Can Doulas Uphold Justice?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple of circles of discussion about birth and the disparaging numbers that represent maternal mortality in the US. Most especially in my home state of TX. One of the speakers, Hermine Hayes-Klein, of Hayes-Klein Law Firm, specializes in maternal health & childbirth law. She has had the opportunity to study the stories of birth from all parts of the world. She spent some time in the Netherlands as a professor of law at Hague University, as well as the director of the Research Center for Reproductive Rights at the Bynkershoek Institute. She oversaw the dissertations of several doctorate students from an abundance of backgrounds, and through this work she began seeing similarities in the birth communities all over the world. All of this sprung a curiosity that sent her searching back into our history for some anthropological answers. My first experience hearing her speak, she spoke of writings as old as the bible (our incredibly overly translated modern version) exemplifying negative patriarchal control of a woman’s fertility and body autonomy. Her research paired with the true stories her students were researching shed light on the the history of oppressive movements.

Why is this information pertinent? The climate specific to woman’s rights is still littered with limitations within birth, economic suppression, sex, gender, and the family. These factors effect so many aspects of life, but in this blog I will focus on birthing and fertility. Thanks to our modern technology, the ability to track and calculate data, and programs funneling support and research to our communities. We now have numbers proving the disparaging effects of oppression. I will bring forth thoughts on racial oppression as an outsider, and utilizing both numbers and personal experience working with oppressed individuals to shed some light on the alarming maternal mortality rates. I will also explore medicine, protocol, and patients rights, as a means to support a possible shift in perspective and respect for the birthing experience. Most of all, I find the experience of a doula holding space for birthing and growing families essential in educating for an individuals birth journey.

So, Can doulas uphold justice? Yes. They have the ability to educate their clients, so that they are able to advocate for them selves. That doesn’t mean we stand quiet and allow for maltreatment to take place. We can speak out for all to hear, and even get video evidence of the incident. As discussed with Hayes-Klein in our workshop. Doulas do not have any liability in this space, and we can - and should do everything within our power to stop a situation from happening when a birthing person is in any danger or disrespected. Now, there is certainly a cadence that will be set from the moment we arrive to the hospital, and we mustn’t forget the most important piece in this puzzle - the partner! It is imperative we honor this person and give them the charge. Their word is lawful, legal, and will make the loudest statement in that room. A doula can provide guidance through mediation and conflict resolution, just by sparking conversation with the partner. This alone can change birth significantly. As with all these I will be expanding on the partners role, first trimester through 4th trimester.

I have been incubating this blog for quite some time. These are concepts that have felt bigger than me for a fair amount of my career, and truly - they still do. I think with every position we commit to requires evolution, and this theory and similar discussions around these numbers has had a huge part in broadening my view of both birth culture, and society as a whole. Keep your eye peeled for my next blog on oppression and it’s role in the maternal mortality rate. So, in the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Arnold in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts!”

Weaning Baby pt. 3

Now, for the later stages. Introducing solids is an exciting time for parents. By now baby is sitting up on their own, giggling, and even making demands. The timing of the introduction of solids varies for every baby, as well as every mother. Weaning a baby with solids is helpful, because it is an entirely different feeding process for baby, in comparison to bottle/breastfeeding. This way instead of refusing the breast and fighting baby to take a bottle, you can offer a new experience to share with mom, or whomever is feeding them at the time. This practice is often referred to as “don’t offer, don’t refuse.” Once you and your little one establish a rhythm with this, you can begin to utilize breastfeeding as a soothing technique. Maybe a tender intimate moment before naps and bed, or a nurturing moment after a bad spill at the park. This is often how mothers reestablish and/or continue the connection with their older children after bringing new babies home. Some of us can’t even fathom what it would be like still breastfeeding a five-year-old, or even a three-year-old. Oddly enough, a great deal of moms feel this way until they have found the love for these moments with their babies that is the pure joy of making the right decisions for you and your little ones. I commend mamas these days for offering encouragement and not judging other mamas for their choices. These decisions only grow into greater issues in the future, and we need to be able to feel confident that we have our children’s best interests at heart.

One aspect of weaning baby that often gets overlooked is the hormonal changes that come with reducing milk production. Prolactin,  and oxytocin  work in tandem to produce and bring milk down. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone brings on feelings of calm and comfort, it works as a bonding agent for you and baby. It is hypothesized that any abrupt stop of breastfeeding can cause an influx in your hormones inducing feelings of sadness, depression, and even irritability. Some mother's will be more susceptible  to depression then others. This can be due to past history of mental illness, it could just be the current circumstance. Some ways to reduce the emotional drop would be to gradually decrease your feedings. Try and plan as far ahead as possible, removing one feeding a week and replacing with hand expression. Any sign of depression or change in normal behavior should be addressed. I have pasted a link below to a bonus blog of mine that will cover how to address depression and knowing your options

Weaning takes patience and persistence, similar to teaching your body to produce you are now conditioning it to stop producing. The frustration often arrives when bay becomes frustrated, and mama is exhausted from the changes in her body. Remember to give yourself and baby a break every once in a while, that comfort you exchange will help nurture your experience. Find joy in letting baby taste new flavors, and have a camera ready, those moments can be absolutely priceless. 

Next week we talk storing breast milk basics, in addition to my list of resources for this month's topic!

Here's a bonus link to my latest blog featured with Stork Maternity Consulting. Here I address the steps you can take to get help during times of emotional turmoil: