what is a doula

When My Midwife Changed My Life

I'm sure when you see the title of this blogpost "When My Midwife Changed My Life", you probably assume that I'm going to be writing about how empowered she made me feel during birth or how she educated me on the benefits of trusting my body and baby or some other feel-good type of situation. Sure. She did all of those things. But the moment that she reached in my heart and touched my inner being happened two weeks after I gave birth to my second child... a beautiful, robust, easy-going, baby boy.

Even though my precious one was as laid back as they come, around day 5-6 postpartum, I was immediately overcome with anxiety. Not worry, persay (I know what persistent OCD postpartum worry is like, and that's not what I was experience). No, this anxiety was physical. It was causing my heart to race; my appetite vanished; my mind raced with nothingness; sleep (even though baby boy was sleeping relatively well for a newborn) rarely came to me even though I was exhausted. I felt like I was racing on a treadmill trying to escape something. The scary part, for me, was that I didn't know what this "something" was.

At my sweet boy's two-week check-up, I mentioned to his amazing pediatrician what was going on with me. Since my midwife's office was down the hall, the pediatrician asked, "Do you want me to try to get you in to see Candie today?".

YES. Oh, yes. Yes. I did! I just needed someone to tell me that was okay. It was okay to seek help.

I walked down the hall and was immediately embraced by my sweet midwife. The woman who had not only caught my two babies, but who had also sat with me for an hour at each prenatal visit to, when we ran out of pregnancy-related things to talk about, just "shoot the breeze". Now I understand that we weren't just chit-chatting, she was making me feel safe. She created such a cocoon of safety and peace for me when I was in her presence, that I would immediately let all fears fly out.

So, during that 2 week postpartum visit, just seeing her face immediately lifted the elephant off my chest that was suffocating me. She told me that what I was experiencing could be just "normal" PP stuff.. or it could be indicative of PPD or PPA. She listened to me. She cried with me. She asked if I wanted to try going on medicine. She told me it was okay if I did. That I would be okay. That we would figure this out. That I was not alone. 

She left the room to write the prescription, and I heard her nurse come up to her and say, 
"I thought you had left to get an early start on your weekend and spend some time with your family."

Candie responded with, "I was going to. But someone needed me to be present for them."

I'll never forget hearing that. 

"To be present."

Wow. To be present for others is sometimes the greatest gift we can give others. And, she taught me that fully. Sure, I could have been prescribed medication from another care provider, but I needed her presence. I needed her. And having her acknowledge and honor that, even though she could have easily told me to come back on Monday or passed me off to her OB, was life changing. It was humbling for me. Maybe I didn't get it at the time. But, now... now, I totally understand. Being present IS the gift of humanity, no matter who you are in life --- a gas station attendant, a doctor, a teacher, the President of the United States. 

Being "present" is what we were made for. 

Thank you, Candie for that life lesson.

<3 Martha

PS. Although I'm in East Tennessee now, if anyone reading this is lives in the Western Kentucky area and is in need of a care provider, Candie Riehl is the best. 

Doula "Work" is Life "Work"

The duties of a doula are to provide emotional and physical support to her client, but more than that a doula is committed to being a nonjudgmental, informative, calming presence; to being actively present; to being steady and still.

Isn't this something that we all deserve throughout our entire lives?

It hit me during a life-changing workshop that I attended this weekend.... DOULA WORK IS LIFE WORK. What I am as a doula is what I should be as a human. And nothing less. It sounds like a difficult goal, but one that I commit myself to strive towards.

I commit myself to be a nonjudgmental, informative, calming presence.
I commit myself to be actively present.
I commit myself to be steady and still.

ALWAYS. In life and in birth work.

Much thanks and gratitude to the toLabor Doula Training Organization and the amazing Thérèse Hak-Kun for the guidance and knowledge she imparted with such lovingness and transparency -- this weekend in D.C. will forever change my life and my doula work. 

Reston, VA -- Spring 2016 -- toLabor Workshop Participants

Reston, VA -- Spring 2016 -- toLabor Workshop Participants

With Love,
Your Doula Martha

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Doulas Can Help Turn Lemons into Lemonade

Having a doula is not a magic wand. Sometimes I dearly wish it was. However, things don't always go how you/we planned --- whether it's in birth or postpartum / physical or emotional. But, even though I can't guarantee outcomes, I can guarantee support. And with that support, I can provide you with options, choices, and resources to make the best of any situation. 

doula support in knoxville and chattanooga

I'm your professional doula lemonade maker, if you will. 

If you're handed "lemons" during labor, as your doula, I can give you options and alternatives and support to make the difficult decisions.

If you're handed "lemons" after labor, again, as your doula, I can give you options and alternatives, as well as outside resources (I have a huge list of support persons in the area ranging from postpartum counselors to lactation consultants). 

However your birth goes --- beautifully as planned or beautifully as unplanned --- I'll be there for you. Holding that beautiful pitcher of lemonade begging you to drink from it.

<3 Your Chattanooga & Knoxville Doula,
Martha

But You Don't LOOK Like A Doula....

As I wrote in a recent blog post "Does Your Doula's Personality Matter?" , people get strange notions in their heads about how a doula is "supposed" to act... and they also think a doula is supposed to LOOK a certain way.

Hippie with braids and a long flowing skirt, anyone?

I do love me some skirts, but I'm a little more mainstream in my appearance. (While I don't normally like pictures of myself, my husband -- photographer/co-owner of Howell Photography -- took some amazing shots to prove my point.) 

And, I may not act like your stereotypical doula either. 

For example, I'm personally not 100% crunchy (although I do love natural living and natural remedies -- I'm just not dogmatic about them). I'm relatively young(ish) (many people think of doulas as older women --- which some are!) I don't push my views on anyone. I don't fight with doctors. I don't make decisions for you. 

But, to tell you the truth, I think it's time we redefined this stereotype of what a doula looks like and how she acts. 

Because, the birth world is changing. And more and more professionals are entering the birth field hoping to educate and support women from all walks of life. And we, as birth professionals, also have unique backgrounds and experiences that will shape the way we do our doula work. 

And, that's okay.

Love,
Your Chattanooga Doula / Knoxville Doula,
Martha H.