Why I am glad we hired a doula

I wrote this list for a friend the other day, and I thought others might benefit from reading it. Our doula was wonderful, and I have no regrets about hiring her.

1) Being able to contact her (an extremely knowledgeable source for all things pregnancy and childbirth related) whenever. I know Andrew texted with her a lot when I was in early labor and she helped him to understand what kind of progress I was probably making.

2) The prenatal meetings. I honestly was stressed out about scheduling these at the time because it just felt like more to do, but in retrospect they were great. We had two and I liked getting to know her and having her reassure us that things were normal and help us think of things we hadn’t considered.

3) The help she gave us to think through our birth plan.

4) That she came to our house to be with me while Andrew went to the grocery store and installed the car seat so that I wouldn’t labor alone and helped us decide when we should go to the birth center. Again her vast experience of birth came into play here.

5) The position and comfort measure suggestions she made during labor (more of us using her knowledge!). She also made sure I stayed hydrated and nourished. And I think she cleaned out my puke bucket.

6) Having her help breastfeeding after Plum was born.

7) The postnatal visit. She brought curry and it was really awesome to have someone a little bit emotionally removed from the birth who could help us remember things and process and also reassure us that things were normal (like the baby refusing to sleep anywhere but on us)

8) The very positive feelings that I have about Plum’s birth. I can’t 100 percent credit the doula with this, but there is evidence that continuous labor support makes a birthing woman less likely to have negative feelings about childbirth.

Plum at seven months

Rolls everywhere! Onto all surfaces. She’s able to change directions by twisting her torso, so she can sort of roll toward things. It doesn’t always work and sometimes she ends up exactly in the opposite place as where she wanted to be, but since there are now toys all over the floor she generally just goes with it and grabs whatever is closest.

She’s eaten so many foods: bananas (chunks), apples, pears, squash, lentils (mashed up, not puréed), oatmeal, barley, and more. She still loves to feed herself with the spoon, and is learning to pick things up. Also enjoys drinking water from a small open cup or slurping it from a straw if we hold a finger over the other end.

New noises include more consonant sounds (ka, ya), squeaking, shrieking, purposeful smacking, and lots of talking with her hand or something else in her mouth.

No teeth yet, but evidence of one or two on the bottom very close to popping up.

Wants to touch the cats and dog so badly! The cats cleverly stay just out of reach. The dog is less clever, so we either watch them closely or keep dog and Plum separate.

Enjoys: books (the Global Babies series is tops), her dad’s return from work, being naked, other babies—especially my young nannying charge, eating

How we cloth diaper

How we cloth diaper | invitingjoy.net

Note: I’m not sure that anyone cares about this, but I read tons of posts while pregnant to get an idea of how other people were doing cloth diapering. So here we go!

Years before I was even pregnant, I bought cloth diapers from a friend when she was finished with them. They were FuzziBunz, which were recommended to me by my friend, Sarah. I moved those diapers to North Carolina from Nashville and then to all three of the places we’ve lived in NC. But our current place, our favorite place we’ve lived in NC, with the best landlord, the fantastic location, and the awesome neighbors, has a front loading, high efficiency washer. And as I started to read the mountains of info that was available online about washing pocket diapers (diapers that require you to stuff an insert into a two-layered diaper shell), it seemed like it was going to be a real pain to wash the microfiber inserts that had come with the diapers I bought from my friend and get them really clean.

I sold those diapers on Craigslist and started looking into what might work best for our set up. I knew I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, and that I wanted the diapers I got to last through toilet learning for Plum and then to be able to reuse them should we have another child at some point.

I don’t remember what I was like before I did a PhD, but now, at least, I like to research things completely to death. Lucie’s List, Amazon reviews, YouTube videos, and blog posts are my absolute jam. It borders on compulsive, but I’m just rolling with it for now. I’m sure that I could do way less research and be happy with whatever I decide, but the fact that I spend so much time investigating baby gear means that is it really validating when things work how I hope they will. And this diaper situation has so far worked great!

The diapers: I ordered size large, organic Cloth-eez Flat Birdseye Diapers from Green Mountain Diapers. I went with flat diapers because they are so easy to wash (more on this below) and because they are so versatile. You can fold them up into pretty much any shape and there are lots of tutorials online. For daytime diapering, we used a mini kite fold when Plum was little and now we do a modified version of the regular kite fold. We use a Boingo to fasten. For night time diapering, we used to fold one diaper into a rectangle/pad shape and put it inside of the kite fold. Now, we just do two diapers folded together into a giant pad.

These diapers get softer and more absorbent as you use them more. To prep them we washed them something like four times, maybe a few times without detergent and a few times with detergent. This part is kind of hazy because our postpartum doula did most of it. If Plum hadn’t come two weeks early, I would have done it myself.

The covers: We started with six Buttons covers and four Blueberry Coveralls. I’ve been happy with both covers for different reasons. I chose these types because they can be reused to cover a fresh flat diaper multiple times before washing and both brands have double gussets (an extra layer of PUL—polyurethane laminate, a plastic-y waterproof fabric—and elastic) to hold poop in at the legs.We have never had a poop blowout in either cover, and I cannot say the same for disposables we have used while traveling.

The Buttons covers worked really well for day and night early on and for day time until recently, when they stopped fitting my [98th percentile for weight] baby. I think if we’d been using the snap-in inserts for the Buttons covers, they would have fit for longer, but fitting them over the large flats stopped working for us.

I definitely don’t regret starting with the Buttons covers because the Blueberry Coveralls were too big at first. The Blueberry Coveralls are marketed to fit children 10-40 pounds, but they didn’t fit well until Plum was around 12-13 pounds. We’ve been using them at night to cover the giant two-diaper situation for a while now, and just switched to using them during the day. Plum has plenty of room in them, and I think we should be able to get through to toilet learning.

I recently picked up a few more Blueberry covers on ebay, some Coveralls and also some Capris in size two. The Capris are nice because they have flaps at either end of the cover, so you can stuff them with something absorbent, kind of like you would with a pocket diaper. We just tried using a Capri cover at night with two flat diapers folded together into a giant pad, and that worked pretty well.

Wipes: My mom made us a bunch of cloth wipes from old flannel pillow cases and receiving blankets. They have been awesome. I highly recommend cloth wipes if you’re cloth diapering because then everything can go into one laundry bin. We wet ours as we need to with plain water using the peri bottle I got after Plum was born. We also use this weighted wipe dispenser box, which we received as a gift.

Laundry: We keep dirty diapers and wipes in a plastic food storage bin with a lid that seals (we used to keep cat food in it), and wash them every three-ish days. The flat diapers are great in our high efficiency washer. Because they are just one layer, they wash as well as a cloth napkin or a dish towel. We do a double rinse cycle to remove the poop and pee and then run a regular wash cycle with hot water. After the introduction of purées, we also had to add a rinse for poop diapers using a diaper sprayer so that anything more solid goes into the toilet. Then we dry the diapers on the line. They dry fast in the NC heat. Sometimes I give them a quick tumble (about five minutes) in the dryer to soften them up, but sometimes I skip this step and it’s fine. Diaper covers get wiped of any poop with cloth wipes, and then washed with normal laundry.


Plum at four months

Gazes at her fist like it’s the most fascinating thing she’s ever seen (it probably is). Also definitely looks at the cats and dog as though she’s realized they are independent beings and not just part of the decor.

Coos, squeals, squawks, smacks, and occasionally makes consonant sounds: guh, ma, da, mmm, and nnn. Also is starting to chuckle. Once she laughed out loud a lot because her Uncle T was so very funny.

Sleeps in her co-sleeper from about 7-7:30 pm to between 6:30-8 am with maybe one wake up for first breakfast sometime between 3 and 5:30 am.

Deliberately touches people (especially her dad) on the arm or the face. Also rubs her hands all over her own face while falling asleep and waking up.

Has just started drawing things—aside from the magical fist and its thumb—to her mouth.

Drools much more than she ever has before; chews on her bottom lip and tongue.

Rides the bus in the baby carrier to and from work with me four days a week (I work from home one of the days). At work, Plum naps in her stroller bassinet, drinks milk, visits with my coworkers, and plays on her quilt.

Scoots all around on her back by pushing herself with her feet. She is very unlikely to be in the same orientation in her bed at the end of nap as she was at the beginning.

Hangs out on her side with her legs to the side and could be rolling over any day now!

What I want to remember: Plum at three months

Plum is three months old tomorrow! This is what I want to remember:

We thought she was chatty before, but OMG this girl loves to talk. She makes new types of sounds every day and is happiest when we are talking to her and pausing for her response.

The smiles are only getting bigger. My favorite type of smile currently is the one she makes while breastfeeding with a nipple still in her mouth. Occasionally milk runs out of the corners of the smile. Sometimes she even mixes in a nipple-ful smile with a coo or two. My heart!

If she fusses while being held, she often wants you to lay her down on a blanket so she can beeb* around. She is starting to move (!) by bending her legs and pressing her feet into the floor to push and frequently ends up rotated from where we leave her in her travel crib.

How loudly she smacks and murmurs as she tries to suck on her thumb/fist. We can hear her with the door shut. She works so hard to get that thumb in her mouth, but sometimes when she does, she gags herself, so we’ll see if it sticks.

She’s little, but she can burp so loudly. Cracks me up every time.

*to beeb: to wiggle around like Plum does; sometimes beebing involves sound and sometimes it doesn’t. From the proper noun Beeb, Plum’s most commonly used nickname.

Pregnancy at 38 weeks OR Plum’s Birth Story

Throughout my pregnancy, I was pretty sure that Plum was going to come late because most first babies do. I expected to be at work well past my February 19 due date. So when my water broke at 10 pm on February 5, I was confused to say the least. First, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of an early arrival. And second, I wasn’t sure that it was my water breaking (maybe I had just peed myself, like you do). It turned out that it was the real thing and now we have a lovely three-week old baby. Here’s how it happened:

The morning of Friday, February 5, I got ready for work as usual. Before I left the house, I told Hubs to take a picture of me. I can’t remember exactly why I did it, but I’m glad I did because it’s the last photo of me pregnant and not in labor. It was a pretty normal work day, and then I taught prenatal yoga at 4:30 that afternoon. On the way home I stopped at Whole Foods to buy soup bones to make bone broth, which I wanted to have during labor/postpartum, but they didn’t have any. Hubs and I spent a low key evening at home watching The Good Wife and eating frozen pizza, until the aforementioned water breaking.

I was in the kitchen taking my night time vitamins and then I started to walk into the bathroom when it happened. I went to the bathroom before saying anything to Hubs because I’d just had something like 40 ounces of water to drink, but once I got into the bathroom, I was pretty sure that it was my water and not pee. I told Hubs that I thought my water had just broken and he said, “I guess I’d better stop drinking.”

I also texted our doula to ask how I would know if my water had broken, and she told me to put on a pad and see what happened. She also asked if I was having contractions, and I could feel my belly tightening if I put my hand on it, but I couldn’t feel anything else. I followed her advice and the pad was soaked within a few minutes, which suggested that it was definitely my water and not pee.

We got in bed and tried to sleep. Pretty soon after, though, I started having contractions. I didn’t know they were contractions at the time because the tightness was so low in my abdomen and not in my back at all (I thought they might have been rhythmic gas pains-ha!). But in any case, the tightness was happening at regular intervals. I took a benadryl to try to facilitate sleep, and then went back to bed.

About 2 am, after not really having slept, the contractions were too intense to stay lying down. I texted our doula to confirm that I was having contractions as well as bloody show and phoned the birth center to page the midwife on call. When the midwife called back, she suggested I take a bath, eat a snack, and take another benadryl. I made peanut butter toast and got in the tub. My contractions immediately got closer together, and I started moaning/om-ing through them, which I kept up throughout the rest of my labor. When I got out of the tub, I threw up the peanut butter toast (yuck) and then took another benadryl and tried to sleep on our couch.

[Sidebar: I found out later that Hubs was timing my contractions based on my vocalizing, while also texting the doula to ask whether this was a drill.]

I dozed on and off through contractions from about 4-6 am and then got up. I walked the dog and then proceeded to labor around the house while moaning/om-ing through contractions and getting some things ready to go. Hubs got up a little before 7 and sprang into action as well. We hadn’t packed any bags, didn’t have any food to take with us to the birth center, and didn’t have the car seat in the car. I was able to pack a bag for Plum and me in between contractions, and Hubs did the car seat installation, found a dog sitter, and grocery shopped. He also kept encouraging me to eat (some oatmeal, which I also threw up) and drink juice and water.

Our doula came by around 10:30 am and suggested some position changes for me to try. She also turned off the lights and lit some candles to make the environment cozy. The student doula that was working with our doula came over, too. They kept me company, encouraged me, and reminded me of my labor mantra (“I’m gonna get huge”) while Hubs finished up preparations, and they also kept track of how close my contractions were.

Because we live so close to the birth center, the midwives had told me not to come in until my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. About 12:30 pm, our doula said it was time to think about heading to the birth center. We threw everything in the car and then I got in the backseat on hands and knees, using the newly installed car seat as a support. I had two contractions on the six minute drive, which were not my favorite, but then we were there.

No one else was laboring at the birth center, so we had our choice of the three birthing rooms, as well as the undivided attention of the midwife, student midwife, and nurse. Throughout my pregnancy, I’d had high-ish blood pressure at all my prenatal visits, in spite of mostly normal BP when taking it at home, so it was a slightly tense moment when they took my BP that day. I knew that if it was anywhere close to too high, I might have to transfer to the hospital. Luckily, it was well within the normal range (and lower than it had ever been for the midwives!), so we got to stay at the birth center. They also took my temperature and did a cervical check. I was about five centimeters dilated at that point.

For the next several hours, I just labored in different places around the birth center, vocalizing all the way: the tub, the toilet, a birth ball (which I hated), walking around, and the shower. I was in the shower for about 30 minutes, and it felt amazing to me to use the handicapped handle bars to go into a deep squat during contractions, while Hubs used the shower head to spray warm water over my back. In between contractions, I stood up and swayed my hips. I knew that the contractions while I was in the shower were longer and more intense, but I never felt as though they were beyond the limits of my coping skills.

Around 4 pm, I got out of the shower and had another cervical check. I was completely dilated and at about +1! I got on the birth stool at that point because I thought I wanted to be there to push. I started to feel a little bit as though my body was pushing for me, so I started to push. And I pushed and pushed and pushed. At first, I didn’t mind because my contractions had gotten further apart and shorter, but it became clear pretty soon that I wasn’t making much progress.

In contrast to the capability I felt breathing, moaning, and laboring through contractions, I felt pretty unprepared for pushing. For me it was completely different because I had to hold my breath and direct it downward instead of using my breath and being able to blow the pain out. Plus, even during contractions I got a break, but when I was pushing and things were just stretching, it just hurts the whole time. About two hours in (I actually didn’t know that it had been two hours) and after several position changes (birth stool, hands and knees, side-lying on both sides, reclined/supported on pillows), I started to get pretty whiny and asked if someone would help me get the baby out. The midwife felt me do a push and then coached me a little bit, instructing me to push harder and to maximize each contraction with several pushes.

From that point, I was much more effective, and I could feel actual change and movement. But I was still pretty whiny and talked a lot about how hard it was and how much it hurt. The lovely thing is that even though I know I was probably pretty annoying, my birth team was nothing but supportive and wonderful. They monitored Plum’s heart rate, which stayed great pretty much throughout pushing. And they said things like, “Yes, it’s so hard, and you’re doing it,” and put cool cloths on my head and gave me drinks of lemonade. At one point the student midwife gave me a little bit of tough love and said something along the lines of, “It’s hard, but the only way for it to stop is to push your baby out, so do it.” And so I did.

Plum came earthside at 7:53 pm on February 6, 2016. After the student midwife delivered the head and shoulders, Hubs pulled Plum out the rest of the way, and as he brought our baby to my chest, he said, “We have a daughter.” I was so surprised that she was a girl and so glad to be done pushing and have her with me. She didn’t cry right away, but I never felt worried because she was looking right at me. They suctioned her mouth a little and then she cried a big cry. We waited until her umbilical cord stopped pulsing and then Hubs cut it (her cord was so big that they thought for a minute they would need a bigger clamp, but that didn’t actually end up happening).

She and I did skin to skin for a while and then I got stitched up (second degree tear) while she and Hubs did skin to skin. We spent the night at the birth center and headed home the next morning, where we’ve been enjoying each other ever since.

I am so thankful that I was able to birth Plum pretty much how I’d hoped I could. I felt so incredibly supported and empowered and safe in the birth center setting and with our birth team. What an incredibly sweet and powerful way for Hubs and me to welcome Plum!

Plum: 8 lbs 10 oz; 20.5 inches

Plum: 8 lbs 10 oz; 20.5 inches

Enjoying lately

37 weeks of pregnancy today: Technically full term! Plum can come any time before 42 weeks and we will [likely] be able to birth at the birth center. It’s a relief to be at this point—and that Plum is head down, which we had confirmed this week by ultrasound—but really I have plenty left I could do pre-birth. Plum, you can come whenever you want, but feel free to stay in there and grow a little bit more. And in spite of increased slowing down and discomfort (mainly with sleeping and getting up from sitting), I am not at the “get this baby out” stage that some people feel by now, and I am so thankful for that. Plum’s movements have changed from big movements to what feels like stretching and some kicking. It’s pretty nuts to watch my skin move as Plum moves underneath, and I feel delighted with feeling him/her through my skin and being able to identify what is a butt, foot, knee, etc.

Nesting activities: Hubs and I did an amazing living space rearrangement that opened everything right up in our open plan apartment. Some of the changes included him mounting the TV on the wall, finding a loving home for the TV stand my dad built for me in college, and me ordering a cozy new runner rug from Overstock. It’s starting to wear off since the initial rearrange two-ish weeks ago, but for a while, every time I walked into our living space, I thought, “Wow! I just love this!” Things are also mostly together for Plum’s room, including a new rug, which now has a rug pad and got rolled out this week.

Rug on top and opening up living space + Tonks on bottom | InvitingJoy.net

Rug on top and opened up living space + Tonks on bottom

Time with loved ones: My dear friend Sarah was here in early January for an amazing weekend of talking, walking, and eating copious amounts of cheese. Tomorrow, local friends are hosting a mother blessing party for me, and several out-of-towners are also joining us. I am feeling so well loved and supported by our community!

Swimming: It feels so good to put my [much heavier and more unwieldy] body in water and move around. I’ve been trying to go to our indoor community pool at least once on the weekends and on MLK Day, I even got to do aqua aerobics with the senior citizens.

Our new Roomba: We named it Kreacher, and after some fits and starts figuring out how to set him up so he will do his best work, it is amazing to live in a less furry house. Occasionally Kreacher has trouble finding the dock after he does a cleaning cycle, but I think that’s because Tonks lays on the floor and blocks his path. Bonus video of Zeda meeting Kreacher: