JMS Births Anchorage Doula Partnership

Q & A about JMS Births Anchorage Doula Partnership


I’m so excited to be transitioning my private birth doula practice into a partnership with my friends and long-time backup doulas, Jamie Scearcy and Morgan Turner.  We know this model is new to Alaska and our past and future clients and colleagues may have lots of questions about what collaborative doula care looks and feels like. 

As we explore the nuances of what will make our team approach feel fantastic for our clients, and help us to be sustainable in birth work long-term, I wanted to take some time to share more details about what this means for clients and the many benefits a partnership will provide.

JMS Births.  Who are we?

We are a team of birth workers committed to consistency in care.  Passionate about supported pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, our mission is to come alongside women and their families with education and support to guide them through their transition to parenthood, or parenting their newest child. 

 

JMS Births

  • J – Jamie
  • M – Morgan
  • S – Shanna

JMS Births


Jamie, Morgan, and I are not new to running a business together!  Several years ago we launched and continue to co-own our non-profit Alaska Birth Collective, working to connect Alaskan families with the providers of care, services, and products they need from pregnancy through raising a young family.  We share similar and complementary training, skills, and education, and we are close friends who support each other through our lives and our work.

 

Why join forces in our birth work?

 

Several reasons!

We want to provide birth support long-term.

We want to provide the best, most comprehensive care available.

We believe we are truly better together.

Did you know that the average “life-span” of a private doula is 2 years. 

2 years! 

This breaks my heart.  But I get it!  The doula life is an interesting one.  Consider this: Even with just one client, a private doula is on call, non-stop, for up to 4-5 weeks.  That means she must be willing and able to run to a birth at any time, and make arrangements in advance to be able to leave her life at a moment’s notice.  She has to have her phone at all times, and be within about an hour of her client’s birthing location. She has to commit to the possibility of missing important events in her life.  She knows that she will potentially be gone for an average of 12-24 hours or more when a client calls, supporting her continuously throughout her labor.  She has to have the stamina and the clarity of mind to support her client physically, emotionally, and informationally, no matter what direction her birth may take.

Burnout in the doula profession is very common. 

We refuse to burn out


Alaska Birth Services

By partnering our services, we can promote a healthy work/life balance for ourselves and our families.  We will support our clients with a call schedule, so that we can be fully present when we are on call and with our clients in labor, and also present for the important events in our personal lives.

Because we share call, and backup doula costs are worked into our service package, there is no hesitation in calling in one of our partners to take over during a long or difficult birth, so clients can feel comfortable and trust a seamless transfer of care to a fresh, well-rested doula that they already know.

Clients will have the opportunity to connect with the three of us regularly throughout their pregnancy and postpartum – through topical group prenatal visits and private in-home visits, we will help them determine their birth preferences, discuss and practice comfort measures and techniques, talk about postpartum plans and newborn care, and get to know each other well.  Our goal is that our clients will know all of their doulas and through our consistency and comprehensive care, clients can trust that whomever is on call when they go into labor will provide just the support they need.

Clients also benefit from our combined experience, training, education, and skills.  Our offerings include many classes and various educational opportunities for childbirth, postpartum, and newborns.  Besides birth doula support, we offer postpartum doula support, lactation support, birth and newborn photography, placenta care, and birth tub rental.  We also host free prenatal and postpartum groups and events.  We approach birth support holistically – supporting families from pre-pregnancy through raising their children in community.

We are thrilled to offer what we believe is the very best, most trusted and experienced care in doula and birth support services in South Central Alaska. 

If you’d like to learn more, please reach out! You can also check out our collaborative website at jmsbirths.com. We host free Meet the Doulas events monthly, and welcome any questions you might have.

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Doula Shanna Switzer Birth Services

Pain relieving techniques for an easier birth

As a birth witness, supporter, and educator, I’m often asked about the most helpful tools for laboring women – which comfort techniques are best?  What about breathing?  Positions? 

I was graciously given some photos from a couple of births I supported as a doula recently, and thought I would compile those along with some others into one blog post, and a photo “series” on comfort measures on instagram and facebook.

Follow along for details about the labor support tools and comfort measures for labor that I use most often in my doula work, and model and suggest to workshop and class attendees:

 

Birth Location

You might not consider this a comfort “technique”, per se, but think about it for a minute and you’ll see what I mean.  Birthing women desire privacy, safety, and support.  When she thinks about where she wants to give birth, what option makes her feel most safe?  Most American women choose hospital birth, but does she know she has options?  Home Birth and Birth Centers offer a more cozy, relaxed atmosphere, and smaller, more intimate staff experience.  When we think about comfort, choosing a birth space is an important – if not the most important -component of birth planning.

I would love to discuss the options available to you in southcentral Alaska.  Contact me any time if you’re curious and would like to chat!

 

Freedom to move

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Laboring strongly and peacefully in a queen sized bed at a birth center, her partner close, me applying counter pressure and verbal reassurance.

  • Dim, soft lighting
  • Known by her midwife
  • She is in control
  • Her music was playing softly throughout her labor

 

birth ball/Peanut Ball

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth doula

Rocking and swaying her hips, gently bouncing between contractions. Partner close, me applying counter pressure, hip squeezes and verbal affirmation.

  • Movement helps baby descend
  • Sitting on a birth ball can ease back labor
  • Being upright puts laboring mama in a position of power
  • See peanut ball being used below – peanut balls can also be used in a variety of ways to ease discomfort

 

Warm Water

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth services

Often referred to as “nature’s epidural”, the tub or shower is a wonderful place to labor.  In the top photo, mama is listening to music and laboring with her husband while sitting in a labor tub.  In the bottom photo, I am spraying warm water on laboring mama’s back while she sways on her hands and knees in the shower.

  • Water is soothing and naturally relaxes the body
  • Being in the shower can help labor progress more quickly
  • Sinking into a tub can give a laboring mama a reprieve and ease contraction intensity

 

Body Balancing

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth services

Spinning Babies Body Balancing Techniques like the side lying release shown above can help relax laboring mama, and make space in her body for the baby to get in a good position for birth.

  • Many body balancing techniques feel relaxing and soothing to laboring women.
  • We don’t move the baby, we make space for the baby to move.
  • Work with someone trained in body balancing techniques for best results

 

Hip Squeeze

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Hip squeezes – a hallmark doula “move”! 

  • Feel SO good
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Help “ground” laboring mama with touch
  • Ease back labor and hip pain during and between contractions

 

Rebozo

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Rebozo Sifting (how many sweet bellies and babies has my rebozo sifted? Dozens.) 

  • Can be used to help “jiggle” a baby into a better position for birth
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Lifts the weight of the baby off of mama’s back, and can relieve pressure and back pain for laboring mama

 

Anchorage Alaska Doula Services

Rebozo tied on to provide lift and support for this second-time mama’s belly, peanut ball between her back and the wall so that she could move up and down with counter pressure on her back.  Husband supporting her in front.

 

Essential Oils/Aromatheraphy

Anchorage Alaska Doula Services

Aromatherapy.  Laboring mama was smelling her favorite essential oil, wanting it held close so that she could breathe it in deeply during contractions.

  • Many studies show aromatherapy is useful for pain and nausea relief
  • As a doula, I don’t generally apply or diffuse essential oils unless a client asks, but am happy to support their use for my clients who wish to use them.

 

Supporting Client/Partner connection

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Acupressure while mama and partner are close and connected

  • Neck, shoulder, back, hip, foot, and hand massage to relieve tension
  • Mama stays connected emotionally and physically to her partner
  • As a doula, I work to enhance laboring mama’s connection to her partner, never to take their place.
  • Modeling verbal and physical support boosts partners confidence 

 

Pushing Positions

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Birthing Stool to push, partner supported

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Squat Bar to push, partner supported

  • Assisting women to find the positions that they find most comfortable and effective for the pushing phase of labor
  • Offering a mirror or reminding laboring women that they can touch their body and baby to feel progress
  • Supporting women in bed, on a birthing stool, in a tub or shower, or using a rebozo or squat bar

 Pain Medications

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Comfort Measures for labor


Some of Doula Shanna’s favorite ways to comfort and support laboring women and their partners

 

 

“Just as a woman’s heart knows how and when to pump, her lungs to inhale, and her hand to pull back from fire, so she knows when and how to give birth.”

Virginia Di Orio

 

 

anchorage doula shanna alaska birth services

Nitrous Oxide is an option in two local Anchorage-area hospitals and one birth center.  Ask me for more details

  • Narcotic, Epidural, and Nitrous Oxide
  • Widely used and generally regarded as safe
  • A tool that can be useful in certain situations
  • Narcotic and Epidural are not available in birth centers or at home

Pharmaceutical pain medication is an option in hospital births.  As a doula, I support all birthing choices, and trust you to know what you need for your best birth.  I work with my clients to use all of the comfort measures and tools available to her, and sometimes an epidural or narcotic pain medication is exactly what she and her baby need.  If a non-medicated birth is her goal, I will support her in using all of the other methods first, to be certain her change of plan is what she prefers.

 

In Summary

Every birth and every laboring woman is different.  Some comfort measures that I use often can’t be depicted in photos – like verbal affirmation, meditation,  visualization, music, and  prayer, and I didn’t touch on less-used methods that are useful in certain situations, like a TENS unit or sterile water injections… 

My philosophy as an educator and doula is that you have many, many tools and options available as you prepare for your baby’s birth.  Take a comprehensive childbirth class or private birth prep session to learn more about those tools and make sure you have them available when you need them.  Or, hire a doula and be supported by a birth expert who specializes in knowing and using just the right comfort technique at just the right time!

My best wishes for your best birth,

Shanna XO

alaska birth doula services shanna switzer

***Many thanks to Nurturing Birth Photography & Blueberry Hill Photography for some of the images in this post.

WORLD DOULA WEEK

 

It’s World Doula Week! Every year, from March 22nd-28th, doulas around the world celebrate the passion and privilege we have to serve women and their families during their pregnancies and postpartum, and the special, intimate experience it is to support and hold space for them as they bring their beautiful babies into the world.  Take some time this week to call, text, or meet up with and hug your favorite doula in person!

 

I thought #worlddoulaweek would be a great time to share a little more about my path to birth work, *and* encourage you to check out Moss and Myrrh Photography, owned by my sweet and talented friend, Ashton.  Need some feel-good vibes?  Just go skim through her blog, full of the beauty and love of birth, babies, and motherhood.  

IMG_6723

 

A few months ago, Ashton shared with me that she’d done a poll asking her local followers and friends to share their favorite caregivers for birth and baby related services.  I was humbled and shocked that she’d had my name mentioned more than once, and super touched when she asked if she could ask me some questions for a feature on her blog.  Much of my doula journey is there in the link, PLUS I’m in love with these pictures she caught of me and my youngest, Sebastian, click and go see!

Did you have an awesome doula that you want to tell the world about?  Shout it out in the comments, and let’s spread some doula love! #doulasbenefiteveryone

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Alaska Birth Services

DO YOU KNOW THE DOULA?

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes PlacentaHi and welcome! 

I’m Shanna.  It rhymes with Hannah, not Donna… and nope, not Shannon.  My sweet mom saddled me with a name that’s a pain to explain. Anyway, enough of that.  I’m so glad you’re here!  Whether you’re pregnant and considering a birth doula, interested in postpartum doula support, or looking for information on becoming a doula yourself, I’d love to meet with you and encourage you on your journey. Let me tell you a little bit about me and why I’m a doula, and why I love being Alaska Birth Doula, and owner and operator of Anchorage Alaska Birth Services.  

First and foremost:

I absolutely love supporting women through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.  It is my passion; breath and life to me.  It makes my soul sing, and I still can’t believe I get paid to do this amazing work. 

It is an honor.  A privilege. A blessing.  

  1.  I was inspired to become a doula when I was pregnant with my second child, in 2006.   I had read the “birth bible”, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and recognized through the beautiful stories that the support of someone who knows and is comfortable with the natural progression of labor during birth is priceless.  The soothing words they would speak, and the physical support through massage and touch were obviously so beneficial to the laboring women.  I knew I wanted to experience that.  
  2.  My first doula baby was born in 2009. I had dipped my toes into birth work, inquiring with a doula friend about her experience, and I was asked if I’d like to shadow another doula as she supported a laboring mother with her first birth.  While I had experienced 3 births of my own at that point, I’d never witnessed someone else giving birth in person, and to be truly with a woman, breathing with her, speaking words of encouragement and peace to her, bawling along with her when her wet and wailing baby girl was placed on her chest… I was never the same.  I had to do this work.  I was made to do this work!
  3.  My own four births shaped me as a woman and as a mother. Birth matters.  The way we are made to feel when we experience birth matters.  It is important that a laboring woman be given the information she needs to be in control of the many decisions to be made during her birth.  We may not remember every detail of each birth, but we will always remember the way we felt; whether we were supported, listened to, trusted, and empowered.  
  4. I believe in birth. ALL birth. Natural birth.  Medicated birth.  Vaginal birth.  Cesarean birth.  Hospital birth.  Birth Centers. Home birth.  I believe women are uniquely, intricately, wonderfully designed to give birth, and I also believe in a woman’s right to decide she wants to birth with augmentation or medication.  I will provide information; benefits, risks, advantages, and disadvantages. Ultimately, I believe in supporting women energetically, emotionally, physically, and with the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.
  5. I love being woken up to attend a laboring woman.  Yep.  I’m on call most of the time.  That means no wine with dinner (or just a sip!) Having my cell phone on at all times and never being without it.  Making sure camping spots are within an hour’s drive of my client’s birth space, and that I have phone service! (Oh, Alaska…) Having my doula bag packed and with me.  I get a thrill every time I get a call that starts out “I think I might be in labor…”
  6.  Last but not least, I love coffee with lots of cream and sugar.  And chocolate, especially when it’s surrounding or coupled with peanut butter.  And wine — my favorite way to celebrate a birth, right before I take a nice long nap!

I am a doula.  It’s not just what I do.  It’s who I am, and exactly what I was made to be.

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Doula Shanna Alaska Birth Services