It’s hard balancing advocacy work and running a business. Throw in motherhood, nurturing your marriage, participating in farm life and self care then it all starts to seem impossible. As I put energy into one I am inevitably taking time from the others. Or so it feels. It can feel like a constant guilt thickening around me that something is always being neglected if I don’t stay on top of it.
I’ve learned to release mom guilt realizing #babydukebrown has the privilege of being on the farm surrounded by people who love her even in my absence. Besides, she gets to join me helping mamas and babies often!
Les and I have gotten pretty attuned to each other knowing when alone time needs to become top priority and recognizing how long we can be physically distance before that becomes emotional distance.
I’m getting better at self care everyday and finding ways I can care for myself while my work is caring for other people.
This year I managed to give farm life the attention it demands in the summer months by decreasing my on call jobs and focusing on birth work with less demand.
So in most areas I’m making strides in the right direction.
However, Lately as my advocacy opportunities and business opportunities have both risen simultaneously I’ve been faced with hard decisions. How will Inhave time for Volunteer work while meeting the demands of running a growing business? There is one point I keep coming back to…
My birth work and advocacy work are intertwined and to pretend they are mutually exclusive doesn’t do the big picture any justice. In fact two of the core competencies of a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator center upon advocacy.
Without my Doula Clients, Lamaze Students, Placenta Encapsulation Clients and Network members I wouldn’t have the means to advocate on the level I wish. When you pay me a Lamaze payment; I put gas in my car to get to the State Capital. When you choose me to process your placenta you pay for supplies for the next volunteer meeting. When you allow me the honor of being your birth doula you provide me the financial freedom to look at advocacy on a national level with events like “Lamaze Advocacy Summits” in Washington D.C.
More so without my advocacy work there wouldn’t be a My Sunshine Birth Services. It was only through hearing your stories and understanding the need for increased maternity care options, education and support that My Sunshine was even born.
So when I’m struggling to balance it all I am hopeful I can always remember that advocacy is at the heart of what I do.
If I ever start to lean away from advocating for legislative change as my birth services business continues to grows I will look back at this image I made in the very beginning of it all to be reminded why I ever started down this path in the first place.
Last month My Sunshine Birth Services had a Bowling Green Ky Doula and Lamaze Reunion. It was the first attempt and a successful one. We will make this an annual event and I’ll make some improvements to create an even bigger and better party for everyone. The night was documented by Samantha Steen Photography and I’ve included a gallery of some of my favorites.
When my students show up to their 1st Lamaze class they are typically in their 3rd trimester and fairly close to meeting their baby. This is per my request because most of what we talk about needs to be fresh on the couples mind when thy go into labor and bring baby home. The downside is I often find myself wishing they had known some pertinent information much earlier in pregnancy or even prior to conception. This led me to compose a list of 10 things to know BEFORE pregnancy that I talk about now in Pregnancy Prep Workshops.
Movement & Alignment
Understanding safe and effective movement during pregnancy is worth learning if you may ever be pregnant. Ann Taylor Lashbrook of the Beyond Movement Center helped me realize that preparing our bodies for pregnancy and birth begins long before conception. Ann Taylor says foundational strength training and movement practices done even years before conception will benefit you during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. However, if you are already pregnant and haven’t been educated on your bodies proper alignment it isn’t too late. She can teach you some foundational movements in early pregnancy or check out her YouTube channel for hundreds of videos. The image above is from Jillian Nicol and is the best illustration I’ve seen on doing a proper squat. This movement is often used in birth, but unless mom is executing it correctly it can be ineffective. Remember the goal in a squat is to open your outlet by keeping your tail untucked (image A) vs curling your bottom in and closing your outlet (Image B). If you are doing squats in labor be sure to do them correctly!
5 years ago I stumbled upon the art of placenta encapsulation and I was curious to say the least. I did some research and found the closest specialist was (at the time) 130 miles away. I wrote her and asked if I could come visit and without hesitation she invited me into her home. With no lack of generosity she welcomed me to Louisville and showed me her set up, explained the process, lead me to credible training and spoke of the ins and outs of the business. When it was all done I went straight home to Southern Ky and signed up for the Placenta Benefits training. That woman, Katherine, started me down this path with her graciousness and hospitality for which I’m very thankful.
When reality sets in.
The training was detailed and took a few months to complete and as a newly trained placenta encapsulation specialist (PES) I was ready to take on four to five local clients a month. That goal felt justified as I considered how many people birth in Southern Ky every month and I’m only asking for a handful to sign up for my services. The following year I encapsulated a whopping 1 placenta in Southern, Ky. The rest were in Nashville under a successful doula and childbirth educator who didn’t have time to provide postpartum products for all her clients. The reality of what I had taken on started to set in. The next year was a little better, but still only 10 local clients in an entire year.
Sorry to break it to you, but you probably don’t REALLY know what a Doula is if you’ve never hired one before. When I sit down at a birth consultation with a couple who is new to the doula world I always ask a simple question, “Do you know what a Doula is?“. When mom solely follows me on social media and set up the appointment I will specifically ask Dad this question. I get just a few different answers.
Some people have NO CLUEwhat a Doula is.
The first answer I get is, “no”. I’m positive most have an idea but are nervous they’ll get it wrong; saying “no” feels easier. Of course I realize some people honestly don’t know. A few times husbands have admitted to me they had never even heard the word “Doula”until their wives said, “We are going to meet a Doula tonight”. I am NEVER offended by someone not knowing the specifics of my job, because I’m aware it isn’t a common career choice. Personally I hadn’t even heard the word Doula until I was 25 years old and had already been through a pregnancy and loss. Therefore if you answer no there is absolutely zero judgement and I’m happy you’ve taken the first step to learn what a doula is.
Obstetric Violence: How it Made Me a Better Doula & Educator.
I’ve planned to tell my birth story for two and a half years and for the first time today I truly feel ready. There were times I thought I’d never publicly share the details of my birth because I didn’t want my truth to negatively effect my relationship with medical professionals, my network, my family, my students and clients. There are people close to me that have only heard the truth of my birth in the last couple weeks and still some friends & family who won’t know the full story until they read this blog. I wrote a version of this story that shares every detail and it is a novel! So I decided to get it down to something readable and honest. I realize this short version will leave a lot of questions and I’m prepared for that.
Reasons I’m Sharing My Birth Story.
For my own healing. I’m doing some deep work to prepare myself for a possible 2nd birth in the future and being able to get my story out has helped with that healing. Since I got it on paper all I could think about was sharing it and sending it out to the universe and saying, “This is my truth”. This is how a violent attack, loss of autonomy and lack of consent hurt me. This is how it made me grow. Now I’m moving on and planning a birth without violence.
For other victims of Obstetric Violence. A week after my birth my midwife sent me a blog from a birth worker in another state who had experienced 2 traumatic births. Her words helped get me through the first months of my daughter’s life. I want my story to be that for someone. Even just one person and it will be worth sharing.
To start a conversation. I don’t often hear conversations about obstetric violence that are building bridges. My trauma will be used as a means to create lines of communication, understanding and change. I’ve waited long enough, healed enough and had guidance to share my story without hysteria, hate and judgment. Instead I share my story to say, “Not all nurses and Doctors are this way. Let’s create relationships that relieve tension and protect the mothers we serve”.
So you can have a personal look into what drives me, why I created the My Sunshine Birth Services Networkand why I’m so fiercely dedicated to passing legislation that will improve maternity care and hospital transfer protocol.
Lastly my students and clients ask me all the time to tell them my birth story. This story is on my website now under the About Me section so I can lead them there and keep the conversations in class and prenatal from becoming about me. Because in the end my birth story matters, but when I’m your educator or Doula it is about YOU!
Last month Mary Duke LCCE was on WBKO Midday Live and this segment was easily her favorite spot so far on WBKO Midday Live. Read about her experience and how she chose one topic to share with all expectant parents.