Happy Birthday, Baby Girl

Nine years ago my daughter was born, and my life changed forever.

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This journey I’m on now started long before her birth, my obsession with babies started young and I was a seasoned baby whisperer long before I had my own baby, I was a doula before I got pregnant myself.  I was ready to be a mother, ready to experience birth. I was eager for it.

This time nine years ago I was on my hands and knees in a rented birthing tub in my spare room, soon to be the baby’s room. My mother poured water on my lower back with each contraction. My midwives watched from the hallway. My mother wore the apron she usually wore for doing the washing up.  I remember my cat curled up on the stairs, not wanting to get too close to the action but not wanting to leave either. I remember my friend arriving, rather late in the action, and calling to her that she should come up. She was wearing white, perhaps not the best choice when called to a birth but I think it worked out for her and I’m so glad she came.

When you are in labour time works differently. I was in labour for 17 hours, birthing in the late afternoon at 4:36pm. I feel like I was in the tub for most of that time, the tub was magical, but my midwives notes say differently. I thought I pushed for maybe an hour, but apparently I pushed for nearly 4! I remember pushing in the tub and not liking it, trying the birthing stool and then side lying in the bed. My baby was stubbornly OP, meaning she was facing front ways instead of back, and despite all the pushing she didn’t seem to want to come out. I remember the moment when she decided she would be born today after all, feeling her corkscrew from front to back and then it was all a flurry of movement and panting and “don’t push!” and then she cried and I felt so relieved it was over…. and then one of the midwives said “push for the shoulders!” and I thought, how could she not be born yet – I can hear her – and then she really was born and it really was over and I was so tired and she was so small.

And I was different. I was a Mother.

Thank you for making me a Mother, baby girl. I love you today and always.

 

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Don’t be a martyr, you’re a mother now!

It’s really hard, after a lifetime of pretending everything’s fine when it’s really not fine, to stand up and advocate for yourself. I understand that. Women are socialized from birth to be polite and nice and do as we’re told. I’m trying hard to raise my daughter to question this. I want my kid to ask questions, get the information she needs and do what she believes to be right without concerning herself with being nice, whatever that means. When we’re pregnant there’s a lot going on in our bodies that feels different and new and even strange, and you will have things come up that you need help understanding. If you feel like you’re bothering your obstetrician or midwife with your endless questions and concerns, then perhaps you have the wrong caregiver. Helping you understand what’s going on in your body and mind is their job. As your doula I can help answer some of your questions and concerns, but I am not a medical professional and I want you to go over my head and feel comfortable doing so – your doula, your doctor (or midwife) and your partner should work as a team and not get in each other’s way. Pregnancy is not an illness and while you may feel uncomfortable you shouldn’t be suffering. If you are in pain, if you feel sick all the time, if you spike a fever these are potentially signs of preterm labour and you must contact your caregiver right away.

Check my handy postcard size hand out for the warning signs that you should not ignore.

3rd Trimester Discomforts

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Practice Defensive Birthing

Defensive birthing

Nowadays hospitals are practicing defensive medicine – which basically means they feel they have to use all their tools and interventions to prove that they’ve done everything they can to produce the best outcome.  But their idea of the best outcome starts and ends with a healthy baby. Sometimes the Mother gets lost along the way.  Mother friendly hospitals acknowledge that the mother’s experience is also important –a traumatic birth experience can result in poor bonding between Mother and Baby which can effect breast feeding success and cause postpartum depression. There are ways to optimize your birth experience even in the most intervention – happy hospitals.

Here are a few tips to help you negotiate these common road blocks on the way to your best birth:

 

speed bump

Childbirth is not an area where ignorance is bliss. You wouldn’t leave on a road trip without checking a map, don’t go blindly into labour. Go to prenatal classes, read books, decide what kind of birth you want and write a birth plan. For tips on how to do that, check here.

 

 

slow

 

Transfer to hospital can slow down or even stop your labour. If you show up too early the hospital may feel the need to ‘do something’ to speed you up. Stay at home as long as possible.

 

 

do not

Well meaning nurses undermine your determination to have a natural birth by offering drugs every 2 seconds. Get the nurses on your side. Hit the drive through on the way to the hospital and pick up a dozen donuts. Print out a sign that says “We are trying  to have a natural birth! Please don’t talk about epidurals! I’ll ask for one if I want one.” Stick it on the donut box. Print another and stick it to the door.

traffic lightsUnfamiliar places make relaxing into labour difficult. Treat the hospital room like a hotel room. Don’t be afraid to open all the cupboards and check the place out. Use all the blankets and pillows, don’t be shy. You are paying for this room, make it yours. Find the light switches and turn them off!  Bring your bedside lamp from home or some battery powered candles and dim the lights.

 

picnic-areaYou need to eat and drink to keep your strength up – but do not expect the hospital to provide you with decent food. Bring a picnic and choose your snacks wisely. Nothing too smelly! Some old school nurses still believe you should restrict food and drink in labour, even though the research doesn’t support this and even the American Society of Anesthesiologists has stated that it’s okay.

 

pedestrian_crossing_vector_sign_9603The bed looks really inviting  but it’s best to stay upright as much as possible. If you must be monitored insist on sitting upright preferably on a birthing ball to keep your hips open and flexible.  Play music to calm and soothe you, or get you up and dancing. Moving your hips is a great way to get baby to move down and out. Dance and sway and walk around the floor.

 

car-wash-When you are beginning to think you can’t do this anymore -use the facilities! Seriously, if there’s a tub you want to get in it. And here’s a little secret – those pillows can totally go in the water. They’re designed to clean up after all kinds of bodily fluids, so if you need a bath pillow just grab one off the bed and use it. Hydro therapy can be very effective and if you are feeling like you might want an epidural, try the shower first.

 Bring a supportive pit crew. Your partner, a doula, a RMT, pit crewyour best friend. The more support the better.  How nice it can be when one person is rubbing your feet and another your back while a third is bringing you a drink of ice cold water. Your birthing suite should be like a 5 star resort with a spa, and you should be treated accordingly.  Unfortunately this isn’t usually the case, so you must bring your servants with you. If you find you prefer solitude when labouring, park your people at the door to keep it closed.

stop sign

Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. I’m not saying ignore doctor’s advice, but if you feel like you’re being bullied, you are. You can tell your doctor to change his attitude or get out. You can tell your nurse to shut the f up. You are in labour, dammit, and you can get away with anything! And have your pit crew back you up. A chorus of “she said no” is helpful to remind the staff that consent is actually required before they do anything.

 

wiggle road sign

 

Try to enjoy the journey. Your labour may seem endless while you are in it but soon it will be over and your baby will be in your arms. And then the real trip begins!

 

 

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5 things to do with a Placenta

Our Design Process(2)

 

Eat it.Our Design Process(4) (2)

Most mammals eat their placentas. Only humans and marine mammals do not. Those who believe in the benefits of placentophagy say that it wards off postpartum depression and helps balance hormone and iron levels in new moms. However there has not been enough research done to support this theory. The internet abounds with recipes – you can turn your placenta into stew or smoothies but by far the most popular way to prepare it is to dehydrate it and turn it into nice neat easy to consume capsules.

Make a painting with it.Our Design Process(1) (2)

If the thought of displaying a print made out of your own blood doesn’t turn you off, consider making a painting out of your placenta. The beautiful, unique patterns of your baby’s tree of life’ make a one of a kind keepsake.

Extract cord blood from it.Our Design Process(3) (2)

Storing your baby’s cord blood is like having insurance against some potentially fatal diseases. Cord blood banks make their money exploiting parents’ fear, and I’m not too keen on the idea of anyone profiting from someone else’s misery. The idea is that if you store your baby’s cord blood and they one day develop leukemia (for example) you can then use that cord blood to heal them. The truth is that any baby’s cord blood would do, and perhaps national free cord blood banks would be a better choice than private ones, allowing more children to benefit.  The chance that your child will develop a disease that could be treated by cord blood is very small, and the price tag for storage is very high. That being said if you are wealthy enough to not be turned off by the price and unlucky enough to need the blood, then obviously it is worth it. Know that if you choose to bank your baby’s cord blood you are also choosing to clamp the cord early before it stops pulsating, and that blood that goes into the bank is blood that your baby might have had better use for right now. 

Plant it.Our Design Process(2) (2)

Lots of people and cultures have a tradition of planting a tree on top of the placenta.  My son’s placenta was used to fertilize a cherry tree and the people who bought our house are now enjoying its fruit.

Do nothing – for now.Our Design Process(5) (2)

Those who follow the custom of Lotus birth do not cut the cord once the baby has been born; instead it is allowed to fall off by itself.  This requires a bit of a commitment as you have to carry the placenta around in a purpose built bag for a few days or a week. Once it detaches from the baby on its own you can still plant it or paint with it but you can’t eat it or harvest it.

 

What do you think? Food, art materials, or medical waste?

 

My story, or: the long and winding road to Doulahood.

Writing a bio has always been a challenge for me.

My career path has been a winding one.

As a teenager I was a budding ballerina but I chose to study Biology and Chemistry at University rather than pursue a dance career. Two years in a Science lab was enough for me to learn that I’d made a mistake.  I took some time off and after  working for three years as a professional Nanny in the UK I took my half a Science degree and transferred what credits I could to York University’s Theatre School and after graduation I became a professional Wardrobe Attendant or dresser.

I often felt that no one really knew what I did for a living (including the theatre managers who hired me.)   But I’ll tell you – I helped people be ready. Not just physically, but psychologically too. I did people’s hair and listened to their problems. I was there for them in the dark when they had 30 seconds to change their clothes but being there, consistently there, dependably there meant they didn’t have to think about that costume change but could instead think about their next lines or dance steps or song lyrics. And doing the same thing every show satisfied my inner dancer’s need for a choreographed routine.

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 I was one of the last of my friends to have kids so I benefited from their experiences, and I knew I wanted midwifery care when I was pregnant, and I knew to call as soon as possible and I was lucky enough to get a spot. Having my own children changed things. You know that it will, everyone says it, but it takes a while to figure out how it changes you.  Working in the theatre and having small children was too hard for me. I wanted to be home with my kids. I don’t want someone else to be raising them, even though as a former Nanny I know that it is possible for someone else to love your kids as much as you do.

A few friends had asked me to be present when they gave birth – to be their doula though the word was new to me then. Experiencing births – their births, my own births, listening to the birth stories of others I meet at drop ins and parks and Baby and Me classes – it has made me more and more interested in working in the birth world.  I’m curious about the differences in OB care and midwifery care and the reasons why those differences exist. I want to learn more.  I decided to do my doula training with Bebo Mia and finally I have found a job that combines all my diverse skills. Changing from a Wardrobe Attendant to a Doula is not so big a jump as you might think. What I loved most about working in theatre was that I was constantly meeting new people, and you can’t get any newer than a brand new baby. I’m still massaging shoulders and egos and telling people “You’ve got this.” I’m still helping people get ready, physically and psychologically.  Maybe there aren’t too many other Dancer/Scientist/Nanny/Dressers in the birth world, but this career path of mine has led me here, and I love it.

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Why hire a doula?

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What is a doula?

DOULA : from the ancient greek “A woman who serves”.
DOULA : a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth.
Today we use the word doula to refer to a person educated and experienced in supporting women in childbirth and parenting. Many doulas offer prenatal classes and breast feeding support. Some doulas specialize in postpartum care, and others work with infertile couples. The primary purpose of a doula is to inform and reassure the expectant family, providing them with unbiased information to help them make informed choices along their journey to parenthood.

Why hire a doula?
Numerous clinical studies have shown that women supported by a doula have shorter labours with less interventions. They are half as likely to have a C-section and less likely to use an epidural. They have more success with breast feeding and more positive memories of their birth experience.

What about my partner?

Birth 3
Your doula can help support your partner while you are concentrating on birthing your baby. It is difficult to see your loved one in pain but your doula can reassure your partner that labour is progressing normally and that you are coping well. Your doula can show your partner massage techniques that will soothe you and can stay with you during meal and bathroom breaks.

A Baby Ready doula can be your support during this most important time. Let your doula help you write a birth plan and stick to it (as much as baby allows!) Your doula will help you and your partner remember what you learned during childbirth class, and provide you with information and coping techniques to help you labour in confidence. Your doula will encourage you to ask questions of your medical team so that you move through your labour and birthing informed and empowered. Think of your doula as your cheat sheet for the biggest exam of your life!