Thursday, March 25, 2010
Approximately five weeks ago, Zachary joined our family. He was very accommodating: Contractions intensified after I finished with my nail and hair appointments, stayed steady through a delicious pizza dinner (the last we would ever have as a family of three), and active labor began a few minutes after Hallie went to bed for the night. Zachary was even born just a few minutes after midnight, thus ensuring his parents got a few hours of sleep before Hallie awoke for the day and demanded attention.
Immediately following Zachary's birth, I nursed him for a while and continued to do so throughout the night. By the next morning, a mere 6 hours later, my breasts were sore and my nipples feeling chapped. Ugh. I watched throughout the next day and attempted to analyze the latch and see where we were going wrong. Starting nose to nipple? Check. Wait for wide gape before bringing nipple into mouth? No problem. Upper lip flanged? Yes. Still, as a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), I know that most breastfeeding pain is a result of poor latch. Still, no matter what I did, I couldn't get an read on the problem.
By the next day, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. The pain was so intense that I dreaded my son's plaintive cries of hunger. Nursing my daughter had been successful from the start and such a joy, that I was devastated not to feel the same about my son. And worse...I help other women with their latch issues for a living. How could I not solve my own?
I was too embarrassed and proud to ask for help. As the days went by, it was getting worse and worse. I had my husband hold up a mirror while I fed our son in order to attempt to watch the feed from another angle. I still couldn't see the problem (well, I couldn't see much of anything as my husband kept moving the mirror), I tried to videotape a feed, but we ran into the same issue with the camera that we did with the mirror.
Finally, out of desperation and because I *knew* my nursing relationship with my son should be better, I called a colleague to come over and help me out. I showed her how I was nursing Zachary and after less than 30 seconds of my demonstration, she told me that his lower lip was not in the proper position. Of course! The one spot I could not see myself from any angle. We readjusted the latch and I felt immediate relief as Zachary gulped hungrily as the newly increased flow. My colleague and I spent the next hour catching up and she told me how impressed she was that I called since so many CLCs and Doulas end up with nursing issues simply because they were too embarrassed to ask for help.
By the next day, my nipples had healed and I no longer dreaded nursing. In some cases, I looked forward to it since it was a great excuse to sit back on the couch and rest while other people watched Hallie, folded laundry or made dinner. Bliss.
And so, my brand new son was able to teach me an important lesson within the first week of his life: Asking for help - even when you are supposed to be an expert - is perfectly okay. No one thinks less of you and in some cases, they even think more.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Recently, I went to an event sponsored by folks in the NYC birthing community. There were a variety of experts on topics relating to birth and infants and I was asked to speak on CRP/first Aid Instruction. I love attending these sort of events in any capacity, not just for the ability to outreach to pregnant New Yorkers, but also because these events allow me to meet other doulas, midwives and assorted people involved in a similar line of work to me.
It was with great expectations that I listened as one of the midwives spoke about how to choose a provider, learn about hospital protocols and give a summary of the ins and outs of birth. Toward the end of her talk, however, she said something that hit a wrong chord with me.
“No woman needs a doula during her birth or postpartum experience,” claimed the midwife. “All you need is a trusted friend who is not afraid of infants or birth”
With all due respect, I completely disagree. During the birth of my daughter, my birth doula was the person who assured me that everything was progressing normally. She had witnessed enough births that she was not colored by her own experiences the way a friend may be. She had seen all sorts of birthing scenarios and could confidently and accurately tell me what was happening throughout the process. As a postpartum doula, I am trained to screen for postpartum depression. I have assisted enough women with breastfeeding issues that I can instantly assess and correct most problems without referring to the way I did it. And, I have seen enough newborns at this point that I can confidently tell a parent when everything is normal – and when its not.
In my role as a postpartum doula, I am available to my clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is not unusual for the phone to ring at 4am with questions ranging from nipple pain during breastfeeding to a how to remove baby poop from white upholstery. Sure, many of these new moms have mothers, sisters and friends who say “call me anytime,” but they aren’t comfortable calling at 4am with what might be a trivial questions and feel bad bothering a friend. But I make it clear that its my job to answer the phone and the moms while the without support need it, the ones with a solid support system are grateful to have it.
Moreover, I have no agenda. I do not care if you vaccinate your child, circumcise your son or refuse to dress your daughter in pink. My job is to create confident and capable parents and help new parents to find their own way. Rarely do my clients know whether or not my daughter is vaccinated, how I feel about my babysitter or if I plan on having a bris for my not-yet born son. The only time I offer an opinion about a new parent’s style is if that parent is doing something dangerous – and even then I try and make my corrections as gentle as possible. “You know, using plastic wrap to protect the sheets could increase the suffocation rates. You may want to try a simple mattress protector instead”
Thankfully, I spoke after the midwife who told the audience that there was no need for doulas and after my talk, I found many people nodding in agreement with me. Seems everyone has a pushy mother-in-law/sister/friend who insists that any form of parenting other than the one they used is incorrect and its nice to have an “expert” to call for back-up when you lack the confidence to do it on your own.