Your Birth Choices: Yours and Yours Alone

Just finished reading this great post on epidural rates in BC as compared to other provinces. I really like this blogger’s take on the issue, which, in a nutshell, is that as long as the women who want epidurals are able to access them, it doesn’t matter whether you choose a natural childbirth or a medicated one. What does matter (and what people should be concerned about) is that you are supported. It’s so important that women feel informed and respected in their decision-making and I’m saddened by the amount of judgement that flies around whenever any birthing mama states what she has decided to work towards for her birth. Women who choose homebirths are accused of being selfish and ignorant (despite the fact that we know that homebirth is safe or safer for most women in Ontario), women who choose to learn the sex of their baby prenatally are accused of being gender-biased, women who decline ultrasounds are accused of being ignorant “hippies”, women who choose epidurals are accused of being wimps or dupes who bend to the whims of their authoritarian caregivers. Enough! These are all individual, personal choices that different people make for a wide variety of reasons and none of them are anyone’s business but the birthing woman’s and, in some cases, her partner’s (though I would argue that the choice to medicate for pain or not lies solely with the woman in labour).

All the guilt that is heaped on moms for making their choices (and it really does seem like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, doesn’t it?) leads to this bizarre impression that there is a wide gulf between natural birth moms and epidural-choosing moms. Not only is that gulf a complete fiction, but it is a harmful fiction. It leads people to believe things like “only women who want natural births need doulas”, which is just plain crazy. Every birthing woman deserves unconditional, continuous, one-on-one comfort and support; every birthing woman deserves a doula.

Sure, I believe passionately in the power of natural birth – I know that women’s bodies were designed to do this work and that those who wish to experience it should have the right to try without being chastised, mocked or frightened (and that if they are given that right, they are much more likely to succeed). But just because I believe that you can do it, doesn’t mean that I think that you ought to do it. That is the clincher. If you hire me to do be your doula I will make it my top priority to ensure that you are knowledgeable and confident and that you feel supported and cared for in whatever choices you make, even if they bear no resemblance to the choices I would make for myself.

It’s your body, your birth, your baby, your choice.

Related: http://offbeatmama.com/2012/03/doula-at-hospital-birth

The Race to the Bottom?

Is anyone else tired of the controversy, the judging and the alleged “mommy wars” that are dominating media coverage of all things birth and baby related lately? Me too! Today I wanted to write about a subject that, while not without differing perspectives, is hopefully a topic that won’t make anyone feel judged or stressed out or guilty and that might help women to make healthy choices that fit their goals, their lifestyles and their parenting styles (whatever those may be).  Continue reading

Summer/Fall Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby in later summer or fall of 2012 and are looking for prenatal education that works for you, you’re in luck! I am offering a full series of Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) from August 15th to September 19th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:00 pm. People have already started registering for this series – I have, at present, room for four more couples (or singles with a support person). If you are interested in taking my summer course (May 30th to July 4th), there are still a couple of spots available in that series too.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for independent prenatal classes when I can just attend the free ones at the hospital?” This is a great question and there are a number of excellent reasons. Continue reading

It’s OK To Admit You’re Uncomfortable

This is a great little post on the beauty and benefits of nursing toddlers. Following up on the controversial Time magazine cover, this article provides an excellent overview of why some moms choose to let their babies self-wean, and why we shouldn’t judge them for it. Breastfeeding duration is a personal choice and it’s nobody’s business but your own one way or the other. I hate to think that we may be letting fabricated or sensationalized notions of “mommy wars” get in the way of advocating for real support for real moms who are making individual choices based on what’s best for them, their babies and existing evidence. Ensuring that all women have access to the resources they need in order to make informed decisions and then making sure that they are supported in those decisions (whatever they may be) by their healthcare practitioners, their partners, their families, their employers and their peers is fundamental. You don’t have to approve of everyone else’s choices, it’s ok to admit it when something makes you uncomfortable. Everyone feels that way about something, sooner or later. Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable though, that doesn’t make it wrong, it just makes it wrong for you.

While writing this, I got a little stuck on how I wanted to wrap up. I popped over to another tab to read an interview with Jamie Lynn Grumet, the woman on theTime cover in question, and her final statement expresses exactly what I wanted to say, so I’m going to let her do it for me:

“There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.”

Related: The Real Breastfeeding Scandal

BirthFire! This Friday!

Just a quick reminder that BirthFire is this Friday, May 11th at Dufferin Grove Park, from 7-9:30pm.

Whether you want to celebrate your birth experience, let go of negative or unwanted feelings about your birth or birth in general, or just support others, we hope you’ll be there!

This event is open to everyone with an interest in birth.

In honour of International Doula Month, sponsored by doulaC.A.R.E.

Birth Tool Review: The Kaya Birth Stool in Action

I recently had the opportunity to try out my brand spankin’ new Kaya Birth Stool while supporting a client throughout her labour and birth. I have been really psyched about the stool ever since I first saw the design on Toronto designer Kara Springer’s website, and I was itching to give it a whirl.

I’ve already written about the stool, in terms of how, theoretically, it could be useful during labour and I am excited to report that it really, really was! Continue reading

Happy Client = Happy Doula

This was a really special birth for me… so happy to receive such kind words from this client:

Heather Neville made a great impact on my labour experience. Without her I wouldn’t of done as well as I did! She taught me so much about what to expect before and after giving birth. Heather helps you through every trouble you may have, and answers any questions no matter what they may be. Thanks to Heather I understood more than I ever could have on my own. She is so special to me and my family! It is obvious that she enjoys her job as a doula. She shows interest in your problems, questions, and in letting you know everything she knows about before and after your birth experience. I’m very thankful for everything she’s done to guide me through it all. She never fails to amaze you with her knowledge and dedication not only as a professional but as a caring individual. As soon as I had informed Heather I was feeling contractions 6 minutes apart, she had arrived to assist in her call of duty! She taught me breathing techniques, labour positions and so much more! She made my birth experience a thousand times more special and easy than it probably would have been if she wasn’t there to support me. A birth without any medication was all I had asked for Heather to make sure of, and thanks to all her techniques and support, I made it through an all-natural birth! Thank you Heather for all your hard work and commitment, [my boyfriend], my family, and I really appreciate your kind heart and passion. We really encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing in helping expecting mothers in their journey to meeting their bundle of joy(s). We also encourage any mother in search of a doula to choose Heather for that position, she’s such an amazing person, you WON’T regret it! I hope to keep in touch with you Heather! Once again, a million thank yous!

Good Motherhood Is Not A Myth

There was a recent article in the Globe and Mail in which Elisabeth Badinter, author of The Conflict was interviewed. Badinter argues that women are in a no-win situation when it comes to motherhood and feminist values. She believes that women in Western society today are pressured by the tyranny (she even uses the term “ayatollah” to describe lactivists) of an ‘all-natural agenda’ to embody a form of motherhood that resembles an old-fashioned ideal, rather than an image that is informed by the feminist discourse of the past few decades.

I don’t want to rehash each of Badinter’s arguments here, so I’d suggest you head on over and read the interview before you continue reading… I can wait 🙂

OK, now that you’ve read Badinter’s take, here’s mine. Continue reading