"Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart."
~ Unknown

Monday, September 26, 2011

Birth Song

I recently had the privilege of reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  It is a beautiful novel built upon a Biblical story of Dinah, the only known daughter of Jacob.  It follows the stories of Dinah's four mothers and, later, that of Dinah herself.  The Red Tent itself is the place in their camp where women spend the three days and nights following the new moon (during their menstrual cycle) and where they give birth to their babies.  It is a place of ritual, healing, and sisterhood.  A truly inspiring look at honouring life as a woman.

The most inspirational part of the book, to me, was the birth song sung first by a midwife, Inna, then later by Dinah herself at both birth and death.  I hope you feel it's deep meaning as well.
Fear not, the time is coming
Fear not, your bones are strong
Fear not, help is nearby
Fear not, Gula is near
Fear not, the baby is at the door
Fear not, he will live to bring you honor
Fear not, the hands of the midwife are clever
Fear not, the earth is beneath you
Fear not, we have water and salt
Fear not, little mother
Fear not, mother of us all
excerpted from The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant 
©1997 Anita Diamant  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sometimes... We Make Mistakes - Private Ultrasounds

Three years ago, when I began this doula practice with several other excited and newly trained birth doulas, I have to admit, I was very naive.  Companies contacted me offering samples, coupons, etc. for us to share with our clients.  Some of them had very significant discounts.  Realizing that having a baby is not an inexpensive undertaking, I accepted some of these offers and passed them on.  They say hindsight is 20/20, and while we have since become more aware of companies true intentions and perhaps some less than ideal family values, we still slip up on occasion.

One of the companies that we had shared with our clients was a private ultrasound service.  While we do not advocate the use of ultrasounds, other than for medical reasons (see Obstetric Ultrasound Biological Effects and Safety by SOGC, Are rural general practitioner - obstetricians performing too many prenatal ultrasound examinations? Evidence from western Labrador, Ultrasound scans may disrupt fetal brain development, and Ultrasound: More Harm than Good? by Marsden Wagner, MD Midwifery Today Issue 60, Summer 1999), we realized that some parents wished to have a second ultrasound to for a special memory, gender prediction, etc.  Therefore, we provided the discount coupons to those who mentioned they were planning to have these ultrasounds.

Recently, we have been doing much more research into baby-friendly practices such as the WHO/UNICEF Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (World Health Organization).  Specifically, we believe we must adhere to the following:
Article 4. Information and education
4.2 Informational and educational materials, whether written, audio, or visual, dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to reach pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children, should include clear information on all the following points: (a) the benefits and superiority of breast-feeding; (b) maternal nutrition, and the preparation for and maintenance of breast-feeding; (c) the negative effect on breast-feeding of introducing partial bottle-feeding; (d) the difficulty of reversing the decision not to breast-feed; and (e) where needed, the proper use of infant formula, whether manufactured industrially or home-prepared. When such materials contain information about the use of infant formula, they should include the social and financial implications of its use; the health hazards of inappropriate foods or feeding methods; and, in particular, the health hazards of unnecessary or improper use of infant formula and other breast-milk substitutes. Such materials should not use any pictures or text which may idealize the use of breast-milk substitutes
 Article 5.  The general public and mothers
5.1 There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code.
5.2 Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code....
5.4 Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers or infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breast-milk substitutes or bottle-feeding
Now, to the reason for this post.  It has come to our attention that the private ultrasound company whose coupons we had mistakenly shared has a "rewards" program which includes a gift package of discounts, samples, and information which does not abide by the WHO Code.  Therefore, we will no longer provide coupons for this service.

Please know, that as doulas, our first priority is caring for the families we work with.  We support your choices and will assist you in finding evidence based information to help you make informed decisions about caring for your new baby.  We also must abide by the standards set forth by the World Health Organization and our training/certifying organizations.  We're happy to serve you in a mother-friendly and baby-friendly practice!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Relax...and just wait

Normal pregnancy lasts from 37 - 42 weeks, and beyond!  Late preterm birth is premature birth that occurs between 34 - 36 or 37 weeks.  It can be prevented.  The last few weeks of pregnancy can be very uncomfortable for mothers, but waiting for labour to begin naturally and spontaneously offers your baby his best chance of a healthy life.  Please, be patient, relax, and just wait.

Prematurity Awareness Day is November 17th. To learn more about premature birth and late preterm birth, and what you can do to help, please visit the March of Dimes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ripped Out: How Birth Trauma Affects Babies

Ripped out
Held tightly in my warm embryonic bubble,

I reminisce on the days when I floated freely

In this my mother’s womb, nourished by her life force,
This is the first home I have known.

As I stretch and long for freedom
Beyond the comforts of the womb,
I feel the walls compress around me
And I know the time is coming soon.

For many months I have grown stronger.
First helpless in this rhythmic sea,
Secured by this line to my belly;
Providing life, food and safety for me.

Now the ocean has closed around me,
And I’m hugged tightly, wrapped with warmth all around.
I reach up and imagine life beyond,
My mother’s voice is a precious sound.

She coos to me that soon we will meet,
And I will gaze into her love filled eyes.
I dream of her as another squeeze comes,
And I feel her heart rate rise.

As we continue, these surges together,
My mother comforts and we both know;
Our instincts will tell us what to do
This path we must travel before we say hello.

As mother prepares for my welcome,
Her strength falters as time marches on.
I hear voices and strange commotion;
A loud beeping that goes on and on.

The journey now becomes fraught with danger,
As I feel mother cry and give into fear.
With each surge I struggle to climb upward;
I don’t feel my mother so near.

As I fight on my way to the outside,
I struggle with fear and with pain.
My mother’s flesh numbs all around me;
I long to scream out her name.

My birth has killed my sweet mother, I fear.
These waves that pushed me closer to our meeting,
Now crash over and threaten to drown me;
My heart is scarcely beating.

Pain fills every joint in my body,
Loud noises crash all around and above.
I wonder shall I go on fighting,
If I have lost the sweet mother I love?

As the womb that was once my warm safe home,
Pummels and pushes me onward to life;
I long for the quiet and stillness before
This womb was in turmoil and strife.

All at once my previously safe cocoon,
Is breached by a sharp sundering assassin’s knife.
I scream as I’m dragged into glaring lights.
Has my mother forfeit, for me, her life?

My cord that gives life is severed,
And the cold rushes in. Oh it burns!
These new lungs expand as I fight for air.
The room all around me it turns.

I learn of fear and pain this day of my birth.
I am welcomed, bombarded, my eyes and my ears.
My mouth and nose are attacked by tubes that suck,
Eyes are blinded with goo that stops my tears.

“I am falling!” I scream. As I’m moved through this cool air;
Measured, poked and prodded, I cry.
But each cry falls on ears that are deaf
Maniacal smiles on their faces speak of joy and of pride.

My captors lay me down at last,
And with cloth bind me tight;
My legs and arms are unable to move,
They pass me around until I lose my fight.

In the arms of a large stranger I hear,
The deep sound that I have heard often before;
When safe in my bubble surrounded by warmth,
This man who I know loves my mother.

I stare around searching for her,
But alas she is nowhere in sight.
This man, who I’ll call Dad, laughs aloud;
And rocks me and smiles with delight.

When all is quiet and all is calm,
I learn that my mother’s not dead.
As I’m placed in her arms, she kisses me soft;
Her voice is as weak as a thread.

My mother cries as she holds me close,
I try to help; this body I cannot control.
Her body is broken, her spirit crushed,
By this place where birth is a toil.

I was born this way, torn from my mother;
The nature of life it has changed.
Where once I sought freedom and adventure,
Now only fear and anxiety remain.

I wrote this poem because through my study and research in my journey on the road to becoming a doula and in the future, a midwife, I have read and heard a lot about how the birth affects the newborn and wanted to write something from that perspective. Where the speaker, this earthbound newborn, talks of feeling pain and fear this is where I imagine that the mother has given in to the pain of labor and accepted medications which block her natural endorphins which would normally flow to the fetus, so that this new life feels all the pain and trauma associated with being squeezed through a birth canal. When the fetus feels the mothers flesh numb around him and fears that his mother has died, this is where I imagine that the mother has received an epidural and the drug numbs the connection between the mother to her fetus so that this little one experiences the withdrawal of his mother’s presence. As the fetus in my poem struggles to be born, the pounding of contractions along with the withdrawal of his mother’s presence soon overwhelms him and his heart rate begins to slow and an emergency c-section is performed. I tried to portray the feelings this infant might have being ripped from his mother, forced to breathe right away by the severing of the umbilical cord, and forced to endure the hospital protocol while being completely separated from his mother. I cannot remember my own birth so I can only speculate and look at the example of my own children. I could feel such a difference between the personality of my child who was born by cesarean before labor began and my natural homebirth baby. My oldest was afraid of everything and still panics at being away from me. My youngest has no fears and everything is an adventure that he can’t wait to experience. I hope this poem is read as it was intended and helps people to also think of the experience of the baby as choices are made regarding birth. Below are some of the resources that I read that helped to change my perspective in seeing birth through the newest person’s eyes.
Chamberlain, D. (1998). The mind of the newborn baby. North Atlantic Books; 3rd Ed. ISBN- 10: 155643264X
Harper, B. (1994). Gentle birth choices. Healing Arts Press, ISBN-10: 0892814802
Leboyer, F. (1975). Birth without violence. Healing Arts Press, ISBN 0-89281-983-9
Odent, M. (2006). Prelabor intrauterine Life; The future of suicides. Retrieved Sept 10, 2011 from: http://www.wombecology.com/suicide.html
Verny, T. and Kelly J. (1982). The secret life of the unborn child: how you can prepare your baby for a happy, healthy life. Dell, ISBN-10: 0440505658

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One World Birth: Save Birth, Change the World

Today is the official launch of the One World Birth website from the producers of the film Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion.  We are so thrilled about the message they are spreading to families around the world about the impact that birth and birthing practices have on us all.  As doulas, we are excited to share the information from the many, many experts the One World Birth team have taken the time to interview.  As mothers, we are hopeful that we can teach our daughters and sons to view pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding as the positive life-changing events they are.  We can help make birth a positive experience for every woman and every family!  What will you do?