Leaving luck out of birth – how many of us are undermining the hard work of a cultivated positive birth experience.
Imagine this – glowing mama recounting her epic birth story. She is beaming with delight. She feels proud, victorious, alive with life. The listener, let’s assume a well meaning friend, is sulking. She blurts out, “You’re just one of the lucky ones.” Both go quiet and the air gets thick.
Glowing mama turns a pale shade of grey, she slouches into her chair and holds her newborn close. The joy pulled from underneath her, she shies away from the conversation and reaches for her cup of tea.
I can’t tell you how many mothers and parents I know have told me how they’ve been in the exact same situation as above. What should be a warm retelling of a passionately pivotal moment filled with empowerment and thrill, is instead turned to dust when feelings of shame and guilt take over for having a positive birth experience.
We need to STOP telling women/birthing people who are having orgasmic/ecstatic/joyful/fulfilling/empowering birth experiences that the only reason they have experienced it is because of luck. Nothing less. Nothing more. (With a dash of can you please not share that amazing story with me because mine was less than shit?)
Positive birth stories NEED to be shared. In fact, each time one is shared, a small seed of hope is planted in the listener’s mind, laying down roots and doing the hard work of reconditioning the brain to dismiss fears of birth and embrace the approaching adventure with vigor and enthusiasm.
Positive birth stories are powerful – we know this. Ask any expectant mother who has been privy to such tales of goddess like glory; ask her how capable, calm and comforted those stories made her feel.
But instead, we find ourselves in a place where happy birthers feel shameful and guilty for having the births they do. They hold back at mothers group because they don’t want to upset their friends. They hold onto their happiness, afraid it might break the many fragile, broken mama birds in their circle. They keep to themselves because they want to avoid the awkward commentary and disrespectful undermining,
‘Lucky you.’, they’re told.
Humans are a funny bunch, programmed to be fearful & vigilant as a means to survive, have made an art of the indulgent and modern shit show of sharing of horror stories from the birth room. Trauma, stress, overwhelm and disappointment in childbirth – the new age highlights reel from a new mother processing her pain and grief in the only way she knows, unknowingly projecting her feelings unto her impressionable pregnant & mama friends.
Let me tell you something – luck has nothing to do with a positive birth outcome.
It is time for happy, fulfilled birthing people to celebrate and be celebrated. And it is time for people to understand that a radically positive mindset teamed with the appropriate planning, action and belief does impact the way you birth.
What makes people so obsessed with the notion of chalking up a happy birth to luck? Why are we so eager to rob a fulfilled parent of their right to enjoy the fruit of their labor?
Disturbingly, the ‘lucky you’ dialogue does a few things that makes me feel less than inspired.
Firstly, saying a good/great birth can only come from a place of privileged luck insinuates that horrific/traumatic/awful/negative is the standard, and that anything else is an anomaly.
When used in the context of birth, the word ‘luck’ strips the power away from the person and family involved, and instead puts that power into the wheel of a roulette table. Is this really how we want to see birth? Risky, scary, unpredictable?
Real talk – there are folks having incredible births who worked really damn hard to achieve them. You know, like finding the right care model & provider, setting up the right team, digging into the right educational material and actively focusing on staying inspired/motivated/positive.
Hey, Usain Bolt, your determined and mindful preparation had nothing to do with that marathon win. It was just the stars aligning. (FFS.)
On a side note, giving ‘luck’ the credit for that mamas (or Usains!) victory is a disrespect to the journey and the tireless work that positive birth advocates do on a daily basis to transform birthing experiences for people worldwide.
We could easily associate luck to the game of life and death – but it isn’t luck, is it? You can choose to consciously live a life that is aligned, vibrant, precautious and full of health. Would it be kosher to call a long and happy life nothing but luck?
Too often, new mamas who have suffered the wrath of a traumatic birth are quick to coin their happy birthing friends ‘lucky’ in an attempt to consolidate their grief or disappointment. It is far simpler to leave good and bad birth outcomes up to fate then it is to properly digest and work through the often VERY avoidable and VERY obvious reasons people have bad birth experiences. Many don’t want to take responsibility for their bad birth experience (poor planning or just going with the flow), are too afraid to blame someone else who has done them obvious harm (care provider) or are just so scarred their subconscious feels safer deflecting or dissociating from the truth. The truth that bad births happen for very real reasons; not because you placed a bad bet.
“My friends first born was a stillborn and I gave birth to my son a few months later. The idea that I was lucky and blessed was really drilled into me. I have had a total of 3 births that were unmedicated and so empowering. Instead of taking ownership of this, I default to saying I am lucky because of the unbelievably terrible stories I hear about other people’s births. But I am going to stop saying this…because you’re right. I took care of my body, I prepared my mind, body and soul, and have to claim that amazing thing I did without apologies. There was no luck in that.”
If you are expecting a baby you have the ability to cultivate an experience that feels right to you.
It it is your right to live the potent power of that moment and sing it from the roof tops without fear of being pulled down.
And it is our right, as humans birthing babies, to hear those positive stories so that we may be as equally impacted. So that our children’s children might go on to be as positively impacted, too.
So tonight, I am pleading, next time a mama friend comes to you with cheeks blushing a rosy shade of bliss, give her the space to share her story. Listen with beaming ears and a heart cracked open. Forego the weight of your hurt and personal experience to make way for her joy. Let her happiness fill you with hope. Let her enthusiasm light you up. Let her pride inspire you to feel stronger. Leave luck out of it and give her a hug on a job well done.
Angela Gallo is a Melbourne Doula, Birth Photographer, philanthropist, educator, advocate and ambassador in the birth world. You can find out more about her or her work by visiting her Instagram page, her Facebook page or by browsing this website. Are you a birth worker looking for a mentor? Enrollments to her program close in 2 days and you sign up HERE.
I can’t tell you how many obliviously passionate people message me every day to ask me how I became a Doula. Really gorgeous, kind, enthusiastic individuals who think that passion is all they’ll need to make themselves in this line of work.
I have had to fight the urge to contact every Doula Training Organisation I know to protest how vulnerable and under resourced they are leaving their students.
The reality is that right now, dozens (if not hundreds!) of bad-ass, big hearted babes are enrolling into Doula training organisations without any idea of what having a business in the birth world actually entails.
At this very moment – we are not doing our work any favours by treating it as disrespectfully as do. Midwives, Doulas, Childbirth Educators, Birth Photographers and more – being left in the lurch, burning the candle at both ends because currently the running theme for birth workers is ‘martyrdom’.
And why is it so difficult for people, professionals and the organisations involved that the way we are training our students and treating our students isn’t appropriate.
Most have no idea how to start a Facebook page, how to create a functional website that converts, how to blog with intent, what the heck ‘branding’ means, what marketing strategies are required and how wildly disheartening it is to navigate a world of jealous, competitive Doulas.
I certified in 2014 and quit almost quickly as I started.
I couldn’t believe how under prepared I felt to actually be a Doula and run the business of my dreams.
I wish it was all sunshine and daisies, but the truth is, it has never been and never will be just sunshine and daisies. I intentionally cultivated this career with years of persistence and determination to elevate the word Doula while simultaneously working to lower the crushing rate of burn out and quit rates in the first year of business for birth workers worldwide.
What were the top 5 things I wish ANY training organisation told me about before taking my money?
1. That if you are a mum, you cannot operate a business without adequate and reliable childcare available around the clock. It isn’t fair on you, your clients or your children to be a Doula without childcare.
2. That starting a Doula business, much like any business, requires a necessary investment of funds to set the foundation for your venture. You need money to run your Doula business.
3. That divisive conversation and competitive energy is rife in Doula communities. Having a like minded tribe that supports you unconditionally isn’t a luxury – it is a necessity. No Doula can survive the trauma, problematic and political nature of modern childbirth without the right individuals to hold her up with love.
4. That becoming a Doula for fun is disrespectful to the thousands of women and people who are dedicating their lives to this line of work. Becoming a Doula for the sake of the thrill is insulting to the sacred act of birthing itself. We are not here to be spectators to a sport or pass the time with a hobby that incites an adrenaline rush. This calling is real and it deserves to be treated accordingly.
5. That it is very rare for Doulas to have long lasting careers. That it is very rare for Doulas to make a living doing this work. That this work is not for the faint of hearted. That making this line of work, work for you, takes guts.
and a little bonus for you…
6. That doing your best work is impossible if you aren’t charging enough money for what you do. Not charging anything or enough for your services impacts YOU, your colleagues AND the families you serve. Doing your best work starts with valuing YOUR work, above all.
I love this work – with all of my heart – and I have found fulfilling success at the hands of it.
But not without the clever incorporation of modern business strategy and an unwillingness to become another Doula drop out.
How many Doulas do you actually know who have turned this work into a career?
How many Doulas do you know are making a full time wage from birth work?
How many Doulas do you know are treating this work like a passion project hobby job?
How many Doulas do you know who are misrepresenting our industry and providing clients with a subpar standard of work? Like not showing up to births when called or being disrespectful in the birth space?
How many Doulas do you know are operating without a website and complaining of not booking any clients?
I know folks who fit into each one of those statements seamlessly.
I want more for Doulas.
I want more for the birthing families hiring Doulas.
I want more for me.
I want more for you.
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Melbourne Doula, Melbourne Birth Photographer
P.S Want to become a Doula? Start HERE!
Working with Angela is literally changing my life! Before I found Heart and Hustle my business was in shambles and I truly had ZERO idea what to do, where to go and how to get closer to my ultimate goal. Since working with Angela and completing the Heart and Hustle online course I have been filled with renewed enthusiasm, a completely new direction and more importantly a tangible plan that allows me to move forward with confidence, and clarity. I literally cannot put into words the gratitude, love and admiration I have for Angela and what Heart & Hustle has brought to my life, my business and my dreams. PS the private Facebook group it THE BEST!!! It is full of wise, amazing people all keen to make a difference in the birthing world!Bess Bennett
I don’t often blog about the births of my clients but when I do…
Welcome to the world, Kalesia.
On the eve of May 17, I was lucky enough to watch the wild becoming of Sasha as she went from maiden to mother. With the complete and total support of her devoted partner, Sasha danced her baby into the world with a power that left me speechless.
Kiaran, her partner, describes the experience beautifully.
A lioness, atop a crimson alter,
Wild, open, creation all about her
Carnal conduit, ethereal,
Stargate- portal, cosmic- surreal
Moving with each wave, in exaltation
Ancient gateways spring forth, soul incarnation.
In this sacred space.
Her every move, an expression of
Every breathe, expansion, infinitely-connected
To bring our star-seeds’ soul safe passage.
And boy, does his eloquent choice of words do the moment justice.
I have seen many truly physiological births but to see one so unhindered and so primal has given me renewed conviction in my beliefs.
A belief that each woman is uniquely incredible and amazingly capable of pushing beyond the limits imposed by our minds & the systems we have in place.
A belief that intuition and instinct are remarkable sources of wisdom should we allow them the opportunity to function in their full power.
A belief that every human being should have the right to choose the type of birth that feels right for them.
A belief that, should they desire to, every woman have the opportunity to birth without the presence of prying eyes, bright lights, interventions, stress or trauma.
I believe that women are strong; real strong. And I am kinda addicted to watching the moment they realize it for themselves.
Labor was spontaneous with a small show of mucous plug loss. A short 6 hours in length, each ounce of energy spent was used with reason; each second of pain or pleasure had purpose. I have never seen a birth so rich in ecstasy. Both hormones and love came together ferociously, binding both Sasha and her partner in a trance like state of connection.
Sasha exhibited animal like signs; self cleaning, smelling, pacing, roaring – I cried and watched in awe because in the deepest parts of me I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is exactly how nature intended birth to be and yet it was so seldom seen.
I cried because the women who wanted this type of birth couldn’t always have it.
And I cried because I was so happy that Sasha and Kiaran could experience it for themselves.
Kalesia was born between a rush of surges and smiles across her mother’s face. Deep, sultry breaths and lots of self stimulation (and coconut butter!) really helped to keep the perineum soft and stretchy.
In a few quick moments, she joined us earthside, en caul. Sasha & Kieran instinctively cleared her face and airways and held her close. Being an experienced midwife/nurse and paramedic, they felt very confident managing labor on their own should they birth at home – and they did an unbelievable job of it. When two educated, consenting adults have faith in the birth process and their bodies; it is a true sight to see.
Kalesia was born from a place of power, of knowing and of love. I could see that imprinted on her delicate skin the moment I saw her. Her eyes, looking up at mum & dad as if to say,
“We did it. We did this. Together.”
Melbourne Doula & Birth Photographer
Birth Business Coach and Teacher
Prior to having babies, I had absolutely no freaking idea just how much my body would change after childbirth.
In fact, I am currently sitting in a cafe cursing at my sacroiliac joint, lower back, coccyx and hip joints. Frustrated, I find a twisted comfort in the fact that one third (!!!) of all adult women who have been pregnant or given birth suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction.
“At least I am not alone.”
If I am being honest, when it comes to my body after babies, the last few years have been interesting, to say the least.
Post-natal depression, loss of libido, pelvic floor pain, urinary incontinence; I suspect that if I knew this is what aging post baby-making felt like, I may have thought a little longer and a little harder about falling pregnant. Sure, the trade off was two freaking amazing babies but surely I couldn’t/can’t feel this way forever?
Earlier last year I wrote a blog post about my experiences with jade eggs and a nifty phone app I found called B-Wom. I saw so much improvement that arrogantly stopped using both thinking my problems were solved.
But just like those people who interrupt a course of prescribed antibiotics because they think they’ve gotten better, I realize I shouldn’t have done that.
None of us can afford to let our intimate health slide; I unfortunately had to learn this the hard way.
So when I heard B-Wom released an update with an in built coaching option, I felt it my sign from the universe to smarten up and get serious about my issues. Just like any healthy routine (food and exercise), it is necessary to stick to your habits in order to really benefit from a certain quality of life. Healthy routines relating to your pelvic floor are no exception. I know that personally, I need that accountability and kick up the butt – maybe the coaching option could be just that?
I know many of you are in the exact same scenario as I. This is a MASSIVE reason I consciously partnered with B-Wom. In fact, it was following the traumatic birth injuries of a mama I worked with that really prompted me to knuckle down in bringing this app to you more publicly. I downloaded the upgrade and was immediately stoked on what I found.
I wanted to give you a fair review of the application, chat about what it is about, what it does and how it has benefitted me. If it inspires one of you to improve the quality of your intimate health even just a little bit, it would make this post all the worth while.
How does the app work? Well firstly, it is available to both Android and Apple users around the world, in a number of languages. Once downloaded (for free, BTW) you are asked to create an account and answer a few questions that will help the software determine your specific needs and create a profile for you. From here, it creates an initial plan for you, for free. A set of 12 exercises that are set up so you perform one exercise a week for that specific plan. For example, one of my plans was for perineum care, another for urinary incontinence, another for strengthening my abdomen and another for bettering my sex life. Each week I was given a specific exercise for each of these. Once you complete the initial freebie plan you are offered a general subscription and/or the option to purchase the coach.
As I said before, I needed the accountability so opted for the coach this time around (on top of my regular plan). Yes, you pay extra for this but it literally costs a few dollars a month. A heck of a lot more discreet, affordable and convenient than finding an in person pro to help.
Once signed on to the coach option I was asked even more detailed questions which left me feeling really impressed. Think of it as a Siri for your vulva! I felt that with the information I provided, I was bound to get a fantastic tailor suited routine to compliment my existing plan. (It felt a lot more personal than the original plans I used). And yup, sure enough I did. The coach developed several weekly ‘good habit’ routines for me.
Week 1 – Habit -> Protect your pelvic floor
Objective -> Prevent urine leakage when you cough and strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent urine leakage
Week 2 – Habit -> Bladder training
Objective -> Stay in shape without damaging your pelvic floor and strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent urine leakage
Week 3 – Habit -> Bladder training (Repeat just stronger and with different muscles)
Objective -> Stay in shape without damaging your pelvic floor and strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent urine leakage
Week 4 – Habit -> Avoid nocturia (getting up at night to use the bathroom)
Objective -> Strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent urine leakage
Each day I was given a variety of kegel exercises that worked with the routine in question. On top of this, my coach prompted me every day with fun facts, questions and reminders to take notes in the notes section. (So good!)
To make the most of my daily exercises, it is critical to follow through with your regular plan, too.
Mine includes a brilliant mix of moves that has got my pelvic floor feeling like Mick Jagger!
Urine leakage prevention, preventing pressure in the vagina, having sex without discomfort, bettering my belly, caring for my perineal scar and more.
My favourite part? The juicy section on increasing my sexual pleasure. A separate plan that is chock a block with f*cking fabulous practices (hellllllo erotic massage) and techniques (can anyone say sexy hypopressives and sensory butterfly kegels?) This is the section that has got my full attention at the moment – totally not surprised if it gets yours, too.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, B-Wom have integrated a Blog section that I am crushing on. You get direct access on the app to articles like, ‘4 Ways To Avoid Stress and Maintain Hormonal Balance‘ and ‘Everything You Need To Know About Vaginal Prolapse‘.
These are exactly the kind of conversations we need to be having but unfortunately, many of us are too damn embarrassed or shy to get the resources and help we need. I really, truly think B-Wom is going to revolutionize self care for women in the post partum period and I am excited to see where they take this.
B-Wom was kind enough to give y’all a discount in exchange for me talk about my experience. Use code BWOMWW and that will grant you 25% off monthly subscriptions to the coach option. Seriously, just do it. Use the code and get better.
The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.
Due Dates and The Folly of Naegele’s Rule – Why Your Due Date Shouldn’t Be a SureFire Eviction Notice
Due dates – love them or hate them, as a Doula, I just can’t seem to avoid the question that’s on (almost) every woman’s mind.
‘I’m 40 weeks. But where’s my baby?’
This question is then usually followed by a frantic,
‘My health care provider told me that my baby is going to die/my amniotic fluid will dry up/baby will turn into a dry prune/my placenta will stop working/I will be pregnant forever, and the only way to avoid all this risk, is scheduled induction or cesarean.’
But what you most probably didn’t know, is the books from which your health professional studied; everything he/she learnt about due dates, is fundamentally based on a formula created in 1812.
Yup, you read that right.
From the first moment a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she either fantasizes or frets about her (eventual) day of labour. Her excitement carries her to the office of her OB, or her Midwife, where they ask you a few questions. Pretty standard stuff, really. But then they get you to pee on a stick, and ask you one seemingly un-important question.
‘When was the date of your last menstrual period?’
I shit you not, that from this answer, with a few twirls of a generic EDD fancy spheric calendar, they set your baby’s expiration date/eviction notice. Just like that, set in stone.
‘Angela – your baby is due here on August 5th.’
Awesome! There’s a date. That’s when I’ll meet my baby! Cool. I’m blinded by excitement at this stage, oblivious to the impact my LMP has had.
Fast forward to my dating scan. I’m sitting in a room with the grumpiest ultrasound technician I’ve ever come across. I’m just so delighted that I get to see my baby’s face, and hear his little heart, that I pay no attention to his lack of professionalism or interpersonal skills. For all I care, he can take his negativity and put it where the sun don’t shine. What I don’t know, is that he is half heartedly “measuring” my baby in a hurry, distracted with thoughts of coffee and turmoiled relationships. What I don’t know, is that he is putting those seemingly reliable measurements into a computer, that will then be put up against the averages in size/weight/growth. From there, this machine and system (that is notoriously famous for it’s inaccuracy) will apparently confirm the exact age/sex of my baby.
It is here, unbeknownst to me, that I’ve been sucked into the madness that is the due date rodeo. From a couple questions about my age & weight & the date of my last menstrual period, and a trip to the pee-stick boutique – somehow, you led me to believe that you can predict, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when my baby will arrive. And that you know better than my body’s biological clock, and my baby’s biological clock.
Fast forward to 38 weeks. I’m being booked weekly visits, sometimes two per week. I ask about the excessive appointment dates in advance. Isn’t it a bit of over-kill? I’m repeatedly told that ‘this is what’s best for you and for baby’. I shrug. It’s my first baby, I don’t know. I mean, they know what they’re doing right? Plus, I’m just so excited to meet this baby, I’m just about ready to agree and nod nicely to everything. But then it starts. At every single appointment, induction is discussed.
EVERY single one. It then starts to feel like these appointments were created just to invite me in, to schedule in an induction. I feel uncomfortable. And then I feel worried. I am made to feel scared. From the information gathered at TWO appointments, my health care professionals have decided they KNOW that baby is due now. And that waiting beyond 40 weeks, puts my baby & I infinitely more at risk. I’m confused. I’m frustrated. Why is he trying to terrify me? Where has he got this information from? At this stage, I am trying so desperately to hold onto my mama instinct, and fight for my bodily autonomy. No. It doesn’t feel right. Sorry, thanks for the recommendation but I am waiting for labour to start spontaneously. It’s now his turn to be frustrated. He tells me, ‘ Well, you can’t be pregnant forever. And anyway, we get really busy at the hospital, so we need to book you in advance to be induced. It’s a matter of resource management. We can’t have everyone having their babies at the same time.’
What the f*ck?
I go home. Feeling defeated. And even feeling guilty. Yes, he was that good with the mama manipulation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s not a bad guy – but where on earth is he getting his information from? What evidence based research? What science? How can you tell me exactly when my baby is due to be born, if you don’t know my body, when it ovulates, what my menstrual cycle is, or isn’t; nor the exact moment I fell pregnant. How can you accurately assess risk, if you aren’t painting a picture with crystal clear information, that you’ve derived from women, on a case-by-case basis?
The stress of this ‘due date’ and taunt of induction was enough for a first time mama to go mad. I then came across the folly of Naegele’s Rule. The very study on which obstetric medicine & practice is based.
If you are expecting a baby, mama’s, PLEASE, be kind to yourself and read the article linked above. It is incredibly important for women to understand the flawed theory behind all EDD related hospital policy & care recommendation.
I am not a medical expert, nor an expert of women’s bodies or expert on birth. But I know logic – my heart flows with an instinctual understanding of pregnancy & birth. You due date is nothing but an educated guess. Yes, sometimes right. Sometimes so very not. It creates anxieties where there should be none. It creates disconnection between mother & her body, mother & her baby. It perpetuates the belief that a woman’s body is broken, and that we need it governed by a third party. That we need our births managed, micro-managed and then some.
Everyone is so eager to tell you the risks of going ‘over due’, but has anyone recently explained the risks of wrong dates, prematurity, underdeveloped brains & lungs, underweight, unable to regulate temperature, failed inductions, dysfunctional labours, unnecessary caesareans, breastfeeding issues, physical & emotional repercussion from forced labour?
Medicine is amazing. But you know what, by nature it is flawed. Sometimes, the people we trust fuck up. Not because they are terrible people. But often because they are stuck in a learning cycle that is stuck in it’s ways. EDD is a classic example of something that needs addressing desperately, by so many medical bodies. As a first time mom, I was naive. But now I know better, so I do better. I ask questions. I do my research. I listen to my body. And so should you.
All my love,
Melbourne Doula, Birth Photographer & Birth Business Coach
P.S Want to work with me? Head HERE for more info!