parenting

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews

If you have tried creating a baby registry lately, you have probably noticed that there are an overwhelming number of baby products.

So what do you actually need for your little one?

The truth is, that it is really hard to know what your little one will actually like before he or she is actually here. You might find that that swing, pacifier, or swaddle that you thought you needed is never used by your little one. You might find that the stroller that your friend raved about just doesn’t quite fit in the trunk of your car. What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for others. With that in mind, I still wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite products.

These are the things that have made my life easier in the fourth trimester: 

Haakaa silicone breast pump

The Haakaa is unlike any other pump I have ever used. First there is the price point. At under $20, this is something that I thought would be worth it even if I only used it for a couple weeks. I was under the impression that the Haakaa just caught the milk that would otherwise leak out of the other side while I was nursing. Although that is largely true, just squeezing it a bit more will create a suction that pulls more milk out. I started using the Haakaa when I was about a week postpartum. I was quite engorged, particularly on one side, and my little one was having trouble latching on. I suctioned the Haakaa to the engorged side and sat down to feed my little one on the other side. By the time he was done with that side I had 3 ounces in the Haakaa and he was able to latch on to the other side. I started using the Haakaa for the first couple feedings of the day and it didn’t take long before I realized that I was starting to have a nice stockpile in my freezer. I wouldn’t say that the Haakaa replaces the electric pump. I haven’t had any luck using it without my baby nursing on the opposite side. It wouldn’t do me any good if I had to pump at work and it certainly isn’t discreet. It is, however, a game changer for those of us that find ourselves leaking or engorged. 

Aden and Anais knotted gown

There are a lot of opinions on what kind of baby pajamas are the best. The options are generally snaps, zippers, or gowns. I judge all of them on how easy it is to change diapers in the middle of the night. I love the ease of a gown, but I often find that my little one ends up with cold little feet. The knotted gown solves this issue. You literally just tie a knot in the bottom of the extra long gown and those cute little feet are kept warm inside the super soft pajamas. The only downside to this gown is that Aden and Anais only makes it in a 0-3 month size. I was very sad when my little guy outgrew it.

Halo Sleepsack Swaddle

 Swaddling a baby can help to sooth them and makes it less likely that they will wake up due to their startle reflex. Although you can certainly swaddle a baby in a blanket, it makes me nervous to leave them unattended with blankets. My oldest was like Huidini and no matter how well we swaddled him he would always work his way out of it. With my second and third I discovered swaddlers that had snaps or velcro to keep them secure. I have several different brands, but the Halo is my favorite. Halo’s genius design includes a zipper that appears to be upside down. The benefit of that is that you can leave your little one swaddled while you change their diaper. They make these sleepsack swaddles in a few different fabrics so you can pick something warmer or lighter depending on your needs. I also have Halo Sleepsacks (without the attached swaddles) in several sizes. These are perfect for keeping little ones warm when they are still too young to have loose blankets 

Reusable breast pads  

If you are breastfeeding you will probably need to have some kind of breast pads. At 3 months postpartum I leak a lot less than I did at 3 weeks, but I still find that I need to wear the pads in my bra. I still leak a bit from my right side while breastfeeding my little one on my left. I also will occasionally leak if I hear him (or sometimes other babies) crying. Although there are disposable options, it seems silly when they are so easy to wash. I have bought them from Target, but I prefer to support small businesses. You can absolutely find great reusable pads on Etsy, but my favorite are from Goddess Homemaker, a Michigan woman that also happens to make absolutely adorable baby clothes. How many you will need will depend on how much you leak and how often you want to do laundry. I have six pairs and it works well for me.

Evenflo EveryStage DLX

I do a lot of research on car seats and I have found that most people have strong opinions about the best seats. With my first two I had one of those infant bucket seats that everyone seems to get. There are a lot of benefits to being able to quickly remove the car seat from your car, but it just isn’t something that I did that often. I do a lot of babywearing and my car seat stayed in the car 90% of the time. When I realized that most convertible seats can hold a newborn as small as 5 pounds, I decided to skip the newborn seat with baby number 3. So far the only time that I have found this inconvenient is at restaurants. I have become really good at either eating while holding a baby or laying him on a blanket in the booth. When he can sit in a high chair this won’t be an issue any more. The EveryStage DLX has been wonderful. It quickly adjusts the height, so that in 3 seconds I can make it fit my friend’s three year old. The DLX is so easy to install that I am confident that my 8 year old could get a secure fit. I am hoping that I will be able to keep my son rear facing in this seat for at least a couple years in this seat. There are so many car seat options out there. I highly recommend finding a local store with knowledgeable staff that can help you work through the options that fit your car and your family best.  

Arms Reach Co-sleeper Mini

This is the best bassinet that we have found for our family. Two things about the design work very well for us. First of all, it securely attaches to the bed. This means that no matter how much I lean on it or trip getting out of bed. I will never tip this bed over. Secondly, the side of it can be lowered so that you can easily reach over and grab your hungry baby to feed him/her at night. This is a huge improvement from a traditional bassinet which I found awkward to reach into in the middle of the night. I suspect that the regular size co-sleeper would allow your little one to remain in it a bit longer, but the smaller footprint of the mini size co-sleeper works well for us. At 3 months old, my little guy is still doing well in the mini, but we will probably have to move him to his crib within the next month. 

Wrap-strap Meh Dai

It is no secret that I am a babywearer. My babies have been worn in just about every carrier out there. In the first 3 months of this little one’s life he has been in a woven wrap, a Moby, a Wrapsody Hybrid, a couple different ring slings, and a HopTye (a meh dai made by the German wrap manufacturer Hoppediz). The HopTye is by far my husband’s carrier of choice. It is soft, flexible, and there are no straps that need to be adjusted. It is also extremely comfortable. I can wear my little guy in this carrier for hours without it affecting my back at all. No matter how you choose to wear your baby, it allows you to meet their needs while also having your hands free to take care of your own needs. For me this means that I can grocery shop, play with my older sons, and feed myself while my little guy naps on my chest. The other big advantage of this carrier style is that this carrier that is working so well in these early days will also work on my back when he gets older and should be able to comfortably support him when he is a toddler. I got a great deal on this carrier on the second hand market, but they aren’t the only manufacturer of this style. Two others that I like a lot are Fidella and Didymos. I have a lot of experience and opinions about baby carriers. If you want help finding the right carrier for your family, consider setting up a babywearing consultation in your home or visiting a local babywearing group.

I hope that my list of my seven favorite baby products is helpful for you. Although some of the things I have came from reading a ton of reviews and asking a lot of questions, the majority has just been trial and error. Some things that I painstakingly bought (like our stroller) we have never really used. Other things, like the Co-Sleeper, were gifts we didn’t think we needed that have now become staples in our lives. You will find the things that work best for you.

Just remember that the only things your baby absolutely needs are love, warmth, and milk. Everything else is just to make your life a little easier.

 

NEW YEAR’S WISHES

We’re in the home stretch everybody! We have less than 48 hours of 2019 left and we’re heading full speed into the new decade. 🎉🎉

Around this time of year you’ll see tons of social media posts and overhear ample conversations about New Year’s Resolutions. These resolutions are awesome for a lot of people, but for others it can add more pressure to the already pressure-filled job of being a parent. Life and parenting are unpredictable (and quite frankly, exhausting) so it’s easy to fall into a cycle of self criticism if we end up not being able to achieve these New Year’s Resolutions. So this year we’re taking the stress off. 

This year, we have a list of New Year’s Wishes for all of you wonderful parents out there. ✨

In the coming year, we wish you a year filled with:
  • Moments of heart-warming joy. We hope there are moments where you laugh until you can’t breathe, your heart soars with happiness, and where you make memories too beautiful to put into words.
  • Good health for you and your family. May the bad germs/viruses stay away, and may your physical, emotional, and mental health thrive this year!
  • An empowering birth experience. For those of you expecting babies in the year 2020, we wish you a smooth pregnancy and an amazing birth experience. May you be reminded of your own strength and badass-ery! And if things don’t go as planned (which they often don’t), we wish you the strength and adaptability to conquer all of the twists and turns that labor brings. We’re here for you and we know you can do this. 💕
  • Healing. Whether that’s physically from birth, a past injury, or emotionally from the things that ail you and hold you back. We hope that in 2020 you’re able to nourish and nurture your mind/body, take care of yourself in all of the ways that you deserve, and find peace.
  • Being patient with yourself. Parenting is a lot. You are learning and growing. Please be patient with yourself (much like your doulas would be patient with you, or you would be patient with your kiddos) as you go through this journey at your own pace. You’re doing great, we promise!
  • Loving on your body. Because you deserve it. Your body goes through a lot during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Even if you’re not technically “postpartum” anymore, our bodies are put through A LOT just in every day life. There’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way, and to “bounce back” as quickly as possible after birth. This is your friendly reminder that your body is perfect exactly as it is. You are whole and beautiful exactly as you are.
  • Emotional and physical safety. And with this wish for safety, we hope that you always possess the freedom to be completely and authentically yourself.
  • Reasonable expectations. Because there’s nothing like perfectionism to put a damper on accomplishments big and small. We hope that 2020 is a year of ditching any impossible/harmful expectations you set for yourself, and letting go of comparing yourself to others (especially other parents). Your journey is unlike anyone else’s! Parent however feels right to you.
  • Confidence in your own abilities. And with this confidence, we hope you always carry the knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way.
  • Insurmountable strength and resilience. Whether it’s a minor setback, a slump, or an all-out battle. Sometimes all you can do is hunker down and keep going. If you’re in a low place, we hope the duration is short and that you’re able to find stability and peace soon. For anyone fighting through trauma, mental illness, self doubt, abuse recovery, oppression, isolation, incarceration, and all things in between: we see you, we’re with you, and we care about you.
  • A sense of community, representation, and inclusivity. You are beautifully unique, and your experiences matter. We can’t wish you enough of these three. You deserve to see yourself in others, to find mentors, support, acceptance, and respect wherever you go. Regardless of your socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or ability status, just know that you’ll  always have safety and affirmation waiting here for you at Tree Town Doulas.
  • Recognition and appreciation for your accomplishments. Because you’re amazing, and you deserve to be told that.
  • Financial stability. Along with enough food on the table, clothes that fit, the medical/mental health care you need, the education for you little ones that our future deserves, and the ability to treat yourself every once in a while.
  • Drinking lots of water!! We had to include this one. It’s so important!
  • Balance. Is achieving true balance even possible as a parent? We’ll let you know when we find out. But it’s definitely something to work towards. As parents we tend to spread ourselves too thin and put ourselves on the back-burner. It’s okay to say “no” and to take time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and for that reason self-care is absolutely vital to parenting. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to give more to your little ones and everything/everyone else that you care about.
  • Not sweating the small stuff. Parenting is stressful enough as it is! Knowing when to cut yourself some slack so that you can save your energy for the big stuff is an incredibly underrated form of self care.
  • A rock-solid support system and so much love that you don’t know what to do with it all. Support is everything. And above all else everyone deserves love. Whether it be platonic, familial, altruistic, or romantic love. We wish you bountiful hugs whenever you need them, and we hope most of all that you always know that you’re never alone.
  • Learning, growing, and thriving. Because you deserve more than just to live. You deserve to thrive.
In 2020, we wish you all of these things and so much more. 

 

Thank you to each and every one of you for making 2019 such an incredible year for Tree Town Doulas. As for our journey to come, we look forward to another year of beautiful babies and parents! 🙂 

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR NEW PARENTS

The Holiday Season is now officially in full swing! As we speak, the kiddos are gearing up for their favorite holiday festivities while parents rush around from store to store preparing for the perfect celebration. The holidays are a stressful time as it is, but it’s even more stressful with a new baby or a bun in the oven. Whether you’re fresh out of the hospital, in your second trimester, or months into raising your little one, this blog post is for you! Tree Town Doulas has put together a few tips and tricks for surviving the holidays as a new parent. 

1. Give yourself permission to keep it simple

You may need to let some things go this year. And that’s okay! This one may be hard for those of you who are used to big, beautiful, extravagant holiday celebrations. Parenting in itself is a full time job. When you add a newborn or morning sickness into the mix, parenting becomes two full time jobs. As a new/ pregnant parent your priority right now is taking care of yourself and your baby. Take that extra time to rest and skip out on hosting festivities this year if you need to. There will be other holidays, we promise!

2. Establish your rules/boundaries ahead of time

If you plan on attending family festivities this year, it’s likely that the grand majority will want to hold your baby or touch your baby bump. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying either of these things if you’re comfortable with them! But figuring out your boundaries ahead of time can save you a lot of stress in the moment. Whether you’re completely fine with everyone holding your baby (gives you more time to grab a snack before pumping!) or whether you need your partner to act as a body guard against the bump-touchers and baby-holders. All of these options and everything in between are a-okay as long as you’re feeling comfortable and low stress. You call the shots when it comes to your body and baby, and you never need to feel guilty about that! A couple things to consider:

  • Babywearing – keeps your baby close and calm in overstimulating environments. Plus, if you’re someone who doesn’t want everyone holding your baby, this provides you with a ready-made excuse to keep your little one with you!
  • Washing hands – Another boundary to consider is whether or not you want people to wash their hands before holding your baby.
  • Short and sweet – Would your stress level decrease if you appearance at festivities was brief this year? This can be a great compromise if you want to see your family members, but don’t have the energy to stay for a full-day celebration. Be sure to listen to your body and listen to your baby. 🙂

3. It’s okay to say “No”! 

We can’t say this one enough: It’s okay to say “no” to holiday invitations! If your heart sighs with relief at the idea of spending the holidays curled up on the couch at home, there is NOTHING wrong with that. Give yourself permission to decline invitations. You have a great excuse for avoiding the stress of the holidays. Being pregnant and taking care of a baby is exhausting, so everyone will understand. If they don’t- no worries! There will be other holidays. There is only one you. Plus, they won’t be able to stay mad for long when they see your beautiful new baby 🙂

4. Stay Cozy

Those first few weeks postpartum can be a doozy for any parent. So regardless of the time of year, we always recommend that new parents stay comfy and cozy. Between the sleepless nights and finding a rhythm with your baby, the little things you do to take care of yourself will become extra important during this time. So put on those fuzzy socks, and wear your comfiest hoodie.You deserve it.

5. Plan your baby’s feeding schedule

This is a surefire way to prevent the dreaded Holiday Meltdowns of 2019. Take a moment to write out your baby’s usual feeding times, when they’re more likely to get fussy, and when/if you’ll  need to pump. Keep a copy of this schedule with you, on your phone, or with your partner. If you’re someone who loses track of time easily (most parents start measuring times in terms of “how many times my baby has eaten today” so you’re not alone), set alarms to the times you know your baby will be getting ready to feed. The more you can plan ahead and anticipate when your little one will need that extra attention, the smoother things will go.

6. Prioritize

This is along the same lines as giving yourself permission to keep things simple. Write out a list of things that are important to you during your holiday celebrations. Circle your top 3 and leave it at that. A few examples: decorations, visiting family, gratitude, religious practices (if applicable), food, family traditions. On that list, include a friendly reminder that pre-made food (or even take-out) is a perfectly good food option if you don’t have the time/energy to cook 🙂 For the rest, focus as much as you can on self care, the rhythm you’ve established with your little one, and sleep. For those of you recovering from a cesarean section, this will be especially important!

7. Accept help

This tip goes for parenting in general! Accepting help can be really hard at first, especially if you’re used to being entirely independent. But raising a baby takes a village. A lot of family members and friends will want to help, but don’t know how, so don’t be afraid to delegate! Let your needs be known and allow your friends and family give you a break. You’re recovering from birthing a human, you’ll need a break every once in a while 🙂

8. Online Shopping is your best friend

Anyone who has ever chest/breastfed won’t be surprised at all that producing milk consumes 25% of your body’s energy. In comparison, your brain uses 20%. This explains why you’re so tired all the time! Already, just by producing milk and existing with your brain, that’s almost 50% of your body’s energy already being consumed. After expending so much energy simply by existing, shopping for holiday gifts may feel like an absolutely impossible task. Thank god for the internet. Sit down on that sofa, and order all of those gifts from the comfort of your own home. And when in doubt: Gift Cards 🙂 Take the pressure off where you can. And if you don’t have the energy for gift-giving this year, there is nothing wrong with that either! Which brings us to our last tip:

9. Cut yourself some slack

Things aren’t going to be perfect. Healing from birth can hit parents harder than they expect, whether your birth plan went exactly or not at all as planned. If you had a cesarean section you’ll be recovering from a major surgery on top of all this. So here’s your friendly reminder: recovering and settling into a rhythm are your number one priorities right now. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Give yourself the gift of peace. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to host festivities this year. It’s okay to give gifts late, or not at all for that matter! It’s okay to take a break and to take care of yourself. You matter. And you can do this. You’re ALREADY doing it.

We wish you a holiday season filled with love, laughter, joy, and most importantly: SLEEP! 🙂

 

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone!!! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight is highlighting the wonderful Marlene McGrath!! Not only is she an amazing mother, but she’s also an incredible prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor. We HIGHLY recommend checking out her classes. Plus, she’s located right here in Ann Arbor!

MARLENE MCGRATH

To find balance in her job as a hospital social worker, Marlene began studying and practicing yoga in 1991. Now, Marlene is the mother of 3 teenagers, and teaches yoga full-time to students ages 18-99 with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal yoga. You can find her full class listing at: yogafocusannarbor.com !

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I was a yoga teacher before having children, but during my first pregnancy realized how much yoga helped me stay connected to my changing body and cope with labor, birth, and recovery. I then decided to pursue more training to specialize in teaching yoga to pregnant and postpartum women.

If there was one myth you could “bust,” what would it be?

The myth: that pregnant women just need to deal with significant discomfort and pain during pregnancy, that it is just part of being pregnant.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

Working in my garden, walking my dog, having outdoor adventures with my children, family, and friends.

What moment are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of the moments when I see my children negotiate difficult experiences.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

My hope is that women who practice yoga during their childbearing years develop a knowledge of and relationship with themselves that will serve them through parenting and all the transitions to come later in life.

 

THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW, PLEASE TAKE A SEAT.

People have a lot to say about pregnancy. Between the recommendations, cautionary tales, shoulds, shouldn’ts, educational literature and things your coworker says “Will Make You The Worst Parent On The Planet.”  Everyone has an opinion. In all honesty, we’ve worked with so many parents who have been thoroughly freaked out and terrified by the horror stories that other parents, family members, and friends have told them about their own pregnancies. Of course these loved ones mean well and they just want those they care about to be safe! But sometimes adding that extra two cents can do a lot more harm than good by making pregnancy way more stressful than it needs to be. We’re here to give you strategies to manage the sea of opinions that might try to sweep you off your feet throughout pregnancy and parenthood.

So what should you do when you’re being bombarded by opinions from those around you?

First of all, DO NOT GO ON WEBMD.

We cannot stress this one enough! Talk to your care provider, doula (if you choose to have one) and people you trust if you have concerns. Reading an article that says you’re already dead will probably not help matters much.

To help with feelings of anxiety in the moment, we introduce to you the “Thank you for letting me know” technique.

This technique was coined by my magnificent roommate: Maggie. She’s your friendly neighborhood list-enthusiast and an accomplished educator of today’s 12-year-old youth. In other words, she is an expert at managing chaos. A few months ago after an exhausting day at work, she gifted me one of my favorite coping strategies to pass on to stressed parents. Maggie walked through the door, dropped her backpack, looked at me, and in a moment of exasperation said

“I swear, the phrase that I use the most at my job is ‘Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.'”

She went on to describe the chaos of her classroom; the consistently hilarious but exhausting interruptions of 12 year olds as they test the boundaries of social interactions, rifle off internet memes, and erupt in Fornite dances. To all of which, while suppressing laughter, Maggie’s response is “Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”

“Miss Maggie!!! Sarah ate 10 packets of ketchup even though you said not to and now she has a stomach ache!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

“Miss Maggie!!! Jerrell is laying on the floor for fun and he doesn’t feel like moving!!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. (Also Jerrell get off the floor).

“Miss Maggie!!! Timmy buried his head in the snow and now his face is super cold!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

Believe it or not, this mindset has helped so many of our clients. I think it goes without saying that we don’t want you to take up yelling  “THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW PLEASE TAKE A SEAT” at every person who expresses an opinion.

But the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s input on your pregnancy, birth, or parenting philosophies just follow these steps:

  1. Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale.
  2. Pretend the unnecessary feedback/anecdotes/judgments are 12-year-old Sarah eating ketchup packets
  3. Tell Sarah “thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
  4. Picture the intrusive opinion (aka Sarah) stepping aside and physically taking a seat
  5. Take a few more deep breaths

It sounds silly, but it’s actually a really helpful  way of centering yourself through visualization. Plus it’s a generally recommended coping mechanism for anxiety! The “Thank you for letting me know” strategy allows you to acknowledge outside input but not let it overwhelm you, wrack your confidence, or disturb your sense of calm. This way you can see the situation for what it is, set the unnecessary information aside, create healthy boundaries, and focus on what’s important. Even vocalizing “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I’m going to continue parenting in the ways that make sense for me” can be a great boundary to set with loved ones as your due date draws near.

So there you have it. Whether you’re a new parent, a parent-to-be, a seasoned parent, or just someone who struggles with anxiety, you now have a new possible tool to add to your Mental Health Tool Kit 🙂 

 

A note to every teacher out there:

When we think of superheroes, we think of Superman flying majestically through the sky or Batman mysteriously watching over Gotham City. But not all heroes wear capes. Within the walls of our schools work some of the single most dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals in the country: the kids themselves, who have the power to shape our future, and the superhero teachers, who have the power to shape the futures of our youth. This post is a shout out to all of the amazing teachers out there. The life-changing, and future-changing work you do every single day is not lost on us at Tree Town Doulas. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

BACK TO SCHOOL MINDFULNESS: PARENTAL EDITION

As labor day weekend comes to an end, we plunge headfirst into the season of fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, ripe apple picking, brisk nights, and cider mills. That first month back to school can be a doozy, especially for parents still in summer mode. Not only are we faced with developing a whole new routine from scratch, but now we’re also faced with a whole new set of challenges as our children grow into the next school year. Teachers often have their students set goals for the coming school year, so it’s only fitting that we do the same!

The word “mindfulness” is thrown around a lot with the images of spas, fancy art projects, and far-off lands. When really all “mindfulness” means is checking in with yourself. We recognize that most parents don’t have time to sit down, much less getting their nails done or get pampered at a spa. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 3 minute exercise we’d like you to do. Obviously we’re not going to ask you to do homework because we know you’ll get enough of that with your little ones 😉

As the week goes on pick 2 of these prompts. Reflect on each of them for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Even set a timer if you need to! Focus on your thoughts and how you react to each prompt. 

  • What is your biggest win from the 7 days?
  • What are 3 attitudes you want to embody this school year? 
  • What makes you feel calm? 
  • Have you felt stressed or anxious today? What did you do to overcome it?
  • What realistic adjustment could you make to your daily routine to give yourself more energy?
  • What have you recently said “yes” to that is not a “hell yes”?
  • What does it feel like to go back to school after summer?
  • Who is someone you have not talked to in a while that you’re grateful for?
  • Is there an area of your life that needs to be more organized?
  • What is something you’re anxious about for the coming school year? How can you reasonably prepare for this?
  • What is one thing you need to let go of?
  • What is your 3rd most unique strength? How can you make it as strong as your 1st and 2nd?
  • What do you spend a silly amount of time on?
  • When was the last time you laughed?
  • What is important to you this school year?
  • When do you have a hard time letting go? When do you feel so overwhelmed you “check out,” and what does that look like for you (e.g. checking social media too much, feeling irritable, etc..)?
  • What is one long term goal you’re working towards?
  • How have you shown yourself patience in the last week? How can you continue to do so?
And that’s it! I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but checking in with yourself (and your kids!) in this way for even just 3 minutes per day can work absolute wonders for your mental health. Being a parent can be unbelievably stressful, especially when you add the school year, your kids’ new schedules, extra curricular activities, homework, and work (job and/or house work) on top of that!  Both parenting and the new school year will come with a plethora of expectations from all directions. When the stress starts to pile on, these expectations can easily transform into self-criticism and sometimes even assumptions or criticism towards the kiddos. Practicing mindfulness not only improves memory, but also increases our patience, understanding, emotional intelligence, stability, adaptability, and decreases self- and outwardly-directed criticism. Will you still lose your cool sometimes? Oh heck yeah, because kids are a handful! Plus, no one is perfect! But giving yourself those 3 minutes per day will help lengthen your rope a bit so that you can let go of expectations, set goals, weather what you can’t control, and address what you can. (PROTIP: goals are flexible and have the planning/growth process built into them, but expectations often revolve around assumptions with no means to achieve/ resolve them). You’re an amazing parent and your kids already know this. So please cut yourself some slack, show yourself some patience, and give yourself that 3 minutes per day!

Both you and your kids (and their teachers!!) will thank you for it 🙂 

CLASS IS IN SESSION

Who’s hype for August’s Childbirth Education Classes? THESE DOULAS ARE!!

At Tree Town Doulas, we HIGHLY recommend taking a Childbirth Education Class of some shape or form before you give birth. Whether it’s an online course, a hospital tour/class combo, a condensed course for busy parents, or the full 8-weeks complete with demonstrations. No matter how many books your read, or how many tutorials you watch, these classes are truly invaluable. So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to take a Childbirth Education Class, here are some of the amazing benefits they bring parents:

  • Learning about your options. We fully believe that you should have your baby on your terms and no one else’s (except maybe the baby’s because babies really do have agendas of their own). The key to this is knowing your options and alternatives. Because, ultimately, YOU are in control of your body. A childbirth education class walks you through the options/alternatives you’ll have available during different situations in childbirth. And while you might not remember every little detail, classes give you the tools to ask the right questions so that you can get the information you need to make an informed decision in the moment. 
  • Addressing fears and concerns. Everyone’s body is different, and for this reason every birth is different. This ambiguity can be a huge source of anxiety for parents, and understandably so! Attending a childbirth education class provides the unique opportunity to ask questions real-time right as they come up, and receive validation from other parents who are also going through the same thing. Childbirth books and literature are incredibly helpful and necessary, but they tend to be geared towards the general public. A class will allow you to address concerns and ask questions that are geared more towards you specifically!
  • Building confidence. Confidence is key! And every parent deserves to trust in themselves. Classes not only boost confidence by creating a more concrete image of what labor can look like, but they can also teach you strategies to make your labor your own. 
  •  Building community. Finding out you’re pregnant can be overwhelming for some parents. For this reason, one of the greatest benefits of childbirth education classes is a sense of community. Whether that’s through having fears validated by another parent, or making a new parent-friend. Never underestimate the comfort that can be found in knowing that someone understands what you’re going through!
  • Tailoring to your specific needs. On the flip side, parents can also feel intensely anxious about the social aspect of childbirth education classes. But don’t be discouraged! Many birth work agencies offer online courses or one-on-one childbirth education classes that you can tailor to YOUR needs (here you can check out the classes offered by Tree Town Doulas!).This is also a wonderful option of you have specific medical conditions or social identities that are often overlooked in classic childbirth classes. EVERY parent deserves to feel validated and seen, so this can be a wonderful option for LGBTQ+ parents, Parents of Color, and parents with disabilities who might not otherwise find the representation they need and deserve.

 

  • Enhancing communication skills with your labor partner. Childbirth education classes don’t just prepare parents and their labor partners for birth in “theory,” they also give you the opportunity to explore methods of support together in practice. Communicating verbally is one thing, but supporting and communicating can be very different when a person is in physical pain. Many of the exercises in childbirth education classes are geared towards enhancing this communication and increasing your bond with the person supporting you through labor. 
  • Hands-on learning. Childbirth naturally comes with a lot of adrenaline. That means that when your contractions actually start, it’s easy for all of the information you learned about childbirth to just fall right out. In a childbirth ed class they’ll have you practice comfort strategies and labor positions in person, so that when you’re actually in labor it’ll already be committed to your physical memory. That way, you won’t even have to think about it! 
  • Exploring hospital facilities and their go-to practices. One of the perks of taking a class at the hospital where you plan to give birth, is that you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the location. That way it’s less hectic when you’re actually in labor! You’ll also be able to ask questions about the hospital’s go-to procedures. This is of the utmost importance because birth philosophy is everything. Whether you’re planning to give birth with minimal interventions, or through a planned C-section, it’s so important to make sure that your providers will support you along the way when it’s time to birth your baby. 
  • From a doula’s perspective: Even if you’re thinking of hiring a doula, we STILL recommend signing up for a class! You’ll definitely be able to go over questions in your prenatal visits, but we highly recommend learning as much as you can ahead of time. That way when you show up for your prenatal visits, you won’t have to spend as much time rehashing the basics and your doula can tailor your prenatal visit to your specific needs.

Hopefully by this point we’ve got you convinced of the immense benefits that come with attending a class. Of course these benefits apply to Childbirth Education Classes in general, but if you’re interested in signing up for a Childbirth Education Class through Tree Town Doulas, feel free to take a gander over to that part of our website!

There’s still room in Cynthia’s August Childbirth Education Classes, so mark it on your calendars!

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self-care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or are already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned  “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT LAUNCH

Welcome to our first official Community Spotlight! 🙂 This is going to be a new segment of our blog where we shine the spotlight on some of our community members that are doing awesome work for prenatal/postpartum care! This will be a weekly occurrence, so get ready to meet some pretty awesome people. 

For our first Community Spotlight, it’s only natural that we shine the light on one of our very own doulas, Toni Auker!

To learn more about Toni’s work, passions, winning personality, and the births of her little ones while she busts some common myths about childbirth/ parenting, keep on reading!

TONI AUKER

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always wanted to work with women and children, but wasn’t sure in exactly what capacity. When I was an undergrad I was certain that it would be through therapy. I double majored in psychology and women’s studies and hoped to work with families in crisis. Before graduation I realized that I didn’t actually want to do therapy, but I still began looking for jobs working with families. The job market at the time wasn’t easy and I found that I made more money as a server than I would at most of the jobs that would use my degree. I put off the career search for a long time as I concentrated on building my own family. 

As soon as my first son was born I knew what I wanted to do. Although I didn’t have a doula for my birth, I felt extremely supported by my mother. She had 3 natural hospital births, and her confidence in my ability to birth was instrumental in my own confidence. My husband was by my side, but he was nervous and needed his own support. My OB of 10 years happened to be the one that caught my baby, but I felt like I had only seen him for a few minutes throughout the entire labor and birth. The nurses were great, but it felt so strange to me that I had never met them and would never see them again. Birth seemed so personal, and I felt like everyone deserved the continuous support of someone that knew and trusted birth. I knew a little bit about what birth doulas did, and I started to do more research. It wasn’t long before I decided that this was the career I had been looking for. I found a DONA (Doulas of North America) training in Ann Arbor and I took my four month old son with me to the classes. After attending my first birth, I knew that I had finally found my place in the world. Eight years later I have added Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator to my resume and I couldn’t be more excited about where my career is headed. I get to work with the most amazing families at such an exciting time in their lives. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

There are so many birth myths that I would like to bust, but I think the biggest is that your provider is in charge of your birth. People might not say it directly, but it is in the way that we talk about birth. “My doctor won’t allow…”, “My doctor is making me…” and even “My doctor delivered my baby” are all phrases that I would love to do away with. You are in control of your birth. You birth your baby. Your doctor or midwife simply makes recommendations that you are welcome to accept or refuse. Some of their suggestions will be based on solid research and experience, but others come from habit or fear of litigation. Most of their recommendations come from generic hospital policy with no regard to your personal health or history. I have also found that many providers aren’t even attached to these recommendations, and they are more than willing to support people that ask for alternatives. I am so privileged to work with many brilliant providers and I absolutely respect everything that they do, but I also have amazing respect for the wonderfully intuitive families that take charge of their own births and make the decisions that work best for them

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I am currently six months pregnant and planning to move, so I am not working much these days. My days seem to be filled with packing and keeping 2 active boys happy. The things I enjoy the most are getting out in nature. I love to hike and camp. Hikes are quite a bit shorter right now, but even just sitting in nature makes me happy. This year we have visited the Hocking Hills and Ocqueoc Falls. We are heading up for a camping trip this weekend, and I hope to plan at least one more adventure before this baby arrives. 

What moment are you most proud of?

I have two moments that I am extremely proud of, one personal and one professional. My proudest professional moment was passing the Lamaze exam. I had already been teaching for someone else, and using their curriculum, for three years. Striking out on my own and passing the Lamaze exam was huge for me. It was like validation that I was on the right path. It makes me a more confident instructor, and I feel like it gives me a bit of credibility in the eyes of the many providers that now send their clients to me.

My proudest moment personally was the birth of my second son. My first birth was amazing and enlightening. I had tried to conceive him for 5 years with the help of 2 fertility doctors. Looking back there was so much I didn’t know, and so many things that I would have changed. Overall though, it was a good birth. With the second I hired homebirth midwives. I rented an inflatable tub for my dining room and asked a doula to be there. From the minute that I hired my midwives, things felt so much different. I felt supported and empowered in a way that I didn’t know was possible with my first birth. Although not everything went as planned (my son was not born in the water as I had envisioned), I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I was in control. I kicked people out of my room when I needed privacy, I pushed when my body told me, and I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My oldest got to meet his baby brother before we even cut the cord, and I feel like that solidified their bond immediately. I know that homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it was absolutely the right decision for me.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

I would like everyone to know that Lamaze supports every kind of birth and all choices. I teach directly from research and try to lay out all of your options. I will never tell a client that they need to do something or that they need to refuse something. I give them the evidence on both sides, and often help them find the compromises in the middle. Birth is unpredictable and the best thing that I can give you is the tools to communicate with your providers and make decisions in the moment. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I only gave you the tools for an unmedicated birth. This is something that everyone with Tree Town Doulas has in common. We are here to support you no matter what your circumstances and choices are. Whether you plan to give birth at home or in a hospital, with or without medication, vaginally or caesarean, we are here to support you