Wednesday, July 30, 2014

'you doula what??' + first attempt at a lactation cookie recipe

So... all my life, I've dreamt of being a momma. Lots of little chicklets running around and me just pouring my overabundance of love on them and having adventures everyday. Fair enough, right? Well, not too long after I came to grips with the fact that that was more than an okay dream to have, I realized I simply can't do it on my own and will need someone wonderful to help me make it a reality... 

Unfortunately, Mr. Wonderful seems to still be on the loose.

(Wah, wah... I know.) 

Anywho. I have tried plenty of things that fit my fancy. I've dabbled here and there at different trades and skills. For the most part, I've liked them all... but have you ever met someone who was so crazy in love with what they do every day that their joy just completely saturates their entire being?? Have you ever just wanted so much to walk a day in their footsteps to see what it was that was so invigorating about what they do moment-by-moment to give them such a fire for life?

Exciting thing: I found it. :) Well, I found it for me, anyway. 

And I'm so unbelievably thrilled to tell you about it. As a matter of fact, if you were sitting right here next to me, you'd probably have to physically shut me up or fall asleep before I'd stop telling you about it. It's so wonderful. :)

Last summer, my incredible brother and sis-in-love announced that they were having sweet babe #3. Thankfully, we have a friendship that is very open and she allowed me to poke and prod and ask questions that some women wouldn't have welcomed. They also were so very kind and allowed me to be at the monumental moment of my very first niece's birth. 

What an experience. 

It was nothing short of amazing. Ashley is pretty much a professional when it comes to carrying and having babies. Seriously, she made it look way too easy.

First slumber party with my sweet niece! Just hours after her birth. Such a gorgeous lil miss.

My best friend is a nurse out in Colorado and had shared with me her experience of training to be a doula as part of her studies to become a nurse. I was intrigued, but unsure of my qualifications. After witnessing my sis give birth, I knew I wanted to know more. I'd alway been interested in the process of pregnancy and childbirth and figured I really couldn't lose too much by attending a training. I searched and searched and contacted multiple training centers and educators all over the country and found only one that seemed to be a real, genuine human on the other end. 

Luckily for me, she wasn't too far away either.

I signed up to train under Liz Abbene, CD(DONA) (Certified Doula of DONA Int'l), LCCE (Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator), CBC(CBI)(Certified Breastfeeding Counselor through Childbirth International), BDT(DONA)(Birth Doula Trainer of Dona Int'l), CLEC(Certified Lactation Educator Counselor), and just recently, IBLCE(International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners). Liz is the Alpha Mama at Enlightened Mama in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

I can't tell you the anticipation I experienced those few weeks from signing up to walking through the door.

June 1st, I journeyed north to the Twin Cities where I was able to stay with a very dear friend (that's a whole other super cool story, perhaps next time!) and Monday morning I headed off to my first day of doula training! 

My journey was a little extra eventful with dark skies, big raindrops, and tornadoes!

Liz is so unbelievably knowledgeable. I am biased, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to say she's the expert of pregnancy and childbirth. Myself and ten other women from all different walks of life, sat together and soaked up as much as we could about breastfeeding, growing humans, and giving birth as we could fit in into our four days together. Some of us were able to stay for a bonus seminar with Dr. Mark Sloan (no, not from Grey's Anatomy) and learned about the differences and long term effects of vaginal and cesarean births. We had hands-on practice with coping and comfort techniques. We met families who shared their birth stories with us, both simple stories and very complex and scary birth stories and the roles and benefits their doula played in their birth. We were given the opportunity to connect with different programs, agencies, and the birth collective of the Twin Cities. As women interested in the process and experience of birth, we were learning that there is a serious need and that the world is our oyster!  

Looking back, I love the difference between day one and day four. Initially, I was nervous entering as a single woman who had never had a child and only experienced birth as a bystander. (Turns out of the 11 of us only three were mama's!) By day four, I hated to leave. These women had become my tribe, my people! I know I couldn't have received better, hands-on, interactive training ANYWHERE else (and I'd certainly looked far and wide!) One of the best things about Liz's training approach is that she had us share personal experiences throughout each topic. This allowed us all to connect to what it was that we were learning with a very first-person mentality, because of her teaching tactic, we had little to no disconnect. (And trust me, there was a lot of information!)

Me and my new tribe! :) 

Upon returning home, I shared my excitement with EVERYONE I came in contact with. I jabbered too many people's ears off... (Thank you to those of you gracious individuals who allowed me to share with you. You helped tremendously in my processing!) I devoured books by Ina May Gaskin (and now, very much would like to meet her in person, please!) Within a week I had found a family to practice my newfound knowledge and passion with. (This is another super cool story in and of itself!)

Seeing that this family was quickly approaching their due date, we condensed and fast-tracked our meetings a bit. We shared excitement and anticipation until I got the call that they were heading into the birthing center. (I think excitement and anticipation are a bit of an understatement!) 

Once I arrived and labor was in full-swing, I couldn't help but keep thinking over and over again, "I love this SO MUCH, I swear, I could do it all day, everyday!" It was such an intense and intimate situation with trials and victories, laughter and tears, pain and joy... Oh my goodness, it was amazing.

I got home late that next night or early that next morning (either way) and lay in my bed; body exhausted, mind and heart racing with adrenaline. At that moment, I decided once a week might be sufficient... but loved it all the same. 

As a doula, I have the privilege of meeting with the family not just as they anticipate the arrival of their child, but also in walking with them as they process the event postpartum. I can't express the honor it is to be trusted with sharing such an intimate and exciting moment in a family's life. I am extra blessed that my first family are dear friends of mine and are gracious enough to answer lots of pressing, sometimes personal questions regarding their pregnancy and birth experience and are kind enough to allow me to use them as guinea pigs for my first attempt at different tricks and tools (like the lactation cookie recipe below!) 

I know this is just the beginning of an incredible adventure. I cannot express the gratitude I have for God's graciousness in allowing me to find this less than common profession and pursue it whole-heartedly... I cannot imagine a better fit for my character, gifts, and heart than assisting women and their families in bringing a new life into the world. 

Ah, such an honor. :)


For those of you choosing to breastfeed, try out this fool-proof, super versatile recipe to help increase your milk-supply!

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  

In a small mixing bowl or mug, mix together 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons flax meal. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat: 1 cup of butter (two sticks traditionally)1 cup packed brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons molasses one at a time. Add one ingredient at a time.

If you've been advised to steer clear from dairy, Earth Balance has a dairy free substitute.

I suggest organic Blackstrap Molasses if at all possible, but this gem was hiding in our cupboard, so rather than throwing it out, I made the executive decision to put it to use...
Molasses is the mineral rich portion pulled from cane sugar. The iron and other minerals of molasses are easy to absorb making it a great help for new mamas lacking in iron. 

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the following dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons Brewer's yeast, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients into the large bowl.

The flaxseed and water mix together to create a gelatinous substance. The milled flax seed is beneficial to a breastfeeding mama because of its abundance of fiber and omega fatty acids (which are also critical for brain development and growth in sweet babes!) 

Add 3 cups old-fashioned, thick cut oats, 1/2 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips), 1 cup dried cherries (or your choice of dried fruit), 1/2 cup slivered almonds (or your choice of nuts). These ingredients in particular are super versatile - I used what I had on hand, but whatever fits your fancy will work!

Again, if you've been advised to steer clear from dairy, Sunspire has dairy free carob chips and Enjoy Life has dairy, wheat, and soy-free chocolate chips.

Scoop onto a well-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. 



I couldn't help myself... in my research for putting these bad boys together, I came across 'Lactating Fountains of Italy'... had to share this beaut! Ladies, I hope this recipe has the same effect on you and your milk supply! :)

Fontana di Nettuno, located in Bologna's Piazza Nettuno.