birth

MIDWIFE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Courtney McMillian CNM of Boca Midwifery

My first birth with Courtney McMillian of Boca Midwifery as the midwife was the pivotal moment when my view of birth changed. She is my person supergirl in scrubs. She is the kindest, most patient midwifery practitioner. Here are some fun facts about this amazing birth provider!

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  • Courtney McMillian is a Certified Nurse Midwife which means that she delivers babies in the hospital

  • She has been a midwife for 4 years

  • She became a midwife to help women have better (more gentle/less interventional) births

  • She has 3 children, ages 4, 8, 11

  • Her own first birth with her first child was a home water birth

  • She has given birth at home, at Boca Raton Regional Hospital and at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital

  • Courtney is married to Joseph of 12 years

  • She is a Leo born in the year of the goat

  • Her favorite color is navy blue

  • When she was a child she wanted to be a pediatrician when she grew up

  • Her favorite place to go with her entire family is the beach. Or away anywhere they are all together! 

  • In the morning she drinks 2 cups of coffee

  • She is an omnivore

  • Something you don’t know about her is that she lived in Spain for 6 months in college

  • Her proudest moments as a midwife are helping women achieve vaginal births after c-sections (VBACs)

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DOULA HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Orlando Labor Doula Katherin | Rin Rin Doula

I recently met a fantastic human being and amazing labor doula in Orlando, FL — Katherin Rinaldi, owner of Rin Rin Doula.

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Katherin Rinaldi

www.rinrindoula.com

Orlando, FL

What really struck me about her the very first time I came across her, was her energy. Yes you read that right, her energy was so powerful and positive, I immediately knew that this woman was born to do what she does.

Katherin is the third of four children, born in Colombia and raised in a Baha’i family (a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people). She moved to the US when she was 13 years old with her parents and younger brother. She got married at 20 as a student at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA and her husband and she now live in Orlando, FL and have three daughters. She feels that being a mom to her three daughters has been tremendously fulfilling but also challenging. She enjoys an active lifestyle and is passionate about health and wellness, meeting new people, serving others, and traveling with her family. She loves dancing (especially salsa) with her husband, water sports and baking and gardening with her girls.


WHY KATHERIN IS A DOULA

Katherin says she has always been mesmerized by childbirth.  One day many years ago, while her mom was talking to her two older sisters sitting at the kitchen counter, she asked her (out of the blue) if she was pregnant.  Surprised by this question from her three year old daughter, she said “Si!” (“Yes!”) with a gleaming smile.  Her sisters thought she was joking.

After she found out it was going to be a baby brother, she asked her Dad to make a countdown calendar for her; she couldn’t wait to become a big sister. She frequently asked her sisters and their teenage friends to read her an encyclopedia-type book on childbirth (with graphic pictures and descriptions) and it quickly became her favorite book around the house.  

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She is now following her desire to serve women.  In fact, Doula means woman’s servant in Greek.  Katherin’s goal is to empower women and their families through pregnancy, childbirth and in the post partum period.  She feels that women need to feel cared for, supported and loved during this pivotal moment of womanhood.  Her goal is not to replace the role of the partner or father in the childbirth process but rather to be part of the birth team.. The doula-client relationship begins several months before baby is due. During this time, the mother is free to ask questions, express concerns and fears and her desires for her birth plan. As a doula, Katherin is an advocate for the mother, helping her fulfill specific desires she may have for her birth in order to have a positive and safe birthing experience regardless of birth location. Katherin provides her birth clients with continuous physical, emotional and informational support before, during and shortly after childbirth. She also is able to provide comfort measures and relaxation techniques, positive affirmations to help mothers during labor and she encourages participation from the partner in the process. After birth, Katherin stays and helps the mother with breastfeeding and encourage bonding.

If you are an expectant mother near Orlando, FL seeking the right labor doula for your pregnancy journey and upcoming birth, you can reach Katherin here: https://www.rinrindoula.com/

My Journey with Polyhydramnios, C-sections and Loose Post Partum Belly Skin

⚪️⚪️ SELF REVEAL ⚪️⚪️

I’m kind of an open book. Too many things were kept from me by society about motherhood, so I am a proponent of transparency. I think many women can relate to this statement, because how many women can honestly say that they knew much about pregnancy, labor, birth and post partum BEFORE they had their first child? Unless you’re a labor and delivery nurse, a labor doula or post partum doula, a midwife or an OBGYN, chances are, you, similarly to me, didn’t have much of an education about motherhood before you became a mom for the first time to your own child.

A few weeks ago I finally took a deep breath and I went to see a revered specialist (who I still highly admire btw) in the plastic surgery field because I wanted to be “fixed”

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Going from being somebody who easily fit into any piece of clothing, never worrying about size labels, never second-guessing my health, to suddenly finding myself with pretty serious self-body image issues after polyhydramnios with two pregnancies... This picture is my body TODAY (btw I’m not underweight! ❌ I’m just inhaling and my ribs say hello!)

Here I have been taking pictures of women in the most compelling moment of their motherhood experiences, truly believing and telling them they are radiantly gorgeous — never did any of their bodies ever make me feel they weren’t stunning. I never looked at weight as a negative. I always saw radiant beauty.

But here I was with a self-body image problem.

I hated my body. Well, my stomach. What polyhydramnios did to it, it became unrecognizable to me. It didn’t matter how much weight I lost after my second pregnancy, the stomach was still there. So I went to a plastic surgeon asking them what they would need to do to “fix me” so I could go back to being beautiful 

what I didn’t expect was for that visit to be the moment I would fall in love with my postpartum body.

Someone telling me that they would take away the skin I’ve lived in for 33 years, the stupid dragon tattoo I got when I was 21 that over these years became a symbol of my badass motherhood that I didn’t even realize — until they were telling me that with a tummy tuck, it would have to go. 99% of my abdominal dragon tattoo would have to go.

I walked out of the office a changed woman.

I never in a million years thought I would want to keep this skin, find my pp body beautiful & attractive. 

Fast forward a few weeks, I’m laying on my living room floor this morning, taking a photograph specifically to share with women out there who might have body image issues after their pregnancy.

POSTPARTUM IS THE DIVINE FEMININE. 

It took me 6 years, and I finally believ

Interview with Dr. Scott Roseff of IVFMD in Boca Raton, FL

The Birth Talk Show

Hosted weekly on FB Live by Paulina Splechta Birth Photographer & Filmmaker and Martha Lerner labor doula, birth photographer and post partum support of Zenmamalove.com. Every week we invite experts in the motherhood world, ranging from fertility/conception and pregnancy through labor, birth and into the post partum, 4th trimester and first twelve months mommy, to discuss their specialties with moms, women and families of south Florida so that women can be supported and have resources at their fingertips to getting through the new transition of motherhood. The Birth Talk Show was born out of our realization of the need of a lot of families in south Florida who don’t have the resources that we’ve gotten the opportunity to learn about over the last three or four years. We really wanted to bring the awareness of these resources to the families of south Florida and that’s why we are on our 8th episode. Today on episode 8 of the show we will be talking about fertility with Dr. Scott Roseff, Board Certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at IVFMD in Boca Raton, FL.


  • We asked Dr. Roseff why his approach to fertility is so vastly different from other fertility specialists

  • What drew his passion into fertility work at the start of his career

  • We found out that the age we thought egg quality starts to go down — we were completely wrong! (Spoiler, its way earlier than you thought!)

  • What his recommended waiting time is before seeing a fertility specialist if you’re trying to conceiving and think you might be having problems


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Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): Dr. Roseff, I’d really love for you to talk to our viewers about your philosophy of fertility and how you approach it. I feel very swept away with your approach because I feel its very holistic.

Dr. Scott Roseff: I do take a different approach to fertility, I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and people come to me with a problem. The problem is either getting pregnant or holding a pregnancy or both. I saw a patient this morning who has been trying for four and a half years. She has both difficulty getting pregnant and any time she did become pregnant, she’s lost those pregnancies, she’s had five losses. I’m an expert in getting to the bottom of what the problem is or the problems are.

When people go to a fertility doctor they typically start treatments “okay you’re having difficulty getting pregnant, let’s do this and see if it works” but what I do is I always take a half a step back and say let’s get to the bottom of what’s going on, so I can know what your problems are so we can address them head on. My primary objective with every patient I see is to find out the problems and see if I can fix them or overcome them so that I can have perhaps the man take this pill and the female do this and then go home and get pregnant. I like to restore natural fertility and in doing that its a very complex picture. It’s not just sperm and egg making a pregnancy. It’s psychological issues, its sociological issues, lifestyle habits; its so complex.

The person is a compilation of everything going on in his or her life, it’s not just sperm and egg. So I need to look at stress, food, exercise. Too little exercise can have an impact. Too much exercise can have an impact on their success. I look at body fat. Most fertility experts are not measuring body fat. Too little body fat actually has a very negative effect on health and reproductive outcome. Too much body fat, which is usually more commonly the problem, can have a negative impact on outcome as well as health. The saying is “if we don’t have our health, we have nothing” Many people come to me with health problems that haven’t been addressed, even when they go to their family doctors, the family doctors are not addressing these issues with telling the patients that you have a problem that needs to be addressed before you get pregnant.

I do a lot of what’s called preconception counseling where I go through factors that can cause a baby to be sick, or a baby to be born with health problems, or increased risk of autism for example, and these are things that I look at before people get pregnant so that when they get pregnant, they’re going to have the highest chance of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and that really takes a very broad approach which is holistic, rather than just “okay we’re going to do this treatment hopefully you’ll be pregnant and out the door and good bye and good luck” I want healthy mom, healthy dad, healthy pregnancy, healthy baby and there’s a lot that goes into mental health, physical health, reproductive health.

It’s a very big picture. People come with problems and its a jigsaw puzzle and my job is to put the little pieces of the puzzle together and it takes a lot of work and it takes some time. I understand the desire for people to be pregnant yesterday, “I’ve been trying for X amount of time and I want to be pregnant now” but you always have to take a half a step back and address the issues. One patient came to me from Russia having failed in vitro fertilization 7 times and when she came to her consult she said “I heard that you’re the best and I want to do IVF with you and I want to do it now.” And I said “that makes no sense, you failed 7 times, there are problems here and I need to level that playing field before you do this again.” So I did, it took 4 months to level her playing field and then when we did IVF she conceived twins and delivered twins first time and the philosophy is to do this once, to do it right and to make it work.

Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): But I love what you said “the philosophy is to do this once, to do this right and just make it work.”

Dr. Scott Roseff: And often it does.

Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): Before I met you I had never had any experience with doctors who work in this field, and I only have stories from friends and family members of trials and trials of IVF that have failed for years and years and they were just getting to the point where they felt that they were never going to have a baby unless they get an egg donor or a surrogate..

Dr. Scott Roseff: So many people come to me from other fertility practices having been told they need an egg donor. I saw a patient this morning who was told over the last three years she was at her previous fertility practice that she needs a surrogate, she needs someone else to carry the pregnancy — she doesn’t. People who say that they were told they need an egg donor, I’ll test them, and find out that they really don’t need to do that. You really need to know what’s really truly going on, rather than saying “okay, this failed, that failed, so let’s get a sperm donor or an egg donor and maybe that’ll work, let’s get another uterus and put an embryo in there and see if that’ll work.” You really need to find out what the problems are and address them. Sure, some people need an egg donor, yes, there are occasions when someone needs a surrogate to carry the pregnancy, but so many people have been told the wrong thing and when I see them and tell them what they really need to do, first of all, they’re blown away by it and second of all, when they’re successful, I hear every minute of everyday “I wish I came here first rather than having spent X amount of time, X amount of years, X amount of money, X amount of emotional toil elsewhere.

I just like to see if I can help people conceive first objective is natural conception, if that’s not in the cards, if its something thats not likely going to work, then there are tools that I have to assist people in becoming pregnant, but I want to look for the simplest, least invasive, least expensive thing that we can do to achieve a high degree of success. IVF is the bottom of the list, it’s the last resort, its the last thing that I ever want anyone to have to go through. Yeah, a lot of people need IVF, do IVF here, and are successful, but it’s the last thing that I want anyone to have to go through.

Martha Lerner (Zenmamalove.com): Before we go onto the next question, I wanted to ask you, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with us, what got you into this field, what made you decide to get into fertility.

Dr. Scott Roseff: When I was in my training, I had to rotate through different disciplines in the medical field, so we had to do some time in pediatrics, in general surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry, and all the different disciplines, and when I did OBGYN and the first time that I was in a delivery room with someone, and it was just me — they threw me in and said go deliver the baby, and one minute it was the patient in the room with me and the next minute there were three of us in the room, the baby was there, and no one came through the door, I said “this is the most miraculous thing I can ever fathom, bringing another life into the world” and I said “I want to be an OBGYN, I want to deliver babies and take care of pregnant women for the rest of my life.” So then I started my training in just obstetrics and gynecology, and in doing so, one of the rotations that we have to do is we have to go through the infertility rotation, and then when I saw the heart break of people who were having difficulty getting to the point of that miracle, I said “this is what I really need to do, I need to help people to achieve that miracle,” rather than just bring the miracle and deliver the baby, let’s help people who can’t get there to get there. And so I went into the fertility field.

Martha Lerner (Zenmamalove.com): So if a woman comes to you and is having difficulty conceiving, what’s generally something you would recommend for her to do in the beginning?

Dr. Scott Roseff: If she has a partner, that she and her partner need to look at their lives, they need to look at a broader picture of why they may not be getting pregnant or may be losing pregnancies. Look at your lifestyle, look at your nutrition, look at your general overall health. Pregnancy is growing another life inside of your body for three quarters of a year. When I do the first pregnancy ultrasound, and I measure the baby and the baby is 5mm on that first ultrasound, which is the size of your pinky nail and there is a little flicker of a heartbeat and you have this 5mm fetus inside of you and you have to nourish it and you have to grow it and you have to sustain it, if you’re not in good mental health and good physical health, how do you expect your body to nourish and grow successfully another life for three quarters of a year. So people really need to look at the bigger picture, "are we stressed out” because there is a connection between the mind and the body.

You have to look at lifestyle factors, are you overweight, are you obese, are you underweight, because those can have affect as well. Men, can be exposed to high levels of heat, are you going to a sauna, are you going to a jacuzzi or a hot tub several times a week, it has a really bad effect on sperm. So you have to look at certain things that can have effect on fertility. And then, if you’re having difficulty and think there could be a problem, don’t wait too long. Men make new sperm in their bodies every ten weeks until they’re dead, but women don’t make new eggs.

When a woman is 25 years old, her eggs have been in her body for 25 years, but if she’s 30 or 35 or 40, her eggs have been sitting on a shelf for 40 years and since she doesn’t make new ones, her egg quantity goes down, but more importantly, her egg quality goes down. If the egg quality is low, then the egg may not fertilize or if the egg does fertilize and it’s a bad egg, those pregnancies are more likely to miscarry. If its a bad egg or an older egg and the pregnancy doesn’t miscarry, its a greater chance of a genetically abnormal baby, like a down syndrome pregnancy.

One of the important things for women to remember is that they should not wait too long. I ask my patients when they think their egg quality really starts to go down and 90% of the time they say age 35 and that’s not correct. The egg quality starts to go down around age 24, and it’s a slow drop from 24 to 30 and then its a pretty quick drop from 30 to 35, and then it’s a very sharp drop there after. So don’t wait too long. I see people who are 40 years old who go to their family doctor or their health care provider and say “we want to have a baby” and the doctor says “well, you need to try for a year, and if you’re not pregnant then we can do some tests,” and if you’re 40 you don’t wait a year. If you’re 35 you don’t wait a year. So don’t wait too long.

Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): So I guess it really depends on the state of a person’s health and their age, when they should start taking it to the next step, but if we could generalize, if a woman has been having issues conceiving for maybe 3, 4, 5 months, what should her next step be at that point, is that too much time to wait?

Dr. Scott Roseff: Well, no, unless there is something in her history or her partner’s history that suggests that we’re going to have a problem right from the onset. For example, there are women who don’t get regular periods. You’re 25 years old, you want to be pregnant, you get a period 8 weeks apart, 12 weeks apart, 6 months apart — don’t wait, there’s a problem. Go to your doctor and start to get tested and find out what the problem is. There’s an infection called chlamydia, its an infectious disease that can cause damage to a fallopian tube. If you’ve had chlamydia when you were 17 years old, and now you’re 22 years old and you want to have a baby, get tested and make sure you don’t have fallopian tube damage, because it’s in your history and therefore you don’t wait and wait and wait because there’s a predisposing factor that maybe something right off the bat that can be addressed or should be addressed or looked at.

In general, if you’re under 35 years old and there’s really nothing in your history that you think suggests you’ll have a fertility problem, you could try for up to a year. If psychologically that’s going to hurt you then don’t wait the year, see a fertility expert sooner. If you’ve reached or passed your 35th birthday, the general rule is 6 months. If there’s really nothing in your history, you can try for 6 months, and if you’re not pregnant after 6 months, see a fertility doctor.

Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): What types of fertility treatments do you offer here?

Dr. Scott Roseff: The first thing I want to do with any patient is to try to see if I can address issues or problems to the point of allowing them to go home and have sexual relations and conceive on their own and that’s my primary objective with every patient I see. Sometimes if a patient comes here and had her tubes tied, had two babies and now wants baby number three and she had a tubal sterilization, she’s not going to conceive on her own. Depending on what the tests show, the fertility treatments are dictated by the test results. For example, if the sperm is a little bit poor and all other things are okay, then there is a relatively simple procedure called Intrauterine insemination (IUI for short) that maybe appropriate. But if she’s 39 years old the odds for success with that will be quite low. So we really need to look at the whole picture and say if you’re 29 years old and you have a little bit of a sperm issue and you don’t ovulate regularly then I can give a fertility pill and we can do Intrauterine insemination with the sperm to have a pretty good chance of success. If you’re past your 35th birthday and especially past your 37th birthday, then IUI is really not a great option, fertility pills are really not very effective, if you’re older; So if IUI is not an option or a good option, then the next step above that is injectable fertility drugs that are given with the purpose of stimulating multiple eggs to grow and develop but it would be dangerous to allow 6 eggs to ovulate and inseminate someone, because if we throw a handful of sperm at 6 eggs, she could possibly be pregnant with 6 babies and that’s not a good outcome. If we’re using injectable fertility drugs then the treatment would be to extract the multiple eggs, fertilize them and grow embryos and that’s in vitro fertilization. If we’re doing in vitro fertilization we need to look at the age of the female, because if she’s past her 35th birthday a fairly large percentage of the embryos would be typically chromosomally genetically not normal, so rather than grow the embryos and put one into the uterus we would genetically test the embryos for genetic mistakes like down syndrome before we put an embryo into a uterus and then when we have a genetically normal good quality embryo that would be the one we that would be chosen to put into the uterus. So it has to be individualized and personalized for ever patient, every couple.

One of the other things I see from the records I get from people who have been to other facilities, is that those facilities tend often to do cookbook medicine as I call it. “It’s a recipe, its a cookbook, and you get it and you get it and you get it and you get it”

But she’s different than she is and she is and she is and you can’t turn to page 6 in the cookbook and do the same thing for everybody it has to be individualized and that takes thought it takes thinking outside the box, it takes effort and it takes very individualized, personalized care and I think if I was going through it, that’s what I would want to have done and that’s what needs to be done and should be done.

There are adjunctive treatments that I recommend for all of my fertility challenged patients. I do recommend fertility acupuncture. There are acupuncturist all over south Florida, many of them have special expertise in the fertility field. I tell every fertility patient that they should consider fertility acupuncture. there are many potential benefits of acupuncture.

I look at this as a team effort. I cannot do this without the assistance of other people like acupuncture doctors, I have fertility psychologists that I refer my patients to for stress reduction and mind body balancing along with the acupuncture. Some of them have a speciality of reproductive medicine psychology. We collaborate together and it really helps the stress reduction and these other techniques for achieving greater success.

Martha Lerner (Zenmamalove.com): That’s wonderful, that was my next question, what other alternative or complementary modalities would you recommend?

Dr. Scott Roseff: We have a tremendous demand for nutrition counseling and lifestyle changes in our patients. Many of our patients are overweight. Many of our patients are obese. And some of my patients are severly underweight. They teach us nutrition about one day in medical school so we can’t be the nutrition experts but there are nutrition experts out there and in my practice we have someone who has advanced degrees in nutrition and exercise physiology, she’s a professor of nutrition at one of the universities in Miami and I have my patients see her and work with her to optimize their health and optimize their bodies so that they will have a significantly improved chance of success. The patient who came to me from Russia, with 7 failed IVF cycles, had some physical body issues that needed to be addressed, lifestyle changes, nutrition and exercise, and eating right and eating better, and losing body fat. She worked with our expert, her name is Marta, over those 4 months. And then Marta said, “time to go back to Dr. Roseff and start moving forward,” we did with incredible success.

Like I said, I can’t do this alone, I have great expertise in what I do and knowledge but its a broader picture, its a bigger picture.

Paulina Splechta (Birth Photographer): I’m so excited by the fact that you’re here, you’re in the heart of south Florida, in Boca Raton at IVFMD, so all the families from Port Saint Lucie and Jupiter can have access to you and all the families as south as Miami. Thank you so much for making the time for sitting with us and share with our viewers. We hope we can reach at least one family that could benefit from this gentle approach to fertility. If anyone has any questions for Dr. Scott Roseff, please message us privately or leave a comment below and we will be happy to connect you.




A Mama's June Birth Story (Hospital Birth) Boca Raton, FL | Paulina Splechta Photography

Story by guest writer, Sarah A.

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With my first pregnancy, I didn’t hire a doula or have any other support team aside from my husband. I was pregnant with twins, a first time mom and I was inexperienced in the ways of a hospital birth. So much of the process was out of my control, preeclampsia meant I needed to be induced, I had to have an epidural early on in case of an emergency c-section and I had to deliver in an OR. Birth isn’t something you can predict or control, but with my first birth, I felt so disconnected and left out of the process itself. I also felt my birth preferences were largely ignored and that left me with feelings of sadness and regret about my twins’ birth.

When I became pregnant for the second time with a singleton in 2017, I wanted to take full advantage of the experience and make sure I was as connected and present as possible throughout my pregnancy and baby’s birth. This led me to the decision to hire a doula. I researched several doulas in my area and ended up hiring Lisa Raynor. In addition to attending my birth, Lisa was a strong support to me throughout my pregnancy. She helped me craft a detailed list of birth preferences and was instrumental in communicating them to my medical team and making sure they were followed the day of the birth.

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During my pregnancy, she was always available if I needed to talk and helped me tremendously through some scary weeks after a few worrisome ultrasounds.

She reminded me that I had a say-so over my birth and helped me think through my options during stressful moments.

On the day of my son’s birth, Lisa was with me as much or as little as I needed, stepping in during the moments when things got tough and supporting my husband and I through a birth process we had never navigated before.

This time around, I was lucky to have a calm and beautiful birth experience but I also credit my doula with making this possible through her knowledge, experience and caring support. I felt like an active participant in my birth this time around and it truly made all the difference. Having a doula helped me achieve the pregnancy and birth experience I envisioned and heal some of the old wounds of regret from my last birth. Lisa provided such seamless and loving support, she felt like a member of our family and I will forever be grateful to her. I would absolutely recommend hiring a doula for pregnancy and birth to any mama-to-be, first time or otherwise.

Only 5% of babies are born on their Estimated Due Date (Birth Center Birth) Hollywood, FL | Paulina Splechta Photography

Only 5% of babies are born on their EDD ( Estimated Due Date )

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We knew that very well going into Madison’s pregnancy with baby. Her due date was 8 days into September, but her entire pregnancy, she felt that her baby boy would make an appearance earlier than expected. Sunday night I was up late printing birth preferences for Madison and Drew (just in case they needed to be transferred from their birthing facility - the Hollywood Birth Center, to the hospital, (Joe DiMaggio Hospital) for any reason, so that the medical staff would know that we are grateful that she can deliver at their facility and willing to work with them as a team). I knew it in my heart that Madison was going to labor and birth smoothly, my intuition was telling me that we wouldn’t need to pull the birth preferences list out, but I always like to be prepared just in case.

Madison and Drew became a very special couple for me through their pregnancy. They carried an energy with them as first time parents. They are the sweetest couple that lived next door to each other for 18 years, blissfully unaware of the radiant future that awaited them. But they are completely and utterly the ‘girl next door’ fairytale that we all day dream about.

From the first time I met her, I loved how she said to me how important pictures are to her.

I know that because I’m a photographer that its expected for me to say pictures are important to me too. But even before I ever became a professional photographer, pictures have always been such a vital part of my life. I have albums from before I was born from eastern Europe of my families on both sides. Albums from my childhood, from my first school dance, from Christmases for decades, of my own children. I look through photos constantly and love to think back on those memories. For me, my albums and my pictures are priceless.

So these powerful words from Madison “pictures are really important to me,” completely resonated with me.

And just like that, as part of this mama’s intuition, two full weeks before her estimated due date, labor went into strong contractions 5 to 6 minutes apart 2:30am.

(((As I sit here, thinking back on the night of August 27th, just two days after my second daughter turned 3 years old, and write this blog post, I find it completely makes sense that my notifications for my Instagram app pop up on my phone, that in this exact moment, Madison shared a photo from her birth story on Instagram and tagged me. Sharing a wave length! This mama is SO special to me!)))

I drove to meet them at the birth center and walked in at about just before 7:45am, about 15 minutes after they arrived. I see Madison experiencing the full, raw, pangs of labor, surrounded by waves of support coming from Drew and his sister Daye. Midwife DellaReece filling up the birthing tub with warm water. The sun aching to rise from the horizon.

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Despite the intensity of the waves of labor, Madison breathed and swayed fluidly through each, almost as if she was a third time mama.

She was surrounded by the flawless support of her birth team.

Fully trusting in them and in her laboring body.

She knew she would be meeting her baby boy soon.

Only minutes later she asked if we could turn off the lights.

Nothing made me happier.

I cannot tell you how much I love working with the natural, available light in a birth. Photography is the art of working with light, and when I am looking for light sources to tell a story, it is when I am at my best and most magical.

What made this room so special is that Madison chose the room in the Hollywood Birth Center that faced the East, the ocean. I know how special that is to her, because she is a child of the ocean.

For me, it was the room that faced the birthing sun of August 27th, 2018.

Drew Krush

Born, August 27, 2018

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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. 

Stunning Images of Midwife Delivering Baby for Two Previous C-Section Mama Has us Stunned and Seriously in Love

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Words from the mama: 

"I am still in shock and awe at what God can do. My pregnancies have been very difficult, from Aaden's loss to complications in Brooklyn's birth (both ending in c-sections). I always dreamed of having a birth without complications, where I could just enjoy my baby. This was it.

I had the best support and birth team I could ask for. Everyone was patient with me and my concerns and considered my history. I couldn't ask for more. Thank you to Lisa Raynor my doula, Courtney McMillian my midwife at Boca Midwifery, Paulina Splechta my birth photographer and birth film maker, and of course my husband David. I literally could not have labored nor survived this pregnancy without you."   - Jocelyn

Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Boca Raton, Florida

Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Boca Raton, Florida

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When I first met Jocelyn, I was so emotionally tied to her and excited for her and also a little bit anxious. I am a two time cesarean mommy myself (neither was planned) but I never had an amazing birth team the way Jocelyn had for this pregnancy, so I didn't know what to expect would happen at her labor and delivery with such an amazing team.

I was so excited for her to experience a vaginal birth and to meet and hold her baby immediately, and I knew it in my heart that this could only happen with Boca Midwifery. They understood her medical history and they cared for her the entire pregnancy, but it was a delicate journey Jocelyn had been on, from experiencing the loss of one of her children and complications with her daughter Brooklyn's birth, and I was anxious to witness the birth of baby Riley. I didn't know if we would witness her having a vaginal delivery or if we would have to go into the operating room. I feel the entire labor and delivery staff was rooting her on at Toppel Family Place (The labor and delivery unit of Boca Raton Regional Hospital in East Boca [off of Glades Road, just east of I-95]). 

A lot of birth workers uncover a deep passion for their work due to their own emotional and personal history, and with me, it is completely true. Originally, I wanted to test the waters four years ago when I photographed my first birth. But once I captured that birth for my client, I knew this is where my heart belongs and its become so much more than photography over the last four years. 

In all this time, four years, I had never witnessed a vaginal delivery after TWO CESAREANS. I had attended many VBACs (vaginal delivery after cesarean) with Boca Midwifery, Women's Health Partners, Dr. Skeete down in Ft Lauderdale, and vbac home births with midwives Gelena Hinkley, Sandy Lo, Mary Harris. But I had in all this time never seen a mommy successful deliver a baby vaginally after having two previous c-sections. And the reason I haven't before seen a vbac after two c-sections is not entirely that the trial for a vbac after two csections failed with previous clients. It's not that at all.

It's that often times the mommys who have had two csections stay with their provider who automatically schedules a repeat third csection for them with their third delivery. These moms are simply not aware of the option to try for a vbac after two c-sections. No one has even told them that its physically possible to achieve. And what the benefits to having a vbac are instead of scheduling a repeat cesarean. Most of the vbacs I have documented in my four years as a birth photographer here in south Florida have been moms who had a c-section with a practice (sometimes traumatic, physically or on an emotional level) and change practices, hoping for a more positive, empowered and supported experience for their subsequent pregnancy to a practice heavily experienced in achieving safe and successful VBACs. Many of my VBAC birth clients with Boca Midwifery have exactly this story. 

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As Jocelyn's entire birth team stood around her during her final pushes, I thought to myself, "this is happening, this mama is going to meet her baby right now"

I felt the tears begin to swell up in my eyes, I tried to hush them and focus on capturing this incredible moment. I stood near mom's shoulders, making sure that her midwife was blocking any angles that would prevent Jocelyn from being able to share photos from her birth story with her family and friends, I looked up at Jocelyn and her husband David, they were smiling at each other, at their doula and midwife, at me. Their doula, Lisa Raynor, was proudly beaming a smile back at them and at me. Baby nurse Donna was eagerly waiting to meet their sweet baby, also wearing a proud smile for mama. Her midwife, Courtney McMillian, was focused and positive and their nurse Peggy knew this moment was about to happen.

This moment would contribute to the shift in the change of the world's view of birth. A successful vbac after two cesareans for Boca Midwifery, for the labor and delivery staff at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, but most importantly, a footprint in the history of birthing women, showing them, that with the right support and birth team for your pregnancy, skilled vbac professionals who have a great deal of patience and success rates, a vbac after two csections is possible.

Knowing this fact, it put chills on my back. 

Knowing that maybe someday, I too could experience a vbac, after my two unjust csections with previous providers and birth teams who had failed to support and encourage me in the ways I needed.

You can watch the film of the birth of Riley below:

Jocelyn's two-time cesarean scar and baby Riley's teensy feet

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Birth of a Second Baby Boy! | Boca Raton Regional Hospital

I met this extraordinary mom when we were both pregnant a couple of years ago.

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Our friendship and connection through our previous pregnancies together made it so special when she and her husband reached out to me to capture the birth of their second son. 

Tears welled up in my eyes when I sat with this sweet family talking about their hopes and dreams for meeting their second little boy. It moved me so much to see how excited (and a little nervous) they were, but most of all, you could see the love in their eyes, their faces, the way they looked at each other in eagerness and joy. 

And it made me so happy to hear that they would be meeting their little boy at my favorite hospital in Florida (Boca Raton Regional Hospital) with one of my favorite practices too - Women's Health Partners.

I cannot wait for you to view and enjoy the images from this incredibly sweet and beautiful birth story below. I hope you love them as much as I do!

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The Ultimate Guide to the Third Trimester | Things to Do Before You Go into Labor

The Ultimate Guide to the Third Trimester & Things to Do Before you Go into Labor

 

Things To do During the Third Trimester

For all my birth clients with January due dates and February due dates here in south Florida and Boca Raton, a common question is, what should I be doing in my third trimester to prepare for labor, for birth and to prepare for meeting my baby and bringing my baby home?

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First things first... 1. Movement

Once you are in your third trimester, its important to be attentive to how active your baby is, and monitor and keep track of your baby's movements, especially if your OBGYN or Midwife suggests it. If you notice a decrease in movement, some medical providers will tell you to let them know. It's always good to be on the safe side and keep a vigilant mind.

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2. Prenatal Visits

At some point during your third trimester, your prenatal visits should become more frequent. Some time between 32 and 36 weeks, you will start seeing your provider on a weekly basis rather than once every few weeks. Be sure to ask your provider what kind of exams, tests and discussions you can anticipate to arise over the course of these visits so that you can be well informed.

3. Cord-blood banking

Be sure to talk to your doctor about cord blood banking, what it is, how it is done, what the pluses and minuses are and how to plan for it. If you are planning on doing delayed cord clamping, make sure your provider is aware since these two processes can affect each other and not all providers may offer their agreement to do both.

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4. Classes

At this point, you may have taken a pregnancy and childbirth class, but this is the perfect time to educate yourself and make decisions about whether you know enough about baby care, breastfeeding, labor, pain management techniques during labor and infant CPR. Sometimes your local hospital will offer some of these classes, there is an amazing childbirth class offered by Diane Ellen at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Other times you can contact a local birth center such as Natural Birthworks birth center in Margate or an organization such as The Orchid Nest in Delray Beach to find out about their class schedules and offerings. The Orchid Nest offers hypnobirthing classes in Delray Beach as well as at local hospitals, so be sure to inquire asap as classes sometimes have several dates and may be booked out in advance.

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5. Breastfeeding

If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, this is the perfect time to learn as much about breastfeeding as you can. Get yourself a breastfeeding pump, many insurances now cover the cost of excellent, high grade breast pumps. Every city nowadays has a local La Leche League Chapter, which is a group of women who are pregnant and have already had their babies who meet on a monthly basis to discuss important things to prepare for during pregnancy and techniques to use following birth to have the best opportunity at breastfeeding. There are many local lactation consultants in south Florida such as Sandra Lobaina with Peaceful Pregnancy Pathways in Margate, FL who you can contact should you have problems breastfeeding. Be sure to equip yourself with anything you may need to make breastfeeding more comfortable for you, whether that be a nursing cover, nipple shields, nipple ointment to help prevent dried out nipples, or the use of an inverted nipplette from Avent that helps with flat or inverted nipples. 

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6. Pediatrician

This is the perfect time to choose the right pediatrician for your baby. 

If you live in south Florida, there are a vast recourse of amazing pediatricians that come with glowing recommendations from south Florida's best OBGYNS/Midwives and doulas. Some of my favorites are: Dr. Edna Tello with Personalized Pediatrics, Pediatric Associates who have many locations making it very convenient to get easy well and sick visits (my favorite location is in Coral Springs but they are also located in Coconut Creek and Boca Raton). Several of my clients love working with VIPediatrics in Boca Raton, and many holistic first-time-moms love working with Dr. Linda Colon in Coral Springs with Coral Springs Holistic Pediatrics. Many of these great pediatricians are affiliated with some of the best hospitals in south Florida including Broward Health Coral Springs, Northwest Medical Center, Boca Raton Regional Hospital (formerly known as Boca Community Hospital) and West Boca Medical Center.

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Scheduling in-person interviews with pediatricians is best. That way, you can sit with them, see how comfortable you feel with them, and ask them all the questions you may have about their approach towards pediatric care for your new baby. 

Now it's time to make sure you have everything you need for when you bring your baby home. Here is a list of items you should have prepared and ready for use, just in case your baby makes an unexpected arrival, so you can be totally prepared:

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1. Bedding: Have your baby's crib and bassinet set up, bedding washed and put on and ready

2. Stroller: You may want to take your baby for walks in your neighborhood after giving birth, you don't want to have to deal with that assembly after you brought your baby home. I love youtube videos because you can type in the name of your stroller and find instructional videos on how to assemble, open and close your stroller.

3. Baby Monitor: Do you have a registry at Babies R Us or Target in Boca Raton? Did you know that anything that wasn't purchased from your registry for your baby shower, these stores will usually offer you a 10-20% off discount for the remaining items on your registry? This is the perfect time to use that discount on a great monitor. I recommend looking up reviews on the best video monitors on amazon.com because you'll always have more of a peace of mind when you can see your baby on the monitor!

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Educate Yourself on the Stages of Labor

Once you have all this done (I know my December due date moms just finished up setting up their nurseries this week!) It's time to educate yourself on stages of labor.

We go over this together during our first meeting because you need to know how to update me on the progress of your labor and when to expect me to arrive at your birth. However, I will also share my resource list with you so that you can contact a some of my favorite local doulas (ranging from Delray Beach and Boca Raton doulas to Fort Lauderdale and Miami doulas) so that they can help you prepare and go over various labor pain coping strategies, especially if you are planning an unmedicated birth (or even leading up to getting an epidural during labor) it is good to learn about your options now so that you can be prepared, know what to expect and know what you want. 

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Doula and Birth Plan

When you hire a doula, she should help you to create a birth plan, also known as a birth preferences list. 

Although birth is unpredictable, it is good to have an idea of what you'd like from your birth as long as everything goes smoothly with mom and baby. Things to consider for your birth preferences list are: who would you like to cut the cord, do you plan on having delayed cord clamping, what your pain management tools are, who will be part of your birth team and present during labor and birth and more.

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What to do with a Birth Plan / Inductions

Make sure you make a copy for your provider and whoever their backup doctor or midwife is in case of emergency and they are not with you during delivery. You also want to make copies for your nurses. Nurses at the hospital work in 12 hour shifts, so depending on how long you are in labor, you may need a new copy for each nurse if it is not left in the room. If you end up being induced, you may be in the hospital for 1-3 days leading up to birth, depending on what medications your provider will administer and how your body reacts to them.

Long Labors

It is not uncommon for first-time moms to be in labor anywhere from 12 to 24 to 30 hours. 

Most first time moms are in labor for an average of 15 to 20 hours. And usually, it shortens with subsequent births. You won't be in intense labor for the whole time. It usually starts with sporadic uninformed contractions that feel like your belly or the skin on your belly is tightening, stretching, contracting. Then, as they become more uniform and start coming in more consistently, as they become more frequent and intense they may be accompanied by lower back ache or menstrual-like cramps below your belly. 

Hospital Bag

I tell all my birth clients, even my home birth families, to be sure you pack a hospital bag around 35-36 weeks in your third trimester, because in the event you need to go to the hospital, even if its for a non-emergency situation, you don't want to waste your time or energy trying to make sure you have everything last minute. 

Home Care

A lot of my birth clients wonder whether they should hire a house keeper or housecleaner before they have their baby, and the answer should always be yes!!

It is such a calming and relaxing feeling, coming home to a beautifully clean home once your baby is born. And it takes care of everything on your to do list that you won't have to worry yourself with when you are recovering from birth with a newborn. 

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Post Partum Care

It is a great idea to stock up on your favorite snack foods, freezer meals, pain medication, toiletries and menstrual pads for postpartum bleeding. A lot of moms like to get underwear just for wearing during the postpartum bleeding time frame.

Install your baby's car seat

You definitely want to install your baby's car seat by 36 weeks. Hospitals won't let you take your baby home unless you install the car seat in your car, and be sure you are using an infant car seat, so you can remove it from the base that is attached to the safety belt in your car and bring it upstairs to securely seatbelt your baby. Again, I love to take to youtube because there are many car seat technicians who help guide you with step by step instructional videos on how to specifically install your car seat. 

Tour Hospital

Make sure to schedule a tour of the hospital you will be birthing at and be sure you register! I didn't realize the two don't go hand in hand! You must do both. Be sure to google list of questions to ask on a hospital tour and bring the list with you, and ask the questions that matter to you. 

Older Children / Fur Babies

Make sure if you have older children or pets that you make arrangements for family or friends or sitters who will be staying with them while you are in labor. Add their contact information to your birth plan. 

Late Pregnancy Complicatons

Sometimes are women near the end of their pregnancy, certain medical conditions may come up such as premature labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and GBS. Make sure you educate yourself on these issues and talk to your provider about your concerns if you notice any symptoms. 

Past your due date!

Don't worry if you go past your due date. It is estimated that only 5% of women go into labor on their due date. The next 50% of women will go into labor within 7 days of their due in either direction, and the rest outside of that. It is so normal for first time moms to not go into labor until after their due date and some even at 41 weeks.