I will be your calming goat.

I just watched Ferdinand with my kids and I just love the character of Lupe. She’s so fun and enthusiastic and a bit vulgar and I’m not going lie, I enjoy that. Being a city girl I didn’t realize that it is common practice to put goats in with the bulls and horses to keep them calm, and I has the realization that goats are basically doulas for expensive livestock. Keeping their anxiety at bay makes it easier to manage the prize race horses or fighting bulls. In pregnancy women quite rightly feel anxious and nervous about the birth to come and hiring a doula can help you feel better about your ability to handle labour.

calming goat

The statistics are clear – just the presence of a calm, confident third party in the birthing room decreases the use of medical interventions and improves satisfaction with the birthing experience, even if all they do is sit there.  What I bring to the birthing room is my belief that birth works. I bring my confidence that you can do this, like so many women have done before. I bring experience of other births, my own included, so I feel comfortable with your movements and vocalizations and nothing phases me. My surety that everything is going to be alright is contagious and it helps relax you and your partner so that you can concentrate on birthing your baby calmly and with confidence.

I will be your calming goat. Keep labouring on and you will get your prize – a beautiful baby.

Click here to book a free consultation.

 

 

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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Gift the gift of a doula!

Gift of doula

Some partners are concerned that having a doula will mean they will have no role in their baby’s birth. This is not true! A doula can help give you the confidence to be a fantastic supportive birth partner. Your doula can reassure you that your partner’s labour is progressing normally and help keep you both calm if it is not. Your doula can teach you comfort techniques that will your partner will come to depend on during her labour. You will be as involved as you want to be for the entire labour and delivery. And if you need to step out, you can feel confident that your partner is being taken care of in your absence. Give the gift of doula support – and get it for yourself too.

 

This Doula’s on fire!

Sorry Folks I’m so friggin’ busy I haven’t had any time to blog. I’ve just come back from a doula collective meeting and I’m all fired up so let me fill you in on what I’ve been up to.

WORKchildcare-at-yoga-mamas-elaine

Yes, I’ve been leaving the house for paid employment, not just dreaming about it. I’m using my postpartum doula skills at Toronto Yoga Mamas where I will cuddle your baby so you can take care of you. Take a yoga class, get a massage, see a chiropractor or pelvic floor physiotherapist secure in the knowledge that your baby is in good hands. I will only bother you if your sweet babe is completely inconsolable – and I have a lot of baby whispering tricks up my sleeves. Also a high pain threshold when it comes to listening to babies crying. After all, crying is how baby communicates. If they are just saying “I miss Mommy” then they’re okay. Enjoy your shivasana. Ohm.

SCHOOL

This time last year I signed up to do my prenatal educator training at Douglas College. I’m about half way through the program and would be further if it wasn’t for WORK and FAMILY sucking up my time. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Coquitlam in the spring to do my teaching intensive. I didn’t realize that I would have to go to BC when I signed up to do the program online but I can’t say I’m feeling sad about it. Springtime in Vancouver? Yes please.

FAMILY

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Working as a postpartum doula allows me to be home for my children when they get home from school, most of the time. My children are getting very big and don’t need me so much anymore which allows me to spend time helping families with babies who are small and needy.  I’ve been working hard with my husband building his business and getting him ready to fly – now it’s my turn.

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE

I’m so happy to announce that I’ve joined the newly born Doula Collective at Mums and Tums Canada. Mums and Tums are distributors of the Ontario Baby Box, modeled on the Finnish Baby Box that has been proven to lower infant death rates.  Finnish families have been putting their newborn babies to sleep in free cardboard sleeping boxes for 75 years and they boast one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. You can sign up for a baby box of your own here, and pick it up at Mums and Tums distribution centre. Oh, and if you are not in Ontario check out Baby Box University and see if they have a free program in your community. Thanks to the popularity of the Baby Box program Mums and Tums founder Heather Dolimont has big plans for the future of her company and I am thrilled to be in on the ground floor. Watch this space for more information!

This Doula’s on fire!

Sorry Folks I’m so friggin’ busy I haven’t had any time to blog. I’ve just come back from a doula collective meeting and I’m all fired up so let me fill you in on what I’ve been up to.

WORKchildcare-at-yoga-mamas-elaine

Yes, I’ve been leaving the house for paid employment, not just dreaming about it. I’m using my postpartum doula skills at Toronto Yoga Mamas where I will cuddle your baby so you can take care of you. Take a yoga class, get a massage, see a chiropractor or pelvic floor physiotherapist secure in the knowledge that your baby is in good hands. I will only bother you if your sweet babe is completely inconsolable – and I have a lot of baby whispering tricks up my sleeves. Also a high pain threshold when it comes to listening to babies crying. After all, crying is how baby communicates. If they are just saying “I miss Mommy” then they’re okay. Enjoy your shivasana. Ohm.

SCHOOL

This time last year I signed up to do my prenatal educator training at Douglas College. I’m about half way through the program and would be further if it wasn’t for WORK and FAMILY sucking up my time. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Coquitlam in the spring to do my teaching intensive. I didn’t realize that I would have to go to BC when I signed up to do the program online but I can’t say I’m feeling sad about it. Springtime in Vancouver? Yes please.

FAMILY

20170205_130752.jpg

 

 

Working as a postpartum doula allows me to be home for my children when they get home from school, most of the time. My children are getting very big and don’t need me so much anymore which allows me to spend time helping families with babies who are small and needy.  I’ve been working hard with my husband building his business and getting him ready to fly – now it’s my turn.

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE

I’m so happy to announce that I’ve joined the newly born Doula Collective at Mums and Tums Canada. Mums and Tums are distributors of the Ontario Baby Box, modeled on the Finnish Baby Box that has been proven to lower infant death rates.  Finnish families have been putting their newborn babies to sleep in free cardboard sleeping boxes for 75 years and they boast one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. You can sign up for a baby box of your own here, and pick it up at Mums and Tums distribution centre. Oh, and if you are not in Ontario check out Baby Box University and see if they have a free program in your community. Thanks to the popularity of the Baby Box program Mums and Tums founder Heather Dolimont has big plans for the future of her company and I am thrilled to be in on the ground floor. Watch this space for more information!

The Uncomfortable Feminist

 

I am a birth worker,

arguably the most woman-centric job on the planet. I work with women at their most vulnerable, most powerful, most female. Giving life is something only we can do. It is beyond awesome. And yet, women in childbirth are subjected to disrespect, abuse, and downright misogyny on a daily basis. I am confused by the number of hospital staff I have encountered on the maternity floor who do not seem to like working with women. Perhaps a career move should be considered?

As a doula it is my job to support my client. It is not my job to speak for my client, and sometimes I have to sit and listen and hold my tongue while others try to knock my client down. As a doula I have no power, but I try to make my client feel powerful, powerful enough to stand their ground and say “I’m doing this my way” when faced with pressure from those who feel the need to run the show. Sometimes I feel very uncomfortable.

As a doula I am a witness to a lot of underhanded stuff.

As a feminist I want to scream. “Don’t talk to her that way!” “She is an adult not a child!” “You are her doctor not her boss!” I want to say, “He’s not right.” “He doesn’t have the right” “She’s impatient; her agenda is not the same as yours.” I want to say “a healthy baby is not the only important thing. “  I will be misunderstood. A healthy baby is important -but what about a happy and healthy mother? What about an empowering birth experience?

What about respecting the woman as well as the child?

I am a birth worker, and a feminist.  But I rely on my husband’s income to support our family. If giving birth is not respected, how can I expect birth work to be respected either? I believe in the work I do, but my belief doesn’t put much food on our table.  I am told to charge what I’m worth, but if the birth experience is not respected, the worth of a doula is not clear.

I am a doula and a feminist.

I love my work. I do it because I believe choice in childbirth is a feminist issue. I never wanted to be political, but I will fight for this. We were all born. How can we not respect the one thing that we all have in common?

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To Test or not to Test

During a rare quiet moment the other day I stumbled upon this article in the Toronto Star: ‘Over-testing can have a serious downside’. Written by Dr Sacha Bhatia, it’s a quick sum up of a phenomenon we are more than familiar with in the maternity care industry: that more tests and procedures do not equate to better outcomes. His article led me to the website for Choosing Wisely Canada, a new campaign by the CMA and the University of Toronto.  They are encouraging Canadian patients to think for themselves and ask their doctor 4 simple questions:

  1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?

  2. What are the downsides?

  3. Are there simpler, safer options?

  4. What happens if I do nothing?

This is exactly what I encourage my clients to do – use their brain and ask intelligent questions. Think of a simple procedure like the Nuchal Translucency ultrasound most women have around 12 weeks and ask the 4 simple questions.

  1. Do you really need this procedure? This is a test that screens for Down Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. For most women this is the first chance to have a look at their baby and they jump at the chance to do so. But do you really need this procedure? Will you abort a baby with Down Syndrome? If the answer is no then this is not a necessary procedure for you.

 

  1. What are the downsides? If the test indicates abnormalities, you will undoubtedly feel anxious and worried about your baby. The test generally used to confirm any issues is the amniocentesis which is a much more invasive and painful procedure with higher potential risks. So if you agree to the non-invasive NT test, you may find yourself in a position where you are forced to choose to undergo an amniocentesis to alleviate the stress brought on by the first test.

 

  1. Are there simpler, safer options? This test is already pretty safe and simple.

 

  1. What happens if you do nothing? If your baby is fine, then he will continue to be fine. If your baby has chromosomal abnormalities, he will continue to have chromosomal abnormalities.  So this test only affects your peace of mind. It’s up to you to decide if knowledge is power or if you would prefer to stay ignorant.

 

 

So you can see the Choosing Wisely Questions are pretty easy to apply to most maternity tests and procedures.  Take Continuous External Fetal Monitoring in labour:

  1. Do I really need this procedure? This monitors your baby’s heart rate continuously during labour. The research shows that continuous fetal monitoring holds no benefits over intermittent fetal monitoring, and in fact often creates problems. So no, you don’t really need this procedure.

 

  1. What are the downsides? The downside for you is that EFM limits your mobility and forces you to stay in bed or at least in your hospital room. If your hospital has portable wireless units you will have a little more mobility but you will still be expected to stay in range. Being tied down during labour is not ideal. It also steals your thunder, meaning that your caregivers will concentrate on what the monitor is telling them and ignore you.  Sometimes the information on the monitor will indicate fetal distress when there is none. Obstetricians err on the side of extreme caution, so any momentary irregularity in the tracing will cause them alarm.  The research shows that CFM does not actually catch things that IFM does not –but it does appear to cause distress in healthy obstetricians.

 

 

  1. Are there simpler, safer options? Yes, the simpler, safer option is intermittent monitoring with the EFM or even a Doppler.

 

  1. What happens if you do nothing? If your baby is in distress then no one will know. In this case occasional monitoring is the better choice over continuous monitoring or no monitoring.

 

So it’s wonderful that the CMA are on board with this initiative to stop overuse of unnecessary testing in medical care, but what is not wonderful is that

The Women’s Health section does not have a single word about maternity care.

Not a one.

So what’s up with that?

Now, Choosing Wisely had their inaugural meeting at the end of March, 2016, so I guess I should be a little kinder and give them a bit more time, but in the mean time if you feel like I do that there should be a large section on Obstetrics on their website, please visit their site and give them feedback! And please let me know what you said in the comments section below.

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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So, what does a doula do, exactly?

Frequently asked questions, doula edition.
So you’ve heard the reports and seen the stats and you know that having a doula increases birth satisfaction, decreases interventions and is just the most awesome thing ever. But what does a doula do, exactly? Of course every labour is different and every woman has different needs and desires. Your doula will adapt to suit your specific requirements. She will provide emotional and physical support, guidance and unbiased information throughout the pregnancy and labour. She will make suggestions on books you might want to read, products you might find helpful and positions that will ease your pain. She will hold your hand, wipe your sweaty brow and tell you that you are awesome.

But won’t my husband/partner do that?
Maybe. Hopefully. But sometimes your husband/partner will be a bag of nerves. Sometimes they will freak out when you cry out. Sometimes they will shriek “Get the doctor in here now!” three hours too soon. Sometimes they will turn white and pass out. Your doula can reassure your partner that the noises you are making and the pains you are experiencing are normal, healthy and to be expected. She can help your partner get over their anxiety and suggest ways that they can comfort you physically. She can stay with you while your partner gets a snack or makes some phone calls. She can reassure you both that progress is being made and that there is no reason to be afraid. She can gently suggest that maybe sitting down now would be a good idea. She can hold your partner’s hand, wipe their sweaty brow and tell them that you are both awesome.

But what, exactly, does a doula do?
Your doula will arrive at the hospital or birthing place within 90 minutes of your phone call. She will immediately check out the space, draw curtains and close doors. She will make sure you are comfortable and not sitting in a puddle of your own amniotic fluid. She will find where the dry sheets and blankets are and make sure you have what you need. She will ask questions to find out how you are feeling and what has happened in her absence. And she will get you up on your feet and make you move around as much as possible. It’s good practice to shift positions every 30 to 45 minutes and your doula will keep her eye on the clock and make suggestions as to new positions to try. In the early stages of active labour your job is to find your rhythm and get your coping strategies in place, and your doula will help you do this. You may not even notice that’s what is going on, but your doula will notice what you naturally do during each contraction and will help you keep doing what is working for you. And if things start to change, your doula will try to help you get back on track, whether by trying a new position or motion or water therapy or whatever other tools she may have in her bag of tricks.

Bag of tricks? Tell me more about this bag of tricks.
Your doula will bring a bag to the hospital that is a bit different from what you bring. She will probably have a heating pad or magic bag which can be quite soothing – if you like heat on your stomach or back when you suffer from menstrual cramps you might also like it when you are in labour. Ice packs are also an option. Some doulas bring their own birth ball and some hospitals provide them. (Others refuse to allow them. Boo.) Some doulas use TENS machines. All doulas have training in comfort measures that include massage, counter pressure and light touch. Your doula will probably advice you in advance to provide your own music, pillows and light snacks. Think about the food and drinks you like when you are recovering from the flu. Some hospitals still refuse solid food to women in labour but will provide soup and jello and fruit juice. 20150822_171946
What if I just want an epidural, right now?
In your prenatal visits you will have made a birth plan with your doula, and if your birth plan says “I want an epidural, right now” then your doula will support your choice to have that epidural, right now. If your birth plan says “I really don’t want to have an epidural” then your doula will gently remind you of your original plan, suggest a different position or hydro therapy or whatever but if you say “No, I don’t care, I want an epidural right now!” then your doula will support your choice to have that epidural, right now. Your doula is there to support you and your choices.

What happens in the prenatal visits?
You are likely to meet with your doula three times before you give birth. The first time is a free consultation session at which you will get to know her a little bit and decide if she’s the right doula for you. The second session will include birth planning and a little prenatal education. The third will most likely include breast feeding education, baby care and postnatal planning. By the end of these two sessions you should feel more confident and knowledgeable about the physiological process of childbirth and how you want to approach it, and you will have faith that your doula will support you in whatever choices you have to make along the way.

How long will my doula stay with me?
Your doula will stay 90 minutes to 2 hours after you give birth. She will make sure you have something to eat and drink. She can fetch any family members you have waiting down the hall, or shoo them away if you don’t want to see anyone yet. She will wait with you until your baby shows interest in breast feeding and help you get off to a good start. And when you are ready, she will leave and let you get on with the business of bonding with your baby.

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