Informed Choice in Childbirth and the Postpartum

Knowing that you do have a choice in your baby’s birth helps you stay in control. Making informed decisions based on a knowledge of available options is a step towards a more positive and empowering childbirth and postpartum experience.

Jamie Slotter, The Homesteading Doula, speaks with Dreaming of Baby on the power of informed choice at every stage of labor and the less talked about fourth trimester once baby is home.

Daniela: Good morning, Jamie, and welcome to Dreaming of Baby. We are very much looking forward to adding to our discussion on the importance of informed choice in relation to the stages of childbirth and postpartum care. To start with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself as well as your experience assisting moms and moms-to-be?

Jamie Slotter: I am a mom of two beautiful girls ages 4 and 8. I am a full-time Paramedic. After delivering several babies in the field, I knew in my heart that I wanted to help moms and their babies. I enjoy helping women make informed decisions with no judgment. I always want the space that I share with my client to feel sacred and safe to share whatever they are feeling.

Daniela: Thank you for this introduction, Jamie. You note that you enjoy helping women make informed decisions. Looking into this in terms of the birth process, for the mom-to-be, what does making informed decisions in the birth setting entail?

Jamie Slotter: I am a fairly new Doula so I come with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Helping women explore their options is key. Many women aren’t aware of the choices they have when it comes to birth. As a doula, I can help women research the type of birth they are hoping for.

Jamie Slotter: “Many women aren’t aware of the choices they have when it comes to birth”

Daniela: As you rightly note, many women are not aware that they do actually have a choice. What would be your first piece of advice on this subject to an expectant mom?

Jamie Slotter: That this is their experience and they should make decisions as they feel in their heart, and not worry about being judged for receiving medication, having a cesarean section, or a non-medicated birth. Every experience is different and beautiful and they should not feel judged. It’s time to ditch the goddess myth.

Informed choices at each stage of childbirth

Daniela: Somehow – and unfortunately – motherhood and being judged seem to have quite the relationship. As you indeed note, pregnancy and childbirth are a woman’s own experience. Before we look into each stage of childbirth and the decisions that have to be made, can you give us a quick overview of the birth process, that is the stages before baby arrives and immediately after?

Jamie Slotter: Before baby arrives, many women feel the excitement, picking names, decorating the nursery, and all of the fun things that come with pregnancy. Moms need to start preparing their body and anticipate both the beautiful and not so beautiful changes that they are about to endure. It’s like training for a marathon. Diet, exercise, rest, and research are key. After birth, women should be prepared for unexpected emotions, afterbirth pains, and sleepless, not so glamorous nights. Accept any and all help that is offered. The fourth trimester is most often the hardest.

Daniela: Many women also experience mixed feelings concerning the birth itself. When it comes to educating women about the birth process – how would you explain this to a first-time mom? What kind of decisions would she be expected to make, for instance, in the first stage of labor?

Jamie Slotter: I always want to tell moms to labor for as long as you can in the comfort of your own home. If you are birthing at a hospital, take advantage of a tub, birthing balls, position changes, etc. At this point, you may be asked if you want an epidural. If this decision is right for you and helps you feel safe, do it! Ask your partner or doula how they can help to make you comfortable, and rest as much as possible.

Daniela: Thank you for this overview, Jamie; it helps for parents-to-be to know what kind of decisions they might face. When it comes to the second stage of labor, what should moms-to-be be aware of?

Jamie Slotter: The second stage of labor is where many moms might start doubting their abilities. Things start to become more intense. This is the time to focus and stay on top of the surges. If you were hoping for a non-medicated birth, and want to change your mind, because it is not what you expected, you can still do that. I think it’s a good idea to use a code word. You can say epidural all you want, but when you feel in your heart that you need to switch gears, your support team will know you are serious.

Daniela: When it comes to the third stage, and the delivery of the placenta, what should the new mom know in terms of her options?

Jamie Slotter: This should be the most exciting part of the birth, right? Often times during the third stage women are exhausted, and nervous about the well-being of their baby. They may also be concerned about the delivery of the placenta. Sometimes the mother hardly notices the expulsion of the placenta, but be informed that there are risks of bleeding, etc. Educate yourself about the possible complications so you know what to expect if a problem should arise. You always have the right to immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, delaying a bath, and using ritual to separate baby from the placenta. Of course, if complications arise, baby may first have to be evaluated by a doctor or a midwife.

What you need to know about the Fourth Trimester

Daniela: This is very informative, thank you. Earlier on, you referred to the fourth trimester as being the hardest. What should new moms expect during this time and how important is post-partum care?

Jamie Slotter: During the fourth trimester, moms should be prepared for sleepless nights, feeding difficulties, bottle or breast, bleeding, cramping, and postpartum pain. Always accept help, sleep when you can. Everything else can wait. Sleep deprivation is very real, and can often lead to feelings of frustration and hopelessness. A postpartum doula is a blessing during the fourth trimester. Diapering, swaddling, feeding support, and the opportunity for a nap are priceless. Know that every mom has struggles and similar feelings. You are not alone in this journey. A support group is also a good idea if you feel like you need extra support, and the concerns you have will most likely be validated by other new moms. Postpartum and self-care are super important. It is ok to need a break. It is ok to do something for yourself. It is ok to get a babysitter. Care for your body and your mental health. You need to fill your own cup before you can fill someone else’s.

Jamie Slotter: “Postpartum and self-care are super important. It is ok to need a break. It is ok to do something for yourself. It is ok to get a babysitter. Care for your body and your mental health. You need to fill your own cup before you can fill someone else’s.”

Daniela: That is definitely very important for new moms to keep in mind. If a mom-to-be asks what she can do during pregnancy to prepare for the post-partum, what would you suggest?

Jamie Slotter: If someone asks how they can help, give them a job! Preparing meals, laundry, cleaning. These are all things that weigh on your mind that can easily be accomplished by a friend, family member, or a doula. If someone offers to watch another child, let them. Don’t feel guilty. This is your time to bond and learn about your new human. Caring for a newborn is extremely difficult. Ask other moms how their postpartum period was, so you can have realistic expectations. Don’t be disappointed or feel inadequate if things don’t go as expected.

Daniela: You note that a doula can help out with everyday chores – what is exactly the role of a postpartum doula?

Jamie Slotter: A postpartum doula should always be a good ear. Not only do they provide breast and bottle-feeding support, but they can also discuss parenting styles and concerns with you in a judgment-free zone. The way you want to care for your newborn, whether you choose to vaccinate or not, diapering, bathing, cord care, and of course light household duties so you get a chance to rest. And always valuable techniques for a crying or unsettled baby.

Daniela: Great, thanks for clarifying, Jamie. On a final note, what would be that one piece of advice – as a doula, a paramedic, and a mom in particular – that you always share with a mom-to-be?

Jamie Slotter: Don’t take parenting and life so seriously. Life goes fast, babies grow fast. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy every moment as best as you can. Make each day count.

Daniela: Thank you, Jamie! Thank you for your time and for what you have shared with us today; it’s been a pleasure speaking with you!

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