My Journey to Becoming an Edmonton Doula

Doula Edmonton

Dancing doula in Edmonton, AB

I recently got asked by one of my previous Edmonton prenatal class students (thanks for the inspo Alicia!) about how I came to be an Edmonton doula, and it hit me how much I love telling the story of my journey. So why not dedicate a whole blog post to it! The path that lead me here wasn’t a straight shot… sometimes I think that if you told me 5 years ago that I would be teaching childbirth classes in Edmonton and getting to watch babies be born on the regular I would have not believed you. Alas, this is where I am in life and I’m loving it – so here’s my story 😊

Though I had always wanted to have kids, the time that this whole journey began was not planned. In fact, my first pregnancy was a little bit scary for me considering I was just completing the very first year of my brand new business venture – a dance studio for adults. That pregnancy unfortunately didn’t take and I miscarried at 7 weeks, but it really revealed that my heart was ready to start a family. So after my husband and I tried for about 4 months, we got pregnant with sweet Callie.

It was such a dream being pregnant with her, easy and straight-forward. The real troubles in my heart came from thoughts of the actual birth… it scared the shit out of me! I was in the common, rookie mindset that the actual pushing was going to be the worst. I knew absolutely nothing about how to have a baby and so I started with a blank canvas and set out to paint the picture that I would most desire. I did my research, hired a private prenatal instructor, and read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (LIFE CHANGING book, it’s a must read). Before I knew it the day came for my daughter to arrive, and my birth, which ended up being 2 days of prodromal labour, an induction and ended up in cesarean due to fetal distress/failure to progress, ended up not being what I thought it would be at all… but that didn’t matter at that time because she was here! And she changed my whole world, in ways I never even imagined.

Months after my birth I started to feel this missing piece in my life. My business was struggling to grow, and I was slowly losing my motivation to keep growing it with all of my time and interests wrapped up in being a mom. January 2016 was the first time I had the thought about becoming a doula. I remembered someone telling me about it once in passing. I hardly even knew what the job entailed at that point but I thought “if this can be a little side job for me on top of my other business and I get to keep researching about birth, sounds good to me!”. After a google search I stumbled upon Sonya (my mentor and the head of the Collective I belong to, Full Circle) and called her up to see about registering for the April CAPPA doula training. Turns out she had an opening in the February training… one month to mentally prepare? Sure, afterall this wasn’t (at this time) the start of a career or anything, just a side gig.

Fate and my life’s calling all hit me like a ton of bricks when I took that training. I started the weekend thinking I was going to learn a cool new skill and I left thinking I neeeeeeed to do this work. I’ve never felt so compelled by the universe in my entire life. So yea, pretty major!

After this training my life got a little cray cray. I attempted to continue to run my business while also attending births and being a stay at home mom… it was chaos, and not the good kind. I was constantly in a battle between my head and my heart. My head was telling me to keep working on growing my studio, it needed me and my time. I invested too much time and money and sacrificed too much to throw it all away for some hippy dippy lifestyle. But in my heart… I wanted to be at a birth. I wanted to help women cross that threashhold of being a daughter to being a mother. I wanted to relive what had changed me for the better. And most of all, I wanted more time with my family. For those of you who have had babies and recall that beautiful shift from logical to primal that happens during labour… this is what I needed to do, just in the every day life sense. And after a lot of heartache, disappointment and major growing pains, an opportunity came for me to say good bye to my first born, aka my dance studio, and move on to what my real life’s work is.

This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Even harder than childbirth – I was grieving a loss of a huge part of myself while also discovering who I really was. And in the midst of all of this, I also suffered another pregnancy loss and months later, became pregnant with my second born. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a shift like this before… but the me standing here today and telling this story. This is exactly who I’m meant to be!

Since focusing my energy on becoming an Edmonton doula and instructor of prenatal classes in Edmonton, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and helping nearly 50 families through the most transformative time of their lives. This career has brought me closer to human nature and what life is really all about. I’ve felt allllll of the feels. I’ve absorbed so much of my clients energy and I grow every single birth I attend and with every single parent I meet. My journey was rocky yet so worth it to be where I am now. I’m a doula and I’m proud!

Thanks for allowing me to share my crazy life with you, feel free to share your thoughts about my journey below!

Long Distance Partners: how to survive pregnancy, birth and postpartum when your partner works away

Edmonton doula

A shot from older days when hubs worked away from me and my first! Reminiscing as my life heads back in that direction with two 😮

So the thing I’ve dreaded since 2016 is happening… again. My husband, who has been fortunate enough to land an oil field job in Edmonton will officially be moving to an in-town/out-of-town rotation in Fort McMurray. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN (cue dramatic music). I say the word “again” because this isn’t my first rodeo – back when my oldest was just a little turnip in my belly the hubs worked out of town two weeks in and one week out. Following the birth he continued to do so until summer 2016 – I had my second pregnancy loss and while it was a very hard time for our family he had just received the one shred of good news at the time which was he would be moving into the city! However, knowing what the good ol Alberta work force is like for people who work in oil and gas, I knew I had to enjoy it while it lasts… and alas, here we are. This time with two children and a pretty decent load of Edmonton doula clients!

Not going to lie though guys, I’m not really worried. I got through it during some of the most life-changing moments – moments I was pregnant, awaiting labour and postpartum. I know as an Edmonton doula that women are incredibly resilient human beings and can make it work. I’m writing here today to share some of my “tricks of the trade” with those of you who may be pregnant or brand new moms and dealing with the same challenges in your home life.

Solidarity, Sista!

First off I’m sure as a fellow Alberta mom, I don’t need to tell you that this is quite a common scenario for households in our province. However, coming from someone who at the time didn’t know a ton of people in the same boat (I sure do now), find your village! Look to people in your life that may also have out-of-town spouses to talk, cry, vent about everyday trials and tribulations. Swap childcare so that you can have a bit of time to yourself. If you don’t know anyone in the same boat, look to your partner’s work to see if there are any other moms with kids around the age of yours. Or post on a Facebook group asking for mom’s who have partners who work out of town (you’ll be surprised at just how many responses you get!). What I’m trying to say here is don’t do it alone, it will get quite hard to parent on your own most of the time with no peer support.

Changes during pregnancy will seem much bigger

Still pregnant? If you think you’re noticing your body looks different, imagine how it looks for someone who only sees you for one week out of the month! You may hear a lot of “you’re getting so big!” and try not to take offence to that – they only mean that your tummy is growing so fast (and it really does!). It’s normal for partners to be a bit overwhelmed by how fast the changes are happening, and you might notice they go through their own little nesting phase too. For years of their lives they read that a pregnancy is nine(ish) months, but when you work away those nine months pass more quickly than anyone can imagine. Allow your partner the space they need to process everything and help then when you can by making to-do lists for when they are home of things you are unable to do on your own.

Involve them in EVERYTHING while they are home

One thing I remember hearing my husband say is that he felt like when he was away, that he was missing out on so much of the pregnancy. And honestly he did… and I felt for him in that regard. He wasn’t with me when I first felt baby kick, he had to miss almost all of my midwife appointments, we were very limited to the Edmonton prenatal classes we could take and ended up having to arrange private childbirth education, and the list goes on. One thing I started to realize mid-way is that even though it was my body, he really wanted to be involved so that he could start to develop some connection to the baby before she was born (and the bonding could really start to happen). I made sure that when he was home, we filled our week with baby-related activities and appointments. We also spent lots of quality time together so I could reminisce about the last couple of weeks being pregnant and dream about what kind of parents we wanted to be. I made sure that once you could feel baby kick from the outside, that he had his hand on my belly as soon as she started her utero dance parties. Little things like this they will appreciate for a lifetime, because nothing can replace memories!

Labour/Birth support from other areas will be key

When it came down to the nitty gritty, my due date was approaching and he was still working out of town, the panic started to set in a bit. What if he was away when I went into labour? Most of the time things work out but I definitely know of some times where partners have missed the birth due to working out of town (especially in precipitous labours, read about that here). One thing my midwife suggested and I really wish I would have done the first time, was hire an Edmonton doula! Women in our boat NEED reliable support in the event that partners aren’t physically available in time. Doulas don’t always replace the partner but for a short time, we can absolutely assume that role until the proper person arrives. Plus we can help to update the partner as they make their way to us, and we can involve them as much as possible so that they arrive completely in-the-loop.

Postpartum matters too!

I was incredibly fortunate that my husband managed to save up two months worth of vacation days (basically he took no vacation at all for the first 3 years of work) so that he could stay home with me until I was feeling more comfortable. Luckily so, most of my family lives in Manitoba so I don’t have a parent to call on to come over and let me get some sleep. Had he not been able to be around, I most definitely would have hired an Edmonton postpartum doula. For those of you who have never heard of one, postpartum doulas work on shifts and will come into your home and support you however you need to make that transition from single to mom-of-one (or two, or three, etc) positive. They’ll help you with everything from housework to breastfeeding to mental health support and beyond. Edmonton moms deserve postpartum doulas! We’ve got a few really great ones in our city too (shoot me a message and I’ll make some recommendations).

All-in-all being an oilfield family has challenges for sure, but it also has rewards. There will most likely be some point in the month or year where you get a long stint of days as a family with no work involved, which is lovely! The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this article is the importance of self-care at any stage of your childbearing journey – be sure to take advantage of those days when your spouse is home to go for a coffee with a friend alone, get your hair done, go for a massage, etc. You deserve it mama, the work you do is unbelievably hard (but always worth it)!

How to make the best of Gestational Diabetes

Doula Edmonton

Me at the end of my pregnancy with Gestational Diabetes… am I crying because of how big I am or how dirty my mirror was?

So you’ve received the annoying news that you’ve got “the ‘betus” (as my husband calls it). You went through that awful screening where you had to wait, bored out of your mind, at the clinic after drinking a horrible orange drink all to get poked, probably twice… and now you’ve confirmed with your care provider that you have gestational diabetes. Now what?! Well as an Edmonton doula I can tell you that no birth person ever takes this news well, and as an Edmonton mom who’s been there, I can confirm that this limitation sucks. However, this doula in Edmonton is writing today to give you some tips on how to make this nuisance of a situation easier and more pleasant then what you may have heard of it in the past. I got you girl!

First off, don’t panic!!!!! (especially at my use of exclamation marks)

For those of you that have been following my Edmonton doula blog for a while, you’ll probably notice by some of my posts that I feel that our birth culture in many ways is set up to scare us more than it is to empower us. Gestational Diabetes diagnosis does it’s part to add to this culture and to be honest, it drives me nuts! Between the additional appointments with a diabetes-specific clinic, to the talk of “big baby”, shoulder dystocia, cesarean birth, etc. it’s no wonder why most of my clients as an Edmonton doula call me in a mad panic. So here’s the deal – yes, there have been babies that have gotten quite big from a GD mom… but there are just as many that have been a normal size, especially from those moms who did the work to keep their blood sugars under control. Yes there have been cesareans performed on GD moms… but in many cases this has nothing to do with the baby being “too big” and everything to do with other factors completely unrelated to GD. Yes a baby is at a higher risk of shoulder dystocia with a GD mom… but according to this study done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (my favourite evidence-based site), you can expect a 7% chance of shoulder dystocia with a gestational diabetes diagnosis (regardless of if your baby is big or not) and a 0.5% chance of an injury to the baby caused by getting stuck. So guys… don’t panic! Gestational Diabetes doesn’t mean your birth with all go to hell in a hand basket.

It’s all about the diet

I’ve said this before in my Preparing For Labour post, and I’ll say it again – the GD diet is the best diet out there (whether you’re pregnant or not!). Now I’m not about to go off on a tangent about how “carbs are the devil” and push a fad diet on you… I believe in healthy carbs! The problem with a GD patient is that eating too many carbs will send your blood sugars into a frenzy. So to start off, think BALANCE. If you want to eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, great! Throw some greek yogurt in there and maybe some hemp seeds and that is a beautifully balanced breakfast right there. Love sandwiches? Cool! Consider adding lots of good meat, load up on veggies and add some avocado and grass-fed butter and you’re sandwich is perfecto (and who doesn’t love avocado?). You’re going to want to eat just as much protein and “good fats” as you are carbs. Label-reading is going to become second nature to you, because you’ll want to find out whether what you’re about to eat is a serving of carbs, protein or fat. It would also be a really good idea to start tracking your macronutrient percentages (carbs, protein and fats are macronutrients), so consider looking into an app to do so – MyFitPal is an excellent one that is free! The final thing I want to say about diet is that just because something is labelled “low fat” or “diet” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Often times low fat labels will actually show more carbohydrates, and diet drinks like diet soda or juice often times contain aspartame which is a big no-no both during pregnancy and everyday life. Don’t be afraid of good fats – the omegas and MCT oils (coconut or palm kernel) will be your best friends with a GD diet as they will fill you and avoid that sugar crash you’d get if you ate a pack of Timbits instead.

Fear not the GD labour

My GD clients as an Edmonton doula often express the fear of what this will do to their labours – can I still have a natural birth? A home birth? Is it going to be way harder to push this baby out? Will my baby have to go to NICU after birth? The answer to all of these is very much dependant on the individual patient, but I will say that in a well-managed gestational diabetes patient the labour and birth will likely be straight-forward and average! (when it comes to all things GD, anyway). If you are a midwifery client and you end up needing insulin to manage GD, you’ll need to be transferred to an OBGYN and home birth will unfortunately not be in the cards for you. However, you still have the option of having an empowered birth as your midwife will remain involved for support (AND you can hire an Edmonton doula to help navigate the hospital birth process). Induction is commonly recommended when a GD patient reaches 41 weeks (and sometimes even before), and as always it is SUPER important to weight the risks of an induction with the risks of birthing a GD baby at 41+ weeks. Whatever you do, DO NOT rely on the weight measurements from a late ultrasound – they are about 45% effective which is not reliable, plus the whole size of the baby is not particularly what causes issues in the birth, more so WHERE GD babies gain their weight. If your labour and birth are straight forward, the only other issue you may face is a baby that has a blood sugar crash following the birth. This can be a tough issue since your baby may not want to feed and feeding is important for them specifically. Something you can do to prepare for this is what my lovely Edmonton doula partner Vanessa refers to as “the feeding insurance policy”. One you reach term (37 weeks) and it is safe for you to go into labour, start hand expressing colostrum from both breasts until you get enough to fill a small syringe (like the ones you get with a bottle of infant Tylenol). You can express into a spoon or small cup, and it may take a while to get the whole thing full but be patient or persistent. Suck the contents of the spoon or cup up with the syringe and then put the syringe in the freezer. Before you leave your house to go to the hospital (if you are birthing in the hospital), bring those syringes along. If baby is struggling to latch initially, simply assume skin-to-skin and feed them the syringe of colostrum so that their blood sugars stabilize and they are more motivated to give breastfeeding a good shot. I WISH I knew this when I had my first baby, who was GD and had a bad blood sugar crash… luckily my L&D nurse mother had my back!

To sum up, I really want all you GD moms to try your best to shift your thoughts from “this sucks” to “this is an opportunity for me to change what I put into my body to best suit my growing baby”. You’re going to be ok! And you’re going to now have tools to improve your eating habits for years after baby arrives. If you are reading this and haven’t yet done the gestational diabetes screening, I highly encourage you to read this wonderful Evidence Based Birth article before you do! Please contact me to discuss any of this info in more detail, I’ve got the unique experience of GD from both a mom and Edmonton doula perspective.

Can you REALLY birth without having a Vaginal Exam?

Doula in Edmonton

Ha! So true Forrest Gump…

So I’ve gotta say, vaginal exams SUCK. I’ve experienced them myself and I’ve watched the clients I support as an Edmonton doula struggle through them countless amounts of times. However, most of us Edmonton mama’s just accept the uncomfortable pain because they are very important. After all they tell you how far dilated you are! Because… dilation will tell you how much longer you’ll be in labour for right? Sorry friend, there’s no way of predicting how much longer you’ll be in labour for.

But what if I told you that you could actually have a baby without getting ANY vaginal exams? That before medical advances birthers had no vaginal exams and managed to get a baby out? That scientifically, there is ZERO evidence that shows better birth outcomes with more vaginal exams? Many people are never told this and many care providers spin this part of birth so that women think that this info (dilation, effecement) is useful and necessary. I’m here to tell you today that it’s not.

I recently took a Spinning Babies course and it was life-changing as a doula in Edmonton.  One of the issues with offering birth doula services is that I am not trained or able to do a vaginal exam. Before taking this course this used to frustrate me so much as I felt like I couldn’t truly help a woman without knowing exactly where she was in her labour. After the course, I learned many valuable lessons that I will take with me to every birth I support! Number 1 – If anything would matter about a vaginal exam, it would be if the care provider could tell the baby’s position and/or station. Dilation and effacement are not steady or predictable variables during labour… eeeeevery birth person opens and thins at her own rate. However, if you knew what position a baby was in you could help the birther to position her body better for her pelvis to open. You could also guess by how far up or down the baby’s presenting part is as to which part of her birth canal is preventing progress. Such an important thing!

So after learning how valuable knowing baby’s position and station came lesson Number 2 – you don’t need a VE to determine these two things! It was almost unfortunate for me to hear originally how important station and position were, so I asked the question “as an Edmonton doula on her own with a birthing couple, how do we know?”. The answer: look at what the birther’s body is telling you. Is the contraction pattern steady? Is it consistent? Is she having pain, and where? The reason that birth happened prior to our medical system is because as birth supporters we can intuitively tell what stage the birth person is at just by being with her (or in contact with her). At the very least, as a birth doula I can keep the mom at home (without the presence of warning signs of trouble) to cope and allow baby to come down naturally and easily. THIS was probably the greatest take-away from the Spinning Babies workshop I took.

The last valuable lesson came from a birth I was at with a midwife at home. This lesson, Number 3 – not all women will be fully dilated when their body begins fetal expulsion (pushing). Known as the early urge to push, many women feel “grunty” or “pushy” before their body is ready to push. So should they be? There’s hardly any evidence about adverse outcomes but the small research that has been done has linked no adverse outcomes to women who do push early (you’ll likely hear things like swollen cervix, damaged cervix, exhaustion, etc. as reasons why you should not push before you are dilated). So crazy enough, if we feel the urge to push early, we are usually told to wait until we achieve some random measurement of one of the organs at play instead of listening to what our body tells us!

Is your mind blasted?? So was mine when I began to learn all of these things! It’s pretty exciting to hear that enduring vaginal exams is not necessary. VE’s are yet another choice you have to make while you are in labour (notice how I say YOU, birthing person, and no one else). For some, the comfort of knowing how far along they have gotten provides a sense of relief. It can be very exciting to hear of progress, but it can also be disheartening if you haven’t gotten as far as you thought you have. It’s so important to know yourself, know how you’ll react to the information you hear, and also to know that those measurements are tricky little buggers! If you want to hear your dilation, effacement, station with an open mind, then a VE wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s like with anything else in childbirth – educate, prepare for all scenarios, and let the process take over.

How many vaginal exams did you have in labour? Did you hate them, or not mind them too much?

Mindfulness – Childbirth’s best-kept secret

Doula in St Albert

I felt compelled to write a post about mindfulness as I await the start of a new life journey in a month’s time. I am planning on enrolling in a six-month meditation course in hopes that as a doula in Edmonton and instructor of childbirth classes in Edmonton, I can add this to teachings and levels of support I offer. So as I anticipate this starting, I’m thinking about all of the ways that mindfulness can be applicable to birth… and I must share this with you all!

Mindfulness is a state of being in complete awareness of all of your thoughts and all of the happenings within your body. In everyday life, mindfulness has the power to rid people of stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, depression, etc. It’s such a powerful tool and easy to use with a bit of direction and practice! When it comes to birth, mindfulness doesn’t fall short in it’s value. Mindfulness is in a way just a reminder to fall into the primal state that many birth people do naturally. There are points in a labour where you feel like nothing around you matters, where you feel alone with your body and focused inward on bringing your baby to you. This is the essence of mindfulness – being aware of thoughts that surface, of sensations that may guide you to repositioning your body, and of what it is that you truly need at any point. For some people, being mindful will save them and their baby as they will know when something is not right. For others, mindfulness will bring their faith into their birth experience and they will truly feel enlightened by a higher power. There are many different places that mindfulness may bring you to in your birth, and that is the beauty of it… it’s YOUR birth! The best part of mindfulness as a birth comfort measure, is that it’s so stinking easy to practice. If you start early, you’ll be a master come birth-day 🙂

So how exactly does this mindfulness thing work? Well, so far I have read many ways of remembering how to be mindful, and I’ve summarized everything I’ve found so far into these steps:

  1. If you feel anxiety or stress or sadness coming on, put a halt on your mind. Stop what you are doing and thinking so that these thoughts cannot progress further
  2. Describe and observe what you are thinking or feeling. Are you feeling hurt? Disrespected? Alone? Worried about something? Be very specific in how you describe your thoughts, but be careful not to use opinionated words like “good” or “bad”.
  3. Accept your thoughts, without any judgment. This is probably the hardest part because our whole life we are groomed to see things as either bad or good, but with this step you are going to think neither. Accepting your thoughts means telling yourself “I am feeling this, and that is where I am right now”.
  4. Once you’ve gone through acceptance, allow this thought to drift away and move forward. Specifically, move forward with kindness to yourself and without looking back on the thought or feeling that just left you. Also take this chance to do whatever you feel you need to do to move forward.

So guys, this may seem easy but if you try these steps for the first time you’ll realize it’s not! Not at first, anyway. The good thing is, you can practice this ANYTIME! For example, let’s pretend you get into an argument with a family member. You can use this as an opportunity to be mindful – “I’m going to stop for a minute. I am feeling disrespected and hurt. This is where I am at right now, and I am going to move on and go forward with kindness to this person and myself”. The same can be applied in a situation during childbirth. Let’s say your water just broke and you’re feeling anxious – “I’m stopping the racing of my mind. I am feeling so excited and nervous that it is overwhelming me. I’ve never had my water break before, so it’s understandable that these are my thoughts and I accept them. I am now going to move along and contact my care provider (and my Edmonton doula)”

Mindfulness has changed my life, and even if it’s something you don’t practice outside of the birth of your child, don’t let this opportunity pass you by to be more connected and in control of the process! In what situations do you think mindfulness would help you in everyday life? Let me know in the comments below!

Who’s delivering your baby? Why this really matters!

doula Edmonton

As a doula in Edmonton I witness the impacts that fear and insecurity have on someone’s birth process. It’s crazy because the smallest things you wouldn’t even think make a difference can literally wreak havoc on your plans for a peaceful and safe birth (I get more into this in my Fear-Tension-Pain post). Some of these things, like harsh lighting, bad smells or distracting or fearful sounds, are easily adjusted (us Edmonton doulas have a knack for making a room feel more ambient!), but there are others that are more difficult and tougher to navigate when things go wrong. One of these things is those who are providing care to you during your birth – midwives, doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners.

While it would be amazing if all of us were matched up with the care providers that best suited our personalities, beliefs and things we value, this is not always the case. In the most common negative circumstances, you’ve got a doctor or midwife that you just don’t vibe well with. Perhaps he/she isn’t supportive of how you want to birth, or they don’t go into enough detail during your appointments, or they just don’t share the same views on birth as you do. Whatever the case, as a doula in Edmonton I hear this the most when expecting parents express concerns about their care. Then EVEN if your care provider is an excellent match, if you’re with a doctor then there comes the nurses that will care for you for the majority of your time in the hospital. Some hospitals are good with matching nurses to your personality type – for example, here in Edmonton if a midwifery transfer is happening we often get assigned nurses who’s views align with the midwifery standard of care. However, usually you get whoever is on rotation. With midwifery care, perhaps you only like one of the two midwife partners, or the secondary midwife that comes for the delivery is not your cup of tea. Finally, I have had hospital clients who love their doctor, love the nurses they are assigned, but then when delivery time comes their doctor is not on call so they wind up with a new one that they don’t match well with. So as you can see, so many opportunities for a mismatch… at a time when dealing with conflict and confrontation is not really conducive to your progress!

The relationship between a care provider and their patients is a sensitive one. Everyone has their own ideals of how a birth should go that stretch beyond the “healthy baby and mother” common goal. Some parents would rather be compliant and do what their care provider says throughout their birth, while others want as little guidance as possible. Some care providers view birth as a medical process that requires some level of intervention, while others view it as a completely natural process where it should never be touched. The problem when there is a mismatch is that level of trust and safety. If you don’t share the same ideals as your care provider and that starts to unfold during the birth, your natural response as a human is to enter fight or flight mode and stop the birth process until you feel safe again. I have seen this happen as an Edmonton doula with my very two eyes and it’s a fascinating, yet awful thing to witness. A parent should never feel disrespected or that they cannot trust everyone who’s in that room with them.

So what’s the solution? How do you navigate the system so that you are equipped with a birth team that works with you and not against you? One easy solution is to hire a doula! As a birth doula, we are your #1 supporter and our job is to advocate for what YOU want. We don’t work for hospitals or doctors or midwives, we work for you. In the event that you do not have a well-versed birth professional working for you, then the one piece of advice I can give is to stand up for what you want. And when I say you, I mean you the birth person AND you the partner! Both of you can make each and every last decision at your birth, and no one else can legally or ethically do the same. So if you’re in a situation where you feel unsafe with your care providers – speak up! Tell someone you’d like to be assigned different nurses or the other doctor on call at the hospital. You can even go to a different hospital to find someone else (though that’s probably the last thing you’d want to do while you are in labour). If you are with a midwife you’re butting heads with and at a hospital, ask for a transfer of care to a doctor. If you are at home, go into the hospital and transfer your care. These are all things that you have the right to do, and while they seem scary you have one clear advantage – you and your birth partner are a team. And no one is going to mess with your united front! Advocating for yourself or your partner and having a voice could be a little messy at first, but that feeling of empowerment and taking back your birth is an incredible feeling that you can look back on with pride.

Have you ever navigated yourself out of an unsafe situation while birthing? Share your stories in the comment field!

Running and Childbirth

doula in Edmonton

So this post may come off as super random, but I had the coolest thoughts tonight that I just needed to get out there! (Afterall, that’s what blogging is for right?) So as an Edmonton Doula dedicated to being efficient at the physical aspects of my job, I partake in a number of activities to keep me in tip top shape for those long, sleepless nights. Running has been a part of my life for a long time, long before I became a doula in Edmonton and even before having children. It had been a while since I went running but tonight felt right, so off I went with my music blaring and my shoes hitting the pavement.

As I started to hit the difficult part in my jog I found myself falling into this habit of coaching myself through in almost the exact way that I would if I were with a client as their doula in Edmonton. Once I finished up and I thought more and more about this I realized something: running and childbirth are sisters! Ok so maybe running is like childbirth’s baby sister, but you get the point. Going for a run is like a mini version of childbirth – it takes far less time to complete and a fraction of the intensity, but the stages and layers are so there! Let me elaborate on this a bit more.

So you start your run, and at first you’re excited. You’re thinking “weee here we go! This is gonna be great! I’m going to feel so good afterwards and everything is going to be smooth sailing!”. You’ve got a real bounce in your step, you feel cool and fit and maybe even a bit like showing off by picking up the pace (k maybe that’s just me haha). Then you hit this point where things start to kinda hurt. Breathing is getting more difficult, maybe you’re getting a rib cramp or your legs are starting to ache… for whatever reason you’re thinking about stopping to walk for a bit. You’re hesitant because you know if you start to walk, it gets increasingly harder to start back up the jogging pace again. You don’t want to break your stride but on the other hand you look into the future and think “how the hell am I going to finish this whole route if I’m already needing to walk? I can’t do this!” So then this amazing thing happens. You say to yourself “well, I’ll just run up to this corner here and then I’ll take a walk break”, and as soon as you say that to yourself, all of the sudden you get what I like to call your “second wind”. All of these things that were scaring you completely disappeared and you started feeling great again. Amazing! THIS my friends, this is your beautiful endorphins doing their job. That moment when you see hope right in front of you, whether that be a break or the finish line or you get into your zone, you’re allowing your body to take over and fight that painful sensation for you. You’re letting go of whatever is causing you to believe that you are in danger, and by releasing this stress you are opening yourself up to the laws of Mother Nature. You’re putting full trust that you.will.be.ok.

This moment happens quite often in a jog. Well for me anyway. It’s really what carries me to the end of my route – in fact when I can visually see my house when I’m reaching the end, I get a blast of adrenaline and sometimes sprint! Much like the pushing phase of labour. I can’t believe I’ve never made this connection before but it’s so similar it’s feaky!

So this Edmonton doula is a runner and will now be doing a lot more running to continue to put myself in the shoes of my clients coming forward. For in no other way can you fully understand the body’s processes unless you can relate something in your life to them on a regular basis. And I’m sure you can all agree that I’m not going to keep giving birth to try to relate!

Do you run? Do you do another form of activity that you can find similarities to childbirth in? Let’s hear your experiences in the comments below!

Trust your body: what does that really mean?

Edmonton doula

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through attending births as a doula in Edmonton, it’s that our mindset going into labour is one of the most, if not the MOST important factor in both getting your labour to progress and having an overall satisfying birth experience. The state that your mind is in when you get pregnant, go into labour and become a new parent is influenced by the level of confidence and trust you have in your body. I’m sure you’ve all heard a doula, and specifically an Edmonton doula, say the words “trust your body” or “you body knows what to do”, etc. Let’s elaborate on this a little more though, as this may seem like a small statement but means more than you might think!

The language we use with pregnant and labouring people plays a role in how we perceive our bodies and bodily functions. Unfortunately, this language is commonly not so positive. I’m sure we can all name a tv show or movie that scared the crap out of you for when you were to give birth, and we’ve all had at least one friend or family member tell us a horror story from their birth. This is all so troublesome as both of these sources of information are notorious inaccurate. But believe it or not, even trained professionals – doctors, nurses, even (as much as I hate to admit this) some midwives and doulas – have been known to instil fear or discouragement into the minds of expectant parents. Sometimes prenatally, sometimes even during a birth! And, understandably, this is detrimental to birth culture for many reasons. One, there is a certain level of trust put in place for one’s birth team so saying incorrect things that could impact a birth person’s confidence goes quite a long way. Two, nothing spreads quicker then overly dramatic or negative information (whether it is true or not). You better believe that if someone hears that they will never be able to have a vaginal birth because their baby is too big, this is going to be told to friends and families who have babies in the future and taken seriously.

Our current birth culture has come a loooong way from what it used to be, but boy-oh-boy do we still have work to do. As Edmonton doulas, we need to be educating everyone about the importance of language used with birthing people – little things like “you’re only 5cm dilated” instead of “you’re 5cm dilated!” makes a humongous impact on someone’s trust during the process. This simple adjustment might just save the birth person from going into a state of worry, panic and overall disappointed state and in turn, “save” the birth (keep it more pleasent). For now, as us doulas in Edmonton continue to spread the “good word”, we can use our own clients as a starting point and really hone in on making sure you all trust your body.

So trust your body – what does this really mean? Well for starters, this trust stems from confidence, and for some of us confidence doesn’t come so easily. Confidence is more than skin-deep though, it’s truly trusting you body’s natural processes. So things like chronic illness and pain, pregnancy loss (hey ps, check out my post on miscarriage here) and body esteem issues will make it difficult to truly trust your body as it may have “failed” you before. Working through these past experiences with a counsellor or your Edmonton doula or midwife could help smooth the process of developing trust. Another thing I want you all to do is put on your rose-coloured glasses when watching any media-depicted birth scenes or listening to friends stories. Media is known to over-dramatize and straight up falsify what birth really looks like… your birth won’t be exactly or even remotely close to what you see on tv. Friends may have had an awful experience but look at the factors at play at their births – did they take a good Edmonton prenatal class (usually one that is out-of-hospital) and learn what informed choices and options they had? Did they have 24 hour birth support from a doula? Was their care provider’s goal in line with theirs for the birth? Most importantly, your body is not the same as theirs, therefore your experience won’t be either. So when you see birth on TV or hear about it from your friends, take that information purely from an amusement standpoint.

My final point is that I really want everyone to know that your body IS CAPABLE. No matter what anyone says, mother nature has hard-wired you to have babies, regardless of what that outcome might look like. No one knows your body better than you – not your doctor, not your nurses, not your midwife and not your doula. You need to get to a place where you are in-tune with what your body is telling you to do, and listen to it! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t consent to it and if you feel compelled to take a certain step in your birth, as long as you are comfortable with the risks associated, do it. Trust your body’s individual process to bring your baby to you and have faith in your capability of handling the most intense experience of your life with grace and dignity.

 

5 Tips for Surviving a Long Labour

St Albert doula

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I hope you’ll have realized by now just how unpredictable birth is. Regardless of how your pregnancy has been so far, or how your mom birthed, birth will take place whenever and however it must! I’ve covered the side about rapid birth in my Precipitous Birth post, so now I want to write about the opposite scenario: long labours. I find that long labours are more common among my clients than quick ones are, likely because they are usually first-time moms, and taking off my Edmonton doula hat and putting on my mom hat, I have personal experience with long labours as well.

So what do you do to prevent having a long labour? Well, other than a few things that could possibly help, theres just too many factors at play to completely avoid having a long labour. However, many women have had vaginal, intervention-free and positive births after labouring for what feels like forever. Here are some tips if you find yourself (especially without a doula in Edmonton) in a long labour:

1. Ask yourself, where is baby?

Optimal Fetal Position is becoming more and more prevalent in the birth world as experiences and evidence moves forward. In layman’s terms, how your baby is positioned in your womb matters. That being said, us Edmonton doulas want you to know that it doesn’t mean the birth will all go to hell in a hand basket if baby is not optimally positioned! The most important thing is knowing how baby is positioned and taking steps to enhance that. The most ideal position for your baby is with them engaged in your pelvis and facing towards your spine (anterior or OA). In this position, contractions will likely (but not always) progress smoothly, you’ll feel a lot of pressure down low that will build and build, and you won’t feel a lot of kicks in the very front of your tummy. If you notice these signs, then follow your body and do what feels right. There are tons of other positions baby could be in, but a less ideal one that can be in is posterior or OP. In this position you may have a labour that stops and starts often, you may feel instant back pressure that can be quite painful, you may feel tons of kicks right in the front of your tummy and you may feel that baby is still quite high up. If you find yourself in a situation with any of these symptoms, head on over to www.spinningbabies.com and troubleshoot with some of their awesome positions to help you feel more comfortable.

2. SLEEEEEEEEP

If you’ve ever had a baby and hired a doula in Edmonton, you were probably told when you first stared labour to get to bed and sleep. Easier said than done, right? While I know first hand how impossible it may seem to sleep at an exciting time like this, it is simply a must! First of all, you’ll need lots of energy for the parts of labour where sleep is actually impossible… and especially if you’re labour ends up being quite long. Second, sleep can really help you forget that you’re in labour which is actually what you’re going for at this point. Might sound silly, but the saying is true – a watched pot never boils! You’ll end up driving yourself crazy if you watch your early part of labour like a hawk, so get. to. bed.

3. Clear the air with your thoughts

Prodomal labour is a term that refers to labour that starts slow but drags on for days and sometimes weeks without any progress. I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like my own personal form of hell… I’m way too impatient to want to deal with that long of a wait! While no one has really found a specific reason as so why prodomal labour happens, many Edmonton doulas (myself included) have a hunch that maybe it is a mental blockage thats preventing things from getting any further. Our bodies have a unique way of blocking oxytocin from being released from the brain at certain times (I dive into this more in my Stages of Labour post) and this is because of our fear or stress-induced fight or flight response. So if you are freaked out by the thought of pushing a baby out, or you’re nervous about the contractions getting stronger, or even if baby coming right at this moment is bad timing with other life events or children that need attending to, this can ALL slow down our labour, stop it completely or prevent it from progressing any further. My best advice for this? Tap into your psyche. Try journaling or scheduling a meeting with your doula to get these feelings out through conversation. Take some time for yourself at a float or a walk or a bath while listening to music. Anything to keep those hormonal responses to fear or stress at bay is crucial to see some progress begin.

4. The Gate Control Theory is your best friend

Never heard of the Gate Control Theory? Let me give you a quick explaination: this theory says that there is a gate located in your brain that lets in a limited amount of nerve signals to your senses at a time. Therefore, if we flood this gate with pleasurable signals, we’ll prevent from having too many painful signals getting through and therefore perceive pain with less intensity. There are tons of ways to stimulate with pleasure signals and you can really get creative with this one! I’ve seen simple things like hair combing, eating something sweet (Tim Hortons chocolate chip muffin, oh yea) and taking a bath work, and there are higher levels like sterile water injections and using a TENS machine that work well too. Think pleasure sensations and the possibilities are endless!

5. If you’re birthing in the hospital, know when to go

For some of us, going to the hospital too early will literally ruin your labour. Crazy, I know! Reason being: if you feel uncomfortable, stressed or unsafe in your environment, the oxytocin can’t flow optimally. Some are quite comfortable and maybe even prefer being in the hospital but I know for many of my clients as an Edmonton doula, and even for myself, things like the smells, the beeping, the harsh lighting, etc. really hinder my ability to keep calm. The great news is if you are hiring a doula in Edmonton they will know when a good time would be to head in. In my opinion, the best case scenario is you are only in the hospital for a few hours before pushing, and your spending the rest of your time at home before you head in relaxing, being intimate with your partner and getting ready for your little one’s arrival home.

How long was your labour? I’d love to hear your stories about getting through the long journey of birth, use the comments section below!

A Day in the Life of an Edmonton Doula

doula in EdmontonI’ve gotta say, life as a doula in Edmonton is quite odd. I mean I love it, but when I talk to friends or family (or anyone not in the birth industry, really) or meet new people, and the topic of what I do for work comes up, the conversation usually ends in a blatantly obvious change in subject to something a lot more generic (cue the ‘how about the weather?’). The Edmonton doula industry has its quirks and definitely isn’t made for your average-joe… but really, who will get as turbo-pumped to talk about perineal tears or pooping yourself as we do? We’re cut from a different fabric is all.

So I thought to lighten up the mood, I’d talk about a few interesting aspects of life as an Edmonton doula. Just so that all of you out there get a little taste of what makes us so… unique 😉

We operate on completely whack-o schedules

Ok so you know the usual work week – 9-5pm Monday to Friday, weekends off, simple schedule that is very predictable. Then we’ve got oil field workers who work out-of-town for days or weeks at a time until their job is complete and they get a series of days off (or sometimes they get the advantage of consistent days out and in). Then we’ve got the shift-workers like nurses and doctors, who work 12 hours straight and sometimes though the night. Thats all interesting, but an Edmonton doula? It is completely normal, in fact common, for us to work 24 hours straight, get called to work in the middle of the night and go without working for weeks to then all of the sudden be working 3 or more complete days out of our week. We literally have NO idea what day or time we need to work. With us frequently being awake at strange hours of the night, it’s very normal to get a text from us at 3 or 4am and to not hear from us when calling during normal human hours. I heard a hilarious phrase recently that said “waiting for a baby is like picking someone up from the airport… but you don’t know who they are or when their flight gets in”. I’ll be over here, living at the “airport” for the next two weeks for a complete stranger, haha!

Nearly nothing body-related makes us uncomfortable

There was a time in my life that I remember getting weirded out when my mom talked about periods in front of my dad. Or going red when someone asked if I had regular bowel movements. However now that I’ve entered this realm of working as a doula in Edmonton… I can’t wait to chat about ovaries! And placentas! And HORMONES! Wooo! I’ve had a client complain about talking about mucous plugs while we were sitting in Starbucks for our prenatal meet-up, and I felt bad afterwards but honestly it’s just so normal to me. Us Edmonton doulas see various bodily functions happen before our very eyes on a regular basis. We know what lots of different bodily fluids look like, and we are (well I am anyway) totally comfortable talking about sexuality openly because that is how we get our work in essence (also, just saying, it’s true – what gets a baby in, gets a baby out). I feel like becoming a doula in Edmonton has really opened my eyes to these systems that I only read about in textbooks before, and I so passionately am fascinated by them no matter how many times I watch them unfold.

We become close friends with complete strangers in a fraction of the normal time

I’ve never been a stranger to connecting with random people very easily, being the extrovert that I am, but as an Edmonton doula I am constantly meeting new people and getting to know them very quickly during such an intimate time in their life. I feel such a connection to every client I support, sometimes to the point where I find myself thinking about them months and even years after their birth. To me, being a doula in Edmonton has really made me feel closer to humanity. I see couples through one of the most, if not the most intense part of their lives and in order to allow me into this incredibly intimate space, they need to learn to trust me completely. The fact that so many people can do this really demonstrates how much humans as a species are so connected through our similarities and primal instincts. One added bonus is my friends know that they can take me pretty much anywhere and I’ll leave with a new friend, because thats how I do what I do!

Our bodies LITERALLY function differently

So this is a bizarre one, but many other Edmonton doulas can attest to this – regularly attending births, especially home births, messes with OUR regular hormonal ebbs and flows. I’m sure I’m not the only doula in Edmonton thats come home from a birth and felt incredibly emotional, crampy in my uterus, maternal, primitive, etc. We literally are subjected to come-downs from oxytocin from how receptive we become for our clients. We soak in all of the emotions, and hormonal climaxes that are around us, and physical touch with our clients who need it add to this (some may not believe it but I truly think that you can get a high from being in physical contact with someone who is experiencing a hormonal high). I have heard of many who’s moon cycles (periods) get disrupted due to attending births, and I’m sure my day will come for this. Overall I just feel like this work has made me more empathetic and more receptive to the energy of others, even though I felt sensitive in this way before.

We eat, sleep and breathe our jobs

One thing is straight across the board with all of us doulas in Edmonton (and I’m sure in other geographic locations too), we freaking love our job. Sometimes I think about how I get to help babies be born for a living and think, is this ACTUALLY what I do for a living?! Don’t get me wrong, I work dang hard for the money I make. And balance is a constant struggle and effort. But I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else ❤

Let’s hear your doula experiences in the comments below!