Are you questioning the need of a doula on your birth team? Today’s feature may convince you that they are worth their weight in gold! Victoria’s experience with Tennessee Family Doulas during her child’s birth showcases how Tanya and her team helped throughout the whole process, making for a successful arrival of Victoria’s baby girl Southerlyn. Keep reading to learn more about her experience and how Tennessee Family Doulas can help you!
Tell us all about your new baby!
Victoria: Southerlyn has been such an easy baby compared to her big brother. She was sleeping 4 hour stretches at night starting around 1 week. She latched right on to my breast immediately following birth and has been nursing so well since. Other than my oversupply and her struggling to drink the milk as fast as it comes out, our breastfeeding journey has been really wonderful so far. She had jaundice at birth and that was a little tricky navigating without a hospital stay. We were released from Baby+Co just 12 hours after she was born. They took her bilirubin levels when we left (they weren’t high enough to be super concerned) and sent them to our pediatrician, Dr. Hoey at TN Pediatrics in Murfreesboro. Dr. Hoey is amazing and got us in to see her the day after we got home. Levels rose, so we took a bili light home with us and used it for a couple days. Its about the size of an ipad mini and very hard – and we had to wrap it inside her swaddle with her all the time. It was annoying but it worked because bilirubin levels tapered down after the 2 days we used it. And she was the cutest little “glow worm”!
She is now 6 weeks old and starting to smile at us and making little noises. She loves watching her big brother (3.5 years old) run around and play – and doesn’t even mind how loud he can be. We joke and say she must have gotten used to that in the womb! She is a stage 5 clinger and has to be touching me at all times so we do lots of baby-wearing. And she doesn’t sleep for longer than about 45 minutes throughout the day. So it’s been hard to keep up with work and the house throughout the days. But I am thankful that she sleeps well at night – 11pm-3am and then again from 4am-7am – so I do get to rest at night!
How was your pregnancy?
Victoria: I was very sick throughout the first trimester. I did not get morning sickness hardly at all with my first pregnancy, so that was an unexpected surprise. I actually lost about 8lbs until week 15 because I was so sick. After that though, things got a lot better. I am very active and was able to keep up with my home workouts – which I think were a game changer when it came time to labor and deliver. I had built up my strength and endurance for the big day! I did develop vulvar varicosities (aka varicose veins in your lady parts) around 30 weeks. That was very very painful and itchy. It was like constant pressure and discomfort down there. The only way I got relief was by taking sitz baths. That was definitely the worst part of my pregnancy!
Tell us about her birth!
Victoria: At my 40-week appointment, we had an ultrasound done to check fetal movement because heart rate was a little high. Everything was fine, except that amniotic fluid was leaking. So we scheduled an induction (at Vanderbilt) for the following Thursday, at the 41-week mark. I was planning to deliver at Baby + Co, and was really hoping to avoid the hospital as much as we could, so I was a little disappointed in this news. I had a not-so-great experience attempting an unmedicated birth with my first in a hospital, and was just so excited to birth at Baby + Company. So… starting that day (Thursday), I started doing everything possible to naturally induce labor. Curb walking, squats, lunges, bouncing on the birth ball, eating pineapple, spicy food, red raspberry leaf tea… got out the breast pump, had sex… you name it, I tried it! I would get mild contractions for an hour or so, and then they would just die off. My mom was only in town another few days and would miss the birth if I had to be induced at 41 weeks. I was desperate to get things going. So after a ton of research, I decided to take castor oil. I started with a small dose around 10am on Sunday. Nothing happened. I took another small dose around 1pm. I had a few trips to the bathroom, but it really wasn’t that bad.
Then contractions started around 4pm. They weren’t regular, so I figured this wasn’t it and they were likely going to die down soon. I texted Tanya and gave her a heads up, but said it was likely another false alarm. Contractions continued…around 8pm they got pretty painful. My 3 year old was getting ready for bed and asked to take a bath in my bathtub that night. I obliged and decided to jump in with him. Figured it would help slow things down and ease the pain. I was totally convinced these were just stronger Braxton Hicks because of the castor oil. Definitely did not think I was in labor yet. I was only in the bath with him for about 25min when I had to get out to go to the bathroom. That’s when I noticed my mucus plug/bloody show had come out. I got so excited and was like “something is happening!!!” I texted Tanya and she suggested I give Baby + Co a call just in case – it was a Sunday evening, so they would need a heads up.
Then things REALLY picked up. I was having very painful contractions but they still weren’t regular. They were anywhere from 3 to 12 minutes apart. It was very confusing. My husband was putting my son to bed and my mom was helping me get through the contractions. I still wasn’t sure if this was the real deal and was afraid to call and bother anyone (doula, midwife, and photographer) if it wasn’t really happening. But my mom was getting concerned – and said I needed to call Tanya and just let her hear me through a contraction. So I did. And Tanya was like “yep you need to get going!” It was about 9:30 at this point. My mom went to get my husband, who had fallen asleep putting my son to bed. And of course my son woke up as we were trying to wake my husband up (insert eye rolling emoji)! My little guy freaked out and didn’t want us to leave. I was trying to calm him down in between contractions – which were now about 3-4min apart and VERY painful. We finally got in the car around 10:30.
We live in Murfreesboro so it was about a 30min drive to Baby+Co. Most. Painful. Car. Ride. Of. My. Life. I remember being so annoyed because the stereo wasn’t working for some reason. And I had made a labor playlist to help me cope – and then I couldn’t play it! My husband was so tired – I had to beg him to drive faster. We finally get to Baby+Co at 11pm. Parked the car… hubby went to ring the doorbell while I made it through another contraction. The pain was so intense I seriously didn’t know how I was going to be able to walk inside. Tanya met us there in the parking garage and we all went inside. They got me into the birth suite and the midwife asked to check my cervix. I told her we had to wait to get through the contraction… then she checked me and said I was 9 centimeters dilated!!! I was so shocked and so relieved all at once. I wanted to get in the tub because I was really hoping for a water birth. Got in the tub and it was not as relaxing as I had envisioned. I started to feel the urge to push – and tried, but didn’t have the best angle in there. So I got out. Tried sitting on the toilet, the birth stool, and bending over the peanut ball. I was completely exhausted and could barely hold myself up, so I laid down on the bed and try pushing that way. Finally… baby girl was born at 1:22am. Just a little over 2 hours since we arrived at the birth center. It happened so fast, but so slow at the same time because I spent so long pushing. I was just so happy to finally hold her in my arms. That moment is pure magic!
How have you been doing since she came into your life?
Victoria: Southerlyn was born on March 9th, so COVID-19 and the stay at home orders have completely changed any postpartum expectations I had. My mom was in town for the first week, and my husband was off work for a week, but she left and he had to go back to work the next day. My husband works 12 hours days, 7 days a week. So I’ve been at home by myself with both babies all day for the past 6 weeks. It’s been really really hard. My son misses school and has sooo much energy. It is completely exhausting. I am thankful I’m getting at least 4 hours of sleep at night because otherwise I would not be able to survive!! All that to say, I am dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. There is this stigma that needs to broken about maternal mental health problems, because they are so so common. Exercise has been my main way to cope. I have to get in a 30min home workout or an outdoor run/walk everyday, or I am just too down to be able to properly take care of my kids. I know that the current pandemic has a lot to do with the way I’m feeling. It’s just so much heavy weight all together. But I am hopeful that once businesses start re-opening and life goes back to a new normal”, I will feel a lot better. I’m trying to avoid starting an antidepressant, but will do that if I need to. And I’ll try not to beat myself up too much about it. Because the best moms are happy moms, right??
What was it like working with Tanya of Tennessee Family Doulas?
Victoria: It was really great working with Tanya. She was the first doula I interviewed and I was so at ease after meeting her that I didn’t feel the need to talk to anyone else. She has a very maternal sense about her and I just felt very comfortable around her. I also loved how she had another doula, Erin, present in all our communications. Erin was on standby in case Tanya was unavailable when I went into labor. Just having another person there for backup put my mind at ease!
Why was having a doula so important during birth and for aftercare?
Victoria: Having a doula was so important to me because I learned from my first birth that neither my husband nor my mother are the birth partner/coach that I need. My husband hates hospitals and anything medically related and he was just so tense. My mom is always so concerned when I’m in pain that she can’t think rationally. It was so so nice have Tanya as a neutral party, who coaches women through labor professionally, and is so confident throughout the process. It’s like someone from the NFL playing in a high school football game. Just a whole new level. I recommend all my friends have doulas now for their births, whether they have family in the area or not. It just made such a difference in my confidence going into (an unmedicated) birth because I knew I had her by my side.
What were some of the ways Tennessee Family Doulas helped you throughout the process?
Victoria: Tanya helped me in the weeks leading up to the big day when I had false alarms. She was always so encouraging and supportive, and never made me feel dumb for contacting her when it was just false labor. She was at the birth center before we were – I didn’t have to worry for a second that she wouldn’t make it on time – she was just there. She jumped into the chaos effortlessly and just started calming me down through contractions. She got me a wet washcloth when I was getting hot. She held my hair back. It was amazing how just her gentle touch made SUCH a difference in my ability to cope. I had actually never met the midwife who delivered my daughter, so it was also just so nice having a familiar face there to help me. I trusted her completely and knew everything should be okay because she was there. She stayed until Baby was born, and then for a little bit after. She came to my house a few days later to begin my placenta encapsulation – which I highly recommend! It was so nice to see her again and hear the birth story from her perspective, because there’s so many things that I didn’t realize had happened. She made herself at home, and even cleaned my kitchen before and after processing the placenta. I can’t thank her enough!
Would you recommend Tennessee Family Doulas to other expectant mothers?
Victoria: Yes – 1000 percent!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your session or your newborn?
Victoria: Our photographer, Abby Hirschmann (@abbymoonpiephoto) was AMAZING. She captured our maternity, birth, and fresh 48 photos (in our home). Like Tanya and Tennessee Family Doulas, she was also on-call, and received all the false alarm texts too! But she was so gracious – and jumped in her car as soon as she heard we were headed in to Baby+Co. She is also a mother and just brought such positive energy into the birth space. And the images she captured are just so raw. I still get emotional when I look at them. Thank you so much Abby! And if anyone is interested in connecting or following my postpartum journey, I’m on the gram! @victoriamccauley_
Victoria, we loved hearing your story and all about your experience with Tennessee Family Doulas. Thank you for sharing and congrats on your precious little one!