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Update to Services: Virtual Doula Support

The current outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has radically changed our childbirth system, making it impossible for doulas to be physically present during most hospital births. However, doula support is just as valuable as ever. In fact, one might argue that doulas are needed now more than ever. In a time when expectant parents are anxious, navigating policy changes in their hospitals, as well as in their state and local governments, managing potential changes to income and daily living, and filtering through the onslaught of incoming news and recommendations, the guidance of a seasoned doula provides irreplaceable calm in the storm. When so much is out of our control, it is imperative that expectant parents have access to birth professionals who can answer questions, provide training, teach coping techniques, and be a voice of confidence and comfort in the birth room. While nothing replaces the physical presence of a doula, virtual support is the next best thing! 

It is so important for me to emphasize that you are not alone and do not have to navigate this time by yourself. I’m happy to say that I already offer distance support and can vouch for the benefits of virtual doula support. At this time, I’ve created a special Virtual Doula Support package at a reduced rate of $300. (My traditional birth doula packages range from $500-$700.) The Virtual Doula package offers more comprehensive support than my Distance Doula package, including more extensive prenatal support and is perfect for expectant parents delivering under the current Covid-19 restriction. The package includes the following:

  1. Up to three virtual prenatal support meetings during which I will help you navigate the current birth environment, create a birth plan, advise you and your partner on comfort measures and positions, provide extra training to your support partner, and more.
  2. Email and text support, including unlimited on-call access beginning at 38 weeks of pregnancy.
  3. Pdf files of labor resources and a concise labor guide for quick reference.
  4. Virtual support for the entirety of your labor, method to be determined by the client and doula after contract signing.
  5. Virtual postpartum meeting at 7-10 days after delivery as well as text/email support for up to four weeks after delivery.
  6. Access to resource list of virtual and Telehealth postpartum support.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty due to Covid-19 but would still like doula support for your birth, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My deepest desire is for all families to have the best birth experience possible and am happy to make payment arrangements as needed. I’m here for you always, but especially in this current climate of change and unpredictability. 

You may not have the birth experience you always thought you’d have, but together we can ensure that your birth is beautiful, enriching, and empowering. Though so much has changed, you still have options and the ability to take the lead. If you’re looking for a partner to accompany your family on this wild ride, I am happy to be your huckleberry. I know you can do this and I’m here for you every step of the way!

Love and light,

Mary Susan Delagrange CD(DONA)

 Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.

Maya Angelou
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World Doula Week 2020

It’s World Doula Week and what a world we’re in! Many doulas are finding it difficult or even impossible to support their clients in hospitals, as visitor restrictions are incredibly high due to COVID-19, and understandably so. I find myself on both sides of the issue, 100% dedicated to staying home, flattening the curve, and not contributing to the problem, but also 100% convinced of the necessity of doula support for laboring families, especially now when so many of them are fearful and anxious. It’s a real conundrum, one I haven’t made peace with yet, if I’m honest.

However, I’m practicing what I’ve been preaching to my clients: Control what we can control and let the rest go. I am not the person in charge of hospital policies and have no control over whether I’ll be allowed in with clients. However, I can control my response to the situation and do my part.

The truth remains that doulas fill the gap. In normal, non pandemic birth situations, doulas are imperative because we’re able to stay with our clients for their entire labors. Unlike midwives, doctors, and nurses who have many other tasks and patients they’re working with, your doula sticks with you and doesn’t leave your side…unless she has to go to the bathroom. We’re not that good. 😉

It has struck me that the gap has widened now and we doulas have to adapt and be creative in order to fill it. But we’re still here. We’re still eager to serve, willing to do what it takes to help our clients achieve the most beautiful, peaceful, empowering births they can possibly have.

So, what does that look like, boots on the ground?

It looks like a ton of phone, text, and virtual support. It looks like more time spent sending resources via email, meetings being held on online platforms, and lots and lots of phone calls and listening. It looks like time spent reviewing resources and best practices, taking time to stay on top of developing reccomendations and hospital policies. It looks like constant reminders that we are never alone. It looks like reevaluating goals, sacrificing plans, and collectively coming to terms with what that will require of us.

But here’s what I know: there’s nothing stronger than a birthing woman. No force is equal to that of an empowered woman working with her body to bring a new soul into the world. There is nothing quite as striking as the intensity of a loving partner, steadily supporting a fierce, warrior mama.

We’re all being asked to dig in and be a little bit stronger than we thought we could be. And while that’s a little bit scary, it’s not impossible. The strength to move forward, to push through, to do the hardest things imaginable…this is the innate strength of birth. That’s what birth is! At its core, birth is this epic journey that pushes us beyond our mental limits to achieve the unimaginable. It lies within all of us to do the hard things. We’re all in labor, to some extent. Everyone in the world is waiting, sacrificing, expectant. Our lives are not our own anymore and just like a pregnant mother ready to deliver her child, we need to harness our strength, trust the process, and surround ourselves with people who will support us when we don’t think we can go on.

I’ve always said doulas are the cheerleader/coach in your pocket ready and waiting to guide and encourage you on your way to birth. It’s never been more true than it is now. Doula care may not be what we want it to be right now. Believe me, we desperately wish we could be by your side. But doulas are adaptable. We are creative, we are problem solvers, and we’re quick on our feet. Most importantly, we’re here for you. Physical distance doesn’t negate what a doula can do. The physical presence of a doula in your birth room is irreplaceable, it’s true, but the role of doula is not limited to physicality. We support birthing women as whole people, respecting the intricate tapestry of mental, emotional, and physical factors that are at play in birth. We provide resources, help ask questions, assist in navigating the medical world, and most importantly we speak truth, encouragement, and empowerment. We are the voice saying, “You can do it. You were made for this. I believe in you.”

Doulas are still necessary. When you need us, we’re here just like we’ve always been.

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Amy’s Blessingway

Guys, I love Blessingways. I love them so much, but sometimes it feels like zero other people even know what a Blessingway is. In my extremely unbiased opinion (cough, cough) I think our American culture does a really wonderful job of preparing families for new babies with things, but not preparing them emotionally or mentally for the changes that come with a newborn. Baby showers are absolutely amazing and totally necessary, but birth is so much more than an opportunity to collect clever onesies and stock up on diapers. We do mothers a huge disservice when we only prioritize things for their baby and neglect their mental and emotional health.

 

Enter the Blessingway.

 

Blessingways, or Mother Blessings, trace their lineage back to traditions of the Dine Navajo people. A Blessingway differs from a traditional baby shower in that the focus is solely on preparing the mother-to-be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for labor, birth, and welcoming a new soul into the world.

 

I had the privilege of helping host a Blessingway for a dear friend and doula client the other day, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off what the morning looked like and what we did!

 

It was such a beautiful day. The mother-to-be, Amy, hosted in her home and we had a delicious brunch with a small group of her close friends. I think it’s important to remember to keep your guest list short. It’s best for the vibe to be intimate, so make sure you’ve got a group of people who feel comfortable being a little vulnerable together. By vulnerable, I mean a group of pals who feels safe to you, who are okay with speaking truth to your heart, praying together, things like that.

 

At Amy’s Blessingway, conversation was joyful and uplifting. We spent a lot of time talking about our own shared labor experiences and got on our soapboxes about how women are far more capable to birth than our culture believes. We talked about the funny parts of our birth stories and bonded over our shared identities as mothers.

 

Amy asked that everyone bring a card with a scripture or quote that would be an encouragement to her as she prepares for baby. Blessingways are not necessarily religious, but the definitely lend themselves to many different faith traditions. The beauty of a Blessingway is that you can customize it to include whatever speaks most to your heart. Birth affirmations, scriptures, quotes, mantras, and prayers all work well here.

 

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We were also asked to bring a bead to Amy’s Blessingway. Beads are a common Blessingway tradition. I’ve had clients string them into necklaces to wear during labor or just put them on a string to hold or look at while they’re laboring. Beads can be a tangible way to count your way through contractions or could be a visual to focus on during labor. When each person gave Amy their bead, we explained why we chose that particular bead and what it symbolized. This is such a beautiful opportunity to speak truth to the heart of a mama and to remind her how strong and capable she is.

 

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Amy’s dear friend, Karolann, explaining her gift beads.

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A Blessingway can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Some folks like to include henna art for the expecting mama and her guests. Amy was gifted some beautiful henna belly art before her Blessingway by Kera Marie of Traditions HennaI mean, can you even believe how gorgeous this is? She incorporated the handprints of Amy’s other kids and even Amy’s favorite animal, an octopus…gold stars if you can spot him!

 

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After we finished up all the activities, attendees were given a candle to light when Amy was laboring and a blue string to tie around our wrists to remind us to pray for her. It was a truly lovely and special morning.

 

Ultimately, throwing a Blessingway is just such a beautiful way to hold space for expectant mothers and honor their journey toward birth. Blessingways can also be very healing for mothers delivering babies during or after difficult circumstances like the loss of a baby or another family member, a deployment, or after a difficult previous birth. These ceremonies are also wonderful for preparing mamas for VBACs or even a scheduled c-section. The options are endless! If you’re interested in hosting a Blessingway for a friend or having one for yourself, I do offer Blessingway services. Feel free to hit me up and we’ll plan an event customized to your personality and birth. Happy Blessing, everyone!