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Tori’s Stories: A Doula-mentary

The Plus Side of Plus Sized Pregnancy

plus_size_pregnant.jpgCan I get personal with you all for a second?  I've always been overweight.  Call it what you want, hefty, thick, zaftig, well-fed, large-boned, but I've always felt the body mass index has always been a bit skewed, if you know what I mean.  After many years of eating my feelings (and I have a LOT of feelings) and then therapy and reflection, I've come to realize that my body is a result of my genetics and my choices, and for the most part I'm happy with both.  My body and I are no longer at war, and haven't been for a long time. 

But holy hell, did I LOVE being pregnant, because it was the first time in my life, I felt like I had an excuse to be large and in charge.   I LOVED  wearing maternity clothes for real, not because I accidentally bought a maternity shirt because some cruel twist of consumer fate put the clothes for women HIDING their big bellies and women DISPLAYING their big bellies right next to one another.  (Seriously though, what the eff' is that about?) Not that my maternity clothes were so cute (trust me, you haven't seen ugly until you've tried plus-sized maternity shopping on a budget), but I felt like I could finally FLAUNT my curves.

pregnancy_test.jpgI know, I know, I DO love my body, and I AM proud of what it can do, and how sexy I am, Phenomenally Phenomenal Woman and all that, but there was definitely a part of me that stopped hiding when I got pregnant.  And you can bet I was patting that non-existent baby bump from the moment I saw that second pink line on the pregnancy test. 

Oh and the food.  Have I mentioned I love food?  And while I knew not to "eat for two", I knew pregnancy wasn't the time to diet either, so I took the mental break from watching everything I ate and I promised not to sweat it. 

There was the added benefit of feeling my babies move around inside of me, of the knowledge that my body, so often disregarded by society's definition of beauty, was perpetuating the species; I walked a bit taller when I was pregnant and it wasn't because I was about to be a mom.  Maybe it was in part to mentally flip off the practitioner who essentially told me I was too fat to have a healthy pregnancy (wrong!).  But mostly, mostly it was because I felt I could be my most true self, and not be judged.  I had a REASON to be this big.  That and total strangers would tell me I was beautiful.

Now I'm a mom times three and almost definitely outside of the time when even the most generous tables say I should have lost the baby weight, yet I still hold to a little better than half of it. But, I still walk with that swagger (not waddle, people, SWAGGER) that I had before.  I have that same sense of purpose, but not because I'm growing a little person.  I went out at my absolute heaviest, my absolute most exhausted, with my pregnancy-acne covered face, and ugly-ass, overworn maternity clothes, and I was confident.  If could be proud then, I can be proud NOW.  I don't need a reason to be the size I am, but if you want one, I've got three (four if you count that pesky blended mocha habit I've picked up).  Genetics and choices, my friends, genetics and choices.

I did LOVE being pregnant.  But I love the confidence I'm left with even more (and bonus: now I can walk up the stairs without being winded).

In my next post, I'll talk more about how I worked my postpartum confidence to pregnancy levels, 'cause I'm not pretending it was easy.  But I'll leave you with this: no matter your size, no matter your shape, no matter if you are pregnant or if you ever have been, YOU decide how much of yourself you are proud of.  YOU decide how much you swagger.  So go out there and walk tall in your beautiful self!  Maybe we'll  run in to one another at the "Close to Maternity But Not Quite" department, trying on shirts.

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You Can, ICAN- Cesarean Birth

Man, I love a good birth story.  If people want to talk about their births, I’ll listen ALL. DAY. LONG.  As a dunderwater_679998_1280__2_.jpgoula I enjoy each story, even those I’ve heard before.  Did you know that as we move on in our lives, we actually remember MORE about the births than the week after they happened?  Time reveals more to us, and what it will reveal is how you felt about your birth.

So I love to hear the stories, even the hard ones.  But one thing I have a hard time dealing with is women who say, “I had a cesarean section.  I don’t really have a birth story.”  WHAT?  I mean, WHAT?

What if I had a c-section?  What if I chose it?  What if I didn’t choose it but I can’t remember anything? 


I mean, really, people, birth is birth is birth. Home birth, hospital birth, vaginal birth, “natural” birth, birth with medication or surgical birth.  You STILL grew a baby inside of you.  You STILL loved and fretted and were a bit excited when it was time to meet your baby.  You may not have pushed a baby out of your vagina and thereby had stitches in your lady parts, but you DID have your abdomen cut open, your internal organs lifted up and set to the side, a human removed from your uterus, and then stitched up again in TWO different places.  You then had to proceed to care for this baby, to feed it, change it, and love it, but without the rush of endorphins that often comes with vaginal birth.  That sounds like real birth story to me.

It’s not a contest, but let me be clear here: Cesarean Birth moms are heroes.  I mean, freaking real live, walking among us, Wonder Women.  They have often had to make very hard choices to arrive where they did, and often times with little or no notice.

If you pushed for three hours and that baby just wasn’t coming down, YOU STILL GAVE BIRTH.  If you didn’t ever make it to the pushing stage, but the baby seemed to be less than thriving, YOU STILL GAVE BIRTH.  If your baby had to spend time in the NICU because they were born a little early and needed help breathing, YOU STILL GAVE BIRTH.  If you were rushed off to the OR and put under anesthesia, so you didn’t get to see your baby until he was hours old, YOU STILL GAVE BIRTH.  If you chose a repeat Cesarean birth because it made more sense for your family than a trial of labor, YOU STILL GAVE BIRTH.

Rosie_the_Riveter.jpgThey’re walking all around us, these Wonder Women and some of them know they’re awesome, but some of them still worry.  My body failed.  I can’t give birth.  Am I going to bond with my baby?  Grandma got to meet the baby before I did.  It breaks my heart to hear people talk this way.  Don’t live in the shadows, or feel like your birth was less than anyone else’s because a surgeon helped you bring your baby into the world.

It's ok to be disappointed in the way your birth went (yes, even if you are ALSO over-the-moon happy that your baby is here—those feelings aren’t mutually exclusive), but don’t let HOW you gave birth overshadow THAT you EFFING GAVE BIRTH.  Own the things your body *can* do.  It can grow a person.  It can feed your baby.  It can hold your baby close when she cries, it has all the right smells and sounds to be the most comfortable and safe place in the world to your child.  You are the perfect mom, no matter HOW your baby came into this world, and your story should be bold and beautiful.

If you are a Cesarean Birth Mom who is (still) struggling with birthing via cesarean, please check out the Fredericksburg chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN).  They currently have a Facebook Group and the leaders are working on hosting monthly meetings.  They are a great informational and emotional support to moms who still feel like they need a bit of processing, or who would like more information as they prepare to head into birth after a Cesarean. 

Own your story.  Be bold.  Be beautiful, and know that in this doula, you always have a safe and interested ear to listen.

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Certification Matters: The Professional Doula (and how to be one)

The Best-Trained Doula You Know

Doulas aren't a new thing. Doulas have been around as far back as we can tell. Even the name has its roots in Ancient Greek origin, from the word doule, meaning female slave. 

We were the "trusted servants" who sat with a woman as her birth time approached, working with her to keep her comfortable, to clasped_hands_541849_1280__2_.jpgserve her physical needs as she transitioned from woman (or girl, really) to mother.  We were the women who (by chance or choice) who were the most knowledgeable, the most comforting, the most dependable women to have around during birth and the postpartum period.

That time-honored support hasn't changed. We are still the women who make you feel most at home, the most in-control, the women who instill confidence in you to be the most amazing mother you can be.  What has changed is the back-end of doula work, the business side. Where once we were slaves, we are now business owners, with a choice on the mission and vision for our business.

My mission and vision statements, (which you can see on my website here) declare to the world that a Doula of Fredericksburg's support will be up-to-date, unconditional and enthusiastic.  You can expect that when you meet with me or my doulas, we will get to know you, what you want, and learn how to best communicate with you to help you feel both informed and confident in the processes of birth and parenthood.

That is why I, and any doula associated with my company, will pursue our national certification through ProDoula.  Through the many training and certification options available to doulas, ProDoula stands out among the rest with their connection to their students and the quality of support they both demonstrate and teach their members to provide.  (I should know, I trained with two other organizations that did not inspire me to doula excellence before I found ProDoula.)

What makes their training truly exceptional (and why my are clients are grateful that I'm ProDoula trained), is that they spend a lot of time focusing on how to uncondionally connect with our clients.  Unconditional means that I believe you are strong and capable of making your own choices for your family, without an agenda of my own.  I can only fully support a client when you are confident in my ability to learn what you want and you are sure I will enthusiastically and knowledgeably support your choices.  ProDoula teaches all of that and more.

Business_Woman.jpgI'm proud to be a ProDoula.  I'm proud to no longer be a slave, but a business owner, one of many nationally who are making changes to improve the quality of the birth and parenting experience.  Locally, I pursue my ancient profession as a modern-business woman, a woman who unwaveringly supports her clients, their goals and wishes through the most-up-to-date trainings and knowledge of the amazing resources available to birthing families in Fredericksburg and the surrounding areas.


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(Not So) Sexy Time!

Will I ever want to be intimate again? I’m so tired.  Will sex after birth hurt?  Will I physically feel the same, again?

romantic_couple.jpgGirl, do you remember how tired you were at the beginning of your pregnancy, as your body was getting used to the rapid changes that were happening, as your cells divided and grew and multiplied?  Well the same thing is happening now, only kind of in reverse.  There’s a good reason that when you leave the hospital, they tell you not to stick anything- including your or your partner’s anatomy- in your vagina; your body, and your mind, are healing and its going to take a bit of time.


“Everything looks different, I just don’t FEEL sexy.”
The hard reality is that even if you are able to safely drop all of your baby weight (which undoubtedly takes longer than 6 weeks), you may never wear the same size clothes because your body shape may have changed.  It can be hard getting used to a “new” you, even if this “new” is only for now.  But cut yourself some slack, ladies, and love your bodies; your partners already do!  The dozens of partners I’ve spoken with on this topic all say the same thing: there is something powerful and attractive in watching their woman give birth to and care for the babies they made together.  Confidence is sexy, so find something about your new body that you love.  And if you can’t, ask your honey to show you what they like about your body.  I bet they’d be willing to spend a LONG TIME showing you.


Things feel different “down there”.
If you feel like it’s a bit stretched out and beat up down below, it probably is.If you took a mirror and looked (and some people do) it will look a lot different too. That’s pretty normal considering a baby’s head and shoulders recently passed through there.  It’s BOUND to be a little more stretched out and carry a few skid-marks.  A few Kegel exercises and a little bit of time can help with that, it should return to pre-baby condition in short order.  If the problem is persistent dryness or itchiness, be sure to mention those things at your six-week checkup with your care provider.  It is often just a sign that your body’s hormones haven’t regulated themselves yet, and they can often recommend solutions until your body sorts itself out.  It can also be a side effect of full-time breastfeeding, because breastfeeding causes reduced estrogen levels in the body, which is sadly one of the hormones that your glands need to produce lubrication down below.  If you think that's the case that things don't feel right, the good news is that, there are LOTS of great lubrications you can use to help make things more comfortable!  The point is that no matter what, it shouldn't be that way forever!


“I’m afraid it will hurt?  Will sex after childbirth hurt?”
Tenderness is normal for a while, but pain is not.  Using lubrication can help, since birth can really do a number on the glands that help “glide things along”.  Blood flow to those tissues brings oxygen which can help stretch out areas that might be tender, so spending some time at “second base” to get your blood pumping before the big deed can help as well.  Long-term pain post-baby isn’t “just the way it is”. If the pain persists, that can be a sign of scar tissue or infection.  If you are experiencing those things, seeing your midwife or OB or a pelvic floor phisiotherapist can help relieve your concerns and your pain.


“My milk lets down just as things are getting hot and heavy. Ew.”udder_168821_640.jpg
It’s a crazy body trick that the same hormones that help your milk let-down for your baby are the ones that show up just when things get serious with your honey.  Your ladies can’t tell the difference, so sometimes they will start to leak just as you are getting warmed up.  If this makes you uncomfortable, then I say wear a bra with some nursing pads, even when intimate, until your milk situation becomes a bit more predicable.  If you’re both in the mood, no one is going to care.


“I’m just too tired.  I don’t ANYONE to touch me.”
You’re not sleeping.  Your breasts are leaking, and may be sore from nursing your baby most of the day.  You may feel frumpy and most definitely haven’t worn a shirt that doesn’t have spit up on it in at least a month.  You simply don’t WANT to be intimate because it feels like another physical demand at the end of a demanding day.  In fact, you’re kind of dreading the “go ahead” from your OB, because you know your partner knows its typically “go time”, but you’re just not feeling it.  Its kind of no wonder you are “touched out”.


These things aren’t in your head, they are REAL.  What is also real is the love your partner has for you, so please make sure if you are feeling this way, you have an honest conversation with them before “the big night”.  I don’t mean you should “power through”, but intimacy almost never starts in the bedroom.  Figure out ways the two of you can share intimate moments without the actual sex.  Reassure your partner that you WANT to want to, but its hard because of everything you are going through.  Tell them what would help you get into the mood.  We all have things that will help us feel cared for, which can go a long way to setting the stage for amazing sex, so figure out what yours are, and share them.   Maybe its lots of canoodling.  Maybe its them snuggling the baby during that hour in the afternoon/evening when the baby is at her loudest so you can take a shower.  At my house it was (and kinda still is) not having to do the laundry.  Its going to take a strong partner who will not push you into it, and some work on your part to really work through these feelings, but one day (and not as far away as you think), those feelings will come back. 

It's important for you to know that you are not alone in these things.  These are all common concerns and feelings, this doula hears about them ALL. THE. TIME.  So reach out do your postpartum doula for some advice, or a girlfriend you are really comfortable talking with to simply commiserate.  There is strength in numbers, as they say.



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You’re a Doo-WHAT?!

 I have the greatest job in the world.  Seriously.  I know other people say they have the greatest job in the world, but nope.  Not even close.  I win.  Hands down.  I get to watch people become and grow as parents!!  It’s like being an awesome auntie; I jump in when help is needed, offer advice when asked, but mostly I get to guide parents to their own strength and confidence by telling them how awesome they already are!

I am a doula.

doula during contraction

Pronounced DOO-lah.  It rhymes with moola.  Doula.  “What the heck is a doula?” you may be thinking.   “And why is her job so great?  And why do I care anyway?”  Well, let me tell you...

As a Professional Labor Doula, I bring a skilled and experienced set of hands to work with laboring parents, to offer physical, emotional and informational support in late pregnancy, during labor and birth, and immediately afterward.  After you’ve hired an obstetrician or midwife to take care of the medical tasks and ensure you and your baby stay healthy, you hire a doula to help with labor “from the waist up” (for both you and your partner).

newborn pic

They used to call us birth coaches, but birth and parenthood isn’t a game, no one is keeping score, and I don’t call the shots.  I’m a DOULA.  My job is to rub your back, cheer you on, and help your partner shine so you can focus on the life you’re bringing into the world.  I’m the birth expert who provides continuous and unconditional support, so you can feel good about the experience.

And the fun doesn’t stop there!  Doulas are not just for labor anymore!  As a Professional Postpartum Doula, I will support you and your family at home as you transition to life with a new baby.  Life with me as your postpartum doula is like having a fairy-godmother around to help with all the little household tasks.  It’s almost as if magically your laundry gets folded, the kitchen is wiped down, your baby is changed and swaddled and ready to feed as soon as you get up from that nap you were taking (because there was a skilled someone at your home, to take care of your little one so you could focus on resting).

PP family

Technically, you don’t even have to have birthed the baby—postpartum doulas are great for adoptive parents, parents who used a surrogate or even grandparents who are taking on the role of parenting again!

I get to mother the mothers!  I get to help people when they are vulnerable and tired and just need an extra pair of hands.  It really is THE GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD.

Why do you care?  Oh right, because this blog is about you, and not about me.  Well, in order to be a great doula, I’ve had to do TONS of reading, classes, trainings and self-education on all things birth and parenting. We’ll be talking about all kinds of stuff here in my blog: Tori’s Stories, a Doula-mentary.  We’re gonna get up close and personal with pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, because I want to open the doors to conversations about the transition into parenthood.  It is my firm belief that in sharing our stories, suggestions and help, we can all be stronger people and stronger parents.

In my next post, I’ll answer the question, “Will intimacy after birth ever be the same?”  (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.  And no.  But mostly yes.  Unless you want it to change…)

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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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