Monday, November 30, 2009

what do Doulas do?

I get asked this question all the time. While I was at a birth 2 weeks ago, sitting quietly, holding a labouring mum's hand, I began thinking about all the things I (we) do as doulas....

We educate women and their families on their birth options and support whatever decision they make.

We support women and their partners both physically and emotionally.

We put our lives on hold for 4 weeks while being on call so that we are available at anytime we may be needed.

But beyond that... we hold the space, quietly being there, reassuring the mum that she is in a safe, sacred place. As a mother myself, it is a place I know well. With love, patience and a stillness of spirit, I hold hands, wipe faces, dry tears, turn on showers, prepare baths, offer drinks, moan, breathe, rock, comfort partners, explain what is happening, sit quietly, breathe, rest, move, breathe, encourage, hold legs, hold mothers, sometimes even partners, open the space to cry, encourage time to process, wait...and then celebrate.

I take photos and bring warm blankets and tea, in joy of a birth, of being given the awesome privilege of witnessing a baby's first emergence into the world, it's first breath, it's first sight of it's mother that it knows already so well. I then hold the space for the baby as it finds it's way to it's mother's breast, un-rushed, and celebrate the baby's first experience at the breast.

I come to homes or hospitals, helping mum and her baby, I bring information, experience and love. I bring trust that women know how to care for their babies, unlike any book will ever tell them how. Again I hold the space for the new family as they share their experience, ask for support and find themselves on the other side of the river, in this new land of parenting.

While I don't offer medical care, that is the midwife or doctors role, I do offer compassion, love, support, understanding, knowledge, wisdom and a way of quietly being there offering reassurance that this her rite of passage. It is sacred work and I am always so honoured every time I am invited to witness a family's birth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

thankfully dry

This past 6 days have been intense. I was at a birth and then the next day, my husband woke up at 6:30am and said "Oh God, the road is flooding." He went outside where he was told that we had 2 hours before high tide. One of the dikes had breached and the water was rising. Friday was a blur of moving valuables upstairs, trying to keep calm, sandbagging, digesting an evacuation order and feeling completely helpless. By Grace alone, we were not the ones in this canoe. The water flooded our yard, front and back and reached the first of three steps of our home. Thankfully, we are dry and still in our home, with only a constant river of ground water that we are still trying to pump out of our backyard.

It's so odd to watch flood victims on the television and then find yourself being one (my mum called on Sunday morning to say she saw me on TV, so bizarre). When we moved here we did our research. We talked to people about the dike at the end of our road, about the potential for flooding and we were told consistently that it was a possibility, but with the new dike that was built we were quite safe. They were right, our dike was fine, it was the one about a dozen blocks away that was about 2 inches short of protecting us. I've thought about selling our home (as much as I love it) and moving to higher ground, but will that really make a difference? When you experience something like this, it sure reminds you that there is always the potential for some kind of danger, but living in fear, just isn't living.

Thank you so much to all of our friends and family that have lovingly offered their support and homes, it is so touching to know how loved and cared for we are.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

thank you

Have you ever noticed that when you compliment a young child on how smart they are, how cute they look or even their big muscles are, that the response they give back is always, Thank You.

I was at a retreat last weekend and there was a beautiful woman in our group who was wearing beautiful earings. Another woman who she had just met said to her, "those earings are beautiful, I love the color and the way they look against your skin." The woman responded with, "oh, yeah, they kind of hurt my ears and they are old."

Can you imagine complimenting a 5 year old on how strong he is only for him to respond "well, I'm not really, actually I'm really weak and my clothes don't really fit me either." It's ridiculous, they will more likely respond, " Thanks! Do you want to see just how big my muscles are? I bet I could lift this whole table!"

This has been something I have been thinking about for a long time. I went to visit my dearest friend in California this past June and when I went into her home I was amazed by how beautiful it was. Of course I complimented her on it and instead of her saying, "yeah well, it's alright, there is still so much work to do on it" She said, "Thanks".

She and my children have taught me a lot about accepting a compliment with a good solid Thank You. When you compliment someone on something it is like a gift and to have them brush it off or throw it back, well, it's like saying, I don't want your gift. There is also a shift in energy within one self when we accept a compliment, something that assists us in standing a little taller and not shrinking like a flower desperate for water.

So the next time someone says how beautiful you are, or what a great mother you are or even how strong you are (because you know that you are), instead of dismissing what others see in you, invite that compliment in. You are worth it.


Wondering what my son's shirt says? "Love Hoo You Are" I bought it on etsy for him for Valentines this year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

in just one drop....

Before I begin with this post, I want to state that it is in no way intended to offend or make anyone feel guilty for not breastfeeding or for feeling that they were not able to. I recognize that there are many factors that need to come together for a breastfeeding relationship to work and without those pieces it can be nearly impossible.

That being said....

Did you know that just one drop of breastmilk contains 3,000,000 cells for the health of your baby? Just one drop.

There is something going on in our society, something that just isn't right. Women are being told that they don't have enough milk, that their babies are allergic to their milk, that formula is just as good as breastmilk, that babies do not know the difference between the bottle and the breast, that their babies just don't like breastfeeding, that mothers are not wise to their babies, that they should schedule and not feed on cue, that babies are ready to face the world on their own...they should be able to self-soothe don't you know? The list goes on and on and on.

In the process of all of these messages, women are giving up on breastfeeding, a decision that affects not only the baby, but also the mother deeply. We are not supporting mother-infant attachment nor are we supporting the health and well being of either member of the relationship.

Breastfeeding is more than just a transfer of milk from mother to baby. It is a relationship, a way of learning how to mother your baby and respond to their needs. It not only supports the baby's health, well-being, immune system, brain, eye and oral development.....It also supports women by reducing the risk of reproductive cancers, heart attacks and stroke, it helps us to respond to our babies in a loving way (studies have shown that women who are at high risk of committing child abuse are less likely to act in this way while they are breastfeeding) Oxytocin, the love hormone is a magic thing.

I understand that for many women, breastfeeding can be a challenging experience. Really, I get it. It took 5 weeks of hell for me to sort things out with my first child and 2 weeks with my second. The difference between the first and second child was that I was more educated, more experienced and knew where to go for help. My success came from amazing support both from my midwife and my husband, my own determination and good, evidenced based information. I am still breastfeeding my second child and she is nearly 2 1/2. A pretty amazing success.

The thing that is missing for many women is good, consistent information from skilled breastfeeding mothers and lactation professionals. Breastfeeding is not something that is medical and yet it is treated as such so often. By ignoring the emotional aspect of breastfeeding, namely confidence, many women are not supported in the way they need to be in order to successfully breastfeed their children. They are dismissed and discouraged. They are told that they are inadequate and not experts on their babies. While we do need to be careful and aware of how a mum and baby are doing since serious situations can arise, we need to give the ownership of being able to feed one's own baby back to the mother. Women need to be empowered about their abilities, their decisions and their instinct so that they may apply that to all areas of mothering.

Now that H1N1 is upon us, we need to do everything we can for our little ones. Who knew that just one little drop could mean so much.