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This Is How a Doula Preps for Birth

A doula knows a great deal about birth, but can she be an expert on her own birth? Does her expertise mean that she doesn’t need a support system? Or that she is immune to the emotional roller coaster that is prepping for birth? The quick answer to all of these questions is, absolutely not!

Sure you can use your knowledge to figure out the kind of birth you want, but when comes the time to actually give birth, you need to be able to turn your thinking mind off and go into the animalistic part of your brain to allow your body to release and birth your baby. And just like anyone, a laboring doula needs the support and reassurance -- maybe even more so than someone who doesn’t work in the field -- and she needs to prepare. Curious to know how? Here are 8 things that I, as a doula, did to get ready for labor and delivery.

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1. Staying active. Up until 37 weeks, I was teaching prenatal fitness classes at FPC four days a week, which also kept me in shape throughout pregnancy. It also allowed me to practice what we call Pump and Kegel -- deep belly breathing with pelvic floor activation. I not only got a great workout, but also built a wonderful community of pregnant friends who I was able to share all the pregnancy ups and downs, questions and observations.

2. Prioritizing self-care. I got weekly massages from a wonderful massage therapist (Green Stone Spa in DUMBO), which helped with physical tension in my back and hips, swelling in my legs and overall promotion of relaxation. I also saw my acupuncturist (Gabriel Sher) for similar reasons and for pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. I took epsom salt baths with coconut oil at least twice a week to reduce swelling in my legs and help me relax and used this time to connect with baby, massage my legs and belly, and incorporate meditations with the Expectful app.

3. Being mindful about what I ate. Though I already have a pretty well balanced diet, I became even more conscious in my food choices during pregnancy. Most mornings, I would have a smoothie loaded with Brazil nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, spirulina and coconut oil -- trying to favor healthy fats and proteins. Throughout the day, I kept healthy snacks in my bag but still indulged in sweets like dark chocolate. I always had a bottle of water by my side and, after meeting with pelvic floor therapist Lindsey Vestal, I got in the habit of drinking small doses of water all day long. Chugging water doesn't allow your body to absorb it properly.

4. Assessing my pelvic floor health early in pregnancy. Knowing and connecting to your pelvic floor well before birth can help you strengthen and therefore prepare your core muscles for labor, delivery and recovery. I also got to learn about my bladder function. We hear so much about pregnant women having to pee all of the time or leaking. Yet, this coming phenomenon isn't normal, not is it healthy. After my session with Lindsey Vestal, I was much more aware and was able to avoid some of the more common issues, like waking up several times a night to pee.

5. Taking a childbirth education class. While I am certified to teach Lamaze Childbirth Education, I wanted my husband to have the experience and learn from someone who wasn’t me. We chose to have a private in-home class with Stephanie Heintzeler, who tailored the class to our specific questions and birth preferences. My favorite part of her class is that she acts out contractions, which allows students to prepare for the sights and sounds of what labor is like.

6. Getting a doula. As a birth and postpartum doula, I have found myself stumped or overwhelmed with emotion. Even though I’m supposed to be an expert in pregnancy and birth, I had so many questions about everything -- from my belly button popping at 13 weeks to my linea nigra to my rapid weight gain. When I discovered that I had an anterior and low lying placenta, I went into mini panic mode, as I contemplated all of the changes to my birth preferences. Whatever concern I had, my doula, Lindsey, was always calm and cool and hilariously sarcastic. She was exactly the person that I needed to keep me grounded during this emotional transition in my life. When you build your birth team, make sure to choose someone who gets along with both you and your partner.

7. Trusting the process of birth. I needed to remind myself and know that baby will arrive when he chooses to come. As I reached the final days and weeks of pregnancy, I tuned into my body and tried not to get stuck on the due date and to focus on my due “time” instead. And to do that, I gave my body what it was asking for: rest and quiet. Baths, yoga, massage, reiki, and snuggles with my cat and husband were about as much as I was up to towards the end, knowing that it all nurtured me and my growing baby.

8. Setting expectations and making a plan for the postpartum period. I find that planning for birth is often like planning a wedding -- you forget about what comes after, marriage or motherhood. I knew that I would need a community to support us in moments of crisis, so before I gave birth, I put together a list of people I knew I could rely on when needed. For me, it was postpartum doulas and lactation consultants, but it can also be family members and friends. I also set restrictions on visitors and made sure loved ones knew that I’d be protecting my space to allow myself and my new family to bond and adjust to our new reality. I also knew that I would need time to heal, so when it came to fitness and physical activities, I made the decision to set the bar low and take a wait-and-see approach.

Originally from Sun Valley, Idaho, Erin Williams have resided in NYC since 2002, working in the fashion industry. She's now a certified birth and postpartum doula, as well as a certified lactation counselor, a Lamaze certified childbirth educator and a certified yoga instructor. She believes that birth is an amazing process and that everyone deserves to have the best birth possible. Which is why she co-created Doulight NYC -- to support all types of births and families and to help mothers and birth partners experience a memorable birth-day!

Photography by Michelle Rose Sulcov.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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