Netflix, that IS NOT a doula!

Have you seen Fuller House’s season 5 premiere? Stephanie brings her baby home and she hired a postnatal doula. But this doula is less “doula” and more “viking warrior”.

Here’s my response to Netflix.

Dear Netflix,

The doula community and myself were appalled at how the postpartum doula was portrayed in “Welcome Home, Baby-to-Be-Named-Later”. We do not boss parents around and we certainly do not keep the baby away from the parents.

Let me tell you a bit more about The Real Postpartum Doula.

Doulas bring back a sense of community that has been lost for nearly 100 years. We are here to teach. We are here to listen. We are here to show you how much of an amazing parent you are! Postpartum doulas support all kinds of different families: single parents, teen parents, bereaved parents, low-income families, parents with twins/triplets/multiples. We offer support for: overnight care, infant feeding, infant care, postpartum healing, normal baby behaviour. The list seems endless.

This job is a calling. You do it because you have a passion for helping others. Doulas take time away from their own families (especially during holiday seasons), to help other families.

Some of the benefits of postpartum care include: lower occurrence of postpartum mood disorders, greater success in breastfeeding, higher self-confidence, more rest and a faster recovery for the mother, more affectionate bonding with the baby.

Studies (here and here) have shown that the more support a mother has, the less likely she is of developing postpartum depression. Sometimes doulas are the only ones that mothers feel comfortable opening up to. We don’t judge. We listen. We hold space. We hold hands. We let the mother shed her tears in safety. We let the mother rest in bed while we take care of light chores, bringing her food and water.

If a situation arises that’s outside of our scope of practice, we help parents find local, trustworthy professionals. We have a long list of resources that may include: therapists, peer support groups, lactation consultants, photographers, house cleaners and pelvic floor physiotherapists.

The vast majority of postpartum doulas agree with me when I say that our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We want parents to be confident in their parenting skills. We educate them on how to find reliable resources. By supporting their choices, parents learn how to advocate for themselves. Parental self-efficacy isn’t just important when you have a baby, but throughout your entire parenting journey.

Now more than ever parents need postpartum support. Your episode “Welcome Home, Baby-to-Be-Named-Later” not only misinformed the public about postpartum doulas but may have discouraged families from seeking out the support they need. There are some families that only need help for a few days. But there are others that we support for months, even years if you include subsequent children.

We ask that you resolve this discrepancy. At the very least, you owe postpartum doulas and the birthworker community an apology.

Thank you,

Natalie Clark

Postnatal doula

Building Blocks of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy, or self-belief, isn’t something that we hear about often as a parenting topic but we need to start talking about it. So, what is self-efficacy?

“It is the belief we have in our abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully.” (Akhtar, 2008)

As parents (heck, as human beings!), we will make mistakes. What’s important for us to grasp is the knowledge that we will learn from these mistakes and do better next time.

Note: This blog post isn’t about a certain style of parenting. It’s about the importance of self-belief and knowing that your choices are the best for your family. I could have used any topic as an example: sleep, sun protection, etc. I am using my breastfeeding story because this was my experience towards uncovering my self-efficacy.

My self-belief began alongside my breastfeeding journey. I discovered the power of my body while I birthed and breastfed my children. I had grown these children throughout my pregnancies. And I provided them with all of the food and nutrition they needed after they were born. After successfully nursing my children into toddlerhood, I realized that I had been right all those months ago. The decision that we made as parents was the right one for our family!

My parenting journey is not perfect; far from it actually. But the lessons that I learned from exclusively breastfeeding my children gave me the power to trust my instincts. They have also taught me how to be humble when it comes to bad decisions. To be honest, I struggle with eating my piece of humble pie. That might be due to my Italian roots…

But how can you obtain self-efficacy – this belief in yourself? How is it developed?

SUPPORT:
I had the full support from my family with my choice to breastfeed. Support doesn’t necessarily mean that they followed the same path that you are traveling. It means that they respect your decisions and are interested in hearing your story. Support can come from anyone who is part of your every day life: immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbours or members of your church.

COMMUNITY:
Being with like-minded parents gives you the opportunity to witness their stories, to share the struggles and celebrate the joys. Look at where your interests and values are. For attachment parenting, many communities have branches of La Leche League and babywearing groups.

A word of advice about the social media community. Use it wisely. There are a lot of pros and cons to joining the “mommy Facebook” groups, but a definite plus is the get-togethers. They are usually informal and hosted at parks, private residences, indoor playgrounds or family-friendly cafés.

LOVE:
If you have a partner, they are a part of the family and an integral part of the decision making. Talk to them, share good information (my next point) and discuss it together. Try to discuss the topic calmly. If emotions run too high, take a break and revisit the discussion another day. You are not going to agree on everything and that is healthy and normal. Remember that relationships are give and take. Oftentimes, compromise is the answer.

SCIENCE:
The best decision is an informed decision. Do your research! When you find “advice” online, dig a bit deeper. Where did they get their information? Are there studies to back the information up? Does the author seem biased? Just because something is online doesn’t make it a fact. Please don’t base your findings on a blog (and yes, I like the irony here too), speak with the professionals and ask them where they get their information.

How are you building your self-efficacy? Share your stories in the comments!

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi

Resources: https://positivepsychology.com/self-efficacy

Gender Reveals and a Funny Video!

Gender reveals have become very popular in recent years. Videos abound online – some are sweet and some are downright hilarious! I have never had a gender reveal party for either of my pregnancies; it wasn’t very common at the time. And yes, I know I’m dating myself here!

Gender reveal parties go hand in hand with the advent of social media and the improved technology of prenatal gender discernment. There is even a blood work test (done on the mother) that can confirm, with 95% accuracy, the baby’s gender as early as 7 weeks!

What do you think about gender reveal parties? Are you planning on hosting one? Do you prefer to keep the gender a surprise? Or do you just binge-watch the videos on YouTube? Come on, be honest… We’ve all done it!

Here is one of my favourite cake reveals:

 

Image by Marc Leos from Pixabay

Ma lutte avec ma dépression prénatale

J’ai vraiment peur d’écrire ce blog. Non seulement est-ce un sujet délicat, mais ceci est mon premier blogue en français. N’hésitez pas à corriger mes fautes d’orthographes; je suis certaine qu’il y en aura plusieurs! Mai, c’est le mois de la santé mentale et le 1er mai était la journée mondiale de la santé mentale des mères. Comment peut-on sensibiliser le public à ce sujet? Une façon est de raconter notre propre vécu. Et c’est ce que je fais aujourd’hui. Même si cela me donne la trouille.

Dans certaines régions, jusqu’à une mère sur cinq est atteinte par une forme de trouble dépressif ou anxieux périnatal.

Une sur cinq! Rappelez-vous de ça la prochaine fois que vous faites la file aux épiceries. Je suis une de ces mères, mais je ne l’avais pas réalisé jusqu’à récemment, cinq ans après l’événement. Pendant ma première grossesse, certes que je piquais des crises. Mais rien ne compare à ce qui m’est advenue pendant ma deuxième grossesse.

J’hésite vraiment à publier ce blogue. J’ai peur de mettre mon histoire en ligne, à la vue des gens pour le reste des temps. Franchement, je serais plus confortable en discutant mon plancher pelvien et mes fuites de vessie. Mais ça, c’est un blogue pour une autre journée. Maintenant, je vais combattre ma détresse et ma honte. Et c’est pour ces raisons que je vais publier cet article. Pour que tout le monde voit. Pour ce parent qui a besoin de l’aide, qui a besoin de se faire entendre, qui veut être rassuré. Moi, je me sentais toute seule. Je n’avais jamais réalisé qu’il y avait de l’aide disponible. Je croyais que je virais folle! Mais vous n’êtes pas folle! Votre conjointe n’est pas folle! Votre enfant adulte n’est pas folle! Elles ont besoin d’un environnement où elles se sentent en sécurité. Où qu’elles puissent partager leurs pensées, parler ou écrites, sans être jugées.

Physiquement, je n’avais pas de problèmes pendant mes grossesses.

J’avais des sensations nauséeuses mais je n’avais jamais eu de vomissements. Pour moi, mes plus grosses difficultés étaient émotionnelles et mentales. Je ne suis pas certaine quand que ma dépression a commencé. À vrai dire, j’habitais dans un brouillard. Tout ce que je me souviens c’est d’être couché dans mon lit pendant des heures et des heures de temps. Je ne voulais pas bouger, ni manger, ni vivre. Je priais pour le jour que ces pensées s’arrêtent. Ce petit bébé dans ma bedaine me rendait folle! J’ai considéré mettre fin à cette grossesse. J’ai considéré me suicider. De sauter d’un pont. De mettre fin une fois pour toute à ce désespoir. Je n’ai aucun doute que ceci était la période la plus sombre de ma vie. La seule chose qui m’a sauvé c’est mon mari. L’idée de le quitter était plus terrifiante que les souffrances dans ma tête. Les semaines ont passé. Peu à peu, les choses se sont améliorées. Le dernier trimestre était moins pire. La naissance de mon fils était fantastique et j’ai mis ces mauvaises mémoires de côté.

Cela m’a pris des ANNÉES avant que je réalise que j’avais souffert d’une dépression prénatale. Identique à la dépression post partum, mais durant la grossesse. J’en ai appris pendant mes études avec Doula Canada. Pourquoi est-ce qu’on n’entend pas parler de cette dépression prénatale? Il devrait y avoir des affiches dans chaque cabinet de médecins, d’obstétriciens et de sages-femmes!

Alors, je n’ai rien dit. Même pas un mot à mes merveilleuses sages-femmes.

J’étais humilié de mes émotions. Cette dépression m’écrasait. Je n’ai rien raconté, même pas à mon époux. Cela a pris des années pour que j’en lui parle. Et même à ça, je ne lui est pas donné tous les détails. Il les lira pendant qu’il révise mon blogue. Et vous voulez connaître un secret? Après toutes ces années, j’ai encore HONTE de ce qui m’est arrivée, de ma dépression. Même si, intellectuellement, je sais que ce n’est pas de ma faute. Maintenant que j’ai admis que j’ai vécu une dépression, c’est le temps de m’en rétablir.

Si vous soupçonnez qu’un de vos proches souffre d’un trouble dépressif ou anxieux périnatal, ne désespérez pas!

Il y a des soins disponibles! Certains auront besoin de la thérapie ou de médicaments. Et d’autres auront besoin du soutien des pairs. L’élément fondamental est d’offrir un environnement sécure où la mère puisse s’exprimer sans connaître de jugement. Une bonne resource française est eSanté Mentale.

Si vous voulez, je vous invite à partager vos histoires dans les commentaires ci-dessous. Une femme sur cinq souffre des ces maladies. Aidons-les et aidons-nous nous-mêmes en partageant nos histoires.

My Struggle with Prenatal Depression

What inspired me for this month’s topic? Well, May is Mental Health Month and May 1st was World Mental Health awareness day. How can awareness be spread if we don’t share our stories? So, this is what I’m doing today, sharing my story with you. And let me tell you, sharing this petrifies me.

Certain areas of the world have as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. 

One in five! Think about that next time you’re in line at the grocery store, or in a room with friends. One in five! I am 1 in 5 except I didn’t realize it until 5 years after the fact. I had some mood swings when I was pregnant with my first child. But nothing compared to what I experienced when I was pregnant with my second.

I hesitate to write this blog. I hesitate to put myself out there, online for all to see forever.

I think I’d rather talk about my pelvic health and pee-zing issues. But that will be for another post. So now I wrestle with this fear, this embarrassment. But that’s also why I will hit the publish button. For everyone to see. For that parent who is looking for help, for connection, for someone to say “Yes I’ve been there, it’s terrifying but there is help”. I didn’t know I needed help. I just thought I was going crazy. But you are not going crazy! Your partner is not going crazy! Your adult child is not going crazy! They need to hear that this is common. They need to have a safe environment to unload their thoughts. They need to talk about it, to write it down, without fear of being judged.

Physically, my pregnancies were fine. I was a bit nauseous, but I never had morning sickness. It was the emotional  and mental struggles that got to me. I’m not sure when the depression started.  It’s all a blur now. All I remember is laying for hours and hours in my bed, hoping that it would stop. Not wanting to move. Not wanting to eat. Not wanting to live. Praying that it would stop. This little creature inside of me was driving me mad! I even considered ending the pregnancy at one point. I contemplated suicide. Jumping off an overpass. Just ending the torment in my head. That was, without a doubt, the darkest moment I have ever experienced. The only thing that held me back was my husband. I just couldn’t leave him. Days and weeks passed like this. It finally got a bit better. The last trimester was easier. The birth went great and I pushed those dark memories aside.

I didn’t realize until YEARS later that I had suffered from prenatal depression.

Just like postpartum depression, except during pregnancy. I learned about it while studying for my postpartum doula certification with Doula Canada. Why don’t we hear about this? Why aren’t there posters plastered in the office of every OB, doctor and midwife?

I didn’t mention it to anyone. Not one soul. Not even to my midwives. I was mortified about my feelings. Ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone about my experience. It was only years later that I told my husband. Even then, I didn’t give him all of these details. He’ll read about them when he edits my blog. And you know what? After all these years I am still ASHAMED about my feelings, my depression. Even though on an intellectual level, I know that it wasn’t my fault. Now that I’ve acknowledged my prenatal depression, it’s time for me to heal from it.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, don’t despair! There is help! Some may need professional therapy and medication. Some may just need support. The key is to have a safe environment where women are encouraged to talk about it. To seek help. A great resource is the Pacific Post Partum Support Society.

If you’d like, I ask that you share your story below. One in five women suffer from these disorders. Let’s support them. Let’s support ourselves. Let’s open up the dialogue.

Top 10 Teething Tips

Aaah, the dreaded “t” word: teething…

Teething is a long process and can be painful for some babies (and their parents!). I barely noticed when my daughter would get a new tooth. My son on the other hand, he was a different story. He started showing signs of teething when he was around 4 months. And it didn’t let up until past his first birthday. This opened my eyes to the differences between babies. We are all individuals after all, no matter our age.

Your baby’s teeth work their way slowly (very, very slowly sometimes) down and eventually break through the gums. All that movement in the head and jaws can make your baby irritable. Other signs of teething include: drooling, disrupted sleep and biting/gumming everything in sight from their own fingers, to toys, and even the hand (or breast) that feeds him. Ouch! Here are some tips for you flustered parents. Remember to always supervise your child when giving him something to chew on.

 

Resources
Amber necklaces study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22925538/
Health Canada warning: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2012/13671a-eng.php
FDA warning: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm385817.htm

Burping a Baby 101

Exclusively breastfed babies may not need to burp as much as babies that are bottle-fed. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that all babies are different and some may need to burp more than others no matter which way you are feeding them.

In the first few months, your baby is learning how to digest milk (breastmilk or formula). They never had to digest anything in utero. And with eating comes gassiness. Gassiness is caused by your baby taking in air while feeding.

Some things that may cause gassiness in your baby include:

  • A fast letdown
  • Baby was very hungry and drank milk more quickly
  • Incorrect latch
  • Lip or tongue tie

When should you burp your baby?

  • Before switching breasts
  • If bottle-feeding, every 2-3 oz
  • If baby pulls away from the breast or bottle

There are three ways that you can burp your baby. Remember that a burping position should apply gentle but firm pressure on the baby’s stomach. And make sure to have a receiving blanket or burping cloth handy! The first position is over the shoulder. Place her high up over your shoulder so that her tummy is gently pushing against it. Walking around while holding her in this position may help. The second position is sitting her on your lap with your fingers supporting her chin. For older babies who have head control, you may choose to place your hand gently against their tummy. The last position is to lay her down across your lap and gently rub and pat her back. Burp your baby for about a minute. If your baby didn’t burp but seems content, continue with the feeding if necessary. If she’s grimacing, squirming or refusing to take more milk, try burping her again.

Should you use the rub or the pat method? Honestly, this is a personal preference. I have yet to see a study that shows one is better than the other! It greatly depends on what your baby prefers and responds to. Don’t be afraid to be creative – feel free to use as many methods and positions as you want.

If your baby is having a difficult time burping, try burping her more often during the feeding. For babies that are very gassy, try incorporating a bit of exercise and infant massage into your play time. Place your baby on her back and gently pump her legs towards her chest and back down (bicycle legs). For massaging, try using Dr. Sears’ “I Love You” method. Massage your baby with a little bit of warm oil on your fingers. Make sure that the room is warm and draft-free. The illustration below shows you how to do the massage.

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Burping can be quite the chore depending on your child. Rest assured that it doesn’t last forever! Once your baby is moving more freely, she will be able to pass gas and burp by herself.