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.

BirthFire – May 11th, 2012

Birth can be a magnificent, empowering and overwhelmingly positive experience, but it can also be frustrating, disappointing or traumatic and that can leave a lot of strong emotions behind. 

DoulaC.A.R.E. invites you to join us at 7pm on May 11th, 2012 at Dufferin Grove Park for BirthFire. This is an event, in honour of International Doula Month, for letting go of any negativity related to birth. We invite everyone – moms, dads, partners, children, friends, parents-to-be, midwives, doctors, nurses, doulas – to come and share your fears, your anxieties, bad advice, social pressures, medical practices, cultural attitudes or disappointing experiences related to birth by burning them in the fire. You can speak about your experiences or fears if you wish, keep them to yourself as you let them burn or simply come to support others with your presence. You do not need to have given birth or attended births to participate. 

We ask that anything you bring to put in the fire be safe and non-toxic to burn. 
 
For more information, check out the website or contact me directly.

 

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

TONIGHT! Free screening of Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion

Doula DVD

Just a quick reminder about the screening of Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion this evening (Wed. March 28th) at 7:30pm at the Centre for Social Innovation, Annex. The address is 720 Bathurst St. and the screening will be taking place in Meeting Room #4on the 3rd floor. There will be an informal meet-and-greet with myself and two other Toronto area doulas – Jennifer Elliott and April Kowleski – after the film.
Directions for getting to and into the building:
CSI Annex is located on the West side of Bathurst St., just South of Lennox (about a block South of Bloor St.). We are directly South of the Bathurst St. Theatre (in the old yellow brick church).
The doors to the building lock at 5:30 pm, with the exception of the northernmost door, which remains unlocked until 7pm. That door is on the North side of the building, just a step or two from the sidewalk on Bathurst. That door allows for wheelchair access to the building and opens next to the elevator. If you prefer to take the stairs, they are also immediately inside that door. Go straight up to the 3rd floor and through the first door you see. The room will be right in front of you.
If you arrive at the building after 7pm and are unable to get in (or if you arrive before but get confused or lost about where to go), please call my cell phone at 647-408-4328 and I will let you in.
Please arrive before the screening is scheduled to start at 7:30 as I will be switching my phone to silent-mode for the duration of the film.

Embryonic Stem Cells – To Bank or Not To Bank? Part 2 (Periods!)

Following up on yesterday’s post about fetal blood and whether or not to bank what remains in the umbilical cord, allow the baby to receive the blood still contained within the placenta before clamping the cord or both, today’s post will explore the amazing discovery of stem cells within menstrual blood and their viability for treating illnesses of various kinds.

This incredible realization, presents an awesome opportunity to harvest and store stem cells in a way that is non-invasive, regularly available, easy to procure, cost-effective and free of the usual ethical concerns that plague stem cell research. In addition, the stem cells found in menstrual blood have been found to be highly proliferative – reproducing every 24 to 36 hours. While stem cells from ‘cord blood’ can be subcultured a maximum of 12 times, the stem cells found in menstrual blood have so far been subcultured up to 47 times. Also incredible to note is that the stem cells found in menstrual blood retain embryonic markers, meaning that they can morph into a wide variety of healthy cell types including heart, nerve, bone, cartilage and fat. When you think about the number of menstrual periods that the average woman will have in her lifetime (roughly, about 480), that is an incredible number of stem cells that could, theoretically, do an incredible amount of good. (Please note that the research I am drawing on – linked to above – was partially funded by a stem-cell storage company – clearly more research of a significantly more impartial nature is in order).

Continue reading

Doula!

Doula DVD

Well, there hasn’t been much time for blogging recently, which makes me a little sad. I’ve been working on something about birth as a feminist act that was intended to be for International Women’s Day (last Thursday, ahem). Obviously I’ve missed the boat on that, but hopefully I’ll have it ready soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to post some more information about the free film screening that I am hosting on March 28th at the Centre for Social Innovation (more on that here). I really hope to see a lot of friendly faces, new and old, at the screening. Please share the details widely and come out for the film if you can! There will be an informal meet-and-greet after the screening with myself and a couple of other Toronto-area doulas. Babies and children are welcome of course.

Even if you are not planning on having a baby any time soon, this film will give you a little peek into a side of birthing that you may not have seen before. I’d recommend it for anyone who ever plans to have a(nother) baby or who wants to be able to support and encourage  loved ones in their quests to have positive and empowering birth experiences.

This is the press release for the film:

Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion is a 65 minute, intimate and emotionally charged documentary about doulas and their part in pregnancy, birth and the first few weeks. Made by UK film-maker Toni Harman (Credo, Real Birth Stories), Doula! launched in June 2010 and screenings are being organised in the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Through close-up documentary footage of three doula-supported births, Doula! captures the non-medical but highly practical and emotional support given to the mother before, during and after childbirth. This unique look into a doula supported birth is captured through two intimately filmed home water births and accompanied by a video diary shot by the parents of a home birth that ends in a hospital caesarean section.

Film-maker Toni Harman said “I was inspired to make Doula! by my own difficult birth experience two years ago that ended in an emergency caesarean. I wish I had known about doulas then as I’m sure I would have had a much more positive experience. The film has really opened my eyes about the amazing difference having a doula can make and I’m hoping the film will empower other women to have the birth they want, with the help of a doula.”

Doula! is supported by the UK’s non-profit doula organisation, Doula UK. Bridget Baker, Doula UK co-chair said, “Doula! shows how the calm accepting presence of a doula can enhance the whole experience of childbirth. From the practical to the emotional, we become aware of some of the work an intuitive doula can do. The film is a joyful and inspirational view of doulas at work.”

Spring Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby this spring 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) in April and May 2012. This is a five-week series, Thursday evenings from 7:00-9:30 pm, beginning April 19th.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for 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.

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 $200.00 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

-breastfeeding

-newborn care

-nutrition and exercise

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

Free Screening of Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion

Doula film screenings

In honour of World Doula Week (March 22-28) I am hosting a free screening of the One World Birth film, Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 7:30pm.

The screening will be held at the Centre for Social Innovation, Annex (720 Bathurst St., Toronto) on the 3rd floor in Meeting Room #4. Please RSVP by March 22nd – if the number of attendees crosses a certain threshold I will likely move the screening downstairs to a larger space. You can RSVP in the comments or by sending me an email at heather@socialinnovation.ca.

If you’re curious about what doulas do or would like to see it in action on the (somewhat) big screen, this is the perfect opportunity. Myself and likely some other Toronto-area doulas will be on-hand to chat after the screening.

Babies welcome!

For more information on the film and its creators, please visit the One World Birth website.

Hope to see you on March 28th!

Doula Say Relax – Part 2 of 2

In addition to learning to relax your body and quiet your mind prenatally so that those skills will be ready-at-hand when labour begins, there is another aspect of relaxation, or maybe comfort, that is more intellectual in nature. Becoming comfortable with the realities of labour, getting to know terminology and feeling good about your ability to get information and use it productively will make you feel more at ease as labour progresses. If you don’t have a certain degree of comfort with the practical side of things, you’ll be less likely to be able to let go and allow your relaxation techniques do their thing. Continue reading