We opted out of birthday parties this year. We always always spend a massive amount of money we don’t have entertaining everyone and then attempting to find places for the new toy load for three boys. So, we decided to make memories with them instead (Which I highly recommend, by the way. Semi low stress, happy kids, and fills up your instagram with cool pictures.)
Our first stop was the “animal park” in Wilmington. It is closer than the zoo and was the perfect amount of walking and attention time for the boys and myself. The birds said hello. The monkeys danced for peanuts. The lion licked himself. The Giraffe stunk. And, the goats made friends for hand fed corn.
I hadn’t taken the time to read about each animal...I was just trying to say hey and bye to get through this as painless as possible in the heat of the day with no stroller. However, at the very last stop I noticed two monkeys in a special environment. I read the plaque featuring their information and stopped dead in my tracks—“If they “get this” why can’t we??”
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the Owl Monkey. What fascinated me about this creature, besides the obvious cuteness, was the way they “interact” as parents. The mother carries the babe, births the babe, and cares for the babe for only the first two weeks of the monklet’s life (new word for ya). Then, the mommy monkey is only responsible for nursing the babe. That’s it. The daddy carries the babe and is responsible for the training and socialization.
Do you know why???
So the mommy can survive.
Go ahead, read that again...I’ll wait here.
Yes, so she can sustain her life.
Now, I ain’t saying we need to switch roles because I love my duty as a mother and take pride in raising my children on the daily. Buuuuttttt, I think we could stand a teeny bit more understanding about this “metabolic cost” issue. If the female Owl Monkey is solely responsible for the babies she will expend so much energy it would be detrimental to the survival of the species.
So, what does this have to do with us? I’ve often pondered what it would look like if we were able to get back to the tribe concept in regards to mothering. This shouldn’t be pinned on just the parents but our community as a whole. If we shared in supporting mothers while they were pregnant, laboring, postpartum, and beyond I do believe it would alleviate many problems we face such as isolation, illnesses due to sleep deprivation, and burn out. All of us love our children but we just need help carrying them.
Our two directors, Lauren and I, attended a DONA International Postpartum Doula training hosted in Asheville, NC on April 6th-8th of this year. Our trainer, Jen Chandlee, hosted the training where she works at Homegrown Families Health & Education Center. Their education center is absolutely beautiful and all inspiring! My personal dream is for our organization to open a similar center right here in Pitt County, North Carolina, but that is a five-year goal for the future. :)
At this training, we learned a wealth of knowledge we have already carried back and used in our Eastern North Carolina communities (currently we have assisted over 10 women and family units! That is not including the emails, calls, text messages, and other inquiries we have received). Our trainer has over 20 years of experience in this field. Through case studies, scenarios, art, digital media, conversation, and so much more, our group shared 27 in-person hours together in an environment that was extremely conducive to learning.
To get a little more specific, the two of us as new postpartum doulas learned about and how to: our scope of practice and how to stay in it, DONA's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, common shifts, client intake process, effective communication, postpartum physical changes, acting in the role as an educator, multiples, breastfeeding, integrating baby into the family unit, perinatal mental health, resources and referrals, loss and grief, and more. The conversations were unforgettable. The wealth of knowledge that was imparted on us we are still processing and soaking in! As we have begun to work with clients, we are seeing how first-hand this training was invaluable to our mission and work to be done here in Eastern North Carolina! We are honored and excited to have Jen agree to come conduct this same training for our doula collective members next month!
And if the super thoughtful and kind gentleman who works at Trader Joe's in Asheville, NC is reading this, thank you again for these beautiful flowers! What a treat they were and they made our afternoon training session a little more lovely!
This post is written by one of our area coordinators, Jessica!
I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children. Although I cannot imagine that now, the old Jessica thought she was not capable (and that she would end up like her mother, but I’ll save that for another post). We tried very hard for well over a year to conceive our first, and in true divine fashion, he was formed at just the right time.
Something about each of my three children unlocked a part of me that I did not know was there…the part that was known before I was formed I’m sure. Here I am, almost six years after my first birth, and never in a million years would I have dreamt that I would be doing this. I could write about every victory and defeat that led me here, I’ll save that for the book though. Until then, here goes:
In every civilization, since the beginning of time, no woman was alone during birth or the postpartum period. In ancient cultures around the world—before Pinterest offered advice on what to pack in your hospital bag—we have proof through writings, carvings, and sculptures that women were supported by other women. Like literally held up, y’all (which goes way beyond the ultra-modern thumbs up emoji, by the way). After her baby was born, she was waited on hand and foot. To this day, some cultures still insist that the mother not do anything for herself the first month after the birth. She nurses her baby and that. is. it. Bathed, fed, house kept, other children entertained by the other women in her village…what a novel idea.
I became a Certified Lactation Counselor 5 years ago because I needed evidence-based support regarding feeding my children at my breast. I remember mentioning my struggles on social media and asking for help—a fellow mother private messaged me…when she “swallowed her pride” regarding breastfeeding and gave her baby formula it was better. <however you feed your baby is your business but supporting a mother where she is will go a long way…just saying> But, I can’t be mad at it because it catapulted me into my first love…lactation. Since then, I have been available to mothers to encourage them in their breastfeeding journey.
I became a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator because women in this country are dying in childbirth and shortchanged when it comes to being given evidence that backs up birth. You can eat. You can say no. You don’t have to lay on your back.
I became a doula (birth and postpartum) because we have a problem where I’m from—women are not supported. I’m not sure if it’s that we don’t think that we need support or that it maybe we don’t INSIST that we support other women. Probably both. I’ll give my opinion here and say that a family should not have to want for help—Just don’t make no sense to have a slew of empty dates on a meal train calendar, y’all know what I’m saying?!
I became a volunteer with Postpartum Support International because we shouldn't spend our time as mothers thinking we are crazy and will be like this forever.
I became a partner with Hope Women and Family Services because those girls (now, us girls) have a vision and are actively doing something about it. This week I was laboring with a friend. We started in triage where there are two beds. Two hours into our stay another mother was escorted in by an older gentleman. I thought—my dad would be the last person I would want to have in the hospital having a kid. It turned out that he was an ambulance driver this momma was alone.
Full-blown active labor alone.
Now, I did the “weird” thing and peeked my head through her curtain, introduced myself, and offered my support. She quickly obliged. I let her squeeze the mess out of my hand and I massaged her lower back while she screamed and moaned.
"Relax. You are in a safe place. I’m here. You’re doing awesome. That one’s over now. Breathe. You’re a beast, Momma. You are freaking rocking this."
Her baby was born early Wednesday morning and she is still alone.
I returned to my first momma when she was able to get the epidural. The babies were born minutes apart. Then, I visited with her before heading home at 4 in the morning. I learned that she had no idea how she was getting home. The baby was 3 weeks early she wasn’t prepared for that and again, she was alone.
Don’t y’all worry now, you know I hooked that momma right on up with some nearby friends and the best support. And, y’all also know that I laid hands on her and prayed for her and her baby.
Last week, I spent the night with a new momma from Congo who only speaks French. She was alone too.
If I ever doubted my path as the one-stop birth shop, those doubts were vaporized in the past two weeks and I am so thankful!
If you’re reading this and you are as saddened as I am that women aren’t supported like we should be during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period—and want to do something about it—you can donate to HOPE Women & Family Services Inc. by clicking the "donate" tab at the top. Our first priority is our training goal for this September!