Austin Doula: The #1 Mistake Couples Make When Choosing A Doula

As an Austin doula, I get plenty of questions around my career choice.

How many births have you attended?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen at a birth in Austin?

What is the most important part of your job?” (keep reading to find out)

So you do mainly home births, right?” (wrong)

Plenty of these questions come from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. More often, a couple I am interviewing will curiously ask me about my experiences as a doula in Austin…and for good reason…

The initial interview process is not only a time for me to interview potential clients but for them to interview me as well.

This initial interview is an opportunity to get a feeling for one another, see if you connect well, and have aligned values. The biggest mistake I see mothers make is choosing a doula based on experience or credentials rather than the comfort they co-create with one another.

It’s important that the extra person supporting you during one of the most intimate and life-changing experiences in your life connects well with you and your partner.

In the rest of this piece I’ll explain some of the more important resources to consider before your baby arrives (hint: childbirth education, birth preferences, and nursing / breastfeeding courses anyone?)

What’s it Like Choosing an Austin Doula?


First, I will tell you that if you are expecting in Austin, you are in good company when it comes to doulas. Let’s just say, the Austin doula industry is booming and you have some pretty amazing doulas at your disposal...if I do say so myself.

I’ve had the opportunity to know and work alongside some of the most passionate, caring and powerful doulas in Austin. Some of my very best friends are doulas and I cannot speak highly enough about them.

That said, because you have so many options, it can be hard to choose which doula to work with.

It is rare that expecting mothers have a bad experience with a doula, but we want to have the best experience possible, right?

After reading this post (or watching the video I made below), you will feel clear on exactly what to look for in a doula and what mistakes to avoid when choosing from Austin’s amazing doulas.

How to Avoid Skipping the Most Important Part

So let’s start from the VERY beginning.

I assume it went a little differently for everyone, but I always imagine myself waking up feeling nauseous one morning, peeing on a stick and simultaneously losing my sh!t because

WE’RE PREGNANT!

After you get past the initial, surprise, delight and joy, the reality of bringing a little human into the world sets in and it’s time to get planning.

So you make an appointment with your OBGYN or text 5 of your best friends asking them to remind you what midwife or OBGYN they used.

or some of the amazing Austin home birth midwives.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless because again...we live in Austin and have access to some amazing health care providers when it comes to pregnancy.

So you pick your care provider and it’s time to get to planning.

Between picking out nursery furniture and secretly buying newborn clothes online, you’re probably day dreaming about your new little family member.

Who will he or she look like? Is it a boy or a girl? Will she have my nose? Blonde or brown hair? How much will he weigh? Oh wait, we’re getting side tracked here….

  • Doctor - check

  • Nursery - check

  • Baby showers - check

  • Swaddles - check

  • Baby clothes - check

  • Stroller - check

  • Bottles - check

  • Nursing chair - check

  • Pediatrician - check

Basically, what I’m getting at is you’ve got everything you need for AFTER the baby arrives, but let’s talk about…

Getting the baby here.

Before we go on, I want to touch on some extra important steps I recommend you take before your baby arrives. If you’re like most parent’s, you probably have the crib and stroller picked out and swaddles up to your eyeballs. These are all great tools you need for after baby arrives.

But what about your needs before baby arrives?

A Childbirth Education Class is Highly Recommended

As a doula, I highly recommend taking a childbirth education class.

The value that a childbirth education class brings to your birth experience is hard to calculate in dollars. Particularly if you or your partner have no idea what birth looks like. If you are a woman, you probably have some idea of what birth is like based on stories you have heard from your friends, sisters and mother. Despite numerous movies and TV depictions, men typically have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

If either one of those are the case, please...take a childbirth education class! (For the record: birth rarely looks like what you see on television.)

Your childbirth educator will educate you on what labor looks, feels and sounds like, what to expect, what your pain management options are, whether that be with epidurals, medication or more natural coping techniques (hint: doulas are really great at this), and much more. Most Austin doulas have attended their fair share of childbirth education classes and some even teach them themselves.

After leaving your childbirth educator class you can expect to feel well-informed, confident and prepared for the experience of childbirth. Although, I will also add that you never really know what you’re going to get when it comes to birth, which is another reason hiring an Austin doula (who has experience with all different kinds of births), is a smart choice.

As an Austin local, you have some amazing options when it comes to childbirth education classes. Your doctors office may provide one but personally I love the more focused and “themed” courses in town. Some classes that I love:

Personally, I require all of my clients to have taken a childbirth education class. This way our time together is not spent catching you up on the basics of birth and we can focus on learning pain management techniques, getting to know each other and getting your birth preferences on paper.

How (and Why) to Create a Birth Preferences List

Creating a birth preferences list is another crucial step I recommend my clients take before baby arrives.

Birth preferences are a list of how you would like your birth to go. This includes requests like:

  • Epidural or no epidural

  • Ability to walk around or be made to stay in bed

  • Using an Austin Doula

  • Partner always present

  • Delayed Cord Clamping

  • Circumcision or uncircumcision

  • Newborn Baths

  • Immediate skin-to-skin contact

  • Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pacifiers

  • Etc.

You see what I’m getting at. But honestly, that is just the short list.

Preparing for birth comes with lots of decisions and I love empowering my clients to make these decisions for themselves.

I prefer to send my clients their birth preferences list ahead of time, let them look over it and then when we meet for our first prenatal visit, discuss further and fill in anything they may have questions about.

Another great resource is the Mama Natural Birth Plan Template. I send this to clients ALL THE TIME. This one page visual make it a super fun and easy way to make your requests known to your care providers and they won’t be rolling their eyes at your 10 page list.

Here I am explaining the mama natural birth preferences list in Pease Park :)

Here I am explaining the mama natural birth preferences list in Pease Park :)

3 Simple Options to Learn Nursing and Breastfeeding

One other pre-baby step I’d like to touch on is the importance of a nursing or breastfeeding course. Now, I will also add that I FULLY support families who choose not to nurse their baby. #FEDISBEST However, if you do decide to feed your baby through nursing, I strongly suggest taking a nursing course in Austin.

I recently heard the analogy that breastfeeding is like learning to ride a bike. Sometimes you start with training wheels, and then you learn to ride without them, but not without some falls and scrapes and scratches first. It is very much a skill that must be learned.

Breastfeeding is not always a walk in the park. It is a new experience for both the parents and the new baby. It takes some practice and getting used too. However, with the right support from a lactation consultant and breastfeeding course, you will be off to the right start.

There are a few Austin doulas who teach these courses in our beautiful city and here are some I love and trust:

As an Austin doula, I have plenty of experience supporting families through breastfeeding. In fact, after my clients have delivered their little one, I usually stay with them until after the first latch is made.

Initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life is important and I always want to set my clients up for success.

One last thing, to make all of this easier and more digestible, I have created a foolproof 3-part guide to preparing for baby list! Grab yours by clicking here.

Now you’ve got your nursery setup, doctor chosen, pregnancy photos taken, stroller put together and you’ve taken your childbirth education class…

But don’t make the #1 mistake couples make when choosing a doula.

When you’re choosing a doula in Austin you’ve got a ton of great options. I would love to say, “you really cannot go wrong.”

But if I am being honest with you, that is not so true.

Choosing a doula is one of the most important steps in your pregnancy journey. Your doula will see you and your partner at your most vulnerable state. Naked. Throwing up. Tears in your eyes.

It’s not always pretty. But as a doula, I believe it is one of the most beautiful times for a birthing person and their partner. I see them dig deep and support each other fiercely. I get to see grown men cry, which let’s face it, doesn’t happen everyday.

The magic that happens in the birthing room is something that is very hard to describe and I am always honored to witness it and support families through this time.

Experience and credentials are great. What is even more important is choosing a doula that FEELS good to be with.

I have been around many less experienced Austin doulas who have served their clients powerfully just by showing up and being themselves authentically.

It is so very important to choose someone you feel 100% comfortable with. Someone who you can trust. Someone you know who will support whatever decision you make, not what they think is best. Someone who resonates with you in a much deeper place than your brain, but your heart.

I know that I am not the doula for everyone. I am the doula for a very select group of people with whom we both feel a special bond and trust.

So my biggest advice for expecting Austin couples?

Choose the Austin doula who FEELS right to you.

I hope you have finished this post feeling more confident in your pregnancy journey. (If you are still feeling a bit overwhelmed don’t forget my free check-list!) I know there are a lot of things to think about when preparing for baby. I hope you know choosing the doula that FEELS right for you and your family will make all the difference as they can support you through every single decision you have to make on your journey to birthing your baby.

Are you expecting and need a doula? I’d love to see if I can support you. Schedule a consultation here to see if we feel right together.

How Ayahuasca Led Me To Birthwork

I am often asked, “How did you get into that (being a doula)?”

Typically, this question is asked in social settings and I try my best to make it as short and sweet as possibly but the truth is, it’s not so short and sweet. My journey to the birth world began many years ago. Looking back, I know that it was all apart of the grander plan for my life. Just as a birthing person patiently waits 9 months and trusts that their body will birth their baby, I too patiently (and not so patiently) waited to be re-birthed and to find my true calling. Let's just say my gestation period was a bit longer than 9 months. I now see the unfolding of this work in my life even when I wasn’t conscious of the path that I was on.

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I remember the first time I heard about "natural" birth. In middle school my best friend, Brooke shared with me how her mother birthed her and her two sisters without medication. In fact, her two sisters were born at home. My mouth dropped open in shock. “Your mom did what!? How cool.” You see, my sisters and I were all born by cesarean. While I was only 14 or 15 at the time, the medical model of birth was all that I knew. Unmedicated birth was never an option until now. “I will do that”, I thought to myself. A candle was lit. My interest was piqued.

Fast forward to my early twenties, I was bored out of my mind in my then boyfriends apartment recovering from appendectomy surgery with nothing to do but watch netflix all day. I decided to watch The Business Of Being Born (produced by Ricki Lake). I could not take my eyes of the screen and immediately found myself daydreaming about my future unmedicated births. I watched every birth related documentary I could get my hands on that week. “Maybe one day, I’ll be a doula or midwife…”

After that week in bed, I went about my life in my twenties. Working, partying, and getting into trouble. Needless to say, having kids was the last thing on my mind. Finally, in 2013, after beginning a career with lululemon and being encouraged in personal growth and goal setting, I decided to take my 200 hour yoga teacher training. My steps towards personal growth and being the best version of myself began to grow larger. Of course, I took (take) a few steps back from time to time. My decision to work with lululemon and get my yoga teacher training were foundational in my journey to birth work as I came to know myself and my body more closely.

 It's 2014 and I find myself in Austin, Texas. Still working for lululemon and teaching yoga, I settled in quickly and couldn’t be happier with my decision to move to this beautiful city. Two years into my living in Austin, I met a boy. I’ll save the love story for another post, but our story was/is an important part of journey. This boy challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged. Together we explored love, light and lots of darkness. In this darkness, I started to question the things I was putting in my body. One substance in particular concerned me the most - birth control. I had been on the pill for many years and I started to get curious about how it was affecting my body, spirit and future ability to conceive.

It didn’t take long for me to ditch the pill and figure out other means of birth control. I decided to try out the Fertility Awareness Method, which is a method of tracking and charting your cycles to know when you are most fertile (and able to get pregnant) and when it is safe to have unprotected sex. Unfortunately, there was a huge learning curve for me. I was infuriated that I was not taught how my body works when receiving sex education (or abstinence education in my case). I’ll spare you the details - you can read more about my experience with Fertility Awareness Method here.

FAM put me on a fast track to forming an intimate my relationship with my cycle. My anger turned into passion and I knew I had to share this information with other women. I wanted to support women in reconnecting to their cycle and body. The question was now...how?

Along this journey my interest in birth never dissipated. I always told myself, “Maybe I will be a doula after I have kids of my own…” I continued my career with lululemon but the itch to start my own business and have freedom to travel and be my own boss was strong. In February of 2017, I took the leap and quit my full time job at lululemon to pursue a life of freedom and travel. For the next year, I traveled the world with my partner all while trying out location independent jobs like social media management and selling clothes online. I had a blast on my travels and learned so much, but I wasn’t doing fulfilling work, only putting food on the table and paying my bills.

My journey to reconnecting to my own body, womb and cycle led me back to my interest in birth and women’s work. After months of just getting by and not enjoying the work I was doing, I decided it was time to make a change, make an investment in training and let go of the belief that I needed to have children of my own to be a powerful birth worker. My mind was set and I was ready to take larger steps towards my dream of being a doula, but I had some more work to do before I took the leap…

Encouraged by close friends, a few months prior to “really” deciding to become a doula, I signed up for a plant medicine retreat. I had no idea what to expect but after hearing about my friends experiences, I knew that this retreat would be life changing. I decided to attend this retreat before I put my doula training deposit down, hoping that my work with plant medicine would solidify my decision to become a doula. Well, my friends, it did just that and more. Watch the video below to hear about my experience working with this powerful plant medicine from South America.

Staying In Flow During PMS

PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome

The dreaded few days before menstruation.

Photo Credit:  Unsplash/Averie Woodward    

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Averie Woodward

 

Sneaky little b@st&*d. As I mentioned in a previous post, I use the Fertility Awareness Method for birth control. In addition to being a birth control option, FAM also allows me to know my body in a deeper way. This includes knowing almost exactly when I ovulate and when I am going to start my period. It makes sense that since I know when I am going to start my period, I should know when PMS symptoms might kick in, right? WRONG. Without fail, every month my symptoms sneak up on me like a lioness stalking its prey. It's not until I am deep into my emotional spiral that I look at my chart and think "Ohhhh! So that explains that…"

Every woman's PMS symptoms are different. Some of us experience more physical symptoms like a headache, upset stomach, backache, and acne. While others experience more mental symptoms like mood swings, trouble with concentration and memory, anxiety, and depression. My symptoms all seem to fall into the later category.

In my experience, this time of my the month is LITERALLY THE WORST. I feel and act totally out of control of my own emotions. It's like some needy 3-year-old posts up in my soul and decides to run the show for a couple of days. This is usually accompanied by feelings of "the world caving in around me", anxiety over nothing, temper tantrums, tears and occasional flying objects. God bless, Mansal's soul.

As far as I know, PMS has been rearing its ugly head since the beginning of time (or so I thought). And unfortunately, women have been using it as an excuse to act out for just as long. It wasn't until I decided to see a naturopathic doctor, that I learned most symptoms of PMS are NOT actually things that we "just have to deal with" every month, but actually symptoms of hormonal imbalance. MIND BLOWN. My doctor completely destroyed my cultural belief that "this just the way women are and we just have to deal with it."

So you're saying we no longer get to use the excuse that we're just PMS'ing? That's right, ladies. (Sorry not sorry) What this also means is that there is a cure! Treatment of PMS is more than just popping a Midol to mask the symptoms. There are actual holistic options to balancing hormones. This can be done in a number of ways, but a more holistic approach includes diet changes and occasional supplementation. My personal experience includes seed cycling to balance out estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that balance our cycle) after coming off the hormonal birth control pill.  I am still struggling to balance out those nasty anxiety symptoms.

Now that we know PMS can be treated and "cured", I'd love to share with you a few ways that I stay in flow, get shit done and manage my current PMS struggles. Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional or naturopathic doctor. I highly recommend consulting a doctor should you decide to tackle PMS. Check out Dr.Merritt or my friend, Dr.Lauryn Lax.

Oh, and before I forget, we should probably address flow.

The "normal" definition, pulled from Wikipedia:

 "In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity"

My definition for the purpose of this blog post:

"Being and staying in flow during PMS is more than just managing or just getting by. I am talking about flourishing during the week prior to your period. Not losing your shit. Maintaining your normal day to day and slaying the game with little to no interruption by your hormones."

Meditation and Journaling

I maintain a pretty consistent early morning meditation and journaling practice. This includes 20 minutes of meditation paired with 5-10 minutes of train of thought journaling, a 3 point gratitude practice, and a note from my inner mentor (an idea I pulled from Tara Mohr’s book “Playing Big”). I like to use the time during my luteal phase (the time after ovulation and before menstruation), to get introspective. I often take more time to myself to just do girly things and even have a good cry if I feel the need too. If you don't have a regular journaling or meditation practice, the week before your period is a good time to step up your game. Try 5-10 minutes of meditation to start and remember there are no rules when it comes to journaling, simply use the paper as an outlet to get those emotions out of your gut and into the world.  

Diet and Supplements

Again, remember I am not a doctor, but I do fully believe in personalized health care and taking your health into your own hands (with the guidance of trained professionals). Aside from seed cycling, I have added a few supplements to my diet to treat and balance my hormones.

Maca

Ah, this Peruvian supplement sent from the gods. Maca is said to balance hormones naturally without mimicking estrogen, increase stamina and increase libido in men and women! While I've never experienced them myself, I've had friends experience various side effects from taking maca, so pay attention and listen to your body. I use Wild Foods maca powder and Natural Life Labs capsule maca, depending on how lazy I am feeling that day.

Magnesium

Since I began the fertility awareness method, my online support group has ranted, raved and praised the almighty magnesium. Whether you're dealing with cramps, sleeplessness, headaches, mood swings, anxiety or upset stomach - magnesium pretty much covers it all. Do your research, not all magnesium is created equally. Most pill forms do not contain high enough dosages to get the most out of magnesium. Because it is so hard to find magnesium with high enough dosages, I take it in a powder form. You can use a capsule machine to make your own, but again I am lazy and throw back the powder with water before bed every night. Check out this article for a little more detail.

Non-Dairy Diet

Aside from the fact that I am lactose intolerant and my gut simply does not like dairy (oh, but how my mouth loves ice cream…), excusing dairy from my diet has helped tremendously in clearing up my pre-menstrual breakouts and upset stomach. Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code, and hormone balance extraordinaire shares her take on a dairy free diet here.

Caffeine Break

During my luteal phase, or at least the week before my period, I tend to back off on the caffeine and stimulants. I am not a huge coffee drinker, however, I do take caffeine and other stimulants in pill and powder form as a part of my daily nootropics stack. Because stimulants tend to cause increased heart rate and various other symptoms of anxiety, I choose to not use them during the week leading up to my period. The first couple of days are rough, but by the end, my body is thanking me. It's an added bonus that by the time I start using stimulants again, my tolerance has gone down and their effects are greater.

Loving Kindness

On top of mindfulness and diet changes, I think one of the most effective and supportive things you can do for yourself during PMS is to just be kind. Personally, when I am in a spiral of emotions it is hard to dig myself out. (Props to my partner for always being there to hug and talk me off the cliff.) I have found that the best thing I can do is to be patient and kind. Beating yourself up over a reaction or outburst of emotion is simply feeding the flame and continuing the cycle. When you find yourself in a fit of rage or emotion, try (and I mean try, because I know it's hard AF) to take a step back and ask yourself what you need in that moment. Try treating yourself as you would treat your best friend after a hard breakup. "Charity starts at home", right? Listen to what your body and soul need so that you can show up for yourself, slay the day and be the boss babe that you are.

Peace, love & coconut oil

Mallory