Jackson's Birth Story

photos by Julian Marks of Picture your Birth Photography


I’m sitting at my kitchen table, listening to the rain hit the pavement outside while my 3-month-old baby Jackson nurses. I hear his breathing, steady and rhythmic, with the occasional grunt or squeak mixed in. I’ve waited to write my birth story until it felt right, until all the dust had begun to settle and I could start to see it in the light of day. As you read it, please know that all birth is unique, and every birthing person’s journey is valid and should be respected. My birth was so many things - beautiful, strong, supported, and also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There were moments when I was grateful for modern medicine, and moments when I was scared for my life. I hope you read it and take away whatever you need to today.

Jackson is my second child, and my third pregnancy after an initial miscarriage before my older son Shea was born. Jack, like his brother Shea, was conceived through IVF, and he was our final embryo. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant with him, we most likely wouldn’t have tried again. A lot of emotion, hope, fear, and anxiety were wrapped up in the results of the pregnancy test. When we found out I was pregnant I remember feeling relieved, but still not allowing myself to fully accept it for a while, just in case I had another miscarriage.


We chose not to find out the sex of the baby, and didn’t even decide on a name until after he was born. It felt exciting to not know or care if we were having a boy or a girl, and we just knew that whatever being came into the world, they would be loved fiercely by their parents and older brother.

My pregnancy was pretty easy, and I enjoyed most of it, knowing that it would be my last time having to pull on the extra stretchy pants and oversized shirts. I was able to savor everything more, having already been through a full term pregnancy before and knowing what to expect, for the most part.


I knew I wanted to have a home birth with a midwife, and felt confident in my ability to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I had attempted a home birth with Shea, and ended up with a c-section (read his birth story here). I felt like this time would be different, faster, easier somehow. As the weeks ticked by and I got closer to my estimated due date, I was feeling positive and optimistic. And when, on the morning of my 39th week, I got up to pee at 1am and felt my water break, I was ecstatic that labor was starting on its own this time, and figured I’d have this baby sometime in the next 12 hours or so.

My labor started slowly, and I did lots of walking around the neighborhood with Spencer. I remember a chatty neighbor stopped us to say hi and talk, and I politely chatted back, breathing through my contractions and hoping he wouldn’t notice and ask me about it. He remained oblivious, and we continued our walk.


The timeline of my labor is very fuzzy, as it should be, since I was focusing on the work and not wondering what time it was. But I know that it was long. Longer than I had expected, and long enough that I began to feel discouraged. I felt duped, like I’d somehow lost the birth lottery - having a long labor with my first that ended in a c-section, and now having another long labor with my second. I thought second time births were supposed to be fast! Like, doesn’t the baby just slip out?

I also remember feeling like the contractions were controlling me, and I was never able to get on top of them. I would doze between contractions, then awake with dread as I felt another one coming on, thinking to myself, “I can’t do this. I can’t. This is too hard. I need it to stop. I want out.” For several hours, I felt helpless and afraid, just wanting someone to save me from it all. As I moaned on my hands and knees in my bed with Spencer beside me and my doula Ashlie on the floor, one hand reaching up to me to soothe me, I knew something needed to shift if I was going to be able to do this. When a contraction ended I asked Spencer, “remember when we used to do our long bike rides?” and we talked about the rolling hills of Palo Alto, CA, where we used to ride 20, 40, 75 miles in the days before kids. We talked about the vineyards, winding roads, and mossy forests we’d ride through, as we’d pass deer eating on the side of the road. “Remember how much I hated climbing those hills?” I asked Spencer. “And remember how you used to always keep me going?” I felt emotion well up inside me as I thought of him, my partner and best friend, always right there by my side when I felt like I couldn’t go one more inch, cheering me on and knowing that I could do it. I used to get up those hills by counting my pedal strokes. Focusing on the counting was the only thing that worked. I asked Spencer, “would you count for me?”


Everything changed with the counting. Like, immediately. Spencer would use a calm, slow voice to begin counting up when a contraction started, “one…two…three…” all the way up to ten. Then he would start counting back down even slower, “ten…nine…eight…” I knew if I could just make it to ten, then the contraction was half over and I could relax for the downhill slide. Sometimes he’d try to get clever and count further than ten, “fifteen…sixteen…” and I would snap at him, “JUST TO TEN!” because any change in the pattern threw me off and I could feel my body tense up immediately. I needed the rhythm and ritual of the exact same pattern over and over. This went on for hours, as my labor slowly progressed and I was able to keep marching on.

As the hours went on, 20 hours, 24 hours, 28 hours, we began to talk about the possibility that more intervention may be needed to have this baby. Adrienne gave me an IV with extra vitamins in it to try to give me a boost of energy, but my body was fading. I had begun to feel the urge to push, but I wasn’t yet fully dilated. Adrienne encouraged me to try to just breathe through the contractions so as not to push, but I couldn’t help it. She was concerned that my cervix would get swollen because of me pushing against it when it wasn’t fully dilated. We tried various positions to try to get me fully dilated, but it just didn’t happen. Eventually, we decided to go to the hospital and get an epidural. That way I could sleep and regain enough energy to push him out, and hopefully my body could relax and my cervix could finish dilating. When we made the decision to transfer, Spencer and I just held each other and cried. We were so sure we’d be having a home birth this time, we felt like we’d been defeated. But we took a deep breath and said “ok, this is what we have to do. Let’s go.”


The time in the hospital bed before I was able to get the epidural was some of the most excruciating minutes of the whole labor. Before that, I’d been able to move, walk, sway, and dance my way through each contraction. Now I was asked to lay on my back so they could get the monitors on me, and it was horrible. I moaned and clutched the side of the bed, just hoping the epidural would be there soon so I could get some relief. Once the anesthesiologist came in and the epidural began to take effect, I was once again reminded of the beauty of Western medicine and the mercy of pain medication when it’s really useful and necessary. I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep for I don’t know how long.

As is typical in the hospital, many different people floated in and out of the room - residents, attendings, nurses. The first attending doctor we saw sat down and told me matter-of-factly, “you have about a 20% chance of having a VBAC.” In my mind, I flipped her the bird and thought to myself, “you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve already done. I’m doing this.” After a while they checked my cervix and it had thankfully finished dilating, so it was time to push. We put on some music to get me pumped - 80’s and 90’s rock, 2000’s pop, Rihanna, Destiny’s Child, Salt-n-Pepa. I pushed with everything I had for 3 hours, with the attending (a different one this time) telling me that at the 3 hour mark they would give me a c-section because they were concerned for infection since my water had been broken for almost 48 hours at that point.


Around 2 and 1/2 hours into pushing, the attending suggested using forceps to help the baby out. She explained that she was very skilled with them, and would only use them if she was able to place them perfectly on his head. I agreed, knowing that the other option was a c-section. She and the resident doctor took turns attempting to place the forceps for a good 30 minutes while I silently thanked God that I had an epidural and couldn’t feel what they were doing to my poor nether regions, until finally she gave up and said she wasn’t able to place them perfectly, so she wouldn’t use them. She gave me one more chance, “I’m going to let you push for 30 more minutes, and I know you can do this. You can get this baby out.” I had them wheel a mirror over so I could see the progress I was making with each push. I dug deep and gave even more than I thought I had in me. With the doctor and nurses counting loudly as I pushed, and Spencer and Ashlie cheering me on, I saw his head emerge and exclaimed, “I did it! He’s so big!” as his body slipped out. They put him on my chest and I hugged him tightly. I felt his squishy, slippery body and announced to the room, “it’s a boy! I can feel his balls!”


Since my water had been broken and I’d pushed for so long, the NICU team was in the room when Jack was born, just in case he needed extra support. They took him to a warmer on the other side of the room, while the attending and resident began taking turns pulling on the umbilical cord that led to the placenta still in my uterus. I sat up and asked, “why are you pulling on the cord already? What’s the hurry?” and the attending replied that she “just likes to give it some traction to help it out.” Not more than a minute or two later, I heard her say, “oh crap” as the cord snapped, leaving my placenta still inside. She went in with her hand and began to (sorry if this gives you the creeps) pull and scrape the placenta off my uterine wall manually. Again, I thanked the stars above that I had an epidural, as her arm disappeared inside me. Suddenly, I began to feel weak, nauseous, and unfocused. I didn’t know it, but I had begun to hemorrhage.

At this point, everything changed. My thoughts slowed down, and although I wanted to say things, I couldn’t seem to get the words out of my mouth. I began to shake uncontrollably, I slurred my words, and my eyes got heavy. I vomited. I began to think, “something’s wrong. Something’s wrong. I think I’m going to die. This is how I’m going to die.” Spencer came to my side and I said “babe, I think I’m gonna die.” He told me, “you’re not gonna die, you’re ok,” but he later confessed that he didn’t really know what was going to happen, and was scared out of his mind. I heard the medical staff call in an emergency hemorrhage team stat, and lots more people flooded into the room. People were telling me, “ok we’re giving you an injection of this medication…” “we’re going to start a second IV….” “here, put this oxygen mask on…” and I just kept slurring, “I don’t care…do whatever you have to do….” I vaguely remember the doctor asking for a special balloon catheter to put into my uterus to stop the bleeding. At first she couldn’t get it to work, or a piece broke or something, because she needed a second one. Finally, she got it in and began to stop the bleeding.

The rest of the night is a blur, as I drifted in and out of sleep. People offered the baby to me but I hardly remember it, and I mostly just wanted someone else to hold him because I felt too weak. The next morning I woke up and felt like a truck had driven through my body. I thought to myself, “is this just how I’m going to feel now? Will I always be in this much pain?” But a few hours later the doctor came in to remove the gauze and balloon from my uterus, and I slowly began to feel better as the day went on. I breastfed my baby, who we had now decided to name Jackson David, and continued to sleep, eat, sleep, nurse, sleep…


Writing all of this down, it really puts into perspective just how much I went through to have this baby. There is a small part of me that feels like, “was it worth it to have a VBAC? Would it have just been easier to have another c-section?” and I don’t know the answer to that. I hesitate to even share those thoughts, because I don’t want any other parent to give up on the hopes of having a VBAC or think it’s not worth it. Everyone has their own birth journey, and everyone has their own reasons behind the decisions they make in labor.


I look up from my laptop, stretch my neck and take a deep breath. I look down at Jack, now fast asleep in my lap, as he emits a soft moan. I can feel tears, but they’re deep within me, not at the surface. I give myself grace. I realize that I have more strength, power, and determination within me than I ever thought possible. Birth and motherhood have broken me, broken me open, broken my old self into a thousand pieces that blow away in the wind so that my new self, made up of a blinding light, can emerge.

Jackson David at 4 weeks old

Jackson David at 4 weeks old

Heart Tones Doula Fall 2018 Client Gathering

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On a cool Fall day in October, I had the pleasure of hosting my first-ever doula client gathering. Past and current doula clients, partners, and kids came to my home to mingle, chat, eat and get to know each other. I feel so grateful to get to work with such amazing families as they bring their babies into this world, and I personally think I have the coolest clients ever, so naturally I felt like they should all know each other!

My friend and birth photographer Lindsey Rivera of Born Birth Photos & Film snapped photos of the gathering. I can’t wait to have another get-together in the Spring, and hope to make this a regular twice-a-year event.


The BirthRoot Classroom: An Online Childbirth Prep Class For the Rest of Us

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“We’re looking for a childbirth class that is inclusive of trans people. We don’t want to walk in and have to educate the instructor all about trans stuff. We want them to already know about us and feel comfortable teaching us.” 

This is what a recent couple told me during our first meeting together. They are trying to get pregnant, and wanted to meet with me to discuss the process and get support from a LGBTQ+ friendly doula. They identify as a gay couple, and Jamie*, the parent who will be carrying the baby, identifies as a transgender man. They are in the beginning stages of the pregnancy journey, and are looking into all their options when it comes to providers, birthing locations, and childbirth prep classes. As a transgender man, Jamie already knows that his pregnancy will be filled with challenges that cisgender people just don’t have to deal with, like educating pretty much every provider about what it means to be trans, how trans men can still get pregnant, and on and on. They are going into this with their eyes wide open, and want to find the providers who will help them along the journey with as much understanding, support, advocacy, and open-mindedness as possible. 

I replied to their comment about wanting an inclusive childbirth prep class with some hesitation, “well, I know of some excellent childbirth educators, but you may still have to do some advocating and educating. I don’t know of any local childbirth prep classes that specifically cater to LGBTQ people.” I suggested they may want to do private classes, but those are usually more expensive, and money is a factor for this couple. I left the meeting feeling a bit discouraged, and wishing there were more birth-related services that specifically focus on trans and gender-nonconforming people.

A Childbirth Preparation Course for the Rest of Us

A few months ago I received an email from Sandra Londino, a certified nurse midwife in Ithaca, New York. She had seen my blog post about how to make your birth business more LGBTQ+ inclusive, and asked if I’d be willing to check out her new online childbirth prep course, The BirthRoot Classroom, and write a blog post about my thoughts. I immediately went to the course website and dug into the content, and watched the free preview of the Introduction Module of the course. My first reaction to the Introduction Module video was how clear, understandable and accessible all the information was. Sandra’s teaching style is thoughtful, friendly, and never feels rushed. The course is inclusive of LGBTQIA people, people of color, and single parents. Anyone and everyone can take this course and see themselves reflected in the content, which can’t be said for most of the childbirth prep classes out there. 

Anyone and everyone can take this course and see themselves reflected in the content, which can’t be said for most of the childbirth prep classes out there. 


What This Course Offers

First of all, The BirthRoot Classroom is JUST $75. Most childbirth prep classes are a couple hundred dollars, and many of them don’t offer all the perks you get with this class:

  • 24/7 Members Only access for six months (including all future updates to the program at no extra charge)
  • Eight evidence-based modules with downloads, worksheets, resources, audio recordings, and links
  • Over 15 hours of video walking you through every step of preparing for childbirth and parenting
  • 24/7 lifetime access to the private Facebook discussion forum moderated by Sandra
  • Monthly LIVE Q&A calls with Sandra (these are recorded for future reference if you are unable to attend live)
  • Email support for questions or problems
  • Content, images, and terminology that are inclusive of people of color, single people, and LGBTQIA people

For people who have busy lives, it can be hard to commit to an in-person childbirth prep class. This class is all online, so you can take it at your convenience, and re-watch any modules that you want to brush up on later. 


A Gap in the Birth World

I’m so excited that Sandra has created a course like this. There is a huge gap in the birth world for people who identify as trans or gender-nonconforming. There needs to be more content out there for ALL people, so that all birthing parents can feel the support and respect that they deserve. I can’t wait to share The BirthRoot Classroom course with all my clients! 

Check out the course HERE! 


*names have been changed to protect client privacy.

Featured On Beatuiful Life Self Care Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Gracy Obuchowicz of Beautiful Life Self Care. She has a weekly podcast all about different aspects of self care, and she talks with people from all different professions to get their take on it. In this podcast, we chatted about my work as a music therapist and doula, and how I help expecting parents incorporate music into their births. We also talked about what self care means to me. Check out the podcast here!


Drumming and Rhythmic Play with Kids

Looking for a fun, easy way to play and engage with your kids, no matter their age? Make music together! Drumming and rhythmic play are great ways to help your child develop their creativity, musicality, and focus. Kids are usually really easy to engage in drumming, since they don't have any of those pesky hangups us adults have, like "I'm not musical," "I have no rhythm," or any other silly thing we tell ourselves. Kids just go for it! Play along with your kids, and allow yourself to follow their lead and be silly. There is no "wrong" way to play a drum; as long as you're smiling and having a good time, then you're playing it right! 

How Early Can I Start Drumming with My Kids?

You can start engaging in rhythmic play with your kids when they're just an infant! Just remember with very tiny babies: go slow, be soft, and keep stimulation low. When they are in the quiet-alert state, you might engage rhythmically with them for a couple of minutes at the most. Follow their cues; if they turn away, stop looking at you, or cry, take a break. 

Some early rhythmic games to play with your baby are:

  • Softly tap the rhythm of their name or other phrases on their body. For instance, tap “I love you, _____ (their name)” on their hands as they lay in front of you, or on their back as you hold them. 
  • Mimic their rhythmic coos and other sounds. If they kick their legs in a specific pattern, mimic that by clapping, tapping, or saying “kick, kick, kick!”
  • Sing to your baby. Make up songs on the spot about whatever you’re doing, like “we’re changing your diaper, your diaper, your diaper, we’re changing your diaper, here we GO!” 

Here is a video I made to give you some ideas of fun, easy rhythmic games you can play with your child. 

Once your baby is a few months old and can hold something, you can start giving them age-appropriate rhythmic toys to play with. Once your baby is a little older and can sit up on their own, you can start introducing them to larger drums.  As your child continues to grow, you can let them play with any drum they want! Supervise your child if they are using mallets or any small pieces, such as jingle bells or egg shakers, and are still in the “put everything in my mouth” phase. The mallet stick could injure them if they put it in their mouth, and small pieces are a choking hazard.  Keep reading to find out some of my favorite rhythm instruments for children. 

What Drums Should I Buy? 

Here are some of my favorite drums and percussion instruments for kids. I suggest starting with at least one drum, a few maracas/shakers, a tambourine, and at least one funny sounding instrument (like the quack stick, clatterpillar, or frog). 


Percussion for ages 0-3


Percussion for toddlers and older kids


Fun and silly instruments

Where Can I Take My Kids to Drum? 

If you are in the Salt Lake City area, there is a free drum circle at Liberty Park every Sunday afternoon in the summer. I recommend taking your kids to community drum circles so they can partake in the cultural experience. You’ll always see some fun and interesting characters at a drum circle! As with any large event, supervise your kids at all times. I also recommend using ear protection for your children. These headphones are great for protecting your child’s ears at any loud event. 

If you are not in the SLC area, do some Googling to find your nearest free community drum circle. If you can’t find much, you can also ask around at your local new age-y bookstore, or just ask the kid with dreadlocks who works at your local Whole Foods. ;)


I hope this post is helpful in giving you the basics of drumming with your kiddos. Now go make some music, and have FUN! 

Post-Birth Music Playlist for Doulas

As I drove home from a 24-hour birth the other day, I felt so grateful, uplifted, and simultaneously exhausted.  I thought to myself, "I need a playlist that expresses how I'm feeling right now." So just like that, the Post-Birth Music Playlist for Doulas was born! I created the playlist and put the songs in a specific order to help doulas process the huge event they just witnessed. For me, listening to a song that reflects how I'm feeling is very validating, and helps me to recognize the feelings that might be lingering just below the surface. I hope this playlist is useful for doulas and other birth workers. Enjoy, and leave a comment if you found this playlist helpful!


Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers book review

I am guest blogging today over at the Utah Doula Association blog! Check out my book review of "Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers"

As doulas, it is part of our role to help our clients get started with breastfeeding, and it is important for us to recognize the cultural and societal factors that could present a hurdle for our clients who want to breastfeed. This book gave me, as a doula, a greater understanding of the many factors that play into the breastfeeding relationship for black women. Check out the blog post, and read this book!

The 15 Most Useful Newborn Items

In October we welcomed our first baby into the world, an adorable little guy named Shea with a full head of dark hair and huge eyes who immediately stole our hearts.  In these first weeks and months we’ve been spending every day learning his personality and trying to develop some semblance of a routine and a “new normal.”  Through the sleepless nights, endless dirty diapers, and surprising amounts of spit-up, these are the items that we have found the most useful so far.  They’re in no particular order; each one is great and has been a lifesaver at some point so far in our parenthood journey.


1.     Wubbanub

This pacifier with the adorable stuffed animal attached has been so great for several reasons: first, our little Shea has a hard time keeping a pacifier in his mouth, and the animal serves as a sort of anchor to keep the pacifier in.  I lay the stuffed animal on Shea’s chest and tuck it under a blanket, and it stays pretty well.  Also, once Shea is a little older he’ll be able to hold the animal himself and get the pacifier back into his mouth if it falls out.  Last but not least, the animal makes this pacifier easy to find in a pile of baby blankets and other random items, which is great for tired parents holding a crying baby who just…needs…his…BINKIE!

Downside: The pacifier part doesn’t detach from the stuffed animal, so we can’t wash them separately. We happened to get two of these as gifts, so we can just switch them out if one gets spit up or something on it. So far I’ve just spot cleaned the animal but I imagine it could be thrown in the washing machine if it got really dirty.

2.     Pacifier clip

Like I said above, Shea has a hard time keeping his pacifier in his mouth, so this is a great way to keep it attached to him so it doesn’t fall on the dirty floor.

3.     Basic white flat diapers

We actually don’t use these as diapers, but we use them a TON for everything else. They’re awesome as burp cloths and puke wipes, and we also use one to cover Shea’s ‘area’ during diaper changes so it catches pee if he starts to go!

4.     Gripe Water 

This is made with ginger and fennel, and is great for giving a baby with an upset tummy, gas or colic.  We’ve used it with Shea when he seems especially fussy and uncomfortable with gas, and it seems to help. And he loves the taste! I’ve taken it too, and it really is yummy and doesn’t taste like medicine at all.

5.     Seventh Generation wipes

I’m not a fan of baby products that contain a bunch of chemicals and fragrances.  These are unscented, and wet enough to get Shea’s booty nice an clean during diaper changes.

6.     Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter

This lanolin-free formula contains natural plant and herb extracts, and doesn’t have to be washed off before nursing.  I’ve used it to soothe sore nipples, lube up my breast pump, and even as a stand in for chap stick and lotion in a pinch.

7.     Good ol’ Vaseline

Basic, cheap, and useful.  I put a little shmear of this on Shea’s booty during each diaper change to act as a moisture barrier for the next wet diaper. It has kept his butt rash-free so far!

8.     Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Stretch Oil 

I used this during pregnancy to rub all over my belly, hips and breasts.  It smells divine, and is great as a massage oil.  After my c-section, I’ve rubbed it on my incision scar to keep it moisturized and soothed. 

9.     Saline Spray 

Living in the dry climate of UT, Shea’s little nose and sinuses get pretty dry and boogered up. We spritz a little of this in each of Shea’s nostrils before using the Snot Sucker, and it works great to loosen boogers and snot.

10. Nosefrida Snot Sucker

Gross, yet extremely satisfying.  Tip – wait til baby is in a calm, relaxed state to use this.  It’s no fun trying to suck the snot out of a screaming, flailing baby’s tiny nostrils.

11. Probiotic Drops 

Shea was in the NICU for a week and was pumped full of antibiotics because he had an infection.  As recommended by our midwife, we’ve been giving him infant probiotic drops to help his gut get back to normal. We just put a few drops into a bottle of breastmilk, mix it up, and he gulps it right down. 

12. Fisher Price Rock-n-Play Sleeper

A friend recommended this, and said it was a lifesaver for her little guy.  And it’s been a lifesaver for us, too! Infants don’t always like sleeping on a completely flat surface, so this is a great solution.  We have it right next to our bed, and after I’m done nursing Shea and he’s drifting off to sleep, I put him in here, turn on the vibrate switch, and he’s out like a light. 

Downside: It doesn’t actually rock on it’s own, it just vibrates.  If I want to rock it, I have to use my hand or foot to do it manually.  However, it looks like you can buy a little bit more expensive model that rocks on it’s own, here.

13. Plug in heating pad

When we first started putting Shea in the Rock-n-Play sleeper, he would wake up right when we put him down.  We realized it was because it was cold, and he had been in our warm arms.  So, we got one of these plug in heaters from Walgreens, and we pop it in there a few minutes before he’s going to go in.  We then take it out, and put him down on the nice warm surface.  Works like a charm!  Bonus: use it for your sore back now that you’re constantly hunched over holding and nursing a baby!

14. SwaddleMe velcro swaddle wrap 

These are just great for swaddling a squirmy little baby.  We call them the baby straight jacket, because they really keep his upper body nice and snug.  His legs can still move freely in the looser bottom area.  Swaddling a baby can really help them calm down and feel soothed, since they’re used to being crammed in your uterus. 

Downside: You need to undo the whole swaddle when you need to change a diaper in the middle of the night, and there is a big piece of Velcro right in the middle that you need to undo.  “Rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiippppp”…. And now, baby is wide awake!  We have loved the Swaddlesure, which offers a great solution: the bottom can be opened without having to undo the top, so baby’s upper body can remain tightly swaddled while you change his diaper! 

15. Promptly journal 

This journal goes from birth to age 18, and gives you writing prompts so you aren’t just staring at a blank page wondering what to write. It makes it easy to sit down for 5 minutes and jot down your thoughts.  It makes a great baby shower gift!


So, there you have it! Those are the 15 most useful items I've found so far in our son's 7 weeks of life.  Enjoy! 


Shea's Birth Story

Photos and video by the amazing Julian Marks of Picture Your Birth Photography.

The Long and Winding Road

My sacred birth space

My sacred birth space

How do I put into words what was the single most transformative, spiritual, intense, difficult, beautiful experience of my life? I don’t think words can do it justice, but I will try my best.

Shea’s birth story starts before I was pregnant with him.  My journey to getting pregnant was a long one, and consisted of lots of steps that many people don’t have to take.  But as part of a queer couple with a trans husband, I knew that getting pregnant would take a little more time and effort.  My husband and I spent two years trying - tracking my cycle, taking lots of medications, injections, and doing 10 rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI).  10 rounds is a lot – most people get pregnant after 2-4 rounds or so.  But we just kept trying, thinking that maybe this next time would be the one.  We tried two different sperm donors, thinking maybe that was the reason I wasn’t getting pregnant.  Finally we switched to a third sperm donor and started the process of doing in vitro fertilization (IVF).  This was my first lesson of many in letting go of expectation, and learning to “never say never.”  I had always thought I would get pregnant with no problem, on the first try.  After that didn’t happen (ahem, ten times), I thought “well, I’ll never do IVF, that is too expensive and we will never get to the point where we need to do that.”  I was wrong. 

This was taken the morning we were going for our first IVF embryo transfer.  We were so excited, and filled with love for each other and for our future baby. 

This was taken the morning we were going for our first IVF embryo transfer.  We were so excited, and filled with love for each other and for our future baby. 

My fertility fish and goddess - good luck charms that we hoped would help me get pregnant this time!

My fertility fish and goddess - good luck charms that we hoped would help me get pregnant this time!

Through the IVF process we got three fertilized embryos, and ended up getting pregnant with the first one that was implanted.  We couldn’t believe it, we were finally pregnant! I surprised Spencer at work to tell him the news, and we just hugged and cried in the hallway, so grateful that our dream had finally come true.

We spent the next several weeks in blissful excitement, telling our closest friends and family the news.  Then at our 7 week ultrasound, on October 28, 2015, the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.  I felt numb, shock, disbelief.  This could never happen to me, right? Again, I was wrong.

Spencer and I got these tattoos to honor and remember our little baby that didn't make it. I feel that it was a girl, and these remind us of her whenever we look at them. 

Spencer and I got these tattoos to honor and remember our little baby that didn't make it. I feel that it was a girl, and these remind us of her whenever we look at them. 

We spent the next couple of months processing and grieving this huge loss, and then in January 2016 we tried again with our second embryo.  I got pregnant again, and this time stayed pregnant.  Our little boy Shea was finally ready to come into the world.

Announcing our pregnancy at about 13 weeks, at our housewarming party for the home we recently bought. 

Announcing our pregnancy at about 13 weeks, at our housewarming party for the home we recently bought. 

Waiting Game

My pregnancy was relatively easy, and I absolutely loved being pregnant.  I had wanted this for so long, that I was grateful for every moment.  Even when I had morning sickness, I thought to myself, “I’m grateful for this, I wanted this, this means I’m still pregnant.”  For the first several months, it still didn’t feel real.  I was so afraid I was going to lose this baby, too, that I didn’t let myself fully believe it.  I felt a little better after our 7 week ultrasound when the doctor heard his heartbeat.  Then at our 20 week ultrasound when we could really see him and learned that he was a boy, I felt even better.  As I began to feel him kick and move inside me, it finally began to feel real.  I was really going to have this baby!

I knew that I wanted an unmedicated home birth, and I saw a midwife throughout my pregnancy (Adrienne Brown of Wasatch Midwifery + Wellness)

Adrienne listening to Shea's heartbeat

Adrienne listening to Shea's heartbeat

I am a pretty crunchy person, and I loved the more natural-minded approach of my midwife. For instance, when I had a headache during pregnancy, instead of telling me take Tylenol, she had me take magnesium, use essential oils, take a bath, and put ice on my neck.  When she came over for prenatal appointments, she would spend a good hour talking to Spencer and me, answering all of our questions, and chatting.  We felt like we were her only clients, and that she had all the time in the world for us.  

Our amazing midwife Adrienne Brown.

Our amazing midwife Adrienne Brown.

As my pregnancy went into week 40, she emphasized that it is very normal for pregnancies to last 40, 41, even 42 weeks.  She never made us feel like we were ‘overdue’ or that we should worry and get induced.  She did give us suggestions for natural induction methods that we tried, such as acupuncture, massage, red raspberry leaf tea, eating dates, walking every day, nipple stimulation, and sex.  When none of that got things going, she did a membrane sweep.  41 weeks came and went. 

Trying anything and everything to get labor going, including lunges and squats on our daily walk in Liberty Park. 

Trying anything and everything to get labor going, including lunges and squats on our daily walk in Liberty Park. 

When I was 41+5, she had me start taking an herbal tincture of cotton root and black cohosh.  That finally got contractions going, and they were strong!  I was finally in labor.  My mom had a short labor with both my brother and me, so I thought maybe I would have a short labor, too.  Again, wrong! I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in for a LONG labor.

36 Hours, 3 Doulas, and Lots of Moaning

The details of labor are pretty blurry, and the timeline in my mind is totally off.  I feel like I was in labor for 8 hours or so, and in reality it was about 36 hours total.

Here are things that I remember, in no particular order:

  • Using the birth ball to move my hips and lean on 
  • Making lots of “aaaaaaaahhhhhhh” and “ooooohhhhhh” noises
  • Focusing on my breath
  • Listening to soothing, quiet, relaxing music
  • Bursting into tears when my doula Mary showed up.  I just felt so relieved to see her, and had a cathartic cry.
  • Again bursting into tears when I stepped into the birth tub.  The warm water was SO EXTREMELY HELPFUL.  It felt so good, and I wanted to just be in the water forever.  Like, really, for the rest of my life.  I did NOT want to get out of that water. Ever. 
  • Feeling nauseous throughout the whole labor. I didn’t eat anything the entire labor, and at one point had a few sips of a smoothie. Other than that, I just drank water.  I just couldn’t imagine eating anything.  Eventually Adrienne gave me an IV with fluids to help me keep my energy up and stay hydrated.
  • I had a little stainless steel vomit bowl that was my “security blanket”.  I wanted it with me at all times, because I felt like I would throw up at any time.  I actually didn’t throw up that much, but I needed that bowl!  I remember saying many times, “Where’s the bowl? Give me the bowl!”
Mary doing "light touch massage" on my shoulders and arms. 

Mary doing "light touch massage" on my shoulders and arms. 

Mary doing the "shoulder press" while Spencer and my mom support me. 

Mary doing the "shoulder press" while Spencer and my mom support me. 

It’s hard to explain how labor FELT to me.  I was surprised by how it didn’t feel painful, per se, it just felt HUGE.  Like, all I could focus on or think about was the contraction I was currently having, and it took every ounce of mental, physical and emotional energy that I had to get through each one. 

At some point during labor, Mary had to leave because she had a work emergency, and another hypnodoula, Melissa, came.  She was there for about 24 hours, and then called in yet another doula, Ashlie.  I didn’t know I would be so lucky to have not one, not two, but THREE doulas at my birth! They were all amazing in different ways, and having them there to support me was everything.  Things I specifically remember:

  • Mary holding me while I cried
  • Mary using the rebozo, which felt so good during cotractions
  • Melissa using light touch massage on my back
  • Melissa using counterpressure on my hips and sacrum during contractions
  • Ashlie gently touching my forehead and running he fingers over my eyebrows to soften and relax my face
  • Ashlie fanning me with a cool washcloth with peppermint essential oil on it, which really helped with my nausea.
So grateful to have my mom at the birth. 

So grateful to have my mom at the birth. 

Crying with relief when I got into the birth tub. "Can I just stay in here for the rest of my life?!"

Crying with relief when I got into the birth tub. "Can I just stay in here for the rest of my life?!"

Spencer rocking the double hip squeeze while Melissa supports me. 

Spencer rocking the double hip squeeze while Melissa supports me. 

After laboring for probably about 30 hours, trying so many different pushing positions, getting in the shower many, many times, using the tub, walking around, and pushing some more (by the way, pushing felt SO GOOD! It was such a relief to be able to push with each contraction), Adrienne finally suggested that we may want to go to the hospital so that I could get some pain relief.  She thought that maybe if I could just get an epidural and rest for a couple of hours, I may be able to push the baby out.  I wanted to try just a little longer, and boy did I try! I used the birth stool, and finally tried sitting backwards on Spencer’s lap and hanging down between his legs, pushing with all of my might.  Still, baby Shea was not coming out.

Getting an IV placed so I could have some fluids, since I didn't eat the entire labor. 

Getting an IV placed so I could have some fluids, since I didn't eat the entire labor. 

Adrienne telling me she thought it may be a good idea to head into the hospital. You can see the disappointment and exhaustion on all our faces. 

Adrienne telling me she thought it may be a good idea to head into the hospital. You can see the disappointment and exhaustion on all our faces. 

Trying my hardest to push Shea down and out.

Trying my hardest to push Shea down and out.

My amazing birth team - my rock/love of my life/husband Spencer, doulas  Ashlie  and  Melissa , midwife  Adrienne,  and midwife assistant  Adrianna . 

My amazing birth team - my rock/love of my life/husband Spencer, doulas Ashlie and Melissa, midwife Adrienne, and midwife assistant Adrianna

Never Say Never

We decided to go to the hospital to get the epidural (another thing I said I would NEVER do.  Have I not learned my lesson yet?!).   The process of getting the epidural was a little gnarly, especially when the anesthesiologist said “ok, you’re going to feel a little ‘zing,’ like an electric shock, in one of your legs.  That means the epidural is in the right place.”  A little ‘zing’?! I squeezed Spencer’s hand so hard, I think I almost broke his fingers!

My dad showed up just in time to give me a hug and some much-needed support.

My dad showed up just in time to give me a hug and some much-needed support.

Getting the epidural. Spencer later told me that this was the only time during the entire labor when I squeezed his hand so hard! 

Getting the epidural. Spencer later told me that this was the only time during the entire labor when I squeezed his hand so hard! 

Crying and feeling the loss of the "ideal labor" that I thought I would have. 

Crying and feeling the loss of the "ideal labor" that I thought I would have. 

These three women... amazing, strong, brilliant doulas. Oh, and exhausted doulas, too.   Mary Brown ,  Melissa Nanes  and  Ashlie Hashimoto.

These three women... amazing, strong, brilliant doulas. Oh, and exhausted doulas, too.  Mary Brown, Melissa Nanes and Ashlie Hashimoto.

But once the epidural kicked in? You guys. Heaven. It was just such a relief to finally be able to relax and sleep after being awake for over 30 hours.  They gave me Pitocin to try and get my contractions stronger, and after I slept for a couple hours, they encouraged me to try to push the baby out.  Well, I tried, but no go. At this point they began to see that Shea was having heart decelerations every time I had a contraction, which worried them.  Eventually, the doctor said the words I never thought I’d hear, “we need to do a c-section.”  Even though this was NOT the path I expected, I knew that it was what needed to happen.  So, off to the OR we went.

The c-section was a weird, surreal experience.  I’m not crazy about hospitals in general with their bright lights, cold surfaces, and people I don’t know all around me (hence planning a home birth with a midwife).  Well, this was all of those things in one.  I was laid on the operating table and my arms were stretched out to the sides. They draped a curtain down so I couldn’t see what they were doing.  The thing that was the hardest and scariest for me was the uncontrollable shaking that was happening in my body, due (I think) to the large amount of epidural anesthesia I was given.  I hated the feeling that I couldn’t control the shaking in my body, no matter how hard I tried.

Eventually I sort of zoned out, and I didn’t hear what the OR team was saying. Spencer later told me that they seemed to be having a hard time getting Shea out because he was engaged in my pelvis and so low in the birth canal.  Eventually one of the nurses actually had to go in and push his head back up the birth canal while the doctor pulled him out of my belly.  Gnarly!  I’m so glad I didn’t know that was happening at the time. 

Once Shea was born, they briefly lowered the curtain and held him up, before quickly handing him through a window to the NICU team.  His cord was wrapped twice around his neck, and he was having trouble breathing.  The NICU team gave him oxygen via a nasal canula, then a C-PAP machine, until he was able to breathe room air on his own.  They would soon find that he also had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics, and he spent the next week in the NICU (a whole nother story, for another day.)

He's here! Shea was born at Intermountain Medical Center on 10/22/16 at 5:39am, weighing 6 lbs, 12 oz and measuring 21.5". 

He's here! Shea was born at Intermountain Medical Center on 10/22/16 at 5:39am, weighing 6 lbs, 12 oz and measuring 21.5". 

Cuddling after the c-section, getting support and love from Spencer. 

Cuddling after the c-section, getting support and love from Spencer. 

The doctor later told me that my placenta looked “kind of torn apart” and had some calcification spots.  He seemed concerned about it and sent it to the pathology team, but in my midwife’s and doula’s opinion, it was just an older plancenta, having done it’s job and being around for 42 weeks.  The bummer was that I was planning to encapsulate my placenta and take placenta pills throughout my postpartum time, but that went out the window (add it to the list of things that totally changed from my birth plan….birth plan?…. Ha!)

Learning, Letting Go, and Love Beyond Measure

This birth taught me so much about letting go.  I had to let go of what I thought my birth would be like, I had to let go of any sense of control, I had to let go of expectations, I had to let go of my “plan.”  I had to embrace the mystery, the vulnerability, the huge unknown that IS birth.  I just had to go along for this wild ride, trusting that I was safe, my baby was safe, and everything would turn out okay in the end. And you know what? It did.  It didn’t turn out how I thought it would, but it turned out okay.  And now I have this baby, this being, this physical manifestation of god in my life.  And he looks at me with those huge, dark eyes, and I can’t imagine things happening any other way.  My heart has grown ten sizes, and it feels like it’s going to explode with love when I look at him. 

SO much love.  

SO much love.  

As a doula, I thought I could plan my way into a perfect birth.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about how to have a natural, unmedicated labor.  What I didn’t realize is that I couldn’t plan for the mystery part.  There is a mystery to birth that can’t be conceptualized with the mind.  Something happens that is beyond any thought or words.  It is the god part.  The spiritual cracking open of the soul, to let this other soul come through into the world.  And that is something that can’t be written on a birth plan.

Three Births For the Price of One

You know what is awesome, though?  I got to have three births in one! I got to have an unmedicated, 30 hour labor at home with a midwife, candles, music, a birth tub, and all that my crunchy little hippie heart desired.  Then I got to have a hospital labor with Pitocin and an epidural.  Then I got to have a c-section.  As a doula, this will help me so much to be able to empathize with future clients.  As a mom, it helps me to see myself as the strong, resilient birth warrior that I am!

Shea at 6 weeks old, healthy and happy!

Shea at 6 weeks old, healthy and happy!




Original womb songs and lullabies now available!

As a songwriter and music therapist, one of the things I feel passionate about is helping new and expecting parents bring music into their lives with their new babies.  Singing to your baby in utero creates a bond, and if you sing the same song over and over to your unborn baby, they will actually recognize the song after they're born, and the song will help soothe them. 

A service that I offer is to help parents write an original womb song or lullaby for their baby - this is a special, unique song that is written using your exact words of hope, love, and care for your baby.  I put your words to music and create a simple, meaningful song that you and your family will treasure forever. 

"We all know the power of music.  Imagine your doula noting what music was playing while you were in transition, and pushing, and as your child was being birthed.  And imagine your playlist then also becoming your empowerment music while learning how to become a parent. Imagine your child knowing, in their soul, all of the songs that you chose to welcome them into the world.  And finally, imagine playing, over and over again, the lullaby that you put to words, as your child ages day-by-day."
- Monica Faux-Kota, massage therapist, Salt Lake City

To learn more about what a womb song is, how it's different from a lullaby, and what the whole process entails, click here

I offer gift certificates, and I can't think of a more original or unique baby shower gift than an original song for the baby!  Click here to purchase a gift certificate for a womb song or lullaby. 

Featured Contributor on Radio New Zealand!

On April 30, 2016 I was a featured contributor to Radio New Zealand's podcast "The Secret Life of Birth Music," featuring doctors, midwives, doulas and moms talking about the power of music during labor and birth.  I got to share what I do as a music therapist, and how I help my clients by using Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth techniques.  I also got to share an original "womb song" that I've written for clients! 

Featured on ABC News Channel 9

I recently got the chance to be featured on Salt Lake City's ABC channel 9 news, and they did a great video about my work at Huntsman Cancer Institute, using music therapy to assist patients with cancer in coping with their symptoms and managing the emotional ups and downs that come with being hospitalized.  Click the photo below or the link to watch the video! 


Featured on the Dearest Doula Podcast

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Nathalie Saenz of the Dearest Doula podcast recently.  I got to talk all about music therapy, the history of the field, and how one becomes a board-certified music therapist.  I also got to dive into music therapy assisted childbirth, and the many ways music can help during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

A Music Therapist's Thoughts on Spotify's new birth playlist

Over the past day or so, there has been a bunch of media attention on a story about Spotify creating a “birth playlist” with the help of NYC-based OB-GYN Dr. Jacques Moritz.  The story has been picked up by the Huffington Post, Time, and more.  I wanted to weigh in as a board-certified music therapist who has been trained in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth.  Part of the work that I do is to help pregnant moms create personalized playlists, as well as provide them with over 40 hours of specially-compiled music playlists that can be used during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

While I think it’s great that Spotify recognizes the power of using music during birth, a one-playlist-for-all approach just doesn’t make sense.   Every birth is different, every birthing mother is different, and people’s music choices should be just as unique, varied, and ever-changing as their births are.  That is why when I work with a client, we spend several hours together talking about her music preferences, her history with certain songs, and what music she finds the most relaxing, uplifting, and helpful for getting through tough emotions. 

Another aspect of music during birth that I am mindful of is that the music should create an atmosphere of comfort, familiarity, calm and relaxation.  Songs should flow easily from one to the next, and there should not be a lot of variance within a single playlist.  That is one reason why Spotify’s birth playlist may not work for many women – not only is it not personalized to fit each woman’s preferences, but the songs are from a variety of genres and have different tempos.  When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind.   

"When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind."

I work with my clients during the months before their birth, and the music is an integral part of our therapeutic work together.  My clients practice moving and relaxing to the music many, many times before going into labor so that their bodies and minds are familiar with the music and relax easily and quickly when that music is played during labor.   I attend their birth as their doula and music therapist, and am constantly assessing the environment and putting on music that will assist them in focusing, relaxing and feeling at ease.   While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t give them the one-on-one, personalized therapeutic relationship that my clients get with me, and it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor.

"While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor."

As a trained music therapist, one of the most important pieces of knowledge that I bring with me to all my work is that music is very powerful, and it can sometimes have negative effects on people – it can trigger strong emotions, bring back difficult memories, and it’s psychological and physiological effects on the mind and body of a birthing woman can slow or stall the progress of labor. 

I think every birthing mom who wants to have music during her birth should be able to do that, and I encourage all the moms I work with to create playlists that help them feel relaxed and empowered.   While it is a one-size-fits-all approach that I don't think will work for many women, I do applaud Spotify and Dr. Moritz for looking at the benefits of music during labor, and I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth or my Birth Music Consultation services to get in touch with me at Beth@HeartTonesDoula.com. 




Looking Back, Looking Forward


So much has happened in 2015!  After living in California's Bay Area for the past seven years or so, we packed up and moved to Salt Lake City, UT.  We were ready for a change, a new adventure, and a great job had opened up for Spencer at Primary Children's Hospital.  I saw this as the perfect chance to put in the time and effort it would take to build the doula business I'd been dreaming about for years, and so I dove into the birth world here in UT head-on! 


We found a great little duplex to rent near Liberty Park, which I walked around just about every day with our pooch Griffin. 


Planting a nice perennial garden made it feel more like home. 


We checked out SLC Pride in June, which was great! That was where I met Marina Lloyd, a local doula who's business - The Doula House -  had a booth at Pride, and she helped me so much in connecting with the doula community here.  She told me to join the Utah Doula Association, which I went home and did that day, and she also pointed me in the direction of which Facebook groups would be helpful to join.  She was instrumental in helping me get connected, and I don't think she even realized it until I saw her months later and thanked her! 


I was hired as the first-ever music therapist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, which is part of the University of Utah health care system.  I work there 10 hours a week and am building the music therapy program and seeing clients both inpatient and outpatient through the Wellness and Integrative Health Center. 

I also started as a volunteer doula at the University of Utah! On my very first day there was a second-time mom who was at about 8cm who wanted some doula help, so I got to help her have her second baby!  It was a great way to start my volunteer work there! 


We saw lots of the famous Utah sites, and wow, what a beautiful state we live in!


I joined a band! We're called Rabbit Rabbit and we play folksy music with lots of vocal harmonies. Fun fact, all the members are music therapists by day!  Here's a photo of us at our first gig in SLC, with our good friend and music therapist/amazing photographer Lyndi Benson joining us on fiddle! 


I worked with a great designer named April Davis (who also happens to be a birth worker in Southern UT) to design a logo for my  business.  We came up with this design...


Which finally turned into this design!


I attended a wonderful training on the Curtis Method of Hypnobirthing.  Lauralyn Curtis is a wonderful educator and birth worker, and I learned so much from her.  I also took a great training called "Providing Culturally Sensitive Care to LGBTQ Families," which led me to write this blog post. 


I had the pleasure of attending the Utah Doula Association's fall retreat which was full of sisterhood, creativity, rest, relaxation and connection. 


And I also got to lead an amazing drum circle at the retreat! It was truly magical.  This led me to start offering drum circle facilitation as part of my services here in SLC. 


I presented on Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth at the SLC Positive Birth Group, which was great.  I love sharing information about what I do and how music can help parents during labor and birth.  

I also had the pleasure of providing Birth Music Consultation services to two couples this fall, one in California and one in Texas.  Thanks to the magic of Skype, I met with them multiple times and helped them to understand how to use music during labor and birth.  


I joined a great community called 100 Percent Doula that is led by Alice Turner of YourDoulaBag.com and YourDoulaBiz.com.  100 Percent Doula is a community of doulas that want to grow and hone their skills in running a birth business.  Here I am sporting my "100% Doula" t-shirt! 

2015 has been a year of growth, change and movement.  I know that 2016 will be even more so, as my business continues to grow.  Here are a few things I am looking forward to in the coming year...

- I already have one couple that I'll be doula-ing for in August, and hope to continue to grow my clientele until I have 2-4 births per month.  My goal is to attend at least 10 births in 2016, and I have a feeling I won't have too much trouble meeting that goal!
- Sending in all the paperwork in order to get my postpartum doula certification through Doulas of North America (DONA).
- Starting as part of the Hypnobirthing Utah doula team! I'll be seeing clients in Salt Lake City who are using the Curtis Method of Hypnobirthing for their labor and birth. 
- Taking some great trainings - in January I'll be taking a training called "Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss" that is put on by the Institute for Birth, Breath and Death.
- I will be participating in group supervision with other music therapists who provide Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth services all around the country. 
- Continuing to volunteer as a doula at the University of Utah for at least the first several months of 2016. 
- And in my non-work life, Spencer and I are going to be closing on our first house in late January! Woo hoooooooo! It's a single-family home near Liberty Park, with a nice fenced yard for Griffin to enjoy. We can't wait!    


My word for the year 2016 is "bloom," because I know that my business and life will be blooming like never before in the coming year!   Cheers to 2016!

5 Ways to Make Your Birth Business More LGBTQ-Inclusive

I recently had the pleasure of attending a webinar training called "Providing Culturally Sensitive Care to LGBTQ Families" with Kristin Kali of Maia Midwifery.  Although I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on the unique challenges facing LGBTQ families, I'm always looking for ways to learn more and make sure I'm providing the most inclusive care possible. 

In this post I will share five ways that birth workers can make their businesses more LGBTQ-inclusive, and I hope these suggestions are helpful! If you have questions, please leave a comment or get in touch! 

What do all those letters mean?

Before we jump in, I want to define "LGBTQ" for those of you who may not know what it means.  It is an acronym that stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning".  There are additional letters that some people include in the acronym including I (for intersex) and A (for asexual or ally). Sometimes there are even more letters, but typically you will see it as just "LGBT" or "LGBTQ". 

-This graphic is helpful in understanding the differences between sexual orientation (who you're attracted TO) and gender identity and expression (what gender you see yourself AS and how you choose to express that).  Used with permission from www.ItsPronouncedMetrosexual.com. 

While the terms lesbian, gay and bisexual refer to someone's sexual orientation (who they are attracted TO), the term transgender refers to someone's gender identity and expression (what gender they see themselves AS and how they choose to express that).  The word queer is defined by PFLAG as "anyone who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender or sexuality."  Years ago the term queer was used in a derogatory way, but many in the LGBTQ community (especially younger people) have reclaimed the word and use it with a sense of power and pride. 

If you want to learn more about the words used in the LGBTQ culture, here's a link to a comprehensive list of LGBTQ+ term definitions.

Like any cultural group, there are subgroups within the LGBTQ community, and if you are new to the world of LGBTQ stuff you may find your head spinning with new information.  My best suggestion is to find good resources for information and remain open to learning and asking questions, always coming from a respectful place.  I will list resources that I have found helpful at the bottom of this post. 




1. Use inclusive language

Take a gander at your website, brochure, and anywhere else you explain what you do.  How many times do you use the words "woman, mother, mom, female, breastfeeding, father, or dad?"  I am not saying you shouldn't use language that includes terms like those, but just be aware of how gendered language may alienate potential clients who don't identify as female, or mothers, or fathers, etc. There are people who identify as male, trans, genderqueer, butch, etc. who get pregnant and give birth.  They may not identify as "goddesses" or "powerful birthing women" (both terms I have personally used in my written materials in the past).  They may not breastfeed, but instead may call it chestfeeding or simply feeding their baby.  These are all things that you should be aware of, whether or not you choose to make all of the language on your website gender-inclusive. 

Also be aware of how you talk to clients and what you post on social media.  Do you automatically use the terms mom, mother, woman, and female when referring to the birthing parent? Do you use the terms dad or father when referring to the non-birthing parent?  If so, you may be unintentionally alienating an entire group of potential clients who see what words you use and automatically think "that person doesn't get who I am" or "that person doesn't understand my family structure."   Consider instead using the terms birthing parent, client, pregnant person, partner, coparent, or spouse. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Here is a list of some gender-inclusive terms that you could use on your website and when you're talking with clients: 

  • Gestational parent/pregnant parent
  • Non-gestational parent/non-pregnant parent
  • Parent(s)
  • Co-parent
  • Partner
  • Client
  • Donor
  • Parenthood
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant people
  • Feeding your baby
  • Lactation
Photo courtesy of  http://macaskillphotography.smugmug.com/  Used with permission. 

Photo courtesy of http://macaskillphotography.smugmug.com/ Used with permission. 

2. Educate yourself

Take trainings,  webinars (like the one I just took from Maia Midwifery), read blogs and websites like It's Pronounced Metrosexual and PFLAG, read books,  and ask questions!  Remember, you can't know things if you don't ask.  If you don't know who to ask, ask me!  I don't pretend to know it all, but I can at least direct you to some blog or article that can help you.  

HOWEVER, while you should ask your clients questions that are PERTINENT TO THE CARE YOU'RE PROVIDING (such as "what pronouns do you use?" or "what terms would you like me to use for your partner?" or "is there anything else you'd like me to know that we haven't covered?") you should NOT ask your clients questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity that have nothing to do with your care (such as "Your husband is trans? Does he take hormones? Has he had the surgery?" or "I read an article about a pregnant man, how does that work?" or "Isn't bixesual just another way to say you're confused?").  Your clients are not the people to tell you "everything you've ever wanted to know about LGBTQ issues...but were afraid to ask".  They are your clients, not your teachers.  If they volunteer additional information because they feel comfortable with you and choose to share, that is one thing.  But they are not there to educate you on all things LGBTQ. 

Image courtesy of Jamie & Beth Robinson. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of Jamie & Beth Robinson. Used with permission. 

3. Use visual cues

What would someone visiting your website for the first time learn about you, without reading a word? Would they only see photos of straight-looking, opposite-sex, (white, able-bodied, affluent...I could go on...) couples holding their new babies?  Do all the articles you post talk only about straight couples? Or couples in general? What about single parents? 

Put visual cues on your website and social media that will tell people that you are open and accepting of LGBTQ people.  Put up some photos of same-sex couples, single parents, and gender-non-conforming parents with their new babies on your website (if you don't have any of your personal clients, use stock photos!)  List any LGBTQ-specific trainings you've taken on your site.  Post articles that pertain to LGBTQ parents, like this one titled "Questions You Have but are Afraid to Ask {Lesbian Parent Edition}", this one titled "GLBT Parenting and The Marvel of Multiples: Tips for Gay and Lesbian Parents Raising Twins, Triplets and More" and this one titled "GLBT Family Health: How In Vitro Fertilization Affects Your Baby's Health." 

4.     Be open, listen, ask, and be respectful

Know that you can’t and won’t know everything about the LGBTQ culture.  It's constantly growing and changing, and it can sometimes be hard to keep up.  The best things you can do are to be open to learning, ask for information, read articles and blogs, and always come from a place of respect when asking questions. 

5.     Don’t make assumptions

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

One of my favorite books is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, and one the agreements he writes about is "Don't Make Assumptions."  Even if you think you know what a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is, you don't really know unless they tell you.  And again, as I said in #2, the questions you ask your clients should always be pertinent to the care you're providing.  You shouldn't ask your clients personal questions simply out of curiosity. 

Also, follow the lead of your clients in how they describe themselves, their relationship, and their gender identity and expression.  If they call their spouse "my partner," then you should use the term "partner" when referring to their spouse.  If they want their children to call them "baba" instead of "mama," then you should refer to them as "your baba" when you're talking to their other children.  If they refer to feeding their baby as "chest feeding" rather than "breastfeeding," then you should also refer to it as "chest feeding."  Get the idea?

Many people are afraid to ask questions because they think they'll look stupid or put their foot in their mouth. Let me be the first to tell you, there will come a time (or two) when you will put your foot in your mouth, stumble over your words, or make mistakes. Just know that and forgive yourself now.  It happens to everyone when we're learning about a new culture, group, or tradition.  But if you're coming from a place of genuine respect when you ask questions, the person you're asking will typically be very understand and forgiving.  

I hope this post has been helpful for you in making your birth business more LGBTQ inclusive.  Please feel free to reach out via email, Facebook or Instagram