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When Do I Leave For The Hospital?

As a birth doula, I work with many moms and birth partners to get ready for that Big Day- the day baby arrives! One of the questions I'm asked most often is, "When do I leave for the hospital?"  I'd like to frame my answer around the caveat of addressing low-risk pregnant moms. In other words, the following does not take into account moms with outstanding medical conditions present before/outside of pregnancy.

What is your body doing? If you are just starting to feel contractions, that can be very exciting! However, if they are short and sporadic, chances are it isn't active labor.  If you show up at your birthing location with contractions 8-10 minutes apart, most likely you will be sent home.  This can be disheartening for mom and actually cause anxiety that is counter-productive to the labor process.

If your contractions are long, strong, and close together (4-5 minutes apart), then we can ask a few more questions:
  • Do you intend to have an unmedicated labor and birth? If yes, then you should stay home for as long as possible.  And that will look different for each woman.  I know this: mom's instincts are golden!  If a laboring mom tells me, "Something's different.  We need to GO!" then that's what we do.
  • Did you test positive for Group B Strep? If yes, then we need to allow for time at the birth location for a round of IV antibiotics.  That means that if mom is having 3-4 minute contractions lasting longer than 1.5 minutes, we might want to think about heading out.
  • Is there bloody show?I'm not talking about the light pink/red tinged mucous present at the beginning of labor, but specifically the bloody, thick mucous that accompanies transitional labor.
  • Does mom feel pressure with contractions? Even first time moms can tell a big difference in contractions when baby starts descending further into the pelvis.  The feeling of pressure combined with intense contractions that are close together should not be ignored.
The answers to these questions will help mom and dad/partner make a confident decision regarding when to leave for the hospital/birth location.

I realize there is much "Hollywoodization" surrounding birth in movies and television. The truth is, responsible doulas and childbirth educators really DON'T want to catch your baby en route to the hospital! What makes for great drama on the big screen doesn't translate into reality all that often. 

Finally, birth is intuitive to mothers.  No lie.  And most of the time birth is normal, safe, and healthy. Educate yourself, listen to your body, follow your gut, and leave for the hospital when you feel it's right!

Sherri Wilkerson CD(DONA), LCCE

*Sherri is a certified birth doula with DONA International, as well as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator* 


The Birth of Motherhood

The period is missed, the test taken, and it all begins. Our body is not our own anymore but entirely focused on hosting this mysterious yet completely connected little creature. While our bodies become bone tired in an otherworldly way the buzz of worry begins in our heads. Over and over-analyzing. Complicated networks being formed. The mommy brain warming up.

After we share the news with family and friends, there are baby showers maybe even gender reveals. The baby industry and the consumer environment around us can be completely overwhelming. Extensive claims whipping up anxiety to a fever pitch. Car seats and strollers becoming every possible thing except maybe bulletproof.  We buy and receive so much STUFF. We gush over the tiny little things and "does it all" equipment because if we get just the right things that do exactly what we need them to do this parenting thing will be easy and not rock the boat of life as we know it. Maybe, just maybe we can buy a little peace of mind.  Fingers crossed!

We don't parent in groups or live together in extended families anymore. Many first time parents haven't seen birth, mothers breast-feeding, or infants being cared for in any day-to-day way. In our hearts, we want at least a year to settle in with our child but in reality we get 2 to 12 weeks. The clock is ticking. We are simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the thought of this incredible event. (The life changing force of which we can’t even fathom.) The baby stuff is a modern means of feeling "ready" for this. The stuff, in part, is comfort in the absence of mentorship. Filling a void of tradition and of wisdom passed down.

So, we wait. Our bodies expanding while our minds play games and shuffle the mounds of stuff around. We await the arrival of the star of the show. Most of us have a birth plan and emotionally invest in a certain kind of welcome for the big day. But after the enormous build up to the cataclysmic moment itself and all subsequent excitement subsides, after loved ones have been met and toes counted, after Facebook posts have garnered hundreds of likes, after all of that, now what?

Who welcomes us? The hormonally ravaged?

The women who have become mothers in 9 months, in 1 or 36 hours of labor, in the operating room, in the blink of an eye? In a culture that hasn't handed us all that much? Who tells us we are perfectly made and meant to be exactly as we are? Who tells us it is ok to be mad, sad, euphoric, disappointed, angry, heartbroken, renewed, reborn, connected, disconnected, helplessly in love, confused, so very tired, unorganized, over or underwhelmed, completely blindsided, or maybe just numb?  Who tells us that we can’t do it all and definitely not now. That we deserve some (and by some I mean A LOT) of time, to heal and process what we have experienced on all levels?

In quiet ways we might get the spirit of the message. In knowing looks, in moments of husband saintliness, in the angelic manner of a nurse or friend and if you are very lucky -  a mother.

I wonder what would happen though if the messages of support and acceptance into our new reality were louder. Not whispers but shouts. What if we had more joy in celebrating the birth of Motherhood? If our culture recognized that the sacred event doesn't end with baby's first cry but extends into the complicated and progressive emergence of the Mother? How would things change if we understood collectively that what all Moms need in these precious and fleeting moments of transformation is validation and very simply, practical help? That mothering the Mother is a way of acknowledging and celebrating her very birth.

What if we focused less on the "stuff" Moms needed and more on the help they can’t even begin to articulate, let alone ask for? Could we alleviate a little suffering and allow women and their families to enjoy this tumultuous and profound time a little more? Absolutely.

Let's start celebrating!  And, to begin the celebration, I have created a service that will transform the journey into motherhood.  Click this link to learn about how Happy Mama is ready to support you.  After all, shouldn’t we be supporting each other?


Why Babies Like White Noise

Newborn sleep is arguably one of the most perplexing issues for new parents. Some newborns sleep for hours and need to be awakened to eat; some sleep erratically, waking every hour and demanding to be fed/rocked/swung until they nod off once again. And just when you start to detect a pattern of sleep, your baby has the audacity to change it all up. It may seem like a diabolical plan to drive new parents mad, but it’s simply part of baby’s efforts to adjust to the real world after a very Zen-like existence inside the womb. One thing is certain, though—babies don’t need peace and quiet to sleep. Which isn’t surprising, considering that the environment they came from is noisy to begin with. For nine months, baby was surrounded by the sounds of mother’s bodily functions in the womb: the thumping of her heart, the rhythm of her breathing, and the shushing sound of her blood flow—which in utero is actually louder than a vacuum cleaner. This cacophony is all that newborns know—and they find it comfortingly familiar after birth, as well.

White noise—scientifically known as a combination of all frequencies of sound together—is one of the most effective ways to recreate the sounds your baby heard in the womb. It reduces baby’s stress, creating a safe space for her by blocking out overstimulation. It helps baby block out the noises of life that can interfere with sleep, allowing him to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. And it enables baby to gently navigate her frequent sleep arousals for longer, more restorative naps. White noise has even been found to reduce the risk of SIDS because it reduces active sleep, which is the sleep state in which SIDS is most likely to occur*.

Harvey Karp, M.D., pediatrician and author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” says white noise helps baby calm down and sleep better. His “Five S’s” to soothe a crying baby include “shushing,” which is white noise made by your own mouth. He recommends saying “Shhh” loudly and directly into your crying baby’s ear, as loudly as he is crying. Karp also suggests playing a recording of white noise while baby sleeps, with the volume as loud as a shower.

White noise can help PARENTS sleep better, too. If you wake up whenever your sleeping baby utters a sound (and most babies are noisy), white noise can mask those little sounds. Well-rested families are happier families!

By Colleen Goidel, CD(DONA), labor and postpartum doula, Birthing From Within mentor

*according to a 1973 study by the Society for Research in Child Development (


Doula Highlight

We love our birth and postpartum doulas and appreciate the passion, unprecedented experience and knowledge they bring to every family they work with.  As a way to put them on a pedestal for a bit, we have decided to highlight, by Q & A, our doulas periodically.  This quarter we are honoring, Rachael Cail, CD because she was on the "Natural Birth Talk" panel with several administrators, nurses, a midwife and doctors at DeKalb Medical Center.  Way to go, Rachael!  You did an awesome job up there!

What are your favorite things to include in your bag of tricks when going to serve a laboring mom?

Essential oils, hot pack, rebozo and lots of snacks.

How long have your been a doula?

I did my training in 2006, the same year my son was born.

What do you enjoy most about being a doula?

Bearing witness to the incredible strength of women and their partners and the absolute joy of welcoming new life to our world!

What was your reason for becoming a doula?

I felt called to help women and families during one of the most transformative times we experience in life.

When (if at all) will you begin teaching?

I'm not sure.  My focus right now is finishing my last prerequisite class in the fall so I can apply to nursing school!

What doula certifying agency did you study under?

DONA, which stands for Doulas of North America

How much are you charging these days?

I charge $700, but am willing to work out alternate arrangements if a true need is evident and I'm able that given month to offer a reduced rate.  Also, repeat clients always get a discount!

What services does that include?

One or two prenatal visits, availability via phone and email leading up to the due date, continuous labor support, pictures of the birth, access to my lending library, and a postpartum visit.

What is one unique fact about you?

I used to train horses for endurance racing.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I absolutely love being a doula!  So many new babies, families, and birth adventures have become a part of my heart over the years.  And I thank all the families I have worked with for sharing that very special part of their lives with me!

To read about Rachael Cail or to hire her as your birth doula, click here


Baby Basics

Did you know that crying is often the last thing a baby will do to show she is upset? That’s right, it is a last-ditch effort to get your attention. Babies will attempt to communicate their stress through many subtle ways before they resort to the dreaded “wa wa’s.” These cues are easily missed and often misunderstood. To keep it simple, just think of your baby’s cues like a traffic light. 

 1.  Green Light Signs mean “I’m ready!”. This is where we want your baby to be because she is resting and growing.  One example of a green light sign is when your baby has bright eyes and is looking directly at you.                   

2.  Yellow Light Signs are warning signs that mean “Slow down, I’m starting to get upset!”.  Yellow light signs are those very important, in-between signs that let us know when a baby is becoming stressed. Now, if you were driving down a street and the traffic light turned yellow (…and you were following the law) would you speed up or slow down? Well the correct answer is to s-l-o-w down of course! Same goes for baby law.  When your baby grimaces or makes "stop" signs with her hands, she is sending you a clear warning!

3. Red Light Signs mean “Stop! I am really upset and need your help to calm!”.  These signs are more easy to identify (and hear) than the yellow "warning" signs.  If your baby is crying, she is already in the red light zone.

By learning what your baby's signs are and what they mean, you are teaching your baby to trust you. You are showing her that her voice is heard and that you respect her feelings. You are teaching your baby the very beginnings of communication and helping her to better adjust to life outside the womb. How neat is that?

To learn what all of your baby's cues are, what they mean, and how to calm your baby BEFORE the tears, please click on Baby Basics Class for class details and registration information!

by Brittany Jennings, PT, DPT (Baby Basics Instructor)