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
October 22, 2016 was the day I became a Mama. Tre (the hubs) and I woke up at 5:00 in the morning and packed our baby bag, favorite comforter, preconceived notions and headed to Baptist hospital for my scheduled Cesarean section. Had it been up to me I would have delivered in the ocean surrounded by dolphins and mother nature (yes I am that extra) but my child was stubborn from the beginning so that was not to be.
We arrived with grandparents and doula in tow. Everything felt like some sort of dream, a mix of adrenaline and good drugs. All of a sudden I'm in the operating room and everyone is telling me how great I'm doing. I wasn't doing anything but I appreciated the words of encouragement. Lauren, our doula, was there and able to take pictures of the whole event and Tre was very brave throughout. We waited and chose not to find out the gender of our child until the day of so when the time came all of the doctors and nurses got quiet and called my husband around.
He said"We have a son!" Our sweet baby boy Jeffrey was born at 7:17 and he weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces. They laid that beautiful squishy mess on my chest and I was immediately in love. Now I know that new borns seldom open their eyes right after birth and they certainly don't raise their heads but mine did. My Jeffrey raised his head and looked straight into my eyes.
Everything after that is a blur. Tre got to tell the packed waiting room the excellent news and I swear you could hear the screams of joy and laughter down the hall. Of course friends and family from all around came to see the new little one and I didn't mind. I know some people find it overwhelming and I can certainly see why but for me I was so happy and proud that I wanted to show him off to everyone. Eventually the crowd diminished and it was just us three. We were elated, terrified, exhausted, and forever changed. Jeffrey will be two in a couple weeks and he is still the most amazing thing I've ever seen. He makes everything better. He makes me love my husband more for how wonderful of a father he is, he makes me cherish the time I do get alone, he makes the world better, and he makes me a better person. I did not get the birth I planned but I did get an amazing birth and an amazing human being that wakes me with kisses and shares his partially eaten Cheerios with me. Thanks to everyone who helped that day and everyone who continues to help.
To prepare for Sebastian’s birth I practiced Hypnobabies homestudy course from about 26 weeks until he was born. The terminology in this story is a little different with “waves” being used in place of “contractions”.
Because my first baby was a 42 week induction, as my due date neared I started “natural” techniques to try to jumpstart labor, and I was happy to hear at my office visits that I was having cervical changes that I had never had with the previous pregnancy. My due date however came and went without a baby so I started doing even more home induction techniques to try to get things going. On the 20th I did a few minutes of nipple stimulation which set up regular painless pressure waves that continued every 3-5 minutes throughout the day. I went and had my first ever acupuncture visit and went home truly expecting to have my baby in my arms before midnight. The waves continued to come regularly for about half the night and then unfortunately fizzled out. The next morning my husband accompanied me to my 41 week pre-natal appointment where it was discovered that my blood pressure was elevated quite a bit and because of that, in addition to my very favorable cervix (dilated to a 4 and 70%) (and my insistence that I was OVER being pregnant) my midwife agreed to an induction that day.
The induction was by nipple stimulation which worked really well to start regular pressure waves every 3-5 minutes, however I had to keep the stimulation up or they would peter out. After 4 or 5 hours of this, my midwife checked me and found that I was 5cm and 80% so she gave me the choice of continuing as we were doing or she could break my water. I chose to have the water broken. There was heavy meconium in the fluid which made me really upset and I was trembling uncontrollably, but Amber used one of my Hypnobabies cues to help me calm down.
After my water was broken, I still needed to either be up and walking around or doing nipple stimulation to keep the waves coming steadily, but they were apparently growing in intensity. I was still very comfortable, no pain, just tightness of my abdomen during the pressure waves. I labored in the bathtub for a while, but really didn’t find this to be that relaxing, so I chose to do most of the rest of my later labor sitting in bed.
At some point I was checked again and found to be at a 9. I was so excited because I was about to meet my baby! The midwife left me to labor for a while longer, checking back periodically to ask if I felt “pushy” or “different” and the answer was always “no”. After several hours of this, she asked if she could check my progress and said I was still dilated to a 9 and she felt that the baby was a little tilted and therefore was not making the progress we wanted. She recommended I labor on my side for a little bit. This I found to be really painful for my pelvis (I had symphysis pubis pain my entire pregnancy) so we switched to laboring on the birth ball for a little while. It was while on the birth ball I started to actually experience pain with my contractions because I couldn’t really use my hypnobabies relaxation tools in that position. I don’t know how long I stayed on the birth ball, but I eventually said I had to move and we went back to the bed.
Even though I was still dilated to a 9 and not feeling the urge to push, the mid-wife suggested she would like me to try a practice push. I did, and suddenly there was a flurry in the room because baby started to crown with that push! I then REALLY had the urge to push and after two more totally involuntary pushes Sebastian was born! He was placed on my abdomen because his cord was very short. After a few minutes my husband cut the cord and they brought baby to my chest. We had 10-15 minutes of skin to skin time while the placenta was delivered and a few stitches were put in (the same area I tore the first birth re-opened).
It was a beautiful and peaceful birth.
Note from Amber: Everyone loves a good birth story, so we are excited and privileged to be sharing some of our clients' birth stories on the blog! We hope it will become a regular thing, so be on the lookout for more BTC Birth Stories in the coming weeks and months. All stories are written by the birthing mother, and as such belong to the birthing mother and should not be copied or reproduced elsewhere. All details and pictures are shared with permission. The pictures in this story were taken Against the Grain Photography and should also not be shared elsewhere. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your amazing story with us!
I was sure Lydia would come in my 39th week because my other girls came at that time. I was having prodromal labor and had several false starts. I was listening to my Hypnobabies tracks to keep my attitude positive. At my 39 week appointment I was 70% effaced and dilated 2.5 centimeters. As my due date approached I began to get disappointed. I went to my 40 week appointment begrudgingly. I even took a wrong turn because I just couldn’t keep focused. Dr. Andrews said Lydia’s head had moved down and was in a good position. (She had kept me up the night before banging her head around!) He offered to sweep my membranes. I decided to let him do that. I didn’t think it would work and was at peace with waiting until 42 weeks if need be. Still I thought, well, why not give it a try? It did not produce any pressure waves (contractions) that day, but I did have a TON of pelvic pressure. I almost couldn’t walk around because of it. I went to bed that night appreciating one more night of sleep without a newborn.
At 2:45 am on May 11th I woke up out of a very deep sleep to use the bathroom. I had a pressure wave as I woke up, another one on the toilet and then another by the time I got back to the bed. I was disoriented from sleeping and just wanted to go back to sleep! I decided to listen to my Hypnobabies affirmations and see if they were going to pass like the other times. It only took a few more waves for me to realize that they were getting intense very fast. I timed a few and they were about 2 minutes apart and lasted about a minute. I decided I would pack the last few items in my bag and wake up Billy just in case. (He didn’t have the first thing packed!) I thought it might be the real thing and I felt anxious. I wasn’t as calm as I had been earlier in the week. I decided to stop packing and just listen to my track. I wanted to wait at least an hour before calling anyone to make sure it was actually TIME.
Eventually we were sure Lydia was on her way and Billy decided to call my mom and Amber. He couldn’t get my mom on the phone and I started to worry. We couldn’t leave for the hospital until Dad came to be with my sleeping girls. We couldn’t believe they weren’t answering their phones. Thankfully we are neighbors! He sent our other neighbor to knock on their door, but they still didn’t answer. Amber arrived at our house around 5 AM. When she arrived Billy went over to my parents and got them out of bed. I was having really intense back labor and was so thankful for Amber’s counter pressure! I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early, but the waves were so intense I started thinking it might be time. I was trying to keep Lydia in a good position, but couldn’t completely relax on my hands and knees. I found the easiest way to relax was to lean over onto Billy and relax my upper body completely. He got a good arm workout that way!
We left for the hospital around 6 AM. Billy drove and my mom sat behind me. The car ride was hard, really hard. It was much calmer than the car ride to the hospital when Elena was born though! I had my hypnobabies tracks playing in my ear buds, and my mom rubbing my back. My body stayed pretty relaxed and calm. I didn’t say much, but I was thinking about getting to the hospital, the land of epidurals!! I was watching the clock between contractions and got pretty irritated that Billy and mom didn’t seem to know how to get to the hospital. They even took a wrong turn a block from Baptist Hospital. I was thinking “NOOO! That way! We are so close get me there NOW." I mean seriously, you have one job, people. Get the birthing lady to the hospital! Finally, we made it!
I was worried I hadn’t progressed into active labor. I just KNEW the nurse would say I was a 3 or 4. After all, I hadn’t been in labor for very long. We got settled into a room (thank goodness we didn’t have to wait in triage like at Sacred Heart). The nurse checked me and I was 6 cm! The thought of an epidural left my mind. Once, I knew labor was progressing nicely I didn’t consider it again. I handled my pressure waves much better when I could stay “in the zone”. I didn’t mind people talking or working around me, but answering questions and being forced into uncomfortable positions made me really frustrated. I remember thinking, “You can NOT slap the nice nurse.” Laying on my back in the bed felt like torture. I needed the time between contractions to collect myself, relax and get ready for the next one. I also found humming or vocalizing helped me quite a bit.
By about 7:15 I was hooked up to monitors and IVs. Shortly after that Dr. Andrews came to visit me. He was usual light hearted self. I remember him remarking on my “fake labor calm”. By about 8 o’clock I was ready to try the labor tub. Right before I was getting in I had a crazy intense wave. I remember feeling a sensation like a spasm and trying so hard to stay relaxed. Then my water broke in a huge gush! It felt like such a relief I thought I had just peed everywhere. After I realized that it was my bag of waters not urine I wanted to get in that tub. I think my mom went to ask if it was still OK for me to get in. I was NOT going to wait around for the nurse to say no. I got my tail in that water as fast as a someone the size of a beached whale can! It felt too hot at first, then the next pressure wave hit and it felt amazing!
Sadly, my time in the tub didn’t last long. I felt my first urge to push very quickly after getting in, so out I came. The nurse was very adamant about one thing. Lydia would NOT be born in the tub. Once in the bed she checked my dilation. I was 8 centimeters and the urge to push has passed. She let me go back to the tub thankfully. According to Amber, I spent about 20 more minutes in the tub even though it felt like seconds to me. ***Once I am in active labor time ceases to be. There is work (pressure waves) and there is rest. I have no idea how much time is passing in the moment.*** I felt the urge to push again so out I came!! This time I was 9 centimeters.
I decided to sit on the squatty potty and let my body push when I felt the urge. I think at this point I stopped listening to my Hypnobabies tracks. The earbuds and phone had fallen by the wayside while getting in and out of the tub. I believe they were playing in the background from my computer during the pushing phase. I just couldn’t concentrate on the messages with all the other distractions. In some ways that was good because I felt more present and talkative. On the other hand, I think I would have listened to my body a bit more if I was focused solely on the positive messages. I was pretty tired at this point. From the beginning of labor all I wanted was to go back to sleep! I could see the end in sight now. As I sat on the stool I let my body do what felt natural. I was bearing down and grunting a lot. I couldn’t stop myself and it felt good to follow my body.
I remember two things from this time period. Amber reminded me how great it was that I was getting to push the way I wanted! My thought was, “Yeah, whoop-di-doo. It doesn’t seem that great right now." Even so, her comment brought me back to my goals. As hard as this was, I was getting to experience something amazing. My body was working to bring my baby into the world all on its own! Not surprisingly, my other thought during this time was about food. It was around 9:30 when I asked the time. I was so surprised and encouraged! I was going to have a baby before lunch time! YAY! My baby was coming so soon and double YAY because I was going to get to eat lunch! SCORE!
Eventually it became obvious to my entourage that I was actively pushing so they called the nurse. She wanted me on the bed so I complied. I tried to get into a squat position using the squat bar, but I couldn’t get comfortable in a way that satisfied my nurse. She asked me to lie on back and use the squat bar to prop my feet. I wanted to avoid being on my back, but at that point I was just tired. I didn’t mind trying it her way. Dr. Andrews came in at some point as well. It only seemed like a few pushes and I felt a lot of stinging down there! OW! I remember announcing to everyone in the room “Guys! This really hurts!” The crowd at my crotch informed me there was a not so tiny baby crowning--I was shocked. I mean I was aware that I was having a baby today, but I didn’t know it was like right NOW! I didn’t experience the ring of fire with Elena so I didn’t put two and two together.
With their encouragement I put my hand down there to feel her head. WOW! I was shocked, overjoyed, and tired silly all at once. I’m so glad my photographer got my reaction on camera. I remember saying, “I’m going to have a baby today!!!” Like that was new information to the hospital staff! It felt real for the first time though. That was the push I needed to get her all the way out. I left my hand there for a moment to rest, then out she came in another push or two. One moment you are one sharing the same body and then suddenly your are separate. Seeing your baby, your tiny companion out in the world is breathtaking. I had a second where I just felt in awe, and then someone said, “take your baby”. There she was a sweet, slippery bundle.
This pregnancy I had more conflicting emotions that with the others. Miss Lydia was a big surprise. Even though I always wanted her, I worried about the challenge it would be. That moment though, that moment when you hold your child in your arms it all becomes clear. When I held her I said, “ We didn’t know we needed you, but we did. We did need you!” In that moment I knew. I knew my heart had an empty space and she filled it. God gave us such a gift when he surprised us with Lydia.
Of course the not so fun parts come after I held my bundle of joy. We waited to cut the cord and the placenta took a bit to come. I had some stitches so I needed some shots. That is worse than birth in my opinion. I did not pass out after this birth (like Elena’s), but I had one close call. The nurses were ready and kept me alert. The rest of the family began to arrive, but Lydia didn’t want to stop nursing. She wasn’t going to sleep and be passed around for pictures! We knew right then she had a little spunk in her. We did finally get her weighed, swaddled and passed around. She was a healthy 8lbs. 7.8 oz. and 20 inches long. I feel so blessed that I had another routine, healthy labor with another healthy baby. I’m also beyond grateful to my birth team for all their help. Bringing new life into the world is a crazy hard, amazing process. I’m always humbled to get to experience it.
The first time I saw an animal give birth, I was in kindergarten. My kindergarten teacher--a gangly, kind young man named "Mr. Bob"--had misdiagnosed our class pet mice as both being female. Unbeknownst to our five-year-old innocence, this fact was discovered one fine morning when one of my classmates screamed "Mr. Bob! Pinky is killing Gracie!" We all ran horrified to the site of Gracie's apparent murder, where Pinky was furiously jumping on poor Gracie. Mr. Bob promptly pulled Pinky out by "her" tail and separated "her" into another cage. But alas, it was too late. Gracie was pregnant.
Three weeks later, another pleasant kindergarten morning was once again punctuated by a classmate screeching. "Mr. Bob! GRACIE IS DYING!!" Once again, we all rushed over to Gracie's cage, where she was barely visible under a pile of pine shavings...with a tiny pink squirmy thing slowly emerging from her hind end. Gracie gave birth to ten eraser-sized babies that morning as fourteen mesmerized five-year-olds stood around her cage. Poor Mr. Bob.
I will never forget how after each of her babies were born, Gracie would lick each one, examining it in between her little paws, nudging it with her little nose. Gracie the Mouse imprinted on me that morning.
Now, as a doula, I can't help but think about physiological mammalian birth whenever I attend a birth. Think about it yourself: how do ALL other land mammals give birth when left alone to do so? They:
Now, how many humans do this? Not many. In fact, modern birth pretty much directly contradicts almost every single one of these instinctual things. If a momma is giving birth in the hospital she may:
Okay. So that's a stark contrast. And it bears the question--is physiological birth truly possible in the hospital setting? Keep in mind, while out-of-hospital birth sounds like the perfect answer to this, a home or birth center, or mossy woodland birth is not something many (most) women can have. So for those mommas, who can only give birth in the hospital--what options do they have to have a truly natural birth in a truly unnatural setting? In my experience, yes, this is possible. But it relies on several key components.
First, your caregiver has to be on board. And this means that this caregiver is willing to follow YOUR cues. Which also means YOU have to be willing to call the shots. It sounds easy enough to take responsibility for your birth, but actually doing it is another. There must be an open dialogue and respect between you. In my case, this meant I was eating chicken Cesar salad and chocolate chip cookies a few hours before birth, during which my midwife never turned on the overhead light, and at one point was laying awkwardly on the bed, so I could stay in the hands-and-knees position I had assumed naturally while pushing. One of many examples of how SHE followed MY lead that day, instead of her telling me how to give birth for her convenience.
Second, you have to sharpen and FOLLOW your instincts. If something doesn't feel right DON'T DO IT (or let it be done to you). And if you feel like something is necessary, DO IT (or ask that it be done).
Third, choose your hospital wisely. Choose a hospital that gives you autonomy when it comes to what you will wear, where and how you will labor, what interventions you will choose, and will provide you with a comfortable space to make your own.
Fourth, HIRE A DOULA! Part of my job is to help create your birth nest, and then to shelter that nest while you work away at birthing in it. And then I will continue to protect your nest as you welcome your little one into it and spend the first hours of your life together snuggling in it instead of being separated by the artificial light and warmth of the newborn warmer.
So, the answer to the question...is physiological birth possible in the hospital setting? Well, there will not be a daisy-studded field, or a pile of soft leaves, or a crystal clear pool from the water of an Alaskan glacier...but, you CAN have a self-directed birth which will translate into the closest thing possible inside a hospital.
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