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Chatting With a Birth Doula

Model mama and birth doula Erin in labor.Late night nursing with mama and baby.
We’re thrilled to have the chance to chat pre and post-partum wellness with new mama Erin Williams— a doula, lactation counselor, pre/postnatal fitness expert, and Lamaze certified childbirth educator.  Erin moved to NYC in 2002 to pursue a career in fashion and modeling and lives on the Upper East Side with her husband, her sweet baby boy, and their fluffy cats. Erin has been practicing yoga for over 10 years as a way to keep sane in NYC and teaches pre and post natal fitness and yoga teacher at FPC/NYC. She also has her own practice as a doula and lactation counsellor. She shares some of her best advice for new moms: Tell us about your journey to become a doula and how long you’ve been in practice.
  • I’ve been a doula for 4 years. Wow! It’s flown by. I became a doula after hearing about traumatic birth events from a few close friends. I watched 'The Business Of Being Born' and rather being freaked out I was fascinated. I did more research and learned that we don’t do a great job of caring for and keeping birthing people alive in this country. For people of color the maternal mortality rates are astounding. And I realized that I fell into this category just based on ethnicity alone. For NYC the maternal mortality rate for people of color is 12x that for Caucasian people! I knew I needed to get involved. It’s been shown that having a doula present can help reduce unfavorable birth outcomes and increase overall satisfaction of the birth experience. I studied with both DONA and DTI. I’m passionate about maternal wellbeing from preconception to parenthood. Even more so now that I’m a new mom!
If you could offer one piece of advice to a newly pregnant woman what would it be?
  • Stop trying to do everything. It’s ok to slow down and take time for yourself.
What can a mom-to-be do before giving birth to prepare for breastfeeding?
  • My number one tip for breastfeeding is to have the number to at least 2 lactation professionals BEFORE baby arrives. I suggest attending a breastfeeding class ahead of time so you are familiar with what to expect. Those early days can be challenging. It’s new to you, it’s new to your baby. But you’re both learning together and can absolutely figure it out!Late night nursing with mama and baby.
What are your favorite pregnancy books and resources?
  • The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin for both the birthing person and the partner. It helps prepare you for possibilities in a clear cut way. For questions about various medical procedures or pregnancy related concerns, I like the Evidenced Based Birth website. It’s short and to the point which makes it easier to navigate in an area of so many questions.  
What are your five hospital bag essentials, and what can a mama skip putting in her bag?
  • Lip balm, hospitals are so dry!!
  • A big round Birth Ball. Many hospitals have these now but why not bring your own clean one that only you have used?
  • Comfort items like photos of loved ones (I personally brought photos of my cats. I’ve had clients bring photos of their pets, grandparents, family who had passed, favorite vacation places, etc)
  • Something to wear other than the traditional hospital gown. When you wear your own clothing there’s a psychological shift from being a patient and handing over your autonomy and control.
  • Snacks like coconut water, easy to chew granola bars, fruit, yogurt. Something easy to eat with minimal energy, something that will give you an energy burst when you need it, and  nothing too red/ spicy/ intense if it revisits you later (nausea and vomiting are common in labor).
  • Skip the nursing pillow, breast pump, car seat. If you need any of those things your partner can bring them from home when they go to shower/ feed the dog/ sleep. It all just takes up space unnecessarily and you won’t need it until after baby arrives.
What do most women not know about childbirth?
  • How long it really takes but that there are also breaks between contractions and at times can be 'boring' or slower paced. It’s not typically the mad dash to the hospital like you see in the movies. There’s time. There’s time to rest and relax and nourish your body for the events to come. And even in the thick of things, your body gives you moments to rest. Many people in labor even 'fall asleep' for a minute between contractions during the most intense stage.
How can a partner best prepare for birth?
  • Learn along side your partner. Be active in educating yourself on how to best support your partner. Simply ask them how they need support and how they envision you being involved. Open honesty from both partners about expectations and abilities is key. As a partner if you don’t think you can handle certain parts of labor, be honest about that. I’ve had partners step out of the room or need a moment to regroup and that’s OK! Just be real about it. And if you have a doula, they can help support the partner as well. We want everyone to be happy, healthy and whole.
Follow Erin on instagram at @erin_doulight
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