Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Ready

Thank you all so much for the amazing reassurances you offered since I wrote about Monday’s ultrasound. I can’t tell you how much it has helped me to read story after story of folks who had the echogenic focus or gestational diabetes or just a big baby where all turned out just fine. I had no plans for this blog when I began it, but I could not have anticipated that it could be as powerful tool as it has been on so many of the darkest days of this journey. Monday was certainly not among those, but the wisdom of the collective mind (or whatever you call it) was nonetheless greatly appreciated. On the most practical of levels, two friends suggested that I purchase my own glucose monitoring kit, which I picked up at CVS last night for $9.99. My fasting blood sugar this morning was only 74, which is very well within the normal range. So if this baby is big, it’s not due to GD. A simple solution that brought me a lot of peace of mind.

That worked so well that I want to pick your collective brains again. It’s time, whether I am ready or not (and I’m not, really), to start thinking about preparing to deliver this baby. I know, I know. Some of you are thinking that I’m nuts—it’s still 20 weeks away, right? But I know from my experience delivering Hudson that preparation means everything if I want to do this without drugs. And I definitely want to do it without drugs again. I’m obviously starting from a good place this time, since I at least know that I CAN do it. But I still need to prepare.

I’ve been chewing on this and chewing on this for so long now that it’s really to the point that I just need to figure out what I want to do and start making plans. Childbirth classes of all kinds start to fill up at this point (yes, even this far out) and doulas get booked. But I just don’t know what I should do.

With Hudson, we took a Lamaze class about three months before the due date (which was pretty early, but the later classes would have barely finished in time) and ended up using our instructor as our doula. This go round, I’m struggling with a few things. First, I just don’t think that I can sit through an entire multi-week childbirth class (Lamaze or Bradley or otherwise) with mostly first-time parents who have never been through labor before, let alone raising and then losing a child. I’m also not sure that I really NEED a full childbirth class—there are a lot of things I don’t need to cover again (once you’ve been through it once, there are certain things that you never forget).

And finally, as much as I liked our doula (and I really did like her and there’s no way I would have made it through a drug-free delivery without her), the idea of using her again to have a second baby in the same hospital where we had Hudson, but where Hudson will never come to visit and take the obligatory family pictures, is just too much. As if we’d just hit fast-forward and started all over again the exact same way but with a different baby. I just can’t imagine it. Ever since the first moment that we knew Hudson was not going to survive, whenever I imagined delivering another baby, all I could see was crying, crying, crying, the whole way through. And that very well may happen, which will be OK. But I need a doula who can help me through what I know is going to be a gut-wrenching experience but who is not herself (through no fault of her own) a source of painful (albeit beautiful and treasured) memories.

So what do you think? Try to pursue a birthing class? Do something else? And DC-area folks, do you have suggestions for a doula that might be just right for this situation (although I realize most doulas would be up to this job)?

I am, as ever, grateful for everyone who reads here, and for all the love and support you’ve continued to offer for so many months now. Thank you.


  1. You will probably get a zillion responses, but if not I am happy to reach out to my friend who owns a yoga studio in the Palisades that caters to families ( She often has people come in to run childbirth workshops, and she might have some recommendations (for a class, a doula, etc.). Let me know if you'd like me to pursue this.

    Also, I recall that Sibley offered a "refresher" labor and delivery course for second-time parents. Something like that might be a good way to go?

  2. Mandy, in Charlotte there are childbirth refresher classes, designed for women who had already given birth. Maybe something similar exists in DC. Also, have you called the doula you used with Hudson to ask for suggestions? I'm sure she would understand why you can't use her, and I bet she knows lots of other doulas and she may even know of a refresher-type class that would be perfect for you. I hope Jackson has been making his presence known often!


  3. Mandy, this is my first time posting here, but I've been reading along after seeing your story on an internet community. You and Hudson are often on my mind.

    I had a successful VBAC in Maryland recently and highly recommend my doula, who did an excellent job of helping me realize that this birth and this baby had their own story, different from my first birth and baby. She may be worth contacting about your situation; her website is

    And, for what it's worth, I did Lamaze before my first birth and no real preparation before my second. I don't think I missed anything by not repeating a birth class; with a good doula to remind and guide us, we did pretty well.

  4. I imagine any kind of childbirth education class, even a refresher, would be very painful for you. Many doulas can provide a private, mini childbirth education session on the topics you feel you need to revisit. That might be a good option for you and Ed. Also, many doulas have experience and/or training with supporting grieving parents. You should be able to find someone who can provide the support you need. Please please please do get a doula, though. You'll need someone there to provide extra-special emotional support.

    I hope your birth experience is joyous and peaceful and cleansing, even if you do cry and cry and cry though it. That's okay.

  5. Mandy, we've never met. I'm a friend of Paul and Emily. I'm currently training to be a doula, and I have had two natural childbirths after a stillbirth. While that's not quite the same as your experience with Hudson, the fear and sorrow that you may feel during labor will be similar, I think. I'd be pleased if you would like to meet me and consider hiring me as your doula.

    As for childbirth prep, if you've already done one class, I think you could get away with a good doula and studying The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. If you really want a class, HypnoBabies offers self-study materials which might be of interest.

  6. Mandy, I really did love our Hypnobabies class-- the hypnosis is a tool I still use, almost daily. It might be emotionally just too overwhelming, though, to try to get through it with so much sadness in your heart-- I just don't know. We took a class, but, truthfully I think you could get the copies of the CD's and materials and do it at home, since so much of it is at-home work with your partner. No ideas on a good doula, but I understand the need for a fresh start. I hope that during your labor all there is room for in your heart and mind is the work of bringing the little Penguin out, though, and you can feel just the joy of holding your baby for the first time.

  7. Mandy,
    You can get a list of birth care vetted doulas from them. There's also a doula in brookland (Heidi Bachman?) who's on the bookland kids list serve and might know people (or be good herself). A one day refresher and some practice at home with you and Ed would be good. I just reread my Bradley book and did some of the exercises with Jake before Ben's birth (which was so much easier and different.) Veronica is a Bradley teacher, so she can give you the book or hook you up with someone for a refresher course (she just had her 2nd baby today so she'll be busy for a few months!)
    I know you'll do great and you have lots of time to find the right refresher class and people to be with you for the birth!

  8. I have no advice, having never a)given birth or b)lived anywhere near DC.
    All I have is hugs and best wishes.

  9. Stick with the yoga and forget the CB classes. I can STILL remember all my Bradley principles and I only took it the once... I am not familiar with the special qualifications of a doula so my thoughts on that are kinda simple: pick a friend or two who have had positive birth experiences, who you trust to be there to advocate for your birth plan, while you are in an altered state and your husband tends to you.

    PS. I am saving up my absences at school just in case your little feller pops out before school ends. I am no doula, but I have been a support person at many drug free births, so if I can make it in time, I will cheer you on.

    Second babies are usually faster than the first, so it may be a moot point no matter what you decide- My friend Ann had her second baby in the car, in the birth center parking lot, while her husband ran in to get the midwife:)- she had the third, fourth, and fifth at home....All of them beautiful and healthy, and that second one: 9lbs 4oz.

    I have perfect faith that you will be great.

    I love you guys!

  10. Living at the distance that I do I'm afraid I have no recommendations but I'm struggling with a few similar issues. I have looked into birthing classes in my area which seem to come in two kinds, first time parents and those for second time round or more parents (including a lovely session to talk about our previous birth experiences which I am obviously not keen to do). To be honest, I feel like neither.

  11. You have so many great thoughts on here! First, if you haven't read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, go get it and read it. The wonderful birth stories in there were things I thought about over and over again as I prepared for labor. I have heard anecdotally from other friends that a Hypnobirthing class the second time around was helpful. It's nowhere near as comprehensive as a Bradley class, and really focuses on the relaxation. You could also contact a Hypnobirthing or Bradley instructor and see if they would do some private sessions with you. For doulas, a great resource is, which lists all DONA certified doulas, including many in DC. I can highly recommend our doula, Suzanne McGowan (who's listed on the DONA site). She was actually the backup for our intended doula, and we had never met Suzanne until I was in the throes of labor. We just had to trust her, and she was AWESOME. (I can give you the long version of why/how she was awesome via some other medium.) Suzanne has also taught some Bradley classes in the past, and might be willing to do something with just you & Ed, or she may have some other suggestions. I'd be happy to tell you more - e-mail or Facebook me!

  12. I had a doula and took a couple of childbirth classes (one with the birthing center/hospital to get a sense of their approach and one with a midwife mostly for homebirthers) with my first.

    I had a midwife with my second (a pretty complicated pregnancy with several threats of hospitalizations and lots of extra ultrasounds). I found that I really appreciated having a midwife (she was part of a 'regular' OB/GYN office) for my second pregnancy. She said that the biggest difference is that during the process I would speak with her on the phone when I called, etc. rather than a nurse. And, that she was available to give reassurance differently throughout the process. And, I found that to be true. Also, she said that she would be with me throughout the birth (once I arrived at the birthing center) rather than just at the end (when a 'regular' OB would arrive). And, that was wonderful too. I did not feel the need for another childbirth class, just talked things through with her at different moments throughout the pregnancy.

    One thing I really liked about the midwife birthing class I took with my first pregnancy is that she focused on leading us through different visualizations to help us focus individually and as a couple on things that we thought might inhibit us in the birth. So, when I reflected on your post, I thought it might be nice to see if there was someone who could help guide you all through some activities like that (though you seem amazingly self-reflective and self-aware... so you are probably already beginning to do some of that work)... You might feel safer doing it one-on-one rather than a class setting... more able to just be where you are rather than feeling as though you needed to be aware of others (or being influenced by them)...

    I have total faith that you will find the right process to 'get ready'... you are already doing it, whether you see it or not!

    Sending love.

  13. I want to second the Ina May Gaskin suggestion. It is pretty hippytastic, but I love it anyway.

    You will do great! You will do wonderfully without or without classes. I never prepared at all for #2 and #3 baby and it was not a problem, even with a 10-year break between #2 and #3. So long as the first birth was a good experience, I think it is like riding a bike. You know you can do it, and your body knows what it is doing, so the second time around should be smooth sailing. (Because childbirth is so very much like sailing-hah!)

    That being said, if you'd feel more comfortable or reassured taking some sort of classes or even just yoga, I see no harm.


  14. Hey Mandy, congrats on having a boy! I know his gender is bittersweet {that probably makes no sense...but I get that the whole thing brings up mixed emotions).

    Anywho...I'd avoid the childbirth class. You know what you're doing, so don't see a need for you to take a class with a bunch of novices (I actually found it difficult to be around pregnant women this last time...I envied their innocence and assumption that everything would be fine).

    Sorry I don't have any recs for a specific doula, but agree it's a great idea.
    When I delivered Ryan, my first L and D nurse was such a moron -- she kept referring to Ryan as my third child, despite me having just told her about Veronica and correcting her that he was in fact my fourth. It was infuriating and had me in tears. I think it would have been wonderful to have a doula to advocate for me and make it clear to the staff that this was a very difficult birth from an emotional standpoint (something neither me nor my husband could effectively do).

    Good luck with everything. I"m so excited for you.
    xo, Olivia

    ps my second daughter was 9 lbs 9 oz and I did not have gestational diabetes nor am I particularly large. I think you've just got a strapping baby boy :)

  15. Hi Mandy,

    I'm a local/Brookland doula and Lamaze teacher. I'd be happy to do a personal class for you if you'd like. I also would recommend a birthing from within class. There are some great instructors around who would be happy to do individual couple classes. Let me know if you want these resources. My email is:

    I also think your doula will totally understand your feelings. Perhaps she can recommend someone to work with since she knows you, she may know others who are a good fit for you. If you need other referalls for doulas let me know.

  16. I have no advice, as I do not live in DC and am definitely a childbirth with drugs kind of girl. are the strongest person I know and I know that you are going to be great during Penguin's delivery. xoxoxo

  17. Hi Mandy,

    An EIF was detected with my first pregnancy. I remember that day when the ultrasound tech. kept going back to the same spot on the was incredibly nervewracking and I worried for quite some time but it disappeared by the third trimester and Austin was born a healthy baby boy at 8.1.

    I also used a mid-wife for my second delivery and really enjoyed the entire experience. She was with me from the very beginning to the day we welcomed Ashlyn into the world at 8.7.

    Both of my babies were pretty big... No GD and normal weight gain. I did gain quite a bit more with my second but within normal limts. We later found out that it was because I had a forebag of water with quite a bit of additional fluid. I am tall, like you, at 5'9" and just grew good-sized babies! Both were healthy babies, albeit with a few extra rolls to love.

    My sister-in-law used a mid-wife for her second pregnancy and had a water-birth at a birthing center. Perhaps warm waters bringing a new life into the world could soften the tears of sorrow that will be shed.

    Wishing you much peace as you determine the best way to welcome your little penguin into the world!

  18. I haven't read the responses, but I do think you can skip the childbirth classes. You are of very strong mind, Mandy, and can do preparation for a drug-free childbirth on your own and with the help of a doula. (And if you want some encouragement, watch "The Business of Being Born." It is usually available for instant streaming with Netflix if you have that.) FWIW, I had a drug-free birth with Isabel after getting an epidural with Henry while I was in transition (I know this because he was born so soon after I got the epidural). Honestly, *knowing* I could do it (even though I hadn't *quite* done it) was the best motivation.

    That, and an amazing doula. It hope your local (DC) friends can recommend a good one for you. I totally understand not wanting to use the same one who was there for Hudson's birth, though.

  19. What about one private class, a refresher of sorts? And if you like the teacher you could use her as your doula. I imagine it is not cheap, but it may reassure you that you are ready without having to be in the class situation that you describe.

  20. I didn't take a childbirth class the second time around. I used a doula (the same both times) and was able to do a natural childbirth. Like you, the second time I knew I could do it and that was a huge hurdle already overcome. I was also a little more willing to try different things (getting in the shower to help the pain, delivering in a squatting position rather than on my back - both of which helped tremendously).

    I hope you find a wonderful doula who can assist you through your second birth. I hope for peace for you and of course health for you and the baby.

  21. Mandy,
    I echo what Diane and others have said - stick with yoga and forget the childbirth classes. As you know, little Clara came 10 weeks early. I hadn't taken one childbirth class despite having signed up for two. I was given a workbook from one of the classes and read through it the night before Clara was born, of all days. I was completely unprepared, as was BJ, but I managed to birth our little one, drug-free as I had hoped, just fine.

    What I think helped me out immensely was having taken yoga weekly starting around week 10-12 until four days before my water broke. I had practiced yoga before, but it had been a long time once I started again after getting pregnant. The weekly yoga practice helped me with the breathing, but I think more importantly helped me to be in tune with my body during the entire process. If I hadn't taken those classes, I'm not sure the labor and delivery process would have gone as well. I'm thinking I would have struggled more with the delivery.

    Much love,
    Lisa S.

  22. I can't contribute to the doula conversation, other than to tell you that I'm amazed at anybody who can do natural childbirth. Good for you!

    Just wanted to say that I'm so happy that you don't appear to have GD. Whenever my baby hadn't moved in a while and I was getting nervous, I drank a coke and the sugar and caffeine got him flipping and kicking. I'm glad you will be able to do the same :-)

  23. Although the hypnobirthing methods were getting popular just as I was finishing having my four babies, from what several friends and a sister-on-law tell me, they are a fantastic addition to Bradley and Lamaze techniques, especially if your goal is a drug-free delivery. They can also be learned through self-study with a book and CD, so you could avoid group-class dynamic. And it's another "tool in the toolbox" kind of thing, since you can't ever anticipate how labor is going to go (long, short, back-labor, etc) and it's nice to have multiple relaxation techniques to rely on if one method stops working for you, and you need to change things up a bit. Good luck - I have all boys and this sweet little Penguin will bring you such unexpected joys - this I know!

  24. So glad everyone appears to be healthy. Most of the time a big baby is just that. Besides, given that both measurements of the baby were on the big side, it's possible the dates are off by a few days and penguin is not quite so big as they thought.

    I agree that Jackson's birth is going to be very emotional for you. I also agree with the opinions of others that you should probably not take a full class but maybe just a private refresher with your doula. I think you should meet with one or two of the doulas recommended to you and pick the one you feel most comfortable with.

    I am sure the physical pain of birthing Jackson will be nothing compared to the pain you feel in your heart because Hudson is gone. You need to find someone who will help you with the emotional pain just as much or more than the physical pain. I hope you find just the right person who will make Jackson's birth as easy and joyous for you as possible.

    Erica Marcoux

  25. I highly recommend Claudia Booker of Birthing Hands DC. Claudia was our doula and I cannot imagine getting through birth without her. She has studied with Ina May Gaskins, they are friends, and she can often be found lobbying for natural births on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Claudia is also an attorney turned Doula who is in the final stages of becoming a midwife. She recently returned from an internship in Africa where some of the most amazing pictures of her journey were posted on facebook. Her website is

    As for classes, Susan Messina, our birthing instructor, offers private courses. Both Susan and Claudia are my friends on fb so feel free to send them a message or friend them.

    I'm so excited for you and Ed.

    Love Yall, Renee P.