"I help you to realize that you have the abilities, wisdom and courage to give birth. Birth is something that you know on a basic level. I just help you to access that knowledge."
I have been interested in birthing issues since I studied developmental psychology at UBC in the early 1980s. I put my studies to practical use during my two pregnancies, first with medical, then with midwifery care. Soon after, I became involved with the birthing community to promote family-centred care, and studied to become a Certified Childbirth Educator and Doula. I was the Co-ordinator for Vancouver Childbirth, a founding developer of the Douglas College Doula Course, the BC Doulas of North America representative, and developed a holistic childbirth education series for The Midwifery Group.
I have been a doula and childbirth educator since 1987, supporting over 1200 women and their families at home and in the hospital, and teaching thousands of expectant parents. Iʼm the grandmother (aka “Deecy”) of identical twin boys born in 2010, and 2015 will bring another grandson, so Iʼm right in the thick of things! Read More
A nurse asked me the other day, “Do you just meet your clients at the hospital? Do you meet with them at all during the pregnancy?”
Kat’s pregnancy and birth sprang to mind instantly. A nurse herself, she knew the superstition about nurses’ labours - “you get everything that you don’t want.” So, she knew she’d have to work hard to set up the best environment for birthing her baby without much “fuss.” So, referred by a friend, she hired me one October when she was three months pregnant. She had a lovely family doctor who specialized in maternity care, and trusted Kat’s ability to give birth. Then she signed up for prenatal classes, prenatal yoga and fitness programs. Everything was in place. Read More
"Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who's misunderstood
but I know the heart of life is good..."
I don't think John Mayer was thinking about birth when he wrote this song. But I played it over and over again on my drive home from a beautiful birth last night.
Why was this the song I needed to hear after such a joyous and swift birth? I just knew that this was going to be a powerful week. There was going to be sadness to balance the joy. I could feel the phone call coming... Read More
I completely missed it. I passed the six hundred and fifty baby mark a while ago, but didn't stop to think about how many babies that REALLY is... Well, they're not all babies now. Many are heading off to high school or university, but close to 70 wee ones are still waiting for their first birthday.
Photos arrive as each baby reaches his or her birthdays. Christmas cards arrive showing long-limbed children I hardly recognise. But I never forget a labour. Those flashbulb moments remain strong in my memory. Read More
I was concerned that she'd think I was crazy... "Let's meet at the hospital, on the hill across from the emergency entrance. Bring a picnic and a blanket." It just seemed the right thing to do on this beautiful day in August. How else could I create a sense of safety, close to the hospital, yet far away? High up on the hill, with lovely green grass all around, trees to lean on, a hill to climb, a place to labour without being watched.
I arrived, and there they were, looking just like a couple on the hill having their lunch. Lovely cheese, crackers, fruit, sparkling juice... A soft blanket and a lap to lean on... Contractions every five minutes. She'd rest on her side for a while, then walk for a while... We'd talk about what to expect...how second babies take their time at first, then fly out. We were in the perfect place, ready to dash inside whenever the labour became stronger. Read More
I've just realized that I haven't written about any of the births this month. It must be summer...
Six strong women. So many stories...
Andie's birth - Her mum was described as "enchanting in labour" by the gentle doctor. Memories of flowers, swishing water in the tub, jokes at 9cm... Such a joyful day with all the family waiting...laughter...
Weston's birth - Standing, moving, power...then those shoulders, such a challenge. Mum's grace and strength in the middle of a medical whirlwind... Finally, safety and peace. Read More
A sand dollar lies beside my computer. It will remain there to remind me of this day of grace.
I witnessed a joyful first birth this morning - a triumph over fear. A testament to the wisdom of living in the moment, and taking each breath as it comes. The moment that will remain with me comes after the birth, while she was showering. We debriefed as she scrubbed her legs, just like it was a regular day. “That was a good day,” she said, shining and proud of herself. Her newborn son was in her husband’s arms in the other room. The “boys” voices could be heard beyond the sound of the water. Yes, that was a good day. Read More
“Joyful” was the first word that came to mind when I was asked to describe my son’s birth. At that time, in 1987, I was a self-proclaimed “west-side woman,” a studious and conservative academic...wary of anything east of Granville Street (don’t laugh.) So, for me to start spouting words such as “joy,” “transformation,” “energy,” or “empowerment” was a major departure from what people expected of me - or of what I expected of myself.
I have to thank an outspoken Scottish woman who sat next to me at a mum’s group in 1983 for pushing me towards a different view of birth. She told me about a new midwifery pilot project at Grace Hospital which cared for 4-6 patients per month. “Well, as long as they’re British-trained nurse-midwives,” I said. That’s my upbringing talking. As the only Canadian-born child in a British family, I held anything “British” as the gold standard. So, that’s why I chose midwifery care. No deep-seated granola philosophy...just a blind trust of anything British. Silly of me - but the result was amazing. Read More
After reading my son's first university History essay, I've been thinking about perspective and truth. History is all about viewing the past through a critical lens. There are many truths. We must all make sure that we do not view history through a single homogenizing lens.
This is also true in birth.
When I attend a birth, I take notes. I try to avoid making editorial comments, or passing judgement. I am only an outside viewer. The husband and the medical staff see other truths, they view the birth from their own perspective. Read More
Think of all the challenges that you have faced in your life - physical, emotional, and intellectual. You have been preparing for this for all your life. You will need to draw on all your life lessons to make it through labour. You don’t need to have experienced extraordinary pain - this isn’t like breaking a leg, or undergoing surgery. All you need is to have lived, faced difficult times, and struggled through to the other side.
Have you ever walked out of your house, and been amazed that everyone is walking about, laughing, doing their shopping, unaware of the challenges that you are facing? You have been facing such a trial that you have stepped out of space and time for a while. You ask yourself, “When will things go back to normal?” This happens in labour. Read More
Birth imagery is everywhere, from the paradox of the pomegranate in ancient writings to the joyful and whimsical life-giving nature of the Northern Lights found in Native storytelling. Whenever I have been challenged by a birth, or face great joy or loss in our own family, I go to my books. Research is my way of coping with challenges. I haunt creaky-floored second hand bookstores, sit on the floor of the library, or google my way to new understanding.
This month, I started with Tomson Highway's prose, both profound and profane. His imagery of the spirit child who is formed in the Northern Lights and tumbles to earth is magical. There is a bubbling life-force in his words. Then I moved on to reading tales of Persephone and the pomegranate; stories of the potency of life. Seven stars on the tiara created a fetus. Seven seeds of a pomegranate forced the eternal union between Persephone and Hades, creating both life and death in the seasons. I seek connection in these writings... Read More
"So much of our early gladness vanishes utterly from our memory: we can never recall the joy with which we laid our heads on our mother's bosom or rode on our father's back in childhood; doubtless that joy is wrought up into our nature, as the sunlight of long-past mornings is wrought up in the soft mellowness of the apricot; but it is gone for ever from our imagination, and we can only believe in the joy of childhood."
George Eliot, Adam Bede
Conscientious parenting begins before our children are born. Writing a pregnancy and birth journal can help to create wonderful memories for our babies. My own children loved it when I read my journals aloud at bedtime. Read More
This week is shaping up to be “postpartum visit week.” Lots of wee boys (and their tired mums) to visit. I’ve also heard from clients whose babies range in age from three to eight months. We’ve discussed everything from sleep deprivation to “what the poo should look like.”
The major issue this week isn’t (thankfully) breast-feeding. Pretty much everyone is doing well and producing abundant quantities of breast milk. One client is even donating her extra milk to the Children’s Hospital Milk Bank, (604) 875-2345, ext. 7607. Another just phoned to say that, with the help of Renee Hefti-Graham (604-733-6359), her little girl finally latched successfully at six weeks and is doing so well! All the other babies are latching well, gaining weight, sleeping (at times) and peaceful (at times).
What seems to be causing anxiety this week is the overwhelming contradiction between a mother’s instincts and outside influences. Books, family, friends and complete strangers are undermining the mothering instinct for so many of my clients. Read More
If you want to get the inside scoop on birthing practices in BC, stand outside a kindergarten classroom just before the end of the school day. You’ll find a group of young mothers, with babes in arms, waiting to pick up their 5 year olds. They’ve been through the system - probably a few times - and are only too happy to share their hard won stories. Ask about their first birth experience, and you may hear stories of disillusionment, loss of dignity, overcrowding, or lack of continuity. They’ll tell you they wish they’d been better informed, and had known enough to find great caregivers.
Then there will probably be one woman in the group who shares her second birth experience, and shyly admits to feeling joy. “What a difference my second birth was!” she’ll say. “It was like night and day!” You might hear her talk about empowerment and laughter. What was the difference from her first birth, you ask? “Oh, I changed caregivers...and I hired a doula.” Read More
Here's an article from the Winter 2001 issue of
Western Living Magazine about my doula service:
When the contractions begin and even Dad starts screaming for drugs, a little backup is a good thing.
Six hours into labour, Dad's feeling like a third wheel at the bedside. He wants to help, but he's not sure how.
"What does it feel like?" he asks his wife.
"Sour!" she hisses.
Sour? He has no idea what that means. Read More
It’s been a wild month at hospitals in Canada. At BC Women’s Hospital alone, there were 1000 expected births, with 500 being the norm. You could attribute the increase to the effects of the moon or the sun, or you could put it down to the NHL strike. Who knows! But on Wednesday of this week, all hospitals west of Saskatoon were on diversion - that means NO BEDS ANYWHERE!
There I was, early Wednesday evening, at a client’s house. She was getting deep into her labour, so I had called her doctor just to give her a “heads-up.” She told me something I didn't want to hear. Read More
Picture a birthing room. A woman is leaning over beside a bed, and the voices around her are saying...
“You look so tired!”
“That baby isn’t very happy.”
”It can’t possibly be time for you to push yet.”
She drops her head, and cries...
The language that we use in the birthing room touches a woman deeply. When in active labour, a woman is so open to suggestion that any negative word can sap her energy and make her want to give up completely. Her negative emotions can then slow down the labour, or cause complications that would never have happened if those words had never been spoken. Read More