"When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child."
“This is what my client needs to feel comfortable,” Mandee explained to staff when she presented them with Jenna’s prepared birth plan. “How can we make this a good experience for her?”
Jenna experienced PTSD related to a past hospital stay, so the idea of having her baby in a hospital caused anxiety she wasn’t prepared to face alone. But with Mandee as her doula, Jenna could begin to prepare herself for the birth of her new baby.
Mandee accompanied Jenna on three tours of the hospital, walked with her through the hallways, introduced her to nurses and other staff, and helped her explore the delivery rooms. She explained Jenna’s PTSD to the nursing staff and asked them to work together to make Jenna feel more comfortable in the hospital environment. Jenna’s birth plan requested that few people be present in the room at any time, that staff ask for consent before touching Jenna, even during routine procedures like checking monitors and IVs, and that a specific nurse with a particularly mellow personality be assigned to Jenna during her delivery.
It is a doula’s job to tactfully advocate for her client mom throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her child. Mandee spends time discussing options with her client moms and lets them make their own decisions about their birth experiences. Then Mandee helps communicate her clients’ wishes and expectations to medical staff.
Mandee often approaches the hospital staff to help negotiate during a mom’s labor and delivery. “What would it take to get Mom off the monitors for half an hour and take a walk?” Mandee suggests when walking may help speed up a mom’s slow labor. “What would it take to wait another hour before starting Pitocin?” But Mandee encourages each mom to express her own needs and expectations to staff so she feels she is the one in control of the situation.
“You are the client paying the health care provider for a service. It is your birth,” Mandee reminds her clients. “You have options. You can walk out anytime and go somewhere else. You can request a different doctor. You can transfer to a different hospital. You can refuse or accept any treatment.”
“If you went to a restaurant and didn’t like the food, you would ask for a manager or go to a different restaurant. You can switch to a different medical provider if you don’t feel confident in your level of care.”
Mandee approaches such conflicts in a graceful and tactful way during a time that can be scary and intimidating for a mom in labor.
This ability to resolve problems gracefully is an important trait for moms to identify when hiring a doula to help in the delivery room. Mandee describes several characteristics moms can look for when shopping for the right doula.
Mandee suggests several actions moms can take when interviewing and hiring a prospective doula.
A doula is hired by the client mom, not the hospital, so payment for services is made directly to the doula. “A doula shouldn’t ask for the balance paid at the first meeting,” Mandee advises. Mandee meets with the mom for a free consultation, then asks that a deposit be paid when she and the mom agree to work together. She allows moms to make payments to her throughout the pregnancy, with the balance paid off by 36 weeks.
Doula services are generally covered by health savings accounts and by insurance programs in some states. Mandee requires that payment is made to her directly, then she provides paperwork for the mom to file a reimbursement claim with her insurance company.
Moms like Jenna can take many steps to relieve any worry and tension before labor and delivery. Talking with a doula, building a positive relationship, exploring hospital hallways, and connecting with hospital staff all contribute to making childbirth a more comfortable and positive experience.
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any,” Mandee explains. “Educate yourself. If you don’t know what you can change, you can’t change anything, so know your options and decide what’s right for you.”
Several online resources help moms make informed decisions and find the right doula for their childbirth experience. Check out: Doulamatch.net, Findadoula.com, and The International Childbirth Education Association.
What questions could you ask before hiring a doula? How will hiring a doula make a difference to your birth experience?
“Try walking the hallway,” the nurse told me, her only suggestion for speeding my slow labor.
Then she disappeared down some distant stretch of the corridor, and I walked alone, slowly up and down the hospital hallway. At midnight, the other maternity patients slumbered behind their closed doors. My daughter’s dad snored in the vinyl recliner after his long shift at the grocery store. The floor felt hard and cold through my foam rubber slippers. After a few faltering trips down the hallway, I retreated to my bed where I remained throughout the rest of my 38-hour labor.
I didn’t go to the hospital expecting the busy nurses to hold my hand throughout my entire labor. I didn’t know I had alternatives to the traditional maternity ward experience, and I didn’t know I could have had someone else there to walk the hall with me.
A doula is a professional labor assistant, serving a woman in labor by providing emotional support and coaching throughout the childbirth process. A doula holds a laboring mom’s hand, walks the halls with her at midnight, and generally supports a woman to deliver her baby in a safe and welcoming environment.
“It’s my job to give a mother information,” says Mandee, a doula who has assisted with over 100 births. “When you know the pros, cons, risks and benefits; you can decide what works for you.” With the right information, a new mom is able to make decisions for her birth and baby and feel in control of her childbirth experience.
Mandee’s connection with a client begins well before meeting in the delivery room. Mandee meets with moms early in their pregnancies to establish and build a trusting relationship. She gives her clients information resources about prenatal nutrition, supplements, exercise and medications; but she asks clients to do their own research and ask questions of their doctors. Mandee is available for moms to call, text or email throughout their pregnancies when they have questions or concerns.
A doula helps clients write a personal birthing plan to detail a mom’s expectations and preferences. She works to support and encourage a dad’s or partner’s role in the delivery room. She provides a listening ear for moms to calm their nerves and help them feel prepared for the often unpredictable process of delivery.
Mandee asks that her clients call as early as possible when they go into labor. She and the mom discuss when it’s time to meet at the hospital or other birthing environment. She will assist at any birth where a medical professional delivers the baby: in hospitals, home births, and birthing centers, but Mandee points out that a doula is not a midwife. A doula doesn’t perform medical procedures like medication administration or cervical checks.
Instead, Mandee focuses on helping the client mom feel more comfortable and relaxed during labor. She advises Mom about her medication options, food and drink possibilities, and positions to make labor easier. She gives massage and provides aromatherapy, flickering candlelight, music and essential oils to relax the atmosphere. She walks the halls with her client mom, assists her in squats and other exercises, helps her soak in a warm tub. When Mom feels more relaxed and comfortable, she will generally experience an easier labor and birth.
“The cervix is a muscle,” Mandee explains. “When we’re afraid or tense, labor will take longer. Women who deliver with doulas generally have labors at least three hours shorter than average.”
Once the baby is born, Mandee stays with her client for several hours. She will help Mom understand any repair procedures, coach Mom through holding the baby skin-on-skin, or help get breastfeeding started. Mandee assists moms with bathroom trips, showering, and getting comfortable to rest after delivery.
And Mandee’s connection with her client continues for up to two weeks after delivery. She is available to answer Mom’s questions and recommend resources to help with breastfeeding and settling into new family routines. Mandee’s support and encouragement help moms recover emotionally and physically, especially when Mom has experienced crises or complications during pregnancy and delivery.
“I am the mom’s support system,” Mandee explains. “It helps to have someone available that they feel comfortable with. I help her feel confident to make her own decisions, to choose her own steps or her own timing.”
Looking back, I know I would have appreciated having a support system to help me through those 38 hours and the weeks of adjustment later. If I’d had someone else to walk those hallways with me, my journey might not have seemed so long.
How would a doula help with your pregnancy and delivery? What questions would you ask when connecting with a doula?
I will be honest and admit that I don't remember reading to my daughter much when she was small. I was busy. I worked all day, and I came home tired. By bedtime, I just wanted to be quiet and go to sleep; so if I read a book at all, it was one quick bedtime story and then lights-out and good-night.
But as I pursued my degree in Elementary Education, I learned there are many good reasons to spend time reading books to our children. If I had those years to do over, I would make more time to read to my daughter, and I would make more effort to enjoy and appreciate reading to her when she was young.
Why we should read to children:
Moms can make a few preparations to help make reading together part of the regular routine.
Build a library. Children's books are inexpensive at thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales. Buy as many as your house will hold.
Use the public library for greater variety. Help children get their own library cards and select their own books from the children's section.
Don't stop when they're too big to sit on your lap. Older children can enjoy reading chapter books with their parents, too. Continue spending reading time together and talk about the stories you read.
When I ask my daughter now, she remembers reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In this classic, Max learns that exploring the world alone is not much fun, and he is happy to be home where he is loved and dinner is waiting on the table.
I have also learned to appreciate the home and love that are waiting for me at the end of a busy day.
Other favorite books include:
How do you enjoy reading with your children? What are your favorite books to read together?
Sometimes single moms need to be reminded how awesome they really are. Here are ten reasons single moms are amazing:
#10. Single moms have a sense of humor. We can laugh at ourselves and find joy in small happy moments and the funny things our children say.
#9. Awesome single moms are role models. We want to set a good example for our children, so we take responsibility for our choices and work hard to choose the right path for our future.
#8. Single moms are selfish (sometimes). We know we have to take care of ourselves to have the energy to take care of others, so we need to maintain good health, adequate rest, and strong faith.
#7. Single moms are curious. We want to know more about the world and our place in it, so we are always questioning, always seeking, always exploring, and always learning.
#6. Single moms are creative. We know we have to find original solutions to our problems, so we use our imaginations to find new approaches and new ideas.
#5. Great single moms are resourceful. We use our intuition to look at the world in new ways, try new things, and find new ways to succeed.
#4. Single moms are resilient. We may face disappointments and set-backs, but we get up and try again because we know we have to keep moving forward for our families.
#3. Single moms are honest. We tell ourselves and others the truth about our needs, our expectations, and our dreams for the future.
#2. Inspiring single moms are grateful. We feel privileged to be raising such amazing, awesome children, so we are thankful for all the wonderful gifts God provides.
And the #1 trait of amazing single moms is:
We love our children and always want to do what is best for our families.
Keep being an amazing single mom!
What qualities would you add to the list? How do you know you are an amazing single mom?