New partnership and a deal for my clients!

Yesterday I spent a positively lovely afternoon at the Evergreen Brick Works with Cristina Sacco from Boy Girl Photography. Cristina specializes in maternity and newborn photography and I absolutely adore her work. We’ve decided to make the most of the obvious overlap in our client bases and work together to help each other do what we do best.

To that end, Cristina is offering an incredibly generous deal to any new clients that I take on. She will do a 30-minute shoot (either prenatal or newborn) for FREE and also throw in a free 8×10 from your session. She even comes to your home to take the photos, so that you don’t have to trek your newborn across town and so that the pictures depict you and your baby in comfortable surroundings that reflect your family. Amazing!

Take a look at her beautiful shots on the Boy Girl website, you won’t be able to resist. I’m so excited to see the shots she took of me yesterday – I’ll post some here as soon as I have them in my hot little hands.

Hey, where’s my village?

Recently I attended a doula meeting at Willow Books here in Toronto. The meeting was held to discuss postpartum mood disorders and Jessica Cherniak of Fourth Trimester was there to share her wisdom and stories from her thirteen-plus years as a birth and postpartum doula.

I learned a lot of valuable things at the meeting, like how peer support can make all the difference before you’re ready for group support or that most women who experience postpartum mood disorders are first diagnosed by their partners before they themselves even realize that something isn’t right.

The main thing that I came away thinking about though, was The Village. As in, “it takes a village to raise a child.” At first blush, it seems as though that classic phrase is telling us that children need many people – they need fathers and mothers, teachers and clerics, brothers and sisters, clowns and poets, aunts and uncles. This is true. The more diverse the array of positive influences in a child’s life, the more wise and tolerant and confident she will grow to be. No doubt.

After listening to what Jessica had to say, and sharing with the other doulas in the room though, I began to think about the other meaning of that phrase, that women are not meant to raise their babies in isolation, they need the village to shoulder some of the burden. Just as those babies can thrive when they are cared for and taught and played with and hugged by a variety of caring folk, so too do mothers need those folk in order to thrive. To thrive as mothers and as women. Continue reading

Taking new clients!

I just wanted to put the word out there that I have space available for new clients in the new year. If you or anyone you know is pregnant and so far without a doula, drop me a line! A preliminary interview doesn’t obligate you in any way – think of it as an opportunity to ask your questions about the benefits of having a doula and get a sense of whether I might be the right person to support you and help you achieve your birthing goals in the privacy of your own home, for free!

If you are jotting down that list of Things You Need before your baby arrives, keep in mind that although a doula’s support isn’t something you can colour coordinate with the nursery or show off at the park, it can provide you with the confidence, comfort and knowledge that will help you to self-advocate and actively participate in your birth in a way that will make it a satisfying, empowering and life-affirming experience from start to finish.

Don’t forget that I also offer prenatal classes and can create a custom package tailored to your needs and budget that includes both education and doula support.

It’s all about self-care – Update: SPA TALK POSTPONED (more info soon)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, from taking on a new (though temporary) role at the Centre for Social Innovation, attending webinars and workshops, meeting with potential clients and forming new and exciting partnerships with people around town, I have barely had time to sit down at my computer and think about blogging.

Coming up soon, I’m hoping to write a short piece about a doula meeting that I attended recently on postpartum mood disorders and I’m also looking forward to meeting with Cristina Sacco from Boygirl Photography about some cross-promotional ideas we’re cooking up. Stay tuned for more info on that stuff and more! Plus next week I’ll be attending a meeting on hypnobirthing with the awesome Jennifer Elliott, and I’m sure that will provide me with plenty to blog about. for now, though I want to talk about a really exciting new friendship.

This morning I met with Katie Grennan from Alma Natural Spa. Katie is a member of the Centre for Social Innovation, like me, and has recently opened her beautiful spa at Yonge and Eglinton, where her clientele is treated to toxin-free, natural spa treatments – all of the ahhh with none of the blaah. I totally gelled with Katie’s philosophy behind natural beauty care and she was super interested in hearing all about doula care and the awesome results that women who have doulas see.

Toxins in our cosmetics and beauty products are a concern for may of us these days, but for pregnant women and new moms (especially those who are breastfeeding), the concerns are even greater. Knowing what we know about the carcinogens and hormone disruptors and who-knows-what-else in so many products these days, it makes sense to choose safe, natural, healthy options for our health and for the health of our children. It’s nice to know that there are places like Alma out there where we can go and get pampered without having to worry about what the products going into our skin and the air we are breathing are doing to harm us.

Given that Alma’s mandate appeals especially to pre-conception and pregnant women as well as new moms, Katie suggested that I speak about doula support at Alma’s speaker series in the new year. I am really excited about this opportunity! First, it’ll give me a chance to talk about birth and the benefits of good support, which I can never get enough of. Second, it will be a great opportunity for me to talk directly to women in the community who know the importance of self-care based in healthy practice. After all, if you care enough about your body and your baby’s body to choose a natural spa, it stands to reason that you’d see the value in doula care that can help you have a more satisfying birth experience, both psychologically and physiologically and all of the ramifications that that can have for health, self-esteem and empowerment.

I’ll be speaking on Wednesday, January 11th at the spa. I’ll keep you posted on the details as the date approaches! This will be a great chance for anyone who is interested in learning more about doulas and what we can do for you in an intimate and personal setting, without the pressure of scheduling interviews or actually shopping around for a doula.

Client Testimonial

I received a lovely testimonial from a client this week. I got all teary-eyed when I read it. I feel so proud to have been a part of this mama’s birth experience. Words cannot express. This is what she wrote:

I had reservations about having a doula attend my daughter’s birth. I wanted to keep the occasion as intimate as possible and couldn’t imagine a meaningful relationship being established with another person over 3 meetings. How could this “stranger” possibly offer me emotional support? I had recently decided, however, to approach my life with an open mind and heart, and to say yes to things that might present themselves as opportunities.

It turned out that Heather was able to give me exactly what I needed to feel supported. Her clinical knowledge and passion on the subject of childbirth came through again and again. After our meetings I found myself researching little facts and anomalies regarding physiology and psychology behind childbirth. She encouraged conversation and really listened to my questions so that the answers and information I received was precisely what I was looking for. Her knowledge lends her an air of competence and confidence without being overbearing, and I found that very comforting.

Even though she did not force or forge an overly friendly and intimate way with me, she approached me and dealt with me as a unique person. She understood that my own fears, experiences and tendencies are factors I would bring with me into labour. While she provided me with many relaxation techniques to consider during labour, she encouraged me to consider my own methods of relaxation, if any. I shared with her the Japa meditation I’ve been recently practicing and she not only encouraged me to use it but she herself looked into it and then practiced it at home with her partner so that we could be on the same page.

Heather really encouraged me to write a birth plan and I kept putting it off. She would kindly remind me, each time we met, to put one together. Once I sat down to come up with one I realized the importance of it. It helped me visualize the kind of experience I wanted to have, and realize some issues that were blocks for me. I understood that I had concerns about being able to communicate effectively during labour with my support team & fears about expressing my likes and dislikes without hurting anyone’s feelings. I also realized, on a more personal level, that I felt guilty receiving extra support and attention during pregnancy because I considered it being self-indulgent. Writing the birth plan helped me communicate some of my fears and deal with some of my beliefs that could have hindered my progress during labour.

During labour Heather focused on me and what I wanted or needed and I allowed her into my space. For a while she helped me through pain by stimulating a pressure point on my shoulder. Her touch was beneficial and not obtrusive. When I felt that I didn’t want to be touched anymore and just wanted to walk around for a bit, I let her know and she stopped immediately. I sneaked a look at her face and she was smiling. In fact, every time I looked at her I remember her smiling. 

What I envisioned for my daughter’s birth was my midwife, my husband, mother and doula present, working together to create a pleasant, calm, light atmosphere. I believe that Heather was an integral factor in creating this for me. She put my husband at ease and therefore he was able to remain calm and easy for me. I found the light, fun, sporadic conversation between them very comforting. It made me believe on a deep level that everything was O.K.

Heather, I believe you are an exceptional doula. You were such a wonderful presence at little Rhea’s labour and delivery into this life. You are by no means a stranger, having shared with my husband and me one of the most precious experiences of my life. Thank you.

Whip ’em out!

I love this youtube video urging women to join the ‘boob-olution’! (i.e. breastfeed. with pride. in public.) I really appreciated the positive overall vibe and message of the video, coupled with the acknowledgement that breastfeeding’s not always easy and that women need support and education to make it work. Plus, who doesn’t love women having fun with the many and varied words for their boobies?

Update: check out the great link I just added – 50 Reasons to Breastfeed Anytime, Anywhere.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Consuming the placenta

I support the consumption of the placenta after birth. By ‘support’ I don’t mean that everyone ought to do it, what I mean is that I think there is value for the woman who chooses to eat or encapsulate and swallow her placenta after the birth of her baby. I have recommended the encapsulation of the placenta to many women (clients as well as friends) and so far only one person has taken me up on it. I don’t judge the women who declined and I totally understand that feelings of ‘icky-ness’ may play a part in that decision and I think that’s totally fine. Like so many things surrounding birth, we often have theories and ideas and some evidence, but little in the way of hard fact to back things up. With issues of that sort, the pregnant woman’s gut reaction (no pun intended) is as valid a reason to do or not do something as any other. Continue reading

Misleading Information from the SOGC

I was looking for recommendations for infant sleep yesterday, when I wandered onto the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) website. On the page titled Women’s Health: Pregnancy: Birth Plan, I discovered a small piece of text that I found troubling in terms of how it might mislead pregnant women and their partners reading the site. This is the paragraph, verbatim:

The labour coach
Studies show that when a woman in labour has the continuous (italics mine) support of someone who cares for her (a labour coach), she will have a more positive experience. The hospital will provide you with a professional labour coach (an obstetrical nurse) who will help you during labour and delivery, and after the baby is born. (http://www.sogc.org/health/pregnancy-birth-plan_e.asp)

While I have no issue whatsoever with the first statement, in fact I heartily agree with it, my concern is with the second sentence in the paragraph. An obstetrical nurse is not a labour coach or labour support person. They may provide some comfort or support to a labouring woman, but they also have many other duties, as well as other patients to attend to. The benefits of a doula, or labour support person, labour coach, etc. are experienced when support is continuous and one-on-one. The first sentence even indicates that the support ought to be continuous.

My comments here are not meant to disparage obstetrical nurses in any way. They work hard and have very challenging jobs and many do feel inclined to offer comfort to women in labour, but I fail to see how they could possibly provide continuous support when they cannot possibly be in the room the whole time. Every time the labouring woman and her partner are left alone that support is discontinued. Even while in the room, the nurse has other tasks of a clinical nature that she must attend to. This means that while she is attending to these other duties, she is not focused on providing support to the labouring woman. In addition to this, obstetrical nurses work in shifts, meaning that depending on when a woman in labour arrives at the hospital and how long her labour lasts, she may not be cared for by the same obstetrical nurse from the time she arrives until after her baby is born. That means that she may encounter different nurses, with different birth philosophies, perspectives and different styles of providing comfort (or in some cases, no tendency to provide comfort at all).

Reading this paragraph, one might easily be led to assume that a labouring woman would be assigned a single obstetrical nurse whose primary role is to provide support and that that nurse would stay by her side until after her baby is born. It would be quite a shock indeed to discover while in labour that that is not the case at all.

Again, this is not to diminish the role of the obstetrical nurse. When a client chooses to have a birth with an OB, obstetrical nurses are vital components of the overall health-care team. I would argue though, that doulas are too. This statement not only misinforms labouring women and their partners, it also diminishes the work that doulas like myself do. This benefits no one.

I have already emailed the SOGC – if you too feel that this statement is misleading and unfair, I urge you to do the same. Doulas are assets to the doctors, nurses and midwives that we work alongside, as well as essential to our clients, our value should not be overlooked.

What do you think?

Some Common Fears

Some Common Fears for First-Time Pregnancies: How I Can Help

A quick introduction to doulas for pregnant women and their partners

I am afraid of the pain of childbirth? What if I can’t cope with it?

  • While not all labours are painful and every woman copes with pain differently, studies show that birth satisfaction is not necessarily correlated with how much pain a woman feels during labour. The number one factor that determines birth satisfaction is a sense of control or coping.1 A doula will help to prepare you for labour pain in advance by teaching you relaxation and breathing techniques (and will coach you to use them when needed) and can also suggest different positions or perform massage and acupressure in response to your feedback during labour. If your plan is to have a labour without pain medications, your best bet is to hire a doula, as she can help you to stay focused on your goals, remind your health care practitioners of your wishes and guide you through each contraction, so that you feel confident and ‘on top of’ the pain. Women who have labour doulas tend to have shorter labours and are significantly less likely to request pain medication during labour. Studies show that women who have doulas report greater satisfaction with their birth experience.2

My partner is pregnant and I want to be there for her during labour, but I am anxious about seeing her in pain and feel as though I might worry about her health and the baby’s. How can I make sure that my stress doesn’t negatively affect her during labour?

  • Partners of women who have labour doulas overwhelmingly report that their doula helped them to feel less anxious and more involved during labour and birth. As a client of mine said to me after the birth of his daughter, “There were so many moments when I know I would have felt anxious or worried, but seeing how confident and relaxed you were helped me to understand that everything was normal and that there was nothing to worry about. I was able to just follow your lead and focus on helping (wife’s name) through each contraction.” Partners are as emotionally invested in their baby’s birth as birthing women are; having an experienced support person present helps both parents feel at ease and can make labour much smoother. Research has demonstrated that women with doulas report improved relationships with their partners after the birth.3

What if my OB isn’t on-call when I go into labour? I’m worried that another doctor might not know my wishes and might push me into interventions that I would rather not have.

  • Having a doula present for your birth can help you to self-advocate; she will make sure that you thoroughly understand your options in advance (by providing you with resources and recommending that you check with your doctor and the hospital about their specific policies and preferences) and will remind you to ask for alternatives if an intervention that you object to is proposed while you are in labour. I also carry a copy of my clients’ birth plans with me to the hospital; that way I can ensure that any and all health care professionals who encounter my clients are aware of their wishes. Doulas can also remind doctors, nurses and midwives of particular client requests in a timely fashion during labour, so that things aren’t forgotten or overlooked.

I have heard that some women tear very badly during childbirth. I’m scared of tearing and worried about healing properly if I do tear.

  • There are many ways to prepare for childbirth that can minimize or prevent tears. A doula can provide you with information on how to encourage your tissues during the prenatal period to stretch rather than tear and can inform you of options for minimizing or preventing tearing during the birth itself. This may require some coordination with your health care team – a doula will remind you to talk to your health care practitioner about what they are willing to do for you during labour to reduce the likelihood that you will tear. She can also remind your health care team during the birth of any pre-planned tear-prevention strategies so that they aren’t forgotten or overlooked. Finally, in the event that there is some tearing, a doula can provide you with information on how to speed healing and prevent infection that may go above and beyond the basic care information that your health care provider will give you.

What if we have to abandon our birth plan during labour?

  • Childbirth is a very unpredictable experience, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. A doula will help you to make informed choices based on available evidence before your birth, so that you are in a stronger position to self-advocate and make sure that your choices are respected during labour. In the event that an unplanned intervention becomes medically necessary, a doula will have helped you to see your birth plan as a ‘wish-list’ rather than a rigid set of expectations, which will help you to be more flexible if changes come up. Also, a doula can help inform you of the options that you may be presented with in advance, so that if changes to your plan do become necessary, you can make informed choices ‘in the moment’. Finally, doulas are trained to help birthing women and their partners cope with loss. Loss can refer to many things; the loss of a hoped-for birth experience is one thing that may need to be grieved for. Having a trained support person at your side can help you to manage that grief and move forward after the birth.

I really want to breastfeed my baby, but I’m worried that it will hurt or that it might be difficult for me.

  • Virtually all women are able to breastfeed their babies. Nipple pain or cracking are signs of an improper latch, they are not normal breastfeeding experiences. A doula can help to show you how to get your baby to latch properly after birth and how to make breastfeeding as comfortable as possible for you and your baby, so that you can successfully breastfeed for as long as you’d like. If you are having difficulties with, for example, over- or under- supply, doulas can make suggestions for how to deal with those kinds of issues. If you have problems that persist or are more complex, your doula can recommend a lactation consultant who will come to your home and be available via telephone 24-hours a day to help you through.

Do you have, or have you heard of other fears about first-time pregnancies? Wondering if/how having a doula can help? Send me a message or leave a comment!