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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Moving On, Moving Forward

Dear Readers and Friends,

It is with bittersweet emotion that I announce that I will be moving to Lethbridge in November 2012.  I am excited about the new opportunities, but will miss the many friends, clients, and contacts I have formed relationships with here in Medicine Hat.

It was four years ago, in August 2008 that I began my journey as a birth doula.  I have enjoyed successes, endured heartaches and fought hard to establish the From Womb to Cradle practice in our area.  I am so blessed to have my amazing partner, Sherel Burrows, here to continue the practice in Medicine Hat.  We will still be working closely together.

There is so much I want to say and, yet, I don't think there are words enough to say it all.  I want to thank my amazing husband, Mike, for his continued support of my passion.  Thank you to Sherel, Kaitlin, Lynn, Lois and Amanda for their doula-sisterhood.  Thank you especially to the beautiful families I've been privileged to work with over these past four years.  You are why we do what we do.  Each family holds a special place in my heart and not a little one's birthday passes without fond memories of you all.  Thank you to my best friends, the three ladies that have given me not only support and love, but stern talking's to when I needed them.  I will miss you so much!

I'm looking forward to new memories and a new life in Lethbridge.  From Womb to Cradle Doula Services, Inc. will now operate there as well. To my colleagues in Lethbridge and area, I'm excited to work with all of you and continue to serve the families we all care for.

Thank you, Medicine Hat!  I wish you beautiful births and happy healthy families!

Love,
Michelle

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reflective Practice & The Story of My Daughter's Birth

Dear Readers,

When I certified as a birth doula, I was asked to write a reflective essay on the birth of one of my children.  This is the story of the birth of my first child, my beautiful daughter Sydne, who is the inspiration for my work with families.  You will notice the titles preceding each paragraph.  These are the framework for reflective practice which can be helpful when trying to work through a difficult life experience.  (Please ask me about reflective practice at our prenatals!) This story is raw and emotional.  I hope sharing it will help other mothers to better reflect on their experiences from birth through all aspects of motherhood.  

XOXO
Michelle


My Inspiration: The Birth of My Beautiful Daughter


Description
I am a mother of two children. This is the story of my first child’s birth. Shortly after becoming pregnant, my husband and I moved to a larger centre. I found a family physician; a general practitioner who also delivered babies. I remember telling her at one of my prenatal appointments, “I don't want to be a hero. Sign me up for an epidural.” My doctor was supportive and made the note in my chart. I also included it in my simple, one-page birth plan. We also discussed breastfeeding as I planned to nurse my baby.  I did not want a cesarean or instrumental birth.  I wanted to be comfortable and enjoy the birth experience.  These items were also noted in my birth plan.  My wish at the time was for a beautiful comfortable birth experience with the active support of my husband and mother.



My daughter was born on Saturday, May 10, 2003, ten days after my due date of May 1st and after a fourteen hour labor. My mother had arrived from out of the country a week earlier. We walked through several malls, went bowling and I waddled up and down the stairs in our home as much as possible. My doctor stripped my membranes twice and I begged for her to induce me. The night before I was scheduled to be induced, I went into labour on my own.

During one of many nightly trips to the bathroom, I noticed goop on the pad in my underwear. It wasn't my mucus plug as I had lost it a week before and this wasn't pink.  It was a very pale clear yet cloudy grey-green. I called the local 24-hour nurse line. They said it was probably nothing. When I felt a little mini-gush, I knew it was my water leaking at this point. It was around 2:30 AM when I woke first my mother and then, my husband, Mike, and we headed to the hospital.

My contractions started on the way to the hospital, which was 10-15 minutes from our home. They were centered in my lower back. At the hospital, I changed into the hospital gown, peed in a cup, left my pad on a paper towel in the bathroom (per the nurse’s instructions) and was told to lie in the bed in the assessment room. The fetal monitor was strapped around my belly and I lay in a semi-reclined position. I had only been in the bed a few minutes it seemed, when my water broke with a gush. A nurse or doctor confirmed that there was meconium in the water.

They moved me into a labour and delivery room. The contractions were now coming one on top of the other and I had a lot of back labour. I was lying on my left-side and was nauseated. I had been in the hospital for around an hour and was four centimeters dilated. A nurse asked me if I wanted a shot in the hip or the epidural.  I replied that I was ready for the epidural.

According to the staff, the epidural had slowed my labour. So, I was started on IV pitocin to increase the contractions. With each increase made to the dosage of the artificial hormone, the epidural lost some of its numbing effect, so an increase was made to its strength as well. This up and down dance kept up throughout the day.

At some point in the afternoon, I had two young nurses taking care of me. One of the nurses was a student. They checked me and found me to be fully dilated. So, without feeling much of an urge, I started pushing. I pushed for almost four hours and moved the baby down, but my progress had stalled and my doctor arrived. She checked me and basically poked the baby in the eye, finding that she was occiput posterior.
Because I had moved the baby down so far in the birth canal, a cesarean, which my doctor later informed me she would have called for otherwise, was out of the question. So, she called for the obstetrician on-call to come in and assist with the delivery.

The OB mentioned that they would have to try using the vacuum to help the baby out. They tried. It didn't work. So, the doctor brought out the forceps. Finally after an episiotomy and a fourth degree perineal tear, the baby was out. The doctor held her upside down and Mike announced that she was a girl. We cried.

Our daughter, Sydne Mikaela, was whisked over to the other side of the room so the nurses and doctors from the neonatal intensive care unit could give her the once over. They had been called in due to the meconium in the amniotic fluid.

While Sydne was examined, I delivered the placenta. Then, OB oversaw as my doctor stitched up my large tear, which was both interior and through my perineum to the sphincter. I was in a haze.

When I finally held my new baby daughter, I noticed what appeared to be a large blood blister on her forehead. Her face was bruised from the forceps and vacuum and her nose squished from being stuck under my pubic bone. We were moved to the postpartum floor and I tried to breastfeed her, but we were not successful.

That night, the nurses took Sydne to the nursery so I could rest. They fed her bottles of formula.

We continued trying to breastfeed throughout our stay in the hospital. Each time I tried to feed Sydne, the nurses would try to help, but usually ended up shoving her roughly onto my breast. Sydne screamed and pulled away each time. Each nurse had a different idea about why she wouldn't latch on. They said perhaps she was tongue-tied or she couldn't breathe because her nose was squished, or maybe because her chin was recessed. I yelled at the lactation consultant and told her to leave me alone. Finally, my doctor told me just to tell the nurses that I was going to formula feed so they’d release me from the hospital.

The Monday evening after Sydne was born, we went home. I continued trying to breastfeed, but pumped and supplemented with formula as she still refused to take the breast. I cried and she cried at each attempt. The health nurse visited the day following our release from the hospital and I continued to have a nurse visit each day throughout the week, still trying to establish breastfeeding. The day my mother was to return home, I began crying constantly. Then, on my way to the bathroom, I lost control of my bowels.

I saw my doctor a week after Sydne was born to see if she could increase the dosage of the medication I was already taking for depression. At the visit, she suggested we fully make the switch to formula. I agreed. 

Feelings
In the days leading up to my Sydne’s birth, I really felt as though I would be pregnant forever.  Because my mom had come up from another country for the birth and was only scheduled to stay with us for two weeks, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the baby while she was still there or early enough for her to spend sufficient time with all of us.  I was so relieved when the hospital called with our induction time.  I actually slept well that night, for the first time in weeks.

While I was very excited about my child’s arrival, I felt very overwhelmed and afraid during her birth.  Just before the epidural was administered, I felt so nauseated.  I was afraid and embarrassed that I may vomit.  I really didn’t want anyone to see me throwing up.  I felt very weak.  I thought I appeared weak to others.  I was young as well, at nearly twenty-four.  I did not feel confident to question the hospital staff.

My mother didn’t say much during the actual birth.  I remember her trying to talk to me when I was experiencing the back labour and nausea.  She was trying to get me to look into her eyes.  As a child, when I would bump my knee or fall, I would cry as though it were the end of the world.  My mother would often say, “They’re going to have to knock you out when you give birth.”  I believed her.  If my own mother said that about me, I felt it had to be true.  I didn’t want to disappoint my mother by showing any fear or by being a “baby” about the pain.  All I felt at the time was the fear that I would let her down and that I wasn’t strong enough.  I wish she had spoken to me more during the birth.  Her appearance was stoic; but, perhaps she was afraid for me.  I can only imagine how I’ll feel when it is Sydne’s turn to become a mother.  Maybe, beneath her strong exterior, there was a tender heart only wishing to spare me pain.

I didn’t want my husband to worry about me.  I don’t remember him being very involved in the birth.  I don’t remember what he said to me or really how he felt.  There was concern in his eyes, but he didn’t really say much of anything, which worried me and made it very difficult for me to feel supported.  He slept after I got the epidural.  I was angry that he wasn’t awake with me.  I wish he had encouraged me more or had perhaps been more involved in researching our options during our pregnancy in order to prepare for the birth. I wish he had protected me.

After Sydne was born, I was in a total haze.  I don’t remember pushing her out.  I didn’t have a feeling of one being becoming two separate individuals.  It wasn’t a spiritual experience as I had hoped it would be.  I just remember feeling like I wasn’t entirely in my body. I wasn’t physically or mentally present.  It was as though I was a hollow vessel and things were being done to me.  I was simply an observer, but not even one that was entirely focused.  It was as though I was watching a movie in a crowded noisy theatre.  I couldn’t pay attention completely, though I knew there was action taking place. 

Not being able to breastfeed my Sydne broke my heart.  I was frustrated that I could not do it myself.  I was angry that she had been hurt by the mechanisms to remove her from my body.  I was angry at the nurses for not noticing she was in an odd position.  I was angry at myself for asking for the epidural, because maybe I could have prevented her getting hurt by the vacuum and forceps. I wish I had learned more about breastfeeding in the early stages after birth. I was angry at my daughter because she wouldn’t take my breast.  Why wouldn’t she take my breast?!

When we arrived home from the hospital, I was in so much pain.  My heart was broken and I had little connection to my daughter.  Every time I tried to feed her at my breast she cried and then I cried.  I planned in my mind to have my husband care for her.  I didn’t feel that she needed me anymore.  The pain of not being able to provide her with the one necessity I should have been able to tore at my heart.  My body also felt ripped apart.  When I lost control of my bowels that was my breaking point.  Here I had just given birth to a helpless baby and I was the one who needed the diaper.  I was helpless, too, and hopeless.

I was relieved when my doctor increased my medication.  I was relieved, too, when she suggested formula feeding.  I couldn’t bring myself to keep trying to breastfeed when, I felt, my daughter was rejecting me.  I also felt like a failure.  I couldn’t fulfill my daughter’s most basic need.  I felt incredibly guilty that I did not breastfeed her.  I knew that my breast milk was made for her and that nothing else would provide the perfect amount of nutrition or immune support.  Every time I prepared a bottle of formula, I felt guilty.  Every time I saw another mother breastfeeding, I felt jealous.  I felt as though I was being judged by breastfeeding mothers for feeding my child an artificial substitute.

Actions
I had planned for an epidural and I received one.  I had planned to breastfeed, yet I did not succeed.  It is clear to me now that the choice to receive an epidural impacted my breastfeeding experience.  If I been able to express the type of pain I was experiencing, perhaps the nursing staff would have recognized that Sydne was occiput posterior earlier and suggested a change of position.  I would not have been confined to the bed, so I would have been able to try other things to help her to turn. 

The offer was made to have an injection of morphine.  Had I tried this at that early point in labor, I may have received the relief I was longing for while also giving my body time to metabolize the medication so that I would still have sensation during the second stage.  Also, the epidural had “slowed” my labor.  If I had chosen another pain relief option or no pharmaceuticals at all, I may have had a shorter labor.

The epidural also may have compromised Sydne’s awareness.  Had she been more alert following her birth, perhaps she would have had more of an urge to feed, thus giving us both more motivation to breastfeed.  She also may not have had to have an instrumental delivery and, therefore, would not have had the birth injuries that she experienced.  I also did not know at the time that there were alternatives to bottle feeding.  I could have used finger feeding, cup feeding or tried a supplemental nursing system.  None of these items were offered; but, I also did not ask.

Birthing in this particular hospital was also another choice that I did not realize I had control over.  I knew that there were midwives in our area at that time, however, I was not comfortable with having a homebirth and also, because midwives were not covered by our provincial insurance plan at the time, I did not think I could afford one.  There was a pilot program operating out of a hospital about a half an hour outside of our city with both midwives and doctors on staff, but I was not aware of it at the time.  Perhaps had I known, I could have given birth in a place that gave me the comfort of knowing technology was near if I needed it, but also would have given me more freedom to choose natural alternatives to medical interventions.

The main reason I had chosen my doctor was that she was a woman.  She made me feel quite comfortable in all of our appointments and truly did take time to listen to me; however, her practice was quite busy and she was new to the profession.  Perhaps this may have led her to initially lean more toward the managed style of birthing.  In retrospect, I also must note that I did not really keep an open mind toward everything in my visits with her.  I did not, for example, ask for any information on the risks of epidural anesthesia, nor did I request any information on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support. I could have taken a more active role in my care.

All of the choices I made were motivated out of fear.  I was afraid I couldn’t manage without the epidural.  I was afraid to vomit in front of my family and the hospital staff.  I was afraid that I would not be taken seriously by the staff.  I was afraid that I did not know enough to ask the proper questions of staff and that I didn’t really deserve to have the answers.

Learning
As I look back upon the events surrounding Sydne’s birth, I am filled with gratitude.  While much of the experience was truly painful, without it I would not have found a passion for birth and for helping other women and their families.  As much as it hurt, I have been able to learn from the mistakes I made during that period. 

I have learned that I am responsible for my own feelings.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  While my mother may have relayed her perceptions about my tolerance for pain or my strength, it was I who chose to accept those words as fact.  She could not make me weak, nor could she make me strong.  In repeating her words in my own inner dialog, I had already written the story of my birth experience before it had even begun.  I expected to fail in fulfilling my own perceptions of what a strong birthing woman would or could be, therefore I planned to fail. 

I also realize that I have put a great deal of stock in what others think of me.  I worry about their perceptions of me as an individual.  I often try to please others rather than think of how my decisions affect my life.  As an adult, I place much importance on pleasing my parents and making them proud of me.  I know I need to be proud of myself and concern myself more with the future I have with my husband and children.

I know I must be my own advocate.  I had the opportunity to learn more about my options and make informed decisions, but I allowed myself and my fears keep me from doing so.  The more I learn the greater power I have over my own life. The answers are there for me to find, I only need to look.  Not knowing is not an excuse.  I have found my voice and I must use it. 

I believe that I have a unique role in teaching Sydne about birth and building up her self-esteem.  While I chose to take on my mother’s perceptions as my own in a negative fashion, I also realize that the messages we and others send us have a lasting impact on our lives.  I want to send my daughter positive messages about her body and her capability to birth and mother.  She does not have to repeat my mistakes.  I know she may make her own, but I want her to know that I believe she has the power to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

Guilt serves no purpose.  It was a waste of my time and energy.  While I did not plan to feed my daughter formula, I did the best that I could under the circumstances.  She was healthy and happy.  I was able to get the help I needed for my mental health without worrying about the substances going through my milk and into my baby’s sensitive system.  I would have loved to have had more support to breastfeed, but I believe that being unable to at the time helped me to value nursing even more.  It has also made me much more understanding when I hear or see another mother’s struggles.

Finally, I have learned that while I may be fearful, I can feel it without letting it take over my decision making.  I cannot and will not give up my power simply because I may not know what lies ahead.  I had been allowing myself to exist, without truly living and allowing myself to use fear as an excuse to keep me from making decisions that may have been in my best interest. I have never been a risk taker.  I do not want to miss out on life anymore.

Application
Reflection has helped me to deal with the negative feelings I have had pertaining to my first birth experience and how such similar feelings and thought processes have been a part of my entire life.  I have also begun to feel empowered to really take control of the decisions I make in my life.  By realizing that my decisions are my own, I see that being fearful would mean not trusting myself. 

I have been able to turn my birth experience into a positive motivator, rather than a negative memory.  I have overcome the challenges of learning to bond after a difficult birth.  I gained the desire to help others learn more about how to have healthier happier births.  I have a renewed passion for breastfeeding.  I know that just because I did not have the ideal experience the first time around, it does not mean that I have not gained valuable knowledge.  I’ve learned to trust my instincts and believe in myself and my abilities.

As a birth professional, I realize I have a unique privilege of helping mothers and their families find their own power, make informed decisions, and begin the journey of parenthood with confidence and joy.  I must strive to live my life as a reflection of these values.  I hope that I can help my clients to feel supported and valued.  Their experiences mean more to me than my personal feelings about their choices.  In the end, the birth experience belongs to the mother and her family.  It should be something they are able to cherish.

I have learned to be more accepting of other’s choices.  I know I may not make the same decisions for myself; but, I also understand that each mother, each birth, and each family is unique.  As a doula, I can be available to provide information to my clients and respect whatever decision they make in the end.  I have felt the pain of my own guilt and perceived judgement of others and I would not wish that on anyone else.

Now that I have realized how my own feelings have shaped my decisions, I believe that I may be able to better assist my clients in reflecting on their own experiences and choices.  I know what it is like to feel powerless.  By using reflective practice with my clients, as well as encouraging them to find the answers to their pregnancy, birth and parenting questions, I hope the women I work with will have a better chance of having a birth experience that is safe and satisfying. 

I am applying what I have learned as a wife and a parent.  I am more open with my husband about my wishes.  We are able to work together when it comes to how to raise our children, researching where to live, and even what vehicle to purchase.  I work hard to help my children realize their own power and potential.  I believe that they can achieve any goal.  I want them to know how loved they are and how valued they are. 

Finally, I am so happy to have been able to communicate with my parents about my feelings.  I am more comfortable relating to them as an adult.  My mother and I have since had many frank discussions about my perceptions of my ability to deal with physical pain.  She expressed to me the anger she felt toward the hospital staff for what she believed to be their neglect in determining my daughter’s position during second stage.  She has also become my biggest supporter in my role as a birth professional.  While I know now that I do not need the approval of others to feel worthy and successful, I am very glad that I’ve had this opportunity to communicate in this way with my mother. 

Summary
This paper has been a reflection on my experience giving birth to my first child.  I have discovered that many of the decisions I made were based up on fear and lack of confidence. I used fear as an excuse to keep me from exploring the other choices that were available to me at the time. I realize that by believing in my own abilities, trusting my instincts, and taking the responsibility to make informed decisions in my own life, I will be better able to support my clients in doing so themselves.  Through reflection I have been able to see what I had previously thought of as a negative experience in a positive manner by utilizing it as an opportunity for growth. I have learned to accept the decisions I made that shaped my birth experience.  The birth and early postpartum period taught me to also be non-judgemental and more supportive of my clients’ choices. I hope that the process of writing this paper will give me greater sensitivity when helping my clients as they work through any previous experiences they may have that could hinder them from claiming their own power to birth and mother. I am overjoyed to be able to work toward a better birthing future for the families in my community.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Addicted to Birth part 2 of 2








      Pregnancy was amazing, I have to admit, and I know that everyone is going to hate me for that statement but I have never felt so good pregnant before. I attribute my great pregnancy to a doula client who was having her first and told me that she did not have morning sickness. I was of course shocked because I had never heard of that before and had my share of morning sickness through my pregnancies. She told me that she had a respected coach that she had looked up to who had a wonderful pregnancy and so she decided that is how her pregnancy would be as well. I was amazed that she could expect to have an easy pregnancy and tell herself that and it happened. I wanted that as well so when I was pregnant I decided to enjoy it and love it and feel good.

       I don`t know how it worked but it did! I think telling my body that I loved it and telling it to feel good helped me to choose things that made me healthy and feel good. I remember a point early in my pregnancy where I started to feel a bit nauseous and decided that it was my body telling me that it needed something. So I boosted my vitamin intake and started taking Juice Plus pills, which uses natural foods to provide the body with nutrients, as well I made sure I was stocked up on healthy appealing snacks. This time my first trimester, rather than being a time of toilet worshipping, I was instead ravenous and ate constantly. I think that because I never gave my stomach an opportunity to be empty I did not experience the nausea that accompanies the excess bile that is produced by the body in early pregnancy.

      In addition I did not want to sit around this pregnancy and feel out of shape and tired so I decided to go to work. Unfortunately I was afraid that no one would hire me in my condition knowing that I would be quitting in a matter of months so I advertised myself as a house cleaner online. I was shocked when my week was quickly filled up. I loved working and cleaning houses and it worked exactly as I had hoped to keep my energy up. I stayed in wonderful shape throughout my pregnancy and every time I would pick things up from the floor or wash the bottom of a toilet I would make an effort to squat rather than bend so that I could strengthen my pelvic floor and be accustomed to it in case I wanted to birth in that position. That is the funny thing about squatting, it is a wonderful position for birthing but if you have not practiced it, it is really difficult to hold the position while you are pushing out a baby.

      The best part about working hard and eating healthy was that I never got that last month exhaustion where I felt like I needed to get the baby out so I could sleep again. I felt so good and full of energy from being active that when I went to bed I was able to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly. My only complaint with this pregnancy was vaginal varicosities that never caused me discomfort and a mild case of hemorrhoids.
Having a pleasant and busy pregnancy made it easier when my due date came and went. I was determined not to quit working until either contractions made working too difficult or my water broke on someone`s floor. I did not want to sit around waiting on a baby who was running on his own schedule. The fun part was that the week after I was due I scored two extra move out cleans through a client and since I was nesting like crazy I worked my butt off cleaning and scrubbing on hands and knees and the home owner was impressed. He asked me if I was interested in getting another regular house to clean. I told him I would have to decline since I was expecting the baby any day. When he asked about my due date and I admitted I was past my date he stared at me like I was about to spurt amniotic fluid all over his newly cleaned floors.

      I had grand plans for my home birth. I decided I wanted to have a birth party with all of the people I know who are like minded with me about birth as well as a few other close friends and family. My plan was to sleep between contractions if labor started at night and to fix snacks for the party in early labor if it started during the day. I planned to give birth in the basement in a birth pool and have the tv on and snacks upstairs to keep guests occupied during the slow times until I began pushing and then I wanted everyone present for the birth.

     I was excited when contractions seemed to be coming regular on Friday June 22nd but didn`t get too anxious since I knew they could stop when I went to bed. However, it really felt like contractions were regular so I decided I would call my birth team and put everyone on alert in case it was the real thing. Judging by contractions and my last birth I expected that I would labor through the night and give birth the next day. My mom and Aunt were travelling to the birth from 2.5 hours away so they decided to come that night so they could sleep here and be well rested for whenever things picked up. Our wonderful friends Sam and her mom, Nadine, also decided to spend the night since Jeff was picking them up for the birth since neither drive and I didn`t want him leaving me when things got intense. Sam`s two kids came as well and had a sleepover with Tony and Sam. We stayed up excited and talking till midnight when my mom and Aunt arrived. I was starting to get frustrated about then since it seemed that contractions were coming less often and weren`t as intense. We all decided to get some rest since things were slowing down and reassess the situation in the morning. It seemed like the moment I lay down labor intensified and I had to get up a few minutes later to use the bathroom and saw my mucus plug go which delighted me since it confirmed to me that I hadn`t called everyone in vain.

      I slept really well between contractions until I couldn`t lie down any longer around 5. I decided I wanted to try the birth pool and Jeff began filling it while I laid on the bed we had set up in the basement for the birth. I was still tired so it felt good to rest but whenever I felt a contraction coming I could not be lying down so I would get up and walk over to the telepost where I would get it lined up with my spine and lean into it so that I had pressure in my lower back and I would sway my hips. It was amazing how that trick worked to alleviate the pain that accompanied the contractions. As soon as the pool was filled I tried it out and got in it and onto my hands and knees. Surprisingly, this didn`t work for me as it did throughout my entire previous labor, and I got out again and continued being upright through the contractions. After a while my back was sorer from the pressure that I was forcing on it from the telepost than from the contractions so I quit using it to lean against. By then others had woken and after a bit of experimentation I discovered that I could cope really well with someone squeezing my hips and I would continue swaying my hips and would drop my jaw and let my air out in low moans and grunts.

      It all felt really good I felt like I was working completely with my body to let the baby move down and I was able to really stay loose during the contractions. I also liked sitting on the toilet and spent most of my time moving between the bathroom and the birth pool. It felt really good to be actively doing something. 
Whenever I sat on the toilet I would check myself to see if I could feel the baby or anything that was going on inside, it was exciting when I could finally feel the bulge of my amniotic sac after a while.

     While I was laboring three other people arrived including my midwife. Three people that were invited were unable to make it including a photographer who was going to take pictures. Since Sam was my backup photographer she was busy snapping pictures and taking care of things. She was awesome and seemed to always be there during a contraction when I needed a hip squeeze or drinks of water and also managed to capture beautiful pictures of the labor and birth.

     I was getting worried and mentioned it to my midwife because I could tell that I was not yet to transition as I could still focus and felt completely aware between contractions and I was afraid that I would have difficulty with the intensity that would come with transition. It was amazing when transition hit I could instantly tell. Everything took on a surreal quality as if I had been drugged and I couldn’t really tell who was around me. It was nice to know that I was in transition. My favorite part of labor was when my older boys would come and check on me. I was able to explain to them what I was feeling and what was going on with my body and it would remind me to relax and let things happen and smiling at them to let them know that I was ok helped me feel better and in less pain. They were so attentive and would give me hugs and massage my back which really did feel wonderful.

      I was really feeling a lot of pressure on my bottom and when I was on the toilet and checked myself I could feel my water bag right inside my vagina and when I pushed a little further past it I could feel the baby’s head. I asked my midwife if I could break my water but then I was afraid she would say no, so before she was able to answer I pinched the amniotic sac between my fingernails and pulled and felt the gush of fluid as my water broke.

     My boys were really excited for this as they knew it meant the baby was coming and had been asking me if my water broke yet for weeks before labor even started. Breaking my water was such a relief and eased the intense pressure I had been feeling. Since I could feel the baby’s head high up in my vagina I began pushing through the contractions and kept my hand on his head and felt it move down with each push. Before long the head was visible from the outside and I told the kids to watch their brother being born. I squatted in the pool and the kids and adults lined up where they could watch. I started to push cautiously. I planned to push slowly so I wouldn’t tear but as soon as the contraction started I was crowning and I couldn’t slow it down at all. Woosh! The baby’s head was out and there was that adrenaline rush again which I knew I would remember all my life.

     The midwife checked for the cord and another contraction came. A small push and Forest came swimming out and I brought him up and to my chest. I inhaled deeply as I kissed his sweet little head then rested my head back on the edge of the pool as the euphoria of birth washed over me. Jesse Forest came into the world at 11:05. We instantly fell in love. I felt wonderful. I birthed the placenta. I breastfed my baby. I relived the birth with my friends before everyone went home and I could not wait to do it all again.

     Yes I freely admit it I am completely addicted to birth.

Addicted to Birth part 1of 2


      Yes I freely admit it I am totally and completely addicted to birth. It has been over a month since I gave birth to my little Jesse Forest and I am still on such a birth high that I get giddy and excited every time I recall the rush of pushing him into the world into my waiting hands and bringing him up out of the water to my breast. It is a good thing that I am sane enough to realize how much work parenting can be afterwards so I haven’t gone crazy and started a football team. Although I am on the right track, so far we have had four beautiful boys spaced three years apart. Each birth has been a totally unique experience and helped me to learn and grow.

      Birth #1 was by scheduled cesarean because Tony wanted to be born bottom first and the doctors didn’t go for that so I willingly put myself under the knife to bring him into my groggy waiting arms. Unfortunately I was too tired from my general anesthesia to appreciate the moment and held him with joy but was unable to keep my eyes open long enough to examine his beautiful tiny body.
Birth #2 was my biggest regret and after an emergency C-section due to “failure to progress” I got to see my little Sam lifted over the blue curtain for a minute screaming his little head off and then I was separated from my baby. Needless to say the whole experience threw me into a fear of birth and pregnancy and traumatized me from ever wanting to have another child.

      Birth #3, my triumph! Thanks to an unplanned pregnancy I faced my biggest fear and approached this birth from a new angle. I actually educated myself and gave myself permission to defy the experts and trust myself and my body. So after two cesareans I had my first VBAC in my basement with a midwife, my mom, husband and boys. After hours and days of labor that didn’t ever want to end I pushed Alex out into my arms in breech presentation. That was the first time I felt the rush and high that turned me into this birth addict. It was the moment that I reached down while his body slipped into my hands and everything stretched to let him free. Like a shot of adrenaline! I was on a high for days reliving that moment and feeling. Despite endless hours of exhausting labor once I held my baby I was ready to run around and dance like a crazed lunatic. I had given birth to my baby in a way that people had told me that I couldn’t do and I had given birth to a new me as well.

      Birthing my baby changed my life. I learned so much about giving birth and how backwards birthing has become in our liability-riddled medical model. Giving birth is natural and healthy and should take place in a natural environment not surrounded by fear, lying on a bed with strangers staring between your legs at a place that you haven’t been able to look at yourself for months. I felt like my mind had been blown by the new information I had learned during my pregnancy. People don`t tell you these things. I was naive and innocent when I approached my first two births and put my trust in a system that puts themselves and their fears ahead of me and my experience. What mattered to my care providers was that they were not going to be held responsible for my lack of knowledge and experience so instead of educating me about my body they rescued me from it. They treated my physical symptoms while leaving me with a totally shattered psyche. I was shocked to learn how little birth professionals focus on the psychology of birth when it is such a huge aspect of the birth process. Yeah, our bodies can sometimes manage to give birth on their own, completely drugged up and with no feeling of what`s going on and if turning the synthetic contractions up does not force the baby out then the doctors are there with their surgical instruments to come to the rescue. Thank heavens for modern medicine.

     Our brains do work and feeling scared and threatened is not the way to give birth. A prepared mind can make all the difference in an easy birth as can our minds shut down labor and fail to birth a baby if we are in an environment of fear.  

      Alex`s birth made my mission in life clear. Now that I knew better I could not keep it to myself and let innocent victims fall prey to the surgical knife and let innocent babes be needlessly cut from a mother`s womb if I could make a difference. Yes, I had turned into a birth junkie. Every conversation I had somehow turned to birth and I passionately told everyone I spoke to exactly how birth should be. I enrolled myself in a midwifery program and before long I started attending hospital births as a doula. The more I learned and experienced the more it confirmed my desire to fix birth and fed my addiction to keep going.



     Becoming a midwife through distance education with three kids was draining and difficult and despite my drive to provide options in care I was burning out. So to light the flame and get the passion going again I decided it was time for another birth high. So naturally we got pregnant again with our fourth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Being Doula

The following post contains anecdotal information from an actual birth.  This story is posted with full permission from the family involved and no identifying details have been included.

I apologize for such a large stretch (no pun intended) without a posting.  The truth is, I have been under transformation, as we all have been at From Womb to Cradle Doula Services.  What I'd like to share today has been my most recent transformation... learning to be.


I was recently blessed to attend a birth where I needed to be present, but not necessarily used.  It got me thinking about my training and all that I had learned.  I loved my initial training with it's hands-on aspects.  I learned great tools such as the "double hip squeeze," "counter-pressure," soft touch massage, how to use a birth ball, etc.  In my continued training I learned more communication skills to assist me in working not only with my clients, but also other professionals.  All of these tools were great to have in my "kit" when needed, but what if they weren't?

In one of my favorite seminars, midwife Barbara Harper told those of us present that we needed to learn not to be a "DO-ula," but rather a "BE-la."  I pondered what she said, thought I had it figured out, "Be present," I thought, "That's all I have to do."  Was I prepared to BE so?

I was preparing to attend my first home water birth a few weeks ago.  Those of us who would be in attendance had a conference call with the primary midwife.  There was to be quite a large group including potentially three doulas.  I had previously been quite concerned about the amount of individuals that would be present as I have read extensively about the importance of privacy during labour and the mammilian reflex to stop labouring when feeling in danger.  During the call, I asked what she would want me to do.  What did she say?
In the end...it is her (the mother's) birth.
Ah hah!  Yes, of course!  I knew that.  Every birth I've attended, other than those of my children, belonged to the mother.   I didn't have to touch a mother to help her.  I had often told my clients that they were the queen and I, their humble servant.  So, it would make sense then that if a mother didn't need or want me to do anything, then I didn't need to.  I simply needed to be there for her.  (Sometimes we need to be reminded of these things that are in the crevices of our minds.)

The day arrived and I made my way to the birthing family's home.  The midwife and another doula as well as several others were already there.  I watched, I waited, I looked in awe at this beautiful mother birthing in her own time, her own home, her own way.  I was transfixed!  (Did I mention this was my first home birth!?)

I literally did nothing other than take a few photos for the family for 95% of the time.  It wasn't until the mother was pushing her child out into the water that the midwife turned to me and asked me to do...the double hip squeeze (Aha!) for the mama that I moved from my silent post.  There I stood, a silent witness to the miracle of an uninhibited undisturbed birth...then I got it.  Just be...


My most important job that day was to be a witness.  To see that birth could be perfectly safe, perfectly natural, perfectly... perfect...without interference. I was there to learn that we often try to do too much.  Ah, yes, the importance of privacy during labor...the mammilian reflex to shut down when in fear... all from too much doing.


Do less.  Be more.  Just watch. Wait. Witness.


How else can we be?

Friday, April 27, 2012

WIN a Maternity Photo Session!

Father's Day is coming up on June 17, 2012.  What a better way to show the new daddy/partner in your life how much they mean to you than with a maternity photo session showcasing you and your precious baby-to-be!  The amazing Jenn Galloway of A Day in the Life Photography has generously donated a gift certificate for a free session.  (You can see some of her work on our Facebook page.)


How did you tell your partner or other family members you were expecting?  Did you show them the test?  Did you put a bun in the kitchen oven?  Did make a video message or simply shout it out?!  Let us know in the first entry box, then follow the additional steps below to enter.  You can earn extra entries by following us on Twitter, tweeting about the contest and liking our blog.  If you follow us on Twitter, please be sure to comment below with your username so we can verify you've followed us and we'll follow you back! 

*Please note, this contest is available to residents of Medicine Hat, Alberta and surrounding areas only.  Hurry, contest closes May 11, 2012!

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"My Vision" - Working Together in the Birth Community

My Vision
Amy Swagman (The Mandala Journey)
Look at the artwork to the left.  What do you see?  A mother who has just given birth, of course.  What else do you see?


I see harmony.  I see a small group of women caring for a new mother.  Notice where their faces are turned.  They are not looking toward one another; rather, they are completely focused on the woman in their care.

This is the ideal birthing community.

We are doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, planners, etc.  Regardless of our philosophy, education, or particular walk of life, we all serve the same group.  We serve mothers and their families.

The Social System

Think back to your days in high school.  Who did you spend time with socially?  Were you a jock, a prep, a stoner, a bully, or a nerd?  How did you react or interact with individuals from other social groups?  Did you mock them?  Did you spread rumors?  Did you try to sway others to your way of thinking by putting others down?  Were you a member of an elite clique or did you spend time with "outcasts?" If we are honest, I think many of us can answer "Yes."  While we know that such behavior was not right, it was also characteristic for that age group.  Do we carry this behavior on into adulthood and our professional lives, however? 

As we grow and mature into adulthood, we believe that we outgrow most of the behaviors of our teenage years; yet, more often than not some of our old ways still hang on.  With the surge in social networking over the past decade or so, we now have new outlets to interact with those who believe as we do.  There are millions of groups or clubs or pages for us to join and "like."  Professionally, we've never had access to more resources than we do now and it is very exciting!  It also opens us up to more ways to be critical of one another.

Business

Back in our "real lives," we are developing doula or midwifery practices and childbirth education businesses. We have the opportunity to network with one another through professional associations and our training and certifying bodies.  Do we?  How do we behave when we are introduced to someone who, while our colleague and one who shares our beliefs, is also our business competition.  It is true, birth is a business.  No matter how much we talk about its spiritual nature and the sacredness of the experience, we are, as birth professionals, providing a marketable service.  It is a touchy subject.  Many of us volunteer our services as much as possible.  Truth be told though, we still do have families to support. We require food to give us the energy to work and gas for our vehicles to get us from birth to birth.  So, we have to acquire paying clients.  To acquire clients, we have to market our businesses.  Our relationships with our colleagues in the birth field can and do become strained. 

Getting Caught Up in Competition

I'll let you in on a little secret.  I am so incredibly guilty of this.  I am young (I'd like to think, anyhow) and everyday as a birth professional is a learning process.  Heck, everyday as a human being is a learning process!  Early on, I burnt some bridges.  It does "take two to tango" and there were and are other issues present from all parties involved, but it is there, it is a problem and it is not going away on its own.  To give you a little background, I am almost to fault a rule follower.  I like order.  I like boundaries.  I like direction. I do not, however, like to be told what to do by one person.  I do not like to be treated as a child and, therefore, I have a bit of a problem with authority.  This was one of the reasons I decided to venture out on my own when I received my doula training and begin my own practice.  

It. Was. Rough.

First of all, I had never run a business before.  Not even a little bit.  In my past life I was an administrative assistant for a variety of professional firms, most recently accounting firms.  I definitely had a grasp on professional communication and organization, but economics not so much.  Add to that a dash or two (or three) of self-doubt and lack of confidence and you have a really fun combination.  I was terrified that I would not succeed in business.  I was unable to trust many of my colleagues locally because I thought they did not want me to succeed either.  Some of my fears came from real experiences, but probably the majority of them just came out of my own noggin.

What happened?  I lost sight of my goals.  I forgot why I had become a doula in the first place.  While, yes, I had to try to earn a living from my calling, I had forgotten that it wasn't my colleagues or competition that mattered, it was and is the families in my community.  Whether they chose me to be their doula or not, isn't the important thing that they would know they have a choice to begin with?  

Philosophy and "Real Life"

Here is the bottom line.  We all have different beliefs and values.  Period.  No one person in this world thinks or feels exactly the same as someone else no matter how closely they may be aligned.  That is just the nature of humanity.  We also don't know where any particular individual is in their life.  Sally CBE may feel that epidurals are horrible one day, but the next day she sees that one has been beneficial in a long labor for her client and suddenly sees it isn't as black and white as she once thought.  Jane Doe-oula may have received her training, but then her studies were interrupted because of circumstances in her family life.  Mary Midwife might have small children and not be able to attend a university, so she studies from home to gain knowledge.  

Because we are all different, we can't all fit into a box.  We don't all have cookie cutter lives.  Again, taking my personal choices into account.  I originally trained as a doula with a very well-known organization. It has paved the way for doulas in our part of the world and I respect and admire all of the work done by the group.  I chose, however, to certify with a different body.  First, due to family commitments, and having small children, I was unable to complete all of my requirements within the allotted time frame. Second, I felt I needed a broader education (that encompassed aspects of business, communication and physiology) than what I had received in my earlier studies.  I continued working as a doula to help supplement the costs of my education and, honestly, because I love the work.  On the outside, perhaps this was perceived differently from my colleagues.  They may not have known or understood what was going on in my life, but I know why I made these decisions and they worked for my family.  

Whether you teach Lamaze, BrioHypnobabies, or independent classes or are certified through DONA, CAPPA, Childbirth International, or Birth Arts, something that appeals to your personal belief system has drawn you to the organization's philosophy and that makes it the right one for you.  Whether you are certified or still in training, you are still a professional.  Learning takes time and, if you are committed to providing the best care for your clients, it truly never ends. You are definitely worthy of sharing your knowledge with others. Your opinions are valid because they are yours.

Bullying

Does anyone ever want to be called a bully?  We are all guilty of it at some point in our lives.  Whether we're the two-year-old who bites our sister because we don't want to share a toy or we pick apart one of the moms on the playground, we've done it, we do it and we have to stop.  It can be as simple as denouncing someone's credentials or ganging up on them on a Facebook group because they chose to circumcise their son.  It's hurtful and it doesn't do anything to help us accomplish our goals.  

I'm not going to white wash anything here.  We, as birth professionals, are a nasty bunch sometimes.  We have turf wars, we make up our own "truths" about our colleagues and share them widely, we attack those who do not believe as we do, and we engage in fruitless arguments with professionals on the perceived "opposing" side.  We call each other names such as rogue or radical, etc.  We undermine each other.

I have confided in others on occasion without knowing all of the facts.  That can definitely be construed as gossip.  Yup, I am a gossip.  I have hurt others.  I have also felt bullied.  I have been hurt.  I have thought on more than one occasion about throwing in the towel.  I almost have.  Then, I remember, again, why I was called to be a doula.  I was called to serve

Serving

A servant is humble.  She puts the needs of others ahead of her own.  She does not have her own agenda.  She brings nothing into a relationship with her but her heart and her hands.  She has the drive to give, not to achieve.  That is the foundation for our work.

Now What?

We don't have to keep fighting with one another.  We have the same goal.  We all want mothers and babies to have a healthy start physically, emotionally and spiritually.  That's it.  That's our focus.  It is really that simple.  Building upon this, where do we go from here?
  1. Let's keep our focus on the families we work with.  
    • Remind yourself everyday why you were called to be a birth professional.  Take 15 minutes and review the birth stories of your past clients or look through thank you cards.  Whatever it takes to rekindle your passion and realign your priorities.
  2. If there is a new professional in your community, reach out to her.
    • If she is still training, support her.  If she needs help making connections, provide her with resources.  Do not be afraid of her. There are plenty of babies being born every year and, unless 1984 becomes reality, there will continue to be.
  3. Talk to each other, not about each other.
    • If you hear something about a colleague, go to the source.  Clear it up. Don't spread gossip. Communication is key.
  4. Think before you speak.
    • See the graphic to the right.
  5. Finally, be humble.  Say you're sorry.  Make amends.  
    • If a colleague has hurt you, forgive them.  Learn from the experience, but don't hold a grudge.  It doesn't serve you or your clients.
    • If you have hurt a colleague, ask for forgiveness.  You don't have to be best friends, but you can support one another.
My Vision

When you have finished reading this post, scroll back up to the beginning and look at the artwork again.  What do you see?  I see our future if we remember our goals and we work together.  The families of the world need us and we need each other. 

 Author's Note:  I've thought long and hard about writing this post.  I know that there may be some of my colleagues reading this.  Actually, I hope there are, because, I want them to know that I am sorry if I have ever caused them any pain.  It isn't all sunshine and roses, but I realize that together we can accomplish more than we can apart.  Let's try again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Healthy Birth Preparation - Sowing the Seeds

Did you know that teaching your children about healthy birth starts at a young age?  How do your children perceive birth?  Is it a scary emergency event to them?  It is possible to explain the birthing process to young children in a way that is both positive and appropriate for their age level.  They do not need to know "how babies are made" to understand how babies are born.  Think of it as an investment in the health of your future grandchildren as well as your daughters or daughters-in-law.

If your son or daughter learns that birth is a normal part of life and something to look forward to, he or she will not be fearful of the process. This also helps to promote a healthy body image for your daughter.  She will learn to love her body for the amazing work it can do.

Remember, what you teach your children lasts for a lifetime.  Your son or daughter may be in the birthing room or laboring at home and remember something you said many years before about birth, his/her body,  or his/her capabilities.  Birth is a miracle.  Share the joy, starting now!