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When is it time to look for the good on the other political side in an attempt at finding common ground, and when is it time to take a stand and take action because the other side is causing a level of destruction that will destroy the whole country?

When I learned of the January 6thdomestic terrorist actions happening at the Capitol, I was not surprised. Though there was much confusion about the details at the time, I found out in that moment that the people who broke in to the Capitol had been at a Trump rally just before their trip to the Capitol. 

I experienced no heightened fear about the fall of our government or a lack appropriate security on that day because I have felt this exact fear for four years. My only thought at the time was just a small bit of hope that those who have felt so confident that the current president is not propelling us toward the fall of our country might be able to see his danger and how far we’ve fallen to live in a country where our own citizens can break into the Capitol and come close to assassinating our vice president and other members of congress. 

In these days following the January 6thevent, I am seeing supporters of this current president post some of the good things he has done and some of the bad things the opposing side has done in an attempt to balance the political perspective. I’ve also seen requests for those who are firm in their dislike of the president to make more of an effort to see the good in him.

The continued support and request to acknowledge the good baffles me! Hitler did some good things for Germany. He was very popular; the people elected him! Those who voted for him were likely seeing positive changes in their lives based on Hitler’s policies. But where is the line? At what point do people notice that even though a leader is making some aspects of their lives improve that the lives of others are not only getting worse, but now they are in danger! 

There would have been a period of time under Hitler’s leadership where no one was necessarily being intentionally killed, but the climate had shifted to show that some groups of people were not safe. It started with the unfavored people being framed as being more problematic. And then they were described as the source of anything wrong in the country. A picture was painted that the unfavored groups deserved poor treatment and to be excluded, separated, and limited in where they could go.  It became patriotic to exclude and distance those who the leader did not like. 

How did Germany miss that moment and gradually yet somehow rapidly shift to concentration camps and intentional killing? Well, the people remained mesmerized and focused on their leader to a point that they couldn’t see that not only did he have some flaws, he was so consumed with power and control that he would nearly destroy their country and possibly the whole world. Supporters became so hypnotized by their leader, who was making their lives better, that they believed anything he said. When the environment transitioned to the extermination of people, they believed their leader when he expressed that those “other” people were harmful to the country. Hitler’s fans were at peace with his destruction to others because if they were treated poorly, they must deserve it. 

Why did some Germans have the ability to see the excluded groups as fellow humans while others believed everything that was told to them by Hitler? Much if it has to do with the relationships they had with people before Hitler was their leader. 

In any country or any environment, having many diverse relationships helps us maintain an understanding that all humans, are well, humans. We are all people with goals and ambitions, and we also all have fears and struggles.

The Germans who had already looked beyond a climate of more mild social discrimination to form diverse relationships would have been the ones most likely to have not been fooled by their charismatic leader’s claims of inferiority of “others.” They knew their friends and what Hitler told them did not match. 

Those who already lived lives where they mostly spent time with people just like them didn’t have relationships and experiences to counter their perspectives when they were taught by their leader that some people were problematic for their country. The isolation from diverse groups increased with the changing social climate of the country, and with continued lack of exposure, it became even easier to believe what they were told about people they didn’t even know.

Diverse relationships are so important for all of us. This has to be more than the one person from a different background you talk to when eating lunch at work. The relationships must be with several diverse people, and you must get to know them well enough to learn about their personal lives. If a friend is not white and you never hear about their experiences with racism and discrimination, that person is having to remain guarded around you. While a deeper relationship cannot be forced, it is helpful to learn more about perspectives that are different from yours through online research and books to educate yourself to a place where your diverse friends are comfortable enough around you to not have to keep certain topics private. It is not the job of the person you consider to be diverse to provide you with a full education on their culture. It’s just too exhausting for someone to go through a lifetime of information just to get you to understand a story. 

The goal for any of us is to understand different perspectives well enough that people will feel safe sharing the more painful parts of their lives. It’s not information we can request for anyone describe. It can only come up naturally when a person feels enough comfort in a relationship to discuss it. And if we truly care to get to know a person, we research background information on their culture ourselves so they don’t have to teach multiple lessons just to get us to a place where we can make sense of an experience that has a big impact on them.

Diverse relationships keep us from being vulnerable to leaders like Hitler who thrive on building up fears of people different from us. 

For America, I am very concerned, and looking for the good in Trump to find common ground with his supporters is not my goal. I’m sure there are good things he has done. He’s probably made some decisions that have made a positive impact on me. 

Doing some good things does not erase empowering and Nazis and white supremacists. Encouraging, supporting, and celebrating racism and instigating more fear of those who are different from us is so destructive that there is no room for this unity I hear of from his supporters. If I were in Germany during Hitler’s rise, I would have objected long before the days of concentration camps. And now I object and firmly reject a leader, who if he was allowed to continue in his position, would eventually create concentration camps, unprecedented levels of division, and finally the fall of our country. 

Just as our whole country seems to be baffled by Hitler’s supporters, I feel the same about Trump supporters. I don’t perceive Trump supporters as evil, and I have so much hope that they will start to come out of the spell he seems to have cast. 

Outside of this time on earth, I believe we are all of the same source and returning to the same source. If we can all see the danger of the intentional division Trump has created, I can see how we can move to a place of unity for our country as a whole. 

What’s a Doula? I’m a Doula Who Works in a Classroom!

While our culture is coming around to being familiar with the concept of a doula, one who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a pregnant person before, during, and just after childbirth or one who provides guidance and support to the parent of a newborn baby, I am reaching a time in my doula career where I’m having to broaden the definition. 

In my early years of being a doula, I considered a few different perspectives to adopt until I settled into my own definition and philosophy. Fortunately, my core doula beliefs can be applied to many professions and are not only expressed by supporting expecting and new parents.

My philosophy surrounding birth and the postpartum time is to meet people where they are and maintain an atmosphere of respect. This maintains space for the people I’m supporting to grow, learn, and to find and listen to their own intuition. In this same space, those who I support also develop their comfort in stating their feelings, emotional or physical, and allowing my support to shift to their ever-changing needs. 

To me, what a person needs or feels is sacred. Nothing is too silly or insignificant. I know that respecting and honoring the small requests and the little details is what creates the experience of knowing the big feelings will be honored when they happen.

While I have felt great peace in settling into my doula philosophy, factors in my life have shifted me into what was initially less doula work and then, more recently, no traditional doula work. 

This shift began in early 2019 when I decided to return to the school system. I had recently gained some new skills in how to teach reading, and I was in a place where I needed to have more consistent work. I decided to apply for a reading intervention position, and I was hired! 

While I liked the reading intervention position, I didn’t know that I would be offered an even better position for the next school year. I moved to a new school where I took the teacher position for the alternative learning center. 

What is the alternative learning center? It’s a little, or a lot, different at every school. Where I work, it’s a small, quiet place where students can escape from the intensity of the regular school day. To keep my room from becoming crowded and busy like the rest of the school, only those who are assigned to my room by an administrator or a counselor can spend some or all of a school day with me. Students working through severe anxiety and students who are transitioning back to school after a major medical event may spend a few days in the alternative learning center. Additionally, students who could have been suspended might have the option to spend time in my room instead. Finally, students who would have been assigned to in-school suspension are assigned to me as well.  

What do I do with these students? Is this hard to manage? First, the small number of students and administrative support is key to making this experience successful for everyone in the room. But really, it’s not hard for me at all! Why? I’m a doula before I’m an educator. I view all students, no matter why they are assigned to me, to be in a place that is similar to transition in birth. In birth, the transition stage is a time for the doula to be present, consistently attuned to needs, and to meet those needs. Transition is that last, most intense part of labor before it’s time to start pushing to ultimately meet the baby. 

For the students, I support them in the same way I would if I were working as a birth doula. I am present, and I respond to their needs. Just like with those who are in labor, the actual needs and my methods for meeting those needs can different and vary greatly from person to person. Students usually have assigned work to complete while in my room, but when I see their needs are overriding their ability to even think about schoolwork, I attune to them. Perhaps they really need to talk, eat a snack, briefly exercise their bodies, or even take a nap when I find out they were at work all night. Other students just need space to be with their own thoughts for a while. I respect that time may be needed before I can talk much with students who need that space. Overall, I honor student needs and ensure, within the guidelines of school and county policies, that they are met. 

Like with doula clients, no complaints or feelings are too silly. My respect of all that student expresses opens up a greater feeling of emotional safety, allowing emotional room for the student to eventually really hear any new perspectives I might share. 

I feel honored to be the one teacher in the school who only has to think about how to honor, respect, hear, and eventually engage students in personal growth and character lessons. Even the lessons I share have developed into a curriculum that the student and I form together as we learn more about each other. In most cases, I write a new lesson for each student. I never perceive myself as the expert of what the student needs to learn and know. I have ideas, and I ask students to inform me of preferred learning styles and topics to make our growth conversations and activities more engaging. 

I have been a classroom teacher in the past, and dividing my attention from student needs with an academic curriculum was too painful for me. Creating assignments for the whole class was disheartening as well because I felt each student needed their own individual assignment. For so many years, I suspected I wasn’t programmed to be a teacher because I saw other teachers who thrived while balancing a curriculum and truly reaching the students on an emotional level. When I became a birth doula, it was such a good fit for me that I wondered over the years if there was a way to bring how I worked as a doula to education. And now I’m so excited because I am actually working as an education doula!

As far as attending births in the future, I’m not sure if I’ll attend more than the 104 I have witnessed in the past seven years. During this past year, while adjusting to my first year as the alternative learning center (ALC) teacher, I only had time to attend one birth. I had been hired to attend a second birth during that same school year, but my health crisis hit me just as Covid was hitting our country. Since my health crisis resulted in my being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it has become essential for me to prioritize my health. As a result, I don’t know if I will ever again be an on-call doula who can get up in the middle of the night to attend births. Part of respecting my health includes consistent, scheduled sleep. Now I need to also have a consistent work schedule to honor my sleep. Perhaps there will be a different opportunity one day to attend births that happen within certain hours of the day. I just don’t know. For now, I will feel peace in knowing that no matter my career, I am a doula everywhere I go. 

Isn’t Lamaze a Funny Breathing Technique?

Lamaze childbirth classes have been around since our parents gave birth to us. While hearing about a brand from our parents helps us with awareness, it’s not the best marketing. Like all brands that have been around for 50 years, Lamaze has made some updates over time. Actually, your mother who told you to take a Lamaze class would not even recognize the modern class if she went to one today.

From previous generations, we hear our mothers talk about how different breathing techniques were taught as the dominant strategy for coping with labor. However, based on research, Lamaze now states that breathing techniques are not evidence-based comfort measures. Now women taking a Lamaze class are encouraged to breathe either normally or to mindfully practice slow, deep breathing in labor. More importantly, breathing is not even emphasized as a major comfort measure. Labor management techniques rely more on relaxation, labor position, movement, and physical support from the people supporting you at your birth.

Speaking of breathing techniques being removed based on research and evidence, did you know that Lamaze is up-to-date in scientific research? By constantly updating its educators with the latest research, Lamaze is easily the most current childbirth education class you can take!

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To learn more about the myths of Lamaze, stop by the myths section on their website! Lamaze Myths

New Year’s State of Mind

butterfly-picture

The concept of New Year’s Resolutions has declined in popularity, hopefully showing that as a culture, we are realizing making decisions to do things differently, backed by an underlying tone of shame and only needing to apply more effort, does not create effective, satisfying change. Characteristics we do not like about ourselves can attach to us much more firmly when we frame them as something we need to lose. Rather than try to change who we are, let’s change how we view ourselves to become more accepting of ourselves and others. As we come to accept how each of us is unique, and yet all the same, what we thought of as stubborn habits may melt away into a beauty that shines so brightly from within us, all who interact with us will only see our gifts and talents.

Listed below are some states of mind that help us all shine more brightly.

1. I am who I am.

The list of what we would like to change about ourselves can be long. A great place to start is by really accepting, “I am who I am.” Perhaps I frequently arrive late to events. Shaming and criticizing myself doesn’t help me get anywhere faster. Accepting that I am a person who has a more fluid view of time than others provides me with more peace for this characteristic about myself. Once I feel peace with myself while preparing to go to a destination, I have more presence of mind to actually be present in the moment and see that it’s time for me to leave the house.

2. In this present moment, all is well.

Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, is a great game-changer for what is in people’s heads much of the time. Apparently the thoughts streaming through our minds are consistently about the past and the future. With our minds remaining in times outside of now, we are able to remain in a constant states of crisis. We think about everything that has gone wrong in the past, and the future is open to so many more possibilities for life’s problems. However, the actual, present moment, not a minute from now, is completely okay. Stay in the moment that is happening, taking calm, deep breaths, and give your body a chance to stop pumping the adrenaline and pressure on yourself.

3. To let go of judging myself, I will avoid judging others.

Of course we all judge people. To say to never judge again would not be possible. The unfortunate part about judging others is that it causes us to continue to judge our own selves more harshly. In the moment, it may feel better to judge another person and think we are in some way superior. The long-term problem is that we then assume everyone else is judging us. Then we drop into feelings of disgust for the aspects of ourselves we assume are being judged.

Accept others. Assume the best. This shift in thinking will help us realize we all are human and that we can accept who we are as well.

4. I feel what I feel.

We all experience happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, and all of the other feelings. There might be a moment of angry rage that doesn’t make sense. Don’t judge the feeling. Know that everyone sometimes goes through these weird emotions that may not match the situation. Just honor the feeling, note that the source of what it felt is likely from something unrelated to the current situation, and gently give time for the feeling to subside.

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5. I will do more of what brings me joy.

This is not as much a state of mind but conscious permission to honor what gives you pleasure. Perhaps you like being alone, reading, window shopping, going to parties, hosting parties, writing, golfing, meditating, spending time with friends, organizing, running around your house naked, or anything else. Do the things that make you happy, allowing you to feel more in touch with who you are, honoring yourself.

Happy 2017!

Nine Things About Labor and Birth That Come as a Surprise To Many Women

  1. The Long Process of Being Admitted to the Hospital

If you are having your baby in a hospital, there is a lengthy admission process before you can carry on with your birth plan. It involves monitoring the baby for his or her health status, a blood draw, a vaginal check, and an endless amount of questions. Typically these steps can take between 45 minutes and a couple of hours to complete. If your baby is exiting your body during this time, you may skip the entire admission process, though you will still have to answer all of the same questions after your baby is born.

 

Whether you are planning a medicated or unmedicated birth, the default position for admission time is spent with you in the bed with a monitor strapped on to you. A great strategy to get through this time is to ask if you can stand beside the bed or sit on a birth ball while wearing the monitor. By being in any position other than on your back, you may find this time more tolerable.

 

If you are planning to use pain relief, do know that the admission process has to be completed before you can receive anything.

 

Once your admission process is complete, you can move forward with walking and following what your body tells you to do to continue moving your baby down and eventually out. If pain medication is a part of your plan, you can choose to have it administered at any time after being admitted.

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Crickett Photography

  1. Fluids

So much will come out of your body during labor! As you move around, prepare to wear a substantial pad to absorb what is flowing from you. The nurse may suggest an elaborate absorption set-up that seems absurd to you. Go ahead and take it. The nurse knows how much can come out of you. This applies whether your water has broken or not, but if your water has broken, you will leave a trail on the floor without the massive pad system in place.

 

  1. The No Food Rule at the Hospital Still Includes Some Options

The rules from anesthesia are starting to change about women not being able to eat during labor. However, not all of the hospitals have changed their local rules just yet. If your hospital says you cannot eat food and you are a strict rule-follower, do know that in most cases, the nurses are happy to provide you with endless water, juice, ginger ale, jello, broth, and popsicles.

 

  1. Foley Catheter

Even the 100% unmedicated birth might require a couple of uses of the foley catheter. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you cannot release your urine. A full bladder can block a baby from being pushed out, so the foley catheter can be used to help you if you can’t make yourself pee as needed.

 

If you decide to have an epidural, know that you will have no idea if you need to pee or not. You also won’t really be able to make yourself pee even if you are told your bladder is full. A foley catheter will be used from time to time to keep your bladder empty while you labor with an epidural.

 

  1. Epidural Does Not Usually Equal Relaxing Until Baby Arrives

There are occasions when a mother receives an epidural and relaxes until her baby arrives. These occasions are rare. Some epidurals do not affect the body evenly, and some just don’t quite remove pain from every place where it is occurring. Prepare those who will be supporting you during labor to possibly be providing comfort measures even while you have an epidural.

 

In other cases, though the epidural is relieving any pain, your baby’s heartrate may drop in certain position. If this happens, your nurse and support partners will be rolling your from side to side until baby looks better on the monitor.

 

If you do get an epidural that relieves all pain, and your baby tolerates it well, it is still a good idea to change positions every 30 minutes. Every time you change position, it gives your baby a chance to move down. When you are only on your back, your baby has to travel uphill.

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Crickett Photography

  1. Shaking

Even women who have taken birth education classes sometimes are surprised by how their bodies shake as labor progresses. It happens to most people. Know that it is normal and a positive sign that you are getting closer to meeting your baby. Most women will state that they aren’t cold, but they just can’t stop shaking. Sometimes a warm blanket or someone’s hands pushing your shoulders together can help you feel better if the shaking bothers you.

 

  1. It Really Feels Like You are Pooping Out Your Baby

It can be alarming when you are pushing and suddenly fear that your body is doing the birth process completely wrong. It will feel exactly like the baby is coming out of your butt. The baby is not coming out of your butt, though.

 

  1. Placenta – Labor Isn’t Quite Over After Pushing Out Your Baby

You’ve just pushed out your baby, and you’re snuggling him or her on your chest. Yay – all done! Well, wait, there will be more contractions and another little birth. Some women don’t even notice they are delivering their placenta while others need to turn their attention from their baby to an effort to push. It is still a part of the birth, though, even though you’ve already met your baby.

 

  1. Fundal Massage

You might be completely in love with your nurse after all the intense time you have spent together, but after you birth your baby, you might feel a little betrayed. She still has all the warm, fuzzy feelings, but she really does have to push very firmly on your belly to make sure your uterus is contracting to a smaller size and that you don’t have an excessive blood clot situation going on. Also, she will have to repeat this “massage” every 15 minutes for the first hour. Fundal massage does happen after the first hour, but it’s not as aggressive as your first few experiences.

The Strength of a Woman

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was captivated by the topic of childbirth. I reasoned that most pregnant women are enthusiastic about discussing the possible circumstances of the upcoming birth in great detail because the approaching event is a great mystery that will ultimately be filed in the core of her identity. Ask a woman of any age to share her birth story, and most of the time she will describe not only what happened that day, but also how she felt. Our birth experiences, positive or negative, remain with us and affect how we view ourselves.

As I nervously anticipated the birth of my child, I heard many birth stories from other women and wondered what type of birth story I would have to tell when I became a new mother. Some stories sounded traumatic, causing me to wonder why those who told them felt the need to share such anxiety-provking information. Were the women trying to scare me? Were they trying to warn me? I could not find a reason for why the stories of trauma needed to be included among the range of experiences shared by women who had already passed through this common initiation of motherhood.

Finally the first day of my labor arrived! Though I was excited, I quickly felt that my experience was not following a pattern of normal labor. For the next 25 hours, I struggled through confusion, mystery, pain, and despair, the whole time knowing the story I would tell to others for all my remaining years of life was being written as it happened, minute by minute and hour by hour.

As I struggled to cope with my experience, wanting to quickly reach the finish line when I would have a baby in my arms, I realized why women gain so much satisfaction from sharing the scary stories, the happy stories, the challenging stories, and the inspirational stories. They are amazed by the strength they never knew they had, and they are proud to describe such a powerful event and to say that they were capable of the experience of surrendering to  nature.

For some women, birth is like completing a science experiment: labor begins, and the body instinctively does the work to deliver the baby. For others, challenges arise, and interventions assist the woman in birthing her baby. In either case, the one detail that binds all of the stories of women together is the unspoken strength that carried her through it. She may later tell the story with joy, fear, inspiration, or sadness, but within the emotions that come and go throughout her description, there is the strength of a woman that allows her to face any fear or pain and make it through the transition of becoming a mother.

I have now given birth to two children, one cesarean and one unmedicated vaginal birth. Both experiences took to me to a place where I discovered I could face my fears and that my strength had always been there for me, ready to carry me through the challenge of childbirth. It is fascinating to know that all women carry such solid strength within them!

In the past year, I finally followed the strong desire I felt to become a birth doula. Though I had never attended another woman’s birth, I felt deeply drawn to support women in the transition from pregnancy to birth. It wasn’t until I was in the presence of other women in labor that I truly understood why I was inspired to provide such an intense form of support. Witnessing the strength of a woman as she and her body write her birth story is witnessing empowerment. The image of a laboring woman is powerful and beautiful! Reminding a woman to have confidence in listening to herself and watching her surrender to nature and her body allows me the opportunity to be repeatedly reminded of the strength of a woman! I can’t think of a more meaningful experience!