When it comes to pregnancy and birth, I really believe in “going slow”. I’m not talking about having a 4 day birth process (though, yes, that can happen!), and I’m not saying a 3 hour labour disqualifies you. I’m just talking about slowing down and reclaiming the rhythm of pregnancy and birth. I encourage you to take all the time you need to slowly consider the physical, emotional and spiritual process of starting a family...Read more
I first read this poem in the 1970’s, when everyone seemed to be reading passages from The Prophet at weddings. I know I have shared parts of it with my children over the years. It certainly helped Bob and I weather both stormy toddler and teen moments.Read more
I've been doing a lot of family research this month, in preparation for the next bucket-list trip with my husband. This trip will take us back in time, to the Outer Hebrides, to Stornoway, to the Isle of Berneray. It might take a year or more to even begin to understand this place where the Munros were "born", but we will get there.Read more
As a busy birth doula, I have to book our vacation time 9 months in advance. I can't fly to Hawaii on less than 24 hours notice like I did before I was a doula. Spontaneous trips were exciting, but there was a cost to that kind of spontaneity. We lost the depth of experience that research, reading and planning can bring. So, we think of the 9 months of waiting for our yearly summer European trip as a gestational period...allowing time for thoughtful planning, gradual learning, reflection on past experiences, and the building expectation.Read more
One more thing...she now officially hates being on her back. She will sleep so peacefully on us then the second we put her down she goes nuts. :) Oh the questions.
That is just one of the text messages that I've received this week. Day or night, weekday or weekend (as my husband will attest!) the messages flow in from clients who are pregnant, newly birthed, or even facing their first nursing strike at 6 months!Read more
I was at a home birth many years ago. The new mother had nursed the baby, and was just drying off after showering, and chatting to her husband about what had just happened, while I was quietly tidying the bedroom. As the parents came out of the bathroom, shining and clean, the midwife approached the baby, who was lying in a moses basket. With the parents' permission, the midwife was going to do the newborn exam. She leaned close to the baby, and said something like..."Hello - I'm Patti. I'd like to pick you up and weigh you and measure you."Read more
I have a dilemma. After all my years as a doula, I'm still trying to discover the best way to help pregnant women have a successful start to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding classes are great, La Leche League meetings are supportive, our talks over months of pregnancy provide continuity, the breastfeeding books are inspiring, KellyMom and Dr. Jack Newman's videos are linked from my website, and I encourage all my clients to "like" his Facebook page. But one client just nailed the problem on the head in a phone call tonight: "It feels like I'm putting the cart before the horse if I try to think about breastfeeding now! I'm trying to finish up at work! I feel like I'm not prepared to have the baby yet! I have to get the baby born! I can't think about breastfeeding now!" Yes, I know, I'm paraphrasing, but the exclamation marks were certainly there.Read more
As part of my doula service, I provide two prenatal visits, attend my clients' births, then make a postpartum visit to debrief and hug, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
I encourage my clients to call or email me frequently...for years (yes, I mean that). I'm often on the phone for a few hours each day, answering clients' questions, brainstorming, or providing support and encouragement. I encourage my clients to call me whenever a question arises during pregnancy or postpartum, which is SO much more helpful than asking them to store it up for visits. We're able to work through each concern in the moment.Read more
Well, it's been 8 months! I think I must have been rather busy, to have left my blog for this long!
In addition to my doula work, "loving the grandsons" was added to my list of passions. With twins, there's a lot of room for family involvement, so we've all been chipping in daily to help our daughter and son-in-law and their brood. My memory of this past summer is long long walks by the seashore with my husband, carrying the boys in slings, allowing their parents a break at home...to sleep or eat, or just plain enjoy the peace and quiet.Read more
Man, I do love working with clients for a second (or third or fourth) time!
I get to really connect with the mums, dig deeper into what makes them (and their labours) "tick", and watch the emergence and transformation of a mother.
I love the postpartum visit, where I always manage to have a tea-party (or, in this case be presented with a wooden mixer and a plate of wooden toast, wooden egg, and a special spoon) laid on by a little sparkling one in a tutu, play a song or two, and hold a crying baby.Read more
I was driving home from visiting clients yesterday, and the CBC radio host was talking to a guest, asking if she lived in Van"cool"ver. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about one of my clients had been talking about her experiences at a Mum's Postpartum Drop-in. The women she had described sounded just a little bit to "cool" for a brand new mum to embrace.
I mean...imagine you're a brand new mum...you've made the first trek out after being trapped in your house by the snow for WEEKS. You've been looking forward to this first drop-in mum's group - "Maybe I'll meet some new friends...and we can go out for coffee...our kids can have fun..." You get your baby tucked into her stroller. You dream about how great it could be as you sweat and grunt and push that stroller through the snow and ice.Read more
I always encourage clients to send me a blog post after their birth. Here's a post that I asked dear Kate to write after she told me about one day in her "life as a new mum". I'll be writing more about her amazing home birth (and the string of amazing home births I've attended) recently....as soon as I've had some sleep...
"This is for all the women who are doing very well... you know the kind - maybe you are one. One whose families are wondering, why does she keep calling her doula every two days? Surely a doula is just necessary for the labour part. Maybe even your husband, who was over the moon at having a doula present at birth, is a little skeptical:Read more
When a single friend calls to say that she’s had “quite the night!” it can mean many things. But, when a client calls me post-baby...well, it means something completely different.
So, a client called to tell me that they’d had “quite the night!” She said that they had kept the night-time as low-key as possible. “Just like you said, Jacquie...lights out...no eye contact with the baby (Ed. note: If she sees you looking at her, then it’s party time!)...making sleep sounds during feedings...not waking a sleeping baby, diaper changing before the feed if needed, etc. etc.”
“Things were going quite well. Then, at 4am, I felt like one breast must have leaked all over the baby during the feed. In the dark, I used my hand and a cloth to wipe it up, then curled up with her and fell asleep.”Read more
To all pregnant clients...here’s a “head’s up”. Some time after the baby’s born...you will make this phone call. The wording and timing may vary, but the questions will be essentially the same.
“I’ve got this pile of books here. One says to get the baby on a schedule, another says to feed on demand. But what does “demand” mean? What if the baby comes off after 10 minutes. Is that a feed? When do I change the baby? Before, after, or in the middle of a feed? Am I wrong to want to grab my baby away from visitors? You know, they’ve come all this way, and brought presents, but I just want to hide...”
We’ll probably spend up to an hour on this particular phone call. We’ll laugh together...we might cry together...then you’ll hang up the phone floating on air. Why? Because you will have been reminded of your infinite strength, your inner wisdom, and your ability to trust your body and your baby.Read more
If I had a newborn now, I would search for poetry to read aloud during each feeding, to calm us both and feed our souls.
i carry your heart with me
(i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it
(anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
- ee cummings
I just melted when I saw this photo of a client with her two sons. It brings back memories of her youngest son's birth, at home, in the heat of a summer night, the fan blowing hot air around the room, the cool sound of the water in the tub, the midwife fanning herself, the speed with which this little one came... I believe the birth was everything that they could have hoped for. Complete joy.
But, what this photo also brings to mind are the many phone calls and emails I receive from clients who have just had their second baby...whose births were so beautiful, but are now reeling from how busy life has become, how challenging it is to manage two children, how guilty they feel at giving less than 100% to their firstborn child, how it tears at their hearts when their firstborn just wants grandma or daddy, "NOT mummy!"Read more
My clients are so creative! Here's a recent comment from a wonderful two-time client:
"I loved reading your most recent blog entry. I haven't used a stroller in months (actually a couple of times, but just to carry the shopping bags, so that doesn't count) and use slings instead. Hannah even naps in it when we are out. Happier baby, happier mummy. I think every new mother should be given a sling (or some other carrier) when she gives birth!"
Most clients know that I like to do without too much “stuff”...evidenced by our gradual downsizing, leading to our ultimate purchase of a small loft in Vancouver. Our internal and external spaces are now filled with what we do, not what we have.
This shift wasn’t just driven by our need to find a personal solution to the environmental challenge on our planet. It is the continuation of a parenting plan that was born on the tidal flats of Point Roberts in 1982 - before our first was born, and long before the words “environmental footprint” or “sustainability” were commonplace.Read more
I always say that we can only hope for the best on the day of labour - that the baby is the wonderful and unpredictable 'wildcard.' So, we must trust our body and our baby to give us strong clues about what needs to happen, then make the best choices on that particular day, with the support of those around us...
Here’s George, introduced by his mother:
“George was born Feb 16th - I had the induced labour that didn’t progress well and a cesarean - and he turned out to be 11 pounds! Remember us? These women who labour in the park, cooking turkey dinners...well, humbug. Not at all how mine went, although it was totally great in its own way.”
Here’s my memory:Read more
Okay, I’m going to share some secrets about what goes on behind closed doors. Before pregnancy, no one tells women that there are going to be a lot of tears. All they see are the groups of shining skinny women pushing strollers (complete with a sleeping baby) along 4th Avenue, Starbucks cup in hand, laughing. What they don’t see is the anxiety, the tears, the loneliness, and the loss that women can experience as a result of this enormous change in their lives.
I’m glad pregnancy is nine months long. It takes that long to work through the issues that crop up...family boundaries, financial pressures, relationship issues, old wounds, loss of mobility, body image, career choices, birth worries... Women look to their baby’s birth as the end of the process, only to find out that it’s just the beginning. Then all the same issues resurface, in addition to a general sense of loss and loneliness...oh, and a crying baby.Read more