Togetherness - The Birth Journey Done Together with your Partner

As first time moms, even sometimes second time moms, we often don’t know what we should expect from the last few weeks of our pregnancies, let alone our labors and births. So it is completely normal when the partner (or spouse) is clueless as to how to support their significant other who is in labor.

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Even if you’ve spent the entire pregnancy supporting her through hyponbirthing, childbirth education classes, maybe even the Bradley method (which involves both parents, prepares the mother to deliver her baby without pain medications and educates the partner in birth coaching techniques), it is still quite common and normal for partners to freeze during labor.

Birth is complex and often unpredictable. No two labors are alike, not even among a woman’s own three children.

I am a big believer in go with the flow, and fill the role that you feel called to.

You may not know what to say, you may not know what to do, but just being there can often be enough.

When a Birth Photographer Puts Down their Camera

When the camera gets put down: moments rarely documented in a birth story

I cannot accurately describe to the fullest, the positive energy and empowerment in this room in one moment. You know how when you have a child sometimes you think to yourself: wow I had no idea how much I needed this child to become the best version of myself?

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I cannot tell you what an overpowering realization it is to me that these two women here make me feel this way. 

When I met Lisa (Lisa Raynor Coral Springs and Boca Raton Childbirth Doula) my mentality and philosophy of my work was almost 180º from what it is today. My confidence level, my energy level; everything in my entire life as a momtrepreneur was so different. It’s not that this level of different was a bad thing, but I was stuck in that post partum 4th trimester for far too long, and Lisa saw it immediately, but more importantly, it’s what she saw that I didn’t see that made the tremendous impact on my life: she saw what I could be. 

And isn’t that a sign of the greatest life coach? Precisely. That is what Lisa has been to me since May 2017. The most unexpected blessing that fell upon my life and I am utterly grateful that this woman, wise beyond her years, so intuitive and remarkable, saw in me what I had lost sight of. 

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In comes Kat. (Dr. Kathleen Vigo, Painless Pregnancy) I had no idea what this woman would do for me when I first met her. Even after learning extensively about the amazing work she does in physical therapy with her pregnant and post partum patients, and after recommending her to a dozen of my clients in a year, I still remained so blissfully unaware and unknowing of how powerful her work is.

Who could have possibly predicted that this soulful, stunning individual would come to my home for a 9 month follow up (following our previous physical therapy sessions), literally 10 days before giving birth to her daughter, and heal me of six years of trauma?! I didn’t even know until the night before my daughter's 3rd birthday, barely one month after Kat's visit, when I revisited the slideshow I had made of cell phone pictures from my second child's birth and realized - I was no longer feeling the Pandora's box of the negative range of emotions I have been feeling for the past 6 years of motherhood. Instead, I was feeling gratitude, relief, joy, self-awareness; I felt as though I was for the first time in six long years that had been riddled with emotional trauma from two very off-course labor and birth experiences, instead I was suddenly feeling ONLY full of joy for the first time ever. I shocked myself.

But instantly I was in doubt. The 60mph thoughts racing through my head distracted me from realizing this was all Kat's work from a couple weeks back. I started to doubt and ask myself would I still be as passionate about my work now that my trauma had vanished? I had always thought the foundation for why I was passionate about my career was because I was holding onto two traumatic births.

Then I wondered, would all these positive feelings go away after this celebration of the third year of life for my baby girl passed?

I waited and waited, but saw that none of this came to fruition.

My life had changed.

My perspective had changed.

My heart and soul had healed.

So when Kat went into labor with her second child, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have to give it my all to be present in this moment for her. In a room with two women who had completely changed my life, who had empowered me to become the best version of myself. With one of my favorite OBGYNs in south Florida, Dr. Feldman (of Omega Women's Care)

The pictures above show a story of what happens when a birth photographer puts their camera down. In the first moment, Kat reached out for me to hold her hand during a contraction while her most amazing doula, Lisa Raynor supported her with affirmations and physical support. And in the second moment I was waiting to receive her placenta to help package it for transport. These pictures show why my relationships with my clients mean everything to me in my work. It is a realization and transformation of the artist unraveling, that it may have been my experiences with my daughters in the form of emotional trauma that inspired me to change what purpose I did my work for, but it is my relationships with my clients that is why I continue to work in this most fulfilling field of supporting women through their pregnancies and births as their birth story artist. 

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Evolution Yoga & How it has begun to create a mama tribe

I just joined Evolution Yoga (in Coconut Creek off of 441 just south of Hillsboro Blvd). There are a few studios in Coral Springs and I spent a few days testing out classes in each but ultimately this is the one I felt most connected to. 

 Jennifer Radnay, labor doula and yoga instructor

Jennifer Radnay, labor doula and yoga instructor

 

One day after class I ran into Jennifer Radnay (who is an incredible labor doula as well as prenatal yoga instructor). I also ran into Dr. Kathleen Vigo -- my dearest friend, she is an obstetric physical therapist -- which means she only works with expecting and post partum mommies! (I am also capturing her baby girl's birth in the next couple of weeks!) It was a very surprising and beautiful day! 

 

I learned that every Tuesday at 1030am Jennifer teaches a prenatal yoga class at Evolution Yoga off of 441 in Coconut Creek. I had just finished a hot yoga session there with yogi Maxine Schwartz and I decided to stay for the prenatal yoga class to create my own opinion of the class before recommending it to other mamas, so that I could say that I really tried it and it is amazing. I really love that the class started off with Jennifer giving out positive affirmations printed on papers, each mama chose the ones that spoke most to her, I even found two that spoke to me as a mommy who gave birth nearly 3 years ago, and we went around in a circle and shared the positive affirmations out loud which really made the mood in the room peaceful and positive before the yoga practice. 

 

My favorite part of the class was when Jennifer came around to each mommy and helped correct her position for the ultimate stretch and comfort sinking into it. I wasn't really expecting this in a prenatal class, or I guess I don't know what I was expecting! I didn't realize it would be so personalized and connected, it really made me feel like I was doing the best thing for my body, not just attending a class where I was just another attendee.

The different yoga positions allowed for using foam blocks/blankets when pregnant, or doing them without the extra items for more of a challenge. When I left the class I really felt like it challenged me, and the pregnant mommies all said they felt really relaxed. It was a beautiful class filled with so much positive emotion and positive energy that I ended up tearing up as we were all saying goodbye until next Tuesday. 

 

This experience was so amazing I wanted to share it with you all, even if you pop in for one class to try it out, I think you'd leave feeling the same way as we all did. I do not get any sort of referral credit for bringing in mommies, I simply wanted to share the love with you all! And the exciting part is that the studio is doing 30 days for $30 right now, which is the reason I signed up, and plan on going every day. I missed one day because I had a birth client in the hospital, but today I was back at 12pm with a class with Tresa Anderson which was the exact level of intensity I needed to heal my body from all the energy and tension that tends to build up when you're a birth worker. (Thank you Tresa!!)

 

If anyone would like to go on Tuesday next week, July 24th, at 1030am (thats July 24th) just pop me and email and I'd be happy to accompany you so you don't have to go alone :) 

 

This is also a really wonderful opportunity for mommies to build their mommy tribe for their pregnancy and their post partum. Meet other mommies who are going through exactly what you are and can relate to you and support you in your journey.

 

MOMMY & BABY YOGA

with Jennifer Radnay

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This is a new class coming July 27th at 11am, also taught by Jennifer (who has a great deal of experience working with post partum, healing mommies (both emotionally and physically healing) and she is bringing this class starting that Friday morning. I would be happy to join you all too! I am curious to see for myself :) All babies between the ages of 6 weeks - 12 months are welcome! 

 

Sending all my love to each and everyone of you! 

Beautiful Mom of Twin Girls Expecting a Baby Boy

I remember how Dayna and I met. It's not the way I use to meet mommy clients four years ago, and that's why I love it. It made me reflect on how we evolve as women and as mothers and I wanted to share the entire story behind it with you.

I have been a birth photographer for four years, and I could not even imagine 4 years ago how my career would unravel as my daughters grew and as I delve deeper into the birth world as a birth worker.

Dayna and I met through our local community, our girls (her twins and my almost 6 year old) spent the past year going to VPK together in the best preschool at Kids Academy in Coral Springs, FL. One of her girls and my daughter Kate were in ballet the entire year, and her other day and my niece were in the same VPK classroom together. Through the year we got to know each other as mamas in the same community and build a relationship that I had never imagined I could have with moms! As my girls grew and I changed everything about the way I ran my business, the way I approached our lives as a family of four, I began to develop relationships just like with Dayna, with other birth clients. Dayna was one of my last birth clients before I made the huge leaps and changes that have grown my community and my work to the beautiful, organic, living vessel that it is today.

Three and four years ago, to find birth clients, I'd post my photos on facebook as much as possible, with a 2 year old toddler at home. I rarely had the chance to blog. I rarely had the chance for anything because I had a toddler at home and was a work from home mommy! 

I didn't know my community very well. I had made some mommy friends going to the playgrounds, parks and south Florida beaches with my daughter Kate, but I was so new to the field of birth that I didn't know many doulas or midwives, obgyns or labor and delivery nurses at all. I was just starting to dip my feet into the birth world.

Fast forward four years, so much has changed and I have evolved.

About a year and a half ago, I realized that birth was really my passion.

I also realized I was very overwhelmed.

Trying to balance (keyword trying!!) motherhood to two kids under 5 years old as a stay at home mom, run a household, AND run a full time photography business was leaving me really overwhelmed. 

About one year ago I realized what I had to do. I met Lisa Raynor, my dearest friend and doula here in Coral Springs and in Boca Raton, and she helped me with the final push to bring my career goals to fruition. She told me to try out full time preschool.

I was so nervous about this. I was juggling being a full time stay at home mom to two young kids, a full time job, all my maternity, breastfeeding, newborn and family photography clients in addition to my birth clients, my marriage, my home, and I was so nervous how we would pull off putting two young kids in full time preschool. How could we afford it?

That's when all the big changes fell directly into place.

Let me tell you, it was terrifying.

Change #1: 

I put both of the girls in full time preschool.

It didn't happen over night. I started with only VPK hours for Kate from 9-12pm and Emma was going two days a week from 9am-12pm. Slowly I started adding hours, and then days. By the end of three months, both of my girls were attending preschool from 830am-5pm five days a week.

I cannot tell you how much guilt this brought me. Having been a stay at home mom for almost 5 years while juggling a work from home business, I felt SO guilty that I was putting my kids in full time school. So many mommies can do it both, I told myself. I am so embarrassed and ashamed that I am saying I can't do it, I don't want to do it. 

Over the next 6 - 12 months I would start a healing journey to learn to not compare myself to other mothers, what they do, what their approach towards life and parenting is, and what their life looks like. I would learn that it's not my business to worry about what other mothers and women are capable of, it is only of importance for me to focus on what I want out of my life journey.

Change #2:

I gave up all photo sessions besides birth photography.

This was an absolutely terrifying leap of faith.

Family photo sessions, Maternity and Newborn Photography, and Breastfeeding photoshoots consisted of 50% of my years earnings. 

You might be thinking "and she gave it all up?"

Trust me, I WAS THINKING IT.

Let me tell you why I did this change in my life. I decided that if I was going to be paying for two children to go to full time preschool every week, all of those hours at home while they were at school would be dedicated to focusing 110% on my birth clients and my birth photography and birth films. This is after all, my passion, I realized. And the investment I make on the BEST preschool in Coral Springs needs to pay off on me investing all of my time and energy into growing my relationships with my birth clients everyday, every week, every month.

Trust me, I still love all the other sessions I use to do. And it broke my heart when I had so many families reaching out to me after I had slowly started my transition, asking for family sessions, breastfeeding sessions, and I had to turn them away and recommend one of my colleagues.

But as the weeks and months passed, I started realizing that I had made the best decision I ever could have. I went from juggling 120 families every 12 months to working intimately with 24 families. I got to really know every single birth family I was working with, I would remember hubby's name as I walked into labor and delivery. I'd remember that older brother was about to turn 3 years old next month. I'd remember that they just got a new puppy. These details (and many more intimate details ranging from fertility issues, loss, difficult pregnancies) became so vital to me to learn and remember. I realized in the past year that my true passion is not necessarily in birth photography. Rather my true passion is supporting, educating and empowering the women I work with, and building my relationship with them.

The change I had implemented thrust my business into a whole different world that I had never known before. I started having more time to dedicate to things I had never had a chance to even do. I started blogging. I LOVE writing. I've been a writer since I was in elementary school, I wrote my first book when I was 8. Being able to pour my soul into something I am so passionate about made my career so much more dynamic and fulfilling.

I finally had the time to network.

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I have met so many absolutely phenomenal astonishing individuals in my community in the past twelve months, I did not even know these incredible human beings and specialists in the birth world existed, and now I have such an esteemed honor of calling them my friends. In the past 12 months I have deepened my relationship with Lisa Raynor, my doula soul sister, I met Martha Lerner, owner of Zenmamalove.com who my maternity/newborn/family photo clients from the past had boasted about for years, I got to meet the most amazing expert in the fertility world, Dr. Scott Roseff of IVFMD, who has a heart of gold by the way and works so closely with women and their partners/spouses to build healthy new families.

I had the privilege of building a close relationship with my favorite birth providers in the birth world ranging from Nurse midwives to OBGYNS to licensed midwives. I learned about baby nurses and how crucial they are to the family in the 4th trimester through meeting and growing close friendship with Mercedes Cabrisas, owner of South Florida Baby Nurse and Jennifer Shapiro, owner of Blissful Baby Nurse and Newborn Services.

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I met Jackie Polsky, of South Florida Psychologist Associates, specializing in the post partum mama, Natasha Chamely, owner of Baby Love Spa  in Margate, FL, it was such a pleasure to meet and become friends with the amazing Susan Winograd, who owns Pelvic Rehab.com and works closely with post partum mommies and the entire family, as well as Dr. Moshe Winograd, who is a phenomenal post partum and loss psychologist at Coastal Behavioral Health, and became friends with Carly Tokar (Tokar Family Chiropractic) and Gena Bofshever (Dr. Gena Chiropractor). I got to experience first hand chiropractic care through Dr. Elaina Gill, post partum physical therapy from the amazing Dr. Kathleen Vigo of Painless Pregnancy, and Laura Knecht of Good Little Sleeperzzz helped my toddler and now almost 6 year old finally get on the right routine for a proper bedtime (south Florida's BEST pediatric sleep consultant!)

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I've also had the immense opportunity to work with the amazing doulas at the Orchid's Nest, the phenomenal labor and delivery staff at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. I had the pleasure of meeting and growing a wonderful partnership with the OBGYN team at Omega Women's Care. 

It's just been an unreal year.

I cannot believe that my closest friends are all in the same birth world that once was a lonely place, now is filled with the same amazing faces I see but in and outside of work. 

What to ask a Midwife or OBGYN when meeting them for the first time?

Because I believe it is so important to make sure the provider you are hiring for your pregnancy and birth is the right provider for you, I firmly believe asking questions that are important to you is so vital when you do your first consultation.

Below you'll find a list of questions to ask a midwife or OBGYN during your prenatal visits (if you have already hired them) or at your very first visit or consultation appointment. You'll also find a list of questions below to ask when you're closer to your third trimester. 

 Birth Preferences List created by and printed by Lisa Raynor Doula... you can contact her here for a birth preferences consultation. http://coralspringsdoula.com

Birth Preferences List created by and printed by Lisa Raynor Doula... you can contact her here for a birth preferences consultation. http://coralspringsdoula.com

You can print this list by going to File > Print

MIDWIFE/OBGYN CONSULTATION INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

INITIAL CONSULTATION

1. To Yourself: Do you feel supported, respected, do they listen and answer your questions patiently?

2. Are they open to birth plans? What if you have a birth preferences list?

3. What hospitals do they have privileges at?

4. How many vaginal checks do they do during pregnancy and during labor? Should I get them, how necessary are they, what are the benefits/downsides and when do I need to have them done?

5. Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend an induction? How can an induction affect the outcome of my birth (vaginal / cesarean) What type of inductions do you do?

6. What is your opinion of doulas? What percentage of your patients use a doula? What doulas do you recommend?

7. Under what circumstances during labor would you recommend to administer medications such as cervidil or pitocin?

8. How do you handle past due dates? (Over 40 weeks, over 41 weeks)

9. What is your percentage of your patients get an epidural, What percentage have vaginal births? / percentage of c-sections? Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend a scheduled cesarean?

10. Who is your backup Midwife or OB? Who is the OB covering doctor? How is he/she during labor? When can I meet them?

11. What are your feelings about delayed cord clamping? How long do you delay for? Can you do cord blood banking AND delayed cord clamping?

12. Are you planning any vacations, trips, major surgeries, or other events 3-4 weeks before my due date, or up to 2 weeks after my due date that would interfere with your attendance at the birth?

What positions do you feel comfortable delivering in? (on back, squatting (using a squat bar), on all fours (knees and elbows)?

13. Is your practice VBAC friendly?

 

CLOSER TO THIRD TRIMESTER

1. What are your feelings on the dad catching the baby, or me catching my own baby? Will you deliver the baby? Or will you assist me in birthing him/her/them?

2. How do you feel about hypnobirthing? Are you experienced with delivering babies for moms who are using hypnobirthing?

3. How does it work if I am GBS positive - how often do you administer antibiotics during labor and do you do specific procedures with the baby after birth

4. Do you do IV/Heplock? Are you ok with laboring tubs, (or hydrotherapy by standing in the hospital shower), eating small snacks during labor?

5. What are the pros and cons of vitamin K shot and eye ointment

6. Do you offer or suggest taking specific childbirth preparation courses?

7. During labor, how close together should my contractions be before I head to the hospital?

8. If my water breaks before labor (contractions) even begins, how long can I labor at home for before I am required to go to the hospital?

9. What happens in the event of pre-term labor before 38 weeks?

10. Under what circumstances, if any, do you perform episiotomies? Do you recommend doing perineum massages throughout pregnancy leading up to birth?

11. How long will you and/or your support team stay with mom and baby after the birth?

12. Is breastfeeding support offered?

13. Do you deliver breech? [Most babies will move into delivery position a few weeks prior to birth, with the head moving closer to the birth canal. When this fails to happen, the baby's buttocks and/or feet will be positioned to be delivered first. This is referred to as “breech presentation.”] Do you recommend trying to turn the baby if the baby is in breech position during labor or in the last few weeks of pregnancy or do you recommend a cesarean birth?

Why Every Pregnant Woman should consider a Midwife for her Birth

The first time I attended a hospital birth with a midwife I was very surprised what I saw. I had attended so many births with OBGYNs that I almost wasn't sure what a Midwife does.

 Midwife Christine Hackshaw of Midwifery Women's Care, applying pressure to first time mom Emily's lower back during a contraction.

Midwife Christine Hackshaw of Midwifery Women's Care, applying pressure to first time mom Emily's lower back during a contraction.

Last March, I hosted a "Match Your Midwife" event at the Women's Center at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Midwife Courtney McMillian from Boca Midwifery spoke about the different kinds of midwives that there are.

For hospital births, there are two types of midwives:

Nurse-midwives, who are educated and licensed as nurses first, then complete additional education in midwifery. They are known as Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs). CNMs are licensed to practice in all 50 states. They are usually licensed in individual states as Nurse Practitioners (NPs).(source

The other type of midwife is known as a Direct-entry midwife. They are educated or trained as midwives without having to become nurses first. They may be Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) or Certified Midwives (CMs). (source

Direct-entry midwives are trained to provide the Midwives Model of Care to healthy women and newborns primarily in out-of-hospital settings. They do not have nursing education as a prerequisite for midwifery education. (source)

Certified Midwife (CM): Certified Midwives are individuals who have or receive a background in a health related field other than nursing, then graduate from a masters level midwifery education program. They have similar training to CNMs, conform to the same standards as CNMs, but are not required to have the nursing component.

Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): The vast majority of direct-entry midwives in the United States are Certified Professional Midwives. The CPM is the only midwifery credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings. Their education and clinical training focuses on providing midwifery model care in homes and freestanding birth centers. In some states, CPMs may also practice in clinics and doctors offices providing well-woman and maternity care.

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What I learned and observed at my very first birth with a midwife was that most women who choose a midwife for their prenatal care, labor and delivery are looking to have a less medical intervention approach to their entire prenatal and birthing experience.

Midwives generally work with low risk pregnancies, but they also can serve as a woman's gynecologist. As an example, I see a midwife as my gynecologist. Midwives also work with their patients regarding family planning, monitoring pregnancy, labor and delivery, postpartum and newborn care. But they do so much more than that. Many of our local midwives in Boca Raton in addition to obstetrics and gynecology, also care for women in the fields of menopause, adolescence and teenager care.

At births, often times I will see a midwife help with the delivery of baby for mom, help with the delivery of the placenta, the cutting of the cord and any stitches mom may need in the case of tearing, and then help mom get baby latched on for breastfeeding.

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What I have seen from the distance as a birth photographer on my client's birth team, sometimes in the case that a pregnancy (or a labor) may become high-risk, an OBGYN who works closely with the midwife will step in to assist with prenatal care or in the case of birth, to assist in the delivery of the baby. However, depending on the practice, I have seen midwives (such as Midwifery Women's Care and Boca Midwifery) successfully helping mommies with vbacs (vaginal birth after c-section) and I even recently attended a vba2c (vaginal birth after two c-sections) with Courtney McMillian at Boca Midwifery. 

In the case of a cesarean section, OB doctors will step in to do the surgery. What I personally have loved about working with Boca Midwifery when it comes to a mom needing a c-section is that their midwives tend to attend the csections in the operating room for their own patients who they have seen throughout their pregnancy who may have become high-risk due to a developed medical issue in pregnancy, or if they needed a cesarean during labor. For me this is everything. I am a huge proponent of supporting birthing women in all stages of their journey, and to have the midwife who you've trusted your entire pregnancy journey, go with you into the operating room when your birth unexpectedly calls for it, means everything. So much fear fades and so much trust grows in its place. 

When working with an OBGYN, I have personally experienced them typically heading to the hospital (they are usually about 5-15 minutes from the hospital here in Boca Raton) when the nurses update them that the mom is around 8 - 9 centimeters dilated. They usually arrive and wait for mom to get to 10 centimeters dilated and then help mom with pushing. I have seen this common practice at most hospitals throughout south Florida from Miramar/Pembroke Pines all the way through Jupiter, FL. Even in the case where generations of women have used a specific OB (mom, daughter), I cannot recall a single birth in one month shy of four years of birth photography where an OBGYN came and sat with a mom for 4-6 hours of her active labor prior to delivery, (with the exception of retired OBGYNS who are the fathers of my laboring client, attending their birth as a support part of their birth team, not as the delivering OB).

And so why does this matter, when your provider gets to your laboring? Read on...

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Many first time moms (and even second and third time moms) will be in labor anywhere from 10 - 24 hours). And you only get to 10 centimeters dilated at the very tail end of that labor process. The first few hours may be manageable, but once things pick up, many women find themselves needing pain management techniques as well as someone to keep them focused, empowered and encouraged.

So it is not ideal to only rely on your OBGYN and labor and delivery nurses for support and encouragement, as they will not be spending 90% of your earlier labor with you. I do not say that to dissuade you from using an OBGYN for pregnancy and delivery though. As there are many benefits and pros of using and staying with an OBGYN. I personally used an OBGYN for the first 20 weeks of my second pregnancy (Dr. Jane Rudolph from Women's Health Partners off of SW 18th Street in Boca Raton, FL) and I absolutely adored every waking minute of my time spent during prenatal visits with her. She was patient, kind, incredibly sweet and warm and compassionate. She'd take the time to ask about my questions and concerns and go through them all. She spoke to me on a personal level about her own kids and pregnancy journeys. She'd end every visit with an exceptionally warm and tight hug. I trusted her completely and felt so warm and safe under her care. And staying under that type of care for a woman's entire pregnancy is definitely an incredible plus. However, it is important to consider what is your individual need for labor support. For women who know they will need a professional who is well educated on pregnancy, labor, birth and post partum to be at their side through labor, who will not have to run off because they are working with other patients (as labor and delivery nurses are often called to do), a highly hospital natural birth experienced labor doula maybe an important consideration. I encourage moms to make a list of their personal needs and expectations for their pregnancy, their labor, their post partum, and evaluate if a labor doula, a midwife, a post partum doula or a registered baby nurse could fit in those needs.

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In contrast, in my personal experience having worked with a few hospital midwives, I have witnessed midwives from Boca Midwifery (Courtney McMillian and Polina Goldenberg) and Laurie Gibbons from Women's Health Partners, Kathy Fair and Christine Hackshaw from Midwifery Women's Care and Kathleen Philbin from Select Women's Healthcare sitting for hours with mom, often times on the foot of her bed, sharing positive words of support, advice on how to breathe through contractions, suggestions on position changes to alleviate some pressure / getting baby in a better position, and I have often times seen these midwives provide touch-support to mom. Touch support I would say can range anywhere from applying pressure to the hips or lower back during contractions to running fingers along mom's arms and shoulders along with light pressure for a soft massage. And even applying cold compresses to mom's neck and forehead. This form of extensive support during active labor and end stages of labor can be so crucial and encouraging to laboring moms. 

(all of the above midwives deliver at Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, FL (off of I-95 and Glades Road in East Boca) which is my favorite hospital to work in as a birth photographer but also as a mother with the exception of Kathleen Philbin who works up north at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, FL) 

Below, you'll find a list of questions to ask a midwife or OBGYN during your first consultation with them to make sure they are the right provider to suit your personal needs and expectations, as well as questions to ask closer to the third trimester. If you'd like to go to a page where you can more easily print them, click here.

MIDWIFE/OBGYN CONSULTATION INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

INITIAL CONSULTATION

1. To Yourself: Do you feel supported, respected, do they listen and answer your questions patiently?

2. Are they open to birth plans? What if you have a birth preferences list?

3. What hospitals do they have privileges at?

4. How many vaginal checks do they do during pregnancy and during labor? Should I get them, how necessary are they, what are the benefits/downsides and when do I need to have them done?

5. Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend an induction? How can an induction affect the outcome of my birth (vaginal / cesarean) What type of inductions do you do?

6. What is your opinion of doulas? What percentage of your patients use a doula? What doulas do you recommend?

7. Under what circumstances during labor would you recommend to administer medications such as cervidil or pitocin?

8. How do you handle past due dates? (Over 40 weeks, over 41 weeks)

9. What is your percentage of your patients get an epidural, What percentage have vaginal births? / percentage of c-sections? Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend a scheduled cesarean?

10. Who is your backup Midwife or OB? Who is the OB covering doctor? How is he/she during labor? When can I meet them?

11. What are your feelings about delayed cord clamping? How long do you delay for? Can you do cord blood banking AND delayed cord clamping?

12. Are you planning any vacations, trips, major surgeries, or other events 3-4 weeks before my due date, or up to 2 weeks after my due date that would interfere with your attendance at the birth?

What positions do you feel comfortable delivering in? (on back, squatting (using a squat bar), on all fours (knees and elbows)?

13. Is your practice VBAC friendly?

CLOSER TO THIRD TRIMESTER

1. What are your feelings on the dad catching the baby, or me catching my own baby? Will you deliver the baby? Or will you assist me in birthing him/her/them?

2. How do you feel about hypnobirthing? Are you experienced with delivering babies for moms who are using hypnobirthing?

3. How does it work if I am GBS positive - how often do you administer antibiotics during labor and do you do specific procedures with the baby after birth

4. Do you do IV/Heplock? Are you ok with laboring tubs, (or hydrotherapy by standing in the hospital shower), eating small snacks during labor?

5. What are the pros and cons of vitamin K shot and eye ointment

6. Do you offer or suggest taking specific childbirth preparation courses?

7. During labor, how close together should my contractions be before I head to the hospital?

8. If my water breaks before labor (contractions) even begins, how long can I labor at home for before I am required to go to the hospital?

9. What happens in the event of pre-term labor before 38 weeks?

10. Under what circumstances, if any, do you perform episiotomies? Do you recommend doing perineum massages throughout pregnancy leading up to birth?

11. How long will you and/or your support team stay with mom and baby after the birth?

12. Is breastfeeding support offered?

13. Do you deliver breech? [Most babies will move into delivery position a few weeks prior to birth, with the head moving closer to the birth canal. When this fails to happen, the baby's buttocks and/or feet will be positioned to be delivered first. This is referred to as “breech presentation.”] Do you recommend trying to turn the baby if the baby is in breech position during labor or in the last few weeks of pregnancy or do you recommend a cesarean birth?

Tips on How to Choose a Photographer to Document Your Birth

I am a mom of two girls under five. I missed out on the opportunity to have either of my births documented, and with that comes the loss of not knowing what reaction my husband had to becoming a daddy for the first time when Kate was born, and if he cried, smiled, laughed or was surprised the second time I gave birth, when Emma was born.

My births were complicated, so it was difficult for me to focus on anything but meeting my girls for the first time. I think this rings true to most moms, whether they have a complicated or fairly straightforward birth, the moment your child is born, mommies and daddies tend to have tunnel vision, and are memorized by this little life they've been waiting to meet for the last 9 months.

I have been photographing birth now for four years, and there are certainly many times when I am editing birth stories that I daydream about having a third. However, with the changes in health I've experienced with age and over two pregnancies, despite my dream of having three children, our family is complete.

Having thought this through so many times, I've prepared a list for you on tips you can consider when deciding who and/or what kind of photographer you'd like to hire to document your birth story.

There are many choices to make, so let me lay them out for you below

 

1. Daddy takes the pictures

Pros:

Definitely the simplest way to save money when you're on a budget is to have your partner or spouse take the pictures. They'll be proud of themselves for having captured what will become some of your most treasured memories.

 

Cons:

I could never be a doula, because doulas need to be incredibly resilient to emotions because their job is to support moms emotionally and physically during labor and birth. is When I put my camera down, I get emotional, I may cry, I may feel my hands shaking a bit.

Consider the emotions you may want your partner or spouse to feel as they are emotionally (or physically) supporting you during your labor, and how emotionally invested you may want them to be as they meet your baby for the first time.

Do you want your partner/spouse to be completely vulnerable and experience the raw and real emotions of becoming a parent for the first time ever to this little baby?

Holding a camera or phone and focusing on taking pictures that aren't blurry creates a degree of separation between the parent and the experience.

The focus on taking pictures helps me keep my composure during a birth so that I don't cry, so that I feel more like I am watching a movie rather than experience the birth in person. Do you want your partner or spouse to experience a degree of separation?

 

When daddy holds the camera, you would miss pictures of his emotional reaction to meeting your baby... like these:

 

2. Okay, so not daddy. How about best friend (or sister or aunt) takes the pictures?

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 1.04.25 PM.png

Pros:

Having a close friend, sibling, grandparent or doula photograph during your birth helps take the pressure off your partner and spouse. But the cons can leave parents heart broken, so be sure to read on...

 

Cons:

If I had a dollar for every time parents came to me an told me they wish they hadn't let their friend/sister/doula/parent take the pictures at their last birth. The results can sometimes be great! But when you had your expectations set to having these moments documented and end up with blurry pictures, blown out pictures (too bright) or too dark pictures, or no pictures at all, it can be heart breaking.

south florida birth photography

If you're lucky, you may get a picture of the delivery - but you may never see his face because your photographer was very focused on taking pictures of your newly born baby

boca raton birth photography

And sometimes, the one person who was suppose to take pictures didn't during moments that you realize afterwards, truly mattered to you.

and sometimes, that person becomes too nervous to take pictures. 

maybe because they've never attended a birth before and had no idea they would react this way, and sometimes, even to those women who have had several of their own children and attended births before, friends/family who are doulas, paramedics, doctors, they never realized they'd be so emotional when it was their baby sister giving birth.

Pictures captured by family and friends and other inexperienced people who haven't been trained in capturing artistically beautiful angles during even the most complicated labors and births, tend to look more like they were from the birth chapter of an anatomy textbook. 

boca raton birth photographer

3. So how about our family photographer? Or our wedding photographer?

Pros:

You'll probably feel more comfortable working with a photographer you've known for a while now. Plus they will probably either charge you very little or not at all, this being their first birth

Cons:

One of the number one drawbacks of hiring a photographer who's never photographed a birth before, is that most likely, they haven't been educated on the birth process and what to expect. They aren't aware of the very quick and totally unexpected changes in lighting, staff, space that all happen last minute. 

Most photographers are trained to photograph in the best lighting conditions (and most wedding photographers use an external flash for dark receptions). But what most photographers are not trained in is to photograph gorgeous artwork when there is a lack of lighting to work with. A lack of space, a lack of timeline and everything is unexpected.

Circumstances surrounding how unpredictable birth is can cause very capable and experienced family, portrait and wedding photographers to very suddenly question their capability.

You also may realize you actually don't feel more comfortable using a photographer who takes your family pictures (or who photographed your wedding) because you're not comfortable with that person seeing you give birth, seeing you naked, and then doing future family pictures with them.

 

 

What to look for in an experienced, professional birth photographer 

 
boca raton regional hospital photographer

1. The first thing I would look for in an experienced, professional birth photographer is if I love their work. How many births have I seen from them? 1? 5? 20? What does an entire birth story look like? 

2. Depending on the type of birth you plan to have (hospital hypnobirth, induction, cesarean, home birth,  birth center) the photographer should be able to show you samples of previous similar births they have captured. Those proofs should be all of the same high quality and they should impact you emotionally. 

3. Depending on when you are due, you should find out if your birth photographer has any prior commitments during that time. Do they already have 8 other birth clients or 10 photoshoots scheduled two weeks before and after your due date? Do they have an anniversary or a family or child's birthday during that time? Is there a major holiday (like Thanksgiving or Christmas) occurring during that time? It's okay if there is a schedule conflict. What matters is how your photographer approaches that conflict. Are they ok with missing their child's birthday party or Christmas with their family. Their answer to that is what's important.

4. Does your birth photographer work with a reliable back up? Emergencies do happen and if your photographer is unable to be present at your birth, you want to be sure they have a very talented and reliable photographer who serves as their back up. You also want to be sure your photographer defines the parameters of what constitutes an emergency worth missing your birth for.

5. How professional your birth photographer seems to you. If you're having a hospital birth, (or end up needing a transfer to the hospital during labor at home), are high risk or have any medical conditions that can result in extra medical intervention and even a cesarean birth, you want to know how your birth photographer will handle themselves around the most esteemed medical professionals in a hospital setting. If your photographer is inexperienced with working along side of medical professionals ranging from nurses to OBGYNS, NICU nurses, neonatologists and anesthesiologists, it can affect how much of your birth story they are allowed to photograph

6. How many births your photographer has been paid to photograph. Lets get real for a moment. I am proud of the work I did photographing my very first five paid births. I had older, less capable equipment to handle darkly lit rooms back then, and I had less experience, but the work was good. But to be real with you, as an artist, I don't think its as good as the work I capture now, four years later, over one hundred births later. The more births your photographer attends, the more experience they gain working with lighting, unexpected last minute changes, lack of room. You basically learn to expect more things not going your way at a birth as a birth photographer so you condition yourself to expect everything going wrong all at once and plan in advance how you will handle those situations. 

7. Privacy. How much does your photographer honor your privacy and confidentiality? 70% of the births I have documented over four years will never be seen by the public eye Why? because 70% of the birth clients I have had over four years have asked me not to share their photos or films with anyone. I can completely empathize with this. I have a few cell phone pictures from my two births, of which maybe 3 have ever been shared publicly. I feel particularly guarded about my two complicated and emotional births and wish for these images to never be shared with anyone. Your photographer who value your privacy over their own publicity/brand awareness at all times. 

8. Relationship. You should love your birth photographer. They should not feel like a stranger paparazzi the day of your birth but like an old friend who makes you feel safer and more supported because they are there for you. I don't believe in photographing births for families who don't feel comfortable having me in the labor room with them. So I go above and beyond to get to know my families better during their pregnancies by meeting with them in person and getting to know each member of the family before my clients ever go into labor. 


I hope this list of tips on how to choose a photographer to document your birth has been helpful to you. Feel free to print it out by going to the top left of your browser, clicking File > Print. 

If you're interested in learning about what kind of questions you should ask your OBGYN or hospital Midwife before you hire them and before you go into labor... you can find that here

For questions to ask during a hospital tour... you can find those here

 

Questions to Ask on a Hospital Tour

The facility you choose to birth in can be as important as the provider you hire for your birth.

As a mommy, I have experience birthing at two different hospitals in two different counties in Florida. There were pluses and minuses about my experiences and I have learned that so much to do with my minuses has to do with the birth team I selected for my births. So if you are on the fence about your provider, be sure you check out my list of questions to ask an OBGYN or Midwife before you give birth here

Below I am including a list of questions that as an expecting couple, you should read through to see which questions are important to you, print and highlight and ask when you go on a tour of the hospitals you are considering birthing in.

The first thing I suggest is calling the hospital you hope to birth in and requesting a private tour. Private tours may not be offered at every hospital, but what I like about the hospitals that do offer private tours are, the person giving the tour usually has more experience to answer your questions with more accuracy and more current information and they usually have more time to show you around and talk to you.

 Paulina Splechta capturing a December 2017 birth in a labor and delivery room at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

Paulina Splechta capturing a December 2017 birth in a labor and delivery room at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK DURING A HOSPITAL TOUR

 

HOSPITAL AND ROOM INFORMATION

 

1. Are L&D rooms shared or private? What about post partum rooms? Is there the option for a private room (and if so, is there a fee?) Are the bathrooms private or shared?

2. Will I stay in the same room from labor through post partum?

3. When I arrive and I am in labor, do I get admitted to a labor and delivery room immediately or do I go to a triage area first to be assessed? What happens during an assessment? And how long before I can be admitted to my own L&D room?

4. Are all the rooms the same as the one we’re being shown? Are some smaller or larger, less renovated, does every room have a window?

5. Does each room offer a TV? With how many channels?

6. Is there wireless internet access?

7. How many births take place at this hospital on average each day?

8. What happens if all of the labor and delivery rooms are full? How often does that happen?

9. How many operating rooms do you have in the event that I need a c-section?

10. How many people am I able to have as part of my birth team in the room while I'm in labor and during delivery? How many people are able to come with me into the operating room in the event of a C-section?

11. Is there a waiting area for friends and family? (Can I see it?)

12. Will I have access to hydrotherapy to help with pain management during labor via a shower or a laboring tub?

13. Is there a couch/bed for my partner/spouse to spend the night with me while I'm in the hospital?

14. Is this a teaching hospital? If so, can I expect interns or students to be present during my delivery? Can I request that they not attend if I don’t feel comfortable with them there?

15. Where should I park when I arrive in labor? Where should my birth team or guests park when I am in labor / post partum?

16. Does the hospital offer pregnancy and birth classes? And what kind? (If so, is there a fee?)

17. When and where do I go to register myself for the hospital?

18. What are your maternal and infant mortality rates at this hospital?

 Orchid Nest doula Samara supporting a mom during her labor at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

Orchid Nest doula Samara supporting a mom during her labor at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

 

LABOR AND DELIVERY QUESTIONS

 

1. (If you plan on it) I intend on walking during labor am I restricted to my room?

2. When will I get an IV line when I arrive to the hospital? Does the hospital offer hep-locks?

3. Does the hospital offer intermittent fetal monitoring during labor?

4. What is your approach on pelvic exams during labor and how frequently do nurses do them?

5. What positions can I give birth in? Ie. pushing on side, on hands and knees, squatting.

6. What labor and birthing equipment does the hospital offer? Ie. birthing/laboring balls, peanut balls, squat/birthing bars, showers, laboring tubs, rocking chair, birthing stool.

7. What's the hospital's C-section rate? How familiar is the hospital with gentle cesareans (clear drape replaced blue drape once baby is born, immediate skin to skin, breastfeeding all in the OR) and how frequently do you do them?

8. How comfortable is the hospital with working with doulas? How comfortable is the hospital and L&D nurses with unmedicated births and hypnobirthing?

9. Are there any situations that my birth partner/spouse won't be able to be with me (such as getting an epidural or preparing for a c/section)?

10. Is there a policy regarding videos or photos during labor and delivery?

11. Can I eat and/or drink while in labor? Can I bring honey sticks or popsicles for labor?

12. Can I wear my own labor gown during labor as long as it has buttons everywhere and access to fetal monitoring belts/epidural if needed?

13. What is the hospital position on placenta encapsulation?

14. How long can the baby exam be delayed for, how long am I able to do the initial skin to skin bonding with my baby immediately following labor before any procedures are done with my baby (vitamin K, eye ointment, baby exam).

 Dad catching baby along with Dr. Lauren Feingold of Women's Health Partners during parents second birth at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

Dad catching baby along with Dr. Lauren Feingold of Women's Health Partners during parents second birth at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

 

postpartum questions

 

1. What is the hospital's policy on washing the baby following birth?

2. What is the hospital's position on immediate skin to skin?

3. What is the hospital's position with delayed cord clamping and cord blood banking? Am I able to request for my partner to cut the cord?

4. Is there a newborn intensive care unit (NICU)? What floor is it located on? Is it easy to access from the postpartum rooms?

5. Does the hospital have a nursery? How often can I request for my baby to be taken to the nursery if I need to rest? Will my baby be brought to me for feedings?

6. Does the hospital offer a lactation consultant? How soon after birth can I meet with one?

7. Does the hospital have a breast pump I can use during my stay?

8. How long will I stay in the hospital post-delivery?

9. Does the hospital offer a special meal for new parents? Are we able to use our own delivery services for post-birth meals?

10. What are the visiting hours and policies once the baby is born? Are children allowed to visit during early labor and after birth?

11. What security measures does the hospital have in place to insure the safety of Mom and Baby?

12. Does the hospital offer infant CPR classes for new parents before discharge?

13. Does the hospital offer breastfeeding support classes?

14. Does the hospital offer whooping cough vaccinations for parents and caregivers?
 15. Do we need to have a car seat installed in our car before we can take the baby home?

 

 Big sister meeting her baby brother at Boca Raton Regional Hospital

Big sister meeting her baby brother at Boca Raton Regional Hospital

 

Read the Questions to ask an OBGYN or Midwife before you give birth here