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.


Calm in the Storm: Birth During Coronavirus

Well, here we are caught up in a pretty tumultuous time. It seems like the whole world is in a frenzy and it’s completely understandable that expectant parents particularly feel the sting of anxiety and worry. The idea of giving birth during a pandemic is by all rights a scary one. While the world is in a constant state of flux, the truth remains that at its core, birth has not changed. The elemental truths of birth remain the same: birth is normal and natural, and at the end of the day, you can trust the process of birth.

If you think about it, birth by nature is fairly unpredictable. Now is the time to be flexible and to get your mind in a healthy space to work with your body to bring your baby Earthside.

Ever heard of the fear/tension/pain cycle? It’s the idea that the more fear we have, the more our bodies tense up. If our bodies are tense, we feel pain more acutely…and if we’re in pain, we tend to become more fearful, leading to more tension and pain. You can see how quickly this can spiral.

The antidote to fear is faith: faith in our bodies, in the process, in the truth. If we can switch that fear/tension/pain cycle to one of confidence/relaxation/coping then birth will be infinitely smoother. A calm body opens more easily than a tense, fearful one and the goal of birth is obviously to open up and let baby come out!

So, how do we flip the narrative? How can expectant parents turn the tables and bring calm into their birthing experience rather than the ever present anxiety and fear that seems to seep into every corner of our lives right now? Below are a few of my tips and tricks for finding calm in the storm.

Consider stepping away from the headlines for a bit. While it is important to stay up to date on the current events in your area, it is not good to do so to the detriment of your mental health. It does no good to speculate about the what-ifs and could-be’s because this is a rapidly developing situation that changes all the time. The future will take care of itself, so it’s important to do the next right thing and go about your day as normally as possible.

You’re allowed to feel your feelings. You’re allowed to mourn the birth experience that you desired but might not get to have. However this pandemic has changed the way you thought your birth would go, it’s completely natural to mourn the birth you hoped for and lost. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel that loss, but don’t stay there. Keep moving forward.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on what you can control:

  • Take the time at home as a chance to finish up preparations – Pack your hospital bag, practice folding those sweet little footie pajamas, organize the diaper stash, make finishing touches on the nursery.
  • Practice your favorite birth positions and breathing techniques – If you don’t have anything specific in mind, just breathing deeply for several minutes is helpful, as are spending some time in the cat/cow position.
  • Try some Spinning Babies exercises…these are the best!
  • Meditate and go over your birth affirmations. – If you don’t have any affirmations yet, now is the time to write some!
  • Pray – If you are a religious person, now is the time to dig in with your practice. You may not be able to gather at your preferred place of worship, but you can take time every day to pray and lean into your faith. I’m sure your faith leaders would be happy to connect with you via phone, or you can explore podcasts and faith based music to help keep you calm.
  • Read or listen to positive birth stories – The Birth Hour podcast and Birth Without Fear have lots of birth stories to choose from.
  • Take a walk – Even if we’re social distancing, sunshine and fresh air are good medicine. If you can’t get outside, search YouTube for some pregnancy exercise videos…just make sure you’re being safe!
  • Journal or write notes to your baby – Consider setting up an email account for your child and send him/her messages that they’ll get to open in the future. They’ll treasure this virtual time capsule and it’s a great outlet for you, too. Win/win!
  • Laugh! – Laughter is such a good way to relieve tension and relax the body, whether you’re pregnant or not. Lucky for us, we live in the time of hilarious internet memes, Ellen Degeneres videos, and The Office…so go pick your favorite funny cat videos and have a chuckle.
  • Take charge of your mental health – If you truly feel yourself spiraling, talk to a professional. There are so many great online and phone resources available or you can contact your primary care doctor or your OB/midwife. They’re all there to help you and you’ll never be sorry for reaching out.

I always tell clients that birth is 98% mental. Now is the time to dig deep and remember what is true.

  •  Fear is a liar.
  • You are not doing this alone. All over the world women are laboring and delivering their babies. You are connected to generations and generations of birthing women who have walked the same road and are walking it with you.
  • No matter the circumstance, birth is a normal physiological event. You can trust your body to birth your baby.
  • Babies are born in less than ideal situations every day and do just fine. Yours will, too.
  • You have created a birth team of medical providers who are dedicated to keeping you and baby safe. They are experienced, well trained, and on your side. You can trust them.
  • You are mentally and physically strong and capable.

While this is an unprecedented time to be expecting, fighting panic with peace is the best course of action. I hope these ideas help you in the coming days as you prepare to deliver. I truly believe with all of my being that all will be well.

Peace and perseverance in all things, my friends!

Mary Susan