Tori’s Stories: A Doula-mentary

If Only I'd Had a Doula When My Midwife Disappeared

Depositphotos_41072957_s_2015.jpgThe morning my midwife disappeared was a warm Monday in September. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child, and I was preparing to go out to meet some other local moms. New to the area, I was half dressed as I picked up the phone to make an appointment, just like she had told me to do at our last prenatal.  “My schedule isn’t set up at the new location,” she’d told me on Thursday, “so just call next week and they’ll get you taken care of.”

Having been here less than three months, I knew no one. Feeling giantic and vulnerable, the way being 8 months pregnant can make you feel, I felt like my midwife was one of the few people who knew my name and I could count on smiling when I met her.  I called the new office.  “I’m sorry, that midwife doesn’t work here.  I believe she still works at that other location.”  Um, ok.  So I called the old place.  “I’m sorry, that midwife no longer works here.”

No one would tell me what had happened to her or who would be around to see me for the next four weeks.  For all my crazy, pregnant-lady brain knew, she could have been in some horrible accident, and I would never know.  I felt so ALONE and a little angry.  I had spent months forging a relationship with her. I mean, she had had her hands in my nether regions!!  That should *mean* something, right?! And then *poof* she was gone. If only I’d had a doula the day my midwife disappeared.

If I had a doula the day my midwife disappeared..

...she would have held my hand and probably brought me some Ben and Jerry’s.  (I mean, if there was ever a time for some Phish Food, 8 months pregnant for the first time with no midwife in a new city is it!) She would have reassured me that it’s not uncommon to get attached to our providers, especially the midwives who spend so much time with us, who make it their mission to help us trust our own bodies, and that I’m not crazy for feeling alone, or angry or uncomfortable.  It’s all normal and it’s all ok.

My doula would have reminded me that I was not actually without a care provider.  That in the state of Virginia, Certified Nurse Midwives work with OBs who officially oversee their patients.  That it was one of the things I liked about having a nurse-midwife, and that her boss was still my OB, and that I could go see that doctor for the remainder of my pregnancy if I wanted.  That while it was certainly understandable that I felt alone, my baby and I were still in good hands.

If I had the time, she would tell me to be patient. As she held my hand, she would explain that there is a good possibility that my midwife was very likely not “gone” but merely waiting out a contract before starting at another local place like so many providers do here in the 'Burg.  But since I didn’t have the time to wait it out, she would have asked what I wanted to do next, that no matter what I decided, I would have her support, and she would be with me through the birth of my baby.

If I’d have said, “Find another provider” she would have pointed me in the direction of someone whose care and practice aligned with my own thoughts and feelings about birth.  She would have helped me find a good fit, and she would have checked in on me until I was comfortable with the new person.

I would have been able to trust that her hard work in building bridges and strengthening connections in the medical community would lead to the most up-to-date information available. Her familiarity with the players involved and with my own communication style would have helped me read between the lines of what was going on, and help me and my husband feel like we weren’t all alone in this ordeal.

But I didn’t have a doula, and I ended up feeling very alone.  Very fragile, and a little abandoned.  I basically spent the next week crying, frantically searching for a midwife who would be covered by my insurance and who would give me the same attention as the One Who Got Away.  I could blame the pregnancy hormones, but I was pretty rightfully feeling shaken.

It turned out ok.  In the end, I found someone who could help me, and I safely and happily delivered my first baby exactly where I wanted to, how I wanted to.  But if I’d had a doula, the whole process would have been much more comfortable, supported and informed.  Because that’s what a doula does.

If you are feeling a little bit alone after the midwives at Sentera-Pratt have stopped seeing patients this week, please check my business blog for the latest updates, and feel free to give us a call.  We know from personal and professional experience how important it is to feel secure in the care you’ve chosen for your pregnancy and birth, and we are happy to help you navigate this small bump in the road to your growing family!

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How to Make the Best Holiday Memories!


One of my mother's favorite memories of Christmas was when she and my dad took me to my first Christmas Tree Lighting just short of my 2nd birthday.  It was my first time seeing something so spectacular, and she says that looking at the lights and the beauty through the eyes of someone seeing it first time made her really realize what this whole parenting gig was all about.

But do you know what I remember from that first tree lighting?  Nothing.  Nada.  My favorite "joy sparkers" for the holidays were things like the Noel train candle holders I'm sure were a "white elephant gift" and the stupid 10" porcelain geese dressed in red and green sweaters that we would set out every Christmas on top of the built in bookshelves.  The way our first (and longest running) pet would climb onto the dining room table to sleep in the middle of the pinecone and red-ribbon wreath as she herself were the centerpiece of the Christmas table.

My first Christmas as a mom, I was so tired from recreating my favorite Christmas memories that I fell asleep trying to put a coat on my oldest who was at that point, 6 weeks old, as we attempted our own local tree lighting.  In subsequent years (when we actually made it out the front door) they complained about being too cold, too hungry, the line to see Santa was too long.  Not because our kids aren't amazing, but because THEY'RE KIDS.  They're tiny humans with their own feelings, agendas and memories, and they don't care that I'M TRYING TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES FOR THEM, DAMMIT.


The best holiday memories and traditions aren't the ones you plan.  They're spontaneous.  They're often a bit ridiculous. They're about the people you are with and often what you are giving, not really what you are doing.  They are the unplanned rituals, the things that can't be planned or scheduled.  My favorites? Running amok during our Christmas Eve open house each year. Playing with the player piano at the tree farm where we bought our Christmas tree while my parents shopped for ornaments upstairs.  The way the flour felt on my hands as I kneaded the dough with Grandma to make her special pecan rolls.  Squinting across the room to see if the lights on the tree had been disbursed evenly (try it, it works!), and laughing about how it made my dad look like my grandpa when he did it. These are the things I remember most vividly about the holidays. 

You know what doesn't determine my nostalgia for Christmas Time?  Details.  We had just as much fun, life was just as special whether we used fine china or paper plates for the family meals, and no matter if it was just us or the whole extended family.  What we had for dinner on Christmas Eve didn't matter as much as if there were cookies to be eaten all Christmas day.  What color the wrapping paper was or which kind of cookie we made were the details I'm sure seemed important then but don't make up the memories or traditions now.

As I head into my 7th Christmas as a parent, I aim to remember that I don't get to determine what my kids remember or the traditions they hold as important.  We won't be able to do all of the things, and they surely won't be done perfectly, according to my own childhood memories, which have conveniently erased any of the hard work and chaos that often leads up to the Magical Moments.

My new strategy: I try to soak in the quick memories for myself.  How our oldest lights up as he practices for his big line in the Kindergarten Christmas Play.  How our middle child loves to take time wrapping presents for others. And how our youngest will take off every ornament he get his hands on, and put them UNDER the tree, like little gifts for us to find later.  These are the things will turn into their traditions, without my guidance or planning or effort.

So whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or Festivus, as you head into the holiday season I urge you to *watch* as traditions are established, rather than expect to continue or even establish them anew.  The beautiful memories happen without us trying, anyway. Do the things that only bring and spread joy, let the obligation and demand of past traditions go, and you too will create memories of your own, as your babies (of all ages!) discover the beauty of this season and their own important traditions.


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When Pregnancy Ends Without A Baby In Your Arms

October is, among many other things, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

This one is a hard one, guys, because no one wants to think or talk about the tragedies.  It’s very easy to extrapolate what has happened to others into what is happening with you.  If you are suffering from a loss of a baby, I know you don’t need a special day/week/month to remember.  You remember Every. Damn. Day.  But often this month can be healing, to those who have not acknowledged it aloud, or to those who have not shared their story yet.  It can also be a beautiful reminder to actually pause and mindfully remember what has happened in our lives, and in the lives of 25% of the women around us. So let's talk about the hard stuff, because light is essential in cleaning out the dark.


Things I’ve learned about Perinatal Loss From Personal and Work Experience

A loss is still a loss. 
6 weeks or 6 months or 6 years, a mother often already has hopes and dreams and excitement wrapped up in that child, and grief is, in the end, mourning the loss of “what should have been”.

There is nothing much that can be done for a pregnancy until the baby becomes viable. 
That is to say that if your body shows signs of a miscarriage before 15-18 weeks *at the earliest* then there isn’t much that can be done to stop it.

This is something your care provider will deal with on a daily basis.
Some of the most amazing medical care providers I know are very analytical thinkers.  To them, there is a REASON you don’t do your pregnancy confirmation appointments until 8-12 weeks in to a pregnancy.  This doesn’t mean they don’t care.  It just means they have to keep it professional sometimes, and sadly you may walk out of that appointment feeling a little unsupported.  I *promise* you, they care, even if you need to look elsewhere for the emotional support.

Allowing yourself to grieve is important.
This is not wallowing.  This is an important part of working through your loss. 

Loss is not easier when you didn’t tell anyone you were pregnant yet.
Then you’re sitting behind a crushing wall of silence because no one knew you had anything to celebrate, so they have no idea that you’ve lost anything either.  People often feel the need to act “normal” in their everyday life but they don’t feel normal.

Each loss is unique.
If someone has suffered more than one loss, they may very likely feel different, but *just as strongly* about it each time.  Be patient with yourself and those who have lost.  It doesn't get "easier" each time. 

The words “At least” are some of the least compassionate words out there. 
“At least you already have a child.”  “At least you know you can get pregnant again.”  “At least it was early, and your body is showing signs of being ready again when you are.”  “At least…”, even though well intentioned, often means, “I’ve had enough of your grief, let’s find something to be positive about.”  Compassion begins with allowing someone to exist in their grief without making them feel better.  Empathy is climbing down there with them, crying with them, and feeling the sadness with them.  And then letting *that person* decide when its time to feel better.

Partners often feel these losses differently, and neither way is better or right.
Or one partner may experience extreme feelings of loss while the other doesn’t get it.  Grief and loss are intensely personal, and should be dealt with in whatever way the person feeling it needs.  This can cause stress between partners though, if not discussed and appreciated in one another.

There are 1 in 4 women who suffer a perinatal loss. 
25%.  When you and your three best friends head out to dinner, remember that statistics show that one of you will have suffered a loss.

The numbers don’t offer any comfort. 
But knowing that I was likely surrounded by women who has suffered this as well made it tremendously helpful to feel like I could open up and share how terribly shitty I was feeling about the whole thing.

You will feel better again one day.
Better.  Not necessarily whole.  But better.  Like all kinds of loss, we make it a part of us, and we continue with other amazing advenures in life, never really leaving it behind, but moving with it until we are more fully ourselves because of it.  But that day might not be today, and that's ok.

If you know someone who has experienced a loss, please remember that the way you might deal with it is probably not the way they might.  They will need to do their own thing.  It’s helpful to check in every once in a while about it.  You’re not “reminding her” of something terrible that she has forgotten. Often just acknowledging it can help her feel like she’s not alone, she’s not crazy, and for a brief period, she *did* have a baby.

You guys, *talk about it*.  Tell people how you are doing when they ask.  Ask your friend even if you know what she might say.  And if you are ready to move through a loss, but don't feel like you can, it's good and right and just to ask for help.  There are places and people who specialize in this kind of thing.


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Loving Your Second Baby

So you survived pregnancy and birth.  Now you’ve got a two-year-old who, despite the tantrums that are normal for his age, is pretty freaking great.  Totally worth the physical and emotional toll that pregnancy and new mommyhood take on your body and identity.  He’s the bee’s knees.

So its no surprise you find yourself pregnant again!  Congrats!  Growing a family is awesome!  But between the bouts of nausea and fatigue (there’s no tired like a pregnant-woman kind of tired!) you secretly wonder if this next kid will ever be as awesome as your first.


It’s not just you.  These are concerns we hear time and again from our doula clients.  I won’t have the kind of time I had to concentrate on the first baby.  I only have two hands, how will I ever get out of the house?  My heart is so full, how could I possibly love the next one as much as I love the first one?  Allow me to share a few nuggets of doula wisdom with you…

Your love will not divide, it will expand. 

When you grow your family, your love grows too.  The space in your heart where you hold those things most precious and sacred, that is not a finite space.  Much like the love for your partner changed and grew when you had your first baby, your love will grow again; there isn’t a limitation on how much awesomeness your family can hold.  Love can only get bigger.

What does divide is the way you manifest that love.  There are never enough hours in the day.  That was true before you got pregnant and it will be true after your next bundle of joy arrives.  You might not get to sit and stare at this baby all day long as you snuggle on the couch, because now you have a toddler who has made it his mission in life to acquire and break into Mom’s Emergency Chocolate Stash on the top shelf of the pantry every time you dare to take a bathroom break.  That’s okay though.  Your new baby doesn’t know you’re not staring lovingly at her all day long. 


You are enough.

One of the things we do as Postpartum Care Doulas is to work with a growing family, to help them prioritize daily life, paying attention to the things that are the most essential to their family. To find their “new normal”.  We show you that YOU ARE ENOUGH.  No matter what you choose, no matter how much doubt creeps in, no matter how much different your love looks like this time around, you are enough.

Each love is unique.

And this baby will be enough too.  She will teach you how to forget everything you thought you knew about parenting.  The things that worked for kiddo #1 might not work for numero dos.  You might have one super-outgoing, fearless leader child, and one who wants to stay at home for ALL THE SNUGGLES.  One who potty-trains at 18 months and one who you fear might go to Kindergarten in diapers.  They will both be your favorite kids ever.  Much in the way you enjoy both a great glass of wine and a great cup of coffee; they aren’t the same, but they both make your world more complete.  You don’t have to choose, they are both amazing.  Each love is unique.

Your kids aren’t going to starve for affection, attention or love just because you feel stretched to your limits.  You will set new limits.  You will find new routines.  You will find things that used to be important aren’t as important, as your love and family grows.  You are enough.  Love Multiplies.  Each love is unique.


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Regaining Our Confidence After Pregnancy

body_building.jpgWe’ve all seen these stories of the celebs who get their bodies back in three weeks or three days or the swimmer who was training for the Olympics a mere month after giving birth. They’re not the norm. I have nothing against them, but most women have neither the full-time personal trainer nor the drive needed to stress their bodies like that while their bodies are still recovering from a birth.  The intense physical and mental exercise that hardcore training requires is not where most women are at after having kids and should not be held up as the standard.

Plus I’ve always been a fat-kid at heart.  And by fat-kid I mean the kind of person who knows she should exercise and eat well, and might even know how to, but would rather eat Ben and Jerry’s (Phish Food, am I right?!) and binge watch Orange is the New Black or Outlander.  So how does THAT girl, the regular one, how does she get her confidence back?

--First of All, She Waits-- 
One day soon enough (could be 6 weeks, could be 6 months after birth), she’ll think, “It’s Time.”  Not time to get her old body back, but time to take back the control of the one she’s got.  Until then, she bides her time, bonding with her baby and promising not to worry about her body until she has the energy she needs to make another change in her lifestyle.

--Please Be Safe--
When you are ready, and you have the time needed to make a change in your life, remember that confidence isn’t about crash-diets or insane exercise— changes that aren't sustainable in the end leave us feeling less confident because we couldn't attain our goals.  All diet and exercise changes should be undertaken after a discussion with your doctor, and CERTAINLY only after your 6-8 week checkup with your OBThe great news is that confidence isn’t about our bodies anyway.  Confidence about how we FEEL about our bodies. 

--Start with Small Food Changes--
You’ve had a lot of change in your life.  So pick something that you think you can do better for yourself every day.  But remember, it’s not about weight loss, so whether it’s fewer calories or less white flour or one less sugary drink or being intentional about packing a snack for yourself when you leave the house, make sure you’ll feel good about doing it, and that the change is sustainable.

--Be Intentional About Moving Your Body--
Don’t promise to start going to the gym if you hate it.  Find something you like to do, and do a tiny bit of it every day.  Gardening, going for a walk, playing fetch with your dog while you run from one side of the yard to the other.  Whatever you choose, energy permitting I encourage people to do a bit more than they did the day before, because we’re talking about taking control.  So if today you do one 10-second plank twice a day in your living room, then tomorrow try to do two 15-second planks.  Or three 10 second planks.  (Also, planks are great for your core, which needs a lot of help after giving birth.)  But the exercise can be anything.

--Wear Clothes That Fit You and Make You Feel Good--dressed_up_girl.jpg
Try to do this every day, but at least have two outfits that you feel great in at the size you are right now.  You can’t be confident if your clothes make you feel frumpy or tired or whatever it was that you were feeling yesterday.  So invest in an outfit or two (or three) that make you feel great, right now.

--Feed Your Soul--
I know this sounds like it doesn’t have to do with our bodies, but it does.  Do something that makes you happy that’s outside of being a mommy and a wife.  Something that feeds you.  It doesn’t have to be big—it can be tending to a small garden or baking bread.  It can be volunteering some place or it can be leaving an anonymous and kind note for someone else, or maybe a 10 minute meditation each day.  But a happy heart will find more energy and time for self-care, and it is an important part of confidence.

--Treat Yourself Well--
If you like pedicures but NEVER go get them, now is the time to do it.  A massage, a haircut, new eyeshadow… whatever makes you feel so good that after you’ve done it, you think, “Ahh…. That’s better.”  Go do THAT. And I don’t mean nap or sleep, because those are a given (even though they don’t feel like it if your baby is still waking up all night long).  I mean something that is a special treat for you in life when you’re NOT just trying to survive early parenthood.

--You Are Worth It!--
Once you realize that you are worth the effort, that you aren’t a slave to the image you have of yourself before birth, and that we don’t have to make any major, life-changing alterations to our lives to feel like our best selves, that’s when the confidence shows up.  Confidence that your body is merely a reflection of your genetics and your choices.  You can’t do anything about the genetics, so there’s no use lamenting that.  If you’re making better choices for your body, you have nothing to be upset about.  You can have the confidence that you are the best you can be right now.

That’s how I got my postpartum confidence back.  It’s what I help my postpartum clients do, and now you’re in on the secret.  Confidence and a smile, and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

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About Victoria

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Victoria is mom to three precocious preschool-aged sons, proud Army wife, and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg.  She enjoys spending time in her not-so-fruitful vegetable garden, and believes with every fiber of her being that in order to raise capable and confident kiddos, we should leave no stone unturned (and no support left untouched) to find these qualities in ourselves!

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The Table at St. George’s

The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.