For those of us in Michigan, the next few weeks will be filled with anniversaries. The first wave of the pandemic in Michigan started this time last year and ushered in a whole new slew of emotions, stressors and fears. I’ve seen a lot of people already posting on social media about their last normal day at work, or the last day their kiddos had in-person classes. On the flip side, many folks would rather ignore this one year mark. All of this is perfectly okay. Some folks are having very real trauma responses to these one-year anniversaries. Some aren’t. This is also okay. However you are feeling is okay. There is no playbook for a pandemic. And especially not a pandemic anniversary.
When it comes to our mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic circumstances, we’ve all felt the impact of the pandemic differently. A lot of this depends on the social identities we hold, the region we live in, and/or how close the COVID-19 infections have come to us and our loved ones. This pandemic has thoroughly rocked the foundation of our communities. All on top of the political turmoil, collective loss, infrastructure failure, and white supremacist systemic violence that this past year has brought to many aspects of our society. A word you may hear to refer to the one-year mark of these intertwined traumas, is “traumaversary.”
What is a traumaversary?
The term “traumaversary” was coined in the mental health community by folks experiencing PTSD and trauma. It is a term used to describe the one-year mark of a negative life-altering event, and the wide range of emotions that comes with these anniversaries. Sometimes it’s used to refer to a specific day, but they can also be entire seasons/weeks/months/spans of time where something life-altering occurred. After surviving a traumatic event, it’s common to experience any range of emotions from joy/relief that we survived, to depression/grief. Even all of this at the same time.
It’s important to know that anyone can have a traumaversary, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the result of something “big.” We all experience stressful events differently, so what may be considered traumatic for one person, may not be for someone else. This term is becoming much more widespread now with the array of anxiety/depression that the pandemic has dragged out for a lot of people. Whether you choose to use the word “traumaversary” is up to you. Some might use it as a way to validate the tumultuousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others might not. But regardless, it can be helpful to learn why our brains react certain ways to traumatic stress, even if you don’t see the pandemic as a concrete “trauma.”
A crash-course in post-traumatic stress/brains that have experienced trauma:
The human brain is incredibly clever. When our minds and bodies experience something traumatic, our bodies immediately prioritize surviving in the now, while the heavy-duty processing is saved for later. In order to do that, our bodies enact the fight/flight/freeze/fawn response. This is fueled by adrenaline. Once our adrenaline has carried us to safety and has time to wind down, we begin processing the event that just occurred. It is normal to experience post traumatic stress symptoms for the immediate weeks after a traumatic occurrence/prolonged series of events. Including but not limited to:
– temporary depression
– feelings of grief
– night terrors/ sleep disturbances
– appetite changes
These mechanisms are our mind’s way of protecting us from harm while integrating the event into how we experience the world. These symptoms are also the brain’s way of making sure that we don’t endanger ourselves again. Many of these symptoms (such as decreased appetite, hypervigilance, panic, insomnia, and night terrors) are also a result of the increase in adrenaline/stress hormones that are required to maintain this survival mode. These symptoms are normal for a period of time, but if they last for longer than 6 months that’s when it starts veering into more chronic PTSD territory.
This is where the COVID-19 pandemic anniversary can come in.
We’ve all been in lockdown for over a year now, living in a world where we have to think 15 steps ahead just to survive going to the grocery store. And when it comes to bringing new life into the world, parenting during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. While the COVID-19 virus is still a threat to our health and safety, we are in a much different situation than we were last year. We know more about the virus, testing is available to the public, we have enough PPE for the most part, and many members of our community are being vaccinated daily. But that still doesn’t negate the initial shock of the first wave of the pandemic. Of course, the situation is still dire, but we’ve had a year to adjust, process the uncertainty, and visualize our futures. For this reason, especially with the arrival of spring weather, many people have experienced post traumatic stress symptoms as their brains are thrown back into that first month of the pandemic. This can be even more so if you have a history of trauma. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s just your brain trying to make sure you survive.
After traumatic events our brains automatically store cues from these experiences in our memories for later. That way, if we encounter them again in the future, we will be prepared to enact the fight/flight/freeze/fawn response to propel ourselves out of danger. These cues (or triggers, to use their proper term) can include more obvious triggers such as:
– Objects – Events in academic calendars
– Sounds/ loud noises – Articles of clothing
– Smells – Specific dates
– Flavors – Physical touch
– Holidays – Songs that were popular/ playing at the time
But they can also include more subtle triggers, such as:
– The amount of daylight – Not feeling emotionally safe
– Seasons of the year – Feelings of uncertainty
– Weather – Situations that mirror the past trauma
– Foods that were in season – Emotions that were felt at the time
– Not feeling physically safe – Bright/ dim lighting
Triggers are one of many mechanisms our brain uses to keep us safe.
And they often aren’t something we do consciously. For some of us, when we encounter these triggers, our brain automatically switches into survival mode (e.g. panic attacks to give us energy to fight/flee, flashbacks to warn us, etc..). But sometimes this can happen even if we’re not necessarily in danger. Our brain’s sole purpose is to keep us alive, so it operates by the “better to be safe than sorry” method. It would rather react in a big way to a cue/trigger like the weather changing, than under-react to a potentially dangerous situation and put you in harm’s way. It’s a clever mechanism, but sometimes it’s just a little misplaced. A big portion of recovering from trauma is not only regaining our sense of emotional and physical safety, but also rewiring our brains to not automatically sound the alarm when we encounter triggers that don’t necessarily indicate danger. Especially when they result in full-blown PTSD, or inhibit our ability to form relationships/ function in daily life. If you experienced any post-traumatic stress symptoms early in the pandemic, it’s possible they could come back as we pass our one-year mark.
Since anniversaries of traumatic incidents are never easy, and everyone will experience this month differently, I have made a list of practical tips from personal experience that can help along the way.
Practical tips for making traumaversaries a little easier:
1. It’s okay to feel.This is your reminder to let yourself feel over these next few weeks, even if you don’t think your emotions and reactions “make sense” (which they do). This pandemic has dragged out virtually every emotion in the human experienceand pushed it to its limits. To name a few:
– Anger – Hope
– Fear – Disgust
– Sadness – Uncertainty
– Depression – Exhaustion
– Anxiety – Tenderness
– Joy – Love
This last year has been traumatic for many. For others it hasn’t. A lot of this will depend on your personal threshold and past experiences. Give yourself the grace to feel whatever is true for you. Ignoring these emotions will just ensure that they pop up somewhere else down the line.
2. Make sure your basic needs are being met.Taking care of your mind and body’s most basic needs is crucial on any day of the year, but even more so on big anniversaries like this. Simple tasks like showering, eating, or brushing your teeth can feel like massive chores to a melancholy mind. But these small elements of routine can help with establishing normalcy and moving the body out of survival mode.
3. Plan, or don’t!If there’s a particular anniversary day coming up for you, sometimes planning out the day can help. It’s common for decision-making and clear thinking to become difficult, so planning your day will put more tasks on autopilot so that you don’t have to stress as much. A lot of people do the opposite by ignoring anniversary days altogether. This can be a good strategy, but exercise caution with this one. Check in with yourself to see what you really need. Sometimes ignoring big landmarks like this can just prolong the healing process by blocking things out. But in some instances, it can be a very important step in healing by de-escalating the importance of that day. Do it if it works for you, but practice self-honesty.
4. Take extra care of yourself. Self care looks pretty on instagram, but in reality it looks different for everyone. For some folks it involves a relaxing bath decorated with flower petals, and for others it looks like letting yourself sleep without an alarm or crying in your car after a rough day. However you take care of yourself, just remember that you have come so far in the last year.You have been surviving a pandemic. Let it out when you need to, but don’t forget to give yourself overwhelming amounts of credit.
5. Reach out to your support system.Isolation also increases PTS symptoms. Even more so when it’s accompanied by shame or “should” statements saying that you “should be over this by now” or you “should have done more today.” Healing is difficult as it is, so why make it more difficult? Text someone you trust, get some snuggles in with a fur-baby, go for a walk with your favorite family member, or ask your partner for some extra TLC. Do something to connect with someone that makes you feel safe before the day is up, even if it’s small. It won’t be a magic fix, but shame and isolation cannot survive in the face of love and understanding.
6. Create closure if you need it. Notice what emotions come up for you in the coming weeks. How do you feel? Do those emotions need to be released, or just given space to exist? Catharsis doesn’t need to be big, and it definitely doesn’t need to be pretty. Something as small as lighting a candle, listening to a calm playlist before bed, or burying a stone to represent your grief can give you the time/space to process. Acknowledging the hurt does not mean you have stopped healing. In fact, it is a vital part of healing.
7. Hibernation mode. There’s nothing wrong with just hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass. If sleeping or retreating to your cave is how you get through to the other side, then absolutely do it. Some people may want to do this but may not have the option because of work, family, or other obligations. If this sounds like you, make sure to carve time out in your day to burrow in your safe place.
8.Mark the passage of time.Traumaversaries are often much more intense than other days of the year. The part of the brain that reacts to trauma is not the best at telling time. So for people who experience triggers and flashbacks, our brains tend to freeze us in the time/place of the traumatic event. Just remember that this too shall pass. At some point these feelings, this day, week, month, or year will be over and you will be able to rest.
9. Grounding techniques. Your mental-health toolkit will be very helpful during this time. Your “toolkit” is any healthy grounding/self-care/coping mechanisms that you lean on when times get tough. Whether you’re just feeling a little off, or completely struggling to stay centered in the present. It’s okay if you need to take care of yourself more than usual right now.
10. Be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling low, don’t be so hard on yourself. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel unpleasant emotions, and it’s okay to miss a beat (or many). You’re a human who has been through a lot this year. Anniversaries of traumatic incidents are a lot to begin with, on top of the continuing pandemic. You’re allowed to not be okay. The dishes and monitoring of your little one’s screen time might need to be put on the back burner. Your well-being is worth it, and you deserve to process what this one-year mark means for you.
11. Ask for help if you need it. This one can be a doozy because it does require a certain amount of vulnerability. But it is vital. If you are struggling, please ask for help. Or even just reach out to someone enough that they can support you in seeking help. Create an emergency plan with your loved ones so that they know exactly how to support you when you’re in crisis. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for referrals to mental health professionals if you need to. And if you are currently in crisis, please call the crisis hotline at 800-273-8255.
Sometimes even when we try all of these tips it still doesn’t quite take the edge off of the traumaversary sting. If this seems to be the case for you, please remember that you are doing your best and that is more than enough for right now.You are getting through it. You are surviving a pandemic. That in itself is a monumental feat.
This article was written for us by a guest blogger, Emily Graham, from Mighty Moms. To learn more about Emily, check out her website.
The journey to parenthood can be paved with both excitement and apprehension. Especially when parents are navigating this transition in the middle of an already stressful pandemic.
If you have friends or family members who are in the middle of such an experience, you can provide the support and compassion they need to stay afloat. You may just need a little more information to do so safely, and these resources from Tree Town Doulas can guide you.
Remind Them That They’re Not Alone
The pandemic and all of the social fallout: we’re all experiencing this trauma collectively. Even if we’re dealing with our own set of struggles, including pregnancy. Your loved one may need a little extra love and support right now, so consider sending gifts or even words of compassion.
Your friend may appreciate a gift of comfort, like soft undies for home or the hospital.
Or perhaps a thoughtful gift of cozy loungewear from a gender-neutral company.
You could also offer to set up regular virtual dates to provide more social connection.
Understand Challenges of Pregnancy
While gifts and social connections are helpful, being able to understand and empathize with what your friend is going through can be even more powerful. If you’re not sure what sort of stressors they may be facing, you can do some research to find out.
Depression can be very common both during and after pregnancy for various reasons.
Expectant parents may also be more vulnerable to anxiety but self-care can help.
The risks for COVID complications are also higher, which can cause even more stress.
Black parents are at an even greater risk for complications and even mortality.
Keep Parents, Newborns and Yourself Safe
It’s normal to want to be there for your loved one when they are pregnant during such uncertain times. But it’s important to remember that we’re still very much in the middle of this pandemic. Which means you all need to take the proper precautions to keep your interactions safe.
A gift of non-toxic hand sanitizer from afar can help new parents and babies stay safe.
You can also provide loved ones with online resources from sites like Tree Town Doulas.
While we’re all sailing through this pandemic ocean together, try to remember that we’re all in different boats and on different waves. Your loved ones’ experiences and worries may be quite different from your own. Particularly if they are preparing for parenthood amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty. This is why compassion and understanding are so important, and why you need to lead with these sentiments when offering your support.
Tree Town Doulas can help new parents build confidence, and provide the tools and resources both new and expectant parents need to ensure more positive experiences.
Bodyfeeding, breastfeeding, and chestfeeding looks different for everyone, and definitely isn’t limited to one particular gender. Some folks have chests, others have breasts, and some just prefer to refer to their body as a whole. Some feed exclusively using a pump, others exclusively feed their babies straight from the breast or chest. For some parents lactation needs to be induced, and for others it doesn’t. Some use combination feeding with formula, others use solely their own milk or donated breast/chest milk. There are SO many different variations of “normal” and Tree Town Doulas is supportive of all of them. Your journey with your baby will be unique and we are always here to answer any questions or help you navigate your options. We do, after all, have our very own CLC (Erica McLeod) and IBCLC (Tara Sullivan) on board!
We may be nearing the end of Black History Month, but the influence of Black folks in birth work and every other aspect of society continues 365 days a year. Black History Month is a time to recognize the pivotal role that Black folks have played all throughout history, and celebrate the richness they have cultivated, despite society’s continuous efforts to hide their accomplishments. However, it’s not enough to stop at just Black History Month. We need to continue celebrating Black folks in the past and present as well as making sure that our doula practices are accessible to Black parents. For us, creating equity is a continuous and intentional act of centering the voices and needs of marginalized communities in our doula work.
When it comes to our particular field of work as doulas, if you haven’t seen the statistics that have been zooming across news outlets and social media: Black parents are dying at 3-4 times the rate of white parents, and Black babies are twice as likely to die during childbirth as white babies.Furthermore:
“Education and income offer little protection. In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education.”
-Linda Villarosa, New York Times
It’s not okay. And it’s horrifying. There’s no explanation/reason that could ever make this statistic okay or any less devastating. Black parents deserve better.
(To learn more about HOW this happens, be sure to read this article from Lamaze International. They do a great job of breaking down the statistics, the vibrant history of Black Midwives in the US, and their importance in modern America.)
That being said, it’s not enough to simply state that we’re allies of Black parents. “Ally” isn’t just a label that we can pin to our chests and call it a day. It’s a constant commitment to equity, growth, and advocacy. And beyond that, a promise to uplift justice, action, healing, and mindfulness. A simple label won’t absolve our communities of the weight of the maternal mortality crisis, or the racism that still exists in every aspect of our society. That weight is inter-generational, centuries in the making, and has existed since Africans were first brought across the sea against their will as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Here at Tree Town Doulas we want to say thank you to all the Black birth workers that have paved the way, from Margaret Charles Smith to Racha Tahani Lawler. If you’re a Black birth worker and would like to connect to gain experience, exchange resources/networks, or more please don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you’re a non-Black birth worker committed to change but don’t know where to start: Check out this article that amplifies the words of DONA’s Black doulas themselves. This article might be a few years old, but it’s still applicable. An oldie but goodie.
To Black people who are looking to be parents and are looking for a doula for their birthing process, we will actively work to hear you and center your needs. We understand that we’re not a fully Black staff, so if you’re in southeast Michigan, below is a list of Black birth workers and parenting groups in the area.
Black Birthworkers and Parenting Groups in Southeast Michigan
Our Village: African American Expectant and New Mom Group
There’s nothing quite so powerful as a story. In particular, our own personal stories. The vulnerability we create by sharing and owning our stories (when we feel safe and comfortable enough to do so) holds so much power. That vulnerability opens up opportunities to learn alongside each other, but also to open minds, change opinions, and empower others. It gives us permission to feel, to dig into the deepest depths of ourselves, to question, grieve, play, laugh, empathize, and to explore. And in many cases, reveals to us the true beauty and complexity of what is within our reach in in every day life. With a single collection of words, our stories (and we ourselves) have the ability to fulfill one of our most basic human needs: the need to feel like we belong, and to know that we are not alone.
So here is your friendly reminder: You are not alone.
Regardless of where you are in your parenting/life journey, you are not alone. We’re in your corner. There comes a point in every journey where we need to lean on the wisdom of others, and if you’re there right now (and also if you’re not!), that’s totally okay. As doulas, we have our own stories, but we have also witnessed the many successes and struggles of other families too. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that parenting can be hard, and sometimes we all need a little extra TLC. That’s where we come in. Of course we love getting to meet your beautiful baby, but we’re also here to check on YOU. To help you get your needs met while you look after your little one. We know that if parents are nurtured and cared for, their babies will be too. We are professionally trained to support parents without judgement and in ways that make sense for their unique relationships with their babies. We don’t have an agenda for how we think you “should” parent because we know that parenting is already hard enough. We don’t expect you to be perfect or to know everything. We don’t judge, and we know that sometimes you’ll want to think of something other than parenting. Above all else, we embrace and honor whatever decisions you have made for you and your family. Instead of giving you directions, we walk with you. We’re just here to listen and to help.
It’s almost here, folks! Valentine’s Day: the hallmark holiday filled with cutout hearts, chocolates galore, witty candy hearts, and sexy underthings. A lot of people have a very specific idea of what Valentine’s Day “should” look like since it’s the stereotypical holiday of couples. But it’s no secret that becoming a parent changes everything. From relationships to your daily routine, fatigue level, hobbies (or sometimes lack thereof), alone time, sleep cycle, diet, finances, and all things in between. You just created a whole human being, and it’s hard work! Who has time to stop at Victoria’s Secret when your life is currently consumed by a crying baby, a mountain of dirty diapers, an endless sea of baby clutter, and a little one that feeds around the clock?
For all of you new parents out there looking to cherish or rekindle the romance while also keeping up with the new routine you have finally fallen into, have no fear!
These are our tips and tricks for having a stellar Valentine’s Day as a new parent:
Keep it Simple If You Need To.
Take the pressure off. If all you want to do for Valentine’s day is take a nap, THAT IS TOTALLY OKAY.
Whether you have a partner or not, give yourself the gift of self love this Valentine’s Day. You matter and you are important!! Take moments throughout the day to appreciate YOU and how far you’ve come. Not only did you make a tiny human, but you’ve also managed to take care of that tiny human! Congratulations!! Self love and self-appreciation often falls to the way-side for a lot of parents. So this Valentine’s Day, be intentional about acknowledging your needs, making peace with them, and reaching out to your support system to make sure those needs get met. No shame or guilt whatsoever. Self love is all about working towards a healthier you. You deserve to be healthy. Even just honing on one particular aspect of your life that you’ve been neglecting can do wonders for creating a sense of calm and self-appreciation.
Reinvent Romantic Dates.
It’s time to nix the notion that something only counts as “romantic” if it’s a giant gesture with dramatic swelling music, hundreds of roses, shouting from the rooftops, and a fancy restaurant dinner. Especially now that there’s a new baby around, it’s time to mix things up! Romance can absolutely still exist (and be within your budget!) as a new parent. Even amidst the dirty diapers and spit-up. It might just look a little different! A few ideas to try out:
A chill movie night with your partner. Even if you only have time for an episode of your favorite TV show, that little bit of quality time with your partner can go a long way. And if you don’t have a significant other, a movie night with friends is just as effective for getting the good feelings flowing 🙂
DIY restaurant date. This is a great one if you love the idea of a dinner date but don’t have the resources for a babysitter (or just aren’t ready to take that step yet!). Clean your eating space to set your mind at ease, light a bunch of candles strategically around the room to set the mood, and order some Take-Out to minimize preparation and clean-up. You now have your very own homemade restaurant date.
A nap date. Not only will you both be catching up on the Z’s that you need and deserve, but you really can’t go wrong with some good old fashioned big spoon-little spoon cuddle time 🙂
A nice cup of something. Whether you’re a tea drinker, coffee drinker, or neither (grab a cup of orange juice!), the time it takes to savor a beverage is plenty of time to just be in each others’ presence and appreciate one another.
It’s the Little Things.
Normalizing everyday romance is so important, and it can really be a godsend when it comes to bringing back some of those ooey-gooey coupley feelings. Small expressions of appreciation can sometimes mean even more than enormous gestures because they show special attention to your partner’s likes, dislikes, daily routines, and what puts them at ease. For example: cleaning the bedroom, doing a load of laundry, bringing your person tea in bed in the morning (or any other beverage/food they enjoy), a massage, or little valentine’s notes all over the house. All of these things let your partner know that you’re thinking about them, care about them, and are cherishing them through every day actions. Especially if your significant other is stressed and you have the ability to take care of something on their To-Do list. That’s one less thing they have to worry about and they’ll likely feel super grateful.
If you and your Honey are gift-givers, this section is for you! Keep in mind that not all gifts have to be material items, and they certainly don’t have to be expensive.
The gift of time. A lot of hobbies and small (but important) forms of self-care often fall through the cracks when caring for a newborn. An amazing gift you can give your partner is the uninterrupted time to do something they love while you watch the baby for an hour or two.
The gift of sleep. The same goes for this gift! Your partner will be eternally grateful when you surprise them with the chance to take a nap or sleep in without having to worry about a diaper change.
The gift of relaxation. Few things can beat a massage or a relaxing homemade herb bath.
A family photo. The early days of raising a baby often fly by faster than we expect. A family photo or photo album of the memories you’ve made with your little one is the perfect way to preserve those beautiful moments.
Sexy Time? Who knows.
If sex is just not on your radar right now (especially if you’re still recovering from a physically and/or emotionally traumatic birth) that is TOTALLY okay. Expressing love and affection in ways that you feel comfortable is all that matters!
But if you ARE feeling in the mood for a little sexy time (solo or otherwise), open up a conversation with your partner ahead of time so you can set time aside to get that need met. And honestly, if you’re in the mood, why wait until Valentine’s Day? You’ve been exhausted, stressed, and working hard to raise a beautiful new human since the second they were born into the world. Sexual needs are needs too, and you don’t need a Special Occasion as an excuse to get that Big-O. At the same time, it’s super common for parents to feel self-conscious about sex after having just launched a baby out of their bodies. A lot of new parents struggle to feel sexy when their attire consists mainly of nursing bras, maternity wear, and whatever bodily fluids their baby chooses to eject on them at the time. Plus, the “bounce back” culture of postpartum body standards has brought so much unnecessary anxiety to the lives of new parents. But we’re here to remind you that those expectations are pure garbage. Your body is perfect, sexy, beautiful, and powerful in all of its postpartum glory. It might take some time to get used to your body again (now that you’re its sole occupant), but please don’t let that stop you! Sex and intimacy of all forms can be wonderful for nurturing that spark with your partner and rediscovering what feels good for YOU. Not only will your stress fade away for that period of time in the bedroom, but it’ll also remindyou both that you’re individual humans outside of being diaper-changers. So if your partner is game, go get ’em Mama 😉
Love on Each Other.
If your schedules are conspiring against you and there is absolutely no time for anything other than your normal routine this Valentine’s Day, you can still make the day special by loving on each other. Even if you’re just ships passing in the night. Whether your texting your boo how cute they looked this morning or complimenting them on how they handled the baby’s 2AM meltdown. Never underestimate the power of words, gratitude, and affirmation.
And when all else fails, you can’t go wrong with some classic hugs and kisses 🙂 XOXOXO
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.
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! 🙂
We dedicate this week’s blog post to all of the weird, mind-blowing, and just plain awesome biology fun facts about pregnancy. Just the fact that the human body is able to create life is pretty awesome in itself – but it doesn’t stop there! So make “womb” for some super cool pregnancy biology facts (ba dum bum tssss) 😉
1. Ever hear the old wive’s tale that pregnancy heartburn means your baby will have a full head of hair? Well it’s NOT just a myth!
Don’t believe us? Check out the science 🙂 There’s a lot of folklore surrounding pregnancy, but this myth actually happens to be true! Throughout pregnancy your body experiences much higher levels of estrogen than usual because it is produced and released by the placenta. These estrogen levels can vary from parent to parent. Among many things, estrogen stimulates hair growth. So parents producing larger amounts of estrogen will generally have a baby with more hair. In order to prepare for labor, estrogen also helps loosen and relax the body, which happens to include the sphincter that connects your stomach and esophagus. A looser sphincter means more heartburn! So it’s not necessarily that the baby’s full head of hair is causing heartburn, it’s that the higher levels of estrogen are causing both of them independently of each other.
2. Babies can cry in the womb
Pretty wild, huh? This was discovered accidentally in a research study initially looking at the effects of tobacco and cocaine use on pregnancy. When the researchers played a loud and jarring sound against each mom’s belly while observing their baby through an ultrasound, a large number of the babies startled and opened their mouths as if to cry. This led the researchers to believe that the physical instinct of crying may be a behavior that develops in the womb, while the actual sounds of crying arrive after the baby is born.
3. Pregnancy can reduce symptoms of IBS!
Two of the defining characteristics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are: high amounts of inflammation in the gut, and abnormal populations of bacteria in the digestive tract. In general, inflammation is a handy defense mechanism that your body uses as a second-line of defense (only second to physical/chemical barriers like your skin, mucus membranes, the acidity of your stomach etc…). It’s your body’s version of “Battle Mode” against invaders and making the mad-dash to heal tissue damage. With IBS, the body increases inflammation to try to repair the irritable tissue and destroy bacteria/viruses trying to leak from the intestines. As a result of this, a lot of the healthy bacteria needed for digestion are killed and unhealthier balances of bacteria are left to grow. Along with the added inflammation, this causes the diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and mucus in the stool that are common in IBS. During pregnancy, your immune function decreases enormously. This is why pregnant parents are more likely to catch colds, the flu, and other nasty illnesses! This sounds scary, but it’s actually a really clever mechanism the human body has developed to prevent your immune system from seeing your baby as an “invader”. Your baby does have different DNA after all! Decreased immune responses mean less inflammation, and as a result, fewer of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS! Especially since the healthy bacteria are left to grow and be happy. Pretty cool, right? If your inner immunologist and microbiologists are geeking out, take a look at the study that discovered this!
4. If you’re taller than 5’5 you’re more likely to have twins
In particular, fraternal twins! And because of this, countries with taller populations tend to also have larger rates of twins. This is all thanks to a protein called IGF (aka Insuline-like Growth Factor). When the body is ready to grow, such as during puberty, the liver releases the protein IGF to help elongate bones. Shorter people have been found to have lower levels of IGF while taller people have higher levels. IGF also makes the ovaries more responsive to the hormone that triggers ovulation (Folicle-Stimulating Hormone). As a result, with more IGF and more stimulation of the ovaries, taller people are also more likely to release more than one egg at once!
5. The placenta is the only organ in the human body that’s not intended to be lifelong
The placenta is a well-known part of pregnancy, but many people forget that it’s actually an organ! It’s not just a layer of tissue between the baby and parent. It’s considered an endocrine organ because it releases its own hormones and consists of multiple types of tissue. So essentially, humans grow an entirely new organ solely for pregnancy, which is pretty cool! What’s more, the placenta is the only Temporary Organ that exists in the human body. Every other organ is supposed to last for the duration of our lifetime.
6. Subsequent pregnancies are easier on the immune system than the first pregnancy
For this cool fun fact we have to dip our toes in a bit of immunology. The immune system has two different branches: the Innate Immune System (general), and the Adaptive Immune System (specific). The innate immune system is the first-line of defense against outside pathogens that aims to clear away invaders and repair damaged tissue as quickly as possible (e.g. physical and chemical barriers such as skin, mucus membranes, inflammation, etc…). The adaptive immune system is much more advanced. It sends out a specialized team of immune cells that are tailored to each specific threat. Once the threat is cleared, the adaptive immune system holds on to cells that remember how to destroy that pathogen so it can be destroyed more efficiently next time. In order to do this, immune cells need to be able to differentiate between “self” and “non-self” cells. This becomes a bit more complicated during pregnancy, since the baby’s DNA is technically “half self” and “half not-self”! Key players in navigating this dichotomy are regulatory T cells, which are part of the adaptive immune system. Regulatory T cells prevent the body from overreacting by scaling back an attack when it’s no longer needed (e.g at the end of a cold), and intercept if misguided cells try to attack “self” tissues. During pregnancy, cells from the baby travel all around the parent’s body and frequently come into contact with regulatory T cells. These regulatory T cells tell the rest of the immune system not to attack the baby’s cells and tissues. Even after pregnancy some of these memory-holding regulatory T cells will be stored in the body, so that during the next pregnancy the body will be able to suppress its immune response more quickly and efficiently. With the suppression of immune responses becoming more effective and and less defensive against the baby with each pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies often have fewer negative complications/symptoms. For more info check out this awesome article!
7. A baby’s stem cells are stored in their parents’ body for the rest of their lives
And what’s even cooler, those stem cells can even travel around the body to help heal damaged organs and tissues! So regardless of how many pregnancies you have, and no matter how long those pregnancies lasted, each baby’s cells are stored in your body for the rest of your life.
8. The populations of bacteria in the digestive tract change drastically throughout each trimester
The human microbiome is awesome. For anyone new to Microbiology, a microbiome is a community of microscopic organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc..) that inhabit a given location, and in this case, different parts of the human body. A healthy microbiome is a delicate balance where each species of bacteria exists in just the right amount so that the community can coexist while not being harmful to their host human. Unless the microbiome is altered in some way (such as through antibiotics, certain illnesses, or extreme stress), the gut microbiome pretty much stays consistent throughout adulthood. The balance of bacterial species also tends to be similar for anyone in a given society/culture. During pregnancy, the body goes through a series of changes caused by the increase and decrease of different hormones and neurotransmitters. All of these hormones, neurotransmitters, immune factors, and the biological functions triggered by these molecules have enormous effects on the delicate balance of bacteria living in the digestive tract. While an increase in pregnancy hormones may provide an ideal living environment for some bacteria, it creates a hostile living environment for others and causes them to die out. This leaves room for other bacteria to grow in their place, and as a result changes the balance. The cool thing is, the pregnancy hormones select for bacteria that promote fat gain and decrease sensitivity to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels. This particular microbiome, which would put non-pregnant parents at high risk for cardiovascular disease, is actually super healthy for pregnant people because it helps facilitate the growth of a baby and the production of breast/chest milk. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the microbiome changes again to favor bacteria associated with increased inflammation. This is most likely to maximize the amount of nutrients going to the baby in this last stretch of pregnancy. What’s even COOLER, is that researchers took samples of pregnancy microbiomes and put them in the intestines of non-pregnant mice. The mice then started showing increased fat gain, increase inflammation, and decreased insulin sensitivity even without the hormones associated with pregnancy. This suggests that the microbiome itself plays an enormous role in driving the biological functions of the body!
9. The foods you eat frequently during pregnancy are more likely to be your baby’s favorite as they get older
Although the placenta acts as a barrier, it’s not a perfect barrier. Flavors of food can cross through the placenta and into the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby! As a result, your baby swallows these flavors and starts developing their taste palate before they’re even born. Research has found that exposure to these flavors during the prenatal period have a profound effect on a baby’s taste preferences as they make the switch to solid food! This also might explain why people from different cultures can have such different flavor preferences!
10. Your heart grows bigger during pregnancy
And we don’t just mean metaphorically upon seeing your beautiful little one. In order to transport enough oxygen to both you and your baby, your blood volume increases by 30-50% during pregnancy! To accommodate this, your heart actually grows larger.This is why pregnant parents also tend to have higher heart rates than parents who are not pregnant.
11. Increased levels of the hormone relaxin makes your muscles and tendons more flexible/limber
This is in preparation for labor so that your pelvis, joints, and soft tissues (such as the cervix) can stretch more easily to accommodate the growth and birth of a baby. This is also why some parents go up an entire shoe size during pregnancy! By loosening the ligaments and tendons in your feet, relaxin allows the bones and muscles to expand and flatten out more. So your feet aren’t technically “growing” a whole shoe size they’re just stretched out due to the decrease in tension in your tissues. Swelling and fluid retention also contributes to this. As handy as relaxin is, it’s also one of many reasons that we recommend avoiding high impact exerciseduring pregnancy because it increases the likelihood of broken bones. But as long as you’re listening to your doctor and not wrestling or playing football during pregnancy, you should be fine!
12. The bumps on your areolas help your baby initiate breastfeeding/chestfeeding
If you’ve ever looked closely at your chest or breasts, you’ll notice that your areolas have little bumps. Some people have more bumps concentrated around the edges, and some people have more bumps towards the area around the nipple. These bumps are called Montgomery’s Tubercles. If you lay your baby on your chest shortly after birth and leave them to their own devices, you’ll notice their heads will start to bob back and forth as they slowly bob and squirm towards the nipple.This is because Montgomery’s Tubercles release the same scent as amniotic fluid. Your baby, smelling the familiar scent of amniotic fluid that they associate with comfort and safety, bobs back and forth towards the scent. Ultimately, this draws them to the nipple even when they can’t open their eyes and helps start the initiation of breast/chestfeeding!
13. After birth, your temperature regulates to match what your baby needs
Of course you’ll be sweating up a storm after pushing your baby out. But for most parents, their core body temperature will actually increase for just those few hours after birth to help warm up the baby. This is one of many reasons that skin-to-skin is so important! Those little guys are tiny and need all the warmth they can get! Skin-to-skin has been proven to be way more effective at regulating an infant’s body temperature than an incubator.
14. Digestion slows down during pregnancy
This is all due to the hormone progesterone. Progesterone, which is at much higher levels during pregnancy, slows down digestion to help the intestines absorb more nutrients for both the parent and their baby. Unfortunately, this slower digestion is also why constipation is so common during pregnancy. Progesterone is also the culprit when it comes to causing the excessive daytime sleepiness that many parents experience during pregnancy.
If any of these facts have tickled your interest, feel free to send us a message! We’re always happy to geek out with fellow birth-nerds and biology-nerds 🙂 If there’s one thing we can attest to as doulas, it’s that: