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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Day of the kids are MUTTS!

My kids are mutts. They have so many mixtures of culture, heritage, and genes in the mixing bowls of their souls. I love to look at them and see who they resemble and whose personality I see shining through them. I remember when I was carrying Gabriel in my womb, my husband and I decided  to name him in honor of my father and in honor of my Mexican heritage.....we christened him "Gabriel Ruben". He looks the least Hispanic of all of my children and the most like the fair skinned Irish side of my family. He was born with the bluest of eyes and the lightest blond hair.
I want my kids to know where they come from. I want them to know who their people are, I want then to feel connected to their roots. I want them to be proud of the Mexican, Indian, French, Irish, German little MUTTS that they are!

This is why we celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. I want my children to celebrate the lives of their family, even those whom they have never had the privilege to meet. On this day we prepare recipes of my grandmother and eat other favorite foods of loved ones. We purchased my grandfathers favorite beer and my other grandmothers favorite fruit. We lit candles on the piano, and played some of the music my grandmother taught me to play... music I have in turn, taught my children.

We look through old photos and scrap books and I tell them stories about the people in the pictures and hope that, someday when I die, my children's children will tell their kids about me; and what I have taught them.

Dia de los Muertos reunites the deceased with their families and allows them to return to their earthly homes to visit and rejoice with their loved ones. For me it allows the chance to explain life and death to my children and the fact that our family will truly never leave us...but  it is our responsibility to keep the spirits of "our people" alive forever.

This has become one of my favorite holidays of the year. I look forward to the return of those who have departed to share and celebrate their memories and legacy with us.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Doulas LOVE sex!!!

Doulas LOVE sex!!!

I won’t lie, my livelihood depends on you and your partner keeping the magic alive….but the truth of the matter is YOU having sex benefits all of us!

What got you into this mess can get you out! One of the most important hormones needed to fuel contractions, Oxytocin, is also known as the love hormone.  It is released in large amounts during orgasm and is needed to facilitate effective and efficient contractions during labor.  It sure is interesting that the hormone that gives us so much pleasure is also the power behind the contractions we feel in childbirth.  Oxytocin is also responsible for bonding and attachment. It is thought that the more sex a couple has, the deeper the connection.  When a baby is born oxytocin is what insures that a mom and a baby will form a strong bond. It also is behind the reason a mothers breast will immediately start leaking as soon as her baby begins to cry.
Nipple stimulation is another way to release oxytocin. Using a breast pump for nipple stimulation may help to bring on contractions. However, being in love with whatever (or whoever) is stimulating your breasts will make the process more enjoyable and the release of hormones that much greater.  Clitoral stimulation is the absolute best and most effective way to get this show on the road! This is a great way for moms who suffer from SPD, sciatica, or other issues that make intercourse painful; to still receive the benefits of the love hormone....Clitoral stimulation can be done all by yourself if your significant other is working, unavailable, or just not in the mood. 
Pitocin, is the man made version of Oxytocin. Think about it, would you rather get an IV of Pitocin or have a nice, relaxing orgasm to bring on your baby…..

Prostaglandin is found in semen. Prostaglandin helps to soften and efface the cervix. A mother needs her cervix, or the opening to her uterus, to ripen to allow for dilation.  So the more sex you have, the more oxytocin, the more contractions and the quicker and, potentially, easier time you will have getting your baby out …… Oh, and the more sex you have the longer your doula will be able to stay in business doing the work she LOVES!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Matters of Life and Death....and the in between.

A little over 18 years ago, I began my career as a care provider.  I worked as an end of life supporter. I was hired and trained at a big University hospital in Dallas while on my journey to becoming a registered nurse. I thought I had found my niche in the world....waking up each morning with a purpose. I was a single mother, recovering from an abusive marriage. I had the opportunity to pick up additional shifts and I was gaining experience along the way.

My job was to help people who were at the end. They were not going to make it. I knew it. They knew it.
It became part of my job to sit and listen. I heard stories about how they had lived. Who they had loved. I met their families. It wasn't about dying and they didn't remember being was about their personal "in between".   What had they done, who had they known, what would they miss?

I realize now, as my role has shifted into beginning of life care, that although my focus is on birth and helping a woman birth her is more about the "in between".

Its about the love affair that began before I met this woman and her partner. Even before that, its about her childhood, her sister, her mother, her aunt, her grandmother. She is a perfect puzzle of pieces gathered over time to make her the woman giving birth today.
I cannot ignore her "in between". Although this is the beginning of her life as a mother it is a part of a bigger picture. She will not forever lose who she is....a series of pit stops, road bumps, boyfriends, girlfriends, secrets, fears, education, jobs, triumphs, traumas, wishes, hopes, and dreams on the journey of her life. This is her life.
The pain that she feels on this day is a purposeful reminder that she is alive. That she is living, breathing, being capable of amazing things.
When I spoke to women who were dying they remembered this day vividly, the day their children were born. Not the pain or discomfort, but the miracle itself. The chance to provide a beginning, life, for someone else...and then these women would spend the remainder of their lives praying for these children to have better "in betweens" then they did. Kindergarten, middle school, boy trouble, high school, girl trouble, college.....marriage, babies of their own. LIFE.

I have been blessed to witness miracles in both life and death for a living and these people have become part of my life's "in between".
This work is my work, my passion, my legacy....MY LIFE and I am using my time here on earth to make a difference that will be stamped on the passport of someone else's life's journey.

As I see the posts lately supporting life, I cannot help but think....anyone can give life, its the "in between" that counts. We all deserve an amazing in between.  A chance to be who we are meant to be..... a chance to not only have a beginning and an end.
I don't think those who don't choose life are wanting to choose death.... Sadly, I think they are afraid of not being able to offer an in between.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

6 Ways Birth Will Rock Your World

6 Ways Birth Will Rock Your World

Birth is a completely new and unknown experience. There’s one thing we can reassure you, it will be one wild ride! One of the best ways to embrace the unpredictable nature of birth is to realize that when it comes to having a baby, you’re gonna have to do the opposite of what you’re used to.

Instead of Holding It In, Let It OUT.

From a very early age as little girls we are taught to cross our legs. When we’re in the middle of a grocery store and we have to pee, we hold it. If we’re feeling sad but we’re in the middle of a busy day, we push our feelings deep inside (hello dark sunglasses).

Welcome to birth – where you’ve got to let it all hang out. With birth, your bodily needs are front and center. If you have to pee, you pee. When your waters break, they’re gonna flow all over the floor like a waterfall. When you have to push, it will be the strangest, most undeniable, most uncontrollable sensation you’ve ever felt.

Start practicing this now ~ when you are sad, let yourself cry. When you’re hungry, stop what you’re doing and feed yourself. During pregnancy and birth, everything that happens revolves around you and your baby’s needs. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Instead of Thinking It, Start Feeling It

By the time you show up to the hospital or birth center (or take another fateful lap around your living room) you’ll have had 10 months to plan, and analyze, and anticipate what’s going to happen during birth. You will have assembled your team and packed your labor snacks, considered waterbirth vs. epidural, and figured out every possible logistic.

In the last days of pregnancy, you’re going to have to let your rational mind take a little vacation. Send her off to the Mayan Riviera. Meanwhile, you’re going to stop thinking with your mind, and start feeling with your heart. Your body and your heart are the ones who will help you get through the rollercoaster ride that is birth. Trust me, your mind will return to you when it’s said and done … and she will be nice and rested so she can help figure out the best sushi place that delivers in the middle of the night.

Don’t Plan Ahead

Yes, write your birth plan and give it to your birth team or doula. But once you’re in labor, you should ask someone to tape something over the clock so you can’t see what time it is. TIME DOESN’T MATTER. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DOESN’T MATTER. All that matters is what you are doing in this very second, during this very contraction, or in the space between when you get that sweet break.

Be Here Now. Does that expression make you want to throw a chai tea latte at someone? Ok. Go with that feeling. Figure out what about it makes you crazy. Because when push comes to shove, you’re gonna have to learn to live there.

Trust, Completely

I know you are a smart cookie. I know you have the right to change your mind. But realize that during labor you will be another version of yourself – Labor You. Labor You will have to trust that Pregnant You made great decisions for Labor You ahead of time – that she chose an awesome doctor or midwife, chose a great hospital, made a reasonable birth plan and chose a great doula. While it might seem a lot to ask that you trust all of those people completely … try doing this instead. TRUST YOURSELF. Trust that you made the best decisions you could at the time you made them. And then let it go. Be vulnerable. Let it hang out. Give in. Let GO.

Repeat After Me …


This makes me giggle. But do it.

Learn to Love Someone Before You Ever Meet Them

You are doing all of this for a little person whose little nose you don’t even know the shape of yet. You may feel like you know this little person intimately already. Or you might not be convinced that you aren’t giving birth to a cat or a fish (don’t look at me that way – true story).

Sister friend, the love for your baby is the craziest thing you will ever experience in life. And it’s a gift that you can’t open yet, not till its time. It’s like Christmas morning that could happen at any moment … at 3 pm on a Tuesday, in the middle of a thunderstorm, or at 2 o’clock in the morning under a gorgeous full moon. No worries … your soft, squishy little baby is the most delicious thing you will ever experience in your whole life. And that love you’ll feel --- you’ll be completely unprepared for it. J

Trust me, I’m right.

Love, Kate

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I love you for life.

I am a believer in love, the unconditional kind. I am confused by people who say "I love you", one moment, and then find it very easy to flip the switch. I've never been able to do that. Once I love you, I love you for life. Unconditional love takes a lot of compromise and forgiveness. It takes looking at someone and saying you've hurt me, you've failed me, but I continue to love you. It is what I teach my children and what I hope they see and feel in me.  Loving unconditionally means that I choose to see people without judgment and try to understand where they are coming from and how loving them more instead of less will make a difference. Sometimes, loving unconditionally means that I love silently and in tears because my love is not reciprocated by people who I thought loved me too.... Other times I love loudly and sing it from the top of my lungs.  I am addicted to unconditional love, although it is not always kind, I believe it always perseveres.....

I need all of you, who have asked about the girls who have left my practice, to know that my heart is broken. I have fallen in love with few people in my life, but they are definitely some of those people. I want to let everyone know that my love for them still exists and my hopes for their success has not changed and never will.

To all of you who have asked, prayed, and cried with me and who continue to support me on this ever changing, ever learning, journey........ Thank you, for loving this imperfect person so perfectly.


The Bravest of the Brave...

I have five children. None of them were born via csection. Honestly, I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to have a surprise abdominal surgery instead of the natural, vaginal birth I had planned. As a professional I have seen it happen. A mom in the midst of her labor, surfing the waves of contractions, never progressing, or baby not descending. Suddenly, anesthesia comes in, an epidural is placed, dad is handed scrubs, a hat, a mask, some booties for his shoes and mom is wheeled down the hall to the OR. She is moved from her labor bed to a surgical table by the staff, who are also wearing hats and masks. Even the staff she has met, now look unfamiliar. The room is cold and the lights are bright. I look at her, I see a single tear slip down her cheek.

All I can say to her is I trust the process. I trust in birth. I trust in your body's innate ability to know what will keep YOUR baby safe.

 I have seen inconsistent labor patterns, where the contractions never become consistent. I have seen mothers go through very intense contractions, that should be productive.....but for some reason the baby will not drop into the pelvis or go under the pubic bone....the cervix will not dilate. The reason is that the process is trustworthy, if we choose to listen.

I'm writing this because although I see natural birth over 90% of the time in my practice, I am always listening, learning, and watching. My educator is the body and the baby that I am there to support. If I choose to bring an agenda into the space, I will not see or hear the signs as I leave any and all assumptions at the door. You see, before our babies are even born trust is the protector, the savior, the lover, the truth.....It is definitive.

I have  held many hands under the blue surgical covers during a C-section; wiped my share of tears. I  want everyone to know what I have seen in the OR,  I want to scream it from the rooftops..... There behind the OR  double doors.... I have seen true courage. The bravest of the brave.

I have been witness to mothers becoming mothers on an unexpected path and putting all their trust
 in another human being. Motherhood to me is such a courageous adventure. We never know what to expect with childbirth, it is incredibly initiation into motherhood.

The reason I decided to write this is because I want mothers who experienced a detour on their birth plan to know that we cannot be promoters of trusting birth, your body, and your baby; if we only trust the process that we expect.....If we truly trust the process, we have to pay attention to all the signs along the way, enlist people to join us on our journey who will support us, and always listen to our body and our baby. People that we trust and who we know trust birth, however it unfolds.

True courage comes when we must face what was not in the plan, strength in motherhood comes from following your heart and  making decisions for the love of another....and that love is like no other and is not made less by the method of delivery.  Wear your belly badge proud, sweet mamas, and know that I see you. I see your strength. You truly are the bravest of the BRAVE.

*photo credit Kathryn Krueger