Monday, July 27, 2015

A Circle of Women

A Circle of Women

a circle of women
An actual "circle" of women. We were practicing neck massage at Birth Boot Camp instructor training in Indianapolis!

The birth world is an incredibly interesting place. All kinds of women come together because of their passion for birth to work as doulas, midwives, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulators, and more. You would think that being involved in the momentous occasion of birth would mean that all of these women are perfectly perfect, or at least kind and loving. You would be wrong.

Sometimes this circle of women feels more like a firing squad than a loving drum circle.

I think any birth worker notices this once they get involved enough and it is really disappointing. So much so, in fact, that I think some even end up leaving birth work altogether in order to avoid the drama.

Lately, I have been wondering a little about all this back room back stabbing. It has made me feel a little disappointed and hopeless.

But last week I went to another Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator training. I, along with my boss, Donna Ryan, spend four days with a new group of women every few months and try to communicate the skills necessary so that they too can go out and make a positive difference in the lives of women and families in their communities.

As usual it was a really beautiful experience. There are so many things I love about it.

I love that more than a dozen very different individuals from all over the country can join together to learn and truly feel as one. I love that our differences seem to disappear as we share our passion and focus on what matters: children, family, babies, birth, and women and their innate power. I love watching the outside "junk" disappear as each person lets their own true self shine through.

A fun weekend of training is always life affirming for me. But it is also so much more. The things that are built when birth workers actually work together and show kindness and grace are more than good memories and late nights. We are building an incredible community of support that crosses borders both geographical and political.

Recently my brother had his first baby. I wasn't able to be there since they live far from me and my own work and family is demanding. Yet I wept tears of joy knowing that they were supported by women in their own community who I knew, loved, and respected.

They took a childbirth class from a woman that Donna and I had trained. They hired her as their doula. They were supported by midwives. They were filled with their very own knowledge and confidence. I KNEW that this baby was surrounded by goodness and good people when he made his own entrance into the world in a peaceful and joyful moment.

I can't even express to you how much this means to me and how much happiness and inner peace it brought me.

This- a circle of women who support birthing couples and fresh, squishy babies- is what we can create when we truly work together as birth workers. We can have a friend or family member across the country who needs support and we can find someone we trust to help them meet their goals, when we learn to work together.

I am so grateful for this. It has restored my faith in humanity and in the birth community itself. And I see it happen all the time with our instructors and doulas.

We are doing a great work and when we work together as professionals, we do an even greater work that touches and improves birth for even more women. We can do this. We are doing this. And it is amazing. This is how you make a difference in the world. This is how love wins.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Remember When Facebook Was About Friends?

Me and Debbee! Debbee is a Birth Boot Camp instructor and doula in California and I don't care who she votes for!
Remember when Facebook was about friends?

I do.

Oh those were the golden days. I was living far from any family in a strange and foreign land known as "Texas". I was surrounded on every side by "George Bush" signs stuck in every grassy yard. Even the freeways were named after him! So strange and different from my native land of "California" where there was nary a Republican to be seen. (Though endangered in those parts, the EPA seems to be ignoring the issue. One can only wonder why.)

I discovered something known as "Facebook," in those golden days. My little brother said it was like MySpace for housewives. Suddenly, I could connect with family and share pictures of my son with them! Sharing pictures was hard to do back them because almost nobody had a cell phone and sending things like that via e-mail meant waiting an hour while it loaded and my dial up connection spun in slow confused circles.

But with Facebook I could share pictures of the kids and our life with my nearest and dearest. I even re-connected with some old friends from highschool, college, and other places I had lived. It was really an amazing thing. But my brother was wrong. Facebook wasn't like MySpace for housewives, it was like CRACK.

First pleasantly addictive, until it erupted in angry violence.

It took a few years, but eventually I found myself alone again in a new place, still a housewife, and feeling kind of sad. Suddenly I was somewhat addicted to Facebook and started sharing more of my "opinions." You may have noticed that I give a crap about childbirth. I was even more opinionated and sure of myself five years ago. I even occasionally noticed that my "friends" would sometimes disappear after I shared another ranty post about how c-sections are the devil or about how bottles drip sweet nectar from the teat of satan.

Wha?! How dare they! If they didn't agree with me, who needs them as friends anyway?!

At some point, a male friend of mine and former co-worker made a sarcastic remark about how he wasn't interested in all the birth posts. So I started my own "business" Facebook page, Mama Birth (to go with this here handy blog!) and started confining my rants to that.

Here we are, a few years later, and it has become obvious that Facebook isn't about friends at all, it is about YOU. Well, you and your opinions which are so very important that you MUST share them with the world because:

A)You are right (as usual)
B)You may be able to convince someone else that you are right
C)This is very important because, as mentioned, you are right and everyone else is wrong.

So recently there was this big supreme court case about marriage. Maybe you heard about it? There was also this big thing in California making vaccine exemptions harder to get. Maybe you heard about that too? Or maybe you are a troll and live under a bridge.

Suddenly my news feed was blowing up. All my friends were expressing their opinions on these subjects. Profile pictures were suddenly rainbow, people were pissed or happy or calling for the end of the world. Many hated whoever was on the other side. Or even if they didn't hate the other side, they sure had a lot of preaching and/or smug comments.

I have a lot of friends on Facebook. They are all different kinds of people. ALL DIFFERENT KINDS. For real. Politically, religiously, geographically, all very different. But I like all of them and have a connection with all of them on some level. Maybe we don't vote for the same people but we share a passion for birth. Maybe we don't feed our kids the same way, but we go to the same church. Maybe we don't go to the same church but we went to school together. Maybe they are people I work with, like, and respect, but don't know on a super personal level. I like all of them, and I hope they like me.
Big group of women I consider friends from a recent work retreat I attended. I love these ladies, even if we feel differently about court rulings!

But you have to admit, it is HARDER to like someone when they rant on and on about how stupid XYZ is when it is something you hold dear, or how wonderful XYZ is when it is something you strongly disagree with. This is hard for me, and I think it is hard for most of us.

I just saw a heated debate about vaccines and those "anti-science" people between friends today. "Friends." This happens all the time. (In between oil parties and music videos.)

I realize that I am part of the problem. I realize that now Facebook is more about promotion- of business, essential oils, opinions, and religions, than it is about friends.

But I would love to see it return to its former, rather muted, glory.

The problem isn't the advertisements, it's us.

We have become so enamored with our own thoughts and rightness, that rather than sharing cute things about our lives and pictures of our kids, we share our favorite thing of all- our opinion. And we share things that we would NEVER say face to face in polite company, with real friends.

Since when did our friends need to be people we agreed with on every single subject? It is really a disgusting phenomenon, but it was created by us and our constant need to pimp our own thoughts.

I beg you, all of you, for a return to those golden days when social media was actually about friendships and life instead of politics and opinions. I can't always control myself, so I have a business page for that stuff, so that the people who really want to hear my blessed thoughts can hear them, and those who aren't interested, can just skip it.

Let's be friends again. Polite friends who don't worry so much about shoving our opinions down each other's throats. Kind friends who like those who disagree. Respectful friends who know that we are all different but can still get along. Professional friends who work together well and don't have to share every thought on every subject.

Is it possible to make the switch? Or would we rather convince others to be more like us?

Join me. Share a stupid puppy dog picture today!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Depressing Parenting Advice From A Mom Of Four

Depressing Parenting Advice From A Mom of Four

Depressing Parenting Advice From A Mom Of Four

In my heart I know to never give parenting advice, depressing or otherwise, because this is a sure fire way to ensure that my own children will act like possessed heathens for the next six months. But here I go. What have I got to lose? Nobody around here listens to me anyway.

So just because I love you- some depressing parenting advice from a mom of four.

-Just admit now that you aren't that good at this-

This sounds harsh, but let me explain. There are parenting things that are hard for all of us. There are also things that you will be really good at as a mom. Maybe you rock at breastfeeding or not yelling or understanding teenagers or enjoying a toddler. This is awesome. Enjoy those moments when you rock at parenting.

Go you.

And I mean that.

But there are things that you will suck at. Maybe it will be breastfeeding or yelling all the time or understanding teenagers or enjoying a toddler. It's cool that you aren't good at those things. They are hard and nobody is good at everything. Stop beating yourself up. 

Deep breath. In. Out.

Doesn't it feel good to just let go of the fact that you struggle with some aspects of parenting? Admitting you aren't good at every piece of the parenting puzzle is really very freeing and helps you love yourself more. Work on the stuff you have a hard time with, then forgive yourself. Yes, yourself.

-Find joy in the fact that everyone else also sucks at parenting-

This sounds judgmental, and being judgmental is a big no-no these days. Do it anyway.

The reason I know other people suck at parenting is that I suck at it and screw up every day and I am sure that other people have the same problem. In fact, from watching them it is pretty obvious that they make mistakes. It is easy for me to see the mistakes of others- I bet it is easy for you too! 
The bad news is this: we are all messing up our kids in our own unique (yet invisible to us) way.
The good news is this: we are all in the same boat. 

Keep paddling sucker.

-Read murder mysteries every day-

OK, you don't actually need to be a die hard Jo Nesbo fan, such as myself. But you do need to do something every day that you love. Even if it is for five minutes of special time. I really hate it when moms talk about how they have no time to exercise or see friends or do anything they enjoy while they drown in a pool of vomit, laundry, work, and giving. 

Not cool. 

Mothering is a marathon and you can't finish without fuel. It is really a good thing that being a mom teaches us to focus outside of ourselves and give and give and give. This is a beautiful, transformative process that we all have the pleasure and pain of experiencing. 

It is also hard to keep giving if you have just taken the speed train to crazy town because you hate the life you are living because your children have beaten all the fun out of it.

So go get a pedicure (I would never do that because it is a wacko Western custom where a stranger touches your feet, but if you are into it you should go for it. I won't think you are strange. And if I do I won't say it to your face.) or read your favorite book or take a walk. Just do it.

-Use less words-

If you can say something with one word, don't use 10. For example.
Replace, "Honey, could you close the door behind you when you come in?"

With this: "Door."

This is some of the best advice I ever heard from a kindergarten teacher. We are a verbal culture and so we tend to overdo it with words, even with little humans who can hardly talk at all. Less is more. It is more clear, more understandable, and easier to follow one word than a dozen. 

Become the Elmore Leonard of parenting and stop overdoing everything with flowery descriptions of the weather. Leonard said, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." Parents should try to leave out the stuff that kids tend to ignore.

-Take a shower-

For heaven's sake, don't be a martyr. Don't stop bathing and blame your kids for it. Your baby, yes, even a new one, will not be harmed for life if you take a five minute shower every day. Your toddler MAY use a Sharpie on the wall, but you should still take a shower. (Just get rid of the indelible markers. They are dead to you now anyway. No good can come of them.) 

I'm not saying you stink. And, if you really just don't care about bathing, that is fine too. But if you like to take a shower, then TAKE A SHOWER. Four kids, ten years, I could count on one hand the number of times I have skipped my basic personal and daily shower ritual. And those times involved me being so vomitous that I could hardly stand. 

Taking time for a shower does not make you a selfish person.

-Never take parenting advice from someone on the internet-

Yeah, I know how dumb this sounds in a post about parenting advice. Don't do it anyway. (Or do...this is getting confusing.)

I refuse to take parenting advice from two types of people-
1) People who have less kids than me. Don't bother. I am rolling my eyes. Especially if your kids are younger. (Yes, I just admitted this. Compose your hate mail NOW.)
2) People who I have never met.  

The thing about people on the internet is that they can present their life any which way they like. They can take pictures at a made up house in a made up world with nice filters and lovely descriptions. But some kids who look great on camera are actually really awful brats whose parents you would never want to emulate and some people who sound good online are actually total morons who couldn't have a functional relationship if they tried. 

So don't take advice from them. People lie about their kids or are blissfully unaware of the reality of their own spawn. Close the computer. You are better off reading a murder mystery than advice from someone describing their perfect kids and parenting techniques that "always" work.

Spoiler alert- there is NO SUCH THING as parenting advice that always works. It never happened. And if it did it would be riding a unicorn over a rainbow to catch a fairy princess holding a pile of warm gold. Even the stuff that does work will eventually stop working because that was just a stage. Everything in parenting is just a stage. This ensures that once you get good at it, it changes.

By the way- if someone speaks in absolutes or gives advice in catchy, clickable quotes, they are probably full of it. Parenting is many things, but it is not easy, quick, or something that can be "hacked."

That's it. Enjoy my depressing advice on parenting. 

Or maybe you should ignore it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Taught My 5 Year Old To Swear

I taught my 5 year old to swear

I taught my five year old to swear.

It wasn't on purpose that I did this great deed, just on accident. Like most of parenting, the stuff you plan on doesn't work and the stuff you suck at is the stuff they pick up on.

I told the five year old with the dirty mouth that she had to get in the back of the Suburban yesterday. We had an extra passenger and I had moved her seat. She said, "D@#n it! I don't want to sit back there."

"What did you say?!" I reply in shocked horror. (My virgin ears, you understand.)

"D@#n it, I don't want to sit back there," she replies. Matter of fact, mind you.

"You may not use those words. They are bad words," says horrified and indignant me.

"Why not? You say them," says my little smart a$$.

Blah, blah, blah. I don't even know how long this stupid conversation went on, but eventually she got in her friggin' seat.

Shocked? You must be. I am a Mormon housewife so I shouldn't be swearing at all. I have given up lots of bad habits, but the dirty language is one that stuck. I don't use all swear words, but the ones I like have become more frequent as I have gotten older, more tired, and my patience has worn thin.

The older two kids learned quickly that there were some things that mama said that they were not allowed to say. Oh, are you wondering how I dare be so hypocritical? It's easy. You should try it. In fact, you probably do it already. (Like most human beings, I assume that others are just as flawed as I am. I apologize for that accusation.)

Oh, but my five year old is number THREE. As you know, the third child of four is a rare breed. You could consider them a course in advanced parenting skills. I have written about her many times since she is the one that turned me into "that mom," many years ago.

The older kids I just told that they couldn't say "those words" and they seemed to understand. This one says, "Why not? You say it."

I must be able to control myself with the foul language since I sure don't throw it around when I am teaching a lesson at church or chatting with friends. And yet I continue to talk like this in front of my innocent children. Believe me, my language spilling out of their sweet little lips is a horror to behold. It is a shameful parenting moment. I won't even tell you about one of the first phrases my first born uttered. You would hate me. You may hate me already. I can't even blame you.

(Can we just pause for a moment and talk about those parents who tell their children that the "S" word is stupid, rather than the word that it actually is? I mean, seriously, are you trying to make me look bad? Because that really isn't fair. I have heard parents who act like "crap" and "poop" are bad words. "We say potty around here, OK honey."

My head may explode. Crap is the least of my worries. I shudder to think about the ice cold beads of sweat trickling down the lily white backs of these wonderful parents when my children talk about how pissed they are.

I may actually be making the world an uglier place.)

In my defense, my father is a sailor and I was probably 10 before I realized that "s@#t bird" wasn't a culturally normal term of endearment for one's children. I come by it honestly and (you probably respect me more already) and I don't even use the more fun and enjoyable forms of profanity that I learned as a youth.

Not really sure what I should do now. I guess I should stop swearing, especially now that the whole world knows about my dirty little habit. But man, habits are so hard to break. Especially the ones that live in your head. Even when I don't say naughty words I think them.

The best part of all is that I find profanity offensive and unprofessional and inappropriate. I will turn off a movie if there is too much. Yet here we are.

Being a parent really sucks sometimes, especially when your kids mirror the yuckiest parts of you. It is really kind of disturbing to see my hypocrisy shoved in my face, my bad moments shouted back at me, and my mistakes acted out again a few days later.

I guess this is one of the reasons why being a parent is such a powerful thing. I don't know if anything else in the world gives you the chance to grow, learn about yourself, and face your daemons the way that this does.

D@#n it.

Photo credit: Alice Chaos / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Friday, May 1, 2015

Becoming A Doula

I never seriously considered becoming a doula myself. In fact, a few years ago when the childbirth education company I work for first started talking about adding a doula program, I was firmly against it! We sat in a beachfront condo (thanks Abigail H!) debating the merits of expanding to include doula training and I was a big naysayer.

Fast forward a few years and I was obviously overridden! Birth Boot Camp DOULA launched and I still was a little nervous. In all honesty, the new program required a ton of my time and work and I didn't always feel the love. But then my brother and his wife got pregnant and we chatted about me attending the birth, I got interested in doula training.

Amanda, a Birth Boot Camp DOULA trainer
Amanda of Nola Nesting, one of my doula trainers.
I started the Birth Boot Camp DOULA reading before I even signed up for the training. Eventually I officially signed up and got working. The more I read, learned, studied and immersed myself in the doula culture, the more I loved it. I have truly gone from being a grumpy ride along on this journey to one of its biggest fans.

I attended training just over a week ago and was so impressed. Maria and Amanda do a beautiful job. I love all the things that came together to make this training different than others out there. Of course a huge part of training was comfort measures and helping a woman with practical things in labor. But it was so much more than that.
Maria, a Birth Boot Camp DOULA trainer
Trainer Maria of Great Expectations Birth
Learning about emotional support and really listening to someone was so helpful. I have to admit that I am a crappy listener. I always have other stuff to do and it feels like my mind is buzzing with all of it. Slowing down and really tuning in to another person isn't always easy. But Amanda and Maria taught us about relational support and how to provide that for birthing women. This so translates to the rest of life. I am even trying to listen to my husband when he talks about lifting weights...for real.

Amanda and Maria, Birth Boot Camp DOULA trainers
Unscripted doula moment- showing how you listen.
As I studied to become a doula I may have been most impressed with the business training aspects of the program. Maria and Amanda were handpicked for this program because of their success and respect in their own doula communities. I have learned so many things from them that translate to my childbirth classes and other aspects of my life. Even though I have taught for years and trained over a 100 childbirth educators, having the confidence to value myself and feeling unashamed about getting paid...that has been a harder lesson for me to learn.

I don't know if I can communicate how big this was for me. I now set my price and feel confident in it. Learning to value yourself and your work...this too translates into so much more than just business. I know people can attend special doula business training nowadays, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE that our training includes it. How could a doula training NOT include that? What chance do women have of making it as a professional doula without that?!

People- I even bought a rebozo and learned to use it a little better. I will never say it out loud, but I am kind of in love with it. What is it with birth scarves?! Turkish birth scarves. Made by men. Epic.

Rebozo techniques at Birth Boot Camp DOULA training
Some rebozo/ birth scarf demo time. Love this stuff.
I am so glad that I took the time to "become a doula." I was totally intimidated. I don't know how this will all play out. My kids are still young and I travel often for my work. But this was a beautiful journey and I learned so much. I am glad I took the leap.
Bendy Straw- Doula Bag
Yes, a bendy straw. One of the most important things you can have in a doula bag. And the ability to build relationships. Love it.
In the end, I feel like I have become so much more than a doula. I have learned to listen better, value myself, balance my life, appreciate change, and run a better business. Isn't it funny how life works out when you make one simple choice and it blossoms into your very being? I am so glad that I chose to become a doula.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Doula Work Isn't About The Money...Except Doula Work IS About The Money

Nancy, administrator for Birth Boot Camp DOULA, applying counter pressure.

I have been a "birth worker" for a few years now. I started teaching childbirth education about seven years ago and it is an important part of my life. I am currently doing the coursework for Birth Boot Camp DOULA training, and I am learning so much. I am currently reading "Birth Ambassadors," as part of my doula training and I came across a most interesting paragraph.
"As much as doulas strive to be the 'latest addition to the maternity care team,' their limited presence at US births has not yet generated a strong enough moral agenda to stand alongside that of obstetricians, maternity nurses, and hospitals... Doulas struggle to sustain their practices, as individuals and in their multiple organizations, and have, as yet, been less effective in advocating for humanistic care during childbirth within a medical and institutional framework that does not put women's emotional needs, or perhaps even their emotional health, at the center."
What does this paragraph have to do with getting paid to be a doula? Well, let me explain my take on it.

Charging for birth work. Oh, this seems to be a hot button topic, doesn't it? At Birth Boot Camp DOULA, the co-creators, Amanda and Maria use the word "sustainability" a lot. Like all the time. It is very much a buzzword around these parts.

Amanda and Maria, co-creators, Birth Boot Camp DOULA
I am all for making a living doing birth work. For real. But I don't think I started to really understand what they were going on about until I read this paragraph in "Birth Ambassadors." I am sure I will learn a ton more from Amanda and Maria when I actually go to doula training in April, Eeeek!!

Why does having a sustainable practice as a birth worker or doula actually matter? First, I think it is important to decide what sustainable means. To me it means a profession that actually functions well within my life. That would mean that it works well for my family and myself. For me, something that is worth my time means that I am able to afford childcare, my husband doesn't hate it, and I can function and feel like it is worth what I am giving up to do it. (Because let's be real, you are always giving up something. Choosing one thing means not choosing another.)

Why does it have to be "sustainable"? Because if my work as a doula or childbirth educator is ruining my life then I am not going to last very long. I will quit because I just can't do it any more, because I am losing money, because I could make more doing something else, because my family is suffering, etc.

This really matters in birth work because birth matters. If, for example, a doula has a practice that is sustainable then she will be able to practice as a doula for an indefinite length of time, as long as her health permits it. A doula that practices for 20 years is going to  make a much larger impact on birth than one who burns out in two. She will help more couples and babies, she will make a bigger difference in her community, and hopefully, she will build respectful and trusted relationships with doctors, nurses, hospitals and midwives in her area. She will not just help more people, she will have a positive impact on the entire birth community as a whole.

And let's say we have hundreds, even thousands of these professional, sustainable, respected doulas in the country. Expand that influence out. We will see an exponential improvement in not just individual births but even in the attitudes and practices of birth professionals like doctors and nurses who work in hospitals. They will see the value of a woman who supports a woman, who listens to her, who recognizes the emotional impact of birth, who helps make breastfeeding more successful, and so on.

So, is doula work about the money? Well, yes and no. You may not make a million dollars as a doula, but for most of us, you will need to make SOME money working as a doula (or birth worker) or you will QUIT. I really care about birth. I mean, I deeply care about it on an emotional level. But if this work is ruining my life or my family and I am spending 20 hours with someone at their labor and losing money on it, then I am going to have to step aside and do something else.

Doula work is about the money. Not so much the money in itself, but the ability money has to make a profession sustainable. No matter how much someone loves and cares about something, if it doesn't pay the bills, it probably won't last for long.

In birth work this is even more important, not less. (And yes, there are too many birth workers who shame those doulas who are able to be profitable and successful in their business. Shame on the shamers, I say.) Why does it matter more for birth? Because change will come not when we hold a picket line, but when there are so many of us doing so much incredible and good work, that there is no other option but for people to take notice and improve birth.

I believe that sustainable doula practices (and other birth workers like educators) have the power to create positive change in the birth world, lower the cesarean section rate, improve birth outcomes and save lives.

But that won't happen if those doing the work can't pay their bills.

"Birth Ambassadors- Doulas and the re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America" is written by Christine H Morton, Ph.D. and Elayne G. Clift, MA
Join me at training and change the world!


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