Birth Stories: Ashley's Journey to Becoming a Doula

Birth Stories: Ashley's Journey to Becoming a Doula

Guest Contributor Ashley Barksdale, MBRN Member

A note from the Military Birth Resource Network.

 Birth comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we have plans that change as we progress through pregnancy and labor. Here we see Ashley’s stories of her three separate cesareans, how they each lead her to become a birth doula.

With each pregnancy and birth, I am able to stand next to the new mother and offer non-judgmental and unbiased support while assisting the family with the physical support of keeping the mother comfortable during labor, informational support anytime the family has questions throughout the pregnancy and delivery, and emotional support...
— Ashley Barksdale
ashley B birth stroy.png

I became a birth and postpartum doula after being a part of my friends’ birth.  She was pregnant with her fourth child and her husband was deployed. She asked me to attend her birth and I couldn’t resist!  After having three cesareans, I was excited to experience a natural birth!

My first labor was induced.  I was due the week of Thanksgiving and lived an hour away from the closest hospital.  I was 18 years old and was not familiar with natural birth.  My labor support system was non-existent.  Due to high stress situations during pregnancy, I went into pre-term labor three times, beginning at 7 months. The nurses gave me shots to stop contractions and sent me home each time. At 37 weeks, my doctor scheduled an induction for 39 weeks.  November 21, 2003, I was admitted to the hospital at 7am.  The nurse told me to change into the hospital gown and they immediately hooked me up to the fetal monitors and Pitocin.  During labor, a nurse sat about a foot from my bedside, filling out charts and doing paperwork while I laid in bed, occasionally adjusting to one side or the other throughout the entire day. Around 12pm, I began feeling slight contractions so the nurse suggested I get an epidural.  I did not want any shots so I refused.  By 12:30pm, the nurse had scared me so badly that I finally agreed to Demerol through the IV.  I slept throughout the entire day. I vaguely remember my family members coming in and out of the room occasionally to see if I had progressed.  By 4pm, I was at 7cm and Demerol was no longer working. The anesthesiologist had been in the room several times and the doctors and nurses kept telling me It was almost too late to get an epidural and that it was “now or never”, so I agreed.  Again, pushed into it making the decision to have pain medication injected into my spine.  The doctor came in once more at 9pm that night and told me the baby was not moving and I was no longer dilating so either he could send me home with a failed induction or I could have a cesarean.  I only had a few minutes to decide and within those few minutes, my blood pressure shot up, as did my baby’s heart rate so they had to do an emergency cesarean.  Or so I was told.  My little, 7-pound boy was born at 11:21pm.  Two weeks later my incision busted open then eventually healed with only a few butterfly strips.

ashleys baby.jpg

My second child was born via cesarean because the first caused a lot of scar tissue.  I didn’t have a huge labor support team during that time either.  No one encouraged me to try a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and the one time I mentioned it to my doctor, she said it may not be a good idea due to the amount of scar tissue. After that, a VBAC was never mentioned again.  I had a scheduled cesarean for January 12, 2010 but my body went into some sort of shock on December 31st.  My 8-pound, 13-ounce, beautiful baby girl was born via cesarean at 9:28pm. That cesarean wasn’t nearly as traumatizing as the first because I knew what to expect.  The incision didn’t heal correctly so I had to pack it for nearly 6 weeks before it finally closed.

On April 12, 2015, I delivered my third child via cesarean due to pre-eclampsia.  He was born with jaundice and was hospitalized for a week after being sent home for only one day.  That cesarean was a breeze.  I felt like a pro at that point – laughed and joked through the entire procedure. VBAC was briefly discussed but due to several issues I had throughout the pregnancy, and then pre-eclampsia, we decided it would be best for me to have a cesarean.

Although each of my deliveries were very similar, they were better each time.  Each pregnancy, I learned a little more about childbirth and the “rules” of doctors and hospitals.  By the time my friend had her 4th baby in August of 2016, I felt pulled to birth work.  Watching her experience a completely natural labor and delivery, with no fear and only a little discomfort, I realized there was something more to labor and delivery.

Since August of 2016, I have now obtained my certifications for Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Education, Lactation Education, and currently working on a Bachelor’s degree for Family Studies.  There are so many aspects that go into bringing a new baby into the world.  Seeing each new mother experience pregnancy and delivery the way she feels comfortable, is an amazing adventure for me, as her Doula.  With each pregnancy and birth, I am able to stand next to the new mother and offer non-judgmental and unbiased support while assisting the family with the physical support of keeping the mother comfortable during labor, informational support anytime the family has questions throughout the pregnancy and delivery, and emotional support if the mother feels overwhelmed.  The most important thing I’ve learned since having my first child is that NO ONE should be forced or pressured to do something they do not want to do.  It is truly an honor to empower a woman with the information and support she needs so she is able to have the most satisfying birth experience possible.

Originally posted on ashleybarksdale.com, posted with permission

Reading Resources for Pregnant Women

Reading Resources for Pregnant Women

Guest Contributor Assonta Wagner, CD(DONA), MBRN Member

Congratulations, you are pregnant!  Now what do you do? 

I’m sure you’ve heard things like: “do your research” , “know your options”, and“be informed”.  What exactly does that mean?  If you google pregnancy, there are thousands of articles, hundreds of books and countless blogs about being pregnant, writing birth plans, best baby care, and labor choices.  It’s all so overwhelming, how do you know where to begin, what’s the best book, blog or article? 
“I knew some things about birth but not many, they really opened my eyes to different things like the many different labor and birthing positions and doulas” - Vivian Chagollan
The first thing to understand is that pregnancy, labor, and baby care are always evolving.   What you read one day may be completely different in several months.  Begin by deciding what is important to you in your pregnancy and labor.  What do you want to experience during your journey?  Asking those questions are a great way to narrow down the information you are seeking.  Talk to your peers.  If any of them have had children, they have already done some of the ground work and can point you in the right direction.  According to Jessica Marrero, “it was most beneficial to hear other women’s stories.  Just knowing others had been able to have a natural birth made me feel empowered”. Lastly, do not be afraid to talk to your provider about your research and your preferences, communication is key to good care.  Your provider will have insight on many issues related to pregnancy and birth.
Now that you have a starting point, what should you read: Medical articles, books, or blogs?  They all have their time, place and application.  Medical articles are usually found in journals and article aggregate sites like The Cochrane Library.  Online or written journals may sometimes require a subscription, but there are many that offer limited free articles and what is called an abstract, which is a basic summary about the article or study.  Aggregate sites read through several related articles and give a summary about the information along with discussion about clinical applications and impacts on care. Links to the original research or articles are included in an aggregate article. There are many books available and choosing a book (or books) to read goes back to what you want to experience during your pregnancy, labor, and birth.  The Birth Education Center has excellent resources; the staff can help you build your library.  Everyone has their favorites that align with their personal philosophy. Therefore, it is wise the discuss or research the book’s contents and philosophy before you buy it.
Blogs are a good source of information, if that is their goal.  The amount of blogs online is staggering.  There are many that have good information, and then there are those that are opinion based.  While opinions are important, when researching birth choices it’s important to deal with facts first.  So, to decrease the amount of opinion based blogs and articles, try Google Scholar.  This is a search engine that usually culls through and presents information based on research and evidence.  It helps narrow down the field of research topics based on your search criteria.  There are blogs that offer evidenced based information and many in the birthing community refer to these blogs regularly.  Two that come to mind are bellybelly.com.au and kellymom.com .  Both blogs have great articles and hints for pregnancy, labor/delivery, breastfeeding and infant care.
Now that you have gotten tons of information; you can name every labor hormone, you know all the stages of labor and could probably put in your own IV! What do you DO with these nuggets of information?  First, as said before, talk to your provider.  It cannot be stressed enough that communication is key to good care.  Do not be afraid to discuss your wishes with your provider.  Their goal is a safe and healthy mom and baby; not just physically, but also emotionally healthy.  Second, use that information to make your birth and postpartum plans.  Your knowledge will help you create a concise, personalized plan. “After researching and writing my birthing plan I felt nervous but I felt more prepared”-Vivian Chagollan. A birth plan is not jus your wishes in writing, it is an indication that you are able and willing to discuss all aspects of yours and your baby’s care.  You are part of the decisions made during your pregnancy and labor.  Last, relax-yes, relax.  Being informed should not coincide with stress.  The goal of research is stress relief. You will know what is considered typical, and when things don’t go as expected, you are able to cope with what ever comes your way because you have prepared. 
Remember, babies have been born for thousands of years.  Without the internet, without books.  Trust yourself and be confident in your power to give birth in any manner. “My outlook was totally different because I knew my body knew what it was doing”-Jessica Marrero.
Resources:
Articles/journals:
www.cochranelibrary.com
scholar.google.com
Blogs:
bellybelly.com.au
www.kellymom.com
Books:

  • Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
  • The Birth Partner

Doulas, Dads, & Birth Partners.

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Doulas, Dads, & Birth Partners.

By: Amanda Dodson CD(DONA), HBCE

 

Maybe you’ve heard of a doula.  Maybe not. When I first meet a woman and begin to explain what my role as a doula is, I usually get the comments of, “So you’re like a midwife.” Or “My friend had a doula and she left because she got an epidural.” (Insert tounge in cheek and continue to kindly smile as I pull together my thoughts and prepare for a more in depth discussion of what a doulas role is).

After a delightful debrief on what my service entails, mom is now on a doula high, ready to move forward.

But wait. Here it comes. The response that usually leaves me hanging in the valance wondering if I will ever speak to this individual again. “I really want to do this BUT I need to talk to my husband/birth partner. I will get back to you soon.”

I agree wholeheartedly! I believe 100%  both parents need to be on board with hiring a doula if that is the situation at hand. I think it's important they both understand and agree to what my role is. I may or may not ever hear back at this point. If I have the contact information I will follow up. 

I want to use this opportunity to address dads, birth partners, or whoever is chosen to fill that role. I want to help you think outside the box after reading this.

*Disclaimer. I understand every situation and personality is different. Not everyone may need a doula at their birth.*

Scenario 1

  Imagine you’ve taken all the childbirth classes and feel relatively prepared. Relaxation techniques have been rehearsed, bags are packed and your contraction app ready to go. Kind of like all the training done to prepare for a big basketball game. It’s 2:00 am in the morning and let say you've had a rough day at work.  Let’s throw in a couple of visits to the hospital a few days prior for practice labor. It wasn’t progressing and they sent you home. Now she's waking you up saying it’s real deal. Reluctantly, you roll out of bed and start getting stuff together. Now momma is telling you to hurry!  You’re trying to remember if her purse has been packed and if there are kids, they still need to wake up, get dressed and ready for the sitters.  Out the door everyone goes. Finally making it to the hospital. Time to check into Triage. The questions start to ensue. 

“Has her water broken?”

“How long are the contractions?” 

“When did labor start?”

"When was the last time she went to the bathroom?" Dad is thinking,"What? Wait. You mean taking a crap? Is that even supposed to happen?" 

"Have you seen any birth show?" Birth what! There's so much stuff! I don't remember being told about this. 

 *Insert- deer in the headlights look.*

  Of course momma is able to answer theses questions. More than likely though she's not in the mood to be thinking about her last bowel movement. Labor is progressively getting more uncomfortable. 

Nurse says, "Ma'am, we need you to stay laying down so we can get a good read on the monitors." 

She's having a hard time staying in the bed. Now mom is asking to get something to drink or go to the bathroom.  You’re still trying to wipe the sleep out of your eyes but high on an adrenaline rush. So much coming at once. 

Mom gets admitted and depending on where baby is at delivery could be imminent or it may be hours. We will say in this case mama has some time to go.  You get over to the delivery room and try to get settled but now paperwork to be filled out. (Yes some places parents have to fill out admission paperwork at the time of delivery.) Momma is working hard. She may be asking for medication at this point. You haven’t even had a chance to give anyone the Birthing Preferences aka Birth Plan.  People have left the room and you were able to get the lights dimmed and review the plan with your staff. Things seem to be back on track. But now you, the dad or birth partner, has to go to the bathroom! Momma is begging you to stay to hold the counter pressure on her back. She starts getting to a point where she’s saying she can’t do it anymore. Asks for medication. Starts crying and saying she doesn’t know what to do.  There’s some staff in the room and they are saying she can have the epidural but it was stated she didn’t want one. Your head is spinning. Trying to remember everything taught in class. Mom is tired. You’re tired.  This didn’t happen how we planned.

If I run into mom again or I follow up with her about hiring a doula, often times the answer is, “We decided to not hire a doula because my husband didn’t want one.”

  Deep down inside I was truly hoping that they would have at least entertained the idea of a interview. After all, it's free with no obligations. I feel like once I can sit down and have dad/birth partner ask me those difficult questions, we can now address any concerns. Then I hope they feel well informed about whether or not a doula would still be a good fit for their birth.

I’ve seen one too many sticky situations where a doula gets into a relationship with a mother who wants her at the birth, but dad is not on board. A lot of tension and division is created. That is not something we want for this birth experience.
— Amanda

  These reasons listed are legitimate concerns and great questions to ask. Partly why I insists on speaking with both parents at some point. If dad is unable to be present for an interview, I will be sure to let the mother know I do expect dad/birth partner to be on board. whether he wants to be really involved or not before moving forward. I want him to understand I value his presence, participation and thoughts too.

Let's review those reasons why a doula may not be hired. 

I want to reiterate. I am not there to take the other parent's place or anyone else for that matter. The in-laws, family member or friend.  I am hired as a trained birth professional in the room. To help provide you with information to make informed decision about your care. Assist in comfort measures, emotional support, or encourager to just name a few. I feel like it takes the pressure off of dad/birth partner feeling like they have to be the one stop shop for everything. I give him the space to take that much needed bathroom break while mom gets continual support. If he’s a really hands on kind of person, sometimes he needs to be reminded to rub moms back like a wave. We aren't sanding a block of wood. Let's be real. You can be just as nervous and scared. You might need someone to tell you this is normal and help talk you through some of the progress. I feel a doula can help dad/birth partner fit in where he is most comfortable.

  The inevitable money topic. A lot goes into a doulas fee. Prenatal meetings that last 2-3 hours, presence at the birth from start to finish, follow up care. My longest labor was over 72 hours. This didn’t include the time spent with the family before the birth and after.  So much knowledge and resources are shared. Giving the parents everything they need to feel prepared. From assitance in preparing and discussing birth preferences, to how to proactively address the hospital staff if situations should arise that parents would need to have more information on. Sometimes the medical staff can say things parents don’t understand. We can break it down to the basics.  Dad also needs to know he’s doing a good job and that what the mother is experiencing is completely normal. Words of encouragement really do pay off with a dad and birth partner. Fees for doulas vary and so do personalities. It’s important to have that good fit. Like birth, one size doesn’t fit all.

  Heard about a bad experience? Unfortunately the stories are out there.. Just as with any other profession in life. I don’t always know the full story and do my best to guarantee to parents I will remain professional and uphold my end of the contract. Follow your gut on a person's intergrity. It's ok to ask for referrals. Keep in mind there are doulas starting off who won't have a list of people to put you in touch with. I think good business practices and a positive representation of their services speak volumes about an individual.

  We are on baby number 4. I don't think she needs to have a doula. I’ve worked for several families who’ve never had a doula for the first couple children then decide to hire one for their 3rd, 4th or 6th baby. Maybe the experience from the mother’s prespective was traumatic or not fulfilling. Perhaps she didn’t feel like she had a voice or wasn’t able to have the birth she wanted and desired the extra support. Whatever the reason may be, many families have sought out doula support with subsequent children.

Scenario 2

Photo Credit: Krist James Photography

  You’ve hired a doula, taken all the childbirth classes and feel relatively prepared. You’ve got all the relaxation techniques down pat, bags packed and your contraction app ready to go. It’s 2:00 am in the morning and you’ve just had a long day at work. You’ve been in communication with your doula about the days prior. She’s given you and mom suggestions to relax at home and different suggestions for positions if warm up labor has been off and on. Mom wakes dad up saying it’s real deal. Dad collects himself and gauges what’s going on. He calls the doula and she comes to your home as agreed upon earlier. Your doula is now with the momma and you are able to get the bags packed, sitter called, while the doula is helping her through those contractions. It’s time to go! At the hospital everyone’s asking questions, 

“Has there been any leaking water?” 

"How long are the contractions?” 

“When did labor start?”

 "When was her last bowel movement?"

Oh yes, she has been pooping all night. Because you know that it's a normal part of labor as the doula reminded you of earlier.  Your doula has been keeping tabs on what has taken place and can give you that information to tell the staff if you’ve forgotten. 

  You’re calm and excitedly standing by her bed and helping her breath through contractions. She’s admitted. The mood in the room is filled with commotion and more questions, but now the lights have been dimmed, mom is relaxing and breathing. Dad was able to answer questions from the staff and discuss  birthing preferences. You take a quick bathroom break while the doula stayed in the room with momma. Everyone has left. Mom is asking to get something to drink and go to the bathroom. You and the doula can help mom move to the bathroom. You’re still trying to wipe the sleep out of your eyes but feel confident and at ease having that extra support. Things start to intensify. She may be asking for medication at this point. Your doula looks at you and tells you this is normal and suggests moving off the toilet, applies counter pressure while she leans into you. She starts getting to a point where she’s saying she can’t do it anymore. Starts crying and saying she doesn’t know what to do. Your doula reminds you to tell her what a good job she’s doing, where to massage her and continues to provide that emotional and phsycial support for the momma. The staff was mentioning an epidural earlier, you are able to politely refer back to your birth plan. Not too long after she start involuntarily pushing. The staff is notified. Baby is close to being born. You are in a daze and can't believe this is happening. You are about to meet you baby! Your doula asks you if you still wanted to help deliver the baby if the provider agrees. The provider says yes it's fine. You get into position and feel your new little baby greet your hands for the first time. Your doula is at the top of the bed taking pictures and helping mom through that last little moment. Deep breath. You did it! You both did it! You both are on cloud nine!

 

  If there's anything to take away from this post. I don't want any parent to think they are just going to be spectators on the sidelines of the birthing experience. I meet a lot of dad's/birth partners who really want to be involved. Initially, it feels like when their partner tells them she would like to have a doula, they think this person is going to take the place of that emotional bond between them. Trust me. I'm not there to fill that spot. I know you want to be the one momma relys on during labor if that what best suites you.  If it's a money issue, then ask what your options are. I do value what I offer and I know it's important for a family to value my services as well.

Want more information about doulas who support military in your area? 

Visit www.militarybirthresourcenetwork.org to set up an interview with some of those amazing doulas. You're in good hands.

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Hardships of the 4th Trimester

Hardships of the 4th Trimester

One military spouse's experience with navigating life after birth.

- GUEST CONTRIBUTOR CASEY AGAN

"My focus during pregnancy was the birthing method and the birth plan I was going to follow. However, my child’s birth did not take place as I envisioned. I hoped for an undisturbed birth, with very little intervention, and wanted to stay away from being medicated. All of which I took classes for and researched throughly. I never thought about looking into what I needed after my baby was born. I knew it would be somewhat difficult because of living in a different country than all of my family and close friends. On top of that, my husband was going to deploy shortly after the birth. All things considered, I still had high spirits that it would click and I'd get everything done. It would just take longer and I would need some help."-Casey

Why is the 4th trimester rarely talked about? Nobody had any length of discussion with me regarding what it would be like after my child was earth-side. I was as prepared as I could be for pregnancy and birth, but the months after birth is what shocked me most of all. Undoubtedly, my 4th trimester was my hardest. Maybe it was because I had a long labor.  51 hrs with a hospital transfer and a few hours of pushing. The painful months of not being able to sit comfortably, breastfeeding challenges, and the lack of support I felt were main contributors to recovery, no doubt. I wish now that someone had spoken to me about postpartum depression and the many ways it manifests itself. To include showing up much later than you hear about. Breastfeeding was difficult, I had latch issues, pain, clogged ducts, and weight checks because he wasn't gaining according to the hospital chart (He's in the 90th percentile for height and weight since his 6 month check). We flew my sister in law out to help while my husband was away. Unfortunately, I don't have a relationship with my mother. My grandmothers don't fly any longer. It's emotionally difficult to not have an older, close female to talk to. (Our mom is typically that person for most women). I thought we covered our bases but unfortunately for me, I needed people around that knew me well. Be proactive in managing the house and meals while I concentrated on healing and adjusting to this new life. I needed to feel supported, loved, and understood. Unfortunately, with my husband gone and a negative person telling me I'm doing things wrong. Diagnosing my baby because "the cry sounds familiar" so it must be the same thing that their child suffered from a decade ago. Giving me mean faces, eye rolling, and insinuating that I'm lying about the level of discomfort I was in, it's not what I needed. No new mom deserves those sort of mean spirited actions. In that situation I did what I thought best; I removed myself and baby from the negative person and stayed in my room. I checked with medical professionals on her "diagnosis" and "judgements" on how I did things with my baby. I was assured that I was doing everything correctly and reminded that I know best for my baby, not her.

Looking back, it was after that visit went bad that the PPD (Postpartum Depression), started to creep in. It was overlooked by the medical staff once I was physically healed (4 months postpartum). I was honest about my anxiety and low levels of energy, but no one ever mentioned depression. It wasn't until after a year that I got my hormone levels checked and all was great in that area, that I started researching. My doctor put me on birth control which helped some and suggested a counselor to speak with. I'm still recovering from my experiences that will leave a imprint on my heart forever. Healing takes time both physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My suggestions to those in a similar situation.

*Risk factor for pregnant women with deployed spouses may be 2.31 times greater than for other pregnant women with spouses who are not deployed. 1

*Risk factor for pregnant women with deployed spouses may be 2.31 times greater than for other pregnant women with spouses who are not deployed. 1

 Living in a country that's not your own and husband leaving or already gone. Bring someone to stay with you that knows you well, that you can be yourself with. Someone who can show you compassion, support, and be there for you in the ways that you need. Family can be great, but in my experience, not all the time. If that isn't an option, having hired help to get food prepared and household tasks done will be a weight lifted.

When my husband was home, he was amazing with keeping up with the tasks I couldn't complete. He made food, cleaned, gave me time to myself, and most importantly made me feel supported and loved. I also had new friends that elevated my spirit when they visited. They would chat with me, bring a hot meal, and held the baby. It felt good to be lifted up.

No one wants to share the physical and emotional issues that arise because we should be so grateful for this little life we brought into world but I believe we should. So we can better prepare ourselves to be parents. I think it's important to share that new moms won't and shouldn't be their "normal" selves. They shouldn't be expected to entertain like they normally would.

They should be resting, healing, and bonding with their baby.
— Casey

I suggest that if you know a new mom and want to visit for any length of time, to be of help to her. From my experience, that's what is needed most. Take a look around, are there dishes in the sink? Does the cat litter smell? Dog need walking? When did she eat last? Shower last? I'm sure there's laundry . Is there anything she wants to talk about? Most importantly don't try to diagnose anything or criticize her for doing her what she's comfortable with. Don't be that negative person, these things leave a lasting imprint. If she asks for advice, it doesn't mean she'll take it, or it'll be right for her. Respect her and support her. I feel if I had been better supported, postpartum depression wouldn't have touched my life the way it has. It's something that I'm still working through. Each new mom goes through difficult times. Let's talk about them and get through them together. We shouldn't keep our challenges to ourselves. Set aside judgments and be there for one another. We are all doing the very best for our families.



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About the contributor:

Casey is a licensed massage therapist from California. She's military spouse with 1 child and a super loving husband.

Welcome to the world Jayce

Michelle's Amazing Hospital Birth in Japan

 
Birthing in a military facility was absolutely amazing. The staff were very respectful with my desire of having a natural unmedicated birth. Fear is far from what I felt in the Naval Hospital, it felt like a home. They took care of me like family by treating me with so much love and care. I am beyond grateful for all their support.
— Michelle R.

A note from the Military Birth Resource Network.

 Birth comes in all shapes and sizes. Too often hear the negative side of birth. We don't always know what to expect when moving to a new location, especially if it's overseas.  By sharing stories we hope to bring a positive, informed outlook on the military experience when giving birth at duty stations around the world.
 

By Michelle R.-

My husband and I made the decision on having a natural unmedicated birth after watching the documentary “Business of Being Born”. Being the planner that I am, we prepared for our estimated due date, September 21st, for months.  We were both very determined! Unquestionably, I knew I could do it, despite the doubting comments I’d been receiving from a few close friends and family. I was excited and anxious for the day to finally come, so that I could not only prove them wrong, but to also meet our munchkin and finally find out the gender.

EARLY LABOR?

On September 11th, I was FaceTiming my family at 12 PM JST (we live in Japan), happily bouncing away on my exercise ball. As I was talking to my mom, I felt my belly tighten up. In fact, it was a feeling I had felt many times before, however, that time was different. Unusually, it lasted for about a minute with very mild cramping, so I knew it was different than a Braxton Hicks. However, I chose to ignore it and went about my day, in fear of getting my hopes up.

Later that night, I went to the bathroom before heading to bed. I was so anxious for any sign that would indicate our baby was coming soon. Granted, I did see something I didn’t see at all my entire pregnancy: My mucus plug! Yet, I was still skeptical, since there was no blood. With the thought of early labor being too good to be true, I decided to ignore that sign as well.

After a few hours later, I woke up at 2 AM to use the bathroom, and noticed more of my mucus plug, except this time there was a tinge of pink blood! At that point, I began to feel a little hopeful. Of course, it was hard to fall back to sleep, so I searched for forums of other moms who’d experienced the same thing; Desperately wanting to read they ended up going into labor. Guess what? Most of those mothers went into labor within the next 24 hours after losing their mucus plug and experiencing the “bloody show”!

By 5 AM, I began feeling more tightening of my abdomen, in addition to period like cramps that would come and go. Curiously, I decided to start timing them, but unfortunately noticed they weren’t consistent. For this reason, I decided not to tell my husband anything after he woke up for work at 6 AM; trying to avoid him becoming disappointed if I truly wasn’t going into labor. Obviously, I still wasn’t fully convinced.

CONVINCED! EARLY LABOR!

Between 6 AM and noon, I attempted taking a nap, but kept waking up from stronger “cramps”. Since taking a nap seemed impossible, I decided to call my mother to tell her everything that was leading me to think I was in early labor. With a tad bit of worriment in her voice, she assured me I was, and told me I would have our baby very soon. Thanks to my mom, I finally came to accept that I was indeed in early labor. Especially since my contractions were happening every 5 mins!

After hanging up with my mother, I called my husband right away and told him he needed to come home ASAP because we were going to have our baby very soon. Thankfully, he left work immediately. In the meantime, I  paced back and forth in my house and bounced on an exercise ball so my contractions wouldn’t go away. As soon as he got home, I called the hospital, and they instructed me to start heading there when my contractions were 3 mins apart and I was incapable of walking or talking through them. Immediately after hanging up, I timed them and realized they were 2-3 minutes apart! Although my contractions were still bearable, they were very painful.

HOSPITAL TIME

Around 2 PM, we started heading towards the hospital, but stopped at SubWay first, since I was told they wouldn’t let me eat anything aside from ice chips after being admitted. Oh my goodness, was it hard to eat my sub due to having to take small bites in between each contraction. First time it had ever taken me that long to eat in my entire life!

As soon as I got to the Mother Infant Care Center, a nurse took me to triage for monitoring and to check if I was dilated. The nurse confirmed I was in fact having very strong contractions, very close together, but I was ONLY 3cm dilated! It turns out because we live about 30 mins away from the hospital they asked me NOT to go home. Instead, they advised me to walk around for two hours and go back to be checked for progression.

Chris asked me if we could go to the barbershop so he could get a haircut. Honestly, I thought I could handle it, so we did. Geez, what a bad idea! I got lots of worried looks while I paced back and forth in front of the barber, as I deeply hummed through each contraction. Can you believe how difficult it was to focus on my breathing knowing I was being stared at? For this reason, my contractions were becoming more and more painful. As soon as Chris walked out of the barber, I urged for us to go back to the hospital because at that point I could not handle walking or talking. Clinging onto Chris’s neck with my arms and swaying my hips side to side during each contraction and then quickly walking when it stopped was the only way we made it back to the car.

Thankfully, we made it back to the hospital and walked for the remaining time in the hallways. If I’m not mistaken, the pain got much worse during those two hours, which led me to think I had to be at least 6cm dilated. At around 6 pm, we walked back, the nurse hooked me back onto the monitors and shortly after, she checked to see if I was making any progress. The nurse told me, yes, my contractions were stronger, but I only progressed to 3 1/2cm. Discouraged is the best word to explain how I felt at that moment. In that moment, I desperately wanted to go home so I could sit in my tub full of hot water to help me through the pain. Unfortunately, they advised me to walk around for another TWO hours so the nurse could check me again for progression.

THE WAITING GAME- ACTIVE LABOR
For the most part, those two hours were a complete blur to me. Honestly, the pain was something I swore I never wanted to experience again. All I could do for the entire two hours was breath and pace down the hospital corridor with Chris by my side, encouraging me to breathe through each contraction. So I continued to remind myself during each contraction that I’d shortly be getting a break and each contraction was just a step closer to meeting our baby.

Two hours later, we walked into Mother Infant Care Center, this time only to be checked for dilation. The nurse looked at me and told me “I’m sorry, but you are only at a 4…”. A huge sense of doubt came over me that I didn’t even care what else she had to say. Sadly, we ended up being sent home.

LABORING AT HOME
In a nutshell, I labored all night at home; alternating between- laying in the bathtub filled with hot water, to bouncing, hugging and rolling on the medicine ball, and listened to my HypnoBirthing CD. The CD helped me focus through the pain I was feeling and reminded me of everything we learned and practiced in our HypnoBirthing class. I’m not going to lie, I was so afraid I would have our baby in the house. So I called the hospital at 3 AM to see if I should go in, but the nurse on the phone instructed me to labor as long as I could at home and to come in the morning. I stayed up all night doing anything possible to help me stay focused and calm. As soon as the clock hit 7 AM, I woke my husband up and we got ready and headed to the hospital.

ADMITTED
When we arrived at the hospital the nurse took me straight to triage, checked me… AND THANK GOD I WAS AT A 6! They asked me if I wanted an epidural and I told them I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I was in so much pain I didn’t know how much longer I could take. Out of standard procedure, the Anesthesiologist came into triage and discussed the risks of getting an epidural with us. Still unsure, I asked her to give me more time to think about it, so she told me to ask for it whenever I was ready. Chris and I looked at each other, and he lovingly reminded me why we wanted to go natural and helped me remember the pain would go away as soon as I had our baby. Thanks to him, I agreed and decided to stick it out longer.

Soon after, I was admitted into my room at around 8 AM. Chris provided them with our birth plan and went through it with our Midwife and the staff. The heparin lock was placed in case of emergency, and I was intermittently monitored throughout my entire labor, which allowed me as much mobility as I needed. They dimmed the lights and spoke softly just as I’d asked. Between the times of 8 AM to 6 PM, I labored on and off the bed, on the exercise ball they provided, and in and out the shower. Believe it or not, I managed to stay very calm during each contraction by humming through them and switching positions as often as I could.

TRANSITION PHASE
It wasn’t until 6 PM that I started to doubt myself again, lost focus of each contraction and started to wonder how much longer it was going to take. Fear swept through me and I felt like it was never going to end. While I labored in the shower, I turned to Chris with a face of defeat and told him I wanted the epidural. I’ll never forget how he stared right back at me with so much love, and let me know I was the strongest women he has ever met and there was no doubt in his mind I could do it. That’s all I needed in that very moment, he believed in me, so I had to keep pushing!

Deep down I needed some reassurance I was progressing, so I asked him to call the nurse so she could check and confirm I was in the transitioning phase of labor. Sure enough, I was 7cm dilated. In that moment I remember hearing the pain wouldn’t get any more painful after 7 cm and I would have our baby very soon. Shortly after, the nurse spoke to the midwife and they came into the conclusion I wasn’t progressing fast enough. They gave me two options: Have them break my waters or give me one more hour. With the intention of letting my body naturally go through the process of labor, I asked them to please give me one more hour. Thankfully, the midwife granted my wish.

SURRENDING TO THE CONTRACTIONS
Honestly, I don’t remember ANY pain within that hour, and I was no longer moaning, humming or grunting between the contractions. As a matter of fact, I surrendered myself to each surge (contraction) and finally let my body do what it needed to do instead of fighting it. There I sat Indian style on the hospital bed peacefully breathing in and out, in and out, envisioning my baby moving down. Something I learned in my HypnoBirthing class and wish I had done from the very beginning.

THE URGE TO PUSH

A little over an hour later, the nurse came in to check me once again, told me I was doing amazing and had progressed to a 9 ½. Needless to say, I felt so empowered and I knew I would make it till the very end. Ten minutes after the nurse left the room, I began to feel so much pressure and an urge to push (a feeling like having to go # 2 lol), so  I decided to listen to my body and lightly pushed and pushed. It wasn’t long until I asked the new nurse to check me because I had a feeling I was going to have the baby very soon. So she did and told me I still wasn’t fully dilated. Even though I was having the urge to push she advised me to wait, however, I chose to listen to my body instead

I was laying on my side on the hospital bed, working with my body with each surge that would come. Chris was by my side the entire time reminding me how strong I was and how much he loved me. Shortly after pushing a few times, I felt something odd in between my legs, so I lifted up my leg and felt myself down under! With a look of confusion on my face I told the nurse: “I feel the water bag!” She looked at me in shock and asked me what I meant. Then instructed me to lay down on my back so she could take a look. Sure enough, our baby was coming!

DELIVERING OUR BABY
Surprisingly my bags were still intact! Everything happened so quickly after that. My nurse asked me if I’d like to change positions so gravity could help our little one come out. I agreed, so I slowly went from my elbow and knees to my hands and knees on the hospital bed, while Chris applied pressure on my lower back to relieve my back pains.

Our nurse suggested a more comfortable position and brought up the back of the bed so I could rest my arms on it. Such an excellent idea! Chris continued to encourage me to keep lightly pushing and focus on my breathing.

All of a sudden, I pushed and his head began to crown! Yes, I clearly remember placing my hand down there and feeling his head. My water broke and I didn’t even realize it. I panicked and started to scream. The “ring of fire” was indeed no joke my friends! Chris quickly calmed me down and reminded me to focus on my breathing

Photo Credits: Deirdre Leigh Photography

Photo Credits: Deirdre Leigh Photography

Only a few minutes later, I felt our baby come out and Chris announced: “It’s a boy!”. Luckily my umbilical cord was long because I flung around so fast to see our baby, completely forgetting about it!  A sudden burst of energy, emotions, and a natural high took over my body as I reached out and grabbed our baby. Time stood still holding him in my arms for the very first time as we stared at his beautiful little face.  He looked so peaceful and barely cried. Those first few whimpers were music to my ears. I remember looking at him and saying “Hi Jayce! Welcome to the world baby boy.”  It was hard to believe he was finally in my arms after 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy and 31 hours of labor. In that moment I knew it was so worth it and would gladly do it 1000 times if I had to.

Chris did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing. Shortly after, he held our son for the first time. My heart melted as I watched the man of my dreams hold our baby and stare at each other with so much love.

We are very thankful to Michelle for sharing her story with us. Read more about Michelle's here.

Stroller Warriors Provide Fitness and Friendship for Spouses

By: Meredith Grzybowski | Stroller Warriors Okinawa

 

Stroller Warriors Running Club® is a free, global running club for military spouses and their families and was featured in the Military Times Homefront section on April 18, 2016. The Stroller Warriors mission is to help military families around the world live happier, healthier lives through fitness, friendship, leadership, goal-setting, networking, fundraising and community service. The club was first established at Camp Lejeune, NC in 2010 by Stephanie Geraghty, Military Spouse Magazine and AFI’s 2012 Marine Corps Spouse of the Year.

“Since our first workout we’ve grown by the thousands and we have added numerous new chapters around the world,” Geraghty said. “Training and running races provide a positive source of focus and accomplishment, plus an effective outlet to balance the challenges military life presents. I believe that many problems can be solved and friendships can be nurtured just by heading out the door on a run.”

When they are not running, Stroller Warriors members are focused on their community outreach programs. These Warriors band together to support their communities in many ways, including meal trains, collecting household and clothing items for communities affected by natural disasters, and volunteering at local races. In addition, they support many charities, such as the Semper Fi Fund, Soles for Souls, and the Fisher House.

The local club, Stroller Warriors Okinawa, is one of 31 chapters around the world. Their aim is to provide motivation, camaraderie, and support for military spouses and their families throughout all the Camps and Bases in Okinawa. Specifically, Stroller Warriors Okinawa has provided support to the local community and strengthened the relationship with their host nations through their involvement with the Kadena Special Olympics, providing race support for the Naha and Okinawa City marathons and community outreach programs such as volunteering at a local child center to educate local children on American traditions and holidays.

They have also provided support volunteering at numerous base races and events. Stroller Warriors Okinawa meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday at various locations with nearby playgrounds throughout the island. This allows the members to see many different areas of the island and provides convenient locations to many members throughout the week.

A typical Stroller Warrior workout consists of a planned run, followed by ground work exercises while the children play and socialize. Stroller Warriors does not demand specific running paces or standards. Members must have goals of running, but all ability levels are invited to join.

Children are not required and many members attend workouts without a stroller.

They also have an annual Couch to Crazy running series which starts in the fall (Sept. 26) with a Couch to 5K program for all levels of runners. It continues on to a 10K program and finishes in the spring with a half marathon.

It’s a wonderful program for anyone new to running, coming off a break, returning after an injury or recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. It’s open to everyone and offers organized workouts, accountability and camaraderie, mentorship and resources and guidance from seasoned runners.

“We promote a positive, comfortable environment for men or women of all ability levels to run together, beginners to marathoners,” Geraghty said. “Our membership has provided countless testimonials that this club is one of the most positive organizations they have ever been a part of.  We are all equally valued as a part of this incredible team.” 

-Original post in Stars and Stripes Okinawa

Active Duty Moms & Returning to Work

Returning to work after a baby can be a overwhelming process. From finding a good care provider to pumping. We reached out to a couple of our active duty moms for insight on their experience and tips for returning to work.


5 Useful Tips to Help Active Duty Moms Step Back Into Work.

 

1.   Daycare

Whether you are choosing a CDC (Child Development Center), a nanny, on-base in home daycare or a family member for childcare; towards the end of your maternity leave do a few test runs with your chosen provider. That way you and your child can both ease into the new situation a few hours at a time rather than going cold turkey. This can give everyone time to adjust with the new people and routines.

2.   Breastfeeding

Photo Credit: Vanessa Simmons Photography 

Photo Credit: Vanessa Simmons Photography 

You've decided to stick through with breastfeeding. Being prepared will help you be successful. Sarah, an active duty Air Force mom, recommends mothers to talk with a lactation consultant ahead of time about when to begin pumping. You will need to know how to "build up your stash" and how often you should be pumping at work.

"You don't want to create an oversupply or wait too long and struggle to have enough milk for your first week." says Sarah.

Research and think though how you are going to pump throughout the day given your work center logistics. Bring multiple sets of flanges, sink to clean them in after each use, personal refrigerator to store them in until next use.

Sarah also mentions that some women find it helpful to go at lunchtime and nurse their baby. "If this is possible, instead of viewing it as a full day away from your baby, view it as four hours away from them, and then four more hours away."

When introducing a bottle, talk to LC or pediatrician about when and how to introduce one as this can be a learning curve for your baby.

Simone, an active duty Army mother says, “The support is subjective I am luckily in a position that breastfeeding does not interfere with my job. I am also lucky to have leadership that understands my wishes and respects them, not everyone is.  I plan my day around my pumping sessions to minimize schedule issues and also have a stockpile as a back up to alleviate stress. I built the stockpile while in maternity leave, once you get to work and your supply levels out it is difficult to increase your supply without messing up your schedule."

3.  Conceal and Carry Supplies

Get a military regulation bag to carry your pumping supplies in that doesn't look so obvious. They make back pack and lap top style bags that fit breast pumps in a concealed area of the bag. Put snacks and extra water in this bag too. Keep an extra set of flanges AND extra milk storage bags in your office or car. There will be one day that you forget these things and it will be the day that you are slammed and can't run home to grab them.

4.   Plan for a Larger Uniform (Breastfeeding boobs are distracting when uniform is too tight)

Simone says she only needed one but planned for being a lot bigger when she bought it. "The maternity uniform lacks a lot of the versatility of the original ABU the pockets are removed for the maternity gear. The maternity gear is paid for and all active duty women are authorized to get the extra pay."

5.   Know your rights

The services branches have slightly different regulations, but they each should have a policy on pumping time/space, TDY/deployment postpartum deferments, and physical fitness test postpartum deferments. Learn your Tricare benefits. Did you know Tricare covers breast pumps and provides milk storage bags for 36 months!

 

Food for Thought.

*Think about when you want to go back to work. Can you take regular leave after your maternity leave ends? Some women find it easier to go back to work for a day and then take leave the next day. If your maternity leave ends so that you begin on a Monday could you take leave Tuesday and Thursday of that week? If that is something you are interested in doing talk to your command about it. The worse that they can say is no.

*If you are dual military, purchasing two car seat holders can helpful to avoid changing out cars and switching over one car seat holder to another vehicle. 

*If you think you are struggling with PPD or PPA reach out to get help. If you think you are physically not recovering. Go to your PCM. Listen to your body.

Check out these great resources that can support you:

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

Postpartum Support International

 

Thank you to our contributors Sarah and Simone. They are both first time Active Duty moms who, not too long ago, returned to work and found their new normal.

Follow us on Facebook or visit our website at Military Birth Resource Network

Capturing precious moments,

The 101 on Newborn Photography

By Kristi James, mil spouse, professional photographer & MBRN contributor .

If you have children, have you ever just sat back and wondered when did your children grow up? I do every day now that my children are older. Last I checked they were still newborns. The newborn stage goes by so quickly. They grow so fast, before you know it, your newborn is all grown up! Capture those precious, fleeting moments with unique and beautiful newborn photography.  From adorable props and settings to sweet sleeping poses. 

When should my newborn be photographed? 
                                                                                         To capture the tiny details and the tiny features of your fresh new baby, they should be photographed within the first 10 days of life. After that time frame the newborns become more alert and more aware of what is going on. The cute sleepy newborn poses are not a guarantee after that time has passed.


What should you know about getting your newborn photographed? 

   The first and foremost you need to consider is choosing a photographer that poses baby safely. There are several poses, that if not done correctly and safely can seriously injure your newborn.  Please, please make sure to ask your photographer if they use the composite method for the harder poses. If they don’t, or do not know what that is, don’t do it. It is not safe for baby and it is ok for you to say no. Safety should be the photographers number one priority. An assistant or a parent should always be within a hands distance or touching baby for prop shots and bean bag shots. At any moment baby can startle or jump and it could be disastrous if there isn’t someone touching or with a hand very close by.  Another safety concern is to NOT put baby in anything unstable or in glass. Those can be extremely dangerous situations to put your most precious valuable in.

    The second thing you need to consider is if the photographer is the style of newborn photography you are looking for. There are two types of photography to consider. The posed style, which includes the baby in props and the sleepy newborn poses. Then there is lifestyle. Lifestyle is set up in your home and captures you in your environment, your home. This is a more natural type of session.

    Once you have covered those items on the checklist, then comes the excitement of having your precious little newborn photographed. The session can take several hours and will depend upon baby. If baby is sleepy and not fussy about being moved quite often then the session should go fast and smooth. Sometimes babies need to take nursing breaks and time to be soothed. Then there are other times when baby just doesn’t want to be messed with at all and nothing will calm them except for wrapping them or swaddling them. Every baby is different and you can never know what to expect when going in. Babies have a mind of their own and they can’t tell us what is wrong. 

      Newborn studio photography can be so fun. There are all sorts of cute buckets and boxes to put babies in. An array of hats and headbands and wraps, plenty of choices in color for blankets and accessories. These can all be so fun.  You can come up with some pretty amazing themes for photos and you can mix it up with some beautiful classic portraits of your newborn.  

    I highly recommend scheduling your newborn session as soon as possible. Most of the time the best newborn photographers are scheduled months in advance. This will also give you time to plan for what you may want for your newborn session and to decide on how you would love to display your images in your home. Plus, the most important reason to schedule as soon as possible is that you don’t want to miss out on timeless and treasured images of your brand new baby. 

    When my first three children were born, newborn photography wasn’t a thing. I mean we got the standard hospital photo, but it was always the awkward looking one where they look terrified. {In Okinawa, that is actually not an option given by the hospital.}  I regret not taking them to a professional to have their photograph taken. I did my 4th baby’s newborn photos and I’m so glad that I did. I look at them every day on my wall and am reminded of how cute and tiny and precious he was. If you’re like me, you’ll regret not having newborn photographs taken.

 

 

Contributor: Kristi James 

www.kristijamesphotography.com

 

Safe Essential Oil Use in Pregnancy

By: Clinical Aromatherapist Amber Duncan

MBRN Member at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

The use of essential oils in pregnancy seems to be one area that, along with use around children, needs to have more care exercised. It is noted by Tisserand and Young that: “Few aspects of toxicology arouse such concerns as the effects of chemical substances on the female reproductive system and the development of the fetus. A principal reason for this is lack of information. Less is known about the effects of chemicals (from whatever source) on the reproductive system than in any other area of toxicology. As with carcinogens, there is no possibility of intentional human testing, and extrapolating from studies in pregnant animals is problematic.”1 It is for this reason that below is a list of essential oils to avoid in pregnancy. Please consider consulting a certified aromatherapist before using any essential oils during your pregnancy as essential oils truly are as potent as medication and can cause unintended harm. 

Essential Oils to Avoid in Pregnancy

The following oils should be avoided in pregnancy for a myriad of reasons, please triple check any essential oils or essential oil blends that you use as it is better for baby and mom to steer clear of the following: feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), ho leaf (Cinnamomum camphor ct. camphor), spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), sweet birch (Betula lenta), wintergreen (Gaultheria fragrantissima), spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), savin (Juniperus sabina), wormwood (all types- Artemisia absinthium), green yarrow (Achillea nobilis), lemon basil (Ocimum x citriodorum), lemon balm (Australian- Eucalyptus staigeriana), lemon leaf (Citrus x limon), lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), may chang (Litsea cubeba), melissa (Melissa officinals), honey myrtle (Melaleuca teretifolia), lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), lemon-scented tea tree (Leptospermum peteronii), lemon thyme (Thymus lanuginosus var. citriodorum), lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora), indian dill seed (Anethum sowa), parsley leaf (Petroselinum crispum), parsley seed (Petroselinum crispum), artemisia vestita (Artemisia vestita), genipi (Artemisia genepi), lanyana (Artemisia afra), mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris), dalmatian sage (Salvia officinalis), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), thuja (Thuja occidentalis), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), araucaria (Neocallitropsis pancheri), atractylis (Atractyllodes lancea), blue cypress (Callitris intratropica), anise (Pimpinella anisum), star anise (Illicium verum), bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) , sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and aniseed myrtle (Backhousia anisata).1

Pregnancy is truly an amazing time in a woman’s life but, as with many things in life, some annoying quirks can accompany this period and bring some unpleasant physiological complications. In this article two common issues are addressed with combinations that have the potential to help resolve those issues encountered by the expectant mommy to be. While none of what follows is intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any medical issues, these recipes, when used appropriately can complement traditional treatments. When creating a blend in pregnancy the recommended dilution ratio is one percent, this is simply 5-6 drops of essential oil in one ounce (2 tablespoons) of a carrier oil. 

 

Headaches/Migraines

While this is only the start of the lovely headaches you will get to enjoy throughout motherhood, these first pains are just a reminder that your body is going through some very drastic changes. One source of the migraines could be low magnesium, so it is worth checking with your doctor about a potential need for supplements. Some essential oils that could help are listed next along with a couple of hydrosol options for making compresses.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an essential oil that is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antirheumatic, CNS sedative, immunostimulant and tonic (restoring vitality). 

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) is an essential oil that is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and immune-stimulating. Emotionally this oil is known to support healing on many levels and helps to focus your attention and quiet the mind. 

A good alternative to essential oils for this would be the hydrosols of: lavender in a compress for your neck and forehead. Another option is a compress with a mix of roman chamomile hydrosol and peppermint hydrosol.2

Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. In pregnancy this uneasiness can manifest into worry not only for the pregnancy and baby related concerns, but excessive worry over every little thing. There are many essential oils that could tentatively help calm the mommy to be.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, CNS sedative, emotionally relaxing and calming while being uplifting. 

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, CNS sedative, immune-stimulating and emotionally is known to calm, nurture and reduce both anxiety and fear. 

Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) is an essential oil that is also antidepressant, a CNS sedative, and immune-stimulating. Emotionally this oil is known to help relax nerves and calm and sooth the body.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is an essential oil that is antidepressant, a CNS sedative along with being hypotensive. This essential oil is also known to relax and help people experience true joy.

A quick item to make up and easy to have on hand is an aroma inhaler for a great anxiety blend combine the above - blend 5 drops bergamot (Citrus bergamia), 5 drops ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), 7 drops neroli (Citrus aurantium var. Amara) and 3 drops of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) on to your blank inhaler. 

While a far cry from an all-inclusive list of recipes the above does serve as a start and a great way to begin to look at complementary therapies. If you want more detailed information or have a specific aromatherapy question, please feel free to contact me via my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DuncanClanHealthHelpers) or my website (www.theapothecaryinstitute.com). Both of these have lists of great resources including places to purchase essential oils, hydrosols and carrier oils. 

References:

  1. Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingston Elsevier.
  2. Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols- The Next Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

This article was also shared in the Stars and Stripes Okinawa Community newspaper.


Amber Duncan is a Clinical Aromatherapist working in the Dayton Ohio and surrounding areas. She uses her knowledge of essential oils to teach the safe and appropriate use of them in many settings. These include full workshops, one on one consultations both in person and via Skype, and e-courses that are available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Her specialty in the field is the use of aromatherapy in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care along with the use of aromatherapy with children.


When mom is Active Duty.

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The Memoirs of a Stay at Home Dad.

Guest Contributor- Craig Bosman, stay at home dad and spouse of an Active Duty Marine

 

"Laaagbaarlll. Ahhhsssslk." Random scratching noises. An arm or hand hitting a mattress.

 My alarm clock is awake and Elijah is playing in his crib, waiting for me so he can move to his mats and toys downstairs.  It’s amazing how my wonderful little boy keeps me busy. It’s such a joy to be be able to take care of him every day.  He has grown and I am so lucky to be able to see it happen. His mom is a Marine and often doesn’t get to see him before he is put to bed. The life of a Marine is busy and often demanding while I get to be the stay at home dad.

 We did not fully realize how having kids would affect our lives, my wife's military career. Mine as a stay-at-home dad.  We have always realized however, how a child’s life is influenced so much by their caretakers especially early in life. I’m not saying I feel babysitters, nannies, or any other person that takes care of a child are bad, we just wanted one of us to fill that role. With that in mind, I have done the best I can to find work or opportunities that I could do to part time while taking care of our little man.  Their are also so many volunteer options available, you could never sleep and still have things that you could be doing.

 I quickly found that if you try to remain social and network, you will always find amazing ways to spend your time, the part I did not realize was the amount my time that Elijah would take every day. Working on my computer, specifically with others , makes it interesting. You will frequently hear me say 'Sorry, hold on my son has rolled over for the 6th time and he’s trying to go under our couch.'  You would think he would realize that I am trying to get work done!  So go easy on this rookie stay at home parent. However, Elijah has yet to want to go slow on anything. He just recently turned 5 months and can roll both ways, loves to stand more than sit, and moves every way he can around our floor without actually crawling. My wife affectionately calls him Mr. Wiggles. It’s so accurate in fact I’m thinking about having his name changed.

 I love being a part of Elijah's daily routine and life. We both teach an English class on Tuesdays to a wonderful group of Japanese people. He really enjoys the interaction, as well as the attention, I’m pretty sure he has learned how to flirt already. He also likes to sit in his swing at home while I’m preparing our food.  I love preparing food and I always make enough for Robin to have food for a couple of days or more for work. OK, I have a confession to make, I’m a Pinterest junkie. I love great recipes especially the crock pot ones now. I would hug he person that invented that amazing thing. Since little man came along that has been a life saver when I did not get as much sleep as I was hoping for, or have a million things I have to get done when I want to spend time in the kitchen.

 I think that my least favorite thing about staying home is when Mr. Wiggles is being grumpy. I know, never happens to anyone else’s child right?  It seems to happen only when you could really use an easy day of course.

 I am truly thankful to all the other stay at home moms that I run into, they are instantly understanding of my situation and often try and help me. While my first inclination has always been that I should be holding the door for a lady but, I have to admit that more recently I have learned that I am allowed the grace to not always do that. It is definitely a nice thing that the other moms knowingly recognize that I am going through some of the same things they are or have already experienced and a little help from them can go a super long way. I think the funniest things happens when I go grocery shopping, which I do two or three times a week as needed, but fail to bring my carrier with me. So here I am filling my cart holding on to Elijah and when I’m almost finished I started trying to devise a plan to unload the cart. As I was walk up to the check-out, I thankfully recognize that I’m in a group where this is normal.  They all know me and Elijah by this point. So I simply walk up and pass him off to the other cashier that is not busy and quickly unload the cart. Taking him back when finished. While I probably would not do that stateside, here they always want to talk and play with Elijah anyway, so they are more than happy to help. I'm also quite thankful as well!

Being a stay at home dad is amazing, including all the challenges it brings!

 

 

 

Craig Bosman has been married for 6 years to his lovely Active Duty Marine Robin. Craig is a Stay-at-Home-Dad and also does social media marketing for Bass Bucks and Ducks Apparel. He loves to cook, sing, and enjoys listening to podcasts and books while taking care of his son.

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a cultural experience

Joys of Birthing Off Base (Okinawa)

Guest Contributor- Brandy Hawley

Moving overseas by itself can seem daunting. And doing it while you are pregnant, even more so! However, there are options and in my case I chose to give birth off base at Yui Clinic. The experience was all I could have hoped for, and though there are additional steps for taking care of your child’s citizenship and other identifying documents, even that was a smooth process.
I was about 24 weeks pregnant when we moved to Okinawa. Thanks to social media, I had heard a lot beforehand about other military families having birthed at Yui Clinic, and I knew their care based on a midwifery model was what I was seeking for myself.
Even here in Okinawa, Yui Clinic is unlike a traditional hospital setting. Its standalone clinic has a home-like feel and offers services by an OB/GYN doctor as well as many midwives. One of the things I liked most about my experience was how they make their patients accountable for their own health. I was given a passbook that I brought to each appointment and they’d fill out the details and results of each visit, which I took home with me.
At each appointment, I saw the doctor as well as chatted with a midwife about nutrition and any pregnancy-related concerns. Though some of the staff do speak excellent English, you are well advised to bring a translator with you. In addition, I was asked to attend a minimum of 3 classes at Yui,  ranging in topics from what to expect in active labor, childbirth and postpartum care to breastfeeding.
Having given birth once before in a hospital, I was extremely pleased with the care I received. Though epidurals are not an option for pain management, alternatives in the form of freedom of movement in labor and delivery positions are allowed. The midwives and other helpers also provided massages and counter pressure to ease the pain, and once active labor began, they were constantly at my side providing calm energy and gentle reassurance. The entire system there is one built on the mother being an active participant, minimizing unnecessary medical interventions and maximizing mother and baby bonding by providing immediate skin-to-skin, full-time rooming in after the birth, and direct encouragement and support for breastfeeding. One of the best postpartum care services they offered was a full body aromatherapy massage!
New moms are encouraged to stay at the clinic for 5 days following birth to ensure mom gets enough rest and bonding time with the new baby. My family was free to come and go, and even stay the night. The meals were healthy and nutritious and the staff tried to maximize mother and baby bonding time by limiting their visits and performing all checks in the room so that my baby was never once separated from me.
Giving birth off base however means you will have to prepare your child’s citizenship papers. This includes getting a Japanese birth certificate from the city hall office in the town that you preside and then taking that as well as other forms to the U.S. Consulate. But I was impressed with the speed at which my daughter’s birth certificate and passport reached us.
For those of you expecting or wishing to give birth here, and seeking an experience akin to what a birth center in the States would provide, I highly recommend giving Yui Clinic a visit.

 

Know the customs
“Choosing to birth locally in Japan can be an exciting journey. Practices may vary from hospital to hospital but generally the Japanese function around natural birth. Non-medicated births and breastfeeding are considered the “norm.”
So if you decide to have a baby other than on base here in Okinawa, getting familiar with some of the customs can be beneficial. As with any place you go, being able to discuss your beliefs, wishes, and hopes for your birth is important as well as finding a provider who will be supportive of your desires.
It is always suggested to follow up with your insurance company to make sure you will be covered. You may be required to switch from your current status, for example Prime to Standard.  If you are interested in going to Yui or any other off base facility, it’s highly recommended to check with the clinic to make sure they are able to accept you before making any commitments.
Some places have different practices and are not able to accept VBAC’s or women special circumstances.Amanda Dodson,
President - Military Birth Resource Network

A special thank you to Stars and Stripes Okinawa for allowing us to publish these stories in the weekly column Pregnancy and Birth Talk Okinawa. 
 

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Where it all began

A life of the military doula.

When I returned to Okinawa with my family back in the fall of 2011, I had no clue we’d be where we are at today with a steadily growing birth network.

My husband is a Marine so Okinawa is one of the few of places we can be stationed at. The life of a military family has to be flexible to change. While some do get the luxury of staying at one duty station for an extended period of time, many will be living there temporarily. Then literally uprooting every aspect of our lives every 2-3 years.  In some special cases, 1-2 years. It’s not a lifestyle for the faint of heart.  Especially when being stationed overseas.

Okinawa is the largest island of more than 140 islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Its history is flooded with beauty, culture, people and delicious food. Okinawa also carries a dark past, it is known for a season of war. Placing a large battle between the Americans and Japanese. Which over time planted American military bases on this tiny island. The US military presence in Japan and on Okinawa began at the end of World War II.

Okinawa hosts more service members by far than any other prefecture. (Reference 1) According to U.S. Forces’ Japan headquarters at Yokota Air Base, as of February 2016, there were 47,200 service members based in Japan, including 11,700 aboard vessels of the 7th Fleet. In addition, there were 3,510 U.S. civilian personnel and 41,695 family members. Of the 47,200 service members, 17,400 were in the are Navy, 15,000 in the Marines Corps, 12,300 in the Air Force and 2,500 in the Army personnel.

Our first tour in Okinawa was from 1998-2005. My oldest two children were born at the old Navy Hospital on Camp Lester. Let’s just say, I am thrilled that today there is a brand new hospital for families.  So when we arrived back in Okinawa in 2011, I was familiar with our location but not with the birthing community. I was quite young and not well informed about birth with my first two children. I’m embarrassed to say, I knew how baby’s came out, but that was about it. I was clueless about all those aspects of birth. Here I was, a certified doula, fresh from California, trying to obtain information and ready to get to work.

There didn’t seem to be much of anything network wise in Okinawa. Another doula was on island but she ended up relocating stateside not long after my arrival.  I found myself alongside a couple of aspiring doulas and surrounded by several pregnant women.

They call this tour the “Two Baby Tour”. I attest to that from personal experience because I was one of them.  Either you arrive in Okinawa pregnant and then give birth or more than likely you’ll have one more baby's before leaving. Some say it’s in the water, but I’d venture to say it’s those ornery typhoons and boredom that causes the influx of pregnant women on island. On average a 100 babies are born at the hospital on base each month. I’m sure down time is much appreciated. 

With many expectant families here, our small group started holding a monthly support group called Birth Talk to support and educate people. We named our little tribe, Birthing in Okinawa.  Over a couple of months, the word spread. We would just see more and more women attend. Then dads started coming. It was amazing. Everything was growing very quickly.  At this time I was working full time as a birth doula, taking anywhere from 3-4 clients a month. Sometimes having the benefit of a back up doula but a majority of the time it was God working it all out. The other two doulas here would do what they could, when they could and I was very grateful for their help.  Eventually there was becoming more of a demand for doulas. I was not able to take on more than what I could already handle. Plus, many women in the community were starting to inquire about how to become a doula including ladies on mainland Japan, stationed at smaller, more secluded places. The base was also starting to tell us we were not able to use their facilities anymore because we were not an organization. About this time, my trainer Gerri Ryan, founder of San Diego Birth Network & Nihizoni Midwifery Institute came over to facilitate the  first DONA Doula workshop in Okinawa, Japan. We had 12 women in attendance. I was thrilled.  Within a matter of two years, Linda Herrick, DONA Birth Doula Trainer from the Academy of Certified Birth Educators of Kansas City and Ann Grauer, DONA Postpartum Doula Trainer of Nurturing Doula Dreams, came over to provide more workshops for not only in Okinawa but mainland Japan. This has opened many opportunities for those wanting to provide services to families.

The Japan Birth Resource Network was officially established in 2013 as a Private Organization through the base in Okinawa. What started as a small group had flourished into something big. It’s taken a group of giving, committed women to make this grow into what it is today.  

To understand exactly what it’s like to be a military spouse stationed overseas.  It would have to takes either experiencing it or talking to someone who’s spent a few years away from what they would consider their normal home. While most of our base entities do their best to provide services for our expectant families, many are falling through the gaps and continuity of care is a much needed component for them. Because our life requires us to move, we see not only doulas come and go, but doctors, nurses, and breastfeeding support fall through the cracks.  Other important aspects of our care the military should be providing are often absent.  This is one of the main reasons where I feel our work and why it is so important to bring awareness to our military families and those stationed overseas. It’s taken several years of educating not only families but also providers here in Okinawa and at other base entities that we are NOT medical personnel.  It is a constant continuum of education because people are always coming and going.

Whether you are a military family stationed overseas or stateside, eventually one will encounter deployments or trainings that take our spouses away for 30 days to 14 months. My husband was one of those on a long deployment. While he was home for the birth of our children, it was still one of those difficult seasons of our lives. Now just imagine a new momma delivering without her partner there and not the dad not meeting his newborn until he or she turns 1. It unfortunately it happens, I have met countless women who’ve delivered a baby while the dad was deployed. 

We also look at the other aspects of our lifestyle. Currently the military implemented new guidelines giving active duty mothers 12 weeks of leave. This, I believe has been a huge step in facilitating a new mother to adjust and spend that critical time with her baby. For our women who have active duty spouses, they are currently authorized 10 days of paternity leave after delivery. In a perfect world, the dad could take leave and stay for an extended period of time. However, the reality is the majority have to get back to work, duty calls.  If the mother’s or father’s family is close by, that seems to be an answer for helping the new family adjust. However, we find ourselves be taken far away from our family and bringing them to visit can be a costly journey especially for those overseas.

How have we fit in and made this a workable solution for local families. Seeing a absolute need for continual support and wanting families to have that option of care, Japan Birth Resource Network was created out of our group of birth junkies in the community. This was not an easy task as one may not understand the dynamics of base policies AND the challenge. On top of that establishing a rapport with our base hospital. In my first year back in Japan, there were times I’d assist 3-5 families a month. While there were a couple of doulas who helped as back up’s when they were available, it was a bit of a one man show for awhile. Initially the base hospital didn’t even really entertain the thought of our doula work. Understandably so, because a doula can sometimes be perceived as a nuisance in the labor and delivery room or when parents are when they encourage parents to ask questions about interventions or their care and doesn’t always sit well with people.  It takes time to learn how to teach families to approach their provider in a manner that isn’t abrasive. I always encourage parents to put their birthing preferences in writing and have a discussion with their provider to help them make informed choices, BEFORE the birth happens. I do advocate for this because in our system, the chance of the expectant mother getting the same doctor to deliver her baby is small.  This is just one of the things many families face unless they are in a location to choose a different route such as civilian hospitals, homebirth or birth centers. We’ve been able to have over 60 new doulas trained in Japan. As consistent with our lifestyle, many of them have departed to move to another location. So we are always on the go and working towards fulfilling those spaces.

Where are we at now? Since the official startup we’ve been able to provide families on Okinawa with access to doula support. Three Birth and Baby Fairs have been hosted on base with support from the Kadena USO. This event displays on base mother/baby businesses, doulas, guest speakers, break out sessions, giveaways and local birth resources. Monthly Birth Talks are planned to educate and inform our families with a variety of pregnancy, birth and postpartum topics. We are excited to expand into mainland where a few bases are located. 

 

 
I want to grow our village and give our military families support and resources no matter where their feet land.
— Amanda Dodson, President Military Birth Resource Network

In 2016, Amanda Dodson was voted the Marine Corps Base Camp SD Butler Spouse of the Year. This opportunity took her to Washington D.C to meet other spouses and network.  Her over all goal is to provide a resource specifically designed for our military families. A source where they can not only have reliable resources at their next duty station but a continuity of care provided through doulas, breastfeeding and other birth professionals. It is also her goal to help train and educate other birth professionals who do not normally provide support in military facilities and work with our military system.