It is with abundant joy, and some regret, that I announce Fireweed Doula Services' relocation to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in June of 2019. I am serving birthing families here in the Indy area until early May and then I will be taking a 6-12 month hiatus as our family moves and settles into our new home.
Recently, I was asked to read Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols. This is an in-depth look at the nutritional needs of the pregnant woman while also giving sound, reasonable advice. How I wish this book was around during my first pregnancy!
Nichols, also the author of Real Food for Gestational Diabetes, offers read advice on food, supplements, and meal planning for an optimal healthy pregnancy. In addition, her book goes beyond that including toxins to avoid, common pregnancy testing related to nutrition, exercise, pregnancy expectations, and the the not often discussed postpartum period. She also includes a recipe appendix loaded with yummy recipes that I'm dying to try!
I highly recommend this book to women who are pregnant, who hope to become pregnant, and who have recently been pregnant.
Special guest post from friend, fellow childbirth educator, and fertility specialist, Liz Escoffery!
Secondary infertility is confusing! In the case of a couple that had no issue becoming pregnant, why should the passage of years and previous pregnancies (1+) render them unable to conceive? For some couples, trying to get pregnant again can be a season of perpetual waiting and disappointment. If this is you, you may feel like you cannot invest too much time and money into investigating what may be going on due to family demands and activities. For other couples, the desire to add to their family becomes paramount in importance, resulting in a flurry of testing, treatments, procedures, and frequent intercourse (to the brink of sheer exhaustion), hoping to time it right this time.
Is there a middle way between inaction and “all the things”? I would like to propose charting. Beginning to track your cycles is a logical, insightful, and inexpensive first or next step that can help you discover why you are not getting pregnant and help you move forward with hope.
Here are my top three reasons that you should begin charting your fertility if you are experiencing secondary infertility:
1. Fertility waxes and wanes throughout the cycle.
The woman’s body is not able to conceive at any given time of the cycle. In her book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, author and fertility awareness-based method educator Toni Weschler says, “Physicians are trained to identify disease and illness, often by diagnosing and treating with high-tech procedures. The result is that the most obvious solutions are often overlooked. A good example of this is the relationship between frequency of intercourse and pregnancy” (1). If you are ovulating early or late in some or all cycles, then general recommendations of when to time intercourse will be irrelevant. In an academic study, only 30% of women were fertile during between days 10 and 17 of their cycle (2). By learning the details of your cervical mucus (which is necessary for sperm survival), you will have a good idea in the present cycle of when you are nearing ovulation. Body temperature and LH kits can sometimes be helpful, but they are not nearly as insightful as cervical mucus.
2. Learning to chart incorporates crucial emotional support.
Other than your husband, most women do not share that they are trying to conceive again with many other people. By working one-on-one with an instructor, you have access to an objective third party who knows your desire to conceive. This can help you to work through thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise during your charting and/or treatments. While this emotional support does not replace professional counseling in any way, I plan time into your appointment to discuss the feelings and added stress of trying to get pregnant. Infertility can devastate a marriage but teamwork in adversity has the potential to instead, strengthen a marriage. I have seen couples emerge from secondary infertility with a closer bond with one another. I partner with Organic Conceptions to provide all my clients who are trying to become pregnant with an evidence-based pre-conception audio counseling program. A recent study showed that concentrating on your emotional health in a concrete way increases conception rates by 42%. Being healthier emotionally allows you to be present and engaged with your child(ren), husband, and the world around you.
3. Charting can improve your health.
Even if nothing visible has changed with your health, the inability to get pregnant (especially if male fertility issues have been ruled out) can be a symptom of an underlying condition or disease. Diagnosing and treating whatever condition(s) you may have can help you conceive. Treating this root cause of infertility can help you achieve optimal health so you can feel your best. Charting will help your doctor know when to order cycle-timed tests and prescribe medications. There are no side effects or required courses of action by just beginning to track your fertility. It’s just information. It is then up to you about your next steps (if any).
Secondary infertility can feel like the suspension or loss of a dream of how you envisioned your family would look. If you are ready to get some answers, I would encourage you to begin charting your fertility. It is empowering, it is a little task of self-care, and I have never encountered a woman who wishes she had not learned more about her body through charting.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no cost to you, I earn a commission if you
click through and make a purchase. I only promote things I feel could be a benefit to my readers.
I’ve got stacks and stacks of books about birth and early parenting and I’ve read stacks and stacks more. I find this topic incredibly interesting even as my own children are getting bigger. I really believe that it’s so important for mothers to be informed. Information introduces options and gives you real choices. Here are a few of my clients and my own favorites.
1. Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. No list of birth books is complete without something by Penny Simpkin. She’s an incredible woman and one of the founders of the doula movement here in the US. She’s still very involved with DONA, my certifying agency, and I’ve been privileged to hear her speak. If your partner is asking what they can do to prepare, have them read this book. It’s hands down the best practical book I’ve read on supporting women during childbirth.
2. Birth Skills by Juju Sundin. This book is actually one that’s come up several times from my clients and piqued my curiosity. Sundin is out of Australia and provides a variety of unique coping techniques and speaks about birth in a way that’s easy to read and non-judgmental. If you are looking for a birth book with all the natural techniques but also supportive of your choice to get an epidural, this really maybe the book for you.
3. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley. Buckley is another Australian and an MD who had her own children at home. Very unique perspective and sometimes a bit medical but lots of wonderful information.
4. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin. Again, a wonderful, straightforward resource from Penny Simkin. This book has been around for awhile and updated several times. This book provides a wonderful overview of what to expect during this unique time in life. It’s tone is warm and positive and emphasizes normalcy while also explaining potential complications.
5. Birthing from Within by Pam England. Some women, especially VBAC mothers and women who are survivors, have more heart work to do before their baby’s birth. If you think this might be you, please pick up this book. To be honest, making collages about my feelings does not really appeal to me but I’ve met too many women who found this book and the exercises within to be powerful during their birth preparations to not include it.
6. Ina May’s Guild to Childbirth. Ina May is another one that can’t be left off a list of birth books. This book is a series of amazing, powerful birth stories, with a few terrible ones from the 70s. I promise hospital birth is better now than it was then. Many stories in this book are dated. But the joy and strength and peace still ring true.
7. Complete book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger. This book is similar in content to #4 above but Kitzinger approaches birth from more of an anthropological bent and makes a point to honor families that aren’t quite so traditional looking. Regretfully, I should note that Ms. Kitzinger has passed away and the newest edition of this book is from 2003 and information may be becoming dated.
8. Homebirth in the Hospital by Stacey Marie Kerr is another of my favorites. No, a hospital birth will never be a home birth but it was one of the first books I read that made me believe that a positive hospital birth was possible after my own traumatic birth. Also, Dr. Kerr replied to my email personally!
There is so much good information out there sometimes it can be hard to sort through it all and find the resources best for you. Sometime in the future I’ll write a post with my favorite websites for those of you who prefer information in shorter amounts. Have a favorite birth book not on my list? I’d love to know what it is!
It is #DiastasisRectiAwarenessMonth and The Tummy Team is offering 15% off it's online rehab programs! This is an affiliate link because I think this is a valuable option for my clients and readers and worth your time. Happy rehabbing!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no cost to you, I earn a commission if you
click through and make a purchase. I only promote things I feel could be a benefit to my readers.
We’ve all heard the phrase "breast is best". We know that breastfeeding has benefits to both baby and mom. Breastmilk is living food that cannot be duplicated. It’s natural and normal and all of that. At this time in our culture, most women are planning on breastfeeding at least some. Sometimes it’s really easy. But sometimes its not. At least at first. Here are some ways to set yourself up for better success.
1). Gain family support. One of the biggest factors in successful breastfeeding is support for you, the mother. Those early days at home can be hard and emotional. You’re adjusting to so many things, recovering from a major physical event, and often not getting much sleep. Without support and middle of the night encouragement, this is the time many moms give up.
(By the way, not breastfeeding at all or choosing to stop is okay if that’s your choice and what you think will be best for you and your family situation. I don’t know your history or your medical needs and neither does anyone else on the street. My breastfeeding goal for you is just like my goal for your birth. I want you to make decisions based on information, knowing that you have choices and to not look back on it with regret.)
Anyway, many in our parents generation did not breastfeed their babies and if they did, may still have outdated ideas about what works. Talk to your husband or partner about breastfeeding. Talk to the other people who will be helping you after baby is born. Talk to them about the research showing why this is an important part of having a baby. Explain that their support in this could make the difference in your breastfeeding relationship.
2). Read a book. Breastfeeding Made Simple by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Nancy Mohrbacher or La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger and Diana West are both excellent choices.
3). Join a support group. Fortunately here in the Indy area we really have a variety of excellent options. Area hospitals with maternity units also have breastfeeding support groups run by their IBCLCs. Breastfeeding USA and La Leche League both have groups that meet all over the city. On-line there is the Indy Breastfeeding Moms support group on Facebook that provides moms with informed advice 24 hours a day.
4). Take a class. Ask at your chosen birth location about breastfeeding classes. Many hospitals offer them and they can be an excellent source of information. There are also online breastfeeding courses like this one that you can take in your pajamas.
5). Know who to call. Knowing who to call ahead of time if you need help, extra support, or suspect a tongue tie is a good idea. You may never need it but in the midst of that newborn haze, not having to research is golden. Find the name of a local private IBCLC or the number for your hospital’s lactation department. Your birth doula or postpartum doula should be a good resource for this as well.
Breastfeeding is amazing! It’s incredible that your body can grow, birth, and then feed a human! But it’s not always easy at first and sometimes interventions are needed to make it more sustainable. You can breastfeed your baby and you can meet your breastfeeding goals no matter what those are. Information is power!
After your baby is born and before you start a fitness routine you need to know about Diastasis Recti and how to assess your own body for this very common disorder. In order to grow a baby, obviously, your body grows and expands and to a certain extent the connective tissue in your abdominal muscles widens. This is normal. What determines Diastasis Recti is how your body recovers from that pregnancy and if things function as they should.
This site has a great description of how to assess if your separation is normal or needs additional support. It’s important to know because many exercises can actually cause additional damage if you haven’t first worked to heal your core.
If you have concerns or an especially wide gap during your self assessment or you are having symptoms of a weak core, it might be helpful to meet with a physical therapist for a consultation. We have a variety of excellent women’s physical therapy options here in Indy including Camille Fenwick of Indy Women Physical Therapy. Dr. Fenwick also specializes in women’s pelvic floor dysfunction and can help you recover from childbirth in a variety of ways.
In person physical therapy with an actual therapist is always going to be the best option. However, we all know that sometimes getting to regular appointments would take an act of congress once you have small children running around. And if you are struggling with a postpartum mood disorder that just makes it that much harder. If you don’t have family nearby who can provide regular childcare or your work schedule make it’s impossible to make appointments, there is another option.
The Tummy Team is an online program designed to provide women with core healing from their home at a time that works for them. No need to worry about your kids and how you’re going to get out of the house or how you are going to work one more appointment into your day. I really believe that this program could be life changing for many women.
In my opinion, physical therapy should just be a normal part of postpartum care. But our medical system isn’t there yet. Its focus is not on basic function and accepts many fixable problems as normal unless your particular provider has searched for more options. Our culture still accept symptoms as normal and part of having a baby and or getting older. It doesn’t have to be this way. Spread the word!
This post contains affiliate links. I only promote things that I feel will be helpful to my clients and readers.
Having a baby is so exciting! If this is your first baby, it’s not like anything you’ve ever done before. If it’s not your first, this baby’s birth still may not be anything like the first one. Preparing both mentally and physically is important and will make things easier when the time comes! Here are 7 things you can do to be more prepared for the arrival of your new little one:
Preparing both mentally and physically before the birth of your baby will make things easier when the time comes. Get excited! You’re having a baby!
It’s not a secret that I’m pretty passionate about maternal mental health. Actually, it may not be something I’ve communicated very well in the past. So maybe it is a secret and I’m outing myself! Anyway, if there is one thing that keeps me in doula work it’s maternal mental health. How we feel and the stability of our emotions have an incredible impact on how we parent. How we perceive our births and those first few months postpartum have a huge impact on us for the rest of our lives.
Postpartum is already an incredibly emotional time. Our hormones are going crazy as they transition our bodies from pregnancy to no longer being pregnant and often lactating. Our brains have just completely rewired themselves to bond with and parent this new little person. And if it’s the first baby, we are adjusting to a completely new way of life. We need the best start possible here to thrive.
My own experience with postpartum depression (or rather mood disorders) started as what I would describe as anxiety. I did not fit the descriptions of postpartum depression that I could find. I was functioning. My baby was cared for. I got up each morning and went to work. I made it to church on the weekends. I still showered. I concluded that how I was feeling must just be parenting. Except I wasn’t okay. My brain was in a state of semi panic all the time. I couldn’t breath. I was paralyzed be the 99 bajillion things in my head. This progressed to the occasional panic attack. I didn’t get treatment until my daughter was three. By then, things had progressed passed just anxiety. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I felt better.
In my case we also had a series of very significant life events happen in the year before her birth and in the two years after. I remember constantly trying to figure out if how I felt was because I was postpartum or because of our life circumstances. Nevertheless, I needed treatment and I fell through the cracks.
My takeaway is this: Parenting is hard. Having a new baby is hard. All of this is hard and you are changed. But. BUT. Postpartum mood disorders don’t always look like depression and we do ourselves and new mothers a disservice by continuing to promote that model. It may take a few weeks but you should feel mostly like yourself (just with your heart now running around outside your body). The things you enjoy in life should not completely disappear. You should still get excited about things that you did before even if you have less time to pursue them. Panic attacks are not normal. Flashbacks and PTSD symptoms are not normal (and are terrifying common among postpartum women). These are signs that things are not as they should be and you may need outside help.
Surround yourself with support. If your family and partner don’t understand, seek support elsewhere. Support groups that are specifically for postpartum mood disorders can be incredible. One of our local hospitals here in Indy has one I highly recommend. But so can general parenting support groups like Breastfeeding USA or ICAN or MOPS. Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone makes all the difference.
Sometime, though, you need more than just support and it’s time to talk to your doctor. If your OB is unsupportive or blows you off, find a doctor who is supportive. It doesn’t have to be an OB. Medication is not evil and doesn’t have to be forever but it can be lifesaving in the short term.
This is why I’m a doula. As women, as mothers, we deserve better. Our mental health is incredibly important and impacts every aspect of our lives. We need our struggles to be recognized and taken seriously. It’s vital to our lives and our families that this is the case. Our children deserve it as much as we do!
Exercise and movement promoting flexibility can make such a difference in how you feel during pregnancy, how your labor develops, and in your recovery. One of my own favorite forms of exercise during my pregnancies was yoga. My hips always felt better and I could tell I moved better when I was practicing regularly.
While my usual MO for yoga was a video, we have amazing prenatal yoga options here in Indy. Mimi Sosa with YogaGarden is one I wish I’d know about then. She teaches prenatal yoga in Broad Ripple and also at IU North and a mommy and baby yoga class too! You can find more details on her class on her Facebook page.
Mimi is a registered teacher with Yoga Alliance and, according to her bio, studied with Rolf Gates, Paul Grilley, Sean Corn, Shiva Rea, and Tias Little. She is certified in prenatal yoga through Lisa Matkin and Sarah Longacre. She has been teaching prenatal yoga and mommy and baby yoga for the last 15 years and regular yoga classes for 18 years. She’s also a DONA certified doula like me and an all around really great person!
One of the big benefits to taking a prenatal yoga class over staying home in front of your TV, is that you get to meet other new moms-to-be. Having some connections and maybe new friends in the world of motherhood before baby arrives is a good thing. Check out Mimi’s class, the next sessions will be starting mid-February, gain some flexibility, some peace of mind, and maybe some new friends!
Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin