Birth Stories, Uncategorized

Dear Levi

I’ve been writing this letter in my head for a year. The day you were born, I left the hospital and bought a giant cup of coffee. I didn’t go straight home like I usually do after a birth, but instead I took my coffee for a walk. It was a perfect October morning, golden, crisp, and full of promise. I made my way down the trail holding my coffee close and I passed so many people. There were old ladies power walking and young men out running their miles and it boggled my mind that they were going on with their lives as normal, not knowing that everything was different that day because you were here.

You were born and everything changed.

I watched your mom and dad fight for you through hours and hours of Chopped reruns and even more hours of pushing. I watched them make their way across the bridge that leads from “childless couple” to “parents.” It’s a really long bridge, Levi. It feels like it stretches forever and when you finally see the other side, you realize you’re close, but you’ve still got obstacles to overcome before you’re across. Levi, they overcame so much to bring you here. I hope someday you get the chance to walk over that bridge yourself so you can really understand how much they offered up for you.

I will never forget how long you took to get here. Buddy, you put us through the ringer. Your sweet mama was incredible. I’ve seen a lot of women have babies, but I’ve never seen someone so polite, so thankful, so considerate of everyone around her while she was working her hardest to have a baby. Your dad was precious to her. He was steady and comforting. He never stopped believing in her, not once.

When your mom got especially weary, there was one moment when she doubted herself. She had been pushing for hours, working desperately to bring you into the world, clawing her way across that bridge, and she asked us what she was doing wrong. 

Levi, there may come a day when you feel the same way. There might be a time when you’ll be doing all the right things, but they’re not achieving the effect you’re working toward and you’ll end up feeling discouraged and you’ll start doubting yourself and your abilities. I want you to remember what your dad said to your mom when she was in that place. 

When your mama asked us what she was doing wrong, your father replied,

Nothing. You are perfect.

And he was right. She was, in that broken and beautiful moment, completely perfect. So, when you feel lost and hopeless, I hope you remember the words spoken over your mother and over you in the moments before you were born. I hope you remember the deepest truth of all: that when there’s struggle, radical love is always the answer. Radical love is always the truth.

After your dad spoke those words, your mama mustered her strength. She accepted all of the help and love offered her, dug deep, let go of expectations and control, and delivered you into the world.

I see a lot of babies born, Levi. I don’t usually cry because I’m so busy taking pictures, getting cool cloths, and assuring moms and dads that yes, babies are normally that blue. But I cried when you were born. It might be because you’re my nephew, but I kind of think that it’s because your mom and dad showed me what it looks like to partner together to get over that bridge. Honestly, I’m crying now as I remember it. It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing and I’ll never stop being grateful that I got to be there when you entered this wild world.

Levi, you are a light. You are important, loved, and wanted. You are prayed for and adored. You are here for a reason. My wish for you on your first birthday is that you would be strong like your mama, gentle like your dad, and always remember the power of loving people right where they are. 

Happy birthday, my sweet friend. I’m so glad you’re here.

This letter to one of my doula babies is a little snapshot of my doula heart and mind. It shows how I see my clients, how much I value the privilege of being at their births, and how much I treasure the little moments I get to experience. This letter is shared with permission from my clients who are part of the Bright Birth family and also happen to be members of my actual family. Levi turned one right before Halloween and I’m so grateful to share my experience of his birth.

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

On Receiving

Mama, you don’t have to do it alone. I know you’ve probably been fed a steady diet of American culture your entire life. You’ve been taught to value independence, hard work, self-sufficiency, and stick-to-it-iveness. If you happen to be a Texan like me, you were brainwashed at an early age to respect those who don’t aren’t dependent upon others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get shit done.

 

But, Mama, what if I told you that’s all an impossibility? What if I told you that, while life does call on us to dig deep and be our own heroes from time to time, it’s often the grace of receiving that truly pulls us through.

 

It is hard to receive, so hard to accept help when it’s offered, much less dare to ask for it ourselves. So many of us would prefer to struggle under our burdens with forced smiles rather than to accept assistance when it is offered.

 

Why?

 

Because accepting help is admitting lack. Admitting lack. Everything in me recoils at the thought of that, of admitting that I’m lacking. There it is again, the culture rooted deep telling me that I’m supposed to have it together. I’m supposed to have it in me to be self-sufficient. I’m supposed to have, not lack.

 

But, Mama, we do lack. We do and that’s okay. The illusion of doing it all, juggling all the things, being self-sufficient, above all not being needy, it’s all a lie. It’s all an impossibility designed to alienate and isolate us.

 

I think it’s difficult to receive for a number of reasons. I struggle with it quite a lot, that feeling of shame for needing and lacking. But I think that receiving well pushes us out of our comfort zone beautifully. It’s hard to admit that we’re lacking in any way, and yet I don’t believe that “lack” has the power to change anything about our personal value or our identity, not in the way our culture would have us believe. Friend, the amount we do, the things we accomplish, the items we tick off our to-do lists, the amount of laundry folded (not put away, let’s not go completely crazy here), none of that truly speaks of our value as people. And more than just people, our ability to achieve or the fact that we lack bears no reflection of our worthiness as human beings carrying souls inherently anointed with dignity.

 

Obviously, I’m asking you to swim against the current. I’m asking you to reach out in a world that shames you for needing. But, Mama, I think we can both agree that we’d like to raise children who are able to ask for help when they need it. We want our kids to reach out to us when they need something, whether that’s demanding another trip to the bathroom (during which they’ll tell us to leave), or to help navigate middle-grade friendships, or to ask our advice on how to soothe their new babies so their wives can rest. If we want to raise these people, we have to be these people ourselves.

 

Receiving well requires humility. We have to be okay with our own lacking. We have to own our story and be willing to be vulnerable (for more on that, go read all the Brene Brown you can). And there’s always the argument that allowing people to help us is a blessing to them. Receiving big things from others is an opportunity to allow others to practice charity, something sorely needed in our communities. If someone offers something to you, whether its a small thing like a meal or something of more monetary value like an expensive stroller or a flight to visit your family, they’ve offered that thing because they wanted to, because they love you. The people in your life want to bless you. They really do or they wouldn’t offer.

 

All of this rambling to say, Mama you do not have to do this alone. You are allowed to want and need help. Hiring a postpartum doula or a housekeeper is not admitting defeat, it’s practicing good self care and allowing another person to provide for her own family, which is an amazing gift in and of itself. Using formula instead of breastfeeding is not “taking the easy way,” it’s choosing the right  path for your baby and body. Texting a friend with the hard, harsh, honest truth about how you’re feeling is not being needy, it’s finding support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Seeing a mental health professional is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of strength.

 

Mama, you don’t have to do any of this on your own. You may be lacking, but it is our lack that makes us beautifully real. Our lack is not a deficit, but an opportunity. If you’re struggling to receive, don’t make snap judgements. When you’re offered something (a gift of time, money, assistance, etc) take a moment to think through why you’re inclined to turn it down. Is it because of shame? Shut that liar up. Is it because you feel like an inconvenience? Remember that people wouldn’t offer unless they truly wanted to give the gift. Is it because it genuinely wouldn’t be a help? Respectfully decline and feel free to be vulnerable and tell that person what would actually be helpful.

 

Are you turning down help because you don’t feel worthy? Mama, you are worthy. You are so worthy of time and love and acceptance and rest. Be gentle with yourself. You were not made to do it all. You were not made to transform into a doormat, beaten down, and weary from your vocation. You were, however, made for community. You were made for friendship and sisterhood. You were made to give and receive help. You just have to open yourself up to it.