'Twas the Night Before Christmas (As Retold By a Parent with Small Children)

'Twas the night before Christmas, and the kids were insane
I suspected a sugar-high from too many candy canes.
The stockings were strewn this way and that,
because the baby had tried to use them as hats.

The Best Holiday Traditions with Kids

The Best Holiday Traditions with Kids

You know what doesn't determine my nostalgia for Christmas Time?  Details.  We had just as much fun, life was just as special whether we used fine china or paper plates, and no matter if it was just us or the whole extended family. 

In the Sknow- 10 Indoor Activities to Survive Your Next Snow Day

Tricks for Surviving Your Kids' Next Snow Day.
Those beautiful, peaceful days that bring some gentle stillness to the dreary winter landscape. Until the kids wake up.

The Birth of a Doula

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At their most fundamental, a doula is presence personified.  Of course we offer a trained set of hands to help a birthing family through some of the most intense moments they will face:

becoming and actually BEING new parents. 

But ultimately at the end of the day, what a doula truly does is authentically, organically, unconditionally support you.  We offer you, in addition to experience and training, our most authentic selves, to inspire confidence and empowerment into the families we serve.

Trying to cram that into an elevator speech at a professional networking event is awkward at best.  The truth is though,

I don't have a fancy or funny origin story. 

It wasn't a traumatic or fantastic birth I felt the need to fix or share.  

What drove me to become a doula, and open the first full-spectrum doula agency in Virginia, is the women who surround me and inspire me to be fully present to what we can do, so the things we cannot become fewer and less significant.

The people who inspire me the most are the women who show up each day, doing the next hard, and next right thing. 

The artists, the dreamers, the doers.  The story-tellers, the wisdom-keepers, the comedians who know how to say the right thing to keep it both real and light.  It's not the fantasy of snuggling newborns all day that brought me to this work, but the real, honest and open discussions of motherhood, of both simultaneously losing and finding self, and how heartbreaking and frightening and messy it all inevitably is.

I became a doula because when I looked around, my entire life was filled with people who are always the first to show up

to watch your kid or bring you food when you are sick or tired or just sick and tired.  The ranks of my inspiration are filled with women who have no idea they are doing the impossible, Every. Single. Day.

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Women who fill my cup and set my soul on fire because they are real and honest, and true to themselves, whatever that means right now.  They are the people who do the hard thing in front of me, like they have no idea they are doing it.  We need more bravery and passion and work being done in the world. More mothering. More inspiring. More doula-ing.

Becoming a mother was not my doula origin story.  Watching the strongest, most amazing, charismatic women I know shoulder each other's burdens, lifting, helping, supporting.  Loving. BE-ING.  Breaking down, coming together, helping. This is why I became a doula. My history and present have been filled with authentic, genuine, presence.   

How could I not put this back into the world? 

Into families when they are their most vulnerable, most confused, most in need of these qualities?  The humor, the reality of a ridiculous and exhausting and beautiful life means that if we just show up for one another, there is nothing we can't do.

That is why I made this work my career. Why I work with families *after* they have babies and not just during labor. And why I am a great doula. 

Hiring Help: The Best Money I Ever Spent

doula in richmond

Today, I came home and my house was clean.  I don't mean just mostly picked up, I mean dusted, vacuumed, wiped down, dishes put away, looks like the guests could arrive at any minute kind of clean.  And it stayed sparkling clean until my adorable youngest sweetly asked me to read to him, and ALL OF THE BOOKS fell off of his shelf onto the floor.  Obviously they stayed that way all night, because no four year old in his right mind can be asked to pick up ALL OF THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD at 4pm after a long day of preschool and playing,

But for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES my house was clean.  And it was glorious.

I can't tell you the number of women I speak to about wishing they had someone to clean for them, even just wiping down the kitchen or folding and putting away laundry.  It's not about having a partner who shares the duties, but that at the end of a long day, where you both worked 8-10 hours plus commuting, you have picked up the kids or relieved the nanny, and now there is the rush of cook-eat-dishes-bathe-homework-jammies-toothbrushing-reading-snuggle-bedtime-TV-quality time-sleep all to be done in the next 3 hours, who has even the mental space to pick up ALL OF THE BOOKS when they come falling down?  Not me.  Not my partner.  And certainly not our 4-year-old.

In these days where we are rushing to fit everything in, all of the work, connections, activities for the kids, family time, adult time, more work because we couldn't get it all done,

it is ok to admit that you want help

doing the things there aren't time and energy for.  It is also ok to prioritize those things in your budget.

The greatest money I ever spent was that which cleaned my house while I was gone.  And its not because I am not good at housekeeping (although I'm not really- my mind has too many other things to pay attention to than whether or not I actually swept under that cabinet) but because what I'm really paying for is peace of mind. 

It is knowing that once every two weeks, my house will be clean, even if only for five glorious minutes. 

It is relief of the clutter and the energy spent worrying about when I'm going to be able to find an hour to scrub the bathrooms as well as they need to be scrubbed with three boys living at home.  And that relief, my friends, is priceless.

Finding the money to hire out our deep cleaning is not always easy, but it is a priority, because

I am a priority and so is the time I spend with my family. 

Because having the time to read to my youngest when he asks so nicely is a priority.  Because I want to be able to watch Netflix snuggled up with my honey and not folding and putting away laundry EVERY NIGHT (because we all know laundry is never ending).  Because during the day, I need to be able to focus on work, not when the bedsheets are going to get changed. Because I am a better mom and wife and business owner when I know someone else is taking care of those details.

I've been asked how I'm going to teach my kids to clean if I have someone do it myself?  And the answer is: MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. 

Well, no, ok that's not actually what I say, but sometimes we want to, right?  But if I'm not feeling defensive about it, I remind them (and myself) that firstly, our kids already do a tremendous amount of chores for their age and capabilities, they are learning responsibility and systems for caring for themselves and a home.  Secondly, I'm also teaching them how to be their best selves, and

sometimes that means getting some help doing the things that are sucking joy out of your life.

You deserve this peace of mind.  You deserve to be a priority.  You deserve to invest in yourself.  And when you do, send me a photo of you sitting on your comfy couch in your clean living room, reading to your little one.  I'll cheer with you, because

it. will. be. GLORIOUS.

 

doula charlottesville

 

 

"We've Got You Covered, Baby!" Diaper & Formula Drive

We are so excited to announce:

Diapers charlottesville

 

to benefit families suffering effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose, and families displaced by the wildfires on the West Coast.

We are collecting:

  • opened and unopened diaper packs
  • powdered or premixed formulas

Bonus Feel-Good Points for these high demand items:

  • Size 3, 4, & 5 Diapers
  • Specialty formulas for higher need babies

Drop off Locations
(Please check their hours)

CHARLOTTESVILLE

Dates: 9/15/17-9/30/17

Important info:

1. We have been in contact with doulas on the ground in the areas affected by our recent natural disasters, and they will place orders from the donations collected, so you can rest assured

ALL ITEMS SENT OUT OF STATE WILL GO DIRETLY TO A FAMILY IN NEED

2. The Virginia Baby Company will pay for the shipping for items for immediate use.

3. After October 15th, any remaining collected donations will be gifted to local food and diaper banks serving families in need here in Virginia.

4. We are not a non-profit agency, so sadly, you won't be able to take a tax-deduction for your items donated.

5. We want to celebrate your donation, so please take a photo of yourself or your little one with your donation, or the donation box, or outside of your drop off location. Make sure to tag the location you dropped off AND The Virginia Baby Co. on Facebook or Instagram. #wevegotyoucoveredbaby

Eyebrow, You Brow

I'm not gonna lie, the squiggle brow is just not for me. 

Between brows, lips and eyeliner, the squiggle look feels a little bit like living in the Hunger Games or Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka: too surreal for my taste.  Not to mention that there is no way you'll ever catch me with enough time to try it myself-- I barely have time to throw on my Smashbox mascara and MAC lip gloss before there are little hands reaching under the bathroom door in the morning: "Mommy!! Watcha doin'?"

And while I'm being really frank, I think that perhaps outside of artistic photography, I find it just a little... frivolous.  But here's the thing:

Frivolous can be great. 

Some people need frivolous in their lives.  Some people's blood starts pumping and have a passion to create surreal and outside the box anything, including makeup.  And passion is beautiful.

doulas in richmond

I can think it is frivolous all day long, but

my discernment for my eyebrows' shape does not immediately mean a judgement of yours.

I'll never look down on a person for squiggling their eyebrows, shaving them off, or letting them grow au natural.  What each person decides to do with their face has nothing to do with mine, other than I think we can all stand to enjoy each other's faces more.  And I'm always for women, and parents, feeling stronger and more comfortable in their own skin.

My judgement would serve no one but myself.  As a doula, my entire job is to empower people to make their own decisions, and to help women feel comfortable and confident during their most tender, most vulnerable moments

Judgement of your choices has no place here. 

As a woman and a mother, it is my fervent belief that we need to spend less time shaming and judging choices we wouldn't make for ourselves, and more time building each other up.  There are already so many message that tell us we aren't good enough, we need to buy this or that for ourselves, our kids, our diets, our hair, our family to be better.  Too many voices telling us what we need to do because my way is the right way. I refuse to engage in making people feel small because of their choices; not in person, not through my writing, and not through social media.

I'm not saying it's always easy, unlearning first instincts are hard to re-pattern. (And there is certainly a line I'm willing to cross: when your choices belittle/deny another person's humanity, I will judge the hell out of that.)  On the whole though, judgement-free support is a central tenet of who I am, who I am raising my kids to be, and how we function as supporters of families during birth and afterward.

Parenting or eyebrows: You go, Girl!  Do what makes you happy.  What makes you feel beautiful and strong.  And we will have your back.

Gifts for NICU Babies and their Families

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My friend just had her baby early and they are going to spend some time in the NICU. What kinds of gift can I get for them?

We hear this all the time, and we've polled all of our NICU clients and a few NICU nurses to find out what the favorite gifts are for families spending time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Gifts for Babies in the NICU

Adorable preemie caps (those heads are TINY!!) or a sleeper for preemies are always appreciated.  NICU staff seems to appreciate snaps instead of zippers; they're easier to open in an emergency, and leaves rooms for wires and such.  Stay away from anything that would have to be in the crib with them-- they tend to keep the sleeping areas free from anything soft and squishy that might carry bacteria.

Something Sentimental

The minutes can feel so long, but the months and years pass quickly, and we frequently hear how the moments they never thought they would forget become lost in the fog quickly.  A special journal for NICU babies, or these adorable cards can help them record the memories so they can share them with the world and their baby as she grows at their own pace.

Gifts for NICU Mom

She (and her partner hopefully) will be coming and going all the time.  Some sweet treats and non-perishable snacks for her purse will help keep vital time with her baby to a maximum.  Hair ties, lip chap and quality travel sized unscented hand lotion (we LOVE the stuff from the locally owned LadyBurg) will help keep her hydrated in the dry hospital air and through all of the handwashing and sanitizing necessary.

Be Practical

The number one thing NICU parents tell us they appreciate is gift cards.  They are on the go all the time, sometimes quite a distance from where their baby is located.  Anything you can do to alleviate that stress is helpful.  VISA gift cards, gas cards, grocery cards, gift certificates to local places near the hospital to get something fresh to eat (you wouldn't believe how far a salad goes when you've been eating hamburgers fries and sandwiches), or pizza places that will deliver to the lobby of the hospital. Starbucks cards, or iTunes/Audible cards to help give them something to listen to during the long hours.

Also a clean house and a dinner at home that can be eaten in 30 min or less is a tremendous help.  Whether you are the kind of friend who can clean their house and leave a meal (other than pasta- EVERYONE brings pasta), or if you are more of a hire a housecleaner and drop off Panera one evening, that kind of peace of mind is priceless to a family traveling back and forth.

Presence

Sometimes our precious babies spend a few days regulating blood sugars and breathing and then are sent home.  Other times, the tiniest fighters can spend weeks and even months there.  In those longer stretches, the nicest thing you can do is to make sure they are remembered.  Visiting is nice, but sometimes distance or NICU safety precautions can make that very difficult.  There are other ways to be present:

  • set a reminder on your phone to send a "Thinking of you today" text.
  • call every few days and don't be surprised if they send you straight to voicemail.  If they do, leave a message, tell a short story and let them know you're thinking of them.  DON'T ask them to call you back or ask for details.  They will do so if they can/want to.  But just because they don't, doesn't mean your thoughtfulness isn't touching them deeply.
  • Send cards/letters to their home, so they have nice mail to look forward to when they ARE home.
  • Send photos of the outside world.  Of things that remind you of them.  Sometimes its nice to know there is more going on.

If you are a NICU parent, what were your favorite gifts or could you have used and didn't have?

How to Be The World's Best Mom

doula in richmond

Today, my 3 year old walked up to me and without prompting, gave me a big hug and said,

You are the best Mom ever.  I love you just exactly how you are. I love your beautiful cubby arms that hug me, and I love to your beautiful squishy belly to snuggle with. I love your beautiful eyes and your blue glasses, and your purple hair that tells everyone you are MY mom. 
— Kid Positioned to Quickly Become Favorite

This is not an accident.  Our kids have been brainwashed by our love for them.

Isn't that the greatest thing we can do for our kids?  To make them feel so supremely loved they only know how to love in return?  Their father and I have worked hard to create a unified front where there are boundaries for behavior, but never boundaries for our love for them.  We have literally washed their little brains in love.

Our kids aren't perfect, and so it's never easy.  And (apparently) I'm not perfect either, so I have to remember how to teach my kids that love and like aren't dependent on one another, and we aren't defined by any one emotion or decision, but how we work to control our behavior through the really hard emotions, because life has those too. 

How to be a perfect Mom (aka how to brainwash your kids in love)

1) Tell you kids you love them.  All the time.  Tell them so much it becomes embarrassing.  Tell them before they can talk.  And when they are yelling at you because their life has become too much for them to contain inside of a quiet life.

2) Be specific and genuine.  "You are the perfect NAME YOUR KID for me because I love how you go and do that hard thing, even when you don't want to."

3) Respect their boundaries for when and where they want affection, but also be willing to give it when it's needed.  This is hard, especially when they are really small (say 3 and under) and don't always have words for their feelings, but they know they will feel better if mom hugs them but mom is in the middle of nursing the baby and doing the dishes.  It's ok to ask them to wait a minute occasionally, that's YOUR boundary.  I tend to side though, on the one of more hugs now and dishes later.

Look, don't roll your eyes just yet. 

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm relatively sarcastic and my inner anxiety can manifest itself as a quick temper if its not kept in check.  So I'm not all "Oh, I love my babies all the time no matter what forever and ever and ever..."  I'm not saying "Love your kids all the time like a love-robot and life will be perfect."  I'm saying if we choose love more often than not, and forgiveness when we don't, then life will FEEL perfect.

Choose the side of love

even in the face of daily routine or life irritants, or just flat out mistakes.  We teach our kids how to deal with the big emotions by dealing with them ourselves.  If that means taking a time-out for ourselves in our room, or counting down from 10, or a few deep breaths before we continue to speak in anger, taking time for ourselves, we are showing our kids HOW to deal with the big things.  If we do this in an environment surrounded by love, we cannot go wrong.

And when you let the anger/frustration/overload get the better of you (and you will, my friend, you will), just use it as an example of how to ask for forgiveness.  Even when they are little, before they understand what that means.  Because then they will have the words for it when it comes time to fully process it.  And because you have brainwashed them in love, they will forgive you, just as you have forgiven them.

So even though yesterday was a hard one for my kiddos and I, and even through I'm pretty sure they had goldfish crackers and grapes for breakfast, and even though I MADE THEM DO THEIR CHORES, today, I'm the Best Mom In The Whole World.

The Case of the Missing Midwives (Again)

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We were here, in this exact spot a year ago, when the Case of the Missing Midwives first presented itself.  And yet again, The Doula Detective has been on the phone all day because suddenly, the Midwives at Rapphannock are no longer seeing patients effective immediately.

The announcement was made last month that Julie Weathers and Dana Taylor from RWHC and LeeAnn Parker with Generations of Women OBGYN were moving their practice to Richmond later this summer, but they were originally told, as were their patients, that they would be seeing and delivering their current patients until at least mid-July

But as of this morning, the Midwives at Rappahannock have been removed from the staff, and the office is left trying to reschedule their patients with the remaining physicians. 

What really happened?

Contractual obligations between a midwife and their clinic often include rules about when and what a provider can say if they know they are leaving, and there are often very stringent rules about how close by they can work, what they can say, so they don't "poach clients" from a clinic.

So while we don't know exactly what happened, our best guess based on history and experience is that the midwives WERE planning on seeing patients through mid-July, but then were dismissed early because the clinic saw (or forsaw) a mass exodous of pregnant patients, and wanted to try to show people their other care provider offerings. 

Having worked with them as closely as we have, I feel confident in saying that Julie Weathers and Dana Taylor know this has left some of their patients (especially those due before August first) feeling lost and wanting for a midwifery model of care, and they would want you to know this is not how they wanted this change to happen.

What can I do?

You always have options.  The urgency to act on them depends on how pregnant you are. 

If you are 32 weeks pregnant or less

(or not pregnant at all and seeing the midwives for your well-women care), your options remain about the same:

  1. Make yourself at home with the other providers at Rappahannock.
  2. Find a new practice in Fredericksburg.  You will need your medical records.
  3. Follow the midwives to Richmond OBGYN, which is currently accepting patients for appointments in August (possibly sooner).

If you are more than 32 weeks pregnant

this can feel like more of a moment for panic.  Please don't panic. 

  1. Feel free to call The Virginia Baby Co. at 540-300-1102.  Our mission is to create stronger communities through positive experiences with pregnancy, birth and new babies.  We know people who seek out the care of a midwife do so because they want a strong connection with the person who cares for them during pregnancy, because they want a "more intuitive" or "natural" approach to birth while keeping available medical assistance when necessary, or because they CONNECT with their midwives as their care providers.  We will happily discuss your options until you are comfortable with them.
  2. Put into words why you were seeing the midwives. There aren't any wrong words, but knowing exactly why you saw them and you stayed with them will help inform your next steps.
  3. Decide if you can still get that from your physician options at Rappahannock.  Yes, doctors can deliver babies "naturally" and especially if you are a second-time parent who is already comfortable with the doctors here.  This may be a good option for you, especially if you hire a doula to help provide continuity of support and a face who you can get to know before your baby's birthday.
  4. If you want to go elsewhere for your pregnancy care, you can.  There are great options in Fredericksburg or even in Richmond.  We know for sure that as of 6/21/17 Advanced Care for Women delivering at Spotsy Regional has a midwife and is accepting new patients, even ones late in pregnancy.  

I will happily update this list as local OB offices call to tell me they are prepared to receive you late in pregnancy.

The tricky part of going any new place is that in order to care for you well, they need your medical records for this pregnancy, at a minimum.  Medical records can take up to two weeks to release.  You will find more information on medical records privacy and rights here, including what to expect and how to request them.

Where do I go from here?

The first thing you do is make a choice where you are going to attend for your pregnancy care.

The second is to put into writing why you sought midwifery care, and why you chose to stay at Rappahannock or Leave.  Honestly, this won't help you much, but a short, professional and direct letter might help inform them of future offerings to their patients.  Make sure to print it out and send it to them.

Lastly, decide if hiring a doula would provide you with more stability and continuity of support during this time of uncertainty.  We guarantee to have your back from now through your baby's first year, and we are offering a discount to all of Julie and Dana's former clients. 

midwife in fredericksburg