Perspective: Why I Support People with Anxiety

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Boston, MA, USA

Fear 

Fear is an emotion that strips us of control. Fear paralyzes people. The fact that there are so many unknown factors in birth can evoke fear in people. However, fear can be controlled. Fear can be overcome using the right approaches and support. 

It is weren't for fear, many people would do things differently. I like to turn fear into power. I like to connect with current thoughts and perceptions and then acknowledge fear. There is a different experience out there, but you have to birth in an entirely different way. 

Why I Support Parents with Anxiety

As a fellow sufferer of anxiety, I know all too well how change can bring about unwanted emotions. Emotions that are big (even if only to you) and unprepared for. Sometimes, these emotions can be too big to cope with on your own. As someone who has learned over the years how to appropriately navigate the emotional strain that life in general can cause, I empathize with parents who find it challenging to assimilate to the changes brought on with pregnancy, childbirth, and life with a newborn.

When change happens, human nature tells us to resist. It tells us to stand strong, hold our ground. Some people are able to cope with change better than others. I am not, for one, one of those humans. Change is hard for me. It challenges me. It sometimes stretches me so thin that I think my whole body may just split right down the middle. This is where I find my strength to serve and the compassion to support expectant and new parents who are fearful of what's to come: the rest of the pregnancy, childbirth, and being 100% responsible for a tiny human that is completely dependent on them to survive.

What bigger change can come about than receiving the news that you are going to have a baby? Your or your partner's body will soon be changing (yet more changes!), your home must change to accommodate a new baby, your relationship will change, your finances will change, and your priorities will change. This list is endless. As a doula, I have one favorite change to tap into. Perspective. Perspective is everything. It can change the approaches we choose to use, how we react to situations, reframe our internal monologue, and impact the way we think about ourselves and those around us.

I work really hard to help my clients find the headspace that is positive, yet comfortable for them. I always start by reframing negative things in a positive manner and then finding the balance of reality with expectations. Just like with everything else, humans range all over the spectrum of how realistic they choose to be when approaching change. Not everyone is going to drink the Ina May Gaskin Kool-Aid and not everyone will believe that if they tell themselves birth doesn't hurt, then it wont. However, not everyone will go into labor thinking that the pain will be unbearable, either. Some people will enter birth with low expectations, some high. Some parents will have a detailed 5 page birth plan, some no plan at all.

The clients who are nervous, concerned, anxious, even fearful, yet open to learning and can dig deep and harness that inner-energy to trust birth (maybe for a second or third time) and their body are among some of my favorites to support. Sometimes this looks like a birthing parent who is paralyzed with fear, or a partner who is consumed with anxiety, or maybe a couple who has experienced a traumatic past birth. These parents have walked a very particular path that has led them to this crossroad where we meet. I am coming from the East and they the West. I love to take a look behind them and let them tell me about the rocks, valleys, mountains, creeks, oceans, and desserts they've walked through to get to this point. Then, I have them turn to look behind me at the less rocky, greener grass, blue skies, and possibly a rainbow or two that I know exist. I assure them that they don't have to walk the whole road, but even one mile seems better than where they came from.

Now that our roads at come to an intersection, let's go together.

Lets Walk This Journey Together-Hand in Hand 

Language

Language is the body of the car. It's the thing that will get us from point A to point B. It is a more efficient way of navigating the road than walking. Just as some types of cars are more efficient than others,  some types of language are more efficient than others in birth. 

First up: reframing the way we talk about birth. I recently supported a mother that requested all of her birth team (including medical staff) refrain from using the word "pain." She preferred we used "pressure" instead. As any other request, I willfully obliged. Little did I know, this mother was going to have a lasting impact on me. The way that we speak about something can have profound impacts. Using pressure as a description of each contraction was a way for us to keep the energy positive and upbeat is briliant. It was also a way of encouraging this client. She knew (and we had talked previously about) that you can breathe through any pressure, but sometimes pain is unbearable. Pressure is temporary, where pain can be lasting. 

I encourage my clients to use the terms "waves" or "surges" as a way to describe their contractions. It can be a deep wave or a shallow surge. These waves and surges are bringing your baby closer to being in your arms. I once heard of a doula who used the term "waters releasing" rather than "breaking" because how tragic is something breaking, yet your waters releasing is a joyous moment. These things let us know that your body is working. The process is working. Birth is working (because birth works!). We speak a lot about embracing the surges and the waves--working with your body. Letting your body lead. This can be challenging in a society where we are taught to always stay in control and not always listen to our bodies. Embracing each wave means letting your body guide your motions and noises. 

Headspace- Left or Right?

On this journey, headspace is like the steering wheel and seatbelt. It can come at any point on the adventure. It's better if it is present from the get-go, but putting on our seatbelt at the end of the ride is better than never at all. Your head space is there to guide and protect you, but you are responsible for using it. 

Headspace is a tricky one because it is the most different from client to client. It has so many factors. What's your current headspace? What's your past? What triggers do you have? Do you have any "heavies"? (These are things that may not be triggers, per se, but may be things that your birth team need to be aware of such as "preference of a female OBGYN" because it makes you more comfortable or "prefer to have cervical checks as little as possible" because they make you anxious, but not because of a history of sexual violence) Concerning fears and things that cause anxiety, I like to start with exploring if the fear is based on misinformation or stories of other people? Does the research say that whatever it is that is worrying you, is really something to be worried about or were you misinformed on the facts? Lastly, I encourage my clients to find their energy in their new role--whatever that might be: mom, dad, parent, co-parent, or any other way to identify. Embracing your new title and finding your energy through that can be a joyous adventure. 

Finding and connecting with the right headspace can be difficult for some people, especially those of us who are easily filled with anxious emotion. For my clients (and myself) I focus on self-care. This self-care piece started with the language we began using. We set the tone by using only positive (yet realistic) terms and we address the way in which we talk to ourselves (the inner monologue). Self-care can and does look different for everyone. For some, it is setting aside time to be with people who are energizing to them -a partner, a night with friends, lunch with your parent. Some people find physical self-care such as acupuncture and massage therapy immensely helpful. I have partnered with practitioners around the city of Boston to help serve the parents I support. Finding a practitioner that is trained and able to support expectant parents, as well is difficult, but imperative. Meditation and connecting with your body, your uterus, your placenta, and your baby can all be methods of self-care, too. It can be helpful to set aside 5-10 minutes of each day to just sit, breathe, and clear you mind (while remembering to talk to yourself and about yourself in a positive way).

Your children will see how you take care of yourself and will learn from that.

Battle the Body-Shamers  

The ever needed review mirror. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging to you, who build you up, and help you keep your eye on the goal. People in the rearview mirror are in the traffic behind you. They haven't been forgotten, but you know space is best until the birth of you baby, for whatever reason.

For me, it is absolutely mind-blowing how an expectant parent's body becomes a free-for-all in society. People feel that is it okay --almost entitled-- to talk about a pregnant person's body. They touch it, discuss it, how big or small it is, how high or low it is, whether the baby is a boy or a girl (based on their very educated opinion). It's okay (and almost needed at this point) for expectant parents (and their partners/support people) to kindly tell those body-shamers to stop. Let them know that this is your body and you're proud of your body.

Which brings me to my next point, you earned this body. Don't lose sight that you are growing human life in your body. There is a tiny human inside your body. Your only job is to care for that baby and part of caring for your baby is caring for yourself. Your new body is sexy. Your curves and stripes (stretch marks) are awards you have won for carrying a baby around with you every single day for 9 months. Find your new sexy and own it! Your body is a baby-growing temple, a maker of human life...don't lose sight of that.

Trust the Process

The gasoline. This is the fuel that will keep your birth going. Trusting that your body knows what it is doing if allowed the correct amount of time can be all the fuel some parents need. 

Birth works. I will say it one more time, birth works. This isn't to say that birth works like we want it to every time, but birth works. Your body knows what to do if we allow it the time and space to navigate labor patterns and the journey of birth. Along this journey, you have choices to help you stay in control (for an event that otherwise feels very out of your control). A doula can help here, too. Your doula will be able to provide you with evidence-based practices that help you choose what is right for your family. Your doula should know the in's and out's of the surrounding hospitals including which hospitals are "mom and baby friendly" (their terms, not mine). 

If you are feeling anxious regarding your birth or labor and delivery, connect with someone who is calming. I recently saw a quote that said, " Keep those who feel like sunshine close." This is what I try to be for my clients-- a ray of sunshine. A calming, warm embrace that says you are not alone, trust the process and trust your body. Remember pregnancy is a state of health, not a state of disability. 

(Em)brace for Impact 

Ahhhhh, the end of the road. All good things must come to an end, but it's not a crashing end. After the birth of your baby, you will not need me to constantly ride with you anymore. That doesn't mean it has to stop all together and immediately--I love the occasional joy rides! 

Keep your eye on the goal. Your goal is to have a beautiful birth and a healthy baby. In order to achieve this goal, you have to focus on health and wellness during your pregnancy. This means eating healthy, exercising, and keeping in the right headspace. Rely on your support people to keep you accountable. This is where a doula can be very helpful. Your doula is your personal cheerleader. They will help keep your thoughts positive and your body moving. They might even go on a walk with you--I have with my clients! They are well-versed in foods that are safe and not safe during pregnancy as well as remedies for common challenges such as heartburn, indigestion, sleep problems, and Braxton Hicks. 

Pregnancy is like a marathon--it's long, it's physical, it takes immense endurance, and the high at the end makes it all worth it. Imagine running a marathon without ever having practiced or prepared. It would be one of the most difficult things you've ever done. Runners prepare for months for a marathon and you can do the same for your birth. Studies show that health habits made during pregnancy are more likely to stick even once the baby is born. Take this time to make changes that will impact the rest of your (and your baby's) life.

Hopefully by the end of our ride together, you were able to connect with our preconceived perspectives about birth and face them in an empowering way. Hopefully you were able to gain control over your fear and turn that into power. 

Tranquility by HeHe, A Concierge Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts
"We can't wait to pamper you."

Flying with a Newborn

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Boston, MA, USA

Traveling with a Newborn 
[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]


What You Need To Know: 
Traveling with a newborn can be intimidating, anxiety provoking, and even grueling if you don't prepare. Luckily, most people are very kind and patient with cute and tiny humans. My partner and I travel often--he much more than I due to work--but every few weeks we find one or both of us on a plane jetting off to our next destination. We love to spend time in airports--the people watching is fantastic, but the plane watching is even better. Having the opportunity to be one the first one-hundred flights on a newly released plane or experiencing your first flight on a Dreamliner Boeing 787 can't be described in words for those of us who have a major case of wanderlust.

Recently, we spent upwards of 20 hours on a plane with a mom and a one-month old baby from Qatar to Boston, Ma. I immediately noticed her when she boarded and she seemed to not have enough hands for everything. Her partner appeared from the first-class cabin, helped her settle in, and returned to his seat in first class. After minutes of contemplating, I gently approached her, explained I was a doula, and offered her an extra hand at any point during the flight. She thanked me then and continued to do so over our hours long flight. She continued to thank me and tell me that just having someone offer to help made her feel less alone. Although, she was a champ and never needed any help, it seemed as if just the idea that someone was there and willing to lend a helping hand was enough to ease her mind. 

I have seen a few posts on social media sites of parents asking for tips and tricks to make traveling (particularly flying) easier with a newborn or young infant. These posts began turning my mental wheels and after spending time with the mother of the one-month old baby for 20 hours, I decided parents could use a definitive list of helpful hints. 

Documents
You will want to have an envelop or folder of documents for emergency purposes (hope for the best, prepare for the worst mentality). This list includes your child's birth certificate, name and contact information for your child's pediatrician, emergency contacts for you, and your primary care physician or your OBGYN/Midwife. It is helpful to have all of these contacts in your phone listed with "ICE" in front of their name as emergency responders will often use this as a method to call emergency contacts.

You will also want to include a copy of your driver's license, your partner's driver's license and insurance cards

Diaper bag Items
You will want to bring all of the typical diaper bag items with you, too--diapers, wipes, pacifier, burp cloths, changing pads, plastic bags for soiled clothes and diapers, and a change of clothes (for you and baby). Most airplanes will have changing tables in the bathrooms, but you will want to cover it for sanitary reasons. 

For international flights, the airline will provide children under the age of 1 year old a bassinet to travel in. However, the child must be removed any time the fasten seat belt sign is on or any time the plane experiences any turbulence.  

Formula and Breastmilk must be checked at security separately. Most often, it needs extra clearance. It is an exception to the 3.4 oz rule. Security may open up any powder or liquid for extra clearance measures. Liquid is often x-rayed.

If you use cloth diapers, you may consider using disposable diapers for you travels or at least for the plane ride. Most parents report it is worth the money to be able to toss a soiled diaper and not have to worry about getting reusable diapers to a washing machine or laundromat while traveling. 

Comfort Items
If you can baby-wear for the duration of the flight (short flights), this is the most efficient way to travel with a newborn or young infant. The child is able to have skin-to-skin contact as well as hear your heartbeat which will be soothing. Bring a Boppy Pillow in case baby-wearing isn't possible (seats are too small/crammed, your child isn't having it, the AC isn't working--anything is possible). This allows your baby to lay in your lap and, either, snooze (without straining your arms) or look at you. This is also handy when breastfeeding on a plane. You can also swaddle your baby and set them on the Boppy for a comfy ride. 

Parent Gear
Now that you've packed for baby, don't forget to pack for you! First and foremost, a water bottle. Staying hydrated postpartum is just as important as staying hydrated prenatally. The water bottle will have to be empty when going through security, but can be filled once you are in the terminal area. Some airports have filling stations and all others you will have to buy a bottle of water. Once on the airplane, the flight attendants will be happy to fill your water bottle for you. 

Depending on how far along postpartum you are, you will want to bring menstruation pads with you. The change in air pressure can cause light postpartum bleeding or a release of the final remnants of birth.  

Tips:
- Carseat and Strollers: If you don't have to bring these items, don't. They can both be checked at the gate, but there are numerous stories of parents getting damaged carseats and strollers at baggage claim when they land. 

- Take off: Sucking helps ear pressure in newborns and infants so most advice says to feed have your child sucking during take off and landing. This is true and an age-old approach that has proved to be successful. However, never wake a sleeping baby during take off or landing. If your child wakes up naturally during these times, have a bottle or breast readily available (formula already mixed if using formula) to help ease this possibly bumpy time. 

- Seat Request: Request your seat online before arriving at the airport--it's best done during online check-in, 24 hours before departure. If you choose, you can email the airline with your flight information. Request bulk head seating and explain you are traveling with a newborn or infant. Emergency row exits are not available to adults who have children traveling with them. Having a bulk head seat reduces noise in the cabin and allows you more room. However, in bulk head seats, all carry-ons (diaper bag) must be stowed overhead for take off and landing opposed to at your feet for regular seats.

- SleepBegin shifting your child's sleep schedule a few days before your travels to account for any jet-lag or time change. 

Like all things "baby," it is hard to consolidate and not overpack. Depending on your destination, not all of this list will be necessary. When traveling with baby, some parents feel it is easier to pack bare minimum and buy what is needed once they reach their destination.

For more information about TSA guidelines and regulations, please visit the TSA website here



Bon Voyage, fellow travelers and good luck with your little ones! It has been said that the most valuable enrichment you can give your child is the freedom to explore our earth. You are brave parents choosing to travel with such young children. Your children and their sense of wonder will thank you one day!



You can grab your free Traveling with a Newborn Download here


Tranquility by HeHe, A Concierge Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts
"We can't wait to pamper you."



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