I did what every typical first-time mom did when I was pregnant with my first baby. I was over the moon excited, totally surprised, and completely oblivious to what all I should do from that moment on. I read a couple of books, talked to some family and friends about what they suggested for me, but overall, I had very little clue as to what choices I had when it came to health care providers, birth plan options, pregnancy care products, etc., never mind what I would need the most for postpartum care and for my new baby.
How many of you felt the same way as I did? I’ll hazard a guess to say a good lot of you out there. Whether you were having to choose between either an ObGyn, family doctor or a midwife, or choosing what type of baby wrap you were going to carry your little one around in after they were born, to whether or not you were going to breastfeed, or whether you were going to have newborn photos done or not, who you were going to allow (or not allow) in your birthing suite during labour and delivery, the choices all along the way seemed endless. So a good lot of it, I just didn’t make a choice one way or another, unless it was absolutely necessary. But here I am, 3 kids later, and by the time I was even planning to get pregnant with my 3rd baby, I had every little thing mapped out, a Plan A, B, C through F of all the different birthing scenarios and what each would mean for me. I had my favorite pregnancy, labour, postpartum and new baby items all picked out and ready to go, and suddenly it was hard for me to have even imagined a time when I didn’t know what I wanted, or what was best for me and my babies in every aspect of pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum.
But what I did often think was, “man, I wish I had known (insert surprisingly great advice here..) before I gave birth to my first baby. I would have done things so differently”. Suddenly I started hearing other mamas I knew who had more than one child as well, say the same things as I was saying. When I delved even further as research for this blog piece, I only found more of what I had heard before from friends and family. So I thought, well there are lots of first-time moms out there still, and there always will be. Why not put together a list of the top 3 things we all as multiple-time mamas would have wished someone told us about for our first times around the birthing block?
HIRE A DOULA!!
Yeah, we get it. We know doulas are not the cheapest things on the planet to get. And while some student doulas who have very little experience might be willing to offer their services at a severely discounted price compared to another doula who is seasoned and experienced, this seemed to be the most important and the most popular ‘regret’ I heard from other mamas, AND one that I myself didn’t figure out was even such a regret of mine until I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I didn’t think doulas were worth spending all that extra money on. I mean, I had this amazing hubby who was ready and willing to be my every type of support in those moments. And trust me, he was pretty wonderful. But even he admits after having a doula for our third, that there are so many ways a doula could have helped our first two births out much better than he was able to.
For those who many not be familiar with what a doula is, a doula is a professionally trained birth support worker who is well educated on every type of birth known to humankind. They go to extensive trainings, constantly educating themselves to keep up with all the changes and updates to care of women in the obstetric field, and while they are not there to give you medical advise or treat you medically in any way, they have usually built up a huge amount of resources and evidence-based information for you on literally ANY topic related to birth that you could possibly think of. They are there to truly listen to what you want for your birth, what your anxieties or fears might be surrounding birth, to help you and your partner move through and process any previous trauma that you may have been through, and to help you formulate a unique, perfect, safe and evidence-based birth wish list that you can then take in to your healthcare providers to ensure a more smooth and satisfying birth experience.
In my humble opinion, if you do nothing else on this list, THIS is the one thing you need to do for yourself. Most well trained doulas charge approximately $1000 - $1500 for their packages and it usually includes some version of the following:
1-3 prenatal visits with you (and your partner as well) to get to know you, answer pregnancy & birth questions, and formulate your unique birth wish list with you
24-hour on call service starting from 38 weeks gestation, all the way until the baby is born (4-5 weeks total), which means you can call them any time, day or night, especially if you believe you might be in labour
In-person attendance of your ENTIRE birth (regardless of whether it ends up being 2 hours long or 48+ hours long)
Specific techniques for comfort and pain relief that can help your partner be the Rockstar support person he/she wants very much to be for you
Techniques to help baby stay in, or move into a better position for birth, if needed
Full support for a planned caesarean section, including preparation for roadblocks that may come up, how to recover the most efficiently and safely
Postpartum breastfeeding support immediately after baby is born, and once or twice, during the first week (with a postpartum doula, they come in after baby is born to support you through this and other things for longer than the first week)
Setting you up with resources before and after the birth, as needed, to meet all of your postpartum needs
When you break down the time and effort and support that a doula gives, and the incredible value they provide to your experience (studies show doulas improve the birth experience by up to 60%), it’s well worth investing in. Our advice? Don’t cheap out!! You get what you pay for. If you hire someone who is offering their services to you at a very discounted rate, one of two things usually happens. Either you’ll get a doula who is not well versed on her techniques for comfort and knowledge yet because she’s at the very beginning of her career, and so you’ll end up with some of the experience feeling like there was something “lacking”. Or the other thing that usually happens is that the doula who is experienced and forced to lower her rate tremendously, ends up feeling like she’s not being paid fairly for her time and effort, and might not be willing to offer the full amount of support that you deserve or want, because it becomes impossible for her to make herself available after taking her own childcare needs into account, and costs of having to travel to and from you, etc. Most doulas who are both well trained and available for the cost as mentioned above, are able to offer payment plans that are uniquely catered to you and your personal financial needs. If you are truly low income and still would like the support of a doula, there are public health nurses available who can verify your low income status and help you arrange for a free doula too. Those are much better avenues to go through.
Find A Birth Photographer
I’ll admit that I completely took for granted just how badly I would want to be able to look back at some source of record of each of my births, until I realized that because there was no one taking pictures at my second birth, which was a wonderful home birth, I’ve lost all of that now, and have no frame of reference for any of it. So with my third baby, I resolved to invest in a really wonderful birth photographer. A photographer who shoots births typically works similarly to a doula in the one sense of being on call for you for whenever you go into labour, they come to wherever you are, and they shoot the entire labour, birth and postpartum experience for you. They perfectly capture all of those incredible moments you so desperately want captured, but never remember to actually do (and nor should you. You’re doing an even more important job BIRTHING that baby, no one should expect you to have to also make sure all those moments are photographed and captured for you too). And the best part is they do it all in such a perfect, quiet way where most of the time you don’t even know they are in the room!
Depending on where you live, source out some well known birth photographers and once again, don’t cheap out. You’ll REALLY get what you pay for in this circumstance. Here are a couple of examples of my amazing birth photographer's work at the birth of my son, my third baby, below.
Hire an IBCLC Before You Give Birth
This one became painfully obvious to me after I got to have the support of an amazing IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with my third baby, who because of her support and guidance, gave me the gift of being skilled and confident enough to breastfeed him for a whole year (and counting still), twice as long as I fed either of my first two babies! No one warns us about all the complications that can arise with breastfeeding, and no one arms us with the right kind of support to help troubleshoot those complications as they come up either. But once I had a chance to have an IBCLC give me the one-on-one support that they offer, I couldn’t imagine any other birth experience I ever have in the future without one!
To give a little bit of perspective, there’s a big difference between an LC (Lactation Consultant) and an IBCLC. Firstly, an LC usually becomes one in a matter of a weekend or so’s worth of education. While they may have to complete a few extra months of at-home, online work to receive their certification, IBCLC’s have to go through 4 whole years worth of college-level education, solely on all things breastfeeding, in order to get their certification. In other words, the skills they have to be able to work up to include a lot more than just simple position changes, or checking of the latch. They have to be able to induce lactation supply in a woman who has never given birth before in her life, and may want to breastfeed an adopted baby, or they need to be able to help a woman re-lactate after losing her supply fully for any length of time. That’s what an IBCLC is capable of!! I didn’t even know that was a thing! In other words, if there is ANY issue you’re having, whether it be small, medium or large, when it comes to your own breastfeeding journey, or if you’re the type of person like me who wants to set yourself up for the best possible chances of success with breastfeeding before your baby arrives, then you’re going to want to either take a prenatal class that is specifically taught by an IBCLC, or look to see if you can add on their consultation service to your birth doula package (which is something you can do with Mums & Tums Canada).
If you’re looking for more information on birth, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding or anything else to do with fertility and more, and if you’d like to find out about amazing professionals like the ones talked about in this blog, check us out at www.mumsandtumscanada.com where you can get all your prenatal needs met in one convenient and trustworthy place!