Wednesday, February 1, 2023

My Favorite Products for a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy


There are so many ways to naturally deal with all that pregnancy throws at you. Growing another human takes a lot of work, which can lead to some pains, discomfort, and other not so fun things. These products can help you stay comfortable, nourished, and as pain-free as possible.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. You should consult your care provider and do personal research before using the products listed below.

Magnesium is a vital nutrient for anyone. It is best when absorbed through the skin, which makes magnesium lotion, oil, and Epsom salts are a great way to get the magnesium that you need. Magnesium can be super helpful is helping with leg pain, restlessness syndrome, and sleeping problems. These are my favorite magnesium products: 

Earthley Magnesium Lotion

Pinkstork Pregnancy Flakes

Pinkstork Magnesium Mist 

Pregnancy teas are formulated to help pregnant women stay healthy and prepare for birth. The base of pregnancy teas are red raspberry leaf tea, which contains vital nutrients for a healthy immune system while helping the uterus prepare for birth. These are my favorites:

Earthley Pregnancy Tea

Pink Stork Labor Prep Tea 

Earth Mama Third Trimester Tea

Forest & Meadow Glorious Pregnancy Tea

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

A Doula's Spin on the Hospital Packing List


There are certainly basics when it comes to packing a hospital bag like clothes to bring baby home in & chargers for your phones & devices. This list is not quite that. As an experienced doula, these are the tools that I recommend you bring to make your hospital room comfy & cozy and to help make your labor easier & help with pain relief. I have also included items that will be helpful for immediate postpartum.

If you have hired a doula, you may not need to bring many of these items as they may supply them. But it can never hurt to ask. And if you do not have a doula than you will definitely want to check out this list!

And doulas, I have included a special part of the list for you too! All of these items, besides the gown, socks & perineum spray & balm, are found in my own doula bag. But there are a few items, listed at the end that would be really helpful for just doulas to carry in their bag. 

AND this list is not just for hospital births. It is handy to have these items for a home birth or birth center birth as well!

All of these items are tried & true by either me, my clients, or both! In my seven years of doing this work, there have been many things that I have cut from my bag but these items have stood the test of time. 

I have included links for you to purchase these items. If you buy from the link provided for the items listed on Amazon,  you help financially support me, so it is always appreciated!

For Families & Doulas:

1. A heating pad. I cannot emphasize this item enough. It is probably the most used item from my doula bag. It can be used on your back or under your belly to help with the intensity of contractions. I have had clients use it in the car (if they have appropriate outlets) while in transit to the hospital, use it in triage while we waited to be admitted, and of course used it while laboring in the hospital rooms. And it is a great tool postpartum as well. It is helpful with that postpartum cramping as well as an achy back from the horrible beds. Just know that a hospital will not let you use an extension cord with one. And you cannot use it if you have an epidural. This is the one I use and love!: Sunbeam Heating Pad

2. A rebozo. This is a traditional Mexican garment. Around the world, a rebozo is used in the birth space for many things. It is a handy item to have on hand to help with belly sifting, "shake the apples", and supported squatting. I usually recommend a 78 inch rebozo if you will just use it for birth, as I find it less bulky and easier to work with. But if you order a bigger size, it can be made into a ring sling by ordering the rings from my recommended vendor & following this link for a no-sew ring sling tutorial.  I order my rebozos from this site, as they sell authentic rebozos: Lola My Love

3. Knee pads. Labor involves lots of movement and many times when women are given no instruction, they instinctively lean, which means there will probably be lots of hands and knees. This is not super comfortable for your knees after a while. I recommend these certain knee pads as they are separate, no one long unit. Meaning you have a lot more options when it comes to using them! You can find them here, yoga knee pads

4. A fan. Labor is hard work. And hormones can make you feel extra hot. Plus, if you plan on laboring in a tub or shower, you will absolutely get hot. A fan comes in handy. I recommend a stroller fan for the simple fact that it is bendy and can go anywhere! You can prop it up on the side of the tub. Wrap it around the bed rail. Hang it from an IV pole. And it is battery operated, so no need to worry about outlets. Bonus, it can be used on your stroller once baby arrives! You can purchase it by following this link: stroller fan

5. TENS unit. This may not be for everyone but for some it is a great pain relief option. When applied to your back, the TENS uses electrical stimulation to help you deal with the intensity of labor. In my experience, this is very helpful with back labor (but know that you should be trying position work to get baby into better position and rid yourself of the back labor, this just helps in the meantime). And it can be a great option for laboring in the car if you are not able to have anyone do hands on techniques during your drive to the hospital. This is a link to the TENS unit I have & love. 

6. A bluetooth speaker. To make the space calm, many women love to listen to music or relaxing tracks. A bluetooth speaker is an amazing tool in helping to ensure music can be heard throughout the room and over running water, if you are using the shower. This also keeps you from having to constantly drag your phone around. And there are many water proof options, making it safe to use in the steamy bathrooms if you labor in the shower. Bonus, get one with a strap and hang it from an IV pole! This is a link to purchase: wireless speaker

7. LED tea lights. Creating a calm space starts with great lighting. These little LED candles are perfect. They are safe to use in the hospital and easy to move around. I love to use them in the bathroom, to create a cave-like experience while laboring on the toilet or if the tub or shower are being used. This is the link where you can purchase the ones I use and love: LED tea lights

8. Essential oil diffuser. Another great idea for creating a calm space is to diffuse essential oils. This is not something for everyone as some people are very sensitive to smells. And you want to use safe oils, like lavender, that will be ok once baby arrives. I try to keep a diffuser contained to the bathroom or far away from where baby will be once they arrive. I also suggest smelling the oils in the bottle for a while before putting them into the diffuser, as you may not like them while in labor. Diffusing oils makes it very hard to remove them from the room, so you want to ensure you can tolerate them before diffusing them. Even if you do not like diffusing oils, the changing lights from my tried and true diffuser can be calming all on their own! To purchase, follow this link: essential oil diffuser

9. Delivery gown. Many women do not prefer to wear hospital gowns. They are large, unflattering, and they make some feel like a sick patient. If you want to bring your own gown, Frida Mom makes a super comfy one. I strongly recommend this over another popular plain gown sold on Amazon, as these snaps at the shoulder come all the way undone on the Frida Mom gown. The other gown does not, which makes it impossible to come off if you have an IV. The color is dark enough to cover up stains but cute enough to not feel like you are a hospital patient. Heck, maybe grab a few! They make great nursing gowns too. To purchase, follow this link: Frida Mom Delivery Gown 

10. Non-skid socks. The hospital will provide socks. They are quite large, not the most flattering. There is a huge array of ones available online now that are cute. The plus side, you can wear them postpartum at the hospital in place of slippers (which may actually be pretty slippery on hospital floors) and when you get home (so much easier than taking slippers or flip flops on and off before getting into bed or laying down to nurse). My clients have loved both of these brands: Merino Wool Grip Socks  & Kindred Bravely Non-Slip Socks

11. Water bottle with a straw. I know, the hospital also provides these as well. But some do not like plastic. And some prefer water bottles that will fit into a cup holder. If you want to bring your own, that will keep your drinks cold & can keep your straw tucked away when not using, this is one I absolutely love! Follow the link to purchase: Klean Kanteen 16 oz Tumbler 

12. Massage tools. Labor is hard work. I know I already stated this but it is important enough to repeat! Muscles get strained and tired. And many women love to have their backs massaged during contractions. This is one tool my clients have loved, follow this link to purchase: Roller Ball Massage Tool

13. Combs. Holding a comb in your hand, with the bristles pressing into the bottom of your fingers can help with pain relief in labor. You will want a sturdy comb & it is smart to buy two, one for each hand! My favorite combs are listed here, click the link to purchase: Wooden Combs

14. Tincture for after-birth pains. Cramping after baby is born is completely normal. It is actually healthy! It means your uterus is clamping back down to original size and in turn that helps control postpartum bleeding. The more babies you have, the more cramping you can expect. These herbal tinctures are helpful, especially when used with a heating pad on your belly. The one that I carry is from Forest & Meadow, you purchase it here: Postpartum Relief Tincture . My clients have also really liked this Wish Garden tincture, this is the link to purchase: AfterEase Tincture. (As a doula it is never my place to recommend herbal supplements. It is my place to let you know they exist as an option. Please do your own research to see what you are comfortable with & discuss with your care provider.)

15. Perineum care items. The hospital does provide Tucks pads. But if you would like to go one step further, I recommend bringing an herbal spray and balm. The herbs contained in these products will help promote healing & keep you as comfortable as possible. If you would like to support a small, local business, Forest & Meadow carries a wonderful product, found here: Perineal Salve  & Perineal Spray . If you would prefer to order through Amazon, Earth Mama has a great option and you can buy it in a set, follow this link to purchase: Earth Mama Postpartum Recovery Kit

Doula Bag Items:

These are certainly items that families may find helpful to add to their arsenal, so do not think they are limited to only doulas. It is just my thought that these items may be more cost effective if used by a doula at multiple births. 

1. Labor Progress Handbook. This book is brought out of my bag consistently. It is chock full of useful information. To purchase, follow this link: Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin

2. Spinning Babies Quick Reference Guide. This is the most important resource I carry on me. It gets pulled out at every birth in which I believe there to be a dystocia of some kind. My copy is so worn! Click this link to purchase: Quick Reference Guide 

3. Honey sticks. I feel like this is an essential for any doula bag. As someone who literally just saw juice save a birth, these can be invaluable. And a great price for 100 organic sticks! Plus, if you bring your own tea bags to births, these can be used to sweeten your tea. Follow this link to purchase: Organic Honey Sticks

4. Long, bendy straws. I LOVE these straws! I carry a few at a time in my bag. They are perfect for clients who have a cup without a straw or are drinking coconut water or juice in a container without a straw. They are long enough to reach to the bottom of big water bottles. But also work well to reach women who are situated in a way that is hard to reach or sitting all the way in the back of a corner tub. And they can be cut down if they are obnoxiously long. Follow this link to purchase: Extra Long Straws 

Monday, January 16, 2023

My Top 10 Favorite Birth Books

There are many wonderful books available to help you prepare for birth. These are the ones that I highly recommend. They are listed in no particular order. If you buy them from the links provided, you help me financially, so it is greatly appreciated!

#1: The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Room, this book is such a comprehensive book. I reference it often in the resources I supply to my clients. It has everything from nutrition to breathing techniques. My favorite part is the back of the book, in which Aviva provides many natural solutions to common pregnancy ailments. To purchase, follow this link: The Natural Pregnancy Book

#2: In Your Own Time by Dr. Sara Wickham, this book is key for any expecting family. It talks extensively about non-medical inductions, which are way more prevalent than we are lead to believe. There are benefits for both mom & baby when we wait for labor to begin spontaneously. This book will provide research that you can take to your provider if you feel pushed into an induction. To purchase this book, follow this link: In Your Own Time

#3: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, this book is the epitome of mentally preparing for birth. It includes inspiring birth stories as well as other vital information. Follow this link to purchase: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

#4: Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel, if you plan on having a hospital birth you need this book! It helps you prepare not just for an unmedicated birth but also helps you navigate the intricacies of birthing in a medical system. To purchase this book, please follow this link: Natural Hospital Birth

#5: The Essential Homebirth Guide by Jane E. Dritcha, if you plan on having your baby at home, you need this book! It talks about mentally and physically welcoming your baby in the comforts of your own home. Use this link to purchase this book: The Essential Homebirth Guide

#6: Made for This Birth by Mary Haseltine, this beautiful book written for Catholic moms but will resonate with all Christian moms. It explains birth from a biblical perspective in a very poetic way as well a provide vital information on preparing for birth. To purchase this book please follow this link: Made for This Birth

#7: Pregnancy, Childbirth, & the Newborn by Penny Simkin, this book is SOOO comprehensive. It includes information on birth and beyond. Any expecting family should have this in their library! To purchase, please follow this link: Pregnancy, Childbirth, & the Newborn

#8: The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, this book should be read by every expecting family. It truly helps prepare partners for what birth can bring and how to support the mom in labor. To purchase, please follow this link to purchase: The Birth Partner 

#9: Birthing from Within by Pam England, this book helps women prepare for the intensity that birth is. It really helps you prepare for the primal demands that birth can bring. And helps you understand art as a way to help process your thoughts on birth. To purchase, follow this link:Birthing from Within

#10: The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, this book contains important information on considering all of the interventions that medicine has brought into the birth environment. To purchase, please follow this link: The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Holistic Living, Holistic Birth


Living holistically is just that; it is my essence. It is not a hobby, it is not only some of the time. It is truly my life. I understand the body to be whole. That symptoms are signs of larger imbalances, not isolated incidents to be managed with medicine. I know that true medicine comes from nutrient dense food, herbs that the Earth provides, stress management, exercise, fresh air, & sleep. This is the truth that I live by. This is the truth I embody for my family. This has been our way of life for almost a decade now. 

I know that the body was built to do amazing things. I know that the body is smart and capable. I know that the body wants to heal. But I also know that the body has to be provided with the right things to be able to perform as it should. This is how I approach the care I provide for myself, my family, and my clients. 

Holistic living led me to doula work. It fine tuned my practice. And has helped me support my clients in the best way that I know how. You need not be like minded to benefit from my care, just trust that I trust your body enough to know how best to birth your baby. 

My holistic approach to birth consists of the following:

1. Trusting that the mother knows best ALWAYS! She knows what care is safest for her baby. She knows how to move in labor. She knows what to do when handling her baby right after birth. She knows the best decisions to make regarding rearing her children. We, as a birth team, have to trust this and encourage it.

2. Babies want to be in optimal position for birth. Babies use the room they are given. They are smart & know the best way. Mothers have the capacity to do simple exercises & receive outside help to prepare their bodies for birth & encourage baby to get into optimal position. Modern day life is not very conducive to pregnancy, natural movement that includes lots of squatting & walking is pretty nonexistent for most in Western cultures. This is where Spinning Babies, Webster certified chiropractic care, women's health physical therapy, prenatal yoga, & prenatal massage come in.  Gentle & intentional movement as well as stress management and body work help prime mother & baby for the healthiest & safest birth for both. 

3. God provides so much medicine straight from the Earth. Food is the first medicine; good nutrient dense, whole food. Herbs are the next line of defense. When working with a trained herbalist and/or a functional medicine doctor, you can find safe & effective means to deal with many common pregnancy ailments. Your body wants to be healthy & vibrant. While many things are now common in pregnancy, it does not make them normal. 

4. Birth is normal, until it is not. Your body was designed to grow a baby and to birth them. The process of birth is very intentional, each piece works in harmony. We need to honor each part of labor for what it is. Many times humans feel we need to change the process, that it will fail unless we make it quicker and stronger. But there is space to honor how your body is working. Many times the solution to what ails us during birth is more time, more patience, more privacy, and more trust in the process. Our bodies give us the birth that we and our babies need. If this requires more intervention for either mom or baby's safety, many times a mother will intuitively know things need to change. They just need the space, respect, time, & information to make a truly informed decision. 

It is my hope that my unique lifestyle & approach to birth help my clients be more confident heading into parenthood. That they understand all options that exist to ensure they receive the healthiest & safest care during their pregnancy, birth, and beyond. And that they know the value of listening to their bodies & their intuition. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Boundaries: A Must Read for Preparing for Birth

This book is not written for birth. So why would I recommend it?
Birth is about you. It is about getting what you need for your family. Birth requires mamas to dig deep, to use their power to bring their baby earthside. What is needed for birth is a space in which mamas feel respected. That includes ensuring the people in that space respect you enough to allow you to birth in complete confidence.
You need to consider who you want to include in your birth space, who will be truly supportive of what you know you need during this most powerful yet vulnerable time. Reading Boundaries will help you gain the confidence and insight you need to determine if your care provider, medical staff, your doula, any family members, and even your partner fully support you.
As women, many times we feel we need to accommodate others. We feel the need to please others and not cause an uproar. Leaving a care provider who does not serve us, is uncomfortable. Telling your mom and sister that you do not want them to be there could cause a riff in your family dynamic. And standing up to your partner, to ensure you birth where you know you need to, can cause a lot of stress on a relationship. But birth is not the time to blur your boundaries, it is the time for you to establish strong boundaries and to ensure people support you in setting them.
During prenatal meetings, I help couples determine the birth that is right for them. This is the perfect time to decide who will help and hinder the birth that mamas know they need. It also opens up the conversation between partners, in case they unknowingly do not see eye to eye.
Once you have decided the type of birth you want, you will need the confidence to discuss this with your care provider and birth place. You will need to be confident enough to ensure that they not only understand what you want but that they will help you achieve it.
This also goes for your family. Birth is not a social affair. If you feel a certain friend or family member will support you, that is great! But if you feel that certain people will not support you, then you will need to be able to voice your needs to them.  If they still do not support what you need, then you need to be strong enough to let them know that you cannot have them in attendance, even if they feel entitled enough to be there during one of your most private moments.
You will also need to ensure that the doula you have hired, if you have one, honors your wishes. A truly supportive doula knows that only you can make the decisions that are best for your family and they will not have an agenda that they plan on pushing onto you. If you have yet to hire one, ensure that you ask how they support families during the type of birth that you envision and how they support you if things would happen to change.
This book helps you understand what your boundaries are and why you are the way you are when it comes to your current boundaries. It then helps you use this information to understand how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships that bleed into your birth as well as other aspects of your life.
I will say this book is rooted in Christianity but I would not let that steer you away if you are not Christian, the principles still resonate true. Setting boundaries helps you live a life that is healthy for you and your family.
Pregnancy and birth are important in preparing you for parenthood. It helps you decide what is important to you and your partner and how you will raise your family. It is important to understand that you do not need to please others in raising your family and Boundaries helps you understand how to approach this with others in your life.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Does a Birth Plan Set You Up for Disappointment?

You just found out you are expecting. You have prepared and spent a lot of time deciding on your care provider, birth place, whether to hire a doula, and who you want at your birth. And more than likely you have thought of writing a birth plan. While considering a birth plan, have you heard "You are only setting yourself up for disappointment when things do not go the way you planned." Does this mean you should not write one?
I suggest looking at this in a different way. Do we tell women not to plan their dream wedding in case their groom does not show up? Do we tell women not to apply for a college in case they may not get in? When we look at it in this light, it sounds ludicrous to tell people to never plan for anything simply because there is a chance the plans may not go just as we hoped.
Birth is unpredictable, like anything in life. But planning for it ensures that you have a care provider and birth place that supports the type of birth you hope for. Planning helps ensure you know all of your options and that you made choices based on knowing all risks and benefits. And that if things do not go as planned, you were apart of the choices that affected your birth. And those choices were the best for your unique situation.
Planning also helps you be as proactive as possible. For example, if you know you really do not want to be induced, you may learn instances in which women do face induction: pre-eclampsia, choleostasis, large baby due to gestational diabetes, or because a care provider does not support you going past 41 weeks. Knowing this information may help you seek out nutritional advice on how to prevent medical conditions that require induction. And discussing your birth plan with your care provider may help you learn that your birth provider induces simply because of gestational age, which may lead you to look for a care provider who does.
As a doula, I explain to clients the importance of planning. The process helps you discover how you want to feel during your birth. It helps you discover how important every aspect of birth is and even if you cannot get certain things on your birth plan, there are ways to accommodate for those losses.
So what if you do plan a certain birth, you find a care provider who completely supports what you want, and you still end up with a birth that was not what you envisioned? Just like anything in your life, we process it. Disappointment is part of life, it is inescapable. But there are resources to help you get through this unique loss. It could be as simple as talking to a friend or family member who was in the same situation or maybe you will need more help. There are peer groups, like ICAN, professionals who are trained to deal with PTSD surrounding birth, and classes specifically meant for helping women process their births. It is quite normal to be happy to finally have your baby in your arms but upset how your birth went. This does not make you a bad mother, it makes you human. As someone who has seen a variety of births, who has supported many families in this process, fear of disappointment does not justify not creating a plan. You deserve to feel respected and supported during your birth and planning helps you get what you deserve.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Revamped Doula Support Program

What can you expect when you hire me as a doula? This blog post is all about the changes I have made to my program to help you better prepare for birth and postpartum. I love to provide a wealth of information to my clients so that you feel you have all the tools necessary to make the decisions that best suit your family. I believe that educated decisions can only come from weighing all risks and benefits and applying them to your unique situation.
First off, my support is rooted in holistic care. I am immersed in holistic living. This means I believe true health and healing come from within. My advice is rooted in diet, stress relief, good quality sleep, exposure to nature and exercise, regular chiropractic care, as well as herbal and homeopathic support when necessary.
The information I provide to clients is shared in electronic files. I have carefully chosen articles and created handouts and information sheets included in these files. The information is broken down into chunks:
  1. Birth Plan Creation: I provide resources that I believe are important in creating the birth that you know is right for your family. The information provided includes a sheet that I compiled of all of the choices you could face in labor and birth along with risks and benefits of each choice. We use this sheet during our first prenatal meeting. I encourage all clients to take their birth plan to their provider. I also provide resources to help you process your meeting with your care provider regarding your birth plan. This will help you ensure that your care provider and birth place are exactly what you need to provide support for the birth you know is best for yourself. 
  2. Physical Prep: I believe to accomplish the birth that you desire, you need to start working towards it as early in pregnancy as possible. The information I provide on physical prep is rooted in nutrition, exercise for optimal positioning, chiropractic care, stress relief, and choosing beauty and cleaning products that are non-toxic.
  3. Mental Prep: Our society does not talk about birth in a positive manner. I believe mental preparation is incredibly important because birth is managed by hormones which react sensitively to stress. The information included in this section helps you to change your mindset about birth and to help ensure that you go into your birth with as little fear as possible.
  4. What to do During Birth: This section contains information on what I suggest doing during labor. I created a document on coping techniques to use in every stage of labor complete with descriptions and images. This document is what we use during our second prenatal meeting. This section also contains information on how partners are an integral part of birth and how they can best support moms.
  5. Breastfeeding: This section contains information on how to prepare for breastfeeding. I created a document about issues to watch out for and what type of help you should seek for each type of issue. I also include information on how partners, chiropractic care, and CLCs & IBCLCs can provide support during breastfeeding. Lastly, I have also created a document on nutrition that supports a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
  6. Postpartum Prep: Prep for the postpartum period is just as important as preparing for birth. It can be hard to find the support you need to fully heal and recover from birth as well as bond with and care for your new baby. The information contained in this section is to help you know what type of support you need and how to find it. It also contains information on signs of baby blues and postpartum depression and nutrition support  that helps best to prevent and/or manage these issues, as well as when to reach out for professional help.
  7. Resources: This section contains suggestions on resources you can use during pregnancy and the postpartum period. I am greatly connected in the birth community and all of the resources listed are either people I have used myself, people I know, or ones who come highly recommended to me. 
I also provide clients access to an extensive lending library. I give each client two books to borrow throughout their entire pregnancy. These books are referenced often in the handouts I have created: The Natural Pregnancy Book and What to Eat When You're Pregnant. I also lend out the Spinning Babies Daily Essential DVD to help you stay comfortable during pregnancy as well as get and keep baby into optimal position.
While my support is rooted in holistic care and I understand the importance of a physiological birth I also understand that interventions were created for a reason. I help families understand when interventions can help in their particular situation and how to use them smartly to get the birth that is safest for them. I am not a doula that supports only unmedicated, vaginal birth but one that supports clients in whatever type of birth that they know is best for them. My goal is to ensure that clients feel completely supported and respected by their entire birth team. And that no matter which type of birth you experience, you feel you were truly apart of all of the decisions that were made and feel powerful and in control.