Friday, May 29, 2015

Feature Friday: Manda Lynn's Postpartum Doula Service

It's lovely to be back on a another Feature Friday with you! I hope you've had a chance to read our past post about postpartum mental health problems in preparation for today's feature.  It's heartfelt and eye opening ~ just like the postpartum period itself.

Manda Lynn is a postpartum doula with a mission to improve the postpartum lives of all moms in Utah.  I love her sweet nature and really look forward to hearing more from her.

Meet Manda.

Photo Credit: Tammy Jarman Photography

Hi Manda! Please, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm happy to have this opportunity! My parents named me Amanda Lynn. When I was a kid, they gave me a mandolin (get it?) --a small one made of metal. Music is my talent. I started piano lessons when I was seven and am teaching our oldest daughter who is eight and a half. I enjoy singing with our kids and other kids. I took an organ class and a guitar class in college, but I haven't (yet) learned to play the mandolin.
When I was about 12, I had a friend who dropped the A and called me Manda. All of that, and a discussion with some women who attended CAPPA postpartum doula training with me, is how I came up with my business name, Manda Lynn's Postpartum Doula Service.
I live with my husband and 3 kids, who bring us joy! Besides music, I love to spend time with family and friends, talk with women at support groups, read (mostly "birth junkie" stuff and other nonfiction), make whole foods plant based meals, exercise (I ran a half-marathon just before finding out I was pregnant with our 3rd child), and take photographs.

Photo Credit: Tammy Jarman Photography

Some of our readers may not know what a postpartum doula is. How would you describe it?

If you are wondering what a postpartum doula is, here's how I am different from birth doulas. A birth doula is with a woman during her birthing time (a.k.a. labor), and usually leaves within a couple of hours after the baby is born. In the days and weeks after that, a postpartum doula can be very helpful. Many parents of multiples hire postpartum doulas. Birth is a small window of time compared to how long you will be responsible for that child--sort of like the contrast between a wedding day and a marriage. I would love to help you adjust to changes after your baby comes out, whether it is your first or not.
I love what the CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association) website says: "The postpartum doula is a trained professional that offers physical, emotional, and spiritual support to a new mom and the rest of the family. Postpartum doulas also offer breastfeeding support, light household maintenance, family nurturing and instruction to mom and/or other family members in the care of a newborn. The postpartum doula's job is to make the transition to parenthood easier for new parents, to help mom during her recovery period and to ascertain what the family needs help with and to provide the instruction. 
The main objective of a postpartum doula's role is not to take over complete care of the newborn, but to educate and support the family so that they will feel empowered to care for their newborn themselves.
Postpartum doulas do NOT offer any medical advice or perform any medical or clinical procedures, but instead can offer parents referrals to appropriate studies and published books.
Postpartum doulas should be good with children, patient, nonjudgmental, and knowledgeable about newborn care and breastfeeding."

What drew you to postpartum doula work?

My love for my own newborns was one thing that drew me to this work. I heard in 2014 or earlier that there was a need for more postpartum doulas, like there is for more lactation educators, and I want to certify in that through CAPPA as well(I am working on the postpartum doula certification). I like being able to set my schedule. It's wonderful to be able to do something rewarding -- helping other moms -- in short shifts. 

What do you think sets you apart from other postpartum doulas?

I feel I am unique because of 2 reasons: 1st, I can relate to recovery from a cesarean and "failed" VBAC attempts. I labored unmedicated for many hours to give birth to each baby the way I wanted to, and they ended up needing to be born by c-section. Of course, I also can help you if you are recovering from a vaginal birth, and I am available as a bedrest doula as well. I feel that pregnancy and birth are amazing!
The 2nd reason is that I have experience shopping for and preparing whole foods plant based meals and I understand veganism because I am a vegan-nutritarian myself.

What is the 1 thing you think that every mother should have in the postpartum period?

Besides hiring a doula, one thing I think every mother needs in the postpartum period is to journal about what she is feeling and thinking. It doesn't need to be much, or every day, but I haven't regretted times that I have written in a journal. 

How important an issue do you think maternal mental health is?

Maternal mental health is very important. Postpartum depression, OCD, psychosis, etc. often comes suddenly. I learned at a screening of the new documentary Dark Side of the Full Moon that depression during or after pregnancy is more common than gestational diabetes. More common than breast cancer. I can sit and listen and provide resources.

Lastly, please humor us with your favorite chick flick!

My favorite chick flick is Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin.

Wow! There was a lot of information there that I actually didn't know. I can think of a few women who would have loved to have had a bedrest doula. *mind blown*.  I am so grateful that she shared her beautiful self with us. 

Be sure to click on her links and send her some love.
website: facebook: twitter:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Mother-Centered Shower

There's a new type of celebration taking the birth world by storm.

It's been referred to as a Blessingway, the Mother's Shower, or a Mother's Blessing Circle.  In an effort to respect the Native American term and to avoid cultural appropriation, we are going to avoid "blessingway" for the purposes of this blogpost. 

Honestly, part of me feels wrong to say that it's a new trend.  Honoring mothers in one way or another has been a part of most every culture. However, I believe that the difference is that somewhere along the way, American culture lost sight of the women who birthed its children

The rise of the Mother's Blessing Circle is the answering call to this missing piece.

"But wait!", you say. "Don't we already shower the expectant mother with gifts at a baby shower?"

Yes, we do. May I draw your attention to one small detail?

baby shower

It's not about the mom. Yes, we provide her with financial support in the form of gifts to help care for her child. But what about the emotional support?

The mother-centered shower covers this gap.
There is no easy way to describe what happens there. Each is as unique as the mother they cater to. But there are two elements that all of them carry.

1. Sisterhood

There is a strength that comes from knowing that you are not alone. Some mother-centered showers are filled with loved ones and longtime friends, while others are virtually strangers.  It doesn't matter though, because once a woman crosses the threshold into the room, she is there to love and support the mother. 
That support takes the shape of emotional vulnerability. Birth is a huge life-changing event in a woman's life. It can bring both joy and fear. The mother will feel supported and safe to sit in a room where other women nod knowingly and whisper a gentle "me too".  The emotional bonds that form during such brave truth sharing mean that while some attendants may arrive as strangers, they are able to leave as lifelong friends. 

2. Gifts

The gifts that are brought to a mother-centered shower are completely different than those brought to a baby shower. For starters, the hostess contacts the women(minus the mother) beforehand and tells them what to bring. 
it's never a baby blanket.
It's not even a wrapped gift for mom.
The gifts are usually free or inexpensive, and overflowing with meaning.

Here are some examples:
-a written blessing for mom's postpartum period
-a birth affirmation to string up into a banner
-a bead for a necklace
-herbs or flowers for an epsom salt bath
-a natural element to add to her birth space
-a rock with a single word written on it for inspiration during labor

There are many more gifts and activities that can be used for a mother-centered shower, but pinterest should hold you over for a more comprehensive list.

I believe in the mother-centered shower.

"Birth is a sacred space which should be honored, respected, and nurtured. Since the emotional state of a mother during pregnancy and birth carries into her mothering years, caring for her should be society's primary goal." ~Graceful Birthing mission statement

Our mother's are not alone. They should not be alone. To be human is to need connection. 

"By giving ourselves the grace to be women, we help to give birth to not just children, but to mothers as well." ~Graceful Birthing mission statement

Friday, May 22, 2015

Feature Friday: Aubrey Slabbert with Liminal Spaces

It is so good to be back blogging today! The husband was out of town for a week so I slowed things down a bit to give my family enough attention to keep them from asking "Dadda baaack?" 100 times a day. 
I think it worked. They only made it to 50. ;)

Today's feature is my dear friend Aubrey Slabbert of Liminal Spaces. I look up to her so much and have learned a lot in the short time that she's taken me under her wing. Her gentle nature and quick smile have won over the hearts of many a family.

Meet Aubrey.

I have been profoundly deaf for 31 years. I'm 32. I definitely feel like ASL is my home language even though my English is probably stronger because when I use it, it feels like coming home
I could say the same thing about birth work. I am fortunate to have had many passions in life ranging from acting (google me, Aubrey Kramer, and see what you find ;) ) to dog  grooming, poetry and writing. 
I have a teacher heart and a degree from BYU that says as much. Some of the fondest memories of my life are from teaching high school at American Fork High School in Utah. I am so proud of those kids and all that they achieved. 

I discovered my passion for birth like many birth workers do: by giving birth. The birth of my first baby was a little bit of paradox because on one end of the experience, I discovered my body's power and on the other, I had discovered another person's cruelty. I was in love with birth, but hurt by the experience. One thing I really loved about my first child's birth was the Hypnobabies program my husband and I used to prepare for it. I learned how to listen to my body, relax, and enjoy the experience. I was surprised by how comfortable I was for the majority of that birth experience enough to want to do it again.

When an instructor training came along for Hypnobabies, I got excited, and I thought about it, and I stalked their Facebook page for a while until I decided that yes, I really did want to become a childbirth educator. I was already an educator, and this just felt right to me. I certified with Hypnobabies in 2011 and I have been teaching hypnosis for childbirth in Utah and Salt Lake Counties ever since. It's been a blast. And it hasn't taken much to get me hooked on childbirth. 

Becoming a doula was like a logical progression for me, and I began attending births in 2012. To date, I have averaged 2 clients per month, give or take. I keep my practice small enough to really focus on each mama, and large enough to stay happily busy. I love to be busy and I love, love, love learning new things. If something strikes me, I have to learn about it! 

I've always been a shutterbug and adding photography was the next logical progression for me. I really wanted mothers especially to see how amazing they really are in birth because I feel like too many mothers, myself included are needlessly critical of themselves and when I can show them the photos from their birth story and see the spark in their eyes when they say "i really did that!" then my doula heart is happy. Mothers deserve to be celebrated and pampered, especially at birth, and my mission has been to design a full service birth business that caters to that. 

My favorite memory from a birth that I've attended is almost impossible to narrow down, because I have so many! Favorites include watching a second time mother deliver her baby right into her own hands after a really lovely, and peaceful birthing time. Another favorite: a vbac mama leaning over her hubby, swaying and realizing that she had to push, and her baby descending so rapidly that the nurse had to catch her baby in exactly the position that she had chosen to birth her child. Another favorite: holding the hand of a sweet first time mother during the cesarean birth of her child, and feeling the mixed cocktail of emotion as a single tear slid down her cheek. There is something beautiful in each birth, and I really do remember every single one of them. What an amazing privilege it is!

One last question before you go, what's you favorite tv show?

Whatever I am currently Netflix bingeing on hahaha. I watched all 9 available seasons of Criminal Minds while I was pregnant with my third baby because my dad is a retired police officer and it reminds me of him. 


Thank you Aubrey! I can't begin to say enough good things about this lady. She recently collaborated on a gorgeous stylized maternity shoot with our lovely Emily Brooksby of Picture Perfect Birth. I can't wait to see more of what those two are up to!
Be sure to check out her blog as well. Beware though, her expertise and way with words means you'll melt into reading it like a familiar blanket. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Last weekend I had a dear friend invite me to run the Red Rock Relay with her team in Moab. I'm gonna be honest, I am not a runner. I was shocked that she even wanted me anywhere near her team! 
I agreed to go as a favor to her, but really, she did me the favor. 

Beautiful. Powerful. Spiritual. Painful. Freeing.

Those are the best words I can come up with to describe the entire trip. 

I threw my head back and laughed aloud along the run when I realized that those words had everything to do with birth 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I was SCARED out of my mind to run that relay. I didn't even sleep the night before. It's hard to wrap your mind around the unexpected when it seems like the only guarantee is pain and a finish line. 

Unfortunately, that's how the vast majority of women in our birthing culture feel about childbirth. 

TV, books, memes, and other people love hyping up the pain and drama of the experience. 

So our mothers, our beautiful mothers, are walking into these hospitals with the expectation of life altering pain and an eventual finish line that will put a baby in their arms. They are left running--running from every bad and good thing that could happen in that room. 

So let's stop again to look at the full spectrum of birth experiences. 

Beautiful. Powerful. Spiritual. Painful. Freeing.


Dr. Steve Maraboli said, "There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty."

The human body is incredible and I am left in awe at every opportunity I have to witness a woman in her element. 


Birth comes from deep inside your bones. It is a primal and powerful wave that crashes within the core of your being. 
If you are still, you will find yourself in this place of inbetween. This place in time holds a balance between the side of you that is pulled into  the swirling tides that open your body and the crashing waves that could flood your mind. To surf this balance is to both utilize and respect the power of birth. 


There is spirit in the birthing space. It is calling forth your child from the unknown. The magic in the very creation of the universe courses through a mother's veins. Be it God by any other name--the mother links herself with the divine in a solemn sacrament that ushers forth a new soul. 


Pain is the most recognized and least understood facet of childbirth. Pain and suffering are equated as the same thing--but I can assure you that they are not. Pain is a refiner. It brings us to our limits. And then, when paired with surrender, it propels us into a state of acceptance and strength. Suffering is agony, but pain is the teacher. It teaches us of the beauty in our flaws--our very humanity. Beauty seen through the lens of accepted pain is more brighter and more brilliant than ever before imagined. 


There is freedom in the moment when you've scaled a mountain and turn to look back over the triumph you've claim for yourself. This is birth. 
It's an incredible experience to raise your child to your chest. The mother is free from pain. Her doubts are gone. Her faith in herself and her body is solidified. There is freedom in the triumph. 

Running the Red Rock Relay was one of the craziest things I have ever done. But I can't even begin to express my joy at having done it. 

I experienced beauty. The red rocks, snaking river, and vibrant green landscape now holds my heart. 

I experienced power. Who knew that my body could pull a run out of thin air?

I experienced spirit. There was no doubt in my mind that God had created this amazing world. 

I experienced pain. Oh man, did I ever. My muscles still aren't on speaking terms with me yet.

I experienced freedom. I laughed and fist pumped the air when I felt my body pushing through the pain. I was just around the bend from the next relay exchange and it was all I could do to keep from dancing along the river's side. 

But you know...there is one thing I experienced that I didn't list on here. A change of plans. 
For some moms, the birth they envision will not be the one they claim. It's disappointing and can be painful in a whole new way. But having to change plans doesn't negate everything I've just described. It's just a different way of experiencing it. And for you, and for me, that is enough. 

We are enough. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Feature Friday: Anna Trout & Postpartum Depression

Good morning dear friends! I'm excited to be back with another featured blog post for you today. 

Anna Trout is my soul sister. 
Actually, she's more than that. If I could have a patronus, it would be her.

I could go on and on forever telling you about how wonderful she is and how epic of an opportunity it is for you to read her story, but because she really is that wonderful, I'd rather you just skip over me and go right to her.

Meet Anna Trout.

I am so honored to be a guest writer here on Graceful Birthing. The founder Kasaundra is my dearest friend, and the person who has taught me the most about graceful living and that I have a story that needs to be shared and that I am the only one who can share it.

My story is unique and my own. But it is not the only one and it is hardly the exception. 
1 in 7 women will get postpartum depression (PPD) or a related illness, that’s nearly a million women a year in the US alone. 

That means that it’s more likely that you’ll get PPD than it is that you’ll get breast cancer. 

While those may seem like scary odds we can do something about it. We can educate ourselves and the public about these illnesses, we can break down stigmas about mental health, we can help reform the medical system through which we receive treatment, we can advocate for better maternal health and we can support the other mothers around us who are suffering a postpartum illness.

I share my story to help other mothers and families. I share my story to help improve maternal mental health not just for today but for generations to come, for my daughter and her daughters, and my nieces, and my sisters, and my friends, and for all women.

This is my story.

All I could see was the matted beige carpet and all I felt was paralyzing fear. I was lying on my bedroom floor, hyperventilating, hysterically crying, my arms and legs numb, unable to speak or call out for help. I banged my fists as hard as I could against the floor, desperately hoping my husband would hear it and come check on me.

I heard his footsteps running up our stairs and as I looked toward the door and saw his face, all I saw was absolute fear. Neither one of us knew what was happening. We would later learn that I had experienced a severe panic attack, and while it had been my first it was certainly not my last. For the next 6 months those debilitating panic attacks would happen daily and would be a constant companion in my dark world.

That was on July 4, 2013 just 7 weeks after the birth of my second child, my daughter Katelyn. Both my husband and I assumed it was just exhaustion. Our daughter was very colicky, never slept, and we had moved across the country to start a new job just 3 weeks after she was born. It was the perfect storm. In hindsight what scares me most is how easy it was to mistake and dismiss my postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD as normal mommy stuff or symptoms caused only from all the other stressors going on around us.

As my symptoms grew worst, into paranoia, obsessive behaviors, weight loss, intrusive thoughts, and eventually self-harming, we eagerly sought treatment with doctors, OBGYNs, and therapists. However treatment was hard to find and in my very sick mind I started to believe that no one could help me and that my real challenge now was to figure out how to function and be a good mother in the state I was in.

I could write a whole book about my experience and still not have shared it all. I don’t know if I could ever find the words to be able to describe the darkness, fear, and sheer horror of that year after my daughter was born. However there are key-points from that experience that I want and need to share.

The first is that postpartum mood disorders are real and treatable. If you feel off, even just a little, GO SEE A DOCTOR. Better safe than sorry doesn’t even cover it. Schedule that appointment and go.

If gone untreated postpartum mood disorders can and will get worst and have long term effects on the health of the mother and her children.

PPD and other postpartum illnesses don’t just affect the mother, but the whole family. It was the hardest year in my husband’s life, not just mine.

Advocate for yourself. Be honest with your doctors and your support system around you.

Even if you don’t have PPD but are struggling with your transition into motherhood, talk to a friend or see a therapist. Your children will learn about self-care through you. Treat yourself the way you would want your children to treat themselves. That idea quite possibly saved my life.

Don’t be afraid. We can fight this fight and we 

can win. I am a warrior mom. I have won my 


For more information on PPD and other related illnesses visit

Oh boy. I didn't make it through that without tearing up. Anna's story is so powerful and authentic. It's an honor to be invited into it. Her strength and resilience awe me and I'm so proud to say that this dear friend of mine is shining bright enough to stand as a beacon of hope for others.  
Anna is hosting the "Climb Out of the Darkness" climb for Postpartum Progress this year. She is drawing others to her in support and love. It is her dream that something beautiful come out of this harrowing experience. 

I believe that she is well on her way.  

Please consider donating to or joining a climb near you.  "Sunshine. Nature. Togetherness. Triumph."

Fight on warriors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Doula's Excellent Adventure

Just two years ago, I was like most of you. 

"DOULA? What is that? thanks. I'm not into voodoo."

I'm not gonna lie, I am a little surprised that "doula" caught on instead of something more generic and white bread like "childbirth coach".  In fact, the word "doula" comes from the Greek word for slave.

Errrr...hold up. This isn't making it any less weird.
Let's try again.

The lovely title of "doula" was coined in 1976 by Dana Raphael. She used it to describe a woman with experience in helping mothers breastfeed in the postpartum period.

The actual role that a modern-day doula fills goes back centuries though. Talking about America specifically, our childbirth culture was strongly influenced by English culture.

That makes sense, right? 1776 may have cut the cord to the mother country, but there were a few things worth keeping.

Sell Art Online
*neato art piece, huh? I'm loving all the support that dear mama is getting. And the chair setup? Pure genius. Hospitals and birth centers are equipped to mimic that labor position with those amazing moving beds of theirs. 

Social childbirth philosophy follows the "it takes a village" concept. A woman's childbirth support circle came from her friends, relatives, and midwives. These women took their role seriously and worked hard to make sure that mom felt strengthened and assured. The qualities of this model of childbirth include togetherness, care, and support. It sounds like a pretty darn near perfect system.

Well, almost perfect. Progress necessitated the advent of running water, sewage systems, hygiene, etc. These measures provided for a safer childbirth experience for both mother and baby.

However, progress ended up being a double sided sword in the birth community. By 1930, richer women felt drawn to the medical model. I can understand the draw. Doctors with years of training, nurses in clean white dresses, sterile facilities, and people who look like you are hard to compete with. Most people made the shift to hospitals and the traditional role of midwives fell from the pages of history.

all the baby ladies
all the baby ladies
all the babies ladiesall the baby ladies
now put your hands UP
(John Hopkins Gazette)

Fast forward a few decades.

Medical advancements made hospital birth even more appealing. Electronic Fetal Monitoring meant that nurses didn't have to stay with any one patient and were able to care for many at a time.

The cons?  Nurses didn't have to stay with any one patient. Also, when your entire labour requires electronic equipment to be strapped to your belly, moving around isn't exactly encouraged.  So there went moving around in labor--which had been normal until then.

Since so many women give birth in hospitals now, the traditional birth support system from the social childbirth model is no longer the norm. And when women are reduced to numbers on a chart and beds in a hospital, dehumanization becomes a new concern.

Unfortunately, a 2001 study showed that first-time mothers expected their nurse to spend 53% of their time providing the social childbirth model for them. That includes "physical comfort, emotional support, information, and advocacy".  

Because of modern medical technology and the quite wonderful way in which many patients can be cared for at once, nurses simply do not have the time or training to provide that level of support to each mother. The reality is, nurses spend only 6-10% of their time in active labour support.

So what can be done to bridge this gap in maternal care? Who in this dark wide world can possibly help?

Over here. 
That's me. I'm a doula.

We doulas came back onto the scene in the 80s, when women started to get concerned with the growing number of cesareans. They started hiring their childbirth educators, their friends, or even obstetrical nurses they were on good terms with to come into the delivery room with them. They were looking for an advocate. 

Doulas have come a long way since then, and although unnecessary cesarean prevention is still near and dear to our hearts, we have evolved into so. much. more.

The role of a doula
labor support skills
labor support techniques
team building with the nursing staff
encourage communication

The skills and techniques mentioned above include:
patterned breathing
labor acceleration positioning 
fetal positioning
fear release
anxiety control
partner bonding
partner communication

This type of support is beneficial to women who desire to birth unmedicated.
It's beneficial to women who desire to birth medicated.
It's beneficial to women who desire to birth in a hospital.
It's beneficial to women who will have a cesarean.
It's beneficial to women who will birth at home.
It's beneficial to women who give birth in a birth center.
It's simply beneficial to women.

Being a person gives you the right to matter. You matter. Your experience matters.