South Florida Maternity Photoshoot at Bethesda by the Sea

South Florida maternity photoshoot in a place unlike you've ever seen before.

This entire church, its gardens and various wooden structures all reminded me of Germany. My heart was in a happy place. I cannot wait to go back to Germany and Switzerland in the near future, I miss these beautiful places and cannot wait to capture more maternity sessions and births and even newborns overseas! 

These two, expecting their first child, a baby boy, made me wish I could travel back in time and honor my own pregnancies in this exquisite spot. 

Being south Florida, most of my sessions do tend to happen at the gorgeous, golden beaches. It is a rarity that a client seeks out a unique location that doesn't look at all like Florida. My birth clients flew in from the Bahamas, so they are no strangers to spending 12 months of the year on the sandy beaches, and wanted something green and magical.

The church at Bethesda by the Sea in West Palm Beach definitely hit the spot for a 'rustic' feeling for this maternity shoot.

I'm so excitedly waiting these next three months to honor this family in meeting their baby boy!

The Invisible Breastfeeding Community, Mama You are Not Alone

Breastfeeding moms you’ll want to read this one.

When it comes to being mothers of young children, we need to stand in solidarity and offer our support, and put our own personal agendas and prejudices aside and offer non-judgemental support.

Each of us makes decisions daily that someone else may not agree with. But we are being good mothers who sacrifice, love endlessly, and fight for our baby cubs.

**Disclaimer: Please read this blog post and reply with kindness. Hurtful comments will be banned. This mother (and other moms who I know in my community as well as nationwide) have received more than enough judgement and negativity and do not need to receive anymore through my art work. This image is being shared FOR those mothers, who feel alone, who feel like they should have to hide, for those who have no one to stand up on their behalf and say "yes, you are a great mother, and this bond you have is beautiful, selfless, kind, proper and sacred” so I will stand up for them.

Below you can read the mom's thoughts on extended Breastfeeding and how she feels about publicly talking about it, it was her side of the conversation as we discussed whether or not to share this image online. The following written message was shared onto this blog with the approval from the mom who wrote it:

 

“I am conflicted. On one hand, I don't want to share a picture in a way that my family would see it. They thought breastfeeding beyond a year was self-indulgent, even bordering on obscene. Some of my family unfollowed me on FB when I posted sweet nursing pictures during breastfeeding week when my daughter was 2. I do not want to deal with their criticism again. There are some fights you just can't win.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a 5 or 6 year old who still wants to nurse. Many 5 and 6 year olds nurse, but no one talks about it. And no one will talk about it if no one starts talking about it. BUT, I don't know if I want that conversation to start with me.

After about age 3 or 4, nursing is not demanding like it is with an infant or a toddler. It's not as much about nutrition, as it is about soothing comfort, intimacy with your little one, and habit. By the time your child reaches age 3 or 4, it's very different. You don't need as much outside physical and emotional support. Your child can understand waiting to nurse if you want to be discreet. Nursing my daughter has been easy these last couple years.

I guess if you have a way to share a picture that won't show up on my FB wall, then go for it. I'm sure there are mothers who will benefit. I'm sure there are mothers whose children would like to continue nursing but are cut short because the mother thinks she is supposed to wean by a certain age. I admit I thought it was weird too, until I saw a couple of my La Leche League co-leaders allowing their children to self-wean. Seeing them opened up my eyes, for sure. Children WILL wean on their own. Many awesome kids (like mine) still nurse and you'd never guess it. In the end, it's nobody's business - it's between the mother and her child. Each woman should have the freedom and the courage to follow her own breastfeeding path.

I don't know if I've shared any words of wisdom... What I have learned is that mothering is the hardest job: it takes great courage for a mother to stand up for her beliefs and stand up for what feels right for her and her child. But every time she does it, she works her mothering muscles and she gets stronger. And in the end she becomes a warrior."

-Christine, nursing her daughter (age 6)

The Real Mothers You Know Who are Suffering from Post Partum Depression

A few weeks ago, Michelle Brown of ihelpmoms.com and I banded together to pull together a project that hits very close to home.

Michelle graciously offered her studio space in her home and I interviewed several real mothers in our local community here in south Florida about their experiences with post partum depression.

These courageous women share their stories below in an effort to help raise awareness that post partum depression (and general depression) can truly affect any woman. 

They share their personal experiences, their struggles, how PPD has affected their relationships and an insight into what they really need and how mothers suffering from post partum depression can get help. 

Caroline lives in south Florida with her husband and two girls under the age of three. She is a private chef, essential oils distributor and full time stay at home mom.

THE STRUGGLE

Caroline feels that the struggle of keeping it together and being the mom that she thinks she’s suppose to be affects her relationship with her first born. She feels a disconnect with her, feeling more bonded with the baby. She sees so much chaos at home, and easily gets frustrated when her first born doesn’t listen, doesn’t eat well, and she is frustrated that moms who have sleep trained kids can easily put them down, while she struggles with bedtime. The feeling of anxiety of being alone with both of her children is overwhelming to her. There are days that she feels down and she looks at her children and is inspired. But she feels miserable that she cannot manage her at times out of control emotions and feels terrible that she has cried in front of her children because she doesn’t want them to see her that way. So she tries to control her emotions and stay in neutral and takes deep breaths to prevent her emotions from going out of control in front of them.

MARRIAGE

She feels that her lack of confidence in her mothering frustrates her husband, in that he cannot help her confidence and positivity go back to how she was before having children. She feels it has cause their relationship to suffer. It is frustrating to her when her husband isn’t able to relate to what she is going through. She wants to tell her husband that she needs more softness and understanding for her shortcomings in her own confidence, calmness and positivity.

WHAT CAN HELP IS INSIGHT

She felt what her best friend told her was accurate, insightful and helpful advice to her: To give herself a break. Although she feels that sleep training is a sensitive topic, that she has to sleep train her children because she has to get her life back. She recognizes that she is sleep deprived and suffering. She felt it was truthful telling when her older daughter’s teacher said can see that she and her husband feel out of control and feel like they lost control because their older daughter has all of it, and she finds that to be especially true as they have allowed their older daughter to affect their dedication to their own marriage with date nights. She knows that at the end of the day she is doing a good job and is a good mother and that her children are lucky and loved but she acknowledges that she puts this pressure on herself that she is never doing enough, especially when she sees everyone else being that ideal parent based off of happy facebook pictures and she wants to be that parent to her own children.

Beautiful Disaster, the Mom Life

It starts with my husband about to leave work so I text him "DO NOT CALL ME RIGHT NOW I am cleaning a major mess!!"

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I had a plan to have dirty hands for quite a while, probably the length of his drive home from work, so answering the phone with dirty hands was definitely off the table.

Husband: "oh jeez what is it? is something of mine broken?"

me: no answer

Meanwhile I am sticking kids in the tub, rinsing off a screaming toddler who so does not like water.

I go to their carpeted bedroom across the hall from the tub, with my fullest package of seventh generation baby wipes, and spend thirty minutes scrubbing green POOP out of the carpet.

Someone had the brilliant idea to disrobe themselves including their poop-filled pull-up and explore, and stomp, and smear.

Meanwhile kids drain the tub and fill it with COLD water. I forget I left the a/c at 74. I look up and see my little blue-lipped eskimo toddler standing in the tub, complete with chattering teeth, welping out"maaaaa-meeee" I feverishly run across the hall to the tub, immediately swaddle her in three towels in record time while she's still chattering, as my husband walks in from work, I fill him in, he says, you need to get the towels off and do skin to skin. and somehow, just somehow I did not want to forget this ridiculous afternoon so I ran and got the camera as he looked at me like I'm crazy.

#themomlife

The Dark Side of Birth, Rarely in the Spotlight *trigger warning*

There is a Dark Side of birth that is rarely spoken about. It is spoken about in the dark corners of the post partum 4th trimester. And sometimes it creeps into the years following a woman's birth.

There's a purpose to why I am speaking about it here.

You never know if you're going to be the incredible woman who is deeply, emotionally affected by her unique birthing experience, only until after your baby is born.

If the dark side of birth isn't spoken about, we are doing a disservice to the women among us who continue to suffer in silence, and are doing a disservice to expecting mothers and future mothers who will not know that birth can sometimes have a negative outcome emotionally, and how they can prevent a lifetime of emotional trauma.

What women need is information.

Information = Empowerment

In order to be fully informed, a mother must face the facts that there is a negative truth to birth.

But this post is not intended to simply inform women of the negative truth. It's purpose serves to guide women on how to conquer the possible negative side to birth, before that day ever comes, (should it come).

As women who believe in birth, love birth, support women through pregnancy and birth, we should be informing of the negative truth, because knowledge is power.

If a woman is informed of negative birth facts, and is given the tools to make informed decisions, she has greater chances at preventing her own emotional trauma, despite birth not going as planned.

MY EXPERIENCE

Me and my amazing thriving girls have lived through two extremely emotionally traumatic experiences (and the aftermath of the two cesareans brought with them the physical trauma I suffer from to this day).

As a woman who attends births all year round as a birth photographer, first and foremost, I support women in what their birth plan is. Whatever that plan may be. I believe that the priority is for a woman to feel safe, empowered and supported in how she needs. 

If a woman needs a cesarean birth because that is what will make her feel safe, positive, or because that is what is medically necessary, she can depend on me supporting her endlessly without judgement.

However, there is no doubt that cesarean birth can have a very difficult physical and sometimes emotional toll on a woman. And this holds true to vaginal birth as well. For some mothers bodies, vaginal birth can have a very difficult physical and sometimes emotional toll on a woman.

For some the impact is not a difficult one, and for others it is. Every woman's body and mind reacts differently to birth. And for that reason, it is integral to a positive birth experience for a woman to have a birth team that will guide her through her emotional and physical needs, a team she can trust, a team that gives her the endless, nonjudgemental support that she needs.

 

MY LOSS

I will never have the beautiful and peaceful meeting day with my girls that I had planned, our family is complete and I do not have the opportunity to make good decisions a third time. I did not choose birth teams for either of my births who supported me in the way I needed.

(with the exception of 2 amazing Boca Raton Regional nurses who made me feel safer when I was scared during my first child's birth)

I made decisions based on what provider accepted my insurance, and based on who was available. It was only after I had my babies that I realized those decisions were the wrong decisions for me personally.

The journey (both emotionally and physically) has been a difficult one for me. However, as I approach my youngest's 2nd birthday, almost two years after her birth, and five years of being a mother, I am finally starting to find the courage to turn my pain into a positive - I want to help inform and guide moms to choose the right birth team for them, making a birth plan they feel good about, listening to their intuition and instincts, all things I did not do.

 

HOW TO BULLETPROOF YOUR BIRTH

It's a funny choice of words. There's no real way to bulletproof your birth. 

Why?

Because birth is the single most unpredictable thing in life.

You may choose the best birth team for you specifically, a wonderful birthing facility, but your body or your baby may have different plans.

But that does not mean to give up hope.

Give yourself the best chances to have a positive and empowering experience.

Why? 

In the event your birth plan A and plan B and even plans C, D, E and F do not happen, and out of left field comes plan G that wasn't even on the table, in that sometimes scary, uncertain situation you want to surround yourself with the people who you feel you trust 100%. You want to look to your left and look to your right and see the people who you have felt safe with throughout your entire pregnancy. The people who empower you the way you need. Who give you the support that you need.

If you find yourself in plan G and you are scared, unsure, you may not feel very empowered anymore, you may feel alone, it is choosing that solid birth team that will help prevent those rising feelings from conquering you, from keeping you from having a positive experience.

A midwife or OBGYN who you trust flawlessly with your life, with your child's life, and who makes you feel confident, honored and respected, will make such a difference in a moment when things are out of your hands.

A doula who cares and supports you exactly in the moment you need it, who doesn't leave your side, who puts you first ahead of anything else going on in the world in that moment, that is the person you want holding your hand and giving you facts and affirmations the moment when you've lost hope, she finds it for you. 

How?

Interview, interview, interview.

Do you remember looking for your wedding dress? Did you buy the first one you tried on because it was THE ONE? If you did, lucky you :)

I tried on 20-30 dresses because I kept putting on these A line princess ball gowns and felt they did not compliment me at all. I felt insecure and questioned whether I thought I was beautiful to begin with. Then suddenly, in a new store, I saw a mermaid style wedding dress. It was on the rack in the "expensive section." I didn't even see the actual gown from top to bottom, I just saw the fabric, hand sewn silk with intricate detail that was evident to me someone had really invested a great deal of time into it. I looked at my dearest friend Monika (who had gone with me from store to store, encouraging me through the disappointing dress try-ons) and I said, I'm not even going to look at the price tag. (I was so past the point of what my wedding dress budget was; I was willing to pay way more than my budget if it meant finding the ONE that made me feel beautiful and confident). I darted for the dressing room. The dress wasn't even completely on, and not even zipped and I was crying, I was saying "this is the one!!!" 

Perhaps this story is a little silly (it's a true story) in terms of comparing it to your birth team. But I use this example, because these tremendous moments that require pause and consideration in our life, require great planning and good decisions if on the inside, we really want to feel like we made the right decision that WE feel confident about. 

So don't take lightly to choosing your birth team. 

Your experiences with them on the day of your baby's birth will remain with you in your heart and mind every day for the rest of your life.

** My birth client who had an amazing birth team (Boca Midwifery at Boca Raton Regional Hospital).

** My birth client who had an amazing birth team (Boca Midwifery at Boca Raton Regional Hospital).

Getting Real with Paulina

To be completely honest and transparent, last night when I wrote this blog post, I totally felt like this was going to be my "get real with Paulina" blog post where I finally feel some confidence, like I finally can say from a confidant stand point that I got my ish together today.

This morning, when the wave of obligations impacted, my emotions got a little disturbed. I told my husband, I'm just going to skip lunch, I'm too stressed.

When I get stressed, I can't eat. My stomach does flips and turns and I have no desire for self nourishment, I just need to accomplish, settle, finalize. 

So before I get into today's blog post, I want to address my greatest struggle. 

BALANCE

I struggle SO much with balance. I don't know if its that I lack the time management skills or if I simply and plain put have way too much on my plate at all times, but balancing all my life and work obligations is truly my greatest struggle. 

I was having a conversation with one of my dearest friends and favorite doulas, Lisa Raynor, and I told her, "I haven't done anything for myself in I really don't know how long."

It's so true. It's very easy for me to become swept up in efficiency, power machine through life and work and kids and forget that I need down time, relaxation, self care. Self care that often gets pushed back to the end of that 4 page list of to do's I have, and let's be honest, I've never gotten out of page 1 and its been months.  

 The mommy life to small, wild children / the full time photographer life / the I own and operate my own business from home life is my greatest life's challenge.

So when I watched mompreneur Louise Glendon of ClickLoveGrow.com on Vicky Lashenko's show on facebook talking about how she and her husband had to get real and she had to cut out and simplify because she had too much on her plate, I commented on that interview with this:

Hands down that’s exactly what is my biggest struggle, but instead of downsizing I am waiting for kids to go to elementary school - because childcare is my biggest problem!
— https://www.facebook.com/pg/MompreneurShowLIVE/videos/?ref=page_internal

So without further ado, let me get into the blog post I wrote up for you guys last night:

I just love the mompreneur show run by Vicky Lashenko on Facebook.

I love how real the conversations get.

Not knowing what you're going to make for dinner because you didn't do your groceries because way too much obligation falls on your shoulders - I can't even begin to count how many times I've been there!

Almost 5 years ago when I had my first daughter I made the super risky transition from a steady income working for a graphics / virtual reality medical military contractor to being ALL IN the full time stay at home mom / pro photographer game. I even remember telling my husband, "if I'm not meant to be doing this then I will have no success," and then it ended up going completely the other way.

I'm a big believer in the school of thought that if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and you give it your all, that successful will come to you, but if you find yourself faced with no success it means there is a door with much greater opportunity uniquely designed for you that you are just steps away from uncovering.

And let me tell you it was not all green lights from this point, let me get real with you for a second and just completely open & honestly say that being a stay at home mom has not been the walk in the park I thought it would be. I totally anticipated a life filled with smiles, snuggles, feeling blessed and joyful and grateful day to day I definitely was not expecting postpartum depression to come out of left field and derail my entire "business plan" for my life as a stay at home mom.

My struggle with it definitely made things way harder when it reappeared after the birth of my second daughter in the form of panic attacks anxiety attacks. I think that it was the start of the second year of my daughters life that was the biggest challenge for me of the five years of being a mom. The amount of obstacles that we were met with truly tried our family. In fact, we are currently only in the baby stages of having just emerged this huge cloud that has been hovering over us for a good solid year.

During this time I had to pull together my ambition to see past the personal struggle of nothing working harmoniously in our personal lives and continue to push through professionally with my pro photographer business. But it wasn't just for the sake of finances. We made the only-one-spouse-working dynamic happen before. Granted we have two kids now and our living expenses are higher, I continued to push through with my business because it fulfilled me on multiple levels.

Vicky said in this interview, when you're filled with passion you'll get up however early to make it happen and that is so true. Through my art I find myself more confident, energetic, awake, alive, and I'm willing to make sacrifices and I have made many sacrifices to achieve the goals I have with my company. But it doesn't stop there, because I definitely had to have a supportive spouse to make it through the most trying of times. I made sacrifices but so did he. That's the only way my business could have not only survived but also thrived.

And despite not experiencing being a stay at home mom as the most blissful experience of my life, it was those struggles of my personal life as a mother and wife that provided a blank canvas for me to paint my emotions and plunge myself deeply into supporting women through art.

If it had not been for my passion for what I do, there is no way my work would have ever become a strong enough artist to run my own business, my personality would have never opened up to be transparent and real enough to be relatable for my clients, there's no way that anyone would ever trust that I am a committed professional -- because you just can't fake any of that.

It takes long, late hours and days and weeks and months and years to get to where you're wanting to go and also realizing as an artist that your work actually won't ever be good enough for YOU, that's when you realize you can be confidant about your work, when you realize you aren't 100% content with your art. That inkling of discontentment with your work is what will always keep pushing you to get ahead of yourself and achieve greater work with each new endeavor. The moment you feel like you've done it all, you've reached the top is the moment your endless creativity and passion is tapped.

A 40 hour work week and steady income would have definitely made our lives far less complicated but as an artist I could have never made it far in any of those careers.

20 Questions to Help You Hire the Right Doula for You

With the awakening of my birth blog, which aims to help women recognize facts and information that will help them make informed decisions for their own births, I want to discuss one of the most important topics surrounding birth:

How to Hire the Right Doula for You


It's not enough just to hire a doula

It's not enough to check off your to-do list, yes I hired a doula.

Every doula is different...

In the skill and experience she offers you, in supporting you, in her approach during your pregnancy and labor, in her personality and character.

In order to have a positive, calming, and empowered prenatal and birth experience, you need to find the right doula for YOU.

Let's start with the basics every doula should offer.



Here is a list of a variety of support a good doula should offer:

(from the DONA website)

Physical Support

Position ideas for comfort and labor progression cross over with hands-on comfort measures like comforting touch, counter pressure, breathing techniques.

Emotional Support

Doulas help families to feel supported, easing the emotional experience of birth and also helping to create a space where the hormones of labor can work at their best. Whether a birth is completely unmedicated or medically very complex, every family can benefit from nurturing and connection at this tender, incredible time in their lives.

Partner Support

The birth partner’s experience matters in birth. Support the birth partner in being as involved as they’d like with the birth. Physical and emotional support make a huge difference for everyone involved.

Evidence-Based Information and Advocacy

Trained to help families connect with evidence-based resources so they can ask great questions and make informed decisions about their births. Serve as a bridge of communication between women and their providers, lifting them up to help them find their voices and advocate for the very best care. 



Now that you know what the basics are for what a great doula should offer, here is a list of questions I've compiled for you to get you started on interviewing and finding the right doula that is the best match for YOU personally.

Because as experienced, recommended and pleasant a doula might be, they won't be the right doula for you unless they meet your personal needs and you connect with her.


QUESTIONS TO ASK A DOULA

As with my post 36 Questions to Ask a Home birth Midwife, one important question should really be a question to YOU, so I have included the guideline of evaluating how a doula makes you feel and if she's compatible with you under question 20. I have included several questions from the baby center website as well as personalized questions I would ask if I were hiring a doula for myself. 

I hired a doula for my second pregnancy, however, it did not occur to me that not all doulas are the same, and that is the inspiration for me to compile this list and share this post with you, because I want you to succeed in finding the right birth team for you, not just a birth team.

Your first brief conversation with a doula can be on the phone, and if you feel it goes positively, schedule an in person meeting so you can have a more in depth conversation and truly discover how compatible you are, and if you would feel 100% supported, not judged and empowered by this doula during your entire pregnancy, labor, birth and post partum.



QUESTION 1

Are you available around my due date (for how many weeks before my due date and if up to 2 weeks after) and if in the event of emergency you are unavailable for my birth, who is your back up and when can I meet her?

What constitutes an emergency for you under which you would not be able to join me during labor/birth?

 

QUESTION 2

What is your training? Are you certified? If so, by what organization? And what was required in order to receive this certification? How many births have you attended prior to and after becoming certified? Have you ever been to a birth under the role of "birth assistant"

**If you have any concerns about your health during your pregnancy or medical concerns about pregnancy/labor/birth, this is a good time to bring them up to inquire whether she has experience working with mothers in the past with these medical needs, such as VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), breech babies, cesarean births, high anxiety mothers, etc. and how she approaches those sensitive situations.

 

QUESTION 3

Are you familiar with my doctor/midwife/hospital/birth center? Do you get along well with my caregiver?

 

QUESTION 4

When do you join me during labor? What if I need emotional support during early labor before things become intense, are you available then? Is there a limit to how many hours of support you offer during labor/birth?

 

QUESTION 5

How comfortable and how available are you with communicating frequently with me during my pregnancy?

**If you are a mother who is wanting to hire a doula to provide emotional support through out your pregnancy and help dispel fears, this is a very important question to ask. A doula who may not be very available through out your pregnancy, or a doula who may feel burdened with constant prenatal communication may not be a good fit for you personally.

 

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QUESTION 6

Which labor-coping techniques do you think tend to be the most helpful?

**If you have a specific technique or method in mind that you plan to try, ask about her experience with it.

 

QUESTION 7

How would you work with and involve my partner?

 

QUESTION 8

How do you feel about the use of pain medication during labor?

 

QUESTION 9

Why did you become a doula?

 

QUESTION 10

What's your fee?  and how can I pay for it? How many birth clients do you take per month and why? 

What does your fee cover? How many visits or hours? Do you have anyone else due near the time I'm due?

 

QUESTION 11

Can I talk to a few of your recent clients?

 

QUESTION 12

Will we meet again to address any concerns or questions I have and to review our birth plan?

 

QUESTION 13

What does being on-call mean?

 

QUESTION 14

What happens if I have a c-section?

 

QUESTION 15

If I have difficulty latching my baby, can you help me?

QUESTION 16

What makes you stand out among the other doulas?

 

QUESTION 17

What if I go early, before 38 weeks?

 

QUESTION 18

*If you are planning a Home Birth / Birth Center birth

If I am transferred to the hospital, will you go and stay with me even if just for emotional support?

 

QUESTION 19

How soon will I see you again after the baby is born?

 

Last but not least...

QUESTION 20

This is a most important question to yourself.

 After the interview, try to imagine the doula at the birth with you and see if you feel good about it. Ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable and safe around this person? Is she warm, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable? Does she communicate and listen well and is patient with you and honors your questions? Will she support my choices or does she have her own agenda? It's also a good idea to check a few references. Ask what they liked most about the doula and whether there's anything they wished she had done differently.

Would you be friends with this person? Why/Why not? 

Does either remind you of your mother? How do you feel about this? 

Were you able to ask all the questions you wanted to? Why/Why not? 

 

Take note of what feelings may rise from your instincts.

Those feelings will always be 100% right. 

I have lived the reality of hushing my own maternal instincts when I hired a doula for my second pregnancy, and ultimately, that decision to not hear my inner most instinct affect my entire birth. 

 

Check out also:

Why I Needed a Birth Doula for my First Pregnancy AND Birth but Never Hired One

and

36 Questions to Ask a Home Birth Midwife

Why I Needed a Birth Doula for my First Pregnancy AND Birth but Never Hired One

When I was pregnant with my first daughter Kate, I knew virtually nothing about child birth. 

I think that holds true for many women. In our modern day society, girls and young women are not raised around child birth. In fact, almost no one is. My reality was that I had never talked about nor seen child birth until I became pregnant,  so it is not so far fetched that I knew nothing.

 I definitely did not even know 20% of what I now know, 5 years later. 

Maybe I knew the Hollywood movie "birth basics". You get pregnant, you get nauseous, you get uncomfortable, your water breaks, birth is scary, messy, painful, you have the baby.

Yep, that's basically what I knew.

I cannot believe I just wrote that out.

But those misconceptions and limitations were my reality five years ago.

And it is not far fetched at all to say that many women are in the same boat.

I personally was quite scared of child birth.

As I said above, Hollywood Movies make birth seem "scary, messy, painful"

I was uneducated and very afraid to become educated, to the point where I did not want to attend a child birth class. The thought of sitting in a room with 10 other couples, rubber baby dolls, learning how to swaddle and how to wipe a baby butt and being judged by other couples and instructor, it seemed totally unappealing to me, and a little scary. I was projecting my own fears. Because fear-based birth is all I had been taught by Hollywood my entire life.

So instead of a child birth class, I dowloaded a child birth app to my tablet. I was so scared and refused to think I could ever have major abdominal surgery so I even skipped the entire chapter on c-sections.

If I could go back in time, I could see myself sitting there wishing: If only there had been someone who would have been by my side, sitting with me, guiding me, supporting me, encouraging me, helping empower me to dispel my own fears.

Before I had my daughter Kate, I had never heard the word 'DOULA' spoken by anyone, nor written anywhere.

I had how many prenatal visits with the OBGYN practice I was with? Not once did anyone there mention to me, "are you interested in hiring a doula for your birth?"

If someone had asked me that question during my pregnancy, I would have answered with:

"what is a doula?" 

And that's all it would have taken to inform me, to educate me. My intrigue into this unheard of role of a person who's sole job is to support, honor, and encourage YOU, would have jump-started my own journey into researching why I need a doula and how to find the right one.

And oh, how I could have used a doula with my first pregnancy for so many extremely important reasons:


1. ENCOURAGEMENT & VALIDITY

During my pregnancy, I really needed someone who would validate my concerns about my pregnancy and birth and encourage me to explore them. Any time I mentioned to my OB, family or friends that I was worried about something to do with my pregnancy or upcoming birth, they'd immediately brush it off like "you can't worry about everything" or "it'll be fine"

I became so self conscious about asking my OB questions. (He was the wrong fit for me and I had no idea at the time). He was less than enthusiastic about answering any of my questions,  so I kept to myself and started to dread my prenatal visits, because with each visit I felt less supported, less important and increasingly more of a burden to him.

I could have used someone who would have recognized that grief I had during prenatal visits and help me explore what I wanted to do about it.

I had no idea that you could change medical providers.

(And I am of the school of thought that if you do not feel supported by your medical provider, if you feel like they rush you, belittle you when you ask valid questions, aren't on the same page as you regarding what you want for your pregnancy and birth, then you should at the very least interview other providers who CAN honor you. You owe that to yourself).

And even if I had known you can change medical providers, after starting out such a fear-based prenatal journey with my first baby, I know myself (the same way like I know my birth clients) and the moment your mind comes across the idea of changing medical providers, you become riddled with guilt over how much time they've invested in your prenatal care, what will they think of you, will they sabotage your medical files, countless thoughts race through your head. In that situation I would have really needed the support & encouragement that I was indeed making the right decision to leave my medical provider.

2. INFORMATION

During my pregnancy with Kate, my best friend became google.

I had so many questions and I had way too much guilt over burdening anyone to ask them all to one person.

During my pregnancy, I felt like I could relate best and trust mothers to young children since they just went through pregnancy and childbirth.

But there were only 2 or 3 mothers to young children in my life, the wives of my husband's friends.

And I felt extremely guilty bombarding them with questions. I was again, projecting my own fears, I started worrying that I have way too may questions and did not want to be judged for being neurotic and controlling that I wouldn't surrender to my OBGYN's guidance.


3. DISPELLING FEARS

One thing that I needed most during my pregnancy with Kate was I needed someone who would help me dispel my fears.

I had so many fears during my first pregnancy and they completely conquered me.

Instead of focusing on the joy of growing this little person in my belly and exploring what my goals were for my birth, I was imprisoned in my fear based emotions. 

The right doula for me could have guided me in recognizing my fears, drawing them out from behind closed doors, and defeating them with powerful affirmations. 

I did not even have the word AFFIRMATIONS in my vocabulary until well after two children. 


4. PLANNING A PEACEFUL BIRTH

I never got the opportunity to even get as far as planning for a peaceful birth.

I didn't educate myself about child birth, I didn't know I should have a birth plan, I didn't know I had options to change medical providers.

I just didn't know.

There was no outlet of vast information available to me.

I sure wasn't becoming informed by my OB.

I only googled questions that popped into my head such as "is it normal to have light bleeding when you first get pregnancy" or "is it normal to have menstrual like cramps during your third trimester" 

It did not occur to me to google:

"questions to ask your OBGYN" 

It did not occur to me to google: 

"birth plan ideas"

I did not know what to research.

I was lost and quite alone.

My husband never did this before.

Neither did I.

So we were left under the guidance of a singular OBGYN who I did not even feel good about. 


5. THE ELEVENTH HOUR

Birth came and went... and became a traumatic, negative, and distant memory that I do not look back on fondly. I still carry the weight of it with me today. 

It has taken me five years to take the pain of what I went through with not one but both of my pregnancies and births, and stand up and say to myself that I want to turn my pain around into something good.

In the last few months of my life I have felt a profound calling to take my pain and use it as education to inform mothers.

That is why I have this blog and have chosen to start writing to women about birth. 

Being a birth photographer is my outlet to connect to mothers who need guidance and support. 


But it's not enough to hire a doula.

Every doula is different in the experience she has, in the support she offers, in her approach during pregnancy and labor, in her personality and character. You need to find the right doula for YOU.

Follow this link to read 20 Questions to Ask a Doula

Natural Birth at Boca Raton Regional Hospital

One of my favorite days was the day I was honored to attend and capture the birth story of an amazing little boy. His mom rocked her VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) which inspired me and empowered so many moms to learn more about VBAC and the providers who are skilled in it and support women in it, and to make informed decisions about their birthing stories. 

But the sweetness of this little family coming together, and their big girl meeting their baby boy just melted away my heart. She is such a great big sister now. 

I absolutely love being a birth photographer here in Boca Raton. There is nothing more special than the meeting day :)

I cannot wait for all my upcoming births this year and early spring of 2018 in Coral Springs, both in the Coral Springs Medical Center - Broward Health, and also upcoming home births!