker has recently become “The Spinning Babies Doula” due to being one of seven approved Spinning Babies trainers, and the lovely Wendy van der Zijden IS “Holistic Doula”,due to her passion for all things natural and holistic, so what would I (or others) coin as a nickname for myself?

Well after waiting a few months for an answer, earlier this evening it struck me:

Am I “The Chameleon Doula”???

Now in other contexts of life, the notion of being a chameleon might not work so well: who would want a dentist come gynaecologist come antiques dealer to fill in a root canal? Who would trust a baker come plasterer come politician? What about a chemist come footballer come gardener? Maybe not….(!)

In the world of birth keeping however, I believe passionately in the value and significance of this ability to camouflage into the surroundings, and shape shift as appropriate. For me it is important that as a doula I can support you in a homebirth setting, in a hospital induction, in a water birth at a birth centre, or in a planned caesarean birth – all equally.

Now what does that actually translate into in terms of what I actually do during birth support? Let me be clear and tangible :

  • I love space clearing with sage, palo santo or incense
  • I love to offer insight into herbal teas and mineral supplements
  • I love to sit with you as you learn about the physiology and chemistry of birth
  • I love to use yoga principles to help you stretch out the body
  • I love to hear your feedback after having reviewed the lastest scientific research on Vitamin K
  • I love to sit with your midwife as you present your preferences for your care
  • I love to help you pack your birth centre bag
  • I love the curious and sometimes intense taxi ride to the hospital
  • I love to coach you through the fears and doubts that arise as you navigate those final cms in your living room
  • I love to bust out the essential oils for you as you’re hooked up to the CTG
  • I love brushing your hair and applying make up as you enjoy the relief of the epidural
  • I love to heat up your body with my warm hands as I channel the healing and rejuvenating energy of Reiki through your body
  • I love to talk you through what I can see as you lie back on the operating table ready to meet your baby
  • I love chanting with you as you prepare to bear down and push
  • I love to coach you through the mental blocks like a hockey coach as you continue to push like you never did before
  • I love to capture your incredulous awestruck face as you take in the face of your baby in person
  • …and I love everything in between! I have to shape shift pretty dramatically in one birth between all of these tasks.

My clients reflect this chameleon like appearance; I serve artists and corporate lawyers,  recruitment consultants and managing directors, performance coaches and stay at home parents….and every professional and non professional parent in between. Religious parents, atheists; trilingual expat parents, parents fluent in the local dialect; parents who prefer allopathic medicine to parents who utilise holistic medicine; etcetera. All of these individuals have sought support in pregnancy, birth and postpartum parenting….none of them can be labelled in any one way – and here their “job titles” and some “parenting choices” are just a couple of reflections of who they are or what is important to them.

Surely I have to be a chameleon then?!

I was incredibly lucky to have experienced a shape shifting or chameleon like birth story for my first child…it was like a four part story: through a home birth, an undisturbed hospital water birth, a  full working day of the full casacade of interventions, culminating in a beautiful if unexpected Caesarean birth. Being a chameleon as a professional doula in Amsterdam means that I can support you in any birth setting, through any change of plan, through any and every choice you make, and through any outcome – always unconditionally and non-judgementally.

I realised through my own personal experience the true value of having birth support who can comfortably switch birth settings, who can effortlessly adjust to the mood and atmosphere as birth unfolds and everything shifts dynamically. For me the ability to be a chameleon seems intrinsic to the nature of a birth keeper…to be a professional who can shape shift easily and effortlessly and yet hold true to the core essence of their values and beliefs.

What does the core essence of my professional pledge look like?

  • Unconditional and continuous support

  • Non-judgemental support; I have no agenda

  • An open mind, an open heart and open hands

  • Respect and reverence for the uncertainty and miracle of the journey of birth

  • Positive and empowering communication

  • No protocol or prescription for care; on the proviso that it is clear that my support is non medical by definition

Whatever my personal choices might be in my pregnancy, during the unfolding of my birth stories, and as a parent I hope they don’t influence whether or not you decide to hire me…I would like to think that I have a successful and demonstrable track record in providing support as outlined above to all families who hire me; whatever their choices.

If you would like to enquire about the flexible and interchangeable services of The Chamelon Doula (!!!) then please email me to organise an introductory meeting where we can explore what doula support could look like for your family.

hello@ilenajoannestandring.com

 

What to pack in your hospital/birth centre bag: The quirky list!

What to pack in your hospital/birth centre bag: The quirky list!

There are so many lists out there for guidance on packing your bag for taking to the birth centre or hospital. Often the hospital or birth centre will issue a list of their recommended bag contents and so what I include in the list here is the “other” stuff; that as a doula in Amsterdam I see is often overlooked – or when providing birth support I see really makes a difference.

For You

  • Your own pillow – when you are in labour you are open to your environment in an unparalleled way (we are mammals after all). The familiarity of touch and smell of your pillow in the hospital or birth centre setting can work wonders to relax your nervous system and bring comfort in a way that a plastic coated sterilised pillow just can’t compete with.

 

  • Rescue Remedy – use it as you make the journey from home to the birth centre or hospital, as contractions become more intense, as you perhaps encounter the thoughts of “I can’t do this anymore” whilst you traverse through transition…this is on repeat order from my suppliers for my own doula bag!

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  • Aromatherapy oils – the top five for me are Lavender (relaxing, wonderful to ease muscle tension, antibacterial, lovely used in massage), Clary Sage (for relaxing into the other wordly state that labour hopefully brings, to intensify contractions), Frankincense (calming emotions, promoting physical relaxation, centering and can assist later in post partum skin healing – diluted in an appropriate carrier oil), Peppermint (or nausea, to cool off, to cut through fatigue, massaged into the back when experiencing back labour it can encourage baby to adopt a more optimal position) and Eucalyptus (for bringing clarity during transition and ready for following the urge to push, if the air is stuffy, or to cool off).

 

  • Forget the diffuser!!! a spray bottle with some lavender and/or clary sage or frankincense essential oil suspended in water ready to shake and spray. Otherwise hospitals and birth centres usually have a surplus of flannels and washcloths that work very well as compresses – warm or cool.

 

  • Coconut water and/or Miso soup – both jam packed full of electrolytes; which your body needs a constant replensihment of during labour and post partum in the hours after birth. It is physically strenous work and the more you can feed your body what it needs the more effectively it can do it’s job and recover afterwards. The combined heat of Miso soup is very healing post partum too – or if labour slows and things need “heating up” again.

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  • A straw or two – just makes drinking at unusual angles a lot easier! Drink, drink, drink – and urinate, urinate, urinate!

 

  • Facial spritz – because sometimes a compress just doesnt’t cut it and you deserve to be spritzed as you work so hard should you so desire

 

  • Favourite luxurious shower products – for afterwards – it can go one of two ways that first shower. Either you rush through it because you can’t bear to be away from your precious little bundle, or you luxuriate in feeling your body as you cleanse away the sweat, the milk, and the stickiness of the last who knows how many hours. Again – familiar comforting smells really help to promote feelings of safety, comfort and wellness.

 

  • Loose comfortable clothing – body shapes change at different rhythyms after birth, and our bodies often feel tender – so loose fitting layers to layer up or down depending on your body temperature are best.

 

  • A big soft shawl or scarf – the familiarity and comfort of the smell, the flexible practicality of having something to wrap around your shoulder during the first feed or two. If it is long and strong enough – you can also use it as a rebozo during labour.

 

  • A loose comfortable outfit to travel home in – sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how often this is overlooked; the clothes you arrived can’t be guaranteed to be so appealing to travel home in.

 

  • *** Don’t forget: TWO EXTRA COPIES OF YOUR BIRTH PLAN. Yes – your midwife and or your care providers will of course already have them “on file” but care providers are busy – very very busy often and so if the care provider on shift for whatever reason haven’t had a chance to read your birth plan already – then a printed copy that you can hand them will save them and you a lot of time and energy finding and or explaining.

 

For your birth partner

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  • Rescue Remedy – whilst it goes without saying that the labouring mother experiences a lot during labour; so does the birth partner. Whether it is the first or fifth time around; it can get a little emotionally overwhelming at any given moment.
  • Swim trunks / change of clothing – if labouring in water or water birth is on the cards as a possibility then it is great if Dad or birth partner is equipped and ready to support in any setting.
  • Nibbles and plenty of liquid – when birth partners are fully supporting the labouring mother; it is hard work for them too. As far as the hospital or birth centre goes, they try as much as possible to support the birthing team too, but their priority is always the labouring mothers – and often birth partners don’t feel like they can “trouble” the care providers for what they need. Plan for them to be optimally hydrated and energised, to ensure you are taken the best possible care of. Whilst it can be that a sweet sugary snack seems appealing; the best bet for sustainable energy is something packed with protein and or slow releasing carbohydrates. Think apples with a handful of nuts or a hunk of cheese, or miso soup with tofu, or a super food brownie packed with seeds and nuts with a few dates on the side.
  • A pillow/cushion/meditation cushion – birth is a very grounding process, and so often a labouring mother following her instincts will not choose to be laying on her bed in a hospital bed but to be swaying on the birthing ball, or on all fours on the floor. Birth centres and hospitals generally have a few extra seats for birthing partners, but if you want your partner to stay close and be comfortable then think about an extra pillow or solid cushion for them to sit on/be supported by.
  • A doula – Well obviously; Doulas are for Dads too

 

For Baby

Again, refer to the more standard lists of what to pack in your hospital bags for all the details, but for our quirky list one thing to consider and two reminders.

  • Cord ties – for years the thing used to clamp a baby’s umbilical cord has been a plastic clamp. More and more people are considering the experience of the baby and that has seen rise to the more frequest use of cord ties, as it is considered the most gentle option for baby (ie. less uncomfortable than a plastic clamp resting inside the nappy). You can make cord ties yourself, it may be that your doula would happily make cord ties for you (I do – as seen in the picture), or you can buy them from Etsy or specialist handmade businesses.

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  • Birth Planning for post natal preferences – Include in your birth plan/ birth preference document a very clear section on your decisions regarding the post partum care and choices for your baby, including things like the use of cord ties (as above) or your choices about whether or not you will breastfeed, or give Vitamin K etc.
  • Baby car seat – When you give birth in The Netherlands you are required to transport the baby home in a suitable baby car seat – best to pack this close to your hospital bag…if you are planning a quick exit from hospital especially, then noone will need to return home to collect the car seat.

 

 

Please check out the fabulous Mama Natural and her quirky recommendations for what to pack into your labour bag:

 

If you love the beautiful Cath Kidston bag as much as I do – click here to treat yourself!

What would I gain from having a doula in my birth team???

What would I gain from having a doula in my birth team???

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As a coach and a doula I do a lot of networking online. I was very grateful yesterday to receive this very honest and curious question from an expectant third time mother:

{Q} “As I have only really heard of Doulas on USA TV shows, can I ask what… (sorry I’m trying to word this as my intention is far from to offend you but to learn if this for me)..would I get from you that i wouldn’t get from my midwife, husband, my mum and friends? I’m trying to work out if this service is going to give me anything extra than I’m already lucky enough to have? Thanks x”

{A} “Your midwife’s two priorities are the physical health of your body and the physical health of your baby; my priority is empowering you to make the best choices for your emotional, psychological and spiritual health, and then supporting you and those choices to optimise your enjoyment and empowerment through your birthing experience. A doula supports those aspects of your husband’s/wife’s/boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s health and enjoyment, and if relevant your other children or other birthing partner. In other words your midwife will focus mainly on your cervix, vagina and baby’s health, I’ll focus on making sure you are feeling positive, peaceful, comfortable and powerful as the latter stages of pregnancy, labour and the post partum period unfold.

Your husband/boyfriend as a male (or your wife/girlfriend/friend as a non labouring female) has the potential to be both having their own profound experience as well as being or feeling a little lost in the experience. He can read a lot of books to prepare him, he can empathise as much as his imagination allows him to, he may feel scared, exasperated, helpless, overwhelmed, overjoyed, traumatised, frustrated, squeamish or traumatised at any given moment during labour, birth and immediate post partum.

Michel Odent has infamously asked three confronting questions of fathers being present at a birth:

First question: Does the participation of the father aid or hinder the birth?

Second question: Can the participation of the father at birth influence the sexual life of the couple afterward?

Third question: Can all men cope with the strong emotional reactions they may have while participating in the birth?

For the answers and full exploration of this topic read the full article here: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/fatherpart.asp

A doula can support your partner in their experience of labour, both practically (ie popping the kettle on, making cups of tea, topping the birth pool up, making the placenta smoothie after birth, taking photos with you all in frame, letting him go to the bathroom and take a break for a moment), emotionally (a hand squeeze, a hug, a shared look, a hand on the shoulder, a safe word if he’s squeamish) , and all in the name of helping him to support you best. I love this article, and this quote from it “Our doula really helped bring me together with my wife as she gave birth. My wife remembers my constant support and never failing love or knowledge. She remembers the doula as a nice person who did some stuff in the background. We won’t give birth without a doula.”

Your Mum is your Mum. You were connected at one stage by an umbilical cord, or by adoption papers; either of those things carry a lot of emotional baggage – in a good way most of the time, but sometimes some women find that emotional baggage doesn’t actually keep them in the best place for them to experience their own power during labour….some women need their mothers and can’t imagine labouring or birthing without their mothers in the room. If your mother is there; then a doula can support your mum in supporting you in the best possible way; taking away the things that might take her away from the – the practical and emotional things above. Or, if your mum is not there, then a doula can mother you; take care of your every need in a nurturing way – but without the same weighted emotional ties. And she would probably offer to text your mum to keep her informed of the process so that you are kept away from the bright light of the mobile screen which isn’t so conducive to the labouring mind.

Your friends are family you choose, you mention them so I’m assuming you are close and that’s wonderful that you know they are there to rally around and be supportive. The thing is with friends that we often have a certain point with friends where we stop just before we ask them ‘one more thing’ – because we think “Oh but they’ve already done so much” or “ Oh god should I share that info or is that just TMI” or “ I know she’s having a really tough time with her husband right now – I can’t have a pregnant moan about the fact that I sent my Tim out for hazelnut icecream and he bloody came back with macadamia nut brittle instead” etc. A doula is there to listen to the TMI stuff, to go that extra mile and make up an extra batch of xyz as needed, to realise the difference between a hazelnut and a macadamia and to not think you’re a pregnant or labouring diva but to just get to know you and do those extra little things in just the right way for you….so your friends can come round, have a cuppa, have a two way moan because you know you’ll save that extra moan with your doula so you have space for their stuff too.

Other things a doula does above and beyond the team you mention:
– She helps you inform and empower yourself about birth so you can plot out your birth preferences not based on what the hospital protocols/home birth team/birth centre normally “allow” but upon what will work for you and your family, what will make you feel safest and what will hopefully mean a positive, peaceful and empowering birthing experience as opposed to birthing a healthy baby at any cost.
– Unwavering, non-judgemental and non-phased birth support at any birth you choose or need to undergo. In a Pennine stream, in a hospital theatre, in a birthing pool in your living room, the local birth centre or on your kitchen floor: a doula will be there calm and unwavering, with a hug, a smile and an eye to eye look reminding you of your power and strength when you need it most – whatever the setting whatever the situation.
– She holds the space around labour, birth and the golden hour post partum. What does that mean? It means helping you to keep your surroundings during the last weeks of pregnancy as calm, safe and peaceful as possible, and during labour means protecting that space and reminding those who may come in and out of it to respect it, promoting oxytocin amongst everyone who comes in and out; and that oxytocin will help you and your body to remain saturated in it (Oxytocin is one of the main hormones in the birth hormone cocktail)
– She records your birth story for you; the time you really got into the zone, the funny thing you said whilst eating a sandwich, the time the midwife arrived, the time your waters broke, the time the delivery kit was mobilised, the moment baby crowned, the moment baby was fully earthside…and if you’re lucky she will be able to take a few photos too!
– She can offer alternative pain relief methods such as massage, acupressure, rebozo, aromatherapy.
On top of all that I would say that I personally can offer:
– Years of counselling and coaching experience to support in listening, overcoming and setting intentions and goals around pregnancy, labour, post partum and breast feeding
– Reiki and polarity massage before, during and after birth
– Alternative support in helping you with Optimal Foetal positioning )including Moxa for breech presentation
– Massage, acupressure, rebozo sifting and aromatherapy as above
– Birth photography
– Currently offering preparation of placenta smoothies and portioned placenta for the freezer, plans to offer placenta encapsulation in the not so distant future
– Excellent tea making skills; and a penchant for choosing the right herbs to support good health throughout”

I received this reply following my answer:

“Wow thank you for this information, I’ve read, reread and read again for good measure ( it’s peaceful here at 5.30am lol) I think your work of empowering the person going through the labour and pregnancy and her partner is such an incredibly amazing thing and understand how and why many many couples would need and want you by their side especially for a first birth or after a previously traumatic experience. Having laid here digesting your words and reflecting on my previous birth experience ( emm c-section, sick mummy, very cardiac sick baby and then natural, long but brilliant personal birth with my hub by my side then straight home to breath in our own space) I feel my husband and I are all we need to create an environment in which to bring our third child into our family. I do feel for my second child my husband ( his first) would have really gained so much from you bring there from what you’ve said above. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve sent your comment above to two friends who are both due to give birth in August ( one first time parents and the other a mum who’s going to be a mum and a dad soon) who I think will both be very interested in your support.”

What would you add to the list of benefits of having a doula beyond the great statistics that are out there?

Did you have a doula?

Did you not have a doula but wish you had? Why?

Did the experience live up to your expectation?

What would you tell someone who was thinking about having a doula to support them and their family?

A quote I love which is a good one to end on (and also features on my business cards) is this one from John H Kennell MD:

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it”

(So impressive are the positive birthing outcomes for mothers supported by doulas)

Still need convincing?!
Here are some other articles on why you might like to hire a doula:

http://expectingthebestbirth.com/50-reasons-to-hire-a-doula

http://taprootdoula.com/2015/03/23/stop-worrying-and-hire-a-doula/

http://www.bellybelly.com.au/pregnancy/doulas-what-is-a-doula/