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. Read More
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
Maybe I'm just a little slow...but I've finally decided that I have to act on my decision (2004) to start focus-writing on Slow Birth (think slow dancing, slow cooking, slow kisses, slow lane, take it slow, baby...) Don't you just take a big breath and sigh when you read those words?
I loved reading "In Praise of Slow" by Carl Honore, and discovering the Slow Food and Slow Travel movements as they emerged. We had always raised our children according to the "slow" philosophy. We talked, we listened to music, we read books together, and my husband and I kept our lives in pace with our children's development - we kept things slow, and the family flourished. When the slow movement began, it was nice to see that other people were discovering this way of living. Read More
That exclamation is becoming more and more rare. I miss hearing it at every birth, now that so many docs have in-office ultrasounds and clients bring their families to pay-per-view 3-D and 4-D ultrasound "Discover the Sex" parties. These days, the baby's birth is often pretty quiet...no exclamations of "It's a BOY! or It's a GIRL!" any more.
For me, waiting until the baby is born to discover the baby's sex is one surprise that I truly enjoy. It's the best surprise in the world - more people should try it! Read More
After she had her baby the other day, this new mum said, "You know, once you're in it, labour isn't scary! You just do it!"
I have so many clients who have carried the fear of childbirth with them for years and years. Some even postpone the event for as long as possible, just because their friends (or families) have told such horror stories over the years. Read More
"You shouldn't have a home birth because it's too messy!"
One client's mother, a surgeon, was concerned about her daughter's decision to have a home birth because, "I walk around the OR with my boots covered in blood, dear. It would be SUCH a mess!" I asked her if we walk around our houses during our periods with our boots covered in blood. "Well, no," she answered. "That's silly. We wear pads or tampons." After her daughter's home birth, the surgeon Grandma was amazed..."I guess it's the docs that cause the mess!"
Well...labour at home (even when planning a hospital birth) is clean because we are used to keeping clean when we bleed on a monthly basis. Labour is no different. And, for some reason, women seem to lose WAY less blood at home births - a matter of fully functioning hormones, perhaps? Read More
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. Read More
Birth is never what we expect. Even though we may say we don't have expectations...we do.
So, when I arrive at the hospital around 6am with a client who is 7cm and stretchy to full dilation...there's a part of me that expects her to be happy and nursing her baby by lunchtime. Admit it, Jacquie...after almost 800 births as a doula...you do have certain expectations.
Yes, I must admit, I do have some expectations. But, so do you. If someone told you the birth story later..."she had her beautiful baby girl at dinner time"...you might say, "I expect that she had an epidural (isn't that something that usually slows the labour?)" But, no, she had no epidural, no pain meds at all. Things just slowed down to 1 or 2 contractions every ten minutes for most of the day. She even managed to sleep. Read More
If you’re having a hospital birth, perhaps one of the most challenging parts of labour is the transition from your home to the hospital. Many couples worry about the car ride to the hospital, but it’s amazing to see how most women manage the ride with surprising grace. If the car ride is timed so that it coincides with the trance induced by high levels of endorphins (well past the mid-point of labour), then the whole journey can be manageable.
To illustrate - I vividly remember one client’s ride to BC Women’s from UBC. It was around 4am. She threw a coat over her naked body, somehow managed to run to her car down a long apartment hallway (between contractions), then crawl onto the back seat of her minivan, exposing her bottom to an old man in a trilby hat, who was coincidently walking his little Scotty dog past us at that moment (you should have seen his face!) Bouncing along in the car, this normally private woman laughed and laughed. “That was FUN!” Yes, the trip was uncomfortable, with her husband trying to negotiate hundreds of potholes, but the absurd nature of the trip far outweighed the pain it may have caused. Read More
searching for information for the ongoing debate with her husband? Even though it is the woman who must ultimately make the decision about her birth setting, it is imperative that her partner is included in the process of informed choice, and comes to understand and support her decision, without fear.
Since I'm known as the research-oriented and pragmatic doula, I'd better throw in some evidence. So, here are a few things I want you to consider: Read More
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. Read More
I've been talking a lot about "an undisturbed birth" lately.
The language that we use in labour is so potent. I'm uncomfortable with many descriptive terms surrounding birth, such as "I'd like a normal birth"...or "She had a natural birth" ...or "We did a pure birth." It sounds like all others are abnormal or unnatural or impure. Birth just should be.
So, it came to me, recently, when I realized that so many of my clients have what I describe as "she just went into labour and then had the baby" births...they had all been undisturbed in labour. My role is to keep her private space protected and undisturbed, to help her feel free to move undisturbed, to be the guardian of her cave. She remains hidden, unobserved, in a safe space. Read More
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. Read More
“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.
“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. Read More