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.
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! 🙂
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.
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! 🙂
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:
A special shoutout to all of you parents who are due this fall!! You’re almost there! the finish line is in sight and soon you’ll be holding your lil’ baby! Since laughter is the best medicine, this post is dedicated to the parents who might need a pregnancy-themed laugh today 🙂
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 togetherin 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!
On this lovely Thursday afternoon, we shine our Community Spotlight on the amazing Jessica English!!! If you’re looking for a birthwork super hero, you’ve pretty much found her! When she’s not running Birth Kalamazoo, she’s doing amazing work training doulas, childbirth educators, working as a doula, and advocating for parents in her community. So if you’re interested in any of these things, keep on scrolling! 🙂
Jessica English trains birth doulas for DONA International and childbirth educators for Lamaze International, traveling the country from Ann Arbor to Honolulu. She is one of just 48 advanced DONA birth doulas worldwide, and she still attends births and also cares for families as a postpartum doula. You’ll find her every Tuesday night teaching her 8-week childbirth class in Southwest Michigan, where she runs the state’s first and longest-running doula agency, Birth Kalamazoo. As a trainer, Jessica has also developed specialties in coaching doula agency owners and teaching hands-on labor support techniques to nurses. You can learn more about her trainings at heartsoulbirthpros.com or explore her agency at birthkalamazoo.com.
What brought you to support moms and babies?
Very simply, I had a great birth. After going through IVF and having this very high-tech conception with my son, I knew I wanted a low-tech birth experience. I did everything I could to stack my deck for my best chance at a great birth experience, including an independent childbirth education class, long walks every day, a midwife and a doula.
After my son was born (such a beautiful, straightforward, physiologic birth), my doula said to me at our postpartum visit: “You’ve had a birth experience not many people in our culture get to have. I want you to think about what you’re going to do to share that with other people.” I wasn’t sure where to go with that, because I had a great job in public relations at a university, and a new baby that I had no idea how to take care of. But her challenge stuck with me, especially as I connected to other new parents who were not having great births – actually, their births were often pretty traumatic.
I decided what I could do was teach, which seemed like a nice little sidelight in addition to my full-time job. I got trained and certified as a childbirth educator, and then my students started asking me to come to their births. That led me to train as a birth doula, which led me to… all the things. I’ve been doing this work for 14 years now, and I don’t miss university PR one bit. I’m so grateful I found my calling.
If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?
I’d love to bust a couple of myths!
For birth professionals (or future birth professionals), let’s bust the myth that you can’t make a full-time living as a birth professional. I have trained so many doulas and childbirth educators who are absolutely thriving in their home communities. I love watching them each find their niche and develop their own unique mix of services. This is heart work, but it absolutely can be financially rewarding too. Even for those doulas who are called to exclusively support under-resourced parents, I’ve watched them found or join nonprofits that can support them while they support families.
For parents, I’m not sure if I’d call it a myth or a misconception, but I definitely see an assumption that if you just read enough, learn enough, practice enough, and hire the right doula, you can have a positive birth with any provider or any birth place. No! At least not unless you have a whole lot of luck working for you. The provider and birth place you choose will have an immeasurable impact on your birth experience, from the messages they send you about your ability to birth, to your risk of being induced or having a cesarean. And that doesn’t even address how you’re likely to be treated during your birth. I’ve seen such a huge difference in philosophy and approach among the providers in my area. If you want to know who the most respectful, patient and natural-minded providers are in your area, ask the doulas.
OK, actually, I have one more for parents… I think especially in the Midwest, we have this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth that families don’t need professional support postpartum. I understand that we are very capable here in the heartland, but new mamas and other parents need so much TLC — and not just for a few weeks, but for several months after birth. If we can take better care of the whole family, we can increase bonding and confidence, and potentially head off postpartum mood disorders. It’s not a badge of honor to talk about how terrible it was after your baby was born; it’s a tragedy, andit doesn’t have to be that way. I’d like to see people investing at least as much in birth and postpartum doula care as they might in their wedding or a new vehicle. Your birth and your settling-in time with your baby are 1,000 times more important.
You asked me for one myth, I hope you don’t mind that I gave you three. There are just so many myths that need busting!
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
I’m in a very busy work season of my life, but I also have two amazing teenage boys and a husband that I love to spend time with. I’m a travel hockey mom times two, which is great fun (and super intense). We also love to fish or do anything on the water, whether that’s summers in Michigan or spring break on one of the out islands of the Bahamas (I call it the “rural Caribbean”). I’m part of a sweet little book club that rarely reads books together anymore but still meets often. And I love a nice glass of cabernet or rosé.
What moment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the way my doula trainings have grown over the years. That’s not an exact moment, but a series of many moments, sharing my passion and seeing new doulas light up. It was a revelation to find that I have a unique talent for training adults, and it’s such a gift to me to help other people get started in this amazing field.
Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.
Informed choice (consent or refusal) is the legal and ethical right of every person giving birth. Childbirth educators should be teaching it, doulas should be supporting it, and providers should be practicing it — every time, for every parent (especially for black women and other women of color, who are even less likely to receive respectful care than everyone else). That’s the hill I’m willing to die on.
We interrupt your daily internet adventures to bring you a video of this amazing pregnant mama kicking butt on the dance floor:
We wish we could dance like Chachi! When this video first came out, there was some controversy about whether or not it was safe for a pregnant mom to be shaking her tail feathers (flawlessly, we might add) out on the dance floor like this. Well we’re here to debunk some myths and share some fun facts about prenatal workouts and exercise!
FUN FACT #1: It is completely safe to exercise during pregnancy
Especially if you were active before you found out you were pregnant. In fact, doctors actually encourage it regardless of how active you were before pregnancy! Not only will exercising build up your endurance for labor, but it will also improve blood flow, help position your baby, and decrease the risk of birth complications. So essentially, Chachi’s got the right idea! If your body can push out a baby, it can handle a little exercise 😉
FUN FACT #2: Labor is like a marathon.
Especially if you have a long labor, fatigue from contracting and pushing for so many hours can easily become your Mount Everest during childbirth. You would never run a marathon without training, so why do it with labor? When it comes to carrying a tiny human in your uterus for 9 months, there’s a lot of stigma around prenatal exercise and it’s incredibly common to become overly cautious. Some caution is good, but there’s no reason to keep you confined to the sofa for the whole 9 months. Unless your doctor has explicitly instructed you to do so, that’s actually one of the worst things you can do! Gotta keep those muscles nimble and flexible 🙂 Pregnant parents need at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week to facilitate a healthy pregnancy, so it’s actually pretty important to keep moving and to stay active during each trimester. As far as pregnancy-friendly forms of exercise go, we highly recommend swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates, strength training, or riding a stationary bike! Whichever form of movement makes sense for you and your body 🙂
FUN FACT #3: Prenatal exercise can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and help you have a smooth labor
Whether you’re walking for 15 minutes a day or jamming it out at zumba, keeping your body in motion has been known to have amazing effects on the pregnancy/labor experience. Including the following:
Easing back pain by strengthening the muscles that are usually strained/thrown off-balance by your baby growing so quickly
Relieving any swelling in the limbsby ramping up the movement/ use of fluids throughout your body
Easing constipation by increasing blood flow around the body which causes the intestinal muscles to contract and push more waste through
Sleeping better(because who isn’t tired after a good workout? 😉 )
Increasing strength for laborwhich will allow you to explore more birth positions and improve your comfort while you’re birthing your baby
Shortened laborby equiping your body with extra flexibility, strength, and endurance for the more taxing parts of labor
Developing breathing/mindfulness techniques for labor
Decreasing the likelihood of an emergency C-section
AN IMPORTANT REMINDER: Listen to your body!!
Your body will tell you very clearly when it’s time to take a break or call it quits for the day. If you’re someone who is already very active and athletic, your normal workout routine should be fine for the majority of your pregnancy as long as you’re not over-exerting yourself or doing risky activities. If you haven’t exercised for a while, try building up to it by doing 10-15 minutes of exercise per day. When we say “stay active during pregnancy” we don’t mean that you need to build a 6-pack over your baby bump (if that’s even possible – what a strange image). All you need to do is get moving enough to work up a sweat and get those muscles moving! You should absolutely not be in pain, feel shaky, or have any incontinence due to exertion while you’re exercising. If you feel any pressure in your lower pelvis, or are experiencing incontinence when you move/exercise, please contact your doctor!
FUN FACT #4: As long as your doctor has not said otherwise, exercise does NOT increase the likelihood of miscarriage or premature labor
Staying active actually DECREASES the likelihood of developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes, which are two of the big causes of pregnancy complications and premature labor. We definitely want you to avoid activities that put you and your baby at risk though, so unfortunately it’s time to put the skiing, horseback riding, basketball playing, scuba diving, heavy lifting, hot yoga, gymnastics, and other high-impact sports away for the next 9 months (so sorry for all of you dare devils and adrenaline junkies out there). But as long as you’re in the clear with your doctor, you are good to indulge in the safer forms of exercise!
There are, however, a few scenarios in which exercise is NOT safe during pregnancy.
This includes if you are currently or have previously experienced: certain cervical conditons, certain heart or lung conditions, anemia, gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, placenta previa after 26 weeks, bleeding during the 2nd or 3rd trimester, if your water has broken, or if you are having multiple births.
But as long as you’ve gotten the OK from your doctor,