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
Anyone who has ever given birth can attest that the grueling transformation that takes place during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum is undeniably one of the biggest, most intense experiences of their lives. But so many clients ask, "What is labor like? What does it feel like?" As someone who has given birth four times, how do I adequately explain it? What can I compare to the sensations of opening and releasing, of expansion and contraction? How do I describe the feeling of being overwhelmed while being in control, the idea of working alone while surrounded by a circle of supporters?
Birth is just like a marathon
I adopted this description a couple of years ago after realizing how many similarities birth and marathons have in common. I only loved this comparison more when a University of Michigan study came out this year that declared that giving birth can actually be harder than running a marathon. But what does running a marathon and giving birth really have in common (especially for those of us who aren't exactly, ahem, running types)? Discovering what actual marathon runners have to say about running and applying their wisdom to birth was quite enlightening.
"You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again. You must want to do it, not do it because your boss did it or your spouse did it." - Bill Wenmark, running coach
There is no way you could catch me running a marathon because I WANT to. In fact, I absolutely DO NOT want to run a marathon. Ever. COULD I run a marathon? I have no doubt I could--but it would not be my most glorious memory ever. In a lot of ways, birth is dependent on personal desire. Not just IF you want to do it (cuz you kinda have to if you've got a bun in the oven) but how you want to go about doing it. Now let me be clear--we aren't just talking about natural birth, although personal desire is the number one motivating factor in having an intentional natural birth. But you cannot go into birth expecting to do it a certain way just because someone you know did it, or you perceive it to be the way you should do it, or the way someone else wants you to do it. One big difference between a marathon and birth is this: there are no winners or losers, no failure, no shortcoming in birth. But finding the best way for you to run your marathon the way you want to will drive you to finish the act of giving birth when the going gets tough--which it almost certainly will.
"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible." - John Hanc, running writer
Ever seen the episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall is training for the New York Marathon? He reads all these running books, and one of the things he learns to do is to repeat positive affirmations to himself (in the mirror) on a daily basis. Well guess who else can benefit from doing this?? Pregnant women! Part of my work as a childbirth educator is to help eliminate the culture of fear surrounding birth; to help women build their sense of strength and confidence in their ability to birth their babies however they choose. This involves not only creating a positive state of mind regarding birth, but also eliminating negative voices implying failure, fear, or harm. Is a marathon a scary event to be avoided?? No! (Well, for me it might be.)
"Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow." - Mary R. Wittenberg, former president, New York Road Runners Club
Who can literally jump off their couch and run a marathon without any physical preparation? The answer: no one (except for Barney, if you watch that marathon episode of How I Met Your Mother). Just like a marathon, birth requires physical preparation. Pregnant women should be exercising no less than they were prior to pregnancy, which involves a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. And just like a runner prepares for a marathon, a pregnant woman should prepare for labor by eating lots and lots of protein (the body needs long-lasting fuel that will build the growing muscle mass in her and her baby's body) in the months leading up to labor--aiming for 100 grams a day. And then, just like the night before a big run, she should switch to carb loading during labor--carbohydrates will provide fast, short bursts of easy-to-use fuel which is exactly what the body needs during intense physical exercise!
"I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart." - Mike Fanelli, running club coach
Funny, isn't it, that labor is broken into thirds too--early labor, where there's plenty of time to think and be aware, active labor, that requires more concentration, and transition that involves a total surrender to the process. "If you feel bad at 10 miles, you're in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you're normal. If you don't feel bad at 26 miles, you're abnormal," Rob de Castella, the winner of the 1983 World Marathon Championships said. Huh. Sounds about right. One of the most common mantras we use during birth is to take one contraction at a time--don't think about how many you have left or how long this could last. Do the one you have to do right now. How interesting that Ryan Hall, a U.S. Olympic marathoner thinks the same thing about running a marathon: "I don't think about the miles that are coming down the road, I don't think about the mile I'm on right now, I don't think about the miles I've already covered. I think about what I'm doing right now, just being lost in the moment."
The Pain is Productive
"At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill." - Unknown
I couldn't tell you the number of times a mom has looked at me and said, "This hurts so bad I just don't think I can do this anymore!" There are only two things (that I can think of!) that are painful but NOT inherently harmful to our bodies: birth and exercise. Just like working out, birth is creating a change in muscular structures that have to exert significant effort to create that change. In fact, the pain of labor is credited in large part to the emission of lactic acid--the chemical that builds up in the muscles when they are tightened and released over and over. Ever been super sore the day after working out? Yup--just like labor, the pain comes from the lactic acid build up in the muscles. And just like a marathon runner experiences the oxytocin and endorphin high of running across that finish line, the incredible feeling of relief after giving birth is what makes people do it again!
"The thirst you feel in your throat and lungs will be gone minutes after the race is over. The pain in your legs within days, but the glory of your finish will last forever." - Unknown
"There isn't a trophy for giving birth!" Um, excuse me?? I have heard this statement specifically made about natural childbirth ("there's no special reward for giving birth naturally!") but I beg to differ. First, it's much more complex than getting a reward if you go without meds, and no reward if you don't--remember when I said there is no failure or losing in childbirth?? That must mean that EVERYBODY wins!! At the end of birth, you have just accomplished an incredible feat of nature, no matter how you go about accomplishing it. And the relief you get from finally being DONE after the long months of building a baby, and finally having your baby in your arms and out of your body is your trophy. Plus, the nice rush of endorphin-producing oxytocin you get is pretty awesome too. Although with that relief is often a convincing declaration, "I'm NEVER doing this again!" (Even though you'll gradually forget the pain, and your ovaries will start to quiver every time you see a baby.) After winning her first New York Marathon Grete Waltz declared, "I'm never going to run this again." And then she went on to run and win eight more.
So the bottom line is...if you are giving birth, you are basically an extreme athlete, no matter how you go about it. And just like any other athlete, you need a coach! And luckily, that's what we are here for. We're the ones who will get you a cool washcloth to wipe the sweat off your face, we are your water stop, the ones reminding you that you can do it from the sidelines, the team car rolling along next to you in case you need more help. Please let us know if there is any way we can help support you as you train, prepare for, and run your birth marathon!
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.
This is us.
We are Women. We are Moms. We are here to help your family blossom.