"You Win Some, You Lose Some"... Thoughts on Interviews

Within the first two months of this year, I interviewed with eight women who were looking for doula support for their upcoming births.  Of those eight, four of them hired me and four of them found a better fit.  I'll confess that when I heard back from three of them in a row that they'd chosen another doula, I couldn't help but ask myself why?  Was it something that I said or didn't say?  Did I talk too much?  Did I leave out helpful information?  Did I have spinach in my teeth?  The more I thought about how the interviews went, I was reminded of what I've believed all along since starting down this path of doula work:
  • There is the right fit for every woman and I am not always that right fit
  • As my friend and fellow doula Val Peterson has said many times, "There are births that you are meant to be at and others you are not"
  • For every birth that I am not supporting, another fantastic San Diego-based doula is, and I am so happy that a family has found the doula who felt right
I was still curious though, what it was that made me the choice for some and not for others.  I decided to take a risk and email a few of the women who'd chose another doula.  Here's what I wrote:


Beyond 40 Weeks... An Email

One of my best high school girlfriends sent me the following email that other day and I asked her, pretty please, if I could share it as I thought there might be many women who can relate to the sentiments she shares.  She said that I could post if I included this disclaimer: "I am normally very rational and sweet-tempered!"  Here's to a baby soon, friend... we're all pulling for you! 

Hi friends-
So... my due date has now come and gone (it was yesterday), and I am still pregnant and getting more and more annoyed by the minute.  I know I should be happy to have the baby make it to 40 weeks and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I'm still sick, my ankles are now swelling, I can't sleep, my back constantly hurts, and I'm just down-right GRUMPY!  Since all of you can relate, you are going to bear the brunt of my crabbiness.  Hopefully my effort to expel some negative energy into the following list at least makes you laugh!
10.  Everyone breathlessly answering the phone when I call.
9.  People asking me if "I'm still hanging in there."  As if I have a choice!
8.  People's eyes popping out of their sockets when they see how big I am.  Get a good look at the freak show, folks!
7.  Even better, the people who apparently can't help themselves when they see me and exclaim, "Whoa!"
6.  Men who claim that they "know what I feel like."  Dude, just shut up.  Just. Shut. Up.
5.  People who gleefully tell me that God makes women uncomfortable in the last few weeks of pregnancy so that they look forward to labor.  This is so dumb I can only respond with a blank look and walk away.   
4.  People asking me when I'm going to get induced.  Like a ride on the Pitocin train will make it all better! 
3.  My coworkers walking into my office, feigning surprise, and saying, "Oh!  You're still here!"  Umm, duh.  You're looking right at me. 
2.  People asking me how much I weight I've gained.  See #8.  Answer - "a lot." And beyond that, it is none of your damn business!
1.  My coworkers asking, in front of a room full of people, about my Dr. appointments and whether there is any indication that the baby is coming.  Do you honestly think I'm going to talk about the status of my cervix in a meeting?  In front of my 60 year old male boss?  Seriously! 
Alright, off to scrub some floors....


Pregnancy Loss and Infertility... Books & Other Resources

I was recently asked for some suggestions of books that might be helpful for couples who are dealing with pregnancy loss and infertility.  I posted the question in a doula support community that I am a part of and thought I'd share the suggestions here in case they might be of help to anyone who's reading or knows someone who might be encouraged through them.  I'm also sharing the comments from the women who made the suggestions.

I've not suffered loss or infertility myself... but I know a number of couples who have.  Often, I'm at a loss for words and I think that's ok.  While I know there are a number of books, as well as blogs and organizations (see below), I try to keep in mind that while some are looking for resources such as these, others are not.  My usual rule is to listen and speak if it seems helpful or needed... but most of the time, to simply listen.  Those who are looking for books or resources will ask or find them.  Please offer the suggestions below with great discretion and only if you're asked.  Be a friend and know that it is absolutely ok to not have answers.  Your presence and willingness to listen and walk beside friends who are dealing with loss and/ or infertility is enough. 

A says: "Here are 3 books that helped me through 3 losses... #1 and #2 have a Christian perspective to them, and #3 is a little more secular."
Silent Grief by Clara Hinton
Empty Arms by Pam Vredevelt
Free to Grieve by Maureen Rank

C says: "I loved this book.  It is written from a Christian perspective and does have some photos so it might be disturbing to some people. For me it helped to know what I might see and experience. I wanted as much information as possible about fetal development etc. so I loved it. It might be too much for others though."
Answers in a Time of Miscarriage by Bethany Marie Kerr

R says: "I will carry you is AMAZING- but maybe better for someone who had a stillborn. But still Amazing. The second was was great for me after having 2 miscarriages in a row before I got my 3 boys."
I Will Carry You by Angie Smith
When the Cradle is Empty by John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter

I have a few online organizations listed under the heading "Pregnancy & Infant Loss" on this resource page here on my site.


Doula Jenna "Families Reunion" 2012

As I supported families throughout 2011, I had the idea to host a gathering at the end of the year.  The main reason was to reconnect in person with the parents and babies that I had a chance to work with.  I was also excited for many of them to meet one another and for my own family, my husband and daughters, to get a chance to meet my clients as well.

On a Sunday in January, we met up at a local park (my favorite one) and enjoyed lots of yummy treats and a few hours of talking, laughing and playing together.  One of my dear friends and also a client of mine, graced us with her photography talent and captured some priceless shots.  This is something I plan to do annually.  If you are a doula, or anyone who works with people, for that matter, I encourage you to do the same.  We need to take advantage of reasons to gather and celebrate.  It's wonderful on so many levels.

some of the 2009-2011 babies

 i get to meet and work with some of the coolest women

 the best husband this doula could ask for (the man sans stroller)

 sweet twin girls and their wonderful mama

so many amazing families!!

 an attempt at a "chronological order of birth" shot... close :)

 special family... babies number one and sixteen for me

* all photos taken and posted with permission by Katherine Nagel


A Day in LA with Ina May

You know those days where you have a hunch that what you're doing and who you're interacting with seems like it very well might be a once in a lifetime opportunity?  That was me on January 6, 2012.  I found myself headed northbound to LA in the company of my dear friend and co-doula, Annely Allen.  Our destination was BINI Birth, a unique space that's dedicated to offering support, education, and resources for families and birth professionals.  I've been familiar with BINI for a few years and was thrilled to have the chance to see it in person.  I'd received notice a few weeks earlier that Ina May Gaskin was going to be speaking there.  Double hooray.  I've read some of Gaskin's work and her book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is one that I recommend to women often.  She is someone who has had a deep influence in maternity care worldwide and the way childbirth is perceived.  I wouldn't say that I am her #1 fan, as there are others who would rightfully claim that title, but I do have great respect for who she is and the work that she has committed her life to.  Below are some photos and bits of wisdom I gathered from what she shared.

"We always think that paying more for something = better and typically, this is true... but not when it comes to the birth industry."
- Referring to the cost of maternity care and how often because hospital birth costs more (before insurance contribution) it is seen as the superior environment to give birth in

"Birth is not about making money... especially when the people making the most aren't the ones actually caring for the women and babies."
- Talking about insurance companies and policy makers

"When you don't have midwives, you don't have obstetrics either.  You just have surgery."
- Voicing the need for midwifery to continue to play a vital part in maternity care throughout the world... the need for both midwives and obstetricians to care for women and babies.  Not either/or.  Both have a rightful place.

"Wouldn't it be amazing if our little girls grew up knowing that the place babies came out of went from little to gigantic?"
- Talking about the fear women often have of giving birth vaginally and not fully understanding that the vagina is created to expand and accommodate birthing a baby.

Ana Paula & Ina May

Following the workshop, Ana Paula Markel, founder of BINI and a childbirth educator and doula herself, graciously invited anyone who was interested over for dinner and more discussion time with Ina May.  Annely and I looked at each other and without saying a word knew that the other was thinking "no-brainer."  There were a handful of other San Diego doulas who were in attendance and had the same reaction.  We headed to the grocery store and picked up some pasta, salad, and bread and made our way over to Ana's house.  We arrived before she and Ina May got there.  I LOVE how Dawn, one of the SD doulas, made Ana's kitchen her own and along with a few others, started working on preparing dinner.  Over the next few hours, we shared a meal and talked more with Ina May, Ana, and the 20 or so other women who joined for dinner.  It was a rich opportunity to connect with women who all have the goal of supporting and caring for women, babies, and their families. 

San Diego Doulas & Ina May Gaskin

In closing, after spending the day listening to, talking with and observing Ina May, here's what I most admire about this woman...
  • She's one of those people who you know has so much wisdom and a wealth of life experience and yet is humble and quite unassuming.
  • She's approachable and engaging.  I never felt like she was looking past the person she was talking with or that she was annoyed by the hundreds of requests to talk or take a photo with her.  
  • She speaks very plainly and candidly.  While she has great passion in the things that she shares, yet she doesn't get lost in the emotion, which would be so easy to do.
  • She's respectful and appreciative of many obstetricians and medical doctors.  She calls many of them personal friends.  
  • She's an avid reader and learner.
  • She appreciates the diversity and beauty of cultures throughout the world.
  • She's funny.  
  • She's a normal woman, who early on in her life, saw that there was a need and rose to the occasion.  She didn't assume that someone else was going to step in and do what needed to be done.  Instead, she got her hands dirty (literally) and looked for ways to learn and grow and teach others. 
  • She's a wonderful picture of someone who isn't slowing down as she ages.

Me, Ina May & Annely