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.
Probably one of the the most common question we get from clients and see on mommy group threads is "What should I pack in my hospital bag?" So we decided we would not only poll our own clients to find out what their favorite must-haves were, but we also decided to share our very own recommendations via the printable PDF checklist we usually only share with clients! (It's at the end of this post.)
The Hygenic Stuff. Believe it or not, Depends (yes, the adult incontinence garments) are top on the list of labor and postpartum must-haves. Of course, don't forget the other stuff--like your own soap, shampoo, grooming tools (do NOT forget your brush and hair ties!) and maybe a touch of makeup to make you feel human, but our clients LOVE Depends--specifically the Silhouettes brand which come in black, nude, and even purple. They are discreet, don't leak, and can just be tossed after use, reducing the amount of dirty laundry you have to take home with you! They also don't bunch up or press on the sensitive lady parts like pads do. (When Amber saw them at a recent birth she *almost* swore off underwear all together in favor of these things). Another top must-have is chapstick. "I remember my lips being so dry when I was breathing through contractions," our client Melissa says, so maybe toss a few tubes in your bag.
The Electronic Stuff. In the Information Age, electronics are now a necessity, especially at a time like the birth of your child. After all, your family might die of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) without your labor Snapchats, and you might want to Facebook Live yourself dancing in labor in an effort to go viral. And you HAVE to have a camera to take a TON of pictures, right? "My laptop was gold," Anna says. "We used it to watch movies and shows in early labor to keep us distracted." Also, a Bluetooth speaker is a great way to play your labor playlist. But don't forget all the requisite chargers for all your separate electronic items. Loryn suggests bringing a LONG charger cord or cordless charger in case the hospital outlets aren't conveniently located. "I never had a cord long enough to reach my bed in the middle of the night when I was nursing and needed my phone," she remembers.
The Environmental Stuff. If you've hired a doula, it's likely she will help you set up your labor space with lighting and music, but you can take that same labor vibe into your postpartum room using things like ambient lights and fans. "Take a small lamp," Chelsey recommends, "so you don't have to turn on the overhead light for middle of the night changes, and it's just more relaxing in the evening." Anyone who has birthed with us knows our absolute favorite must-have is a strand of white Christmas lights. "We brought [a strand of] lights and after delivery we put them up in the recovery room," Lauren says. "It was glorious and kept the room cozy and calm."
We love strands of lights because they add just enough light to the room at night to see what you're doing without disrupting sleep. We recommend a 20-35 bulb strand so it doesn't get too bright--Hobby Lobby & Walmart both carry them in the wedding section. Consider getting a strand for the room and one for the bathroom to keep the lighting dim and constant. This is SO important during birth and postpartum since bright lighting can disrupt the production of melatonin which contributes to the production of oxytocin, a hormone essential for labor, birth, and breastfeeding. Also, the hormones associated with labor and birth can make your body temperature during labor and postpartum shift from hot to cold at a moments' notice, and you may have little or no control over the room temperature, so a small clip-on or table top fan that you can easily move wherever you do is also a must-have.
The Clothing. It's totally easy to over pack on the clothing front. Our recommendation is to keep it simple and pack a few really comfortable, loose, easy-to-layer clothing items that are also easy to put on and take off. You may still have quite the baby bump even post-baby so don't pack anything that you are even slightly doubtful you will fit into. For labor, consider that you may be dealing with the cords involved with an IV, epidural, and monitors, so you may need to pack even less if you choose to use the hospital gown. There are plenty of options for buying your own, prettier, labor gown (like Pretty Pushers, which are sold locally by ShoMe Prenatal Imaging, or the ones carried by Latched Mama), but some moms may want to save those to change into after the birth so they don't get icky and messy during the birth process. Loryn says that she brought her own lightweight robe. "It made nursing super easy and it was quick to close when visitors came by. It also made those 15-minute-long bathroom visits easy to manage."
Don't forget to pack clothing for your partner and the baby, but once again, keep it simple--two or three changes of clothing are usually enough. You aren't packing for a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, after all (although I am sure all moms everywhere wish this were the case).
The Linens. It's so nice to use the hospital linens during the birth process, not only because you may go through fourteen sheets and sixty-five towels in between trips back and forth from the bathtub to the bed, but also because (like the hospital gown) you just don't have to worry about all those bodily fluids ruining your favorite pillow or blanket. BUT sometimes, a familiar bedding item can really help increase your oxytocin levels (sensory input is also a necessary part of labor efficiency) and just make your room more comfy. For labor, we suggest one or two favorite bedding items that you wouldn't be distraught over if they got doused in amniotic fluid. But for postpartum, bringing your own pillow, blanket, and towel can be really helpful. "Those hospital towels = sandpaper and doll-sized," Anna comments.
The Stuff You DON'T Need to Bring. While this list might seem sort of long, and even exhaustive (after we said to keep it simple!) there are actually things you really DON'T need to bring to the hospital. It's always a good idea to check ahead of time with your birth place to avoid making assumptions, but in our experience, hospitals usually provide:
Back when I first started encapsulating placentas, way back in the olden days of 2011, things were a lot different. People talked about it in whispered conversations with looks of "Ewwww!" on their faces. I didn't even mention that I encapsulated placentas to 99.5% of the people I knew--and I didn't know of anyone else in town who provided the service. There was maybe one training organization for placenta encapsulation, and carrying placentas out of the hospital in unmarked coolers felt like black market smuggling.
Well here we are, nine years later, and boy things are different. Tons of providers. Tons of talk about it on social media. Several certifying organizations. AND, instead of placentas being whisked out of hospitals in the dark of night, specialists (including myself) proudly provide branded coolers for placenta collection and storage. And instead of preparing the occasional placenta here and there, it's a THING for many encapsulation specialists who now prepare ten, twenty, even forty placentas a month!
So now that it's more than socially acceptable to utter the words "placenta encapsulation", AND since 1) we've seen TONS of questions from moms on social media and 2) we've also seen TONS of potentially misleading information and unsafe practices being publicized, I'm about to bust the Top 4 Safety Myths we've come across about the process.
Myth #1: Training Doesn't Matter
Anyone can encapsulate a placenta. I mean how hard can it really be? All you do is cut it up, dry it out, grind it up and stick it in capsules, right?
Let's rewind to 2011 when I was first asked by a childbirth education client about placenta encapsulation. Placenta encapsulation?? I had heard the term whispered in Facebook groups about birth, but I didn't know anyone who actually did it. And there was very little information on official training programs out there. When I started to do my research, it seemed like a majority of providers had learned from another provider or the always-available University of Google. I originally chose to train with a lovely midwife out of the local area who had been handling and processing placentas for her entire career--close to 40 years. And then I supplemented what she taught me with information from UOG (University of Google) and the knowledge base I had from several prior food handling certifications to make my offerings as safe as I thought I possibly could, not only for my clients but for my family. Well guess what? When I started my official certification in 2014 I was BLOWN AWAY by all the information I had overlooked, not known, or not found during my self-implemented training program.
My training was so thorough that I realized I had only been cutting corners by not seeking official, structured training in the first place. And now, when I get inquiries from folks saying they are clients, but asking very specific questions about how I process, I sometimes wonder if they are actually trying to get into the industry the "old-fashioned way"--depending on information from already-established providers, and the good ol' U of G.
A good training course will cover:
SO, be sure to look into your prospective placenta specialist's training. If you find pictures of their organization's training students barefoot with minimal personal protection, common sense says it might be worth thinking again before training with them OR hiring someone trained by them.
Myth #2: DIY Is the Way To GO!!
Or is it? While doing your own placenta encapsulation might save you a few bucks when you've already shelled out a ton for baby supplies and medical bills, it could end up costing you in the long run.
It's definitely POSSIBLE and maybe even necessary to process your placenta yourself, especially if you can't find a qualified provider in your area (like the missionary family I know who moved to Thailand this year). But...
Myth #3: Placenta Encapsulation is Regulated
Um. Nope. It's not. This is both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because if it WAS regulated, it would likely make the process prohibitively expensive and not very accessible to the common mother because of the licenses and facility standards that would be required (think...pharmaceuticals.) It's unfortunate because it sets the stage for specialists setting up shop who are practicing with little to no training in potentially unsafe environments, AND clients who don't know what the standards SHOULD be. So know this:
Myth #4: Placenta Encapsulation Should Never Happen in the Specialist's Home
This is a commonly-held opinion; in fact there are two training organizations that require or strongly encourage specialists to ONLY prepare placentas in the client's home. Some clients do want this, BUT preparation in the client's home is not always the safest, when you consider things like kids, pets, or personal food prep alongside the placenta preparation process, and ESPECIALLY considering some of the things I have encountered while preparing placentas in client homes (preparation starts on one day and ends the next day) such as:
Here at Belly to Cradle/Pensacola Placentas, we are always down to answer any and all questions or concerns you might have about hiring us to prepare your placenta! So ask us--we'd love to provide safe, reliable, professional, and transparent placenta preparation for you!
Visit the Pensacola Placentas website for more details and to book today!
Questions to ask your Placenta Preparation Specialist:
Guys. This summer. Really with the weather?? I don't know about your kids, but mine are about to crawl up the walls. Some fervent prayer for sunshine is happening in the Roman household these days--about to have a family prayer circle to address the matter. Or a Sunshine Dance. Is that a thing? We might be doing a Sunshine Dance ritual later to blow off some of this extra energy.
Because we live in the Land of Unpredictable Weather (we've all heard the saying "If you don't like the weather in Pensacola, wait ten minutes"), the final segment in our Pensacola Summer Survival Guide will involve yet more indoor (with a few outdoor) activities so you always have a Plan B when Plan A is decimated by the weather. The activities in today's post are all Low-Cost activities (all under $10) that we usually plan/budget for once a week. Once again, all are listed in alphabetical order to prevent favoritism (just like when I list off my kids).
Blue Wahoos Games: Ever since the Maritime Ballpark was built several years ago, Blue Wahoos games have become a staple tradition for Pensacola families. Tickets usually run around $10 depending on the night, seating, and who is playing, so this is an outing we probably would only do every month or every two months. There are regularly scheduled fireworks displays after games, and they host a fun Kid's Club with prizes and a birthday message to your child put on their videoboard during games. They also run regular promotions during games, including a variety of food selections and prize packs. Throughout the summer the Maritime Park hosts Free Movie Nights at the ampitheather behind the stadium, as well as Blues on the Bay Concerts. See game schedules and purchase tickets here.
Bowling: I considered listing this in our "Free Activities" post since it is technically free, at least the kids games are free, but when it comes down to it, you do have to take some cost into consideration. While the kids bowl free, parents will have to pay for their games if they choose to play, and shoe rentals are not included (shoes are usually around $3 per child). Alley staff will happily put up bumpers, and provide a ball ramp if you have really little ones. All in all, a great way to spend a couple hours! Be aware that sometimes there are early morning bowling leagues or summer kids camps that take up all the lanes, so call ahead! Sign up for two free daytime games per day, per child, through the summer through Kids Bowl Free-- participating locations include:
Dreamland Skate Center: The Kids Skate Free program at Dreamland Skate Center, located at 2607 E. Olive Road, 32514, is very similar to the Kids Bowl Free program--kids 12 and under receive 2 free skate sessions per week throughout the summer. Initial set up fee of $4, and skate rental fees still apply. Hours for free skate sessions are also very specific, so always check the calendar before heading over to skate. Sign up for Kids Skate fFree at Dreamland Skate Center here!
Mama Latte Coffee Shop: This unique little coffee shop located in the heart of Milton at 5412 Stewart Street is not just any coffee shop--it's a coffee shop geared towards moms! They provide a child-friendly environment complete with high chairs and a kids play area. Definitely worth the drive if you're in Pensacola and looking for an environment where you can drink your coffee, not in your pajamas, WITH your kiddos! (and you can take the kids to visit nearby Carpenter's Park before or after your latte.)
Movies: Last week, in our Free Indoor Activities guide, I shared information about area theaters hosting free movies throughout the summer. Here are a couple of not-free but lower-cost options.
Pensacola Children's Museum: Located at 115 E. Zaragoza Street, this charming facility in the heart of Old Seville, Downtown Pensacola, could potentially distract your child/ren all day long. Tons of fun, hands-on activities and displays--as well as regularly scheduled activities including storytelling and guided learning. Tickets are good for 7 days, and include access to the rest of the Historic Pensacola Complex. Tickets are $4 for children ages 3-14, and $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and FREE if you have an active UWF Nautilus Card, or EBT Card with valid ID. See more information here.
Pensacola Kid's Place: Located at 875 E. Nine Mile Road, This is the PERFECT place for play dates, letting the kids roam free (well in sight) and literally lounging for hours. Mainly aimed at smaller kids (I would say 5 and under) the Pensacola Kid's Place boasts a great climber and slide set up with a ball pit (which is very clean I might add) a well as puzzles, blocks, and other toys, in a smaller space so that you can see your child at all times from the comfort of your Adirondack. Normal admission is $10 per child (adults are free) and they regularly run specials, so watch their Facebook page for discounted entry days. (And then stop into Maynard's Donuts, two doors down--you won't regret it. I should really have stock in the place by now.)
Uncle Sandy's Macaw Bird Park: Located at 9513 N Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32534, this charming little place is an awesome way to spend a couple hours. Uncle Sandy's is a non-profit organization parrot rescue that allows the public time to interact with and get to know the birds. Admission is *cash only*, $5.00 per person 13 years of age and up, $2.00 per child from 7 to 13 years of age. Children under 6 years of age are free! Group admission rates are also available. Check their website for updates on hours.
Well that's it for our Pensacola Summer Survival Guide, folks. I really do hope that our compilation of activities helps you survive the summer--let us know how it goes! And please let me know if I missed anything. I am happy to include additional activities that maybe I forgot or just didn't know about!
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