Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just Doula-ing It

Yep, I just made that pun.

I realized today I haven't really written that much about this next chapter of my education/career/passion/life that I'm entering into, and that a lot of my friends might not know a whole lot about what this new position really means.

In late October, I'll be attending a childbirth class and doula training program under Debra Pascali-Bonaro, author and director of Orgasmic Birth (both a birthing book and an eye-opening documentary) and experienced childbirth educator and doula.  I've already started the process of reading everything both on and off my reading list, and I have quite a few more hurdles to climb before I'm an officially certified doula, but I'm jumping in with both feet.

Super exciting, right?  But what's a doula?

The word Doula comes from ancient Greek meaning a female servant.  It is a woman who is literally there before, during, and after labor and birth to support the mother and partner through the process.  Most women in this country give birth in a hospital where the staff is almost certainly overworked and overseeing multiple patients at a time.  For a lot of couples, this can breed a lot of anxiety and uncertainty - even when the staff is excellent.  Most women wind up being hooked up to some kind of fetal heartrate monitor and staff (and partners!) can run the risk of paying much closer attention to the printout of the monitor than the actual mother in labor, leaving her feeling isolated and ignored.

Having a doula as a constant, attentive, knowledgeable, comforting presence, whether in a hospital, birth center, or home birth, can make the couple feel more at ease, can make the partner more confident in how he is helping the mother, and provides the couple with a whole host of nonmedical techniques to alleviate pain.

Nowhere is the mind-body connection more potent and powerful during childbirth.  If you have someone supporting you and your choices (whatever they may be, as it is not a doula's job to judge or push an agenda) and helping to guide you through this most intense and overwhelming physiological event the human body can experience where emotions are inevitably running high, you are going to come out the other side having had a more positive experience.

My sister laboring in the tub with the support of one of her
two fantastic doulas, Maggie Gentilini
My sister and brother-in-law experienced that first-hand after having two excellent doulas attend them during the birth of the twins this past summer.  They cannot sing their praises high enough, and I know it absolutely made all the difference in the world in making the birth experience a positive one for them.  Not to mention, the second doula took some phenomenal pictures that we'll treasure forever!

So what does a doula actually do?  The short answer is, whatever the mother and/or partner wants or needs.  Helping inform and educate the couple on normal birth processes before or during, sneaking a turkey sandwich into the hospital, showing the partner how to perform helpful massage techniques, giving the nurse the birth plan, remaining a steady face of calm in high intensity situations - you name it.  Doulas are not medical professionals, however.  Unlike a doctor, nurse, or midwife, they do not perform medical procedures or give medical opinions.  Their job is to be the stalwart support system for the couple.

Why pay money to a stranger to support you when you could get your mom or your friend in there for free?  There are lots of potential answers to this one, but two that pop up are - 1. Your doula is going to be trained and experienced, so when she says what you're experiencing is normal, you may put more stock into her answer than someone else's.  2. Your doula has practical techniques at her fingertips to help birth proceed smoothly.  3. There aren't years of potential emotional baggage with the doula, which there almost certainly is with other family and friends.  This doesn't mean you don't love your mother, sister, or friend, but it's kind of like seeking a therapist's advi
ce for your problem's rather than your friend's.  The therapist is an impartial party whose only job is to do what's best for you - not necessarily what you're going to want him or her to say or do, and not anything guided by his or her own personal preference.

That's not to say you'd have a doula at the expense of another friend - but it is an invaluable option that statistically is shown to reduce medical interventions and increase a feeling of satisfaction in one's birth experience.  (This study is just one of many that support this statement)

I could easily write about this all day, but instead I'll close by promoting an amazing event I'll be attending tonight.  If you're expecting or know a couple who is, please send them this information!

We are having our popular Doula Speed Dating Event tonight at Karma Kids Yoga, where couples can meet doulas who work in the tri-state area and possibly find the right one for them.  You can interview them, learn more about what they do, and maybe win a prize in our raffle.  It's incredibly fun and for the first time I'm excited to attend not just as a birth junkie but as a potential doula.  Call 646-638-1444 to register!  It's so fun and could change the way you bring your baby into the world.  What's not to love about that?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

September has been a really trying month in a lot of different ways.  It's contained a lot of fun and fabulousness too - getting to visit with my parents and in-laws is always amazing - but there's a lot going on in our lives right now and sometimes I just feel tremendous stress.

To take myself out of self-pity (which is something I fall into much more easily than I'd care to admit), I think about those enduring hardships much worse than I've ever had to face - and doing it with more grace than I can imagine.  My friend Lu is one; I have some family members who I look to as well.

For today's post, however, I'm writing about someone I've never met and about a disease I've never been touched by.  Given that it's such a small world, however, I'm sure at least one person who reads this will have had some kind of personal experience with this preventable yet deadly disease.

I was contacted by a man asking me to share his wife's story and some facts about Mesothelioma.  This Friday, September 26th, is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and we are hoping other bloggers will join in spreading the word about this disease.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is directly linked to exposure to asbestos.  Asbestos was once widely used (and is still present in many of buildings today) for everything from insulation to fire proof vests - even being mixed in with cement.  It's a naturally occurring mineral - yet it is a toxic carcinogen that many developed countries (including Canada and Russia) still use.  Although the EPA banned the use of most asbestos in the USA in 1989, that regulation was overturned in 1991.  Now only a very few asbestos-related products are banned in the US - this means that a known cause of cancer is being used in our homes, workplaces, and who knows what else.  Why?  Convenience?
Cameron, Lily, and Heather

Between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year and on average, the patient is given only 10 months to live.

Cameron Von St James's wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma eight years ago.  Three months after giving birth to their daughter Lily, she was told she had only fifteen months to live.  Amazingly, after a life-saving surgery that included removal of her left lung, she has survived and thrived.
Lily and Heather

Heather and her family are just a few of the many voices who are speaking out to raise awareness about this preventable, deadly disease.  Friday is the 10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Give this post a share, write to your representatives, and help start a national conversation about preventing anyone else from having to endure what this family and thousands of others are enduring.

Follow Heather on social media via Facebook and Twitter, and check out her Mesothelioma Awareness page here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change - again.

I realize this is the third entry out of five that focuses on change, but, well, that's obviously where I am at the moment and all I can do is go with it!

I'm hoping now that as fall has begun and something resembling a normal schedule is starting to set in that I'll be back to my once-a-week pace of writing.  It's been very hard to get consistency with everything going on this summer, and I mostly blame those dang babies.  Not to mention Baby LeVasseur, our new nephew coming this November!  Days after getting back from seeing the twins (and them getting to meet their Uncle Marc!), we had a whirlwind trip to Boston to celebrate Marc's brother, Paul, and his lovely wife Sharon and their little bundle o' joy.

I scratched down a couple of Baby Thoughts a week ago, my last full day with Atlas and Zoe, knowing that I'd want to write about them.  What I wanted to muse over today was not the big, obvious kind of change - a change in job, schedule, a big change like a baby learning to walk - but the kind of change you have to search a little harder for.

Babies change every single moment of every single day.  You can put a baby to bed, and come get them the next morning and their cheeks are a little chubbier, or maybe they give you a smile they couldn't give you the day before.  They crawl, walk, run, talk, and lord do they every grow a mile a minute.  It's obvious, and it's rapid-fire.  Each week is a time capsule and you know you're on a rollercoaster that will never, ever stop.

When I saw Atlas and Zoe the first time, seeing them at six weeks after last seeing them at one week, I was staggered.  Atlas was unrecognizable.  Zoe still looked like Zoe, just bigger.  It's one of the reasons I hate leaving them so much - I know I'm never going to see them this size again.  The next time I visit won't be until December and they'll be totally different creatures then - and huge!  Especially if they keep growing at this rate.

They're different kids every time.

Do adults change that much?  It's not as obvious in terms of physical milestones or physical changes, unless you get a haircut or something.  When we gain and lose weight it's usually on the gradual side.  We're done growing - and if we're going to shrink, taht usually happens gradually too.  If you haven't seen a friend for a month, you can expect they're still basically your same friend.

We still live and grow and learn every day, though.  There's still got to be some kind of internal change.  Is your friend the same person now as they were a month ago?  Are your parents?  It's an interesting question.  I don't know the answer to it, so there's not really going to be a wise conclusion, but the more I spent time with little A&Z, marveling at how time flies and how unfair it is that they won't be my tiny little bugs forever, the more it opened me up to wondering about how this change applies to everybody.  It's the only constant in life - yet I feel like there's a constant narrative in our culture about how, "People don't change."  Or worse, can't change.  Men get stuck with that more often than women, I think.

What do you think, friends?  Do we change that much as adults?  Is our outward lack of rapid development and change reflective of our inward selves?  Or does it just depend on the person?  Is it better or worse to change?

Big thoughts inspired from tiny little creatures.