Rituals

When my daughter and her husband were married, a strand of beads was held in their hands. From a crystal bead that came from Great-great Grandmother Sarah's necklace to a stone from their favourite beach, each token holds a message from those who will support them in their marriage.

Just like birthing beads in Africa, where each woman attended by a midwife adds a bead to the midwife's strand, increasing its power and significance, this strand of beads gains its power from the wishes and love of each person who contributed a bead.

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Coming up for air...

Okay, so I've officially decided that the full moon really MUST make babies come in groups!

In the past week there have been so many babies, with their due dates randomly spaced over a six week period. Thankfully, there were no overlaps. Well, there was one 8-minute gap between two clients (it took me 8 minutes to run down the hill from one completed birth at St Paul's hospital to the next client's house on Pacific!)

So, there were two undisturbed home births, two undisturbed hospital births, and two challenging births caused by sweet posterior babies (resulting in one cesarean and one vaginal birth). The largest baby (9lb 13oz) and the smallest baby (6lb 12oz) this week were both born vaginally with no meds. What a ride!

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Vancouver or Bust!

One of my recent clients is a doula from Fort McMurray. She drove all the way to Vancouver to have her baby. I was honoured that she asked me to support her and her partner (and sister) through her labour. With her permission, I'd like to share a part of her email that she sent me after she had driven all the way home with the new baby (only a few days after the birth!)

"I really wanted to email you and say thank you once again for a terrific job and your incredible support. I drove to Vancouver with hopes for an amazing birth, and I couldn't have imagined it being any better, even though it was longer than I anticipated! I wrote down my birth story as you suggested, and literally just finished reading your notes. Like you said, it's so funny what a different perception you have when in labor. I love the quotes you wrote down, and I honestly thought you had arrived at my sister's place at 4am, not 4:45! You make the birth sound like it happened a heck of a lot faster than what I remember it feeling to be. What an incredible experience! Thank you for making it be so.

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Le Premier Cri

Don't you just love Paris? In the Opera Metro station there's an ad for an amazing birth movie. Would you ever see that in Vancouver? A birth movie in full theatrical release? With an ad in a Skytrain station?

However you can view Le Premier Cri, find it, view it (I googled and found the complete movie online.) Yes, it's in French, but please forget all the French that you know, and listen to the birth sounds, the music, not the words of the narrators.

The cinematography is breathtaking, the births are achingly beautiful. I found myself laughing out loud in joy at the woman in Mexico being carried to her car in a blanket and transported to the seashore just after giving birth. I wanted to be the woman moving beautifully through the South American jungle to the river - stripes on her belly. There is truth in this movie.

Find this movie - the search will be worth it...

(Note: I've been getting emails from people who can't find the movie...ask a teen...honestly...they'll have it for you before the end of the day...)

Snapshots of Love

A woman sings old remembered songs in a shower. The sound of her laughter echoes in the room and blends with the sound of the water.

“Hands!” A woman opens the shower door during a contraction, reaches out and holds onto her husband’s...and my...hands. When the contraction ends, the door closes and her eyes close.

Only a few hours away from birth, a woman takes time between contractions to place tin foil on the sofas and chairs; her power remains.

“I like it here” says a woman as her head burrows into the corner of the car’s backseat.

“Hips!” “Water back!” A woman moves autonomously in labour. She calls to us to take our places during each contraction...at the hips, at the back, and at her hand.

“Happy?” The lips turn into a smile, her eyes crinkle, the water runs over her body.

“Shhhhh” Her eyes gleam as she looks at her newborn, rooting for the breast.

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6 babies in 2 weeks...

Each of these 6 births has an essence that will remain with me always...

Azure's birth - Shower and more shower. Clary sage really works. Then a "hands off" birth. This wee baby slides out like toothpaste from a tube. Incredible. Mum reaches down to bring her daughter to her breast.

Nora's birth - Kisses on mum's forehead by her love. After a gentle labour, spent mostly in the water...this babe crawls to the breast just like in the WHO video, to the shock of the nurse, and smiles of the mother.

Sean's birth - Intuitive partner by her side, she makes each difficult decision with grace and patience. A challenging birth, but one where the baby's needs were honoured, and the body trusted to tell its own story.

Sasha's birth - A gentle spirit. A flashbulb memory from half way through...she's dancing in a dress from Bali...just beautiful...working to spiral her baby down...down... Her husband smiling, laughing.

Luke's birth - Women's hands anchoring her feet, she leans on the dresser, partner stroking her back...and ohhhh's her way through another contraction. Birth works.

Jessica's birth - Powerful, furious body power! Rocking back and forth, one foot in front of the other - she lives in a whirlwind of creative energy...with the cat reaching out a paw in a gesture of sympathy. The baby curls like a cat on her breast.

The Contraction Question

“I don’t think I’m in labour yet. I feel it really low down, all in front. It’s not hurting ALL OVER.” said the doctor on the phone.

“ALL OVER?” I asked, sounding like a parrot.

“Yeah.”

“Um...if all is well, it shouldn’t.” I was just a little bit confounded. Here I was, talking on the phone with a physician who’s been attending births for years. She’s amazing with her patients, so intuitive. Now, in labour for the first time, she was just as confused as everyone else in labour.

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Äpfel schütteln

"Komm, wir wollen Apfel schütteln,
Äpfel schütteln;
alle Kinder helfen rütteln.
Ria, ria, ria, rums."

This German children's song would be perfect to sing while shaking a woman's hips with your hands in labour. One of the many indigenous practices used for centuries to loosen the pelvic muscles and ease a baby's journey through the pelvis, "shaking the apples" works really well with first time mums in early labour, as well as multips as they approach birth.

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Walking the Labyrinth

"You are a gift to me beloved
trust my body
trust my baby
breathe..."

Last night, friends and family painted the labyrinth in the living room of a woman in early labour, hoping that she would have a chance to walk the labyrinth as the labour progressed. But her labour skyrocketed and her baby was born sweetly before the paint had time to fully dry!

But I think she had been metaphorically "walking the labyrinth" for a long time and was fully ready. There were no blocks. She trusted her body, trusted her baby, and held firm and fast to her husband, whose hands held the baby's head as it slid out into the flickering light of a candle.

With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. With the smooth and quick birth of this beautiful boy, the choice was made. What a joyful entry to the world.

Crossing the Portal, the Old School Way

I stood still in Pottery Barn the other week, in front of a phone that looked just like the lovely heavy black phone that we had when I was little. You know, the one with the rotary dial that, when you needed to dial 9-1-1, took such a long time for that 9 to rotate. No wonder they didn't stick with the British emergency code of 9-9-9. The emergency would have been over before the dialing was done.

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