Big News!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that, just today, I was offered a job as a prenatal instructor at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto! I’ll be teaching an evening class, weekly, likely starting in September.

I’m really psyched about this opportunity. I’m also thrilled that WCH is letting me use my own curriculum, which means that women accessing prenatal education through the hospital will receive the same quality, evidence-based information that I provide to my students when I teach as an independent CBE. Not having to teach to the “typical experience” was really important to me, as I firmly believe that women are capable of and entitled to better than the standard base level of care that most women are receiving today. I am also really jazzed, because unlike every other hospital in Toronto, WCH opens their classes up to all women, not just those who are patients at their own hospital. In other words, if your OB or midwife is at St. Joe’s or Mt. Sinai or Scarborough General or any other hospital in the city, you can still take childbirth education classes at WCH!

I’ll post more once I have more info on the date that my first WCH series will be starting and other relevant stuff. Can’t wait!

What is a ‘good’ birth?

I am one of the very lucky people in Toronto who gets to work out of the Centre for Social Innovation. This shared workspace is teeming with brilliant, engaged minds belonging to individuals who all want to make the world a better place. Every day I am surrounded by people working in social justice, the environment, food politics, public spaces and other important fields. With such a committed group of people come a lot of shared values and the interest that is fostered between members here is really motivating; everyone truly seems to care about each others’ projects, even when they seem to have very little in common with one’s own. As the only (I think!) doula in the space, people know when they see me packing up and rushing out the door mid-day, or when they don’t see me at all for a couple of days, that I am more than likely supporting a woman in labour. Upon my return I am often warmly greeted with questions like, “Were you at a birth?”, “Did somebody have a baby?”, and sometimes the hardest to answer, “Was it good?”. Continue reading

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

Sometimes moving forward means taking a step back…

For quite some time now when a woman was nearing the end of her pregnancy and the baby was known to be in a breech position in the womb, her doctor automatically scheduled her for a Caesarean. Even in cases where the woman was seeing a midwife, that breech presentation led to a transfer of care and a scheduled Caesarean. It was believed that, despite the risks of major surgery, a birth via Caesarean was the safer choice for both mom and baby. In many cases, women were able to get their babies to turn – by using acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, moxabustion, pelvic tilts, swimming (complete with headstands in the pool!), visualizations and/or external versioning. Sometimes those stubborn babes would just turn right back around though, frustrating their moms who were hoping to avoid surgery. No one really knows why, but some babies just don’t want to come out head first. Sometimes they’re curled up and their bums present first (frank breech), sometimes their feet are the first thing to emerge (footling breech) and sometimes they lie sideways (transverse breech), but no matter what, if their heads weren’t positioned to come out first, their moms were booked in for surgery. Continue reading

Summer 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 May 30th to July 4th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 7:00-9:30 pm. This series is already half-full – I have, at present, room for three more couples (or singles with a support person).

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.

1. While the information provided by public health prenatal classes is useful, these courses often omit a large quantity of information that is considered “alternative” or that is not routine at that particular hospital. For example, while my prenatal classes cover labour coping techniques ranging from massage and acupressure, to breathing and vocalizations,to hydrotherapy and heat, to epidurals and other forms of pain medications, a hospital class will generally only cover the epidural with any depth. Even if you plan to have an epidural, there are still many useful options available to you that won’t be explored in a standard hospital course. This is just an example of how hospitals tend to teach to the norm, rather than to what is possible. It’s understandable given the number of people they have to teach, but not exactly desirable if you want your birth experience to be as satisfying and positive as possible.

2. Public health courses tend to be two-day “crash courses”. This may seem ideal – get it all done with in one weekend! – but a course that is drawn out over a number of weeks will give you the chance to really get to know other couples in the class (start building up that new-parent social network now, before the baby arrives) and also opens up the possibilities for asking the questions that matter to you, even if they don’t occur to you until four days after class. You’ll also retain more of the information, as you’ll only need to digest two hours of material at a time, with time to reflect in between each class. I also cap my attendance at twelve people so that there is time for more questions and to facilitate group interaction.

3. Many people report being frightened or discouraged by the content/approach of hospital prenatal classes. It is vital that you understand all of your options and what is happening to your/your partner’s body during labour and birth, but it is not helpful to hear horror stories or to be inundated with negative information. My classes provide clear and detailed, evidence-based information while focusing on the positives – helping you to feel informed and fully prepared, but also excited and optimistic, not afraid.

4. I tailor my courses to the participants in them. Upon registration I’ll send you a questionnaire that asks you about your pregnancy, your current level of knowledge, your interests and your hopes for the course. That way I can focus on areas of particular interest and reduce coverage of topics that people already understand.

Prenatal education is the first step to an empowering birth experience. Feeling like an active, informed decision-maker prior to and during your labour and childbirth is the key to birth satisfaction. Knowledge is essential for confidence and self-advocacy.

The cost for the entire series is $240.00 per couple. If you are interested in hiring a doula and would like to talk to me about the doula services I offer, I also provide package deals for doula clients who enrol in my prenatal classes.

Topics for the series include (but are not limited to):

-pain management and coping strategies for labour

-relationships and sexuality during pregnancy and in the postpartum period

-the physiology of labour and birth

-positioning for labour and birth

-risks and benefits of common interventions

-breastfeeding

-newborn care and characteristics

-nutrition and exercise

This course is ideal for people expecting to give birth between late July and September of 2012. Email me at heather@socialinnovation.ca to register or if you have any questions.

Technological ≠ Scientific

There was a really excellent article by Alice Dreger in The Atlantic that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. The article, entitled The Most Scientific Birth is Often the Least Technological Birth was rightfully celebrated by birth advocates who believe in evidence-based practice as the best way to improve obstetrical outcomes AND maximize satisfaction for individual women with regards to their birth experiences.

A lot of the time – and not just when it comes to birth, though I will be coming back to that topic (of course) shortly – we have a tendency to see things in terms of conflicting pairs, what semioticians call binary opposition. For example Light//Dark, New//Old, Good//Evil, Presence//Absence, Male//Female, Science//Nature, etc. Contemporary communication theory explores the way that these pairings in language are embroiled in how we see and construct our world (i.e. culture). Essentially, we can only understand ‘good’ in the context of its pairing with ‘evil’ for example, or ‘light’ in terms of its relationship to ‘dark’. Without the opposing term we are unable to define either. Driven by the psychological urge to categorize and order our world, we find comfort and satisfaction in these constructs. Unfortunately, as post-structuralist theory demonstrates, in every pair one of the two terms tends to assume dominance (culturally speaking) over the other. Quite often this privileging is determined by prejudicial assumptions of the larger culture (that is, it is often imbued with values that are tainted by ethnocentric or gender-biased perceptions of reality).

So, how is my nerdy fascination with language and culture connected to birth, you ask? Continue reading