doula in the san fernando valley

Three Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Had A Baby

I had my babies a long time ago, but I still remember the feelings of anxiety. Was I doing it right? Was I making the best choices for my baby, myself, our family? There was so much noise being thrown at me from well meaning family, friends, doctors and experts, sometimes it was hard to hear my own heart. 
 


I knew that my guts and intuition were spot on when it came to my baby's needs.

 

I wish I had known that it was appropriate to expect the people around me to respect and support my choices. As a new parent, it's healthy to set boundaries when the people around us are not being supportive. It's not okay when other people undermine our confidence in our choices. Having healthy boundaries is a huge part of emotional health in the fourth trimester. Well-meaning relatives and friends like to give advice and to help solve problems that aren't always actual problems, just normal adjustments postpartum. This can keep new parents from finding their own rhythms.

I knew that it was impossible to spoil my baby, whether through too much snuggling, baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding and attachment parenting.  I wish I had known that other people's choices were equally valid for their families, that those choices do not define a "good" or a "bad" parent.  These divides undermine every new parent. It makes little sense to create separation where we could be building supportive community. The truth is, we don't know the details of another person's life or why they make the choices that they do. We're all doing the best we can, for the most part, making the best choices we can.



We all deserve respect for our parenting choices, even when we disagree.

 

I wish I had known more about what to expect during my second birth in the hospital. My first birth was a home birth. I had a great birth team, I was prepared, and I knew exactly what to expect. My second birth was in a hospital. I didn't do any preparation for what hospital birth would entail. I didn't really realize it would be that different from my home birth!  I wish that I'd had more access to education and information, that someone had explained what a hospital and its procedures would be like. As it was, the hospital birth I had was also positive, but it was very different from what I expected. I felt like I was learning to swim, in the middle of labor, and hospital procedure was a shock. 

I've long since worked through the emotions and feelings about my own birth experiences. But those experiences inform what I try to bring to my clients during their pregnancies, labors and births. It's a huge part of my "why." Why I listen, why I validate, why I encourage birthing people and parents to trust their intuition, to ask questions of their providers, to set boundaries, and to use their voices when they disagree. It's why I bring an attitude of non-judgment to the table, so that all of my clients feel supported in their choices, no matter what those choices are. And why I strive to stay informed, so I can offer the most current, evidence based information to my clients so that they are never left adrift or bewildered in the face of a decision or a hospital procedure. 



What we know about birth is that it does not always go as planned. It can be full of surprises.

 

Having a doula doesn't guarantee outcomes but it can help you deal with surprises or when your plans change. A doula offers validation, support, empowerment and information. These things all go a long way towards helping you get the outcome you want and can help you feel good about your birth outcome even if it wasn't what you'd planned for. And that's a good thing to know before you have a baby. 

You have an all inclusive pass, new parents. It's okay.

I was horrified this morning when a business, one that supposedly helps and supports new families, posted this on social media:

“Just because you're a mom with little ones doesn't mean that it's OK to walk around with wrinkled clothes on being all frumpy looking…. Having children doesn't give you a "look like I just rolled out of bed pass."

Really?

How about, no. Thank you. 


It's no secret, we live in a culture that tries to make women, their bodies, their needs, and their lived experience, invisible.

I’ve lost track of how many magazine articles I’ve seen, lauding this celebrity parent or that for “getting their body back in just 6 weeks” or “being bikini ready after having a baby.”  The problem is, and anyone who has given birth to a baby will tell you this, is that you don’t, actually, get your pre-baby body back. Ever. Your body is irrevocably changed by the process of pregnancy and the forces of giving birth, whether that's vaginally or surgically. You might have plastic surgery, exercise the pounds away, and hide most of the external markers of motherhood, but your body, your mind, and your spirit are all, still, forever, changed. That means your life is forever changed. You shouldn’t have to hide that, and you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the changes. Yet our culture sets these unreal expectations up and berates new parents for not meeting them, all when they are at their most vulnerable.  

Getting comfortable with your post-baby body and your post-baby life is a big deal! 


As a birth and postpartum doula, a professional who works with new parents and young families, what I care about is this.  Has the person I'm talking to had something nourishing to eat yet, today? Are they getting any sleep (notice I don't say enough sleep, just any sleep) and are they getting any support from their family, friends and community? 

It's the first thing I ask them.  9 times out of 10, the answer is, “I grabbed half a stale bagel which I ate standing up over the sink/over my child’s head while they were nursing/on the way to work. I haven’t had more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep a night, my partner is working double shifts/overtime/7 days a week, my parents live 3000 miles away and had to go home last week, and I feel exhausted.”

The last thing you want, when you are stretched that thin, is for someone to give you a hard time over what you’re wearing or whether or not you managed to pull a brush through your hair.

Don’t let celebrity and pop culture gas-light you or shame you for your experience. Or parenting "experts" either! Believe me when I tell you, it IS a big change and it’s okay for your priorities to shift after you have kids. Practicing good self care is a challenge when you have children. Yes, it’s necessary and it is worth doing for yourself, but you get to define what that looks like and you get to define how that works for your family. And sometimes meeting those needs means asking for help, when you’re in over your head.


The very last person who should be judging you is the person you are paying to help you. 
 

New parents, parents of small children, I salute your yoga pants, your pj’s, your leggings. You have a pass to wear whatever the hell you want to wear, and I really only have one question for you. Well, two. Are you getting enough to eat? Did you get some sleep last night? 


How can I help? 

Perioral Dermatitis and Pregnancy - Pt. 2 - Food Triggers

We know that what you put IN your body is as important as what you put ON it. The only way to learn your personal triggers is to pay attention to what you are putting on and in your body and then notice how your symptoms respond.

  • Spicy foods. This is a common one to watch. If you notice an increase in tingling, redness, painful new blisters or a spread of affected areas after a Thai curry with extra chilies or Taco Tuesday, then spicy food may be a trigger for you.

  • Caffeine. For the latte lover, this one is tragic. Caffeine appears to be a perioral dermatitis trigger for some people. While you're probably already limiting your caffeine intake during pregnancy, this is one to pay attention to. 

  • Salt, oil, acids.  These 3 triggers can all fall under the umbrella of things that go “ON” the skin in addition to “IN” the body. Greasy foods like fries and chips, acidic things like citrus and vinegar, salty things. All worth paying attention to when you're keeping a food diary. 

    Goodbye, shoestring french fries. It’s only for a little while.

  • Is there a yeast connection? There has been some discussion about whether or not perioral dermatitis is linked to candida. If you have a lot of yeast infections, thrush, or have previously dealt with candida overgrowth, it may be something you want to check out with your doctor, midwife or a nutritionist.


If you suspect there’s a link between your PD and certain foods, it is really worth investigating!


Which leads me to a couple of helpful suggestions.

  • Food based sources of probiotics*.  We know that the gut is linked to skin issues. You can get probiotic benefits from eating yogurt with active cultures, kefir, miso soup, pickled foods, and dark chocolate.
     
  • Food based sources of zinc*. Allergies allowing, you might add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, chickpeas, shitaki mushrooms, and fresh green peas to your diet. Plus? Throw in some organic dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. Shave some over a midnight snack of antioxidant rich strawberries, what’s not to love?

If you are struggling with perioral dermatitis and skin outbreaks during your pregnancy, it can really help to pay close attention to food-based triggers and increase foods that promote gut health.

Perioral dermatitis can be healed.

*Always run any dietary supplements past your midwife or doctor first. Some things can be toxic for you and/or baby at elevated levels.



 

Perioral Dermatitis and Pregnancy - Pt. 1

You wake up one morning and discover a strange, bumpy rash on your face.

Perioral dermatitis during pregnancy affects many women. It can feel unsightly and lead to feelings of depression and unhappiness. Managing perioral dermatitis is possible. 

Maybe it’s next to your mouth or between your lips and nose. It might extend down to your chin or even around your eyes. You’re not sure what it is, but you dab a little steroid cream on it and it goes away, only to return when you stop. Except this time it’s worse. SO much worse. It might burn, it itches, and it seems like every single thing you do just makes it worse.

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition - a kissing cousin to rosacea and eczema - affecting primarily women of childbearing age, though you can also see it in children. Most often it just starts flaring up for unknown reasons, very often during pregnancy or other times of hormonal fluctuation. While non-contagious in nature, perioral dermatitis can be unsightly and it is very stressful. The last thing you want to deal with - ever - is a painful, bright red, bumpy face rash, right?


Let me validate you, here. Perioral dermatitis can feel like the end of the world.  

I had my first bout with this in 1991, while pregnant with my first daughter. My midwife mis-diagnosed it, and the treatment she recommended made it oh, so much worse. Once it cleared up, I was so happy. But just like the Cat in the Hat, perioral dermatitis comes back. It came back with a vengeance during my second pregnancy, and I’ve experienced several more bouts over the years.  The first, and most important thing I learned was this: 

While steroid creams are the cure of choice for many forms of dermatitis, perioral dermatitis is not one of them.

Using steroids will make it go away for a short period, and then it will come back 3x worse than before. Just don’t use them. 

It's really important to let your dermatologist and/or primary care doctor know that you are pregnant, as tetracycline antibiotics are contra-indicated for  the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.  The most common treatment for this condition is to prescribe tetracycline antibiotics for a period of several months. Obviously, you are going to want to ask your doctor to help you find alternative treatments that are safe for both you and baby. 

In my own personal journey with perioral dermatitis, I have found a few things to be helpful and I'm listing them here as things you might want to explore or talk about with your doctor. 

  1. Skip the cover up. 
    I know you want to cover it up with makeup. Don’t. Go clean-faced for a while. Makeup can just irritate it more. 

  2. Read the labels on all of your skincare products. 
    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), glycols, fluoride, and parabens can irritate and worsen PD.  You might want to eliminate them. Look for SLS free products that have been formulated for skin conditions like eczema, acne and rosacea. Whatever you use, you want to find something gentle and non-irritating. 

  3. Toothpaste, especially whitening toothpaste, is a suspected trigger for PD.  
    During pregnancy, great dental hygiene is super important, so don't stop brushing your teeth! There are some great non SLS/fluoride free toothpastes available on the market.  Talk to your dentist and make sure your choice of alternative products are supporting your best dental health. 

  4.  Shampoo can affect PD. 
    Consider going to a gentle, SLS and sulfate free, no-poo regimen while your skin heals and even after. There are some fantastic options available now, thanks to all the curly girls out there. 

  5. Perioral dermatitis likes to be left alone.
    Don’t touch it or rub it. It just makes it hurt, and look, worse. Plus, it spreads faster.

  6. Food can be a trigger for some people. 
    You know your body best, so if you feel like something you are eating is having an adverse effect on your PD, make a note and try eliminating it. Obviously, if a suspected trigger food is an important source of something you need during pregnancy, you will want to find an alternative. Look for a second blog post on common food triggers, coming next week! 

  7. Pay close attention. 
    Keep a product and food diary. You will begin to see patterns. 

Perioral dermatitis can take several months to fully heal, but once you've eliminated your triggers, it does go away. With the right care, you can soothe the burn and keep it from being too angry looking while you’re in the healing phase. It’s important to treat yourself with patience, compassion and care while you’re healing. With perseverance, I promise you will get through this!

You aren't alone.

A quick word of warning:


Google wisely! 

Supplements: There are some supplements that are commonly recommended to treat perioral dermatitis. They can be very toxic for your baby and for you too, at the wrong dosage - or at all. ALWAYS double and triple check these with your doctor before you take anything. 

Essential oils: EO's are powerful chemicals. Please don't ingest or put EO's directly on your skin or your child's skin. You can set yourself up for lifelong problems, including sensitization, allergies and organ failure. If you are considering essential oil use, please talk to your physician or midwife and also seek a consultation with a qualified professional - a certified or clinical aromatherapist - who has trained through a reputable and accredited program, not a random "wellness advocate" from an MLM company. 

Your health, and that of your baby are too important to risk. 

(Originally posted at Great Valley Doula.)
 

 

 

Together We Stand


This woman owned, small business supports the LGBTQIA+ community, Black Lives Matter, supports the rights of immigrants and the rights of indigenous people, religious freedoms, civil rights, and this business will always stand for the simple truth that women are PEOPLE who have the fundamental right to reproductive choice.  

As your doula, I will always support your right to advocate for yourself, with your own voice and in your own words. 

Whale Song or Whitesnake... You Lead, Let's Dance.

Not every doula likes patchouli on their pillows! 

Not every doula likes patchouli on their pillows! 

I recently read an article in the Washington Post and I loved it! I loved that with her doula's support,  she had an empowered, supported birth experience. That's the goal! 

But I am not that kind of doula and that's okay. We're a pretty diverse group of people with a wide range of philosophies regarding birth. 

If I'm your doula, I will not throw away your tv dinners unless you specifically say, "Get those tv dinners out of my fridge and into a dumpster."  If dietary changes are what you want, I will work with you as you find your way. And, if you want me to warm up some frozen macaroni and cheese, I'm going to do that without an extra helping of side-eye. It's your call. 

I also won't give you a vaccination book unless you ask for it, I'm sorry.  I trust you to explore that topic yourself, with your physician and your child's pediatrician and my plan as your doula is to respectfully support all the parenting choices you make for your family. 

Not every doula uses a boot camp approach when it comes to being a birth partner.

I focus on empowering you to direct your own experience. My goal is to help you find your own happy place in the process. You may need me to take a more assertive role for a minute. You may need me to back off an hour later because you found your rhythm. It's a dance. We're birth partners. I will play you the Hamilton soundtrack, whale songs, the nae nae song or even your old Whitesnake CDs during labor if you want them.

The right support at the right time can make a profound difference and what is needed is unique and different for every birth, every mother, every baby. 

We are vulnerable when we're pregnant and birthing, not to mention afterwards. Support is imperative and you deserve to have abundant support during your birthing year and beyond. But you get to say what that looks like for you.  You may not like patchouli. You may want a cheeseburger. You may not want to throw away the tv dinners. And that's ok. Meeting you where you are is the point. 

Whether patchouli pillows are involved or not, it's my wish that every birthing parent can feel national news happy with their birth experience and the supportive care that they receive from every member of their birth team.