Lyndsay's birth was an emotional triumph. It had been a challenging pregnancy, but she faced it one day at a time. She gathered together her team - family, friends, doula, doctor. On the sunny birthing day, my memory is of so many women (including her sister and her dear friend, who had also been my client) - our hands, our quiet voices, and our hearts, helping Lyndsay through the waves.Read more
A woman spiraling
a partner drawing
a woman in the shower
a cat watching
a doula holding
a fan blowing
a strong woman
a boy crying
a midwife whispering
a bird singing
a grandma helping
a boy in the rain
a lost cat
a baby at home!
(Photo courtesy of dad Chad Smith. Extra love always to mum Carie. Love to midwives Gillian and Carolyn and Patti. Hugs to grandma Smith and big brother Bruce, the boy in the rain...and the cats. And kisses to bonny Alice.)
This Christmas Day, I offer you the gift of a story told by a new client:
I see that going into the sweat lodge in remote northern Ontario when I was 17 is something that I can use to propel me through birth. The experience was a powerful one then and now, as I face a long pregnancy and its culminating labour, the event is taking on new significance and its power is spinning in the expanding darkness of my womb.Read more
We've not met, but I just wanted to thank you for my daughter's birth. I live in Edinburgh, although I'm from Victoria, B.C, and I stumbled across your blog about a year ago. My son (who's now 2) was born in hospital: my flat wasn't big enough to fit a birth pool and 2 midwives, and I hoped I could have a water birth in hospital instead. In the end, I was induced due to blood pressure and got a very controlled, restricted labour: I was on my back, monitored, for the whole thing.Read more
As you sleep, Finn, I stroke the world onto your forehead
Circling, drawing the lines of our planet with my fingers
Transferring the love of your great grandfather into your skin
Just as we did to your mother.
"Around the world
Down the Prime Meridian..."
You sleep, your eyes playing beneath their lids
Soaking in the words, the touch.
Are you dreaming of where you were three days ago?
You were hiding behind your brother Jack
Ready to make a surprise entry
like a parachuter.
I can't even remember what it felt like to believe
that your mother was having only one baby.
We waited that bright Saturday
waited for "the baby"
sitting outside in the sunshine
in the buffeting wind
at a cafe table
watching two men play UpWords
the same game your grandad and I played
when I was in labour.
Every movement on 4th was a sign
The woman pushing a bicycle
The pregnant women heading
yoga mats tucked under their arms
Heading to the noon class
where your mother was supposed to be...
...where you would have been
Listening to the music chosen by your mother.
But you weren't at that class
You were with your mum
in the tub
hidden behind Jack
waiting to be born
waiting to surprise everyone!
"Across the Equator
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Capricorn
You have always been with us
and we never knew it
You have always been part of our bodies
You have always been...
Tomorrow I will stroke
the cartography of love
into your brother's face...
(Finn, the hidden water fairy, was only discovered a few minutes after his older brother, Jack, was joyfully born into his mother and father's arms, at home, on a Saturday afternoon. Finn then declared his presence, kicking the midwife's hand... "Jack was not alone! I'm here!" Then, over an hour later, Finn, already master of the great entrance, responded to his mum's pushes and came, splash, feet first, before a large audience in the hospital...
Bright surprises can still happen in this world!)
Slow Birth lives outside of time. Women in labour are often supported by caring people who are unwittingly blocking the slow birth process by writing down the time, charting, calculating, commenting on the progress of labour.
We are all guilty of this. We turn our heads to the clock. We look at the numbers on the monitor. We whisper of our own need to eat lunch, dinner, breakfast. We are stuck in time. But a labouring woman needs our help to stay out of her left brain, her 21st century mind. If we help her to labour without time constraints, her autonomy is supported. There is no pressure. She is undisturbed.Read more
I've been on a journey of slowness during the past few months. Reflection, recovery, rebirth. Every free moment has been filled with cycling, running, long walks. I needed to be incredibly fit to face the births this winter. I was fit and well, but I just couldn't write.
I needed to be totally private this winter, in order to grieve for my dad, help my mum, support my family, and have the strength to help other families walk through their searing life struggles or challenging pregnancies and labours.Read more
We had a beautiful nurse for the birth yesterday.
Pauline, originally from Togo, is a mother of five, and a grandmother of two. Her last child was born on her own bed, birthed into her own hands. She birthed this baby on her own, with joy.
Our time with Pauline was magical. She spoke to us like she was taking us on a spiritual journey. She spoke low and slow, rolling her R's. Her words were like poetry...or a prayer...
As she was speaking, I copied her words onto paper...hear her...Read more
My daughter just asked me why I haven't been posting to my blog for some time. Well, like my mum, who just can't seem to read an entire book since dad died, I seem to be having trouble writing. Oh, I could write and write about all the amazing encounters that I've had with my father's spirit, especially in France (that time in Shakespeare and Company in Paris was extraordinary!)... But, write about birth? There's been a block...Read more
Just make a sign like this (the red crepe paper heart will take a long time to make!) and put it up above the head of the bed in your birthing room, and everyone will make darn sure that you don't tear!!!
Then, the nurses will put it up in their staff room to make sure that they never forget, and pass on the message to all the other wonderful women who pass through their doors.
Thanks to Lisa for her strength, determination, and love of glue-stick and crepe paper!
On Saturday afternoon, I was dropped off at a client's Co-op on the Downtown East Side. As I walked to their door, a nurse from the local InSite walked by and smiled at me, a man with a grocery cart full of his belongings rattled down the lane, and a siren began to wail.
Once I was inside the door, though, another series of sounds took over...the cry of a woman in labour with her first baby, the shouting and shrieking of children as they played in the Co-op playground out back, the unexpected rhythmic whirr of a push mower acting as sweet green music. I had entered a hidden oasis only a block from Hastings and Main. It was cool, calm and wonderful.Read more
I started to take notes during each birth after November 1, 1993. I know that because Kieran was born on that day. Kieran was a warrior baby. In fact, he was born face first. He never gave up with that chin-up attitude (and probably still hasn't to this day!)
The midwife did one final vaginal exam just before he was born. "Is that a bum?" she asked, just a little confused for a moment. "No, it couldn't be...you're hearing the heartbeat in the right place. It must be a mouth," I said. "It's the baby's lips!" she called out. So, Kieran was born, after a crazy challenging labour, with his mum on her high bed, holding up her silk dress (dad had grabbed a dress for her to wear, and I think it was one that she'd recently worn to a wedding).Read more
"Next time I'm just booking a cesarean."
"My first birth was so traumatic - I want drugs the moment I start labour."
"I can't walk through the door of a hospital again."
"I think we'd better adopt our second child."
To all the women who say these words...
Please know that it wasn't your fault.
It wasn't your faulty body.
It wasn't your faulty mind.
It wasn't that you lacked will power.
It just wasn't a normal labour.
No guilt or blame.
It just wasn't a normal labour.
Women often ask me if they can eat once they're in labour.
"The books say I shouldn't, but I'm such a hummingbird eater, that I'll keel over if I don't keep eating!"
"Oh, please listen to your body, and it will let you know what you should eat, and when you should eat," I answer.
Think of the fuel that your body needs to do this amazing work! It needs fuel and fluids to function properly. Can you imagine doing a marathon, triathlon, or long-distance bike race without any nourishment? You'd be the one saying, "I bonked so early, it was embarrassing!"Read more
Okay...this is starting to become a real pattern...
After each birth, the lovely nurse sighs and says to my client, "I haven't seen a birth like that in ages. Thank you!" Well, actually, yesterday's quote (by a British nurse) was, "I haven't seen a birth like that since I came here!"
Then, I ran into a nurse who had helped us at a birth last week, and she still was in shock that my client gave birth standing. "I tried to get her back onto the bed, I ASKED her to get on the bed, but she just didn't! I had to think, how am I going to do this, where's my stuff? I hadn't done anything like that before!"Read more
I promise my clients that I will always tell them the truth about what's happening during pregnancy and labour...but I must admit that I do downplay things during prelabour. Now, this is only to help the clients to make it through the crazy unexpected early stuff that really, REALLY, isn't labour.
This is the denial phase of labour.
Too often, people have the TV image of labour - your water breaks, off you go to hospital, get the drugs, and the baby is born on the bed (surrounded by gowned and gloved anonymous people). This may be what 90% of births are like...but they're not the kind of births that my clients have. They dare to be different. They live in denial. This is Slow Birth at its best.Read more
Prodromal labour was the name of the game this week. Four babies were born, who each gave their mums long prodromal labours (and some long active labours, too.) None of the births were "easy" this week. But they were all amazing and beautiful and triumphant.
What's prodromal labour? It's Slow Birth at its ironic finest. It's that part of birth that isn't really labour yet (patience, patience). It's the body trying to deal with something without making it too challenging for the mum. But, the body doesn't realize that the mum has a brain (a very intelligent and 21st century brain) that continually tries to figure out what's happening...why is this taking so long?...why am I not having a 2 hour labour?...when will it pick up?...why?...how?...when? All those questions are exhausting. Prodromal labour demands that we honour the needs and rhythms of the body, and shut down the thinking brain. Prodromal labour forces the reptile brain to kick in. My job is to remind the mum that she must trust her body and baby...they both have their reasons for taking their time.Read more
"Can we stop on the way and pick up a Big Mac?" asked the woman.
"Sure," said the man, as he turned into the drive-thru...
I was standing at the hospital entrance, wondering what was taking them so long. M was my very first client, and she was in labour. Her baby was frank breech (that's bum first). It was 1988.
M's family doctor was driving her to the hospital because they couldn't reach her husband at work. (Remember, this was life before cell phones and voicemail.) Charles, the doctor, worked out of a little home office in a small beach community, only minutes from her home. They were friends. She told me that he used to be a specialist in rural BC, hence his ability to roll with whatever came his way.Read more
We are not our bodies.
As one who lives with birth,
I am at peace sitting at the doorway between life and death,
sitting beside each woman as she discovers the infinite.
At each birth, I must acknowledge that the doorway is open.
I honour it, thinking,
"This may be the day,"
and I am at peace.
During our initial phone call, many first-time mums nervously laugh, then ask me if I can just order them a fast birth "and one epidural in the parking lot, please." It sounds like a drive-through order.
"Why?" I ask myself. Really fast births don't allow the body to churn out all those wonderful pain-relieving endorphins (boy, do you want them!) Fast births don't allow any time for the brain to keep up with what the body is doing. Actually, my least satisfied client had a 45-minute labour and birth. She said, "I waited 40 years to give birth, and THAT'S IT??? It was so fast, I missed it!"Read more