Whoa! What a year 2015 has been for me. It brought me into some amazing people’s lives allowing me to complete 12 Doula Births – 7 girls 5 boys, 6 Birth Stories, 10 Fresh48/Newborn Sessions, and 56 Placentas!!
I’m a solo doula/business owner, and I’d say this was my 2 year, make or break mark with my doula and doula related services. What does that mean? On average, most doulas do not continue past 2 years. Either it wasn’t what they expected, realize they pay does not compare to the workload, or they find they do not have the time to commit with personal family life.
The start of 2015 was the end of my certification phase and the beginning of what I feel my “real” work began. I was no longer a trying to accomplish that initial goal of becoming certified, I was certified. This was it, I was the expert.
I grew exponentially as a doula, a business, and now venturing into being a mentor, not something I had ever envisioned doing. Not only did I complete my DONA, International certification, but I also obtained my APPA certification for placenta encapsulation.
Photography made a comeback appearance this year as well, the thing that started this whole mess 6 years ago ;), and I’ve fallen right back in love with it. When I am behind the camera, I see my environment in a completely different manner. I instantly become a documentarian and remove myself from the storyline. While I keep the same on-call schedule as I do with my birth clients, it is a completely different experience for me.
I’ve had the opportunity to make many new professional connections this year in my local birth community, as well as worldwide. I am so grateful for every single one of them!
2015 also brought some pretty amazing clients, all with such different and wonderful births. First time moms and VBAC’s; planned and unexpected cesarean births; medicated and unmedicated births. I was witness to them all, and they were all beautiful.
I expanded my knowledge through several workshops and courses this year, one being a very fun and interactive SpinningBabies workshop with Tammy Ryan… we had SIX of our local OB’s attened… SIX! We had such a fantastic group of providers and birth professionals from around the state. Doulas, midwives, nurses, OB’s, chiropractors, massage therapists… it was great!
I received a scholarship to StillBirthDay.com University, and starting next week, I’ll be starting their intense 12 week program. It’s never something we think of when we start this work, but it is our reality and we must know how to be there for our clients in the best way possible.
There have been highs and lows, sleep deprivation, happiness and sadness, doubt and certainty. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was an amazing year and I hope 2016 brings me more challenges and growth!
Some things you can expect the first half of the year in 2016!
I hope you all had a fantastic 2015 as well!!
Happy New Year!!
I went into labor at church. I wasn’t even sure that I was in labor. I just felt uncomfortable. Every time I stood up or walked I had this long, stretching feeling in my uterus that made me stand still. With Dimitri, I knew when I was in labor! Ha! I hobbled down the hall to my third hour class. I was supposed to teach Young Women’s that Sunday, but someone else insisted on covering for me “just in case” (Dimitri came about two weeks early and Eleanor came three days before her due date, so she hung out a little longer than her big brother)! I sat down in class, and in the middle of the opening prayer someone from the nursery poked their head in class and said Dimitri was crying and needed me. So I waddled down the hall,stopping once or twice to brace myself for the stretching of my uterus (they did not feel like contractions at all).
I got Dimitri and took him to Priesthood where Xave was. Xave asked if I was alright and if I wanted to go home (it was 11:30a) I told him I was fine, I was just going to sit with him in his class. He took Dimitri to play and explore on the stand and I was going to go lay on couch in the foyer. I started to stand up and had to sit back down, the stretching was pretty intense and required a lot of attention on my part. After a few minutes I beckoned to Xave that I wanted to leave. I told him that I wanted to go home after all. He helped me down the hall and I called my doula, Jen. I said, “I don’t know if I’m in labor or not, but this is what’s going on…” and she said, “You’re in labor! How do you want to do this? (Meet at my house or the hospital)” we decided to meet at the hospital. Xave and I had to find Sister Albertson to pass off Dimitri. I was so worried to leave my baby. This was the first time he’d spend the night with someone else. Then the Bishop and the missionaries gave me a blessing.
We had to go home to get our bags and then we could go to the hospital. The stretching turned into noticeable contractions like when I was in labor with Dimitri. I did not try to time them since with Dimitri they were about a minute long and a minute and a half apart right away when I went into labor and these felt just as close. I couldn’t talk much and really had to focus, moan, and find my groove. I did try calling the hospital to get in contact with Dr. Dickerson, but the operator lady said they’d call him when I arrived and could prove I was really in labor. I was so aggravated!!! And worried that I’d have the baby and he’d miss it! Contractions with Dimitri started at 9:30p, we arrived at the hospital at 11:00p and he was born at 1:55a. They say your second labor is faster than your first, but I didn’t know how fast it was going to be!
Xave took the long way and traffic was terrible!!! I was so aggravated. I kept telling him to put on the flashers and honk at people!!! Haha! Didn’t they know I was having a baby?!?! GET OUT OF THE WAY!!! Xave kept telling me to put the rebozo around my eyes so I could relax, which would have been nice in theory, but it was easier to see so I could prepare my body for turns, potholes, etc. Riding in a car during contractions isn’t the funnest thing ever. Xave went in and grabbed our bags and decided to stay in the car since I was pretty focused.
We arrived to the hospital around 12:30p and Xave was like, “Where do I go?”…again, sooooo aggravated! “That’s why I brought you to an appointment and pointed things out so you’d know while I was having a baby what to do and where to go!!!” I was in the middle of a contraction when a sweet nurse brought out a wheel chair. I finished the contraction, sat down and started on another. Xave grabbed our stuff and we went in. The nurse wheeling me told the nurse behind the counter that I was in active labor and the contractions where coming back to back. The nurse behind the counter asked for my info, and even though I had preregistered, none of it was in the system. So I had to sit there and register and sign stuff until the wheeling nurse said, “Can’t her husband sign that stuff for her?” I kept asking the nurse to call Dr. Dickerson. She said they would after I registered and went through triage to confirm that I was in labor!!! (My next birth will be at home!!!)
Xave wheeled me to triage waiting and put the rebozo over my head. I was pretty mad. Everyone was going slow and the tv was blaring something obnoxious. Then Jen arrived! Hooray!!! By the way, the contractions felt I was scared I was going to have the baby right then and there in the waiting area! The triage nurse brought me back and said she’d step out while I changed. I was in a dress and sandals from church…I didn’t even have a pony tail holder, so Jen gave me one! 🙂
The nurse came back and said she’d check me whenever I wasn’t having a contraction. I told her to go ahead and check because they weren’t stopping. She checked me and said I was complete on one side and had a small lip on the other side. I asked if she called Dr. Dickerson and she said they would. She left saying she needed to find someone to help wheel me up. It seemed like forever! Who do you need?!?! My husband and doula are here–they can help you!!!
We made it to a room and I needed my gown off! I was standing next to the bed, swaying and the nurses were asking me about running an IV and were strapping a monitor around my stomach. GET AWAY FROM ME!!! Read my birth plan and leave me alone! (Haha, I sound really mean in my head when I’m in labor, apparently.)
Someone asked if it was too bright in the room (maybe Jen). I nodded yes and they turned off the lights. I kept hearing the nurses talk about Dr. Dickerson. “They can’t get ahold of him.” I was so worried! They waited too long to call! They haven’t gotten in contact with him! He’s going to miss it! I started feeling the faint need to push. The nurses asked if I was pushing and I said a little. They told me I couldn’t push standing by the side of the bed, I needed to get in the bed to push because no one was here to deliver the baby. So Xave and Jen helped me in the bed and I got on hands and knees. Some time after that Dr. Dickerson arrived!!! Yea!!!
I was using the peanut ball in hands and knees, rocking forwards and backwards trying to get comfortable. I had Xave putting pressure on my lower back and rubbing my back. Jen was giving me sips of water. I was moaning through the contractions. Jen noticed that I was moaning high pitched and suggested that I moan a little deeper. She also told me when I was tensing my shoulders, etc. Once she put her hand on my shoulder blade and it felt sooo good! Her hand was so soft and so cold! I was so hot and sweating!
Someone suggested changing positions. I wanted to try squatting, so they pulled the handle on the bed up and lowered the back half of the bed so I could squat…and then helped me transition to squatting position. It was nice to lean against the bar, but I soon caught a cramp in my right hip.
Jen suggested laying on my side, so we did that. It was nice because I actually got a little bit of rest between contractions. I was able to relax. Jen was holding my knee up and suggested using the peanut ball, which was awesome. I didn’t want to get out of this position. I was done being in labor and just wanted to lay there and relax, haha.
Dr. Dickerson spoke up and suggested leaking my water bag to help things speed up a little bit. I thought about it for a minute. I really didn’t want to. I was scared that it would make the contractions worse, and I didn’t think I’d like that very much. But then I figured, why not? This isn’t going to last forever anyway. It’ll be over soon. (That was what I kept telling myself in my head: “This will be over soon!”) So I said yes! I don’t remember the contractions getting any more intense in feeling. However, every time I had a contraction, it felt like I was peeing on myself because the water would gush out. This was neat to me because I do not recall my water breaking with Dimitri at all. Then Dr. Dickerson piped up again and suggested changing positions again. I knew we needed to, but I so desperately wanted to just stay and rest in side-lying.
They helped me into hands and knees again… and I ended up scooting to the end of the bed and let my butt hang off the edge like a frog pose (is that a real thing?). One of my main concerns pre-labor was tearing again this delivery. I had a second degree tear with Dimitri from ‘torpedo pushing’ and it took over 10-weeks to heal. So I really wanted some coaching on pacing myself while pushing. But then when I was pushing, I mentally decided that I didn’t care if I tore or not…I just wanted to be done! I enjoyed this experience because I could feel her moving down and out, I did not have the sensation with Dimitri. Someone told me that she was crowning and I was able to put my hand down and feel her little head! I wanted to with Dimitri, but I could not move my hands from holding my legs while I was on my back. I felt frozen with him. Jen got the perfect picture of this, which I just love… It looks like Dr. Dickerson is looking underneath a car or something, haha. It cracks me up every time I see it! And the nurses faces! hahaha! One nurse looks disgusted…like, ‘ewww!!!’ and the other one has this look of awe, like complete majesty at birth and life, etc.
SO I PUSHED HARD AND LONG WITH EACH CONTRACTION AND at 2:28p ELEANOR CAME!
Everyone helped me flip over and they put Eleanor on my stomach. Hooray! The hard part was over! I was so happy to have my baby girl! I did have more warm feelings towards her than I had towards Dimitri. When Dimitri was born I thought I would be instantly in love with him because that’s what everyone always says. But that was NOT my experience. He was yucky and I was tired and hungry. I loved him, theoretically as my baby, but I was not ‘in love’ with him. That took some time. But with Eleanor, I was happy that she was there. I wanted to hug her and talk to her and nurse her. It did take mental effort to remind myself to talk to her and praise her for her hard work and job well done in the delivery. She had a beautiful little swirl of hair from a circular cowlick right in the middle of her forehead. I was shaking and my teeth were chattering, I guess from all of the adrenaline. I was so hot and sweaty during delivery, then I was freezing to death afterwards! Everyone wrapped us in wonderful, warm blankets. Mmmm.
The placenta birthed and Dr. Dickerson sewed me up, I had another second degree tear… but he must have done a great job stitching me up and I think my placenta pills helped because I healed in about 3-weeks! I was so hungry, too, and Jen pulled out her handy dandy doula bag and gave me a granola bar. Mmmm. Doulas are awesome. Get you one! 😉 Eleanor did not want to nurse right away, and I was eager to bathe in the bathtub because I knew there would only be a shower in my recovery room. So one of the nurses helped me to the bathroom for a nice hot bath, and Xave held Eleanor while the other nurse(s) weighed her, etc. Then Jen took a few pictures (which are perfect and priceless! I wish I had known and hired her for Dimitri’s birth). After my bath I came out and Eleanor was hungry and ready to nurse. So we got to snuggle and nurse. It was sweet and amazing. I felt more confidence this second time around. It was nice to kinda know what to expect. And I’m happy that we hired a doula! Jen texted me and checked up on my very consistently, and I think that’s what meant the most to me–that I had someone who cared about how I was doing and feeling, etc.
P.S. Placenta pills are AMAZING!!! I will always get them from now on!
The only thing I would have changed about the experience: – I wasn’t crazy about riding in the car. – The bureaucracy of the hospital and checking-in, dealing with nurses, etc…I loved Xave, Jen, and Dr. Dickerson. I’m sure my nurses were sweet and wonderful, but next time will be a home birth. – I wish I had gotten a picture with my delivery crew and a picture of me, Xave, and Eleanor.
Sondra contacted me on January 1st and we set up to meet a couple days later. I still remember meeting Sondra and Xavier at one of our local CC’s Coffee House. Their son Dimitri was with them and was the typical one year old, completely uninterested in what we were talking about 😉 . We went over her previous birth, what she wanted from this birth, and minor complications unrelated to the pregnancy that she was experiencing. She assured me it wouldn’t affect labor and birth, but I couldn’t wait to get home and Google (Hi, my name is Jennifer and I’m a chronic Googler). Later that night she and Xavier had hired me as their doula (yay!).
We started our prenatals in February and I really enjoyed our time together, especially with Dimitri being my little helper. Sondras first came two weeks early and fast into the world. As Sondra approached that 2 week early mark and she didn’t have signs of labor, I started to become nervous, but I didn’t share that with her. On Tuesday, April 7th, Sondra texted me to let me know that she was nearly 5cm dilated at her regular appt that day. She’d get a little bit of action at night, but during the day they’d fizzle out. This can be pretty normal towards the end of pregnancy.
On Sunday, April 12th, I got a call from Sondra. She thought she was in labor but just wasn’t sure. I had to hold back a giggle because she was most definitely in labor. She had a few contractions during our short that she had to focus on and was in complete denial <— all my clients tells (along with giving a big middle finger to the world). I asked her what she wanted to do and what she wanted me to do. She said they were going to leave church and wanted me to meet them at the hospital. I had been telling my husband for weeks that when she went into labor, she wasn’t going to be a client that I could take time and have some notice. I would have to leave immediately. Sure enough, that’s what happened. The kicker was I had a consult later that evening! Do I call and cancel or see what happens? I didn’t have time to decide, I just left.
I got a text at 12:13p that contractions were coming stronger and more regular. They had just gotten to the house and they were “heading straight to the hospital”. I let her know I was on my way. It’s about a 35 minute drive on a good day, so I was praying for no traffic. When I arrived, Sondra and Xavier were just getting wheeled back to their room, so I just followed along. They wanted to make sure she was in labor before admitting, but it was clear a baby was coming.
When we got up to Sondras room the nurses were still trying to get a hold of her doctor, Dr. Dickerson (amazing local OB, opened the Birth Center of Baton Rouge and attends nearly all his patients deliveries). I think they knew it at the time, but didn’t want to worry Sondra. His wife had a flat tire and he was trying to fix it before coming in, but he made it! While I had heard wonderful things about Dr. Dickerson, I hadn’t worked with him before. I think I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a few times from how hands off and observant he was with her birth. He was patient and I don’t recall him touching Sondra until it was time to actually catch baby.
Back to Sondra. She was laboring beautifully and quietly, but she did not hesitate to let anyone know what she did or did not want. I loved that! Her labor was progressing quickly and while I’d usually suggest position changes to clients, I wanted her to get rest and enjoy the experience. I did recommend a positional change when she was experiencing some discomfort in her hip (that little girl needed to get out of her mama’s side). Baby’s trip earthside was so quiet and calm into the world. At 2:28p on April 12th, 2015, little Eleanor Zamora came into the world weighing 8lb 9oz, 20″ long with a full head of beautiful hair.
I am so grateful to have been hired as their doula and witness such a beautiful birth. Thank you!
Oh, and I made it to the consult too 😉
The birth mom has, the birth dad is a part of, and the birth I witness will always be a different story. Before any stories are shared from my perspective as their doula, the client and I have discussed their birth and are requested by the client when they are ready. Clients always share their story first before I share from my experience. It is important to not alter a woman’s perspective of her birth. All clients see their blog post for approval prior to public posting.
So you know you are wanting to hire a professional photographer, but which session do you choose?! I’m here to break down the different types for you.
Birth photography sessions are a one shot deal, no do-overs. As a birth photographer, I stay on-call for you just as a doula or midwife would. We will have one casual prenatal visit to go over exactly what shots you are wanting photographed, what images you do not want photographed, and any special moments with family or friends you’d like. We discuss your current and previously – if any – pregnancy history, to help guide when I should join you in labor or adjust my on-call times. While we always hope your birth will go exactly as you’d like, emergency situations are also discussed so that I can capture as much as possible and within your comfort limits.
Fresh48 sessions take place within 48 hours of birth during daytime hours. Many parents want professional photos of their new baby to share as soon as possible, but aren’t comfortable with a photographer present at birth and Fresh48 sessions are perfect. They are shot as a lifestyle session and capture parents bonding and feeding, and changing baby. If there are other family members present, some photos are taken with them, but the main focus is baby, lasting about an hour.
Newborn Session Photography
Newborn sessions take place typically before baby meets 14 days old in your home. Newborn sessions are posed, lifestyle, or a mix of both and will sometimes involve a few shots with parents or siblings, lasting about 2-3 hours.