2020 Coping Skills: Perfecting Your Vision for Pregnancy and Birth

A potential client reached out to me asking, “How are the pregnant moms you have worked with recently handling being pregnant during this ridiculously rough year?” Man, this is a good question. From COVID-19 to the devastating struggles we’re experiencing with racism, this year is high stakes with a lot of added pressure, especially if you throw pregnancy into the mix.

From what I have personally seen, I think people are handling it all in a myriad of ways, which is exactly what I’d expect. I’ve had clients who dropped off completely and decided to go it on their own (which I totally get). I’ve had others who have really leaned in and wanted more from me, especially dads seeking more in-depth virtual training so they can more intentionally support their wives in labor.

I have seen some mamas who are incredibly anxious and hyper vigilant over social distance and other safety measures. I’ve spoken to others who are feeling depression settle in due to the constant strain of anxiety, stress, and long separation from friends and family. I’ve sent distance resources to a mama who tested positive for Covid when she went in for an induction. I’ve watched from a distance as my clients grapple with changing hospital policies and their roles as parents in a broken world. As a doula, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to fears, encouraging, and validating, (which is my favorite part of the job anyway).

Overall, the people I’ve seen who seem to be coping well are the ones who have leaned in and made a concerted effort to control what they can control. They are the folks who dig in and do the work ahead of time to make sure that they’re physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for birth however it plays out. (Side note, these are the same types of people who rock their births in times when there’s not national upheaval around every corner. Nothing can replace preparing your whole person, heart and mind for birth. Ever.)

Ultimately, my takeaway is that if we’re not intentional about identifying where we’re feeling tender, where we feel fear and sadness, or where we have experienced trauma, then we’ll carry all of that into childbirth with us. A tense body has a harder time in labor, as pain is felt more acutely through tense muscles. We need to be relaxed in order to open up and deliver our babies, so it’s imperative that we do this hard mental work ahead of time, pandemic and social unrest or not.

So, how do we do that? What does it look like to prepare for birth during such a tumultuous time? Here are a few of my suggestions:

Get physical! This is the time to double down on those fundamental health habits like eating well and getting plenty of exercise. I know it’s maybe not fun or easy to focus on our health when we’d much rather cry into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but it is necessary and truly pays off in labor. We can’t control the pandemic or politics, but we can control how we treat our bodies, how we build them up and prepare ourselves physically for birth. At the end of the day, pregnant bodies are gearing up for some serious physical work, so it never hurts to keep moving and well-nourished.

I always recommend that my clients do the daily activities from Spinning Babies. I also love @mamastefit on Instagram for lots of awesome info on exercise during pregnancy and prepping for labor, as well as some fantastic explanations of pushing positions.

Exercise those mental/spiritual muscles, too. Pregnant or not, when the world is in turmoil this is when we need to lean into the word of God. Beginning a practice of studying sacred scripture and filling your heart with God’s truth is incredibly important and helpful for all of us, but particularly for expectant parents. Besides the Bible, a great place to start is Mary Haseltine’s book Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth. I also recommend looking up @liturgiesforparents on Instagram for some particularly beautiful breath prayers that are absolutely perfect for labor.

Be careful about what you’re allowing in. There are so many unknowns. Information keeps changing and bad news keeps rolling in, so it’s incredibly important for expectant parents to protect themselves mentally and to be intentional about what they’re allowing into their minds and hearts. I don’t mean that pregnant mamas should hide under a rock and pretend everything is fine, but I do think it’s wise to know when to step back from the news and/or social media.

Give yourself grace and be creative. So much of navigating this tumultuous time is found in taking things day by day and giving ourselves tons of grace. Gobs of grace. Mountainous piles of grace, grace, grace. You may not be having the pregnancy you expected and you’re annoyed. Give yourself grace. Your labor and delivery experience might not end up looking like what you’ve envisioned and you’re feeling very afraid. Grace. Maybe you’re struggling more than you think you ought to or you’re less than excited to be pregnant right now. Give yourself the grace you need to feel all that.

You are allowed to mourn and be bummed, angry, scared, or frustrated. You’re allowed to struggle with things and to feel your feelings. Mr. Rogers said so.

Moving forward through those emotions, I truly believe that the key to navigating the current climate is to approach every situation and person with an open heart and a creative spirit. Now is not the time for a hard and fast birth plan with no wiggle room. It is the time to think outside the box and find new ways to prepare for baby. You might focus on how to better communicate with your spouse, research alternative labor and delivery options, or take advantage of the virtual birth prep resources your hospital or provider offer.

Perhaps consider making a list of birth intentions rather than a traditional birth plan. For example: “I will let go of my expectations of this day and embrace however imperfectly it unfolds” or “I will welcome my baby into a sacred space where she is treated with dignity and care.”

I offer virtual Birth Brainstorm sessions that I’ve found to be particularly helpful to clients especially recently. A Birth Brainstorm is a guided discussion that offers a chance for parents to check in with each other, narrow down their goals and intentions, and polish communication and support techniques so that they’re on the same page when labor comes. These are some of my most favorite sessions to do with couples because it is such a gift to see couples come together in such an important way.

At the end of the day, we all need to approach every situation and unknown with a sense of curiosity and creativity and give others the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is doing her best right now. More than anything we need to extend grace to ourselves, our fellow humans, and then get cracking on finding creative solutions!

Control what you can control. Take responsibility for the things you are truly responsible for and let the rest go. The world is deeply hurting and incredibly broken. You are not responsible for fixing it all on your own. You are responsible for doing your part. You are not required to fight injustice in the same ways or to the same capacity that others are. During pregnancy, you may only be able to have limited involvement in causes you’re passionate about, and that’s okay. Let whatever you’re able to do be enough. Remember that the world didn’t get broken overnight, so we’re playing the long game in fixing things. One day at a time.

And ultimately, do you know what the world needs most? Your baby. Your wonderful, perfect baby is the way you’ll impact the world most and it is incredibly necessary that you honor the importance of that work. So much of the vocation of motherhood is easily swept under the rug and chalked up as “just” taking care of kids, but it is the very work that will affect change for generations to come. Your work as a mother may seem little, but it is little by little that greatness grows. By all means, you should write the letters, send the texts, read the books, donate, speak up, and be involved if you feel up to it, but please don’t let the world tell you that “just” focusing on your pregnancy or home life isn’t enough. It is the most important work you can be doing right now to make the world a better place.

How are you coping with present-day pregnancy? What have you found to be particularly helpful?

As always, I’m here if you need me! I’m happy to help you navigate this crazy world as best I can, to offer resources, virtual services, and lots of heartfelt encouragement and planning assistance.


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

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.