For Labor, Tap Into Your Inner Child

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Sitting in a chair, watching my kiddo jump over and over and over, AND OVER up and down with an imaginary jump rope, while watching a TV show was astonishing.

She does this. She moves. She can't sit still when she gets home from school. And it is a thing of beauty. She cartwheels to pick up a pencil. Then she realizes it's fun, so she drops it again just so she can do it over.

She skips from the stairs to the kitchen. She gallops up the stairs to her room. She melts on to the floor, and then springs into a cheerleader jump, and then twirls around.

And all this, because she had an impulse to do it, and it felt good.

It just feels good to move.

Kids are really good at figuring out where boundaries are. It's one of the things they are wired to do - push outward and see what pushes back, and what keeps giving way. It's how they learn the rules. It's how their brains work.

And if you have seen anything like the movements I mentioned above in real time, you know what I mean when I say, there is almost zero lag time before having the thought to move, and then moving. A child's body, when free to flow, is thought. Thought in glorious motion.

As we grow, learn more about "appropriate" behavior, and respect for authority, we also gain more self-control or impulse control. This control is one of the things that shows maturity.

But if there is one thing that I wish laboring people would throw out when they go into labor, it's the tightness to which they hold on to their impulses.

Yes, things like controlled breathing are a huge benefit to manage contractions and create rhythm. But what would happen if we opened ourselves up to allow our bodies the freedom to do what it wants to do when laboring?

Early, active, and transitional labor naturally takes a person deeper into their lizard brains as they get closer to birth. For unmedicated labor, accepting the journey to move inward is a great sign you are working with contractions and not against them.

Some common elements of birth that some have trouble expressing are making the guttural noises and fluid movements that a laboring body often wants to convey. Why is that? Because adults overthink.

Why be embarrassed to moan? You are in labor.
Why be ashamed to squat, roll your hips, and arch your back? You are in labor.
Why be embarrassed to take up space, follow an impulse and see where it takes you?

How will you know the boundaries of your birth if you aren't brave enough to test them?

Children are fearless in their movement and exploration, and as adults, I wish we could immulate that spirit more when making the journey into and through birth.

Helping to let go of fear and embarrassment is part of how a doula can assist you in labor.

But if you ever need inspiration on how to own your space, flow in your skin, and find joy in movement, keep your eyes open for the kids that are all around you. They are showing us how to live fearlessly.

Essential Questions To Ask Your Labor Doula

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There are many lists on the web giving questions you should go over when hiring a doula. You may be familiar with those. What I find essential, (beyond if a doula tells you her background, number of births attended, and why she became a doula) is finding a person you can be vulnerable in front of during one of the most exposing moments possible.

What to ask your DOULA:

Are you certified?

There are many ways for a woman to become a doula, and some choose to go through certifying organizations. We want to encourage you to find a doula that has used a certifying organization and has, or is in the process of completing her certification.

Being certified ensures your doula has gone through training, done research for your place of birth about resources and current information, and has a support system for herself that will help ensure she has the tools she needs to support you in the best way possible.

If a woman has not gone through a certifying body, there are times when one's own personal experiences, beliefs, and barriers can creep into her work. Being able to look to a certifying body's curriculum and ask questions of a doula's support philosophy may identify any red flags early in your interview.

What is your role at a vaginal birth and cesarean delivery?

Having a clear understanding of how your doula can support you through a planned or unplanned cesarean as well as vaginal births can reveal the extent of her comfort and depth of ability to offer non-judgemental support. We are proud to provide helpful and valuable support to mothers delivering by cesarean and hope your doula will as well.

Many women plan to have a vaginal birth. Many women believe it is only valuable to hire a doula for a vaginal birth. Your doula should be able to support you well regardless of the method of delivery.

What does your support look like when we are not face-to-face? And how does that relate to being "On-Call?

Can you call your doula with questions?

Can you rely on your doula to get back to you in a timely fashion? Does she have a policy for response time?

What happens if you go into labor before your due date?

What would keep you from attending my birth?

As a consumer of services, you need to know the ifs and whens of that service not being completed. Your doula should have terms organized in the contract you agree to, and she should have a reliable back up support. You should not be surprised to find out your doula won't be present because a holiday is close to your labor day.

And here are some questions that are just for you to consider after meeting a doula for the first time (or even after a phone conversation.)

1. Do you like this person?

2. Would you like to talk to this person again?

3. Does this person help you see your goals more clearly?

AND THE KICKER...

4. Would you like this person to be at your birth?

Adults Have Tantrums, Too

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Adults still have tantrums, too. I mean, there are rarely tears streaming down a colleague's face with snot and fists tight, seething because he or she is overtired. But, as adults, we still fall prey to all the same things our kids are learning about daily: frustration, anger, disappointment, competitiveness, a growing sense of self-worth, jealousy, fear, shame, and loneliness.

Sure our tantrums are not rolling around on the ground, yelling and hitting our fists, but does this sound familiar?

You and a co-worker have the same responsibilities, but routinely, they do not complete them, and you are left to make sure things get finished. When you address it and ask, "Did you know you were supposed to do this?" Perhaps they say well, sure, but no one is really going to make me, so why bother?

Translation: Nanny Nanny boo boo, you can't make me!

Or this one...

A friend has been MIA for sometime, and upon reentry into life, it's hard to miss they have undergone a drastic change which enhances their appearance. Everyone wants to talk to them. To their face, the friend gives a compliment, but after he leaves, negative comments fly in the group. "It totally isn't natural, if you know what I mean."

Translation: You can have that toy, I didn't want to play with it anyway!!!

OK...

It isn't a seamless comparison, but the point is that adults aren't perfect, we still make mistakes, and we are not that great at regulating our emotions even when we know better.

The hard part about emotions is that they are real. Whenever we feel them, and in whatever form they take, they are real. Telling them to go away rarely ever works.

And as adults, this is with the benefit of having a fully developed frontal cortex that helps regulate our feelings and reactions!

When you have an 18-month old who does not want to wear gloves, it is tough to help them understand that in the winter in Maine, they need to wear gloves outside! Or, the daily trial of your child wanting something, and being frustrated they can't have it.

Our children are trying.

They are trying our nerves, but they are also trying. Trying out new skills. Trying out sounds and words. Trying out new choices and seeing what happens.

But when our kids get to the point where they are in a tantrum, it isn't like talking to an adult who makes a snide comment to a co-worker - you can't change their behavior by calling them on it. In fact, you can't do much.

The options many parents have tried when kids have meltdowns are:

1) screaming back at them

2) moving them to a different location to have their meltdown

3) stare at them and wait until they are done

4) love them through it

I had no idea what it meant to love someone through a meltdown until I experienced it. It was the first time I could see that my child had zero connection between her brain and her body when she was flopping on the floor.

There was nothing but anguish.

It wasn't done with malice.

She didn't have a goal in mind. She didn't even remember what the problem was in the first place.

She was overwhelmed, and I had a choice: I could leave her there to go through it alone, or I could stay and go through it with her.

It just so happened that day I had patience. It just so happened on that day I was rested, and able to turn off my parenting lessons, and I could sit with her while she was mad and sad.

Young children are not giving us a hard time. They are having a hard time. And any logic that we would use on another adult simply won't work, and it isn't appropriate.

Our kids are not co-workers, or friends, or strangers we meet in the community. They are future adults who have no clue how to exist in the world, and we are the people who help them.

Some days, we can say, "Please get down off the table." and they get down off the table. Easy! Some days, they stomp and scream, and buck when we move their body for them back onto the floor.

Part of me wonders what would happen the next time we caught an adult having a moment of being particularly unreasonable or crass, what if we responded like we do to young kids and ask instead,

"Wow, it sounds like you have some big things inside you that need to get out. Do you need a hug?"

Music That Is Great For Kids and Adults

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Are you feeling cabin fever? Need help getting everyone moving while the winter weeks press on?

Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music...the options are really endless.  But there is something wonderfully blissful about putting an album on and not needing to worry about what will pop up next and if it will be appropriate for the kids.

Here are suggestions for what to play in the house, (or if you are able to get out of the house and into the car ) these are great for kids and adults too!

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No! - They Might Be Giants

The kids don’t even know they are learning thing when listening to TMBG. And this is another great album of theirs where you will be bobbing your head along with your kid. Get weird together and make some memories.

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Mary Had a Little Amp - Various Artist

Hear some of the biggest names going down memory lane with classics from your childhood. Maroon 5, Madonna, R.E.M. and others have fun with remixes of these favorites.

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Bedtime with the Beatles - Jason Falkner

Careful if you make it out of the house with this one, because this is snooze town. These instrumental classics help to unwind the day, and keep you focused on just how good it feels to close your eyes and really listen to the melody of your favorite Beatles songs.

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 SING-A-LONGS & LULLABIES FROM CURIOUS GEORGE– JACK JOHNSON & FRIENDS

Jack Johnson is aways a fun time with is beachy tunes and laid back energy.

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The Merry Goes Round - Jewel

Oh Jewel - If you are a parent, there is a good chance you had angst memories with Jewel music as the soundtrack in your youth. Enjoy her lilt and quivering voice with songs that are peaceful, and memorable.

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Not for Kids Only, David Grisman Jerry Garcia


This is simply a fun album that has lasted the test of time. Originally reals ease in 1993, it is still a blast and is fun. Put this on and see where it takes you.

Having and Losing Control: One Fear In Birth

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Control.  Or Rather, losing control.  

It is one of the biggest fears people have about birth.  Images of dramatized screams and guttural moaning flash through imaginations.  Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth but can't really describe it to anyone's satisfaction,  and that gets linked with the Hollywood image of a noisy woman in labor.  


Some share stories about the agony of being out of control while giving birth.  Others seem to equate losing control with euphoria and giving oneself over to the birth process as the ultimate endorphin high. 

Are you confused yet? 

Is control good?  Controlled breathing is emphasized as being both useful and necessary.  No one wants you to hyperventilate, and it has incredible connections to pain management. So yes, control your breathing!

 But also, being too in control may mean you can't detach from the external environment of the room, and that could lead to being tense and stressed, which then could inhibit labor from progressing. No one wants labor to stall!  So don't be too in control of your room, body, or information.  

An honest doctor shared with a client that everyone thinks they are the ones in control when walking into a labor and delivery room.  But in reality, the only one in control is the baby.  The comment got a little chuckle out of the room at the time, but here, finally, was a bit of information that made some sense about the inaccurate predictive nature that is childbirth.  

The unknowns are limitless.  And even when we know as much as we can possibly know, there are still surprises.  And it is just this reason that doulas are gaining in popularity and hospitals are becoming more and more welcoming of skilled support people to help guide a person through birth.  

For some, knowing when to express control and when to release it are instinctual.  But having the encouragement to follow that instinct is what your doula will do for those in that position.  

For others, their instincts cause more worry or more distress, and just the same, your doula will help navigate through those thoughts and feelings to space where focus can be centered around feeling and moving with contractions.   

Some want to be told when to push and feel in control because counting gives a framework to follow.  Or, some only want to push when the urge comes, an act that gives power back to the laboring person, and not to the person counting.  

All this, and there isn't a wrong way to have your baby.  

Labor is nuanced.  Being in and out of control is nuanced.  Working with medical providers is nuanced.  Bringing a new human life into the world is nuanced!  And how wonderful that it is! 

Birth is not a phenomenon where we can express our control over it to reach the desired outcome. 

But, if you are concerned about control, losing control, or the exchanges of power that happen back and forth all throughout labor, consider using a doula.   While having a doula will not change the truth that your baby is the person in that room who dictates many of the decisions, having a doula will help you and your partner feel uniquely supported through the entire process.  So instead of birth happening to you, it can simply happen.
 

Showing Love with Boundaries

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One of the best things that happened to me in 2018 was understanding I needed to have a better relationship with boundaries.  Working through common struggles with a young child at home, having the same conversations over and over about who was responsible for what tasks and chores, and the anger I felt simmering just waiting for something or someone to turn up the heat just a little bit...

I was giving and hoping and expecting of so many people, but I had failed myself, and everyone else by not making clear guidelines beforehand.  


Brene Brown says it the best from her book Daring Greatly


The most compassionate people that I've ever interviewed… happened to be the most boundaried. They happened to be the people who had very, very clear boundaries about what they were willing to do, what they were not willing to do, what they were willing to take on, and what they were not willing to take on. 

…One of the ways that shifted for me to be more compassionate is, I kind of struggle with feeling perpetually disappointed in people a lot. Like, why aren't they living up to their expectations, why aren't they living up to my expectations, why are they making these self-destructive choices? I can think of people in my life, where it's like, oh my god it's making me crazy!

One of the things that shifted for me was this idea that maybe everyone - myself included - maybe everyone's doing the best they can. But sometimes, that means that I don't have to engage.

 [...Because otherwise] who I'm really angry at is me.

...What I've learned for me, around boundaries and compassion, is that I don't know whether people are doing the best they can or not, but my life is better when I work from the assumption that they are. …But at the same time, that means that I need to have really clear boundaries. So instead of judging you, and feeling resentful, and feeling like you're sucking me dry, or you're taking advantage of me, I need to assume that you're doing the best you can. And I need to set my boundaries, and not get involved to the degree where I lose control over how I feel about myself and what's going on in that relationship.


So what does this look like as a parent? Well, it can seem like a lot of things, and it can look messy as you try out new ways to respond to typical conflicts.   But for all things, there is some forethought that can help guide you.  

  • What are your family's values?  

  • How are you trying to teach those values? 

  • What are some reasonable ways your whole family can support the growth of those values as family rules?  

  • And what are some consequences the family can decide together that should take place if the family's rules are broken by any member? 


And what about your personal values?  

The same questions are valid for you and your personal boundaries.  What do you excel at, and what do you need help to hone?  What areas do you find yourself becoming quick to anger?  What are your personal values and how do you want to live them? 

When working through boundary setting and growing personal responsibility, using some tools from Positive Discipline Parenting Techniques can give language as you become more comfortable with kind and respectful discourse that build up compassionate boundaries.

Instead of telling kids to do something, ask:  What do you need to do tonight, so you are ready for school tomorrow? 

Take a time out for yourself, and model respectful behavior:  I need to walk away from this conversation and calm down.  We'll revisit this topic once I can be calm and respectful.  

Use Hugs:  This has been a hard conversation, and I could use a hug.  When you are ready for one, please come find me.  

And showing belief in their ability and not stepping in:  I believe you will be able to find a solution to that problem that makes sense.  Let me know when you are ready to talk about your decisions.  

As parents, and especially mothers, we want to help, fix, and nurture.  But those things can compete directly at times with our jobs to prepare, teach, and encourage curiosity.  

Out Of the Box Indoor Winter Activities

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It's that time of year again: snow days upon snow days.  And if you are like many of the parents out there, you may be running out of fun and creative things to do with those kiddos before you reach whatever milestone for the day that makes plopping them in front of a screen feel less guilt-ridden. 

We're here to say; first, you're doing a fantastic job.  For real.  Gold star.  This is hard stuff.  And we're also here to share the suggestions posted below are all activities that have been tried by other moms, and may give you a laugh, or may provide you with inspiration.  If one or the other happens, we'll consider our time well spent!


For When You Are Exhausted But Still Have To Be Engaged: 


If you listen to Fresh Air, you may have caught this game shared by Hilary Frank, Creator of The Longest Shortest Time Podcast, called What's On My Butt?  And it's brilliant because when you are exhausted, you are able to lay on the floor with your eyes closed, and your child scurries around the house looking for odd items to set on your butt, and then you guess what it is.  Bonus points for this game because the rules also require your child to put the items back where they got them before finding a new object.  


For When You Are Home From Work, And You Need To Do Some Amount Of Work Still: 


Using masking tape, put shapes on the ground of various sizes, and locations, and make an obstacle course.  When one shape is used, switch to another and get a whole new course.  

If masking tape sounds atrocious to you or is unavailable, sacrificing hand towels and washcloths could work as well.  Call them puddles, hand them an umbrella, and tell them to go puddle jumping.

If age appropriate, let them put the tape down, and hopefully they will enjoy the making of the course as much as the using of it!


For When You Want To Take Advantage Of Having Extra Helpful Hands: 


Chore Race: Make a to-do list of all the things that need to be done before watching a movie, divide the list for appropriate ages, (and the important part...) set a timer for 20 minutes, and GO!  

Everything is more fun when it's a race, and everyone feels better having contributed, even if they don't want to admit it. 


For When You Have Energy, Patience, And Somewhat Capable Little People: 


Get thee to thy kitchen and bake something!  If you have aprons, put them on, and if your kids have been aching for cake/cupcakes, cookies, etc., this is the day to do it.


For When You Were Really Hoping To Not Have A Snow Day, But They Cancelled School Anyway:   


Do anything you need to survive the day.  For real. Have the 5th cup of coffee. It’s cereal for dinner.

Send them outside to play.  Task them with shoveling the neighbor's sidewalk.  Download a guided meditation and make them do it.  Put the Makarena on YouTube and challenge them to learn it.  And one of my favorites...B.O.B time, which stands for Body On Bed.  

When your littles erupt into a fit over the word NAP, feel free to switch to BOB time where they don't have to sleep, but they do have to be on their bed and quiet.  In this house, it still meant nap time for quite a while.