Monday, February 27, 2017

The Best Bulldog Brother on Earth

Katy's Greek Hero, loving known as Hercules or Herk the Jerk Mueller, was born on April 2, 2004 to Hammond's Monty Cristo and Russell's Raging Reba. He comes from a long line of champion bulldogs and even holds a first place blue ribbon of his own.....however, to us, he is simply THE BEST DOG ON EARTH.
Herky came to live with us in 2006, but we officially adopted him in 2008 from Steve and Cyndi Laster. Hercules was quite the ladies man in his younger days, as he was a real stud, and fathered many children.
He always got excited if he saw a rubber glove ( bulldogs can't mate in the traditional way and need assistance) without getting extremely happy.
Hercules  loved a good sun bath, a trip to the parlor for pampering, a long belly rub and hot cheetos. He also loved getting brushed on his backside  and nibbling or "corndoggin'" the kids arms (like corn on the cob) when he was being playful. He hated Halloween Masks and not being the center of attention. He rarely barked, but when he did it was for one of those two things.He made us feel safe and was always underfoot. He had horrible gas and he slobbered a lot, but his "dirty dog" kisses will not be forgotten.

He is survived by his people, Melissa & Jason Mueller, Mckayla & Mason Espey, Olivia, Victoria, Gabriel Mueller (Gabriel has never lived on the earth without his "brother") and his Grandfather, Ruben Dominguez. He also leaves behind his fur sister, Rowdy Rhonda Mueller and Dasher the Wonder Cat.
Waking up to a world without him will be heartbreaking but we are thankful, that of all the people, we were chosen to love and be loved by this magnificent soul. He is all the things you could ever wish for in a friend and he will forever be a part of our family.

Tomorrow we will be beside him as he makes the transition to everlasting life, unlimited sun bathing opportunities, and a never ending supply of hot cheetos....we hope that he will be welcomed as the Champion that he is.

In dog years, Hercules would be nearly 91 years old. He has loved us without condition and supported us through births, deaths, separation, laughter and tears. If you wonder how a bulldog lived so long, Gabriel will tell you its because; "He's living on Love" and I think he is totally right.

We thank you Hercules for being our dog. There will never be another you.

We love you.

We miss you already.

Goodbye for now...

but not Forever.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

True North

I have been asked more than once about the reason I decided to choose the name North Dallas Doula Associates . For the last 18 years I have served all over the DFW metroplex and on a few occasions considered dropping the word North.... but then I remind myself of the meaning behind my initial choice and decided the New Year was as good a time as any to share my heart with you!

The word North has nothing to do with the geographical location on the map in this instance, but instead, was chosen in reference to True North.

 The meaning of "True North" according to Merriam-Webster is as follows:
north that is calculated by using an imaginary line through the Earth rather than by using a compass :  the direction that leads to the North Pole.
To most True North is a navigational term,but to me it is a symbol of my true self. A point of steadfast orientation when the rest of the world spins constantly around me. True North is the pull, much like gravity, that will always lead me in the right direction. It is my guiding force, my alignment toward my own authentic, sacred path. It is my gut instinct, it is the little voice inside my head, it is my innate self.

I feel that my journey to finding my own True North has seen challenges and rewards. It  has allowed me to be more conscious of my own internal navigation system and  more trust worthy of my divine destination. It has placed me in the right time, at the right place with people who I am certain needed me...and/or vice versa.

So, when I was brainstorming many years ago about what I would choose for a business name, I decided that I had to include the word North. The meaning was important to me because when I found my true calling as a doula, I also found my own true north. It was when I became a servant of women that I genuinely began serving my purpose and sharing my God given gift.

I believe as a doula, and most importantly as the owner of the BEST doula practice in Dallas, that we are all servants with a shared purpose. A doula serves as a guide that helps a woman discover her own journey. Our job is to support her in trusting her own powerful internal compass while she finds her own true north. It is not our job to direct her in a certain direction but instead to help her find her own sacred path, be it ever so bumpy.

In fact, we would be doing her a terrible disservice if we tried to pull a woman away from her own gravity.

We, as doulas, must not share our own map or compass....but instead put all our trust in her.

And so... the word North will remain as a part of us, steadfast like the North Star, guiding explorers when all other landmarks have vanished; encouraging them to rely on the beacon of light that is, and has always been, within us all.

Happy New Year, from North Dallas Doula Associates

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Has your doctor mentioned stripping your membranes? Have you had a cervical exam that ended with your physician telling you he/she stripped your membranes?
Stripping or sweeping the membrane is a form of inducing labor. During a vaginal exam, if a woman is already dilated to one centimeter; your doctor may mention stripping, which involves sliding a finger between the edge of the cervix and the amniotic sac. The Amniotic sac, or membrane, is "stuck like glue" to the cervix and the doctor will use his/her fingers in a sweeping motion in an attempt to separate the membranes from the internal cervix and lower uterus. This will make for a more vigorous vaginal exam, that often results in discomfort, bleeding,cramping, and irregular contractions afterward, which can last up to 24 hours. Some research suggests that it increases the risk of spontaneous rupture of the membranes, as well.
The doctor  puts her or his finger into the cervix—the mouth of the uterus—and uses the finger to separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix.
This intervention aims to trigger a release of prostaglandins, the hormones that trigger contractions.
Although this is not a form of induction that uses artificial hormones to stimulate labor, an instead triggers the use of natural is still not a "natural process".
Your doctor might encourage you to try this before going the route of a hospital induction using prostglandin gel and/or pitocin. This intervention may shorten pregnancies of women who are at term (41-42 weeks) and may also reduce the need for induction.
Remember, as with any and all procedures, your care provider should obtain consent before performing this or any other procedure.
It is also not ideal for the patient (you) to be asked about this while the physicians hand is in  YOUR vagina.

You should be given time to consider your risks and benefits and prepare for this, if it is something you want to consider.
Stripping of membranes and other mechanical methods of induction may begin labor but may also lead to additional interventions and synthetic forms induction. It is important for care providers to share all information with expectant mothers so that a well-thought out plan can be made.

Reasons You Would Not Want Your Membranes Stripped:
According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Fact Sheet on Stripping Membranes1, there are five reasons why an expectant mother may not want her membranes stripped.  They include:

  • You have been told that it is not safe to have your infant vaginally.
  • You have had unexplained vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy.
  • You have been told that you need to have your infant urgently and it would be safest to have your labor induced by using medication.
  • You want to let your pregnancy and labor unfold naturally and there is no medical reason to have your labor induced.
  • If you have had a vaginal culture that says you have group B strep (GBS) in your vagina, you may not want to have your membranes stripped; there are no studies that have shown it is safe if you have GBS so this decision should be made with you and your care-provider making the decision together.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

If only I had a doula when I had Laura Fortner

If only I had a doula when I had cancer

There are a few things that define who I am.  Mother.  Wife.  Doula.  Cancer survivor.  I had incredible doulas beside me providing support and information when I gave birth to my boys in Dallas and Seattle.  I look back on having cancer and wish that same support was available for that transformative and paralyzing time in my life. 

I needed another hand to hold, a non-judgmental, compassionate hand that sat with me and would rub my poor, sweet husbands back and wipe his forehead from the stinging sweat of stress. I wanted someone to sit next to me in the cold, foreign OR and tell me what was happening around me.  What was that strange smell? What are they hooking me up to now? I needed someone to promise me I would wake up even if they knew they couldn’t keep that promise. I ached for a medical jargon interpreter.  I often found myself wishing we had asked more questions or wanting to call my Oncologist at 3 am for clarification. 

 I did not know it at the time but so much was kept inside for fear that I may burden my loved ones. I craved someone to be my pillar.  I wanted to lean on that pillar and not fear that the weight of my troubles would eventually cause them to fall.  I know that is not realistic with family members or friends.  They love you and are invested in your well being.  They hurt when you hurt, cry when you cry, and are deeply, emotionally tied to the outcome.  Doulas are not.  I unknowingly hungered for that unprejudiced support. 

 My husband was emotionally and physically drained.  It would have been a weight lifted off his broad but broken shoulders if someone else was there to walk the halls with me, help me out of bed and get me in the shower.  We had amazing friends staying with us, but there was so much to be done to keep the house running that physical support could not be their only focus.  He needed comfort and relief.  He needed someone to tell him “This is normal.  Your anger is justified and real. I acknowledge it.” “The pain your wife is in will get better.  It is temporary.”   

It was a glaring hole in our lives that I could not fill for him.  When I look back on our struggle, I see how clearly a doula would have suited our ever changing needs.   I am incredibly thankful to be starting my third year cancer free.  I realize the value of support today more than ever in my life but I find myself wondering…….If I only had a doula when I had cancer.

Monday, January 25, 2016


I am so excited to share the news.....NORTH DALLAS DOULA ASSOCIATES has won BEST  IN DALLAS!
Although I have won twice before as an individual, for the first year ever, an entire team of doulas (MY PRACTICE) won!!!
North Dallas Doula Associates was established in 1999, with a goal and a mission to facilitate change and recognition of the professional doula and establish a well deserved place on the birth team. Our mission statement reads, "To promote, support, and preserve the nature of birth by educating and empowering families through childbirth and beyond". Little did I know we would eventually be providing education and empowerment to nurses & physicians in hospitals, and students in high school and college nursing programs. We grew from 1 doula (me) to 14 and provide an abundance of expertise and services collectively.

We live by 10 values:
1. Be intentional through consistency and commitment, be lead by integrity
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create trust and non judgement through service
4. Be a witness and testify, hold space and be present
5. Pursue personal and practice growth through learning
6. Build, open, honest, and genuine relationships through communication
7. Build support and uplift the practice through sisterhood and transparency
8. Practice grace, alignment, and balance
9. Be passionate, determined, and confident
10. Be humble and grateful

Our practice has changed the way providers see birth and has allowed us to become colleagues and  team players on the pregnancy, birth, and parenthood journey.

We want to thank you for voting for us, supporting us, and being loyal to us.... We couldn't have done this without you!
We didn't just WISH for it WE WORKED for work really does make the dream work!!!

With many thanks,
 The Best Doulas in Dallas!

Special thanks to Red Plum Photography!

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Client List

Did you know that North Dallas Doula Associates has been serving the DFW area for over a decade? Would you be surprised if I told you, I really do carry a "little black book" with all my client information with me at all times?
Well, the truth is, I do!

So lets talk about the who's who on the doula client list....
I have meet some of the most interesting, accomplished, and educated people around the world working as a doula.  I have been the doula for professional athlete's, musicians, TV personalities and celebrities. I have witnessed the birth of families in many cultures and religions and consider it an honor to be present and open hearted during their traditions and religious rituals.

Did you know that women of the Muslim faith can only be attended by females at her birth? Although, male doctors can be used, the majority of the attendees will be female.  Some Muslim fathers do not attend the birth although religious teachings do not prohibit his attendance.
Breastfeeding , in the Muslim faith is highly promoted via the Quran. Some mothers are given ratb, which is a kind of date said to improve milk quality.
Muslim fathers will recite an Adhan (call to prayer) in their infants right ear so that it is the first words he/she will here post delivery.

In the Orthodox Jewish faith a women will enter the ritual status of 'niddah' when certain signs of labor approach. This status has implications for the ability for the husband to provide physical assistance and/or be present throughout the delivery. Niddah basically means husband and wife cannot touch once labor has begun.  In this scenario the doula becomes the mothers only means of physical support.
In over 100 traditional Jewish births, I have seen many adaptations to these rituals, but have enjoyed learning and loving through each and every one....and did I mention the food that usually comes along with these families. YUM!

There are over 100 gay and lesbian couples that grace the pages of the black book. Witnessing these men and women become mothers and fathers is one of true triumph. Learning about he struggles, time, finances, and prayers that have allowed them to receive the gift of a child is beauty beyond belief.

I have attended teen births, surrogate deliveries, twin, triplets, and adoption births.

I have been beside a mother who is delivering a baby we know will be born still or with a disorder that will not allow for life after birth. When I look back and read those names on the pages I cannot help but feel my eyes fill with tears and my heart with hurt....
Every single one of them takes space in my soul.

 My client list has been privileged to include the names of many labor and delivery nurses, doulas,  midwives, and obstetricians. There is no greater compliment than being asked to attend the birth of a colleague. They have seen you work and trust you to be beside them during the most intimate of experiences. This is confirmation that you have found your true calling.

I am in love with the diversity that soaks through the pages of my worn out book.  I have been the doula to 6 women this year who have come from other parts of the world; Iraq, Mexico City, Israel, The Dominican Republic, China, and India to birth their babies. I am filled with gratitude for the chance to serve woman outside of my 'backyard" and know that I played a small role in their own unique journey to motherhood.

 I look forward to reading and filling the pages of my client list for years to come and hope that there will never be a day that I stop learning from the amazing women who fill my book and support my life's work.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

An open letter to Randy Patterson: What I REALLY think about PRODOULA and the doulas who drink the Kool-Aid!


I am writing this letter after a long week of wondering why the doula world has become so catty, bitchy, and passive aggressive.  I work hard with my head down and my nose to the ground. I worry less about what and how others are doing business and about the success and integrity of my own practice.

The average life span of a doula is 2 years. I can only remember one face and name from the doulas in training during my DONA workshop 16 years ago.  None of them are practicing doulas and none of them practiced longer than 2 years.  When I left my training I did my first birth as a doula exactly 1 month later and I began my journey supporting women. I went through the process to become certified through Doulas of North America and was mentored by two of the best doulas and educators in Texas. I was on top of the world.  Year after year, and birth after birth, I learned and grew. I watched and respected the more experienced doulas in awe.

So now I am wondering why after I have put in my time, built my business and proven myself do I have to deal with the hate I am dealing with…. Why is this profession becoming so cut throat?

I have recently found myself and my practice, time and time again, the target of one of the others in our doula community.  A situation I am seeing and feeling more and more. It is hard for me to understand how a woman who is in the profession of supporting other women can slander, defame, and bully another woman who is supporting women for a living, solely because she is not doing it “her” way; or because she is making a good living doing it.

In the midst of this soul searching, here in Dallas Texas, a call went out to New York, to you, Randy Patterson.  You were willing to take your time and give a listening ear to the issues our practice is  experiencing with a certain DONA certified doula and trainer.  Your advice was respectful, encouraging, and affirming.  We were instantly scooped into your family,  the family that is PRODOULA.  Your love for the work we do and the women who do it with you,  even states away, is fierce;  if I wasn’t already sold on the work ethic, business building, professional energy of PRODOULA before; I was completely sure that my FOREVER doula home had been found.

Randy Patterson, we are so thankful to have someone like you in the doula world. Only those who do not know you personally can talk hate about you….if they met you and/or heard your truth they would never be able to utter words of negativity in your direction.

You have gone to bat for us, believed in us, reaffirmed our faith, pushed us to do what we were capable of all along...and THAT, I believe, is what the doula spirit is all about!

I have met you many times now, spoken to you in regard to my personal and professional issues, attended your training's, and conference. I have had the privilege to meet other PRODOULA trainers, members, and speakers. One thing all of them have in common is the fierce factor that I believe you fuel in all of us.

So I want to thank you for being there for my practice, North Dallas Doula Associates, this week and always. I cannot express how it feels after 16 years in the business to finally meet my people.  The PRODOULA Kool-Aid has never tasted SO good!

 Yours truly,
Melissa Espey-Mueller