Doulas & Surrogates
While wildly popular for families seeking solutions to infertility in other places, surrogacy has not yet taken hold as a regular method of family growth in the Florida panhandle. In fact, this year, BEST certified doula, Lindsey Roderick was the first Belly to Cradle doula to ever be hired by a surrogate!
"I was excited that someone saw the value in doulas even though their birth story wouldn’t be the 'norm' from the start," Lindsey says about her first interactions with Amber C., who was a surrogate for a couple who live overseas.
A quick breakdown about surrogacy for those who may not know: surrogacy can have many variations, but generally there are two types of surrogacy, gestational and traditional. Traditional surrogacy is a more controversial and less popular approach in which a woman not only donates her own egg, but also carries the baby for a family. In gestational surrogacy, a gestational carrier is matched with a family (termed "intended parents" or "IPs") after intensive screening. This family may already have frozen embryos that are the result of combination their own egg and sperm, a donated egg and sperm, or their own sperm and a donated egg. One or two of these frozen embryos will be implanted in the gestational carrier's uterus after hormone therapy. Or, they may choose to create fresh embryos, the fertilization of which will be timed with the gestational carrier's hormone therapy so that they can be transferred into the surrogate's uterus immediately.
Surrogacy is an incredibly invasive and lengthy process that can take years from the time a carrier is matched with IPs to the birth of the baby.
This is an incredibly invasive and lengthy process involving testing, daily hormone injections, doctor's appointments, repeated embryo transfers, and travel that can take years from the time a carrier is matched with IPs to the birth of the baby. The emotional and physical toll that the process takes on not only the IPs but also the surrogate can be enormous. And in Amber's case, the distance, cultural differences, and the lack of knowledge her IPs had about pregnancy and birth compounded her need for support.
"Surrogacy is definitely not for the faint of heart!" Amber says. "I chose a doula because I did a lot of research when deciding on surrogacy. There are a lot of medical things involved with surrogacy, so having someone that was not a doctor to be there for me who had a vast knowledge of pregnancy was very important." And, it was important that the doula care she received was customized to fit the special circumstances surrounding the birth process.
Lindsey says that getting everybody on the same page was the first step, something that can be made more challenging by the contractual agreements that are necessary in a surrogate arrangement. "We had to make sure the entire team was cohesive--from her husband, to the IPs, to the provider and hospital staff. This required some additional communication."
Communication was especially important between Amber and her husband since they were not the baby's parents. Amber says that her husband's focus was on making sure she stayed comfortable even though she was seeking a more natural approach. "He [had] a different emotional investment with this birth," she says.
"This baby’s heath was important, but so was hers, and her ability to still safely keep her autonomy and advocate even while carrying someone else’s child."
For all of us at Belly to Cradle, one of the most important aspects of doula care is insuring that the birthing woman always feels like her doula is the one person whose sole job is to care for HER. This became especially important for Lindsey during Amber's pregnancy and birth experience. "I never wanted her to feel like just a vessel. This baby’s heath was important, but so was hers, and her ability to still safely keep her autonomy and advocate even while carrying someone else’s child."
This support became even more vital when Amber faced multiple health scares that included the possibility of an early delivery--that the IPs might not be able to get to the United States in time for. Having a doula provided her with an additional level of support she needed during these times. "The carrier can't make sole decisions," Lindsey says. "Other opinions have to be taken into account which adds another level of complexity and working through risks and benefits."
In the end, circumstances aligned perfectly; labor was held off until the perfect time, the IPs arrived with time for everyone to settle in for the birth, the hospital staff was lovely and caring in the midst of unconventional circumstances, and Amber had the experience she was hoping for. "I loved the support I received from Lindsey my entire journey and I truly believe it would not have been as great if it hadn't been for her!"
Doula care for the win.
The Belly to Cradle Difference
Just like any other service, you have choices when it comes to who you choose for childbirth education, doula care, lactation support, and placenta encapsulation. And we LOVE that our community has options, especially since historically the Pensacola area has not had as many birth options as other places. This is why we brought BEST Doula Training to town in February--and eleven new doulas entered the community as a result!
We get a lot of questions about what makes BTC different--and why we might be the right choice for a family's birth team. Obviously, a personal connection can't be created through a blog post, but we'd like to share a few things that we feel make us different from other options, and knowing those differences might help YOU narrow down which options are right for YOUR birth!
"I am beyond pleased with the services that Belly to Cradle provides! From start to finish, I have had such an amazing experience with their team and would recommend them to anyone! -Heather
When you hire one BTC team member--you're automatically hiring an entire TEAM of birth professionals. We take our clients seriously, and cooperate to provide each client with whatever support they need. If you’re taking our childbirth classes, you’ll have access to more than one instructor who are familiar with our area options, but who will provide unbiased information. If you’re a doula client, this means that you are GUARANTEED that one (or more) doulas will be by your side for as long as you need, whenever you need. Our lower priced On-Call doula care option provides you with access to FIVE doulas for the same price some companies charge for one!
This dedication to teamwork also means that one of our IBCLCs will touch bases with you and be available to answer questions or schedule a visit with you after your baby is born. As a postpartum client, questions or concerns that go beyond your postpartum care provider's range of knowledge will be fielded by one of the experienced doulas. Utilizing a single service still means you're OUR client. This gives you the option of starting out with one service and expanding to other services later if you discover you love the care you're receiving.
"I loved the care I got from all four doulas who had a hand in my delivery...yep, that’s right, four! In case you were wondering what happens when the doula you hired is unavailable during your delivery, trust me, you’ll be covered and very well taken care of!! - Susan
It's no secret that birth services can be pricey--but with BTC you get what you pay for! By setting our prices a little higher than you might pay elsewhere, we are able to sustainably provide undivided attention to fewer clients within a more condensed service area--which means more time and attention for YOU! We have doulas on-call 24/7, 365--the moment you sign your contract we are on call for you immediately. If you were to go into labor at 27, 35, or 42 weeks, we will be there. And there is no time limit for your care once you need labor support. While we may encourage you to labor on your own as long as your are able (to save the good stuff for when you really need it), as soon as you indicate you need your doula's support, she will head to you and stay with you as long as you need her.
While some doulas may have a time limit on this continuous support before charging you more, we believe the last thing you need is to have to watch the clock in labor. As a result, your doula might be with you at your birth for 4 hours or 24 hours--your baby will decide that for us! If your labor is unusually long, no worries. Your doula has the ability to bring in a relief doula for a few hours to provide you with fresh support while she recharges, at no additional expense to you. On average, our doulas spend over 24 hours providing the combination of your prenatal, birth and postpartum support. This doesn't include the innumerable on-call hours waiting patiently for your phone call.
If you've chosen Essential Doula Care, your doula will make every effort to attend your birth--which includes making sure that her own family and personal obligations are taken care of well in advance so that she can focus on YOU when you need it. This may mean that your doula drops everything, cancels appointments, postpones plans, or doesn't commit to certain things so that she come to you in labor. Your birth becomes our personal priority once you hire us. And rest assured that if something unexpected prevents your doula from attending your birth, that your care will be taken over by someone as amazing as she is! This doesn't just apply to our doulas--our IBCLCs are always available, making last minute appointments because we understand that feeding your baby is one of the most important, and also one of the most overwhelming, things about your postpartum experience. Working as a cohesive team means that every single one of our clients receives timely, continuous, consistent care--whatever it takes to make you feel special and well cared for.
"I still text her to this day if I’m nervous or have questions about anything baby related. She has been there for me for far longer than I actually hired her for, and I’m deeply grateful for her big patient heart. If you’re considering hiring a doula, but nervous to invest the money, just know it really becomes priceless with all of the support, knowledge, love & guidance that you get." - Fallon
Talking about prices--who wants to contact a company just to find out what their prices are?! We love to save prospective clients time, so we aren't afraid of being transparent about our prices so that you can decide right away if we are a good fit from a financial standpoint. And our transparency doesn't end with our pricing. We have always prided ourselves on clarity regarding our philosophy, services, and service abilities. This means that we commit to uncovering your expectations for the services you’ll receive early in the relationship, being clear about what your money is paying for, and what to expect from whichever team member you hire. We also love sharing what’s going on with BTC with the community! What you find on our website and Facebook page is the most up-to-date information possible.
Your Birth is one of the most important events of your life—and having long-lasting relationships should be a natural extension of this amazing time in your life. BTC provides you with a ready-made community of trusted care providers and resources in addition to the ACTUAL community we’ve built for all of our clients. This includes our vibrant, active Facebook group and our regular Mom-Tot Playgroup. Whichever team member you work with will also be in touch from time to time to check in and see how you’re doing! The end of your contractual arrangement doesn’t mean your relationship with BTC is over—not by a long shot!
" As a first-time mom, their knowledge and support helped me handle my anxiety and get through pregnancy/labor along with the early days of breastfeeding. The mom support group on Facebook has given me resources to figure out this newborn stage and connect with local moms." - Ashley
Allegra’s Green Smoothie Recipe
Have you ever had a lactation smoothie before? I’m sure you’ve heard of lactation cookies, well it’s similar but smoothie form because let’s be honest, whose got time to make cookies when you have a baby? (If you do like cookies, I’ll be posting a Nuritious Lactation Bar Recipe soon!)
I always like to preface and say that lactation cookies, lactation smoothies, herbs, etc., do not increase milk production if you’re not pumping or nursing on demand. The driving force for milk production is removing breast milk from the breast efficiently and FREQUENTLY. You could eat all the herbs in the world, but if that milk isn’t being removed efficiently or frequently, then your breasts aren’t just going to make more. It’s the combination of eating galactagogues (milk making foods) and removing milk that will help increase your supply. Also reducing stress, adequate rest, hydration, and nutrition are all important as well, but it’s the actual removal that tells your body to make more.
When it comes to lactation cookies though, they’re filllllled with tons of sugar, butter, fat etc and moms aren’t eating it as a treat (like I believe cookies should be), they’re essentially bingeing on them. While many moms tell me the cookies do help- that’s wonderful!- how much bingeing and crap do you have to eat to get those results. Why not find healthier ways to get those milk boosting ingredients, which are oats, ginger, flaxseed, Brewers yeast, and fennel? That’s why I created my Lactation Bars and now my lactation smoothie.
This smoothie may not only help with milk production, but it’s loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals – good for mom and baby!
Allegra’s Green Lactation Smoothie
A Tale of Two Births
By Lindsey Roderick
Do you see a difference in these two photos? At first glance, probably not. Both show the first photo taken of me holding my brand new babies after their births. The first photo was taken on February 14, 2010. The second in May 27, 2016. I still remember how I felt in both photos. It’s seared in my mind forever.
Now look at them again. Can you see you see the forced emotions of the first picture? The sweet baby clearly upset with no sign of soothing from me. I’m fully clothed, he is fully swaddled and has a hat on... to stay warm because he’s not benefiting from skin to skin with me. I had hired a midwife and instead of taking responsibility for my care and educating myself, I put literally EVERYTHING in her hands. She said “jump,” I said “how high.” The emotions behind the “smile” in the first photo are that I’m distant. I'm numb... blank. I know I just did this thing of bringing a baby into the world after what felt like 632.2 days of pregnancy and exactly 17 hours of labor but other than that, I hadn’t really processed it or FELT it. I had gone into labor on my own and was progressing but agreed to Pitocin, which in my case was completely unnecessary. That led to an epidural (I promptly passed out after it was placed) after I couldn’t stay on top of the pain. I was also on Benadryl to counteract my allergic reaction to the antibiotics for GBS. I had created an environment for my birth that ended up inhibiting my body's natural release of hormones--with wires, uncomfortable (and potentially preventable) interventions. I remember being tense and fighting what my body was trying to do instead of riding the waves.
It’s like it all happened to me but I was still trying to process everything as if I hadn’t been there at all. I’ll never forget how I felt when they handed my son to me. I had no clue what was about to happen to my body beyond random google searches. I never invested the time in learning nor did I know I needed to. I assumed if I had a midwife, she’d handle everything and I’ll just show up. I hadn’t learned or even heard of skin to skin and it’s importance in helping baby regulate respiration and boy temperature. I really didn’t even know how to soothe this baby and my body didn’t just instinctively pick it up. I was in such a fog and still coming down from the medications.
Ultimately, the birth of our first baby was NOT optimized to be my "best" birth--mostly through a lack of informed consent and education.
"Don’t rely on your doctor to make every decision without knowing how that could positively or negatively effect you and your baby."
Fast forward 6 years and countless hours of researching and learning...
The second picture: THAT mom took responsibility for her birth and it’s outcome. She’s over the moon happy and glowing. That baby is doing true skin to skin and taking a rest on my chest after the hard work we both did. She’s nice and pink and I’m not washed out and pale. I showed up for that birth. It was intense, it was the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done, but I did it 100% drug free because I decided that was my best chance of preventing the feelings and issues I had during and after my first birth--this type of birth was the best birth for us. And the oxytocin high? It was real y’all. I swear I was on cloud nine for months after my daughter was born, just like the photo.
I’m not saying you have to go drug free if that isn’t your ideal birth, but whatever you decide, show up. It wasn’t necessarily the medications that made my experiences so different. It was the research. education and learning about my body and births process and taking the responsibility for choices made during the process.
Be present. Take responsibility for your care. Research and educate yourself.
Don’t rely on your doctor to make every decision without knowing how that could positively or negatively effect you and your baby. I promise that it can make a huge difference in your experience. These two photos are night and day and prove the growth I made not only as a woman but a mother in taking control of my body! You can do the same--all you've got to do is take control.
As Doulas we always talk about what to expect before and during labor. But something we might overlook prenatally is what to expect after your little bundle arrives. So, I asked mothers to weigh in on their postpartum experiences and what no one had told them about. Here are the top things our clients were surprised by in the postpartum!
Breastfeeding is HARD
Nursing can be painful for some women, especially initially--and it generally is just challenging. Steph says, “I remember calling all of my mom friends and saying, 'Why didn’t you tell me?!'” When establishing a nursing relationship, normal pain may last for the first 30-60 seconds of a nursing session, which could last for up to two weeks, but pain during sessions should not last the entire feeding, and soreness between sessions should improve everyday and not get worse. If pain and soreness persist, contact your local IBCLC--persistent pain can usually be resolved by assessing latch, positioning, and for the potential of tongue and/or lip ties.
Hemorrhoids are a pain in the butt
“Nobody told me what hemorrhoids could/would be like.” Ashley shared. If you have hemorrhoids while you’re pregnant, there’s a chance they’ll come back to plague you post-delivery. Hemorrhoids are a result of stress on the perineum in the months before, and during delivery. For some, hemorrhoids may simply be itchy and annoying but for others, they can be pretty painful. Here’s a few things to help ease the discomfort:
This is just crampy...
So you've birthed your baby and...YOU'RE STILL HAVING CONTRACTIONS?? What is that about? Afterbirth pains are caused by contractions of your uterus as it involutes, or returns to its pre-pregnancy size. They are usually mild for first-time moms but may get more intense with each subsequent delivery. Afterbirth pain will be most intense for the first day or two, but it should start tapering off around the third day or so. Nursing can cause afterbirth pains to intensify because your baby’s sucking triggers the release of oxytocin.
The First Poop
Pooping after having a baby can be intimidating to say the least. Linda says, "No one warned me about the first poop. For me, it was worse than recovering from a C-section infected with MRSA.” That sounds terrible, Linda! Voiding your bowels for the first time can be REALLY scary, but it should NOT be terrifying or impossible. Staying hydrated before, during, and after delivery of your baby will help make your first “poo” a little easier. Asking your doctor for a stool softener may help to assuage your fears. Don’t forget to stay hydrated after coming home… I speak from experience on that one, otherwise there’s not enough Vaseline and Jesus to help if you don’t! Utilizing a Squatty Potty may also help you assume as natural and relaxed of a position is possible which should reduce the need to bear down. Many moms don't know that it can also be very normal for bowel regularity to take several days to return to normal after birth.
Second Night Syndrome
More commonly known as cluster feeding, the second or third night after baby is born can make a lot of moms feel inadequate and overwhelmed. “Holy crap that second night in the hospital was probably the toughest in my life to date!" says Kelly. Immediately after your baby is born he/she will most likely be very sleepy, so take advantage of this by limiting visitors and get lots of rest. Charge your iPad so you can binge watch Netflix, have your husband get the snacks you like, act like you're having an awesome slumber party, and just try to enjoy those moments bonding with your baby--sans slumbering.
Empty Bed Panic
Being a Mom is hard, and most of the time exhausting. You now have this super-demanding human dictating everything you do, you're sleep deprived, your hormones are all over the place, and now you're starting to feel a little loopy--you can’t even shower without hearing phantom cries! Sometimes, this can result in hallucinations of a sort. Kelley comments, “I feel like I was pretty prepared for what could happen postpartum, but I had never heard anyone talk about getting so incredibly tired you hallucinate.” Know you’re not alone if this happens, as some point many, many moms go through it. A common experience is waking up thinking you’ve fallen asleep with your baby in your bed, ripping the sheets off, frantic because your baby is nowhere to be found, while your partner tries to reassure you the baby is in her own bed, all to no avail. This is empty bed panic--you’re exhausted! Call on your support team for some help. While they watch your baby, you go soak in the tub, then try to get at least three hours of sleep in a row. I bet you’ll wake feeling more like the woman you remember.
Planning to nurse? Well, there may be milk EVERYWHERE. "No one told me I might wake up SOAKED in breastmilk!" Fallon says. Another client adds, "Oh, and the milk fountains during intercourse!" Yes, and yes, these might happen, but it’s not as bad or gross as it might sound! Putting a large, soft towel under you while you sleep, or before, ahem, shenanigans, will help make clean up easy. And if it happens during sex, oh well--your partner watched as you carried, birthed and nurtured their baby! Their love for you is beyond anything you could ever imagine. I bet they'll just be glad to finally be able to have sex again. If you’re really worried about it, just wear a bra with your Milkies or breastpads in--easy peasy.
Not everything about postpartum is horrible, or painful, or scary. Quite the contrary,
postpartum is fun, free, and intoxicating. You literally forget yourself for the longest time
because your love for another human literally takes over. Life will forever be different and
intriguing, what will they do next? What great milestone will they reach that makes as love
them even more? Oh, the love a Mom has for her child! It surpasses all the love you could have ever known or felt and literally erases all the “big, bad, and ugly” parts of postpartum.
Relax Mom, you’ve got this! Much Love, Christina
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